/~two days back~
Dad sent us coordinates three days ago. No point reminding you we could have been the coordinates, the way we've been acting.
Dean had not finished gathering himself back together yet, but he was doing fine at pretending. Sam had been careful to ignore what he couldn't avoid seeing and hearing - random bits of things Dean had no idea he was saying out loud, for one - and the rest he was keeping an eye on. Dean had been mostly sleight of hand most of his life to keep anyone from seeing what he held close to the vest, all flash and grins and illusion. Since West Virginia there was no vest, still, just cards everywhere. Fifty-two pickup, 24/7. He was still Dean, only moreso, and occasionally too much so.
At least he was only attracting the living, so far. People had always looked at Dean, especially when he was working every last bit of charm he'd been hardwired with. The last couple of days they'd been staring at him like they couldn't look away, or stepping away from him as fast as they could. Dean was filling entire rooms just by standing in them with his hands in his pockets. Dean had been too distracted to notice, and Sam hadn't brought it to his attention. Lately they were just living and lucky and not alone.
Sam wished Dean would get the lid back on before it was Sam that tipped far enough to spill over.
"Hey," Dean said, hunting and pecking along the keyboard. "I figured out where this is. It's eastern Washington."
"Please," Sam said from his perch on the wrought iron railing outside. Outside, where there was just enough room to breathe. Second floor, this time, door and windows open for once because Dean could tolerate it. "Please, please tell me it's not Bigfoot."
"No," Dean said in a tone that indicated Sam was an idiot. "Until Bigfoot starts molesting hikers, we leave him alone." He paused. "Actually, the hikers probably deserve a little cornholing. Poor Sasquatch, trying to make a living, and these little Powerbar-eating Microsofties come crawling all over his neighborhood. A Wendigo would be too good for these losers."
"What's the operating system on your laptop?" Sam said.
"What the hell's that got to do with the brand of condoms I use?" Dean said.
"It runs on Windows, you ass," Sam said. "So, yeah, keep making fun of the Microsofties."
"How do you spell 'douche'?" Dean said, still typing.
Sam ignored him.
"Maybe a day and a half," Dean muttered. "Take the 90 all the way into Ellensburg...yeah, that's it. Some place called Manastash Ridge. Eleven wayward hunters and hikers missing over the last three years. Damn near nothing in the papers about it, since they're too busy losing people on Mount Rainier. No trace of anybody - no buttons or shoelaces or gum wrappers or anything. This place is the freakin' Bermuda Triangle of the Northwest."
"You sure it's not just a serial killer?" Sam said. Just a serial killer, like it would be the least of their worries.
"Nah," Dean said. "Serials love to leave things around. Manifestos to the local paper, friendship bracelets made of toe bones, stuff like that. These folks are gone ."
"Pagan-god type gone, or abducted by aliens gone?" Sam said. "You're not coming up with any local myths or you would've said something by now."
"The biggest buzz around Manastash Ridge is ' Mel's Hole '," Dean said. "Makes me feel dirty just saying it. Check this out - websites devoted to mysterious holes that could lead anywhere. Whole damn state's full of 'em . This one apparently hasn't been found yet, but everyone's sure it's out there."
"You think people are falling down a hole," Sam said flatly.
"Oh, not just any hole, Sam," Dean said with a suggestive grin. "A bottomless hole. Kind of like you at 14. You did nothing but eat for a year straight."
"If all these people were falling down a hole, the thing would be big enough to locate," Sam said. He was tilting his face back to check the sky for signs of a late spring storm.
"Not if it's the real thing," Dean said. He cocked an eyebrow and lowered his voice a notch. "Not if it's moving around and sucking people in."
Sam paused to lower his face and stare at Dean hard enough that Dean finally looked up. "Do you ever hear yourself?" Sam said, all tilted blue eyes and wind-blown angles framed in light.
Dean smiled, eyes and all. "You know you're the best thing that ever happened to me, right?"
