Pero (peroxide_fic) wrote,
Pero
peroxide_fic

Supernatural- "Love is a Battlefield" (1/3)

Title: Love is a Battlefield
Universe: Supernatural
Theme/Topic: The prompt was: “Angel-pheromones or smth. Everyone wants a piece of Cas' ass. And I mean everyone. The crackiest the pairing the better. Dean is most definitely NOT amused by everyone hitting on/propositioning his bf.”
Rating: PG-13
Character/Pairing/s: lightly DeanxCas (with some highly dramatic SamxCas, a little bit of random OCsxCas, and Balthazar being European, or something)
Spoilers/Warnings: Through 6x15 (as this goes up DAYS after 6x17 airs, I can only hope this entire premise doesn’t get shot to hell…)
Word Count: 23,550
Summary: Cas makes new friends and Dean hates them a lot.
Dedication: for tenshi_to_akuma’s birthday at the deancastiel's Everlasting Birthday Challenge! Happy birthday, and I hope you enjoy this despite my fudging of the specifics in the prompt.
A/N: This… started off with angel pheromones and then kind of got away with me. I was also in a bit of a rush, so forgive me of some of the research is questionable or vague or WRONG; we’ll call it artistic license or something? I WILL LEARN HOW TO WRITE PROPERLY IN THIS FANDOM ONE DAY. Maybe. Uh. Special thanks to myxstorie for reading through this for me and being generally cheerful about it, particularly because I still have awful insecurity issues whenever I write SPN. ;_;
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended. All is just for fun.



Then

When Balthazar and Castiel arrive on earth—the Netherlands today, specifically— for the next in a long series of very important meetings, the first thing Balthazar does is pause to give his brother a very serious once-over in the dark of the nightclub, at the base of the gaudy spiral staircase that will take them up to the VIP room.

Castiel’s physical body moves wearily to Balthazar’s eyes, its shoulders slumped and its hair rumpled and unruly. It is still wearing the ridiculous coat and the ridiculous suit that initially came with the vessel, and suddenly, Balthazar realizes how horribly out of place Castiel seems right now, as the two of them stand amongst all the loose, happy humans who are writhing and drinking amongst themselves down on the dance floor. More than that, Balthazar thinks Castiel’s grace looks like the survivor of a particularly brutal mugging, and that its shabbiness is starting to show physical signs on his vessel. That won’t do at all. Not for where they’re going.

He tsks to himself, helplessly. “Oh, Cassy,” he sighs.

Castiel blinks. Frowns. “What’s the matter?” he asks, sounding weary, anxious. “Is there danger here?”

The bouncer standing guard at the foot of the stairs eyes them in a cursory manner when they linger nearby instead of going straight up, but doesn’t do or say anything particularly threatening.

Balthazar ignores the bouncer, crossing his right arm over his chest and resting his chin on top of his left hand as he deeply contemplates the merits of Castiel’s current appearance, physical and otherwise. “No, no particular danger,” he murmurs, reluctantly. “For the moment.”

Castiel stares back, getting impatient. “Balthazar,” he growls, voice low and full of warning.

Balthazar sighs. “You’re sure you’re ready for this? Not to be rude or anything, Cassy, but you look, well, less than angelic right now. If I’d have known you were tired enough to let your vessel fall into such a scruffy state, I’d have made you rest and clean the poor thing up before I took you out with me tonight.”

Castiel’s eyes stray down to the state of his dress. “This is how I always look,” he says, after a moment.

His brother shakes his head. “It’s not your clothes,” he murmurs. Pauses. “Well, not just your clothes.”

Castiel’s expression doesn’t change. “If we do not go now, we will be late.”

Eventually, Balthazar sighs and throws his hands up. “Whatever. I’m not the one who’s going to judge you, brother,” he says breezily, before nodding in the bouncer’s general direction. The bouncer wordlessly allows them to pass the velvet rope, and the two angels ascend the stairs, leaving the thumping music and the dancing, amorous throng of humans on the first floor behind them. “But,” he can’t help but add, as they find themselves in front of a surprisingly quiet hallway and a clean, white painted door, “she probably will. And if she sees what I see, well. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.”

Castiel stops when he hears that, turning thoughtful and grave, like any proper general in the midst of losing a war ought to, except for the fact that they are in the highly improbable setting of a thumping European sex club. “Do you feel my appearance would make her less inclined to agree to an alliance with us?” Castiel poses carefully, brow furrowed.

Balthazar chuckles. “It might have, but it’s too late either way. She knows we’re here.” He gestures to the door again. “It would be ruder to keep her waiting on us, don’t you think?”

Castiel nods, though he does attempt to straighten his tie a little, as Dean had once done for him.

Balthazar sees him falter awkwardly with the knot and is eventually forced to intervene for the sake of the tie if nothing else; he swats Castiel’s hands away from his throat and proceeds to take care of it himself. “There,” he declares, when it’s acceptable. “And try to smile at least once, would you? Just because misery has been rolling off of you since your last visit to earth doesn’t mean we should all have to endure it.”

Castiel blinks back at him. “Will that help?”

