- - - - -
"Dean, you're not driving, okay?"
"Gimme a break, Sammy I'm not even tipsy."
"Uh-huh. Where are your keys?"
Dean backed up a few feet. "No way I'm letting you drive my car, wraith bait."
Sam coughed. "Uh…your car?"
"I'm the one who stole it, so it's more mine than it is yours." He grinned. "You're just jealous because you would have grabbed a minivan or something."
Sam shrugged. "Fine, you drive. Where are the keys?"
"In my wallet."
Sam watched him, amused, as he patted down his coat. He put on his most parental tone. "Where's your wallet, Dean?"
Dean winced. "At a guess, sitting next to my beer bottle in Ronny's." Sam laughed. "Oh laugh it up, birthday boy."
"I'll get it." Sam said, sighing, and went back into the restaurant.
Dean leaned against the Mustang's hood, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone. His heart gave a leap. He'd turned it off during the flight to Dodge City. "Ah Dad…" Sure enough, he powered up his phone and the screen said, YOU HAVE 3 UNREAD MESSAGES. With a feeling like a weight on his chest, he listened pressed the phone to his ear.
"Dean. It was…it was a trick. The contact was no good, the tip…well…someone played us good. Listen, uh…" Dean could sense an apology hovering in there, but John simply said, "You're on the flight right now, that's probably why your phone's off…when you get this message call me, all right?" Long pause. Then it ended.
"It's me again. It's umn- okay, it's almost two o'clock. You've got to be on your way to Lawrence by now. I'm headed to Evanston, I assume once you get Sammy, you're going back for the car. I'll meet you there, but I'm going to a hotel first so I can recharge my phone. Dean…call me."
Dean couldn't think when he'd last heard real tears in his father's voice. But they were there now, barely concealed. He sounded tired, desperate. It made Dean's hands shake.
"It's three thirty-four. My umn, my phone's dying. I guess…guess I told you that. I think someone might be following me, must have picked up my trail from San Jose. It's not safe for me to meet you in Evanston. I'm not gonna be able to stop either, so this is the last message I can send before my battery gives out." He took a long, shaky breath. "Dean, you call my voicemail the minute you boys get a chance. Let me know…how you uh…how it…" Dean felt an unexplainable lump form in his throat as John grappled with himself. "Promise me Sammy's okay. Just uh…tell him happy birthday for me, kay? And Dean, I'm…I-"
End of Message.
Dean shut the phone, his breath clouding the air in front of him. He sat for awhile, pressing the antenna to his lips, lost in thought. Then he opened it again, dialed the number from memory, and held it to his ear. It went straight to voicemail.
"Dad, it's Dean. We're okay, Sammy's…Sammy's gonna be okay. We killed it, uh…pushed it down the stairs, actually," he laughed half-heartedly, then stood in silence, uncertain. "Look umn, we're going back to Evanston for the Impala, so…yeah, I guess you knew that, cause you were going to meet us. It's okay you can't, though. Don't worry about it." He scuffed his shoes in the dirt. "Don't uh…Dad, don't beat yourself up about the tip-off. It's-"
Dean looked down at the phone. CALL ENDED. He'd run out of room.
Suddenly, the door of Ronny's opened and a disgruntled Sam came out, and held up three scraps of paper. "Sandra, Jennifer and Julia's phone numbers. They claim that you never asked for them, and that you just seemed 'like a fascinating, introspective sort of guy'. What's funny is-" he slouched next to Dean, and shoved the pieces of paper into his jacket pocket. "They ALL said it. Word-for-word." He rolled his eyes, and grinned. "I'm telling you, if some demon wanted to track us, all they'd have to do is bar-hop from one end of the US to the other and see which waitresses-" He stopped, noticing the expression on Dean's face for the first time. "Hey, what's up?"
Dean didn't look at him at first. "Dad called. Three times, actually. But I turned my phone off on the plane, forgot to turn it back on. Forgot about calling him from Lawrence, too." He finally looked up at Sam, who was watching him, his expression blank. "That's why we didn't hear from him. His phone died, so he can't…get a hold of us for a little bit."
Sam nodded, and stared down at the gravel. "What else did he say?"
"He said to tell you happy birthday." Sam looked up.
They stood in silence until, finally, Dean stood up off the hood, and smacked Sam lightly on the chest. "Let's get going, Sammy."
Sam stood up as well, and went silently to his side of the car, pulled the door open, and slid inside, slamming it hard behind him. Dean stood out in front of the car for a moment. Then he opened his phone once more, resolve on his face. He dialed the number and pressed it to his ear.
"What I was gonna say…it's not your fault. And Sam and I, we don't blame you for it. And we're both okay." He took a deep breath, and let it go. "We'll see ya, Dad." He ended the call, climbed in the car, and the two of them sped off down I40, Motorhead screaming out the windows.