Summary: Ever wondered why Dean doesn't like flying?
Disclaimer: I don't own Dean or Sam or John or the Impala, just in case you assumed that I was Kripke or CW or something.
When Dean was two years old he experienced his first flight. A family holiday. Kansas to Florida. He emerged from the plane bright red and squalling in anger. Other passengers eyed him with distaste. His heavy-eyed parents said never again. They rented a car and travelled back by road.
That was then.
It never occurred to John to worry when he booked the tickets and asked Pastor Jim to put his two boys on the short flight to Chicago.
Actually, Dean was kind of buzzed about flying and it was Sam who was a little wary, holding his brother's hand as an airport official walked them to their gate and handed them over to a friendly looking lady with bright red lipstick and blue eyeshadow that carefully matched the blue of her iris.
'Hey you guys. This your first time flying?'
Dean couldn't remember his previous disastrous flight, figured what he couldn't remember didn't count and answered with a polite, 'Yes, Ma'am.'
She'd been in this job for a while and was used to reading the tells, with children it was that much easier, everything so new and unfamiliar, from moving walkways to huge jets roaring down the runway just the other side of the window. However, these two were fairly self-contained. Neatly groomed and neatly dressed they missed by a mile that wide-eyed and disorientated look most kids got the first time they were at an airport. Maybe travelling without an adult made them more cautious than the normal kids.
'Call me Marie. I'm part of the cabin crew so I'll be flying with you today. And you must be,' she glanced at their boarding card, 'Sam?' She got a tentative nod from the little one. 'And Dean?'
The taller boy adjusted his duffle and gave an identical nod.
'Good to meet you! If you need me or if you got any questions you just holler, I'll be at that desk over there. We're refuelling at the moment so why don't you two watch the planes for a while and when it's time to board I'll come and get you, okay?'
'Okay, will do. Thanks Marie.'
His words seemed to put the younger child at ease, as though he'd been given permission to trust her.
'Thanks Marie.' Sam echoed and she smiled at them.
Sure were cute kids. Aw heck, she gave in and produced two lollipops out of her bag. These were for later in case they started screaming or throwing a fit, but she had a feeling that wasn't going to happen, not with these two.
'Catch you later.'
And left them contentedly sucking their lollies.
'She's nice,' Sam stated.
'You only say that because she gave you candy. You're always getting candy out of people, you just do those puppy eyes and everyone gives in to you. You'll get fat, Sam. Fatty Sammy,' he teased giving a little dig at the slight pot belly, leftover from the good breakfast that Pastor Jim had sent them off with.
'I am not fat and I'm telling Dad on you,' Sam said, whacking Dean with his lolly.
'Hey, if you don't want yours just give it to me, don't stick it all over me first,' Dean protested as he sucked the sweet tackiness off his hand with a smack of lips.
'Do want it.'
Sam stuck it all in his mouth just to prove how much he wanted it.
'Not fat,' Sam garbled around his stick of candy.
'Whatever you say.'
Despite Dean's acquiescence, Sam sensed that he hadn't actually won the battle and tried to indicate his degree of annoyance in the way that he licked his lolly. Turned out it was virtually impossible to portray anything through a lollipop lick except for slurpy enjoyment and he quickly forgot that he was supposed to be mad, as Dean pointed their plane out.
Large fuel pipes were being disconnected, baggage was being thrown on to the ramp at the rear and it looked like parcels were being checked out of the plane from the front ramp. Dean described everything that was happening to an absorbed Sammy.
'See those trolleys? I think they're restocking the cabin with drinks and snacks. As soon as that's done I guess they'll be letting us board.'
The observation window drew them forward like a magnet, their faces so close to the glass that breath fogged the view. They smeared it away and watched in fascination as some planes trundled in, all restrained power like tigers on leashes, while others were let loose to smoothly leap into the air.
'How do they do it? I mean what makes them fly?' Sam asked loudly, squishing his nose to the glass as another one roared down the runway.
'Well, it's complicated Sammy, but it's all to do with aerodynamics and the design of….' He was abruptly cut off mid-sentence.
'Hey there, Sodapop. Couldn't help overhearing…'
Dean felt a hand on his shoulder, and his arm automatically whipped up to knock it away as he turned around to face a big, bluff looking guy.