Balthazar studies Castiel, trying to imagine any sort of charming smile on the other angel’s face. It fails. “No, probably not,” he responds eventually, with a sigh of helpless amusement. He shakes his head and nudges the door open with his grace. “Come on then. At the very least, we might get an orgy out of this.”

“I do not want an orgy,” Castiel answers, as they face the open portal.

Balthazar huffs in resignation. “No, of course you don’t.”

They disappear into the doorway.

~~~~~

When they come out the other end, a moment later and a thousand miles away, they find themselves in a large, dark room draped in plush furs and exotic, hanging silks. Women and men in various states of undress dance or lounge or freely engage in sexual acts throughout the premises, turning to eye the newcomers coyly as they pass, but not pausing in their sensual activities either way. Castiel sees them and feels uncomfortable— inexplicably, humanly so— and when that frustrates him, he schools his expression and forces himself to keep his gaze fixed straight ahead. Music plays in the distance though Castiel sees neither musicians nor an electronic source for the sounds. It is in sharp contrast with the noise from the club that they’d just come from, the melodic strains playing only loudly enough to be pleasant but not so much that it drowns out the sounds of the humans’ laughter, their moaning and rutting.

Castiel can smell perfume and alcohol and sex in the air as well; it abruptly reminds him of the brothel Dean had taken him to in those aspects, though the atmosphere seems lighter here than it had been in that place somehow, less weighed down by the gravity of human sorrow and the pain of hopelessness and degradation.

“Ah, heaven on earth,” Balthazar sighs dreamily from beside him, and waves at a pretty little nymph of a thing wearing bracelets of golden bells around her wrists and nothing else. She smiles back, invitingly, and when the angel looks as though he might pursue that invitation, Castiel growls, “Balthazar,” and pulls him along, by a fistful of jacket.

“You really need to get laid,” Balthazar mutters, but yields so Castiel releases him. He straightens the lapels of his coat and realigns his sleeves. “This way, then.”

He leads Castiel to an elegantly curtained canopy at the very back of the room, from which dangling chains of gold and diamonds sparkle and wink in the low light. More sounds of pleasure, of sex and laughter and companionship, reach Castiel’s ears from inside. He pauses at the threshold, uncertain.

“Come in, angels,” a voice entreats, pleasantly. “You won’t be interrupting anything.”

Castiel takes a deep breath and parts the curtain, to reveal a beautiful, buxom woman sitting amidst a mound of furs and elaborately embroidered cushions, naked and lazily sipping wine from a bowl. At her feet are several young men and women, all engaged in various stages of fervent copulation.

Balthazar stares. Castiel quickly averts his eyes. “Astarte,” he greets, with a nod. “Thank you for granting us audience.”

“Indeed,” Balthazar murmurs, but is not looking at the goddess when he does.

The goddess only seems to appreciate his open interest, and raises her bowl to Balthazar with a smirk. “Can I offer you boys something to drink? Eat? Do?”

Balthazar is about to answer in the affirmative for all three, but before he can, Castiel steps forward, bowing his head slightly. “All we ask of you is an alliance.”

Invitation thus declined she pauses to study Castiel for a minute after that, without saying or doing anything. It is not unlike how Balthazar had looked him over earlier, though much, much more unsettling somehow. “Oh you’re pretty,” she says after a beat, and licks her lips. “Just my type.”

Castiel blinks, looking to Balthazar for help.

Balthazar just shrugs, helplessly. Though he does not attempt to contain his smirk.

Astarte chuckles and stands, coming down off her throne of furs and pillows until she is level with Castiel, naked and flushed invitingly before him. He resolutely keeps his eyes trained to hers and nowhere else.

She seems to revel in his discomfort. “Poor, pretty angel,” she murmurs, reaching out to stroke her fingers lightly along his neck, his jaw, his cheek. “Things must be going fairly badly for you to come to me for help. I know how much your type doesn’t like pagans.”

“My type?” Castiel asks, perplexed.

“The steadfast type.” Pause. “Virgins,” she amends, when he continues to look boggled.

Castiel, admirably, does not react, even as a love goddess breathes her charms into the air around him. “Times have changed,” is all he says. “The world has changed.”

She chuckles. “Right, the end of the world has come and gone. Time to build a new one, then.”

“Raphael and his followers seek to build nothing. This new world is one which they wish to destroy,” Castiel tells her. “This is why we need what power you can spare us. This world and its…” he pauses then, and his eyes sweep downward along her body, briefly, “…pleasures… are the source of your power. Help us protect it.”

Astarte considers this. “You really want my help?” she asks again, still stroking Castiel’s face with the backs of her fingers. “What is it that you think I can do for you, exactly?”

Castiel catches her hand in his own, lowering it from his jaw. “Lend us aid.”

“I appreciate war as much as the next pagan, but I don’t like fighting angels, angel,” she says, after a beat. She pulls her hand delicately from his own and begins to circle him. “Why should my priestesses and I suffer for your petty family squabbles? Haven’t we endured enough of them already?”

“If Raphael wins, you will suffer anyway,” Castiel says. “He will destroy the world. Your priestesses will be dead and you will have no sex, or love, or war to feed you.”

Astarte continues to study him slowly, eyes laser focused on his own. “Who says I won’t? Perhaps I could learn to feed on you angels. These days there seems to be more than enough sex and love and war amongst you lot to feed an army of pagans.”

“She has a point,” Balthazar murmurs out loud, eyeing her appreciatively.

Castiel glares at Balthazar, while Astarte laughs. “But you are right in your own way, little virgin angel,” she sighs eventually, “the end of the world doesn’t very much appeal to me. Not with how fun the humans have become again.”

Castiel looks relieved. “Then you will join us in battle?”

“I didn’t say that,” she answers, breezily. “Looking at you as you are, you don’t exactly inspire confidence, general.” She glances over him again, more predatory than inviting this time. “You’re tired. Sad,” she tells him. “I can smell the weary sorrow of battle all over you, can taste your heartbreak on my tongue.”

“Yes,” Castiel acknowledges, without any attempt at denying it. “It is why I have come to you for help.”

She laughs at his honesty, at his tired, desperate hope. “Well, at least you’re straightforward,” she declares, licking her lips. “That, I will give you over the others of your kind I’ve tangled with.”

She claps her hands together once, before coming to an abrupt decision. “Very well then,” she declares, eyes bright with anticipation. “I see now that even if you are of heaven, you are not so different from us earth dwellers after all. I will help you.”

Castiel’s eyes light with relief, Balthazar’s with surprise. The capitulation is easy, worryingly so, but in the end, not unwelcome.

Astarte sees both reactions as she returns to her throne. “But let us be clear on one thing pretty angels. I will give your armies my aid in this war, in whatever way I see fit. You,” she rumbles, and there is an edge to her voice as she says this, “will have no say in what that is.”

Castiel is in no position to refuse her. Not when he is losing so badly. “Very well,” he agrees. “Any help you can provide will be appreciated.”

“Good,” she murmurs, voice like a leopard’s purr as one of her sacred whores pours her more wine. She lifts her eyebrows at Castiel invitingly, free hand tracing the arch of her own neck. “I think I already know how I’m going to start.”

Something about the way she looks at Castiel when she says that makes him wonder if he will regret this one day.

