Genre: Hurt comfor/Angst
Word Count: approx 15,000
A mystrious disaster en-route to a far flung hunt tests Dean to the very edge of his physical and psychological limits; but is this all down to fate? Winchester luck? Or are there darker forces at work? Later on in the story there will be slight, non-specific spoilers for various season 5 goings-on.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, and on the evidence of this story, they're probably very glad I don't!
Unfocussed green eyes fluttered open. Still woozy from an uncomfortable, fitful nap, Dean arched into a cramped stretch, knuckling his eyes and yawning widely. He ached miserably; every joint, every limb felt stiff and heavy; his stomach was in knots.
The irritating buzz of an engine skewered his head; the reedy whine vibrating through his whole body setting his teeth on edge. His churning stomach and the two crumpled plastic puke bags under his seat served as a depressing reminder of where he was.
He shifted in his seat and sighed, just for one moment; one beautiful, sleep-muzzed moment; he thought he was in his baby, but no. That pathetic, stupid sound could never come from his baby's engine. She roared; the roar of a mighty black panther prowling the highways; and she purred, a delicious soothing sound, rich as chocolate, that was reserved just for him and Sammy.
This? This pile of crap sounded like a bee in a bucket. That pitiful, tinny buzz could only come from a prop engine; it would have been laughable if it didn't signify the totally douchey fact that he was stuck about two thousand feet above the ground in this flying scrapheap that, quite frankly, looked like it was held together with thumb tacks and rubber bands.
Stealing a timid glance out of one of the windows, Dean shrunk back; screwing his eyes closed and pressing himself as far back into his seat as he could, he gripped his seatbelt with all his white-knuckled might. This wasn't even one of those big airliners where you could get an aisle seat well away from the windows or have little blinds that you could pull down to shut out the appalling reality of your position. This stupid, crappy bit of junk was no bigger than Bobby's pickup. It had four friggin' seats including the one where the pilot sat. Wherever you were, you had freaking rattling – yes, rattling – glass only inches from your face so you can't damn-well miss how far you've got to plummet when it all goes ass-upwards.
Dean cringed, gasping through gritted teeth, as a passing gust buffeted the small aircraft; jeez, a freakin' head-on with a moth would total this crappy thing.
He felt his guts lurch again; oh great, here comes yesterday's taco ….
Fumbling for one of the plastic bags Sam had been thoughtful enough to bring along for the flight, he thrust his face into it retching violently as his belly worked hard to turn itself inside out; ok, so sticking your head into a plastic bag wasn't really best practice as far as good health and safety was concerned, but right now? Right now, suffocation seemed like a very attractive option, thank you very much!
Once his stomach began to settle, he spat into the bag and flopped back into his seat, panting heavily as his head lolled limply against the padded seat back. He glanced across at Sam, in the seat beside him, sleeping the peaceful and uninterrupted sleep of the just. Scowling at his peacefully dozing brother he felt a strong urge to tip the contents of the screwed-up bag dangling from his sweaty fist all over Sam's head.
Yeah, thanks for the frickin' support bro', really appreciate it.
He took a hesitant sip of water to freshen his mouth. No point in drinking at the moment, he was quite sure he'd be seeing it again well before they landed this tub.
This Chupacabra hunt had all been Sam's idea. Some hick, ass-end-of-nowhere, dive on the edge of the Mojave Desert had been losing their livestock; all sorts - sheep, cattle, horses and goats. That just about said it all; the hell kind of place keeps goats in the 21st frickin' century?
No-one had taken a blind bit of notice until last week when a small child had turned up eviscerated. Suddenly, everyone was interested; except that it was such a trial to get anywhere near the place past countless roadless miles of one of the most inhospitable landscapes on earth; most people still didn't bother.
But the Winchesters weren't most people.
As terrible as Dean had felt about the little girl; he had fancied the ghoul job they had found in Chicago … at least Chicago had roads; roads with asphalt no less and Chicago had all the little things that made life bearable, like pizza houses and bars for instance. Then Bobby opened his friggin' hairy trap and told Sam he already had it covered.
So here they were sitting in a flying wardrobe en route to the end of the friggin' world.
Dean had already made a mental note to royally kick Bobby's raddled old ass when – if – they got back.
