Traveling
K Hanna Korossy

"You know what else is wrong with this car?"

Sam heaved a mental sigh and counted to five. "What?"

"It's got no tape deck," Dean said with the kind of outrage Sam usually reserved for natural disasters and creatures that wanted to eat them. "What kind of a car doesn't have a tape deck?"

"Oh, I don't know—one built in this century?" Sam ventured. "What do you need a tape deck for, anyway? All your cassettes are in Indianapolis." Which they couldn't possibly reach fast enough.

Dean looked at him as if Sam had just announced he was marrying the demon they'd exorcised the night before. "Dude. It's the principle."

"Yeah," Sam nodded sagely, "the principle that no car is roadworthy without eighties' technology. Before, you were complaining about the engine. Then it was the airbags, then the seats. Anything else not meet with your approval?"

Dean seemed to consider that. "Now that you mention it—"

"Forget it, I don't want to hear it."

"What? Can I help it if it's got no character?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "It's a Saturn, Dean. It's not supposed to have character. It's supposed to get you places reliably and efficiently. Have you noticed we haven't had to stop for gas yet?"

"That's 'cause it's got a wussy engine."

"And not breaking down is nice for a change," Sam stolidly continued.

"Hey!" A finger jabbed toward him. "That was only…three times."

Sam realized he was starting to tread on hallowed ground and backed off. He had another foolproof tack, anyway. "We could've always flown back. Jerry did say he'd comp us."

A pause. "It's not thatbad a car," Dean finally allowed.

Sam hid a smile. He hooked a finger in the garment clip by his head and sat back to enjoy the smooth ride while it lasted. "So, what is it with you and planes, anyway?"

Dean fidgeted. "Nothing. It's just…unnatural."

The laugh sputtered out of Sam before he could stop it. "Unnatural? We just faced a possessed pilot and performed an exorcism, and you thinkflying'sunnatural? Did anyone ever tell you your perspective is seriously skewed?"

"Sam, how many flying things have we fought, huh? Between the Chupacabra and the Jersey Devil and the Thunderbirds and the Achiyalabopa?"

Sam shrugged. "I don't know, ten, fifteen?"

"And in all of those, were any of them goodflying things?"

He stared at his brother in disbelief. "Wait, are you saying planes are evil?"

"I'm just saying, flying things are never good."

Sam gaped at him, speechless.

Dean cast him a sidelong glance and a frown. "What?"

"You're a luddite!"

Bafflement now. "Huh?"

"Do you even believe in electricity? Phones? Maybe we should go back to riding horses."

"Hey," Dean canted his head, "if it's got a tape deck, I'm up for it."

That did it. Sam laughed until his sides ached. Dean didn't join him, seemingly caught between offended and amused, but he was finally relaxing a little into the not-leather seats.

"Seriously, man, you ever remember us flying anywhere when we were kids?"

Sam finally caught his breath. "You don't mean Dad…"

"No, no. Well, not that I know of, anyway. We didn't have the money for it, and it's not like you can get a shotgun through security. But it didn't exactly expose us to flying a lot, either." Dean shifted uncomfortably. "It's just…so outta control, you know? Up there, defenseless, no place to run if something's coming at you."

Sam's humor faded like sunshine in a sudden shadow. He should've seen that one coming, knowing Dean as he did. For all his brother's easygoing nature, Dean needed to be in control, and that was probably where his real fear of flying lay. It was also one of the reasons Dean had hated him going to Stanford, Sam had realized too late. Dean couldn't control what happened to Sam there, and it scared him. But Sam had seen only the bluster then, and let it push them apart. He knew better now.

Usually.

He glanced at Dean again, smiling slightly at the awkward grip his brother had on the unfamiliar steering wheel. "By the way…thank you."

Dean looked over at him, brow creased. "For what?"

"Coming with me on the plane."

Dean winced. A cannibalistic wendigo was no problem, but confronted with honest gratitude and he was unnerved. "I wanted to check out Amanda."

Sam nodded, putting just the right touch of skepticism into his, "Right."

He got a glower for that. "Sam—"

"Hey, I'm not arguing." Sam put his hands up defensively.

Dean was clearly still nettled, but he let it drop. He was slow to settle back into driving, however, and Sam was just a little sorry for the jibe. Not having his beloved car really was disconcerting Dean, and even though the Impala was waiting only…" Sam glanced at the mileage, "…about 150 miles away, that was still a few more hours of being ill at ease on top of the previous night's eventful plane ride.

Sighing in sacrifice, Sam reached forward and flipped the radio on. While Dean watched him warily, he scanned through different stations, finally stopping on one that made him grimace and Dean instantly brighten.

