“The names,” Castiel said with an exasperated sigh, “of all of the prophets are seared into my brain. She is not one of them.”
Sam paused, a hand on Castiel’s shoulder to keep the angel upright. “Then what is she?”
“I don’t know. Or care,” Castiel replied. He reached up and grabbed Sam’s hand, his grip hard and unbreakable despite his waning power.
“Well, Cas,” Sam said, trying to tug his hand from the angel’s grasp. “We have to do something.”
Castiel looked up at Sam, a firm resolve painted sloppily across his face. “You’re right,” he said gravely. “We need to do shots.” And then Sam felt his body pulled into a million directions as Castiel shifted to somewhere new and dragged Sam along for the ride.
“Dean is going to flip when he gets back and we’re not there,” Sam said as Castiel dragged him over to the bar. He tried digging his feet in, but Castiel just towed him along as though Sam were a stubborn child who was not going to get out of going to the dentist.
“Dean will manage,” Castiel said firmly. “Two beers, please. And six shots of tequila. And whatever she’s drinking, but in a jug. A big jug.”
“Look, what is up with you?” Sam asked, scouring the bar for any hint as to where they might be. It was daylight outside, and Sam had a horrible suspicion that they weren’t in America anymore.
“My problem, Sam, is that I am running out of time, running out of power, and I can’t even crash into the ground in peace because you and Dean are incapable of figuring out a false prophet by yourselves.” Cas picked up one of the beers and started draining it.
“Look-” But Castiel held up one finger, silencing Sam until the glass was empty.
“My problem is that I fell for Dean. I gave up everything I had, and everything I didn’t know I had, and this is my reward for the faith I had placed in him.” Castiel started on the second beer, and Sam leaned against the bar, waiting for him to finish. “My problem,” Castiel said, placing the second empty glass firmly on the bar, “is that I am older than some of the stars in your skies and I only learn the truth now.” Cas scowled at the neat row of shots, as if they were personally to blame for this offence. “There is nothing. No father, no second chances. It is the end of the world and I am going to die, again, because I stupidly put my faith in the ‘righteous man’.” Castiel snorted, and demolished five of the shots in neat order, pushing the remaining one over to Sam.
It was a pretty heavy admission, and Sam was glad for the drink. “Well, yeah,” he said after knocking it back. “We’re all in the same boat now, I guess. And we all have a part in it, you know. I mean, I let Lucifer out of his cage.”
“And I set you free so that you could release him,” Castiel said plainly, pouring the jug of something brightly coloured into one of his empty beer glasses. He then filled the second glass, and pushed it over to Sam. “And Dean started the whole mess by breaking the first seal.” Castiel took a large gulp of the cocktail and made a face. He then busied himself with ordering an assortment of shots and trying to make the drink more potent, somehow.
“Well, he was in hell. I mean, it’s different.”
Castiel shook his head. “Our lives,” he said reaching for a straw and sticking it in his pint glass, “would be completely different if your brother had been a stronger person. If he’d never made the deal at all.”
“Every path in life can be traced back to a single event,” Castiel said bitterly. The effect was kind of lessened by the fact that he had his elbows on the bar, his head cradled in both hands, and was speaking around a straw. “The path to the apocalypse was started then, in hell with Dean. And yet he blames us.”
“He blames himself, too,” Sam said, before finally trying his own glass of purple cocktail. He thought it might have been a Fruit Tingle. “It’s just that he doesn’t say that out loud, you know? He carries it inside.”
“Well maybe he can start carrying his attitude around on the inside, too,” Castiel said, glaring at the bar. Sam huffed a laugh, and topped up Castiel’s drink.
“You think this is bad? You should have seen the attitude he had when he first got me from college. Like, I was meant to be happy or something that he pulled me away from everything I’d worked so hard for.”
“You should have seen his attitude when I dragged him out of hell,” Castiel countered. “I have never seen a human so angry to be alive again.”
“You know, he punched me for burying him? Like burning him would have made things any better. I knew he’d need that body again.”
