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On the House

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"In a past life," the guy at the end of the bar began, "I lived in Kansas. Was a hunter. Hunted things. Hunted things." He stared into his glass, swirling the liquid.

Castiel sighed inwardly. The morose drunks were always the hardest to gauge. Some wanted sympathy; some wanted to get angry; some wanted to be cheered up. Some just wanted to talk.

This guy wasn't sloppy-drunk, at least. Didn't seem particularly drunk at all, really, though in general hitting the whiskey at 6:30 on a Tuesday afternoon wasn't a good sign.

And anyway, Cas was perfectly willing to admit, if he had to play bartender-therapist, it's nice when his patron-patient's disgustingly attractive.

"So how'd you end up in South Dakota?" he asked.

"No particular reason to be anywhere else," the guy said with a shrug. "Might be in fuckin' Denver tomorrow, who knows."

Cas shut down the slight pang of disappointment in his stomach. Do not develop one-night crushes on your straight patrons, he reminded himself sternly. No matter how pretty they are.

"So life on the road?" he asked, wiggling the whiskey bottle slightly, and the guy pushed his glass over.

"Pretty much," he agreed. "Kinda grew up this way. Guess I never entirely grew out of it."

Cas nodded, refilling the glass. He could relate a little bit, actually, and he told the guy so.

"Yeah?" he said, looking up. "I'm Dean, by the way." He stuck out his hand with a small smile, the first one of the evening, and Cas felt his stomach give a small, annoying lurch.

"Cas," he said, wiping his hands before taking Dean's. "And yeah, sorta. I mean, I grew up the opposite, actually. Family was super strict, back east. Religious nut types. We... didn't get along well. Sometime after college I just sort of snapped. For a couple of years I just kind of... well, I believe the term is 'finding yourself,' but the more accurate description is 'being flat broke and sleeping in your car a lot.'"

Dean snorted. "Cheers to that," he said, raising a glass. Cas poured himself a small shot of whiskey and clinked it to Dean's, throwing it back. He didn't drink heavily while working -- he was well aware of how many different ways that could end poorly -- but like most bartenders he had no qualms about sharing a drink with a patron here and there over the course of a night.

Especially when it was a slow Tuesday night, and there was very little likelihood there would be any delicate situations requiring full use of his faculties.

Especially when said patron had vivid green eyes, and hair like spun gold, and lips that --

No, he cut himself off, wiping down a glass.

Fortunately the after-work crowd had begun to filter in, and Cas was able to distract himself from Dean's irritatingly attractive face for awhile. He finally turned back to check on him, expecting Dean to be talking to one of the pretty girls he'd seen wander in, but to his surprise he was still alone, and blatantly staring at him.

Dean jumped at having been caught out, and a faint blush crept into his face, pale pink under those golden freckles.

"Uh, sorry," he mumbled, looking away. "Spaced out for a minute there. And, uh, sorry for goin' all," he gestured vaguely, "stereotypical depressing bar patron. Don't wanna be that guy."

Cas gave him a smile, and poured them each another shot.

"On the house," he said, sliding one across the counter. Dean looked up in surprise, then raised his glass. They clinked them together, but before Cas drank, he leaned forward. "Anyway," he said, and Dean paused with his glass at his lips, "of all the stereotypical depressing bar patrons, I don't mind the cute ones." He winked and knocked it back, and was gratified to hear a slight choking sound from Dean.

He turned away, but not before he caught the blush on Dean’s face intensifying, and yeah, he thought, his admittedly dull gaydar might have misread Dean.

The proverbial angel and demon in his brain immediately leapt to battle as he mixed and served drinks.

Do not flirt with customers to whom you are freakishly attracted, his conscience hissed.

What, am I supposed to flirt with people to whom I’m not attracted? he pointed out, quite reasonably.

Customers. Patrons. Professionalism.

I’m a bartender, he reminded himself. Flirting is in the fucking job description.

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. So yeah, his initial assumption of Dean’s leanings might have been somewhat off. And yeah, he was pretty sure those were signals of attraction the guy was sending his way. But he wasn’t sure if they were even intentional or not, and that was a pretty fucking important question.

The bar had picked up to its usual evening buzz, not super busy but enough that Cas only got to talk to Dean in passing. Eventually the seat next to him was taken by an obnoxiously pretty blonde girl who seemed to occupy most of his attention, and Cas couldn’t deny his disappointment.

Cas could see Dean's gaze flickering to him periodically as he worked, and he seemed to ignore the girl every time Cas came around to check on them, but the rest of the time the charm was most definitely turned up high on the chick.

Don't be an asshole, he scolded himself. Don't expect him to come to a bar and pine over the awkward bartender all night ignoring attractive people.

Sure enough, the next time he went by Dean's seat was empty, with a pile of money covering his tab stacked neatly against the counter, and he noticed immediately that the girl's seat had been vacated as well. Something small and ugly twisted in his stomach, and he sighed, disappointed but unsurprised.

As he gathered up Dean's money he noticed a torn piece of paper tucked underneath it, with something scrawled across it and what was unmistakably a phone number. He frowned at it, then looked up in surprise as the blonde girl dropped back into her seat, looking slightly sour.

"Uh -- can I get you something else?" Cas finally managed.

"Ugh," she said with a small smile. "Do you have any sort of… strike-out special?"

Cas smiled back at her, suddenly feeling a lot more warmth towards the girl.

"What kinda bar d'you take this for?" he asked, throwing up his hands dramatically. "First one's on the house, of course."