The man offended him on principle, butting in on him and Sammy. But 'Sodapop' was unforgivable and kind of creepy. Dean's mouth was open, prepared to tell the creep to keep his slimy hands to himself and leave them alone, but he didn't get the opportunity as the man unrelentingly railroaded their conversation.
'…the truth is that they haven't yet determined why planes fly,' the creep continued blithely ignorant to their disdain.
He seemed so inflated with his own opinion that Dean had a nasty urge to find a pin and puncture him just to see if hot air hissed out. Instead, he took a step so that his arm was brushing Sam's shoulder and the two brothers exchanged a glance.
The man caught the look and interpreted it as scepticism. Although, more correctly it could be translated as, 'who the hell is this dork and why is he talking to us?'
'No, really,' Moron insisted. 'There is no scientific calculation that shows why they fly or what makes them fly better. Interesting, eh? They were developed by trial and error and then tested and improved with models and wind tunnels. So you see? No reason why they fly. They just do.'
'Like magic?' Sam asked.
Dean looked down at him in surprise and fought the urge to laugh when he realised that little Sammy was playing the cute but dumb card.
'For all we know it may as well be,' the man replied with a hearty laugh. 'But don't you kids worry. Tried and tested eh?' he added in an over the top tone and a pat on Sam's head that even the 5-year old interpreted as patronising. Uh oh, not good, was all Dean could think.
Sam nodded, more out of mock politeness than acceptance. Dean understood the way his little brother worked and knew this wasn't over yet. The kid had a way of hammering at a point until it caved under its own weakness.
'So, if they take off by magic does that mean airplanes are demonic?' Sam's face looked suitably sincere and Dean found it difficult to contain a spurt of laughter.
Moron's eyes narrowed but he kept the smile fixed to his face.
'Whoa there, son. Demonic? Big word for a little boy.'
'Or maybe it's witches? Evil witches.' Sam persisted, a glint in his dark eye.
Damn, but Sammy could be evil, and I taught him all he knows, Dean thought with a hint of pride.
'That's some imagination you got there, kid.'
The man backed off a step and angled an anxious looked towards Dean, but Dean felt no compunction to help some stranger who crashed their conversation to feed them crap. Instead he mimicked Sammy's look of bright-eyed virtuousness and nodded.
'Don't be an idiot Sam, they're not evil,' he reassured.
'Of course not,' the man breathed in relief. At least one of these kids seemed reasonably sane.
'Everyone knows that planes fly on miracles and prayer,' Dean continued, looking practically beatific as his words sucker punched the guy.
Sam kept a perfectly straight face.
'Sorry Dean. I forgot.'
The man eyed them with suspicion trying to decide whether they were playing him for a fool or if they were genuine, grade A freaks.
'You're not part of some half-assed, holy-moly religious sect, are you?'
'The Church of the Holy Son,' Dean replied sweetly. 'Save Your Soul the Winchester Way. We have leaflets,' he continued, a little too much enthusiasm in his voice and a nasty gleam to his smile.
'Okaaay. My soul is fine, thanks,' the man fake laughed, holding up his hands and quickly backing off before the crazy kids could begin handing him any outlandish leaflets.
When he was finally out of earshot they both snorted their amusement.
'Oh God, Sammy!'
'Did you see his face?'
'Yeah, dude. Awesome!' Dean gave Sam a nudge. 'But hey, you know better than to mention demons and stuff in front of strangers.'
A shadow passed over Sam's face.
'Are you gonna tell Dad?'
His tone gave a plaintive lilt and his eyes… well Dean couldn't resist anymore than candy-giving strangers.
'No, of course not. Just don't do it again because Jesus, Sammy, you nearly gave me a heart attack when you started talking about demons and witches.'
'But Pastor Jim said we're not to talk to strangers, and it got rid of him, didn't it? Besides, I didn't fib, you're the one who told him we had a church of our own….'
'Weird, think it was the leaflets that really scared him, go figure, huh? But I guess we'll call it even-stevens. We're a team, Sammy Boy.'
A small smile crept over Sam's face.
