Title: Between Falling & Flying

Prompt/Summary: Written for the fourth spn_las challenge. The prompt was "redemption." Amanda Walker's life changes forever after a chance encounter on an airplane.

Characters: Amanda Walker (from "Phantom Traveller")

Rating: PG

Wordcount: 974

Disclaimer: Still not mine, more's the pity.

Warnings: Show levels of violence.

Neurotic Author's Note #1: Why oh why can spn_las not come up with prompts I like? Bah.

Neurotic Author's Note #2: On the plus side, I am enjoying this attempt at exploring some of the minor characters the boys encounter on their adventures.

It's survivor's guilt. That's what the grief counsellor tells Amanda Walker. It's perfectly normal to feel it, especially if you're one out of only seven people to make it out alive after a two-hundred-casualty plane crash. Amanda isn't so sure. She doesn't mention the bad feeling she got before the flight, tries to convince herself that she was imagining things when she saw that guy's eyes flicker completely black. People's eyes just don't look like that, the whites all covered over, irises indistinguishable from the pupils. It had to be trauma, from the crash, she tells herself, even though she knows she saw it long before she even knew the plane was going down.

The counsellor discourages her from seeking out the other survivors, even Chuck Lambert, who's sort of a friend. As much a friend as a pilot can be with a flight attendant, anyway, what with all their crazy schedules. Says it won't help her right now and might even hinder their progress. Amanda thinks that the counsellor might be a little too invested in just getting her up and in a plane again, which, given that the company is paying for the sessions, makes so much sense that it makes her sick to her stomach.

She spends weeks hiding in her sister Karen's house. She tries drinking, but after spending one morning hungover and throwing up, she decides she literally can't stomach the thought. The little pink pills they give her for anxiety don't help at all. She wraps herself in a blanket on her sister's sofa and watches the television with the sound turned down as far as possible while Karen write endless term papers and starts cramming for exams and generally puts up with her moping about the place. Karen might be a bitch at times, but she comes through when she's needed, and she just lets her be. For a while, Amanda isn't sure she's ever going to want to go out through the front door again, let alone

Still, Amanda was raised to get right back in the saddle if she falls off a horse, and so that's what she does. She calls up her boss, puts on her jaunty little hostess uniform and the shoes she wishes were more comfortable, and wheels her little carry-on bag onto United Britannia flight 404. Deliberately doesn't look at the passengers' eyes, and tries to ignore the twisting in her stomach, the sour taste in her mouth. She passes by a guy humming under his breath, the tall guy in the seat next to him looking worried and exasperated at the same time, talking to him in quiet, urgent tones. He's not the first passenger to be nervous about flying, and right now, she thinks ruefully, she knows exactly how he feels.

She's startled when she finds the same guy coming to chat her up not twenty minutes later. He's handsome, but his face is pinched. Nervous flyer, he tells her, and she believes him, but she can tell he's lying, and she can't figure out how a guy can tell the truth and lie all in the same breath. She doesn't have the time or the luxury to wonder about it for long before her world literally starts crashing down around her ears.

It feels like a dream. A nightmare. Electricity courses through the plane, and there's nothing to do except hang on, and listen to the terrified screams around her. She can hear the taller of the two brothers chanting in Latin, and she squeezes her eyes shut and prays that she's just dreaming again, that it's just another of the nightmares she had at first, but she knows it's not. Not even her worst dreams remotely resembled this.

The air is filled with the stench of sulphur, and when it's over she finds herself being helped up by the same guy, strong arms wrapping themselves around her shoulders. He's bigger than he seems under the loose clothes, more muscled, and it takes all her willpower not to just sink against him and try to seek shelter from the world there. He's shaken too, she can tell, and she remembers the demon (God, there's such a thing as demons) snarling something about burning his girlfriend. She swallows the bile that rises in her throat, nods when he asks if she's okay.

He nods once, briefly. "Good. You think you can help evacuate these people?"

She takes a breath, steadies herself. She's never going to see him again, she's pretty sure of that. She has no idea what his name is, or what his brother's is, for that matter. She helps mechanically, plasters on her biggest smile and ushers people off the plane through the emergency exits, until it's just the three of them standing at the top of the yellow slide, watching the people being led back to the airport by the first responders.

"I heard what he... what that thing said about your girlfriend," she ventures timidly. "I'm so sorry."

He flinches, shrugs. "Yeah, well. Thanks."

"Is that why you do this? For her?" To make it up to her, she thinks.

"Something like that."

It's the most awful form of redemption she can think of.

"Go on," the other brother gives her a nudge toward the door. "Time for you to go back to being normal," he smiles and winks, and she feels something in her chest unlock.

She's never going to see them again, so she hugs them both, feels the older brother teasingly try to cop a feel, and smacks him with a small laugh. The taller one stiffens in surprise, but then tentatively returns the gesture, and offers her a small, sad smile in return.

Then she turns, smooths her skirt, and lets herself fall.