He sighed, swallowing spasmodically against the awful feeling of his stomach crawling around inside him, and gripped the end of the armrests. Eyes scrunched shut, he quietly hummed to himself; Metallica, Zeppelin, Sabbath … heck, anything, even ABBA would be better right now than listening to the pathetic mozzie whine of that friggin' puny excuse for an engine.
His heart performed it's own drumroll as the little plane gave another lurch.
It was around a half an hour later when he opened his eyes, taking another tentative glance out of the window beside him, the vermillion expanse of Death Valley spread out below him; way, way too freakin' far below him.
The shadow of the little plane followed them along the sunbaked ground; a tiny, T-shaped dot haunting their path.
Beside him, Sam's soft snores drifted across the cabin, tormenting and mocking him. Accidentally on purpose he elbowed Sam hard in the ribs. The action engendered an indignant snort and a wrinking on the nose, before Sam's head drooped limply onto Dean's shoulder, the gentle rhythm of his snores resuming with scarcely an interruption.
Dean breathed deeply, he just knew he was going to be making use of another of those plastic bags soon, and if his idle freakin' sasquatch of a brother didn't wake up before then, he was definitely going to get it straight across the face.
He fidgeted in miserable agitation and scraped a sweat soaked palm over an equally sweat soaked face.
"How much longer?" he grunted hoarsely in the direction of the pilot's seat.
When no response was forthcoming he leaned forward, trying to ignore the creeping nausea that the motion caused.
Grasping the top of the pilot's seat, he leaned round, aiming to catch the pilot's attention. If he only knew how much longer he had to endure this friggin' nightmare, he could distract himself counting the seconds until they touched down.
When he had leaned far enough forward to be able to see round the back of the pilots seat, the sight that confronted him sent his heart plummeting into his boots and made him topple in shocked horror backwards into his seat, fumbling breathlessly for the puke bag.
The pilot's seat was empty.
Dean's head swam; unable to rationalise what he had just seen, his mouth worked silently, mindlessly; "Oh God; oh God; oh God; …" A verbal manifestation of the overwhelming fear that was rapidly consuming him.
He leaned forward to take another look; hoping against forlorn hope that his panic-crazed mind was playing tricks on him.
But luck would never be that kind; saucer wide eyes stared at the empty seat. Where the hell was the freakin' man? This was ridiculous! The sonofabitch had been there when this stupid damn bucket took off. A cursory glance around the cabin didn't make him feel any better; the space was tiny, and there was certainly nowhere a man could secrete himself out of sight of any other passengers.
The pilot had simply vanished.
Dean swayed as the walls of the cabin closed in around him; the tinny whine of the engine growing louder and louder, drilling through him; a mocking, vibrating drone which filled his head, and bore down on him, squeezing the air out of his lungs. He pressed his hands over his ears, letting out a hoarse cry as his knees buckled underneath him.
He reached across and grasped Sam by the shoulder, raggedly shaking his sleeping brother; "S'mmy" he hissed frantically through clenched teeth, "wake up, c'mon". When there was no response, he shook harder.
"Dude;" his strangled voice more of a plea, "Sammy, wake the hell up!"
Sam continued to snore peacefully, his head lolled limply onto his shoulder in the wake of his brother's attempts to wake him.
Blind panic tightened it's grip and Dean's breath tightened with it, becoming harsh, rasping gasps; He rose on weak, trembling legs and grabbed Sam harder by the shoulders shaking him frantically, violently; battering him against the padded seat back. "Wake up, Sammy," he wailed, "Please God, damnit dude, wake up, what's wrong with you?"
His frantic cries tailed off into gulping sobs and he sunk limply onto the cabin floor; white knuckled fingers still gripping fistfuls of Sam's shirt as blackness claimed him.
Oblivious to the drama going on within it, the little plane continued it's journey, propeller buzzing merrily as it rode the gentle breeze onwards towards it's destination.
Green eyes fluttered open hazily and, from his position sprawled on the floor, they focussed on Sam's feet. It didn't take long for the hideous reality of their situation to flood back into Dean's woozy mind, in all it's queasy glory. Clambering shakily back into his seat; he could feel himself slowly unravelling as the agony of fear tightened around him in an ice-cold grip.
