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Dean of Nowhere

Chapter Text


So fleeting after a lifetime in the dark. Agonized screams filling the choking hot air in its memories. Steam surrounding it as molten ice slices into its former body. A scream joins the chorus of terror and fear that rises towards the arched ceiling miles above... a ceiling that seals it off from the worlds around it.

The misty air is difficult to see through during the torment, and to one used to the ways of Hell, the source of that mist becomes obvious even as another torture starts and skin is flayed layer by layer while tethered to the rack. Blood boils and fills the air. A thousand souls burn together.

Perception blurs. A thousand years pass in the space of a minute. A minute becomes a thousand lifetimes of agony. Other voices join whilst older voices are extinguished, making that final passage to demonkind.

Lifetimes of searching that dark realm had finally allowed the human-turned-demon to discover a crack in the barrier.

The writhing cloud of black smoke hovers near the coveted exit, blocking it from sight of the others that pass by. It worries the crack with a tendril, trying to widen it enough to slip through and escape back to reality.

Fresh air wafts through, and the demon freezes.

Such a crisp, clean breath of air. The smoke is displaced by the movement, and the demon triples its efforts.

For a second, a lifetime, a thousand agonies, the crack is wide enough to slip through. The demon surges upwards, thinning itself to a trickle. The opening doesn’t last long, sealing up and closing Hell off from earth like a healing wound. None can follow, and it can’t turn back.

None of that matters to the demon. It is free.

After an eternity in the dark where it has forgotten its very name, the world is open to it. It could do as it wanted. Be whatever it wanted.

There are no more barriers.

Across a sparkling night sky, a black cloud drifts.


Far below the drifting cloud of smoke, there was a campground on the edge of an expansive forest. The area was sparsely lit with fire pits dotted throughout the area, cheery flames pushing the encroaching darkness away. Nearly every spot was occupied, some with tents and some with the small trailer-hitch campers designed for more comfort. The distant rows of RVs had passed out of sight with the setting sun.

Jacob Andris sat in front of one of the campfires with two of his friends. Chase Lisong, a petite Chinese kid, leaned back in his folding chair to absently watch the clouds drift over the moon. Bobby Loran occupied his time poking at the fire with a stick, making embers crumble and send up sparks as they split. Jacob relaxed and listened to the wind in the trees and the crickets chirping, a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

As a last hurrah for the summer, the three had arranged to take a trip together to the land Bobby's family owned. His connections landed them a free reservation at the campsite. Jacob laughed and joked with his friends and they occasionally shifted from their seats to grab something from the cooler or toss something onto the flames. Other campfires around them had been abandoned to burn out as the campers retired to their tents, but the three teens remained awake, taking full advantage of the nice weather.

"Dude, I'm surprised Miranda didn't kick your ass for that," Chase snickered at Bobby after hearing his latest story.

"It's not my damn fault," Bobby complained. A Texas drawl slipped into the edge of his words, just barely coloring his accent. "She knows it, too, or she wouldn't be giving me the pouty silent treatment all week."

"It must be tough being a jackass," Jacob mused wryly. 

Bobby lifted the stick he'd been using to prod at the fire to jab it mockingly at Jacob before lowering it down again. 

"How did you manage to try to meet up with her at the wrong theatre?” Jacob asked. “Did you have a stroke that day?"

"Jesus Christ, guys, it's a mistake anyone coulda made," Bobby complained, looking besieged from all sides.

Jacob snickered. "Hey, dude, don't worry about it. Every group has its dumb blond."

Bobby scoffed. "Oh, you can fuck right off, Andris."

The cloud remained unseen as the banter between the friends continued, its path bringing it above the trees surrounding their campsite. Something about the words that were bandied so carelessly about struck a spark deep within its core, forcing it to remember times long past.

Once, it had been one of those creatures. Before the sweet parting of flesh became an eternity in the fire.

The writhing darkness might have left, there and then, to seek out better, more fertile hunting grounds, but it felt a glow of recognition from one of the three. A burning ember of resentment and entitlement that sang to the demon, seeing a kindred spirit within the paltry human.

This is the one.

The demon allowed itself slowly drift down into the branches and leaves that rustled in the calm night breeze, the darkness roiling around its core to appraise the humans and their campfire. The burning logs bore a slight resemblance of the Pit, and for a moment the demon yearned for the sweltering heat it had lived in for centuries. Earth was a sharp, cold world in comparison.

The relentless breeze that whipped the humans’ fire into a greater blaze also stirred sulfur free from the demon’s incorporeal form. The yellow flakes drifted free of the black cloud as it hovered in wait, caking the trees and even alighting on some of the scattered supplies the campers were using. It was all the demon could do to wait, to be sure that this human would suit its purposes. With others around, it would risk a fast exorcism to jump the guy’s body.

It had survived the Pit for centuries, it could wait for a few minutes more. Patience was something it had in abundance, especially if it could further the plans spinning inside its blackened heart.

Unaware of the malicious gaze upon them, Jacob grinned and held his hands up in surrender. "Oh, come on," he chided. "You were wide open for it."

Bobby rolled his sky blue eyes. "Yeah, and you're a shit," he griped back, though a smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. The facade broke as the three of them snickered, and Chase leaned over in his chair to grab another can of soda from the cooler. He offered one to Jacob, but Jacob shook his head in a refusal.

"Bobby, you want one?" Chase asked, still leaning precariously in his chair with one hand on the edge of the cooler.

"Yeah, sure," Bobby answered, holding up a hand.

Chase reared back to toss the can to his friend, but that was all it took to tip his chair beyond the point of no return. The loss of balance tossed him to the ground and the can soared almost two feet wide of its mark, sailing past Bobby’s hand and landing somewhere among the trees behind him.

"Fuck me running," Chase swore, pushing himself up. "Sorry, dude."

Bobby snickered. "Dumbass." He put his hands on his knees and pushed himself up, wandering away from the campfire to find the lost can of soda. Even if he couldn't drink it without the risk of it exploding all over him, he couldn't litter on his own family's land.

Unseen by any of the teenagers, a swirling cloud drifted downwards even as the blond teen ventured into the underbrush to fetch the lost can. The seed of darkness that lurked inside the human drew it like a moth to flame. There was a kindred soul there, and with a little nurturing, that seed would blossom into something more to the demon’s liking.

Just as Bobby leaned over to snatch the can off the ground, the cloud of darkness whirled into action.

The human didn’t have time to blink or otherwise react as he was surrounded by a storm of surging blackness. A twisted, shattered soul forced open his mouth and poured itself heedlessly into the teenager’s body, forcing Bobby to choke it down. There was a roaring sound in his ears, and then darkness was pouring into the ears as well.

By the time he straightened, there was no trace of the demon.

Blue eyes like ice blinked, then changed to black.

Bobby turned back towards the campfire, where Jacob and Chase still laughed about something. He took a few steps towards them before realizing that he felt like he was merely watching himself move. He could see and hear, he could feel the breeze on his face, but he was apart from his own actions.

What the fu--

Watch, a commanding voice invaded Bobby’s thoughts, silencing him and pushing him further back into a cloud of no control. He was shunted to the corner of his own mind, and if his body wasn’t under someone else’s control his heart would be pounding with confusion and fear.

He picked up a sizeable log from their pile of firewood as he passed it, hefting it to test the weight. The others didn't hear him sneaking back towards them. They were probably making fun of him some more. While he'd gone off to correct one of their mistakes, they were snickering at him. Mocking him.

As Bobby lifted the blunt weapon in his hands and advanced a few more steps, Chase finally noticed him standing in the shadows. Bobby didn't pay Chase any attention; his first goal had to be knocking Jacob down. Jacob was the clear threat between the two. While his arms swung the weapon with a strength he'd never had before, Bobby found himself watching the action and thinking his friend deserved it.

Wait, no!

A hesitant thought broke his concentration, and the swing faltered. The blow landed on the side of Jacob’s face as he turned towards Bobby, and it tossed him to the ground with a dazed look in his eyes. Bobby's hands turned to jelly and he dropped the log. Chase leapt up in surprise, but Bobby struck him in the chest with a speedy fist and the other boy started gasping and dropped right back down, startled into an asthma attack.

Bobby's body shook with adrenaline yet still the lack of control persisted. What the fuck am I doing?

There was a strain of annoyance from outside his thoughts, but he didn't know the source. We've got work to do.

He stared at his friends for a second more, and then, Bobby turned and dashed into the woods, heedless of the cries of surprise from other campers coming to see what happened.

Chapter Text

News of the attack in the woods spread. Three friends camping in the woods, having a good time together when one had turned on the others, striking out with a vicious and unwarranted attack that no one saw coming. There was no reason for the attack. No betrayals in their past, nothing but the good-natured ribbing that all teenage guys did.

Reporters and police were drawn to the scene. More than one camping trip was put to an end as the word spread. There was a dangerous man at large in the woods, and there was no way to know if he’d lash out again. All the campgrounds were emptied pending investigation and search.

The two teenagers recovered. One had a brief asthma attack from the blow to his sternum, but his inhaler was nearby and they were able to head it off before it go any worse. Both were taken in an ambulance to the hospital to check for other injuries, and to answer questions from the police.

Police and reporters weren’t the only people attracted to the case.

A tall man stepped into the room that Jacob and Chase were staying in until they got released. So far, Jacob was allowed to leave, but after the recent asthma attack, Chase was under close watch to make sure that the attack hadn’t caused any other injuries. It left them spinning their wheels together, stuck with bland hospital food.

The first thing that stuck out about the man was the dark, dirty blond hair sticking up in a casual spike that didn’t quite fit in with the suit he was wearing. He flashed a badge at the two guys waiting with a wry grin. Though older than both teens, it didn’t seem that he was old enough for the FBI badge he wielded.

“Name’s Jimmy Page,” he greeted. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions about the attack at the campground for me.”

Jacob's eyebrows shot up. He glanced over the guy's appearance, lingering on the official-looking FBI embossed over his ID. 

Holy shit.

He shared a glance with Chase, who shrugged in his hospital bed. Neither of them had realized this was a case for the feds.

Looking back at the agent, Jacob realized he wasn't sure if he was supposed to stand, or shake the man's hand, or what. He'd sat in the same worn out chair when the cops came by to question him. If he was supposed to do something, they'd probably tell him.

"Uh, yeah," he answered, straightening in the chair. His headaches had begun to subside, and now he only sported a ghastly bruise on his cheek from Bobby smacking him with the firewood. "I guess."

Chase spoke up after him. "We did already talk to the cops, though. What's going on? We're not in trouble, are we?"

“Not at all.” Jimmy gave them a reassuring grin as he grabbed one of the other chairs in the room to sit down on. “We’re all just glad you two are okay after the attack. Now, the reason they sent me in is this case raised a red flag in my department.”

Jimmy stowed the fake badge in his suit, next to the other fake ID’s he used on a regular basis. “From what we can tell, your friend, Bobby, attacked you without any reason and is currently at large in the forest. We could have a full search on our hands. Comb the forest, have the search dogs out in force with their trainers and teams. Everyone is hoping to avoid that, which is where I come in. I’ve got… special training for a situation like this. I’ll just need you to answer a few questions before I can get started.”

Jacob's jaw clenched and he blinked a few times, nodding shallowly. He tried not to react any more than that, but Jimmy's explanation had him on edge immediately. The thought of agents and dogs swarming those woods worried him, but not on Bobby's behalf.

His thoughts immediately went to Sam and Bowman, and the other wood sprites that called the deepest parts of the forest their home. If the FBI found them, they would likely lock each and every one of them up, or at least whichever ones didn't fall victim to a dog's bite. They were helpless out there.

Four inches was tall for them, and they had been warm and welcoming to him even after he trapped Sam and Bowman under a bucket during their first encounter. Small and trusting. That was precisely why Jacob, after gaining their trust a few months ago, had decided to never tell anyone their secret. Even Bobby and Chase didn't know about the sprite village deep in the woods, but they would if they let the FBI search the land. Jacob hoped he could give Agent Page enough information to prevent a search of that magnitude.

"Right, of course," Jacob said with a strained smile. "Hopefully whatever's wrong with Bobby can be sorted out fast ..."

Chase scoffed. "No joke. My parents are traveling, imagine calling your mom in the middle of her business trip and explaining this."

The agent could only assume it was fear for Jacob's best friend that worried him so much. Lost and alone and no way of knowing exactly what had turned him against them, though the agent had his suspicions about the cause. Suspicious he needed to confirm for the good of everyone, no matter what the real authorities thought.

Pulling out a notepad from his jacket, the agent leaned forward, his expression intense. “I’m going to need you to answer some questions, then. No matter how odd they get, it’s important you answer each and every one.”

He held their gazes for a long moment, trying to convey the importance of their discussion. “First things first. Can you tell me exactly what happened when Bobby lashed out?”

Jacob took a moment to collect his thoughts and memories of the confusing night. The blow to his head could have been much worse, but there were still fuzzy spots from the night his friend had gone off the deep end.

When Jacob paused, Chase picked up the story. "We were just sitting around our campfire. I tossed him a soda and missed and then it just sorta happened."

Jacob shook his head. "He got up to go pick up the can," he added in. "When he came back he had a piece of firewood in his hand and he clocked me." He pointed to the long bruise on the side of his face for emphasis. "I remember that much for sure."

Chase sighed wearily. "I've never seen the guy do anything like that. He's kinda more of a big talker, y'know?"

The agent pursed his lips thoughtfully as he sketched down notes on the yellow paper. “People can change,” he cautioned as he did so. “Sometimes you won’t even recognize them afterwards. It’s a good thing he didn’t catch you at the right angle with that wood.” 

If that had happened, he’d be examining corpses in the morgue, one of the worst parts of the job. Especially when the victims were just some kids, out camping to have a good time.

“Next,” Jimmy went on, keeping himself on track, “did you two… smell anything strange? Like bad eggs, or anything out of place in the campground?”

Jacob frowned and glanced at Chase. They racked their brains, but the smell of the air was far from their minds that night, all things considered. "Y'mean like someone cooking something?" Chase eventually asked.

Jacob pursed his lips. He could only think of one reason why they'd be asked about a weird smell. "Was there some kinda chemical leak or something? Is he gonna be okay out there?"

“Well, there could be an outside source influencing his decisions,” the agent told them delicately. That was putting it mildly, considering the possibilities that existed for a guy to turn on his lifelong friends. “If there is, we want to find it and put a stop to it. If not, we need to find him and find out why he attacked you.” He tapped down on his notepad, following an invisible list of questions. “Did you feel any cold spots or breezes?”

Both teens shook their heads, while inwardly thinking that it was an odd question. Jimmy had warned them, though so they didn't say anything about it. "No breeze, except up in the trees, I guess," Jacob replied.

"And it was hot as fu-- it was really hot," Chase chimed in, barely remembering to moderate his language for the agent. "His ... eyes seemed a little funny for a second, but I think it was the lack of oxygen messing with my head."

“They did?” The agent’s interest was piqued. Now they were getting somewhere. Random attacks in the woods were one thing, but strange happenstance around those attacks made them his business. “Do you remember exactly what you saw?”

Jacob was watching Chase, too, only hearing some of his words repeated from before. He apparently hadn't deemed the details worth mentioning to the cops, and he looked unsure of them even now. "Well, I mean, other than smacking Jacob in the face he was already acting weird," he admitted. "I guess if there's some kinda gas leak out there it'd make sense, 'cause he was super tense and he hit me fast. While I was pretty much dying on the ground in front of him, his eyes looked super dark."

"What the hell," Jacob muttered, staring at Chase incredulously.

Chase shrugged exasperatedly. "Dude you try suffocating and tell me you don't hallucinate a little."

“Perfect,” Jimmy muttered under his breath, finally eager to be in town. Up until that point he thought he was off on a goose chase. Just something he’d been put up to so he’d chase his tail for a bit and keep him out of trouble. But now, he had a purpose and a goal.

The agent stowed his notepad back in his jacket and stood up. “I think that should be all for today. You should both stay out of the forest until this is all sorted out. With him on the loose, it won’t be safe to confront him until we know what caused the attack.” He drew out two business cards from his pocket and handed one off to each teenager. “If you see or hear anything strange, no matter how little, give me a call. Anything.

Chase took his card and set it on the tiny table next to the bed where he was confined until further notice. Jacob shoved his into his hoodie pocket and nodded. "Yeah, dude. Thanks. Hopefully you can figure this stuff out before anything happens," he said, still a little dazed that the FBI thought this was worth their time. He began to wonder if maybe Bobby's family had leaned on the government for it.

The threat of a full search of the forest still worried at Jacob's core, so he stood after the agent walked out and sidled to the door curiously. Chase asked him what the hell he was doing, but Jacob waved him off and concentrated on leaning carefully out so he could watch the agent walk down the hall.

When he stopped and started to glance around, Jacob ducked back into the room, and then listened hard for any further signs on what the guy was doing.

The second he was out of the room, Agent ‘Jimmy Page’ glanced surreptitiously around the hall, checking that none of the actual police or any of the overly helpful nurses were around to overhear him. He didn’t need his identity being questioned, not now that he’d found an actual case. Unlike that goose chase he’d gone on in Haven, Kansas. There was nothing there to find, but here he had an almost-guaranteed demon to deal with.

Once he was sure he was alone in the hall, he slipped a flip phone out of his jacket. He pulled up a familiar number, one he’d never thought he’d be calling again until the man called him the other night pointing him here. The older man always kept tabs, with honest worry for the younger man after losing his entire family, and his leads were good nine times out of ten.

“Hey,” he greeted. There was a pause while the person on the other end of the line talked, then, “It’s me.” He scoffed. “No, the other me. Who else are you expecting to call you? A local candygram?”

There was a longer pause, and the agent’s ears turned pink. “Whatever. That case you told me about? It’s definitely our kinda thing. Black eyes and all. Problem is, it escaped into the forest.” The person on the other end of the phone must have been talking, because the agent gave a very unprofessional roll of his eyes. “Bobby. I can handle myself in the woods. What do you take me for?”

He shifted his feet, then twisted around to check the hall again with a squeal of black rubber shoes against linoleum. “Fine. Any problems come up, I’ll call ya. I’m pretty sure I can handle a little walk in the woods though.” He nodded. “Yep, got it. Let me know if you hear anything else.”

Stowing the phone in his jacket, the agent strolled casually away.

Jacob frowned and shuffled back into the room, leaning idly against the wall. The agent was going out to the forest on his own to investigate. While Jacob wasn't too worried about the man being able to subdue Bobby, he was worried about him stumbling upon Sam or Bowman out there.

For that matter, if Bobby found them while he was in this state, there was no telling what he'd do. They were small. Bobby could do some serious damage without meaning to, without even considering that he’d knocked Jacob out with one decisive blow, by catching him by surprise. Whatever his state of mind was, it wasn’t good. The sprites wouldn't stand a chance, no matter how talented the knights were with their swords.

"So, what's up with all the shifty looks?" Chase asked, breaking into his thoughts.

Jacob glanced up with a sheepish grin. "Hey, at least he didn't notice me. I was hoping he might know what's up with Bobby and he's just not telling us."

Chase nodded absently. "Whatever it is, I'm not camping with that nut for a while," he quipped.

Jacob bobbed his head in sympathy, understanding Chase's reasoning. While Jacob might not have taken lasting damage from the brief altercation, the assault had been enough to taint the memories of camping with Bobby. "Listen, you gonna be alright here? I gotta get out of this room for a while."

Chase pouted and put a betrayed look on his face before waving a hand. "I'll be fine. You head out. I bet your mom and stepdad are just waiting for you," he said.

Jacob chuckled and nodded before heading out of the room, leaving Chase to wait for the all-clear.

Chapter Text

Dean surveyed the campground, the sight before him confirming his fears.

Finding the site of the assault had been simple enough. The police tape didn’t deter him when he spotted it ahead of him as he tromped through the tame wilderness and around scattered campsites. POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS was a welcome sight, letting him know he was on the right track.

The campsite itself was still full of the teenagers’ supplies. After the two victims were taken out of the forest by an ambulance, the supplies became a part of the scene of the crime. A chunk of firewood was discarded to the side, and Dean could only assume that it was what Jacob had been struck with. He was glad the kid had survived the attack. Jacob and Chase were both so young, with long lives ahead of them.

Most demons didn’t leave survivors.

Leaves crinkled under Dean’s boots as he leaned in closer, examining the ground with sharp green eyes. Sulfur was caked on the blades of grass and the bark of a tree, a rancid smell lifting from it. There was a demon loose in the forest and there was no way of knowing what it would do next.

Dean straightened with a sigh and dug out his phone. He snapped a few shots of the sulfur, sending them straight to Bobby, who would analyze them and send Dean anything he might dig up.

“Like I need a babysitter,” Dean grumbled as his thumb pressed SEND with more force than necessary. He’d flatly refused Bobby’s offer to help, resenting the insinuation that he wouldn’t last a day out in the wilderness on his own.

I can handle myself out here, thanks.

He was still fuming at the implications Bobby had planted in his head. Like he was taking more risks than necessary, putting himself in more danger than needed. 

Everyone needs backup, Dean.

“Sorry, my backup ain’t answering his phone.”

After so long hunting on his own, Dean was never surprised to find himself talking out loud just to hear a voice that existed outside his head.

Dean selected a leaf with sulfur caked to it, bagging it up and sticking it in his jacket, a piece of evidence that the police would never think of saving. He’d stripped out of the FBI getup as fast as he could, though the badge remained in his pocket just in case he ran into an officer out in the woods. The campground was closed pending further investigation, and Dean had no intention of spending any time in a cell when people might be at risk. They couldn’t afford to take a demon at large in the forest lightly, and the police were never prepared for something like this.

