Sam was sitting up on his cot, studying the enchanted book that began their whole adventure, when Dean's sleep-tousled head eventually appeared between the voluminous hangings around his four poster bed.
He inelegantly untangled the rest of his body from behind the miles of shimmering muslin and clambered out to sit on the low cot beside Sam, resting his elbows on his bare legs with a long, loud yawn.
"It's like sleepin' inside a friggin' wedding dress," he snorted.
Sam huffed a quiet laugh in response.
"Whatd'y want anyway?" Dean asked.
"This," Sam replied, passing the book to Dean; "look."
"Not-Bobby told us the ending would be written when we finished the story; we went on the quest, killed the villain, saved the princess, saved the kingdom, and it's all here in this book, except …" His words tailed off as he watched Dean peering intently down at the book, squinting myopically through the residual fog of a deep sleep.
"Except what?" he asked.
"Except," Sam replied; "there's still no ending to the story." He turned over the final page on the book and showed it to Dean.
Head tilting enquiringly, Dean's brow furrowed in confusion as he saw that the book's final page was, indeed, completely blank.
Before either brother had a chance to call him, they both realised they had been joined by their little faerie companion.
"What's with the book?" Dean snorted, irritably tapping his index finger against the blank page; "you told us the ending of the book would be written when the story ended. We went on the quest, saved the girl and did everything we needed to do, but the freakin' book's still not finished," he looked up at the little faerie who hovered patiently between them; "why doesn't the story have an ending?"
"Because it isn't over yet", the Not-Bobby replied as if it was blindingly obvious.
He was met with twin exclamations of confusion. "Huh?"
"It's a faerie tale," Not-Bobby explained over an exasperated sigh; "how do all faerie tales end?"
The Winchesters turned to each other with a shrug and the room fell silent as their minds worked over the question.
Eventually it was Sam that spoke.
"Happily ever after?" he offered meekly. "All faerie tales end with the good guys living happily ever after."
Not-Bobby nodded enthusiastically, a wide grin splitting his tiny bearded face; "yep, the story's not complete until everyone lives happily ever after!"
He was greeted by a duo of blank looks, and tried again.
"The story ends," he began, gesturing to Dean; "with you and the princess and all your nearest and dearest living happily ever after." He frowned in response to Dean's blank face; "In all the best faerie tales, Prince Charming marries the beautiful princess at the end and they live happily ever after; have you ever heard of a faerie tale where the hero just dumps the princess at the palace gates and hotfoots it out of town?"
"Jeez," he added; "what kind of life have you two had when you didn't even consider 'happily ever after' as an outcome to all this?"
Dean's eyes grew even wider as if that were even possible as his head swivelled from Sam's slack-jawed gape to Not-Bobby's irritatingly sympathetic smile. His mouth moved and it seemed like an age before any sound came out. "You're not serious?"
The little faerie shrugged his tiny butterfly wings; "that's your reward son," he explained quietly; "King Ulrich is going to give you a royal title and offer you his daughter's hand in marriage."
Dean leapt up off the cot.
"NO! How the hell can I marry the princess?"
Not-Bobby gasped in horror; "what? don't you like her?"
"What?" Dean snorted, as panic rose within him; "no, she's pretty and hot and nice and, of course I friggin' like her but what about Sam? We've got a goddamn life back in our world on the other side of that doorway."
Sam closed his eyes and tried manfully to ignore Dean's boxer-clad ass waving in his face as the elder Winchester grabbed his breeches from the back of a chair and began to furiously wriggle into them, hopping round the room as his rant continued.
"You … can … take … us back … right friggin' now … and show us … where … that freakin' … shed …"
In his haste to dress he put both legs down the same hole and faceplanted untidily across the floor.
Not-Bobby rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Sam," he sighed; "I'm gonna talk to you because it's the only way I'll get any sense."
Sam nodded blankly, still trying to formulate some coherent words in his head that would suit the current situation.
"Firstly," Not-Bobby began; "there's no point in me taking you to the doorway because it won't open until the story is complete. And that means the 'happily ever after' bit." He paused briefly, hoping for some kind of positive reaction, frowning when he was met with two pairs of wide, vaguely panicked eyes.
"Secondly," he sighed before continuing; "Sam; yes, you may end up being friggin' Prince Charmless', squire, but as squire to a member of the royal household, the King will make sure you're well looked after, with a title and wealth of your own, and thirdly," he gasped, gesturing toward Dean; "is it really so bad kid? Being married to a beautiful woman who loves you, going off on heroic knightly adventures and living in wealth and luxury, adored and feted as heroes by an entire kingdom?"
"That's all well and good, snapped Dean, dragging himself upright around his misaligned breeches; "but told you, we have our own lives back home."
He paused for a moment; "okay, they're not much as lives go, granted, but they're our lives all the same."
Sam nodded mutely in agreement with his brother.
Not-Bobby took a deep breath, and alighted on a corner of Sam's cot. "All those faerie tales that you read in your world," he began; "Peter Pan, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Jack and the Beanstalk, Alice in Wonderland … the main character goes to these faerie land places and stays there for days or weeks or years even, and when they return to the human world …"
"… it's like they've never been away," Sam finished the sentence for him.
The little faerie nodded eagerly; "and d'y know why that is?"
Sam blinked, and turned to Dean with a shrug.
