Dean parked the Impala in an empty spot and cut the engine. He whistled slowly and turned to Cas, riding shotgun beside him. “Well, if Chuck defined ‘blasphemy’ in the dictionary,” Dean said, “this place would be it.”
They were in Smith Grove, Virginia, parked outside a rectangular building topped with a steeple. The windows were wide and colored with glass, and the front door was heavy oak framed in stone.
Cas tilted his head towards Dean, looking puzzled. “Why would God care about the location of a homosexual establishment that promotes dancing and alcoholic beverages?”
Dean snorted, hands thrumming against the steering wheel. Though the structure of the building still resembled a church, the comparisons ended after that. The brick—which Dean imagined had originally been red or brown—was now painted dark gray. Above the door was a wide black awning, with a gold cup painted and the words HOLY GRAIL written in cursive.
“Dude, ‘cause it’s a gay club...in a church.” When Cas stayed silent, Dean looked at him, curious. He waved a casual hand towards the club, wondering if Cas understood the irony. Cas had been on-and-off earth for over a decade, Dean was well-aware, but he was still a socially awkward angel. A baby in a trenchcoat, one might say.
Cas glared at him. “Dean,” he said, a hint of sharpness in his voice, “I might have rebelled...a time or two. And I might be at the top of Heaven’s most wanted list. But as an angel, I can still feel the spiritual energy surrounding a centuries-old place of worship.” Dean opened his mouth, as if to interrupt, but Cas continued.
“So, to answer your question—yes. I realize this is a ‘gay club in a church’.” Cas paused and pointed upward, his face softening. “However, even if I wasn’t an angel, I would know.”
“How’s that?” Dean asked, eyes following Cas’s pointed finger.
“You could spot those flying buttresses a mile away,” he said simply.
Dean shook his head, stifling a laugh, and opened his car door. “I’ve got to get new friends,” he mumbled, just loud enough for Cas to hear. “The fact that you and Sam can say shit like ‘flying buttresses’ in casual conversation really cramps my style.”
Mentioning Sam, Dean wondered how he was doing at the morgue, examining the body of Aaron Samuels—a twenty-two year old man who had died at Holy Grail just last night. His injuries suggested he had been stoned to death, yet he had died in the middle of a crowded dance floor...with not a single stone in sight.
Dean patted at his suit pockets, confirming he had all the essentials—EMF detector, pistol with salt rounds, and a small iron crowbar (hard to carry, but helpful when entering a potentially haunted, church-turned-den-of-iniquity, Dean reasoned). Cas was still glaring at Dean, a response to the hunter’s earlier jab, but Dean nudged his elbow until Cas gave a grudging smile. They approached the front entrance side-by-side, the sun setting behind them.
The club inside was dimly lit, small lights anchored in each corner of the ceiling. They are really milking this church theme for every ounce it’s worth, Dean thought, noting the vaguely religious decor on the wall, the dramatically heavy curtains covering the windows, not to mention a wildly disturbing mural of Jesus performing fellatio on John the Baptist that Dean hoped to expunge from his memory. The front lobby had a tall, narrow table with a decorative bowl of holy water in the center. Cas gave him a raised eyebrow, and Dean nodded, knowing they both had the same thought: if demons are involved, that could come in handy.
There was no one standing in the lobby or behind the cash register, but Dean wasn’t surprised. It was still early, and according to the business hours posted outside, the club wasn’t open for another two hours. He pulled the EMF detector out of his pocket, hoping no one would decide to walk by. The sensors went off immediately, the frequency steady and rising. Cas began to wander around, standing in the doorway of a dance floor on the right. Dean saw the flash of a camera straight ahead, along with the familiar sound of—what he assumed to be—local cops discussing the crime scene. He stowed the EMF detector back into his pocket. Then he reached for Cas, fingers wrapping around the sleeve of his trenchcoat, requesting that the angel follow him without saying a word. Together, they walked towards the commotion.
They had entered what appeared to be the main dance floor, with a sleek bar in the back and an iron-sculpted DJ booth stationed up front. Dean had been right—the place was filled with cops. Still, he wasn’t sure what exactly they were photographing. There seemed to be no real evidence to speak of. Dean approached the locals, introducing himself and Cas (Agents Davis and Townshend, respectively) and then, shoulder-to-shoulder, they both squatted low enough to examine the floor.
“See those indentions?” one nearby cop said, running a hand along the uneven floor. Cas nodded, his face solemn. “Newly remodeled floors, the bartender swears. Not a bump anywhere in sight. Until last night.”
“Last night…” Dean stood again, thinking aloud. “When a man was stoned to death in the middle of a crowded club.” The cop nodded, his face stricken.