He despised himself for it.
"Sammy, he whispered; "please, dude, what the hell's wrong?" He clutched his sleeping brother's limp hand, "C'mon man, I need your help."
He stifled a stray sob; "Sammy, I'm scared."
Dean knew that it was down to him to get them out of this mess; he had to get a grip. There was something terribly wrong with Sam; his brother needed help, and he wasn't going to get it stuck up here in this stupid plane. Dean focussed on that fact; he grasped it like a drowning man might clutch at a piece of driftwood.
That fact would make Dean strong; it would give him a purpose. It would get them on the ground safely.
Gripping the back of the pilots seat, Dean staggered into an upright position; his eyes tightly closed, just looking out of that windshield made his head spin, turning his guts to ice water.
He patted Sam's knee, "S'ok Sammy, I'm gonna get us down;" he swallowed convulsively, "we'll get you to a doctor just as soon as we get landed." The tremble in his voice betrayed the fear behind reassurance he tried so hard to convey.
Clambering clumsily into the pilot's seat, he toppled over as the plane lurched across another air pocket, bashing his nose against the window and finding himself suddenly staring wide eyed and unblinking over a wide expanse of desert, a dizzying two thousand feet below him.
He gave a choking cry and burrowed himself back into the seat, fighting hard to regain control of his breathing, to suppress the visceral panic which was threatening to rise once more. Forcing himself to open one eye, he gave a queasy groan as he saw the expanse of desert again; this time through the plane's windshield.
Squirming uncomfortably in the seat, his shirt clung to him, drenched with sweat; the cabin was rank with the sour odour of his terror. He dug his nails into his palms, focussing on the pain to give him something else to think about other than what he could see in front of him. He swallowed convulsively as nausea, his constant companion on this freakin' trip, crept over him again; all the while muttering breathlessly to Sam to hang on, he'd have him to a doctor real soon.
Dean exhaled long and slowly; "right, c'mon Winchester, pull yourself together". He palmed the sweat and tears from his face with a trembling hand, blinking rapidly to clear his vision.
He reviewed his entire knowledge of planes and flying which was limited at best. The plane hadn't plummeted to the ground yet; that was good. That means it must have some kind of autopilot mechanism engaged; but if Dean's limited understanding was correct, although autopilot could keep the plane in the air, it couldn't land the thing. You still needed a human for that. Okay, that wasn't so good.
"Right, I must be able to make some sense out of all this crap" he muttered, eyes scanning the flight deck; anything to avoid looking out of the windshield. The myriad of dials, levers and buttons had him gaping in confusion and he suddenly had a first inkling of the magnitude of the task ahead of him.
Swearing at himself as the tears of fear and frustration threatened again, he wiped his face aggressively, "C'mon you friggin' girl; Sammy's sick, he needs you to keep your pathetic whiny ass together."
He reached out to the handset of the radio hooked to the flight deck, and fiddled with it, pressing buttons and yelling into it at the top of his voice. In a brief moment of clarity, he suddenly realised; headsets! All pilots wear them when they fly; perhaps they need them to make the radio work. Twisting in his seat, he found the pilot's abandoned headset and, slipping it on, he began his attempt to make contact with the outside world once again.
Relief rolled across him like a tidal wave when he heard a voice crackle into being through the hissing interference.
"This is South Valley Airfield. Over."
Dean could have wept. "Help me, oh God, please help me;" he blurted, "I'm in a plane, my brother's sick, I can't w-wake him. Our pilot's gone and-and there's no-one who can fly the friggin' plane. Don' know what to do. Please h-help me; don' know what to do..."
"What do you mean your pilot's gone? Over."
Dean became increasingly agitated; "He's gone, disappeared; he-he just ain't here any more."
There was a pause on the other end of the radio. "What's your flight designation and route? Over."
Dean hesitated to compose himself; he sure as hell wasn't going to let this man hear the panic in his voice; "We're heading for some freakin' godforsaken shithole called Hogscreek," he announced.
"What is your aircraft? Over."
