I watched The Flight of the Phoenix the other night. As Jared P's character left the crashed plane in the middle of the night I said to him, "Don't go wandering in the desert – Dean isn't around to rescue you if something goes wrong..." and then he got lost (of course) and ended up getting sand-blasted to death, which bothered me enough that I stopped watching soon after that. So, to provide some kind of closure for myself, I just had to write a Supernatural version, in which Dean was around...
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Dean was annoying.
Sam, if he had to be honest with himself, couldn't really blame him. Being sick sucked. Being sick with flu sucked even more. And it had been a particularly nasty virus. It was almost a week since Dean had finally given in to the aches and shivers, and he'd been huddled under the ugly motel bedclothes since then.
If it had been Sam, he would have been on his back a lot sooner. He'd watched the slow descent: Dean clearing his throat more than usual, Dean climbing out of bed in the morning and then just sitting on the edge; Dean trying to hide the fact that he was wearing an extra sweater, even though it was summer in Nevada. Dean would never have put up with those symptoms if Sam had been displaying them. But Sam was the little brother, the one without authority: even though he'd insisted that Dean should get some rest, Dean had just ignored him. And the collapse had only been greater when it had come.
Dean had been sick enough that Sam had considered hospital several times. In the lucid moments between feverish nightmares Dean had flatly refused to cooperate with that, and Sam had been angry with him, because he'd been scared.
But the fever had come down, and the chills and aches and sore throat had subsided, and now Dean was at the irritable stage.
The irritating stage.
Sam's sympathy had withered under the onslaught of sweaty clothes left lying around, containers of half-eaten takeout ripening on the nightstand and tidemarks in the bathroom sink. Dean was not obsessively tidy at the best of times. Now he seemed to think that convalescence gave him the right to be as disgustingly messy as he could.
Then there was his insistence on having the television at full volume. Sam was casually looking for a new hunt, something that was not too urgent or strenuous. He didn't mind Dean watching – it was better than trying to prevent him from staggering out to find a bar – but Brainless Bimbos Behaving Like Hookers didn't mix well with accounts of chupacabra activity. Especially when he'd heard every word of the inane script four times over. At headache-inducing levels.
Sam had tried to reason with him. He knew Dean was bored, and that there wasn't much to do when one's legs would barely support one to the bathroom and back, but it was almost impossible to concentrate. And his ears were beginning to hurt.
Dean's response had been to turn the volume up further.
Sam loved his brother dearly, but if they had to spend much more time holed up in this stuffy motel room he was going to be guilty of assault. With full intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Sam was crabby.
Okay, he'd been pretty good while Dean had been sick. Maybe he had hovered way more than was necessary – it was only flu, not the friggin' Black Death – but he'd always seemed to know what Dean needed, whether it was something warm to soothe his throat or Tylenol or an extra blanket. And while those fever dreams had not, of course, been frightening at all, it had been rather a relief to wake up each time to find Sam right there and awake. Not that Dean would ever dream of admitting that.
But now Sam was just plain grumpy.
It had only been one container of mac 'n cheese. And it was Sam who'd brought it for him! It wasn't Dean's fault that his stomach had suddenly complained and he'd had to leave half of it. And then Sam had gone off about the dirty clothes, as if Dean should have walked right out with a fever of a hundred and three and done the laundry. They weren't planning to entertain the Queen of England; did it really matter if his t-shirt and boxers were in a pile on the bathroom floor?
Now Sam was giving him sideways looks, with his nose clamped and his lips pressed together. He'd said nothing for more than an hour, not since he'd demanded that Dean turn the volume down.
Well, his ears were still not really clear after the flu, so he couldn't have it too low. And Sorority Girls Gone Wild lost its impact if it wasn't played loudly enough. Especially the scene with the blonde chick and the melted chocolate.
Seeing how annoyed he could make Sam had nothing to do with it.
The truth was that he was bored. If he had to be honest with himself he wasn't really feeling well enough to hunt anything, but he'd been staring at the same powder-blue walls and polyester curtains for over a week, and they hadn't been exciting the first time he'd seen them. Up until yesterday he hadn't cared much about his surroundings, other than that they were warm, and soft, and didn't make sudden loud noises, but now he wanted out.
He would have been completely fine sitting quietly in a bar, but Sam wouldn't let him go. In addition to being cranky about the food and the laundry and the television, Sam was maddeningly stubborn about letting Dean go out; something about being too weak to walk far. And even when Dean tried to compromise by saying he'd drive, Sam told him he'd probably get dizzy and crash the Impala.
Dean would give his life for his brother, but if he didn't get out of this room soon he was going to do something that Sam would regret.
