Castiel Novak stole a glance at the clock behind the bar before handing the server the bucket of longnecks he’d prepped. 12:02am and the crowd in Rougarou Bar & Grill showed no signs of dissipating, certainly not after the announcement that karaoke would be extended an hour that evening. Cas groaned inwardly and prayed the 5-hour Energy he’d sucked down an hour ago would do what it was supposed to. Taking a deep breath, he pasted on a smile and turned to the group of ladies to his left who’d been sending him flirty looks since they sashayed up to the bar an hour earlier. Sloppy, drunk 20-somethings held no appeal but Cas knew how to use the face God blessed him with to pad his tips. Turning the wattage on his smile up to eleven to showcase his dimples and focusing his clear blue eyes on the de-facto leader of this pack, he pulled out wide-topped glasses for their 5th round of Cosmopolitans as he politely asked her what they would be having. He had 2 out of 4 made before her alcohol-addled brain finished stating the order and he made a mental note to cut them off after this round.
After serving up the Cosmos with a smile and a wink for the group, Cas’ mind went on autopilot as he worked his way down the bar filling drink orders for patrons and servers. He’d been working the Friday night karaoke shift for almost 4 years because, along with his on-call bartender Jody Mills, he was the only one who could stomach the often ear-bleeding noise coming from the speakers most of the night. They were currently dispensing drafts and pouring shots to an exceptionally awful rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” and all Cas could think was that Mister Cash had no idea just how painful it was.
He turned to Jody with a smirk. “8.2.”
Jody grinned back at him with a reply, “7.6. I’m pretty sure I heard him hit at least 2 of the notes correctly.” This was their own little game, rating the singers based on lack of skill, and it was the secret that kept them sane through week after week of agony. If America’s enemies ever figured out just how bad most karaoke was and turned it into a torture ritual, they were screwed.
From Greased Lightning to I Will Always Love You, followed by the drunk 20-something women butchering the holy hell out of Lady Marmalade, Jody and Cas’ singer ratings climbed ever higher until they heard the DJ announce the final singer of the night. Cas gave Jody a low five behind the bar and breathed a sigh of relief. The bar didn’t close until 2:00am but even now, much of the crowd were taking the final swig of their drinks and settling their tabs. While Jody helped the servers cash out tickets, Cas turned to the rack full of dripping glassware and began to dry it so it could be restocked for the following day. He was on glass number 9 when his ear caught the sound of his favorite song being sung by the final singer, a strong tenor with a voice made of gravel.
“I’m no angel, I’m just me but I will love you endlessly. Wings aren’t what you need. You need me…”
Castiel didn’t even realize he’d stopped breathing until his lungs screamed in protest. He took a breath as he turned towards the makeshift stage and got an eyeful of the singer. The rough edges of the man’s voice extended to the rest of him as well. He was tall, but then again everyone seemed that way onstage. He had sandy hair and a strong face covered in what looked like a 2-day growth of beard but it wasn’t enough to cover the full lips that continued to croon the familiar lyrics straight to Cas’ soul. He gasped when the man came to the bridge of the song, Cas’ favorite part, and seemed to hit his stride.
“The ink may stain my skin. My jeans may all be ripped. I’m not perfect, but I SWEAR I’m perfect for YOUUUUUUU..”, the man belted out. The crowd that remained yelled their encouragement as he hit the crescendo of the song and gave it everything he had.
Cas stood completely enraptured by the performance, knowing this stranger had ruined any chance of him ever hearing the song the same way again. The original performer couldn’t hold a candle to what this man was doing with it.
“But I hope that you’ll still wear it…”. The final note hung in the air an extra beat before the applause and hoots erupted. Even Jody let out her infamous two-finger whistle, reserved only for the best.
“Give it up for DEAN!” the DJ yelled into the mic. Meanwhile Cas was frozen in place, watching the man grin and take a partial bow only to be rewarded with the first standing ovation in Rougarou’s history. Dean stepped down from the stage and made short work of crossing to the bar, accepting slaps on the back with grace and a shy half-smile. Jody bumped into Cas while reaching for the margarita salt and that brought him out of his stupor. He made a quick recovery and stood drying the previously forgotten glass as Dean reached the bar.
“Got any strong whiskey back there”, he asked.
Cas chuckled and said, “Course we do but aren’t you doing it backwards?” Dean cocked his head to the side questioningly. Cas continued, “I mean usually the liquid courage comes BEFORE getting on the stage, not that you appeared to need it.”
