Sam’s kneeling in a wash. Under a sky so vast it stills him; purple cathedral clouds, pre-dusk, high-desert mesaboard. Dean would call to him but it’s a big distance- miles, decades maybe-between his tongue and his brother. The sucked-out air, alkali, tightens at the tonsils.
Sam is praying.
When Sam unfolds, rises, the light breaks on his bones, his face washed plain, unhaloed. Dry wind spindrifts, makes him hair and eddies. The desert’s gone now; there are woodframes, a trough, an old hitching post; wind-weathered whiskey-sign. Might be Texas, or Cold Oak. Might be a place to stand, or fade.
Sam walks towards, high-noon.
Dean wakes up, blinks, bed-cupped, at Bunker walls.
That I could be saved.
It burns hot in the presence of God, Cas said, all those years ago, took from Dean his faith—or what held it, if things hold. You don’t, Cas said, believe you deserve, anything is what he meant, a life, a damn prayer, even to wear this childish worship, this fetish.
I don’t, Dean said, and Sam said, believe. Tokens slip from your fingers, drop into drink before you even know their worth.
I don’t burn hot, Dean muttered, near-drunk, somewhere in Wyoming.
What’s wrong with you, Sam said, felt his forehead or some shit.
It was evening. There was a dry wind.
Something out there to kill.
That I could be saved, Sam said. Back when he first knew about it, his own dark, how much it was his.
It’s not God, Dean told him, ages later, it was a fever-dream. You’ve had those before; I oughtta know.
Baby kept them close, made them bedtime-reverent, filtered their breath.
Prayer’s not far off from that, is what Sam might’ve said, before sleep; he burnt out dark with fire, from his own veins, kept the rest, hoarded it maybe, until the world wanted it.
Then he knelt, brave knight or something, said, I have to go back.
The Bunker sings like freakin’ angels, if they sang. Breakfast dishes become dinner, become dusk; long light, fingered face.
Not that you’re listening, you bastard, Dean says. I know it wasn’t you.
(I need some help, he said, all those years ago, while Sammy poisoned and panicked kicked at the door, screamed to be let out.
I need some help.)
Which father were you praying to, in all that salvage.
He breaks a plate, more than one. Just breaks.
True believers wait until normal hours, Dean. Is maybe what Cas says, spell-healed.
Anyone with ears is not the way you do it. Prayers are ear-marked, for time and place and person, or well, being. You don’t pray to monsters, do you.
You don’t pray to a god that did all this, is what Dean says. You don’t go hey, lion-face, or hey, six-wings; you don’t yell hey, Thursday, into the wind—
(Something he heard Crowley say once. And something about shepherds, and murderers.)
Cas touches him, once, breastbone vicinity.
You do, Cas says, don't you.
Dean, your heart, Cas says, Bunker quiet around them, Sam’s bed still strewn with angel-debris, popcorn and god, little pieces of. I can’t really fix that but-
Well, yeah, is what Dean says.
It’s evening in Lebanon, the swallows home to roost. An angel has been here; a weather-eye of grace.
Dean walks along the road, flashlight-swinging, calling.
Sammy? Sam. Don’t make me.
I had a dream, Sammy. You were--
This is a dream, isn’t it.
Don’t make me.
A rustle, dry in the throat.
Have you ever done the Father forgive me.
Was a time when it was enough, fold his hands between a pair of breasts, wake up to warmth.
Her eyes reminded him: darkness, home; darkness, peace. This is what you can have, comfort, peace, mother and home, a djinn’s dream, a white house, a white fence, a mother and child, all the madonnas, all the lawn ornaments, all the early dusks, all the Kansases.
You got what you wanted, Cas told him once.
It wasn’t true.
He drove along a black road once (Axis Mundi, Cas said), and was desperate.
Prayer? is what Sam said, and they drove.
Darkness: you could kneel in it, to it, to her, but it’s not advisable.
You could pray to Lucifer, light-bringer: not advisable either.
Darkness cast him out, away from her. A little ways down the road, there was a sign.
He followed it back to the main. He followed it all the way home.
Muscled Baby into her space (his brother their bodies folded in those seats, bent to their bodies like beds; if I lay me down to, all the crap that might have been) and stumbled inside, still suited.
This is bullshit:
God, if you’re, well, you don’t listen but … your sister don’t pray, she angles for attention like well, an annoying kid sister; I should know.
Where in the hell are you?
It’s night again, or the verge of it.
There’s not enough action, he tells Cas.
You just talk, Cas says, you’ve done it before.
I'm not good at, Dean says--
they’re pounding in fenceposts. Or no, they’re washing dishes, they’re wading through lore, but there’s the ranch again, the frontier of his dreams. Sun’s going down and the cows called home-
You'd be surprised, says Cas.
It’s a wash. No answer at all.
She meets him in his dreams, Amara, grown girl, says come,
I’m not as gone as I look.
Did you really think--
I don’t know what I think.
Your brother’s in a cage, but I can see him.
Lock on a door, she says, flashes some skin, and there’s a key.
Better think about it, boy.
He wakes: Bunker walls.
He blinks, goes bare, cold-footed, down the hall.
Sam’s knees have burnt marks on the floor. Or no, but you can see them anyway, the way you see a skid, a tread. Bunker’s a track all smoked-up with prayer-marks.
Sam’s gone now. Dean goes. Puts his knees where his brother’s were. Puts his lips where his brother was. Dry-hearted, dry-mouthed.
Looks up into the big distance.
Calls him to come home.