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Sunday, August 15th, 2010 04:50 pm
Part 4 - Shamrock

In the morning, through breakfast and checking out of the motel, the rituals of their lives demanded that Sam converse with his older brother to discuss where they are going next. Even though Dean’s expression, however mild the conversation over the map and the local newspaper, tells Sam everything that he needs to know. That Sam should have taken a girl and had relations with her. Especially seeing what Dean had done for him.

But Sam can’t change the past and he doesn’t want to. Not any of it, which is a strange thing to think, considering how pissed Dean is. But they get in the car and start up the road, going on as they always do, at least mostly, with Sam in the passenger seat and Dean on the lookout for more coffee.

It’s not always that when the air gets chilly they head west this time of year, out of the lush forests and hills of Arkansas. The contrast of the view as they go up 83 from Childress, Texas, into the backcountry, is marked. It’s a place where nobody goes because there is nothing there. Or is there nothing there because nobody goes? Sam is not quite sure about that. Nor about whether he should mention his headache, a dull, pressing thing that has more to do with his being tired than the dull, aching landscape and the ever-constant wind that he can feel buffeting Dean’s side of the car as he drives.

The sun is also blaring mostly overhead now, but it was, until about an hour ago, coming right at him from the east. Slicing through his eyeballs with white, making him pull down the sunshade which, in the Impala, doesn’t cover quite enough sky. His is not to mess with it, though. Pull and tug on Dean’s baby? He’d rather hand Dean his head on a plate, thank you very much.

So he shifts lower in his seat, and watches the brown grasses whip by the window, listens to Dean hum almost tunelessly to Meatloaf on the umpteenth cassette of its kind, and thinks about lunch. Maybe there’ll be a town with one of those junky little local places Dean likes to go. Truth of it, Sam won’t mind, though he’ll make sure to remember to make a face about it, just to mess with Dean. His job. He’s good at it. But in the meantime, he shifts his thighs on the vinyl seat, scratches his nose. He looks at the map and not at Dean. He does not think about how nice Dean smells, sunwarmed and relaxed. Nor does Sam think about the sounds Dean makes as he drives, the click of his ring on the steering wheel, the shift of muscle inside denim.

Instead Sam looks out the window. There are miles of nothing all around and they are only a spec in it.

“Where are we going to have lunch?” asks Dean, breaking into Sam’s spell of fading away.

“Shamrock,” says Sam. “It’s right off I-40, so there should be something.” He doesn’t know what’s there to eat at, really, because there are no AAA guidebooks to be had, and even if there was one, Shamrock is so small it would not be listed. 

(Shamrock Water Tower)

“Like the gas station?” asks Dean.

This is a somewhat unexpected question, and Sam picks up the map and squints at it. “I dunno,” he says. He puts the map down, tucks it under his thigh on the seat between them. “Does seem a funny name for a place in the middle of Texas.”

They drive. The landscape passes and they roll into Shamrock, which, it turns out, is where the gas station started. Or the conglomerate that owns it. Or whatever. But for all that, the town is worn, brown like the grass, dusty from the wind, and consists of a sea of low-lying buildings. The conglomerate has moved on, it seems, leaving behind only bones, the odd strip mall, and a taco joint that, by the faded sign, is called El Sombrero Restaurante.

(El Burreto Restuarante)

Dean pulls in. Sam is not surprised. He doesn’t even have it in him to pretend to complain because suddenly the thought of tacos makes his mouth squirt alive with saliva. He thinks he’ll get all tacos, all crunchy stuff, and follows Dean into the place, assaulted by smells of salt and grease all at once, and the crackle of a fryer going.

The sign says for them to seat themselves, and that they do, with Dean grabbing the furthest booth in the back, slamming into the bench seat so he can put his back to the wall. This leaves Sam unable to watch the door. But Dean will watch it for him, and this is all unspoken as Sam slides into the bench seat across from him.

