An hour later Dean was a mess, his emotions alternating between panic and exhaustion. He wasn't even sure what bullshit story he'd fed to the victims. At this point he didn't even care. He just focused on getting back to the hotel room and figuring out a way to rescue Cas.
Sam still hadn't called, and that did not make him feel good in the slightest. He'd been counting on Sam's gigantic brain figuring out the clues before he could get back to the hotel. If Sam hadn't gotten something by now…
Clenching his jaw, Dean refused to think about it. Right now he didn't need to think about anything but the double yellow line and the sound of his baby. Cas needed him to not freak out. Cas needed him to be calm and get back to the hotel in one piece so Dean could help Sam come up with a plan to rescue Cas so he could fucking KILL the angel when he got his hands on him.
His cell phone suddenly coming to life in his pocket did not make him jump. Not at all. But he did quickly grab it and answer, "What do you have?"
There was a slight pause, as if Sam were tempted to reply snarkily, but this was not the time and for once his brother didn't push. "I think I've found what Cas was trying to tell us."
"Ok." That was good news. Dean relaxed his white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. "And that message would be?"
"Well," Sam hesitated, "It could be a few things. For one, the fae we questioned mentioned a tithe."
"Yeah, and Cas said he'd be a tithe to hell."
"Yes! The tithe, Janet, yellow hair, her father's hall, they're all key pieces of an 18th century ballad, Tam Lin."
"You mean Cas sent us an encoded message in a song request?" Dean could hear his own voice rising with disbelief. "I'm a fan of the oldies, but that is fuckin' special!"
"Look, it's more like a poem, for one." Sam's voice was steadily growing irritated. "I think it can actually help us, Dean. So get yourself back to the room." He paused. "And pick me up some food. I'll have more information by the time you get back." Sam hung up before Dean could protest.
"Bitch." Dean slipped the phone back into his front pocket as he put a bit more pressure on the gas. He'd seen a Wendy's by the hotel, and Sam would just have to deal with a heart-stoppingly greasy burger.
"All right, spill." Dean stalked into the room and tossed the sack of food at Sam.
Sam caught the Wendy's bag, his reflexes fast enough to keep him from catching the bag with his face. "Dude!" He sighed and turned his laptop to sow Dean the screen.
It looked like old paper. On the screen was an image of old, yellowed paper with spindly writing that he could barely make out as English. Dean raided an eyebrow, "I'll bite. What am I looking at?"
"This is the Ballad of Tam Lin." Sam turned the computer again, and Dean did not protest. "Basically, the story is about a man who has been taken by the Fae and will be given to the devil as a tithe, or a payment."
"A payment for what?" Dean grabbed a chair and straddled the seat, his arms resting on the seatback.
Sam shook his head, "Could be any number of things; power, protection. Hell," Sam ran a hand through his hair, "it could just be a 'you leave us alone, we'll leave you alone' peace offering."
That did not sound good in any way and Dean's hands clenched. "Tell me the good news, Sammy." There had to be good news. There had to be something they could do to save Cas, or his angel never would have given them these clues.
Sam was quiet for a moment, and Dean felt his stomach twist again. "There is something. A test." Sam's voice was gentle and that more than anything else told Dean that this was a big test, and it didn't have a high possibility of working.
Sam's face twitched in the way it did when he was trying to make a tough decision. Usually that face was the one he had when trying to decide if they should tell someone the 'truth' about a situation or if they should make up a pacifying lie.
Dean brought his fist down hard onto the table top, rocking the laptop. "Just tell me, Sammy, what kind of test?" He was fed up with hints and clues and vague answers for the night. He needed a clear course of action before he went and did something really stupid.
"It's a test of strength, Dean." Sam sat forward in his chair. "A test of strength, courage, and resolve. You have to grab onto Cas and literally not let go until the test is over. Can you do that, Dean?" Dean wondered if Sam had ever watched him this intently before, because his little brother was looking at him like everything in the world rode on his answer. Maybe it did.
"Yes." Dean had no doubt at this moment that there was not test he couldn't pass if it meant saving Cas from those fairy fucks. "You're saying all I gotta do is hold on?" He took a deep breath, somehow this felt monumental. Like this test Sammy was going on about started now. It started here. "Well, I never let go of anything once I've decided to hold on."
His brother was quiet for a moment before he nodded slowly, "I know, Dean." Sam's voice was soft, like he knew that Dean had made up his mind.
Clearing his throat, Dean fished his burger out of the untouched Wendy's bag. Now he felt like maybe some food would stay in his stomach. "So, uh, can you tell me more about this test?" He took a bite of triple Whopper and ignored Sam's look of vague disgust.
"Well, Janet is the hero who saves Tam Lin from his fate." Sam began slowly as if summing the whole thing up was a difficult task.
"Ok, girl power, awesome." Dean gestured for Sam to keep going. "Let's cut to the chase. What is this test, and how do I pass.?" He was going to pass. He was committed to it.
Sam stifled a bitchface and went on. "You're going to have to pull him from a horse and hold onto him."
That could not be everything. Dean squinted skeptically at Sam, "That's it? That's the big test?"