~~~~~

Now

Dean thinks something weird is going on.

Which, okay, is pretty much par for the course given that weird and his life are basically in love, gay-married, and raising a bunch of little weird-life babies that will grow up one day to become menaces to society. But even still, surviving as a hunter usually means being able to tell the difference between the normal kind of weird they usually see and the super freaking weird kind of weird that means shit is about to go down in life-changing, face-mauling sorts of ways.

Call it a hunch, but Dean is starting to feel like that this might be the start of some of that super freaking weird stuff.

It begins with the birds.

More to the point, it begins with birds suddenly dive-bombing kamikaze style towards the Impala while he and Sam are going a full out 75mph on the freeway, as they’re crossing the Nevada state line after finishing up a pretty strange hunt in Arizona which had involved some displaced tengu settling into the Phoenix suburbs and voting republican.

Dean has been attacked by many things over the course of his life on the road, but tiny suicidal bird bombs have not numbered amongst them until that moment. Clearly they know where to hit him where it hurts, these birds; he weeps for his paintjob, and the fact that he just washed her yesterday afternoon.

Cas is slumped in the backseat when it happens, very seriously explaining some weird phenomenon he and the rest of the Angels Against Another Apocalypse (AAAA) have picked up within the vicinity of southern Nevada. Namely, phenomenon that’s manifested into what is essentially a no-fly (for angels) zone inside the state of Nevada. Oh, and also a couple of random untraceable deaths and other inexplicable weirdness, but Cas’s focus is clearly on the important things these days. His heavenly priorities really piss Dean off, but it’s not like that’s news to anyone.

“Jesus, what the fuck?!” Dean shouts when the first fuzzy brown impact interrupts the angel’s grave monologue. He barely has time to stare in horror at the gooey clump of beige feathers now stuck under his left windshield wiper before a second impact occurs, against what seems to be the roof directly over Castiel’s head. “Are we being attacked?!”

Castiel just frowns and stares at the windshield, towards the distant sky. “Those birds have been coming towards us for a very long time,” he admits. “I don’t think their intent is malicious, though.”

Another crunchy, flappy thunk against the hood of the car makes Dean wince and glare through the rearview at Cas. “Anything crashing against the car is malicious, Cas!” he growls. “They better not scratch the freaking paint.”

Castiel frowns back at him through the rearview like he doesn’t understand what the big deal is, while Sam kind of squirms and winces in the passenger seat as more tiny brown birds explode against the car. “Cas can fix the paint later, Dean,” the younger Winchester says. “What’s more important is figuring out why they’re doing that in the first place.” He looks sympathetically at the death smudges along the hood and windshield.

“From Balthazar’s preliminary investigations, he’s discerned that the epicenter of the phenomenon we are to investigate is somewhere in Las Vegas,” Castiel offers, helpfully. “It makes sense that the closer we get to the city, the stranger the behavior we will encounter.”

