Episode 10 – Part 2
'Trip On Love'
Sam accepted the mug of coffee that Jo slid across the table to him with a grateful smile, and his fingers clamped around the handle as he prepared to raise it to his lips. Despite the fact that his shirt had been relegated to the garbage, and his skin still tingled with an odd sensation not unlike pins and needles, Sam was remarkably calm. He had even neglected to mention the connecting shot to Dean, Jo or Cas, his own logic telling him 'no harm, no foul'. The monster had failed to reappear and so the hunters had made their escape, returning to their motel and deciding to renew their rooms for another few nights until they could track down and dispatch their attacker.
"What was that thing, Cas?" Dean demanded, grinning at Jo as she poured a generous slug of whiskey into his coffee before placing it down in front of him. Dean did not often take his coffees Irish now, regarding alcohol in his general state of contentment as more of an occasional beverage as opposed to a necessary daily staple.
Castiel frowned and lowered himself onto the edge of the bed, watching the hunters sip at their drinks as they regarded him expectantly.
"I believe it is an Anti-Cupid. These creatures are harbingers of destruction and chaos. They were born when Lucifer was cast from Heaven and, as one of his many ways to extract vengeance on God, he tainted the blood of a Cupid with that of a demon. It became dark and vengeful, and soon it had recruited other cherubs with it's bite until they were many in number. Their sole purpose is to undo the work of a cupid, thereby causing disorder in the universe," Castiel arched an eyebrow, "as well as general misery and pain to humans."
Dean swallowed a sip of his coffee and pursed his lips, "So, it's kind of like a yin and a yang kind of thing?"
Sam bobbed his head in agreement, contemplating the story Castiel had relayed. "For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, thanks to our buddy Lucifer."
"Precisely," Castiel stated, his grave expression causing all three hunters to peer around the room at each other in distinct discomfort.
"Okay, but why wasn't everyone at the club effected? I mean, a couple of people just walked out of there when things started to get hot and heavy, and, I mean Sam was fine. What's up with that?" Jo asked, casting a sideways glance at Dean as his cheek pressed against her temple and she felt him sigh heavily against her.
"The Anti-Cupids largely disappeared from the mortal world around a thousand years ago," said Castiel, his gaze drifting to Sam, who appeared to be somewhat agitated. "The other angels have done their best to thin the herd, so to speak, but obviously over the centuries, a number of them have managed to slip through the net."
Sam glanced sharply at the angel, his lips forming a frown as he replied, "That didn't even come close to answering Jo's question. What gives, Cas?"
Castiel shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his eyes darting about the room as though he was looking for some means of escaping the inevitable act of directly answering Sam's question.
"Cas!" Dean barked, slamming his coffee mug on the table and glaring at his friend, who bowed his head before he cleared his throat.
"The Anti-Cupid's influence is useless on soul mates, as you well know," he stated, slowly and quietly, "but also against those who are… for want of a better term… heartbroken."
"Oh!" Jo breathed, regret immediately washing over her features as she digested Castiel's explanation. Sam simply remained seated, but his eyes dropped to his lap, and his cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
Sam blinked profusely as a familiar pain tugged at him, and he found the face of a long lost love filling his mind. Six years later, and he still knew Jess' face by heart. The sound of her voice, the scent of her skin- all as fresh in his memory as the day she died.
Sometimes Sam wondered if his heart was irreparably broken, or whether there would ever be another love that could possibly compare. In his more optimistic moments, he thought perhaps there could be, but at other times, when only silence filled the air around him at night, he wished he had died right alongside her.
"Dude..." Dean began, closing his eyes momentarily as he tried to think of anything even remotely useful to say.
Though he had had his own brush with heartache, Dean could not imagine his brother's pain, nor did he wish to. The idea of not having Jo beside him made his stomach knot, and he pulled her closer into his side as he tried to dismiss his own maudlin thoughts.
"No, it's... it's fine," Sam dismissed, standing up and wandering over to the coffee pot and refilling his mug.
Jo pressed her palm to her forehead and winced.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't know..." she whispered, her remorse at the possibility of having hurt Sam almost palpable.
"Really, Jo… it's fine," Sam replied, his tone somewhat short. He glanced at Jo, an unspoken apology in his eyes, and she nodded her silent acceptance of it.
Sam turned to Castiel, taking a slow sip of his coffee before he asked nonchalantly, "What about the arrows? Are they effective on everyone?"
