A worn but reliable maroon car had no opposition on the road as it sped down a flat expanse, kicking up a meager cloud of dust in its wake. Jacob Andris, a midwesterner at heart, felt at ease under the dome of an open sky, with the occasional cluster of trees throwing their shade onto the road as he passed. Oklahoma had been barely a blip on his path, and now he was on a road that felt more like home.
Kansas had a familiar charm to it. After a road trip down into New Mexico to check out one of the colleges there, it felt good to roll through the more familiar terrain, with cornfields and wind turbines stretching over a flat horizon. Jacob couldn't help a sigh of relief as he put all signs of the desert behind him. Road trips were a favorite hobby of his, but this one had given him more stress than relaxation so far.
It was early evening when he decided to give in to the temptation of food and some rest. The sun was still shining orange and pink near the horizon, but that wouldn’t last long before the sky became a blanket of glittering black. He'd set aside some cash before the trip for this purpose, but he was glad to see a little motel with decent rates advertised on the sign. Whatever he could save, he did. He checked in, with the clerk almost relieved to finally see some business.
The place couldn't be too bad. It wasn't crawling with anything when he got to the room, and that was all he needed. He even stooped down to check under the bed, but all he found was dust bunnies.
He left his bag on the tacky bedspread, with some of his road supplies already spilling out. It wasn’t a long trip, so he didn’t have as much as some folks usually brought, but then Jacob was almost always prepared for a quick weekend getaway. He spent as much time as he could up at a certain forest campground, well off the designated path for hikers. Only a few people really knew what drew him back there so often, and the ones that didn’t never thought to ask.
With one last glance over his shabby but cozy room, he stepped back out to go find some takeout to bring back.
A room away, unbeknownst to Jacob, were two people wandering in the general direction of his room.
They had thus far had an unsuccessful day of gathering supplies. Sam Winchester tagged along behind his older brother, Dean Winchester.
Dean's knack, while useful when they were desperate, had stayed irritatingly silent while they were out. Sam's had given them the needed warnings when the maids came in to clean the rooms, alerting them to humans that might come close to their hiding spots and serving them well in their evasive movements to stay hidden.
After all, the two brothers, though they had once been human, stood under a half a foot tall. Together, they couldn't outweigh a single hand. A single night had stolen all that away from them, a witch attacking them and reducing them in height until the people they would seek for help looked at them as less than rodents if they went to them for help.
They'd survived, thanks to a family at the same scale that had found them. Raised them as family, taught them survival at their heights. Sam hadn't been over three inches tall, and Dean just a bit taller. Over the years they'd adapted, and their knacks had appeared, unique abilities that kept them safe and fed.
Dean could find anything he needed, but he needed to need it. They hadn't figured out exactly how to make him track down just anything, though it had saved them from starvation multiple times.
Sam could sense anyone that was looking around, either for or near them. It was invaluable in staying undetected time and time again when they raided the nearby rooms.
"Just one more," Dean said out loud from just ahead of Sam.
Sam glanced up. Dean's voice was soft, so it didn't carry far enough to be heard outside of the walls. "You really think it'll do much good?" he asked, resigned to their empty supply bags.
Dean shrugged. "I saw some kid checking in earlier. He might have some snacks we can nab. It's better than nothin', right?"
The diner wasn't too busy, with only a few tables taken up by locals, but it took a little time to decide what he wanted. Jacob offered the hostess an easygoing smile while he checked over the menu and made his decision. He'd long since learned to keep a mellow demeanor with people, considering his height and bulk.
He hadn't done as much lifting in the past year as he was used to, but he was getting back into things after an old injury had finally healed. Even without the intense regimen, he was formidable. His lax attitude, one that he'd been able to practice on the most timid of people, worked well. He placed his order and the hostess offered him a friendly smile as she went to tell the cook.
Soon enough he had a bag placed in his hand, and the food boxed within was so warm he felt it through the layers of cardboard and plastic. He left and, with one more glance at the dimming horizon, hurried back to his chosen home for the night.
In minutes, his car pulled up to the door of his motel room once more, with faded paint and a dull brass number nailed to the front.
Jacob moved casually as he got out of the car, his bag of food hanging from one hand and his room key in the other. Soon enough, the latch of the door clicked loudly to announce his return and he stepped inside, tossing the key to the table without a second thought. The plastic bag shuffled loudly as he set it down, and then he paused.
Should probably text mom, he decided, turning back towards the bed where his backpack waited.
From hiding in the room, Dean watched the human move, on edge and at the ready to dive back into the walls they had emerged from.
A thin strip of light lit up one eye where he was peering out, the only part of him that was visible as he assessed the situation. Sam kept back, one arm over his satchel and alert for any change to his knack.