Five repeats of Brainless Bimbos had apparently been enough even for Dean. Sam had been sitting in beautiful silence for the last fifteen minutes, staring at his computer screen while Dean slept.
He started violently when Dean spoke.
"Geez, bro... jumpy much?" Dean pushed himself up against the headboard.
Sam rubbed his eyes.
"I thought you were sleeping."
Dean dismissed that idea with the contempt it deserved.
"I've been thinking. We should go to Vegas."
"Vegas." Sam sat back in his chair, one eyebrow raised in patent scepticism. "Dean –"
"No, man, listen. We haven't got a hunt at the moment and we're right nearby. We could take a couple days, make some money... it'd be fun."
"Dean, you've just had flu. You can barely walk around the room –"
"I could walk just fine if I was given the chance, and anyway, playing poker isn't the Boston Marathon."
"If I have to sit in this room much longer, Sam, I'm going to go stark raving insane."
Sam looked at Dean and then away, and then hooked his hands behind his neck with a sigh.
"Yeah. Me too."
Dean straightened up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, reaching for his duffle.
"Good. Let's go."
"Now?" Sam stiffened, and frowned. "You're not well enough –"
"Dude, I'm okay. I'm okay! I swear, if you don't stop hovering I'm gonna deck you."
Sam's eyes flickered.
I'm not hovering. It's called being concerned and making sure my brother is okay and doesn't kill himself by being a complete moron and using up all his energy when he's just been really sick. And in any case, I didn't see you complaining when you were delirious and kept begging me not to leave you, or when your throat was sore and you wanted soup or –
"Okay, fine." He closed the laptop with a click.
Dean looked startled, and a little suspicious.
"That's it? You're not arguing?"
Sam stood up and slid his laptop into its case. His back was to Dean.
"It wouldn't work if I did, would it? You want to go to Vegas, fine. We'll go to Vegas." His face when he turned around was impassive. "Just don't blame me when you have a relapse."
Dean snorted, but the prospect of something other than dull blue polyester had obviously cheered him, and he packed up with more energy than Sam had seen in over a week.
Sam was still crabby.
He'd given in over the Vegas plan, but disapproval was evident in the way he sat head down, glaring through the windscreen, in his stiff silence and tight mouth. He'd absolutely refused to let Dean drive, which had almost sparked a real argument between them.
Dean looked at him, thought about making some light-hearted comment, remembered the monosyllabic replies which had met his previous attempts at conversation, and decided to remain silent.
He leant his head against the window.
Sam was great. Sam was great backup on a hunt. Hell, he was a great hunter in his own right, not just as backup. He was a great researcher. Sam had many qualities that were... great. Dean couldn't imagine having to live his life without Sam.
Right now he was having a hard time not being extremely irritated with his brother.
Sam was great.
Sam was also too serious, too disapproving, had too sensitive a conscience, suffered from chronic sense of humour failure... Sometimes, as a companion, Sam just sucked.
Dean's head began to ache again. He resisted the urge to rub his temples, knowing it would incite Sam to criticise him further, and closed his eyes. He might as well catch up on the sleep that he intended to miss once they reached Vegas.
"...if you don't stop hovering I'm gonna deck you..."
He tried to ignore the memory of a momentary flare of hurt in familiar blue-green eyes.
Maybe he could try that matchstick thing. What was that movie they'd watched? The guy who'd driven all night and eventually propped his eyelids open with matches... he couldn't remember the name... anyway, it might be worth a try. If they had matches, of course.
I'm friggin' TIRED!
His eyes watered as the third yawn in a row defied his attempts to keep his mouth shut.
The car was warm. Maybe a little too hot, really, but not unpleasant. It was soporific. Dean would have scoffed at him for using a word like that, but Dean was asleep... snoring more loudly than usual against the passenger window. Anyway, Dean wouldn't have laughed at him for using "soporific" because he wouldn't have used it out loud, because he was angry with Dean and Dean was irritated with him. Dean thought Sam didn't know he was irritated with him, but he did. He could tell from the way Dean breathed through his nose. Kind of like the way he was snoring... like he was asleep, but not... snoring rhythmically against the window, because he was asleep now, unlike earlier when he was breathing heavily through his nose because he was angry, not because he was aslee...
The car swerved as Sam jerked back to full wakefulness. He clutched the steering wheel while his heart thudded.
Stupid... stupid... almost got us killed...
But he was just so tired.
He wanted to sleep. He wanted to lie down on a lovely firm mattress and a lovely soft pillow in a wonderful quiet dark room and go to sleep. A real, long sleep, where he didn't wake up ten minutes after dropping off to hear Dean muttering and gasping, or lie awake listening to Dean's hoarse breathing and wondering if it would have stopped when he woke up, or get tormented by nightmares in which Dean died horribly from complications of flu...
The fence posts on the side of the road flashed past evenly. Predictable. Wasn't that what Chinese water torture was about? Little drips at regular intervals... and eventually you went mad waiting for the next drip and the next and the next and the next and the next and...
A truck going in the opposite direction blasted its horn as the Impala drifted over the centre line again.
Matchsticks... matchsticks... what was that movie called?
Maybe it was possible to fall asleep with your eyes open. Like frogs... or was it fish? They had a transparent eyelid that came down and protected their eyes while they slept so it looked like they were awake. Or maybe that was alligators. Although it seemed rather pointless really, because surely the point of eyelids closing was to stop the light coming in when you wanted to sleep? But it would be useful in lectures sometimes...
He was glad Dean was asleep. Dean needed to sleep. And Sam didn't want to talk to him because he was mad and Dean was irritated. But it might have been nice to have someone to talk to, even if it was Dean, because he was so tired and it was difficult to stay awake and concentrate on the road and on the road signs. And if Dean was awake they could have played some music, something loud and full of drums and guaranteed to allow no sleeping. Because he really... REALLY... wanted to sleep right now.
How far was it to Vegas anyway?
They'd never been before. Dean had wanted to go for ages. Sam didn't want to go as much as Dean did, but he didn't not want to. Dean thought he hated having fun, but that wasn't true. It was more that he had a different idea of what was fun, and he also liked to try to do things legally once in a while. And wasn't he entitled to that, since they did so many illegal things, all the time? He did it because it was necessary and it meant that people's lives were saved, but he didn't have to like it. Not that going to Vegas meant doing something illegal, of course, other than the fake credit card they'd use to pay for their motel, and that was pretty much par for the course.
Their motel... with a lovely bed in it – or two beds, rather – where he could sleep. Maybe Dean wouldn't mind if Sam just slept while they were there...
His headache was gone.
That was the good news.
He was otherwise supremely uncomfortable. He'd slept well, despite being upright in a car seat with his head slumped against the window, but his neck was now stiffly complaining against having been kept at that odd angle for several hours. And it was hot. It was insanely hot. The Impala was stopped, and the air was oppressively still.
"Sam..." He must have slept with his mouth open. A disgusting gluey film coated his tongue and palate, and his voice came out sounding like something he might hunt. He swallowed stickily and tried again.
"Sam! Are we in Vegas..." His voice petered out again, but this time in confusion.
This was definitely not Vegas. Not unless an atomic bomb had somehow secretly wiped out everything that remotely resembled civilisation. There were no lights, no hotels and casinos, no expensive cars. There were no flashily-dressed people.
There were no people at all, except for one uncomfortable and distinctly guilty-looking little brother in the driver's seat.
"Sam?" Dean's gaze passed suspiciously from his brother's face to the unsurfaced road that stretched away in front of the Impala. Scrubby green bushes sparsely dotted the landscape, which was otherwise composed of dusty chips of rock and gravelly sand. Far off in the shimmering distance blue contours indicated some unidentified mountain range.
"Sam, where the hell are we?"
Sam cleared his throat, rubbing one hand over the back of his neck. His face was unusually flushed.
"We... uh... I'm not entirely sure."
Dean abandoned his scrutiny of the surroundings and focused on his brother.
"I think I know." Sam's hasty response to the flat incredulity in Dean's voice was not encouraging. "In fact I'm pretty certain. I think we're somewhere in... well, in Death Valley."
"Death Valley." Dean mused on that for a moment. "Sam... um... since when did we have to pass through Death Valley to get to Vegas?"
Sam shifted in his seat. He didn't answer, but the embarrassed flush deepened.
"I turned the wrong way, okay? On Route 95 or... or something. I should have turned right, I turned left. Or the other way round." Sam was obviously irritated as well as embarrassed, but whether it was with himself or Dean was impossible to tell.
"Right. Yeah. Well, that makes perfect sense. I mean, these are only national roads. I'm sure there were no road signs. And of course, we don't have a perfectly good map, and you haven't been able to tell left from right since you were three."
Sam's face was in profile and long wisps of hair obscured his eyes, but Dean could imagine the scowl that greeted his words. Sam's mouth looked annoyed.
Dean cleared his throat loudly, and drummed a quick tattoo with his fingers on the dash.
"So... don't think I'm complaining or anything, because this is amazing, and I'd like nothing better than to just sit here and enjoy the breathtaking magnificence of nature, but why are we stopped? Especially since we're now probably twice as far from Vegas as we were when we started."
Sam took a deep breath, and let it out loudly through his mouth. He didn't look at Dean when he answered.
"We're out of gas."
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So, let me know what you think...