Oh, for heaven's sake – it's shit, that's what it is! Dean scanned the flight deck searching for some kind of clue; under the circumstances he guessed that 'a freakin' pile of flying crap' wouldn't really help this man. After what seemed like forever, he spotted the information he needed engraved on the top of the flight deck.
"Um, a Cessna 172, I think." He took a shaky breath, as he fought back the rising nausea, "look, please, I need your help, my brother's sick … this is taking too long."
"Where did you say your pilot was? Over."
"I don't frickin' know,' snapped Dean, "sonofabitch was on board when this-this piss poor pile of shit took off and now he's gone, an-an' I don't friggin' know where ..." His last vestiges of his pride departing, Dean was painfully aware the pitch of his voice was rising along with the panic which was taking a relentless hold of him again, he was breaking down, unravelling, and each time it was becoming harder and harder to get a grip of himself; "please, p-please help me," he pleaded; "there's no-one to fly the plane. Please we need your help, I-I don't know what to do."
Dean guessed that the guy on the ground either thought he was a raving nutjob or that he, himself, had iced the pilot; furthermore, he really didn't care. If getting to the ground safely meant a welcome delegation from some two-bit, hick local law enforcement or the funny farm, that was fine by him. That was a problem he knew he could deal with.
The voice sounded again; this time gentler, more informal. "Okay buddy, I'm Peter," it said, "what do I call you?"
"Dean;" he replied quietly, "Uh, I'm Dean."
"Okay, Dean, can you look at the fuel gauge for me? It's a dial close to the centre of the control panel."
Dean scanned the flight deck briefly, "yeah, found it," he replied.
"What does it show, Dean?"
Dean squinted at the gauge, "Uh, it's pointing between the red and the yellow bit of the dial."
There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the radio which Dean didn't like the sound of one bit.
"Okay, Dean," Peter's voice sounded serious, "I'm not sure where you are, I think you may have gone off-course since you, uh, lost your pilot." He continued, calmly yet urgently; "you don't have much fuel left, about twenty minutes worth."
Dean could feel himself starting to panic again; "So-so, what do we do?"
There was a pause before the radio crackled into life again, "Okay Dean, I need you to listen very closely to me, I'm going to talk you through bringing your plane down."
The shock of the words hit Dean like a punch to the gut. He keeled over, retching violently as sheer terror wrung his guts out with an ice-cold grip.
He fumbled with the radio, dropping it into his lap; hands shaking so hard he could barely press the button.
"No, no way," he gasped through clenched teeth, "I can't – I-I can't do that. I can't even look through the friggin' windshield without pukin'. Please, I can't do it. You've gotta help me some other way."
"There is no other way to help you Dean." Peter stated matter-of-factly, "I'm really sorry, but I don't have time to do this gently. You have twenty minutes before your fuel dries up and I don't need to explain what that means. If you want to help your brother, you need to pull yourself together, and listen to every word I say."
"Dean, are you okay?"
The voice on the radio was beginning to sound concerned.
Dean shook his head with a flinch as if emerging from a trance; "Uh, yeah; I'm here;" the long awaited response came in barely a whisper.
"Everything okay?" The relief in the voice was palpable even over the crackling of the radio.
Dean scowled; "I'm stuck in a plane the size of a tea crate, my brother's sick, I've puked so many times, I'm hurling stuff I haven't even eaten yet, we're floating two thousand feet in the air with nothing but a lawnmower engine keeping us from crashing to earth in the middle of the friggin' desert so … yeah, everything's totally crap thanks."
"I understand," came the sympathetic voice over the radio; "are you strapped in?"
Dean reached round and groped for his shoulder harness fumbling clumsily as he tried to fasten it with violently shaking fingers, swearing furiously as he dropped it into his lap twice.
"Right," he panted, blinking hard as the frustration pricked his eyes; jeez, can't even do my friggin' seatbelt up - not a promising start.
The radio hissed into life again; "Okay, Dean, now I need you to take a look at the attitude indicator for me."
"The w-what?" Dean scanned the flight deck in agitated confusion; they were having a freakin' laugh, surely no-one needed all these damn dials and knobs to fly a tub this size.
"It's okay Dean; it looks like a picture of a horizon, and it has a little pair of wings that will tell you if your plane is straight or not." Peter's voice remained calm and reassuring. Well, of course it did, the bastard was comfortable and safe and sitting in a building on the damned ground.