They were an effective team, and even with the human in the room, Dean decided not to discount the chance at getting some much-needed food for them and their family.
The plastic bag, up on the table, let out an aroma that called Dean back to older days. Back when they could order their own food and eat when the meals were warm.His mouth watering, he kept his eyes glued on it.
"We can totally take it," Dean whispered to Sam.
"Are you nuts?! "
Dean waved Sam off. "All we gotta do is wait for him to be distracted. In, out, there's nothing to it. Everyone gets food and he goes on never knowing we exist."
Sam sighed. "Walt will kill you one of these days."
Dean flashed a charming, confident grin. "Haven't been caught yet, have I?"
The tiny conversation in the room never caught Jacob’s attention as he shifted his bag around on the bed, dumping out some of his things and snagging his small phone from a side pouch. In his hands, the little thing bordered on ridiculous, and he had gotten many comments before about his thumbs being too big for the buttons. He was nearing his full height, inches over six feet, and he had the hands to match.
Even so, he poked out a quick message on the phone with relative ease, used to making use of such small buttons. It helped that he had quite a bit of practice with almost everything being made for someone with smaller hands.
With the text sent, he tossed it back to the bed with a single bounce, and then grabbed his supplies to move them to the bathroom sink. As he trudged across the room, hardly making note of the decor or the faded paint, he rolled his shoulder with a faint wince. It seemed like it was always stiff now, despite it being months since it had pained him. A jagged, puckered scar, hidden beneath layers of tshirt and hoodie, was supposed to be all that was left of the wound.
At least he didn’t have to use a cane to hold himself up anymore. He tossed his supplies into the sink alcove, and then wandered back to the main room.
His phone was already blinking to show it had a return message. When he grabbed it, he almost rolled his eyes at the simple urgency of the Call me? on the tiny screen.
Wearily and hoping he wouldn’t take so long that his food cooled off, Jacob sat on the end of the bed and dialed the number to give his mother a call to let her know he was okay.
While Jacob got settled, the Winchesters were on the move.
Sam darted out from cover first, dashing over to the leg of the table. Though he disagreed with Dean on their timing, knowing they'd be better off waiting for this kid to step out of the room or fall asleep, there was also the possibility that the food would be put in the mini-fridge in the corner. The second it went in there, it would be out of their reach forever. They would be back to scrounging for scraps and discards.
Flattening his back against the table leg, Sam chanced one look out at where Jacob was, then motioned for Dean, starting the second half of their routine.
Dean ran full-speed at the table, pulling out his hook as he went. He sized up the toss and twirled the hook once, twice, three times to gain momentum before releasing it to arc up into the air.
It sailed up, and even as Dean hit the leg of the table next to Sam, found its mark. He tugged twice and smirked as he handed the black thread over to Sam to climb up. He never missed his mark.
Sam scrambled up the thread without missing a beat.
Jacob's voice, deep and mellow, created the background noise for their risky plan. When the call connected, he couldn't help a brief smile. "Hey, mom," he greeted, knowing at least some of her concerns were immediately quelled. "Yeah, Kansas," he said in reply to something on the other line.
His gaze didn't wander much from the odd, plain painting behind the TV, sparing Sam and Dean from a glance. "Uh-huh. I got some brochures and stuff that we can look at when I get back. I probably could try to make the overnight drive ..."
He trailed off and the faint mumble of his mother insisting he not do that could be heard out of the little phone. Jacob chuckled and rolled his eyes. "I'm not gonna," he insisted. More mumbling from the phone. "Little place called Trails West. It's cozy. Somehow I'll survive."
Sam reached the top of the table as Jacob droned on about the area he was in. Keeping the plastic bag of food between him and the human, he signaled Dean it was safe to come up.
Dean started his climb, slow and steady and nothing like Sam. He had never taken to the activity like his younger brother, preferring to keep his feet on solid ground. Solid, low ground. Unfortunately, their size worked against them in many ways, and one of them was the necessity of climbing and keeping to heights out of reach when possible, resigning Dean to a life of climbing. Sending up Sam as a sentry had become a regular habit between them, giving them the smallest amount of exposure down on the ground possible.
Sam sighed as he waited, looking once more around the bag to make sure that Jacob remained in the dark to their presence.
For all appearances, Jacob might never look their way. He had a patient look on his face as his mother went over her plans for the next few days, and how glad she was that he was on track despite his setbacks going into his last year of high school. A year was a long time, and it gave him a chance to heal.
“Yeah, mom, love you too,” he finally got to say. She seemed mollified about his stay in the Trails West motel, and let him hang up without more fuss.