"Then," Sam's voice rose over Dean's, "he will be transformed in your arms." Dean had to admit, that did sound a little more complicated. "First to some sort of reptile, the poem says adder. So I'd say some poisonous snake. Then a transformation to a larger animal," Sam tapped a few keys absently and Dean found it harder to swallow around his burger. "The poem mentions a bear and a lion specifically, but it could be any large predator. The poem is set in Scotland, so it doesn't seem to matter if the animals are native to the area or not."
"Animals, huh?" That would be tricky. Dean swallowed back his initial trepidation. He said he's do this and he would. They just needed to work out a plan of action.
"Not just animals!" Sam looked up from the laptop. "After the large predator Cas will be changed into a red hot iron and then into hot lead. At which point you must toss it into water and he will be changed back to his normal form." Sam grinned. "Then you cover his naked body with your green mantle."
"Burning hot iron and lead? You've got to be shitting me." This wasn't a test of courage; it was a test of masochism.
Sam closed the laptop with a snap. "Listen, there is a catch to all this. So long as you don't let go, you won't be harmed." Sam paused and looked away for a moment. "So it says."
That sounded unlikely. Dean put the burger back onto its wrapper. "I won't be harmed? So what is the test if I'm not getting poisoned and burned?"
"I don't know." Sam sighed and finally reached for his own dinner. "It could mean any number of things, Dean; ancient Ballads are not too specific when it comes to details."
"Yeah, no shit." Dean shook his head. There were still a lot of questions, but now he had a direction. "Wait a minute. What's a mantle?" Because they, no he, was apparently going to be covering a naked Cas with one in the future.
"Dean." Sam just gave him an incredulous look before looking over at the closet. Dean followed his gaze to see his army surplus jacket hanging on the doorknob. His green army surplus jacket.
"No way. Wouldn't a blanket be better?" The jacket was pretty small. Too small to cover a naked Cas, even if Cas wasn't the biggest guy in the world.
Sam shrugged and swallowed his bite. "Maybe, but do you want to risk it?"
Dean shook his head. "No, you're right." Dean finished his food quickly before pushing back from the table. "Look, find out all the nitpicky details about the test. I need a green jacket, not a green blanket. I throw him into water, does it have to be holy water, or will tap water do?"
"Well water, actually." Sam finished his burger and tossed the crumpled wrapper into the wastepaper basket across the room. "Look, Dean, there are a lot of thing we need to figure out, but first we should focus on just where you're going to find them. They're going to have a precession in three days, but we still don't know where."
Dean fell onto the bed he chose as his, boots on the standard scratchy comforter. "Well, if this thing is following the story so closely, where does Janet grab Tam Lin in the poem?"
"Miles Cross. But Dean, the chances that-"
"Sam, I think we actually drove through Miles Cross on the way here." Dean sat up, leaning on his arm. "I remember it because it was weird to see a Miles Road and a Miles Ave crossing like that." Dean fell back onto the bed. "Shit, a crossroad would be the prefect place to call a demon."
"Or the devil." Sam groaned, leaning back in his chair. "Where was it?"
"It was back by that old historical building. Carter Hall." Sam's sudden bark of laughter made Dean nearly jump out of his skin. "What?"
"Carter Hall? Why didn't I remember-" Sam opened the laptop again and shook his head. "Dean, the place Janet meets Tam Lin is at Carterhaugh."
The pronunciation was a bit different, but there was no denying the similarity. "Well shit." Dean rubbed at his eyes and tried to process all the information he'd been hit with since getting back to the hotel. "So the fairies are going to be at Miles Cross in three days. I have to grab Cas and hold on to him to pass a test. Then what?"
Sam shook his head. "In the story the faery queen can't do anything to Janet or Tam Lin because Janet passed the test."
That sounded promising. "So we'd be protected."
"Yeah, I mean, I guess so." Sam shrugged his massive shoulders. "Dean, this isn't a precise thing. But we have some time to make a plan."
"Yeah." Dean fished his cell phone from his pocket and called Bobby.
"You idjits done?" It didn't surprise him that the phone picked up after only one ring even this late at night.
"Hey Bobby." Dean tried to keep his voice light. "We got the hostages back from the fairies."
There was a heavy pause on the line. "What went wrong, boy?"
"It's Cas. He uhh, he traded himself for the hostages."
There was a muffled curse from Bobby's end. "That idjit is a Winchester, all right." There was another long pause. "So what are you two gonna do about it?" There was no question that something would be done.
"Well, before they snatched him, Cas was able to give us some clues to an old poem. Tam Lin-"
"Right. I'm on my way." The line went dead.
"Bobby?" Dean hung up his cell and tossed it onto the bedside table. "Well, it looks like Bobby is on his way." Dean rubbed at his eyes again.
Sam stood and stretched, his accompanying yawn infecting Dean. "We could probably use the help."
"Yeah, I guess." Dean toed off his boots and rested his arm on his forehead. He'd just rest his eyes a moment before he began making a plan to save Cas.
