Sitting beside the bed containing the silent shadow of his brother, Sam talked incessantly about whatever trite garbage came to his mind, desperate to reach out and make some connection with Dean. He constantly held Dean's stone cold hand, ghosting a thumb across his wrist.
"Hey, Dean," he exclaimed, forcing a watery smile across his face; "do you remember that time here at Bobby's when we were kids and you spilt milk all over his EMF meter, and then you panicked and hid it behind the dresser? It must have been five years before he found it. Then he spent another five years convinced it was a poltergeist that put it there."
Sam's smile trembled as he remembered Bobby's frustration at losing his valuable tool, his confusion at finding it and how he had cuffed Dean, by then a grown man, round the head all the way through the house and halfway across the yard when he had eventually owned up to it.
Sam sighed as his repeated efforts to get in touch with Dean received only blank silence in return.
He looked up as the door clicked and Tom walked into the room.
"Hey Sam, how is he?"
Sam sighed, "no different," he hesitated as tears threatened to steal his voice, "still nothing, no response at all."
Tom walked over to the forlorn man and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder; "we'll get this figured out, you know that right?"
Sam continued to stare at Dean.
"Bobby's down there at the moment with his head in about five thousand books, Tom continued, "if anyone can figure this out, he will."
Sam blinked through a swimming haze of tears without looking up. He nodded, clearly unconvinced.
"Any more of that yelling and thrashing from yesterday?"
Sam shook his head, silently. "No, he hasn't moved, spoken or looked at me the whole time I've been sitting here."
Tom nodded, "well that's good, I guess; I don't know what that episode was yesterday, but damn; it scared the hell outta me!"
Both men jolted when Dean suddenly sat bolt upright and stared with unblinking green eyes at Tom
"Tom," he murmured, without breaking eye contact.
Dean's voice, strangely reedy and hoarse from lack of use washed over Sam like a refreshing tide. He only wished the name it carried had been his.
Tom glanced briefly at Sam, then back to Dean; "Hey Dean," he ventured, walking round the bed and plastering a smile across his face, "you thirsty?"
Green eyes followed Tom round the bed as Dean shook his head.
"C'mon, son, you must be thirsty, you haven't drunk for over a day," Tom coaxed, "don't make me hook you up to a drip."
Dean shook his head again.
Tom sighed and laid a hand across the stone-cold forehead, "you up to tellin' us what happened to you, Dean?"
Dean gazed at Tom in silence.
Reflecting, Tom reworded his question, his heart aching for Sam who sat watching the exchange with heartbreak written all over his face.
"Dean, you up to tellin' ME what happened to you?"
Tom glanced up at Sam, then back to Dean, "not Dean? What does that mean, Dean?" he questioned gently.
"Not Dean," came the same cryptic response.
Tom looked over Dean's shoulder to Sam who was watching the exchange nervously; "Sam, get Bobby in here," he whispered.
Sam nodded smartly and crept out of the room.
"You're not Dean? Is that what you're telling me?" Tom probed patiently.
"Not Dean. Drow."
Tom's brow furrowed in confusion; "Drow … what is that?"
"Not Dean; Drow."
Tom glanced up as he heard the door click quietly and Bobby and Sam slipped into the room, unnoticed by Dean, and keeping well away from the bed.
Tom reached out and gently took Dean's hand. Dean made no effort to pull away.
"Drow? Is that your name? Is what you would like me to call you?"
A shake of the head.
"Lloth, is that your name?"
A nod, and a blink. "Tom. Lloth."
"Well, I'm pleased to meet you Lloth, what is Drow?"
Lloth looked up at Tom. "Man. Drow."
Tom smiled, "ah, I see; Lloth is your name, Drow is your race."
Bobby and Sam glanced at each other; ice cold shock tightening their faces. "What the hell?" he whispered, "if that thing there isn't Dean … then where the heck is he?"
Tom smiled kindly, "tell me, Lloth, why do you Drows look like my friend Dean?"
Tom's expression changed to one of concern, "are you a slave? Has someone been ill treating you?"
A nod, "slave with face of friend."
Lloth lay back and closed his eyes
Tom leaned in to hear the voice which had suddenly become barely a whisper.
"Do you need to rest Lloth?"
Tom smiled sadly and gently pulled the blankets up over the resting figure.
He stood back as the green eyes closed and looked up at the two men on the other side of the room. "All that mean anything to either of you?"
Bobby's eyes were wide with horror; "if I've understood all that correctly, 'slave with the face of a friend', it sounds like our buddy Lloth here is a changeling."
He looked at Sam, his face drained of all colour; "an' if that's a changeling it means we're dealing with faeries. It means Dean's been taken by those bastard faeries again, and if they've slipped us a changeling, it shows they mean business this time."
Dean opened his eyes with a pained effort and blinked in that familiar dawn haze again. He stirred slowly at first, his brutalised body aching at every movement.
He realised he had spent the night sleeping on the ground amongst the clover, where he had passed out after the princess had abandoned him; the cool dampness of the dew had seeped into his bones making him feel like the entire US cavalry had galloped over him.