Careful examination of the surrounding woods revealed snapped branches and clear signs of a trail leading deeper, into the depths of the forest. Dean slung his duffel over his shoulders and followed the trail, determined to put a stop to the demon before it attacked anyone else.

Birds sang and a light breeze made the vibrant green leaves of the forest rustle.

Rischa knew she wasn't supposed to be this far out of the village without someone there with her, but Sam and Bowman had already left for their daily patrols, and the forest had all but called her name. With her mama occupied with the washing, it was easy to slip beyond the stream on her dainty wings without anyone taking any notice.

She didn't regret a thing. Way out in the woods, probably as far as Jacob's clearing, she'd found a happy bed of wildflowers that faced the sky in joyous color. She wove among them and hummed a song of her own while the breeze rustled overhead.

Occasionally, Rischa would brush her hand along a stem and concentrate on the flower petals above her. The simple thought of a Prayer sent magic borrowed from the Lady of Life into the plants around her, and the flowers lit with a soft glow for seconds at a time before fading.

She almost hoped Sam and Bowman would find her out here while they patrolled. She'd love to see them and maybe fly with them for a while before they inevitably sent her home with a scolding.

It was a walk of a few hours, but Dean refused to admit he might be lost. The trail had vanished into thin air an hour in, and he’d continued on the same path. He had supplies in his bag, at least enough granola for a day or two, and Bobby would never let him hear the end of it if he had to call in a rescue.

Shoulda learned my lesson after the wendigo.

There was a gate with a strict KEEP OUT sign hanging on it. The gate swung wide open, a chain hanging from one side. Dean eyed it up. It was the first suspicious thing he’d found in hours, and he decided to check it out. This fence was his best lead since losing Bobby’s trail. There was no way of knowing if the demon had really gone through it or not, but he could always backtrack later on that afternoon. 

If he could find it again.

“Shut up,” Dean growled to himself, berating his own thoughts. “I can handle myself out here, thanks.”

A walk of twenty minutes later, and he heard something out of place.

Is that… singing?

Dean quieted his steps in a heartbeat and stalked through the foliage in search of the source of the sound. He spotted flowers ahead…

Glowing flowers.

Suspicions aroused, Dean took a few more careful steps through the tall grass as the stalks waved in the breeze. He stared down at the flowers in confusion. Demons wouldn’t bother with something like making flowers glow. They spent their energy following twisted depredations. The most mellow of demons made deals for souls. A witch might have the magic for it, but in the middle of the forest, with no one else around for miles…

It was during those confused ramblings that Dean realized something was moving in the wildflowers. Letting the duffel slip down, his instincts kicked in, and he lunged forward. The song choked and stopped out of the source’s sheer surprise. Two hands closed around the strange shape, and he straightened, staring down at his hand. A brief glimpse of what he’d caught sent his mind reeling.


Dean of Nowhere by nightmares06

Artwork by jennilah!

Rischa’s eyes were wide in the dark.

She'd only noticed a shadow descending on her seconds before something large and fast closed around her, trapping her body and her surprised, fluttering wings in a small space. The shape of the light that leaked in showed the silhouettes of fingers clamped tightly around her.

"Oh," she breathed, her heart beating faster. The human's feelings crashed around her in a startling clarity, and she was immediately certain that it wasn't Jacob. None of his calm, steady, reassuring emotions were present in her captor. She’d come to know the tranquil human well enough, and this wasn’t him, it couldn’t be him.

A giant she didn't know had snatched her up, and no one even knew she was out there.

Intensity, betrayal, sadness, determination, and an almost painful longing clashed with her own fear, and Rischa breathed faster. She couldn't read whether her captor's intentions were good or bad. All she knew was what Jacob and Sam had warned her.

Not all humans were dangerous, but some were very very bad.

"Oh, no," she spoke again, her wings fluttering desperately. She pushed weakly at the fingers walled around her, wishing for escape. She felt so small, and some tears leaked from her golden eyes, no matter that she tried to will them away. "Oh no."

Outside of the cramped confines of his hands, Dean stared down at them in surprise. All that kept him from thinking he’d imagined it all was the slightest flutter against his fingers, like something was trying to get out. It was a ghost sensation, almost hard to feel past the calluses earned from long years of hunting and car repair. A tiny tickle he could almost ignore if he didn’t remember what he’d seen as his hands closed.

Adrenaline pumped through his veins, keeping him on edge as he lifted his hand closer to his face. If the whatever-it-was lashed out, he was ready to do what he had to.

But… it looked like it was just a little girl.

A flash of green wings and a startled face was all he’d been able to make out before snatching her up, and as he started to crack his fingers to let the light in, he believed he’d imagined it. There would be nothing inside, or some kind of little bug, not…

Between slight cracks in his fingers, Dean caught sight of a fearful expression on a little face, and he hurriedly closed them up again.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered to himself. “That can’t… Son of a bitch.” His mind tried to match up what he’d seen with something he was familiar with and got nowhere.

The harsh sound of the gruff voice muttering out there made Rischa flinch. She could feel more confusion around him as he processed what he'd managed to catch. Rischa knew that meant he had no idea what sprites were, but that didn't necessarily mean he wasn't a danger to her.

She stopped her fluttering wings and hugged her knees close to her rapidly heaving chest. Her pulse pounded and her breathing wouldn't slow down. She was too afraid.

Rischa sniffled and more tears leaked out, but she tried to consider her options. Sam always encouraged her to think things through before anything else. So far, she couldn’t find a solid hold on the man's intentions, and his confusion only added difficulty to the task. She held onto the fact that she hadn't felt any traces of an intent to harm her, yet. Confusion, curiosity, suspicion... She brushed her tears away with the heel of one hand and managed to speak up a little louder, hoping her voice would carry beyond the huge hands surrounding her.

"Please, sir, d-don't hurt me."

The light, lilting stutter made Dean even more aware of what he had trapped in his hand. Bobby had never mentioned anything like this in the forest, not even rumors. Which meant he might be the first person to stumble on the delicate person.

“Wait,” Dean said, trying to switch to a reassuring tone of voice. The fear in that little voice hurt to hear. Like he was terrifying a kid, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. “I’m not… I’m not here to hurt anyone.”

Hesitantly, he cracked his fingers again, letting in some light for the little girl. His heart sank when he saw the way her cheeks glistened. “Hey, you’re okay,” he told her, softening his voice. “I just need to figure out what’s going on around here. And what you are. No one’s getting hurt.”

Rischa peered out at him with widened eyes. She found nothing but earnest truth in his reassurances. Even if his hands were still mostly closed around her and preventing her from fluttering away, Rischa chose to believe the human.

She sniffled once more and took a terse breath to regain her composure. This time, when she rubbed her eyes, she scrubbed at her cheeks as well and did her best to look put together. "O-okay," she replied quietly when she looked back up at his intense but concerned green eyes. There was something so familiar about the pattern of his deeper emotions, but Rischa knew better than to ask a stranger about such things. It was rude.

"Um. I'm Rischa... and if you're confused about the flowers, I was just playing. That was me making them glow like that."

“Yeah, about that…” Dean shifted, staring down at the ground around him. Now that he knew the source, he could see a clear path in the glowing flowers already beginning to fade now that he’d snatched up the strange young girl. It would let anyone know where she was, and there was an… innocence in an action like that. As though she didn’t think she was in any danger out in the forest alone.

That was enough to turn his attention back to her. “What are you?” he asked wonderingly, momentarily deterred from the case he was on. With any luck, he could ascertain if she was a threat to anyone, and maybe find out if she’d seen or sensed the demon in the forest. “And what kind of magic makes flowers glow?”

Rischa shifted where she sat, letting her wings relax a little. They rested on the surface of the hands around her, tentatively at first, before she relaxed more. He didn't seem to mind, and his fascination only grew. "I'm a wood sprite," she answered plainly, seeing no harm in giving the information away. She was getting a better hang on reading what kind of person the man was, and he didn't seem the type that would seek out the others to do them harm.

"It's just magic from the Earth Spirit. She lets me borrow it... The lights are supposed to be so I can see at night, but I think it makes the flowers pretty and they don't seem to mind."

Dean filed that away in his mind, unavoidably fascinated at the sight of someone settling down to sit on his hand. With her little wings resting, he relaxed his hands around her, letting in more light and air.

“Wood sprite,” he repeated after her. It didn’t tell him much, but it let him know what he was dealing with. There was something about her that made him want to trust her words. Maybe it was the innocence, or the way she was answering him even trapped in his grip without any resistance. “And a spirit?” There was more confusion, but this wasn’t the time for it.

“You shouldn’t be out in the forest on your own,” Dean chided her. “It’s not safe. There’s a demon prowling around, and if he found you, he wouldn’t hesitate.” He paused, but there was nothing for it. She could be a witness just like anyone else. “Have you seen anyone out of place here? Aside from me?”

Rischa's brow furrowed with confusion and worry. She recognized the tone in his voice and the protective aura about him, because she felt it from both Sam and Bowman often. It helped her worry a little less despite how quickly he'd snatched her up.

"I didn't ... no," she answered after a moment. "I don't know what a demon is." She wondered for a moment if Jacob knew what that was. She had never heard Sam mention it during all his long years in the village, either, so he probably didn't know.

“Nothing good, is what it is,” Dean muttered, almost more to himself than her. After years hunting on his own, he wasn’t used to having others around when he talked. “You won’t have to worry about it. That’s what I’m here to take care of.”

The sight of how little and vulnerable she was in his hands ratcheted up his worry. If this Bobby Loran kid stumbled on any other little sprites, there wouldn’t be any way for people that small to stop him and that was without the extra mojo a demon gave him. Images of tiny children being tormented by the demon filled Dean’s mind, and put an edge on his determination.

“Look,” he said to her, holding his hand closer to his eyes so he could see her face clearer. He squinted slightly. “I’m going to find a safe place for you, alright? I don’t want you or anyone else getting into any trouble while I stop this guy. My name’s Dean, and I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Rischa wasn't sure what to react to first. She didn't know what Dean might mean by a ‘safe place’ for her, and she wanted to ask. She'd prefer to simply go home and stay in her house if there was trouble.

But his name quickly overtook her thoughts and clamoured for attention as she remembered something.

Dean is --!

Sam, a human like Jacob or Dean, but much smaller, had grown up in the village. He was like an older brother to Rischa and had always been there for her, just like Bowman. He was far away from his family, and on occasion he had talked about them with a fondness and a distant longing. One that, Rischa realized, was present in Dean, too.

Everything began to make sense to her as the pieces fell together, and the thought of Sam's melancholy face when he began to think about his lost brother only motivated her more to make things right. Dean was here.

"Dean! You're--"

"Hey!" A distant voice called out and interrupted her. Rischa twisted around in Dean's cupped hands to try to find the source. It sounded like Jacob, and she heard quick footsteps crashing towards them through the underbrush.

The sound of someone coming towards them instantly caught Dean’s attention, tearing it away from the little girl in his protective grasp. Turning in place, his hands shut once more, sealing Rischa off from the world.

Chapter Text

Dean’s eyes narrowed when he saw who it was.


The teenager from the attack was standing not far away. A tendril of suspicion filled Dean. Why was the kid so deep into the forest after an attack like that? He should be recovering at the hospital with his other friend. A quick scan revealed Chase to be MIA, so he must have stayed behind. Had Jacob tracked Dean into the forest? How else would he know where to find him?

“Funny finding you here,” Dean growled out, holding his hands close to his chest. So long as the tiny winged girl was in his hands, he couldn’t go for a gun; he was vulnerable to an attack, but he might be able to keep her out of harm’s way. He took a step back from Jacob to gain himself distance and time to react. “I thought I told you to stay out of the woods until we catch this guy.”

Jacob frowned. He hadn't expected the agent to make it this far into the woods so quickly. Normally he'd be sheepish about getting caught like this, but at the moment, he couldn't think about that. Other, more important things screamed for his attention.

He'd seen just a hint of green between the man’s fingers before the hands closed.

Jacob closed the distance between them, unable to stop from bristling. As he got closer, he made a visible effort to relax his broad shoulders. He held up his hands briefly to show he carried no threats with him. He was cautious, but not aggressive.


"What's in your hands?" he asked, not bothering to conceal the ice in his tone. He knew the answer and he didn’t like it one bit.

In Dean's hands, a quiet voice muttered "Oh, dear," and Rischa pushed lightly against Dean's fingers. The sudden nerves and protective intent in the air from both humans made her nervous. She felt an echo of pain from Jacob and dearly hoped that Dean hadn’t been the one to strike him. There was no way she'd be able to get out of Dean’s hands on her own, and calling out wouldn’t get them anywhere, either. If Jacob heard her trapped in there, he could get mad, if he wasn't already.

In the end, Rischa chose to wait and listen, and hoped she'd get a chance to explain things soon.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dean snapped, bristling right back. Whoever this kid was, he had no intention of letting him close to the tiny girl. A brief flutter against the inside of his hands vied for his attention, but did nothing to shatter Dean’s concentration on the possible threat in front of him.

“How did you get out here so fast?” Dean countered Jacob’s question with his own, sidestepping around the teenager to keep him at bay. Jacob was slightly shorter than Dean, but built. Even without the tiny girl in his hands, Jacob could pose a threat to the hunter if he wanted to. “Are you working with Bobby?”

Jacob huffed impatiently, his eyes constantly dropping to the hands that he just knew confined a sprite. He couldn't hear them in there, and it made him worry they might be hurt. Or, they could be too scared of the guy who caught them to say anything.

That certainly ruled out Bowman.

"I'm not ... dude, if I was working with him I wouldn't let him just smack me with a piece of firewood," he said, too indignant to brush the question off. The bruise on his face twinged as if in agreement. "I just wanna know what you're really out here for if you're not looking for him. What're you hiding in your hands?" 

“Once you tell me what you’re doing out in the woods I’ll letcha know,” Dean snarked right back. “Or did you forget which of us is supposed to be out here investigating? If you interfere in an official investigation, I can have charges brought against you. Now, I don’t want to do that to you, especially right after the attack, but if you don’t explain what you’re doing out here with the campgrounds closed, that’s exactly what’s going to happen when we get back.” Dean filled the air with all the jargon he could from the FBI and the police, hoping it would be enough to intimidate Jacob into leaving.

Each time Jacob’s eyes dropped to his hands, Dean bristled a little more, knowing he was all that stood between the teen discovering the tiny supernatural child he held.

Jacob faltered and released a slow sigh. "I came here to..." he trailed off, unable to bring himself to say it. It didn't feel right to admit he was out here to check on an entire village of innocent people that fit in his hands. Then again, there was someone trapped in the agent's hands as they spoke, and he had no way of knowing if they were hurt or not.

He had to do what he could to avoid anything worse happening to them, and keep the agent from capturing more in his hands. The sprites were small and innocent, and even their best fighters wouldn’t be able to stop a trained human from capturing as many as he could carry.

Until he knew for sure what this 'Jimmy Page' was up to, Jacob opted to lie instead. "I thought I might be able to find my friend," he said begrudgingly. If he thought about it, it was almost the truth.

Indeed, not far away, one of his friends darted through a tuft of leaves. Bowman glanced back at Sam, worry lingering on his brow.

They had stopped at home for a break from their patrols only to find Candara and Larxe both fretting. Rischa had wandered off, and no one was really sure where she'd gone. Without waiting to see if a patrol would be set up, they'd both set out again with all the haste they could.

"She's always saying she wants to fly out with us," Bowman mumbled. "Maybe this time she just didn't want to wait."

“Don’t worry, Bowman, we’ll find her,” Sam promised, angling his leaf glider around the branch Bowman had fluttered through. It was designed based on Bowman’s leafy wings, and served Sam well on their patrols, but he couldn’t dive through the leaves the same way Bowman could. His style of flying was the opposite of the sprite’s, a patient glide whereas Bowman would flit from side to side.

None of this slowed down Sam’s search. His hazel eyes examined the ground and trees meticulously as they passed them by, determined to find the little sister that had welcomed Sam into her life along with the rest of her family. Sam could remember a time when her little wings were nothing more than leaf buds on her back, and she’d squealed with delight as he’d given her piggybacks around the house.

A familiar shape came into view when they passed by more trees, and Sam brightened. “Maybe Jacob’s seen her,” he called over to Bowman, hope in his voice. The human was close to all of them, but Rischa especially had taken to the towering teenager. She always came to spend time with him when he visited, and Jacob was clearly enamoured with the tiny girl. None of the cheeky comments or playful nudges he might make to Bowman were present in his interactions with Rischa.

Then the other shape that was close to Jacob came into view, and Sam grew tense. “Another human!” he hissed in surprise, tilting his glider to angle towards Jacob and not the stranger.

Bowman saw him, too. A human slightly taller than Jacob, if not as broad. Both of the giants looked tense and ready to pounce at each other, like they were fighting over territory. Bowman frowned as he approached and nearly slowed his flight out of worry that the other human could be dangerous. The nasty bruising on Jacob’s face covered an area Bowman's size, and that strange man was the only one close by that could do damage like that.

Then he saw the other human's hands, and the way that they were cupped close around something. His heart nearly bottomed out, and Bowman couldn't help but assume the worst.

At the stranger's feet, a few flowers were fading from the last glow infused by a Prayer.

Bowman hurtled forward, making a speedy circle around the two humans as he surveyed their positions. He saw Jacob glance up at him in surprise, but Bowman didn't spare the friendly human any attention. His focus was on those powerful and dangerous hands.

His plan was risky, but he had to take it. He dove suddenly, right towards the cupped hands, and landed on them in a crouch. Sam might be more effective at getting the hands open, with his sword and knife handy for threatening the human along with his extra strength, but his glider was nowhere near dextrous enough for such a landing. Sam would have no way of escaping the human’s grasp if he took the same risk. Bowman ignored the startled “What the--!” from above.

"Birdie?" Bowman called.

"Bowman!" came a surprised reply, her voice muffled by the skin, bone and muscle walled between them.

Bowman turned his bright green glare straight up at her captor. "You let her out, now!" he demanded with all the authority he could muster.

Dean didn’t flinch. Instead, it was almost a reflexive reaction to open his fingers enough to make the new sprite stumble, and seconds later he’d joined the little girl in Dean’s hands.

It was starting to get crowded in there.

“Bowman!” Sam shouted as he banked around above Jacob’s head. The glider went into a stoop, and he landed smoothly on their friendly human’s head. Hairs as long as Sam was tall formed a nest around him. He wasn’t worried about being swatted off; it wasn’t the first time he’d used Jacob as a convenient perch. Taking a few steps forward, he gazed desperately at the hands that his adopted little brother had vanished into.

There was no doubt in his mind that the stranger now held both of his siblings.

“What the hell is going on around here?” Dean demanded, his eyes fixated on the third tiny person perched directly on Jacob’s head. He couldn’t fathom having an entire person standing on his head like that. 

Bowman nearly panicked in the enclosed space, spreading his wings as far as they were allowed. Powerful, callused walls prevented him from stretching his wingspan all the way. Before he could string together a sentence made entirely of curses, Rischa squirmed her way around to hug him with the kind of desperation that demanded he pay her some attention. He couldn't see her face in their dim enclosure, but she sighed with relief when he looked at her.

"Bowman, it's Dean," she said simply, and it was all she needed to say for the rest of Bowman's worry to derail completely. Instead, he was merely shocked, and she sighed again, hugging him tightly to remind him that they were okay, and that he didn't have room to flail with fear.

"Blast it ... are you sure?" he asked her. She nodded against him.

While Bowman squirmed uncomfortably in the hands but otherwise calmed himself down, Jacob's own heart rate sped up and his eyes were a little wide, too. He didn't dare move too much lest he upset Sam's perch. He could feel the small boots shifting right on top of his head, a familiar sensation that he wasn't entirely used to yet, but was resigned to anyway.

He could see the agent's intense stare. Those keen green eyes were fixed on a spot just above his head. On Sam. Sam was speedy and dexterous, but Jacob knew he wasn't quick enough to escape the guy if he really wanted to catch him. Bowman hadn't even had time to try to hop away from his hands before he was trapped within them.

"Uh, not much, dude, except you're trapping people who don't deserve it!" Jacob answered, now staring almost exclusively at the cupped hands. He couldn't imagine there being much room for two sprites in there. Bowman's wings alone would be cramped at a weird angle.

Dean gave him an offended glare back. “I’m not hurting them!” he defended. “I just… Everything was going fine until you showed up!” he snapped, remembering that he’d been getting somewhere while talking to Rischa when Jacob came crashing through the forest. Tiny flutters in his cupped hands wouldn’t let him forget how vulnerable both sprites were compared to him or any other human. Including Jacob or that Bobby. “I need to know what’s going on in this forest. That’s all.

Try as he might, he couldn’t look away from the third small person that had appeared. This one didn’t resemble the sprites aside from the clothes he was wearing. He had no wings, and used a glider to fly. Pale skin that matched Dean or Jacob was another sign that set him apart from the two in Dean’s hands.

“And what’s your story, pint-size?” Dean threw at the final person, who’d so far stayed out of the arguments.

Sam stared back, his insides frozen from a combination of the unrelenting stare locked on him and the sight of the stranger’s hands solidly closed around the two sprites. There wasn’t a single crack in those fingers for light or air. Bowman and Rischa would be cramped inside. “That’s my family you have in your hands!” Sam replied stubbornly, wishing he had a way of actually using his rapier to help them. He was too small, and he knew his glider didn’t have the maneuverability he’d need to escape if he tried any rash rescues like Bowman.

Jacob held up his hands again, exasperated and hoping the sprites currently captured wouldn't get hurt by accident. "It's true, okay?" He hardly knew what he should say to de-escalate things, but he had to try. "Listen, we can explain everything, but would you let them out?"

