With Dean’s insistence that he’d had enough sleep, they packed up their supplies and hit the road. Sam drowsed in the passenger seat. Cool night air came through the window, blowing through his hair as they descended the Sierras. He woke from green-tinged dreams whenever Dean changed tapes, the lack of the familiar noise rousing him.
“She was a priestess,” he said groggily at four in the morning, his eyes still closed, when Dean was digging through his box of tapes. “She wanted me to… ”
Sam dozed off again, falling back into the dream. He held powerful words in his mind, words that could break and reshape the world. He gathered up his strength and spoke a single word, and the entire world changed.
Water pooled around his bare legs. Shadows formed behind him, ready to follow wherever he might lead. Following the moon's broken reflection, he walked into the sea until the waves closed over his head and a woman's arms pulled him down.
Her mouth was cold on his, the last lights of civilization blinking out as they sank into the abyss, tangled together beneath the continental shelf with a thousand other creatures he had no name for.
Dean's voice. Dean's mouth on his. Dean sitting up in bed and drawing Sam by candlelight, smiling like he'd won the lottery.
"Sam, wake up."
Sam gasped awake. The last image clung to him, made him flushed and ashamed, and he looked out the window for a few seconds so that he didn’t have to look at Dean.
He ran a hand through his hair and breathed out a shaky breath. There had been other dreams, cold ones, and he clawed past the image of Dean to get to them.
“What is it?” he asked, mouth dry.
Morning. The air was thin, so they'd yet to clear the mountains. A beefy cook in an apron flipped the OPEN sign on a truck stop cafe, and cars topped with ski equipment milled about. Dean dragged Sam into a booth and slid a menu his way. "After we eat here I'm tapping out for a few hours, you good to drive?"
Sam cleared his throat and flipped open the menu. “Yeah, once I get some coffee in me I’ll be fine.” The mundane setting, just another variation of the countless truck stops they’d visited for decades, anchored him firmly in the real world and cleared away the mist in his head. “You think they’ve got oatmeal?” he asked.
They didn’t. He settled for ordering the same thing as Dean, and he chewed in silence, his back and chest itching where the ink was healing into his skin.
Midway through the meal a truck pulled in pouring black smoke from the hood. When no one jumped to help, Dean volunteered and ten minutes later was on his back under the carriage.
The trucker shuffled on his feet nervously? "You find it?"
Dean scooted out, cotton undershirt splotched from dirt and brake oil. "You gotta watch your clutch going up those hills man, you nearly cooked this one. Wait a coupla hours and then keep it in low gears the rest of the way."
Shaking hands, Dean turned back to the cafe where Sam still sat within, wiping his hands on his ass until he was all over marked with fingerprints, the white sweat-soaked shirt clinging to him in places. He slid into his seat and bit his toast and licked butter off his filthy blackened fingers. "I'm ready when you are."
“You’re disgusting,” Sam said with a laugh. “Go ahead and finish.”
Dean bit into his toast again and Sam watched him eat big, hearty bites of diner food. His muscular forearms were sweaty and dirty, his drying t-shirt showing pale tan shadows of skin where it still clung to him. There was a smudge of grease in the stubble of his strong jaw. A phrase came to Sam: virile manifestation of the divine. Dean had shrugged it off angrily when that hippy waiter in Lilydale had said it and Sam had laughed, but it kept coming back to him as Dean finished his meal and stood, still crunching on his bacon as he laid down the money for the check.
“Let’s hit the road,” he said, and Sam took the wheel.
Led Zeppelin played as they rolled out of the mountains and into the rugged country that preceded the flatlands, and Dean snored in the passenger seat, his head pillowed against his jacket. After a few hours had passed, Dean stirred and said, “Next rest stop. Gotta take a leak.”
“Okay,” Sam said, and a few dozen miles later he pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of a squat brick building.