One journey ends; another begins.
Dean was making his way round to the drivers' seat when Sam and Bobby rushed out to meet him.
"C'mon let's get going," Bobby gasped breathlessly, glancing behind him nervously; "they're going to discover she's missing right about now."
Dean nodded and opened the driver's door; "we need to go to those hills," he announced to the two men, pointing toward the horizon.
Sam wordlessly took the keys from Dean, and gestured to the back seat; "I'll drive," he stated economically and squeezed Dean's shoulder reassuringly; "she needs you."
Dean relinquished the keys without argument and within seconds, the Impala had sped away.
They had travelled some distance, and Leylaani was beginning to fret again within the confines of the Impala's crowded interior. Holding her close, Dean forlornly watched her, every nuance of her delicate face which was growing paler almost to translucence with each passing moment, wishing his embrace could bring some comfort.
"What happened back there in the hospital?" he asked, needing to break the apprehensive silence as much for his own sake as for Leylaani's; "what's going on, please tell me …"
Leylaani turned and gazed up at him. Her eyes, midnight black and as crystalline as mist on a lake regarded him warmly. "It was the sylph," she eventually replied.
Dean nodded; "I guessed that, did she do this to hurt you?"
"No," Leylaani shook her head urgently, "not at all. She wanted to atone for the wickedness she had been forced to do," she explained quietly; "we rescued her from so long trapped that dark, cramped room, compelled to do the most unspeakable, terrible things. It was an unimaginable torment for her." Leylaani's eyes closed and she smiled softly; "we freed her, Dean; we saved her. A sylph is fresh air and sky; she's movement and wanderlust and constant motion. She should be free; needs to be free."
"She brought you back to life?" Dean asked hesitantly, wishing fervently that it could be the case.
Leylaani cocked her head quizzically.
"You died," Dean continued, choking on the words as he struggled to compose himself; "that twisted sonofabitch Brake, he made that thing - that sylph - suffocate you. We couldn't save you."
Leylaani smiled, her hand reaching up to stroke Dean's cheek, silently indicating her relief that he was unharmed.
"Faerie folk don't have the power to reverse mortality;" she replied; "all she could do was infuse me with her own life force."
Bobby glanced over his shoulder into the back of the car. He knew perfectly well what that meant.
Leylaani looked down at herself; "this body is spent," she explained gently; "it's broken beyond repair, but she has given me the chance to live another way," she smiled; "to live forever."
"She's made you into one of her kind?" Bobby's voice cut the silence.
"No," Dean shook his head, "there's gotta be a way to reverse this," he groaned, trying to pull Leylaani's increasingly insubstantial form in closer toward him. He reached up gently to grasp the hand that stroked his face and gasped as he realised he could see through the fingertips.
"There isn't," Leylaani replied, her voice barely more than a breath; "if we reverse this, I go back to being an empty meatsuit lying on that slab in the hospital."
Dean shook his head, a stray tear escaped, tracing a glistening path down his cheek. "Don't say that," he choked; "don't you talk like that."
"Dean, you said you couldn't save me," Leylaani whispered, her fingers softly brushing a stray tear from his cheek; "but you were wrong. You freed the sylph and that prompted her to help me before it was too late."
Dean stared at her quizzically.
"you've saved me from the hunt. Your actions have given me joy and sunlight and freedom. Forever."
She placed a kiss on his lips, her expression suddenly growing sad; "I only wish you could join me."
Sam had parked the Impala at the bottom of a remote, open hillside. Striding through layers of shifting amber leaf-fall, Dean had carried Leylaani as they made their way to the crown of the hill.
They regarded the windswept landscape. Miles of unbroken grassland, littered here and there with the red and gold detritus of fall, shimmering and swaying around them. Behind them a copse of mature oaks whispered and sighed as they shed their leaves in the dancing breezes.
Leylaani looked around herself; at the open hilltop, and at the three men standing beside her.
"Thank you," she whispered, a radiant smile lighting up the diaphanous lines of her face; she spread her arms and stood taller than she had ever looked before, new-found strength pouring into her as she soaked up her natural element.
Dean stood helpless, flanked by Sam and Bobby. He knew Leylaani was a sylph now, that there was no going back, all Dean could do now was let her go.
Let her go home.
He could feel the faint aches from his lingering injuries, but they were nothing compared to the pain in his heart as he watched Leylaani's elegant outline gradually fading from view, drifting away from him. He closed his eyes and pulled in a deep breath, biting his lip as the tears burned.
Beside him, Sam sniffled miserably, palming his wet cheeks whilst Bobby stood still and silent, head bowed as if in prayer.
"I'll come and watch over you Dean," she whispered; "when you feel the wind in your hair, it'll be me teasing you; when you feel the first breeze of summer, it'll be my hands keeping you cool; and when you feel the raindrops on your face, "she hesitated, the soft, melodic tinkle of her voice cracking slightly; "that will be my tears ... because I'll miss you."
She blew a kiss toward the three bereft figures as she finally faded from sight. Her clothes dropped to the ground, leaving nothing but a faint glow of energy rippling and coiling softly in the breeze.
They watched, open mouthed, as her light suddenly soared into the beyond; a beautiful arc of light; the facets of a million diamonds sparkling against a cornflower-blue sky, leaving a shocked pigeon flapping clumsily in a shower of feathers through her slipstream.
Bobby and the Winchesters stood mesmerised, watching as she was joined by other sylphs who danced and swooped exuberantly, greeting their new friend with jubilant celebration.
It was at once the saddest and the most joyful thing Dean had ever seen.
They stood for the longest time; long after the sylphs had disappeared, just looking into the great empty expanse of the sky. Watching a world that seemed to have been unveiled anew for them.
They watched the dusk gradually begin to creep over the horizon, painting the bleak hilltop with its grey brush and inhaled the fragrance of pine and sap which rode the cooling breezes along with other loamy scents of fall.
Wordlessly they watched darkening clouds tumble across an amber sunset, lengthening their shadows as twilight began to creep over the hillside.
It was Bobby who eventually turned to leave.
Dean felt a hand press into the small of his back offering both support and encouragement; "y'okay son?" Bobby asked quietly.
Dean nodded hesitantly. He glanced across to Sam and offered a faint smile, receiving one in return as the three men turned to begin the walk back down the hill to the Impala.
As they left, Dean couldn't resist one lingering look to the horizon. The last trace of the sun's bronze disc was about to disappear behind it, making way for the moon and the first stars to peek through dusk's shadowy veil.
Dean looked up and smiled.
The sun, the moon, the stars; they could all look down and weep …
There was a brighter light in the sky now.
And it rode the west wind.