Dean wiped a cuff over his sweat beaded brow, "Yeah, I can see the dial I think, but-uh, but it's hard to read what it says."
"Why's that Dean?"
"Um, well … I puked over it."
A few minutes passed as Peter's reassuring voice had tried to put his reluctant pilot at ease by familiarising him with the controls. Unfortunately, his best efforts had failed spectacularly.
Dean's hand hovered over the yoke, he couldn't remember what Peter, his new best friend in the whole world, had called the damn thing, but what he had grasped was that as soon as he touched it, the autopilot was disengaged and it was down to him. From that point there was no going back.
His heart pounded against his ribs, faster and faster, harder and harder, like a jackhammer. He was starting to feel lightheaded again. No, no, no; can't faint. Not now, can't faint … pull it together.
He bit down hard on his lip and took a deep breath.
"When you're ready, Dean," came Peter's voice
Dean glanced back at his apparently comatose brother, and tried a watery smile; "getting' you to a doctors S'mmy."
His breath hitched as he grasped the stick.
The plane lurched violently as the autopilot disengaged, and Dean yelped as it's nose dipped, the engine changing it's pitch from an annoying drone to a terrifying whine.
"It's falling;" he cried, letting go of the yoke in panic, "it's going down real fast, what do I do, what do I do?" Dean could feel himself beginning to hyperventilate as the plane shuddered against the immense stresses of it's sudden descent.
"Pull the yoke back just a little bit to straighten up; not too much though," Peter's voice was calm, yet had an unmistakable undertone of urgency.
Dean's shaking hands gripped the yoke, tugging it back; he cried out as the plane swung wildly beneath him, jolting him against the back of the seat, knocking the breath out of lungs.
"Smooth now" said Peter, "nice and smooth, just watch your altitude."
Dean didn't like to tell him he had his eyes closed.
His sweat soaked hands slipped on the handle of the yoke as the plane rocked and rolled, creaking and rattling around him. Dean never thought he would be happy to hear the pathetic whiny buzz of that crappy engine, but right now, compared to the other noises the plane was making, it would be music to his ears.
"You're doing good, buddy." Dean had to hand it to him, Peter was doing a good job of keeping up the reassurance; "easy now, just hold her steady and she'll bring you down smoothly."
"Smoothly my ass," gasped Dean as the plane pitched sideways, gathering speed; the engine's whine turning into a scream.
The ground reared toward them, noticeably closer now. Dean watched it through impossibly wide eyes, glazed with terror as he had never felt. Throat burning, he gasped for precious air; his breaths coming faster and harder, rasping as he fought against the shuddering yoke to keep control of the aircraft.
"Back on the throttle Dean, you need to slow down just a little bit"
"Oshitoshitoshitoshitoshit oooooooooooooh shiiiiiiiiiiit …" Dean's voice rose into a wail as the plane shuddered and bucked, groaning and creaking as it plunged down towards the waiting desert floor. He wondered how long he could scream without pausing for breath; his efforts so far had been impressive.
Battling to slow the plane's descent; Dean could see the ground only a few hundred feet away now, and getting closer by the second; he abandoned all pretence of trying to be calm.
Paralysed with fear, he gripped the throttle lever in a cold, sweat-dampened hand; Peter's words washed over him unheard. His mind had shut down against the horror of what was happening, and had taken him someplace else, somewhere where he wasn't hurtling to his doom in a small shitty aircraft, somewhere where Sam was well, and wouldn't have to die because of his useless brother's incompetence.
He palmed the continuous flow of tears away from his face, stricken with fear and resignation as he watched the ground rushing up to meet them; it was then he was startled by voice behind him.
"D-Dean? What the hell?"
He tried to turn, but he was held fast by the harness. But he didn't need to turn; that voice was unmistakable.
It was Sam.
"Sammy? You okay man? YOU OKAY?"
At the sound of his brother's voice, Dean's resolve snapped back into him; he yelled back to Sam at the top of his voice, "Sam, you okay? Hang on bro' – gettin' you some help."