That is another one of the angel’s vague and cryptic answers that don’t actually mean anything. Dissatisfied, Dean scowls and pushes the speed to 85mph. “You’n Balthazar have any extra info about Vegas that we don’t, Cas?” he asks as he does, a little nastily. “Feel free not to tell us again, since that always seems to work out so well for you.”

Okay, yeah, he’s still kind of pissed about that whole Jared and Jensen debacle, by the way.

Castiel eyes Dean and looks kind of tired and pissy. “I have already apologized for withholding information from you, Dean,” he says straight up, and Sam does more uncomfortable fidgeting in his seat while he looks back and forth between the two. “And I have told you everything I know so far about this case. If you don’t wish to help me with this, I understand. I am capable of investigating myself.”

Dean scowls and glances purposefully away from the image of Cas’s grim, resigned reflection in the rearview, feeling kind of like an ass suddenly, even though he knows that logically, he really shouldn’t since Cas was an ass to him first. “Whatever. Not like we can just ignore a bunch of people dying because you’re a dick sometimes,” he concedes eventually, and hunkers down to drive. Also, the thought of Cas investigating anything in a place where angel powers are a no-no just makes Dean worried for the bastard, though he’s careful not to say that part out loud.

Concern aside, he’s still freaking mad though, dammit. Cas keeping secrets from him “in his best interest” is not unlike Sam keeping secrets from him for the same reasons, and they all know how well—apocalypse, apocalypse, apocalypse— that line of thinking has gone for the Winchesters thus far.

And to be perfectly honest, there are only a handful of people left in this world— maybe fewer than that even—who Dean not only trusts to watch his back but who he actually freaking likes as well, and the fact that Cas is doing all the things he needs to in order to that stomp all over that distinction is a lot like watching Sam walk off with Ruby all over again. It sucks.

Which is why Dean is determined to stay angry about this until something changes in this arrangement or he’s dead. Whichever comes first.

Dean twitches as another bird clips his right side view mirror and kind of hopes that whatever is making things go kooky in Vegas is something he can stab in the face.

Naturally, his hopes are only meant to be dashed.

~~~~~

The particulars they have managed to gather on all the strange happenings in southern Nevada from the handful of internet news feeds Sam subscribes to are as follows:

Story one: local Las Vegas man Chase Avery, aged 32, with a wife and two young children, goes to the strip for a business dinner with clients one night. Later that night, Mr. Avery comes home with a crazed look in his eye, stating that he’s met a girl. Avery kills his wife and kids in a rage while in full hearing-distance of the neighbors before calmly getting into his car and driving back to the strip. Police apprehend him along the way and he argues that he did it for love. The police call him a nut job, arrest him, and put him away for life.

Story two: a group of people from Carson City go on a weekend mission trip to Vegas in order to pass out pamphlets about God and sin and Hell to tourists walking along the strip in the hopes of turning them away from the bright lights and lascivious entertainments in order to save their souls. Night one goes well for the missionaries; they pass out nearly one hundred pamphlets. Night two ends not as well (or better, depending on how you look at things) when all of the members on the trip—including the 52-year-old parish priest— end up indulging in an all out orgy on the floor of a local strip club after. As one of the young women involved shakily declares in her statement, an uncommonly pretty young lady had asked them all if they would like to join her for an evening on the town, so that they might better understand what they are passing judgment on. Everything after that is mostly a blur, and the police decide that it must have been a drug thing.

Story three: A 35-year-old widower from Hong Kong goes on vacation in Las Vegas with two of his buddies, both of whom hope to distract their friend from the one year anniversary of the car accident that killed his wife. It works for the most part; after the man tells his story to a beautiful American woman in the seat next to him, he starts to hit it big at the craps table. From there, the man spends the night drinking, flirting, and winning obscene amounts of money. His friends marvel at his good luck, but when the man moves to call it a night, he is suddenly and violently pulled aside by one of the craps dealers. Said craps dealer proceeds to invite the widower home with her. But before he can answer, a cocktail waitress throws down her tray, stomps over, and yanks his head into her bosom. Witnesses say that an all-out melee began after that, as various women of all ages and occupations joined in on the fight, rolling up their sleeves, hiking up their skirts, and battling to get a piece of the man. Eventually they all, literally, got a piece of the man, and not in a good way. The resort has since closed down after the poor bastard had been ripped apart by that gang of harpies right there on the casino floor. Probably because people think it means the place is bad luck, or something.

There’s another story about a bunch of cats going missing in Reno too, but that might be reaching a bit.

Add to that the fact that super powered almost-archangels (or whatever) can’t seem to blink in at will so much as drive in at a very human 90mph, and Dean figures they’ve got something pretty ominous brewing. With his luck, it’s probably evil man-hating stripper witches (though part of him continues to remain stubbornly optimistic that maybe it will just be a nice, simple cursed object instead). Castiel is worried it’s some sort of demon convention or something, because apparently the word from Balthazar’s covert Earth investigations is that the unholy might be rallying their forces in order to elect a new king of hell or something. Which also makes about as much sense as stripper witches in this context, because hey, if he were a demon, Dean would insist on having the elections happen in Vegas too. So far, the odds seem fifty-fifty in favor of either the witches or the demon con.

As for Sam, he’s banking on Furies because he’s a nerd like that, though Castiel is fairly certain that if his very long and very exact memory serves, the Furies have never punished anyone with an orgy before.

“Also,” Castiel points out, as they stand in the covered parking lot outside of the Luxor (apparently Sam had found a decent Groupon deal online that meant getting to stay on the strip instead of in one of the seedy dives advertised within quote-unquote walking distance; normally Dean would have vetoed something as douchy sounding as “Groupon” on principle, but had to concede the point when Sam added that it even came with two free buffet tickets), “I do not think Furies should be able to dampen angelic powers. Or possess small birds.” Castiel holds his arms out for emphasis, where several of the feathery brown creatures are now perched on him like he’s the world’s most fail scarecrow. They look incredibly content and chirp accordingly, possibly in memory of their lost, bird-splattered brothers strewn across the Impala, who didn’t make it to cuddly angel fun time.

“Great, now he’s a freaking Disney princess,” Dean mutters irately, as he grabs his duffle from the trunk. He glares at the birds and heads towards the giant blinking parking lot sign that reads, “Hotel Lobby/Casino.”

Sam grins at Cas like he finds the whole thing kind of endearing. “Okay, so maybe not Furies,” he admits gently, while he shoulders his own duffle and motions for Cas to precede him into the casino entrance.

“It is…unlikely,” Castiel concedes vaguely. “But not impossible, of course.”

Everyone present also knows that this is the 21st century after all, and after hearing about Balthazar’s many angel orgies and seeing Gabriel punish people with aliens, they suppose they can’t rule anything out entirely just yet. MOs can change with time.

Castiel eventually shakes off his snuggling bird friends and the three of them move to check into their room before heading out to conduct research.

