Dean was riding shotgun for a change, playing navigator using directions written in pencil on a napkin.
And they were lost.
Getting lost was something guaranteed to produce an argument, which this did. Sam maintained their lostness was due to Dean's navigational skills, or lack thereof. Dean's defense focused upon the fact that it had been Sam who had written the directions.
Dean felt he had the stronger argument as he had read the directions off to his driver just as they'd been written. It wasn't his fault Sam couldn't follow his own directions. Truth be told, Dean wasn't completely sure he'd read the directions as they'd been written because he couldn't read Sam's handwriting.
There were several reasons why Dean couldn't read his brother's handwriting. One was because he was somewhat farsighted and had difficulty making out words when they were too close to his face. As it was dusk, and he was confined in the front seat of a moving vehicle, he couldn't quite get the napkin far enough away for him to read it properly. This amounted to Dean Winchester's dirty little secret. If anyone dared suggest he needed glasses he'd shoot them.
Another reason the directions were a little beyond Dean's scope was because Sam had the worst handwriting on the face of the planet. Two years prior, Dean could have read Sam's handwriting. Now it was an illegible scrawl out of which all Dean could make out were numbers, arrows, and the letter "b." Somewhere during his years away at college, Sam had lost the ability to write.
Unbeknownst to Dean this was normal for anyone considering a career in the legal industry. It wasn't exactly "taught" in law school, but the professors talked so rapidly their students were forced to take notes at the speed of sound - if not light. Sam could read his own handwriting, and was completely oblivious to the fact no one else could. Presumably there were college courses for future legal secretaries, which taught them how to read attorney handwriting because they never seemed to have any difficulties. Dean, however, was not a secretary, had no intention of ever being a secretary, and had not taken a course in reading attorney speak.
In a related problem, due entirely to the fact Dean couldn't read Sam's handwriting, Dean had been holding the napkin upside-down. Sam had made turning arrows in the margins, which Dean could read. Unfortunately their effectiveness was entirely based upon them being interpreted from the proper alignment. Dean read them upside-down and backward. Thus he had told Sam to turn the opposite way at every intersection until, halfway through their journey, a single legible word coupled with the number three made him realize his error. Not willing to admit his error to the increasingly frustrated Sam, Dean attempted to backtrack and resume the proper route. He succeeded in making an even bigger mess. They were lost, really lost, and after nearly an hour of circling the same small town over and over again, Dean finally declared it so.
Dean's opinion that college had turned his brother into a big wussy was confirmed when Sam actually stopped at a service station and asked for directions. Dean was in fact thoroughly appalled by this and wondered just how whipped Jessica had gotten his poor baby brother. That thought was quickly dispelled. Upon discovering that they had not only missed their destination but were now in a completely different state, Sam had rounded on Dean in outrage and the fight began.
"We were supposed to turn left at the graveyard, Dean." Sam shouted. "Why didn't we turn left at the graveyard?"
"I thought it said turn left at the gravel pit. We turned left at the gravel pit."
"Oh for the love of..." Rolling his eyes, Sam moaned. "Can't you read?"
"Can't you write? What's this word?" Dean pointed at a scrawl that he had interpreted as "fondue."
"Fountain! Turn right at the fountain!"
Dean had instructed Sam to turn right at a restaurant with a big fork in front of it. Fork, fondue - it worked. He frowned at the napkin. "How did you get fountain out of that?"
"And here," Sam growled, pointing. "Three miles down on the left, turn down dirt road."
"Dirt road! Where in the hell does it say 'dirt road?' All I see is 'grunt bus' and a blob of ketchup!Turn at the ketchup? What the frell is a grunt bus?" With a growl, Dean shoved open the door and got out of the car. "That's it. Get out. Get out of my car, I'm driving."
"No! You're the one who got us into this mess. I'm driving."
"What? You wrote the damn directions, Sam! Just get out of the car and let me drive, okay?"
"No." Sam glared at him. "I suspect a conspiracy."
Dean peered in the passenger's side window. He was starting to wonder if Sam hadn't inhaled some gas fumes during their last fill-up. "What? What are you talking about?"
"You've got some barfly around here or something, right? One of your girls in every port? You brought us here on purpose so you could get laid."
"You're insane! It was your stupid directions that got us here!"
"Only because you're freakin' illiterate!"
"Illiterate!" Okay. That crossed the line. Now Dean was really mad. "Oh, so you go to college and now suddenly I'm illiterate? Oooh, Sammy's so smart, gonna be a lawyer while Dean sits around reading Hop on Pop."
"If the shoe fits."
If Sam hadn't been in the car and Dean outside of the car, Dean would have popped him in the mouth. "You're smart-ass bastard!"
"Yeah, whatever." With a grunt, Sam put the Impala in gear. "You know what, call me when you're done screwing your girlfriend."
