Dean finds himself back where his whole ordeal started but has some difficulty coming to terms with what he's just experienced ...
Sam jerked in his seat at the sound of Dean's waking cry; looking across the cabin he saw his brother, pallid as a living death, shaking violently in his seat, clawing frantically at the seatbelt fastener with trembling, unco-ordinated hands; "gotta get off, gotta get off …" he gasped between terrified, rasping breaths.
Sam tumbled out of his seat, reaching out towards his brother; "Hey Dean, hey, hey; What's wrong, man? C'mon, what's wrong?"
His words went unheard as Dean, finally managing to get his seatbelt undone, clambered out of his seat, flailing arms, fighting to get past Sam; "gotta get out … gotta get out," his words, incoherent with terror and barely audible between violent wheezing breaths.
"DEAN" Sam grasped both Dean's arms, trying to hold him still; "Dean, look at me, look at me; you can't get out Dean … we're flying."
The pilot looked round his seat; "keep him under control," he barked sternly, "this plane can't take that sort of punishment.
"I'm sorry", Sam panted, still fighting to hold Dean still, "he's a nervous flyer," he tried to soothe his panic-sticken brother, "but he's never been this bad before," he added.
Dean clawed and fought to get past Sam to the plane's exit, feeling the walls of the tiny cabin close around him. He gaped as he fought against the gulping, yawning breaths which were overpowering him, constricting his chest, suffocating him; "Oh God, help me, gotta get out …"
"Dean; DEAN." Sam held his brother tight and stared deep into the glazed panic-blinded eyes. This was a full-blown panic attack, something Sam had never seen in his brother before, and something he never wanted to see again, especially not in a confined space at 2000 feet.
"Do I need to call for medical help?" The pilot hollered over his shoulder.
"No thanks," Sam grunted, wrestling the flailing arms, "I got it." He knew Dean would never forgive him if Sam had him rushed to hospital for a panic attack!
Gathering Dean into his arms, he pushed him back into his seat and knelt in front of him, gripping his shoulders hard.
Dean arched and squirmed under Sam's grip, his mouth yawning his gasping desperation to draw breath; "please … can't do it … ple-please …. w-wanna get off." He pleaded breathlessly.
Sam continued to look into Dean's eyes; "Dean, listen to me; you're hyperventilating;" he pressed his hand flat against Dean's convulsing chest, "you need to slow your breathing down." His calm voice betrayed his own distress at seeing his brother in this condition.
Dean's eyes latched onto Sam, registering a flicker of recognition for the first time, watching Sam frown as his arm shuddered from the rapid hammering of Dean's heart.
"C'mon Dean, slow it down for me," he took Dean's shaking hand and pressed it against his own chest, "c'mon, breathe with me, slow it down dude." Gradually, Dean's desperate heaving gulps slowed to deep, shuddering breaths.
"that's great dude, keep it up," Sam soothed.
"He ok?" the pilot's voice drifted over the back of his seat.
"Please Sammy, wanna get-get off this thing".
Sam ruffled the side of Dean's head, "you can't get off until we land bro', it won't be long now."
He turned to the pilot, "yeah," he sighed, "better thanks; how long until we touch down?"
"About twenty minutes; try to keep him calm, I'll keep it as smooth as possible."
"Thanks buddy," Sam turned back to Dean, who was busy wiping his nose on the back of a shaking hand. As he looked back up into Dean's face, Dean blinked to dislodge the tears which clung to his lashes and dropped his eyes in embarrassment.
Sam smiled, and rubbed Dean's arm. "Hey, what was all that about, dude?"
Dean swallowed back a shaky breath, and shook his head, "can't land this thing again; don' make me do it again …" He looked up at Sam, "wanna get out, please…"
Sam furrowed his brow, "whad'ya mean, dude? You're not landing the plane; that's what the pilot's for!" He tried to stifle a smile at the utterly surreal image of Dean landing a plane, as the pilot glanced back at them with raised eyebrows.
He patted Dean's shoulder, "Jeez, bro, that must have been one doozy of a nightmare!"
Dean shook his head, his shaking began to increase in intensity once again. "No… don' un'stand; not a nightmare … not …"
"Dean;" Sam grasped his brother's arm. "Gonna strap you in," He reached round beside Dean and grasped the two loose ends of the seatbelt, bringing them up across Dean's lap, and securing them.
