Warnings: Adult language, alcohol, & a non-graphic adult situation
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. Written for fun, not profit.
Author's notes: Written for The Summer Lovin' Reverse Mini Bang at spn_bigpretzel. Inspired by a piece of art called "The Tiki Bar is Open" by just_ruth (and yes, I did listen to John Hiatt's "The Tiki Bar is Open" while writing).
The first scene takes place in season 7 (only minor spoilers, so it's safe to read if you haven't watched), right after "It's Time for a Wedding," but the case actually takes place in season 2, so you can skip the first scene, if you haven't seen S7.
The Tiki Tiki Tiki Doom
Part 1 of 2
"…Yeah, but come on, Becky?"
"Go ahead, get it out," Sam urged, waiting for his brother to go on.
"You guys didn't…Did you? I mean, dude, that's totally assault charge territory. Talk about your dubious consent..." Only he chuckled as he said it—it wasn't his fault Sam's glare always set him off. "Nevermind…ladies never kiss and tell. I get it. And what's one more thing to put on the therapy bill?"
Dean trained his eyes back on the road, letting the conversation drift, and Sam sighed, obviously content that it was done—apparently an annulment left one with a sense of self-satisfaction. Dean gave him a sideways glance; if he ran with this whole silent bit, Dean would be stuck with only himself as company. Which meant having to think about other things, like Leviathan. Or like his little brother not needing anymore. Or like a certain demon scheming. Or…like his little brother not needing him anymore. Stupid stuff. So, instead, he shook his head.
"Man, what is it with you always attracting the weird chicks, anyhow?"
Sam huffed. "Me? Like I'm the only one who attracts that type?" At Dean's confused expression, Sam shook his head, amazed. "You really just washed your brain of it, didn't you?"
"What 'it'? A female 'it'?"
Dean didn't like the slow grin spreading across Sam's face.
"Florida," Sam said, enjoying the memory. "The tiki bar with the ghost."
Dean's face paled. "Are you friggin' kidding me, man! That was like six years ago, and you promised to never bring that up again."
Sam chuckled. "Hey, not my fault you can't take what you're dishin' out."
"So help me, if you make me mentally re-live that case, I'm going to buy a sarong at the next clothing shop, and you will not like where I shove it."
Sam raised his hands in surrender. "Wow, aren't we touchy…"
"That was not a fun time, Sammy," Dean reminded. He took a calming breath, pausing just a moment before shrugging a kink out of his shoulders. "Great. Now I'm craving a Mai Tai…That's just perfect…"
It had been hours since they'd crossed into Florida, and Dean had yet to stop bitching: it was too humid, there were too many old people, it was too humid, there were too many alligators, it was too humid, people here didn't know how to drive, it was—
"It's humid!" Sam snapped, cutting him off.
Dean snorted. "Jeeze, someone's grumpy."
Sam was tempted to react in many different ways, a few of which involved pushing his brother out of a moving vehicle. However, since his brother was currently driving, and Sam didn't particularly want to die today, he only sighed, rubbing a worry line above his eyebrow.
It worked like a charm, shutting Dean up. He let his attention leave the road a second. "You feeling okay?" Dean asked.
Sam closed his eyes, enjoying the break. A tiny part of him felt kind of bad for playing it up. It was a very tiny part. "Fine," he muttered, miserably.
Dean stayed quiet all of five seconds. "You know it's probably just this damn weather giving you a headache…" he said.
Sam groaned. So much for that ruse. "Dean, for God's sake, you're the one who wanted to take this job! I told you it sounded like we could pass it on, but no, you said it would be nice to travel south."
Dean frowned. Sam rolled his eyes. He knew his brother hadn't meant that sentiment at the time.
The real reason Dean had agreed to take the job was because it had come from a call intended for their father. Apparently the guy who needed their help was a friend of a friend of John Winchester's. And, truthfully, Sam had went along with it because he knew Dean needed a vacation—if the vacation and the case had to go hand-in-hand, so be it. It suddenly occurred to Sam that maybe Dean had figured that part out, which explained why he'd been complaining nonstop.
"Like a sleepy toddler being put down to nap…" Sam hissed.
"What'd you say?"
"Nothing." Sam sat up straight. "Is that the place Joey said to turn?"
"Into the ocean?" Dean must have felt Sam's glare, because he chuckled. "Yeah, yeah, I see it…" He let out a whistle as their wheels kicked up more sand than blacktop. "Welcome to The How-to-Lay Hut—hey, Sammy, think they give lessons?"
Sam rolled his eyes as he caught sight of the sign hanging from a post in front of them, a few rough-edged boards nailed together and painted bright yellow and blue. Between two vintage flower images were carved words, The Hau'oli Hut. "It's pronounced 'how-oh-lay,' Dean," he corrected, knowing from his brother's smirk that it wasn't necessary. "And what happened to hating Florida?"
Sam didn't really need an answer. He could already see what had lifted his brother's mood as the Impala pulled into a parking spot. She was brunette, wearing a few strings tied to a few strategically placed triangles, and disappearing around the side of the hut.
"Oh, I still hate it," Dean disagreed, craning his neck in a vain attempt to follow the sight, "but with a liberal application of bikini babes and rum, I think I can suffer through for a couple days."
The tiki bar itself wasn't really their type of hangout, but it was hard not to want to embrace the tourist vibe when it was so well presented.
With evening's approach, the sky over the ocean was awash with bright orange bleeding into coral and lavender. Without the rumble of the engine, the roll of the waves blended with the sound of a tranquil Polynesian melody playing from the speakers planted outside the bar. The hut's roof pitched high at the front, layered in browned palm leaves and brush, and surrounding it entries, tall wooden tiki men held up already lit torches. The building itself was an illusion, open completely on one side where a latch and two supports held up what should have been the fourth wall, and table sets spilled out around a planked dance floor leading out to the beach.
From this angle, they couldn't see much more of the inside, but the awaiting bar and kitschy decorations were all but promised. As if on cue, a pair of blondes wearing floral sarongs and barely-there bikini tops stepped out onto the floor to deliver a few drinks to the patrons who were beginning the evening early. Of which there were several, it appeared… Sam snorted when he saw another sign, this one a waving banner between two posts announcing that tonight was the 46th Anniversary of The Hau'oli Hut—"Get Lei'd Tonight! Celebrate with live music, $7 pitchers, and babes…"
Oh-so classy. "Great," Sam sighed.
Talking to the owner was going to be a bitch with a truckload of partiers interrupting them. And getting part of the job done tonight? Not an option. They wouldn't even be able to take the EMF meter for a walk-through.
Dean grumbled something under his breath about civilians. "Yeah—Joey said something about a luau. But we're not in a hurry on this, anyway. From the pattern, whoever this spirit is, they seem to only amp up their game once a year. In theory, we've got about a week before it starts wrecking its usual havoc."
"'In theory.' So, we're still going with spirit?" Sam asked.
Dean shrugged. "Unless we find out it's not. Fits though. Even the locals say this place is haunted—but by a, and I quote, 'friendly' ghost. Apparently, it doesn't usually manifest, just moves shit, tickles the backs of patrons' necks, causes cold spots in the middle of July, flickers the lights…"
"The usual." Sam frowned. "And the owner has no clue why it pops in at a certain time a year to kill a random guy?"
"That's the thing—Joey didn't even notice the pattern at all until last year."
The guys shut the Impala's doors behind them, lowering their voices as they approached—as it tended to cut down on bar patron satisfaction to hear about mysterious deaths in said-bar. In the distance, they could see a band setting up on a platform closer to the beach. Sam figured there'd soon be a big spill over of guests from the towering condos next door.
"How?" Sam asked. "How'd he not notice?"
"Joey only bought the place two years ago. It kills once annually, and in weird, freaky ass ways—usually by throwing a blunt object or pushing someone down onto something sharp 'n pointy, as if it's pissed to high heaven. It throws a supernatural bitch fit and someone dies."
Sam nodded along. "Which could be interpreted as an accident…"
"Sometimes it takes out workers, sometimes it's regular customers—last year it was a repair guy," Dean continued. "Plumbing system was shot to shit. Poor sap came out here several days in a row to work on it, until one day patrons hear him shouting at someone from the bathroom and then, wham-bam, he mysteriously smashes his head through the mirror and drowns himself in the toilet. Joey said after that, he remembered another guy, a customer who died the same time the year before, when he first bought the place. Figured it was just bum luck 'til he started to check it out—traced deaths back ten years. At least."
Sam raised a brow. "Huh. And that's when he called us?"
"Well, apparently, he called in a psychic and a priest before us, but that didn't pan out. Never does. He's afraid there's going to be another death. Really doesn't want the spike in his insurance payments, so, a buddy of his recommended Dad."
Sam glanced over at his brother. As he'd expected, his lips were tight, eyes staring through something in the distance in thought. Keep it work-related, Sam reminded himself. "And the kill window? You said we have about a week?"
