The evening at the Roadhouse was in full swing when she walked in.
Dean spotted her from behind the counter. She was wearing a violet leather jacket on top of her hospital scrubs and the bun she had tied her dark hair in was falling apart. She stalked towards a stool with confidence, but the way her shoulders sank and the sigh she gave out were anything but.
“Tough day at work?” Dean asked. The nurse looked at him with an eyebrow raised. “Well, don’t worry. I’m sure we have something to help you with that.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” she said in a husky whisper. “Let’s start with a beer.”
Dean put a bottle in front of her and went on to serve and chat with the other patrons. Every once in a while, he glanced at her: she was sitting in silence, drinking slowly, like she wanted to make sure every single drop of alcohol reached her brain before taking the next sip. She was wearing red lipstick that made her lips seem full and at some point, she had finally untied her hair and let it fall over her shoulders in big, messy curls.
She was not bad to look at.
In another occasion, Dean would have tried to strike up a conversation with her, ask where she came from, why was she there and just be a good bartender and lend an ear to his patrons sorrow. Years before, he might have even tried flirting with her.
But nowadays Dean was a taken man. Besides, Nurse Masters (Dean picked up her name from the tag in her scrubs when he went to serve her a second beer) had a tired and almost irritated expression that worked as a “fuck off” neon sign to anyone who knew how to get a clue.
Unfortunately, sometimes at the Roadhouse there were dudes who didn’t know, or that they outright ignore it when they saw one. It wasn’t long before a guy with a sleazy smile was sat next to her.
“So you come here a lot?” he asked her.
“Not interested,” Nurse Masters groaned.
“What? I wasn’t even flirting with you!” the guy said, offended. “I was just trying to make friendly conversation.”
“Well, I’m not interested in that either,” she replied, and took a chug of her beer like she expected the guy to vanish into thin air and leave her alone.
But he wasn’t going to give up all that easily.
“Listen, lady, you don’t know me,” he said. “I am a decent man…”
“Oh, God, here it comes,” Nurse Masters muttered under her breath.
“… you don’t know a thing about me. So you really have no reason to turn me down before even speaking a word to me.”
“Yes, I do: I don’t want to talk to you,” she said, with the most artfully executed eye roll Dean had ever seen, and he had grown up with Sam Winchester, Master of the Bitch Face. “Go away.”
It couldn’t have been clearer if she’d actually had a neon sign, but the guy wasn’t budging.
“You’re being really mean for no reason,” he kept going. Masters continued to ignore him apart from looking up at the ceiling like she was exasperatedly waiting for the Divine Providence to strike the guy down with a lightning. “Hey, look at me! I’m talking to you!”
Dean was ready to intervene at this point, but what followed made it pretty clear that the nurse didn’t need anyone to intercede on her favor.
The guy put a hand on her shoulder to force her to turn around, but she promptly grabbed one of his fingers and bent it backwards until it snapped. The man started screaming in pain, looking at his mangled index finger with disbelief.
“You bitch!” he shouted. “You crazy, psycho bitch…!”
“Been called worse,” Nurse Masters shrugged.
Trying not to smile at that turned of events, Dean approached them.
“Is there a problem here?” he asked. “Why are you shouting?”
“Why am I…? Look at what she did to me!” the guy shouted, waving his hand in front of Dean. His finger was hanging in a grotesque angle. “She… she… she broke it! You saw what happened!”
“Sorry, dude, can’t really say I did,” Dean shrugged.
“Yes, you did!” the guy insisted. “Call an ambulance! The police! I want to present charges for assault!”
Dean looked at Nurse Masters, who continued drinking with an indifferent expression. He got the impression the guy’s pain-fueled, empty threats meant less to her than the buzzing of a mosquito.
“Alright, sure, I could do that,” Dean said. “But you know, I think Sheriff Mills’ on duty tonight. And if I were to tell her what I really saw, trust me, your finger’s not the only thing that’s gonna end up broken.”
The guy looked at Dean with his mouth hanging open, as if he thought that just because they were both men the bartender had some sort of moral obligation to take his side. Dean shrugged again, and the guy proceeded to storm out of the bar screaming at the top of his lungs. The other patrons just stared at him all the way, obviously amused, and some of them even chuckled a little.
“What a baby,” Nurse Masters snickered.
“What an overgrown, stupid baby,” Dean agreed and picked up the empty bottle. “Want another one?”
“Nah, I have to drive,” she said, standing up. “How much I owe you?”
“Oh, no,” Dean said. “On the house. Just because the number you did on him was awesome.”
Nurse Masters smiled, obviously flattered.
“You know, I think you’ve just got yourself a new regular.”
She kept her word. Every other night, she would drop by the bar to have a couple of beers and chat with Dean. He found out her name was Meg and she had just started working at the local hospital, specifically, in the psychiatric wing (Dean didn’t even know they had one of those). Hence, the scrubs she wore sometimes.
In just a few weeks, Dean had discovered that when she showed up in jeans and heels, it was a good night and she would talk and tip generously. But when she showed up still in her uniform, that was because she’d had a bad enough night that she hadn’t even bothered to change after her shift was over. That meant she would most likely preferred to be left to her drinks and her thoughts, and if someone even thought about bothering her, well… the story of the broken finger had spread fast.
“So why Sioux Falls?” he asked on one of her good nights. “I mean, this is not the kind of place someone would just move to.”
“I don’t know, it’s nice,” Meg shrugged. “And it is only a few hours’ drive from Mount Rushmore.”