"I gotta go back to my seat, an' strap in cos we're landing now, but I'll be just here, okay?" He stepped back to his seat, maintaining the physical contact with Dean for as long as possible, not missing the fact that Dean had his eyes squeezed tightly closed as he burrowed back into the seat, gripping the armrests ferociously.
Sam smiled, and laid a large hand across the back of Dean's rigid forearm. It remained there for the whole time that the little plane descended rockily and touched down smoothly with a soft squeal on the tiny Hogscreek airfield runway.
Once the little plane had rolled to a gentle halt, Sam realised that there was no power on earth that would stop the charging bull that his brother became as he tore his seatbelt off and clambered desperately over Sam's outstretched legs. He dragged the door open with such force that Sam was convinced they would be getting a hefty repair bill before they left the airfield and tumbled out of the plane's exit, dropping to his hands and knees on the asphalt. Sam leapt out of the plane after him and squatted beside the trembling wreck that was Dean; whispering soft reassurances and rubbing his back soothingly as he dry-heaved miserably into his chest.
The pilot discreetly dropped the brothers' duffels beside them, and patted Sam on the back, "hope he's better soon, pal," he muttered, adding something about not forgetting to pick up the puke bags in the cabin before they left. Sam smiled and watched him walk back to the small terminal building before turning his attentions back to Dean.
In an uninspiring room of the Hogscreek Lodge Motel, Dean sat slumped weakly on the side of the bed, cradling a mug of coffee in both hands.
"D'you wanna tell me what that episode in the plane was all about?" Sam sat on the bed opposite him, and spoke softly.
"Jus' don' like flying." Dean mumbled unconvincingly.
"No," Sam shook his head, "you don't get off that easily; I 've seen you on planes puking, swearing, even singing friggin' Metallica, but I've never seen you that bad before."
Dean took a long drag on his coffee, his eyes never leaving Sam's face.
"It was the Trickster Sam, he took me away."
Sam jolted, nearly choking on his coffee; okay, wasn't expecting that! "What d'y mean took you away?" He asked warily, "you never left the plane."
It seemed that once Dean started to speak, he couldn't stop the words from tumbling out; "I woke up, and the pilot was gone; you were asleep an' I couldn't wake you so I had to land the plane by myself, and I bashed it up pretty bad, put us down in the middle of the desert. I was hurt bad, and you wen' off looking for help, and it was all 'cos of the Trickster."
Seemingly oblivious to Sam's bemused face, he took a deep, shuddering breath and continued.
"He told me that some stuff would happen one day, real bad stuff, really important stuff, and I would have to make some hard choices an' face my worst fears and let you go, Sammy; he told me I would have to let you go to your death Sammy, one day, I would have to let you die. I let you go while we were in the desert, an' you died."
Sam could see Dean's very real distress while the painful words were pouring out of him; he reached out to try to reassure his brother.
"Dean, it didn't happen, you know that, don't you?" He clutched Dean's hand, smiling as calmly as he could, "it was all just a nightmare; a really, vivid nightmare."
Dean shook his head; "no, it was real Sammy; he tol' me that when this stuff all happens, what I do will benefit him in some way and he wanted to see if I had the guts to do it, that's what he said."
"I didn't think you would die Sammy, I didn't; I know you're smart, you said you knew exactly where the airfield was and you told me all about the sun an' the shadows an' stuff an' I let you go." He wiped the back of a shaky hand across his tearing eyes, "Sammy, I let you walk away to die."
Sam got up, and stepped across to Dean's bed, sitting down next to his distraught brother. "Dean, you're talking like this is real; it was just a nightmare; a really, vivid, lucid nightmare."
"Dean shook his head and Sam could feel that he was still trembling. "Sam, I can still feel the plane shaking as I took it down, I can remember the crack when my ankle broke; I can smell my own puke; this wasn't a nightmare Sammy, this was real."
Sam sighed and put his coffee down. "Dean, if this is all real, how come I don't remember it if I was there? He rubbed his brother's back in an effort to calm the shaking. "It doesn't make sense; why should the Trickster care about anything that happens to a pair of nobodies like us or a few lousy decisions that you make later on down the line?"
Dean took a hesitant breath; "he says that his future welfare will depend on what choices I make and he didn't want something that important left in the hands of someone who wasn't man enough for the job."