"Over those ten years, the deaths always took place within the same two weeks. Which, for us, means we have five days. We figure out who the spook is early, we can salt n' burn and hit the road before it rears its ugly head… Plus, it'll be nice to make some honest money. Joey said—"
Sam slapped a palm against his brother's chest, stopping him from walking through the door to the interior. "We're getting paid?"
Dean grinned. "I forget to mention that? Dude, he's paying us for the gig, and he's hooking us up with some work around the place, too. He's a bit short-handed right now, so I said it would be cool. Figured it would give us plenty of time to check the place out."
Sam blinked. "So…wait…you're going to actually work?"
Dean pouted. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up—if it helps my image, we're getting paid under the table."
The smell of rum and beer was heavy in the air as they stepped into the open-sided building. The place was exactly as Sam had imaged. Colored paper lanterns hung from the beams beneath the high ceiling, casting a constant ruddy glow over the shelves of liquor bottles lining the wall behind the bar, the only area not taken over by the cultural detritus of years past: tiki men, coconut monkeys, and wooden masks laden with plastic leis and paper umbrellas, a ship's figurehead of a chesty woman mounted high above the counter, photos of dead celebrities in tropical settings plastering the walls…Plenty to look when a few drinks with friends turned into getting kicked out in the A.M.
"Yo, Dean-o, over here!"
The voice shocked Sam out of his observation. He turned in time to see his brother stepping away to shake hands with the owner, Joey. Joey wasn't quite what Sam had expected from a tiki bar owner—of course, Sam had never actually spoken with the man, so it was no surprise that Dean didn't seemed to question his appearance at all.
Joey was short, built thick and round, his black hair far past simply receding, and he had a pocked mug that looked like it could have been made out of pounded mud. A couple scars wrinkled his cheek and brow, and his ear lobes looked like folded lumps, which Sam took to mean that the guy had been a serious fighter at some point in his life—in his dated white suit and beer belly, he was anything but these days.
"See, I saw that ride of yours creep in and knew it must be that baby you described—can't be two cherry Impalas rollin' into my joint on the same night, you know?" Joey shook Dean's hand with a chuckle. "Glad to see you could make it, kid, you and your—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you call that your little brother?"
Sam blinked, thrown off by the accent spilling out of the man's mouth. Brooklyn? Jersey? Sam wasn't sure, but it was a damn fine imitation of every TV mobster he'd ever heard. Something told him this guy's real last name wasn't Armstrong, but he wasn't going to question it. After all, they didn't exactly advertise they were Winchesters.
A burst of high-pitched laughter from the table beside him nearly deafened Sam for a moment.
"…Actually, we were hoping to get straight to work—" Dean began, answering something Joey had said.
The man raised a hand in protest. "What are you, a workaholic or somethin'? Relax a bit, stick around, find yourselves some pretty young things—the drinks are on me. I got business, so we'll talk when we talk." The man turned away before Dean could stop him, slipping over to a waitress. "Bebe, where the hell's my leis—the people wanna get lei'd, dat's why they come to a joint like this. Christ, you girls have gotta…"
Sam and Dean stared after him before turning to one another.
"Free drinks?" Dean asked.
"Free drinks," Sam confirmed.
Dean stared at the wall of bottles as if each and every one of them had betrayed him. His head was still pounding from the night before. Only the fact that Joey wanted to talk to them before closing that morning—not nearly enough hours ago—kept him sober enough not to go home with any of the ladies he'd spend the evening playing drinking games with.
Dean glanced down at the now empty tables, remembering a few particular details—God, there had been this one brunette with these retro curls to her shoulders and a big flower in her hair. She'd whispered some Hawaiian phrase in his ear and put a lei over his head…
"The pin-up babe," he whispered to himself, somewhat regretfully. He hadn't noticed if she was one of the waitresses or just in the same beach uniform as most the other honeys, but she'd put the necklace of strung nuts and flowers around his neck and leaned in for a kiss. Dean could still taste the cherry lip balm.
"You say somethin', hot stuff?"
Dean turned back to the two waitresses setting up the outside area; chairs in place, tiki-shaped salt and pepper shakers and bottles of hot sauce for the day-time crowd. The speaker was a curvy woman about Sam's age, dark-skinned and wearing her hair in short, thick braids, each ending with a small shell. Dean turned on his Mr. Charm smile.
Hell, why was he so caught up in memories of pin-up chick when he had perfectly lovely ladies right here? "Nothin', Nat," he replied. "You or Bebe need any help with those?"