“You know I’ve been living here for ages and I’ve never visited the damn thing?” Dean said. “Don’t even have a postcard or a photoshopped picture.”
Meg laughed and took a swig of her beer.
“I went to high school here,” she told him. “For about a year. My dad was a bit of a drifter, so we moved around a lot. But I have some really good memories of this place.”
“Ah, so… nostalgia for the past?”
“There was a boy,” Meg clarified. “Go ahead, say it’s ridiculous.”
“I wouldn’t dare,” Dean said, although he did smile. It was funny that under her tough exterior, Meg would actually have such a romantic reason to come back to that town.
“But you’re thinking it,” she guessed, shaking her head.
She sipped her beer, pensively. Dean didn’t pressure her to keep telling the story, and in fact, it took a couple of more nights to get to the gist of it.
“The thing is, I hadn’t met many decent boys before I met him,” she told him. “And I didn’t meet many after him.”
“Must have been a very special guy.”
“I used to joke and tell him he was a unicorn,” Meg giggled. “As time goes by, I’m starting to think he actually was.”
Dean laughed with her and opened another beer bottle.
“Where do you think this rare creature is now?” he asked.
“Probably not here,” she admitted. “I bet he has a nice house with a picket white fence somewhere and is enjoying an apple pie life with his wife and two point five children. And a dog, most likely.”
“Have you tried locating him?”
“Nah,” Meg shook her head. “It’d taint the past.”
She said it so bluntly that it sounded to Dean like a conclusion she had reached after much deliberation, so he didn’t insist. Beside, his cellphone was vibrating like crazy in his jeans’ pocket.
“Yeah?” he said, picking up. The disappointment on voice on the other end sent a shiver down his spine:
“You forgot, didn’t you?”
“No!” Dean said, defensively, frantically trying to remember what he had forgotten. “I didn’t! It just… it must have slipped my mind…”
“Doesn’t matter,” the voice at the other end sighed. “I’m picking you up in fifteen minutes.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how that is going to sit with Ellen…”
“Well, it would’ve been much easier if you had remembered to ask her to give you the night free.”
Dean grimaced. He still couldn’t remember what he had forgotten, though, so he didn’t argue.
“Okay, I’ll see you then,” he said, defeated. “I lo…”
The sound of the call ending indicated him that he was in a bigger trouble than he figured.
“Problems with the miss?” Meg asked, mockingly.
“Oh, yeah, he gets cranky like that sometimes.”
After three years of dating another man, Dean was still not always sure how people would react upon finding out. He had received all sort of answers, from the openly disgusted (“It’s unnatural! It’s against God’s law!”) to the barely repressed gesture of contempt (“Oh, well, that’s… okay.”) to the well-meaning but it’s still sort of offensive support (“Well, there’s… there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess. I just… you were always such a ladies man. It’s a bit weird, but if it makes you happy…”). He had developed a sort of radar for homophobic assholes, and though it still failed him sometimes, he had the impression Meg wouldn’t be one.
Indeed, the nurse openly laughed at him.
“Whipped!” she mocked him,
Exactly like a friend would if his boyfriend had been a girl. Dean smiled. He liked Meg.
He apologized and went to beg his boss to let him leave early, and although Ellen was definitely not happy about it, she must have noticed the despair in Dean’s tone, because in the end she agreed with a groan.
“Fine,” she said. “But you’re making it up to me next week.”
“Absolutely, yes,” Dean nodded, knowing perfectly well next week he would have to submit himself to all sorts of humiliating tasks.
He returned to the counter, were Meg was standing up and putting on her jacket.
“Well, yeah,” she said. “It’s not like I’m gonna be able to keep enjoying the pleasure of your company once your ball and chain gets here.”
“Let me walk you to your car,” he offered.
The night outside was chilly, but still pleasant. Dean breathed in deeply, mentally preparing himself for the argument he was sure would ensue once his boyfriend got there.
“So how long have you been with this guy?” Meg asked.
“Three years,” Dean told her. “But we met in college and were friends for a long time before that, so…”
“Feels like a lifetime, huh?” she said.
Dean laughed. Because yes, sometimes it did, but he was not about to express those feelings out loud when he knew he was about to be hit with all the force of Castiel’s fury. He had to keep in mind how much he loved him and all that jazz.
“Still, I think it’s rather impressive,” Meg said. “Being with someone for that long. I can even keep a plant alive for six months.”
Dean’s laughter froze in his throat when he heard the distinctive sound of his car’s motor coming down the street. He breathed in deeply as the Impala stopped right behind Meg’s car.
“Here it comes,” he said, bracing himself.
Indeed, when Castiel got out of the car, his blue eyes were sparkling with rage and there was probably and angry and sassy remark about Dean’s forgetfulness about to roll out of his tongue. However he had not taken two steps in their direction when he suddenly stopped. The expression on his face mutated from mild irritation to confused surprise. Dean didn’t know what sparked the change, but he decided to take advantage of the silence.
“Look, baby, I’m sorry I forgot,” he said, even though he still wasn’t quite sure what he had forgotten. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise…”
It took him a second or two to realize exactly no one was paying attention to him and his pathetic apology. Castiel was staring directly at Meg, and she was staring back, unblinking. At first, Dean thought it was weird, but then, slowly, the realization dawned on him.
“You… you two know each other?”
They still didn’t hear him. After another moment, Meg took a step towards Dean’s boyfriend and said: