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If the guy wasn’t toasted off his ass, there was a chance he might have a decent singing voice. But he was toasted off his ass, and the sounds coming from his mouth were just this side of awful. Still, Faith couldn’t suppress a snicker at her target’s tenacity. No one in the room was impressed with him, and they weren’t shy about letting him know. Every time this Dean Winchester dick got on stage to belt out one of the songs he seemed to have on rotation, he was met with boos and hisses and more than one drunken jackass screaming at him to shut the hell up. A bottle or two might have been thrown as well.

But Dean Winchester, it seemed, had no fucks to give. And hell, Faith could respect that. No matter the animosity he received or the grumbles that greeted him, he sang his fool little heart out and fuck anyone who didn’t want to hear him.

She still didn’t know his deal, but she was having fun trying to figure it out, which was more than she’d thought she’d be able to say when Giles had asked her to take this assignment. Granted, she was still a bit fuzzy on the why but couldn’t deny that it felt hella good being away from Slayer Central for a while, and bars were more her scene anyway.

A picture had formed over the course of the last hour—not a clear one, but she felt she was on the right track. From what she’d observed since parking her ass on a stool, Dean was a professional barfly. He seemed to know his way around the space rather well, was on friendly enough terms with the waitress to be knocking boots, and had a groupie in the form of a British dude who wore a suit too nice for this dump. What didn’t make sense was why this guy’s brother had had a hard time tracking him down because Dean was not going out of his way to keep a low profile. Faith had already witnessed a few near-miss brawls and one outright fistfight that she’d had to physically restrain herself from breaking up. If he wasn’t throwing back booze like he was mad at his liver, Dean was making a spectacle of himself in whatever way he could.

The waitress was definitely on the hook for the guy, which was a shame because Faith also hadn’t missed the way Dean had eyed her up and down the moment she’d sauntered into the bar. Or the rather blatant looks he kept throwing at her—the kind she was used to receiving in places like this. The poor little blonde number was a broken heart in the making, but at least the woman looked sensible enough to know this.

Dean finished crooning “Imaginary Lover,” took a moment to wave off the assorted sneers and jeers from his crowd of non-admirers, then promptly launched into “I’m Too Sexy” for perhaps the third time since Faith had plonked her ass down. Also for the third time, she busted up laughing because, well, apparently she was the only person in vicinity who had a goddamned sense of humor.

The drunken idiot on the stage met her eyes and favored her with a truly spectacular smile that, she admitted, would likely have the panties melting off anyone else. Instead, she just snickered and threw back the shot the bartender had placed in front of her. The burn hit the back of her throat and filled her with that slow, steady but deceptive warmth. She needed to pace herself, she knew—aside from the waitress, she figured she was pretty much the only real live woman most of the clowns in this place ever got within throwing distance of. A fact that was underscored by the steady stream of drinks that she hadn’t ordered but kept finding themselves placed in front of her anyway.

Faith wasn’t worried about what might happen to her if she had one too many—she was, however, worried that she might sock some mouthy fucker who thought that a drink was a contract for sex, and then the game would be up. Drunk or not, her target would probably take notice of a full-grown man being tossed around like a ragdoll.

“How you doin’, darlin’?” came from her right, along with a hot blast of BO and beer breath.

Faith pressed her eyes closed, turned to the fucker and plastered on a smile so fake it hurt. “Not lookin’ for company at the moment,” she said in her best don’t-fuck-with-me voice. “Enjoyin’ the show.”

Beer Breath was a walking caricature of what had come to mind the moment Giles had uttered the words North Dakota. He had a mullet—honest to fuck mullet—a shaggy piss-colored beard, yellow-stained teeth and a round gut.

“So I’m good enough to accept free booze from but not talk to?”

Faith arched an eyebrow. “No one told you to buy me a drink, sugar, but I ain’t about to turn it down.” She glanced back to the stage, and saw her assignment was watching the exchange with interest. Could be a good or bad thing—he might be the chivalrous type and make her job all the easier. “Like I said,” she muttered. “Enjoyin’ the show.”

Beer Breath swore loudly. “Pretty boy’s been screwin’ Anne Marie since he got here and giving her the runaround,” he said. “You don’t need no man like that. Come on now.”

The singing abruptly stopped—a smattering of applause broke out at this—and the next thing Faith knew, Dean Winchester was practically on top of them. If Beer Breath smelled like a brewery, Dean smelled like he’d taken a bath in Jack Daniels. His eyes were glazed but strangely focused at the same time, and he practically vibrated with a dangerous sort of energy that spoke to Faith on a primal level. It was familiar in ways she didn’t like to think about anymore but could never truly put behind her.

“This guy botherin’ you?” Dean asked. It didn’t look like he much cared what the answer was—the intent was there all the same. He wanted to fight.

Faith brought up her hands. “Nothin’ I can’t handle.”

“You sure? Looks like he wants more to handle you.”

