Well, we've made it, thanks for sticking with me here. Hope you've enjoyed the journey.
Sam stirred, and rolled over with a yawn. He stretched lavishly and almost punched his soundly sleeping brother in the side of the head.
It wasn't until he sat up, rubbing swollen, tender eyes that he noticed the other bed was empty.
Dean woke a few moments later to find Sam sitting at the table reading Bobby's note which talked about a pick-up job and having a lot of work down at the yard.
They didn't believe a word of it.
They knew exactly why Bobby had left them and they respected him all the more for it.
Sam made coffee and toast and the brothers sat at the table in content silence as they enjoyed their breakfast.
Dean put his coffee cup down, even the small weight of the mug elicited a pained wince. He looked down at the table.
"I'm sorry Sammy."
Sam looked at him, nonplussed, "what for?"
"I did some terrible, unforgivable things; I hurt Bobby, I hurt you - jeez, I tried to kill you!"
Sam shook his head, and reached out to grasp his brother's hand. "You didn't; that thing did all that bad stuff." He stared intently into Dean's eyes, noticing the tears welling there, "Dean, you know as well as anyone, all about being possessed".
"That's the thing," whispered Dean, leaning close into Sam, "I wasn't possessed, I was completely lucid the whole time - I can remember everything". He scrubbed a hand over his face, "I remember that if Bobby hadn't crowned me with that iron bar, you wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation. I would have drowned you and not given it a second thought."
"Bobby's warned us before about faerie magic," said Sam, "it's freakin' old and freakin' dangerous - that's what he always says" smiled Sam, "Either way, it wasn't your fault".
"I can't describe it," muttered Dean, "the raw need, the overpowering desire to be close to that thing; I don't think there's a word to describe it". Sam let Dean continue; "It's like, like waving a bloody steak in front of a starving dog or sailing a yacht to a drowning man, only ten - a hundred times stronger."
Sam didn't interrupt, he just listened; Dean took a long, deep breath and Sam knew that whatever he was about to say was going to be painful for him.
"When that thing dragged me down under the water, I struggled and fought because that was my body's natural reaction. But when you dived in and pulled me out, took me away from it…" Dean's voice trembled and he stared down at the table, "I hated you for doing it."
He looked up at Sam; a picture of abject misery.
"I know now", he added, "those guys that got killed and eaten - the twelve missing dudes … they weren't taken; they went willingly."
He picked up his empty mug and fiddled absently with it.
"Listen Dean," Sam stared at Dean, "I don't care if you were or weren't possessed, I don't care if you were or weren't hypnotised, or mesmerised or friggin' pasteurised. I don't care if it was faerie magic or demon magic, or some ass pullin' a white rabbit out of a hat. All I know is you weren't in your right mind, so don't ask me to forgive you because there's nothing to forgive. Understand me?"
Dean stared at Sam for the longest time before a broad and genuine grin spread across his face.
"Okay, Bitch; whatever you say. How can I argue with a speech like that?"
Sam helped his brother shower and dress; the pain in his shoulders limiting his movement to an almost comical degree. They gave up trying slip his T shirt on when it became obvious he couldn't lift his arms more than a few inches, and so he just settled for a loose button-down shirt.
"We should get going". Dean announced, from his position sitting on the bed watching Sam clean up the breakfast things.
"Where?" asked Sam.
" Why don't we just rest up here;" asked Sam, "neither of us is up to travelling right now, it's beautiful, and we can relax and enjoy it now."
Dean pondered for a moment, "I don' know Sam, it's kinda lost it's appeal to me", he sighed, "a maneating, nutjob faerie horse with mind scrambling powers and a vindictive streak tends to do that to a place for me!"
Sam burst out laughing, holding his tender nose as he chuckled and snorted. Dean couldn't help but join him, but flinched violently as the laughter jolted his shoulders.
"Hey, you OK man?" asked Sam, the laughter leaving his voice rapidly.
Dean grimaced, "freakin' shoulders feel like I've been bench pressin' the Impala - I c'n hardly move." He sighed miserably, "I think you may be right about stayin', there's no way I can drive like this".
He shuffled back on the bed to lean against the headboard, wincing pitifully with every laboured move. Sam raised his eyebrows and had to turn away to keep from smiling.
"I can't watch this a moment longer!" Sam stood at the foot of the bed, hands on hips, "it's like watching someone kick puppies!"
Dean looked affronted.
"Get your shirt off."
Dean's eyebrows shot into his fringe. "What the hell?"
"I wanna see if I can help ease it."
Dean looked nervous, "How?"
Dean's eyes narrowed suspiciously, "Sammy …"
"Stop bein' a woman, an' get your shirt off!"
Dean fumbled clumsily with the buttons of his shirt, eyeing Sam suspiciously, as he slowly slipped it off over his shoulders taking care not to catch the gauze around his wrists.
