"Well..." Dean looks at the box in his hand. "Maybe they like sugar?"
"How about a sugar cube?" Sam fishes another box out of the trunk of the car. "Horses like them."
"We're not hunting a horse."
"A unicorn is just a gay, princess horse." Dean mutters, rooting around for another potential lure. "How about a candy apple?"
"Or just an apple?"
"It's NOT a horse." Dean snaps, slamming the trunk shut.
"Ok... So we just heap everything up in the woods, and wait." Sam says, raising his hands placating. "No need to bite my head off."
"Sorry." Dean dumps the boxes of food into a sack and hoists their net up onto his shoulder. "It's just...we need this to work out. We won't get a second chance."
Sam looks pensively at his brother.
"But, if this doesn't work, we have other options."
Sam's eyebrows knit together. "No...we don't."
Dean looks down at the ground, refusing to acknowledge that Sam might be right. No doctor they had spoken to had been able to offer any kind of treatment plan, nothing that would cure the cancer that was growing in Sam's gut.
Demon blood was apparently the kind of addiction that just kept on taking, and years after Sam's last sip, the stuff was still wreaking his body. No chance of operating, no way chemo would help. There was no drug trial, no herbal remedy, no deal they could male, no magical cure – except the horn of a unicorn.
Sam opens the journal that he'd hastily stuck their research into that morning. The unicorn had been considered real until the 19th century, a supernatural creature of Europe with a horn that could cure sickness, and render poisoned water consumable.
Really, they only cared about the cure, and the fact that it had been sighted repeatedly in a forest near some fields in Illinois.
Sam had highlighted a passage written by Leonardo da Vinci himself – 'The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.'
Being fresh out of virgins, they were prepared to lure the thing some other way - and deal with its legendary ferociousness the Winchester way – with guns, and a carefully set up system of nets.
It wasn't a horse.
Dean held that thought in mind as he sat up through the night, hidden in a section of scrubby woodland, clutching a rifle and keeping watch on a pile of poptarts and apples.
Sam was doped to painkiller heaven in a pop-up tent a couple of hundred yards away. Dean hadn't wanted to leave him at a hotel, not in his condition. Sam had wanted to stay awake, but he was in a lot of pain these days, and even the short drive out to the woods had taken it out of him.
He needed the cure soon, or he wouldn't live much longer.
It wasn't a horse.
Dean had seen a war movie once, where the soldiers had shot a bunch of horses because they were freaking out and making noise. It wasn't like he thought any horses had actually died, and not like he cared about animals in particular. But, he'd seen the worst of people in his time as a hunter, they weren't all bad, but they could really, really make you wish your weren't the same species as them. Animals were innocent – he'd never met an evil one.
Unicorns, he had to figure, were as innocent as it came.
And he had to shoot it in the head.
So, he tried telling himself that it wasn't the same as that movie. So he wouldn't have to feel bad.
He leans against a tree trunk, eyes blinking shut for a moment. No more than that. He needs to stay alert.
A hot breath down his collar wakes him up.
Dean jumps, and falls sideways into a tangle of prickly foliage. Two long white legs shuffle towards him, and something light falls onto his face.
Dean wipes at it. Poptart crumbs.
He sits up slowly and finds himself eye to eye with...a glowing, white, horse.
With a swirly twirly white horn, that gleams lilac in the moonlight.
The unicorn whinnies softly.
Dean's gun is cold against his fingers, and the unicorn is looking at him with big blue eyes, calmly waiting for him to produce more poptarts.
He's not prepared for the unicorn to slide to its knees on the forest ground, plumping it's head into his lap without hesitation, and closing its eyes.
Dena briefly considers yelling for Sam.
One look at that foot long horn convinces him otherwise. The thing could gore him in half a second.
Dean just sits, frozen, as the unicorn produces a grumbling noise and starts curiously licking at a patch of maple syrup that Dean had accidently spilt on his jeans at breakfast.
Dean cautiously lowers a hand to pet the unicorn's mane, which feels like...oh screw it, like silk. When the unicorn doesn't kill him instantly, Dean relaxes a little, and strokes the creature's fur gently.
"You know I'm not a virgin, right?"
The unicorn bobs its head in a nod, surprising him.
"So what's with acting like I'm unicorn-nip?"
The unicorn just looks up at him adoringly.
For a while they just sit with Dean's hands busily combing through the unicorns mane.
