A Guy Walks Into A Bar…
Disclaimer: Other people own them – I'm just borrowing.
Summary: After a hunt ends badly with Sam getting hurt, Dean heads out on his own and ends up in a bar which is where Sam finds him. Outsider POV.
Rating: T (for language and violence)
A/N: I'm English and so is the spelling – at least that's the plan. Huge thanks to Faye for the beta. Any mistakes left are all mine.
Part 1 (of 2)
The early evening winter sun hung low in the sky, allowing its dull light to stream through the bar's dirt-smeared windows that tinted it to an anaemic nicotine yellow, bringing unwanted illumination to the handful of people inside.
It was no trendy urban bar, this one; there were no designer-suited businessmen relaxing after a day at work, boasting of deals made and competitors outwitted; no proud displays of bottled beer carefully sourced from micro-breweries; no lists of imported wines available by the bottle or by the glass. It was the kind of bar where the options were limited and inexpensive and obvious: beer, bourbon, whiskey, tequila... A few token bowls of peanuts were scattered around providing the only snacks for any reckless enough to sample them.
Most people just came to the bar to drink and get drunk, and it did that job just fine.
In the five years he'd worked there, Mac the bartender figured he had seen it all: shootings, stabbings, an impressive amount and variety of drug use along with the inevitable police raids that followed and of course, any number of brawls. But when it came down to it, Mac never saw anything. He'd long ago decided he'd live longer that way. An abbreviated tangle of wires hanging out of the wall over the bar bore mute testimony to the owner's misguided ideas of installing a security camera. After the camera had come off second best in an encounter with a baseball bat, Mac had convinced the owner that not seeing anything was the way to go. Their clientele liked their privacy.
He scanned the handful of people already in the place, trying to spot any potential troublemakers. A couple of people he already had his eye on – regulars who every Friday night would drink themselves into a stupor, sometimes end up finding a fight and often end up vomiting all over the john. That was nothing new. Of more concern was the stranger who had been at the end of the bar, his back to the wall, for a couple of hours, steadily engaged in working his way through a bottle of tequila. Since he arrived, Mac had heard him speak less than a dozen words, and those had been to order the bottle. The accent had been indistinct – blurred – perhaps something vaguely Southern, maybe Mid-Western, it was difficult to tell. Mac was no expert, but wherever the guy was from, it sure as hell wasn't anywhere near Jersey. He figured the guy was maybe in his late twenties, with close cut, dark blond hair and too handsome for his own good, especially in a place like this where if he were still around later in the evening, someone might take exception to it. Brawls had started for worse reasons.
But then he decided that maybe someone had already taken exception if the recent bruises beginning to colour on the guy's face and the too clean patch of gauze taped to the side of his neck, partly covered by the collar were anything to go by. He watched as the guy refilled the shot glass with unreasonably steady hands considering the amount he had already drunk and sipped at the tequila, his gaze focussed somewhere other than the murky interior of the bar.
The bar's door opened, ushering unwanted brightness into the gloom. Mac and a couple of the others sat around the bar glancing up with only the vaguest interest to look at this new customer only to snort in disdain as they saw nothing more interesting than an apparently lost college boy with untidy, too long hair, bruised features and his left arm in a sling. The door swung shut behind him and Mac watched as the boy paused a few seconds, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light in the bar all the while looking around as if searching for someone; someone he apparently found when his gaze settled on the guy with the tequila bottle sat at the bar. The boy pulled himself to his not inconsiderable height, his expression tensed as if bracing for trouble and he headed over to the lone drinker at the bar with an overly careful gait to gingerly take the seat next to him.
"I'll get a coke, please," he said, and Mac was somehow unsurprised to hear the same somewhere-west-of-Jersey accent albeit one less apparent than the tequila drinker's.
A couple of faint snickers from elsewhere in the bar met the college boy's too easily overheard order of a soda. A smile that had little to do with humour flickered on the tequila drinker's face but he didn't bother to look up.
The college boy looked over at the bottle of tequila and the slouched figure holding the shot glass, disapproval clear on his face. "Dean…"
Were he an inventive man, Mac might have later said he could hear a conversation carried in that single syllable that seemed to carry with it such a level of relief, concern, questions, reproof…
Dean didn't meet the other's earnest, worried gaze but downed the last of the tequila in the glass and reached out for the bottle only for the college boy to pull it from his reach. "Don't you think that maybe you've had enough," he said, his voice quiet but determined.