Dean regretted his retort the very second it left his lips. It was a particularly low blow on his part, but being called, in effect, stupid, had hit a nerve.
"At least I have a girlfriend!"
They both stared at each other, both shocked Dean had said it and almost immediately Dean launched into a seriously heartfelt apology.
Sam cut him off with the roar of an engine and a spray of gravel. Dean leaped back as the Impala shot out from under him and tore off down the road. He expected Sam to stop a few yards away. Sam didn't stop a few yards away. Sam kept going, and going, and going until the Impala rounded a curve nearly a quarter of a mile away, and Dean couldn't see it anymore. The sound of the Chevy's V-8 rumbling, however, indicated Sam wasn't slowing down.
Dean stood there for a minute with his mouth hanging open. Behind him at the little rinky-dink service station the mechanic came out of the service bay wiping his hands on a rag. He casually joined Dean at the edge of the dirt lot and stared off down the road himself. There wasn't much to see besides corn and cows and a small cluster of tiny buildings that made up the entirety of the small - very small - town.
It was then Dean realized, with horror, that Sam really had abandoned him. He was stranded in the middle of nowhere in a town where the residents probably still used out-houses. Sam wasn't coming back, at least until he cooled off, and that might not be for a long while. Hell, Sam might not come back at all. He'd gotten lost once, what was to say he wouldn't get lost again, eh?
"And he stole my car," Dean growled. He was, in truth, more angry at himself than Sam, but man..."He took the car!"
The mechanic, whose name, as the direction-asking Sam had discovered, was not "Ed" despite the embroidery on his coveralls, tut-tutted at Dean condescendingly.
"Ya ought not pick up hitch-hikers, son," he said. "They'll rob ya blind a'right."
Dean ignored him, reaching instead for his cell phone. Surprise - he actually got a signal. No surprise - Sam wouldn't pick up. Apparently his brother was on the freakin' rag.
Not-Ed looked at him sympathetically as he hung up the phone and let out a string of curses aimed at the legal industry and those who educated its members. The bar exam should have a calligraphy section wherein future attorneys had to complete a legibility test. Anyone not completing the legible handwriting test would not be allowed to practice law.
"Ya wanna beer, sonny?" Not-Ed queried when he sensed Dean had finished his tirade. "I've got some beer in the cooler out back."
With a sigh, Dean turned to his new best friend with a pleading expression. "God, yes."
"Alrighty. Come on then."
In an attempt to make himself feel better, and prove a point to himself at least, Dean pulled the napkin out of his pocket and waved it at Not-Ed. "Look at this! He expected me to read this! What does that say?" He poked at what he thought said "fanny tart" with his finger. "This, right here. This!"
Not-Ed looked at the napkin. From his coverall pocket he pulled out a pair of glasses, which he proceeded to perch upon the end of his nose. Taking the napkin in one hand, he held it out as far away from his face as he could and peered through his glasses at Sam's scrawl.
"Four miles west," he grunted, and handed the napkin back to Dean.
Maybe it was time for Dean to wonder if he really was illiterate, or at least admit he needed glasses. He stared at the grease smeared man in awe. "Wha...how did you..."
Not-Ed grinned. "'round here, folks have to play double duty. I'm the only mechanic in town, and I'm also itinerate judge for this part of the county."
Dean shook his head, not understanding.
"Michael Lewis Diefenbacher the third," Not-Ed clarified, pointing to himself. "Esquire. Stanford University Law School, class of 1970."
It was over an hour before Sam came back. Judge Diefenbacher and Dean had wiled away the time talking about cars and drinking beer. Dean was somewhat buzzed. The judge had some damn good brew at his disposal.
For his part, Sam was contrite. He came wandering around to the back of the station looking for Dean. His expression was quite sheepish.
"Next time," he said apologetically, as he and Dean climbed back into the Impala. "I'll type out the directions."
"Next time." Dean paused to belch before leveling his little brother with a stern look. "I'm driving and you can read your own damn hieroglyphs." He paused, and added quietly: "Sammy..."
Sam flashed him a sad, wry grin. "Hey," he said. "No chick flick moments."
They sat in the car staring out at the highway for a good minute, neither one of them speaking.
"We're still lost," Sam said finally.
"No we're not." From his coat pocket, Dean pulled out a smudged and wrinkled piece of paper. It looked to be a page from a Chilton Automotive Repair Manual circa 1974. There were scrawls penned all over it in thick, black pencil. "The Judge wrote us some new directions."
"Great!" Sam put the car in gear pleased to be moving again. Progress cheered him up. "Where do we go?"
"Well," Dean frowned, turning the paper this way and that in the beam of a flashlight. "Uhm..." he said hesitantly. "Turn left at the lemon boot duck?"