~~~~~

“This is not research,” Sam says, a little while later.

Dean is too busy stuffing a dollar bill into the powder blue bikini string currently gyrating in the vicinity of his face to notice.

“Dean, this is not research,” Sam says again, louder. The blue bikini dances further along the stage, towards more outstretched dollars. Sam is a prude.

Dean watches it go with an appreciative grin. “But I’m learning so much, Sammy,” he answers, as the two of them linger alongside the catwalk of the strip club victim number one had last been seen entertaining his clients at. None of the girls look particularly suspicious from here, but Dean is convinced that closer inspection is necessary before he can rule any of them out. Being thorough is the key to any investigation, after all. He cranes his neck to inspect a white bikini approaching from the other side of the stage. Yeah, that’s nice.

Sam just rolls his eyes at that, because Sam is not only a prude, but a 14-year-old girl prude at that. Then Sam snaps his fingers in front of Dean’s face a few times to get his attention so they can get down to business. Sam is also diligent and a total nerd, by the way. “I asked the owner about Mr. Avery’s actions the night before he went crazy, but apparently the man didn’t seem to pay any one of the girls here special attention so much as all of them.” Sam furrows his brow. “I mean, I’d get if this was some sort of skewed vengeance or a justice thing for cheating, but the girls I’ve been talking to said he was all look, no touch.”

Dean, in the meantime, is currently also all look.

Sam makes a stinkface at him. “Cas says he doesn’t sense anything malicious or magical here either,” he adds, with a look over his shoulder at the bar, where Castiel is sitting, back resolutely turned to the stage because apparently he’s still uncomfortable in dens of iniquity, regardless of the number of demons he’s made out with or the amount of porn he’s seen since the last time he’d been to such an establishment. Either way, the waitresses seem to find his shyness incredibly endearing, and are flocking to the angel a lot like those suicidal birds had. They pet his shoulders and brush their boobs against his arm and the bartender keeps giving him free drinks with these lecherous grins that make Dean wonder if he should warn Castiel about the possibility of date rape.

That would probably require a lengthy explanation of roofies though, and he’s pretty sure those won’t work on Cas (hopefully). Besides, Cas is obviously a big boy now and doesn’t need Dean to take care of him anymore (except maybe when he needs Dean to do decoy work by traveling to alternate dimensions where he becomes the douche that plays himself on TV).

Whatever. Dean is not letting his irritation at Cas ruin a perfectly good early morning trip to the 24-hour strip club (Dean loves Vegas, by the way).

“You sure he can sense anything either way, Sammy?” Dean asks his brother in the meantime, before turning his attention back to the stage. “I thought he said he said his superpowers got muzzled the minute we hit city limits.”

“They’re just dampened, Dean. He can still feel around for the mojo apparently.” Pause. “Either way, we should probably hit up the library to do some actual research,” the younger Winchester manages, as a brand new, beautiful yellow bikini heads down the velvet-lined catwalk towards them. Sam makes a torn, fluttery face at the sight of said yellow bikini and leans backwards, away from the stage lights. This is because Sam is no fun.

Also, Dean is not certain if Las Vegas even has a public library system. Seriously, who would use it?

“Dean, c’mon, no one here knows anything,” Sam says, getting more and more impatient and nervous looking as yellow bikini stops right in front of them and starts gyrating. He keeps glancing over his shoulder at the bar and Cas, like he expects Cas to spontaneously burst into flame at any second now.

