3rd bar Episode 1
In which Dean laments that there is no coffee and Castiel doesn't quite understand that this might be a problem
Soundtrack: The Offspring - Kick him when he's down
Dean doesn't know why he was plucked from Hell, but the little things every day remind him how grateful he is. He looks around at the oblivious people and wonders if he was ever like that, unable to appreciate the magic and majesty of the rain.
The first time it rains, it really rains, he shucks off his leather coat and just stands in the carpark with his head cast back and pretends not to notice the angel perched on the roof of the no-tell motel.
Castiel does not always let him know that he's there but Dean always knows.
Sometimes it's the sound of his breathing, or the scent of him underneath the lingering odours of the damp motel wallpaper and ciggarette stinking carpet. At first he doesn't recognise it, except as a faint childhood memory of Christmas.
Castiel smells of frankincense and a lingering hint of myrrh, but to Dean it will always be the hallway of Pastor Jim's, burnt scented oil and old books, and memories of an another unfamilial holiday.
The memories are fond though, of Sammy as a small fat bundle of energy, into everything, face smeared with chocolate and cookie crumbs, too short jumpers and and striped good will socks, and Dean running after him just like he always does.
With the spices and a general freshness of ozone Castiel smells of the only home that Dean knows.
Castiels' fingertips against the side of Dean's neck as he sleeps are chill, but not really cold, but more like the feeling of marble warmed in human hands.
Dean isn't sure when Castiel comes, or why, only that it happens and he knows after that Castiel has been there, his strange warmth and lingering frankincense smell in the sheets after he is gone.
Yet despite the angel's presence, or perhaps because of it, Dean dreams of Hell.
He wakes with senses sharpened by pain, his fingers splay over the ruffled sheets to the spot that is not quite as cool as the rest of the empty bed, and air that almost smells of christmas.
Castiel no longer mentions Sam's conspicous absences and Dean stoically ignores that there might be a problem.
Dean's good at ignoring problems.
And Angels that watch him sleep.
The coffee is thin on his tongue, mostly chickory and filler. The coffee making facilities are woefully inadequate, even for their very low rent motel, normally Sam, who lives on caffeine like other people do oxygen, has a tin of something in the car.
Yet wherever Sam's been going it's not to Walmart - the coffee ran out a week ago.
Dean offered some to the angel, who he discovered like the bitter ancient tastes, salt, licorice and nutmeg, asks if it is a beverage and not a gravy and if so why so many people care about it so much.
He's so very earnest that Dean can't help but laugh which just leaves the angel looking confused and perhaps a little hurt.
"Tell you what, buddy," and Dean's not sure himself when Castiel went from Stalker to Buddy, "next chance I get I'll go to a proper shop, like Bobby does and get some good coffee." It's the only thing Bobby does get from a snooty store, as he words it, because you don't skimp on the coffee if you want to save the world.
More hunts that Dean likes run entirely on it, sleep forgotten, memorably apart from one where he discovered that four cans of pepsi max really was too much, and Sam threatening to samt and burn him if he didn't come down soon.
It always comes back to Sam.
Sam has forgotten to get more coffee leaving Dean with the cheap free chickory crap and Sam waits until he's asleep to leave him.
He's always back by morning, there isn't a single hunt that he might have stopped at even a seven eleven.
Before, in his head Dean can only picture it as "before", Sam never forgot the important things, ammo, back up and coffee.
Part of him hopes Sam has plenty of ammop, even if it's just to protect him through the night.
Dean doesn't regret that Sam's getting laid, and he's not, because after an angel in the bed can be quite tricky to explain, even to a one night girl.
And Dean's not quite sure how to explain a one night girl to the angel.
Dean has come to know that angels seriously put a crimp on a guy's sex drive. It's rare to even get it up for his right hand, some vaseline and free motel poorn - free being the biggest turn on usually, when a soldier of the lord is asking genuine sounding questions about why such a pretty girl would have her breasts distended like that.
In many ways Castiel is frighteningly old, and in many ways very naive.
Dean is often torn between wanting to dive for cover before him, or wrap him up in cotton wool because he's just too adorable to be let out alone.
