A Human, An Angel and A Time Lord Walk Into A Bar...
In a chilly Kansas motel room Dean closed his eyes as Castiel's fingers landed lightly on his forehead.
When he opened them again they were standing outside a bar.
It was a broad, low building, all red brick and overhanging roof. But there was something not quite right about it, a certain fuzziness at the edges that Dean couldn't clear despite blinking several times. He put it down to tiredness. It had been an ungodly hour when Castiel had woken the hunter and tol Dean that they had somewhere to be. The angel wouldn't tell him where, just that they had to go right away.
He shook off the thought and concentrated on the positives. There was a bar.
"You're learning, Cas," the hunter said grinning as he strode forward towards the warm light emanating from the building. He hadn't gone more than a few paces before a hand on his arm stopped him. Dean gave the angel a puzzled look.
"Dean, this isn't a normal bar. This is a refuge. There will be...you might see things you don't understand behind those doors."
Dean gave Castiel his best 'Angel, please...' look but the hand stayed firmly on his arm. Blue eyes looked up at the hunter and fixed him with an intense and, Dean noticed, slightly anxious gaze.
"I mean it Dean." Castiel said. "The sanctity of this place must not be violated. I shouldn't even be bringing you here."
"Cas, Cas," Dean said rolling his eyes, "I get it. Best behaviour. No fart jokes."
Castiel's gaze and grip stayed firm. "You are an ambassador for humanity, Dean."
Placing his hand over the angels, Dean unconsciously ran his thumb over the smooth skin. "I get it, Cas. Really," he said, raising his eyebrows in earnest and smiling.
Castiel searched Dean's eyes for a moment before nodding and finally removing his hand. He stepped out of Dean's path and followed the man into the bar.
Just inside the door Dean stopped looking at his surroundings.
It was just like the bar his father had taken him to when they'd finished their first successful hunt together; all dark wood and low, warm lighting. Booths lined the walls and battered tables and chairs of varying shapes and sizes were dotted about the floor. Browns and reds and earthy greens seemed to predominate in the art that, to Dean's eyes, never looked the same twice. The smell of the giant wood burning fire across the room filled his nose, mixing with that ever pervasive smell of alcohol that the really good bars have. He thought it was like looking at autumn if it had been condensed into one room.
Inhaling deeply, Dean smiled and closed his eyes, soaking in the calm and peace that washed around him.
Castiel watched as the lines on Deans face softened. He concentrated and saw the bar through the hunter's eyes instead of his own, taking in what Dean was seeing. A tiny sigh of relief escaped the angel. The warding he'd placed over the human's eyes was working perfectly.
Stirring, Dean smiled at Castiel. "Drink?" he asked, pulling a crumpled wad of cash from his pocket.
Castiel shook his head. "You won't need currency."
Dean blinked. His mouth moved silently for a few seconds before he managed to get sound out. "A free bar?" He put a hand on the angels shoulder and gripped it tightly. For a second it looked like he was going to cry out of sheer joy. "Cas. I really mean this. I love you, man."
Before he could think of an appropriate response Dean was gone and Castiel was left watching as the man working his way through the crowd towards the long curved bar. Dean didn't seem to notice the stir he was causing amongst the bars other patrons as he apologized and excused himself as he went.
An elbow landed heavily on Castiel's shoulder. The arms owner leant his head on his fist, following the angel's line of sight to where Dean had been stopped and was talking animatedly to something he perceived as a pretty girl.
"You know, he's going to be the topic of conversation in this place for the next relative millennia at least," said the man in an amused tone. "'I was there when the human walked among us,' they'll say. Something to tell the...well I was going to say grandkids but for this lot that's highly unlikely."
Castiel turned to address the man who stood grinning at him broadly, hands shoved deeply into his brown pinstriped suit pockets.
"Commander," the man said by way of greeting.
The angel regarded the man in front of him. "You have a new visage, Time Lord."
"So do you. And how many times do I have to tell you? It's Doctor, okay?" the Doctor said rolling his eyes.
