Dean stares stoically at Sam for a moment, and then shakes his head in disbelief. “You want to what ?”
Sam sighs and rolls his eyes. “You heard me, Dean. I want to go find a job. We can’t hustle for the next year in one place, and the emergency money isn’t going to last much longer. You have meds, we have the rent, and bills and...”
Sam checks off each item on his fingers.
Dean says nothing, just continues to stare at Sam. His face remains blank, but his eyes are turbulent. If Sam gets a job, that will be one step closer to him wanting to settle down permanently, and no way is that happening. Like, ever.
Dean firmly shakes his head in the negative, and cuts his hand through the air. “Absolutely not, Sam. What if we find a hunt? You think your job will just let you take off at a moment's notice?”
This time it’s Sam’s turn to stare. And he does, jaw clenching tightly. “We’re not hunting right now, Dean,” he says firmly, correctly reading the look in Dean’s eyes. “You can’t run, hell, you can barely walk on a bad day! What makes you think you can hunt?”
A pause, then, “Whatever, Sam.”
Sam sighs. Things haven’t been the same between them since he killed their dad to destroy the yellow-eyed demon and save Dean. “Can we not start this again, Dean. Please?” His eyes are wide and pleading as he looks at his brother.
Dean rubs his chest, feeling the puckered skin of his scars through his shirt. He looks down, momentarily startled that he doesn’t see his blood running in thick red rivulets to pool on the ground, because he can still taste the copper that filled his mouth, still feel the knives that tore him from the inside out. He can still hear the words that the demon hissed in his father’s voice. He’s falling, and he doesn’t know how far the hole goes.
You shoot me, you shoot me! You shoot me in the heart, son! Do it, now!
Sam… don’t you do it! Don’t you do it!
Dean jumps as his brother’s hand lands on his shoulder. Sam’s voice drowns out the sound of the gunshot that echoes through his memory. He raises his eyes to meet the concerned brown of Sam’s looking at him.
“Hey. You back with me?”
Back? What the hell? “Never went anywhere, Sammy.” His voice sounds raspy and weak, even to his own ears, and he clears his throat and leans his hip against the table. He crosses his arms in what is clearly a defensive gesture and juts his chin out at Sam.
Sam stares at him, before letting his shoulder go. “I’ve been calling you for several minutes, Dean,” he says quietly.
Dean just shakes his head and brings a hand up to scrub down his face. Everything is so confusing now. Up, down, left, right...none of it makes sense. There is no structure anymore. He’s speaking before he even realizes it. “You killed him.”
Sam steps back with a sharp inhale. “Dean, please. I did what I had to do. I wish I didn’t have to do that, but it was him or you!”
There’s a flash of anger, but it’s gone as swiftly as it comes. Instead, Dean’s voice is defeated as he pinches the bridge of his nose and repeats, “You killed him.”
Sam fists his hair in both hands. “Dammit, Dean! He was killing you! And you know what? I’d do it again. In a heartbeat, man.”
Dean looks at Sam and swallows heavily. “I know. That’s what scares me.” He pushes himself away from the table and heads out the door into the twilight, leaving a distraught Sam staring after him as he disappears into the darkness.
Dean drives slowly through the neighbourhood, the street lights bathing the road in a pale glow. Up ahead, he sees a sign on a post that reads ‘The Den’. Odd name, but whatever, it sounds kind of like a bar. And a bar is exactly what he’s trying to find. He shrugs to himself and pulls into the parking lot. He hesitates when he notices the decor on the blacked out windows. Whips and handcuffs are painted on the black in brazen colours, and painted coils of rope frame each window. A fetish club, then. Kinky.
He shrugs his shoulders and manages to find a parking spot beside a run down, tan coloured car. The amount of cars in the parking lot surprises him. He never would’ve thought that that many people would be into that sort of thing. Oh well, as long as they serve booze he’ll be happy.
Dean turns off the Impala and stares at the club’s entrance. He chews his lower lip, his fingers tapping out a rhythm only he can hear on the steering wheel. He glances at his reflection in the rearview mirror. Flinches away from the dark circles underneath his eyes and the gauntness in his cheeks that have never been there before. Before Sam had killed their dad and torn Dean’s life asunder. As with every time that particular memory sears into him, he feels as though he is spiraling out of control, and he takes a deep breath and reins himself back in.
He shifts to get out of the car, and has to pause at the momentary twinge that shoots through his chest, the physical reminder of the night his whole world changed. It dies down, and he hauls himself up and out. Dean shuts the door of the Impala, the familiar squeak of her door the only sound in the parking lot besides the faint, pulsing beat of music escaping from the club.
