[Com] Dean Asunder
Let’s try this again, shall we?
The witch’s cryptic question made less sense by the second, because as he looked around, Dean was certain he’d never dealt with anything like this.
The trees towered farther overhead than ever. If not for the enormous leaves gathered in the tree roots with him, he’d think maybe he’d been sent to the Redwood Forest. Instead, he realized with mounting dread, he could be anywhere.
It didn’t feel like the real world. Animals cried in the distance, once-familiar sounds warped by what that witch did.
He was small. He was small and alone and he had no idea where his dad or Sammy were. A part of him wanted to rush out looking for them, but something held him back. Every time he tried to take a step out of his safe refuge, he imagined some giant animal dragging him off before he could fight back. He had his knife and colt, but they seemed so small compared to any threat at this size.
But what if Sammy was out there?
He couldn’t hide away when his brother needed him. Dean took a steeling breath and made his way out of the tangled roots where he’d hidden himself.
Almost immediately, he had to jump back with a startled curse as a fluttering and a harsh wind closed in on him. He had his gun in hand before sitting up fully, but paused at the sight of unsettling yellow eyes set among black feathers that almost shone blue in the morning sunbeams.
The bird opened its beak and unleashed the piercing cry of a grackle, louder than Dean had ever heard it. When he squeezed the gun in his hands and it roared in response, it hardly matched that volume. The bird twitched back nonetheless as the world’s tiniest bullet struck it somewhere among its puffed up feathers.
Black wings flared open with another shriek, and Dean tried to scramble back, give himself some space so he could figure out how to fight the son of a bitch without pissing it off more.
He didn’t have time to plan his strategy before another flutter of wings dove close. Dean almost shot at the new attacker, but instead his jaw dropped at the sight. As he watched, a winged man swooped at the bird, slashing a sharp sword at it with an angry cry.
As the bird shrieked and balked, the winged man twisted in the air to come to a landing, lithe steps planting in front of Dean. Those wings, vibrant and green like the canopy above, flared wide and hid the bird from Dean’s view.
It didn’t take much for the bird to decide against continuing the fight. That leafy-winged, green-clad … forest dude scared it off with one more threatening swipe of his sword, and with a flutter the grackle was gone.
The man grunted in satisfaction and turned then, and Dean’s walls went right back up. While the other guy put away his weapon at his belt, Dean lifted his gun with steady hands and a warning glare. “Don’t come any closer!” he growled, hating how young he sounded.
The man raised one dark green eyebrow. Between his green outfit and hair and his dark brown skin, he could blend into the forest; as if he came right out of a fairy tale. If he didn’t have the distinctly gruff look of a fighter. When he spoke, his voice was deep and steady. “Whatever that is, boy, I’d appreciate you not aiming it my way. I’m only here to help you.”
Dean’s mouth twitched in a smirk, but his nerves didn’t let it last. Even though the guy had just helped him, he couldn’t help but respond to the authority in that tone the same way he always did. “Oh yeah? You some kinda fairy cop?”
The man blinked at him. Somehow the faint stern look there disarmed Dean a bit. He lowered his gun and clicked the safety on. The man glanced at the gun at the sound, and then lowered to a squat. “Are you hurt?”
Dean glanced down at himself. Aside from some dirt and grass stains, and one red mark on his palm from when he’d fallen over, he was unscathed. “No,” he replied. “Who … What the hell are you?!”
The man smirked and tilted his head. “I had the same questions for you, boy. My name is Scar Wolfblind, and I am a Knight of Wellwood.”
It was like he’d been pulled into one of the many books Sammy was always caught up in. This was all right out of a fantasy novel. “Well that’s great,” he replied gruffly. “Think you can point me to the way outta this forest? I need to find my brother.”
“Your brother?” Scar’s wings twitched in time with the concern dawning on his face. Dean couldn’t help a few fascinated glances at them even as the knight-whatever went on. “If there is another like you out here, I swear he will be found.”
“Yeah, that’s my plan,” Dean shot back. Looking after Sammy was <i>his</i> job, and the sooner he could get back to it, the better.
Scar shook his head. “The forest is too vast for only one or two searching for someone,” he insisted. “I suggest you come back to Wellwood with me. I can organize searching parties and keep you safe from birds.” As he spoke, he stood up again and held out a hand for Dean to take.
Dean frowned. “I can't waste time! I have to find him. That kid counts on me!” He couldn’t imagine not spending every moment he had trying to find Sammy. It wasn’t a choice at all. Even still, he remained where he’d fallen over.
Scar sighed and crossed his arms. “You’re wasting time arguing, boy,” he said bluntly. “I know this forest well. It’s too much to search on your own. I’m not leaving you by yourself out here, but I’m not abandoning this brother of yours, either. You need a strategy.”
Dean stared nonplussed at him. He wanted to glare, to argue that it was his duty to take care of this, and no one else’s. The words wouldn’t come. Scar was right. He knew this giant forest better. Dean did need a strategy.