Slowly, shakily sitting up, he tried to swallow back the nausea that rolled through him. Thirsty as hell, he licked his dry lips, and shuddered. He could still feel her hungry, groping ice cold hands all over him; the sharp nip of her teeth, the sharp scratch of her nails. He could see her taunting face as she revelled in his pain and humiliation. He cringed, fighting back a strong urge to puke; he couldn't bear to even look at himself; he just wanted to tear all his skin off and start over with a new hide, one that was clean and pure and hadn't been polluted by that foul green bitch.
He gradually collected his thoughts, realising he was trembling and not sure if it was a reaction from the aftermath of yesterday's assault, his grinding hunger and thirst or the chill breeze.
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and counted to ten, slowly.
He was going to break out of this freaky shithole. He didn't know how dangerous it was out there in the forest, but he was Dean Winchester and he sure as hell wasn't going to sit here meekly like a wet drip waiting for that twig-headed skank to come and assault him again. He was going to make a run for it; try and find somewhere where he could be safe to consider his options.
His options, he reflected, which were becoming increasingly limited given that he was not going to be able to eat or drink while he was here if he wanted to stand a chance of getting back to the real world, and he was already light-headed; the pain of hunger and thirst gnawing away in the pit of his stomach.
But, the hell, he was going to bust out of here or die trying. That was the Winchester way.
Hauling himself to his feet with a groan, he winced as he looked down at his chest criss-crossed with angry scratches and bite marks. He cursed himself as his vision briefly darkened and he lost his balance, stumbling and collapsing down onto his aching backside again.
He sat for a few moments until his head had stopped spinning then struggled back up to his feet, chastising himself for being so weak.
A hot blush crept across his cheeks as he suddenly realised he was still naked from yesterday's ordeal. Climbing clumsily into his dew-dampened sweatpants, he stood, panting miserably and bent double as he tried to blink away the dizzy nausea.
It took some time, but he eventually felt steady enough to stand and survey the glade.
He hobbled, rubber legged, over to one of the silk hangings which marked the edges of the clearing to create the enclosed bower and timidly lifted it. Where he had expected to see the forest receding into the distance, however, he saw only darkness.
Blank, featureless darkness; a void.
Dropping the silken screen back down, he stumbled backwards, feeling his heart begin to race, and raised another, heavier drape on the other side of the glade. He looked again. Once again it was nothing but crushing blackness. No floor, no trees; an absence of anything.
He bit his lip to control his rising dread, and limped across the clearing to another of the hangings. He took a shuddering breath before lifting it, hoping against hope he wouldn't see what he knew was going to be there.
Another expanse of impenetrably black nothing.
By the time he approached the final drape, he was struggling to hold back tears of furious, terrified frustration.
He grasped the delicate sheet and forcefully yanked it upwards, expecting to see the same soul-sapping darkness, but instead saw what he was hoping to see; the forest.
A leaf-strewn track stretched far into the distance with dense banks of oaks, each as ancient and tormented as the ones around the glade, either side of his line of vision. Fragments of blue sky penetrated the leaf canopy, bathing the track in a soft, dappled sunlight.
He let out a choking sob of relief.
Glancing cautiously back to check the green bitch wasn't standing behind him, he took a long, deep breath to fortify himself as he ducked under the curtain.
He found himself walking slowly and laboriously through the forest, a spongy carpet of leafy moss beneath his feet; the monolithic oaks coiling out of the ground either side of him forming an endless avenue. Dean's every self-preservation instinct tingled wildly with a sense of deep foreboding as he cautiously picked his barefoot way along the spongy moss and tangled tree roots which lined the shadowy track.
All the sounds familiar to a forest environment surrounded him; the rustling and scuttling of small animals in the undergrowth, the wind sighing through the leaves, the sweet tinkling notes of birdsong; and there was something else he could hear. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but on the basis of his experience of this place, he was fairly confident it couldn't be good.
It was a whining, humming sound; reminding him of the whirring of a dynamo. He couldn't be sure over the soft white noise of the forest sounds around him, but he thought it seemed to be getting closer.
A cold chill skittered up his spine, scattering goosebumps across his bare shoulders and he hugged himself as the breeze strengthened around him. A pall fell across him; where previously the track had been alight with dancing flecks of sunlight, it was now shrouded in the gloom of threatening storm clouds, and always that whining, whirring sound was with him, growing louder and more sinister with every moment.
Dean froze, sucking in shallow, shaky breaths as his heart hammered in his chest. It would be un-Winchester for him to admit he was more terrified than he had ever been before in his life.
Behind him was that terrible glade and the promise of a life of humiliation and slavery at the hands of that wicked green freak; ahead of him was something unknown but none of the signs were that it was going to be in any way good, safe or welcoming.
The whirring sound was becoming louder and louder, filling his head with a clamour that squeezed the breath right out of his lungs. He staggered backwards as the gusting wind grew stronger, and cold slanting rain began to whip his body.
Then he saw it.
Note: in Orcadian and Shetlandic folklore, a drow (or trow) is a small, troll-like faerie creature. In general, they are inclined to be short, black skinned, and shy in nature.