Dean grinned and replied, “Yeah well the bar was a little packed before and I didn’t have time to make it through the masses. So how about that whiskey and make that a double if you would.” While Cas turned to grab the Jack Daniels bottle, Dean took a moment to appreciate the rear view. His heart had already done a little pitty-pat at the bartender’s dark tousled hair and killer eyes but nothing’s better than a pair of Wrangler’s showcasing an exceptionally fine ass. Full outside package, Dean thought to himself as the man turned with bottle and glass. They probably didn’t play for the same team but he could appreciate eye candy, no matter the sexuality.
Cas dropped a napkin on the bar in front of him and set the whiskey tumbler on top of it. “This one’s on me. Best performance of the month.” He smiled his first genuine smile of the night and reached behind him to continue drying the glassware.
Dean raised an eyebrow and nodded gratefully, holding out a hand. “Dean Winchester. If you’re gonna buy me a drink it’s only polite to introduce myself”, he shrugged.
“Castiel Novak”, he said as he set the glass down and shook the man’s hand. “So why that song?”
“Why do you ask,” Dean said as he took a generous gulp from his drink.
Cas picked up another glass to dry and replied, “Everyone has a reason for the songs they choose to sing. Could be for fun or because they’re sad or some bring a significant other to sing to. I like hearing the stories, so what’s yours?”
Dean chuckled into his drink, “They didn’t have the one I wanted by the same artist so I went for my second choice. That’s all.”
“Let me guess, Angel With A Shotgun”, Cas smirked at him when Dean looked surprised. “Winchester. Seemed to fit.”
“Yahtzee.” Full inside package too, Dean thought to himself. To Cas he said, “You know The Cab’s tunes, I’m impressed. What’s your favorite?”
Cas blushed and looked down at the glass in his hands. “Endlessly.”
The one I just sang, Dean realized. Interesting. He sipped at the remaining whiskey as Castiel excused himself and stepped away to fill final drink orders, as they’d just announced last call. Unless he’d misjudged the interest in those gorgeous eyes, he may have been too hasty in his assumption of what team the bartender was a part of. Perhaps he should order another drink and test the waters a little bit, but first he needed to make room for said beverage. Setting down his glass, he stepped away from the bar and made his way through the billiard room to the restrooms.
“Keep the change,” the couple said to Cas as he set the two Long Island Iced Teas in front of them and accepted the $20 bill with a smile. He made quick work of cashing out the ticket at the register and pocketing his tip before turning back to where Dean had been sitting moments ago. Now it was just an empty space at the bar and Cas tried not to be sad about it as he retrieved the glass and wiped down the shiny wood.
He looked around the bar and, satisfied that the remaining customers were all taken care of, he brushed past Jody and let her know he was taking a quick break before they started the closing duties. Walking slowly towards the bathroom he scanned the faces of the thinning crowd in the hopes of seeing Dean but he wasn’t there. Cas sighed to himself, pulled the bathroom door open and stepped straight into Dean’s arms, which had been reaching out to push the door open from the opposite side. Cas brought up his hands in defense and was met with a strong firm chest.
“Oh excuse me”, Cas began as he looked up and froze in place. How had he not noticed how green the man’s eyes were while they were talking at the bar? “I’m sorry. I… um... “, Cas stammered. Dean’s hand had gently gripped his arm in a reflex to keep Cas from falling during their collision and he hadn’t let go yet. Cas’ mouth was going dry, either from the roughness of Dean’s touch or the proximity to his lips, he wasn’t sure which.
“If you wanted to dance you didn’t have to follow me to the bathroom for it,” Dean quipped in a soft breathless voice. He slowly rubbed his thumb across Castiel’s arm but couldn’t stop staring at him. So blue, Dean thought to himself. His chest burned from where Cas’ hands rested and it was a wonder his pulse didn’t jump right out of his body onto the floor at their feet. He lowered his face towards Cas and whispered, “Are you alright?”
Cas couldn’t form words, it was all he could do to remember to breathe. He could feel the warmth of Dean’s breath on his skin, smell the slightest hint of spearmint mixed with whiskey, and licked his own bottom lip. The only coherent thought in his mind was kiss me. Please.
“Castiel… “ They stood there, the seconds ticking by like hours. Eyes locked on one another, not moving, barely breathing. Cas tightened his fingers on Dean’s shirt and closed his eyes as he pulled him forward. Kiss me…
Then a chorus of loud yells sounded on the other side of the door, startling Cas. “Yes I’m… I’m fine, thanks.” He dropped his hands and took a step away from Dean, feeling the door against his back.