He opens the door of the club, and is immediately greeted by a large man who stops him with a hand held up. His face is stern, but his voice is welcoming as he nods at Dean. “Hey man, welcome to The Den. You on the play list or you just gonna hit up the bar?”
Dean blinks. Pauses. “Uhh…”
A chuckle. “First time, hey? Well, if you aren’t on the play list and don’t have a partner, rules are you can’t participate. Safety first, right?”
Dean doesn’t really know, so he just nods as though he does.
“However, you’re welcome to head on through to the bar and have a couple cold ones or a bite to eat.”
“Yeah, man. I’m cool with that. Just wanted something to drink, anyways.” He didn’t just want a drink. He wanted a distraction, something to help him forget, even just for a night, but this guy didn’t need to know that. But since he was here, he might as well have a beer.
The bouncer tossed Dean a knowing look, as if he could see right through him. “Sure. Just remember for next time, no partner, no play, unless someone adds you to their list. The bar is the first door on the right.” An orange wristband is put on Dean’s wrist and inwardly he grimaces. Orange sucks.
“Got it, thanks.” As Dean heads down the hall and past the coat check, he feels the eyes of the bouncer burning into his back. He grits his teeth at the feeling and pushes open the large wooden door that he had been directed towards.
He steps into the bar room, and glances around, his hunter instincts going full blast as they always do when he enters a new space, his eyes taking in every detail. He is pleasantly surprised at the atmosphere, expecting something darker and more dungeon-like, given the purpose of the other part of the club. Instead the natural red brick walls pop against the dark wood of the floors. Welcoming cream-colored leather booths line one wall, and hi-top tables with modern looking stools the same color as the booths fill the rest of the space. The far wall is taken up by a long wooden mahogany bar, and the large selection of available spirits are backlit behind it.
Dean walks further into the room, his confident stride belying the nervousness that he feels. His gut does a flip-flop at the sight of the man behind the bar. The man has unruly black hair that has the perfect just-got-fucked look that so few people are able to pull off. His piercing blue eyes catch Dean’s as soon as he enters the room, and one eyebrow tips up in appreciation. Fan-fucking-tastic. Maybe this place has promise after all. Dean had been hoping to meet someone of the female persuasion, but he would take what he could get. He’s been with a couple male partners over the years, considering himself an ‘equal opportunity lover,’ and is willing to give it another shot.
The bartender’s eyes follow him as he reaches the bar, and Dean flashes one of his hundred watt smiles at him. The other man swallows heavily, before walking over and gracing Dean with one of his own smiles. Not bad. Not bad at all. Yup, this guy definitely has potential if Dean is reading him correctly. And he thinks he is. Yesirree.
Wiping his hands on a towel attached to his belt, the bartender leans forward. “What are you having?” And holy shit, that voice. Dean feels heat stirring in his body, and has to take a deep breath to calm himself down. What the hell is wrong with him? It’s like he just hit puberty all over again. Down boy!
He clears his throat. “A pint of your finest beer and a shot of whiskey, “ he replies.
Another smile, and the bartender turns to get Dean his drinks. Dean sits on one of the stools lining the bar, nibbling his lower lip as he waits for his drinks. As he waits, his thoughts flick back to Sam. In truth, he knows Sam is right, and that he is being selfish wanting Sam to not get a job. They do need money. But if Sam decides normal is what he needs, then he might leave Dean. Just like last time. Only this time, Dean won’t have his Dad there to hold him together.
Dean’s breath starts to become shallow and he raises a hand and presses it over his heart, feeling the raised ridges of the scar that is a visual reminder of that horrible night.
“Are you okay?” a gravelly voice asks, startling Dean out of his musing.
“Yeah,” Dean weakly rasps, then clears his throat and tries again. “Yeah. Just gettin’ over a cold,” he finishes, his voice stronger despite the lie. He picks up the shot of whiskey and downs it in one gulp, wincing slightly at the burn of the alcohol as it travels down his throat. “Thanks,” he says, as he darts his tongue out to catch a stray bead of whiskey on his lip. The bartender’s eyes follow the movement with rapt attention.
Dean lifts his beer in a salute. “I’m Dean,” he says, momentarily startling himself at his willingness to use his own name and not an alias.
“Castiel,” comes the reply.
Dean arches an eyebrow. “Castiel, huh? Interesting name.”
An eyeroll. “My parents are from Alabama. They are...very religious,” Castiel explains, the disdain evident in his voice.
Dean snorts and takes a sip of his beer. “Bible belters, hey? I take it you’re not?”
Castiel shakes his head firmly. “No. Not at all. I made some...lifestyle choices, and my parents disowned me because it did not fall in line with what they believed. I left ten years ago, and have not spoken to them since.”