Mostly he turns this into a practised disdain and a miraculous amount of self loathing that he takes out on the angel, who doesn't suffer it at all.
There is an unspoken line between them. Castiel took Dean from Hell and if Dean goes to far he can put him back in.
Castiel only made the threat once. He's only needed to make it once. But that was before he appeared in the Impala as Dean wolfed his way through the Hallowe'en candy, the angel plucking a peppermint ribbon from between his own legs, being sat on Dean's stash, unwraps it from it's cellophane wrapper, and with curious fingers copies Dean and pops it into his own mouth.
He doesn't know if Castiel liked it, only that he never took a second candy.
The angel is beautiful, and it's something that Dean appreciates because he has been to Hell, even Uriel who is a dick, is beautiufl, and part of Dean wonders if he'll make those happy little recognizing sounds when he tries root liquorice. Enough that Sam is horrified when he finds it in the glove compartment.
THere is always candy in the glove compartment, sweet sugary things that Dean rolls around in hsi mouth as he sings along offkey with his tapes, but now it's root liquorice that he found int he sort of confectioners that only Bobby could locate, probably between a magic shop and a practitioner of some ancient and forgotten paganism, and the place he gets coffee.
Dean refuses to admit it's for that self satisfied little noise that Castiel makes, and the way the furrow between his brows smooth out, for only a moment, and Dean wants to give it all to him, the whole damn box, but Bobby warned him and he doesn't want to be responsible when the Heavenly Host loses the damn war because CAstiel's vessel had the shits from eating too much liquorice.
For the want of a toilet Heaven was lost and it would be all Dean's fault because as sure as shit Castiel , who ate week old Thai leftovers that even Dean was leery of, wouldn't know better.
Interestingly he didn't see the angel for days after the Thai.
The coffee royally sucks.
Dean imagines that he can see things through it, because it certainly tastes that watery and he's angry at Sam for being out all night, and not getting coffee, because even the shit that they usually drink and whine abiout is better than this free shit that the motel left out, and for possibly getting laid without an angel of the lord asking questions, sat on the edge of the motel room dining chair, and most of all for not being there.
Castiel doens't understnad, of course, but stands up when Dean finallyt loses his temper and pulls on his leather coat, "You and me, Cas, are going out for breakfast."
Castiel is baffled, "aren't you going to wait for your brother, you normally eat with him."
"No," Dean tells him, "I'm going to get coffee that doesn't taste like I've washed the fucking flkoor with it." Castiel does not approve of blaspheny but normal cursing slips by just fine. "And I'm going to get the kind of pancakes that can kill you, and it's going to be fucking good because it'll just sit around in my arteries and I'll be too crapped up for even the most ugly of all the uglies we hunt to want to eat me." This line is delivered with his most shit eating grin, but Castiel always sees through it.
The angel laughs, it's a strange sound and one that Dean hasn't heard before. "you are truly unique, Dean Winchester," he tells him but as Dean walks down the motel stairs to where he parked he realises that the angel is gone.
Dean doesn't say, even to himself, that he feels the angel's lack like a physical blow, even if it is true.
The impala, box of root liquorice and trunk of full of guns, is gone.
The diner is a good twenty minutes walk. Walk! And Dean curses all the way and is moments at all times from phoning the police and is only stopped because he's not sure he's not sitll on the most wanted list, and not becuase it's his brother.
During the walk he surprises the passers with both his cursing, which is inventive, and his ability to clench his fists until the knuckles are white and using his very stance to promise the sort of violence that hunters investigate.
The diner's waitress, Rhonda, has a sort of earthy ruddiness to her, she might have been pretty twenty years ago but bad skin, terrible dye jobs,a fifty a day habit and a thankless job have given her the look of someone waiting for something, anything, to happen.
He's to pissed to flirt, even at the promise of free pie, something he always does. He knows he's gorgeous enough and is not above using it to his best advantage. Especially for pie. There are set lines for every waitress in every diner across America, programmed into would be Rhonda, I bet you hate that song and then he'd grin.
She comes over, heavy hips swinging almost enough to hide the belly behind the apron, and she takes the opportunity to flirt. She has wide hips, and is older than Dean likes but it's a thankless job and it costs nothingto be nice.
