Inside the Impala, time stopped.
Sam's not sure when he realized this. He grew up in this damn car more than anywhere else, endless, endless miles on the road as Dad drove them all back and forth, across the country and back to Pastor Jim's and back to a motel and to the East Coast and back to the West Coast and everywhere in between except for one town in particular, that Dad never talked about. Sam remembers when his feet didn't hit the floor, remembers when the backs of his knees stopped hitting the seat when he put his feet down. Sam remembers when Dean sat next to him, then sat next to Dad, and then Dean was in the driver's seat and lording it over Sam every freaking day.
Sam remembers the back of Dad's head and the way his eyes looked in the rear view mirror when he glanced back. Mostly he remembers the way they looked when Dad was pissed. Dad was pissed a lot.
Sam grew up in the Impala, and it's different now. Now, Sam is in the passenger's seat and Dean is driving. He's married to this ancient car, which hasn't got airbags and does have a steel frame so unforgiving it just might be the sudden stop that kills them. There's no Dad, and that's a welcome change. Even if this whole trip is ostensibly to find him.
But when Sam gets behind the wheel, he knows that time has stopped here, right here inside this old, old car. He's got his cell phone in his jacket pocket and the newspaper says it's 2005, but for a moment it's '98 and Dean is reminding Sam to check and make sure the rear view mirror is pointed the right way for him and i'll kick your ass so hard if you crash her, sammy, i swear to god there won't be enough of you for dad to kill later.
Suddenly it's '95 when the odometer stopped, reading 999999.9. They'd gone a million miles and they were still in the middle of nowhere, on a nowhere road in Nowhere, Oklahoma.
It had been sticky that day. Dean stunk of sweat and Dad wasn't much better, but the car smelled almost worse as the leather baked and cracked in the sun. The air conditioning was broken, had to be fixed next time they saw Bobby. Dean was driving, which is why Sam knows at all when it happened, the day the miles stopped mattering to the Impala. "Huh," Dean says, loud over the roar of the engine and the wind whipping through the car and the radio, tuned to static. Dad's asleep in the passenger's seat, trusting his 16-year-old son to find the way.
"What?" Sam asks, not really that curious, but it's too hot and too windy to read, too hot to do anything but try to unstick his shirt from his back and wish Dean didn't stink so much.
"The odometer's stuck. Guess I always thought when it got to a million it'd just start all over."
"Weird," Sam says, and mulls it over for a while; shouldn't those numbers be able to keep on turning? But maybe no one ever thought an Impala would go a million miles. Maybe if they took a picture, it could go in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Now, Sam thinks the car stopped time. It still smells like good, cracked leather, and a little of beer, but mostly of salt and oil - guns, the smell of forever to Sam. In this car, it's still Dad's world - all his 80's music that Dean fell for, still on cassettes (ever heard of cds, man? they last forever, Sam said, and Dean said tell that to my tapes.) The odometer sits there, at a 999999.9, and here they are, at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, in Nowhere, Idaho.
"Dude, what the hell are you staring at?" Dean demands, doing that thing where he cocks his head and half-shrugs like he's looking at a freak show. "Let's hit the road."
"Where are we going, Dean?" Sam asks, quietly.
"For the third time, Clifton, Colorado," Dean says, lips twitching a little.
"No, I mean ..." Sam starts, and then stops. Where are we gonna be in another million miles? With Dad, still doing the family business, still in the middle of nowhere listening to 80's music on cassettes like it isn't 2015 or whatever the hell year it'll be? Why is he asking Dean this?
For Dean, time stopped in the Impala, too. And he likes it that way.
"Never mind," Sam says, and turns the keys.