'Like mutant ninja turtles…. Can we play teenage mutant ninja turtles when we get back? I'll let you be Leonardo and I'll be Michelangelo, we can fight the Foot Soldiers and you can…..'
Dean had always pegged himself as Raphael and Sam was definitely Donatello, but whatever. It'd be cool to run around with pretend swords and numchuks. For all of two minutes before Dad banned them.
'Sounds like fun.'
They shared a grin and turned back to watch the planes. As another one took off Sam remembered he never got his answer from Dean and his face settled into a frown.
'It's not really magic, is it?' he asked.
'Naw, course not.' Annoyance spiked through Dean, and he silently cursed the stupid, dumbass guy for worrying Sam.
'Can you imagine trying to salt and burn one of those monsters,' he joked.
But Sam wasn't to be distracted from his point.
'So what really makes them fly?'
He looked trustingly up at his older brother and Dean gathered his thoughts. He'd always been interested in discovering how things worked and had checked this out earlier, after all, he was travelling with Sam, whose every other sentence generally began 'what, why, how or who'.
'It's all in the way they're designed. See, when the plane gathers speed, air pressure increases underneath and creates lift; until it's so strong the plane leaves the ground.'
Dean enthusiastically demonstrated with actions, using his hand to try and show Sam what he meant.
Sam shook his head. There were too many unfamiliar words and concepts, so Dean changed tack.
'You know sometimes wind can be so strong it whips underneath your coat and tries to take you off the ground?'
'And even when it's not windy outside, if dad drives fast and you stick your head out it's like being in a hurricane? That's sort of what happens to the plane. It goes faster and faster until the wind it makes is strong enough to lift it off the ground.'
'But Dad's car never takes off, and a plane is a hundred times bigger,' Sam protested.
'Yeah dude, but a car isn't made to fly. Not like a plane, where everything is designed to make it take off and then stay up there. Also, they go way, way faster than Dad's car.'
And there was something about Dean's innate grasp of mechanics and engineering that enabled him to break it down to its simplest form so even to Sam's childish ears this explanation evoked the glimmerings of understanding.
'So that man was lying to us?'
'He was just some ass-hat trying to freak out a couple of dumb kids. The maths gets a bit complicated is all. In the end I guess it's easier for engineers to build it and test it than calculate every single little thing.'
And Sam was finally content. He liked how Dean always gave him a straight answer and never treated him like he was stupid.
But the man had lodged a small doubt in Dean's head because, despite the reassuring words, he knew that amongst all the bullshit Moron had spouted there was a speck or two of truth. And as he watched the planes stretch slim and sleek above them, seemingly suspended in midair, something primitive curled in his guts and somehow magic no longer seemed such a reach. He deliberately turned away from the runways, slouched against the glass and watched the people instead.
It wasn't long before Marie came for them, ensuring her young charges were escorted down the connecting passage to the aeroplane door.
Someone behind laughed and said in a loud, English accent, 'It's awful, but whenever I step on to one of these things it always crosses my mind that it might be the last thing I ever do.'
'Christ, do you have to?' his companion replied crossly.
Sam had obviously heard the comment and came to a stuttering halt.
'Why…,' he began.
Scotching his own flare of concern, Dean grabbed Sam's hand and together they stepped into the belly of the beast.
'They're dorks, Sam, that's why,' he said casting a darkling look at the English people.
Marie was also frowning. It was her job to look after these unaccompanied kids and she was determined put them at ease and make it a good experience for them. She turned around to face the speaker of doom and plastered on a bright smile.
'Actually sir, you're more likely to have an accident walking down the street. Airplanes undergo thorough maintenance and have proven to be much safer than the average car.'
'And if that hasn't jinxed us, I don't know what will.' The voice grumbled. 'Ow!'
'Uh, apologies for my brother,' the second man said. 'He's the family idiot. OW!'
Marie merely sniffed and turned back to Dean and Sam with a wink. 'Also airplanes are much more fun than cars.'
Dean almost felt moved to deny this piece of blasphemy but Sam looked happy and he supposed he could always re-indoctrinate him into the way of the automobile after this little trip was done with.
'If you sit by the window you'll be able to look down and see all the little roads and houses beneath you. It's really quite fascinating.'
Sam's eyes lit up.
'Will we see Pastor Jim's house?' he asked.