“It did make a convenient place to deposit him,” Castiel said, nodding in agreement.
“I know, right?” Sam took another sip of his drink, then followed Castiel’s example and grabbed a straw. “And he was all,” Sam lowered his voice a pitch for his Dean impersonation, “‘I’d’ve burned you, Sammy’, and I was just looking at him going, dude, no. You fucking sold your soul rather than giving me a proper funeral. Like, you do not get to fucking judge my decisions here, you know?”
Castiel nodded, an exaggerated motion that left him swaying a little. “He thinks I was weak for following orders,” Cas paused, motioning for a whole bottle of rum to be brought over. He then stuck his straw in the bottle and started working away at the spirit. “But that’s all he does. He follows orders, and when he has none he maintains. Things aren’t allowed to change. But things do change.” Castiel reached into his pocket, pulled his phone out, and slapped it on the bar to illustrate his point. “Change. All the time.”
Sam nodded. “Dean doesn’t even know what MySpace is.”
“Fuck MySpace,” Castiel said. “Goddamned hipster noobs.” Sam stared at Cas incredulously, and after a moment the angel deflated a little. “I had a conversation on an elephant about social networking,” he explained.
“... The fuck were you doing on an elephant?”
“Looking for God,” Castiel pulled a face, sneering at his own endearing hope. “He liked the large beasts. It was suggested that I could ‘friend’ him on Facebook. But there is no God on Facebook. Well, aside from Hestia. But she is a dick. And her status updates are very boring. No one gives a fuck about whatever the hell she is baking.”
Sam snorted another laugh, and topped his drink up. He managed to snag Castiel’s bottle of rum – causing the angel to growl at him in warning – and top it up with more Fruit Tingle. Some sloshed over onto the bar, but Sam thought it was a pretty successful effort. “Well, I’m sorry that you didn’t find God.”
Castiel shrugged. “Me too.” He sighed, and tried to focus his energy into draining his bottle. “At least I didn’t lose Dean’s amulet.”
Sam grimaced. “He threw it out, anyway.”
“You gave it to him.”
Castiel nodded, as if this confirmed something he already knew. “Dean’s a dick.”
Sam sighed heavily. “Yeah. He just... When he’s hurt, he’s hurt, you know?”
“Because his pain is just so important. Because his pain is more valuable than your guilt, or my fall.”
Sam shrugged. “Maybe not. It’s probably not even more important to him. But, you know him. One thing at a time. He’s gotta get himself right, first. And it’s getting harder because the problems are getting bigger. Michael, Lucifer.”
“Michael is of no concern,” Castiel said. “Even the angels think he’s crazy. He has been alone in Heaven for too long. It is Lucifer who will lay waste to the world, and he can’t do that without you.” Castiel drained the last of his rum and pushed the bottle away, nearly tipping backwards off his seat as he tried to keep his balance. Sam grabbed Castiel’s shoulder, steadying him. “I do not think you will say ‘yes’, Sam,” Castiel said seriously, staring up at Sam. “You are a good person, despite the best efforts of both Heaven and Hell.”
Sam gave Cas a wobbly smile, and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. “Thanks, Cas.” He let out a small, shaky laugh. “Maybe one day Dean’ll see that, too.”
“He should see it now,” Castiel said firmly, thumping the bar. “You are brothers and you are soldiers and there should be faith, trust.” He shook his head, another movement made comical by the big frown on his face. “Siblings should not be like this.”
Sam snorted. “You’re an angel, do you even have siblings?”
“I have,” Castiel replied firmly, and then softened. “Had.” Then he slumped forwards, his head coming to rest on the bar and he made a small, broken sound.
“Hey, hey,” Sam said, clapping a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. He patted him a few times, trying to find the right amount of pressure of hand against shoulder to communicate his feelings. “Look, it’s alright. We all lose people, okay? It’s just because you’re drunk.”
“I’m not drunk.”
“You’re wasted,” Sam said with an air of expertise.
Castiel nodded, his forehead squeaking against the bar. “Yes. I am wasted.”