"Fuck you, Sammy!" The words were harsh, but their tone was weary, without rancour. Mac noted idly that he made no effort to recover the tequila bottle.
For long seconds silence settled between two of them. "You know, it wasn't your fault," Sammy insisted. "There wasn't anything you could've done."
The bartender had seen the recently treated injuries both carried, Dean's too focussed drinking efforts and despite himself, despite years of calculated disinterest, Mac couldn't help but wonder what 'it' might have been. Maybe a car accident, he decided: Dean had been driving and Sammy had gotten hurt.
For the first time since Sammy had sat down next to him, Dean looked him in the face. "Wrong, Sam. I screwed up, pure and simple." The words were unequivocal, harsh and unforgiving. "All the signs were there. I should have been able to figure it out sooner, then we wouldn't have gone in blind, and you wouldn't have been--" A vague wave seemed to encompass Sammy's obviously battered state.
"Yeah, well, as someone once said, it's a dangerous gig."
So, not a car accident, then, Mac amended as he watched Dean's eyes shutter, his expression still, as if a mask had been slammed into place. "Sam…"
"And for the record, remember I did most of the research on this one and missed seeing it as well," Sam went on, not letting up, his voice quiet yet determined. "I'm not letting you hog all the blame for this job having gotten so screwed up," he finished with a wry smile.
Dean snorted, sounding equal parts amused and exasperated, looked like he was going to say something more than stopped. He glanced up and before Mac could look away he was pinned by an irritated gaze that warned only too clearly that Dean had been aware of his eavesdropping. "I'm gonna go take a leak then we'll head back to the motel, okay?" He stood up and wandered out back managing a mostly steady walk.
Leaning on the bar Sam glanced at a bowl of peanuts as if deciding whether or not to risk them, concluded it would be a bad idea and settled with drinking down the rest of the glass of coke.
From the corner of his eye Mac saw a bulky figure wander over and sit down at the bar not far from Sam. He looked up, ready to take an order, and swore quietly to himself when he recognised who it was. For as long as he'd been working there, Eddie Sheldon had been a fixture in the bar, an irregularly employed borderline alcoholic with a mean streak a mile wide.
"Hey, kid, you and pretty boy have a fight?" Sheldon's voice was pure Jersey, harsh and nasal.
Sam looked up with apparent disinterest at the mocking words but made no reply, just met Sheldon's glare without flinching; his only reaction a flicker of distaste at the overpowering reek of cigarette smoke, stale beer and days old sweat that followed Sheldon everywhere he went.
Mac was vaguely surprised to see how little effect the undeniably intimidating Sheldon was having on the college kid. Perhaps he just didn't realise Sheldon was gearing up for a fight. Normally Mac wouldn't have said a word but Sheldon had about 2" and 100lbs on the kid, who besides anything else was clearly not long out of the hospital. "Give it at break, Eddie," he said, speaking out, breaking the habit of years.
"You takin' sides?" he said, a coarse bark of laughter mocking the idea. "Since when?"
The bartender shrugged, almost as surprised as Sheldon at his uncharacteristic bout of 'Good Samaritan' interference. He decided it had to have been down to some nostalgic ideas that, despite everything, he apparently still held about fair play.
Then a couple of Sheldon's friends, the Chicago born Ray Martinelli and his long time drinking buddy, Lew Something-or-Other – Mac could never remember - came over to join him and Mac's instinct for self preservation kicked back in. Trying to convince Eddie to back off bullying a hurt kid was one thing; getting in the way of Eddie and friends when they were so obviously intent on a bit of 'fun' was a different thing altogether. He headed to the end of the bar and reached to pick up the phone beside the cash register. If he called 911 now, there was a chance the cops would get there before things got too badly out of hand.
It had taken less than a minute for the emergency operator to assure him that the cops were on their way, but that was enough for the situation to have escalated. Clueless appearance to the contrary, it seemed the college kid had figured out where things were going. By the time Mac had hung up the phone, Sam was on his feet, his back to the bar with the three men crowding him. Mac caught fragments of what was said, insults and insinuations about the college kid and his 'boyfriend', crude words and cruder gestures accompanied by leers and coarse laughter. Sheldon and his friends were blunt if unimaginative in their insults.