Dean looked at Sam once more; "Sammy, he says one day I'm gonna have to face my worst fears, like I'm gonna have to let you walk away and die."
Sam saw the tears shining in the scared green eyes, and spoke slowly and gently.
"Dean, think about this logically;" he reassured, "you're scared to death of flying; your instincts, your imagination is all on edge; the adrenaline is going crazy in your system. You fell asleep and your mind came up with this wild idea while you were dreaming."
He looked deep into his brother's eyes; the fear, the sadness that they contained was tangible, and heartbreaking.
"I mean I know all that stuff about him being able to create alternate worlds and mess with people's minds and stuff, but really, why would he be in any way benefited by any mundane decision you make or will ever make?"
"I dunno, he just said …"
"He just said nothing dude; 'cos this is all in your mind." Sam interrupted gently, still rubbing Dean's hunched back. "Look, you say you broke your ankle?"
"Well, look" he pointed to Dean's feet, "nothing wrong with them."
"Yeah, but …"
"An' you said I died?
"yeah but …"
"Well, here I am," Sam smiled, pointing to himself, "safe and sound!"
Dean seemed to shrink smaller and smaller with every word Sam said; his face a study of confusion, and fear.
"Dean; you will NEVER have to make a decision to let me walk away and die, because I will never put you in that position; you hear me?" Sam stared deep into the frightened green eyes, "and you will never have to face your worst fears alone - I would always face them with you, so even if it was the Trickster - which it wasn't - he was talkin' crap!"
Dean looked up and nodded mutely.
"It's all in your mind Dean, this is your fear talking." Sam squeezed Dean round the shoulders, "I should never have arranged to fly to this place. This is what's screwed you all up, not some mysterious visit from the Trickster. This is all my fault Dean, and I'm sorry, so sorry!"
Dean scraped a clammy palm across his forehead, swallowing back the urge to break down again. He engineered a forced smile for Sam's benefit; "Maybe you're right. Jeez, that was one vivid nightmare - don' ever wan' another one like that!"
Sam stood up, "Dean, when we've finished this hunt, we'll drive back." He said solemnly, "We'll find a truck, or rent one - hell, steal one if we have to; and we'll find a road route through this dead hole. I promise you'll never set foot on another plane. Ever."
Dean looked up and gave Sam a watery smile. "You've no idea how glad I am to hear you say that," he whispered.
Sam smiled; "now do we agree? This was all just a really vivid, scary nightmare?"
Dean nodded slowly.
"There was no trickster, no broken ankle; the pilot didn't disappear and you didn't land the plane. I didn't die, nor are you going to have to let me go away to die; because it was all a dream, right?"
Sam smiled, "You were sitting in your seat twitching and fidgeting and moaning like hell, I felt like I was living the nightmare with you. Believe me, I'd have known if you went anywhere; I would have enjoyed the peace and quiet!"
Dean punched his brother on the arm. "Bitch!"
Dean rose shakily to his feet and stretched; "gonna have a shower, wash the smell of puke off me."
"Good idea," Sam smiled mischievously.
Dean walked over to the bathroom, offering Sam a rude gesture as he passed. Sam turned with a smile watching him go before reaching for his duffel, and began to unpack.
Dean stood, brushing his teeth in front of the bathroom mirror. His sunken eyes a testament to the ordeal he had suffered on that stupid, pointless friggin' plane. Sam was right; Sam was the smart one; everyone knew that. And he was right this time; what possible interest could a freakin' self-confessed demi-god have in anything they did with their mundane little lives.
Of course Sam was right.
Dean spat into the sink, and rinsed his mouth. A few beers and a pizza - oh, and a good night's sleep; then the memory of this ridiculous freakin' episode would start to fade. He felt a flush of embarrassment at the whole performance; oh boy, was he was gonna relive that panic attack when Sam decided the time was right. But in the meantime he had to admit he felt better already with his feet on the ground, and Sam's promise that they would drive back.
He looked up on hearing Sam's voice from the other side of the door; "Dean …"
Tumbler in hand, Dean pulled the door towards him and glanced round it. "what?"
Sam held up a hooded fleece, so bald and threadbare as to be almost transparent. "This was new last week, what the hell's happened to it?" he asked.
Dean staggered back into the wall. his heart froze as he stared in wide eyed horror at the worn fleece
The tumbler of water smashed to the floor …