Sam paused, his brain moving thickly and stupidly. He had a feeling they weren’t talking about being drunk any more. “You just need to eat something, okay? Drunk people love eating. It’s like, the best thing.”
And then Sam had to explain to a very contrary Castiel that, no, jelly shots were not actually a food. Castiel gripped Sam’s arm as he lurched to his feet, and the scenery around them changed.
Sam wasn’t sure whose idea it had been to play darts. He wasn’t sure what number bar they were in, but somewhere along the way he’d picked up a lei made of plastic flowers and Castiel had a flashing badge with ‘Poag Ma Hone’ pinned to his coat. Sam did know that, despite having drunk an ocean of alcohol, Castiel still had incredible aim. However, rather than just throw a dart at a circle and try to hit it, they were playing Dean Darts, the aim of which was to throw a dart at a circle and utter a grievance had with Dean, his personality, or bodily functions. Which kind of levelled the playing field, since Sam had twenty-five years on Cas when it came to being annoyed by Dean.
“He’s a cockblock,” Sam said, squinting at the target which was a long way away, blurry, and refusing to stay still. “Not just that, but he cockblocks me, and then he’s hitting on my girl!” Sam threw his dart with incredible force, and heard it smack into something. It probably wasn’t the dartboard, but Sam felt satisfaction nonetheless. “Who does that?”
“When I went into the depths of hell to rescue him, after a siege that lasted years in that inferno,” Castiel said, taking his place at the chalk line on the floor. “We had lost so many of our force. I thought I was going to die there. But then I found him, I found your brother and I reached out to him.” Castiel squinted, and took aim. “And then he bit me,” he said, as his dart thunked into the bullseye. “His soul bit me.”
Sam snorted a laugh. He couldn’t help it, because that was so like Dean, so unwilling to trust something supernatural. “That’s nothing,” he said, stepping up to the line. “When I was... eight? We got into a fight. I don’t know what about, but he got so pissed. And he bit me so hard that he took a chunk of skin out of my leg.” Sam shook his head and threw his dart. He was pretty sure that it landed somewhere on the board. Definitely didn’t land in a patron. “The first time I get stitches, and it’s not some snarling beast or anything. Just Dean cranky that I ate the last of the cereal or something.”
Castiel took Sam’s place, selected his second dart. After a moment of thought he said, plain and simple, “He has no respect for the dead.” Sam heard the dart move through the air, squinted at the board and saw twin darts poking out from the bullseye. They were probably both Castiel’s.
“He has respect,” Sam protested. “Well, except for bodies. I guess he does desecrate them a lot. But he has good intentions. Usually they’re good. I mean, he also just likes setting things on fire. He wanted a Viking funeral pr- pri- pyre when he died.”
“He said that Uriel was a dick,” Cas replied flatly.
“Uriel was a dick.” Sam shrugged in the face of Castiel’s glare. It was a pretty intimidating glare, but Castiel was swaying on his feet, and Sam was pretty confident that he could duck a smiting. Or at least intentionally fall over if faced with one.
“Even if he made mistakes,” Castiel said, his words a little slurred, “Dean had no right.”
“Well,” Sam said, taking his last dart. He took the time to line up the shot carefully, to make sure that the target was mostly in focus. “Well Dean talks shit about a lot of people,” he said at last. “It’s just Dean.” He threw the dart, and was happy to just assume it hit close to home. “You can’t piss in his cereal, but because he’s the big brother he can damn well piss in yours.”
Castiel scowled. “Dean is not coming anywhere near my cereal.” Sam laughed, unable to tell if Cas understood that the cereal was a metaphor or if the angel would be hunched over his breakfast protectively from now on, glaring warily at the front of Dean’s pants. The image made Sam laugh even harder, and Castiel gave Sam an unimpressed look, hunching his shoulders to show his distaste.
Dean had once remarked that he thought that angel’s were like God’s parrots, the way it was so easy to tell when Cas got his feathers all ruffled. Jess had a pet cockatiel when Sam first met her. He knew a few things about parrots. He gave Castiel an assessing look, and smiled.