When Sam said something in reply, it was too quiet for Mac to hear, but whatever it was tipped the balance. The laughter stilled, leers twisted into snarls of disbelieving anger and just that quickly the fight kicked off.
Mac considered himself an authority on bar fights: he had, after all, seen enough of them over the years. Most were messy, brutish, chaotic affairs: alcohol-induced anger did nothing to improve any fighting talent people might possess or whatever co-ordination they might ordinarily have had. But by their standards, Sheldon and his two friends had barely started in on their evening's drinking, and Sam was stone cold sober.
With a casual ease that announced to anyone who knew what to look for that he was no stranger to being in a fight, Sam ducked under Sheldon's first angry swing, stepped inside his reach and buried a fist in his gut. Sheldon folded with an explosive 'woof', but before Sam could do anything to follow up his move, Martinelli grabbed at the arm still in its sling and pulled. He smirked at Sam's harshly choked off gasp of pain. It was a smirk that lasted only the couple of seconds it took Sam to twist and lash out with a short, accurate kick that caught Martinelli on the side of his knee. He cried out, staggered backwards and released his grip on Sam's arm. It was all Sam had needed so he could take a couple of steps and put much needed space between him and his three attackers.
For the first time since the fight started Mac got a look at Sam's face. It was pale, taut with the effort to control the pain he was obviously in, but the self-confidence that Mac had somehow mistaken for ignorance was now only too apparent. With a slight but noticeable wince he eased the injured arm from its sling, settled his breathing and looked at the three men, all of them bulkier than he, who had mistaken him for an easy mark.
Whatever Sam's initial success, Mac knew that three against one – especially when the one was hurt - was lousy odds and prayed for the sound of approaching sirens. Even wounded, the kid had guts and Mac had no wish to have to watch him beaten up for it. From the looks on the faces of Eddie Sheldon and his two friends, the situation had gone way beyond baiting the college boy. Sam had fought back too well for them to let it go. Mac could see that Eddie had just about gotten his breath back and Martinelli was still limping from Sam's kick, but the three moved in against Sam, more wary now they knew their target was no walkover. They had a reputation amongst the others in the bar and Sam was going to pay the price for threatening it. For an instant Mac considered intervening, even began to reach for the baseball bat he kept under the bar, but a warning head shake from Sheldon stopped him short. Too many times when Sheldon had been in this kind of mood he'd seen him put people in the hospital, and didn't want to add his name to the list alongside Sam's.
Having surprised himself almost as much as Sheldon by his uncharacteristic inclination to get the kid out of the mess he'd landed himself in, Mac instead eased back watched as they jockeyed for position, trying to surround Sam who was being just as careful not to make it easy for them. He winced as Sam moved just too far away from the bar as a tried to put space between him and the others. It was a small mistake but it was enough for him to lose its cover on that side and Lew was ready to take advantage of it.
Seeing his danger a moment too late, Sam feinted towards Martinelli who swallowed the fake out, hook, line and sinker. He staggered backwards favouring his still painful knee and Sam, for vital seconds unthreatened from that side took the opportunity to attack Lew. The punch, thrown with deceptive force, caught him on the side of his head and he cannoned back into the bar. A sidestep and an elbow jab at the still off balance Martinelli knocked him off his feet, but left Sam open to the wild haymaker Sheldon threw his way.
Too late, Sam tried to dodge, and the punch aimed at his head that Mac had seen knock people out instead hit his shoulder – the same shoulder that had been supported by the sling. With a strangled gasp of pain, Sam stumbled backward, fighting to keep on his feet, knowing that being on the ground was the absolute worst place to be in a fight. Sheldon saw his chance and struck again, the force of the blow knocking Sam into Lew who grabbed at him, and just that easily the fight became a beating.
Martinelli joined Lew in holding the now sagging Sam as Sheldon smirked at the blood running down Sam's face from where his last punch had broken the skin. "Maybe if you beg real nice we won't put you in the hospital."
"Screw you!" Sam gasped back, and once again Mac had to admire the kid's guts if not his common sense.
Just as Sheldon was drawing back his fist for his first punch, Mac caught a glimpse of movement off to one side and heard a darkly angry voice warn: "Get the fuck away from my brother!"