The waitress brings water and chips and salsa, and menus. Sam takes one of everything, smiles at her and begins to study the menu. He waits for Dean to mock him with his usual cutting remark. Something like, you going to memorize that thing or order from it? This doesn’t come, and for a moment, Sam is content to linger over the dozens of choices that are, when you get right down to it, variations on a theme of corn tortillas, beans, ground beef, cheese, lettuce, spices, and sauce, green or red. Any way he slices it, that’s what he’s eating for lunch today.

He looks up. He keeps himself from staring and wonders if Dean can see what an effort this is for him today. Dean’s not looking at him. Nor does he open the menu. And it’s not that he knows what’s on it, because he doesn’t. But in a Mexican restaurant, Dean always orders the number one combo, and whatever that is, add extra sour cream to it, please. In an Italian restaurant, he orders the fifth thing down the menu, regardless. And on it goes. He’s explained that it keeps him from having to think about the small shit, Sam knows, and more often than not, what he orders by the numbers turns out to be good.

“What?” asks Dean with a snap, like Sam’s been going at him for hours and he’s now reaching his last nerve. Unspoken, it follows: What are you looking at?   

I’m looking at you and I don’t want us to go on like we always do.

Sam doesn’t dare say it.

“Aren’t you gonna say it?” asks Sam instead.

“Say what?”

“What you always do.”


“About me memorizing the menu.”

“I never do that.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.

The waitress comes up, not smiling, her hair in a greasy, brown bun, and they order. Dean gets the number one with extra sour cream, and Sam orders the number seven which has two tacos, an enchilada, and a bean tostada. He can taste it now. Dean adds cokes to their order, and the waitress goes away. Sam’s headache comes back, settling down behind his eyes, demanding that he eat. He polishes off most of the chips in short order, scooping up mouthfuls of the salsa.

“You gonna drink that?” asks Dean.

“You gonna shut up?” says Sam.

“Asshat,” says Dean, reaching for the basket of chips. “You’ll spoil your appetite, young man,” he says, keeping the basket just out of Sam’s reach.

The all-out tussle is averted only on account of the pure fact of their drinks arriving. Sam grabs at his coke and sucks on it, waiting for it to hit his bloodstream, for his brain to get some of it, and then sits back as he sighs. There’s no point in arguing over the small shit, but they do it anyway, as brothers have done since there were brothers, and will continue to do until the world blew up.

The food comes smelling like cumin and the grease of the cheese, and Sam lifts up a taco with both hands and consumes half of it in one bite. His body sighs, and his brain steps down. As he crunches his way through the mouthful, he watches Dean hack through a giant burrito, smothered in green chili. Sam watches him spread the sour cream over the top and ooze it in with the cheese and wants some.

He grabs his fork and taps it on the edge of Dean’s plate to get his attention.

“Wait,” says Dean, and Sam knows what he means. To the person who ordered goes the first bite, whether it’s a smothered burrito in a dive taco joint or a slice of chocolate cake from a German bakery.

Sam waits. Dean lifts a mouthful of the burrito to his mouth and chews. Nods.

Sam slices his way through a hunk with the edge of his fork and puts it in his mouth. Sour cream is God’s gift to all Mexican food, he decides, because it brings the bite of the spices out and soothes the heat of the chili.

As he polishes off the remainder of his first taco, Sam feels better. His headache will go away completely soon, perhaps before nightfall. He knows this like he knows which way is north, like he knows that parts of the country are so flat he can see the curve of the earth, and like he knows what’s pissing Dean off.

It’s not the driving, cause Dean lives for that, or their next case, which looks to be fairly straightforward, but which could get awkward if the right people don’t want to talk about a hundred year old murder. It’s not even the weather, for rain or shine, the Impala’s got good tires and Dean can sing down the moon to any tape in his arsenal. Sam thinks that Dean’s going to carry his irritation about Sam’s lack of response to Alice at the bar the night before for many, many miles.

