Sitting on the floor in the corner of the darkened room, Sam stared, hollow-eyed, across at the figure in the bed. He leaned heavily against the wall, his desperate worry, at present, smothering his crushing exhaustion.
A plate of ham sandwiches sat on the floor beside him, untouched and stale; a testament to Bobby's repeated and unsuccessful attempts to encourage the younger man to look after himself, despite the circumstances.
Beside the bed sat Tom; patient, calm, never raising his voice or letting out so much as a sigh, he coaxed and cajoled, keeping Lloth talking, in so far as that was possible, trying to extract the slightest scrap of information that might help his missing friend.
The room had fallen silent for the last hour and Tom's eyes had finally begun to droop when suddenly, Lloth's voice broke the quiet.
Tom jolted into alertness; "uh, what ... hey Lloth, what's up?"
"uh … trust, yeah … I trust you buddy."
He was rewarded with a shake of the head.
"Trust … Tom."
The meaning of Lloth's words hit home, "you trust me? Well I'm happy that you do, Lloth."
Lloth gazed up at Tom through Dean's glassy eyes; "Mirror."
Tom's brow furrowed; "mirror? You want a mirror?"
A brief nod.
He looked over Lloth's head to Sam who was already scrambling to his feet.
Bobby glanced up from the leather bound tome he was staring at and rubbed his weary eyes.
"Something might be going down, Bobby … the changeling wants a mirror." Sam gasped; "it just said it trusts Tom, and then it said it wanted a mirror."
"The hell?" Bobby rose to his feet, groaning as he stretched stiff joints, "what's he want a mirror for?"
"Perhaps there's more of Dean in him than we thought," Bobby smiled sadly; "that boy's never far away from a mirror."
A flicker of a smile crossed Sam's pallid face.
Bobby strode past him, beckoning; "c'mon, we can unscrew the one off the bathroom wall."
The two men stood in the bathroom as Bobby went to work on the mirror. As he undid the first two screws, Sam stood closer, ready to take the weight of the mirror.
He turned to Bobby as he worked; "you should see Tom in there, Bobby, he's amazing. He should have been a hostage negotiator."
Bobby began to work on the third screw, frowning at how rusty and stiff it had become; "funny you should say that son; he used to be in the police very many years ago; Police Medical Officer. That's how we got to know each other - over a few mysteriously eviscerated cadavers."
"Nice," Sam cocked an eyebrow.
Bobby continued, swearing under his breath at the unmoving screw; "I managed to keep him in blissful ignorance until one day one of those eviscerated cadavers calmly hopped off the gurney, pinned him against the wall and tried to throttle him."
Sam's eyes widened in shock, "what happened?"
"I sliced it's head off with a silver machete," replied Bobby calmly, grunting with satisfaction as the stubborn screw finally shifted beneath his screwdriver.
"Of course then I had to come clean," Bobby smiled as he remembered telling Tom the whole story of the hunting fraternity and the creatures they hunted.
"Did he believe you?" Sam asked, curious.
Bobby shrugged. "He'd just been half-strangled by a three day dead, decomposing corpse with half it's ribcage blown away and its brain in a jar the other side of the room." He paused briefly, stretching his back as he looked up at Sam; "kinda hard to be shocked by anything after that."
Sam managed a brief smile, "fair point!"
Bobby continued, as the fourth screw began to turn, "in fact, the thing that shocked Tom the most was that us hunters got no recognition and no support."
"Sounds like Tom," smiled Sam.
The mirror slid free of the wall and dropped into Sam's safe hands.
Bobby rinsed his rust stained hands; "three years after that, Tom was at a murder scene. Standard robbery; nothing supernatural or anythin', just humans being dicks to each other and he accidentally disturbed one of the bad guys who was hiding in a closet. The guy shot him point blank in the chest."
Sam gasped, "crap."
