Rating: T (only for a little language)
Word Count or Media: 3,500
Author's Notes: There are a handful of references in this story which are canon compliant, but overall the fic should be read on the basis that it does not adhere strictly to canon.
Original Prompt: Sam and Dean used to have a bucket list. Now Dean's just glad they're both alive, but there's one thing on Sam's list he would like to make sure gets crossed off, what is it he wants to help Sam with? May be serious or humorous or both.
Most people, at some point in their lives, create a bucket list.
Some want to climb Kilimanjaro or swim with dolphins, others want to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane, write a novel or even run a marathon. Most of them don’t get anywhere close to doing those things, but everyone knows it’s nice to have a dream.
Hunters, however, aren’t ‘most’ people. Usually, their only dream is to not kick the bucket. That was the most any hunter could hope for.
However, that didn’t stop a very young Sam and Dean Winchester, one murky evening in an even murkier bar somewhere in Boulder, Colorado, way back when Dean was only just legally allowed to drink, and Sam was suddenly tall enough to look like he was, talking all evening about their wishes and dreams. Dean had even got as far as writing them down on the back of a menu.
Sam wanted to be a lawyer, and to travel the world before settling down with his perfect nuclear family, complete with dog. He wanted to go to see a Shakespeare play in Stratford upon Avon, see the Grand Canyon from the air, learn to play a musical instrument – even Sam, with his high aspirations, knew that his singing voice was beyond redemption - and be fluent in a foreign language. There was other stuff as well; places Dean had never heard of before (and sure as hell didn’t know how to spell), concerts, museums, art galleries, some dude called David in Florence, and a whole load of high-brow books that Dean just gave up listing.
Dean’s list was far more modest. He really wanted to go to Hawaii, and for some reason, he would have loved to go to Italy. He didn’t know why exactly, it just seemed like a cool country with awesome heritage, insanely delicious food, and strong, passionate people. What Dean did know was that with his flying issues, he had exactly zero chance of getting to either of those places, so he didn’t even know why he was writing them down. Vegas, on the other hand; now that was on the same landmass so it was a definite possibility, and went down on the bucket list. The Grand Canyon too, considering it was just a big-ass crack in the ground, had been a long-held fascination for Dean. He’d thrown in the wish of seeing a couple of favourite bands play the Hollywood Bowl, just so that his list didn’t look too paltry next to Sam’s, and at the end of the evening, the menu had been tucked away in the Impala’s glove box for future reference.
Six months later, Sam had upped sticks and headed off to Stanford to take his first steps on the path to becoming Sam the lawyer. In doing so, he left Dean behind, equal parts proud and heartbroken. From that day, Dean’s dreams died, one by one, as surely as if the words had simply slipped off the page. From that day on his only wish was to stay alive, to continue the fight. From that day on he was a pure hunter.
Fifteen years passed, and a lot of water flowed under the bridge. Sam came back into Dean’s life after their four-year estrangement, and although Dean was beyond happy to welcome his brother back into the fold, he would have given every atom of his being for it to have happened some other way where a beautiful, innocent young woman didn’t have to die, and Sam didn’t have to be traumatised and broken.
But despite this, the years saw their bond strengthen and grow through all the tumult and tragedy of their lives, until they found themselves here and now; together, alive, and playing house in the bunker. As content and settled as they had ever been.
And it was one spring day in the here and now that found Dean in the bunker, trying to fix a flickering headlamp on the Impala.
He was rummaging around in the void behind and under her dash, emptying out the glovebox for the first time in forever to see if there was an easier way to access the wiring through that route. As he worked, his fingers fell upon a folded piece of paper, wadded into a crevice at the back of the glovebox.
Pulling it clear of the partially melted Life Saver that held it glued in place, Dean took the crumpled, age-yellowed page out and unfolded it.
Dean could see it was a menu from some or other diner. The text was faded by time, and blurred by red Life Saver stains, but Dean wasn’t interested in that; he was interested in the writing on the back of the page. Written in blue ballpoint pen in his own blocky hand, Dean read the lists with a mixture of fascination, and rueful amusement.
It was their bucket lists. He felt his eyes become suspiciously moist when he read Sam’s wish to become a lawyer, and by the time he got to the bottom of the list, he couldn’t help feeling slightly hollow. It was a list of unborn dreams and missed opportunities.
Fucking hunting. Fucking Winchester luck.
He went to screw the page up, and drop it in the trash where it belonged, but something stayed his hand. He scanned it again.
Stratford-upon-Avon, Hawaii, Italy … yeah, whatever; they might as well be on the moon. Vegas – definitely possible, but Sam would hate every second of it. Then there was the Grand Canyon …it was the one thing that appeared on both their lists; a shared wish.
Dean stared at the words as if focussing upon them might make them reality.
Financially the brothers weren’t in a bad place at the moment. Dean had just got two new credit cards approved, and he’d been through a bit of a purple patch with his hustling recently. They’d even received payment for a job the previous week.
It seemed that old buzzard who owned the mansion with the poltergeist problem had had a sweet spot for Sam – apparently old ladies always did (much to Sam’s chagrin); but Dean wasn’t above throwing his baby brother under the bus on occasion when a) it meant that a couple of hundred bucks might come their way and b) it was funny.
He trawled the internet for helicopter tours over the Grand Canyon, after all, Sam had been explicit in saying he wanted to see it from the air and was pleasantly surprised by the prices.
They could do this. Dean’s heart began to race in excitement; they could really do this.
It was a fair way away, but hell, they’d driven 1,000 miles for an Ozzy Show before, 2 days for a Jayhawks game. This was way more special than either of those.
Dean would book a helicopter trip for Sam, and of course, he’d drive to the place, so he’d get to see it too, from ground level.
He scraped his hand through his hair and pondered. He’d have to sell it to Sam. Sam would bitch and moan and say they didn’t have money to spend on stuff like that, but Dean didn’t care. You don’t put a price on ticking a box on your brother’s bucket list.
His mind made up, Dean typed the details of his (actually, Dan Weismuller’s) credit card into the screen, and took a deep breath as he clicked the submit payment button.
He smiled as he stared at the screen. “Sammy,” he murmured to himself, “you’re going to see the Grand Canyon!”
“You did what?”
“I bought you a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon, Sammy. Next week.”
“But … I … I … uh …”
“It’s customary to say thank you at times like this Sam.”
Sam shook his head, blinking in an attempt to clear his thoughts.
“Yeah, sorry, yes – I mean, thank you … but, what’s brought this on?”
Dean grinned. “You always wanted to see the Grand Canyon - from the air - didn’t you?”
“Yes … I guess I … how did you know that?”
“I found those crappy old bucket lists we wrote years ago, all screwed up in the back of the Impala’s glove box,” Dean explained; “It’s somewhere we both wanted to go, even back then, and although neither of us have exactly done well on our bucket list, this is something we CAN do. So, you’ve got a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, and I’ll drive us there, so I’ll get to see it from the comfort of a tourist café, hopefully with a beer and a Grand Canyon flavoured pie!”
Sam was amazed how, at times like this, his near forty-year old brother had the ability to project the sparkle-eyed glee of an excited ten-year-old.
“But Dean, I mean, it’s a great thought, I really appreciate it; but we don’t have the funds for something like this, do we?
… and there it was.
Dean rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “I’ve got two brand new credit cards, and I had a couple of real good nights at the pool table down at the Golden Fleece last week, plus we got a bit of a bonus last week thanks to your girlfriend and her poltergeist.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “She’s not my freaking girlfriend. She’s sixty-seven!” If Dean wasn’t being quite so awesome right at this moment, Sam would have wanted to wipe that annoying grin right off his smug face.
Dean’s grin faltered and he shrugged; “whatever, I just think it’s time to treat ourselves. We deserve a treat Sam, don’t we? Who cares if it’s not practical? When do we ever kick back, say ‘screw the world’, and just give ourselves a pat on the back?”
Sam nodded silently as if to acknowledge Dean’s point.
“Well, this is it,” Dean exclaimed; “this is me saying ‘screw the world’ and treating me and my baby brother to a trip we both deserve.”
Sam’s face softened with a smile; “Yeah Dean, thanks. It’s the most amazing gift ever.”
“And besides,” Dean added, his eyes twinkling with mischief; “it’s got to be worth getting felt up by Cruella DeVille for!!”
The 900-mile drive toward the Grand Canyon took a whole day, and to Sam’s equal parts amazement and amusement, Dean had taken the unprecedented step of planning ahead and booking them into a budget motel on the outskirts of Flagstaff so that they could get some rest after their epic drive and arrive at the tourist village on the canyon’s south rim, fresh and ready for their adventure.
With frequent stops for coffee and snacks, the brothers were high on sugar and giddy with excitement by the time the Impala rolled smoothly into the parking lot of the Coconino Sands Motel, at close to midnight. Dean’s bright idea of getting a good night’s rest and waking up refreshed the following day was receding further into the realms of fantasy with every moment that passed. Two five-year-olds on Christmas Eve would have had more chance of a good night’s sleep.
But, it made a pleasant change for the Winchesters to have a sleepless night for a good reason, so they weren’t about to start complaining anytime soon
The relentless Arizona sun was climbing toward its soul-sapping zenith by the time the Winchesters had completed the short drive from Flagstaff. They both wore beaming smiles that rivalled the Sun’s blinding brilliance as they were joined by a smartly-efficient tour guide.
He held out a hand to his clients. “Mr Weismuller, and … Mr Weismuller?
He received two warm handshakes in return. “That’s right,” Dean replied, “I booked the helicopter tour for this afternoon, I’m treating my brother, Sam, ‘cause … well, ‘cause he deserves a treat.” Dean made sure to emphasise the word, brother, and Sam smiled in silent amusement as he did.
“Okay,” the guide replied; “that’s fantastic, you’ve got a great brother there!”
Sam smiled in return, “yeah, sure do.”
“So, my name’s Josh and I’m your pilot for today’s trip,” the Guide explained amiably, glancing back and forth between the Winchesters as he spoke. “You’re in for a treat, I tell you. I fly this tour twice every day, have done for four years, and I’ll never get sick of seeing the views. Never!”
“That’s great,” Dean grinned; “only the best for my bro’.” He paused for a moment, looking around his surroundings. “Now is there a bar or a diner with good views that I can pitch up in while you and Sammy do your thing?”
Josh looked slightly confused.
“You’re not coming out with us?”
Dean huffed a mirthless laugh; “hell no,” he replied, shaking his head for extra emphasis; “anyway, I only bought one ticket – for Sam.”
“Actually,” Josh replied; “the ticket you bought entitles you to two people on the tour. It’s in the terms and conditions on the back of the ticket, look here, see?”
Dean tried to ignore Sam’s head turning eagerly toward him; his stomach clenched as he realised what was coming.
“Do I look like a ‘smallprint’ kinda guy?” He grunted between clenched teeth. He could feel the sweat breaking out on his forehead, and knew it was nothing to do with the heat of the day.
“No, you’re fine,” he added, “take Sam up, have a great time. I’ll just go grab a coffee.”
“Dean…” as he turned to walk away, his progress was stopped by Sam, grabbing his wrist.
“Dean, why not?” Sam asked quietly, leading Dean a few steps away from their bemused pilot. “I get that you’re nervous, but this is a once in a lifetime thing. We’ve come all this way and look … we’re at the Grand freaking Canyon. You did that Dean, you did this for me, and there’s only one thing that will make this whole experience better, and that’s being able to share it with you.”
“Sam, please …” Dean pleaded, “don’t …”
But suddenly the puppy eyes were out in full force and Dean was a lost cause.
Sam wasn’t the only one to notice all the colour draining from Dean’s face when they stepped out of the tour company’s Jeep and onto the helipad.
“That?” Dean whispered, stumbling to a halt.
“That’s it,” Josh replied proudly, “panoramic views all round, and just the two of you to enjoy it.”
“It’s not a helicopter, it’s a goddamn bubble.”
“Honestly Dean,” Josh explained; “I can assure you there is absolutely no need for you to worry. I am the most experienced pilot on the fleet with over 3,000 flying hours, over half of which are in this particular aircraft, and all of our helicopters are maintained to and above Federal Aviation Administration standards. I can show you the certification if it’ll help.”
“No, you’re good,” Sam smiled at Josh, while taking Dean by the sleeve and leading him to one side.
Dean shook his head. “No,” he snapped.
Sam sighed; “I’m not going to force you Dean, because that’s not fair, but this is an opportunity that probably won’t ever come again, so if you’re gonna back out, I want you to think long and hard about it.”
“If I back out, you’re gonna make me regret it for the rest of our lives, aren’t you?” Dean groaned.
“Oh yes,” Sam nodded in agreement, “I might tweet it to everyone we know. And hire a billboard…”
“Bitch,” Dean sighed.
“Jerk,” Sam replied, throwing an arm over Dean’s shoulder, and leading him toward the waiting aircraft.
Dean sat in the tiny aircraft, his eyes tightly closed, fingers clenched on either side of his seat, ignoring the sympathetic looks that Sam was shooting him.
“Dean how can you breathe with your seatbelt done up that tightly?”
“M’good,” he gasped breathlessly, his words barely audible above the drone of the motor driving the rotor blades above his head, Sam reached out to pat Dean’s arm.
“Can you reach my hip-flask from there?”
Their exchange was interrupted by Josh’s voice in their headsets. “Okay guys, get your cameras ready, we’re going up.”
Sam wasn’t sure if Josh could hear Dean’s chant of ‘ohfuckohfuckohfuck’ back through the headsets, but if he did, he was being polite enough to ignore it.
Sam was spellbound.
The little helicopter swooped and wheeled as free as an eagle over the landscape. He marvelled at the canyon, a massive gash incised in the russet and copper earth of the Arizona desert, decorated with myriad tributaries, mighty stacks of rock, soaring cliffs, and tumbling waterfalls. In the midst of all this, the tiny dot of the helicopter’s shadow tracked them slowly across the ground, and Sam was mesmerised, watching its journey.
Such beauty could not have been more real if it had been carved by the hand of an artist. This was a lifetime’s wish, and one that had been worth waiting for. He felt his heart swell with wonder at this stunning vista and also with gratitude to the man beside him, burrowed down into his seat with his eyes tightly closed.
“Dean?” Sam prompted, “c’mon man, you gotta open your eyes, this is spectacular.”
“M’okay,” Dean gasped.
“No you’re not,” Sam prompted, and reached out to grasp Dean’s nearest wrist. “C’mon, I’ve gotcha, open your eyes – you won’t regret it.”
He saw Dean’s brow momentarily furrow, then his eyes, first one and then the second, opened blearily.
“Holy shit,” Dean squawked, making a grab for Sam’s jacket, his hammering heart driving the cadence of his breathing into harsh gasps.
“I can’t look out of there,” Dean murmured into Sam’s shoulder; “all this glass, it’s like I’m freefalling, there’s nothing to hide behind.”
“Dean trust me, you won’t wanna hide from this. It’s just … incredible.”
Reluctantly Dean opened his eyes again, and Sam felt his grip tighten around his wrist. “Look Dean, it’s so freaking awesome, I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Dean plastered himself back into his seat, leaning into Sam’s solid presence, and allowed his eyes to scan the horizons. Wiping a sleeve over his sweat-slicked brow, he held his breath as the helicopter banked and carried them over a red dreamscape of pyramidic stacks, their burnished surfaces infused with layers of green and gold and standing out in stark relief against a diamond bright cobalt blue sky.
Threading its way through the landscape, the river, a serpentine ribbon of ice blue silk coiled lazily through the canyon a dizzying distance beneath them, and Dean found himself transfixed.
Every atom of his being screamed at him to tear himself away from the astonishing panorama around and beneath him. To hunker down and hide in the smallest space he could find until this ordeal was over, but the reassurance of Sam’s calming nearness stopped him.
He wanted to just stare and stare and stare, to soak up the sheer overwhelming beauty of this place until he couldn’t soak up any more. In all his life of darkness and fear and horror, he had never imagined that anything could be this special.
And that he was sharing this moment with Sam made it more special than would have ever thought possible.
He would forever deny all knowledge that Sam was holding his hand.
Later that evening, back at the Coconino Sands, the Winchesters were sharing a beer and a burger in the motel’s pleasant little diner. Both of them were steadfastly not mentioning the fingertip-sized bruises that Dean’s nails had squeezed relentlessly into Sam’s wrist.
“Thanks Dean, that was amazing, just amazing.”
Dean took a long draft of Corona; “good, glad you enjoyed it.”
“What about you?” Sam asked; “did you enjoy it? You’re not sore that I convinced you to join me?”
Dean smiled wryly, “nah, it was awesome, I’m glad you talked me into going; it was pretty epic.”
Sam nodded. “Amazing. Just, just …”
“Amazing?” Dean teased.
Sam threw a French fry at his forehead.
“But seriously, Dean, thank you. I never dreamed I’d tick off one thing from that stupid bucket list, and now I have. In fact, I’ve ticked off two things…”
“Really?” Dean mumbled through a mouthful of chewed burger.
“Yeah, there was something else I always wanted to do, but I never told you because you’d think it’s stupid, so it’s not written down.”
“What then?” Dean enquired curiously.
“You won’t laugh?”
“I can’t promise …”
“Well, you’ve looked out for me and taken care of me for my entire life. I’ve always wanted, just for once, to be in a position to be able to take care of you…”
He sat back and grinned as Dean blushed deeply behind his beer bottle and muttered something about the ‘freakin’ menopause’.