Sam waited until Cas had his last dart in his hand, until he was glaring at the dartboard as if daring it to give him anything less than a bullseye. Sam waited until Castiel pulled his arm back, and then he pressed his fingers to the back of the angel’s neck, scraping his fingernails up through short, dark hair until he reached the base of Castiel’s skull. Castiel’s head dipped forwards with a small grunt. “What are you doing?”
“Head scratches,” Sam replied. He shifted closer to Cas, a little unsteadily. “Birds have this place, you see, right here.” He dug his fingers in firmly, and was rewarded with another small grunt. “It’s kinda like playing with a dog’s ears. They love it.”
Castiel glared at Sam from the corners of his eyes, unwilling to move his head lest Sam’s fingernails stopped scratching that sweet spot. “I,” he said with firm menace, “am not a bird.”
“You’ve got wings,” Sam replied. “You like the head scratches.” He dragged his hand through Cas’s hair, from the back of his head up over his scalp and to the front, ruffling a thick stripe of it forwards. “And now you have a crest.”
Cas scowled. “You think you can distract me.”
“You haven’t taken your last shot,” Sam said, his smile wide and challenging.
Castiel narrowed his eyes and, without glancing away from Sam, threw the dart with a quick, hard motion. Sam looked over at the board. Sam’s three darts were in the board and the wall around it. Castiel’s two were still in the bullseye. No sixth dart. Sam smirked, and turned back to Castiel fully intending to crow about his successful distraction technique, when there was a small ‘thock’ noise nearby, and pain blossomed out from his bicep. He looked down at Castiel’s final dart which, having defied all laws of physics, had apparently passed through the wall, curved around, passed through a different wall, crossed the bar, and implanted itself into his body.
Castiel smirked at Sam, raising his chin smugly. Sam scowled in response. “That’s an illegal move,” he said, a little sulkily as he pulled the dart out of his arm and pressed his thumb over the small wound.
“Yes,” Castiel agreed. “But it is an effective distraction.” When Sam looked up, they were in an entirely new establishment, and Castiel was signalling to the bar tender for another round of shots.
“What time is it?” Sam asked over the loud music. The DJ was playing Miley Cyrus at peak volume, though Sam would deny knowing any of her songs later.
“Here? It’s tem pm,” Castiel replied, handing Sam a shot of something that smelled like it could be used to strip paint.
“And in Blue Earth?”
Castiel turned to Sam with a bitter grin on his face. “In Blue Earth, it’s time for the Apocalypse.” Sam snorted, and then thought to check his watch. It took a while to focus, but he eventually succeeded. It was so late back there that it was early again.
“Okay,” he said. “This is our last stop. Pinkie swear me,” he said, holding up a fist with his pinky extended. Castiel stared at his hand in confusion, until Sam sighed, reached out, and twined the angel’s pinky finger around his own and shook their hands once. “Just this place, then we go back.”
Castiel looked up at Sam and nodded sombrely. “I swear,” he said seriously. “Right after the body shots.”
Sam woke up regretfully. It were as if his entire body had lined up, organ by organ, part by part, to tell him that they hated him and then kick him in the brain. He was flopped across the motel room bed, lying on his stomach and half-suffocated with his face pressed into the thin pillow. There was a heavy weight pressed against one side, at the soft flesh between his ribs and hips. Some preliminary flailing with an arm that weighed three times what it should gathered important intelligence about another body on the bed with him, and clumsily returned with a tan coat belt tied to his wrist. Eventually Sam realised that it was probably tied there before he had woken up, and he breathed a sigh of relief at not having to figure out how he had managed to do that in the process of his morning fumblings.
Then the room was flooded with light. Sam hissed and pressed his face back into the pillow. Cas was on the bed with him. Had Cas exploded? Were they under attack?
“Rise and shine, Sammy.”
Sam groaned, long and low. Worse. Dean. And it wasn’t even the annoying you’re-hungover-and-I-am-going-to-have-a-ball-with-this Dean. It was the I-am-pissed-at-you-and-you-will-suffer Dean.