The squirming continued in Dean's hands, invisible to Jacob's eyes. Bowman and Rischa, held so close together, were practically sitting on each other’s wings as they listened. Jacob didn't know who the human was at all. It was entirely up to Sam to figure out who held them, and hopefully before the humans gave up on circling each other and did something more active.

Yet it had been well over a decade since Sam had seen his older brother. Dean’s face had faded from his memory, leaving only an impression of warm green eyes behind. The older man before them, intense and worried with lines on his face from years of hunting, bore little resemblance to that memory. Even his voice had deepened, and it was unlikely that Dean would ever equate the four inch man perched on Jacob’s head to the little brother he’d helped raise.

Luckily for them all, looks weren’t everything.

The year before Sam had been cursed, he’d confronted his older brother about what their dad did for a living. He’d forced Dean to tell him why they traveled from motel to motel, never staying in one place for very long. Almost never staying at the same school for an entire year.

After that confrontation, Sam had given Dean an amulet, one that was originally meant for their father.

Dean was always there for him, John wasn’t.

Dean was the one with him in that motel room when the witch broke in. His defense of his little brother had come to a screeching halt when she’d slammed him against the wall with nothing more than a wave of her hand, putting him out of her way.

You'll never see your brother again… this time I'll make sure of it.

That voice taunted Sam again as he saw the amulet hanging from the huge stranger’s neck, and suddenly their surroundings dropped away.

“Dean?” Sam rasped. It was too quiet for the massive man to overhear, though perhaps Jacob could make it out.

That didn’t matter.

With a burst of speed, Sam leapt off of Jacob’s head. Air filled the wings of the glider and he floated towards the human, intent green eyes following his every move.

Familiar green eyes.

“Dean, is that you?!”

Chapter Text

Dean took a step back, eyeing the leaf glider with suspicion as he kept his hands cupped to his chest. He could feel his cramped prisoners shifting within them. “How do you know that name?” he shot back, unnerved by the way the glider banked a fast circle around him. He couldn’t risk turning to keep it in sight, not with Jacob within lunging distance.

Sam couldn’t help it. An exuberant laugh bubbled out of him and he tilted the glider into a dive. He didn’t flinch as his boots touched down on the huge, cupped hands, finding sturdy ground on the large knuckles. Bowman and Rischa were only inches away, and he knew they weren’t in any danger.

Above him, Dean’s mouth hung open as the tiny glider landed right on his hands, demonstrating the most precise landing he’d ever seen aside from the thinner, winged person he’d trapped moments ago. The ghost sensation of boots on his knuckles joined the flutters from within, and he tensed up, afraid to knock the newcomer off. There was no room left in his hands, and this guy didn’t have wings of his own. A single move would be enough to send him plummeting to the ground. Dean didn’t want to hurt any of these little guys, not while he didn’t know what was going on.

There was a newly-familiar tingle on the back of Sam’s neck, warning him that humans watched from both sides as he stared up at the new human-- at Dean, feeling like a man in the desert, staring across the sands at an oasis.

“Dean, I can’t believe it’s you!” Sam struggled briefly with his glider to reach his jacket. He pulled out a silver knife, its shine just as luminous as the day he received it as a gift from Dean. It reflected the sunlight up at the intent green eyes tracking his every move.

“It’s me. It’s Sam! 

Dean finally remembered to close his mouth at the sight of the tiny knife. “Sam? That’s not… there’s no way...”

Enclosed in Dean’s hands, Rischa and Bowman stared straight up, knowing that on the other side of the barrier of fingers sealing them in, Sam stood there trying to get through to his older brother. A brother that he'd been hoping to find since he arrived in Wellwood. A brother he hadn’t seen in over half his life.

Bowman thought of the first day he met Sam. How the older boy, when he thought he was alone, had cried and cried, all curled up in a ball on Bowman's bed. He was small and lost and afraid, torn away from everyone and everything he’d ever known. Bowman could do nothing to make it better for him, and he remembered falling asleep trying to comfort him.

Rischa remembered one muggy evening of many summer evenings in her childhood. Her wings had barely uncurled that month, and she had wandered outside to find Sam and proudly show them off to her older brother. She found him in a distant, melancholy state. It was all she could to to climb onto his lap and sit with him in silence while his thoughts flew further than any patrolsprite ever had. At an early age, she had learned to accept that Sam would drift into thought like that, and she needed to support him however she could while he distracted himself.

Thinking of his brother.

Bowman even quieted the rustling of his wings to listen, his green eyes wide in the dark as he waited to hear more of Dean and Sam's conversation. Rischa, while still clinging to Bowman, extricated one of her arms enough to press a hand into Dean's palm. Trying, in her own way, to confirm what he already knew. His emotions still clashed with themselves, and Rischa felt every bit.

Sam stood with both boots firmly planted on the back of Dean’s hand as he stared bravely up at the face of a hunter. His instincts had him on edge, ready to leap off the side of the hand if Dean made one twitch in the wrong direction, but Sam knew he’d be safe there.

He had to force himself to remember that it might be Dean, but that didn’t change the fact that a lazy snatch in his direction could damage his glider beyond repair. Jacob had proven that humans felt the need to grab whatever they didn’t understand, and a four inch tall man certainly qualified.

Dean’s attention was riveted on the little man bravely standing up to him, a tiny, familiar knife in hand. A knife from a part of his life he’d thought long gone.

“But…” He had to pause and clear his throat when his voice wouldn’t work. “We looked everywhere for Sam. We thought…” Dean had to close his eyes. If there was ever a time for Jacob to lash out at him to save the others, it was then. His guard was down with the unexpected revelation. “...We thought he was dead.”

Those intense green eyes opened back up, and Sam was still standing there. Still had his knife held out, trust in his eyes. 

“I woke up here,” Sam told him gently. “This size. I was all alone in the forest, barely over two and a half inches tall. The sprites saved me, and gave me a home. They tried searching for you and dad, but, as you can see…” He took a step back on the hand and swept his arm out at the forest. “The odds were against them.”

Sam gave Dean a moment to digest that revelation before piling more on him. “Bowman’s family took me in and raised me, Dean.” His voice was gentle and forgiving and his eyes kind. He didn’t blame Dean for the unthinking actions that had trapped his adopted siblings, but he wanted to see them freed all the same. “Can you let him and Rischa go? They’ve wanted to meet you for so long.”

Dean’s lips parted slightly. “Meet… me? ” he repeated in disbelief. An entire lifetime ago, he’d had the only family he was close to ripped away. And now, that family was standing on his hand, telling him he had more…

The boy without a family or home, offered a second chance at what he’d lost.

Cautiously, he shifted his hands so the one Sam was standing on wouldn’t be upset if he moved.

Then, he parted them, revealing the two sprites cupped in his palm.

Rischa sighed as the sunlight hit her once more. Bowman couldn't help but stretch his wings out behind him once they were free of the cramped space. They heard Jacob sigh quietly in relief to see they were okay, but they had to focus their attention on the human that still had them in his grasp.

Bowman stared up with a cautious curiosity, taking in the appearance of the giant. Moments ago, he'd been terrified of what the man would do to Rischa. Knowing now that he was the human Sam had longed to find all these years, he couldn't bring himself to worry as much. This was Dean, someone Bowman had wanted to come to Wellwood for years.

Rischa offered a smile, first to Dean, and then over her shoulder at Sam. She'd been the first one to figure out it was the Dean they'd all been looking for. Timing had worked against her. If Jacob had arrived a minute later, Dean might have already heard her explanation.

She was proud that things had gotten figured out anyway. She tried to rise to her feet on Dean's hand, and Bowman stood carefully to help her, until both of them were standing shakily in the hand of a giant that had trapped them moments ago.

"Hi, Dean," Rischa greeted shyly, but optimistically. A smile lit her golden eyes as she stared up at him. "I wish I could have explained sooner. Things got very confusing for a moment."

“I think things are still confusing,” Dean breathed, watching the three tiny people move around on his hands. Determined to not knock them off balance, he held himself steady and his hands motionless. That, at least, he could do after years of repairing weapons and working on his car.

Sam, still attached to his glider, shifted closer to the edge of the hand he was on so he could peer at the others and scan them for injuries. He was glad to see their wings moving okay after all the excitement, and glanced up at Dean.

His older brother, Dean.

Dean could almost feel the weight of the three tiny people’s gazes on his shoulders, and licked his lips nervously. “Ah, look… Rischa and… Bowman?” He remembered Sam yelling that name right when he’d first caught the second sprite, right as he’d landed on Jacob’s head. “I didn’t mean to trap you guys, so… sorry about that.” He winced. Way to make a good first impression, Winchester.

Bowman gave him a flat look before rolling his eyes and flicking his wings pointedly. He remained on Dean's hand, staying near Rischa as his heart calmed down. He couldn't help but agree with Dean. Things were still rather confusing.

"Well. It's not like Jacob did much different," he admitted. "I guess it's a human thing." He sent a glance over his shoulder and saw Jacob wincing in turn as the accusation reached him.

"Okay, yeah," Jacob said, shrugging. He glanced over Sam, Bowman, and Rischa, amazed to see them all standing on someone else's hands. He'd hardly gotten used to the idea of them standing on his own hands. "I was a bit grab-first, questions-later, too."

Dean went to shrug his shoulders, and saw Sam waver in place. He froze again. It was hard to believe how much a single move affected them where they stood, and Sam was balanced precariously on the back of his hand. Even with the glider, he was light enough to brush off.

Looking over the little guy, Dean was impressed by the sight of a rapier at Sam’s side, to go with the knife he was tucking away in his jacket. For his size, he was bulkier and more muscular than Bowman. Clearly, he wouldn’t go down without a fight, and Dean felt a tiny bit of pride blossom in his chest at the thought. It was almost an alien sensation, after years of living on his own, resigned to how Sam had ‘died’ so many years back.

“I didn’t want to trap anyone,” Dean admitted for himself. “But it’s my job to find out what’s going on in this forest, so I couldn’t just let them leave until I found that out.”

Sam craned his neck, looking over all of Dean for the first time now that he didn’t have to watch those hands with an eagle eye. He saw the long leather jacket his brother wore and remembered their father wearing a jacket just like it. Leaning slightly over the edge, Sam couldn’t help but be impressed at how tall Dean was. Long legs clad in jeans ended in powerful looking boots that he had no intention of going near when he was on the ground. Not even Jacob, for all his impressive height, was as tall as the older man. Sam glanced back up. “You’re a hunter, aren’t you? Just like Dad.”

Dean nodded and lifted up both of his hands to save the others from having to crane their necks back while they talked. “After you…” He swallowed dryly, hating the memories that flooded back. It was years since he’d let himself dwell on what he’d seen happen to Sam. “After you died, Dad wouldn’t let me hunt for years. All I wanted to do was find a way to help other kids, and hunting… that was it. A way to save people. He didn’t crack until I was sixteen, but I got there.”

He hesitated a long moment, teetering on the next part. “Either way, Dad’s not around now. He vanished months ago and I haven’t heard from him since. So I’ve been working on my own.”

Sam’s eyes were wide as he listened to his older brother talk. “He’s… gone? And you’re here, which means…” Sam glanced back at Jacob, putting two and two together about how both humans had ended up in the same place in the forest at the same time. “There’s something out there, isn’t there?”

Dean’s lips thinned, and Sam couldn’t help the nerves at the sight of the intense stare growing even more focused. “That’s right,” his older brother confirmed reluctantly. “I’m here chasing a demon.”

While Bowman and Rischa were only mildly confused and trying to keep up with the conversation, Jacob suddenly felt like they were all on a train and he was still at the station. While he was certain that Sam had explained a few things at least to Bowman, Jacob hadn't known the tiny pair long enough to hear everything about Sam's old life. He only knew the tiny knight had once been just a regular kid.

"Okay, wait," he said, putting up a hand in a slow-down gesture. Bowman and Rischa looked over their shoulders at him, and they suddenly looked extra small in a hand like that. One of Rischa's little shoes was planted right next to a silver ring thicker than her arm, worn by her erstwhile captor.

It was so big she might have trouble lifting it up on her own.

It was a weird scene, and the conversation didn't help clear anything up. "Demon? Can I just, uh ... Could someone catch me up a little, here?"

Chapter Text

Dean's suspicion snapped right back into place at the reminder that he wasn't alone in the forest. He drew his hands closer to his chest, feeling a surge of protective instinct rise up in him for the tiny trio standing within his grasp. “I still don't know why you're even--”

“Dean!” A little voice down on his hand cut him off and Dean stared down, wide-eyed. Sam was stubbornly staring back at him, his jaw set. Once he was certain he had his older brother's attention, Sam continued on. “That's Jacob. He's been here before. If something happened, he was probably out looking for us to warn us.”

After he was finished, Sam turned his back on Dean. Despite the fact that the hunter was almost completely unknown, Sam wasn't afraid. He believed in his family-- both sides.

“Jacob, this is Dean.” Sam's voice was warm as he introduced his long lost older brother. There wasn't much of a resemblance between the two. Even Sam's clothing was completely different. Dean would blend into any standard bar scene with a drink in hand, while Sam could vanish into the forest canopy with his sprite-created clothing and his glider. “I told you I used to be the same size as a human. Well, Dean is the family I lost all those years ago.”

Jacob nodded slowly, and then glanced back up at Dean. He had a feeling there were more explanations to come before he really got the hang of everything, but at least the important details were out there. Now, at least, he was pretty sure Jimmy Page couldn't actually bring charges against him for being there.

Despite all his questions, Jacob merely nodded and offered a smile. "Nice to meet you, for real, I guess," he said, glancing back down at the people on Dean's hands. Those huge fingers curled up protectively, not threateningly, so he wanted to give the man a chance. "Sorry about the misunderstanding... Sam's right. I was coming up here to warn them about what's going on and make sure Bobby hadn't ... y'know."

Rischa giggled breathily. Emotions spiked and roiled in the air around her. Jacob's protective drive was waning into mild confusion and bemusement and some relief, though he was still worried. Bowman was relieved as well, and curious just like she was. Sam ... Sam was like someone dying of thirst looking up and seeing rain clouds.

Dean had that feeling about him, too, but there was also shock and disbelief, with a thrumming undercurrent of determination that blended with a desire to protect. His emotions, while guarded, were as intense as the set in his brow and might well have overwhelmed her if she hadn't already begun her training.

"Don't worry, Jacob," she spoke up, knowing he would be the simplest to put at ease out of any of them. "When you walked up, we were all startled."

Jacob smiled faintly. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

Dean nodded along with it, though he was still baffled by the strange turn of events. He was on a case, though, and he had to remember to focus on that.

That didn’t mean the sight of Sam, standing right on his hand, didn’t fill him with emotions he didn’t even recognize anymore. It had been so long since he’d seen Sammy. A brief flash of a dark motel room and a laugh that haunted his footsteps lit his mind’s eye, and it was all he could do to keep his hand steady. He wanted to reach out and touch Sam to make sure he was actually there, but both of his hands were occupied. Rischa watched him thoughtfully with those little golden eyes of hers, but Dean hardly noticed.

“Bobby’s still out there,” Dean warned them in an attempt to focus away from the emotions that threatened to drown him. “And if anyone else finds him, there’s going to be trouble. That’s not your friend that attacked you, Jacob. He’s possessed by a demon, and I’m here to stop it before it hurts anyone else.”

Jacob's brow pinched with worry and his tentative smile dropped away into a frown. Before meeting Sam and Bowman, he might not easily believe Dean's words. However, knowing that little sprites (and shrunken humans) could exist made it much easier to accept the existence of demons. It explained a lot about his friend's odd behavior the other night.

"Right, we gotta find him before he stumbles across the other sprites," he said with a nod.

"Well, if that's what's going on," Bowman finally piped up, getting over the initial shock of meeting Dean, the same Dean he'd heard so much about growing up. "Then I think it's time for Birdie here to go home. And as a patrolsprite I should be getting the news back about this other human ... demon ... thing."

He spread his wings and hopped into the air, taking flight away from Dean's hands with an ease born of years of rigorous daily practice. He glanced down to see Rischa giving her wings some practice flutters before spiraling up higher so he was eye level with Dean.

"Y'know, you're a little taller than Sam always said, I'm sure of it," he commented with a smirk.

It was almost impossible for Dean to pick a place to look first. He had a tiny girl on one hand, stretching out delicate wings. On the back of his other hand, Sam was taking advantage of the lull in conversation to check the parts of his glider. Bowman fluttered not far from his face, demanding attention.

“That was what… thirteen years ago?” Dean replied, casting his mind back. It was almost easy to fall into a casual banter with the leafy little sprite. “I was barely fourteen. Gotta give me time to finish growing. I’m sure Sam didn’t stop growing when he was fourteen.”

Sam laughed, and kicked off of Dean’s hand with his glider. Dean almost flinched forward to catch it, but after only a second, the leaf glider was floating around him in a circle. “Bowman never forgave me for ending up as tall as he is! He always swore he’d be the tallest.”

Bowman followed after Sam's glider in a mock chase, making one full circle around Dean's head before stopping to hover again. "That's right! I was so ready for it, too, and then he went and got so tall that I almost worried I wouldn't catch up to him," he groused.

Rischa giggled and finally took off from Dean's hand, the last to do so. Her flight was not as speedy and dexterous as Bowman's, but even so, she flew up to the same level in no time. "You're all very tall, anyway," she pointed out. Indeed, four inches was quite tall for a sprite, and both of her older brothers stood taller than even her parents.

With his hands freed, Dean let them fall, then squatted down to pick his duffel off the ground. Tossing it over a shoulder, he couldn’t help the way his eyes flashed between the two sprites and his little brother constantly, going so far as to turn in place to keep Sam in sight as he continued his placid circles. The hunter was completely befuddled by the three tiny people that were almost hovering possessively around him, especially after his introduction to them had included a lot of trapping them in his hands.

“Who knows, maybe you’ll get taller than both of them,” Dean said wryly to the tiny girl, assuming she wasn’t done growing. She seemed very young compared to Bowman.

His next glance included Jacob. “We need to get all of you to safety,” Dean told them. He pointed at Jacob for emphasis. “Especially since it already attacked you once already. I can’t risk this demon finding anyone else out here. It’s too dangerous.”

"I get what you're saying," Jacob began, looking almost sheepish underneath the defiant set in his shoulders. "But Bobby's my friend, and the sprites are, too. I can't just walk off and hope everything gets sorted out."

Bowman smirked at his human friend’s determination, gladder now than ever that he and Sam had managed to get through to the kid months ago. He was a familiar face to many of the sprites by now. He'd been unable to resist making a few more visits after his first one, and many sprites had come to his clearing to see him and marvel at his size.

Bowman couldn't really imagine sending a potential ally away when there was a threat in the woods. He didn't want to argue with Jacob too much on the matter.

"At the very least, Rischa," he said, looking sternly at his young cousin. "You wandered off without telling Candara where you were going.” 

She grinned sheepishly. "I was looking for you and Sam," she admitted. "And I found Dean instead." There was the most subtle smugness in her tone as she said the last bit, and Bowman's eyebrows went up.

"I guess you did. We're still taking you home now," he countered.

Dean looked put-upon at the way his words had been just about ignored. All he wanted to do was get any other innocents out of the path of the demon. They’d been lucky so far. They might not be so lucky the next time.

“You’re all going back home, and that’s that,” he declared, looking at the two sprites in view, then switching his gaze to Sam when the glider was back in sight. “I’m not out here to play games with beginners--”

Sam cut him off without hesitation. “Dean. I know you’re a hunter, but we’re not just some kids out exploring in the woods!” Excepting Rischa, of course, who’d be going back to her home either way. Sam wasn’t about to point that out and weaken his own argument. “You don’t know this forest like we do. Bowman’s a patrolsprite, and I’m a knight. It’s my job to make sure our home is safe. So you can go fight the demon if you want. We’ll be coming with you, and I’d like to see you try and stop us.”

Dean didn’t look happy, but he didn’t have a comeback. He didn’t know his way around the forest, and it was probably obvious to everyone there. The only reason he’d come so far was following Bobby’s trail, and that had tapered off before he’d happened across Rischa. “Fine,” he reluctantly agreed. “Make sure you all remember, you might know the forest better, but I know what I’m doing with this case. I don’t need anyone else getting hurt out here.”

Jacob couldn't hold back a smile at the sight of Dean's flustered expression. The guy had hardly gotten his brother back, and here he was arguing stubbornly with the whole tiny family. Despite the danger in the woods, Bowman and Rischa seemed happy to finally meet him.

Bowman flew after Sam in another circle around Dean, surveying the tense human while he did so. "Don't worry, we know how to stay out of trouble ... mostly," he said with a grin.

"I think he's more worried about whether you will," Jacob pointed out, getting a brief glare from Bowman's bright green eyes. Jacob shrugged. "Just sayin.’ "

"Everyone's got something they can do to help," Rischa said brightly. "But I guess I should go home first, if Mama's worried." She flew an inch or two closer to Dean and gave him a shy, apologetic smile. "I know you're not used to it, but Sam and Bowman and maybe other patrolsprites can help. If anyone sees ... the demon, it'll be them. Why don't you come with us to figure out a plan?"

“I guess I’ll have to,” Dean said, keeping still as she approached. “Otherwise they’ll just come out here anyway, won’t they?” He had to smirk at the face Sam pulled at him. It was so reminiscent of his little brother from so many years back he had to wonder why he’d ever doubted. Aside from the size, Sam still had that habit of keeping his hair long and it puffed up in the breeze.

“That’s what I thought,” Dean said dryly. “Always gotta do your own thing.”

