Flesh Masks

Behind Blue Eyes

No one knows what it's likeBehind blue eyes

~The Who


Dean lounged against the doorframe, arms crossed, watching Kess strip the beds of coverings and admiring the view.

"It's impolite to lurk, you know," the girl didn't even turn her head as she addressed him.

Lifting his eyebrows in surprise, he straightened up and moved into the room. Kess continued to ignore him as she bundled the sheets and quilts into her basket. Balancing it against her hip, she turned, only to huff out a surprised breath when she found Dean looming over her. He smirked when she took a hasty step back.

"It's also rude to sneak up on girls like that," she snapped.

"Wouldn't be sneaking if I did it any other way." Dean gave her his most charming grin.

"You think you're hot stuff, don't you?" Rolling her eyes, Kess scooted around him into the hall and headed down to the stairs.

Chuckling and stuffing his hands in his jean pockets, Dean followed, easily keeping pace with her.

"You and your mom run this place?" He asked casually.

"Looks that way, doesn't it?" Came the cool reply.

"Just the two of you? Where's your dad?"

"Permanently elsewhere, it would seem. You're very bad at the whole small-talk thing."

Dean blew out an exasperated breath as she pushed open the laundry room door and slipped inside, firmly closing it in his face. A few seconds later, she reemerged and marched over to a door under the stairs, balancing a tray of what smelled like chocolate chip cookies in one hand and fumbling with a ring of keys on her belt loop. Dean stepped closer as she unlocked the door and headed down some stairs. As she turned to close the door, he stuck his foot in the door jam and grinned at her disgruntled scowl.

Seeing that she wouldn't be able to keep him from coming, Kess sighed and allowed him to follow her down to the basement. As they got lower, the sound of squawking and off-key singing rose to meet them. Kess grinned as she stepped into the room, while Dean froze in shock.

At least three-dozen kobolds were scrambling around in the dim room. All of them were lumpy, deformed little creatures, and not a single one was taller than his knee. They crowded around Kess, whooping and cackling as they all chattered excitedly at her at once.

"All right, you lot," she laughed, hollering to be heard over the din, "Baba Tila needs extra hot water for laundry. She baked you some cookies as payment."

With a chorus of whoops and giggles, the little kobolds bounded and swung around the room, vigorously shoveling charcoal into the large furnace in the far corner. Those that weren't working climbed over the stacked cords of wood and burrowed in and out of the bins of charcoal that lined the walls.

Dean felt his jaw go slack as he watched one especially grubby little creature clamber onto a crate near where he stood at the foot of the stairs and wipe a sooty paw on the stained David Bowie shirt it was wearing.

"What's this?" he demanded, "A bunch of muppets?"

"Who's da fraggin' aardvark?" screeched a different kobold, hurling a lump of charcoal in Dean's direction.

"Hey!" The hunter shouted as he dodged the ill-aimed missile.

Kess grinned as she handed out the cookies.

"The fragging aardvark is Dean Winchester. He's a guest."

"Yeah… well… you're a fraggin' aardvark," mumbled Dean. "What the hell does that even mean, anyways?"

"It's a kobold insult," Kess replied cheerfully. "No need to be offended, they insult everybody."

"No one can blame yooooou for walking awaaaayy," the little creatures had started singing again, their voices rising in an off-key rendition of a Bowie song.

"How do they even know Bowie?" Dean grumbled.

"Harry installed a scrying mirror on the far wall," Kess had to shout over the noise to be heard as she pointed to the back of the room. "He hooked it up to another mirror in his friend's home. That one looks at a television set, so the kobolds can watch movies when they're bored. They're especially fond of Jim Henson."

By now, the koblods had warmed to their song and were screeching in a grating, but enthusiastic, chorus. Kess winced and hurried up the stairs, taking the empty plate with her. Dean followed and closed his eyes in relief when she shut the door, muffling the noise from below.


Muttering filled the dimly lit sub-basement. Sitting next to the scale model of the city that he and Bob had christened 'Little Chicago', Harry hunched over a few strands of hair, staring intently.

"Sergui votro testatum."

The hairs flared white for a moment, then threads of light coiled out from it into the model. Harry watched closely, noting the twisting paths the light took. Not unexpectedly, the light seemed to be heading towards the general vicinity of Wren's Nest. Established hunting grounds. Soon he'd pinpoint its lair and then he and the hotshot hunters could take it out. Harry smiled smugly, leaning in to see the light's resting place.

What he saw wiped the grin off of his face.

"That's not right."

Instead of one neat trail, the light had split into three streams. One led to a wooded park some blocks away from Wren's Nest, while the other two had circled back to the same apartment building that housed the late Allison's blood-soaked rooms.