"It was bad, real bad," sighed Bobby, nodding as he thought back to the difficult time. "Tom almost died; bullet missed his heart, but tore one of his lungs up bad. He spent months in hospital, an' when he came out, he wasn't ever gonna be fit enough to carry on at the police department so they medically retired him. Gave him a real handsome pay-off, and that's what he used to set up his little clinic, just to support guys like us!"
Sam smiled. He was so glad they had found Tom.
Sam handed Tom the mirror, and retired to stand unnoticed the other side of the room alongside Bobby.
Holding the mirror upright on his lap, Tom turned it so that both he and Lloth could see into it.
He gently patted the stone cold arm; "Lloth, here's a mirror for you."
Lloth looked up through Dean's eyes at Tom then back to the mirror, hesitating a moment before he thrust out a clenched fist and punched it. A fractal spiderweb of cracks burst across of the middle of the glass.
"What the hell?" Tom yelped in shock, jumping to his feet; Sam and Bobby both stepped forward, fully prepared to defend their friend.
"Lloth; what did you do that for?" Tom asked breathlessly, "I thought you trusted me?" he gasped, still shaking.
All three men in the room froze as an unfamiliar voice spoke: "Tom, my dear friend, it is far easier for me to communicate with you this way. I am deeply sorry if I caused alarm."
Looking across the room, Tom could see Sam and Bobby's mouths hanging open as they both stared in wide eyed amazement at the mirror.
He sat again, nervously tilting the mirror so that he could see into it, and his jaw joined Bobby's and Sam's on the floor when he saw the image that stared back at him.
Although the mirror was pointed at the changeling, it was not the sallow duplicate of Dean that stared back at him, but a completely different face.
The ebony black face, it's image distorted by the broken glass, stared out at him from glistening, pale lavender eyes; the biggest, most doleful eyes Tom had ever seen.
He eventually found his voice; "Lloth, is that you? Is that what you look like?"
The face in the mirror gave a faint nod and blinked it's soft pale eyes; long white lashes swept down onto it's high cheekbones. "Yes, this is the face of the Drow." The voice was thin and sharp, rather like the slightly angular, pointed face, but by no means weak.
"I was a Prince among my kin," Lloth began; so long ago my people lived in peace and prosperity in the mountains." He hesitated for a moment, taking a deep breath as if he were fortifying himself; "we were a peaceful race with no cause to make war with anyone. We were a race of thinkers, of makers and artisans."
The three men listened intently, making no attempt to interrupt.
"Then, a race called the Tua'tha came upon us to force us into servitude, but we refused to submit." The sad eyes looked up at Tom, the sadness within them was shattering. "We were a peaceful people but we were also a proud people. We chose death before slavery, and they were quick to oblige."
Sam gave a quiet gasp, glancing across to Bobby, stoney faced as he listened to the unravelling tale.
"They were ruthless; we were not warriors, and so were unable to defend ourselves," Lloth continued, his voice sinking to little more than a whisper; " they slaughtered my people without mercy. Everyone died beneath their hands … my friends, my queen, even my younglings ..."
He took a deep breath and those big lavender eyes dipped to the floor.
"... all gone."
"Goddamn sonofabitches," spluttered Bobby, red faced with fury.
"I am all that remains of my kin, and the only reason I did not follow them into the beyond is that the Tua'tha have placed an enchantment upon me to prevent me from taking my own life."
Tom gently took the changeling by the hand, and shook his head. Sam and Bobby could both see he was struggling to hold back tears.
"And so I have existed in servitude for countless ages, and then this; to be exiled to your world as a changeling. The ultimate degradation for any prince of the Drow."
Tom squeezed the hand, "I'm so sorry Lloth, I'm so sorry."
The ebony face in the mirror looked up again to meet Tom's swimming eyes; "it is the Tua'tha that hold your friend. I feel all of his suffering and it is intense. He is refusing sustenance but soon he will be too weak to resist."
The faintest of smiles ghosted across the strange face in the mirror as the pale round eyes stared up at Tom.
"Your attentions have been the first kindness I have received since the dark day, and for that I cannot state my gratitude."
"I wouldn't think to treat you any other way," replied Tom gently, looking over at Bobby and Sam.
"I wish to help you," stated Lloth suddenly; "I wish to return your friend to you. But I cannot do it alone."
Bobby glanced across at Sam who stifled a gasp, and they edged nearer the bed to listen more closely to the conversation.
"What do I have to do?" asked Tom.
"The transition between our two worlds is harsh," Lloth began, "and I am much weakened by years of ill use; even if I survived the transition to my world I would not have the strength to send your friend back.
"Tom, I will need you let me take some of your life force."
Sam and Bobby glanced at each other in alarm.
Tom nodded calmly; "okay, Lloth … will I die?"
Lloth shook his head; "no, you will sleep for a day and a night, but you will have provided me with the power I need to do all that I must do before I make the journey to the beyond."
Tom flinched; "you mean ... die?"
Lloth nodded calmly. "I must end my life to break the bond that exists between your friend and me. He cannot return to this world unless that bond is broken."
He continued; "your life force will also give me the strength I need to overcome the enchantment that stops me from releasing myself from this wretchedness."
Tom looked over to Sam and Bobby who leaned against each other looking stunned; his eyes widened with horror.
"Don't," he gasped, "don't make me send you to your death. There must be some other way to get Dean back."
Lloth shook his head with a calm smile; "there is no other way. I must die if you wish to see your friend again."
"B-but I'm a doctor, Lloth, a healer; I'm a preserver of life, not a taker of it." Tom looked aghast.
Lloth smiled sadly. "I welcome death. My kin are all gone and my body is diminished; all I have left is my pride. Please do not deny me that."
The big lavender eyes gazed up at Tom, and he realised the Prince had lowered himself to begging for this chance of release. "I no longer wish to exist alone and in slavery. If, by my death I can help your friend and hurt the Tua'tha, then it shall not have been an empty death, and the final flame of the Drow race shall be extinguished with honour."
Tom slumped; "this goes against every instinct I have," he swallowed hard, glancing across at Sam who was wiping his eyes; "I want to get Dean back; God knows I want it more than anything else in the world, But I don't want good people to die for it." He said in a small voice.
Lloth smiled out of the mirror, and pressed an ebony palm flat against the inside of the glass. "It is a kindness you shall be doing me, Tom."
An uncomfortable silence settled across the room.
"Will you help me to do this Tom?"
Sam and Bobby held their breath; it wouldn't be until later that Sam realised that Bobby was gripping his hand with a knuckle-crushing force.
When the response came, it was barely perceptible, but Tom gave a slow and grudging nod.
"Place your hand upon my brow," Lloth instructed; "tell your kinfolk to go to the faerie ring in the forest one thousand strides north of this house when the storm breaks. There you will meet your friend."
With that, the mysterious face slowly faded from view until Tom was left holding nothing but an ordinary broken mirror.
Placing the mirror on the floor beside him, Tom looked up in despair at Sam and Bobby, his hand hesitating for an age before he bit his lip, and lowered it to rest on the changeling's cold, dry brow. The two onlookers' hearts broke.
The changeling's chest swelled under his grey T shirt through a long sigh and the timid green eyes closed for the final time. Edging closer to the bed, Sam and Bobby both watched as the creature's breaths became more and more shallow, and his physical form began to fade, fainter and fainter until Tom's hand was resting on nothing more than fresh air.
They rushed forward and caught Tom as he slumped unconscious onto the bed.
No-one noticed the long, deadly shard of glass missing from the shattered mirror.
Dean cringed weakly as the creature touched his head; it's long narrow fingers, sticky with its own blood, trembling as it reached out; "Go back to your family as I shall, at last, go back to mine."
A blinding white light filled Dean's world.