“Is the bartender around?” Cas asked him. “To aid in your investigation, we’d like to ask him a few questions.” Dean was surprised to see Cas taking charge, but he nodded in approval. The angel was really getting the hang of hunting. It only took a decade, stubborn little shit. Dean grinned, and Cas’s eyes flashed at him suspiciously.
“What?” he asked, as they parted ways with the local law enforcement and headed towards the bartender.
Dean shook his head. “Nothing, man.”
“Dean,” Cas insisted.
“Just noticing how far you’ve come,” Dean said, trying to keep his voice light. “You’re a...a good hunter, Cas.”
Cas smiled, pleased by the compliment. Dean’s gaze flicked downward, watching the corners of Cas’s mouth, admiring his teeth—straight and white and perfect, Christ, Jimmy must have had braces as a kid. There was a hint of stubble growing on Cas’s face, and his lips...what was up with his lips? They were normally a light shade of pink, but today they were red and chapped, skin practically peeling from overuse. Dean felt his heartbeat quicken. He knew what red, chapped lips meant—hell, he’d had enough of them to know. Why the hell does Cas’s lips look they’ve just undergone the best makeout session of his life?
Dean didn’t realize they had reached the bar—and more importantly, were approaching the bartender they hoped to question—until Cas cleared his throat. Dean averted his gaze, his temples beginning to sweat. Is it weird that you were just checking-out another guy’s lips? No, no way. It’s just Cas. You were checking out Cas’s lips...as a friend. A concerned friend.
Dean was distantly aware that Cas was speaking, but it wasn’t until he heard his name—or, rather, his alias—that his mind wandered back to the case.
“Agent Davis and I would like to know, in your own words, what happened last night,” Cas said. Dean could sense the careful way Cas was measuring his words, and he felt a rush of guilt. This job was a milk run to him, but Cas still wasn’t comfortable with how much lying was required during a hunt. Dammit Dean, concentrate. You’re making Cas do all the heavy lifting.
Dean looked up, meeting the eyes of the bartender. He was young, barely in his twenties, his hair sculpted high with gel. He was wearing a neon orange cut-off, with faint tattoos painted on both arms. He was wiping a glass absently and staring at Dean, then at Cas, seeming amused.
“Right...what he said,” Dean mumbled, nudging a casual elbow towards Cas. “Anything you can tell us about Aaron Samuels would be great.”
The bartender threw his dishrag over his shoulder, then pulled up a stool. Dean and Cas followed, sitting across from him at the bar.
“First of all,” the bartender said, stretching his hand in their direction, “I’m Leo.” They both shook his hand, Cas participating in the action quite mechanically, as if he couldn’t understand why humans considered this necessary. Dean started to smile, then caught a glimpse of Cas’s chapped lips and felt irritated all over again.
“I bartend every weekend, so I always know the regulars,” Leo said, shifting on his stool. “This guy was...different.”
Cas leaned forward, eyes narrowed. “Different how?”
“The way he was dressed—big baggy jeans, a sweatshirt.” He tilted his head towards the dance floor. Dean’s eyes traveled to the strobe lights, the metal poles and platforms, imagining how wild this room would be at night. “He was wasted, too. I cut him off an hour before last call, but he was still wrecked. Worst I’ve seen in a long time. His boyfriend had left him here, and he seemed pretty broken up about it.”
“Boyfriend?” Dean asked, and Leo nodded.
“I don’t know his name, but they were obviously together. I thought the guy was cute at first, but once I realized he was taken, I backed off. He was your typical cub.”
Cas’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Cub?” he repeated. Dean shrugged, equally clueless for once.
Leo tilted his head, surprised by their ignorance. “You know—cub. A short, young, stocky gay guy?”
Cas stared blankly at him.
“Must be a generational thing,” Leo mumbled, and Dean tried not to glare.
“When did the attack happen?” Cas asked, clearly attempting to steer the conversation back into familiar territory. “After Aaron’s boyfriend left?”
Leo nodded. “The guy—you said his name was Aaron?—he was dancing in the center of the floor. There must have been two hundred people here, easy. We were closing in fifteen minutes, but Thursday nights are always busy—”
“Ladies’ night?” Dean interrupted, trying to joke, but Leo nodded. He pointed to a poster on a nearby pole, and Dean spotted the image of man wearing drag and walking onstage. “Thursdays are fabulous,” Leo informed him. “All queens drink free.”
Dean began to sputter, his face turning pink, and he hoped that Leo didn’t noticed.
“Anyways, everything was fine, then...people were screaming. It was so loud that I assumed someone had brought a gun, so I ducked behind the bar, thinking I’d have to dodge bullets.” Leo frowned, seeming stuck in the memory. “Anyways, once I realized someone was hurt, I followed the commotion. And the guy...Aaron...he was bloody, and pounded in, like his body was struck over and over with a meat tenderizer.” He stared at his hands, shuddering. “The guy had been beaten to death, it was obvious. But we have no clue how. Security always checks bags at the entrance, and then the cops came and searched everyone a second time…” He shrugged, though he looked shaken.
Cas turned to Dean, watching his reaction to the bartender’s story. Dean nodded, the movement a subtle confirmation, a “his story seems legit.” Cas nodded in agreement, eyes turned down in concentration. Dean looked back at Leo, deciding on their next move.
“Thank you for your help. We’ll be back tonight to continue our investigation,” he said, using his best “official” FBI voice.
Leo leaned in, appearing alarmed. “Why? Do you think it’ll happen again?”
“We’re not sure,” Dean admitted. He figured they were dealing with a vengeful spirit, but why that Aaron kid had been targeted was anyone’s guess. Maybe Sam would have some answers after his visit to the morgue. “But we’ll come back tonight to...monitor the situation.”
“You’ll leave the monkey suits at home, right?” Leo asked, earning another glare from Dean. “I-I just mean...everyone’s on edge, you know, after what happened last night. And two FBI agents staring everyone down while they party won’t exactly be good for business.”
Dean considered Leo’s point, and shared another glance with Cas. Finally, Dean nodded. “I suppose we’ll have to…” He looked at Leo’s tight tank-top and skinny jeans, and fought the urge to groan. “...dress the part.”
They stood to leave but Leo held up a finger, asking them to wait. “I’ll go on and get your wristbands,” he explained, walking towards the front lobby and leaving them alone. The cops were long gone, so Dean and Cas walked around the empty dance floor, instinctively circling each other.
“This is the work of a spirit, right?” Cas whispered.
Dean nodded. “No idea who or why, though. We’ll need Sam to do some research, cause this whole, ghost-inside-a-church-turned-gay-club thing is just...too much.”
Cas rolled his eyes and licked his lips, ready to respond, when Dean remembered... “What’s up with your lips, by the way? Been leaving the bunker to go frenching like some horny teenager?”
Cas’s eyes opened wide. “What?”
“Your lips.” Dean stepped closer to get a better look. His foot was nudging Cas’s, their knees touching. “They’re all red and chapped. Mine only look that way after…you know...”
He watched Cas’s eyes, warm and blue as always. His eyes traveled down, looking at Dean’s lips. Dean returned the look immediately, realizing they were both imagining the intense amount of kisses needed to make someone’s lips as swollen and red as Cas’s were at this exact moment….
“Dean,” Cas said, his face so close that Dean felt him exhale.
“Cas?” His voice was low and scratching, barely a whisper.
Cas continued to stare, perhaps longer than he should have, before finally saying, “I hate to disappoint you, but...I have not been frenching like some horny teenager.”
Hearing his words repeated by Cas broke the tension, and Dean laughed freely. He felt relieved, though he didn’t understand why. If Cas was getting some action, he should be celebrating….not sulking. “Dude, then what the hell?”
“Sam punched me during our training yesterday,” Cas explained. Dean knew Sam had been taking advantage of the bunker’s gym, hoping to get back to full strength after a vampire nest had left him injured last week. Cas had agreed to be his sparring partner. “I would have used my grace for healing, but then we found this case, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to waste energy on something so...cosmetic.” He lightly touched his lips. “They are strangely annoying, though. Swollen and cracked. I don’t know how humans handle such irritations.”
Dean smiled, unable to stop himself. “Ice...and chapstick,” he answered, hardly believing he was having this conversation with an angel of the Lord. “We’ll stop somewhere on the way the motel, and have you good as new.”
Behind them, Dean heard feet shuffle. Leo was standing in the doorway, watching them curiously. Dean wondered how long he had been standing there. “Here are your wristbands,” the bartender said, taking a step closer. Dean broke away from Cas and walked towards him, reaching for the wristbands in his hand.
“The FBI is smarter than I thought,” Leo commented.
Dean slipped the bands into his jacket pocket. He turned to Cas, then to Leo, looking confused. “In what way?”
“Oh, just the whole, going undercover-in-a-gay-club thing. This crowd—” he swept a dramatic hand around the club “—well, they can spot a straight dude from a mile away. The feds were right to send in the gay agents.”
He looked from Dean to Cas, smiling. “Around here, you two will fit in just fine.”