He was rendered speechless when Sam banked out of his placid circles and instead landed on his head. Dean froze right up, no idea how to react to a tiny person standing on him.

“Right,” Sam called down. “Because you totally don’t do the same.” He inched forward, coming right up to the edge where Dean’s hair spiked up to the same height as he stood, and peered over. “Do you really hunt on your own?” His voice was full of worry.

Dean wasn’t really sure how to respond to it, so he settled for a half shrug to avoid knocking his little brother off. “Dad’s gone. I don’t really have anyone else to watch my back, so I deal.”

Sam frowned. Not anymore.

No matter what happened in the future, his older brother wouldn’t have to face it on his own.

Chapter Text

Rischa sighed, feeling the slow tide of Dean's longing of many years wash over her. Even with Sam back, the healing wouldn't be instantaneous. These brothers had been apart for over a decade, one knowing his older brother was out of reach and the other believing his little brother dead. No Prayer could heal that, and time was a slow medicine.

Rischa felt a stirring in Sam, too, and she suspected what would come of this. They'd all known how much Sam wanted to be back with his big brother, no matter that he’d become a member of their community in the woods. It was simply bad luck that something bad was in the forest, robbing them of a carefree reunion after all that time.

She glided tentatively forward, alighting on Dean's shoulder with unsure steps. She'd ridden astride Jacob's shoulders before, and he never seemed to mind. Now, she had the chance to get to know a man she’d heard so much about and wanted to meet for so many years.

Bowman flew a lazy lap between the two humans, the last one in flight as his heart was drawn to the air like a fish to water. "Guess we'd better be on our way.”

"Wait, I can come to the village, too?" Jacob asked, his eyebrows arched and his expression hopeful despite the dire situation. So far, Sam and Bowman had yet to take him to see the little village. He’d only known them a few months, and understood their need for caution after his first encounter with the pair. Dean was changing that caution just by being in the forest, a long lost family member welcomed back.

Bowman rolled his eyes. "What, you wanna stand out here on your own?" he shot back before hovering between both humans. "I'm betting Scar will want to plan with two giants around to hear it." He glanced over at Sam to see his thoughts on the matter, the one who knew Scar better.

Sam smiled at that. “Do you really think Scar’s gonna forgive me if we find Dean out here, and don’t introduce them?” He shook his head. The High Knight had spent many long days out in the forest, tirelessly searching for Sam’s family, giant or not. He peered off the edge of Dean’s head again, wishing he could lock eyes with the hunter he was standing on. “Just follow us, okay?”

With that, Sam leapt back into the air, pushing off of Dean’s head with his boots. Dean was only just able to hold in a gasp of shock, his eyes widening at the sight of the tiny glider falling and catching air when it was level with his chin. With his brother soaring through the air and a tiny girl perched on his shoulder, Dean was out of his depth. The familiar was long gone.

He sent Jacob a faintly desperate look. “Do you ever actually get used to this?” he asked, grappling with Sam's very existence and worried he would let Sam down because he was so damn big by comparison. His little brother was living, thriving at barely four inches tall with people his own size sequestered in the depths of some random forest. Without the demon on the prowl, Dean might not have ever known Sam had survived that attack. The coincidence was as colossal as Sam was small.

Jacob shrugged and shook his head as they started on their way. "I'm not that far ahead of you, dude. I only stumbled on them a couple months ago," he admitted. From what he had gathered, humans were a fabled thing the sprites had plenty of stories about. When they'd come to see him in his camp, they had a constant, unusually keen stream of questions. He had to assume that Sam's stories about his brother had spread to each and every Wellwood sprite.

"If it helps, they know not to sneak up on you," Jacob added, sending a smirk Bowman's way. The sprite very nearly broke out of his meandering flight pattern to dart back to him. Jacob snickered at the way Bowman faltered midair just because of his indignant look over his shoulder.

"No one will ever let me live that down!" Bowman complained. 

On Dean's shoulder, Rischa covered her mouth to hide her giggles, having heard all about Sam and Bowman’s first run-in with the human. They could hardly hide it from her.

Sam glanced over his shoulder, grinning madly at the sight of his older brother following him. That might never get old, and nor would the strange thrill that two towering humans were following his direction without complaint. “Bowman almost got himself swatted! ” he called over his shoulder. “He decided to try and get Jacob’s attention when he was wearing his earbud things, and it happened in front of two nobles.”

He’d never seen Jacob and Bowman both so simultaneously flustered than at that moment. Bowman had even ended up tumbling off Jacob into a hand when the human jerked himself up at the discovery of more sprites come to visit.

They’d told him others would come visit, but they should probably have warned him about the nobles, without a doubt the highest ranking sprites of Wellwood.

Dean winced as he remembered how he handled spotting Rischa. “I might not swat them if they catch me off guard, but I can pretty much guarantee they’d get grabbed.” Hunter instincts were almost impossible to suppress. It was important to always be on edge. Letting down his guard could cost him at the worst times, as Dean had reminded himself constantly in the years since he lost Sam. It wouldn’t go away just because he’d finally found his brother.

Bowman shot Dean a wary, pointed look, as if the human had declared his intention to grab someone right that moment. He had to face front to guide Sam towards a useful updraft, sparing Dean from a snarky comment, but hopefully his look had gotten the idea across anyway. Bowman had been grabbed once already, and that was more than enough for him in one day. His wings almost twitched at the reminder of their time confined in such a small space.

Jacob chuckled. "Hopefully it won't come to that, but I think even Bowman will forgive you for it, no matter what he says."

Bowman scoffed. "Humans are impossible," he said, glancing aside at Sam. It went without saying that his adopted brother was easily included in his grousing.

For her part, Rischa glanced up at Dean's profile. He was still confused, and it didn't take her empathy to notice it in the angle of his brow and the set of his jaw. She merely had a deeper understanding of how much his view of 'normal' was twisting right before his eyes.

"I don't mind that you grabbed me, Dean," she said quietly. "I was just very startled! You're very sneaky."

Dean tried to catch a glimpse of her on his shoulder, thrown by the fact that he had a kid just hanging out over there. Not just any kid, either-- Sam had called the two sprites his family, which made them Dean’s family, and he hadn’t quite worked that through his mind. In the course of the last hour, he’d transformed from a drifter without a family, hopping from case to case, to a guy who could hold his family in his hands. And had, for a few minutes.

I mind that I grabbed you,” he replied to her, keeping his voice lower as he watched the leaf glider soar higher up into the branches along with Bowman. “If it wasn’t me, it could have been Bobby, and he wouldn’t be letting anyone go just like that.” The temptation rose in him to reach up and make sure she was okay after his earlier grab, but he quelled it for the time being. They were all so small. He might hurt her just checking on her, and the same went for Sam.

"You will find him," she replied with an easy confidence. After all, he was determined to help even before he knew there was a village of innocents out in the forest, and now that resolve had only grown. "You'll have Sam and Bowman helping you look. They're very good at patrols."

She glanced around as he walked along, his casual gait through the forest rocking his shoulders from side to side. Bowman finally flew back to dive at Jacob for his earlier comment, and the human ducked. Rischa giggled at their antics and added quietly "Even if they do mess around sometimes."

After divebombing Jacob, Bowman banked upwards again, but glanced down once or twice. Rischa looked perfectly at ease, speaking softly to Dean like that. She wouldget along with him that quickly. Bowman couldn't deny his own curiosity, but he didn't have Rischa's natural charm.

He flew up to glide alongside Sam, taking a steady course for once instead of flitting here and there. "How are you doing? He seems pretty thrown off by everything."

“He’s not the only one,” Sam admitted, glancing back for what must have been the tenth time. He could feel the occasional touch of eyes on him as they walked along, but both humans were paying attention to their paths more than the two fliers guiding them. Sam knew that was a good thing, considering how large they both were. Jacob was tall on his own for a teenager, but Dean was taller.

Winchesters run tall ran through Sam’s mind, and he quirked a small smile.

It was short-lived, and he looked back over at Bowman. “It’s just… he’s so different than when we were kids. What if he doesn’t want me around anymore?” It hurt him a little to vocalize his fears, but so far Dean was more aloof than he remembered, the cast on his face guarded. They used to do everything together, and for years Sam had held those memories close to his heart. Even as his older brother’s face and voice faded from his memory. “What if we’re too different?”

It was a different variation of his original question he’d posed Scar, tears streaming down his face when he’d first discovered how small he’d become. 

W-what if they don’t recognize me? What if I’m too small now?

Bowman frowned, thrown back several years himself. He'd seen that look in Sam's eyes before. Even before Bowman understood the gravity of what had happened to Sam, he'd seen those hazel eyes light up with a worry that couldn't be pushed away. Not completely. Sam really was different, after over a decade in Wellwood.

"Well ... you are pretty different, but I think you'll figure it out," he reasoned quietly, slowly gaining conviction. "I mean, you spent all this time remembering Dean, so much that sometimes I feel like I 'remember' him, too." Bowman had never described it that way, but he had often privately thought of Dean as his own lost brother.

"I think he probably spent all this time wishing he could see you, too." Bowman glanced behind yet again, checking on Rischa on her perch. She was completely at ease with the giant, even if he was still tense, those sharp green eyes tracking Bowman and Sam’s progress every few seconds.

“I hope so,” Sam whispered. The worry wouldn’t completely leave, worming its way into his heart. Years away from humans meant he struggled with simple things, like the music player and Jacob. He didn’t recognize the earbuds, so they blasted Bowman with sound. Cell phones were an entirely new concept to him.

Dean would be familiar with all of that and more, because he’d remained in the world while Sam was sent away from it. Sam’s heart yearned for the chance to be with his family, all of them, but he knew there was no way that Dean would be able to stay in the Wellwood with them. It wasn’t where he was meant to be…

But was it where Sam was meant to be?

Sam worried his lip as he glided around a few more branches, lost in thought. The moment he’d prayed for had come at last, but it was too late for him to simply go back to the way things were. He was a knight. He didn’t know if there was a place for him back in Dean’s world.

Chapter Text

The closer they came to the village, the more Jacob caught glimpses of other sprites peeking at them from higher in the trees. Other patrolsprites were out, and they each noticed the huge humans’ passage through the woods. Jacob found himself watching the trees as keenly as he dared while staying mindful of his steps. He'd wanted to see the village since he met the sprites and Sam, enamored of the thought of an entire village of such warm and welcoming people.

The sound of a stream bubbling along reached his ears before he saw it. Jacob watched the water wind its way around a stand of pine trees before his steps faltered and he realized what he was looking at.

The pine trees all sported odd shapes on their branches, shapes that he quickly realized were little homes. They were the perfect size for people Sam or Bowman's scale. Even from several yards away, tiny faces could be seen peeking through the little round windows. Wings rustled above as sprites flitted about in the higher branches, watching their approach. Dean paused at the outskirts of the village, leaving his duffel bag where it would be out of the way.

A voice that Jacob vaguely recognized called out from above. "You've got some ideas about big entrances, haven't you, Winchester?" Jacob looked up just in time for Lord Scar, who he recalled was in charge of all the knights of Wellwood, to drop from the canopy. He landed on a branch that stuck out just above Dean and Jacob's heights, mere feet in front of them. He twisted around to address Sam as the glider passed him by. "What's the occasion?"

The call caught Dean off guard as he looked around at the little village. The sight of all the tiny people that inhabited the forest had him paying closer attention to his feet than he’d ever done before. He turned in place, his eyes locking onto the sprite who’d called his name. “Who’s ask--” His eyes widened as he saw the sprite wasn’t looking at him, but Sam.

It had been so long since he’d shared that last name with anyone but his dad.

Sam grinned at that. Scar couldn’t have set it up better for them. Dean was already befuddled by the sight of the village around them, and hearing his name called only confused him further. Sam didn’t even need to be an empath to know how much it caught him off guard. For years, he’d been the only Winchester brother around.

Time to share the name again.

Banking around so he could keep Scar and Dean both in sight, Sam waved towards the hunter, pride filling him that he finally got to say this. “Lord Scar, may I introduce Dean Winchester, my older brother!”

For a moment, Sam's constant, steady glide and Bowman's wings flapping to keep him hovering were the only motions among the eclectic group. Scar turned back around to fix his gaze on Dean, and stared intently at him for yet another quiet second.

{com} Scar by MogaDeer

Artwork by @mogadeer!

Green eyes, spiked hair, giant. Even if the man was taller than Sam had described, he fit everything else the boy had tearfully explained so many years ago. Scar had led a search high and low throughout the forest to find this human. If it weren't for him, the sprites wouldn't even know that the fence existed. Jacob’s appearance would have caught them completely off guard.

Scar had never wanted to give up that search, because that would mean failing the child he'd promised to help.

After all that time, there he was. Dean Winchester himself had finally come to Wellwood. Perhaps he was late, but he had arrived anyway. Scar grinned and crouched down on the branch while he continued to stare at the human.

"Spirit's dance," he began. "Dean. I almost don't believe it."

Dean stared back at the sprite, shifting his feet in place. “I’m starting to get the feeling that everyone knows me around here,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Gotta say, it’s definitely not what I’m used to.”

“Scar’s the one who found me after my curse!” Sam called down by way of explanation. “Without him, I wouldn’t have made it past my first day at this size.”

Dean arched his eyebrows at that. “I guess I owe you, lookin’ out for my little brother like that. Especially since I couldn’t be there for him.” He frowned. “We were just left with an empty room and an empty car after the attack. No way of knowing he survived, so dad had to give him up for dead.”

"Thank the Spirit you were wrong," Scar answered solemnly. He noticed little Rischa Songbird sitting on the human's shoulder like it was the most natural thing in the world and couldn't hold back a smile. She waved at him and he nodded at her in return.

"I will admit, he threw us all for a loop when he explained how tall you were back then," Scar quipped. "We flew as far as we dared looking for giants." Scar sometimes wished he could have known how far he'd need to fly to be able to find Dean. A part of him begrudgingly admitted that he wouldn't have managed it safely. There was nothing he could have done, and yet he felt it was thirteen years too late for Sam to be seeing his brother again. 

It should have happened sooner.

“Yeah, well, I never did quite reach our dad’s height,” Dean joked, doing his best to lighten the mood along with Scar. “Missed it by barely an inch, the bastard. Came so close, too.” He held up a hand, brushing it against the spike of hair he always seemed so proud of to show how tall their dad would be.

Sam was trying to remember how tall their dad was all those years ago. “He was… 6’2”, right? That makes you… 73 inches tall.” He was proud at the thought. He might only have made it to 4 inches in height, but his older brother was the tallest in the forest.

“Someone’s gotta be the tallest,” Dean agreed, winking at Jacob. The teenager was only an inch or two behind Dean, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to live it up. It was a good way to forget how disappointed he was when he fell short of his goal of surpassing John, especially considering the way his dad had a habit of using his height for intimidation.

Jacob rolled his eyes. "Hey, man, I might still have a growth spurt to get to," he warned. Unlike Dean, Jacob was only seventeen years old. At six feet tall, he might well be at his full height already, but he had a feeling it simply wasn't the case.

"Are you serious? That's just excessive," Bowman complained, dipping down in his flight to circle the younger human as if putting his prodigious height on display. Jacob snickered at him and held up a hand to try to trick the sprite into landing on it. Bowman kicked at it and flew past.

Rischa stood on Dean's shoulder and stretched her wings carefully before stepping forward. She dropped a few inches before her dainty wings caught the air and she flew up towards the branch where Scar stood. He held out a hand to her and helped her find her footing on the branch. "Lord Scar, sir," she greeted him with a curtsy. "Dean found me while I was out playing in the woods. He was looking for ... something else?" She glanced over to Dean.

Dean nodded up at her, his former joking manner gone. “That’s right. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t on a hunt.” His sharp green eyes switched over to Scar. “I’m sure Sam mentioned what our dad does for a living. I’m the same. We hunt down supernatural creatures that threaten innocent lives, wherever and whenever we’re needed.”

He gestured over at Jacob, who still had spectacular bruising on his face from the attack. It was a good display for why Dean was really in the forest. “Not long ago, Jacob here was in the campgrounds with his friends. From what I gather, one of them snapped, and attacked him. It was a glancing blow, so it didn’t do much damage, but it could have been worse.”

A lot worse.

The last demon Dean had dealt with had been keeping itself busy crashing airplanes. This one was starting out small. Of course, that might not last, especially if it found an entire village of tiny, vulnerable innocents out in the forest. They’d have to do their best to keep it from ever spotting the sprites.

“Your friend Chase said Bobby’s eyes got dark, almost black,” Dean told Jacob. “And I’m guessin’ it’s not in character for a guy practically half your size to just lash out at you. If I’m right, he’s possessed by a demon, and we’re going to need to exorcise him before anyone else gets hurt.”

Jacob let out a quick sigh as if he'd been struck lightly in the chest. "Holy shit," he muttered, still as amazed to hear it as he had been the first time. His gaze wandered over the sprites nearby. Bowman hovered near the branch while Rischa stood with Scar, and the little girl's face was masked in worry. Jacob knew why; she could feel everyone's confusion and trepidation, and she probably felt the honesty from Dean.

That decided for him. "Yeah, we ... we gotta find him first," he agreed.

Scar sighed and absently drummed his fingers against the hilt of his sword. Something that could put a bruise like that on Jacob's face was certainly a monumental danger. He was itching to have the threat in front of him so he could face it.

"Be that as it may, some other things need to happen as well," he spoke up. "Leafwing." Bowman turned to face him immediately, no room for snark after the serious tone was directed at him. "Take Rischa home and then give your report to Lord Cerul. I want the knights sent out to bring any patrolsprites in so we can all be aware of what's going on."

Bowman nodded dutifully and held a hand out to Rischa. "Come on, Birdie," he said. She hopped off the branch and fluttered to him, and soon enough they were gliding to one of the homes nestled among the pine trees.

Once they were gone, Scar fanned his wings restlessly. "I need to plan," he announced. "Jacob ... don't go wandering on your own. No one should go wandering on their own," he sent a glance to Sam. Then, he offered him a ghost of a smirk. "If I'm right, you're the second most familiar with this ... demon threat. Perhaps you and Dean should catch up on what needs to be done?"

Sam nodded in response. “I should park the glider, anyway,” he replied, banking around Dean to head for his own home. His pathway meandered down from where Bowman and Rischa had gone moments ago, towards the little home that had been prayed for him in a lower branch of the pine tree.

He could hear Dean following behind him. The footsteps of the hunter were unmistakable. Jacob tread heavier wherever he went, despite the fact that he was smaller than Dean. There was a brief moment of silence, and Sam had to assume that Dean had stepped over the small stream that stood between the home trees and the humans. A large distance for Sam and the sprites, cleared so easily.

Sam's home lay ahead of the brothers, swaying gently in the breeze.

Chapter Text

Once Sam and Dean had wandered in their own direction, Scar paused to gather his bearings. Jacob watched him scan the trees around them, as if waiting for Bobby to come lunging toward the village at any second. Leafy green wings fanned open and closed in a steady pattern before Scar finally nodded to himself.

"Human, I must gather the other knights," Scar explained, peering at him. "I wish we could afford you a warmer welcome to the village, but we may yet have time for such things later."

Jacob nodded, wide-eyed to be addressed so politely by the tiny knight. He was a noble, which Sam and Bowman explained meant he had earned his leadership among the sprites. "Right. Of course, sir," Jacob replied as respectfully as he could, still standing awkwardly beneath the branch Scar occupied.

With one last nod and a flutter of his wings, Scar darted off. Jacob found himself standing on his own in a village of people smaller than his hand. Dean was several feet away, crouched on the ground and focused entirely on one of the little houses that Jacob had to assume was Sam's. Bowman had gone on his task of spreading the word.

Scar leaving Jacob unwatched was both surprising and humbling. He doubted the little knight would just forget something like that.

Don't go wandering’ might have been a literal order for him to follow.

He could see other sprites cautiously coming and going among the higher branches. Many of them craned their necks to watch either Dean or Jacob, the giants in their midst. Dean might be directly next to a home tree, but Jacob wasn't far from the village proper himself. He took only a couple steps before cautiously sitting himself down on the ground near the stream, thinking that might put him out of the way while the others regrouped.

Upstream of his seat, a few brave sprites remained out doing their washing. Irregularly shaped swatches of thin cloth wavered in the current, held tightly by the adults that scrubbed at them. Smaller articles, clothing and some clay dishes, were handled by younger sprites that had to lie on their bellies to keep their balance while their wings splayed haphazardly around them.

Eventually, try though they might, the sprite parents couldn't convince their children to ignore Jacob's presence any longer. Jacob watched in awe as young sprites, some of them barely two inches tall, wandered closer to him with wide eyes. Some of them would scurry back to their parents or older siblings after a warning, but they didn't stay back for long.

There were giants in the village, and they wanted to see for themselves.

Most of the older sprites that Jacob could see had come to peek at him while he stayed in his clearing that first visit. After meeting Sam and Bowman, he'd had his share of self-conscious moments wondering how often he'd turn around and spy someone perched on a branch staring curiously at him. Until Jacob, Wellwood sprites hadn't seen a full-sized human before.

Jacob offered a warm smile to the closest of the nestlings, still a few feet away from him. They perked up in surprise, as if they didn't expect him to be able to see them wandering closer. Tiny wings, some of them slightly curled at the edges to give away their youth, fluttered at their backs.

"Hi," he greeted them, and the nestlings stumbled forward even more. Some that were on the opposite side of the stream set to work carefully hopping from stone to stone, avoiding the water. "Be careful over there," Jacob warned them. He got a few sheepish grins in return and some approving nods from the parents who hung back to continue the washing.