Dean sighs. “Yeah, yeah. Lemme close out my tab,” he says, and sounds mournful.

Sam gives him this incredulous look. “You opened a tab? Dude, it’s 10am.”

Dean shrugs. “I figured we might be here a while. And obviously my cash is for the strippers.” This is punctuated with his best duh face. Sam isn’t the only smart one here.

Sam, once more proving the 14-year-old girl theory, throws his hands up in the air before stomping away. “I’m taking Cas and we are going to wait by the car. I think he might blow a fuse if we stay in here any longer.”

“Spoilsport,” Dean calls after him, before looking over his shoulder and resignedly motioning a waitress over.

While he’s waiting for his tab to get closed out, Dean mentally shrugs and pulls out the last ten singles in his pocket and waves them up at yellow bikini, a gorgeous brunette with glacier-blue eyes and perfect Victoria’s Secret posture. She smiles down at him and bends forward, inviting him to tuck the remaining singles into her bra for her, which he is only too happy to help with.

“Nice,” Dean adds as he does, with a thumbs up in her general direction. “I just want you to know I’m a fan of your work.”

She winks back. “I like what I see too,” she says, voice husky and inviting. She lingers in front of Dean for a while longer, looking appraising as a hand reaches out to brush the side of his face. “Though you do look like you could use a little love, handsome.”

Dean, feeling kind of warm in all the right places under her hooded gaze, grins back and leans into her hand a little. “I wouldn’t say no if you’re offering to help me find some.”

She smiles. “Oh yeah?”

“Oh yeah.”

“DEAN.”

Dean sighs at that sound; it is a woefully familiar sound and one that is not conducive to his game. “Coming, Sammy,” he murmurs as he turns, and yup, there it is; Sam’s impatient hulking form looming in the doorway and making the bouncer very seriously debate whether or not he wants to get involved in whatever is about to go down here if it indeed is about to go down. Sam is pretty damn big, after all.

Dean turns back to yellow string bikini and looks regretful. “Sorry, sweetheart. Duty calls.”

She looks amused. “I’ll bet. See you around.”

Dean sucks in a breath. “Oh I hope so.”

“Dean, seriously, can we leave now? The birds are back and Cas is grumpy.”

The waitress finally gets around to bringing him his credit card back and Dean waves it at Sam pointedly as he signs off on the receipt. “Just closing out the tab, Sammy,” he says, turning over his shoulder to give yellow bikini one last wave before following Sam out the door.

“Whatever. You know places like that make Cas uncomfortable,” Sam lectures him, making it abundantly clear that Sam’s panties have not yet started to come unbunched despite their much too hasty departure from the land of boobs. Cas is already sitting in the car when they get back to the parking lot, a couple of birds circling overhead ominously. A stripper obviously coming in for the midday shift winks at the angel as she passes the Impala and heads towards the back entrance. Castiel ignores her.

“Not my fault service there is slow,” Den reiterates, as he waves back at the stripper in Cas’s stead. Pause. “You were pretty damn anxious to get out of there. You sure your soul is back?”

Sam sighs, opens the passenger door, and says, “Only you would categorize enjoying strip clubs as a soulful activity.” Pause. “Do you even have any cash left?”

“Sure I do,” Dean answers, with an easy smile at his brother.

He does not elaborate that it all happens to be in Sam’s wallet right now, though from Sam’s expression, Dean supposes his brother probably already knows. The two of them get into the car.

“Hey there, Mr. Popularity,” Dean says to Cas as he slides into the driver’s seat and fastens his seatbelt. “You get any useful information back there that you’re willing to share, or is it all above our pay grade?”

Sam looks wounded on Cas’s behalf. “Dean! God, you’re such a jerk,” he mutters.

Castiel just frowns at Dean. “I did not get any information pertaining to the case,” he says resolutely, sounding more than weary of Dean’s constant heckling on the matter of his transparency.

Then he pauses and looks kind of confused, like he’s weighing whether or not he should say something else. Eventually, he seems to come to the conclusion that not telling Dean everything is just going to encourage more of his nasty comments. Which will probably lead to another alleyway beat down somewhere along the line, if Dean is being honest with himself.

“There is one other thing,” the angel begins, hesitantly.

Dean holds his breath and waits for some new and offsetting news that will make him want to punch Cas in the face.

Instead, what comes is, “Several of those women and the very large man at the door kept handing me their garbage,” Castiel starts after a moment, obviously perplexed as he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a handful of napkin corners with phone numbers scrawled on them. Dean stares at him over Impala’s bench seat.

“Is that…something you wanted to know?” Cas asks him warily, after a beat.

Dean snorts at that, abruptly, and feels strangely relieved to know that’s all there is to Cas’s deep dark secrets, at least for now. He finds himself grinning, despite everything. “So now you’re the slutty Disney Princess. Congrats, man.”

Sam frowns at Dean, probably for being insensitive to Cas’s cluelessness, Dean laughs, and Castiel furrows his brow at Dean like he’ll never understand him, not in a million years. The angel puts the pieces of paper into his jacket pocket again.