Castiel regarded Sam in silence for a moment before finally shrugging.
"There is no true way of knowing," Castiel answered, watching Sam carefully, his expression still unreadable, "since the Anti-Cupid's arrows are similar to a cupid's arrows, then that would suggest they could be utilised against anyone. They are a most curious and mysterious weapon. It would be wise if you were all careful not to come in contact with one, as a precaution."
"We need some kind of plan to hunt this thing down then," Dean stated, squeezing Jo's waist gently and discretely, "before it leaves a trail of sweaty, sexually fulfilled people from here to… wait, why are we stopping this thing again?"
Castiel glowered at Dean, clearly unappreciative of the humour he was attempting to inject into the discussion, which he viewed with the upmost importance.
"The Anti-Cupid's magic can often turn what starts as affection into infatuation, and much worse," Cas replied, addressing Dean like a father chiding his child, "it must be stopped before someone gets hurt. You of all people should know how provocative matters of the heart can be, Dean."
Dean blushed, avoiding Castiel's gaze as he considered himself thoroughly chastised. He huffed irritably and folded his arms across his chest. "Okay, so how do we kill this thing?"
Castiel sat down on a nearby chair and leant his elbows on the table. He visibly sneered as he ran his eyes over the pile of empty takeout containers on the table, along with the remnants of pizza and cold french fries.
"It can only be defeated by a force equally as powerful... love," he deadpanned, not noting the chorus of raised eyebrows his statement provoked.
Dean winced and shook his head, "So what? A group hug will gank this thing? Gotta say, it didn't look real snuggly to me, Cas."
Castiel sighed witheringly, and Dean noted with indignance how the angel seemed to be rapidly perfecting the human expressions of exasperation and irritation over any other. He had also noted that these were more frequently aimed at him.
"A cupid's arrow is the only magic that can defeat it. We must locate a cupid, and... and procure his arrows."
"Procure his arrows?" Jo smiled wryly and shot Cas a look that reminded Dean so much of her mother, that he shook his head in slow surprise, "is that fancy angel talk for 'steal'?"
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, blinking away the dull, unrelenting throb that had begun to pound at his temples.
"So, how do we find a cupid? Those things are pretty hard to track down, right?" Sam asked, looking to his brother and Jo for agreement. The couple nodded, yet Castiel simply picked up a cold slice of pizza and examined it's toppings with interest.
"Oh," he lifted his gaze suddenly and dropped the greasy food back into the equally greasy box, "I have a plan."
"That sounds just… awful," Dean stated, his brow furrowed and his lips twisted into a frown as he wondered exactly what Castiel's plan entailed. The angel was not renowned for his masterful solutions to problems, and the very fact that he was so willing to take charge of the whole operation whilst giving very little away made Dean decidedly nervous. He shot a look at Jo that conveyed as much, but she only offered him a small smile, obviously still kicking herself for touching on a sore subject with Sam.
"Listen, guys," Sam began, rubbing the back of his neck with the palm of one hand, "if you don't mind, I think I should sit this one out. I don't feel so good."
"Sam…" Dean started, his tone pleading as he took a step towards his brother, "come on, dude… we're really sorry. We had no idea. Don't make me beg."
"No, I mean, I really don't feel too good," Sam answered, swallowing deeply as he sank down onto the edge of the nearby bed. His complexion had indeed adopted an unusual pallid tone, and Jo took a step towards him before gingerly placing her palm against his forehead. Sam peered up at her, his expression half way between misery and self-pitying.
"You're burning up," Jo said, shaking her head at Sam as she continued, "meds and rest for you, Winchester."
Dean eyed his brother warily, and watched as Jo quickly crossed the room and rummaged in her gym bag. Producing a wad of various pills and medications, one for every minor medical emergency, Jo rifled through them before pushing out two yellow capsules from the blister pack. She proffered the pills to Sam with a sharply raised eyebrow that defied him to refuse them.
Smiling gratefully, the younger Winchester took them from her and swallowed them down with a large gulp from his coffee mug.
"Thanks," he glanced up at her affectionately, and sighed as she squeezed his shoulder blade and gestured over to his bed.
"Dean and I got this, just take it easy, okay?"
Sam merely nodded, suddenly feeling so sick to his stomach and dizzy that he dared not chance attempting to speak. He swung his legs around onto the bed and settled himself on his back whilst Jo and Dean gathered their jackets, and other assorted items they would need to embark on Castiel's masterful plan. As they worked around him, Sam found himself drifting into a deep, dreamless sleep, and so did not even stir as the trio exited the hotel room, leaving him behind.