There’s almost no help for it. Sam wants Dean, not Alice or anyone like her. But there’s no way he an say this to Dean, so Sam munches his way through his second taco, gets a refill on his coke, thinks about empanadas and all that crunchy sugar. He starts to work on his enchilada, which has gone slightly hard as it cooled.

“Think they got those cinnamon things?” asks Dean, still shoveling it in, scraping his plate with his fork. 

The waitress walks by and Sam tags her with a smile.

“Yeah?” she asks.

“What do you have for dessert?” Sam asks, realizing that it doesn’t matter; they’re going to order some of it anyway.

“Empanadas, sophapias, and sombreros.”

“What are sombreros?”

“Flour tortilla, fried, covered with cinnamon and sugar, ice cream on top, and wine sauce.” This she rattles off as though the words bore her, and Sam watches Dean’s eyebrows fly up to his hairline.

“I’ll have the sombrero,” Sam says, “and he’ll have the empanadas.”

The waitress goes away and Sam digs into his meal, wanting to keep up with Dean, wanting to be done by the time the dessert comes. He hopes the sugar will distract them both because he really doesn’t want to discuss what happened in Mammoth Spring, or, for that matter, what didn’t happen and should have, according to Dean.

Not that Dean is, of his own free will, likely to enter into any conversation where real feelings might have to be shared. Exposed. But he is likely to bring it up yet again that Sam needs to get laid. As if there was a deadline to be adhered to, after which, if he doesn’t get some shimmy-shimmy, Sam’s balls were going to turn blue and drop off.

The desserts come before any additional hard words are exchanged, and Sam pulls the dish with the ice cream towards him, fork at the ready. Dean takes the plate of empanadas, but his eyes are on what Sam’s got. His fork is at the ready, too. He waits. Sam cuts his fork into the ice cream which is already melting against the hot, fried, sugar-crusted tortilla. He swoops the mess into the wine sauce and pops it in his mouth.

Dean looks at him. Waiting

“Well?” he asks.

“It’s a new one on me,” says Sam around the mouthful.  It’s syrupy and sugary, tasting a little like blackberries. “But damn good.” He gives the nod. Dean attacks and ends up eating half the sombrero. To be fair, he shares half his empanadas with Sam, so there’s enough sugar for everyone.

Bellies full, they pay the bill, leave a huge tip on Lloyd Moskin’s Visa card, and head out to the car. Dean does not let him drive, but then he seldom does. Sam contents himself with staring out the window, letting the stupor of too much sugar fading from his system fight with the rush of too much caffeine on an empty stomach. It’s a bit of a dance, but he lets it continue, keeping an eye on the map and the mostly straight road. The clouds are coming down. It’ll be chilly, but it doesn’t look like snow.

(Lonely Highway)


They reach Canadian just as the sun is setting, and it’s not the distance that’s worn Sam out, it’s the straightness, rocketed by a constant wind. With only a bend or two in the road the entire way, he feels like he’s been walking a straight line all day. Canadian, as they pull into it, looks much like Shamrock did. Except the road curves through town as it descends into a pleasant little river valley, as pecan trees line the streets and hover over sidewalks. Sometimes places like this surprise Sam, with a splash of unexpected charm that invite him to settle down and plant some roots.

(40 Miles to Canadian)

They pass several gift shops whose signs shout out that there are freshly harvested pecans to be had, pecan butter, roasted pecans, and coffee. Good eats. All those shops are closed. The gas stations are open, and there are three motels, just at the far edge of town. Sam just wants to lay flat and close his eyes in the darkness.

Dean pulls into the parking lot in front of the office of the Canadian Courts Inn, which, by the slanted light, looks like it’s made of red brick that has been faded by the sun. Dean looks at Sam and then at himself. They’re both tired, but Sam managed to get less food on him during lunch, so he’s elected by the silent majority: his clean shirt.

