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Dean bites down on his lower lip until he can taste the bitter salt of his own blood flood his mouth. It makes him feel a little better. He wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t even be here if Sam hadn’t called him.

Hey man, I need you in Boston, Sam had said. Immediately. And Dean had told him he’d be there day after tomorrow, would leave right away from his motel room outside of Denver and would drive all night and get to Boston by Wednesday morning. And Sam had said No, I need you now. Dean had almost hung up on him, said whatever and gone back to sleep or at least gotten on the road toward Boston ignoring Sam’s calls. But then Sam had said please, Dean, I really need you here, and there was something in his voice that had reminded Dean of the way Sam used to be, the way he had been before whatever changed on his trip to Hell and back.

He tried calling for Castiel, decided that he could handle a few days of constipation in exchange for getting to Boston in an instant, but the angel didn’t answer. So Dean took a deep breath, left the motel, and headed for the airport. As he bought a ticket for the soonest flight from Denver to Boston, all Dean could think was that Sam better be ready to drive him back to Colorado when they were done in Massachusetts, because there was no way he was getting another plane back to pick up his car.

There’s a rumble as the plane begins to move across the tarmac. Dean tries to take a deep breath but only manages about fifteen shallow ones, until he’s sweating and panting and pressing half-moon marks into his palms with his fingernails. He’s glad there’s no one in the seat next to him, no one in his row even. Not many people at all on the red eye flight. The plane leaves the pavement and Dean digs in harder, gouging into his hands until the half-moons turn red and drip onto the armrests. Then he vomits into the barf bag on his lap. His mouth burns with bile and the vomit stings his fat, split lower lip. It’s almost calming.

“Sir, are you okay?” a flight attendant asks as she walks by. Dean hands her his barf bag and accepts a new one and a cup of ice water.

“Peachy,” he says, trying to smile through a mouthful of blood and vomit. The flight attendant smiles back, looking sickened, and beats a hasty retreat. Dean leans back and rests his head against the seat. His calmness is short-lived, however; as the plane reaches it’s highest altitude, it hits turbulence and Dean finds himself clinging to the armrests and feeling nauseous again. He tries to stop himself from hyperventilating, but as his breaths come quicker and more uneven, he begins to feel lightheaded.

In an effort to stay grounded (figuratively, of course, much as he wishes it could be literal), Dean shoves as much of his fist into his mouth as he can and bites down hard. It’s something he used to do as a kid, when he got in an argument with his father, but back then it had been some sort of convoluted act of defiance. Here, the pain sooths him, takes his mind off the way the plane bounces and jerks like a marionette operated by an insane puppet master.

One of his teeth wiggles slightly as Dean forces it against his knuckle and Dean pulls his hand away from his mouth. Then he reaches two fingers back inside to tug at it experimentally. It rocks back and forth as he presses it on each side. Probably from that brawl with the werewolf in Denver, Dean thinks; the thing clocked him hard in the jaw before he could get the silver in it. He jerks at the tooth a bit harder and finds it separating from his gums with a slick, wet, squelching sound. He rolls it in his hand for a moment and then opens his fist to look at it, white and red in his palm. Dean drops the tooth in his glass of ice water and distracts himself from the still turbulent flight by watching the way the blood blooms out in delicate patterns across the water.

When the blood that was on the tooth has dissipated, leaving a barely noticeable pink tint in the water, Dean feels around his mouth discreetly until he finds another tooth that he can yank out with too much difficulty. It joins the other in the cup and the water becomes a shade darker as the tooth drops to the bottom and slowly loses its red coating.

Three more teeth until even that isn’t enough to keep Dean’s mind off the fact that he is a couple thousand feet from the surface of the Earth. He panics, breathing hard, clawing with ragged nails at the seat, his shirt, and finally his arms. This works, the first rough line he makes across his skin sending a sharp spark of pain through him, far more present than the plane and the nothingness surrounding it. He scrapes at his skin, peeling off the top layer in a thin even line along his left forearm. Blood wells up in a long, smooth rectangle. He prods at it until it dribbles over the other layers of skin and slides down his arm, drips onto his jeans. Slowly, methodically, he peels away another strip, and another.

There’s still an hour and a half left of the flight when he starts on the other arm. Then he lifts the hem of his t-shirt to start in on his stomach. Then his face. He scrapes at his scalp, pulling out hair at the root. He bends a finger back until it cracks and breaks, tears at his eyes until long dark lashes come out in clumps between his pinched fingers.

He feels calm, too calm, relaxed and soft and unmoving. Like he’s sleeping, like he’s dead.

Dean doesn’t fear flying anymore, but he’s beginning to fear himself.

**

At the airport, Sam sits in an uncomfortable chair with two cups of coffee. Dean’s flight arrives, and its passengers walk into the terminal, but none of them are Dean. He waits for two hours and then gives up, figuring that his brother probably chickened out and didn’t get on the plane after all.

Dean always was scared of flying, and nothing ever seemed to calm him down.