Dean hissed in a breath, his eyes raking across the room they were now confined within thanks to Castiel and his claim to know exactly where to find a cupid. On the journey over to the hotel, Dean had quickly gleaned that the angel was actually bluffing, albeit rather impressively, and was mostly clueless as to how they would begin tracking a cupid.
"This," Cas repeated stoically, searching the sectioned off restaurant with his own gaze in order to discern if there was anything unusual afoot. That was to say, anything more unusual than 30 strangers meeting in a hotel to hit on each other for three minutes at the command of an annoyingly insistent bell.
Jo's eyes narrowed dangerously, and she jabbed her finger toward the angel with an ill-concealed snarl, "Speed dating, Cas? You brought us speed dating?"
A suitably horrified sneer quickly settled on Dean's face, and he swallowed hard as he wondered just how much mingling may be involved with Castiel's errant plan.
Jo folded her arms across her chest and rolled her eyes, wondering if the angel quite understood her level of irritation. "I went to one of these things in college, Cas, and I can tell you right now, there's no 'true love' crap happening here, okay?!"
Castiel appeared to be ignoring the blonde's tirade, as his eyes closed momentarily and he simply took in the noise and ambience of the room. Inhaling deeply, Cas blinked and then shot a victorious smile in the hunters' direction.
"There is a cupid present."
Dean jammed his hands in his pockets and bobbed his head, "Awesome. So, point the dude out to us, we'll take him out back, grab what we need, and he can get back to coercing these unfortunate folks into movie dates and sharing platters."
"It is not that simple," Cas began, glancing to his side at Jo as she sighed.
"It never is," she deadpanned, shrugging out of her jacket and hooking her thumb underneath the collar before she slung it over her shoulder.
Castiel opened his mouth to respond, but was silenced as, from their left hand side, a short, round woman sporting stiff corkscrew curls thrust a number into Dean's hand.
"Well, hey," she giggled, her eyes alight and her lips twitching constantly in a display of her nerves, "are you guys joining us?"
"No!" Dean and Jo chorused, shooting horrified glares at Castiel as he accepted the number from the woman and then gestured for two more.
"We would be… delighted," Cas replied, his monotone voice sounding anything but.
"Okay, well here's your score cards and pencils," she grinned excitedly, handing out the necessary items to all three newcomers before indicating their seats at separate tables in turn with a sweep of her hand.
"You've missed the first round, but we're rolling right into the second. Now, you've got 3 minutes, and when you hear that bell, you gentlemen just stand and move to the next table on your right. We good?"
"Yes ma'am," Dean nodded, smiling tightly as he took his seat and tried to nonchalantly note where Jo was seated, and more importantly, who was sitting opposite her.
The gentle hum of conversation suddenly halted, and at the sound of a bell, the woman in front of Dean sprang into life, suddenly forgetting the conversation she had been immersed in with the woman beside her.
"Hi, I'm Marcy, I'm twenty eight, and right now I work in accounting, but I'm really looking to move out of that and open my own photography studio. Let's see now, I like movies, definitely a romantic comedy kind of girl, I like love, love, love Taylor Swift, and I want three kids, two boys and a girl... but I guess two would be okay..."
Dean's mouth dropped open and he stared aghast at the still rambling woman, willing the seconds to tick by and free him from this new and unusual form of torture.
Sam shot up in bed, gasping and clutching at his chest. It felt as though someone was plunging a white hot blade into his heart, and sweat poured in rivulets down his face. His shirt was soaked through and Sam quickly kicked away the tangle of blankets surrounding him in order to stumble towards the bathroom.
Without bothering to turn on the light, Sam seized a glass from the counter and filled it with water, which he drank in long, noisy slurps until the glass was empty again. He continued to rasp and struggle to catch his breath, but the pain in his chest receded a little, granting him some relief.
Sam moved back into the bedroom and, without another thought, shrugged on his jacket and pocketed his keys to the room. He desperately needed to escape the same four walls, which it now felt like were closing in around him, and, although he knew he should probably rest a while longer, the voice at the back of Sam's mind screamed at him to flee.
He allowed the door to slam closed behind him and, with no actual plan as to where he was heading, Sam began to press on towards the small, greasy looking diner that was adjacent to the motel.
A light patter of raindrops began to splash onto his cheeks, but Sam seemed oblivious to the sensation, as his eyes locked on the silhouette of a tall brunette through the diner window.
His heart began to pound in his chest, and he urged his feet to move quicker as he felt inexplicably drawn to the stranger.
The woman stood talking to two patrons seated in a booth, a small pad in her hand and a pencil tucked behind her ear. She smiled at her customers and appeared to gesture behind her to the menu boards.
Sam ducked his head as she glanced up, worried that she had felt the weight of his gaze upon her. But she carried on chatting undeterred, and he realised that she had been watching the torrent of rain that had begun to fall.
His hand pulled open the door as a bell rang above him, and Sam slipped into the diner and headed for a secluded booth in the corner.
Watching the waitress still, he tried to dismiss the pain clutching at his chest, even as he heard his heartbeat echo in his ears.
Pulling a menu up from the table, he observed her from behind a makeshift barrier, unsure of who he was trying to protect.
The brunette remained oblivious to his attentions, as Sam simply sat there, watching and waiting.
The sound of a bell ringing had never been more welcome. Dean resisted the urge to heave a sigh of relief as his partner rose to her feet and reluctantly moved to her right, a mock pout on her lips as she mouthed the word 'later' at Dean. He chuckled, nodding even though he would rather purposefully drive the Impala off a cliff.
The next woman seated herself. Dean groaned inwardly as he found himself nose to nose with the woman who had welcomed them. Her curls bounced as she giggled, her cheeks already flushing.
"We meet again," she said, between enthused giggles, "Karol… that's with a 'K' not a 'C'… oh, and no 'E' at the end… well, originally there was an 'E' at the end and then I had it changed by deedpoll. Karol without an 'E' just sounds so much…"
"Shorter?" Dean supplied as Karol trailed off, apparently in search of the correct term. Instead, she giggled uncontrollably until she snorted, then clamped a hand to her mouth.
"Oh you're funny," she beamed, "I like 'em funny."
Dean sat up a little straighter as suddenly, beneath the table, he felt a stockinged foot begin to caress his ankle.
"What can I get you?"
Sam glanced up sharply at the female voice, and he shook his head as he tried to wave her away with one hand.
The blonde waitress huffed in annoyance, planting her hand on her hip as she surveyed her customer with unchecked irritation.
She gestured toward the clock on the diner wall with the eraser end of her pencil, "We shut in fifteen minutes, and I gotta go pick my kid up from the sitters so I can't be late. If you're ordering, can you just do it already?"
Sam's breath was coming in short, sharp gasps, and he levelled his gaze at the woman as his voice became little more than a snarl, "Coffee. Black."
The woman arched an eyebrow, muttering to herself as she strolled back toward the counter, "Real charmer, there."
Sam licked his lips, clenching and extending his fingers as he tried to calm his errant breathing. The desire he felt for the brunette was building, in direct conflict with the voice in his head that told him his sudden infatuation was abnormal.
Every time he tried to quash the sudden longing, a sharp pain would strike his heart, and he struggled to get air in or out of his lungs.
"Goodnight Lil, I'll see you tomorrow, huh?"
Sam glanced up as he realised that the melodious voice belonged to the dark haired waitress poised at the door with her coat slung over her arm and her purse on her shoulder.
Her blonde colleague nodded in her direction, offering the woman a warm smile as she called back, "Sure thing. Have a good one, Vicki!"
Lillian poured what she hopes would be the last cup of coffee of her shift, her eyes narrowing as she spied the clock and noted just how close to closing time it was. If her new customer hung around, her sitter would charge her extra time for sure.
The sound of the doorbell jingling caused her to glance up and she cursed aloud as she spilt the hot liquid over the counter.
Peering down the diner, Lil frowned as she noted the now empty booth. The man was gone, and she was free to go home.
"Oh, thank God," Dean groused quietly, the sound of the bell once again freeing him from three minutes of unbridled agony.
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and sighed as he glanced down at the table, trying to prepare himself for more of the same. He was going to strangle Cas when this was over, there was no two ways about it.
"Hey there, cowboy."
He looked up quickly and a smile blossomed on his lips as he eagerly registered the presence of a pair of brown eyes.
"You have no idea how happy I am to see you," Dean exhaled slowly, frowning as Jo shook her head in warning and glanced pointedly at their fellow speed daters, who could not know of their undercover status.
"Oh yeah, that," Dean grumbled through clenched teeth, shaking his head as he shot a discrete but infuriated glare in Cas' direction. The angel was seated directly across from a woman Dean had already endured. She had babbled on about her pet ferrets and the outfits she sewed for them whilst Dean had quickly lost the will to live. She now appeared to be doing the same to Castiel, although instead of nodding and smiling politely as Dean had done, the angel was ignoring the woman and sweeping the room with his keen gaze.
"Are you going to introduce yourself then?" Jo inquired, her grin mischievous as she tossed her hair over her shoulder in an obviously seductive gesture. She ran the tip of her tongue over her lips, and Dean shifted uncomfortably in his seat as immediately images of Karol with a 'K' and no 'E' began to spring to mind.
"You already know my…" he began, surprised when Jo shook her head and pursed her lips.
"Come on, work with me here," she encouraged, "just go with it."
Sighing in defeat, Dean leant his elbows on the table and inched toward his new date. Jo smiled encouragingly, and he finally consented to mirror her smile, grateful to have the next few minutes at least with the only woman who actually mattered to him.
"My name's Dean, and you are?"
Jo cocked her head, smiling as she similarly leant forward in her seat and flashed him her most flirtatious smirk. Dean's eyes swept her entire body, and she sighed as she felt a pleasant blush rise up the apples of her cheeks, and goosebumps prickled at her arms.
"Jo," she replied, beginning to enjoy their stakeout a little more than she knew she should.
Dean took a moment to hold her in a suitably suggestive gaze, and suddenly his dormant flirting skills began to resurface.
"Well, Jo..." she narrowed her eyes as his voice became suitably husky, and she recognised the mischievous twinkle in his eyes, "I think there's a pretty good chance you're gonna be going home with me tonight."
Jo laughed and leant back in her seat, catching the disdainful glare the woman seated beside her was shooting Dean.
"That so?" Jo countered playfully, "you're pretty sure of yourself, huh?!"
The man who would be Jo's next 'date' appeared suitably affronted, and he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he glowered at his rival.
"Foresight is my gift," Dean answered, his smile winning as he watched Jo toy with the ends of her hair. He wondered if the girlish gesture was subconscious or if it was an intentional display of flirtation on her part. Either way, he found he liked it.
"Well then, Dean…" she paused, leaning forwards so as to expose just the right amount of cleavage from the low cut vest she wore beneath a plaid over-shirt, "I…"
The insistent bleep of the buzzer drowned out her next words, and both Dean and Jo looked crestfallen.
"Oh come on!" Dean yelled in the direction of the women who was poised over the all-important buzzer at the top of the room, "there's no way that was three minutes!"
"Sorry sweetheart," Jo sighed, climbing to her feet and turning towards the next table, where a short, balding man wearing a pair of gold wire rimmed glasses was hunched over a glass of water.
Leaving Dean grumbling irately behind her, Jo forced her legs to carry her over to the chair opposite her latest 'date'. As she plopped down into the hardwood seat, his head whipped up.
His voice trembling nervously, he demanded, "Do you like mime?"
Jo allowed her forehead to hit the table.
The rain was falling harder now, aiding the lone figure in hiding undetected in the shadows.
Holding her coat over her head, the woman dashed across the parking lot to her car, oblivious to the fascinated stares of the man loitering in the dimly lit doorway.
"Shoot," she groaned, her car keys suddenly slipping from her hand and tumbling to the ground as her damp skin made it difficult to find purchase on them.
Stooping down, the woman blinked against the raindrops and fumbled for the keys that had fallen just out of reach under the vehicle.
She did not hear his footfalls, or his laboured breathing as he approached her. She would not know the inner turmoil that possessed the man, as his better nature fought against the spell he had been cruelly drawn under.
Her heart pounded quicker in her chest as she saw the feet of the stranger and felt his looming shadow dwarf her infinitely smaller frame.
Grasping for her keys with renewed urgency, the woman swiped a trembling hand under the car and willed her fingers to make contact with the metal.
Before the darkness claimed her, she heard his frantic apologies and pleas for forgiveness; but perhaps the most terrifying of all, was his whispered 'I love you'.
"Kill me, kill me now," Dean muttered through clenched teeth, forcing a smile as the next participant sat down opposite him, and he prepared himself for more of the same brand of crazy.
He frowned in almost pleasant surprise as a fairly attractive blonde sat down demurely in front of him, and she flashed him a toothy smile as she cast an approving nod in his direction.
"Well hey there, hot stuff," she drawled, leaning forward and planting her elbows on the table.
"I uh... I go by Dean," he stammered, pausing only momentarily to wonder where the hell his flirting mojo had disappeared to. Not that he wanted to utilise the infamous Winchester charm, he was after all very much in love and considerable lust with his girlfriend, but he liked to know he could still turn it on when required. You just never knew when such skills would come in handy in their line of work.
"Okay, Dean... I'm Cindy," she emphasized his name, staring directly into his eyes as she purposefully leaned further forward and her breasts threatened to spill out of the dress she was almost wearing, "but you can call me whatever you want."
Dean winced and averted his gaze, half out of respect for his girlfriend, and half out of an escalating sense of embarrassment as the woman made no effort to cover herself.
"You like them? I just got 'em!" she enthused, a beaming smile on her face as she cupped her bosoms in both hands and an alarmingly childlike smile blossomed on her face.
Dean stuttered, closing his eyes momentarily.
"They're uh... they're swell," he gulped, "I mean, they're... you know... they're... fine."
Cindy laughed and shook her head, propping her chin in her hand as she regarded her potential mate, "You know, for a seriously hot guy, you're not very good at this whole 'picking up women' thing are you?"
Dean smiled tightly, thinking back on his illustrious dating past with a brief chuckle. "Guess I'm just a little shy."
"Ok, then I guess it's down to me to do the talking," Cindy replied, winking at Dean almost as an afterthought. She clasped her hands on the table in front of her, sucking her front teeth as she deliberated her hard sell, "I'm thirty-one, I'm a manager at a restaurant, own my own home, the sweetest Lexus you'll ever see, and I really want to go to India someday."
"Huh…" Dean replied, somewhat startled by her normal and sane responses. He thought that Cindy could actually be a catch for some lucky guy in the future.
"Oh let me see… hobbies…" Cindy mused, beginning to drum her long, lacquered fingernails on the tabletop, "movies, gardening, salsa dancing… oh, and… my vice…"
"Uh huh," Dean prompted, leaning back in his seat in a casual attempt to see how Cas was progressing with their investigation.
"Well, I just got the titties," she said, before stroking her index finger down the bridge of her nose, "I had my nose sculpted a few months back, lipo, cheek implants… oh, the third Wednesday every month is Botox day…"
"Is that so?!" Dean replied, nodding as he quickly retracted his previous appraisal.
Cindy appeared suddenly bored with the conversation, and she sighed so hard her bosom heaved with the exertion.
"Dean... You wanna get out of here? We are like way too hot to be talking to these inbred losers."
Dean narrowed his eyes, quickly scanning the room for Jo, who appeared to be sitting open-mouthed as she watched the guy in front of her playing a small harmonica he had pulled from his pocket. As wooing exercises went, he had to admit it was different.
"Look, Cindy, you seem real nice, but I promised my friends we'd do this thing afterwards, and..."
Cindy held up her hand to silence him, and Dean blanched as she hastily stood and grabbed up her purse.
"Your loss, dude. There are plenty of guys in here who would kill to hook up with me!"
Dean folded his arms across his chest, about to respond with what he thought was a witty and mildly caustic retort when the bell finally rang, bringing the evening's activities to a close.
Dean grinned and shrugged, "Whatta you know? We're out of time."
Cindy bustled out of the bar area, and Dean leant back in his seat and let out a relieved breath as he realised that his ordeal was finally over.
The short, be-spectacled man who had been sitting next to him followed the buxom blonde's exit with his gaze before turning to shake his head in Dean's direction as he accused, "You have to be crazy, right?"
Dean indicated Cindy's retreating form with one hand and stated sardonically, "Be my guest, dude. Just don't leave her in direct sunlight or anything."
Frowning as though the joke had passed over his head, the man gathered up his jacket and literally scampered after the blonde.
Dean closed his eyes and allowed his head to loll back in the chair, hoping that Castiel had gleaned some kind of useful snippet of information or lead from the evening, lest he be forced to ram an angel blade into his heart.
"What are you doing here?"
Dean's eyes opened quickly as the voice interrupted his thoughts, and he straightened up in his seat as he found himself face to face with a petite, middle-aged brunette, who was glaring at him with her arms crossed in front of her in a gesture of open hostility. She was beautiful in a somewhat severe way; her dark hair pulled back into a tight bun, her shapely fingernails adorned with red polish, and her cheeks heavily but pleasantly rouged. The corners of her eyes were creased with a smattering of wrinkles that hinted at her age but, overall, Dean approved of her general appearance, and even considered asking for her number to pass onto Bobby.
"Uhm… to be truthful, not entirely sure myself," Dean answered with a small smile, his confusion evident in his eyes as he regarded the woman. She leaned forwards with her fingers digging into the tabletop.
"I know what you are," she hissed, glancing around her to ensure their privacy, "you being here runs the risk of interfering with the course of true love, so… just shoo!"
Dean pursed his lips, examining her closely and reaching his conclusion as to her identity quickly.
"True love? Here? You gotta be kidding me," he snorted derisively.
The woman grimaced briefly and shrugged in agreement, "Yeah, not exactly the pick of the crop in here I admit, but it's not just poster boys like you who deserve to get the girl."
Dean's lips twitched with the faintest traces of a smile.
"There are a couple of matches here tonight, and if you don't beat it right now, you're going to ruin everything."
"Hey, I'm a paying customer, lady. I got just as much right to be here as all the other social outcasts in the room." Dean paused as he thought over the implications of his words, and then shook his head, "What's it to you, huh?"
The woman rolled her eyes and waved her hand in the air, and on command the other inhabitants in the room appeared suspended in time. Couples sat frozen in conversation, whilst others held drinks almost to their lips, obviously in the process of trying to erase the events of the evening from their minds.
Groaning in frustration, the woman cocked her head and glared at him from behind narrowed blue eyes.
"Alright, cut the crap, Dean. I know who you are and what you are. I also know that you've got about as much business here as the uptight angel, and the pretty blonde you came here with who's got your ring in her back pocket."
Snapping her fingers, she gestured to the air around her, where glittering trails of deep pink mist seemed to link two couples across the vast space. Smiling at the mystified hunter, she blew slowly and gently into the air in front of him, and immediately a bright golden line materialised. It seemed to begin at his chest, right over his heart. He followed its path with his eyes, unsurprised to find the other end lead him directly to Jo.
Dean smiled faintly, watching Jo for a moment as he mulled over the implication, which he had never truly allowed himself to believe.
The woman could not help but smile too, delighted at the obvious affection she found in his eyes. Though she had spent thousands of years forging bonds between humans, it still touched her to see true love between the beings, as infuriating as they could be on occasion.
She pointed toward the two couples indicated by the pink trails.
"These two, I need to shoot in the ass a couple more times," she winked playfully, but then swept her hand through the golden mist before them so that it dissipated, "but these things, even I don't see that often. And this wasn't me, buddy, this was all him."
She nodded up toward the ceiling, to the only force of power strong enough to match souls from the moment of their creation. Dean nodded solemnly, for once at a loss for words.
"Look, we need your help," Dean began, starting as the woman nodded vigorously and almost immediately shushed him.
"Yeah, yeah, I know, loverboy. Some Anti-Cupid's on a rampage. I heard all about it already."
The cupid snapped her fingers, and the air was immediately cleared. A second motion and Jo and Castiel were released from their suspended animation.
"Alright you two, get your asses over here, I ain't got all night. I've got people to match, babies to make, and celebrity cat fights to start, so... in your own time, huh?"
Jo stumbled somewhat uncertainly over to the table, confusion apparent on her face, whilst Castiel walked briskly ahead of her, having recognised the cupid the moment he had been released from her spell.
"Castiel, a pleasure as always," the cupid stated, her smile not entirely sincere, although Cas appeared unaware of as much. She nodded at Jo, "Joanna, good to meet you finally. You know, I matched up your grandparents on your Mom's side. Ah, what a couple! They'd been making goo-goo eyes at each for years in some backwater town. I had to stick your grandpa six times before he managed to pluck up the courage to do something about it."
Jo wrinkled her nose and tried unsuccessfully to feign a smile, "That's... nice?"
Dean hurriedly pulled Jo into his side, hugging her with the conviction of a man who was completely and utterly battle scarred.
"You okay?" Jo smiled up at him quizzically, planting her palm on his chest and laughing as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head and clung to her. Castiel and the cupid appeared to be caught up in an argument about the freezing spell, with the celestial being indignant at having been temporarily effected by her magic.
Ignoring their spat, Dean peered down at the blonde hunter.
"I will be," he replied, shuddering for effect as he thanked his lucky stars he no longer had need to plunge into the terrifying depths of the dating pool.
Jo fished in her pocket and handed him a crumpled score card, which he opened curiously.
"You actually filled this thing out?" he asked askance.
Jo bobbed her head, "Hey, they talked less if they thought I was judging them… which I totally was, by the way. But good news Dean-o, you ticked all my boxes! You got yourself a date."
Affixing a charming smirk upon his face, Dean winked at his girlfriend with a self-assured twinkle in his eye, "Yeah, that's because I know what you and your boxes like."
Jo rolled her eyes and leant against his chest, "Well, you did score big for not playing any pocket sized musical instruments or trying to sing the 50 States song whilst drinking a glass of water."
"Ugh, for some reason mortal men confuse these things with talent shows," the cupid interjected, her eyes sparking as she surveyed the room proudly, almost like a mother surveying her children dressed in their Sunday best. "You know, if half of these loveable mooks just decided to be themselves, they wouldn't even need me… well, maybe a quarter… sometimes more like an eighth…"
"Look, this is all… great… but can you help us or not?" Dean demanded, holding his hand out to the cupid expectantly.
"What? You think I'm just gonna hand over one of my arrows?" she guffawed, her lip curling as she surveyed Dean and then added, "to you, monkey man?"
Cas cocked his head, mouthing the words 'monkey man' at Jo in questioning. She simply shook her head, fighting hard to suppress a smile as she watched Dean flounder indignantly at the cupid. She was beginning to like this particular celestial being, who certainly seemed to have a knack for rendering her boyfriend temporarily dumbfounded. It was such a rare sight that Jo could not help but be impressed.
The cupid planted her hand on her hip and arched a dark eyebrow, "Okay boys, this is how this little operation is gonna go down. You find it, I stick it. There'll be no deviation from the plan, it's not even open for discussion, sweet cheeks. You want my help, it's your call."
Dean licked his lips, pointing his finger at the woman as Jo yanked his sleeve and pulled him back, "Hey, you need us as much as we need you, sweetheart. It's your handy work this thing is undoing, and you can't track it down without us..."
"Without me, technically," Castiel interrupted with a stoic nod of his head.
"Without him," Dean corrected himself, gesturing to he and Jo in turn, "and we're a package deal, so you work with us, or you hand over the goods and let us do what we're good at."
The woman laughed softly, fanning herself in mock approval of his rant, "Whew! Testosterone spill in aisle three."
Adopting a deadpan expression that could easily have rivalled Castiel's, the being regarded Dean with rapidly disappearing patience, "You done? Can we go now?"
Dean and Jo exchanged glances, the latter of whom merely shrugged in agreement.
"Fine," Dean huffed, immediately starting for the door with Jo and Castiel following behind.
"Oh!" the cupid shook her head and smiled as she realised her gaff then swept her gaze around the room of still frozen daters.
"Just a minute..." she said slowly, plucking a deep red dart from an invisible quiver on her back, before loading it in the bow that appeared in her hands. The arrow sailed deftly through the air, hitting a tall, bearded man directly in the chest. Another two arrows followed close behind, one hitting his intended paramour, and the other striking the short, balding man who had enthralled Jo earlier with his musical talents.
Fastening a final arrow into the bow, the cupid took aim at a timid looking, mousy woman sitting alone at a table.
Jo watched curiously, instantly feeling for the girl who cut a lonely figure in the bar.
The four watched as the arrow sped toward it's intended, yet at the last minute, the trajectory of the missile appeared to change, and the arrow veered off course and disappeared into the forearm of the tattooed waitress who had been walking past the table.
"Oops," the cupid winced, thinking over her error for only a moment before she batted her wrist in the direction of the patrons, "meh, close enough."
The trio of hunters and their new companion swept from the room, Dean worrying on the small issue of the cupid's apparent lack of aim.
Mere moments after they disappeared, the crowd buzzed into life again.
The waitress frowned, rubbing at her chest, which was suddenly feeling tight. She continued on her course towards the table where her customer was seated, her tray balanced precariously on the palm of her hand. However, as she placed the small gin and tonic down in front of the man, her heart gave a little telling flutter in her chest, and she found herself grinning inanely at him. He peered back at her, his lips curving into a smile as his cheeks reddened – turning a shade that matched the hand-knitted sweater he wore.
The waitress allowed her tongue to poke out between her teeth, and the overhead light glinted off the silver stud embedded in it.
She clocked off her shift an hour early that night, and never once looked back.