"Hey, that's—"

"AC/DC, I know. It's called a radio, Dean—it plays music even without tapes. It's not gonna be in range the whole way, but…"

"It's better than the sound of that lame engine." Dean's head started bobbing with the heavy beat of the music. "Good idea, Sam."

It was in its own way a thank you as sincere as Sam's had been a few minutes before, and he accepted it with a mix of happiness and resignation as he sat back and tried to ignore what his brother euphemistically called music.

The song blended into another that also met with Dean's approval, and Sam turned to watch the passing scenery. There wasn't much to it, a lot of flat land and brush, but there was something about the open spaces that appealed to him. He'd never hated this part of their "day job," the travel and seeing new places. And Stanford, as much as he'd wanted it to be, had never really become home.

"You still thinkin' about what that thing said about Jess?" Dean's unexpected question broke into his musings, and Sam turned back to him, surprised at how close to target his brother was. If a minute too early; Sam was only just getting to Jess.

"No. I mean, it couldn't have known that for real, right?"

"Right."

"And the same thing happened to Mom, and she's not suffering now."

Dean's jaw shifted, but he nodded. Sam was whistling in the dark and they both knew it, but sometimes you needed the denial to get you through that darkness. He wasn't as good at it as his big brother, but Sam was learning.

He took a breath. "So, it's a good thing the airline gave us back the money for our tickets, or we wouldn't be eating for the next week."

Dean accepted the change of subject willingly, as Sam knew he would. "Never said this job pays well," he said philosophically.

"But it wouldn't hurt to ask your buddy Jerry to cover the cost of the rental."

Dean snorted. "You don't think I'm gonna pay to drive this thing, do you?"

Sam grinned.

Dean did, too, although it was in memory. "Hey, you remember that time those stupid little Wi-lu-gho-yuks ate through the tires and we had to catch a ride with that trucker?"

Sam huffed a laugh. "The one with the Hello Kitty collection? Was that weird or what?"

"Seriously. Give me a Wi-lu-gho-yuk anyday."

"Then there was the Terichik that almost ate the car."

"You gotta admit, it had good taste."

Sam gave him an amused glance. "As I recall, you weren't too happy about its taste then."

"It did need killing," Dean agreed easily.

"What about the Flatwoods Monster? Didn't it have a thing for your car, too?"

Dean looked at him oddly. "You weren't even there for that one."

"I know," Sam nodded, "I read about it in Dad's journal."

"Catching up?" The question sounded neutral but he could tell Dean was pleasantly surprised.

They shouldn't have been surprising each other like that anymore, not after everything. Sam sobered. "Just because I wasn't there doesn't mean I'm not interested in what you two were doing," he said quietly.

Dean looked over at him, back to the road, digesting that. Then he shrugged with deliberate casualness. "We can go over it sometime if you want. Dad didn't put everything in the journal."

Like who got hurt, what toll it took on them, and how Dean had felt. "I'd like that," Sam said simply.

Dean nodded, a little uncertainly but not displeased.

Sam smiled and went back to watching the scenery. The land was stuck in featureless winter, but it was hypnotic as it passed. He found himself blinking more heavily and stifled a yawn.

"There is something else good about this piece of junk," Dean suddenly said.

"Yeah?" He didn't turn, just rolled his head along the headrest enough to see Dean.

"The seats go back. We won't hit Indianapolis until lunch—why don't you grab some sleep?"

He opened his mouth to protest he didn't need it, but his body was saying something different and he didn't lie to Dean if he didn't have to. "Okay," Sam caved gracefully, and felt for the seat lever. Dean was right, it was a lot more comfortable than the Impala. He half curled in the seat, toward his brother. "Maybe we should trade your car in for something newer," he said impishly, unable to resist.

"Maybe you should walk to Indianapolis," Dean shot back without hesitation.

"Maybe I should just take a nap," Sam amended.

Dean nodded. "Maybe you should."

He closed his eyes, feeling the soft thrum of the motor under the music's beat. Felt Dean slow a little like he always did when Sam was sleeping even though Sam could have told him it wasn't necessary with this car, but that would have meant admitting he'd noticed. Heard him turn down the radio, just enough so Sam could hear him humming along. Remembered the desperate humming on the plane as Dean attempted to calm down. And remembered why Dean had gotten on the plane in the first place, and it wasn't to save the passengers, not really.

"Dean?" he said drowsily.

"What?"

"So what else are you not afraid of besides planes?" As if he didn't know.

"Shut up and go to sleep, Sam."

He smiled.

The End