Dean took a deep breath, suddenly not wanting to even think about being up there, surrounded by nothing but empty air. Maybe the smell or the sound of the plane was igniting some of the two-year old's sense memories because his stomach was twitching nervously and he really wished he was back in the Impala.
'I doubt it,' he replied mechanically. 'We'll be flying south east and Blue Earth is south west of here.'
A look of disappointment skittered across Sam's face.
'Even if you did fly over it, it would probably be kind of difficult to recognise because all the houses are so tiny from the air and also all you'll see are the roofs,' Marie comforted.
Sam nodded, and Dean gave Marie a small smile, grateful for her help in distracting his brother. Jeez, had to pull himself together before he ended up frightening the kid.
'Thanks,' he said to her.
'Hey, no problem.'
The smiles she got in return had her blinking. Hell, they really were two of the goddamn cutest kids she'd ever met.
So Sam claimed the window seat, much to Dean's relief. He leant across and helped click the buckle into place before sinking into his own seat and dealing with his own. The clunk as it snapped into place sounded too loud. Too final. He resisted a shudder.
They were seated right at the back of the plane where Marie and the rest of the cabin crew could keep an eye on them.
'You okay there, Sammy?'
'Yes. Is this where we go very, fast and wind… no not wind,' he thought for a second and smiled as he remembered Dean's original explanation, 'air pressure,' a quick glance to Dean for affirmation, 'makes us lift off the ground?'
'Dude, that's exactly it!' Dean held out his fist and Sam's little fist knocked against it in triumph. 'Have to get to the right runway first and then we'll be off.'
Dean hoped he sounded slightly more enthusiastic than he felt. This was fine. He could do this. It'd be fun, just like Marie had said.
Then he heard voices from the seats in front and closed his eyes in resignation. One of them was the Englishman who'd been saying his goodbyes to the world before boarding.
'They might be regularly maintained but you saw that BBC programme, the one where they showed that airlines were using re-tooled and substandard parts. How they stay in the air I'll never know. A bloody disgrace. And why do we always end up in the tail section?' the voice complained peevishly. 'It's a fact that people in the tail end never survive an accident.'
Dean froze. Marie, who had just returned with a couple of blankets and pillows for them, rolled her eyes and directed an annoyed look at the couple in front before catching Dean's eyes.
'Hey sweetie, it's ok. I've flown a hundred times, it'll be fine.' She smiled as she saw the tension leave his shoulders. These little guys just brought all her mothering instincts to the fore. 'Just press this button if you need anything. I'll bring you boys some juice once we've taken off, ok?'
'I like flying,' Sam declared as he snuggled the miniature pillow to his cheek, and Dean finally relaxed slightly. At least he no longer had a nervous Sammy to deal with.
The plane began to taxi to their runway as a voice came through the speakers.
'This is your captain speaking, welcoming you to your 547 flight to Chicago. There are a couple of bad weather warnings in force, but I'll do my best to avoid any turbulence. I would ask that you keep your seatbelts fastened when you're seated. The crew will now run through safety procedures so please take a minute to examine the safety card that you'll find in the pocket in front of you. Thank you for your attention and I hope that you enjoy your flight.'
Dean picked up the aforementioned card and watched with a rising dread as the crew enacted emergency procedures.
Oxygen masks? His stomach began to freefall as he imagined smoke and fire and darkness and masks falling from the ceiling.
Dean Winchester did not panic.
He took a calming breath and listened intently, needing to take it all in. Not just for his sake but for Sammy's.
Life jacket under the seat. He shifted his foot to see if he could touch it. Where exactly was it? Would he be able to reach it? Supposing the straps got caught, snapped…. Supposing it didn't inflate? Or shit, supposing Sammy's didn't inflate? But… they were flying over land, why would they bother with stupid lifejackets? Maybe their flight path took them over lakes….
He was out of his element, and could almost feel himself freaking as he realised that there was absolutely nothing here that was under his control. He hated being dependent on people he didn't know. How good was the pilot? Perhaps it was his first day…. All Dean could do was grip the arms of his seat and sit rigidly, his head thrown back, as the plane shuddered its way towards take-off speed.
Sam chattered happily.
'Look, Dean! Look, that's the road Pastor Jim took us on this morning. We're above the houses now. Hey, why is it foggy? Oh… I think we're inside a cloud… we're inside a cloud, Dean!'
He trailed off and just peered down, speechless in wonder.
'Cool,' Dean muttered.
Grateful that Sammy's attention was elsewhere, Dean concentrated on breathing. Oxygen was always good. He'd be fine. If only those people in front would shut their damn cakeholes.
'You know why they ask us to assume the crash position in an emergency?'
'Everyone knows that. It's to protect your vital organs so you have a better chance of surviving a crash,' his companion replied.
'No, that's not it.'
Half of Dean wanted to know the worst, whilst the other half decided ignorance was bliss, and was silently begging the brother not to ask…. There was a pause, but in the end inquisitiveness must have won out.
And at this point Dean was feeling a little ill, because they were suspended half a mile in the air, and he just wanted to curl up and block his ears. He quickly reached for his earphones and fumbled them out of their sealed polythene cover….
'Preserve the teeth.'
'The teeth? You are joking….'
…. and plugged them in, not caring what music was playing as long as it was loud and smothered the conversation in front.
Damn, nothing coming through yet, not on that channel anyway, and already he knew what was coming next because he knew more about identifying bodies than your average 9-year old.
'Look how white they are Dean. You'd think they'd be grey but look! They look like mounds of snow, fluffy snow.'
'You're right. Awesome,' he breathed.
'Yep. If the flight goes down and you pop your clogs they need to identify bodies, so they make you protect your teeth so they can match them to your dental records. Macabre, if you ask me.'
'Yeah, well, I didn't.'
There was a respite for a few seconds. Dean fought the urge to reach over and hug Sam and tell him everything was fine. Yeah. Like that wouldn't freak his little brother right out. Besides, Sam was perfectly happy staring at fluffy white clouds and probably fantasising about snow angels and Frosty the Snowman.
His fingers found the correct button and stabbed at it, skipping through the channels, attempting to find anything with sound.
'Did you know….'
'Just shut up,' the companion said. 'You're giving me a headache.'
It was so in tune with what Dean was thinking he thought for a moment he'd spoken the words.
'What? I was just going to say that….'
'I hate you.'
'I freakin' second that,' Dean muttered.
'Huh?' Sam asked.
Luckily, Sam hadn't heard the exchange; he was still staring out the window, tip of his tongue protruding between his lips as he concentrated on the weird landscape of mountains and valleys that the clouds seemed modelled on.
'Nothing,' Dean mumbled.
He finally found a rock channel and began to hum along, until the only thing in his head was the music, and he once again began to relax.
Their drinks arrived, together with a bag each of miniature cookies, and they both settled back munching away. Watching clouds must finally have lost its novelty as Sam's eyes began to drift shut. Dean raised the seat arm that separated them and settled Sam so that his nodding head was tucked securely against Dean's shoulder, then he picked up one of lurid orange blankets and carefully tucked it around his brother.
He turned down the music so that he could hear Sam's snuffling snores. In a way, this wasn't that much different to being in the back seat of the car. Long hours spent sitting next to Sammy, music blasting his eardrums, landscape flying by outside the window... he deliberately didn't look in that direction, content with the illusion he was building.
Some cartoons were playing on the small screen above the aisle and Dean allowed himself to be dragged into the world of explosions and animated violence. He sipped on his Sprite and yeah, it was all good. He was good.
The cartoons ended and at some point he must have dozed off because the next thing he knew little fingers were prodding at his shoulder.
'Need to go, Dean.'
'Need the toilet. Now.'
'Yeah, yeah. C'mon then,' Dean yawned.
The entrance to the toilet was placed just behind their seats. Normally Sam would object, loudly, to Dean accompanying him, but when he glanced in and saw how unfamiliar it all looked: 'Where's the tissue Dean? How do you flush it?' He gave in and made room for Dean. It was a tiny space but somehow Sam managed to take care of business. Dean took his turn and between them they sussed out how to work the faucet. Then, just as Sam was washing his hands something began to ping through the sound system.
'What's that?' Sam's head cocked and he stilled as he listened.
'Not sure,' Dean replied.
A knock at the door.
'Boys? The seat belt sign has come on. We're about to run into some turbulence, can you go to your seats as soon as possible.'
The warning came a little too late as the floor seemed to disappear from beneath their feet, water from the faucet splashed through the air catching Sam in the face. He let out a yelp and Dean made a grab to steady Sam with one arm whilst the other grabbed for the edge of the sink. Their feet seem to hit the floor again with a thump.
A startled whimper escaped Sam's lips.
'Sam? You okay? Yeah, you're ok. Just a little bit of water. Look we're gonna go back now, just hold tight to me.'
He opened the door and dependable Marie was there waiting for them, still on her feet and still managing to find a smile for them.
'That's right. Quickly now.'
They fell into their seats as the plane lurched sideways. She grabbed an arm as she helped them buckle up.
'Don't worry guys, this is perfectly normal. Especially around Chicago. It's not called the Windy City for nothing. There you go, all safe and secure. I'll just be over there ok?' She pointed to her own little seat.
They both nodded.
Unclenching his teeth, Dean replied, 'You heard the lady. It's all normal.'
And Sam said no more, sensing that this was neither the time nor the place to be plying Dean with a hundred and one questions.
The plane dipped again and immediately recovered. Small shrieks and gasps accompanied each fall and rise.
Once again the captain's voice filled the plane.
'Apologies, but unfortunately, due to high winds in the Chicago area, two runways have been closed at O' Hare. This will result in approximately half an hour delay as we will be put in a holding pattern until given permission to land. Please keep your seat belts fastened for the remainder of the flight, as we are experiencing turbulence.' There was a titter of nervous amusement at this statement of the obvious. 'To aid transfers we will be announcing the gates for connecting flights. My apologies for any inconvenience.'
'What's he saying, Dean? What does he mean? Is it normal?'
'Yeah, it's ok. It's like when an interstate is closed and we have to queue up to reach a different road. We just have to wait our turn, which means that we're going to be up here slightly longer than expected.'
'Dad will wonder where we are….'
'No, they have screens at the airport, which will tell him what time our plane is landing.'
'Are you frightened?' Sam whispered as the plane shuddered again.
'Dude!' Dean put as much indignation into his voice as he could muster. 'Look, it's no different to an amusement park ride. We're in a bit of a storm and we're getting caught in updrafts and downdrafts. Gusting wind,' he clarified. 'But planes are built to cope with this sort of stuff, okay? So yeah, it's just like those little airplanes you used to like, you know, the ones that went up and down? The worst that's gonna happen is you might feel sick like you did on that ride.'
'Dean! I was never sick!'
'There ya go, nothing to worry about then.'
Finally soothed, Sam nodded and took the bumps and shakes fairly complacently, even letting out a small giggle when only the seatbelt kept their asses in the seats. So for Sam's sake Dean was managing to hold on and keep a tight smile on his face. The one thing he didn't need was the muttering from the guys in front of them.
'Holding pattern? Remember that plane that fell out of the air? It was put in a holding pattern and eventually it ran out of fuel. Dropped to the ground. No survivors.'
This time the voice had lost its arrogant twang. It was edged with panic. And the tone more than the content sent Sam rigid.
'Dean. Dean!' he hissed.
And Dean knew what was coming next because he was thinking the same thing.
'What if we run out of fuel? Like that other plane.'
'Not gonna happen.'
'But what if….'
'No, Sam.' He spoke loudly and clearly, cutting through Sam's anxious tones. 'Listen, there's a fuel gauge in the cockpit that tells the captain exactly how much is left. If he doesn't notice then his co-pilot will. If that happens, they'll radio the control tower and we'll be put to the front of the queue. They're not going to let this plane run out of fuel, ok?'
Another sudden dip and then something scarily different happened as the steady roar of engines experienced a stutter and the whole plane rolled slightly to the left, the lights went out for a few seconds and then flickered back to life, someone let out a scream, Sam grabbed for his hand clinging tightly and Dean swore that for a moment his heart actually stopped beating.
He took a deep breath. Before his brother could even begin panicking Dean was talking, his voice calm and reassuring.
'Engine stalled. You know, like the car does sometimes. But don't worry, plane's not like a car, it has two engines.'
