There were only two hunter-friendly drycleaner-laundromats in the US, and My Little Warsh House in Okeana, Ohio, belonged to Harry Mencher. It wasn’t the best living, especially since he did most of his work for hunters pro bono, but it was his little corner of the weird universe, and he’d never give it up for anything.
Most of his “spooky business” came from smalltime local hunters, especially from across the state line in Indiana – Hoosiers seemed to get more than their share of hauntings and other supernatural troubles. Occasionally he got hunters that worked on a more national basis, but those never seemed to, well… survive very long.
Harry’s oldest and rarest customers were the Winchesters. They did most of their own laundry, though there were a few kinds of spooky stains Harry had never taught them how to get out, just so they had to come back and visit every now and then. The Winchester boys had the best stories.
It was mid-July in 2011 and ungodly hot when Sam and Dean came to visit, bringing a duffel bag full of ectoplasm-stained jeans and plaid shirts.
“So boys,” he asked as he sorted through and categorized their clothes from least to most likely to attack him if he wasn’t careful, “how’s things?”
“Been better,” Sam said, looking worn enough to collapse into a rumpled heap. Harry looked expectantly at him, waiting for details, but none were forthcoming.
“Dean, you got blood of some sort on your jacket there. Want me to get that while you’re here?” he pointed out.
“Sure,” Dean grunted as he shucked off the green-grey jacket. Sam blinked over at him, reminded of something.
“We still have Cas’s coat?” Sam asked.
Dean took a moment to answer. “Nope,” he finally replied, looking determinedly out the window at the parking lot. “Don’t think so.”
“You sure? I thought I saw it in the trun—”
“No,” Dean bit off. Sam didn’t push him.
“Well, these should be ready in about two days,” Harry said uncomfortably. “Would be faster, but it’s wedding season. Bridesmaids everywhere.”
“Yeah, sure.” Dean looked like he wanted to bolt. He slapped a couple twenties down on the counter before Harry could protest, nodded farewell, and headed for the Impala parked outside.
Sam looked awkwardly after his brother and gave Harry an apologetic grimace. “Sorry. Bad… bad year.”
Dean returned for their laundry almost a week and a half later, and he had new clothes for Harry to attack. He pulled out two T-shirts and a suit and reached back into the duffel for something else, but stopped, hand hovering just out of sight in the bag.
“Anything else?” Harry asked.
A tendon in Dean’s forearm jumped as his fist clenched around something, starting to lift it out of the satchel. Harry caught a glimpse of khaki stained with blood and dirty water. Maybe a coat or a pair of slacks?
Dean abruptly released the mystery article of clothing and zipped the duffel up. “Nope, that’s it,” he said with a too-sudden grin and laid money on the counter. “Thanks, Harry.”
Harry took the new set of Winchester laundry around back. When he came back to the counter, Dean was still out in the parking lot, staring down at something in the trunk of the Impala. As Harry watched, Dean slammed the hatch down, rested his hip against the side of the car, and kneaded his forehead with the heel of his hand for a moment before slinging himself into the driver’s seat and tearing away.
Sam came to pick up their things a few days later. He didn’t talk about Dean or anything else. Harry wondered what happened since the times when Dean couldn’t be shut up and both Winchesters were brimming with stories of their misadventures impersonating FBI agents and beating baddies.
Harry didn’t hear from the Winchesters again for nine or ten months, but when the Impala whipped into his parking lot again, he could tell something had changed. Dean was driving happier.
Sam wasn’t with him this time, though there was another man, one Harry didn’t recognize. He had dark, wild hair that seemed to be trying to fly away on its own, and he stood a little shorter than Dean. He stuck close to Dean, looking quietly delighted and puzzled by everything around him. He wore nondescript white scrubs with matching footies and no proper shoes, but didn’t seem particularly bothered by this. He was carrying a heap of khaki material covered with set-in bloodstains.
“Harry!” Dean exclaimed happily. “How’s business?”
“Busy. Got prom coming up,” Harry answered. “How’s things?”
Dean glanced sideways at his companion and grinned crookedly. “Good. Pretty good,” he said as if he couldn’t quite believe he got to say so. “Got a rush job for you. Cas?”
Cas, as he was apparently called, was peering into the washing machines in the laundromat half of the Warsh House. He responded immediately to Dean’s summons, looking a little startled. He took long steps to return to Dean’s side, but didn’t seem to be in any hurry to do anything once he was there.
“Your coat,” Dean prompted.
Cas looked hesitantly from the coat to Harry, then back at Dean, who rolled his eyes and grinned again.
“It’ll just be a day, and then you can wear it all the time without freaking people out with all the blood.”
“I just got it back,” Cas protested quietly, voice unexpectedly deep and hoarse, but he handed over the coat nonetheless.
Harry held up the abused garment and eyed it critically. “Geez, how old are these stains?”
Dean looked at the ground, toward Cas’s feet, not his own. “Just about a year,” he said, sounding subdued and a lot more like he had last time he visited. He blinked away whatever was on his mind and looked back up at Harry, smiling again. “How soon can you have it ready?”
Normally, he’d put it at the end of the line, which was pretty long right now, and they’d have to wait till the next day. But Dean was so happy… and Harry couldn’t help wanting to make him happier. “Give me three hours. I have some hoodoo I can probably work on it,” he said, only half-joking.
“There, see?” Dean nudged Cas, grinning at full wattage. “Not even a whole day. We can go get you some real clothes, rescue Sam from the library, and pick it up before we get dinner.”
“I do not believe Sam requires rescue,” Cas said solemnly, tilting his head to one side. “He usually enjoys research.”
“That’s the really tragic part,” Dean said mournfully. “C’mon, we’re going to Goodwill. Cuckoo’s Nest ain’t your look.”
Watching their retreating backs, Harry wondered how this Cas guy could bring on such a change in Dean.
He got his answer when Dean tipped Cas backward over the Impala’s trunk and kissed him like the world was watching.
“Kids these days,” Harry muttered just for the fun of feeling old and took the trench coat around back to rustle up all his best tricks for bloodstains.