“Fine,” he spat out, pushing himself to his feet on his own and stowing his gun. “I’ll go to … whatever you said before. We can do things your way.”
Scar smirked and his leafy wings fanned open. “We should move fast. I don’t think I can carry you the whole way there, but if you want to try--”
“No way!” blurted out of Dean before he could really let the suggestion sink in. Then, he grimaced, unable to help imagining how such a thing could go wrong. If he fell, he might not survive it. Or he might survive, but only barely. Scar looked prepared for a fight, but he was built more for dexterity, and he wasn’t that much taller than Dean.
Dean squared his shoulders. “Wouldn’t wanna strain your, uh, wings or anything. Besides, how far can it be?”
Scar’s mouth twitched in what may have been a smirk. “Good thinking, boy. It’s near a mile. We should get started.”
Dean followed as the man turned and began their trek.”My name’s Dean, and I’m not a kid, y’know. I’m fourteen!”
Scar hummed in acknowledgement. “A mile is a mile,” he pointed out. “Boy or man. It may be dark before I can send anyone to search.”
Dean didn’t let himself think of that distance. A mile should be nothing; the Impala could put a mile behind her with no trouble. He’d covered so many miles in his life before he even turned ten.
They angled around a fallen leaf the size of a mattress. “How will anyone find anything when it’s dark? You got any flashlights, sword-fairy?”
Scar laughed. It didn’t seem like an often-used sound, but was genuine all the same. “In time, boy. You’ll see how we do things in Wellwood.”
The mile walk from where Scar had found him took hours, sometimes skirting around trees bigger than any he’d ever seen, and sometimes pausing to wait for animals to walk by. Scar had pointed out a fox in the distance, so far away it didn’t look giant at all. Even from far away, all Dean could think about was how wide that grin would have been from up close.
It was growing darker by the second when they finally reached “wellwood.” Dean couldn’t make out the details on the higher branches, but he could swear there were houses on some of them. Houses growing right out of the trunks of the trees.
Scar led him up stairs that had grown into the side of a huge tree with pale bark and enormous leaves. After walking a mile at their size, and the lingering worry for Sam, Dean had to fight to keep himself from collapsing on that towering staircase. By the time they reached an opening into the tree itself, higher above the ground than Dean ever wanted to acknowledge, he hardly had the energy to be briefly amazed by it. He still had work to do.
Even so, his eyes lingered on lanterns made of flower petals hanging from the ceilings.
Scar brought him to other leaf-winged people. They listened to his story. Some were more astonished than others, but somehow they believed his tale (he would have been pissed if the friggin’ forest fairies didn’t believe his story about a witch).
Dean almost approved of Scar’s strategy until he was informed that he’d have to wait behind for the night.
“What?! No! I have to help look for Sammy too!”
Scar shook his head. His stubbornness met Dean’s like a rocky shore meets a wave. “We can’t risk you getting lost at night,” he determined. “You’ve been through a lot, boy. What you need is rest.”
Dean was frustrated, and tired, and indignant. He hated that a small part of him knew Scar was right, because that didn’t matter. “But! I can help!”
“Tomorrow,” Scar assured him. “Tonight, you’ll be staying in Leafwing’s home. I can’t make use of you while you’re dead on your feet, Dean.”
Dean glared but didn’t argue further. He let the tall, lean sprite named Leafwing lead him through the winding halls within the tree. His plan, as soon as no one was watching, was to sneak himself out of the damn place. They couldn’t keep him out of the search for Sam. It wasn’t even an option.
He pretended to settle into the bed offered in the little home-within-a-tree. It was like a raised platform with a depression in the middle, filled with blankets and pillows as a nest. He pretended so well that he actually dozed off once or twice.
Gotta … gotta find Sammy …
Dean couldn’t tell how long he slept, but most of it was plagued by the same dream over and over. The witch, appearing out of nowhere. Dean, rushing forward to protect Sammy. A flash of white and screaming laughter. Sometimes the laughter became the angry screech of a bird, but mostly his dreams showed him that motel room.
When he came to, he found himself staring into a pair of vivid, bright green eyes.
“Sonova--!” he blurted, balking back and waking up much faster than he’d ever expect to without coffee or a slap on the face.
The owner of those eyes balked too. A small kid, probably only five or six, stumbled backwards and fell to a seat. Little green wings, a match to his eyes, fluttered at his back. He was another wood sprite, brown-skinned and green-haired and little.
The kid’s bottom lip stuck out in a familiar pout. “I fell down!”
Dean had to calm his heart from the brief scare so soon after his nightmares. “Sure did, small fry. You alright?”
The kid checked himself over while Dean ran both hands down his face to try to brush away the dreams. When he opened his eyes again, the kid was looking at him sheepishly. “I didn’t mean ta wake you up,” the kid promised. “My papa said to letcha rest. I was just checkin’ on ya. Are you gonna tell him?”