As far as Dean was concerned, Bobby had to have broken the land speed record or he'd already been halfway to Virginia when he'd called two nights ago. Because the older hunter was here and looking fresh enough to kick some fairy ass. "Bobby?" Dean gaped at the man at the door to their motel room.
"Well, are ya gonna let me in?" He didn't wait for Dean to step aside; he just wheeled himself through the door and left it to Dean to keep his feet from getting rolled over.
"Hey, Bobby." Sam put his gun back onto the table.
Deftly maneuvering the minefield of obstacles that littered the floor, Bobby pulled up to the table and slammed a heavy book next to the laptop. "All right, so what do you have planned?" He looked between Sam and Dean impatiently. "You do have a plan, right?"
Dean bristled a bit at the implication that they might not have a plan yet. "Of course we got a plan! I'm gonna pass some fairy test and get Cas back." The moment word 'test' left his mouth Bobby's eyes got wide and he shot a look to Sam. "What?" Dean frowned and sat on the bed, arms resting on his knees. "You don't think I can pass? Sam seems to think I got a shot." Dean didn't like what that could mean if Bobby didn't think he could do it.
Sam cleared his throat quietly. "Bobby, I really think Dean can complete the test." It wasn't the emphatic support he'd been expecting, but Sam's quiet statement seemed to make Bobby pause in thought.
Bobby turned to Dean, looking tired suddenly. "I'm going to need coffee. Ya mind?"
"Nah, Bobby." All this inaction was getting to him anyway. "I'll be right back." Standing, Dean grabbed his keys and wallet. "You want anything, Sam?"
Sam shook his head, already seeming to focus on the book Bobby had dropped on the table. Dean quickly hightailed it before they could get into the heavy discussion that appeared to be on the way
When Dean returned with enough coffee and doughnuts to satisfy a police station, Bobby and Sam were bent over the table with Bobby's book spread open between them. They both looked up at him as he slipped into the room; whatever conversation they'd been having dried up the moment the door opened. Dean stood there; his eyebrow rose at the unusual welcome, but shrugged it off. "Ok, awkward." He dropped the box of doughnuts on the table and passed out the coffee which both Bobby and Sam grabbed eagerly.
"So your brother convinced me that you trying the test isn't flat out suicide," Bobby didn't mince words. "We think we got it all worked out too."
"Fantastic." Dean slumped in his chair, Styrofoam cup in his hand. "Let's hear it then." He was relieved as hell to hear that Bobby'd come around on the whole test idea. He would have tried it anyway, but that the older hunter agreed he could do it gave him more confidence. Dean took a sip of the hot coffee and tried to calm his nerves; the last thing he wanted was for Bobby or Sam to notice his hands were actually shaking. He considered taking a doughnut, but he hadn't eaten yet today, and he didn't think he'd be able to until after they got Cas back tonight.
"Well, the well water is no problem, a lot of houses here are on wells, including Mrs. Miller's house. We can get that set up pretty early." Dean nodded along; so far it did seem straightforward. "After that, it gets a little tricky." Bobby frowned and exchanged a look with Sam. "We're going to need to split up."
While it was obvious Bobby and Sam expected Dean to object, he wasn't going to doubt them. "Ok, tell me why." It was worth agreeing, just to see Sam's double take. Dean held back a grin and reminded himself to randomly agree with Sam, it seemed to really throw him off.
"Well," Bobby barely missed a beat, "You'd be protected from the fae because you're going through the trials. We don't know if anyone with you would also be safe, or if they'd be considered fair game."
"Good thinking." It would certainly suck if he saved Cas just to lose Sam and Bobby to the little fuckers. "So what are you and Sam going to be doing" Because he knew there'd be something.
"Looking for their door." Sam answered quickly, pushing a book at Dean. "We think they must have a way into this world, most likely some faery mound. We need to destroy it right after you've completed your test."
"It won't keep 'em out forever. But it'll make it much harder for them to come back anytime soon." Bobby tapped on a picture in the book. To Dean it just looked like a small hill with a lot of mushrooms.
"All right, so what do we do first?" It was getting time to be doing things and not talking about them. Dean knew he was getting more and more restless as time wore on; even he could see his leg bouncing in place was a sign of nervous energy.
"Well, first I am going to find and fill a tub full of well water. I'll even leave it at Miles Cross." Bobby was already wheeling his way across the room. "You and your brother are going to search every inch of that forest until you find me a faery mound."
Dean hauled himself to his feet, grateful to finally be doing something. "All right, sounds like a plan. I save Cas and give you guys a call to salt and burn the mound. Or whatever you'll need to do."
Sam was already throwing their things in the duffel bag; there wasn't even a discussion about it, they would finish this and leave the town in the dust tonight. He gave the room a quick once over before nabbing a doughnut. "We've got a few hours of light left before it is too dark to search the forest."
Dean was already on his way to the door, his body thrumming with excitement. "All right, let's go kick some fairy ass."
A/N Some people have asked me why Dean says fairy while Bobby and Sam say faery. (Yes they are both pronounced the same.) To me, it boils down to respect and Dean is an irreverent SOB. So he's sticking it to them even in his head. Even if it doesn't make any difference to anyone but him.
Comments & Criticism would be awesome! =D