She shook her head, her thick lips curled upward. "Nah, Joey wants you looking over that drink list. Not that you'll have much to do if you're working daytime, but lord, you wouldn't believe how many locals come in for a cocktail at lunch…Speaking of which, never seen a man put back two Zombies and make it to work the next day. Impressive."
Dean's smile tightened as he shivered. He stiffened slightly as he took in the room temp, but the chill had been temporarily. And more likely due to the toxins from the alcohol still in his body than spirit activity. He shrugged it off. Damn deceptive cocktails—all girly with their fruity juices one second and coming back up the pipe the next. Not that he wanted Nat to know he'd understood the meaning of the drink's name when he'd pulled himself out of bed that morning, feeling like the living dead.
"What can I say? Takes more than a couple zombies to put me down, sugar."
Now that she'd mentioned it, though, he went back to the drink list posted under the eye-line of the counter, trying to remember what went into a Singapore Sling. While this was by no means his first time making drinks, this was his first time working as an actual bartender. Joey had taken one hard look at him and told him he'd be doing the job. Of course, the man had also added that a monkey could do it, too, so there was no room for his ego to grow.
But, hey, it was pouring drinks, and he was a friggin' Winchester—if Tom Cruise could do this, he could do this. Easy. The hardest part would be keeping his God-forsaken outfit on. The flip-flops and cut-off denim shorts he could maybe handle. But, seriously, a red floral shirt? Winchester men did not do Hawaiian shirts. And then Joey had told him to leave it unbuttoned and put on a stupid ass Captain's hat?
Dean was starting to think the dude had a thing for him. Not that he wasn't okay with guys having things for guys, but when it left him dressed like Magnum P.I.? Not cool.
Dean's figured his theory was confirmed when his brother walked out of the back two seconds later dressed in nothing but a low-hanging blue sarong. A very low hanging sarong. As in, wrapped tight around his hips, and, crap, there's going to be a serious problem if that gets snagged on a table—that kind of low hanging sarong.
Dean did the only thing a big brother could do in the situation. He folded over the counter, laughing.
Sam crossed his arms over his bare chest, looking more like a bashful stripper than a pissed-off hunter, and frowned. "You're a jerk," he bit.
"And you're in skirt," Dean returned, once he caught his breath. The waitresses were giggling across the room, and if Sam's blush was any indication, Dean wasn't the only one who heard them. "Dude, I know the girls are required to wear the uniform but…Damn." He tried for pity, and failed. "Joey tell you to wear that?"
Sam huffed, his glare clearly stating that Dean was an idiot for even asking. "He said we'd understand after working the lunch crowd." Then, as an afterthought, he muttered, "And he said if he's paying us in cash he can tell us what to wear."
Dean shook his head, wiping the tears out of his eyes. "Dude, there's never a good reason for wearing a sarong in public. I don't care what he says. You got on a speedo under that?"
Sam would never admit it in a thousand years, but he was starting to understand why Joey had put him in a sarong.
Tiki bars, in general, weren't as busy in the daytime, especially off season, and as he'd learned from the tiny, pixie-looking red-headed waitress he was working by, Bebe, Joey usually didn't even have anyone working the bar before seven in the evening. It was then, after he saw the customers he'd been seating, and after the first grandmother slapped his ass, that he realized why Joey had been adamant they show a little skin: the money. Or more specifically, the women who brought the money.
No, not the sorority girls who flooded in after dark, but grown women, most of which ranged from middle-aged to retired. Apparently, they stayed regularly at the neighboring condos as some part of a ladies-focused tourism club, and came over for the lunch special, jerk beef kebabs, which was basically all the hut served from their tiny kitchen, aside from burgers, po-boys, and salsa.
Joey knew his customers well. After the lunch rush, Sam realized he'd already pocketed (figuratively speaking) more tip money than he usually made during a night of hustling with his brother. Which seemed completely fair, considering the 'accidental' touches and cheek pinches he was receiving. On his face. Mostly. And the customers weren't walking out after their meals, but sticking around to order drinks and…enjoy the view.
More than once, he heard a comment about someone's extreme love for Magnum P.I. while they stared fondly at the bar.
Sam chuckled when he turned around to see that the bar counter had finally started to clear out. Sam was pretty sure his brother had never even made a Mai Tai before today, but he'd been shaking them up like he was born with a bottle of Curacaos in his hand. Dean looked exhausted, leaning against the side wall, where a rack of coconut mugs hung.
Sam stole a moment, slipping over to the bar. "How's it going?"
Dean groaned but managed a lazy smile. "My tip jar runneth over. You?"