"Roll over - on your front."
Dean briefly stared at Sam as if he had gone stark raving mad, but slowly eased himself down, and rolled onto his belly with a groan, arranging himself in the least uncomfortable position he could find.
He lay, face buried in the pillow feeling very vulnerable with Sam looming over his bare back.
"You're not gonna put a snail on my back are you?"
"Don't be such a girl!" Sam grinned as he remembered his propensity for tormenting Dean when they were younger; the episode with the spider in the swimming shorts was, to Sam's mind, one if his finest moments.
He gently laid his hands on Dean's tense shoulders.
"Gonna give you a massage"
Dean looked up in astonishment, twisting to see if Sam was joking, or about to play some hideous joke involving ice or frogs or itching powder. He grunted as his shoulders protested at the movement.
Sam pushed him down gently.
"Chill out man", he grinned, " Jess used to suffer really bad tension in her shoulders when we were studying – she taught me one or two tricks …"
"I don't wanna know about the other ones" mumbled Dean into the pillow.
"'fraid I don't have any aromatherapy oils like Jess used to have, you'll have to make do with moisturing lotion.
"You use moisturiser?"
"Dean, it's the 21st century, a lot of men do".
"Not REAL men".
"Yeah, well. Just 'cause I don't wanna walk around looking like I eat furniture for fun, doesn't make me any less of a man than you!"
Sam laid his hands on Dean's shoulders, ignoring his brother's slight flinch and began to gently knead the tense muscles; his strong fingers working the hard, twisted knots he felt there.
Dean seemed to dissolve deeper and deeper into the mattress as Sam's confident hands slid firmly up and down his spine, moving with the rhythmic rise and fall of his brother's back, working across his shoulders in sweeping circular strokes, alternating between feather light and heavily firm.
Sam finished by running his thumb and forefinger up and down the back of his brother's neck and along the tops of his much more relaxed shoulders before leaning over and whispering, "how's that feel bro'?"
"That good huh?"
It was three days before either of them felt up to moving on. During that time, Sam had heard whisperings of a possible job in Seattle, and so they packed up and put the natural splendour, great food and warm welcome of White Lake behind them with very mixed feelings.
Dean had ingraciously permitted Sam to drive owing to his fragile, healing wrists and the lingering, but much improved, stiffness in his shoulders.
The Impala had been on the road for less than five minutes when Dean spoke up abruptly.
"Dude, stop the car!"
Sam looked at him in alarm, "what's wrong man, you gonna hurl?"
"No!" Dean barked, "jus' stop the friggin' car."
Sam pulled over.
Dean opened the door and stepped out of the Impala. Sam followed him, concern driving his movements, "What's wrong man?"
Dean hushed him and scanned the deserted road; only featureless fields on either side.
"Don' know, jus' … well, jus' a feeling"
Sam looked at him, perplexed.
In one of the fields, two horses stood beside the fence, Dean strode toward them.
The two horses looked up from their grazing, and the taller of the two ambled over to Dean.
Sam's jaw slowly dropped in astonishment.
The horse was a barrel-chested dapplegrey, it's pale mane and tail fluttered in the breeze. Dean smiled as it nuzzled his body, huffing and snorting, and almost pushing him over.
"Hey, steady, dude!" laughed Dean, "hands - er - head off the merchandise!"
He bent down to rip up a handful of grass and fed it to the friendly animal, teasing it's peach soft muzzle and running hands through it's coarse forelock.
It gazed at him through soft brown eyes fringed with pale lashes.
It was wearing a green fabric harness. Sam's heart froze as he apprioached and recognised the 'Harpers' Saddlery' badge.
Dean ignord him, gently rubbing the horse's ear, whispering to it as it nuzzled and fussed him.
After a few moments, the horse stepped away, tossing it's head briefly, it turned and trotted back to it's companion.
Dean stood leaning on the fence, smiling as the two horses once again stood side by side, grazing in pure contentment. He turned when he realised Sam was standing beside him.
"What was all that about?" Sam asked.
Dean turned to him; "He said thanks."
Sam stared at him. "Was that …?"
"Yeah." Dean smiled as the two horses looked up from their grazing and playfully butted heads.
"He thanked us". Dean turned to Sam with a look of sheer joy.
"He didn't say words, but I knew exactly what he was telling me." he glanced back at the horses, "he was cold and lonely and frightened, until you released him from the enchantment."
Sam looked at the two horses, "you heard him calling you?"
Dean thought for a moment, "Felt. Him calling me."
Dean turned to Sam. "That's his brother - he missed him so much it broke his heart …"
The two brothers leaned on the fence and watched the two brothers grazing happily in the afternoon sunlight.
Dean's fingertips strayed onto his brother's wrist.