Flesh Masks

My Eyes Have Seen You

My eyes have seen youFree from disguise

~ The Doors

By the time the wizard's part of the story was done, lunchtime had come and gone. At one point, a female Brownie - Dean could only assume that she was Tillie - had come in and cleared their dishes, leaving a tray with cups and steaming pots of tea and coffee to replace them. Kess insisted on pouring the drinks, despite the fact that her wrists and hands shook as she did so. Serving herself last, she quietly picked up a small glass vial unobtrusively hidden on the tray and tapped a few drops into her cup. She closed her eyes and sighed as she sipped.

"Jenny asked if we believed in magic," Harry smiled tiredly. "I laughed. I probably shouldn't have, but Ebenezer convinced her to come inside anyways."

"They spent the next few weeks tending to Kess and me. It took a few months for them to develop the potion that allows Kess to digest human food, but once they did, her health improved pretty rapidly, though we still have to be careful." Jenny said as Harry took a sip of water. "Once I was strong enough, they helped me find work, and later, when we had met again in Chicago, Harry helped me establish Wren's Nest.

Sam and Dean said nothing for a long while, as they pondered what Dresden and Jenny had told them. Kess fiddled silently with the rim of her cup. She suddenly glared up at her mother.

"Why didn't you tell me my father was the Erlking?"

"I would have told you when you needed to know," Jenny started, but Kess cut her off.

"The first time I had one of these episodes was nine years ago, Mom. I'm pretty sure I needed to know then." The dry tone was belied by the dangerous glitter in her tired eyes.

"I was afraid, Kess. I didn't want to risk your father finding us."

"Empty night, Ma!" Kess sat up with a snarl, setting her cup on the table. "When are you going to stop treating me like I'm twelve and start letting me be an adult? I am not an idiot child with daddy-issues. I never was. If you had told me the truth and told me to leave it alone, I would have. I always obeyed when it came to dealing with the Nevernever. God knows I saw plenty of instances of what happened when people weren't careful. "

"I'm sorry. I didn't think your knowing would help anything." Jenny began to wring her hands as she looked pleadingly at her daughter.

"I would have known that I wasn't going crazy and that I wasn't turning into some monster that Harry would have to put down. That what I was feeling was probably related to… to him." Unwilling to name the Fae Lord who sired her, she whirled on Harry. "It's the Hunt, isn't it? That's what I'm feeling. It's whenever he goes on a Wild Hunt."

Harry nodded, looking tired and haunted. "That's what I think, Sprite." His eyes narrowed. "How do you know about the Hunt, anyways?"

Kess arched an eyebrow and gestured to the many filled bookcases that lined the room.

"I read."

Her eyes widened suddenly and she stiffened.

"If I was four, almost five when we arrived on the farm," she spoke very slowly, forehead creasing in a frown, "why don't I remember anything about living in the Nevernever?"

Jenny looked away. Harry just barely shook his head and raised his shoulders in a small shrug. Eyes cold, Kess pushed herself off the couch and started for the door.

"I'm afraid I had a rough night and need to rest for a bit," she said woodenly. "Excuse me, please." Her voice faltered ever so slightly on the last few syllables.

She stumbled a bit as she exited. As she pulled herself up the stairs, Jenny rushed to help her, shutting the parlor doors as she left. The wood muffled Kess' angry tones as they overrode Jenny's desperate ones. As soon as the doors clicked shut, the brothers fixed identical gazes on Harry.

The wizard moved towards a chair. They'd been remarkably patient during Jenny's story, he'd give them that, but he doubted that they'd afford him the same courtesy.

"All right, Dresden. We've got some questions for you."

Harry sighed. Let the interrogation begin. He lowered himself wearily onto the couch that Kess had just vacated and laid his blasting rod across his knees. Sam waited patiently for the wizard to settle comfortably while Dean just leaned back against a side table, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Ask away. I don't promise to answer though."

"Fine. What exactly is Kess? I mean, okay, half-fae, we get that. But what does that mean?"

"We call people in her predicament 'Changelings'. At some point, she'll have to choose to be completely human or completely Fae. Beyond that though, we have no idea. So far, it's been one long demonstration of all the ways mixing Fae and human genes can go wrong. You got to witness last night's bout of mental trauma first hand, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she's allergic to iron, which has led to various other issues."

"Like the anemia and the welts," Sam supplied.

Harry narrowed his eyes. What welts? He made a mental note to pry that particular bit of information out of his friend after she had rested. He leaned back in the couch and mulled over Sam's question.

"Yeah. Means she can't digest human food either, since pretty much everything in our world has got some trace bit of iron in it. Jenny mentioned that Ebenezer and I concocted a potion to help with that though, if you'll remember."

"Has the mixed blood had any perks?"

