Braeden Residence

Dean got out of the truck and stomped in through the garage. He heard Lisa banging around in the kitchen, spoons on pans, saucepan lids clanking, and then silence. "It's just me!" he called out, and the sounds resumed.

When he got off shift at the construction site, he'd stand in the garage and take off anything he didn't need to wear inside, boots and over-shirts mostly, stripping down to jeans, socks and his t-shirt. Lisa joked that you could've written things in the dirt on him, and she was right. It was filthy work, but it paid okay, and the supervisors didn't ask questions about why someone with freckles was named "Rodrigo Suarez."

He was leaning against the wall, toeing off his remaining work boot when he heard it: an insistent little metallic vibration. Looking around the garage at the usual suspects (wondering if Ben had been messing around and forgot to unplug something), he walked toward the sound. It wasn't the big rolling toolbox. It wasn't one of the storage boxes. It wasn't the empty microwave container that Dean had been using as a makeshift catch-all for junk.

Dean's jaw went stiff, wondering if it was the car. Even though the car was always the first thing he laid eyes on when he walked in, he hadn't taken off the tarp in the three months he'd been at Lisa's. Maybe something in the trunk? He went over a mental inventory of what he'd last seen in there but couldn't think of anything.

As he stood there, he realized the sound was behind him, on one of the little workbenches he'd set up for himself. His "man cave," Lisa jokingly called it. He didn't actually work there, but he hung a mechanic's light from one of the rafters and read. If Lisa thought he was out there fixing things and not finding out everything he could about Hell, that was fine. It was quiet back here. It was also the best position for Dean to monitor the other two access points into the house: the front through the open garage door and the back through the little ventilation window.

Right now there was a power strip on his work bench, plugged into an orange extension cord. A cell phone was sitting on a red shop rag, plugged into an adapter.

Lisa opened the door. Cooking, lemon cleanser and candle smells came out with her. She was still in her instructor get-up from the gym, her dark hair piled on top of her head. "You okay out here? I made dinner."

Dean half-turned to look at her, trying to think of harmless conversation to make, but nothing would come out of his mouth. She stepped around the toolbox to peer at the workbench. "Oh, I found that in one of the closets today when I was looking for Ben's baseball stuff. It worked with my charger so I thought maybe we could give it to him? We've been talking about getting him a phone and you're not using…"

He'd turned toward her, and despite his best efforts, whatever was happening to his face had stopped her. His voice came out too low, like it was congested. "Yeah… it's just one of my extra phones."

Lisa's tight smile showed that she wasn't satisfied with this answer, not with any of Dean's answers so far, but she was patient, still trying to give him his space. She stood on her toes and kissed him on the jaw. "Spaghetti's on the stove, if you get hungry."

He had a tight smile of his own, turned away and closed his eyes. "I'll be there in a few minutes."

It was the phone that had been in the duffel bags he and Sam had packed for Detroit. This phone had been Dean's main cell, the phone that had survived being dropped, wet and gut-covered more than any other phone he'd ever had, and looked it.

When he heard the kitchen door click closed behind him, he picked up the phone and slid his thumb in a zig-zag across the security screen.

A little flag displayed, saying he had one new message from two weeks before. Dean pushed the button to get it and put the phone to his ear.

"Hey, Dean, this is Sam, and we just left Vegas." There was this laugh in the background that Dean, wincing, recognized as his own. Then the music blasting in the background was turned off.

"What are you doing?" He heard himself ask, sounding muffled on the recording. He remembered that they were in the car, with the windows down, with Sam's hair whipping into his eyes.

Sam's voice was that bright, happy, too-loud voice he got when he'd been drinking. "I'm leaving you a message."

"I'm righthere."

"This isn't for now, this is for next year. So you absolutely can't tell me next year that our room's above a strip club because you forgot to make reservations that we make every year."

Dean groaned in the background. "Come on, it wasn't that bad!"

Sam was laughing now, too, speaking directly into the phone, to Dean a year into the future. "Dean, it's Sam, and because of you, I now know all the words to 'Bootylicious', because they played it in the club everysinglenight."

"You loved it!" Dean snorted on the message.

"So I'm sending you this and scheduling it amonthbefore next year's Vegas trip, which is when you should get off your ass and make reservations at a reasonably nice place, just like we planned."

"Hang up the phone!" Dean said, and he could see himself making a grab for it as Sam held it aloft, because Sam's voice went distant ("I'm going to run out of recording!") and came back clear. "So make the reservations now or I get to pick the entertainment. Donotforget."

"Oh, hell no," came Dean's voice in response. "How do you send a voice mail a year later, anyway?"

"Technology, Dean," Sam answered, and there was the sound of keys being pushed, of menu options being selected. "It's a wonderful —"

When the message cut out, the silence in the garage felt like it was crushing his throat. He stood there holding the phone to his ear for a long time, until the electronic voice asked him for the ninth or tenth time if he wanted to replay the message, delete it or return to the main menu.

He took a deep, shaky breath and hit the power button the phone until the display had gone black. Crouching down, he unfastened one of the bungee cables on the Impala's tarp, just enough to get one of the back doors open and throw the phone inside.

No one would've known from hearing them that they were starting to face down the end of the world. They'd been in Vegas all week, they'd had a good time and they were on the highway, at least until the next emergency. Dean had the clearest image of Sam sitting there, holding up the phone, smugly grinning at him.

"Technology, Dean. It's a wonderful thing. One of these days you'll have to sit down and figure out how your damn phone works."

"I don't need technology. I've got firepower, personal charm and cassette tapes."

"Yeah… you're right, we should work on the cassette thing first. You know, start small. Figuring out your phone's gonna be a lot of work."

"Shut up!"

Dean sat down at his workbench for a long time, listening to his own breathing, to Lisa and Ben talking brightly inside, to the music the neighbors were playing while they ate dinner, to the strange sounds of suburbia that he still wasn't used to after three months.

He didn't cry. He thought he might, but he didn't. He thought it might be good if he did, but he couldn't. He waited, but nothing happened. He was all cried out.