He carried on his monologue because if he was talking, if he was reasoning, then he wasn't giving in to blind terror that roiled inside.
'We're fine, the pilot will try to start it again but otherwise a plane can run on one engine, bet you didn't know that?'
Sam shook his head.
'Yeah. Stalling happens sometimes, at a certain angle… or is it at a certain speed…. Can't remember. But yeah, planes have often landed when they're down to one engine. In fact, even when both go it's possible to glide the plane in, just have to get the undercarriage down. The wheels, yeah? And they'll glide in, smooth as you like. You know, like those paper planes we make? They didn't have engines but they seemed to fly forever.'
He looked into Sam's eyes and blinked back some emotion he couldn't name.
'You remember them, huh? We used to see whose could go the furthest. You were a damned good plane maker, Sammy.'
'Dad used to help me,' Sam confessed.
'You always say that if you can't win fairly, then cheat,' Sam replied.
'Yeah, but not against me, dude. I'll never trust….' There was another slight twist and uplift. 'Hey, hear that?'
'Has the engine started again?'
'You got it, bud.'
'This is your captain speaking. We're now beginning our descent. The temperature in Chicago is….'
Dean didn't hear the rest. He closed his eyes and concentrated on Sam's warm hand beneath his. Sam watched out the window again as the ground drew closer. Dean braced himself for the landing.
And finally touchdown. The plane bounced once, experience a weird lurch sideways as the wind caught at it and then they were cruising along the runways. The guys in front of them were laughing. Some people were applauding.
'Why are they clapping?'
'Dunno. Guess they really enjoyed the flight.'
So Sam began to clap as well.
Marie stayed with them. Apologised for the flight and gave them some freebies. In no time at all Sam was whirring his toy plane above his head.
'I know that was a bad one, but don't let it put you off flying, ok?'
Dean didn't really hear. Too busy concentrating on keeping Sammy close and casting searching looks towards the waiting people.
And there he was, smile on his face, scooting down for a hug from Sammy and an arm reaching for Dean. And finally Dean could let go of the responsibility. All the determination and stoicism leaking away.
'Just gotta….' He nodded towards the men's room.
'Dean?' his Dad called after him, troubled by the paleness and the large, haunted eyes.
Dean couldn't stop or look back. He walked away, made it to a cubicle and then let his legs collapse. He hung his head over the bowl and threw up, retched until there was nothing but bile. His head was aching, his ears roaring and his knees were shaky as he regained his feet. He felt fuzzy and ungrounded. Wiping his mouth he went to the sink, rinsed out and splashed cold water over his face until the redness faded from around his eyes.
He sensed someone behind him, a hand on his shoulder that he was too tired to react to. And then the dreaded English voice.
'Hey, mate. You ok?'
Dean didn't answer.
A paper towel was pressed into his hands. Dean stared at it for a second before rubbing it over his face, scrubbing some colour back into his cheeks.
The man was still with him, leaning against the counter.
'That was some flight, huh?'
'Yeah, some flight,' Dean replied. His voice sounded weird to his ears.
'Sorry about my little bro. He's scared of flying. Used to tease him, tell him he was an idiot. All he did was find all these stupid facts to prove his point. I suppose he thought that if he was going to be scared shitless it was only fair that everyone else should be. Yeah, anyway. Sorry.'
Dean said nothing.
The man coughed awkwardly.
'I… I just want to say you did a good job up there.'
Dean finally looked at the guy. He was younger than he'd expected.
'When all that shit happened, well, I thought that was it, you know? I think my brother would have been catatonic and I'd have been screaming like a baby if you hadn't have been there, talking and… and well, thanks.'
He looked a bit unsure, as though he wanted to say more. Curiosity finally got the better of him.
'Can planes really land in a storm like that with only one engine?'
Dean shrugged. 'I've no idea.'
The warm hand on his shoulder gave a quick squeeze before releasing him.
'You going to be alright?'
'Yeah. Always am.'
Something about this boy kind of broke his heart, but the man just nodded and walked to the door.
'Yeah?' Dean was drying his face properly and their eyes met in the mirror.
'When I grow up I want to be just like you,' he said with a boyish grin
Dean finally cracked a smile at the stupid compliment.