(Canadian Courts Inn)

Trying not to be peeved, Sam goes into the little office that is blessedly warm, and gets them a room. The lady behind the counter signs him up for two queens, and gives him directions to the local honkey tonk. She also hands him a real room key to room number 8, as well as information about the River Valley Pioneer Museum, which looks to be right across the street from the motel. The key and the information about the honky tonk Sam hands over to Dean as he gets back in the car to drive around to their room. The information about the museum he keeps to himself.

When Dean parks, they unload what they need from the car. As Dean unlocks the door to the motel room, Sam moves past him to step inside. The room is like many others across the country, decorated with bad pictures, orange, yellow, and green polyester covers, and supplied with thin towels and flat pillows. The floor, however, is pale tile instead of carpet. The bathroom, when Sam checks it out, is tiny, and lined with the same tile. Everything is old, but clean. They throw their things on the beds.

“We goin’ out?” Dean asks, checking for his wallet.

Sam eyes him, keeps his mouth shut. Dean never gets tired of the road. He’s just landed and he’s ready to go. Sam just wants to stop, just for a minute.

“You go,” he says. “I’m going to check out what I can find about that hotel girl.”

“Sam,” says Dean. He’s looking at Sam, mouth frowning. “Edgar Norton already told you what there is to know. He’s got a ghost, and he wants to confess. His father was one of those assholes who raped and killed that chick—”

“Virginia,” puts in Sam.

“Virginia, long dead but haunting Harold’s son, the only remaining descendant of those five guys.”

“And he knows where the body is buried.”

“Right. He called you and told you all about it, remember? Though God knows he got your cell phone number. So what is it exactly you need to look up?”

He wants to tell Dean about the guy from the book, the one who never ate rye and who might have actually been possessed. He wants to tell Dean how tired he is of the road, and how maybe if he gets one good night’s sleep, he’ll be good to go at the next town. Take in a dance or two. Maybe even kiss a girl, and give her a whirl. But not tonight. He needs one damn minute to himself. And Dean is going to give it to him.

“You’re not going out, are you.” This from Dean, the glower filling his eyes. He already knows and he is pissed. “You’re going to sit here and mope, and let me have all the fun?”

“There’s more ways to having fun than screwing girls, Dean,” says Sam. He takes off his jacket. It is his message to his brother.

“Oh yeah?” asks Dean. “And I’d like to know what that is?”

“Nothing,” says Sam. He sits down on the edge of one of the beds and starts untying his shoes. “There’s nothing more fun than getting your rocks off, so why don’t you go do it and leave me alone?”

“It’s not just about rocks, Sam,” Dean says. His eyes darken with his anger and Sam blinks at the mercurial shift in his brother’s expression. And at the way his skin flushes when he’s pissed off. When will Dean be ugly? It would be a lot easier for Sam if he were.

Sam puts up his hand and waves him off. His own statement is still ringing in the air, and Dean’s response is just pounding into the ground and pretty soon they are both going to end up arguing about Mammoth Spring.

Sam wants to talk about what’s really going on, but it’s obvious that Dean just wants Sam to have sex. With someone else. Someone not his brother.

“Christ, Dean, will you just fucking leave it alone?”

“Alright I’m leaving it. You lose out. Loser.” Dean slams the door behind him.

The room is empty as Dean tends to leave a big space behind him when he goes. Sam fills the space with activity, with a shower, with going through his clothes, sorting out laundry, feeling the grit from his socks beneath his fingers. Finding jeans that could walk by themselves.

Then he finds his pair of boxer shorts with the elastic broken. He wonders why he still has them, and throws them out. Then he realizes that the wastebasket in the bathroom is now overflowing with his ripped boxer shorts and that the other trashcan near the door is also small. He shoves the boxers in his duffle and thinks he will throw them away later. The now mostly-full laundry bag he leaves by the door. Dean will see it and know to get his dirty clothes together too, and perhaps, on their way to somewhere else, as yet unknown, they can stop and do laundry.

He turns on the TV and turns the sound down low. He thinks it is a reality show, so he finds the clicker and flips through the channels till he gets the Discovery Channel. It might be about sharks, or it might be about the Bermuda Triangle. Either way, some guy in a wet suit is prowling around some coral reefs. The view is soothing.

Sam gets into bed, taking with him a book he read some time back about hauntings from the Revolutionary War. Most of the hauntings, as he recalls, stacking the two pillows behind his head and flipping open the book, are made up. They all end too perfectly, with too much happily ever after, to be real. No one seems to really suffer at the hands of these ghosts, they’re just scared shitless.

One or two hauntings might be the real thing. He wants to know what they have in common, what elements all hauntings share. That’ll make it easier to figure out where the ghosts are coming from. Hunting ghosts is satisfying, even if he can admit it only to himself, because they are less unpredictable than most things. There are parameters to how a ghost behaves, and that makes him comfortable.

He skims the book and makes notes in the margins. When he finishes it, and sets it aside, and goes through the ritual of turning off the TV, leaving the clicker for Dean. Getting up to check the locks on the door and windows. Getting a last drink. Thinking about sleep, whether he can filch the second pillow from Dean’s bed for his own.

He filches it. He needs those pillows, and Dean will understand. Dean could sleep on a rock and be rested in the morning. He won’t miss the pillow he won’t even use. Turning off the light, Sam scoots as low under the covers as he can without his feet hanging over the edge. Somewhere in the world, there’s a mattress long enough for him to stretch out. One of these days he’ll find it.

The sleep that comes is solid, but it only takes one click of a key in the lock for Sam to be awake. His eyes flicker as they react to the dance between full darkness and the pencil-thin line of light that sweeps over the wall. It is Dean, and by his careful walk, he’s had a few beers. Not enough to keep him from driving, but enough to make him extra careful, extra quiet. If he hadn’t had the beers, he’d be marching in the room like it was mid-day, never mind that Sam might have been asleep.

There are sounds of Dean taking off his sneakers and jacket. There is cloth on skin. Shirt. Jeans. Sam is fully awake now.

“Sam?” Dean whispers. “You awake?”

Sam freezes. What he does not want, what he most desperately does not want, is a repeat of Mammoth Spring. He does not want Dean taking care of him, he does not want Dean, as it were, lending a hand. Dean is just as drunk as he was that night, and the situation is much the same. Sam’s body, on the other hand, remembers. Oh yeah, that. Remember that? That was nice. We want that.

Sam stays still. Keeps breathing. Waits for Dean to put his clothes away and then climb in with his brother Sam. Sam is almost holding his breath. There is a pause in the darkness behind him, the presence that is his brother standing between the beds. Everything is the same. Almost. That time, he’d not known what Dean had been planning. This time, he knows what Dean might be planning.

But whatever Dean is or is not planning, there is no weight on the bed behind Sam. There are no hands upon him, no whispered words, no promises that in the morning everything will be as it always has been. There is only the sound of Dean undressing and settling into the other bed, with his one thin pillow. There is no remark about stolen pillows, nothing. There is only the near silence of breathing, the hiss of a single car passing along the road outside. Night settling down. And in Sam’s body a precarious tightness that his brain is shooing away that his body wants to keep.


Part 5 - Canadian
Master Fic Post
Friday, August 20th, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC)
The room is empty as Dean tends to leave a big space behind him when he goes.
Oh, nicely put.

I love the quiet rituals that order the boys' life on the road. Dean ordering by the numbers, the one to order gets the first bite, whoever looks cleanest goes into the motel office, the laundry bag by the door.

Caught a couple little typos: Dean is head on a plate should be his, and But there’s not way he an say this to Dean should be no way he can.
Saturday, August 21st, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Thank you again, both for the lovely onging feedback and the fixes! I fixed 'em!

And yeah, it's the rituals that keep you sane on the road, because they're the only thing that doesn't change.