Rating: PG - Gen
Spoilers: General (for aired episodes only)
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Vintage camera, salt flats and a big blue sky.
They always stopped at the pawn shops when they passed through Vegas.
It had become kind of a regular thing when Sam stopped to think back on it. Twice or three times a year, they'd make the detour out there in the desert and hole up for a few days in one of those weird theme motels outside the strip that were usually nicer than they were used to. His memory of them was probably a little rosier than the reality. Most of those old motels were all gone now, replaced with the sprawling expanse of the colossal casinos and a new spic and span Disneyland for adults that the city of sin had turned into. The Vegas he remembered glimpsing through the back car window in the 80s was still a loaded place.
The dry wind blew hot and noisy through the wide open windows. It had been hours since the Nevada border had slipped into the rear view. There was nothing much to do but listen to his brother moan along with Robert Plant and watch the map he knew by heart. There was nothing new about the lack of distraction from the stretch of rock dyed deep red from the iron ore buried in its molecules. He gave the scenery a half smile when he realized all that painted the landscape was pretty much nothing but rust.
The nature of suspended decay turned his thoughts back to the crowded store they'd spent the morning in. It had been stuffy. Too many aisles jammed into one small narrow space. Sam thought of the paint flecked sander he’d found up on one of the highest shelves and the smell of burnt wood as he turned it over in his hands. It had been sitting alongside a chipped waffle iron and a set of hot pink curling irons with the price tag still attached to it.
He could recall long hours of quietly perusing the much lower shelves as a kid. Spending the interminable wait picking through odds and ends, like the world’s largest never ending tag sale. Eventually he’d get tired enough to find some old sofa, or just a corner to sit in with the backs of old albums to read. Sometimes it would take all day for their father to meticulously go through the cluttered dim stacks of the cast off belongings of others. The main focus had usually been for weapons. They came in all shapes and sizes in the land of quick cash loans. Privately, Sam had always thought his father's religious practice of the second hand was a little odd. For a man who was so adamant about what they owned, he had never been shy about taking up what had might been mishandled by a stranger.
His brother and dad had always had that in common.
They always had a fondness for the old. The used. The damaged and its potential sitting under a few layers of dust.
He looked into the back seat at what this session of waiting around had brought around this time. Well, brought his brother anyway. Sam had wanted to question it, maybe even tell him to put it back when he saw what was sitting on the glass counter. It was one of those ancient cameras that you had to go to a special store just to find film for nowadays. It was heavy and awkward, the detachable lens huge with a thick pinpoint of dark glass. The thing came in a box that was almost disintegrating, smelling like the musty insides of a shut up hope chest. The feel of it reminded him of the well worn black case his dad’s old military binoculars had sat in. The glue that kept its felt insides together flaking and yellow.
It figured the guy even had some film for the thing. Didn’t even charge Dean anything extra for it because of the wad of cash they’d already laid down. A small fortune for a semi-automatic and some suspiciously cheap ammo that would never see anything but the insides of their equally dated shot guns anyway.
“There it is.” Dean said with a little bit of what sounded like relief.
Sam had seen it coming for a while. It was weirdly unexpected even if there was nothing out here but the highway. The desert hid huge things just by being flat and everything seemingly in plain sight for one hundred miles in every direction.
The smooth plain that yawned out into the infinity of the wavering mirage that blurred the horizon was a complete and pure white. If he blinked or imagined he was somewhere else entirely he could convince himself it was snow. Or a gigantic frozen lake. But there was no water here. Not for a long time.
This was all salt.
The gray and brown mountains in the distance brought the actual environment to mind. The acid air blowing through the vents made him reach for the bottle of water that rolled loose on the seat between them. He didn’t say anything when Dean pulled over onto what looked like nothing but a couple of tire tracks worn into the dirt that ran the margin of the glaring alkaline.
As soon as the wheels got onto the salt, the sound changed to a low grind like gravel, the engine hitching in protest as Dean decided to floor it. Spinning the back wheels into the ground, they were suddenly careening as fast as the car could possibly go right out into the middle of no where. Sam had to check the speedometer to make sure they were even moving, no point of reference made it seem like they were floating. Despite the strained edge of the engine noise, it felt like the car was hovering right in one place.
At least until Dean suddenly applied the brakes.
Sam pushed his hands up against the dash as they started to decelerate almost as fast as they had spiked the needle over what the car supposedly topped out at. He swore under his breath as the car started a slow lazy spin as the tires seized up. Trying to hold on, he counted two full rotations, the highway and the mountains flashing by before they lurched to a stop. Looking around warily, Sam slowly peeled himself off of the passenger side door.
“Holy shit Sammy.” Dean told him breathlessly. “You gotta try that.”
“Jesus.” Sam had to smile back no matter how hard his heart had started pounding. “I think you broke your camera.”
Dean reached back over the seats, trying to reach where the thing had ended up in on the floor. Practically leaning over at the waist on the bench seat, he slid back with bulky shape of it in his hands. Examining it briefly, he flipped open his door and kicked it open.
Sam quickly did the same, wanting suddenly to be out there in the field of just about nothing at all. The sky was bright blue above, making it hard to look down at the dazzling ground reflecting all that sun right back upwards. It made him hold his arms out for some reason. Hold his arms out with the constant roar of wind and just lean back.
He heard a click.
“Don’t.” Sam heard himself say.
Dean lowered the camera and studied it again.
“How do I know if that even worked?”
Sam thought of the digital and electronic that he could have explained without even looking. His brother turned his attention back towards the car. It looked bizarre and stark out there against the 30,000 acres of empty salt flats. Almost like a black & white photograph already if the sky wasn’t so brilliant and pale above.
“Here, lemme see.” Sam held out his hand.
He liked the perfect rectangle that he could move and reshape through the lens. It seemed a pity though. No matter how he angled it he could never fit in all that blue. All that white. The frame seemed to nullify it all down to the limit.
“Go stand next to it.”
“No way.” Dean laughed a little, turning around in the direction of the shimmer of rocky hills.
He wondered what exactly the pictures would turn out like. If the thing actually worked at all. Pressing the worn metal button, the camera’s eye flickered on a glowing outline of the billowing contrails that streaked overhead. Again on the haze of the fine line of earth to air. For no reason at all, he pointed it straight down at the ground knowing if anything managed to collect on the ancient wind of triacetate plastic, it would be nothing but a blinding wash.
Sam stepped away a little and caught his brother’s turned back with the gleam of the black paint just beyond. The shutter fluttered and he felt the insides of the mechanism grind and coil under his hands.
It was all it took to make him turn around. Sam squeezed down the button several times, catching the motion of his brother cast against the big wide world as he raised a hand over his face in a weirdly shy gesture Sam wasn’t really expecting.
“Cut it out.” Dean reclaimed his newly acquired acquisition. “Yer wasting the film.”
“What did you buy it for?” Sam finally asked. It might have been used but it hadn’t come cheap. “A paper weight?”
Dean shrugged, twisting the focus as he played with the jutting flash that the guy behind the register had already warned didn’t work. Sure didn’t need one out here anyway.
His brother said it like he had decided right then and there instead of back in the musty air conditioning of the crammed shop.
It was a good a reason as any. Sam pushed his shirt sleeve up under each of his eyes. They burned a little with the harsh steady breeze that didn’t have one single obstruction to break its flow for more miles than could be walked.
Sam didn’t mind when he heard the shutter click this time.
It didn’t even feel like trying when he managed what he hoped was a decent smile.