'Cool,' he said.
'Yeah, damned cool.' Then the Englishman smiled and walked away.
Dean drew a breath. He still felt wobbly and cold. His face was still too pale, but he'd do. He went out to rejoin his family.
And then wished he'd taken another couple of minutes.
There was Sammy dragging at Dad's hand trying to pull him away from…. Uh oh….
Dean tried to prevent the catastrophe, raised an arm and shouted, 'Hey!'
Sam saw him and looked relieved. He could see Dad's mouth moving, 'Will you stop tugging me, Sammy. Yes, I can see Dean too!'
And then it was too late. A big, bluff looking guy came panting up to John Winchester.
'Sir! Sir! Let me shake your hand.'
Dean and Sam shared a panicked look. John just looked a little bemused as his hand was grabbed and pumped up and down.
'Okay…. Good to meet you, too.'
'That was truly the flight from hell, but I remembered the teachings of the Church of the Holy Son.'
'The Holy…. That's… nice,' John said calmly but his eyes swivelled to Dean and his eyebrows began to rise towards his hairline.
The boys knew that tone of voice and instinctively exchanged concerned glances.
'The plane dropped from the air, the engines stalled and the lights went out and I remembered your son's words.'
'You what now?' John's tone changed completely.
'Oh yes! Miracles and prayers, he said, and boy did I pray, and then the Lord answered my prayers! The lights came on, the engines started and the plane landed safely. Truly miracles and prayers. Surely your boys were sent from heaven to show me the error of my ways.'
'From heaven? You think so?'
The man ignored the doubt and confusion in the father's voice.
'I do! And if you have any leaflets, I'd be interested in taking a look.'
He looked a little embarrassed by his request, couldn't quite believe that he was voluntarily asking for religious pamphlets. John looked a little stunned.
'Yes. I think it was called….'
'Daddy, we have to go! Dean's waiting. Look!'
Dean was wavering between coming forward and hiding like a two year old.
'Wait a minute, Sam. This is important church business.'
Oh God. Sarcasm with a hint of irony. Sam looked pleadingly at Dean, and he finally came across to support his brother.
'Hello again,' the man smiled nervously at Dean, aware that last time they'd spoken he'd given the boy the brush off.
'I was just asking about those leaflets. You know, Save Your Soul the W….'
'Yeah, sorry,' Dean quickly interrupted not daring to glance at his dad. 'Uh, we're all out,' he improvised.
The man laughed.
'Guess I can understand that, after the flight we had. Jesus that was scary. Get's everyone thinking about the state of their souls.'
'So. Nice meeting you, and thanks for everything. Y'all take care, you hear.'
'Uh, you too.'
Dean raised his arm in farewell.
Then the three of them were left staring uncomfortably at each other.
'About the leaflets…,' Dean began.
John just shook his head and asked quietly, 'Did the engines really stall?'
'One of them,' Dean replied.
'And the lights went out?'
Dean was silent but Sam nodded.
'That was a little scary, wasn't it Dean?'
'You thought it was going to crash?' John breathed softly.
'Of course not,' Sam chirruped, 'Dean said that planes are designed to fly, not like cars and….'
John caught the small movement as his eldest nodded.
Dean couldn't remember when Dad had last picked him up but just this once he gave in, allowed himself to be swept up with Sammy and crushed in a hug, felt the warmth of his dad's face against his own, breathed in the familiar scent of engine oil, gunpowder and salt, felt a big hand cradling his head and a gruff voice repeating, 'You're okay. You're okay, son.'
Then Dad was wiping his cheek and the world began to settle back to normal. The chill finally left his bones, Sammy was skipping to keep up with them both and his dad was clapping his hands saying, 'Come on, kids. Let's get to the car. We'll soon get it heated up and cosy.'
There she was.
Black and gleaming with a glint of frost silvering the edge of her windscreen. She'd never looked more beautiful.
Dean slid into the familiar leather seats and it felt like the only home he knew. Right at that point he fell a little in love. She was his prayer and his miracle, welcoming him, cocooning him, protecting him. His hand caressed the dashboard as he vowed never to step into a freaking demon-spawn airplane ever again. She purred happily in response and the open road rumbled comfortably beneath them.