Dreaming, Castiel finds, is like floating.
It’s different than flying, which is being in one place and then being in another with a thought. Flying has purpose, direction, and a clearly defined goal. There’s no travel time. It just is.
Unlike flying, dreaming takes very little effort. Sometimes, Castiel is in the backseat of the Impala, attentive to the music Dean has playing and to the way both brothers move to its beat. He takes a moment to pick apart the notes of the song and the music and in the next, his head is falling backward, filling with images and sounds.
Often, the dreams are abstract forms of memories. There are so many that it’s difficult to keep track. He remembers Balthazar standing beside him, but his armor had only ever been stained on the front lines of war and did not belong in the dry dunes of the Egyptian desert. He remembers this building and that face, how this mixture of flowers and oil smelled when boiled, and the way Michael sounded when he whispered — sweet and plain — into the ear of the first prophet. All of them plucked from thousands of years of hoarding and pieced together to make something that is not altogether whole.
Little things from his environment seep into his dreams. A record spins on a player and Metallica pours from its speaker. He’ll pass a woman with Dean’s leather jacket slung across the back of her chair. He smells burgers and fries even when none are visible.
Sometimes, when the Impala starts down a sudden, steep decline, Castiel dreams of the earth dropping out from under him. He falls and falls and falls into the darkness below him and the roar of her engine turns into the scream of a demon that Castiel cannot see or sense or fight. For all that Castiel spreads his wings, he can only fall faster and faster until he starts thinking that maybe Hell will open its gaping maw beneath him, that it will swallow him down and trap him. The darkness burns into color around him — like fire and blood, red melting into orange melting into bright spots of yellow and white — and a cold leeches the heat from the side of his face.
Lucifer, he thinks with a jolt and wakes to the periodic flash of white highway streetlights and the hard press of his face the window, chilled by the night air.
His sudden movement draws attention — a curious glance from Dean, but nothing more. Castiel supposes that dreams of this nature are common and the fearful hammering of one’s heart, only typical. He doesn’t feel rejuvenated at all, but after such a fierce reminder of their ultimate destination, continuing to sleep is impossible.
“You okay, Cas?” Dean asks and meets Castiel’s gaze in the rear-view mirror. “Y’look spooked.”
Sam turns and his expression changes from curiosity to pensive sympathy. “Nightmare?”
Music softly fills the silence, speaking for the three of them when nothing else need be said. The Winchesters have always found themselves on the open road. Even when it did not bring them happiness, they have always considered their family to be this: each other, this car, and the long stretch of highway cutting through the night. Everything else — their fears, their deepest desires, their happiest moments — is shunted toward the subconscious, the place of dreams.
This, Castiel has come to understand and also that he has somehow become a part of it. Had his dream and Sam’s inquiry come a year ago, he might answer truthfully. (Yes, Sam. I dreamed that I fell from Heaven and burned in Hell alongside the angel that wishes to make you his vessel.) Instead, he takes his cue from the brothers’ history: evasion.
“I’m fine,” he tells them. “It was nothing.”