by Samantha Winchester
Standard disclaimer: I adore them, but sadly don't own them.
Sometimes it's the only way to tell if you're still alive...
I can't see the scars that war has left on the earth from thirty three thousand feet.
Cruising at this altitude, the clouds far below me, everything is so peaceful, so perfect. Wheeling gently into the horizon, sunlight glinting lazily off my trailing wing as I turn. It's so blessedly quiet up here. Nobody yelling, nobody screaming, nobody dying. No orders to accept or refuse, no decisions to make.
Nothing but the clean, clear open sky, impossibly blue, stretching out in front of me all the way to eternity. If I could, I'd stay up here forever.
Something's not right here, a little voice somewhere inside me whispers. I frown, because I know that I know what it is...I just can't quite put my finger on it.
The instruments all look normal, no warning lights, nothing out of the ordinary. I try harder to think, to figure it out. And then it comes to me.
I don't know how I got here. I don't remember fuelling the plane, or calling in a flight plan, or even taking off. Come to think of it, I don't know where the hell I am or how long I've been up here. Could have been hours.
Except my fuel gauge still reads full.
And I'm flying the G1 in civilian clothes.
No, something inside me says, a different voice from the first. Forced calm, with a quietly frantic edge. Don't think about it. Don't try to understand, or you'll ruin everything. Just fly, and don't try to remember...
Remember? Remember what?
And then I see it, a flicker of movement catching the corner of my vision. The flash of strong sunlight off a steeply banking wing.
A red wing.
My heart seizes in my chest. Am I dead? Is that why I don't remember how I got here?
Follow me, Ken, my father's voice says. I swear I hear him in my head, not over my com. I push the stick forward in wordless obedience, and the G1 slips sideways, copying his trajectory perfectly.
We descend in a slow, sweeping arc. All the nights I lay awake in my bed, rehearsing what I would say to my father if I ever got the chance...but now I follow him down in absolute silence. Somehow all the questions I once had have deserted me.
I want to ask him how this is possible, if this is a dream. But I'm afraid. Afraid that if I put it into words, whatever this is will dissolve around me like a wall of water and I'll be...where?
I don't know where. I don't know what this is.
Am I dead?
Below us is a vast glacier, a solid sweep of stark white ending in jagged cliffs that overhang a dark, angry sea. My father brings his jet in for a landing and I overshoot him, banking the G1 to bring her back around for my own pass. As I turn on to final I see him climbing out of his cockpit, turning to watch me as I come in, wheels down, nose up, flaring right on target. It's a beautiful landing, light as a feather, hardly disturbing the thick blanket of snow. I imagine I see him smile.
I shut off the engines and swing down out of the cockpit, walk over to where he is standing waiting for me. It's cold, I realize, shivering a little at the stark, inhospitable, savage beauty of this place.
"Where are we?" I ask.
He shrugs. "I have no idea. You're the one who brought us here, Ken."
I stare at him, confused...but he is already moving, heading for the cliff edge, long legs eating up the distance. I hurry after him, falling into step beside him.
We pause a few feet from the edge. The ocean is storm-gray and choppy far below us, flecks of white cresting in the stiff offshore breeze. "Why?" I ask finally.
He looks at me, mouth quirking under the thin pencil moustache. His eyes are dark and serious. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that if you had it to do over, you'd do it differently, Ken. You are who you are. Stand by the decisions you've made, and don't look back."
"I was four years old," I grind out, the sudden hot flare of my anger feeling good in my belly. The wind picks up, I can hear it howl and whistle through the sawtoothed cliffs beneath us.
He nods calmly. "So you were. But because of your sacrifice, a lot of other four year olds kept their families. And there's still a world for them to grow up in."
" My sacrifice? You talk as if I had a choice!"
"Didn't you?" He smiles, very slightly, as though I should already know the answer.
I clench my fists at my sides. "You're talking in riddles."
He shakes his head. "It's your choice, Ken, don't you realize that yet? Your life, your death, even this place. All of it. You choose it all."
I stare at him, a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Are you trying to say that I'm dead?"
He laughs, a harsh rumbling sound that reminds me suddenly, painfully of Joe. "No, son. You're not dead."
"How do you know that?" I demand. "How can you be so sure?"
He looks at me for a long, long moment, as if he's studying my features, committing them to memory. "You look...so much like your mother."
It shocks me into silence. I just stare at him, the words stolen from me by the sudden, terrible sadness in his eyes.
Then he's turning, gesturing back the way we came. "Look," he says. "That's how I know."
I follow his gaze, looking across the glittering expanse of snow, back to where our jets sit near each other in companionable silence. "I...I don't understand."
"You're not dead, Ken. You're still leaving footprints."
I stare at the single line of boot tracks in the snow, and hot tears sting at the back of my eyes. When I look back again, my father is gone.