“That’s harsh, man,” Dean says softly, his thoughts once again drifting to his dad, and how desperately Dean had tried to get his approval. And now he would never have the chance. He takes another sip of his beer to ease the sudden tightness that forms in his throat.
The pause that follows is slightly awkward, and Castiel moves away to complete an order for a tall redheaded waitress that saunters up to the bar. She gives Dean an appraising look on her way past, and Dean nods at her, but turns back to his drink, suddenly not interested in hooking up with anyone tonight. Sex-on-legs bartender included, sadly.
The conversation with Castiel has brought back the waves of depression that Dean is running from and trying to drown in alcohol. He polishes off the rest of his beer, and before he can even put the glass down, another is placed in front of him.
“You looked like you needed another,” Castiel says.
“Yeah. Thanks.” Dean takes another sip, and stares into the amber liquid. He twists his silver ring around his finger, one of only a few things he has that his dad gave him. How sad is it that the only physical reminders he has of his father are the car, his first gun, and a tiny piece of silver that fits around his finger? And his dad had wanted the ring back a couple months later to melt into a bullet during a werewolf hunt. Dean snorts at the memory, remembering how Dad had relented and let him keep the ring once he saw Dean’s reluctance to take it off.
Castiel snatches up a rag and wipes up the rings of condensation that form on the bar top. “First time here?” he questions softly as he moves the rag in hypnotizing circles. Dean’s eyes follow the movement.
“Yeah. That easy to tell, huh?”
“Most singles end up in the bar on their first time, there’s not exactly a giant sign explaining the club’s rules on the outside.”
Dean grins and looks at Castiel. “So you hang out and chat all the singles up, or what?”
“No,” Castiel says shortly, focusing on getting the water droplets off the bar top.
“Oh, so I’m special then,” Dean replies, leaning on one elbow and waggling his eyebrows in a playful manner.
Castiel pauses and raises his eyes to look at Dean appraisingly. Dean can’t help but squirm in his seat under that intense stare. After a moment, Castiel continues on wiping the counter. “Perhaps,” is all he says.
Dean’s mouth goes dry, and he hurriedly takes a drink. That one look once again reminds him of when he had just hit puberty and was completely controlled by his dick. Seems to be a theme tonight.
He finishes his drink and nods to Castiel for another. A few more patrons wander in, and Castiel becomes occupied with them, but some part of Dean is pleased to note that none of them hold his interest, or catch that electric gaze. Not that he cares. Because he doesn’t. Not. One. Bit.
Over the next hour or so, Dean nurses his beer and watches Castiel discreetly, thankful for the distraction from his thoughts. Even if it is only for one night. He knows he will have to go back and deal with Sam at some point, but for tonight, for right now, he is able to pretend that the past couple months never happened.
When two o’clock rolls around, the lights in the bar flick on, and Dean looks up, surprised. How did it get so late so quick?
Cas leans over the bar towards Dean. “Closing time, Dean,” he says. It almost sounds like there is a tinge of regret in his voice.
Dean lifts his glass to his mouth and finishes the remaining beer in one gulp. “Yeah,” he says, pushing the empty glass towards Cas, who picks it up with a small smile.
“What’do I owe ya?” he asks.
Dean pulls out his wallet and flips it open. He grabs a fifty and hands it to Cas. “Don’t worry about the change, man.”
The smile that appears on Cas’s face warms Dean’s chest more than booze ever could. “Thank you, Dean.” His fingers brush Dean’s as he takes the bill, and Dean inhales sharply at the electric feeling that zings up his arm at the light contact.
“I should...go. Let you close up,” he says. He’s not going to get lucky tonight, but he’s okay with that. The distraction Cas provided is enough for now.
“I would very much like it if you came back sometime. I work tomorrow, as well,” Cas says, his blue eyes locking with Dean’s green ones.
Dean straightens and nods. “Yeah. I could probably swing by.” He gives Cas a two finger salute and pushes himself off the stool.
“See you later, Dean.”
As he walks out of the bar, he doesn’t even feel the ache in his chest.
When Dean rolls the Impala into the driveway, the first thing he notices is that the kitchen light is on. Great, Sam waited up for him. He sighs, and leans forward to rest his head on the steering wheel. Maybe he can just sleep in the Impala. Wouldn’t be the first time. Raising his head, he sees Sam’s gigantic form peering through the large window. There goes that idea then.
Dean waits a moment longer, then figures he can’t put off the inevitable. Pushing himself out of the Impala with a groan, he trudges slowly up the drive, his boots crunching the gravel and sounding loud in the still night.
