Bette was scowling as she mixed up a batch of martinis. She knew good service was supposed to come with a smile, but the mood she was in, it was a scowl or a breakdown. The party she was serving were too drunk to focus on her face anyway, cheering and whooping and sloshing the cocktails she'd artfully prepared (why did she bother?) just ten minutes previously all over the bar top.
She waited until they'd dispersed, some to their sticky booth in the corner and some across the room to battle the DJ ("Aerosmith! You've got that, right? Don't wanna closzze ma eyezz…"), until she got her cloth and mopped up the puddles. At this point she wouldn't be averse to a power ballad, something softer on the brain matter – what the DJ thought of as acceptable club music, a twenty-year back catalogue of weak, repetitive tunes that were cheesy the first time round, had been the constant soundtrack of the first three hours of her six hour shift. She was wasted in this job.
Ha. If only.
She'd turned away for a moment to replace the bottles back in their designated places (ignoring the sudden intense urge to swipe them all to the floor), and when she turned back there was a new customer sitting front and centre. He looked like he'd wandered in by accident from the business part of town, and seemed not to have noticed yet. He was staring intensely at a stray olive, and wearing a coat that looked like it had seen better days. Bette hoped he wasn't some kind of headcase, but then found herself thinking at least it would be interesting, exhilarating if he did something. Force her to act.
"What can I get ya?" She tried for friendly, but it came out closer to aggressive. (What can I get ya, punk? A knuckle sandwich?)
He looked up to see who'd spoken to him, the same intense expression on his face. This was going to be one of those nights. She felt like heading him off with a quick Me bar staff, not therapist but she held her tongue. Whatever this guy's problems were might distract her from the shiny new rock on her finger, and that was something she could welcome.
"You are human." The man said.
Bette raised her eyebrows. "If you say so. Do you want a drink or not?"
He paused for a long, deep think. "Yes. I'll have... whatever you recommend."
She made him the most extravagant, most expensive cocktail on the menu and planted it under his nose. He thanked her and handed over a fifty dollar bill.
"Why do people never explain themselves?" He pondered.
Bette opened the till and started digging around for change. "Good question." What kind of person came into this dump with nothing less than a fifty? Another good question.
"People's… actions… are always so… confusing."
You said it. "Yep. Here's your change." He took the handful of cash hesitantly, like he hadn't been expecting it, or didn't know what to do with it.
"What's the correct response when someone's actions are contradictory? They display an emotion, and then the next second they change to a completely different one… The opposite."
Why in the name of hell are you asking me? "I've got no idea, but if you find out, let me know would you? I could do with a hint." Her hand flashed as it caught the light.
Another customer came to the bar so Bette broke away to serve her. Didn't even say thank you, the ungrateful… Funny, but she suddenly had a change of heart towards the weirdo stranger.
"I'm guessing when you say 'people' you mean one person in particular?" His shoulders shifted as he looked up to listen to her. He nodded. "I say confront 'em."
"Yeah. Tell 'em to explain themselves. Tell 'em you think they're out of line. Give them a taste of their own medicine; make them feel what you feel. Make them see that they can't get away with treating you like shit," Bette realised this had gone way beyond advice giving now, "Make them see they can't get away with messing you around so you don't know which way's right and which way's left… Make them feel exactly what they've done to you." She drew in a sharp breath, but the guy in front of her pretended not to notice. Or maybe he just hadn't noticed.
"Is that what you'd do?"
Bette looked at him sharply, hearing layers beneath his tone of voice. Surely he couldn't… What if he'd sent him here? No. Nobody was that good at acting dumb.
"Yeah. Sure I would. We've only got so long on this earth, right? Need to make it count." This cheesy, clichéd line struck an unexpected chord somewhere inside her, and her grip on the bar clenched tighter. Well, she guessed it must be clichéd for a reason.
Weirdo guy got to his feet abruptly and looked her right in the eye, like he had something of utmost importance to tell her. She found herself leaning in, gripped by his urgency. "Thank you, Bette McOwen, you have been a great help to me."
Bette blinked in surprise. "Oh. No problem. Thanks."
He left without another word, looking more like he was aware of his surroundings than when he'd arrived. She watched him go, buzzing with the beginnings of something that felt a lot like courage. She looked down at the engagement ring on her finger, custom made so it was a perfect fit, and the sight of it pushed her the final distance. She ripped it off and threw it with perfect aim into the trash, then stalked off to get her coat.
It wasn't until much later that she realised her name tag didn't include her surname.
Dean was glaring a hole through the midriff of the nearest stripper ("Please, exotic dancers. I run a respectable establishment…"), kind of like he was trying to communicate with it via psychic link. That, along with the fact he'd been moody and evasive all evening, clued Sam in that there was something wrong. A different wrong to usual. He'd been absolutely useless as a partner, preoccupied with this new addition to the list of things he didn't tell Sam about, whatever it was.
The pair – well, just Sam actually – said their goodbyes to the club owner and gave him a card (Detective Rodgers, FBI), telling him to call if anything out of the ordinary happened (like another "exotic dancer" stripping off to her skin and feeling it wasn't enough to stop there…). As they made their way through the crowd to the exit, official-looking suits clearing the way as effectively as Moses's staff, Dean followed along like he wasn't really concentrating on where he was going. He was holding his right hand oddly again, rubbing over the knuckles in a circular motion, almost a perfect match for the shape of the bruise there. ("What'd you do, punch a wall?" "So what if I did?") Sam kept glancing at him sideways, even trying to catch his eye a couple of times, but he was oblivious to their extra brother-sense that usually let the other know when one of them was trying to communicate wordlessly.
They exited the club, heading around the side of the building to the parking lot at the back.
It could be any number of things bothering him, and that was the problem. They always had something going on that could potentially be motivation to drift away from the world in front of them and give up on the job they were doing in the process. This wasn't depressed-Dean, though. Neither was it guilty-Dean. Sam was sure he'd seen this version of his brother before, but he couldn't place it. Confused-Dean? There was definitely something in the mix that had set his brow in a permanent frown…
Sam stopped in his tracks when he realised that strangled cry he'd just heard had come from his brother, which meant he was no longer walking beside him. He span around, puzzled.
Whatever he'd been expecting, it was nowhere near what he saw. Cas had turned up out of thin air, as he was wont to do, and had immediately started kissing Dean senseless, as he was not wont to do. Well.
Evidently he wanted to.
Sam's throat chose that moment to perform an odd kind of spasm that came from almost crying out in shock but stopping at the last second; the effect being that he started choking on air, spluttering heroically into a coughing fit. If he'd happened to have anything in his mouth at that moment, he suspected he would have died. Again.
All of this happened in a matter of seconds, and Sam's brain was just beginning to clear enough for him to start processing thoughts like "What happened to reality?" and "There's a good chance this is connected to what's been up with him," when the kissing – the kissing – stopped, and was swiftly replaced by a sledgehammer of a right hook to the jaw. Cas had disappeared again before the crunch even finished sounding.
Sam gasped air back into his lungs, reeling in the shock for a while, before he realised his brother had just been KO'ed by an angel fist and he should probably check if he was breathing.