"I've been touched in bad places." Sam glanced over his shoulder, making sure he wasn't overheard. "I did some research at the motel while you were coming out of your Zombie cocktail coma this morning."
Dean perked up. "Anything?"
Sam nodded. "Joey was right. But the deaths go back at least over thirty years, not ten. Some of those others were hard to track because a couple of them were suicides. As in, guys walking out into the ocean and not coming back or driving their cars purposely into stone walls—but the incidents took place too close to the Hut to be coincidence."
"So we're thinking they left here and…"
"Yeah. But get this—I talked to a couple of the local ladies sitting in my area, and they said the odd occurrences go back further than the deaths, at least according to rumor. One said she used to waitress here in the late sixties and—"
"Odd occurrences?" Dean interrupted. "During the same window?"
"Yeah—like a guy acting, well, the woman I spoke to said 'lovestruck'—all happy-go-lucky one second, then woe-is-me the next. Said they called it the 'Tiki Love Goddess Curse'."
Dean frowned. "So, if it's a spirit, it's gotten stronger over the years and decided to up the stakes to murder? You said the sixties—how far back does this go?"
Sam shrugged. "Like you said, Joey hasn't owned this place long, but there are lots of bloggers who like writing about these old establishments. I can do some more research when we get back to the motel tonight. Maybe we can do an EMF sweep early in the morning, check and see if our spirit theory is right?"
"Sounds like a plan. We should—"
Dean broke off his reply, eyes going to the other side of the bar, where a well-dressed woman in a crisp white sundress and floppy matching hat approached. Sam didn't have to be an expert to see her orange-tan face was stiff with Botox that did nothing to hide the age-betraying sag of her neck. She looked down her narrow, surgeon-perfected nose at the men, as if out of habit, and then smiled stiffly. Dean tapped the counter and took off to serve her.
Sam glanced back at his tables—all clear—and decided to perch on the edge of the closest stool, waiting for his brother to take the woman's order.
"Blue Hawaiian—that's Hawaiian, not Hawaii. There's a difference," she said.
Dean ignored the attitude. "Comin' up," he said, turning back to find the crème of coconut.
Sam watched, somewhat fascinated as the woman openly stared at his brother's butt. Seriously? She was old enough to be his mother. And he thought guys in bars were supposed to be the dogs. Dean turned back, seemingly oblivious as he plopped an umbrella into the glass and gave her the drink with a bright, if strained, smile.
The woman held out a folded bill, but pulled it back before Dean could take it. Sam blinked, mouth slightly agape—was that a fifty?
"Actually," she said, her cool gaze crawling over Dean's chest, "my companions and I were hoping to order something off the menu." She gave a subtle head tilt, indicating the small group of equally well-dressed women gathered at an outside table, watching the bar counter with rapt attention. "I'm sure bartending," she said the word as if it were equal to cleaning toilets, "doesn't offer many benefits. How would you like to earn a little extra money?"
"The Hell?" Sam muttered, but he had to bite down a chuckle when he saw the stunned expression on Dean's face. Oh sure, to others it would probably look like he was still grinning politely, but Sam knew better.
"We're celebrating my sister's long overdue divorce and would like some…" She paused, raking her eyes over his abs, "…entertainment for the night."
Dean swallowed hard. "Lady—I think you might be…uh…looking in the wrong place. I don't…entertain."
She only smiled haughtily and reached out, tucking the folded bill into his breast pocket and giving it a pat. "Consider that an incentive payment. Room 117 at the Phoenix Suites. Be there around 9. Don't change clothes."
Dean glanced down at his open shirt, as if he'd forgotten what he was wearing. Or possibly couldn't believe someone had just put money on his person. Sam wasn't sure which—he was too busy rocking in silence laughter.
Until he saw her.
The spirit appeared for only a moment, a young brunette in a white and red bikini. It was a split second frame of her jittering image in which she was standing behind Dean, pretty face twisted in a grimace as she glared at the now retreating woman. The ghost's hand pressed against Dean's back, almost protectively. Sam sucked in a breath, jumping to his feet just in time to hear the glass of Blue Hawaiian explode into shards.
The older woman screeched, dropping the stem, then cried out again, in outrage, when she saw the blue-green splatter over her white dress. Her friends rushed forward, napkins at the ready, as the rest of the bar erupted in hushed whispers.
By the time Sam turned back to his brother, the apparition was gone, and Dean was staring back at him, looking even more confused than he had during his…job offer.
So much for theory—it was definitely a ghost haunting The Hau'oli Hut. And it looked like she'd picked her annual mark: Dean.