It’s in moments like these, when Cas is making his confused, head-tilty frowny face while Dean laughs at him, that Dean thinks it almost feels like the good old days again, or like maybe they could be heading that way for a second time around.

The thought inexplicably infuses him with an optimistic sort of warmth.

They head directly to the library after that, at Sam’s insistence.

The birds follow.

~~~~~

While the three of them are busy at the library ruling out a thousand things that this monster or creature or object is not, incident number four occurs.

The owner of a local Pitbull rescue is forced to watch in horror as his wife is mauled to death by one of the former fighting dogs that they are trying to rehabilitate.

When Sam and Dean hear about it on the local news after they return their room at the Luxor later that day, neither of them think that the story has any particular relevance to their current case.

They are wrong.

~~~~~

“You know, you should really try to be nicer to Cas,” Sam says seemingly out of blue later that afternoon, when they’re at the buffet, eating a late lunch.

Dean pauses mid-chew and stares at Sam. “What now?”

Sam gestures with his chin over at the buffet, where Castiel is very dutifully waiting in line to get Dean a second helping of prime rib. While he is there, a petite, incredibly rotund middle-aged woman smiles and stands on her toes so that she can whisper something into the angel’s ear. The angel listens dutifully, before his eyebrows jump slightly. The woman pulls away, licks her lips, and okay that is awkward. Castiel, wisely, takes a very large step away from her, holding his empty buffet plate in front of his chest like a shield.

“Hey, you notice how nerdy angel dude seems to be on the top of everyone in Vegas’s to do list today?” Dean poses after watching that entire display. Sure, he can see how guys like Cas get hit on sometimes; it’s just a fact of life. Some people find nerds incredibly sexy, and Cas does kind of have that windblown, otherworldly look to him to add on top of those endearing geek traits of his or whatever. But even for all that, the sheer number of times the angel’s been hit on today is kind of suspicious. This is including the stray dog that had jogged out of an alley to hump Cas’s leg in the library parking lot earlier, if Dean is being perfectly honest.

Sam doesn’t seem to notice. “He’s just good looking,” Sam answers, still watching Castiel at the carving station. “I mean, people dig that, you know? Perfect posture, permanent bed-head, the eyes, the mouth, the voice…”

“Okay woah,” Dean interrupts, holding up a hand to stop his brother. “Way too TMI, dude. Do you even hear yourself?”

Sam blinks, then shakes his head, looking embarrassed. “Er, just, scientifically,” Sam offers, after a bit. It is lame.

Dean snorts. “That why you want me to be nicer to him too, Sammy? The pretty?”

Sam flushes and glares. “Just… hear me out. I know he kind of screwed us with the alternate TV reality thing, but at the same time, it wasn’t that bad, when you think about it. And it probably saved our asses.”

Dean is incredibly skeptical. “What could possibly have been good about that? We were actors, dude. Soap operas.”

“That was you,” Sam reminds him, all snooty like. “And I dunno, man, I was just thinking earlier. Technically, he sent us to a place where we were rich, famous, and had hot, non-evil wives. Not to mention access to legitimate credit cards and universal health care.”

Dean moves to object, but Sam keeps talking as he warms on the subject. “And! And, even with the angels coming after us, it’s not like they had any powers they could use to hurt us there. The chances of us winning against Virgil were way better there than they are here. If you look at it that way, it was even kind of an advantage.”

Dean had never really thought of it that way, but even still, no. “He shoulda told us his plan,” Dean mutters, and grabs a roll off of his plate. He starts to butter it with undo ferocity. “If he just said something, I’d have been fine going along with it. But he lied to us. Keeping secrets is where all this bad shit starts, Sammy. Friends don’t do that. Family doesn’t do that.”

“Yeah, and I’ve never lied to you, and you’ve never lied to me,” Sam answers, again with the snootiness, and Dean sighs, because he hadn’t technically lied when he wasn’t telling Sam about his year and a half of soullessness, he was just skirting. That’s different, okay.

Sam points his fork at him, still all worked up in Castiel’s defense for whatever reason. “All I’m saying is, ease up, man. It’s like you hold him to higher standards than everyone else, or something.”

Dean snorts. “What, just because I want him to freakin’ tell me the truth? Or, I dunno, help us out once in a while, without having to wonder if he’s upstairs just ignoring us?”

Sam makes a face. “Bobby isn’t at our beck and call twenty-four seven and you don’t yell at him about that.” Pause. “Anymore, I mean.”

Dean winces, because okay, even he can kind of acknowledge that he’s the type of person who keeps the people he trusts close to the chest; it’s just a Winchester thing, obviously. He’s willing to go the distance for Sam and Bobby and Cas, would put his own life down for theirs in an instant, would throw down anything he was doing to help if they really needed him. And because of that, he expects the same in return, at least a little.

Or in Cas’s case, at least a lot. It’s just, it’s Cas, and maybe Dean does hold the angel to a higher standard or whatever, but he’s a freakin’ angel, and Dean is pretty sure that’s warranted. They’re always going on about how much better they are than people, in any case. Never freaking let him forget it.

