A/N: Originally published in Blood Brothers #4 by Gold'n Lily Press.
Call My Name
Dean drove down the highway, the last song on the AC/DC tape fading into squeaky silence. He punched the eject button, grabbed a random replacement tape and shoved it in. A brassy guitar riff rent the air, and Dean caught himself listening for Sammy's objection. But...Sam wasn't there anymore. No one was riding shotgun, his music choices didn't get anyone's goat anymore.
The passenger seat was empty, and that was strange. No, not strange, it was...lonely. A sudden unwanted echo of the way things used to be a few years back. The way things were again.
Dean growled and straightened in his seat, hands imperceptibly gripping the wheel tighter. He needed to find a hunt, immerse himself in it. He needed Sa— He needed to move on, go forward, find something else to kill. There was always something, right?
Where was he? Oh, yeah, the last state line he'd crossed made it Minnesota. What evil fuglies hung out in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes? Wendigos! Yeah, that'd be good. They ha— He hadn't faced a wendigo since Black Ridge... Come to think of it, that hadn't been his best win. He'd been more than scratched, hung up like a side of beef, until Sa— No, he'd start with something easier, and work his way back to wendigos. Maybe a black dog. Nothing too complicated, there. It was corporeal and would keel over dead, assisted by a regulation bullet or two.
Yeah, a black dog, pretty routine, although it'd been a while since they—since the last black dog, which hadn't even been a black dog, it'd been a hellhound.
Dean cranked the volume up full blast, not wanting to be dragged into that memory. But it was too late; already he heard the words of the Crossroads Demon, trapped under the water tower by Lloyd's Bar:
"Your father made a deal for you."
It was absolute confirmation of what he'd feared all along, and the knowledge that started this whole, miserable road to Hell and back...and coming soon: the Apocalypse.
Enough! Dean slammed a hand against the steering wheel, and ignored the brittle, loud crack it produced in the passengerless vehicle. To hell with the hunt, what he needed was a drink. Dean paid more attention to the road, eyes peeled for the next exit sign.
Sure enough, exit 42 popped up a few miles later, preceded by a blue FOOD GAS LODGING sign. Without another thought, Dean took the exit. The frontage road veered off into dark woodsy-looking land, with a sudden cleared space revealing a parking lot and Scandy Randy's Bar & Grill. Dean parked in the mostly-full lot, then crossed quickly to the bar.
It was a typical small country bar with thick wood "log cabin" walls, an impressive array of deer heads, and a long counter along the back wall. The rest of the area was taken up by booths and sturdy oak tables with captain's chairs tucked into their sides.
Dean bellied up to the bar, perusing the substantial number of bottles of vodka, gin, tequila, pick-your-poison that filled three glass shelves in front of the long back mirror.
A couple of guys slid in front of him, taking the last two barstools. A twenty-something blonde barmaid smiled sympathetically as Dean squeezed into the stand-and-order spot at the end of the bar.
"May I take your order, sir?"
Dean caught sight of the advertised special and frowned slightly. He knew more drinks than your average bartending book, but this... "What's a thruple?"
"Oh," she laughed. "That's my boss's attempt at wit. We're doing a special on purple nurples, three shots for seven dollars, so he's calling it a thruple—three purple nurples."
"Awesome. I'll have a thruple, please."
The bartender nodded, turning sharply toward the center of the bar. Dean watched as she grabbed three shot glasses and deftly filled them with a dark purple concoction, squirting from a thin drink dispensing hose. Obviously, the bar had stocked up on their specialty drink. The girl put the shots on a small salver, and then returned to the far end of the bar. She set the deep purple shots one-by-one in front of Dean, and pocketed the ten dollar bill he gave her with a smile after he waved away the change. At least someone was happy.
Dean contemplated the three shots for a second, then grasped the closest one and tossed it back in one satisfying gulp. He picked up the other two shot glasses and made his way across the lively room to slide into an unoccupied booth along the front wall.
Dean gazed at the two purple nurples on the table and then reached for one and gulped it down. The third drink disappeared almost as rapidly. He stared at the two empty shot glasses, thinking about too many things. He tried to compare these to his first, awesome purple nurples, but he couldn't think about that without also thinking about not-Starla and Sa— He threw a quick glance around the room, looking for the bartender.
She must've been keeping an eye out for him, maybe hoping for another fat, juicy tip, because she popped up at his table in no time. "Would you like another, sir?"
"Yeah." Dean fished a credit card from his wallet. "Start a tab."
"Yes, sir." She plucked the credit card from his hands, glanced at the name, "Mr. Bonham."
John Bonham, the alias he'd used and been busted on back in Indiana, the first time Sammy'd—
Dean angrily turned off his thoughts and started thinking with his lower brain. He watched the bargirl's noteworthy backside as she sashayed back to the bar. She'd been even easier on the eyes from the front, wearing a nicely-clinging bright blue t-shirt with Scandy Randy's blazoned across the front and a denim micro-mini skirt. Maybe some feminine company wouldn't go amiss. He could just picture Sam's rolling eyeballs and—
Dean snorted and went back to staring at the empty shot glasses on the table. The drinks couldn't come fast enough.
The pretty blonde returned, placing three purple nurples in front of him, the shot glasses making a neat line toward the center of his table. "Enjoy."
Dean nodded, lifting the first—okay, fourth—drink to his lips before the bartender/waitress had walked away from his table. The shot went down his throat smoothly, settling in his stomach. Scarcely breaking his rhythm, Dean plunked the empty glass down on the table, chugged down the next one, and reached for the third, pausing a moment to survey his environs. After all, he was a hunter; he didn't just lose track of everything and bury himself in a bottle, like Da— He didn't just drink himself into a stupor, even if he had a good reason to, like being deserted by Sa—.
Dean shook his head, grabbed the sixth purple nurple, and swallowed it down.
Setting the shot glass on the table, he licked his lips, actually tasting the flavors in this drink, comparing them to his previous purple nurples back in that bar in Ohio. His pretty bartender appeared tableside. She must have radar, sensing when a patron's drinks glass was empty. He checked out her whole package, and smirked. Or maybe she was just paying close attention to him, like countless other women.
She glanced at his face before asking, "Is anything wrong, sir?"
"These purple nurples," he bypassed that tricky thruple word, not really convinced it was a real word in the first place, "they don't taste like the ones I've had in other bars."
"Well, I can understand that. Randy uses the vodka and DeKuyper's version of purple nurples. You probably had blue Curaçao or maybe even cocoanut rum at the other bars." She smiled. "Just like there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's more than one way to mix a purple nurple."
"Ahh, right. I can taste the vodka," Dean winked because, hell, even teetotalers knew vodka was tasteless, "and the schnapps—blueberry?"
"Close. It's DeKuyper's Wilderberry Schnapps."
"Yeah, right. Another set, please."
The bargirl didn't say anything right away, so Dean fiddled with the empty shot glasses, pushing them away from the center of the table so they clustered around the condiments, close to where the table joined the wall. Minnesota probably had the same restricted drinks-serving law as the other freakin' states, but they'd carried on a credible conversation. "Okay, Mr. Bonham. One more thruple, coming up."
She walked away from the table, returning after a few minutes with a tray bearing a beer pitcher and assorted mixed drinks. She carefully set three shots in front of Dean, and then left.
He scooped up the closest shot glass and downed the purple liquid, not thinking about anything but the alcohol sliding down his throat. He set the shot glass on the table and blinked as it sort of shimmied away from his fingers. Hmm, maybe the alcohol was starting to affect him. The shot glass didn't split into multiple glasses and converge into itself like the kaleidoscope effect he sort of remembered from when he'd been drugged at the Oktoberfest, but it definitely moved. Somewhat. Of its own voli—viola—vola—on its own. Maybe it was time to call for Sa—some backup.
"Cas...t'l," Dean mumbled, maybe slurring the name, just a little. He stared expectantly at the opposite booth, and blinked when it was suddenly occupied by a stranger. "Who th'hell're you?"
"Castle, Richard Castle." The forty-something man's blue eyes met his for a moment, and then Castle glanced around the bar, talking a mile a minute. "Where is this place? It reminds me of the bar I used in Storm on the Mountain... Nice, rugged split-log walls, solid wood bar anchored in the back of the room, animal heads all over the place..." He winced as they heard George Strait singing about his ex's. "Not my favorite type of music, but I had to use it for authenticity, y'know? After all, you're not going to find a local bar in Colorado blaring Styx or Zeppelin. And, honestly, if I made the bar too unique, it would distract from the main focus of the chapter, the bar fight. Which was awesome, by the way, brilliantly choreographed, as the New York Times book reviewer said, if I do say so myself. I didn't even write it from memory, well, unless you count all the old Western bar brawls I watched on TV."
"Stop. You're giving me a headache."
Castle smirked, glancing pointedly at the empty shot glasses congregated next to the sugar and salt. "I don't think I'm what's giving you a headache."
"Who the hell are you?" Dean growled.
"I told you. I'm Castle. Richard Castle—mystery writer extraordinaire."
Dean blinked and looked at his unexpected guest again. The dude did look like that actor from Firefly... Dean remembered watching a few Castle episodes, too, mainly because Kate Beckett was hot, even if she was a cop. Abruptly, Dean realized that Castle was talking again—or still.
"...and then there's the undying popularity of The Passing Storm, where the death of a distant relative leaves Derek Storm in pursuit of his absentee father. It's my second top-grossing novel of all time. Seems like a lot of people have daddy issues." Castle's eyes met his straight on. "But that's not the family member that has you resorting to drink, is it?"
"I don't have to answer to you—you're a figure of my 'magni—imgah-imjana—you're a TV character." Dean's curiosity got the better of him as he tacked on, "And how'd you get here?" The guy certainly didn't sound like an angel, although Dean had only met a handful of the dicks so far. Well, Cas wasn't a dick, but this dude wasn't Castiel, either. So maybe he was a dick; he admitted to being Richard. Ha ha. A little bit of levity over monikers; something that would certainly be appreciated by the Sasqua— "Where'dya come from?"
"I was in a bar in New York," the brown-haired man answered. "Very upscale, not like this joint at all. I didn't have that much to drink, just two appletinis."
"Appletinis?" Dean rolled his eyes; what a girly drink.
"And what are you drinking, purple nurples?" The older man's eyes dismissed him. "Now that's certainly an adult drink."
Dean glared, grabbed his eighth purple nurple without taking his eyes off Castle and tossed back the shot. His eyes shifted to follow the shot glass down as he banged the empty glass on the table. Dean glanced up, smirk already forming on his mouth. He froze as he encountered only empty space where seconds ago Castle had been seated.
Okay, that was weird. Well, weird was normal, so—a different kind of weird, then. Yeah. Non-traditional weird. Dean's head pounded, grappling with the out-of-the-ordinary thinking. Okay, back to the basics, then. What had he been doing, before—before Castle showed up and things got weird?
"Cas…'ie," Dean called, low-voiced, not even noticing his second slip.
Dean blinked and there she was, seated across the table: Cassie Robinson. The only woman he'd lov—he'd come close to loving. "Cassie?" he asked unbelievingly.
Her wide, beautiful brown eyes drank him in. "Dean?" Her voice was throaty, as he remembered it. "I knew the AP wire had it wrong when they reported you and Sam blown up in Monument, Colorado. I knew it just couldn't be true." She smiled at him, tightly curled dark brown hair falling over her shoulders, the sharp, elfin features of her face combining to beam at him with evident happiness. Then a slight frown marred her image. "Why didn't you let me know before this?"
"Couldn't, Cassie. I was wanted by the Feds...didn't want to get you mixed up in that."
"So I was better off thinking you were dead?"
"Yes." Dean answered her honestly, because past incidences told him he couldn't lie to her. But he wasn't telling her the whole story; no way she needed to know he was now wanted by every freakin' demon on Earth, and his allies were few and far between. Cassie wasn't an ally, though. She was a civilian.
"Bullshit." And that was the reporter in Cassie, strong, opinionated, and ready to knock some sense into his head. He did love a feisty woman.
"You were right, Cassie," Dean admitted, knowing she enjoyed having the upper hand and being right about everything, almost as much as Sa— "There's no storybook ending for us."
"I thought you believed in the strange and miraculous?" Cassie chided, forcing him to recall their last parting. She swung her eyes around the bar, and caught him off guard with her change in topic. "Where's Sam?"
"Uh...he's not here."
"I can see that." Cassie sounded just a tad exasperated. "But he should be." She deliberately tapped the fingers of her right hand next to the empty shot glasses. "I know you two keep an eye on each other."
"We split up." Dean frowned; that just sounded—wrong. "Sam's off doing his own thing. It was a mutual decision…"
Sam's words from four years ago swept through him. "Oh. Wow. She dumped you."
"…Like ours was."
"Oh, Dean." Cassie leaned across the table, her face coming closer and closer.
Dean wanted nothing more than to lose himself in her soft, luscious lips, eminently kissable. Even he deserved a little comfort once in a while. He bent forward, closing his eyes as he leaned inward, eagerly awaiting Cassie's kisses.
His forehead thumped on the surface of the tabletop. Dean's eyes sprang open and he tilted his head to the right, so he could see the liquid in the last filled shot glass, still sloshing around the glass from the force of his impact with the table.
Dean raised his head gingerly. "Cas—ti—el."
Nothing. Dean frowned, certain he'd said the angel's name correctly this time. Why wasn't the feathered wonder sitting across from him? Oh. That's right. Cas couldn't find him, thanks to those Enochian symbols carved on his ribs. Dean groaned, he really shouldn't've thought about that because, all of a sudden, his ribs tingled like they were belatedly objecting to the carvings on them, not that he remembered them hurting at the time. Cas had just touched him and said they were safe from angel's eyes.
Dean snorted. "Safe" wasn't a word Winchesters put a whole lot of stock in.
He hastily reached for and dispatched the last purple nurple. Wasn't nine supposed to be the magic number?
Dean trailed his eyes around the bar, dismayed to find that the room still spun after he pinned his gaze on the closed front doors. Now he really needed Sa—backup. He fumbled his cell phone from his pocket—he felt like freakin' ET having to phone home. Dean flipped through his speed dial numbers, ignoring Number One—SAM—and engaging Number Four—CAL. Castiel, Angel of the Lord. "Cas?"
"Dean? Where are you?" Castiel's voice sounded reassuringly monotonous.
"N'a bar'n Minnesota."
"Minnesota's a large state." Castiel stated the obvious. "Can you be more precise in your location?"
"'Na bar, Scar—Rad Skare Skinny," Dean struggled with the bar name, breathing a sigh of relief as his favorite bargirl approached the table. "Scan-dy Ran-dy'z Bar 'n Grill," he read slowly off her t-shirt as she obligingly lingered at his table.
"What town is this bar in?" Castiel patiently inquired.
Dean blinked; he had no idea. "Ah, miss?" The small lettering on her nametag was beyond his current deciphering abilities. "C'n you tell m'friend where we are?" He held out his cell phone.
The girl grasped the phone and brought it to her face. "This is Scandy Randy's Bar & Grill. We're located just off highway 35, exit 42... Okay, I'll tell him." She handed the phone back to Dean. "Your friend says he'll be here shortly. Now, may I close out your tab, Mr. Bonham?"
"Be right back." She glanced at the tabletop, crowded with empty shot glasses. She stacked the closest ones into a column, the clink-clink-clink of the glasses causing Dean to wince as she walked away. Seconds later, Castiel appeared, dressed in his obligatory rumpled trench coat, with some parts of his black accountant's suit visible beneath it.
"Cas!" Dean greeted enthusiastically, pleased that he'd finally correctly summoned his angel.
"Dean," Castiel answered levelly. "Why are you here alone? Where is Sam?"
"Damn." Somehow, Dean thought Castiel already knew about Sam's...abdicating his duties. "He's taking a breather, backing away from hunting."
Castiel frowned. "Is that wise?"
Dean shrugged. "It's what he wants to do. I'm not stopping him. At River Pass, I spent more time worrying about him than the hunt, and all the innocent people affected by it. I can't operate like that, not now. The stakes are too high." Damn, he didn't sound the least bit drunk. Life, Winchester-style, had a way of sobering a dude up, quickly. If Castiel noticed he didn't say Sa—his brother's name, the angel wasn't making a big deal about it. Not that Cas made a big deal out of anything. Well, except his quest to find his Father. Sheesh, Dean could tell him a whole lot about how successful he'd been on that particular quest—
He suddenly realized Cas was talking.
"Here." Castiel held out the credit card slip and Bonham's credit card in his hand. "The young lady dropped this off."
Dean muttered a curse, grabbing the slip and awkwardly extracting the pen clipping the receipt and card together. He added a tip, and scrawled a signature on the bottom line.
Cas picked up the credit card, waiting for Dean to take it and shove it into his jacket's pocket. "What have you been drinking?"
"Purple nurples." Dean almost giggled at the uncomprehending expression on Castiel's face. "Nine of them." He poked at one of the empty shot glasses with his index finger, daring Cas to correct his math, since not all the shot glasses were present on the table.
"Oh." Castiel's solemn blue eyes met his. "Then you're not driving."
"Th'hell I'm not. Not letting you drive my baby, that's f'r sure."
"Dean." Castiel's tone exuded patience. "I've been observing mankind on Earth for two millennia—and I've been acquainted with the basics of the automobile for over a century. I'm more than capable of driving the Impala the few blocks necessary to check in to the nearest motel."
"Well, when you put it like that," Dean muttered vaguely, not admitting he'd gotten lost in Castiel's lengthy explanation, the monotonous drone linking the words into a multi-syllabic sludge.
Castiel extended his hand, palm up. "Keys."
"Bossy angel," Dean grumbled under his breath, slowly producing his car keys and handing them to Castiel. Dean jerked to his feet, certain Cas would follow, as he made his way toward the bar's exit, the Impala, and the nearest motel room.
The nearest Sam-less motel room. Have to remember to get a single; it's cheaper. Dean savagely yanked open the passenger door and collapsed into the seat, murmuring a soft "sorry, girl" as he closed his door. Seconds later, he heard Cas open the driver's door and get inside.
Cas started the engine, and Dean tried to distract himself from the angel driving his Impala by flipping on the radio. Bad move. "I ain't missing you at all, since you've been gone away. I ain't missing you..."
Dean groaned, closed his eyes and didn't think of Sam, alone in his own motel room—somewhere.