Dean ran his fingers down Cas’ arm and felt him shiver before reluctantly shoving his hands in his pockets. Dean let out a breath and silently thanked whatever deity had answered his prayer. He stepped to Cas’ side and caught the scent of his aftershave, pine and musk. He breathed it in, letting it cloud his brain for a moment before mumbling, “I need another drink” and stepping out of the restroom.
Cas leaned back against the doorjamb and closed his eyes. His arm was still tingling where Dean had trailed his fingers and his breath was coming in quick gasps in response to his galloping heartbeat. He stumbled over to the sink and passed his hand in front of the sensor, cupping the cool water in his hands and generously splashing his face with it. Not wanting to fight the sensor for the towel dispenser, he stepped into a stall and pulled out some toilet paper to pat his face dry. He locked the stall door, pulled down his Wranglers and plopped onto the seat. He couldn’t stand at a urinal right now if he wanted to so he sat there, focusing on taking deep breaths and bringing his heart rate down. He was almost successful until he realized just how close he’d been to having those beautiful lips on his own.
“DAMN IT!” He screamed as he smacked the side of the stall with his palm. He hadn’t been interested in anyone for quite a while, not since he’d found the phone photos of his now-ex fiancé Fergus kissing some schmuck named Bobby Singer 2 years earlier. But it looked like his body was making up for lost time, if the way he reacted to a virtual stranger was any indication. Cas took a breath and put himself back together, flushing the toilet and stepping out to wash his hands. Not even soap and cool water could wash off the leftover touch of Dean Winchester.
He left the restroom and ducked through the kitchen doors to grab a bottle of water. He snagged one out of the employee mini-fridge and gulped down half of it before stopping to take a breath. He capped the bottle and walked through the empty kitchen to the back end of the bar area. Jody had started the closing checklist without him and was currently checking levels of the bottom shelf liquor stock for inventory. Cas saw the karaoke DJ at the back entrance wheeling out equipment and had an idea. He raised a finger to Jody, signaling one more minute and approached the DJ, Charlie Bradbury.
“I don’t know how often you update your selection”, Cas began, “but I have a request, and I would consider it a personal favor if you could get this song in your selection as soon as feasible.”
Charlie’s red hair swished as she lifted speakers and boxes of wiring into her trailer with ease. She stopped and considered a moment before replying, “I can’t make any promises but I’ll see what I can do. What song did ya want?”
“Angel With A Shotgun by The Cab. Think you could get a hold of that one for me?”
Charlie grunted a little under the weight of the subwoofer she transferred into the trailer and simply replied, “Yep, I’ll see what I can do.” Cas thanked her and headed back into the bar with a smile. Dean was sitting at the far end of the bar with a barely touched drink in front of him, his eyes following Cas. Cas’ stomach did a somersault before he turned to Jody and asked what still needed to be done.
“If you could cash out Rock Star down there so we could count the register that would be great. I tried and he refused, said he was waiting for you. Something you forgot to tell me?”
The look Jody was drilling into him made him squirm. “There’s nothing to tell yet but I promise you’ll be the first to know.” Cas ducked any further questions by doing as she asked and heading for Dean. Cocking a smile as he reached him he said, “Sorry rock star, we’re shutting down. You’re gonna have to go warm a seat somewhere else.”
Dean let out a thoughtful “hmm” as he reached in his back pocket for his wallet and pulled out a credit card, handing it to Cas. He ran it through the reader and gave the receipt with a pen to Dean as Jody called him over. After signing the receipt Dean stood to leave, watching Cas confer with the other bartender over some papers. Cas looked so cute wrinkling his brow in confusion that Dean couldn’t help but smile. He took the last drink of his whiskey and left Cas a present on the napkin under it, feeling his heart take a nosedive as he took in the view once more before leaving.
When Cas turned away from the inventory list, Dean was gone. It left him feeling oddly empty inside so he tried to keep himself busy by cleaning up behind the bar. As he finished drying and storing the glasses, Jody shoved something under his nose. “Even though I’m cuter than you, I don’t think this is for me.”
Cas took the damp napkin and read it. There was a phone number written on it, followed by “Please call. -D” and a badly drawn picture of a cab. His faced warmed like he’d sat next to a cozy fire and smiled softly, staring at it.
Jody smacked him on the top of his head, “Earth to Cas, are you receiving me or do I need some kind of angel radio to get in your head?”