When their state highway narrowed and slowed and emptied them onto a tree-lined small-town street, two pairs of eyes turned up in unison to the banner stretched above the main drag: Grill-Out On The Green.
Silence reigned as Dean followed the road. There was a sign, old and scraped, to shunt them back toward the two-lane highway, and beneath it on the same pole, a smaller, handmade sign crookedly encouraging them to the right. It wasn't appealing, spending another eight hours in the car until they just couldn't move another mile. The case on the other end might not even be a case; even Bobby hadn't been sure.
The scent of charcoal-grilled chicken was the final unspoken vote. The Magic Marker arrow guided them unerringly down a smaller street to a cluster of red brick buildings: a college campus. The Impala slowed almost of her own volition as they caught sight of a white peaked tent in the distance. Music---live music, low and slow rhythm and blues music---drifted into the open windows, drowning out the sound of Metallica turned down to a whisper. It had become background noise, a filler for the silence of the last hundred miles that neither of them really heard anymore but neither reached out to turn off entirely, since the alternative was listening to what they weren't saying.
Dean didn't need to be asked to follow the cheerful signs, or to pull into one of the empty spaces in the festival parking lot, behind some school building or other. The Impala got a few admiring looks from folks---and they really were 'folks'---walking through the lot with chairs and blankets in tow, on the way toward the tent-space, and the usual coil of tension loosed a little in Dean's shoulders. No nosy neighbors or curious gossip-mongers spoke to them, but neither did anyone seem unfriendly or unwelcoming, and the set of Sam's shoulders relaxed too as the brothers fell into place and trailed along the path under the trees.
Sam nudged Dean's arm and Dean's eyes brightened as he saw the source of that irresistible food-smell: a huge smoky grill behind a couple smaller, narrow tents. This was the best kind of grilling, just food and fire, and they didn't need to consult before beelining their way to the end of the short line of people.
Chicken or bratwurst, corn on the cob or beans and rice--choice of one meat and one veggie, although did beans and rice count as a vegetable?--and a glass of lemonade, all for five bucks. Their paper trays held one piece of chicken more than many of the others, both almost overflowing with food, and the cheerful woman behind the plastic tablecloth gave them a wink that might have been coquettish forty years previous. Dean still shot her a beaming grin as they moved on to pay and collect covered plastic glasses of lemonade.
They settled on the grass, on a borrowed lumberjack-plaid flannel blanket the family nearby had insisted they accept. Sam sprawled, as he tended to do, and while habit kept Dean more alert at first, he'd sprawled up against Sam before his chicken was half-gone.
White fluffy clouds did nothing to keep the mid-evening sunlight from slanting across chalk-painted sidewalks, highlighting enthusiastic advertisements for both out-of-date campus events, including the one they were at right now, and fresher, future events. The music played atop an undercurrent of easy conversation. A small group of college students took up space near the edge of the stage and their laughter carried as they danced in the golden sunlight.
At a murmur from his mother, one of the kids from the family that owned their blanket snatched up with their discarded trays and plastic forks before either Sam or Dean had stirred to get up and toss them. As her son ran off with their trash, she smiled at them, a silent welcome to these two lanky, travel-marked young men she didn't know. It wasn't an expression either brother was quite used to seeing aimed in their direction anymore, and it was mostly reflex that prompted first Sam and then Dean to offer hesitant smiles of gratitude in return.
Ordinary folks. Huh.
The shadows lengthened. Another tent had root beer floats for sale, with homemade root beer and ice cream, for two dollars.
When Sam's arm slung over Dean's shoulder, Dean didn't shrug it off.
The clouds were clearing out as the breeze picked up. They both knew they had somewhere to be, another couple hundred miles off, but the band was good, really good. Maybe somewhere else could wait on them for once.