Even this annoyed he's nice to her because he's done jobs like this and he's just passing through, but he's not really in the mood for flirting. So he smiles when she calls him Hun', and lets her choose for him based on what she knows is good.
Sam never understands these acts of seemingly random friendliness, but he gets cold bacon and leathery eggs, and they only half fill his cup on refills.
There's nothing random about this at all, it's sometihng painless and free that he's picked up from Bobby, a quick grin and a nice word get much more than a rude attitude and a big tip.
The pancakes she brings out are fresh and studded with tinned blueberries, the coffee is fresh and not hours old, and her smile is genuine. She keeps the table clean and waits on him more than her other customers.
HE's just finishing his third helping of the very good pancakes, they melt perfectly on the tongue, spongy and then sweet from the syrup., when Sam comes in, looking around for him. Dean gestures with his head then goes back to his pancakes.
He considers possibly ripping his brother a new one, but instead just answers by turning back to his pancakes, making sure that Sam knows that right now he is less important than his carbs and coffee.
"Hey." Sam Says sliding into the booth, "I didn't think you'd be up yet." Rhonda comes over and offers him coffee from the jug she's carrying. She takes Dean's cup away to fill it. "So I took the car to get some supplies. Do you believe tihs place hasn't got a Walmrt? I had to go to Publics."
He says the name like a curse word. Walmart might as well sponsor hunters, they get most of what they use there, and it's anonymous, although Dean has his own theories about the greeters.
Coffee, cheap silver jewellery that melted down to coat ammo, ammo, tent pegs for staking things, tees that invariably get ruined with demon guts, candy, chips, molson beer and mountain dew. It's considered normal by Walmart standards.
He knows that from standing in line.
"Hey, Sammy, do you think that Walmart has a secret occult book branch just for hunters? you know to thank us for the custom." To Sam the question comes from far out of left field, and he just splutters into his coffee. "You know, where Bobby gets his twelth century chinese books?" He chews thoughtfully, appreciating the bitter sweet splash of the tinned blueberries exploding under his teeth, and then the sweet syrup and the moist meat of the pancakes, "or is it places like Publics that cost more."
"Dude," Sam says, "you make no sense before your first coffee."
And Dean offers him a fake grin, full of purple pancake mastication to show a casual but fond disdain. "They've got to come from somewhere, Sammy," he tells him through his mouthful of food.
"Perhaps he has a source, we all know Bobby knows things. Did you know that he speaks Japanese?"
Dean rolls his eyes. "Demo, mochiron."
Sam is speechless for a moment and Dean appreciates the victory of his genius brother, in the way that only brothers do. He waves Rhonda over for more coffee. It's bitter foul and tastes like ashes after it's swallowed. It tastes mortal and lingers on his tongue. He wonders what coffee tasted like "before", before he appreciated the ebullient way that good coffee fills his mouth sliding thinly and hotly down his throat and then the burnt offering aftertaste. He wonders if he tasted it at all.
There were so many things that he didn't so he has orgiastic moments of awareness. The sharp splash of blueberries, the waxy sweetness of cherries and the too sweet chemical burn of mountain dew.
Coffee is a burnt offering to a god he has no choice but to believe in, afterall he is haunted by an angel.
Sam is quick to change the subject back to familiar ground, hunting, the growing price of petrol and that he bought his brother the new AC/DC album, but he got it on CD because they don't sell cassettes anymore, and he knows Dean won't play it because he doesn't know all the words, drum beats and chord progressions to every track.
Dean, Sam suspects hasn't bought an album, or even shoplifted one, since Metallica released the Black Album and is happy in his niche.
Sometimes Sam sits in the car and considers puncturing his own ear drums, but it's worth it because it's part of Dean; and he's never admit it but when Dean was - in his own head he won't say the word - when Dean was gone he'd put on Def Leppard and play Gods of War loud and pretend he was just waiting for Dean to come out of the gas station, or motel, or bar.
THe little lies he told himself made it bearable. The funny thing is how quickly that they built up it was hard to tell them from the truth, especially with all the lies they tell for hunting.
Dean is his constant and Dean was gone.
