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SPN fic: Helpful [PG] gen

Title: Helpful
Challenge: Written for cece_away in the spn_summergen challenge, for the the prompt I'd like Dean to make the hard choice NOT to kill a monster.
Rating: PG
Warnings: None
Length: 3,200 words
Author's Notes: Missing scenes for 6x09, ‘Clap Your Hands’. Thanks to my beta, riyku.
Summary: Dean doesn’t talk about what happened when he was abducted.

Dean woke up with a funny taste in his mouth and the feeling that something was wrong. He was laying on a cold, hard surface. He kept his muscles relaxed, breathing slow and measured, eyes closed, and tried to remember where he was and how he got here.

They were working a child abduction case in Indiana. Several families in the small town of Elwood had lost their oldest sons. Seemed like it might be their kind of gig – whoever or whatever was snatching these kids could grab them from the middle of crowds and out of their own beds. Mr. Brennan’s son Patrick had been the first to disappear. Dean left Sam to keep an eye on Brennan while he checked out the crop circle in the cornfield where Patrick had been last seen. There was a bright light, and … aliens. He’d been abducted by freaking aliens.

Dean let his eyes squint open a little. There was a stone wall a few feet away. He’d been expecting bright lights, maybe some metal tables with people in full body restraints, but he was happy to see the cliché proved wrong. It was silent. No talking, no engine noise or distant traffic.

Dean pushed up suddenly and rolled over into a crouch, ready for something to jump him.

Nothing did.

He was in a ten by ten room with stone walls and no visible exit. It was dimly lit by a tiny window near the ceiling. There was a knife on the floor next to him, dark metal with a bone-carved handle. Dean automatically picked it up. Across the room from Dean a boy about Ben’s age was huddled, skinny arms clasped around his knees, shaggy blond hair hanging down over his face.

“Hey, kid,” Dean called quietly. “You okay?”

The boy looked up slowly. His face was smooth – not boy-smooth, but the inhuman perfection of a photo with all the emotion airbrushed away.

“Oh good, you’re awake. I was getting bored,” it said in a musical voice.

Dean flicked the dagger into a knife-fighter’s grip and resisted the urge to take the thing out. Information. He needed information. “You the one that’s been abducting the kids from Elwood?” Dean demanded.

The thing stood up. It was under five feet tall, with pale skin and green eyes that glittered in the sunlight. “Do I look like your captor?” it asked disdainfully, gesturing down at the long white silk shirt, covered in dirt and blood stains, that was all it was wearing. Its body language didn’t match its tone. It was pressed back against the far wall as its eyes flitted to, and then away, from the knife in Dean’s hands.

“Maybe not,” Dean said carefully. “In that case, what are you?”

“I’m fae, of course,” it said.

“A faerie? Seriously?” Dean mocked. “Aren’t you supposed to be, like, six inches tall, Tinkerbell?”

“You mistake me for one of the lesser fae,” the thing said coldly. “I’m not one to fetch and carry for mortals for the price of a bowl of milk. I was a power in Oberon’s Court since before your kind tamed fire.”

“Right,” Dean said skeptically. He’d been monologued at by demon lords and archangels, pagan gods and Alphas – every ancient evil sonofabitch out there. This little faerie dude didn’t stack up to the competition. “And you’re locked up in here with me because…”

The thing shrugged elegantly. “The fae that captured you and the other first-born sons is a rival of mine. The games at court are vicious, but there are certain rules. He seems to have found a loophole, imprisoning me with a perilous mortal who just happens to be armed with cold iron.”

“So he brought me here to kill you? Then he sends me home?” Once upon a time Dean would have taken the thing out without a second thought. Back when he thought every monster was evil, and every human worth saving. Back when he could tell which category his own brother fit into.

The thing giggled, with a sound like shattering glass. “Oh no. What he takes, he keeps. King Oberon won’t allow you to serve in his court. You’re pretty enough, but too old, and you stink of blood and pain. The Great Hunt might pay well for you – I suspect you’ve enough bloodlust in you to answer their horns, and they always need new hounds. Or perhaps he’ll gift you to the Unseelie Queen for breaking. It’s said the suffering of mortals is music to her.”

“Yeah, I know the type,” Dean said. The bitch sounded like Alastair. Dean wondered which one was the Faerie Alpha, the King or the Queen. “Alright. Let’s say I decide to play nice. Can you get us out of here?”

“If I could escape, I certainly wouldn’t have stayed in here with you and that,” it said, nodding to the knife with a tiny shudder. “This cell was built to imprison human and fae alike. Within these four walls, I’m as useless as ... well, as useless as you,” it said.

“Within these four walls, huh?” Dean said, looking around. Still no way out. Nothing in the cell but him, the knife, and the faerie. The tiny window was about as high as a basketball hoop. He remembered lifting Sammy up on his shoulders, so the kid could dunk the ball. “What if I lift you up, so you can reach the window?”

“That’s – ” The thing sneered, then paused and looked up at him, head cocked in a way that reminded Dean of Cas. “That might actually work.”

Dean wasn’t thrilled about letting the thing touch him, but there weren’t a whole lot of options. “Okay. You get on my shoulders and then I’ll stand up. We’ll see if you can reach it from there,” Dean said, taking a few steps across the room and crouching down on the stone floor under the window.

The faerie skittered away and hesitated, biting its lip.

Dean pressed the knife down on the ground, hand flattened over it. Dean rested there patiently, waiting for the thing to come to him. “I’m Dean, by the way,” he offered. “And you are?”

“Well, apparently today I’m very helpful to lost little mortals,” it said, stepping closer. “So you can call me Helpful.”

Finally Dean felt a small, cool hand on the top of his head. Helpful climbed up onto his shoulders, balancing light and sure as a cat. It weighed less than he’d expected, maybe 60 pounds soaking wet. Dean stood up slowly with the dagger in his hand. The lore said cold iron killed faeries, and that could come in handy. Especially since ‘Helpful’ might be helping him out of the frying pan and into the fire.

“Oh, this will work out nicely,” the faerie said. “When the wall goes down, run for the forest, as fast as you can.” Its bare feet pressed into Dean’s shoulders as it rearranged its weight. Helpful started to hum, the same few bars of music over and over. Dean checked his watch, and wasn’t surprised to see it had stopped. He set his feet under him, prepared to hold the faerie up as long as it took.

After a few minutes, Dean saw something move, up by the window. He glanced up and noticed that faeries were not junkless, and that they liked to go commando. The faerie was reaching out the window, and a green vine was slithering its way in.

“Hey, is that thing dangerous?” Dean asked, trying to figure out if he could cut it with the knife without throwing Helpful off and interrupting whatever he was doing.

Helpful kept humming. The vine grew another few inches down the wall, like one of those sped-up nature programs.

“Umm, kick once for yes, twice for no.”

Helpful kicked him lightly in the ear, twice.

“Okay,” Dean said, eying the vine.

The plant was twining out from the window in all directions now, over and into the stone wall, thick green tendrils growing so fast that Dean could actually hear them, a restless soft shirring that creeped him out.
There was a sharp crack. It was nothing like a gunshot; more like the sound of ice breaking on the river during spring thaw in Minnesota. A sharp little fragment of rock flew past Dean’s ear. Dean forced himself to stand still. Another crack, and a shower of rock dust drifted across the room.

Dean pictured what he would need to do when the wall came down. He could pick Helpful up and run with him, if that would be faster. He had no idea how far away the forest was, or in what direction. He just hoped the guards were asleep, or on a bender, or something. Pulling the place down around their ears wasn’t the quietest way to break out of jail.
There was a resounding crash that echoed around the room.

“Follow me!” chimed Helpful, leaping off his shoulders.

Dean spun around, half-blinded by the clouds of dust and sunlight. Outside was a meadow of bright, blue-green grass. The tree line was about a quarter-mile away. Helpful had already covered half the distance. The little fucker was fast as a wendigo!

Dean sprinted after him. He pounded across the field, felt his ankle almost turn in a dip of ground, and was glad his boots had good ankle support. Screw that track coach back in high school who said steel-toed boots were no good for running. Dean reached the tree line and ducked under the low branch of a giant spruce to come to a panting stop next to Helpful. He turned to see what Helpful was staring at. The grass along their back trail was fading to an ugly dull yellow-grey.

There was a hint of sound. At first Dean thought it was just some wind whispering through the tree branches. It got louder and louder, dropping in pitch. Dean took deep, measured breaths and resisted the urge to put his hands over his ears as it reached a shattering trumpet-call. A wash of light blazed out of the stone-walled castle they’d escaped from. It flooded over the meadow, right to the edge of the forest, and then ebbed away slowly. Dean blinked and shook his head. His ears were ringing and the center of his vision was one big bright spot, an afterimage, like Dad had described after air support had taken out a nearby VC position.

Dean had pressed back against the tree trunk during the attack. Helpful pointed upwards. The dark green needles on the tree above them were drooping, turning a sickly dry yellow. The fae said something Dean couldn’t hear, then beckoned and started trotting away through the trees.