Dean had a vague memory of one of the knights bringing him there to rest. It wouldn’t make a difference if they knew about this. “Nah, small fry. I know you didn’t mean it.”
The kid perked right up. His wings, too small to actually fly anywhere and curled at the edges, fluttered happily. “Okay! I’m Bowman. Papa said you’re from far away. What’s your name?”
“I’m Dean,” Dean replied, still half distracted by his surroundings. He hadn’t paid much mind to the home-within-a-tree the night before in between his exhaustion and his frantic drive to go find Sammy. Now, he had a moment to look everything over, noting that rather than carving things out, somehow the sprites had managed to grow the tree into that shape. From the warped walls to the window shaded with leaves, the shape of the home was, somehow, natural.
He looked away from the window and the bright sun peeking around the shades only to flinch again. Bowman had stood and waited next to the edge of the bed expectantly. “How come you don’t have wings? Did something happen? Does it hurt?”
Despite the nagging in the back of his mind that he needed to look for Sam, Dean’s mouth twitched in a smile. “Nah, small fry. I never had any wings. I’m not a … sprite, like you are,” he explained, even as he maneuvered his way out of the blankets. To his bemusement, Bowman didn’t stray too far away even as Dean sat on the floor to pull his boots back on. “Just a real unlucky guy sometimes.”
“Oh,” Bowman replied. He didn’t seem to notice the bitterness in Dean’s tone. The kid tried to squat down to be more level with Dean where he sat, but his fluttery wings cost him his balance and he fell to a seat again. “I dunno if I’m unlucky. Maybe. But! My wings already uncurled and they’re gonna get really big one day!”
“That so?” Dean asked, a ghost of a smirk on his face. He couldn’t help but wonder why a kid so young, whose wings weren’t even fully developed, was left alone. In a treehouse, of all places. “How big is ‘really big’?”
Bowman grinned and scrambled to his feet. “I’ll show ya!” He darted towards the doorway, little bare feet pattering against the wooden floor. Then, he stopped and turned around, sheepish and ready to wait for Dean.
Dean chuckled dryly and got to his feet. As he did, he took a mental inventory of the various weapons he still had on him. The knives he kept in his boots were still there. The one in his sleeve remained. He vaguely remembered leaving his colt on a table somewhere, but his silver knife, a twin to one he’d made for Sam last Christmas, stayed in its hidden pocket in his jacket.
“Well? What’re you waiting for, small fry?”
Bowman smiled again and ran back to Dean to grab one of his hands. Dean allowed it, though he couldn’t help but marvel at the innocence in such a gesture. They might have exchanged names, but he was a total stranger to this kid.
He let Bowman lead him to a main room, which proved to be just as organic and curved as the bedroom, not a corner to be found in the place. Some cushioned benches took up part of the space near the room’s window, while a table and chairs took up the other side. It was cozy, and nothing too surprising stood out to Dean aside from the fact that the chairs had no backs.
Bowman let go of his hand to scurry over to said backless chairs. He scooted one over, little wings fluttering with the effort of keeping his balance at the same time. Then, he started to push the other one, constantly looking back at the first.
When he had them spaced apart like he wanted, he hurried to stand right in between them, holding his arms up high and wearing a proud grin. “My wings’ll be this big!” he declared.
Dean smirked and held up his hands roughly as far apart as Bowman’s were. “This big?”
“Nooo!” Bowman drawled, waving his little arms. “As big as the chairs, they’re far apart ‘cause that’s how far my wings will go!”
“Ohhh,” Dean said, playing up the realization for the kid’s benefit. “Now I see it.”
He couldn’t help it. The big brother in him raised all its flags for Bowman. Such a young, exuberant kid with a lot of excitement and energy, stuck inside the house all day, alone, struck a chord. Sammy would love to meet this kid.
Bowman seemed mollified, if the fluttering of his wings was any indication.
Dean paused, wondering if he should go try to find Scar. Then, instead, he asked, “Listen, kid, do you … stay in here all day?”
“Nope!” Bowman chirped. “Sometimes I go for walks. I won’t get lost. I’m not supposed to leave the tree without a grown-up, but sometimes I do anyway.” He covered his mouth with his hands, a picture of regret. “Don’t tell, okay?”
Dean cracked a grin. “Wouldn’t dream of it, kid. You can show me around this way.”
Bowman brightened. “Yeah! Okay!” Before the kid could dart off on his own, Dean held out an expectant hand. Bowman took it and grinned sheepishly. “Come on, Dean!”
Leaf Wings (One-shot prompt)
I offered a commission of 3k words for her birthday this year. She requested a spin on the Brothers Asunder crossover AU that we created, in which instead of Sam being sent to Wellwood, it was Dean instead. This is the result.
Something tells me Bowman has been adopted.
Bowman, Scar, Wellwood & the wood sprites belong to me and are featured in Bowman of Wellwood
Dean Winchester and Supernatural belong to the CW
Brothers Apart and related AUs belong to nightmares06 and any cowriters if applicable.