He scrubbed his hands over his face and closed his eyes. He was tired enough from the casting. The thought of having to do more digging before being able to sort out this mess was wearisome beyond belief. Turning to an upper shelf that housed a particularly battered and rune-marked skull, he rapped his knuckles on the wood.

"Hey, Bob! Wake up! Come on, lazy daisy!"

The jawbone of the skull opened in what could only be assumed to be a yawn.

"Really? 'Lazy Daisy'? That's the best you can come up with?" Orange lights flickered in the eye sockets. Somehow, despite the lack of any sort of musculature or defining facial features, the skull managed to look annoyed.

"Well, you objected to 'Lazybones'. I figured I'd try something new – a variation on the theme, if you will," Harry grinned widely before turning his mind back to why he woke up the air spirit in the first place. The grin faded. "That's not why I woke you up though. Look at this."

From his place on the shelf, Bob peered down at Little Chicago on the twin streams of light that slid through the model. The skull gave the distinct impression of frowning.

"That shouldn't have happened. One sample, one spell, one stream. You must've botched it, Harry."

The wizard looked affronted.

"I've been making my living with tracking spells for years, thank you kindly! I'm pretty sure I know how to cast it."

"And when was the last time you paid rent on time?" countered the wind sprite, rattling his jaw. "Some living! But seriously, Harry, you're tracking one monster and that Allison chick is dead, so there's no reason for her apartment to show up once, much less twice."

"Maybe there's two? And witches on top," Harry rubbed the back of his neck and frowned. "That's not a fun thought." He reached up and pulled the skull down. "I need you to take Mister for a run and check out the apartment. Then come straight back and tell me what you found."

"No deal!" Bob countered promptly. "I want a full two days. I sit up there all day – shelf growing out the back of my skull. It's not good for the brain, I tell you! And when was the last time I got a new romance novel, huh?" the skull gave a good impression of a huff. "Well, I'm going on strike 'til I see some gratitude around here!"

Harry listened amusedly to the wind spirit's tirade. It was the same one he heard every time he asked him to do some recon. With an affectionate smile, he interrupted his friend.

"One day and a new novel. After you come back and report. Deal?"

"Done!" Orange light began to bleed out of the skull, but Harry covered the eye holes with one hand.

"Ah, ah, ah. You go straight there, you come straight back. No frat houses, sororities, beach parties, keggers, movie theaters, or any date spots." Harry removed his hand.

"You're no fun, Harry." Bob pouted before streaming out of the skull and up the basement stairs to find Mister.

Harry trudged after him. All he wanted was some asprin and a nap, but he had one more thing to do. As he crossed his living room, he saw the cat flap swaying, indicating that Bob and Mister were already on their way. With a small smile, he picked up the receiver of his rotary phone and began dialing.

"Hello?"

"Would this be the residence of Billy and the Werewolves?" Harry asked sweetly, unable to resist trying to puncture his friend's twenty-something dignity. He could almost hear him roll his eyes over the phone.

"Don't call us that, Harry. It sounds like a bad band name from the seventies."

Harry just grinned at the groan that tinged the young leader's tone, but he got down to business.

"Listen, I need a favor."


After helping her mother through the lunch rush, Kess walked briskly to the kitchen, hoisting a tray of dirty dishes. Dean continued to follow, much to her annoyance, and his longer stride prevented her from losing him.

"Here," she sighed, plunking the tray into his arms. "If you're going to follow me, at least be useful."

Surprised, but noting how Kess's arms had trembled while she was carrying her load, Dean adjusted his grip on the tray and continued to follow.

Cheerful whistling sounded from the kitchen as Kess pushed the door open. A little man stood on a wooden stool, washing dishes over a copper tub. His skin was brown and leathery, as if he spent a lot of time in the sun, and his cheeks were round and red as apples. His green eyes glittered from under bushy red eyebrows and laugh lines curled up from them. Dean noticed that tufts of red fur grew from the tips of the pointy ears that peeked from amidst the curls on his head. The hunter eyed the small creature suspiciously as he dumped his load into the soapy water.

"Hullo, Hob," Kess said. "How's it going?"

"Ach, well enough, Lass," Hob replied, crinkling his eyes and showing his teeth in a broad grin. "You got your chores done so that the missus can get in and do her own?"

"Of course I did," smiled Kess. "Tillie can go and scrub and polish to her heart's content."

"That'll please her then," Hob jerked his head towards Dean. "Who's the other young'un?"

"Dude, I'm twenty-seven!" protested Dean.

"And Hob's several hundred years old," laughed Kess. "We're all babies as far as he's concerned." She turned back to the little man, "I just needed to drop off the plate. Anything you need me to add to the grocery list for next week?"