Dean thought about heading in the opposite direction, but Helpful had been one hundred percent right about running for the trees, and Dean had no clue where Patrick and the other boys were being held. So Dean headed after the faerie. He could’ve sworn there wasn’t a path, but the undergrowth seemed to melt away in front of them, leaving leaf-cluttered ground underfoot. When his hearing came back, Dean asked, “What’s with the plants dying off?”

Helpful looked up at him. “Cold iron,” he said without slowing down. “It’s deadly to every living thing in the True Lands. He took a great risk, putting such a weapon in your hands. I do believe I’ll take it as a compliment.”

Dean checked behind them and saw bare, scorched earth scarring the green of the forest. It made them too easy to track, but Hell if he was going to give up this tactical nuke of a weapon.

“Well, thanks,” Dean said. “For getting me out.”

Helpful smirked. “It was a pleasure. Now let’s get you, and that thing, back to the Mortal Lands.”

“No, wait,” Dean said, coming to a stop.

Helpful kept going for a few more steps then stopped, swiveled, and came back, huffing a sigh.

“I’m not leaving without those kids,” Dean told him. “I’ve got the knife, and you know where they’re being held, right?”

Helpful made a bitch-face worthy of Sam at his worst. “I’ve no idea, and if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. The knife is deadly to fae in the True Lands, yes. But you wouldn’t be able to use it!”

Dean stepped up to him, using his height advantage to intimidate the little guy.

Helpful disappeared in a burst of light. Dean spun around, looking for him. He felt a touch on his ass and swung around, knife ready, but there was nothing there but a chiming laugh.

The fae’s voice echoed through Dean’s head. ‘Leave my protection, mortal, and he will find you, he will compel your return, and he will punish you for allowing me to escape. Out there, in the Mortal Lands, cold iron cannot harm the fae. But our powers are weakened enough that mortals can, and have, defeated us through wits and skill. So I will return you to your home, quick as quick can be. For the only unforgiveable sin in Oberon’s Court is failure, and I would see his capture of you fail in truly spectacular fashion’.

Helpful spoke up from behind Dean. “Now, are you done acting the fool?”

Dean turned and saw the fae sitting on a low tree branch, swinging his legs. He gritted his teeth. “Yeah. Let’s get the fuck outta here.”

Helpful slid off the tree branch and led the way. Dean followed him deeper into the forest. The air was damp and heavy. It was quiet. No bird calls. No buzzing mosquitoes. The back of Dean’s neck prickled with the feel of unfriendly eyes. He wondered what Sam was up to in Elwood. How he was trying to get him back. If he was even bothering to try.

The sound of rushing water had been getting louder for a while.

“Don’t touch the water,” Helpful warned as they came out from under the shadow of the trees into the sunlight by a small, fast-running river.

Dean wondered if the water would do something to him, or if the cold iron knife would cause some Exxon Valdez-style ecological disaster downstream if he fell in.

“Caroo,” Helpful called out, cooing like a pigeon. “Caroo, Caroo!”

An otter surfaced with a splash in a slow eddy of the river near them.

Helpful went down on one knee in front of it. “We seek passage,” the fae said politely.

The otter emerged dripping from the water to inspect Dean. It stared up at him with beady black eyes, like a rat. Fuck, he hated rats. Dean held the knife awkwardly behind his back and tried to smile.

“Hi,” he said to it.

The otter twitched its whiskers, streaked back to the river, and slipped under the water.

“What was that all about?” Dean whispered to Helpful.

Helpful shrugged. “Beast fae. The river is her domain. If we tried to pass without her consent … I could manage it, of course, but it wouldn’t go well for you.”

Helpful sprang forward onto a flat-topped rock out in the middle of the river, and then leaped from one stepping stone to another to cross. None of those rocks had been there a minute ago.

On the far bank, Helpful turned. “Can you make it across?” it asked.
Dean wasn’t sure if Helpful was genuinely concerned, or just being a dick. “Mortals are so clumsy.”

Definitely being a dick, Dean decided. He backed up a few feet and took a running jump onto the rock. He landed on water-slick surface with a bone-jarring thud and skidded half-way off, almost losing his grip on the knife. And now his jeans were wet, damn it. The rest of the rocks were easy, just little hops away. On the far bank, Dean turned around. “Hey, Caroo,” he yelled. “Tha - ”

Helpful interrupted him with a sharp hssst. “Never thank the fae,” Helpful informed him. “If you acknowledge a debt, they have a claim on you.”

Dean eyed him. “I thanked you for getting me out of the castle.”

Helpful smiled nastily. “That’s right. And I’ll not have my claim diluted by you slutting yourself away to all the lesser fae.”

Dean reminded himself that, if he knifed Tinkerbell, he had no clue how to get back. “Right. I’ll keep that in mind, asshole.”

