For once Sam is all on his own, out at night, no pressing issues from a case, no research to do, no stake-outs to sit through, no graves to dig up, no brother to have to continually monitor at the bar. This was just him, just Sam, going out on his own for once, walking into a bar, by choice.
The first thing Sam Winchester sees when he walks into the bar that was closest to his motel, is how beautiful the bar itself is, carved and polished wood, glowing dark and smooth, it almost looks like draped fabric. At the end of this improbably beautiful bar, farthest away from the vintage jukebox is a smaller man, sitting hunched up over a glass of what looks to be whiskey, and of all things, a bowler hat is perched on his head. He looks like an interesting character with a story to tell. Sam’s never been one to spend energy on searching for bar hook-ups. Engaging conversation with a fellow barstool occupant is more in line with what he’s looking for tonight.
When Sam sits down on the stool next to the smaller man, he notices the worn, somewhat dusty clothing, layers of wools and all of them cut in a vaguely anachronistic way, almost like it’s a costume meant to look like it’s from another time. He waves the bartender over and orders a whiskey neat, just like his brother taught him. Don’t bother with the ice Sammy, just waters the taste down and they give you less booze. The phantom sound of Dean rings in his ear, with his stock of bar advice, from a life lived at the edge of a counter, he ought to know. But tonight’s not about Dean, or them and their “issues”, there’s no laptop for research so he can ignore his brother’s pool or hook-up antics. Just a glass of whiskey and maybe some conversation with the man next to him.
When his drink is finally served Sam salutes the silent man, “To the peat bogs.”
The man turns in surprise and lifts his almost empty glass, meeting Sam’s eyes. When Sam sees the man’s face he’s instantly reaching for his knife, the one he’s kept all these years, the one Ruby gave them, the only thing that he has that can easily kill a demon. But he doesn’t have it with him, he left it in the Impala trunk which is off in the state next-door with Dean. Sam didn’t think he’d be needing its demon-killing powers in a bar tonight. But this is Crowley, the former King of Hell sitting next to him. Who he thankfully hasn’t seen in years. At least he thinks it’s Crowley.
Yes, Crowley had become a little more humanized after that failed attempt at the third trial, Sam having injected him with his own purified human blood. But as Sam assesses him more carefully, he sees that this is a different sort of person, altogether. A much younger person at first glance, but with the same beetled eyebrows. He moves quickly, not languid and self-assured like Crowley, but with darting, almost furtive movements. He reminds Sam of a thief. Or at the very least some sort of swindler. Which is pretty much what Crowley was when you took away the powers that came along with being a demon who’d worked his way up to the position of King of Hell.
“So….uh….You come here often?” Sam manages to ask, hoping that if he can hear the man’s voice then it will tell him just how screwed he really might be.
“Every night. I’m on this stool, with a glass or two of the good stuff.” The small man answers, looking up at him with a sardonic twinkle in his eye and a lilting accent to his much higher-pitched voice than Crowley’s ever was. He’s obviously not recognizing Sam, which is pretty much impossible given their history.
“Sounds like a great tradition.” Sam says, with a small relieved laugh. Now that he looks at the man more closely, he can see he’s decades younger than Crowley, a whole lot less wrinkles and with more of an overall happy demeanor.
“Only thing that keeps me alive and here.” The man says, tossing back the remainder of his whiskey.
“What? There’s something to keep you here, in this town?” Sam asks, wondering why anyone would be trying to stick around a little podunk town like this, even though he has to admit it’s a pretty nice bar at least.
“Yeah, I’m waiting on a ride, I guess you could say.” The man says, sounding like he’s not telling the whole story behind that statement.
“Me too, just for the night though. My brother is picking me up tomorrow.” Sam says, thinking about telling Dean of this encounter, and how he handled talking to Crowley’s doppelganger.
“Wish I had one of those.” The man says, sounding more than a little wistful.
“What a brother?” Sam asks, a little surprised because he was just thinking of asking if this guy does have a brother himself, maybe one who used to be a Scottish tailor at some point.
“Yeah, wish I had one, gets pretty lonely out in the black.” The man answers, stating his wish pretty emphatically.
“They can come in pretty handy sometimes.” Sam answers honestly, a whole list of times that Dean’s saved his ass goes flying past his internal memory striking him with how very long that list is after all these years. Thinking about Dean sort of makes Sam forget that he wants to ask what ‘out in the black’ means because he’s never heard that phrase.
“I bet.” The man says solemnly, watching his drinking companion obviously review something about what this brother means to him.
Sam sticks his hand out to shake, “I’m Sam Winchester by the way, ‘s nice to meet you.”
The man looks momentarily flummoxed but then takes his hand and shakes vigorously, “Name’s Badger.”
“Where you from Badger, sounds like Scotland maybe?”
“Nope, place called Dyton, in what you’d call a British colony I s’pose. How about you, where do ya hail from?” Badger asks, skillfully changing the subject so as to not alert this Earthling-from-the-Past as to his inherent foreign-ness.
“Oh, I’ve lived all over the country, but I was originally born near here over in Kansas.” Sam answers, still examining Badger’s face and marveling at how much he really resembles Crowley.
“Ever been out of the States, Sam?” Badger asks, wondering if this man has ever even made it off this continent on this beautiful blue planet.
“Just once to Scotland, your accent reminded me a bit of the people’s there. I’ve been on a kind of road-trip in the U.S. for most of my life, just finally settling down.” Sam answers, wondering if he could ever explain just what being in motion his whole life has meant, and how just the thought of standing still in one place terrified him more than the idea of dealing with a nest of vampires on his own ever would.
“That’s nice, hope it works out for ya.” Badger answers thinking of how unreal this all is, this place so unlike the other planets he’s been to, the people back in this time, unaware of how it all changes, and so soon in their own planet’s future.