Castiel raised his hands in submission. "Very well. Doctor. And it's no longer Commander."
Nodding, the Doctor smile faded into something sadder. "I heard - I'm sorry."
"I do not regret my choices." Castiel raised his chin.
The grin returned to the Doctors face. "Good for you!" he said happily.
The Doctor locked eyes with the angel for a moment before casting a look around the room. He nodded appreciatively. "Nice warding. This place looks a lot better through human eyes."
Waving a hand in the direction of what now appeared to them both as an empty booth; the Doctor raised a questioning eyebrow. Castiel nodded and followed as the Doctor threw his long coat and then himself gracelessly onto the soft leather seat as the angel slid into the booth opposite him.
The Doctor appraised his companion silently for a moment. "Been a while."
"Yes." Castiel agreed.
"When was the last time? My universe or yours? That thing in South America, or was it Babylon?"
Castiel thought for a second. "Your universe. Babylon."
The Doctor nodded, throwing his arm casually across the back of the seat. "It gets so hard to keep track. Still! Good times though. Well, not for that poor woman, obviously. What was that bloke thinking following her around like that? What was his name? John! That was it. Bit of luck you stumbled in when you did or Revelations would have been a very different book," the Doctor said, eyebrows disappearing into the waterfall of hair that hung over his forehead. "Poor girl. She was only doing what she needed to do to get by and along comes your man John, who decides she's everything that's wrong with the place. Honestly, I read the first draft and I thought he was writing for the Daily Mail!"
The Doctor rolled his eyes as Castiel tilted his head to one side and regarded him with a perplexed look.
"British newspaper. Never mind. Anyway, what I was trying to say was: nice job on the re-direction. Sort of. I mean it's just a bit of luck those humans seem to think he was talking about Rome."
Castiel smiled his first genuine smile in a very long time. "It's amazing what humans can convince themselves to believe," he agreed.
The Doctor snorted softly. "Survival mechanism. Can't blame them for that."
The two sat in silence for a while.
"So what brings you here?" the Doctor asked softly.
Frowning Castiel looked down at his spread hands on the table. "The Apocalypse."
"Humans, aliens or your lot?" the Doctor asked, amused.
"'My lot', as you put it." Castiel said dropping the quotes neatly around the expression. "It was foretold."
The Doctor made a frustrated gesture. "Y'see? This is what happens when you appoint yourselves guardians of a species. I've tried it. It never ends well. Where's your big man? He can un-foretell it, can't he?"
Castiel sighed meaningfully.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Oh right. He's done a runner has he? Very helpful. And of course he didn't leave you the instruction book so now you're stuck with a huge mess to clear up. That's just rubbish."
The angel nodded, unable to hide the frustration and disappointment he felt.
Reaching over the table the Doctor slapped Castiel on the shoulder. "Cheer up! It's not the end of the world."
The angel gave him a look usually reserved for when Dean or Sam displayed one of humanity's more ridiculous aspects. "It's the Apocalypse," he stated.
The Doctor waved his hand dismissively. "I've seen dozens of the things. They seem to crop up with alarming regularity. You get used to it. I've got one coming up myself actually. Well, I say coming up. It's actually about several thousand years in the relative future. I should be heading off to a very cold planet right about now, but I thought I'd stop in and have a drink before I left."
Castiel smiled again. "Your perception of the universe continues to perplex me."
"Well that's because you lot are so bloody linear," the Doctor said, smiling. "If you could see things through my eyes it'd all look a lot different, let me tell you. Different perspective, that's all."
"You aren't the only one that can move through time." Castiel said feeling curiously like he should stick up for himself and his brethren.
The Doctor made a derisive noise. "You call that time travel? I call it spectating."
"Not all of us meddle with what was, what is and what will be." Castiel said lightly.
"Must be nice to live in black and white," the Doctor mused.
"It was. These days there are...grey areas," the angel said carefully.
The Doctor followed Castiel's gaze seeing it land on the human he had brought with him. At the bar Dean was alternately waving at the bartender and being interrupted by another curious stranger.
"Your human friend," the Doctor stated evenly.
"Indeed. He is many shades of grey all on his own." Castiel said returning his focus to the Doctor.
The Doctor chuckled. "They're like that, humans. Spend enough time with them and they change how you see things, don't they?" Castiel shifted and the Doctor leaned forward. "In a good way, for the most part. This one's been good for you."
"That remains to be seen." Castiel murmured.
The Doctor shook his head. "He has. I can see it. You've finally relaxed. A little bit anyway. As much as you lot can ever relax."
Castiel blew out an amused breath. "I think Dean would argue that sentiment."
"Well Dean hasn't known you as long as I have. This is practically horizontal for you."
Castiel looked away but there was a smile playing on his lips.
"So what's the deal with you two then?" the Doctor said, eyes glinting.
"Dean is...important. My Father gave him to me to save for a reason. He is my charge. My duty." There was something like pride in the angel's voice.
"But it's more than that isn't it? He's more than that...to you," the Doctor asked.
Castiel thought about the question for a moment. "I'm falling for him," he said simply.
The Doctor nodded. Whether the angel meant that he was falling from heaven because his duty to Dean required it or something else entirely wasn't the point. Castiel probably didn't know himself. Whatever it was, it made Castiel happy. Conflicted, confused and perhaps even guilty but underneath it all he was happier than the Doctor had ever seen him.
"Well then!" the Doctor grinned sitting back again. "That's all that matters, isn't it? Everything else is just background noise. Let someone else worry about the big picture."
A puzzled look took up residence on Castiel's face. "We're tasked with saving the world, Doctor. I have trouble thinking of a bigger picture."
"Oh good grief! You angels! You're all so literal," the Doctor said letting his hands slap onto the table top.
Castiel quirked a half smile. "And what of you, Doctor? You're travelling alone?"
The jovial air around the two changed subtly and the Doctor frowned. Castiel watched as the Doctor drew his arms back towards him and folded them over his chest. It looked casual but the angel knew better.
"Yep. Just me again," the Doctor smiled. It didn't reach his eyes.
Castiel sat in silence, waiting. The Doctor couldn't be hurried on these things and the one thing angels had in spades was patience.
"Donna," the Doctor said eventually. "That was her name. Donna. She was brilliant. Saved the whole universe."
Castiel nodded. "I heard. I tried but the gateway was closed. There was no way through."
"Those laws of universal physics, huh? Never fail when you want them to, do they?" The Doctor rolled his eyes and managed a sad smile.
"She perished?" Castiel asked as gently as he could.
"No! No. We won. Right at the end she saved us all. She was brilliant," the Doctor said swallowing quickly and looking down at his folded arms. "But the way it happened was..." he tailed off. "The way she did it...what she used to do it...it was killing her. So I had to take it away. And a year of her memories with it."
Castiel nodded but said nothing. An image of Sam emerging from Bobby's strong room flashed through his mind. He knew what it was to have sins weighing heavy on your soul.
The Doctor fixed Castiel with a fierce look. "I loved her, you know. Still love her. Always will."
"I'm sorry not to have known her." Castiel said, meaning it.
The two looked at each other across the table, the air heavy with unspoken words and thoughts.
Suddenly a gravelly voice cut through the tension and snapped it like a branch. "If I knew there was going to be a stare off I'd have brought more beer." Dean said putting three plain brown bottles on the table. He turned an amused, relaxed smile on the Doctor. "You're a brave man. I've known inanimate objects crumble into dust under one of Cas' stares."
The Doctor let out a loud bark of laughter. "Oh, I like you already," he said, grinning broadly.
Castiel shifted. "Dean, this is the Time Lo-"
"The Doctor," the Doctor interrupted giving Castiel an exasperated look. "Just the Doctor."
"Dean Winchester." Dean said offering his hand.
"Hallo Dean. Pleasure to meet you," the Doctor replied grasping the hunters hand and pumping it vigorously.