If hunting is their day job then bog standard spirit possession exorcism is their stock in trade, and this is no different. If they were exterminators then demons might be opossums, but most of their work is cockroaches.
This job isn't even that glamourous but it needs to be done. A spirit of some kind has possessed a local tree beside a children's playground and takes to grabbing at passing kids. This was a local legend, a warning not to go into the woods. All the locals know it, don't go near the Widow's tree, but the town grew and there is a playground next to it now, and the developers would have levelled it if not for the protection order, and some mouthy kid got scratched.
The widow's tree is a local tourist attraction. Phony ghost hunters come to see it, whispering the legend to themselves as they burn black candles, drink cheap wine and now fall drunkenly off the swings.
Most places have a legend like this, the difference is that this one is real. It's a simple job, one night, two at most, a rest and a protective charm hung on the tree where the ghost hunters won't steal it, which stops the more physical manifestation. The ghost is harmless afterall and it's not worth the effort of properly casting it out.
It certainly isn't worth the effort of finding who haunts it, then finding their body to salt and burn the bones when a simple charm does the same job.
Often hunters arrive at hauntings like this as if it's a convention, relishing the easy job and the opportunity to rest in small town America without the threat of some painful and exotic death waiting for them.
Dean is happy to let Sam take the lead on this, a bit of local research, some jewellery making when they find which charm will work best, that means visiting Joanns for the stuff and Dean hates going in there, and then decorating a tree that might try to claw your eyes out.
Dean doesn't see the point when the local diner has piue. It's not the best pie he's ever had, that was a diner in a small town just south of the Canadian border that was just plain freaky, but had cherry pie worth being damned for. This is a good close second.
It's an apple pie with a handmade golden coloured shortcrust pastry served on a bed of bright yellow vanilla curstard. The pie is hot and the custard's chilled and Dean would marry the woman who made it if she wasn't alreadyt married and ten, hell five, years tounger.
He's making happy noises with each mouthful, the coffee is made with a rich strong bean, because the owner's Italian and it comes with a biscotti as light as air and crisp as winter, and a slice of a light lemon fresh bread studded with fruit.
"Oh man,"" he says as he noices the angel at his table, "You've got to try this."
"So this is what is meant by a cakewalk," castiel says, "You eat cake."
The delivery is so dry that Dean doesn't realise at first that it might be a joke, but the angel does reach out for the fork. "the demon is here."
"Fuck!" Dean swears because it's the only word he can think of, "it's jus a fucking tree, why is she here?" It' clear that there is only one demon between them.
"I am not privy to that information, only that she is here. Perhaps she doesn't like you well enough to think that you'd shirt simple tasks in exchange for cake." He then licks the last of the custard from his upper lip.
"Pie," Dean corrects automatically, but he's pulling on his coat even as he says it.
The Widow's Tree looks like a tree that should be huanted and Dean aches with the angel's loss, he appears and there is this sensation that Dean onl;y notices when he is gone.
The tree's a bleak black thing, old and spidery. There is a twist in the bark that looks like an old woman and a smear of blood across one of the roots that's black and swarming with flies that buzz around him and he swats at them futiely as they circle his head. he has a momentary flashback of a house in Indiana with insects trying to get inside the house he and Sam were trapped in.
Sam isn't here. The blood is dayws old and its clearly the reason that the tree suddenly became so active, the ghost is probably pissed at the flies, and Sam is with the demon, he's starting to think of Ruby ion Castiel's monochrome terms - the demon.
There are things that Dean knows that he learned from his father, marine things that Sam had no patience for, things like bivouacing and how to build a blind and how to track.
Sam's easy to follow on soft earth, Dean teases him that he's part yeti because his feet are certainly big enough, and it's a joke that never gets old in the specialist shoe stores that they have to go to. Big and tall stores are the same the nation over, with Sam size shoes next to the muumuus and chafing gel.
Muddy foot prints lead across a carpark and just around the corner is Sam, pleastered against a small dark haired woman, one that looks like her from High School Musical, and he's hunched over and his hands are on her ribcage under her red Gap tp and it's slightly pushed up. He has his tongue in her mouth, and his knee between her thighs and Dean wants to vomit.
Instead he just turns and walks away.