They stop by the side of the road when Scott gets too tired to keep driving. Mike is already so tired that he'd been afraid he'd fall asleep for maybe half an hour now. It doesn't matter, though; it's not like they have anything to hurry for, but he can't help but want to keep going. He holds on as hard as he can and tries to keep his eyes open, hides his face in the back of Scott's jacket when the wind gets too cold to bear against his eyes and cheeks.
He does his best to help with the fire, but Scott is the one who finds most of the wood. His hands are a little numb with the cold. The world is a little numb with exhaustion. He stumbles, almost falls, a sensation as familiar as can be, but he's still around when Scott catches his arm to keep him from going down.
"All right?" Scott says. His voice is always mild, perfectly balanced. His eyes peering into Mike's face are merely curious, and gentle.
"I'm okay," Mike says. He nods his thanks and walks over to the pile of wood, drops his contributions, lets himself collapse to the ground. Still around to hit it, too, but he isn't planning to stay that way for long.
He watches Scott set fire to the pile, blinks at the warmth settling into his skin, unfreezing his nose, his ears. Rubs his hands together and hides them inside his sleeves.
"Don't hold your hands that close to the fire," Scott says. He glances at him, bemused, but Scott isn't looking back.
"My mom used to say that," Mike says. His mom or - maybe it was Richard. He was too young to remember for sure, but he pulls his hands back a little anyway.
Missing people is an odd thing. He's never experienced it before, not quite this way. His mom had been more a question than anything else, just one more detail in his world, the lack of her, the memory. Now she's like a dull ache, the pain you get in your side after running too hard or too long or the wrong way. He doesn't know if it's something he'd done that has made her this way. Maybe starting this was enough.
Richard is just longing and memory, hazy, vague. Like the memory of clouds above, the jacket he got when he was seven that was much too big, that was his until it got too small and they passed it to some kid two rooms over. It's the feeling of things you remember loving even if you don't remember why; for the life of him he can't remember why. He supposes there doesn't have to be a reason. No.
Scott is like a hole inside his head, though, like waking up not remembering hitting the ground, like a hand on your cheek and a chance at better things. He misses him even while he's preparing for sleep on the other side of the fire; for all the things Mike has never learned in his life, for all the things he's missed getting, he knows this.
"There's this place, back in Portland," Scott says. His voice is sleepy, but still distinct. "Bob told me about it. I've always wanted to go there."
"What kind of place?" he doesn't want to draw away from the fire, possibly not ever, but his head is suggesting it may implode if he doesn't lie down.
"Just..." there's the sound of a body shifting, a rock thrown away and bouncing twice before falling silent again. "A place - you can see the entire city from up there, he said."
"You can see the entire city from the roofs we sleep on," he says. Then amends, "Well, a good part."
"Views are important," Scott says. Mike can't tell for a moment if it's in any relation to what they have said before, if Scott is even talking to him. "If you know where you are, if you know how you got there - you can get anywhere then, Mike. All you need is knowing where you started and where you plan to end."
There's something odd in the sound of that, but then, this is Scott, and it doesn't quite surprise him.
He says, "What if you don't know where you started from?"
Scott is quiet for a moment. "It's all about knowing what you need to know, Mike," he says, in the end. "Try hard enough, and you'll always remember."
It's probably true, and so Mike doesn't argue. Forgetting is a way of life, but it doesn't mean that the holes and lacks in his memory are the right way to do it, the way that will get him where he wants to go. He doesn't know where he wants to end anyway; it doesn't matter.
"There's that road," he says, giving something back instead, a gift in payment. "That road we were on when the cop came by - I've been on that road before, you know. That road..."
"What?" Scott says. The fire cracks and burns.
"I don't think it ever ends," Mike says. "If you followed it, I think it'd lead you all around the world. No end in sight."
"We did follow it," Scott says, patiently. "That was how we got away from there. We didn't cross through the fields. At least not after I got you to wake up."
"I guess we went off it at some point," Mike says. It sounds wrong, but he's so tired.
"There's no road that can take you all around the world," Scott tells him. "They all stop, or go back on themselves, or become a different place. You've got to meet the ocean some time."
"I'd never been to the ocean," Mike says.
"Regardless," Scott says, "it's still there."
"I guess so," Mike says. "I don't, I don't know."
He can tell Scott would say something if he had it. He can't remember the last time they'd really disagreed on something, not outside of that other fire on their way to Idaho. It does make sense; he's too tired to figure it out, but he can see it if he closes his eyes. A road going all the way around, unbroken.
The fire is relaxing, easy. He has one of those edge-of-sleeping dreams, Scott right by his side instead of on the other side of the fire, his hand on Mike's hip, just laying there, warm and solid. He can feel Scott's body all the way down his side, unbroken, and he lays his head on his shoulder and falls deeper into sleep, not wondering at the unreality of it all.
It's Scott's voice that brings him back up again, closer than before, right by his ear.
"When I get to where I'm going to end up," Scott says, distantly, "I don't plan on being surprised."
Mike thinks of that road, the road between Portland and Idaho, its eyes and hair and long mouth. "No," he says. "Me neither."