As his thumb mashed the End button, he turned to the side to toss the phone down next to the rest of his stuff. That food was waiting, and his eyes next went right for the table. He was so shocked by what he saw that he froze halfway to a stand.
Hanging from a string, dangling at least a foot off the floor and climbing up to the table, was a tiny little figure. Jacob stared, not even noticing anyone else around, and finally straightened. “A sprite?” he blurted, more confusion than anything else in his tone.
The summer before, Jacob had gone on a camping trip with some of his friends. What was supposed to be a normal outing to enjoy the outdoors away from civilization had taken a turn for the fantastical when Jacob had discovered a tiny little man in their campsite. Sporting green clothes that blended in with the forest, he couldn’t stand over four inches tall.
He’d had wings. Vibrant green ones that mimicked leaves as if the little guy had fallen off of a tree and into existence all at once. With bright green eyes to match, contrasting with his brown skin, Bowman Leafwing had looked every part a forest fairy. Not that he ever let anyone call him that.
Jacob had gone back to that forest many times since then, learning a bit more about the wood sprites and how they lived. One thing he remembered distinctly was that sprites were not especially good climbers, so if that little figure speeding up the string as fast as his little arms would allow was a sprite, he didn’t come from Wellwood.
“Holy shit.” Jacob didn’t have time for many other thoughts. He lurched forward, careful not to bump the table, and crouched down next to it. “Dude, don’t fall!” Before his worry could become a reality, Jacob’s hands darted out and cupped several inches underneath the tiny guy. That way, at least, no one had to break any bones in their rush.
Sam balked from the edge of the table, taking a step away from the human. It was like seeing a mountain rise up and rush at them all at once, and it was hard to believe that all of that was just one guy.
Dean was in much worse shape. Jacob's movement through the air sent the thread swinging slightly, enough to offset his balance. He clung desperately to it, all climbing halted. One foot wrapped around the climbing thread to anchor him in place while he yanked out his knife, an instinctive reaction even in midair.
"I was doing fine before you!" Dean snapped angrily, holding the knife threateningly. Most of the threat was reduced by the fact that he couldn't actually reach the guy to strike unless he physically put his hand an inch within reach.
"Dean!" Sam called out, diving to grab the hook anchored to the top of the table. With all the movement going on, all he could see was the hook slipping from where it rested in a crack in the worn wood grain.
With one tiny person swinging on a thread and brandishing a knife at him and another one appearing on the table and diving towards the edge, Jacob balked. His hands remained under the one who was climbing, but only just, as he focused for a moment on the other. Tiny hands, perfect imitations of the much larger hands of a human, gripped the little fish hook so it wouldn’t lose its purchase on the edge of the table. A fish hook.
“No way,” Jacob muttered, watching the little person for a moment before turning his gaze back to the other one. This guy had a glare on his face that couldn’t be mistaken no matter how small it was.
The little knife glinted in the light as the man swung back and forth on his thread, and Jacob realized they didn’t look much like the sprites he knew. Aside from the climbing, they both had bags hanging on their shoulders, and their jackets looked closer to human design than wood sprite. He did a double take between them, lingering on the hook to make sure the little guy on the table wasn’t about to drop it or go tipping over the side.
Finally, Jacob tilted his head to get a better look at the one who determinedly held a knife out while clinging to the thread with only one hand. That by itself took the kind of strength that most wood sprites simply didn’t have. Jacob eyed the little hand, but then noticed the texture of the jacket the little guy wore.
“Is that leather?” he asked, one hand moving up from where it hovered a few inches under the little guy. He kept it out of range of the tiny knife, like he was guarding a candle. When he thought he had an opening, he brushed a fingertip over the back of the jacket before backing off again. He didn’t want to upset his balance.
Jacob was baffled and fascinated all at once. “Well, you’re not wood sprites, that’s for sure.”
"What are you--" Dean didn't know what to react to first. He swung his arm defensively backwards, where he'd felt a large finger graze his jacket. "Do I look like Tinkerbell?!"
The action of trying to strike at the offending hand sent his thread swinging in a new direction. Up above, Sam's grip tightened on the hook as it threatened to slip from its spot. "Dean, stop moving!" he called down in warning. If the hook fell, Dean might not get hurt, but he would definitely get a one-way trip into the human's hand. That... would end badly for one of them. Maybe Dean, maybe the human if his hand got sliced to ribbons by Dean's silver knife.
Dean returned his hand to the thread to anchor himself, his boots pinching the thread for stability. He'd given up on any hope of progress while under such scrutiny. "Unless I've got a set of wings I never noticed, wrong friggin' guess, Godzilla!" he snapped in annoyance.