"So what'd I miss?" Dean asked as he slid into the booth next to Castiel. The Doctor watched with an amused smile as the angel shifted to accommodate the man.
"Oh nothing much. Just reminiscing about old times," the Doctor said. "Boring stuff really, but I hear iyou're/i supposed to save the world."
Dean looked up from the bottles and shrugged. "So I'm told,"
"How's that going?" the Doctor raised an enquiring eyebrow.
"Honestly? I got no idea," the hunter replied shaking his head. "I'm pissing off a lot of angels though. That's always fun."
"Hah!" the Doctor let out a sharp laugh. "Good for you! They need their feathers ruffled once in a while."
Beside him Dean saw Castiel give the Doctor a 'look' which seemed only to serve to make the Doctor laugh even harder.
Dean found himself warming to the stranger's easy presence. Even Castiel seemed to relax in the man's company. It was good to see the angel like that. It was rare and Dean found himself suddenly grateful to the Doctor.
Smiling, he lifted a bottle and looked at it. "Would you look at this?" he said to no one in particular. "The barman just gave me these without even asking me what I wanted. There aren't any labels. How am I supposed to tell what's in it?"
Castiel leaned over and took two of the bottles passing one to the Doctor and keeping one for himself. "It doesn't matter."
Dean shrugged and relaxed back into the soft leather of the booth, stretching his legs out under the table. He took a long pull of the drink in his hand and immediately starting choking in shock as something akin to pure bliss ran over his tongue.
The Doctor laughed softly as Castiel frowned, concerned at the coughing and spluttering man.
Dean waved a hand at Castiel and grinned. He laughed and raised his eyebrows at the bottle in his hand. "Damn, that's some good beer," he looked back at the crowded bar. "I'm gonna have to go get some more of these to take back to Sammy."
The Doctor shook his head chuckling. "Doesn't work that way. But you won't run out tonight. That bottle won't ever get empty."
Dean looked from the Doctor to the bottle to Castiel and back to the bottle again. "Bottomless bottles?" He almost whispered it.
"Yes. You have the Doctor to thank for that." Castiel said the corner of his mouth lifting in a half smile.
"Dimensionally transcendental bottles," the Doctor nodded and pointed a long finger at Castiel. "And don't think I've forgotten that that was your fault, oh high and mighty angel of the lord."
Castiel gave the Doctor a haughty look. "It was not my fault."
The Doctor made an offended noise and gave the angel an incredulous look. "If you hadn't tried to go up against the big boys in that drinking game, losing your robe and everything in it, I wouldn't have had to step in and drink enough Ambrosia to sink the Titanic! You pass out, I pass out, they go through my pockets to find the TARDIS key and end up discovering the laws of transdimensional physics! How is that not your fault?!"
Castiel wasn't paying attention. The heavy brow had creased in concern again. "Dean, what's wrong."
The Doctor watched as Dean wiped the tears of joy from his cheeks. He obviously hadn't been listening to them. Which, now that the Doctor thought about it, was probably a good thing.
"Bottomless bottles." Dean said shaking his head like he couldn't believe his luck. The man lifted his head and sniffed happily at Castiel. "Dude. I love this bar. When we get done with the apocalypse we're totally bringing Sam and Bobby here to celebrate."
"That is extremely unlikely." Castiel said seriously.
"Oh come on, Castiel. You never know your luck," the Doctor said. "Apocalypses aren't what they used to be in my day. I seem to recall you helping me out with a couple."
At that Dean came back to himself looking between the Doctor and Castiel. "Wait a minute. Did you say apocalypses? Plural?"
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah. Long story. Several long stories actually."
Dean put his bottle down and shrugged off his jacket, throwing it onto the seat next to the Doctor. "Okay so story time then," he said picking up his beer and settling back into the booth again. "Start with how you two know each other and we'll go from there."
Dean's loud laughter sounded through the bar, turning heads and head-like appendages.
"No way! Doctor, you did not!"
Castiel, who'd lost his trench coat and suit jacket at some point during the evening and was now sitting in rolled up shirtsleeves, nodded gravely and took a sip from his bottle. "He did. Gabriel was extremely unhappy."
The Doctor waved his bottle in the air and laughed. "Oh he deserved it! He thought he was so funny. Someone had to knock him off that pedestal! And frankly the way he waved that trumpet of his around was bloody annoying. 'This trumpet heralds the end of time! When this horn sounds you will know it is the end of days!' and all that business. You know he actually said that to me? Me! I mean, come on. So while he was off telling Mary the good news, I just sort of...moved it. "
Dean slapped the table laughing. "Where to?"
"The Cretaceous period," the Doctor said grinning wickedly at the hunter.
Castiel frowned. "He searched for years and never found it. Michael was forced to craft another. He was...displeased. Gabriel was placed on crustacean guardianship for a century as punishment."
The Doctor and Dean laughed raucously as Castiel shook his head and gave them both a vaguely disappointed look.
Still chuckling, the Doctor set his bottle on the table and sighed. "Well boys, this has been brilliant but I really should be getting along. Have to see an Ood about the end of the world," he said reaching for his long coat.
"Oh man, really?" Dean huffed, disappointed.
"We should go too, Dean. Sam would be distressed if he woke and you were not there." Castiel didn't wait for a response and simply reached out towards each of his companions.
The next thing Dean knew he was standing outside the bar with the Doctor and Castiel, fully dressed again in his jacket and trench coat.
The Doctor shrugged into his own coat and turned towards Dean smiling.
"Lovely to meet you, Dean," the Doctor extended his hand to the hunter. "Good luck saving the world. And try and keep this one out of trouble will you?" he said tilting his head at Castiel.
Dean snorted a laugh and took the Doctors offered hand, gripping it tightly. "I'll try and thanks, man. Good luck to you too."
The Doctor nodded at Castiel, smiling, and walked away towards a tall blue box that Dean hadn't spotted before.
Stopping short of the strange wooden box the Doctor paused for a second before turning back. "Castiel?"
The angel turned to face him. "Doctor."
The Doctor thought for a moment. "What I said to you before about my friend. I never said anything to her...and I should have. And now I'll never have the chance," he looked pointedly at Dean for a second before looking back at Castiel. "Don't make the same mistake."
Dean gave Castiel a quizzical look but the angel wasn't looking at him.
Castiel nodded and stepped up in front of the Doctor. The two men drew themselves up and bowed to each other.
For the rest of his life Dean would never be sure of what he saw. As he watched the two men, just for a second, it was as though some kind of film or veil had been removed from his eyes.
In place of the usual dishevelled suit and trench coat, Castiel now wore a shining silver breastplate over a pure white robe. The material flowed and billowed around him as the angel rose into the air, the gold aura that suddenly surrounded him made the midnight black feathers of his wings glow in petrol hues of blue and green as they beat out a steady rhythm.
Something flickered on the edge of Dean's vision and his eyes fell on the space where the Doctor had been standing. The Doctor was still wearing the brown suit but now he was standing on thin air over a swirling vortex of blue and purple energy. Behind him the blue box had transformed into a ball of almost blinding light. Golden tendrils drifted out from the ball and wrapped themselves around the Doctors frame.
Dean blinked and when he opened his eyes it was all gone.
The Doctor straightened from his bow and gave Dean a sly smile, winking at him before turning back to his blue box. He slipped a key in the lock and disappeared inside. A few seconds later a grinding noise filled the air and the box and the Doctor were gone.
Castiel turned and walked back to Dean as the hunter shook himself out of his daze.
"We should go." Castiel said gently.
Dean looked back at the bar longingly but he nodded and made a resigned noise. "I guess. Devil to stop. World to save."
A smile tugged at the corners of Castiel's mouth. "Indeed," he said reaching out towards Dean.
Ducking away from Castiel's hand, Dean chuckled. "You wait til I tell Sammy about all this. Aliens and time travel and alternate universes? And he missed it? He's gonna sulk for a month,"
Dean grinned, closing his eyes as the angels fingers landed on his forehead.