Sam reeled for a moment under the lack of sarcasm. Dean was thinking aloud again without realizing it, and Sam was careful just to smile back as if Dean had not spoken, even if it felt like he'd been gut-punched. He was used to Dean being unpredictable, but not used to being blindsided . So he blinked until his eyes quit burning and coughed a little into one fist and went on. "Okay, so we have somewhere to stay while we're looking down every gopher hole in this place, right?"
Dean shook his head a little as if clearing it, falling serious. "Dude, what the hell. I already looked at all that. You can't find anything around there for under $70 a night."
"It's because of the amphitheatre nearby," Sam said. "I heard it's pretty cool. They built it right over the Columbia Gorge."
"Thanks, travel guide," Dean said. "It means they rip everybody off to hang out in some college-and-cow town. I'm not camping. I'm in no mood for camping."
Sam shrugged. "We'll sleep in the car, then. I'll fold myself into thirds and try to find leg room, you know..."
"All right all right!" Dean grouched.
Ellensburg looked like everywhere else.
No surprise; people settled places and wove themselves into patterns that were convenient and familar, no matter where else they'd come from. Down bone deep the similarities outnumbered the differences, whether it was desert or rainforest. Washington state sported both: the Cascades to the west cut a figure in the world that offered eternal green and ocean beyond. Here though was farmland and dry air and sage, and places that most were used to passing through. The ones who stayed would weave themselves into the land and know it better than anyone, right down to the bones, right down to the secrets it kept and the toll it exacted for its occasional benevolence. The left hand gives and the right hand takes away.
New rule: they did not stop to stretch their legs after dark anymore. Driving all night was passe' anyway. They checked into the Comfort Inn on Canyon Road and headed out on foot in the gathering dusk, taking things in. The mid-spring warmth that had soaked into the ground during the day was radiating off the open lot they walked across, scrub brushing against their pantlegs. Low, familiar buildings faced the main drag, fast food or family diners, hotels and rentals and insurance. Moderate on the neon, heavy on the whitewashed concrete block. The setting and attitude said we know you're passing through . It missed the mark on small-town feeling, somehow, because it wasn't insular and didn't even attempt it.
Sam always shortens his stride to match Dean's lately and never realizes he's doing it.
"Hit it first thing?" Dean said in their halfassed and always-open conversation style, something they'd done right up until Sam had left at eighteen. It was a pattern they'd fallen into again suddenly, without marking its arrival, and had Sam stopped to think about it, he might have realized it was because Dean was just easier to understand the last few days. There had been days and days in their growing-up years where Dean had not been so closed down, when glances and small gestures had meant volumes, and Sam had spent the last six months staring and searching and not picking up enough to go by. It made them clumsy.
"Locals," Sam said absently, meaning let's talk to the locals first. Dean would be out poking at things in the dark if he could, convinced he would walk straight into whatever this was and dynamite it closed or something. Sam was hoping Dean would walk around with him awhile and map things out, and make plans for the next morning, and then sleep eventually, because Sam was unable to tune out the all-Dean, all the time station yet. Dean is busy when sitting still these days, broadcasting some kind of open frequency to Sam, playing the same song over and over that meant deanwinchester and more without words. He was prime numbers played across light-millennia like the signal from Contact , the movie that Sam remembered made Jess cry every time she'd seen it.
Humans were made as packages, and made to stay that way, and not wander around with their souls loose and acetylene-torching whatever passed by. Dean was leaving marks and trails in his wake and smearing the air with his very own signature, signing his name to every breath and step. It was never really visible or audible, and didn't need to be. Sam breathed it like oxygen even as he wished the tatters of whatever had served to package his brother would seal up again. Sam was wearing thin with the watching and listening but knew the silence was going to be harder to bear when it came again.
"Some sort of landbound Einstein-Rosen bridge," Sam said aloud.
"It's not a white hole, Sam," Dean said.
They're on the same wavelength. Dean matches his stride to Sam's without realizing it.