“Someone had a party last night,” Dean said, his voice tight and clipped. Sam had an irrational fear that maybe Dean knew, maybe he knew that they had been talking about him. Sam tried to roll over, felt too vulnerable showing his back to Dean while his brother was angry and Sam’s own liver was trying to stage a mutiny. Castiel was a dead weight against his side and it was hard for Sam to move, to roll away from that heavy head pressed against his spleen. His legs fell over the side of the bed as he flipped onto his back. Castiel made no noise as his head flopped back onto the bed, as the open book that covered his face bounced and hit his forehead with a small crack.
Sam wondered if Castiel was dead. He wondered if he could trade places with him. Sam tried to sit up, failed. Groped for a pillow to prop his head up, failed. He stared at the ceiling, and figured that not curling up into a ball and whimpering was good enough. Dean looked down at Sam and snorted. “What’d you do? Match him drink for drink?”
“Yeah,” Sam replied, his voice a heavy rasp.
Dean regarded him for a moment longer, before giving Sam a nod. “Okay, that’s pretty impressive.”
Sam tried to sit up again, felt an angry prick of pain in his arm that jogged his memory. “Yeah, but he kicked my ass at darts.”
“So,” Dean said, taking a seat by the table and its mountain of books. “In between the kegger and the international bar games championship, did it occur to either of you wild things to get any research done, huh? Figure anything out about this prophet?”
Sam made one last attempt at sitting up, rolled onto his side and braced himself on Castiel’s shoulder to push his torso upright. Castiel let out a long, rasping groan at the disturbance. “She’s not a prophet,” Sam said. He remembered that much.
“Yeah?” Dean replied, looking unimpressed. “What is she then?”
Castiel sat up then, rising up like a zombie from one of the old films before sagging forwards. The book fell to his lap with a tearing noise, one page still stuck to his cheek. Cas raised a hand to his temple, and growled. “Goddamn whore motherfuck,” he said dully.
Dean raised an eyebrow. “Harsh words for the sweet little girl we’re talking about.”
“I was talking about my head,” Castiel shot back. “Ow.” He reached up and pulled the page away from his face, and glared at it. Then his gaze turned considering. “Though ‘whore’ is probably accurate,” he added, handing the page to Dean.
Dean studied the page. “Whore of Babylon? Huh.” He glanced over at Sam and Cas, who were probably winning first and second prize for the Most Rumpled And Hungover Person In Town award. “You kids did good. Now,” he stood up, and grabbed his keys, making sure to jangle them loudly. “I am going to hunt me down some breakfast. With bacon, and eggs, and a steak. A syrup, just poured all over it.” He grinned maliciously as Sam greened. “Come find me when you’re descent,” he said before leaving, happily slamming the door behind him.
Castiel glared at the sunlight shining through the curtains, and then at the closed door. “When I remember how to stand,” he said, his voice heavy with stern gravity, “I am going to find your brother. And then I am going to punch him in the face.”
Sam made a non-committal noise, and sank back down onto the bed. “The second rule of Hangover Club, Cas,” he said. “If you can’t stand, you should be sleeping it off.” He tugged at one sleeve, and Cas stiffly lay back on the bed, his head resting on Sam’s stomach. Sam cringed, and with a bit of poking, had Cas arranged so that he had his own slice of bed and no part of Sam’s body was being crushed.
After a long moment, Castiel asked, “What’s the first rule?”
“The first rule is that you don’t talk about what happened the night before.”
Sam got himself comfortable and closed his eyes. Hopefully when he awoke, Dean would have simmered down and there’d be a bottle of water on the bedside table. He felt his still-drunk innards ushering him towards sleep, could hear Castiel’s easy, level breathing beside him.
“What’s the third rule?”
“The third rule?” Sam pondered for a moment, and then went with his instinct. “The third rule is that Dean can be a dick.”
Castiel huffed a breath though his nose, a small laugh. “Sleep well, Sam,” he said, in that rough, wrecked voice of his. And Sam did.