"Did you know your horn is magic?" Dean tells the unicorn eventually.
It sighs, lips producing an unimpressed sound.
"Yeah...I guess you would know." Dean strokes the pale, luminous fur gently. "Well...my brother is really sick...and we think your horn can make him better."
The unicorn closes its eyes.
"Sorry for bringing that up." Dean mutters.
When the unicorn stands up, it scares the crap out of him.
It shakes its mane out and trots away, imperiously, towards where the pile of poptarts had been. Dean follows, checking to make sure his handgun is still in its holster.
It's almost sunup, and Dean wonders how long he was actually asleep. The unicorn is amazing in motion, strong and slim and gleaming as the sun rises. It looks at him, jerks it's head irritably towards the trees, and then trots off, leaving Dean to follow.
He creeps through the woods in pursuit of the apparently unconcerned unicorn. As the sun comes up, Dean spots the mouth of a cave, and the unicorn leads him towards it. He hesitates for a second, caves were a bad deal – hunting wise – you never knew what was living in there, or how deep it went.
He follows anyway – this is for Sam after all.
The cave is actually quite shallow, dry and sandy floored. The walls are studded with vibrant purple and deep blue crystal clusters, scattered with gold deposits. But what surprises Dean more in the makeshift bed in the back, and the small shelf of tattered books, an expensive looking shaving brush, and a set of paints.
The unicorn beds down on the floor, and shivers, its tail, a long silky swatch of white threads, shrinks, and it's body loses its bulk as Dean watches.
He draws his gun, but, by the time he brings it up to fire, the unicorn is gone.
There's just a man in its place.
Dean lowers the gun halfway and continues to watch the man on the ground, even as he picks himself up and holds out a hand.
"You followed me here." He says, and he looks so grateful, so pleased, that Dean feels his reserve starting to leave him, despite the dangerous situation he could well still be in.
"You're not a unicorn."
"Of course I am." The man says gruffly, "You saw me."
"Unicorns don't turn into people." Dean tells him.
"Didn't know you were an expert." The man smiles beatifically to himself. "Technically I am a rare mutation of the breed."
Dean just stares at him.
That's sort of when he notices that the guy is naked. He's not really one to notice naked men – his years of porn watching have kind of trained him to edit them out. Not to mention living with Sam, his Dad, and Bobby – any instances of 'the naked' were not for his memory to feast on.
But, the unicorn-were-horse-man is naked. He's as pale as he was before, practically glowing in the dim light. His hair is dark though, like he's gotten some human darkness back. His eyes however, are just as blue.
Dean keeps his eyes firmly above the equator though.
"Were-horses are rare themselves." The man says in a low voice, as if aware of Dean's reluctant scrutiny. "But, I was bitten – given the condition in an accident when I was camping...and now I am one of them."
"But you're a unicorn." Dean says slowly.
"An unusual mutation. Many think that unicorns respond to virginity – because we look so pure, and we arouse the best in people – their kindness and gentility. In fact, unicornism is a reaction of the were-horse condition, when it is given to a virgin."
"You're a virgin?"
Dean blinks. "What are you, like...thirty?"
The man sits down on his bed, plucks up a soft sheet of pale blue felt and wraps it carefully around himself. "You wanted my horn."
"I wasn't going to take it."
"Yes, you were."
Dean feels quite ashamed, without really knowing why. "Ok, I was."
"For your brother."
"Not for yourself." The man looks at him. "No one has ever tried to catch me, for someone else. It's always for...immortality, youth, to regain their purity...but, you want to save your brother."
Dean just looks at him.
"My name is Cas, I've lived in this forest for four years, and you're the first person I've spoken to." The man continues. "I'm sorry if I'm doing it wrong."
"I just, have no idea what's going on." Dean says, truthfully. "But I'm...Dean."
"I'm giving it to you, Dean."
"What you came here for, yes."
"Won't that...hurt?" Dean asks.
"I suppose that's up to you."
"I'll be careful...how do you want to...you know..."
"Ummm..." Cas looks at him. "Face to face? If you don't mind?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well...if I am no longer innocent, I will shed my horn. Cutting it, will leave it without its power."
"If I am sullied, despoiled, made worldly...I will revert to being a were-horse."
"So, this would involve..."
Cas looks up at him from his place on the bed.
"Sully me, Dean."