“ Keep Austin Weird .”
Dean sidesteps out of the path of a rainbow-haired cyclist before turning back toward Castiel. Cas is muttering to himself as he squints at a bumper sticker on the back end of a dinged-up blue Prius waiting to turn right. “Sorry, what?”
Castiel reads it aloud again, less to himself this time. “Keep Austin Weird.” He looks up and scans the street, which at dusk is just beginning to crowd with the early shift of bar hoppers and tourists in town for some sort of festival. His head tilts with the barest hint of his trademark posture of befuddlement. “Is this a concern here?”
Dean follows his gaze to a couple leaning against a parking meter, the guy’s arms draping lightly over his partner’s shoulders, her—his?—their half-shorn head tucked under his chin, the pair’s collective jewelry mingling delicate chains and spiky studs in a way that Dean can only characterize as risky. Okay, also...strangely appealing. Maybe. But definitely risky. “I’d say their little weirdness campaign is either unnecessary or really successful.”
He tears his eyes away from the enthusiastically decorated couple before the staring gets, well, weird, only to gape openly at the assortment of sci-fi and “geek chic” stickers on the tiny silver Mitsubishi now idling at the signal. Can you even call it idling when you plug a car in like a vacuum cleaner? The thing would probably fit in Baby’s trunk, after a few choice turns of an Ikea hex wrench. His eye roll loses momentum when his gaze catches on the license plate: GEEKGRL. A bittersweet smile blooms over his face instead. Self-righteous hippies and rabbit food freaks aside, these would’ve been Charlie’s people. Dean notices that Castiel and Sam have both turned to look back at him, so he pushes the melancholy back down into its usual home in his rib cage and clears his throat. “Where are we supposed to be going again? And when?”
Sam takes half a second longer than Dean would like to get with the change in focus, but he finally accepts the diversion and answers. “Marty said his place is called ‘Al’s Bar and Dance Hall,’ over in Aileyville. According to the GPS, it’s about twenty minutes out of town once we escape the festival traffic, maybe ten miles from our hotel? We could head on over after a stop to change back into civilian clothes, if you wanna eat there. Cesar said their chicken fried steak is amazing, and they carry a bunch of local craft beers.”
Dean runs a hand down the lapel of his entirely-too-hot-for-spring-in-Texas suit jacket and considers this. After two long days in full FBI garb, he’s more than ready to relax and literally chill out for a while. They’d officially wrapped their case that afternoon, with enough spare collective energy to spend an hour checking out downtown Austin, but the humidity is wearing him down. He makes eye contact with Cas to confirm his approval of the plan before nodding back at Sam. “Yeah, that sounds good. I could do with a pair of jeans and a kick-ass steak right about now. You can keep your hipster beer, though,” he adds with a squint of obligatory disgust.
“Whatever, Jerk.” Sam rejoins with a long-suffering quirk to his lips.
The trio ambles in a loose unit down the sidewalk toward the side street where Dean had carefully parked Baby that morning, at the time congratulating himself on his twofold avoidance of parking meters and tourists.
“Yeah, yeah, b--” Dean breaks off before completing his usual response to Sam’s call as he stops short to let a woman with a young girl on her hip cross the sidewalk in front of them. He catches Castiel’s quiet, pleased smile in his peripheral vision and flushes warmly for no reason whatsoever.
They wait with a half dozen other pedestrians for the traffic to clear at the last intersection between them and the car. Near their corner, a medievally thick wooden door stands propped open between grimy, barred windows. Intermittent measures of twangy guitar and an antsy drummer’s false starts spill out into the street on a cushion of beer- and barbecue sauce-scented air as a live band runs their sound check inside. Dean finds himself nodding and tapping a foot when the melody persists for several seconds in a row. It’s not the classic rock he favors, but a cheerfully raunchy rockabilly groove that he’s sure is going to get somebody in that bar laid tonight. When a raw-edged electric bass kicks in right as they get their green light, he can’t quite contain the extra bounce in his step in time with the syncopation, and he sees Sam flash an amused dimple in his direction. Dean does manage to curb his defensive reaction to the hint of teasing—just.
Let Sammy laugh. A man can walk with a spring in his step on a gorgeous evening after a job well done. Thanks to some in-the-zone teamwork and a little bonus investigative badassery on Cas’s part, they’d even managed to keep the body count down to the one poor schmuck who’d taken himself out through his own ineptitude before they got wind of the case. He’s got a free night with his brother and his best friend, nobody’s injured, and there’s a proper steak in his near future. Fuck you, Sammy. Or somebody, anyhow. In occasional moments of brutal self-assessment, Dean knows full well that his insistent inner judge doesn’t speak with Sam’s voice. So yeah, fuck that guy too.
Dean allows a hint of a shimmy on his hips to the last faint pulse of bass as he struts up to Baby’s driver side door and grins at the other two men over her roof.
“So. Shall we?”