Plus, Cas was the only guy in the world who’d managed to never let Dean down before. Maybe he’d gotten too used to it. Expected it.

“I mean, he’s here now, isn’t he?” Sam continues, waving his fork in the air and being all preachy and heartfelt with it, “And he keeps trying to do what he thinks is right. Even when you keep making him look sad for it.” Pause. “Well, sadder.”

Dean supposes that’s true enough—and the line about making Cas sad inexplicably makes him feel about two inches tall— but he still just wants Cas to be honest with them, dammit. There’d been a time, after all, when the angel had believed in him more than God. Now it’s like that entire chapter of their lives has been conveniently erased or something, and they’ve rewound to save-the-seals Cas, who had, in all honesty, been kind of a jerk.

Dean shuffles in his seat while Sam looks imploringly at him on Cas’s behalf. He supposes this is one of those moments when he can admit to himself that maybe he’s being an asshole now because he misses team free will Cas like crazy. Which he needs to stop doing, obviously, because that Cas got exploded and hasn’t come back yet.

The thought makes him inexplicably kind of sad.

Which Sam doesn’t notice, because he’s still busy doing the Dance of Cas Advocacy with his fork like if he weaves it just the right way, Dean will get over his irrational anger at Cas’s perceived betrayals.

“Yeah, okay, Sam,” Dean mutters eventually, before Sam can bring up the blown up twice for us, man argument (because he knows it’s coming). He keeps his eyes trained on the mess of entrees crammed onto his buffet plate as he says it. “I get it. This is me, playing nice from now on, okay?”

Sam pauses, mid-sentence and mid-fork dip, to look pleased. “Well, good. Okay then.”

Dean frowns and picks at his potatoes.

That is when Castiel finally returns to their table of course, plate full, eyes alert. He sets the plate down in front of Dean and gives the older Winchester this familiar, appraising look, like he’s about to ask Dean if something’s wrong or if he feels okay.

Dean heads that off at the pass, because despite his apparent cluelessness, Cas has a way of getting to the heart of what’s eating Dean way too quickly and way too easily for Dean’s liking. “Jesus, Cas, did you get the whole roast?” he whistles as he ogles the hulking slice of ultra-rare prime rib sitting on top of the plate. He forces a smile and happily stabs it with his fork, glad for the change in conversation, and slides the meat onto his own plate before digging in. “Now this is what I’m talking about. Usually you gotta fight for a cut like this.”

Castiel seems slightly ruffled. “The man at the carving station offered me as much meat as I liked and then gave me considerably more than that. He also suggested that he had a special sausage he would like to give me later, if I was receptive. I could go ask for it now, if you’re interested.” Pause. “What does it mean when a person repeatedly thrusts their eyebrows up and down?”

Dean chokes on his beef while Castiel looks over his shoulder, back at the carving station, and what seems to be an entire line of buffet-goers who are now staring at the angel like he’s the only actual cut of prime beef in the vicinity. That eyebrow motion seems to be a theme too.

Dean throws down his fork and wipes the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “Okay, something weird is obviously going on here,” he deducts.

“Yes, Dean,” Castiel answers, in what Dean strongly suspects is his duh voice. “That is why we are here.”

Dean scowls at him. “Okay, Cas, I know I told you I want you to be honest with us from now on, but we could really do without that tone, asshat.”

Sam just glares at the other diners.

~~~~~

Suicidal birds, humpy dogs, housewives, strippers, bouncers, bartenders, and sausage-toting chefs aside, there are still deaths (and surprise orgies, admittedly), to investigate.

The investigation aspect is familiar territory at least, more familiar than the Ru Paul impersonator that had grabbed Castiel and started smelling him on their way to the guest parking lot anyway, and definitely more familiar than the Rush Limbaugh impersonator that had fought the Ru Paul impersonator off of Cas so he could take his/her place.

Though Dean will admit the bewildered look on Castiel’s face while he was busy getting assaulted in the street by semi-celebrities might have been worth having to wrestle the grounded angel away from the fleshy man in the suit. Just barely.

Sam is more sympathetic to Cas’s plight, and suggests, with those soulful puppy eyes that Dean had never thought he’d miss until Soulless Sam, that maybe they ought to split up to cover more ground. Clearly this town is some strange hotbed of weird pheromones that are making people crazy, and the sooner they handle this the safer everyone will be, as these things are obviously the sort that escalate. He tops this suggestion with a hopeful look at Cas. Cas nods in agreement, and suggests that he and Dean should go investigate the first crime scene, while Sam goes to the local lockup and visits Chase Avery, the man accused of killing his family.

Sam looks visibly disappointed at this, but Dean is pretty damn sure the suggestion makes sense; it’s not like they want to send Cas to interrogate the guy all by himself or anything, that would be a freaking disaster. So before Sam can protest, Dean grabs his keys and waves Cas towards the car. “We’ll meet back here in a coupla hours, Sammy. Call us if you find anything.”

Sam sighs. “Fine.” He stomps off to buy a ticket to the monorail.




NEXT
Tags: balthazar, castiel, dean, sam, supernatural
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