Iron and Pizza
"Sam? Sammy? What's that?"
Sam shuffled quickly around his dazed older brother, shoving fistfuls of hard, cold metal into all of his pockets, jeans and jacket, even the flannel pocket over his breast. "Iron, Dean, it's iron. Protection. Gotta keep you safe."
Dean's hands flailed out, as uncoordinated as an infant's, and snagged on Sam's shoulders. Sam jolted still, stared into his brother's eyes, still blown wild and wide. Dean swayed on his feet and Sam's hands shot out in reflex, grabbing Dean's shoulders in a mirrored hold. "Yeah, Dean. Yeah. It's me."
"Sam." The word was a sigh, soft, almost a moan.
A breeze moved in the trees around them, the woods deep and still and gloaming dark. It was not the stillness of peace, though—it was the stillness of anticipation. Sam could feel the myriad eyes on them, small, wild, dangerous as only completely undomesticated intelligence could be.
"You look the same," Dean murmured, clutching Sam a little harder. "You don't look any different at all."
They didn't have time for this, they really didn't. They needed to be getting out of these fey woods, these wild lands, back to the dirty yellow lights and the putrid parking lot stench of the motel, where the power of nature was crushed and subdued. Sam lifted his hands from Dean's shoulders and cupped his brother's cheeks, close and warm, trying to get through to him as quick as he knew how.
"I'm still the same, Dean. Still me, still Sam. You've been gone for three days, but I'm still here."
"Three days?" Dean blinked languidly, completely without comprehension. "No...no, Sammy, it was years, it was centuries..."
"C'mon, man. C'mon, we gotta get out of here."
It hurt Sam to do it, but he slipped free of Dean's grasp and moved around to the side, slinging Dean's arm over his shoulder. "C'mon, Dean, back to civilization..."
Dean let himself be dragged, leaden feet stumbling sluggishly over the bracken. He babbled some incoherent nonsense about "the eyes of the lady" and being gone for "years, Sammy, centuries, they said I was a mortal beauty and desired for their court, but I didn't want it, I didn't want it, I wanted to come back to you...."
A high-pitched laugh cut the air behind them as they burst out of the tree line, sounding utterly wild and inhuman. Sam shuddered, still pulling Dean back to the Impala parked waiting in the gravel parking lot of the natural preserve. Maybe when Dean was completely surrounded by Detroit steel and tempered iron, the familiar contours of his baby, the fey influence would finally begin to fade. He hauled Dean into the passenger seat and bent over to make sure he was situated, Dean's panicked breathing loud in his ears.
"You're safe, Dean. That's all you need to know, all right? You're safe." Sam dashed around to the driver's side and started the car, keeping a wary eye on the trees. Leaves and branches moved against the wind, shifting dark green like reaching hands, but Sam had parked in the middle of the lot, too far away to touch.
He wanted to torch the forest. Let it all go up in flames. They stole his brother, they stole his brother, just took him out from under Sam's nose while they were in the middle of an unrelated hunt, investigating a possible water spirit in an isolated lake. Didn't they know that they were stealing Sam's world? Didn't they know that they were stealing his rock, his foundation, leaving him desperate and frantic in the dark?
But then, these were the fey. Sam had no doubt that they did know. They probably thought it was hilarious.
Dean slumped against the passenger door, eyes all but shut, hands fluttering uncertainly in front of him. "Rowan, holly, ash and oak. Rowan, holly, ash and oak." It was a low murmur, a continuous chant, a mantra to keep the doors shut and the monsters at bay. Sam knew that Dean couldn't possibly have actually had any sprigs of the protective wood to help him while he was imprisoned in the fey court, but perhaps the words had had some sort of power, anyway.
"Dean..." Sam couldn't help himself. He had to reach out, had to touch his brother and make sure he was really there. Dean flinched harshly when Sam's hand landed on his knee, banging his head against the glass, and blinked dazedly at Sam. The words trailed off into a confused mutter, syllables with no meaning, no power.
Sam swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat, huge and aching. "It's okay, Dean. Everything's going to be okay."
But he didn't know that. He didn't know that for sure.
The forest moved in the corner of Sam's eye, creeping ever closer, and he peeled out in a haze of burning rubber.
Dean couldn't seem to stop shivering. Sam bundled him into the motel bed and tore the covers off the other one, wrapped him up in a cocoon of cotton and wool as if such a flimsy covering could shield him from all harm. Then he sat next to him, still unable to stop touching, unable to trust that his brother wouldn't disappear if he took his eyes off him for an instant. Sometimes Dean murmured his desperate cantrips, the four sacred trees, other words of power that must have helped him somehow, and sometimes he was silent, shaking gently in Sam's arms.
Sam didn't mind, he really didn't. He'd just missed Dean so. Fucking. Much. It had been like having an arm cut off, like having half of his body just...gone.