"We're always careful," someone answered, and Jacob looked down to find that the first nestling had reached him. He tensed, staring at the absolutely tiny child standing in the grass, well within reach of the arms he rested casually on his knees. "If someone fell in the stream, their wings would get so heavy!"

"How heavy?" Jacob asked with a grin, leaning down slightly as one of the other nestlings ducked behind a fallen leaf to peek shyly at him.

"As heavy as ... as five acorns!" one nestling exclaimed, holding his hands high in the air while stretching his wings out to the sides. They fluttered and didn't cooperate with him for long, sending him off balance.

"That is a lot," Jacob admitted with a nod. "You'd probably get tired carrying around wings that heavy."

One kid tapped her chin pointedly as she thought. Then, she shook her head as her eyes lit up. "Nope! I'd just have a giant like you carry me!" she declared, pointing up at Jacob.

"I bet you're strong enough to carry ... twenty acorns," the first boy determined, closing enough distance with Jacob that he could almost climb onto his lap.

Jacob's eyebrows arched up. He couldn't make a mistake now, with such tiny children wandering close to him. He was almost holding his breath, but that didn’t stop him from smiling, endeared by their antics. "I dunno, maybe," he teased.

"Yeah, you could!" a third nestling insisted. In only a few seconds, Jacob found himself the center of attention to five miniscule children. None of them were taller than Rischa's two and a half inches and all of them craned their necks back to stare at him in pure awe. He was one of the biggest people they had ever seen, only a few inches shorter than Dean.

"You're probably real strong," one of them said.

Jacob chuckled. "I guess so," he relented. Then, slowly, carefully, and with a few glances towards the parents so they knew he didn't mean any harm, Jacob lifted one of his hands from where it rested idly on his knee, and lowered it to the ground, palm-up in an invitation. "Why don't you come test me? See if I'm strong enough."

Two of the nestlings weren't deterred at all by his challenge, and Jacob had to withhold a gasp at the amazing sensation of the tiniest shoes he'd ever seen scurrying onto his palm. The other three approached more cautiously, eyeing his long fingers with wary little eyes.

"Don't worry," he assured them. "You don't have to if you don't wanna. But I promise I won't let you fall." His deep voice had never felt so obvious and loud than when he tried to lower it to console the tiny children. They were like glass figurines, and all of them smaller than his little finger.

A third nestling gave in to his charm and hopped up. "Can we sit on your shoulders? I heard Rischa does!" he asked, looking up at Jacob with the widest, most pleading eyes he could manage. Jacob smiled. Like I can say no to that, he thought, completely enamoured. These kids only confirmed his drive to make sure the sprite village remained untouched.

"You can, but only if you promise me that you'll hang on tight and not crowd each other, okay?"

"Okay! Promise!" chirped up at him in multiple voices. One more little sprite clambered onto his hand with her wings twitching, the last one hanging back with his hands behind his back. Jacob smiled gently at him before focusing on the four on his hand.

"Up we go," he murmured, lifting them up. He had to smile at their squeals of delight as the ground dropped away from them. He ferried them slowly up to his broad shoulder. There was more than enough room for them, but he kept his eyes on them while they settled down, gripping the seams of his hoodie and looking around avidly from their new perspective. "Hang on, okay?" he reminded them.

While they promised once more that they would, Jacob glanced down again to check on the last shy nestling. His eyes widened at the sight of the little boy clinging to the denim of his pant cuff, wings aflutter and legs kicking. The boy's tongue was sticking out in concentration, and Jacob didn't have the heart to distract him.

The boy finally hoisted himself up onto Jacob's leg, and clambered up the slope until he could flop over on Jacob's knee. Jacob reached down to gently brush at one of the twitching wings. "You okay, there, bud?"

The boy twisted around to grin at him. "I did it myself!" he announced proudly.

Artwork for the chapter by LaEscritora!

"You sure did," Jacob replied. "I'm glad you could join us. You guys'll keep me company while I'm visiting." Four tiny voices, close to his ear, chimed in their agreement. The little one on his knee just smiled and nodded. Jacob couldn't help the touch of pride in his first impression. 

Landing in the ‘garage’ made for the glider was always an adventure. Sam tilted the wings back, just enough to slow down his descent but not enough to cause the glider to stall and send him plummeting towards the forest floor. The fall wouldn’t be fatal; aside from the fact that he was wearing his wingsuit as a precaution, Dean was close by and Sam had a feeling the hunter would dive to catch the glider if it came down to it.

Even so, he was determined not to embarrass himself in front of Dean.

The air was still, and didn’t nudge him off course, leading to a smooth landing. Sam’s feet hit the ground, and he raced forward a few steps before he was able to pull the glider to a halt.

The belts securing him to the glider didn’t take long to release, and as the last one snapped open, a shadow fell across the entrance and cast Sam’s surroundings in darkness.

Sam smiled as he felt the light touch of eyes on him. So long as the human wasn’t actively hostile, it wasn’t a disconcerting sensation. Spending time with Jacob during the summer had helped him adjust to the necessity and appreciate the ability. There was no way of knowing where it had come from, but when dealing with people that outsized himself and the sprites by almost twenty times, it was invaluable.

As Sam came around the wing of his glider, Dean’s face was framed by the garage entrance. His green eyes had lost a great deal of their intensity, replaced almost completely by curiosity and intrigue. He was crouched on the ground to see into the low-hanging branch, just over three feet off the ground. The sprites had given Sam one of the lowest branches in respect to the fact that he had to use the stairs to get places if he wasn’t in his glider, and it made it easy for his older brother to peer inside.

The hunter’s lips parted, and he almost went to reach forward before hesitating. He drew his hand back, looking pained at the size difference. “So, this is your home?” Dean asked, starting to resemble a hopeful puppy more than a demon hunter. Finding Sam again opened up lines of thought that Dean hadn’t traveled down in a long time.

Sam was proud as he held out his arms. “Made just for me.” He pointed to the side, where a door lead out of the garage to the ‘living room’ of his home. “The sprites designed it when I was sixteen. They thought the whole ‘garage’ thing was weird, but didn’t question it too much when I made the glider. Then there’s all the storage space they made.” He wrinkled his nose, always amused by it. “It’s like they think I’m going to starve if I don’t eat constantly, just because I can’t get energy from the sun like they do.”

Dean’s eyes almost caressed the lines of the glider and garage, the mechanic in him intrigued by the tiny sketches that covered the walls. A variety of designs for the different gliders Sam had experimented with as he developed his very own adorned the walls. The sprites didn’t have paper, so he made due with what he could.

Sam grinned, already knowing what his older brother wanted to do. “Dude, I don’t mind if you check things out. Just don’t go breaking anything!”

Dean looked like a deer in headlights, then cracked a wry grin of his own. “That obvious, huh?”

Shaking his head, Sam went to one of the wings of his glider to start repositioning it for flight later on in the day. “You might be a hell of a lot bigger than the last time I saw you, but I can still read you like a book,” he jabbed good-naturedly as he started to pivot the leaf glider. It moved easily under his touch, his extra strength coming in as useful as always.

Dean watched him for a moment more, a real smile touching his lips as he watched his younger brother. Then, he reached forward again, this time grazing the walls with a callused fingertip. “It’s pretty wild, you being here,” he said as he did so, not meeting Sam’s eyes. “Here I thought I was just on some half-assed demon hunt, and instead I run into you and an entire village that no one’s ever heard of.”

Sam paused, concern touching his face. “You won’t tell other hunters about them, will you?” he asked worriedly. “They’re not a threat, I promise. They don’t even like having to defend themselves from wild animals.” He gestured at the rapier on his waist. “Just some pacifists that want to stay safe.”

With a careful finger, Dean reached over and mussed up Sam’s hair, a shit-eating grin on his face at the annoyed reaction from Sam, and the attempt to bat his finger away that failed completely. It sent a shock through Sam to realize that the grin on Dean’s face was almost bigger than he was, and he had to suppress it. It’s just Dean.

“Chill,” Dean reassured him as he took his hand away, this time resting it on the edge of the garage. The entire branch swayed under the new weight, and Sam held his arms out to his sides for balance. None of his tools moved, which he was thankful for. He didn’t want to waste a trip all the way to the ground to fetch them back.

Dean grimaced, his ears flushing slightly at the reminder of how easy he could move Sam’s entire house.

Things weren’t the same as when they’d been kids, not by a long shot.

“I’m not about to put anyone on the trail of a bunch of innocents, Sam,” Dean said quietly, noticing the way he was attracting attention from all corners. Sprites flitted by overhead, checking out the new giant in their midst. The last thing Dean wanted to do was scare any of them off. “You have my word.”

Sam paused, taking in what little he could see of his older brother. “I’m holding you to that.”

Dean smirked. “You doubt me?” he joked, pushing down on the branch as he released it, and making it bounce slightly. Sam’s curses leaked out of the garage in annoyance as he grabbed a clay pot to keep it from sliding out.

Dean leaned back, resting his hands on his knees as he looked around at the area. “You did okay for yourself, kid,” he commented as he watched a little sprite woman walking up the stairs of Sam’s pine tree. A tiny, fluttering kid was close by her side, his arms full of pine needles as he stared up at Dean, wide-eyed with amazement at the sight of the human. Dean gave them a little wave, catching the kid even more off guard with the sudden motion.

Sam had to grin at the nestling’s reaction to the hunter, and waved at them as well. He knew them from living in the village, but not well. They, on the other hand, likely knew all about him, the out-of-place human who’d found his home with the sprites, and Dean was practically a local legend. All the sprites had heard of the giant brother of Sam, if not during the initial search for him, then over the years as Sam settled in and told wistful stories of the family he’d lost.

“I like to think so,” he agreed as he went back to work on his glider. Pausing, Sam glanced out and saw how Dean continued to stare at the leaf glider with fascination. There was a glint in his eye. Sam knew exactly what to do with that.

“Mind giving me a hand?” Sam asked innocently. He jabbed a hand at the wing on the other side. “If you could keep it in place for me…”

“S-sure!” From the look on his face, helping out with the glider was the last thing Dean had ever expected to be allowed to do. He reached in and pinched the wing carefully between two fingers, hungrily eyeing up the delicate workmanship on it.

Sam went around, checking the last knots and his belts for any wear. It had to be done after every flight, and having his older brother around didn’t change that. Though it was occasionally jarring to have to sidle around the hand that took up a good deal of space in the garage, it was worth it for the look on Dean’s face.

“So these knights,” Dean started hesitantly while Sam worked. “Will they be careful out there before we’re ready?”

Sam bobbed his head in affirmation. “They know to stay back from a threat until Lord Scar figures out a plan,” he said. “The patrolsprites will keep an eye out for Bobby and they’ll alert us. Bowman’s a patrolsprite,” there was a tone of pride in Sam’s voice, “and I’m a knight. We usually patrol together.” He gestured at the wings of the glider. “Bowman gives me a hand with the air currents since I can’t feel them like he can.”

Dean’s eyes trailed up towards the home where Bowman had taken Rischa. “And they really wanted to meet me?” he asked in a softer tone, disbelief in his voice.

“Well, yeah,” Sam said, his brow scrunching together in confusion. “They’ve been my family for years. They always hoped they’d get a chance to meet you. Hell, I think Bowman pretty much had us both adopted when he was five.”

The hunter laughed at that, letting go of the glider under Sam’s direction. The little guy didn’t seem nervous around the huge hands infringing on his space, so Dean took another opportunity to examine the rest of the garage. He pinched a rope between his fingers, staring at how tiny the braided coil was.

Sam passed by and tugged it out of his fingers. “Told you not to break anything,” he chided as he tossed the rope back into a pile in the corner.

“Hey!” Dean held up his hands in protest. “I’m being careful!”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Do I need anything while we plan?” he asked, brushing off his hands.

Dean pursed his lips, thinking back on the case. “You still good at Latin?”

“Hmm.” Sam thought about that. “I might be rusty,” he admitted. “I haven’t practiced since my curse.”

“That’s fine,” Dean said dismissively. “If you feel up to it, I’ll give you an exorcism. If you’re going to be out there with me, we’re making sure you’re prepared for it.”

“Sure.” Sam ran into his home. Dean leaned back in, wondering what he was up to. The tiny windows were just big enough for him to see through. Hell, they were probably just barely the size of his eye.

For his efforts, he got flipped off when he blocked the light from the room. Dean backed off, waiting as Sam came back out, something almost invisible clutched triumphantly in one tiny fist. 

Dean’s brow furrowed, unable to quite make out what Sam was holding. “Whatcha got?”

“Remember how I used to grab the pens from the motel rooms?” Sam asked as he headed for the stairs, ready to head out.

“Sam, you didn’t.” Dean’s lips parted in a grin. “You held onto that for that long?”

“Of course!”

Dean shook his head ruefully and held out a hand next to the walkway. “Need a hand?” he quipped, shit-eating grin back in place.

Sam eyed up the hand, then jabbed a finger up at Dean. “Don’t even think about starting on stupid size puns,” he warned.

“Who, me?” Dean asked innocently. “I’d never even think of such a thing, pint-size.” A strange feeling hit him as Sam climbed into his hand, a ticklish sensation following the smaller man as he made his way to the center. Sam had a lot of trust in him to go so easily, and Dean was grateful. Sam’s casual attitude about his size was making it easier to adapt to Dean’s own strange situation--  finding his estranged brother four inches tall after losing him over thirteen years ago, as well as finding an entire family that knew all about him.

Standing in the center of Dean’s palm, Sam curiously stared out at his surroundings. The fingers arrayed around him were all about the same height as he was. Though he wasn’t worried about being grabbed, he knew to respect Dean and Jacob’s size. They did their best, but sometimes they just moved too fast for the tinier people around them.

Once both brothers were ready, Dean headed towards where Jacob had settled. This time, Sam got a bird’s eye view as the hunter stepped over the stream, which was reduced next to the humans to barely a trickle of water. Not the stream he’d grown up around.

“By the way,” Dean said curiously as he went. “What’s the cape on your jacket for?”

“What, this?” Sam held up an arm, a mischievous smile lighting up his face as he displayed his built-in wingsuit. Dean had almost reached where Jacob was resting by the stream, and the other human had already seen it in motion. “Just, this! 

Chapter Text

Dean let out a curse as Sam leapt over the edge of his hand. The tiny man had both arms out, the cape billowing out under his arms. Before Sam could catch any air, Dean’s other hand instinctively snapped out and caught him. Sam landed, stumbling to his knees in shock at the fast landing.

“Dude!” Sam complained, rolling himself over and trying to catch his balance again. “What the hell?”

"Nice catch, Dean," Jacob snickered. The nestlings that had made him into a playground all stopped their chattering so they could laugh at the sight. Two remained on his shoulder, two had wanted to check out his hoodie pocket down below, and the little one, who he'd learned was called Vel, remained perched on his knee with his little wings fluttering and giving away his excitement.

Vel got to his feet, holding out his arms for balance as he waved up at Sam. "You don't gotta catch him, sir! That's Sam! He can fly!"

Dean looked like a deer in headlights all over again, hunched slightly over with his hand extended to catch Sam. “Y-you… what?!” he sputtered, his mind only just starting to catch up to everyone else.

They didn’t seem to think it was out of the ordinary that Sam was doing his best to jump from a perch three feet up in the air.

Sam had to laugh at the look on Dean’s face, despite the way he'd been grabbed out of the air. He sprang to his feet, making sure his rapier wasn’t in danger of cutting Dean’s skin while he moved. “I’ll be fine,” he said dryly, holding out his arms to display the modifications he’d designed himself in the knight jacket. “It’s made to catch my weight, so I can glide to the ground. Y’know, just in case something happens to my glider.”

He turned in place, his small boots shifting against Dean’s thick skin. “Just watch, okay?”

Dean nodded, but stayed tense as Sam darted for the edge again. This time, the small swordsman used a finger as a jumping board, flying up into the air. His arms went out, and the fabric billowed up all over again. Instead of falling the way Dean feared, it really did catch the air. Green fabric pulled taut with air in a mimic of the leafy wings of the people Sam had grown up with. He might not be able to wheel about like they did in the air, but he would be dammed if he remained stuck on the ground watching them fly.

Sam drifted down with expert practice, managing a precise landing on Jacob’s knee. “Hey, Vel!” he greeted happily, scooping the smallest nestling up into his arms for a coveted piggyback ride. “I see you met my friend Jacob. That’s my big brother Dean over there!”

Artwork by LaEscritora!

Vel squealed in delight before he managed to turn his focus up towards Dean. After getting used to being near Jacob, staring straight up at another person just as big didn't daunt him as much. His wings fluttered and he waved, but quickly had to wrap his arms around Sam's neck again to avoid slipping backwards.

"Hi, Dean! You're a really big big brother!" he pointed out. Vel, though he was quite used to Sam, had yet to learn all of the details of why the shrunken human lived in the village.

To the younger nestlings, Sam was simply a fact. One of the knights didn't have wings, and it wasn't a problem.

Jacob grinned sheepishly as two sprites emerged from his hoodie pocket to run towards his knee where Sam had landed. He was sitting still, and that had made him into something of a jungle gym.

“Maybe I just have a little little brother,” Dean joked back as he took the last step to Jacob. With all the children running around, and three of them flocking to Sam, he was more careful with his movements than he’d ever been. The trust the sprites were giving them by letting their children visit with two towering humans was amazing to see. It made Dean self-conscious of his every move, even the way his boot pressed into the ground.

When Dean was certain the ground under him was clear, he sat down next to Jacob with his legs crossed. He leaned forward with a grin, caught off guard by how natural it felt to be smiling so much. It had been years since he’d felt so lighthearted. Maybe even all the way back to when Sam was around.

Sam certainly fit in with the sprites, his green clothing blending right in with the others and not put off at all by the little wings that fluttered around him. The small knight brushed a hand against one of the other kid’s wings when they made it all the way across Jacob’s large leg. He didn’t even seem to mind the fact that he was standing on one human, and the focus of both.

“You could almost be a fixture in the village if we left ya here,” Dean commented to Jacob as he spied the two more tiny kids sitting on the teenager’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve been claimed.”

Jacob chuckled, and the slight bounce in his shoulder got the nestlings laughing. Their wings fluttered avidly, and he could hear every tiny little flap as they giggled. "Yeah, I think you're right," he admitted, glancing to the side to eye the little ones perched on his shoulder. One of them was staring at Dean with as much awe as he'd stared at Jacob earlier.

"It's the first time giants ever came to the village," one of the kids down on Jacob's lap pointed out.

"I hope we're making good impressions," Jacob said seriously, getting the kids to snicker. He smirked and poked at one of their sides, and they squeaked and scurried to hide behind Sam.

“I’d say you’re doing a pretty good job,” Sam said as the kids peeked out from behind his legs. He kept one hand on Vel’s leg, and brushed the hair of the nestlings that were hiding behind him with his other hand for reassurance. Vel’s little arms rested on his head for balance. “Not even a bruise on these guys.”

“Speaking of first impressions,” Dean said to Jacob, “before all the crazy gets going here, I was hopin’ we could maybe start over. I don’t think we started off on the best terms, and if Sam says you’re alright, you’re alright.” He shared a glance with Sam, noting how odd it felt to see the little guy standing against the backdrop of an enormous teenager, making Jacob look like a giant. If there was one thing Sam had demonstrated quite capably in the short time they’d been reunited, it was that he could handle himself, so Dean suppressed the protective instincts that reared up in him. 

Instead, he held out a hand far over the heads of the little sprite kids, offering Jacob a handshake. “My name’s Dean Winchester, and I’m here to help.”

Jacob grinned, relieved in the back of his mind for the new introduction. He hadn't exactly acted his best earlier, either, in the name of trying to protect his sprite friends. It looked like he'd been forgiven, so he could easily extend the same courtesy. He took Dean's hand and shook it.

"Jacob Andris, and likewise," he said. "At least I hope I can do something to help."

"You're built like a tree, boy, I'm sure you'll think of something." A gruff voice interjected from overhead, and they all looked up to see Scar spiraling gracefully downwards until he hovered at eye level with the humans. His sword glinted in the sunlight, reflecting green from the sharp blade and promising a fight if Scar found an opponent.

"Most of my knights are back and waiting for my directions," he explained, glancing between the three humans present in Wellwood. He arched his eyebrows at the sight of the nestlings all but swarming Jacob. "Kids, I need you to find your mamas and papas and head on home, okay? There's danger in the woods and I need to plan with Sam, Jacob, and Dean."

Vel stuck his lower lip out in a pout, but didn't protest. There were only mild complaints from the kids on Jacob's shoulder as he held up a hand to ferry them back to the ground. Vel patted the top of Sam's head. "Be careful, okay, Sam?"

Sam tilted his head up to see the tiny hands on top. “You don’t have to worry about me,” he promised with a laugh as he reached up to get Vel down. When Jacob lowered his hand for the last few kids on his lap, Sam placed Vel on the hand and crouched to be at eye level. He ruffled the kid’s hair. “I’ve got these two giants to watch my back,” he reassured Vel, cocking his head at Dean. “They’ll take good care of us.”

Once the kids were secure on the hand, Sam jumped off the other side of Jacob’s leg, landing with a practiced agility between the two humans. Brushing back the cape, he meandered over so he was closer to his older brother. Looking up at Dean, he grinned wryly. “I’m guessing you came prepared?”

Dean smirked. “Always do.”

Scar watched the nestlings all climb off Jacob's hand, one of them tripping and rolling in the grass. Jacob scooped his pinky finger under the girl to lift her to her feet, and soon she was scampering off towards the sprites upstream. The washing would have to wait; everyone needed to be in their homes and possibly ready to take to the highest branches.

With that done, he turned back to the others and dipped lower in the air until he settled himself evenly between two giants. An instinct in him told him that was a good way to get himself caught, but he trusted Cerul's judgement of Jacob, and Sam's stories of Dean had elevated him to legend status over the years. It was time to see if the stories were true.

Hands on his hips, Scar faced Dean. "Alright. Let's hear what there is to know about this ... ‘demon’ threatening our people."

Dean waited patiently for Sam to walk over and stand next to the High Knight. There was no reason to risk startling either of them. Once they were both ready and waiting, he reached into his jacket.

The leather cover of the journal he always had with him was soft and worn from years of use. There was no doubt in Dean’s mind that Sam would recognize it, even after years of separation and the fact that the journal now outsized him and Scar by several times.

Placing the book on the ground, Dean flipped through the pages to the middle. There were very few entries on demons in John’s scribble, and he’d marked the page before setting out on the case. He smoothed down the crinkled pages as he scanned it over. There were scrawled additions to the lore in Dean’s blocky handwriting, covering the margins. He didn’t intend to repeat past mistakes.

Sam stepped towards the book, brushing a small hand over the inked words as Dean began to talk.

“Demons,” he started off, his gruff voice rumbling overhead for Sam and Scar, “are tough sons’a bitches. The problem with them is it can be almost impossible to spot the difference between a run of the mill psychopath and a person who’s been possessed.”

His eyes sought out Jacob’s. So far, the teenager and his friend Chase were the only two to come in contact with the demon that they knew about. “Now, I can’t say when your friend Bobby was possessed. For all we know it was riding him for weeks before it jumped you. What we do know, is he had black eyes, and that tells us it was a demon.

“The next problem we run into is a demon can’t be killed like a regular monster. You can put a bullet in his heart and it’ll keep on comin.’ The only person that’s gonna suffer is your friend Bobby, and we want to avoid that as much as possible.”

Dean shifted in place, moving a few inches back to make more room in front of his crossed legs. He dug in his jacket again. “Good news is, there are weapons that work against them, and I came packing. Even got some extras in my duffel.”

In short order, items were placed around the journal and the two knights as Dean listed them off. Scar shifted his feet with each new addition, eyeing each and every one critically until they were all but surrounded by foreign human things. “Holy water, to keep him back. I don’t care what he looks like. He could be possessing a little old grandma. That demon has enough strength to toss me or Jacob across a field, or snap our necks. We cannot let it get its hands on anyone. Rosary beads, in case we need to bless more water, and salt. If you make a circle of salt, no demon can cross it so long as the line remains unbroken.”

Sam surveyed the items around him, noting with a wry grin that the bottle of holy water was shaped like the virgin Mary. Dean straightened in his seat, tapping the journal in front of him with a long finger. On it was inscribed the part that would be Sam’s to handle.

“And an exorcism, worth one express ticket back to Hell for the black-eyed son of a bitch.”

Chapter Text

Scar leaned forward to glance over the words Dean pointed out. They were all written in the blocky human lettering, and looked clumsy and difficult to him. He couldn't make any sense of most of them, and let out a terse sigh as he straightened. That wasn't what bothered him the most. The strength of these supposed demons nagged at him. If Dean was to be believed, they could take on a man of his size, a giant, without a problem if he wasn’t prepared.

Enemies to the sprites were already hard to fight. Scar knew that better than anyone. Even Sam, who threw himself into his training and boldly stepped up to defend the village when the time came, hadn't tangled with nearly as many threats as Scar had in his tenure. That experience lent Scar the wisdom to recognize a fight he shouldn't pick. That frustrated him to no end, but at least Scar had other places to focus his energy.

"Blast it," he muttered, crossing his arms. "I can't send any knights against this thing. If I didn't know you well enough, Sam, I'd suggest you hang back for the defenses, too, but I already know you won't."

He looked up at Dean, a stern demeanor hiding his disappointment. There was nothing quite as frustrating as knowing he couldn't do anything to help, no matter how much he ached to. He could potentially lead an attack on a regular human, but not against a thing that never fell. "I trust that you'll be able to dispatch the beast. In the meantime, I will help you search."

Dean nodded solemnly. “Not to worry.” He already knew the sprites and Sam wouldn’t be able to help him fight. He wouldn’t want to put them in danger, either. This was his job. “I’ve already got a plan for that.”

He gestured back at the book. “Words, for demons, are as powerful as any knife. When we find it, me or Jacob can hold it off. If Sam stays up in the air, he can read the exorcism without worrying about it grabbing him. He can be my backup, in case I can’t get it out. The first thing that demon is going to try to do is stop me from saying the exorcism.”

Sam stepped up on the book, reading through the Latin script. He absently mouthed a few of the words, trying to remember the enunciation from across half a lifetime of memories. Glancing up at Dean, he pointed down. “Do you have something I can write on?” He waved his pen in the air. “Sprites don’t use paper.”

Dean’s eyebrows went up. Now he understood why the entire wall of the leaf glider garage was covered in diagrams. Instead of being able to draft up a design like a human might do, the small human had made do with the materials on hand. It would be far more unwieldy compared to writing on a sheet, but it clearly got the job done.

There was only one thing Dean had that he could offer him. He reached over to the journal, and found a page corner that wasn’t scribbled on. Ripping off what he judged to be about the size of a sheet of paper for someone a twentieth his size, he offered it to Sam.

Sam hesitated. He knew as well as Dean how important that book was for them, and now he’d have a sheet of his own from it. “Thanks,” he replied quietly before he took it and sat right down on the journal to start copying. His absence from humanity showed through as he wrote out the exorcism in elegant sprite script.

While Sam copied down the exorcism, Scar sidled around the other items Dean had left scattered around the journal. He crouched to run a hand over the beads, and he squinted at the container of water. Most of the methods Dean described seemed so strange. Scar had never heard of a creature like a demon before, and he was glad that his usual fare was more straightforward. Even a wolf would back off if persuaded by several small cuts with the sharp rapiers the knights carried.

He turned to face Jacob, eyeing up the bruise on his face. A little higher, and the swelling might have affected the human's vision. "You be careful out there, too," he warned him.

"Don't need to tell me twice," Jacob assured him. Scar let out an amused scoff before a flutter of wings carried him into the air.

"I will inform the knights of the situation. We will not engage, but if it comes to it we can create diversions with the best of them." He glanced pointedly at the canopy above them. "Thank you for lending your expertise, Dean."

“That’s what I do,” Dean said, quirking a smile as the knight rose above their heads. It was definitely the oddest case he’d ever been on, considering the sprites alone. Nevermind rediscovering his lost little brother, who continued to write steadily on the small scrap of paper. The tiny knight was just as dedicated to the cause.

All the way down on the ground, Sam didn’t even have to try to hide the prideful smile that crossed his face at Dean’s words. His older brother had grown into a man to be proud of, willing to put himself on the line not only for humans like any hunter, but for the innocent sprites that made the forest their home.

“If you need any salt or holy water, let me know,” Dean continued. “It’ll come in useful if you need to create any diversions, or if he gets past us. I’ve got plenty to spare.”

Once the sprite vanished into the canopy, Dean glanced over at Jacob. His eyebrows scrunched together in worry. “How you holdin’ up over there?” Dean asked. “You only just got attacked, are you sure you’re up to facing your friend again?”

Jacob shrugged. "Other than the bruise, they said I'm good, healthwise," he answered. That didn't necessarily mean he was ready to take on one of his closest friends possessed by a demon, but he doubted that anything could really prepare him for that. Jacob didn't feel he had many options. His friend needed his help.

He watched Sam copy off the rest of the exorcism in silence, thinking about it. "I'm not sure how much help I'll be, but I'll do what I can. I mean, you said he could have tossed us across a field, but he just hit me and Chase and then left us there."

Dean shrugged. “It all depends on the demon. Not all of them are just after death and destruction. They can have longer-reaching goals that have nothing to do with killing some kids in the woods. We’ll just say you got lucky.”

He started to gather up the supplies arranged on the ground, tucking them back in their places in his jacket. “I’ve got another bottle of holy water for ya in the duffel,” he told Jacob as he did so. He was cautious to avoid bumping against Sam, who was tucking his exorcism and pen into his jacket. “Ready, Sammy?”

Sam gave him a bitchface in return, but climbed onto the offered hand nonetheless. “It’s Sam,” he insisted.

Dean grinned brightly as he scooped the journal off the ground and stood up. “Whatever you say, pint--"

The second half of the nickname never made it out of Dean's mouth. As Jacob stood, a green blur with familiar wild, pine-green hair came hurtling back towards the village. The sprite swerved around him in surprise, only to flare his wings wide with a snap and come to a stop right in front of Dean, cutting him off mid-nickname.

Gunner Leafwing’s dull green eyes were wide as he stared back and forth between Jacob and Dean. He hovered directly between the two giants, breathing heavily and obviously surprised to find them there.

Jacob blinked a few times. At first, he'd thought the sprite was Bowman, but he lacked Bowman's vibrant green gaze that Jacob was used to having leveled at him in a glare. "Uh. Hi. Sorry for standing up right in your way," he told him.

Before the flustered knight of Wellwood could answer, another voice joined their party. "Dad?" Bowman glided back towards the huge humans after finally spreading the word of the demon, just as surprised as his father by the scene. He stopped to hover not a full foot away, and Jacob raised his eyebrows. Bowman looked a lot like his dad.

"Ah," Gunner muttered, completely derailed from his speedy return to the village. "Bowman," he greeted with a nod, then glanced over to see Sam standing on a giant's hand. "Sam."

Dean stared down at the sprite, still getting over the close call. It was doubtful an impact would do more than bump against him, but for the sprite it could do more damage. Kinda like running into a wall wearing leather, if Dean was being honest with himself. It felt weird to think of himself as more of a building than just a regular guy on the street. 

Plus, his hands were full with a journal and Sam. He’d have to drop the journal to save the sprite. “Uh…”

Sam came to the rescue. He waved at Gunner, glad to have the chance to let more of his adopted family meet the brother he’d lost so long ago. “Hey, Gunner!” There wasn’t much that could dim his exuberance at finding his older brother after so long. “We finally brought Jacob to visit, and this is my older brother Dean!” He twisted in place to catch the gaze of the hunter. “Dean, Gunner is the sprite that took me in when I was first cursed.”

Dean’s eyebrows went up. Around every corner in the village was another person he felt like he should know. “I think I owe you some thanks, then,” he said.

Gunner regained his bearings with a slow sigh, gathering his thoughts after the near-collision. "I ... suppose," he answered, inwardly very glad that other than Sam, none of his fellow knights witnessed his flustered stalling.

Bowman had to rein in his smirk and rescue his father from the awkward silence that his own uncertainty created. "Is everything alright?" he asked, glancing at the way Gunner's wings labored at the air from his rapid flight, and the tension in his shoulders. "Did you see something?"

Jacob's eyebrows went up. "Another giant, maybe?" he cut in. The Bowman-lookalike turned to stare up at him in surprise, and nodded.

"Yes. I saw him wandering very near your clearing, actually," he answered. Jacob was slightly amused that the clearing where he usually made his camp was already 'his' according to the sprites, but more than that he recognized the seriousness of Gunner's words. That clearing was only a few miles from the village. A short trip for the demon if he knew which way to go.

Dean frowned, the reason he was in the forest rushing back down onto his shoulders. “That’s my cue,” he said, already preparing himself mentally for the fight with the demon. The last one he’d tackled had tried to use his past against him, throwing his failures and uncertainties in his face all while nearly crashing the airplane they were on at the same time. Taunting him with the way his brother had vanished, reminding him that they’d never found a body.

At least now he had an answer to why they’d never found a body.

The sprites had taken good care of Sam since being lost, and now Dean promised to himself that he would do the same whenever Sam was around. He owed it to his baby brother.

Dean lifted up the hand Sam was standing on while he tucked the journal into his leather jacket. “So I’m guessin’ you and Bowman can get me there, right?” he asked, his brow creased.

Sam nodded confidently. “It won’t be a problem. We traveled to that field more than anywhere else in the last few months.” Despite the circumstances, he flashed a grin in Jacob’s direction. “Jacob was the first human I ever got to see since my curse. I had a lot of questions.”

“Good.” Dean glanced towards the pine tree that Sam called home. “We need to get going, then.”

While Dean and Sam returned to retrieve Sam's glider, Jacob glanced down at Bowman and his dad. The older sprite did show a few differences from his son after the initial glance. He wore a knight's jacket like Scar and Sam, and he carried his own little rapier at his side. There was a coiled tension in his body that Bowman lacked, and yet both of them hovered with a casual ease that gave Jacob little doubt about where Bowman's flying talent came from.

"I think Scar was gathering the other knights," Jacob supplied, pulling the man out of his dazed stare after Dean. It seemed like Dean was pulling a lot of that attention, after everyone had Sam's story memorized for years. The sprites had been looking forward to seeing the man for so long that they didn’t even know what to do now that he was actually there.

Gunner blinked and then nodded. "Thank you." He turned towards the huge cottonwood tree that stood proudly at the edge of the stand of home trees, and Jacob realized with awe that much of the center of that tree was devoted to sprite architecture. There were tiny windows on several branches and dotted around the trunk itself.

"Dad," Bowman spoke up before his father could fly far. Gunner glanced at him, schooling his concerned expression into a neutral one. "Be careful, wouldja? This thing seems pretty dangerous."

Gunner smirked faintly and nodded. "You got it, kid," he answered, before darting away. Bowman rolled his eyes and wandered closer to Jacob. In short order, he'd landed right on the human's head.

"Comfy?" Jacob asked, amused. A wing, spread wide, slapped down on the top of his head.

Dean watched as Sam strapped himself into the glider, tiny belts forming a harness that he’d discovered had a failsafe built into it for a quick escape. The makeshift glider was amazingly innovative, for a person who had little more to work with than sticks, leaves, rope and his own mind.

And it worked. That amazed Dean the most. Sam could keep in the air with the best of the sprites, more at ease at such a height than Dean could ever hope to be. He was proud of what his little brother had made of himself after all these years separated.

“You watch yourself there, pint-size, okay?” he said quietly as Sam put on the last of the belts. “Don’t come close to the demon. Let me or Jacob hold it off for you.”

Sam waved at him to back away from the tree, and Dean did so, checking behind himself as he stepped back. Leaves and twigs crunched under his boots, but the sprites knew to stay well away from either humans’ feet while on the ground. 

“You don’t have to worry,” Sam said soothingly. “I know what I’m doing. I’ve been flying patrol in the forest for years, and working together with Bowman comes naturally. We’ll be your eye in the sky.” He smiled, knowing Dean would appreciate the wording.

Dean laughed, but it choked in his throat when Sam once again ran towards the edge of a cliff and hurled himself out into open air.

He was never going to get used to that.

Dean followed Sam back over to Jacob, the little glider leading the way. It floated up on the air currents until the tiny knight was on the same level as Dean’s line of sight.

“We almost ready to head out?” Dean asked as he came up to Jacob. Sam began to circle around the two humans.

Jacob waited for Bowman to flutter off of his head before nodding. Soon, the sprite was following his adopted brother's pattern through the air, and it seemed the group was ready to set out to find Bobby. Before he finds this village, Jacob thought, the recent memory of the tiny nestlings galvanizing him. They were in danger from something they didn't even understand.

"Yep, let's get this show on the road," he answered. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be." He turned his head to watch Sam and Bowman's flight for a second. "Lead the way, guys."

Bowman veered away from their circle around the humans first, flitting towards Jacob's clearing before pausing to look back. "If you can keep up with us," he called back with a smirk. The smile hid the nerves that trembled in every inch of him. He saw the serious looks on Dean and Jacob's faces. Bowman hated showing his fear.

“You’ll have to do better than that to lose me,” Dean called to the sprite gamely. Sam’s glider continued on its path without deviating, as placid as always.

When they passed by Dean’s duffel, he paused to scoop it off the ground. He didn’t sling it over his shoulder like normal, though. Holding it by his side, he rifled through the belongings inside. “If you really plan on helping out, you’re gonna need some supplies,” Dean muttered to Jacob. He pulled out a water bottle and a container of salt. “If you find him, toss the water on him as soon as you can. Bare skin is best. The salt is better saved for when you’re cornered. It can stave him off long enough to finish off the exorcism.” He held out both containers. “I’ve always got extra on hand.”

Jacob took the supplies in hand, weighing them thoughtfully. It was strange trying to think that they were more effective to him than a bigger weapon would be. Normally, he could probably throw Bobby over a fence without that much effort. Now, his smaller friend was dangerous to allow too close.

Stuffing the salt into his hoodie pocket for the moment, Jacob held tighter to the bottle of holy water. "Got it. We might be able to flank him." That might be hoping for a lot, but Jacob didn't want to see what might happen if the fight went on too long. Anyone, including his friend, could get hurt.

Bowman treated the flight like any other patrol. He meandered in the air, this way and that, keeping an eye out for anything abnormal. He stuck close to the glider just in case Sam needed his help or needed to call something out to him. The forest seemed to be watching their progress with keen interest, waiting for them to find the dangerous intruder.

Time stretched out as they walked on. The day was slipping to evening, and Sam could see the sun touching the horizon. He frowned. Bringing down a demon would be a thousand times harder if it got too dark to fly, and leaving it alone for another night was out of the question. Bobby had strayed too close to the village already. If they didn’t stop him now, innocent sprites might get hurt.

The two humans stayed behind Sam and Bowman, and he cast a glance back at them more than once. It was hard not to smile at the sight of Dean crashing through the underbrush as gracefully as Sam remembered from childhood. His older brother had never been the outdoors-y type. However, Dean had already demonstrated that he could sneak up on even a sprite if he wanted too, after finding Rischa in the forest. Sam had faith.

They would get this demon.

When he knew the field was close by, just pass the last line of trees, Sam let his glider drift down. “Hey,” he called to Dean. He couldn’t hover like a sprite, but he could land on Dean’s head. Before the hunter could jerk his head up, Sam’s small boots were landing on the dirty blond hair, and Dean froze.

“The field’s right ahead,” Sam said, dropping to a crouch with the glider at the ready.

Dean went to nod his understanding, and winced when a tug in his hair reminded him why that was a bad plan. “Okay. Can you and Bowman sweep the field from above? Jacob and I will search for him. If either of you spots him first, find us. We’ve gotta work together.”

Bowman, flitting back and forth above, nodded. "We can do that," he said, just in case the humans couldn't see him in the waning light. That by itself had him restless. Bowman, like many other younger sprites, went out on frequent nighttime flights. However, it wasn't so common for there to be such a big threat present. Owls could be dodged. He didn't know anything about this "demon."

"Remember not to get too close," Jacob warned, and Bowman almost rolled his eyes. He saw the little expression turned his way, but wasn't about to take it back. Bobby was dangerous enough to Sam and Bowman due to his size. With all that extra strength, he wouldn't have to break a sweat to take them out.

"You act like we've never gone patrolling before," Bowman shot back, though his voice was toned down a little more than before. The darker it was, the more on edge he became.

Sam bumped a boot against the surface of Dean’s head. “I could use a hand.”

Confused, Dean held a hand up next to his head, and almost startled when Sam hopped onto it. Instead of taking it down, Sam directed him to lift it up in the air. Comprehension dawned as Dean held his arm up over his head, giving Sam a high perch to leap off of. Getting height back was harder in the dark, so Sam wanted to start off up.

Sam leapt over the edge of Dean’s hand, and in short order the cursed human and the sprite were sweeping towards the field together in the waning light.

Dean watched them as they vanished into the distance, and shook his head in amazement. “What a day,” he muttered to himself. He brushed a hand over his jacket to check on his flashlight, then hitched up his duffel.

It was time to hunt.

Chapter Text

Bowman's eyes were focused and keen even before Jacob and Dean fell behind, taking with them the scant protection afforded by their sheer size. His ears were primed to the sound of any nighttime predators that might distract them from their mission. His instincts as a member of a prey species wouldn't let him discount the possibility, despite the way the forest had fallen eerily still. His wings became barely a whisper as they cut through the air to hide him from the sharp hearing of an owl.

The sun dipped lower and the green of the forest became further shaded as less light illuminated the leaves. Oranges and purples and yellows flashed through gaps in the canopy as the sky made way for nighttime. Bowman sighed, every nerve primed. Night flying was entirely different from daytime flying. Even the air currents were different. The warm updrafts they used to gain height settled more during the night, and could be harder to find.

Not far from Bowman, Sam let his glider drift on the air currents, aimlessly passing over the field. They could make out the sound of their two humans in the distance, footsteps crashing through the forest.

Sam’s brow creased. He could only hear one of the humans. The other had faded into the background like he never existed.

Dean. Always the hunter.

Sam didn’t let it bother him. It was simply who his older brother was. Even as children Dean had been a natural at games like Manhunt and Hide and Seek. Sam was better suited for climbing the trees and exploring the fields around Bobby’s.

At least his life with the sprites let him keep exploring, pushing the wilds for new and unknown places.

Slowly, he and Bowman drifted further and further apart, both paying more attention to the ground below than each other as they extended their search radius. It was important that they tracked down Bobby before he slipped around the hunter and found the village. Scar and the nobles would have no choice but to get everyone to safety and pray a scout could find Dean in time. The demon would make child’s play of the village’s few defenses.

A different crashing came from the side and Sam angled his glider to investigate. It could be an animal, a wolf or a raccoon looking for a nighttime meal.

Instead, there was a flash of pale skin and blond hair. Nothing that lived in the forest was so fair.

Sam gave a start, and hauled his glider a full 180. It was difficult. The leaf glider was best when the wind supported it. If he needed to fight the air currents, he would rather have Bowman close for support.

But the sprite was out of sight, and the demon was close.

All Sam could do was train his glider towards a different source of distant crashing and pray it was one of his friends. The light in the sky waned even more, and they’d be vulnerable if they engaged the monster in the dark. The exorcism taunted him in his jacket. He could say it now, if he wanted to, but without a distraction he would get knocked out of the sky the second his glider came into range-- and without Bowman’s help, or a current of warm air to rise on, Sam would only continue to drift ever downwards.

A tense minute passed, and Sam relaxed when a head of brown hair came into view along with a familiar hoodie. “Jacob! I found it!”

Jacob's gaze whirled around to face Sam, taking a second to actually zero in on the tiny green shape making his way towards him. He opened his mouth to say something, but instead his hand tightened on the bottle of holy water and his other hand patted his pocket to make sure he still had the salt.

Then, he let Sam lead him back towards the demon.

It took him a few minutes to come close to where Sam had last seen Bobby. They had to assume that Dean would hear any commotion and come running, because the second he slipped behind a tree earlier, he was as good as gone to Jacob. The man used the night to cloak himself as well as any wolf. He didn’t even need a sprite’s leafy wings to vanish from Jacob’s sight.

Jacob felt more and more out of his element, but he could hear footsteps ahead. There was no time for doubt. He glanced up at Sam's glider, hoping the reliable little knight could stay out of reach long enough to say his exorcism. Jacob could keep the demon occupied. Probably.

He stumbled around a tree and found Bobby leaning idly against another fifteen feet away. Bobby, or, rather, the thing using Bobby as a puppet, smiled in greeting and straightened. He was over half a foot shorter than Jacob, but his confidence more than made up for it.

"Hey, Jake," he greeted. "Damn, that bruise is it? I must not have hit you as hard as I thought. Dunno what I was worried about."

Sam stayed as high up in the air as he could, knowing that at night there weren’t as many updrafts for him to take advantage of.

His glider could do a lot of things, but true flight wasn’t one of them. It was made to glide on a breeze and use the air currents around it.

“Jacob!” Sam shouted down, doing his best to keep his circles over his young friend’s head, and keeping his distance from the demon-infested teenager. “Don’t listen to him! Demons lie, and they can read minds! That isn’t your friend Bobby anymore, no matter what he says.”

After that, he dug the exorcism out of his jacket. It had been thirteen long years since he’d been trying to learn Latin in school, and his enunciation was probably rusty, but he had to try. Bowman would never be able to say it, and Jacob couldn’t read it.

Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas…

Bobby made a disgusted face for a moment, watching Sam with nothing but malice in his eyes. "Jacob, there's a gnat following you," he spat, looking around him for something to throw at the small glider. 

Jacob couldn't let that happen. He took a step forward, and his possessed friend focused lazily on him again even while Sam's soft voice spoke haltingly overhead, working his way through unfamiliar Latin phrases he hadn’t seen or heard in over a decade.

There was a limited time before the remaining sunlight winked out and left Sam with no way to read his exorcism. Jacob had no idea how best to keep the demon occupied, but for the moment it was smirking at him like a spider might smirk at a fly. That was a bizarre expression on his friend's face. 

"Listen, you--" Jacob couldn't finish his thought before Bobby rushed forward and punched him in the sternum. The wind rushed out of Jacob's lungs and he stumbled back several feet, his eyes wide. The strength from an almost casual strike felt like a baseball had been pitched at him, a level of strength that Bobby had never come close to before. Dean hadn't exaggerated the demon's capabilities.

"That worked better on the other one," Bobby commented. Then, he grinned. "How is Chase?"

"He's fine," Jacob forced out, regaining his breath. "Probably going home tomorrow."

Bobby tutted. "I really oughta pay him a visit after we have our chat out here and apologize. I did a real half-assed job and he just deserves more effort from me."

Jacob frowned. "Sorry, dude, you've had your fun already. You're not getting any more than your stupid jaunt in the woods."

Bobby narrowed his eyes and glanced up at the glider still circling above. "What is that little thing, anyway? I'm gonna tear it in half."

Jacob's heart did flips at the very thought of that demon getting its hands on Sam or Bowman or any other sprite. While Bobby's eyes flickered to black and tracked Sam's movement in the sky, Jacob popped the top of his bottle of holy water. "Hey! Eyes on me," he said commandingly, flicking his wrist and flinging the normal-looking water at Bobby's face in a hasty arc.

As soon as it made contact, there was a hissing sound like something searing on hot metal. Jacob winced as Bobby thrashed backwards, hands over his face. When he lowered them, his skin was unmarked, and Jacob's eyes widened at the sight. Before he had time to throw more water, the demon wearing his friend’s face rushed at him and both hands slammed into Jacob’s broad chest.

He was thrown off his feet and flew backwards until there was an impact at his back and Jacob dropped to the ground, unconscious.

“Jacob!” Sam cried out in fear as the demon attacked, derailed from the exorcism he was chanting. The massive teenager was tossed into the air like a ragdoll, and he crumpled to the ground.

Sam had to grit his teeth, keeping his glider in its calm circle. There was nothing he could do if he went down there to help. The demon would attack him in a second, and he had no defense, not even the holy water that rolled out of Jacob’s limp grasp. The precious liquid inside spilled onto the ground, soaked eagerly up by the dry dirt and tree roots.

He had to keep going.

Blue eyes shifted to black for a brief second as the demon regarded the result of its attack on Jacob. Then it turned and stared up at Sam, narrowing its eyes at the tiny person still stubbornly standing against it.

“Don’t worry, Bobby!” Sam yelled down at the human. “We’ll get it out of you, I promise! Just hang on!” Those malicious black eyes tracked him and the demon was silent.

His voice was steady as he continued the exorcism. Just fifty words of Latin, and everything would be better. The last rays of sun lit up the sheet of paper from John’s journal, delicate sprite script covering the page in the markings of a pen saved from years ago at a motel.

“...Libertate servire, te rogamus, audi--

Before Sam could get out the last syllable, Bobby’s neck snapped back. A rushing roar of black smoke poured out of his mouth and rose into the air. Sam clutched to his glider as he was buffeted by currents, and for a second the black smoke hesitated. He could almost feel its interested regard before it turned and flew up into the darkening night sky.

Sam breathed heavily as the last of the smoke vanished. Down below, every ounce of tension left Bobby’s body like a puppet whose strings had been cut, and he collapsed bonelessly to the ground. Sam felt a shock crawl up his spine.

Were we too late?!

The glider went into a stoop, diving for the ground. Sam snapped the wings up at the last second, coming to a running halt. “Please be okay…” he muttered to himself as he yanked off the belts, releasing him to the forest ground below.

The pale-skinned human lay prone on the ground as Sam dashed up to him. One arm was skewed under his body and the other lay outstretched, and that was where Sam went. “C’mon, kid, you’ve gotta be okay,” Sam said, continuing his even tone and hoping he could draw Bobby back to life.

He shoved both hands down on the kid’s wrist, and the tension left his shoulders as a pulse thudded under his touch.

“Thank God…”

Out of sight from Sam, ice blue eyes snapped open.

Chapter Text

Bowman's heart fluttered. He'd lost track of Sam.

Even Jacob's footsteps were too far away for him to hear. The night took hold as the sun dipped beyond the horizon, and Bowman's eyes widened without him really noticing. Flying at night with friends was one thing; doing it alone would put any sprite on edge. To people adapted to thrive on sunlight, the night only held predators that lurked in heavy shadows with dark promises of death.

He circled back around towards Jacob's clearing. If he could just see the night sky above him, it might help regain his bearings and find Sam. Sam was at an even greater disadvantage in the night air, unable to make sharp turns if he needed to evade an owl.

The sound of an owl's coarse, almost delicate voice cooed through the night air as though summoned by his thoughts, and it sounded almost like it came from right next to him. Bowman flinched in midair and dove into a panicked spiral to evade a bird that wasn't even there.

Owls could throw their voices. Bowman was on the lookout for it everywhere, because it could be anywhere.

He darted between trees at a lower height than usual. His nerves frayed more with every passing second he couldn't find Sam. Sam was his backup, the only one of the pair that had a fighting chance against the forest predators.

At least he didn't hear another owl call. Bowman wished he could simply call out for his brother, but making noise in the dark drew the ear of every predator around and became a beacon that would lead the way to easy prey in the sky. Every nestling in Wellwood knew that.

Bowman craned his neck this way and that to find someone. After rounding one tree, his eyes widened at the sight of a looming darkness straight ahead. He didn't have time to bank around it, and his thoughts barely summoned up the word Demon! before he flared open his wings in a futile attempt to slow down.

Bowman was unable to halt his flight, slamming right into the shadowed shape. He felt his wings go numb as the impact dazed him. 

Then, he fell backwards. 

A quiet yelp of fear slipped out of Bowman’s mouth as he twisted in confusion, trying to get his wings to respond and catch him.

A solid surface materialized beneath his fall, and he crashed onto ground that was warm and pliant, the texture sickeningly familiar. There was a surprised sound up above as the giant that had caught him reacted to the impact, and then the surface underneath the sprite moved.

Before he could even try and flutter off of the hand he’d landed on, fingers curled inwards and sealed around his slim body. Each finger was bigger than most sprites, and there was no chance of resisting them as they closed. Even Sam couldn’t fight back against that, and he was far stronger than any sprite in the Wellwood.

Scar had tested him, after all. One by one, each knight attempted to arm wrestle the youngest knight, and one by one they all lost. 

Wasting no time, the hand rose speedily up into the air towards the giant’s face.

Panic and defiance kept Bowman struggling despite the strength of the hand around him. His heart pounded and his wings twitched, but they were trapped with him in the giant fist. Dean's warnings about how strong demons were filtered back to the fore of his mind. Bowman would be obliterated if the demon decided to use that unnatural advantage on him.

Or, it could try to get him to reveal where the village stood. No one would stand a chance if that somehow happened. "S-stop!" Bowman couldn't let it happen. He had to fight. Few could match his stubbornness.

In the dark, he saw a face coming closer and closer as he rose towards it. A shadow fell over the huge eyes facing him. He had one option. Out of pure desperation, Bowman leaned forward and bit the finger closest to him, latching on as hard as he could.

“Ow!” A distinctly non-demonic response came at the unexpected bite. The fingers loosened up around Bowman’s slim body, but only for a moment. “Sonovabitch…

The huge eyes peering down at the sprite resolved into murky greens instead of Bobby’s ice blues, looking at Bowman with concern and a hint of pain after the bite. Lines were etched into Dean’s face with the serious frown that came with the exclamation.

“Dude,” Dean whispered, letting his fingers loosen up slightly, “what the hell? First you hit me like a runaway hummingbird, then you bite me when I catch you?”

Bowman stared in shock at Dean's face, breathing hard before realizing he'd been asked a question. He collected himself and squirmed, pulling his arms free from Dean's loosened fist. "I, ah," he stammered, his eyes wide in the dark. Relief that he hadn't fallen right into the demon's hand struck him, and he sighed.

"I thought you were the demon thing," he hissed back, exasperated. His snark made a quick recovery. "Lurking around in the dark. Grabbing me. What in all Wellwood was I supposed to think?" He remembered Dean's warning from earlier, that if a sprite startled Dean, they'd get grabbed.

Of course, he'd still complain about it all he wished.

Dean rolled his eyes with a smirk. “And if I hadn’t grabbed you, you wouldn’t have fallen to the ground?” he asked knowingly, remember how hard the sprite had impacted against him. Even if Gunner had collided with him earlier, the sprite wouldn’t have beaned Dean with half as much force as Bowman had managed in his panic. It almost stung a little.

The hunter opened up his hand all the way to free the sprite, keeping it a stable surface under Bowman’s feet. “You okay after all that?” Dean asked with concern, his other hand coming up to brush one of the leafy green wings in the darkness. He’d feel awful if he managed to hurt Sam’s little brother right after meeting him, startled or not.

Bowman's wing twitched, and then pulled away from Dean's hand in surprise. "I'm okay," he insisted, before patting himself down and making extra sure. He flexed his wings a few times, stretching them behind him and making sure they didn't hurt.

He ended up reaching one wing around in front so he could massage the delicate finger bones within the green membrane. "I didn't even hurt my neck in that," he boasted mildly, though the thought of it made him cringe inside. He could really have done some damage if he had hit Dean at the wrong angle, at the speed he was going.

While he preened, he glanced up. "I'm guessing you haven't seen the demon?" His tone was casual, but Bowman was tense all over. "I ... Sam and I got split up. I tried to find him and heard an owl, but no demon."

Dean shook his head. “Haven't heard anything except Jacob when we split up. I should probably show him a thing or two about masking his footsteps for the next time he's out in the woods. He's not subtle, that's for sure.”

His forehead creased and he scanned the canopy above them for the invisible owl stalking on silent wings. Owls were hunters through and through, and it jarred Dean to realize that the predators of the forest were a significant threat to his little brother, who might be on his own out there.

“It's getting too dark to split up again,” Dean said in a hush, holding Bowman close enough to see him fully, “and I can't risk giving away my position with a flashlight. Stick close from now on. We'll find the others together.”

Bowman nodded. He didn't want to argue a point like that. Flying alone had left his nerves frayed almost beyond recognition, and he was wired. Dean, someone he'd known about all his life as a source of safety, was an obvious choice. "Yeah," he said quietly.

With one last check of his wings, Bowman hopped off Dean's hand once more. He barely needed to actually fly to land on the human's shoulder, his boots settling on the strange material of his jacket. Rischa had claimed the same spot earlier, and it seemed like a decent enough place to perch. The top of Dean's head felt a little too exposed in the night with predators around.

There was barely time to pick a direction to search before a sound reached them. Bowman perked up and his wings flinched at the sound of footsteps, and he swiveled his gaze around to find the source.

He sighed and rolled his eyes when he saw who came stomping into view, looking confused. "Dean wasn't wrong, you're not blasted subtle at all."

Jacob winced and rubbed his hand gingerly over his sternum. "Hey, at least this time I got an excuse, tiny," he shot back resentfully. "Saw Bobby and he smacked me. He's just having a merry fuckin' time out here."

Dean frowned, something about the way Jacob was talking putting him ill at ease. Jacob didn’t seem the type to get riled so easily.

He had to shrug it off. They’d only met that day, after all. For all Dean knew this was the way Jacob normally acted. Besides, getting clocked by a demon wasn’t fun.

If only he could risk the sawed-off against the demon. The salt would be effective in keeping it back, but with Sam out of sight there was no chance in hell he could use it. The gun had a scattered shot; to be able to use it safely he’d need all of the others in sight or they might be struck by the debris. Jacob was the only other person who could weather a hit from it. Sam and Bowman wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Look, just stick close,” Dean said sternly to Jacob. “The demon has the upper edge in the dark. We need to find Sam and get rid of this bitch together. Where did you last see Bobby?”

Jacob nodded in agreement and pointed vaguely in the direction he'd come from. "Somewhere over there. I, uh. You were right, he's a lot stronger than I expected and I lost the holy water andthe salt." A familiar, sheepish expression crossed his face for a moment before turning his gaze back towards the trees as if worried Bobby might rush out at them. He really looked like an unprepared kid for a moment, worried for his friend while he realized how far in over his head he’d found himself.

Normally Bowman might have drifted over to check on his friend, but something kept him back. The thought of flying in the open air while it was so thick with tension from all three of them deterred him, as did the thought that danger could lurk anywhere in the dark. The demon had struck Jacob hard enough to daze him. It could be waiting for another opportunity, and Bowman wasn’t keen on giving it one.

"Did you see Sam out there at all?" he asked hopefully, leaning forward slightly on his perch.

Jacob frowned and shook his head. "Y'mean you lost him? Dude, Bowman, what if something happens to his glider? You're the one who's supposed to be able to help him." He looked back out among the trees again, this time aiming his gaze higher in search of their erstwhile knight.

Bowman's wings sagged with the weight of guilt he'd tried to ignore. Jacob was right. Sam's glider was excellent (modelled after the fastest wings in Wellwood, after all), but there was always a chance of something happening to it. "I ... yeah," he answered. "I lost track of him. Then when I tried to find him there was a blasted owl."

"Scared ya, huh?" Jacob said quietly, his voice sympathetic. Bowman glared indignantly and Jacob shrugged. "Hey, little guy, it's alright to be scared, no one will judge. It's a big forest."

Dean gave Jacob an offended glare on Bowman and Sam's behalf, bristling. "Hey, last I checked these two have been flying patrol in this forest long before either of us came along," he said tersely. "Sam knew the risks. Chances are he banked the opposite direction when he heard the owl, that's all. Just like how you wandered off on your own with a demon on the prowl. It's no one'sfault." The unexpected resurgence of his protective nature caught him off guard. For so many years he'd been on his own, with no one else to look out for. He wasn't about to let Bowman go blaming himself for something any of them could have prevented.

"Now," Dean said, glancing at the dark forest around them, "we stick together since we couldn't track him down before sunset. No one goes off on their own, and when we find Sam, he'll stick with us too. Especially since I'm the only one with a working weapon against the demon." He sent Jacob one last annoyed look, since the teen had managed to lose both his weapons at once.

"It's true," Jacob replied with a sigh. He lowered his head sheepishly, but his smile didn't match the action. The expression looked more amused to Bowman, but he couldn't be certain in the dark. His eyes, keen as they were, weren't as useful at night, when everything blended into the shadows whether it meant to or not. Even Jacob's looming form was a little eerie.

"Sam's still got his weapon, at least," Bowman recalled, though there was still plenty of worry behind the confidence in his voice. He'd been separated from Sam on patrols before, but never like this.

"Hopefully he gets a chance to use that little needle of his before anything happens," Jacob answered. There was an unmistakable layer of doubt in his words.

Bowman sighed and finally fluttered off of Dean's shoulder to fly a quick circle around Jacob's head. The human watched him in surprise. "We'll find him before he needs to, okay? What's--" Bowman's voice cut of sharply as a hand swept through the air at him. He had to tuck his wings in and dart around Jacob's wrist, narrowly dodging a swat.

Suddenly, his unasked question of What's gotten into you had an easier answer as Bowman had to shoot up into the air to avoid a grab from the other hand. The startled realization bolted across his mind like lightning streaking across a cloudy sky.

"Dean, Jacob promised not to grab us!"

Black eyes suddenly glittered up at him where before they were brown, and Jacob grinned again. The look he gave Bowman sent ice up his spine before he focused on Dean instead.

“Yeah, that’s right you demonic son of a bitch,” Dean said as he goaded the demon on, not put off by the shockingly black eyes that stared back at him. “You look at me now. You tried playing hard to get, but that’s all over now, isn’t it?”

While Dean talked, he slipped a hand into his jacket and drew out the bottle of holy water. The leaves crunched under his boots, clear signs of the approaching fall giving away any chance he had at stealth. “Bowman, do not get close,” he warned without looking away from Jacob’s dark shadow. They couldn’t afford to lose him in the forest again, especially not now that he’d seen Bowman and Sam and knew of their existence. “I will take care of this.”

Hunter’s instincts guided him, and he lunged forward to splash the demon with holy water. Skin sizzled but didn’t burn, and steam rose into the air but left no red marks behind it. 

“Jacob, if you’re in there, you can fight this!” Dean shouted. “Don’t let him hurt your friends!” He fumbled with the journal in his jacket, praying he could read the exorcism in the darkness that surrounded them. He’d need two hands for the flashlight, and without Jacob backing him up, the odds were much worse.

Yeah, Jake, a voice taunted in Jacob’s head. Don't let me hurt your friends.

Jacob was drowning as he watched everything play out without any ability to stop himself. He didn't know where the voice came from, but he was helpless against whatever made him lift his arm and knock Dean aside while he fumbled for something in his jacket. It was like swatting a persistent bug out of the way as Dean flew backwards. Jacob had never felt so strong, and yet so weak.


Wow, Jake, is that all you got? You're really bad at protecting people you seem to care about. How're you gonna stop me from walking right into that little village once I'm done with the hunter here?

Jacob strode towards where Dean fell, and frantically tried to halt his steps. The inexorable march wouldn’t halt no matter how hard he concentrated. Bowman frantically called to him from above, and Jacob could hear the terror tightening his voice even as the words scrambled in his head. The demon controlled what he saw and heard, and it only wanted to show Jacob how easily it used his hands to do harm. He was doing this.

He stooped and grabbed the front of Dean's jacket. Hauling the more experienced fighter to his feet, Jacob landed a punch to his gut before turning and shoving him bodily against a tree. Dean moaned as he slumped down, disoriented by how easily the demon handled him.

"S-stop," Jacob thought again, and this time it actually whispered out of his mouth and made Dean’s eyes widen.

Damn, Jake. You're a fighter after all. That's fun.

Jacob moved so fast. So much faster than he ever thought a human body was capable of. One arm shoved against Dean's collarbone while the other hand clamped around his arm and squeezed. There was a smirk on Jacob's face and in his black eyes while inside he railed against his imprisonment, betrayed by his own body.

The demon let him hear and feel, with sickening clarity, when the bones snapped. A strangled gasp of pain escaped Dean, his face covered with a sheen of sweat as the shock set in.

Dean was roughly shoved to the ground, landing with a grunt. Jacob turned, not concerned about showing the wounded man his back. He looked up at Bowman again, where the sprite hovered in shock. Jacob felt the satisfaction that didn’t belong to him coursing through his mind, like a cat with a mouse to chase.

"C'mere, Bowman," he said with a grin, stalking forward while the sprite moved backwards in fear.

Chapter Text

After the sickening snap! and the pain that coursed through Dean, he almost lost consciousness when he slammed into the ground.

But there was a spark determined to keep fighting, and he clung to that spark with all his might.

Jacob’s looming form strode away from him in the dark, knowing that with a broken arm, there wasn’t much Dean would really be able to do to fight back. It was all he could do to partially roll himself over, freeing up the front of his leather jacket.

There was nothing quite like the throbbing, crackling pain of a broken limb.

It was a deep pain that he could feel in every part of his arm. Every movement, no matter how small, burned and sent white hot rods of fire speeding through his panicking body. When he accidentally tried to reach into his jacket pocket with the injured arm, he choked back a strangled cry. Black flickered at the edges of his vision, threatening to drag him into a numbing sleep.

Do this, or you die.

Dean focused all of his energy on that thought, moving his uninjured arm with halting motions. It almost felt like his arm belonged to someone else. Jacob was trying to catch Bowman, and one hand on the sprite would be all it took.

Do this, or Sam dies. Bowman dies. Jacob dies when its done using him. The sprite village, and who knows how many other victims it’ll take before some other hunter takes it down.

Cool plastic slid between his fingers, and a slight triumph hit. Got it!

When Dean withdrew the cell phone into the open air, he glanced at Jacob to make sure the demon wasn’t looking in his direction. It must have determined him to not be a threat after snapping his arm like a toothpick.

The LCD screen lit up Dean’s surroundings, showcasing the brambles and twigs he’d fallen into. His thumb rolled over the arrows, directing it to where he needed. Each plodding move cost more energy than he could afford to lose. He had to get it right the first time.

There was no going back.

Bobby Singer’s number appeared, and he shoved his thumb against SEND.

Hello? What’s goin’ --

Dean didn’t waste time with niceties. “Bobby, exorcism, now! ”

It must have been the pain that leaked into his voice or the desperation in the words. Bobby didn’t waste time on explanations, launching himself into the memorized words. Ever since losing his wife to a demon and becoming a hunter, he’d focused on anti-demon techniques. Bobby knew well that he couldn’t waste time.

Dean pressed the speakerphone button, and then with his remaining energy, leaned far enough up to toss the phone in the opposite direction from where Bowman was.

“Take that… bitch…”

He slumped against the ground, all of his energy focused towards that cell phone and praying it would do the job. 

Bowman stayed high enough that Jacob wouldn't be able to reach him, but low enough that he was well within sight. He didn't want to find out what might happen to Dean if the demon grew bored of chasing him. His heart pounded and he frantically wondered what Scar would be doing in this situation. A bigger, stronger enemy needed to be constantly distracted to make any progress at all.

Bowman was just one sprite. He couldn't distract Jacob and stay out of reach at the same time. He didn't have any of that salt or the special water, anyway.

"Bowman, c'mon," Jacob taunted. "I'm not gonna hurtcha that much. You're way more interesting than some dumb hunter, right? I think you should meet other humans, that's all."

"I'm sure you have a pleasant visit planned out," Bowman shot back, darting past the demon and avoiding a swipe of those huge hands. He had to stick close to Dean.

"They won't even stare at your wings, Bowman. I'll tear 'em off first and hide them away, since I know how protective you are of those leaves of yours."

That threat, delivered so casually and earnestly in Jacob's voice sent a bolt of frozen terror through Bowman's heart, and it was all he could do to remain nearby instead of fleeing into the dark canopy. Those black eyes continued to laugh at him while the demon followed him around. Dean was on the ground, and ... something was glowing several feet away from him.

Bowman realized that the demon had paused and noticed it too, and they both heard a voice coming from it. Before Bowman could be amazed by the strange human thing, Jacob let out a curse in an angrier voice than Bowman had ever heard out of him. He stomped towards the glowing, talking thing, determined to crush it under a boot.

Distract the beast. Bowman couldn't let Jacob put a stop to those strange words. Somehow, despite the pain he was in, Dean had figured out a way to recite the exorcism anyway, and Bowman wouldn't let his effort go to waste. If it did, it was their last chance and they’d already lost.

"Hey! I thought we were talking about me," Bowman snapped, even as he dropped through the air to hover right in front of the demon-Jacob.

It swiped at him. Bowman managed to dodge around the enormous arm, but only just. Jacob's sleeve bumped against his legs and he teetered mid-flight, losing his trajectory, but he didn't fall. The other hand rushed out of the dark and clamped hard around his lower half.

His yelp of pain and fear choked off as pressure quickly mounted. Bowman couldn't move his legs. He could hardly breathe. His wings twitched and flared, and he scrabbled at the hand as it slowly tightened around him. When it felt as though his legs might snap, the demon paused. The fist around him shook. Bowman's wings were curled in agony and he was blind to anything but pain.

...Te rogamus, audi nos! ” 

With a burst of triumph, Bobby Singer’s voice finished the exorcism. The distraction from Bowman did the demon in, leaving him trapped in his host instead of being able to escape seconds before the recitation wrapped up. Jacob’s head snapped up and his fingers went lax around the sprite clutched in a hand.

“Bowman!” Dean bellowed as he saw the sprite slip to the ground. The black smoke thrust out of Jacob’s body, wrapping around a tree before being shoved down into the ground where it belonged. A red ring of embers that died away was the only sign of its existence.

Dean didn’t notice.

His eyes were locked on where he’d seen Bowman fall, out of sight behind Jacob. Now that the demon was out, the human teenager thudded to the ground.

Dean?! ” came over the phone. “What’s happenin? ’ ”

“I’ll call ya back!” Dean managed to grunt, hauling himself to his knees. It took everything in him to crawl over to where the other two had collapsed, and in that time the phone clicked, signaling that the call had disconnected. “No, no, no…” Dean muttered to himself as his eyes swept the ground near Jacob. “C’mon…” Please don’t be crushed. Bowman wouldn’t stand a chance if Jacob had fallen on him.

He spotted the sprite not far from where one of Jacob’s massive hands had landed. Dean’s fingers were twitching as he reached out, afraid of hurting Bowman even more but refusing to leave him on the forest floor any longer. He carefully slipped his fingers underneath the fragile body and wings, lifting him up.

“Bowman, c’mon, man,” Dean begged, carefully brushing a thumb against his side. “You gotta be okay. Sam’ll never forgive me if I let you get hurt. I only just found you. I haven’t even had a chance to get to know you… little brother.”

Bowman's wings twitched and he squirmed weakly away from the finger brushing at his side, placing a hand on it. He peered up, momentary confusion in his eyes before Dean's words caught up to him and his face came into shadowed focus. Bowman sighed and relaxed again on Dean's hand. He didn't have it in him to sit up or stand at the moment.

"Good news is I can feel my legs," he said quietly. "Bad news is they blasted hurt."

The memory, so fresh and raw in his mind, of a hand bigger than his bed slowly crushing his legs while his whole body shook, sent a shudder throughout Bowman's body. That had been too close. Way too close. The sneer on Jacob's face with those black eyes would haunt him.

He slowly curled up with a groan, drawing his wings close. "Tell me it at least worked," he tried to grouse, but his worry shone through more than he wanted it to. At least he knew he was safe.

Sam had always said that Dean was the best big brother he could have asked for. He would always look out for his little brother, making sure he was safe and taking care of him. Bowman had grown up on those stories. Now, Dean had called him little brother. He knew that meant he was safe on Dean's hand no matter what lingering worries plagued him.

“It worked,” Dean reassured the sprite. “The demon’s gone.” He cupped his hand close to his chest now that he knew Bowman was alright, letting the little sprite ball up out of sight from the dark forest. Dean needed to focus on their third member. Jacob had collapsed on the ground directly after the exorcism. He could only pray that the demon hadn’t been in the teenager long enough to kill off the kid. Demons pushed their host bodies to the limits, oftentimes just for kicks. Then, when they left, either by force or choice, the person they’d possessed would die.

“Hey, Jacob,” Dean called out hesitantly. With one hand occupied by an injured sprite and the other broken and out of commission-- even the thought of using that arm sent a flare of pain up to his shoulder-- he didn’t have many options. Realistically, he shouldn’t have risked moving after it was snapped, but circumstances worked against them. It left him only one option.

Cautiously, Dean nudged the teenager with one of his worn leather boots. “Jacob, you okay in there?”

Bowman listened from his position curled up on Dean's hand. His wings nearly formed a cocoon around him, and then a callused hand created an additional shield for him. He could hear Dean's voice reverberating right from its source right in front of him. It was such a strange sensation, coupled with the still-elevated pulse he could feel through Dean's palm as the hunter came down from his adrenaline high.

Jacob groaned, and Bowman sighed. He didn't move out of his curled up position, but he was relieved that Jacob hadn't been killed when that black smoke erupted out of him. He wanted to check on his friend, and yet at the same time Bowman wanted to remain well hidden from the world for at least a little longer.

Jacob rolled over sluggishly as he slowly came back to consciousness. He hurt from the back to the front from striking that tree earlier, and his head throbbed from the mental wrestling match of only moments ago. He remained lying down while he dragged a weary hand down his face.

He stared at his hands in the dim lighting, glad that he didn't find evidence that he'd succeeded in crushing Bowman to death. He could still feel it, the desperate little kicks in his palm and the tiny hands scrabbling uselessly against his knuckles. He could still see the way Bowman looked at him, while the demon made Jacob grin like the monster it wanted him to be.

Finally looking past his hand to Dean, Jacob could see the way the hunter favored on arm. "D-Dean, I'm ... I didn't ... I wanted to stop it but I couldn't."

Dean shook his head. “None of that was your fault.” He shifted so he was squatting on the ground, keeping Bowman close. Aside from small shifts on his hand there was no reaction to Jacob being awake. “That’s why possession is so terrible. You can’t do anything to stop them from killing your loved ones. Most people can’t even hope to fight back, but you did. So quit beating yourself up. There’s still work to do.”

Glancing around at the dark, silent forest around them, Dean frowned. “Sam’s missing, and we should find Bobby and make sure he’s okay after the demon jumped ship.” He tried to push himself up and let out a hiss of pain, driven back down to his knees. “Son of a bitch,” he groaned, the pain from the injury hitting him like a bus. Tears of pain threatened the corners of his eyes, hidden by the dark night.

The reminder of Sam, the last member of their party, sent a jolt of worry down Jacob's spine, and he sat bolt upright despite the pain in his body. "We should probably tie that arm somehow," he said, almost automatically. While he spoke, he tried to remember as much as he could.

Facing Bobby, Sam gliding overhead, then ... walking through the woods with no control over his own limbs. Finding Dean and Bowman.

Breaking Dean's arm and watching the hunter crumple to the ground.

Nearly crushing Bowman to death.

Jacob breathed a sigh and collected himself. "S-Sam was reading the exorcism when I saw Bobby, but I don't remember what happened to him after I got knocked out," he explained. That finally got a reaction out of the tiny shape in Dean's hand. Bowman's face peeked over the edge of Dean's fingers.

Bowman wasn't sure what to focus on next. However, finding Sam wouldn't be an easy process so long as every movement and step jostled Dean's broken arm. Bowman was worried about his brother ... but his newest brother needed more immediate help. "Dean, is there something in your gigantic bag Jacob can use to tie a splint to your arm or something?"

“Right,” Dean muttered. He sat back down on the ground with a loud sigh. With an injury like this, he was out of the hunting game for a few months, at the least. More if it didn’t heal right.

He couldn’t let himself dwell on that. All that mattered was every minute they wasted on his sorry ass meant another minute Sam was out in the forest, alone. With possible predators lurking in the dark. 

With a wince, Dean gestured towards where his duffel had dropped during the fight. Belatedly he realized Bowman was sitting in the hand he was moving, reminded by a startled flare of those green wings. “Sorry ‘bout that, small fry,” he apologized. “I’ve got some shirts… and there’s a flashlight inside so we can see what we’re doing. Couldn’t risk that while the demon was around, but now I think we’d all feel better with some light.”

Bowman clung to Dean's thumb the best he could, while Jacob hastily got up to drag the huge duffel bag closer to them. He sat up once more once there was a click and light erupted from the flashlight Jacob had retrieved. Bowman blinked several times at the seemingly-magic device before his eyes adjusted. Sam and Jacob had both explained electricity the best they could, but ... it still seemed like magic.

Regardless of the light's source, it did bring a momentary sense of ease as it chased back the shadows. Bowman could see the way Dean held his injured arm with more clarity, and winced. Even with a jacket sleeve around it, something looked horribly wrong.

Chapter Text

Jacob rummaged through the duffel, trying to ignore the veritable arsenal that Dean carried around with him to find the clothes. He found a first aid kit and dragged it into the light first, opening it hastily to see what Dean had on hand.

"There's not enough bandaging here to wrap the whole arm," he determined, glancing over at Dean's arm. "I'm gonna use a couple shirts for extra padding around your jacket sleeve, and wrap that up, then make a sling out of another shirt." His explanation was as much for his own benefit as it was for Dean's. Jacob knew what he was supposed to do in this situation out in the wilderness, but he'd never had to actually do it. And, normally, he'd have his own bag with more supplies to help. Jacob prepared for camping when he came out to the forest, whereas Dean had prepared for a fight.

Once he had everything laid out that he'd use, he met Dean's gaze. "Getting this in place is gonna hurt like a bitch but it should keep you from jarring it anymore 'til we can find someone that can set it."

Dean nodded, understanding they didn’t have any other options while they were so far in the woods. It was lucky enough that Jacob knew that much. Civilians didn’t have as much need for battlefield medication as hunters did.

Setting the arm himself was out of the question. The amount of pain alone might make Dean black out, and the demon, on purpose or by accident, had put his main arm out of commission. He could still fire a gun and fight left handed, but nowhere near as well as he could with his other arm.

“Do what you have to,” Dean said, shifting position. “But…” He lifted up his hand. “You probably shouldn’t be in my hand when he sets it,” he warned the sprite. It made him wince to imagine a flinch of pain making him close the fist. “I’ve got a pocket if you need to rest, or a shoulder if you’re up to it.”

"I'm up to anything, I'm perfectly fine," Bowman answered quickly, indignant at any implication otherwise. When he moved to stand on Dean's hand, however, he couldn't hide the expression that clouded over his face as his legs threatened not to hold him up.

At least his wings were uninjured. He could deal with his legs not working as well as they recovered from the harsh squeeze on them. If his wings had been injured, Bowman would be distraught and most likely still curled up on Dean's hand. Instead, he fluttered them briefly and before a second had passed he'd landed in a stumble on Dean's shoulder.

Jacob frowned slightly at the sight of Bowman shakily settling himself down, unable to stay standing for too long without pain. His own hands had done that, but he had to remind himself that it wasn't his fault. He brushed aside the memory of Bowman's desperate struggling to concentrate on preparing the cloth he needed to wrap around Dean's arm to pad it from getting any worse.

"Okay, dude. On three. One, two--" To break the anticipation, he made contact before ever reaching three.

Dean let out a strangled growl of pain, the anticipation shattered by Jacob’s early move. He really should have seen it coming, but the pain had his mind fogged over and the worry for Sam clouded over even that. He settled for a glare at nothing.

Don’t be such a wuss, Winchester. Sammy’s still out there.

Biting his lip, Dean did his best to keep his injured arm from flinching while Jacob worked. His other hand curled into a fist, the biting pain from his fingernails digging into his palm a welcome distraction. Even the slight weight of Bowman sitting on his shoulder helped, giving him something more to focus on.

“We should work on your bedside manner,” Dean chattered aimlessly to the air.

Jacob let out a humorless laugh, for the sake of acknowledging Dean's quip more than anything. He had to work quickly before he lost his nerve and his hands started to shake. Staring so intently right at Dean's arm was turning his stomach. It shouldn't be bent like that.

"Sorry, dude. You want a pretty nurse, we'll get you to the hospital later after we find Sam," he managed to say, while he finished wrapping the bandages around the improvised padding. He didn't have a splint, but it'd have to do. After making sure Dean had the extra gauze wrapped in his hand for extra stability, Jacob picked up the shirt he planned to use for a sling.

Bowman flinched at the sound of the fabric tearing. "Will that hold it?" he asked, skeptically, while Jacob finished up his adjustments to the shape of the shirt. "How'd you know to do that?"

Jacob shrugged. "Wilderness survival stuff, you just kinda pick up knowledge here and there," he muttered distractedly. "Ah. Excuse me, Bowman," he added when he glanced up and realized he'd need to secure the sling over the shoulder that the sprite occupied.

Bowman inched to the side before pushing himself up to his feet again. He hopped off the shoulder and hovered nearby while Jacob tied a final knot, securing Dean's broken arm in a sling that would hopefully keep it immobile until they had better supplies.

"So it worked?" Bowman asked, hovering a little closer to peer at the injured arm, which was now surrounded thoroughly by thick cloth.

“It worked enough,” Dean managed to get out, surveying the arm himself and realizing it didn’t feel as weird as it should to have a sprite hovering so close. “More will have to wait until we have everyone together, and get you two back to the village.” A painful thought, one that the case had staved off so far, came to him.

Would Sam stay here?

He had an entire family, after all. Why would he want to give it all up to go back to a world he didn’t fit into, with a brother who could hurt him by accident? Dean just wasn’t enough on his own to give up an entire world for, and he didn’t feel like he even deserved to ask Sam that question. And on the other side of that coin, Dean could never stay in the village. Not for more than a visit, at least. It wasn’t where he was meant to be. Even if he was the same size he wouldn’t fit in, and at his current size he’d stand out like a sore thumb.

Sighing, Dean pushed himself to his feet with his uninjured arm, carefully keeping away from knocking into Bowman. “Do you have any idea where Sam or Bobby might be?” he asked Jacob, his brow furrowing with concern.

Jacob stood, throwing the strap of the duffel bag over his shoulder as he did so. He held the flashlight aimed towards the disturbed ground. "I ... I remember where the demon knocked me out," he supplied. "That's where I last saw either of them."

Bowman flew side to side in an agitated pattern. Now that Dean was taken care of, Sam had rushed back to the fore of his concerns. The older brother that had decided he had to join Bowman in the sky, that had been there for him through some of the toughest years of his life, was missing. Bowman had to find him, and he prayed that he wasn't hurt out there.

"Well, lead the way, giant!" he demanded. "We should start there in case Sam just had to hide when the demon took you over instead."

Jacob nodded. "If he's out looking for us he'll see us walking around," he reasoned. He took a deep breath before turning and peering around to get his bearings before leading the way.

Dean followed slightly behind Jacob, his eyes scanning the ground as the flashlight panned over it. He wished he didn’t feel so damn useless, but at the very least he could help get Sam and Bowman back to safety before even thinking about himself again.

The sling held the arm in place, but without it being set right, numbing pain continued to run through his body from each step. A cold sweat broke out on Dean’s forehead, tiny droplets glistening in the night air as he did his best to concentrate.

The pain was what made him miss it at first.

Not until Dean’s boot was lifting up for another step did he notice that it nudged against some leaves that didn’t act like the others. They moved in a uniform fashion, staying together where they should scatter.

Dean’s heart dropped out.

“Sam?” he called out, realizing what he’d almost stepped on. He could have destroyed all of Sam’s careful work without even noticing.

Dean dropped to his knees, trying to lean down far enough to look under the tiny leaf glider. “Sammy? Are you okay?”

Bowman whirled around in midair, and then looked down. His eyes found what Dean was looking at along with the beam from the flashlight, and he dove down before Jacob could even ask what was going on. The other giant remained standing, trying to hold the flashlight steady, while Bowman landed next to the glider with a graceless stumble.

He hurried to the glider, heedless of the way Dean leaned so close overhead. Ducking underneath, he let out a terse sigh and peered back out. "He's not here and none of the harnesses are broken," he announced. "He must have landed here on purpose and gone to hide."

With that said, Bowman wasted no time darting into the air again and gliding to the nearest foliage and low bushes. He pushed aside fern leaves, hoping against hope that he'd find his brother hiding there.

"Sam, where are you? We got rid of the demon thing, you can come back," he called, flying a little higher and scanning around even as Jacob swept the light from side to side.

The thought of Sam, running along the ground a night, without wings or any way to tell which direction an owl call came from, set Bowman's heart pounding. He could be anywhere. He could have been ... "Sam, you gotta come out now," he blurted, refusing to believe that Sam Winchester, a knight of Wellwood, could have been taken down so easily. Even birds thought twice when those rapiers were involved.

He flew to the base of a tree, searching near the roots. Sam could be hiding under any fallen leaf. That was how he'd stayed safe when he first arrived in Wellwood. Bowman eyed them all, one by one, searching for any sign of Sam limping over to the tree to wait for help.

Dean scooped the glider into his hand, protectively cradling it to his chest as he stumbled back to his feet. Any thought of pain from his arm was washed away by panic. “Sammy?” he called out in the night air, praying for an answering call to come. Sam was four inches tall. He couldn’t have gone far.

A panicked thought rose to mind, leading Dean to checking the bottom of his boots. Please God no.

There was nothing.

The beam of light swept over their surroundings. Nothing. A slight impression in the ground where either Bobby or Jacob might have landed at some point, but nothing of a small swordsman with fluffy hair and bright hazel eyes.

Dean’s grip tightened slightly on the tiny glider, holding his only connection to the brother he’d lost so long ago. Lost and then found, along with an entire adopted family and a village who’d saved his little brother’s life. 

Now he was lost again.

Bowman returned to check on the glider in a last ditch effort to find a clue. He landed on Dean’s hand, ignoring the closer grip around the carefully crafted glider, and slipped under its wings to double and triple check all of the harnesses. Even the ballast bags were properly filled for balanced flight. Bowman’s heart pounded and he put his hands over his face in frustration and desperation, sitting there on Dean’s hand while Dean turned in place, his own desperation growing.

Sam! ”

No reply came.