"Above average hearing, sight, and smell. Better reflexes than most and she gets a lot stronger when she's in the throes of a Hunt, but that's about it. Not that we've really given her the chance to field test anything when she isn't."

"But no spells? Even accidental ones?" Sam pressed.

Harry's eyes narrowed as he considered the implications of this particular line of questions. Dean, he noticed, had been surprisingly quite throughout the whole conversation, but he had jerked to attention when Sam mentioned magic.

"None that we've seen," Harry answered in a clipped tone.

"No signs she's strong enough to summon anything, especially when she's caught up in whatever happened last night?"

The runes on Harry's blasting rod flared red as the wizard half-rose from his seat, his face dark and unreadable.

"Of course she didn't summon the Skinwalker, Sammy. Don't be stupid."

Dean's unexpected contribution stopped Harry mid-movement. The runes' light died and the wizard sat back down with narrowed eyes, surprised at the conviction in the hunter's tone. Sam was no less shocked and turned to face his brother, his face incredulous. Seeing their twin looks of astonishment, Dean gave a slight shrug and his eyes flicked to the left.

"She doesn't have it in her," he mumbled.

"How do you know that, Dean?" Sam snapped, frustrated by his brother's uncharacteristic lack of support.

"Yeah, Dean. How do you know?" Harry leaned forward and stared at him intently. Not that he wanted to argue with the guy who was protesting Kess's innocence, but the support was coming from a completely unexpected corner. Something wasn't right.

"Just do. I can read people. She's not our girl."

"No offense, dude," Harry repositioned his blasting rod across his lap, "but you've been in my town for all of four days. There is no way you know her well enough to know that." Dean opened his mouth to speak, but Harry cut him off. "So you can read people. Okay. What'd you see that left you so sure of her character?" The wizard frowned as a thought struck. "What did you see, Dean?"

Dean shrugged and looked directly at Harry, who carefully avoided meeting his eyes. Sam looked back and forth between Harry and his brother. Dean never backed down from a good argument but Sam recognized the set of his shoulders. Dean only looked that deliberately relaxed when he was hiding something.

Apparently, Harry recognized that particular stance as well, because he kept pressing the subject.

"Come on, man, you had to have seen something. No one is that sure of anything on a hunch."

Dean glared and rubbed the back of his neck.

"Look, I don't know what I saw," he snapped. "Just bright blue eyes with gold in them and slitted pupils," he paused, searching for an appropriate image to use. "You know those crystal vases? The kind rich people have? It was like that. They're smooth and strong, but you hit them just right and they'll shatter. Then there was this voice all around everything, whispering."

Sam and Harry listened as Dean paced the room and tried to describe something he himself didn't understand. Sam wore a pretty consistent look of confusion throughout his brother's agitated speech, but Harry was looking more and more flabbergasted by the whole thing. When Dean mentioned a voice, the wizard's head jerked up to stare at the hunter.

"What did the voice say?" Harry's own voice was carefully neutral.

Dean swung around to face him and shook his head.

"Some gibberish word. It said 'I am Lree.' Then it just kept repeating that last word. You have any idea what it means?"

At the word, 'Lree', Harry blanched. Crossing over to Dean quickly, he grabbed the hunter's arm and peered intently at him.

"You never say that word in public again, you understand me? You keep it to yourself. Don't even say it around me or your brother or your closest friends." The wizard's voice was rough and urgent, a tone that left no room for argument.

Conditioned to obey that tone from childhood, Dean just nodded, mouth tight.

"Why?" Sam asked from his forgotten seat by the couch.

"Doesn't matter why," growled Harry, pulling away from Dean.

"Damn right, it matters," Dean wasn't quite yelling at this point. "What the hell is going on?"

"Sam, go get Kess," Harry ordered, ignoring Dean's question.

Sam crossed his arms and glared at Harry. The wizard matched him glare for glare. Since they were pretty close in height and weight, the hunter's hostility wasn't intimidating. Harry squared his shoulders and loomed a little more, putting some wizardly mystery and temper behind his glower.

"I don't often give orders, Hunter Boy, but when I do, they're important. Go get Kess. Now."

Uncrossing his arms, Sam huffed out a breath, but he went, shooting Dean a look as he left. Once the door had shut and Harry heard his footsteps thudding up the stairs, the wizard turned back to Dean and silenced him with a look.

"What you just described is a Soulgaze," he began.

Dean cut him off with a question.

"You used that word before. You said you Soulgazed Jenny. What's a Soulgaze?"

"Pretty much, you lock eyes with someone and see their soul. You know, a gaze that reveals the soul? A Soul-Gaze?"

Dean glared at the sarcasm, but said nothing. Harry merely shrugged.