He'd heard Peter say something about raising the nose, and doing something with the flaps. The hell? What friggin' flaps? He tugged back on the throttle feeling the plane lurch as it began to slow, cringing as the engine spluttered and whined horribly."Sammy, buckle up dude, gonna be bumpy …"
"Dean, throttle back, lift the nose, raise the flaps …" the soothing mantra over the radio continued.
He frantically pulled and pushed levers, flicking switches, murmuring incoherently as the plane continued to descend, "oooooooohcrapocrapcrapcrap …"
Two hundred feet from the ground; the plane pitched and swung as Dean tried desperately to wrestle it into the right angle for landing.
Peter was barking orders at him on the radio, behind him he could hear Sam yelling, wanting to know what the hell was going on.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" he screamed.
One hundred feet from the ground; Dean managed to drag the nose up a little, still fighting for control as the little aircraft listed sideways,
Fifty feet; the ground raced along beneath them, the engine roaring and hissing as he continued pulling back the throttle, slowing the plane by fractions, his damp hands slipping and losing their grip as the plane juddered and pitched.
Twenty feet, ten feet . "Hang on Sam, hang on …"
As the plane made contact with the ground, there was a clatter as it bounced, and lurched sideways, the two occupants yelped as they were flung sideways with it. It touched down again, this time the right wheel dug into the soft sand of the desert floor and snapped off with a ragged crack. The aircraft gave a sickening jolt, as it collapsed sideways, tearing the right wing from the fuselage and sending the crippled aircraft into a skidding spin across the desert floor.
It's nose planted into the ground, buckling grotesquely and shattering the propeller into flying smithereens. Pinned into his seat by the massive forces of the crash, Dean did his best to duck as whirling shrapnel from the propeller peppered the fractured windshield.
"Dean, man … Dean, you OK?" Sam's voice bellowed wildly from the back of the skidding wreck.
Eventually the ruined fuselage skidded to a halt in a cloud of red dust, which settled slowly over the silent, gently rocking wreckage.
Dean sat in the pilot's seat, shaking uncontrollably, gulping beautiful ground level air into his shocked, battered lungs. Something warm trickled down the side of his tear-stained face, and he was aware of a searing pain along his left leg which appeared to be trapped under the tangled remains of the flight deck.
But Dean didn't care; he was on the ground; Sam was alive, and what's more he was awake. Somewhere behind him, Dean could hear Sam unbuckling his seatbelt and frantically calling his name. When he felt Sam's large hand grasp his shoulder, he gave a deep sigh, and sank into well deserved oblivion.
Sam crouched down as best he could in the cramped space and grasped his unconscious brother's shoulders, "Dean, dude; talk to me, Dean..." he barked urgently.
Dean's head lolled limply onto his shoulder.
Sam gently removed the pilot's headset and explored his brother's clammy, bloodstained face with nervous fingers, pausing to probe the copiously bleeding wound on his hairline.
Satisfied that there was no glass or debris in the wound, he removed his overshirt, wincing as the motion pulled on abused shoulders and a neck that would, no doubt, be as stiff as a board tomorrow pressing it against Dean's forehead.
All the while speaking soft, soothing nonsense, he unclipped the shoulder harness that was pinning Dean into the pilot's seat and was mightily relieved to feel a strong heartbeat under his hand as he did so.
He took a moment to scan the picture of devastation around him.
The aircraft's interior was in a state of utter disarray; the flight deck and windshield, a grotesque tangle of metal and shattered glass. A ghostly layer of orange desert dust, carried high on the currents caused by the plane's landing was already settling over the wreckage.
Sam took in the crusting vomit stains across Dean's lap and the seat, he saw the tracks of tears staining the unbloodied side of his brother's face; he could smell the lingering odour of adrenalin-fortified sweat. Sam knew all too well how his brother felt about flying, and he couldn't bring himself to imagine the horror of the harrowing ordeal that Dean had been forced to go through to get that plane down safely. An ordeal he had to endure alone.
The very thought of it crushed Sam.
Suddenly he felt Dean's head shift beneath his hand; the movement was accompanied by a low groan.
"Hey Dean," he murmured softly, cupping Dean's face. "S'okay, we're down on the ground now; you got us down safely you brave sonofabitch, you."
Dean blinked vacantly, flinching as Sam gently pressed down on the wound on his forehead. "S'mmy, you okay?" he whispered.
"I'm good," smiled Sam, "bit battered and bruised, but nothing' like I haven't had before!" Dean turned to look up at him, but Sam held his head fast.
"shhhh, take it easy dude," Sam soothed, "don't move, you're bleedin' a load."
"Couldn't wake you Sammy." Despite Sam's repeated pleas to him not to move, Dean turned, staring wide-eyed up at his brother from under the crumpled shirt Sam had pressed against his head, "you were sleepin' the whole time; really scared me." He swallowed hard and took in a long shaky breath, "thought you were really sick."
Sam looked directly into his brother's eyes; he could feel Dean was still shivering violently, and he knew that was nothing to do with the desert's rapidly dropping temperature, now dusk was falling. "I-I dunno what happened." His eyes dropped to the ground as he shook his head, "I don't remember anything, I'm just sorry I wasn't there to help you bro', really I am."
He lifted the cloth and was relieved to see the blood flow had slowed encouragingly.
"What happened, dude?" He asked, his free hand shifting to Dean's shoulder; "what happened to the pilot?"
"Don' know, I jus' …" The words dissolved into a hiss of pain. Sam felt Dean's brow furrow beneath his hand.
"Hey man, you hurtin' anywhere else?" Sam asked in concern, scanning his brother's body. It was then he noticed Dean's leg trapped under the crumpled flight deck.
"P-Peter …" he grunted, "call Peter, m'leg hurts."
"Who's Peter?" Sam asked, gently kneading the tense shoulder beneath his hand; "radio," whispered Dean, "guy on the radio, he talked me down; said he coun't find us on his radar thing, but maybe he has now?"
Sam was becoming worried about Dean. Apart from his physical injuries, Dean was unusually subdued; glassy, expressionless eyes watching Sam's every move, the crippling tremors that gripped his body, if anything, growing stronger with each passing moment.
Sam had seen this before, in a lot of people they had saved; some people called it shock, some called it post-traumatic stress, many people didn't have a name for it. It was the body's 'fight or flight' reflex; a natural and instinctive preparation for dealing with severe and life-threatening danger which often meant that once the danger was past and the anaesthetic of adrenaline began to leave the system, many succumbed to a complete breakdown.
Sam sadly rubbed his brother's arm; he knew some people spend a lifetime in therapy to get over something like this.
Scanning the remains of the flight deck, Sam saw the radio handset laying under the co-pilot's seat. He picked it up, only to find a length of severed wire dangling from underneath it.
"CRAP!" he yelled angrily, throwing the dead handset through the shattered windshield in frustration.
"Okay dude, I'm gonna try and lift this wreckage so we can free your leg." Sam spoke softly, but urgently, keeping his eye closely on his brother; "ready?"
Dean bit down on his lip and nodded mutely from under the rumpled bloodstained shirt that Sam had charged him with holding against his forehead for the duration of this exercise.
"Okay, on three," Sam grasped the crumpled edge of the flight deck, and braced himself, "one … two …"
Ignoring the ache across his back and shoulders, he heaved the mangled unit up a few inches to take the pressure off his brother's leg. Dean cried out, arching out of the seat in agony.
"Okay, okay, dude;" Sam reassured breathlessly; every fibre of him desperate to hold and soothe his distressed brother, but knowing, as he strained to hold the heavy unit up, he absolutely couldn't drop it back on Dean's leg.
"can you move your leg dude?" He gasped, arms trembling under the weight.
Dean's eyes closed tightly as he shook his head, swallowing convulsively, looking for all the world like he was about to vomit.
Sam realised he couldn't hold the metal frame up and help Dean extract his leg, he just didn't have enough hands; or enough strength. "Okay dude, hang in there," he muttered softly, face betraying a cheerfulness in his voice he didn't feel. He dropped down to his knees, bending his back and wedged a shoulder under the ridge of the tangled wreckage.
Using all his strength he arched his back, lifting the metal ridge as high as he could, grimacing against the pain of the metal edge digging into the flesh of his back. No wonder Dean was in pain, having that weight crushing his leg, Sam shuddered at the thought.
"Careful Sammy …" came the voice, barely a whisper from beneath the bloodstained shirt.
With both hands free, Sam grasped Dean's leg gently at the knee and ankle, and took the opportunity to gently run his hands along the length of Dean's lower leg. There was a warm, sticky wetness to the denim below Dean's knee; blood Sam assumed. When his hands moved down nearer to Dean's ankle, Dean flinched violently with a yelp and Sam's heart sank as he felt the unmistakable grinding of loose bone edges.
Knowing he had to work quickly, and sagging against the increasing pressure of the trashed flight deck on his back, he carefully cradled Dean's leg in his long arms, and gently manouevred it out from under the unit onto the co-pilots seat. He whispered soft reassurances as Dean buried his face into his shoulder, stifling a yelp.
Kneeling over the bloodied denim with their first aid kit beside him, Sam looked across at his brother, gesturing to Dean's jeans. "I'm gonna have to cut them to take a look, okay?"
Dean had swivelled round in the pilot's seat and was now leaning against the side window so he could look directly at Sam without bending or turning; he chewed his lip and nodded shakily, allowing Sam to gently cut the denim up the front of his leg to just above his knee.
He instantly saw the source of all the blood, a deep gash down the side of the shinbone, but nothing more than a flesh wound he was relieved to note; nothing he hadn't dealt with a hundred times before; Dean's ankle, on the other hand, was a deep, bruising purple and already swelling grotesquely. Sam grasped at small mercies; sighing in relief that the break hadn't pierced the skin.
"Gonna take your boot off dude," Sam smiled at Dean who was watching him wordlessly from beneath weary, heavy lidded eyes, "your foot needs room to swell up." He carefully removed the laces from Dean's boot, and gently worked it off his foot. Cutting his sock off, he added with a mischevious grin, "shame I didn't bring a peg for my nose!"
"my feet don' smell, they're sweet and fragrant;" came a huffed response, Dean wrinkling his nose in a mock scowl, wincing as the motion pulled on the gash on his forehead.
Sam gently squeezed Dean's knee, and cringed in playful disgust; "not from where I'm standin' bro'," he grinned.
Sam smiled, buoyed by a tiny hint of the old Dean, "jerk!" he replied fondly.
Sam worked quickly and efficiently considering he was hunched and restricted in the cabin's tiny space, binding Dean's broken leg to his uninjured leg in the manner of a splint; all the while Dean remained silent, his gaze never leaving Sam's confident hands.
When he was satisfied with his handiwork, he set about cleaning and dressing the wounds on Dean's leg and head, soothing and reassuring, keeping as much eye contact with his brother as possible. As time went on, he was becoming increasingly concerned about Dean's condition; yes, he was injured, but, this quietness, this timidness was just not Dean. Dean was always a thoroughly obnoxious and, Sam smiled at the pun, impatient patient. This incarnation of his brother was a pale imitation he had never seen before, and it scared him to death.
Dean's eyes had begun to droop closed under Sam's soft touch, and once he had finished dressing the wounds, and knowing how cold the desert night could become, he wrapped Dean in one of his big fleece sweatshirts, and covered him with a jacket, cushioning his head against the plane's window with a folded pair of jeans from his duffel.
"Get some sleep bro', everything's okay." he soothed, fingertips ghosting across Dean's spiky crown until he was sure he was asleep.
Sam clambered carefully and quietly into the back of the plane, swearing as he grazed his head on the cabin's ceiling and slumped heavily into a seat, fumbling for his phone, he flipped it open.
He inwardly cursed; no of course there wasn't; that would be far too convenient.
He'd told Dean everything was okay. That was a complete bunch of crap; everything was about as far from okay as it could be.
They were stuck in the middle of the desert, in a wrecked plane, no idea where they were, unsure if help was coming, no idea where or why the pilot had gone, and to cap it all Dean was injured and immobile.
He rubbed a hand across his aching head as he watched Dean twitch in his sleep, a breathy moan of discomfort escaping his lips.
Sam frowned. No way he was going to lay this all on Dean. Dean had done his bit, he had pushed himself to the verge of insanity to keep them safe. Sam would help them this time, Sam would work something out, Sam would protect his brother.
It was his turn to do the worrying.
to be continued