“Excuse me!” Beer Breath chirped in, all puffy and indignant. “I’m standing right here!”

She wasn’t sure what made her do it, especially since she’d already told herself she wasn’t going to show off for this guy. But chivalry was outdated as fuck, and if she wanted to get close to him, maybe she needed to prove she wasn’t like the Anne Maries of the world. Because she could see him getting bored with that wicked quick, and until she figured out just what had crawled up this guy’s ass to make him pull the disappearing act on his brother, she needed him as fascinated with her as any guy had ever been.

So Faith decided to be Faith. Without taking her eyes off Dean, she grabbed Beer Breath by the scruff of the neck and slammed his head against the bar so hard the thing rattled. He gave a pitiful moan and collapsed into a puddle at her feet.

“Now he’s lying right there,” she said, arching an eyebrow. “Told you I could handle it.”

She hadn’t finished speaking before she determined that had been the right move. A slow, cocky smirk drew across Dean’s lips, and to her supreme annoyance, Faith felt a rush of excitement that she hadn’t in years. True excitement, not just for dick or a body to warm her bed, but targeted. Like she wanted this specific dick between her thighs—and truth be told, she wasn’t sure she’d ever felt that way. Not even when she’d taken monogamy for a spin, which might be one of the reasons she and Robin had crashed and burned after Sunnydale. And ever since then, she’d more or less reverted to form. Men were interchangeable and anything more was a waste of time. As long as the guy had a good cock and could get her off, she didn’t need anything more.

Bitch of it was, more often than not, the guys who volunteered weren’t up to the task. Something told her, though, that Dean Winchester could rise to the challenge just fine.

“Uh huh,” Dean said, motioning to the bartender, that smile still in place. “Handle it you did.” He aimed a glance at the form on the ground, snickered and kicked it. “Shoulda figured. You look like a chick that likes it rough.”

“I like it pretty much any way I can get it,” Faith replied. “So long as I’m calling the shots.”

“Control freak then.” He didn’t bother playing coy, rather raked his eyes down her body and back up again. “Can’t say I’m not curious.”

She smirked and resituated herself on the barstool. “Can’t say I’m interested,” she replied. “Besides, pretty sure Blondie would throw a hissy, and that ain’t my kind of drama these days, sorry.”

Dean furrowed his brow. “Blondie?”

She nodded and gestured at the woman standing behind him—the waitress he was all but surely fucking on the regular. The woman had stopped her rounds and was watching the exchange with blatant worry and mistrust.

Dean followed her gaze. If he was bothered at being caught, he didn’t let it show. After a long moment, he turned back to Faith, a small, satisfied smirk on his lips. “She knows the score,” he said. “Ain’t promised nothin’.”

“Lucky girl.”

He lifted a shoulder. “You tell me.”

Faith smirked and leaned forward, not missing the way his eyes dropped to her cleavage and lingered there. Most guys this blatant, in her experience, were rotten in the sack, but something told her Dean would be the exception to that rule. And if he proved to be difficult to get close to otherwise, she wasn’t above using her body to seal the deal. See if he was the chatty sort when he was balls deep in a woman, figure out what the hell his deal was so she could report back to Giles like a good little minion.

White-hatting was kind of fun, and fuck knows she had a shit-ton to make up for and likely not enough years left to get it all done. Still, she wasn’t sure she’d ever get on board taking orders. Or running errands. And she was on the fence as to whether or not B volunteering her for this gig had been her playing nice or being low-key passive-aggressive. It could honestly go either way.

“I think you better go make nice with your girlfriend before she slips somethin’ into your next round,” Faith said, pressing closer to him. “I decide I wanna ride, you’ll be the first to know.”

He smirked and gave her another long, appraising look. “Counting on it.”

Then, without another word, he turned and walked off—not back to the stage, but toward the little toady that seemed to follow him everywhere. The British guy in the nice suit. Faith didn’t bother playing coy, because British certainly wasn’t. The look on his face was somewhere between concerned and annoyed, though what he had to worry about was anyone’s guess. Unless he had a hard-on for Dean, which didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility, but Faith didn’t get the impression that Dean swung that way.

All right. First contact made. And from what she’d seen, nothing out of the ordinary. Just a guy wasting away the hours in some dive, hitting on anything with a double-X chromosome, annoying the regulars with bad karaoke, and somewhat eager to land in a fight. Not exactly what she’d call healthy, but what the hell did she know? Faith had missed the boat on healthy a long fucking time ago—likely had never had the chance to make it in the first place.

Still, she couldn’t deny she was looking forward to seeing more of Dean up close and personal. The boy was fun to look at, hella entertaining to watch, and just reckless enough to appeal to the side of her that she probably oughta try to bury once and for all.

But since Faith wasn’t exactly known for her stellar life choices, it would be off-brand to go strictly straight-and-narrow. A girl still had to have fun.

And she intended to.