"Those books," Not-Bobby explained patiently; "they're not all based entirely in fiction." He paused as he looked up at the two figures beside him whose wide open mouths had joined their wide open eyes.
"Time works differently here in these faerie realms. You two could live here for years, for an entire lifetime, and the minute you stepped back through that portal to your world; barely a second would have passed on the other side."
"The same magic that created that storybook," he explained, pointing to the book in Sam's hands; "will open the portal when the time is right, and then it's up to you when – or if – you step back through it."
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and drew in a long breath; "so you're telling us we could live a life of perfect apple pie luxury here, and then step back through that portal fifty years down the line when we're a pair of decrepid old relics and – bam! We're back as we were the minute we walked through it?"
"Got it in one," Not-Bobby grinned, folding his arms in satisfaction that he seemed to had got through to at least one of the Winchesters.
A heavy silence fell across the room, until eventually Dean spoke up.
"How do we know you're not just telling us what you want us to believe?"
Not-Bobby's eyes narrowed dangerously; "son," he growled; "your uncle Bobby, has he ever lied to you?"
"No," snapped Dean.
"Has he ever mislead you or screwed you over?"
"No, never," Dean shook his head firmly.
"Do you trust him?"
"Yes," the words came in stereo without hesitation. "There's not a soul on earth we'd trust before Bobby;" Sam added; "he'd die before he'd lie to us."
"Right;" the little faerie folded his arms and hovered expectantly in the air between the two bemused faces.
It was Sam who broke the silence; "you've taken Bobby's personality."
"Yep, keep going …"
"Bobby would never lie to us," Dean continued; "so … you'd never lie to us."
Not-Bobby dipped his head in a solemn nod.
Dean glanced between Sam and the little faerie, pausing in a contemplative silence before clearing his throat.
"Okay, uh, I believe you," he murmured, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.
After a long pause, Sam pulled in a deep breath and nodded silently behind him.
"Happily ever after it is," Dean announced with a shaky smile.
"About friggin' time ya pair of idjits," Not-Bobby snorted.
"What about Beauty?" Dean asked suddenly.
"She's a faerie horse," Not-Bobby replied; "she'll be around as long as you are. When you head back through that doorway, whenever it may be, she turns back into a cow."
"Well, I can't do that to my girl," Dean smiled hesitantly; "gotta treat her as well as my other girl who's waiting for me back home."
Sam let out a nervous chuckle; "damnit, this idea is gonna take some getting used to."
"Well, you'd better hurry up and get used to it;" Not-Bobby snorted; "I've gotta get you pair of yahoos looking fit for a Royal Wedding, and the ceremony's in three friggin' hours."
The wedding of the beautiful princess Gwendoline to the handsome Sir Dean, Knight of Winchester was the most lavish celebration that Impalia had ever seen.
The grieving masses had flocked back to their blessed kingdom, and the pulse of life began, once again, to beat furiously throughout the realm. The cheering crowds thronged Impalia's sun-kissed streets on the sultry midsummer afternoon as the mighty knight rode through the town from the royal palace where he and his squire had been billeted overnight, his armour gleaming like burnished silver over a velvet gambeson as crimson as the blood that flowed so courageously through his veins. His magnificent black steed tossed her head haughtily as she strode elegantly through the confetti of rose petals that rained down over them, covering her flowing crimson caparison like the first snows of winter.
Beside them, astride his faithful mule, the knight's loyal squire, resplendent in black leather jerkin over a smart white shirt and, Sam was delighted to note, not a biggin cap in sight; rode close by his side, smiling shyly to the cheering masses, but never once swerving from his sworn duty to protect his master.
As they approached the magnificent golden towers of the castle where the ceremony was about to take place, they glanced up to see two huge and familiar figures standing hand-in-hand and looking down on them with nothing but warmth and love.
"Thank you," the giantess crouched and whispered to Sam, blowing him a kiss as they passed, and he smiled, knowing that Grimwald's death had given her back not only her husband but her voice too.
Inside the castle's great hall, the noble knight was crowned a royal prince of Impalia as befits the husband of its beautiful princess, a vision of alluring loveliness in ivory brocade and gold silk. His loyal squire was not forgotten in the proceedings and was gifted with his master's former title; knight of Winchester as recognition for his courage and fealty.
As Sam stepped back to return to his seat, a pair of warm brown eyes caught his, and the face that smiled at him from under a loose plait of fiery red hair was achingly pretty. He recognised her as the princess' lady in waiting, and couldn't help the awkward dimpled smile that split his face as she reached out and gave his arm a reassuring pat.
The exchange didn't go unnoticed by the royal couple, and an unspoken thought passed between them; there would be another wedding in Impalia in the not too distant future if they had any say in the matter.
Dean caught a glimpse of Not-Bobby, hovering beside him, slyly wiping away a tear. He smiled inwardly and chose not to say anything.
Well, not today at least.
And so Impalia rejoiced in good wishes and thoughts of love for the handsome knight and his loyal squire who had reunited a grieving king with his heirs and the beautiful couple who gave the kingdom so much hope for the future.
Her population, both human and faerie, danced with joy in the streets, while her musicians played until their fingers bled.
Beer was drunk, songs were sung, and laughter rang throughout the realm.
Dean spent half an hour convincing a sulking Beauty that she was still his best girl.
The mule ate the bride's bouquet
And everyone did, indeed, live happily ever after.