"My ability to snark in even the most dire of situations is legendary. Habit I guess. Anyways, sounds to me like you locked eyes with her at some point and got sucked into one. Until now, I'd have said that only witches and wizards could do that. That's why we've all been avoiding looking you in the eye – standard procedure within the magical community."

"But Kess isn't a witch."

"No, but her mom is, and she's half-fae. Means she's got a shit-ton of magic and a human soul. Fae don't usually have those, so we don't worry about Soulgazing them. No soul to suck us in. Kess is a different story though."

"What's that got to do with 'Lree'?" Dean was starting to lose patience with Dresden's cryptic answers.

"I told you not to say that out loud," the wizard hissed through clenched teeth. He glanced at the closed doors. "All creatures have a True Name. You know what it is, you control them. For humans, saying our full names gives other people power over us if they know how to use it. Fae are different. They keep their real names hidden away. Learning them is hard enough when they're small Fae and next to impossible when they're High Sidhe."

"Are you saying that I just heard Kess's True Name or whatever?" Dean frowned.

"Some people who've tried to dig into the mysteries of the Fae figure that they have a sort of equivalent to a Soulgaze that allows them to trade True Names," Harry continued as if he hadn't heard Dean's interjection. "It'd form a bond for sure, but nobody knows if that's actually true. They won't tell us and we can't Soulgaze pure Fae to find out."

"You're as bad as she is about giving straight answers. You know that, right, Merlin?"

"The Merlin is a dick. I'm way easier to deal with."

The door opened and Sam returned, his arm around Kess's waist as she leaned heavily against his side. Dean glared at the two of them.

"She was curled in her bed with her hands over her ears when Jenny took me to her room," Sam said with a confused frown at his brother's hostility. "And just now, coming down the stairs, she went white as a sheet and about fell over."

The tall hunter carefully deposited her on the couch and backed away. She looked around at the three men with a tired sigh.

"First, you demand that I rest, and when I finally go do it, you drag me back downstairs. What's so important?"

"Did you look Hot Shot here in the eyes?" Asked Harry, cutting straight to the point. His young friend really did look like Hell had had a good go at her and then spat her back out. He wanted to let her rest as soon as possible.

"Not willingly," she mumbled, blushing and looking very much like a sullen teenager, despite the fact she had left those years behind her nearly half a decade ago.

"Did anything special happen when you two locked eyes?"

"Well," Kess hesitated. "His eyes are green."

"Kess," Harry's warning growl let her know that he was too tired to deal with anything other than the unembellished truth. She sighed again, shoulders slumping.

"It was like looking down a stone well. The stones were dry and beaten up at the top and they crumbled in the wind, but down in the darkness, where the water was, they were smooth and cool and strong still." She turned her gaze on the hunter. "Does that sound like you, Dean Winchester?"

At the pronunciation of his Name, Dean twitched and his eyes widened. Harry's mouth thinned as he observed the two of them.

"Well, that pretty much confirms it. Now you two need to stop throwing each other's Names about or else someone'll get hurt." Harry fiddled with his shield bracelet absentmindedly and sighed. "This is a right mess."

"So we know each other's True Names, so what?" Asked Dean. "We just don't say 'em and we're all good to go. Simple."

From the couch, Kess nodded her agreement as she rested her cheek against the armrest. Harry shook his head.

"I think what happened to the two of you is closer to the Fae version of a Soulgaze than the human one. I believe I mentioned something about a pretty strong bond that forms between the two who go through it?"

Kess sat up slowly, pushing her hair behind her ears. Her eyes narrowed in an instinctive comprehension and she felt an angry flush make its way into her pale cheeks.

"What are you saying, Harry? That he and I are stuck with each other? Bound in some sort of magical 'til death do us part' sort of way?" Her eyes flashed bright blue with temper and flecks of gold grew in the centers, but Harry was relieved to see that they remained human. "Well, you can just forget it! He won't use my Name again even if I have to get a magical geas put on him to ensure it!" The whiplash of temper gave her voice bite.

"You think I'm okay with this?" Dean's voice matched hers. "I probably want it less than you do, so don't get pissy with me. It's not like it's my fault."

"You're the one who forced me to make eye-contact with you," her voice took on a shrill edge.

Overwhelmed by it all, she flopped back on the couch and her bottom lip began to wobble. Blinking back angry tears, she pointed to the parlor doors.

"Out." Her voice cracked. "I'm not taking those stairs again and I need to sleep."

She hugged a pillow to herself and curled up on her side, away from them. Harry sighed and ran his hand over his hair. Awkwardly, he reached out and patted Kess's shoulder.

"It'll be all right, Sprite. We'll figure something out."

The changeling woman nodded, but didn't turn to face them. With a final sigh, Harry prodded the hunters in the shoulders, closing the doors on Kess's huddled form as he herded them out into the foyer.

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