“See that you do,” Helpful said cheerfully. “And try to keep up. We’re nearly there.”

They were on a real trail now, steep and rocky, over-grown with evergreens. Dean climbed grimly, throat dry, thighs aching. Finally they came out onto a flat ledge with a tiny pool of water that reflected the sunlight into Dean’s eyes, giving him a headache.

“There,” Helpful said, gesturing grandly to the water.

“Great, I been thirsty for the past hour,” Dean muttered.

Helpful laughed, like the chiming of tiny, really annoying little bells. “No, no. That’s the portal back to the Mortal Lands.”

“Oh! Well, th – I mean, that’s good. Hey, I meant to ask. You said you and this fae who’s been kidnapping the kids are rivals?”

“Yes,” Helpful agreed. “His methods are so crude. Its offensive, don’t you think?”

“Well, yeah,” Dean said. “I think stealing people’s children is pretty freaking offensive!”

“When it was my task to find mortals to serve Oberon, there was never any fuss,” Helpful boasted. “An infant taken from its cradle, replaced with a replica formed from clay … no soul, of course, no real spark of life, but it would feed, and cry, and crawl about for a few days before going still, and never any mortal the wiser.”

Dean listened with growing horror. Screw it. Even if it meant he was never getting back, he was taking this thing down with him. Dean sauntered towards the fae; cold iron knife in his hand like it had been the whole time.

A sudden, sharp scent of ozone. ‘Dean Winchester,’ hummed a strange voice in his head. ‘There you are. And you still haven’t killed him? What a disappointment. Drop the weapon,’ it commanded.

The knife clattered to the ground.

“I have prior claim,” snarled Helpful. “Dean Winchester, touch the portal and think of home.”

Dean stumbled towards the pool of water. He crashed to his knees and found himself remembering black metal and sun-warmed leather, his little brother curled up asleep in the passenger seat. There was a nauseating, wrenching sense of falling and then Dean found himself in a cornfield under a clear night sky.

“Fuck!” Dean yelled, and went looking for his car.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 3rd, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
Interesting dilemma you gave Dean!
Sep. 4th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you, borgmama1of5! Dean's not in a great head-space at this point.
Sep. 4th, 2011 02:29 am (UTC)
Ooh, very interesting. I love this glimpse into the land of the fae, and I would love to see more.
Sep. 4th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks sophiap! I borrowed from a few different traditions and stories to craft this version of the True Lands. It's the dissonance between it's energy and Dean's that I had the most fun playing with.
Sep. 4th, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
This is intriguing. I'd be interested in more.
Sep. 4th, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you, arliss! I wonder what use Helpful might make of his claim on Dean, myself.
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
I so envy those of you who can still post an entry. Many of us do not now have that facility since livejournal.com messed up the system and we are left in the lurch!
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
I've always used the HTML interface, so the Rich Text debacle hasn't caused me any problems, aside from needing to manually insert line breaks.
Sep. 5th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm afraid I don't know enough about HTML to try that.
Sep. 5th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
nicely done, bb! I really liked the imagery! :)
Sep. 13th, 2011 08:29 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! Having DEAN as a narrator of a faerie tale was a bit of a brain-twister, so I'm glad it worked for you!
Sep. 30th, 2011 11:01 am (UTC)
Well, f*ck indeed. Helpful isn't so much, and still has a claim. "And I’ll not have my claim diluted by you slutting yourself away to all the lesser fae"
lol! I'm surprised Dean didn't just kick him with those steel toed boots;)
Nicely done, and more wouldn't go amiss?
Oct. 1st, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
Seriously - not that that Helpful. I worked hard on Helpful's voice, and I meant that line to cut.

Not planning on more at the moment, but I'll keep it in mind. Thanks, randomstasis!
Mar. 24th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
That was really intriguing, and very much in character--I really felt for Dean's aborted rescue attempt!
Apr. 23rd, 2012 05:58 am (UTC)
It was so hard for Dean to NOT rescue those kids. Thanks, rivkat!
Mar. 24th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
This is amazing and unexpected and makes me smile a whole lot. Like the perfect cold drink at just the right moment on a hot, busy day. ♥
Apr. 23rd, 2012 05:59 am (UTC)
Thank you, Janice! I think this story's darker in my head than on paper, but the contrast between SPN and traditional fae was lots of fun to play with.
Mar. 24th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Poor Dean. At least he got away, and hopefully 'Helpful' forgets about him for too long and never seeks him out again until Dean is safe or dead.
Apr. 23rd, 2012 06:00 am (UTC)
Oh, agreed. 'Helpful' is quite a piece of work. *shudders*
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )