Sheer, utter terror. That’s what planes are—a manifestation of pure fear.
Dean doesn’t fly. He likes his feet planted firmly on the ground, preferably on the road in his beloved Impala. But it’s Sammy’s wedding, and Dean thinks he should make an effort for his baby brother, even if said baby brother was a flight away from him. So he swallows down the panic threatening to overwhelm him and moves forward, passing his ticket to the flight attendant.
He’s so anxious he doesn’t even notice the appreciative look she sends his way. Dean only realises this when he sinks into his seat, gripping the armrests tightly, and just manages to hold back a snort at that. Sammy will laugh, Dean thinks, and that’s what makes this plane ride so worth it.
He smiles awkwardly at the man sitting next to him—rich as hell, if his clothes are anything to go by—when he looks over, and Rich Guy offers him a comforting smile. “Not exactly a fan of planes, are you?” he asks.
Dean smiles bitterly, fingers tapping out a rapid beat that sounds far too much like his own heartbeat. “That’ll be an understatement.”
Rich Guy smiles again, amused. “It’s not that bad,” he says. “If you look at the statistics, you’ll find that planes rarely ever crash. Trust me, I’ve practically lived on a plane for the past decade.” Of course he had, that suit he wears just screams money. He’s probably a businessman or something, someone Dean shouldn’t even be talking to.
“Yeah?” Dean says, and shakes his head. “Well, good for you, buddy. I don’t know how you do it.” His fingers are moving to an even quicker rhythm than before, a bird’s flighty heartbeat, and the stranger falls silent, turning back to his book. Vonnegut, Dean notes with some surprise. At least this guy has good taste.
He doesn’t know how long they sit there in silence, but that peace is shattered when the plane starts moving. Dena lets out a small yelp at the sudden movement. He cringes at that embarrassing sound and shuts his eyes, the beat stuttering and falling out of rhythm.
A hand touches his arm and his eyes fly open, darting to the side to catch vaguely concerned eyes. Rich Guy just rests his hand on Dean’s arm, wide gaze piercing into him. “Hey,” he says quietly. “You need to breathe. Panicking isn’t going to help.”
Dean glares at him. “Dude, do you really think I’d be panicking if I had a choice?” he hisses through gritted teeth.
Rich Guy actually rolls his eyes at him. “I'm trying to help, all right? But I can’t do much if you refuse to let me.” His tone holds a hint of exasperation, and Dean finds himself succumbing before he knows it.
He smiles. “That’s better,” he says. Dean tries to smile back, but then his eyes dart to the window and—oh yeah, that was a really bad decision.
Rich Guy grips his arm a little tighter. His eyes turn sharper. “Focus,” he orders. “You’re hyperventilating.” Dean scowls at the command but grudgingly obliges, focusing on keeping his breathing even. But then the plane jolts and air whooshes out of him in a squeak. His breathing gets faster, shallower, harsher, and he can’t breathe, can’t think, because everything is flipping in front of him and he can’t move—
The fingers on Dean’s arm tighten to the point of pain. Rich Guy spins him around to face him. “I’m only going to say this once,” he says bluntly. “I need you to breathe normally.”
But Dean doesn’t hear him because his brain’s finally caught up and realised just how high up in the air they are and oh God, what if something happens and they start falling and they crash and he doesn't make it to Sam's wedding? He promised him that he'd be there, he won't miss it for anything in the world, he needs to be there and—
"Hey!" The word is said in a low hiss that snaps him back to reality. Dean's eyes dart around, wide and panicked, and Rich Guy shakes his arm a little. When he's got Dean's attention again, he starts talking. "Look, I need you to think of something that keeps you calm, all right? Anything, really, just so long as you don't panic."
Dean stares at him, then his eyes flick down to Vonnegut, and the memory of his mother lending him his first Vonnegut book comes to mind immediately. Next comes the memory of him getting a better grade than Sam for the first time in his life on an assignment on Vonnegut, and if he weren't on a plane right now, he'd be smiling. As such, his breathing slows and the tension in his frame lessens. It's still there, but it's a lot less than before.
Rich Guy slowly releases him, eyes still focused on Dean. “Better?” he asks carefully.
Dean nods slowly. “Think so.” His voice is quiet and ashamed.
Rich Guy rolls his eyes again. “Calm down. That little panic attack you had there? You have nothing on my brother when he hears a Celine Dion song,” he says, and drops his volume conspiratorially. “He starts wailing.”
Despite himself, Dean laughs. It’s a sound that surprises him because he didn’t think he could actually laugh on a plane, of all things. Rich Guy smiles triumphantly, and the smug look on his face makes Dean laugh even harder.
Satisfied, Rich Guy starts to retreat into his Vonnegut again, but Dean catches his arm, smile falling from his face quicker than it’d got there. He looks up at Dean, confused.
Dean swallows and flushes red. “Could ... could you, um ...?”
“Talk to you until the plane lands?” Rich Guy suggests, that amused expression back again. Dean nods his head emphatically and he laughs.
“All right.” He sets his book down and turns to Dean, who is watching him expectantly. “So there was this time my brother played a prank on his professor.”
“Did he get scolded?” Dean interrupts, eager.
Rich Guy raises an eyebrow. Dean drops his gaze and twists his fingers in his shirt, staring down at the armrest. Rich Guy laughs and Dean’s head snaps back up, and he gives him a confused look. “Yes, he did,” Rich Guy says, and continues.
They spend the rest of the flight with him regaling Dean with stories about his five brothers—“Yes, I know I have a big family, don’t ask.”—and Dean telling him about Sammy. He’s just finished explaining the whole reason he was on a flight in the first place when the plane finally lands on sweet, sweet ground.
Rich Guy snickers at Dean’s stunned and awed face. “You’re welcome, by the way,” he says dryly, starting to get out of his seat to get his luggage. Dean beams up at him. He knows he must be bouncing like a little kid high on candy, but he can’t bring himself to care.
His suppressed “Thanks, man.” has Rich Guy smiling at him again, and Dean jumps out of his seat to grab his luggage too.
Sammy’s going to be so shocked when he finds out about this.