"Nope. The missus hasn't used up all of her polish yet. When she does, I'm sure you'll hear about it. Off with you now – I has chores of my own to do."

Hob waved at them both as they left. Once the doors swung shut, Dean shook his head in confusion.

"Was that a Brownie?" he demanded.

Kess nodded.

"Hob and his family live here and help take care of the place. I'm surprised he let you see him. Most of the smaller Fae hide from strange humans."

"How does your mom know so many non-humans?"

"Family friends." she replied.

"That doesn't answer the question."

"I know." Grinning, she walked down the hall.

Gritting his teeth, Dean threaded his fingers through his hair as he watched her go.

"Now you're just trying to be difficult," he growled and stalked after her.


The rattling ring of his phone woke Harry. With a grunt, he eased himself up from where he'd collapsed on the couch and picked up the receiver.

"Harry," he rasped.

"What's wrong with your voice? Did you swallow a sand box?"

Billy sounded more amused than concerned.

"Just woke up. Whatcha got?" Harry rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand.

"Your monster is definitely at the park, and whatever it is, it isn't anything we've ever dealt with. I don't think we're gonna be able to be of much help here."

"You've already helped enough. Keep the Alphas away from there unless I call you."

"I won't argue with you there. Gonna tell me what this is all about?"

Harry just chuckled. Billy's annoyed sigh crackled through the receiver.

"Figures."


The bell clanged as Sam pushed the door open. This was the last arcane bookstore that Harry had written down for him. So far, he had nothing. If he struck out here, they'd have to find another way to kill their Skinwalker.

The blonde attendant smiled at him as he approached the counter.

"Is there something I can help you with?" she asked in that specifically perky tone that most sales reps seemed to cultivate.

"Yeah. I'm looking for books on White Ash and Cold Iron."

"Sounds like you're getting into some heavy stuff," her brow creased in a worried frown. "What you need is in our Restricted Section." She pointed to a roped off loft in the back of the store. "You can't take any books down from there without the owner approving it."

Sam gritted his teeth, but tried to smile anyways.

"Of course. How about you go get him while I browse? It really is important."

Giving him a dubious once over, the girl trotted back to find her boss while Sam made his way up the rickety wooden ladder and began flipping through the worn leather tomes. After skimming over a few of the volumes, he opened a small green book and idly began leafing through the pages.

His eyes lit up and he flipped through the section faster.

"Ah, miss?" he called. "You wouldn't happen to have a photocopier, would you?"


Kess sighed as she shut the parlor door behind her. That hunter had been following her all day, peppering her with questions, and apparently her constant refusal to answer any of them hadn't been clear enough. She was almost tempted to go hide in her room for the rest of the day and claim that she was feeling tired. It would be worth it, she thought, if only to escape the endless questioning. You'd think he could take a hint.

Before she could commit to any course of action though, the parlor doors swung open and Dean stumped in. Steadfastly ignoring the hunter, Kess clenched her jaw, picked a book off one of the shelves, and settled into a plush chair.

Dean didn't bother with a book as he claimed the seat across from her. Leaning back, he crossed his arms and pointedly stared. With a sharp sigh, Kess finally lowered her book.

"Would it kill you to let me read in peace?"

"Just as much as it would kill you to give me some straight answers."

Kess rolled her eyes and stood up, as did Dean.

"I've told you and your brother everything I know. But, the straight answer to all of today's questions is: it's none of your business. Now leave me alone."

All vestiges of playfulness vanished, Dean's eyes narrowed and his voice turned hard.

"That's too bad, princess. My brother and I are trying to catch a killer that's already attacked this place once. Now you can either help me and give some answers or you can keep playing these games and more people can die."

Kess looked everywhere but at his face as she clutched her book closer. Patience gone, Dean reached out and jerked her chin to face him.

"Damn it, look at me!"

Surprised by his move, Kess didn't drop her gaze fast enough as he peered into her face.

Blue eyes, gold-flecked with feline pupils, pulled him in as a faint whisper chimed in the back of his mind,relentless in its softness. His brain gibbered with a complete awareness of who she was and the feeling of his own self being pulled out in return in a jangled joining of souls.

With a gasp, Kess jerked out of Dean's grip. Free hand outstretched behind her, groping for the door, she edged backwards. In a disconcerting change, she wouldn't take her eyes off of his face.

"Not possible," she whispered hoarsely, "not possible."

Dean was no less shaken than she was.

"What was that?" he demanded. "What isn't possible?"

Kess swallowed hard.

"Doesn't matter. It couldn't have happened." With that, she turned and fled.

Dean frowned and slumped back into the chair. He hoped Sammy had had more luck than he had. He shook his head to clear it, but the fluttering whisper persisted.

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