“It’ll be different, that’s for sure. I’ve been on the move so much it will be strange to be in one place for a long time. How ‘bout you? You travel much?” Sam finishes his drink in one swallow, hoping he’s hidden his flash of terror from this stranger.
“Yeah, lots, mostly long trips to far off exotic places, like here for instance.”
“This is exotic?” Sam queries, then signals the bartender to refill both their glasses.
“Well, compared to where I’m from, it really kind of is.” Badger answers carefully, not wanting to give out more than the bare minimum of information.
The bartender comes over then, pours out another measure of whiskey in each of their glasses, Badger raises his in toast, “To safe travels and finding home where we find it.”
Sam clinks his glass to Badger’s, taking a sip. “So what’s Dyton like?”
“Well, it’s somewhat of an outpost, far away from a lot of other towns. So it’s a bit insular, a lot of crime which unfortunately I got caught up in, got sent up river for a time. Since I’ve been out, sort of making an attempt at the straight and narrow.”
“In my experience, that’s always worth a try. Easier to look at yourself in the mirror you know?” Sam says, remembering all the times he’s tried to do the right thing even if it hardly ever turned out right.
“Oh don’t I know it mate.” Badger answers, thinking of people he’s cheated that could have been his friends.
“Badger, you ever wish you could go back in time and do something over?”
“Yeah, of course, I think everyone does at some point. What? You got some regrets Sam?”
Sam snorts laughter at himself, a bitter broken sort of sound, “More than I can count.”
“Maybe you oughta leave ‘em on the road behind you.” Badger says as gently as he can manage, seeing that this Sam guy needs a sympathetic ear more than anything.
Sam looks over at Badger, considering his words, then nods slowly, “Yeah, maybe I should.”
“The way I look at it, as long as you’ve made it right with anyone you’ve harmed, then all you’re doing is holding yourself back from enjoying the rest of the life that you’ve got left, right mate?”
Sam takes a good swallow of his drink and seems to absorb Badger’s words, “Man, that is some killer advice dude, thanks.”
“You are welcome my friend.” Badger salutes him with his drink and takes a big swallow.
Sam finishes his drink, belatedly realizing that he’s drunk those two whisky’s much too quickly, “Ya know Badger, when I first saw you, I really thought you were someone else that I knew. I swear you could be his younger twin brother.”
“Younger twin brother, how exactly would that work?” Badger laughs, feeling the kick of the whisky a little himself.
“You know what I mean. A younger version of this guy I knew. But you’re really not like him at all.”
“I guess that’s good.” Badger offers, a little confused at what Sam is getting at.
“Yeah, he thought he was in charge of everything, could manipulate everyone anyway he wanted. But in the end, he was just a scared, pitiful human underneath it all, just like the rest of us.”
“Sounds like a real piece of work.” Badger says, thinking that it sounds an awful like him actually.
“That he was, that he was.” Sam says nodding solemnly, “Anyways, I was glad that you weren’t him. He wasn’t you. You know what I mean.”
“So who was he?” Badger asks, curious who this person could have been that looks just like an older version of himself and has most of the same personality characteristics.
“A demon, worked his way up to be King of Hell.” Sam answers, wondering why he’s saying it as he does, usually he doesn’t talk about work to anyone that isn’t in the know already.
“You’re joking right?” Badger says, laughing at how off the beam Sam is just after two whiskies.
Sam waves one hand at him, momentarily unable to focus on his face, “Nope. But don’t worry, we took care of ‘em, all the demons, me and my brother.”
“Okay…good to know, thank your brother for me eh moose?” Badger says in the time-honored tradition of humoring drunks at the bar who are buying you drinks.
Sam’s eyes widen at hearing the familiar nickname, “I will, when I see him tomorrow. When’s your ride coming?”
“Any time now.” Badger answers, hoping that it’s tonight, by his calculations it should be, and he just needs to stay here on this barstool maybe a few hours more.
“You going back to Dyton?”
“No, place called Persephone this time, got some business lined up.” Badger figures it doesn’t matter using the real names of the places as long as he doesn’t get detailed about them being on other planets, and in the future a few hundred years.
“I like the name Persephone. If I ever have a cat, that’s what I’m naming it.” Sam says. “Purrrrsephone, get it?”
“A cat, you mean like a pet?” Badger asks and then he feels his insides turning around in on themselves. He can see his hands beginning to shimmer and waver. “Bye Sam, nice talking to you, thanks for the drinks.” He shakes Sam’s hand quickly with his progressively more insubstantial one. The last thing he sees is the open-mouthed amazement on Sam’s face. And then he’s gone, riding the worm-hole pathway back to the situation he was trying to momentarily escape.
“Well fuck.” Sam says to himself, looking at his hand carefully, still feeling Badger’s grasping handshake. He pats the stool and feels that it’s warm, so at least there was someone here and he wasn’t talking to an empty barstool this whole time. But how? He kind of shrugs it off, the whisky making it easier not to be upset or even a bit worried about someone up and disappearing during a conversation. Just another strange exit, another night in the strange life of Sam Winchester.
“Dean’s never gonna believe this.” He says out loud, shaking his head a little, as he signals the bartender for another refill.
“Where’s your friend?” The bartender asks pointing at the empty seat and empty glass on the bar.
“His ride came so he had to go.” Sam answers, figuring that’s honestly all he knows.
“You really up for another buddy?” The bartender asks, whisky bottle hovering over Sam’s empty glass.
“Yeah, this is the last one for the night.” Sam pulls a couple of twenties out of his wallet and puts them on the bar next to his glass. “My ride’s coming pretty early tomorrow.”