Sam’s trying to keep it together but it isn’t easy with Dean wandering off like a child, nothing even resembling a lead on the witch, and the metaphorical clock ticking so loudly that he can practically hear it. The television kept Dean’s focus for a while, but now he’s restlessly wandering around the motel room, complaining. Racking his brain for a game to pull up on his phone to keep his brother occupied, Sam entreats him to sit back down on the bed, but Dean shakes his head.
“I wanna go outside,” he says again.
“I need to keep working so we can get you…better,” Sam says, with a false note of confidence. “If you could just give me some time to research—“
“I wanna go outside,” Dean insists, like a child who wants to play. Sam’s trying not to snap at him when Dean’s suddenly present again with a pained lucidity in his eyes that Sam hasn’t seen for the past few hours. “It’s too much being cooped up in here, Sammy, waiting for whatever I’m gonna lose next. I need some fresh air. I need to see the sky.”
Sam’s on his feet in an instant. It’s bad enough when Dean lets Sam lead him around, happy to be along for the ride and pleased with whatever simplistic answers Sam gives him. But at least in those moments Sam can pretend it’s a stranger wearing his brother’s body. These flashes of awareness are exponentially worse and Sam is determined to give him whatever he needs.
“Ok, Dean,” he suggests. “How about this?” He moves a chair into the motel doorway, propping the door open with it. It will leave him close enough to get a signal while he keeps one eye on Dean outside. The Impala is parked right at the curb and he leads Dean to it, hoping that the familiar sun-warmed feel of the hood will comfort him in a way that words can’t. Dean climbs onto the hood with his eyes trained on the clear blue sky. As Sam watches, Dean begins to relax, leaning back against the windshield. “You want your sunglasses?”
Dean doesn’t answer, just shakes his head no. Sam gets back to work.
The calm lasts about a half hour until clouds begin to move in, marring the blue with a promise of rain.
Dean clambers awkwardly down from Baby and comes to stand before Sam. “The ocean,” he says with no preamble.
Sam blinks up at him. “What about it?”
“I want to go see the ocean.”
“Dean.” Sam tries to keep his voice calm and gentle. “We’re in Arkansas. There’s no ocean here.”
“But I want to see it.”
“I’m sorry, Dean. That’s not something we can do right now.” Dean’s face begins to crumple, so Sam quickly adds. “I have an idea,” and that’s enough to elicit Dean’s interest. Back inside the room, Sam takes out Dean’s laptop and types ocean into Google image search. “How about you look at pictures of oceans and tell me which one you want to go see when we’re all done here?”
Dean’s already fixated on the blues and greens filling the screen and he reaches for the computer.
“Just click right here to make each one bigger.” Sam points to the trackpad and he’s treated to an eye roll from his brother that he finds equal parts jarring and reassuring.
“I’m not an idiot, Sam.”
You forgot your own name, Sam wants to say, but there’s no point in burdening Dean with that.
“Ok, Dean. Find the one you like best.”
Sam gets back to his research as Dean takes his assignment to heart. There’s a steady stream of clicking and muttering as Dean opens and then rejects photo after photo. Finally, he stands and brings the laptop over to Sam.
Sam smiles at him and takes a look to be polite. It’s a beach in French Polynesia with tropical waters as deep and blue as…
“Good job, Dean. I’m gonna call Cas, ok?”
Dean nods, never taking his eyes away from the screen.
On his way to meet Rowena, Sam pauses in the doorway. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he tells Cas, who is sitting on one of the beds.
Calmer than he’s been all day, Dean lies with his head in Cas’s lap. When Cas turns to say goodbye to Sam, Dean reaches out a hand to Cas’s cheek, angling his face so he can continue to stare up into his eyes.