Sam opens the door before Dean makes it all the way up, a hesitant smile on his face. “Hey,” he says softly, not quite able to hide the worry that etches his features as he looks Dean up and down.
Dean sighs and pushes past Sam with barely a glance. “I’m fine, Sam,” he says as he walks into the living room and sits down heavily on the couch. He bends over to untie his boots and hears Sam settle on the chair across from him.
“Sam,” he sighs at the same time Sam says, “Dean.”
They pause, then, “I’m sorry.”
Dean sits up straight and looks at Sam, small smiles on both of their faces as they speak the same words at the same time.
“Sam, I’ll never be okay with what happened to...to dad,” he says, swallowing heavily. “But you’re my brother. And, and now you’re all I got,” he finishes softly. It’s hard for him to get the words out. Despite the months that have passed, the brothers rarely spoke about it aside from one or two occasions like earlier. Dean couldn’t.
Sam watches Dean, a lump forming in his own throat as he does. “I need a job, Dean. But I won’t give up hunting with you, I promise. We can just wait until you’re better, then hunt again.”
Dean sighs and shakes his head. “Dude, stop. Let’s be completely honest here. I’m gonna be out of commission for, well, a while. You might as well go get your normal on while you can. Besides, you’re right. We need money, and credit card scams and hustling aren’t gonna work if we stay in one spot.” Sam looks at Dean, a hopeful grin forming on his face. “But, when I’m better, and I will be better, we gotta keep goin’. I can’t stay here, not when there’s still evil out there.” Now Sam stands and moves to give Dean a hug, only to be stopped when Dean holds up his hand with a horrified look on his face. “No hugs, dude. Seriously.” What is it with Sam and hugging anyways?
Sam sits back down, and now can’t help the widening of his smile. “Dean, I...thanks.”
Dean pulls his jacket off and rolls his eyes at Sam. “Yeah, well, it’s better than you sitting here mother-henning me, anyways.” He stretches out on the couch, moaning in pleasure as he is able to stretch out his sore muscles. He closes his eyes and breathes deeply, mind drifting back to the events of the night. More specifically, to Castiel. What is about him that sends shocks through Dean, and makes him hungry to see him again? Never, not even with Cassie, has Dean experienced this need before.
He is interrupted from his musings by the sound of a bottle opening nearby. He cracks his eyes open and sees Sam holding out a beer to him. He pushes himself up with a groan and takes the beer. He can see that Sam is making an effort to not ask him if he is okay, and for that he is grateful. Well, for that and the beer. Beer is good. “Thanks,” he says, raising the bottle in a salute and taking a drink.
Sam settles himself in the chair across from Dean and cracks his own beer. They sit in what is now a companionable silence for a few minutes, each slowly sipping their drinks and lost in their own thoughts.
“Bobby called,” Sam says suddenly.
Dean raises an eyebrow. What is so special about that? Bobby calls almost every day to check up on him. The man is almost as bad as Sam with his worrying. “And?”
“He’s coming by Saturday on his way back, and he’s gonna stay for a couple days. I told him we’d make steak for dinner.”
Dean chuckles at that. “You mean I will make steaks. There’s no way I’m letting you anywhere near the barbecue. You can play hostess for Bobby.” Bobby has been on a hunt on the other side of the country since Dean got out of the hospital, and hasn’t seen the place the brothers have rented yet.
Sam just shrugs and grins around the beer bottle. “Whatever, dude. I don’t mind relaxing while you cook me and Bobby a nice dinner. So where did you end up tonight?”
And there it is. Sam is so snoopy, Dean can pretty much count down to the minute to when he will start hounding for details. Some things will never change. Whatever. It’s not like he was doing anything wrong. “Just went to a bar, Sammy. That’s all,” he replies with a dismissive wave of his hand. “You should know me by now.”
When no further information is forthcoming, Sam nods, then stands up, long arms stretching high over his head. “I’m heading to bed. See you in the morning, Dean.”
“Yeah, night, Sam.” Dean sits for a little longer, debating with himself if he wants another beer or not, before deciding Sammy has the right idea. He gets up and heads down the hall to his own room. And what a headtrip that is. His own room. He hasn’t been able to say that since he was four.
He opens the door to his room and steps over to his dresser. On top of the dresser are several prescription pill bottles. Dean sighs. Stupid pills, in their stupid bright orange bottles. He pulls out his dose for the evening and swallows it with a grimace. His mouth tastes like chalk, so he gulps some water down from a glass of water he had left on his dresser this morning.
He strips down to his boxers and crawls under the covers. He lays there for a while, watching the shadows of trees and moonlight dance across his wall. When sleep finally claims him, his dreams sweep him away with a gravelly voice, mussed hair and blue, blue eyes.