He had tramped through the woods so many times that every tree started to have its own name, its own particular address in his mental map. Once he figured out that it was the fey, he had made countless offerings, berries in woven-grass baskets, white stones carved with the names of ancient gods, whiskey spilled on stumps. He had gone out in the moonlight, looking for any glimpse of gossamer wings and laughing beetle eyes, offered bargains and deals, offered himself.
And in the end Dean had just shown up, just like that, out of nowhere. Sam had made yet another circuit of the woods and found his brother standing under a hoary oak, shaking and disoriented and nearly blind with panic. He didn't know what had made them give Dean up, if it had been something Sam had done or something Dean had managed while in their clutches, or if they just got bored of their new mortal toy and let him go.
Now Dean's trembling and muttering gradually began to taper off, and he sank into Sam's embrace, going still and silent, heavy with exhaustion. On one hand, Sam hoped that coherency was starting to return, because there were some questions that he had to know the answers to. On the other hand, a coherent Dean would not allow himself to lean on Sam like this, and Sam didn't want it to end.
"Dean?" he kept his voice low, gentle, just in case he was still dealing with the dazed and confused version of his smartass big brother. "You with me, Dean?"
Dean shifted slightly against him, but he didn't pull away. "Yeah. Yeah, 'm here, Sammy." The words were somewhat slurred, but recognizable, clearly Dean.
"Do you remember what happened?"
Dean shuddered against him, his entire body shaking with a sudden chill, but it passed just as quickly. "I...I think so. God, they had me for a long time...."
"Three days," Sam soothed. "Just three days. I know time seemed longer to you, but that's how many days passed out here in the regular world."
"Yeah, okay..." Dean drew a deep breath and turned his face toward Sam, pushing out of the cocoon of blankets so he could press his forehead into the bare flesh of Sam's neck. It was something a little child would do, seeking reassurance after a nightmare, and Sam's breath caught in his throat. But he just held his brother tighter.
"Do you...Dean, do you know if it was the seelie or the unseelie folk?" Not that it mattered a whole lot, since both were known to get their kicks messing with mortals, but Dean's experience in Faerie was likely to be quite different depending on who had grabbed him. Both could be nightmarish, but it was the difference between a nightmare about being naked at school and a nightmare about dying a bloody death over and over and over.
"Dunno," Dean muttered. "Didn't care. Just wanted them to let me go. They had this weird fetish about my freakin' eyes, man, kept going on about how they had a whole forest inside them, and there was this one faery dude who wanted to rip them out and eat them..."
Dean's eyelashes fluttered against Sam's neck, and he raised a hand to cup the back of the older man's head, holding him close. "That sounds unseelie, I guess."
Dean's whole body moved in a shrug. "It doesn't matter. They're both fucking scary."
In the morning they were going to get in the car and drive far, far away from any forests. Sam was thinking the desert. Maybe Nevada. There had to be hunts in Nevada, right? And once Dean started feeling more like himself, he would be totally down with a trip to Vegas. It was, like, one of his life goals.
"We need to start carrying iron, like, everywhere we go," Dean said, obviously thinking parallel thoughts. "No matter what. Even when we think it's just a selkie or whatever. Maybe sew it in the lining of our jackets or something. Hey, do you think they make iron buttons?"
And that was Dean, still coming back to himself and already as practical and steady as ever, accepting the shit he'd been through and just trying to come up with ways to mitigate it in the future. He shrugged out of the blankets, pushing them down his shoulders and pulling particularly hard at the layers that separated him from Sam. Sam sat back a little, already sad that his self-sufficient big brother was back, tensing as he waited for Dean to order him away and call him a girl for snuggling.
But once he had gotten rid of the blankets, Dean just leaned back against the headboard and sank into Sam's side again, laying his head on the younger Winchester's shoulder with a tiny sigh. He grabbed Sam's hand, still hovering uncertainly in the air, and pulled it behind his neck, silently—and effectively—commanding his brother to continue holding him.
Right, yeah, Dean had spent apparent years in the most inhuman surroundings imaginable. Of course he still needed to reconnect to normal, to human, to sweat and blood and brother. Sam smiled gently and tugged him in close, happy to oblige.
Just one more question, and then they never had to talk about the fey ever again, if Dean didn't want to. "Hey, man, did you eat anything while you were there? Anything at all?"
He could feel Dean's frown against his shoulder. "Dude, no way. I am not Persephone. I wanted to leave. And I'm way too attached to hamburgers and onion rings to want them to taste like ash and dust for the rest of my life."
Sam breathed out in relief. Good. Good.
"So, then, you haven't eaten a bite in centuries? Damn, you must be starving."
"Three days, man." There was a smirk in Dean's voice, and Sam welcomed it with a wide, wide grin. Dean was back. He was really back. "You keep saying it was just three days. But yeah, yeah, I'm starving to death here. Pizza?"
Sam hardly had to move at all to snag his cellphone off the end table. Pizza sounded fantastic.
A/N: Written for a prompt by a_starfish at the h/c meme on spn_hurtcomfort dot livejournal dot com.