Dean heard the faint, tell-tale whoop of a single, powerful wingbeat before he turned his head and found Castiel staring at him from a mere foot away.
“Not now,” Dean rasped, crouching down even further.
Castiel removed his sunglasses. He was still wearing the clothes the Winchesters had last seen him in. “You usually complain when I don’t try to assist you in situations where you might be harmed.”
Dean was crouched behind a pallet of crates, gun out, waiting for Sam to try and duck between a cardboard crusher and some shelving on the other side of the warehouse. “You picked a suckass moment to decide to listen to me,” Dean whispered harshly. “I’m trying to cover Sam, so if you could wait outside, that would be --”
Castiel stood and donned his sunglasses again despite how dim it was. Dean made a grab for him automatically, meaning to tell him to stay down because of what was in the rafters, but Castiel walked into the open with his backwards baseball cap and biker boots, looking curious and unperturbed.
The giant, crazy, fugly, asshole bat creature they’d been trying to kill for two days dropped from above with silent speed, claws extended, leathery wings outstretched.
Sam popped up from the other side with a yell.
Dean broke cover, shouting for Castiel, one hand reaching for him and the other leveling his gun on the oversized dickweed loser bat monster that had come within inches of crapping on Dean twice.
The blue-white flash and furious single crack of lightning that followed stunned the humans and made short work of the jackass punk bastard bat creature, because nothing remained of it to even flutter to the floor.
Sam and Dean stood and stared at Castiel.
“Forgot you could do that,” Dean said softly.
“Is this task completed, now?” Castiel said.
Sam shrugged. “That…was all we were here for.”
Castiel looked between them without removing the sunglasses. “I require your attention.”
Dean sighed. “What else is new?”
Castiel cocked his head slightly as if searching for an answer, or waiting for Dean to elaborate. When it remained silent, he said, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Luke, 11:9-10.”
Dean blinked for a moment, then smirked. “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief. Psalms, 10:7.”
Castiel narrowed his eyes, and it was visible even behind the shades, as was the blue. “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Isaiah, 5:21.”
Dean shook his head. “A righteous man is cautious in friendship. Proverbs, 12:26.”
Sam rolled his eyes to the ceiling and began to wish, just a little, that he could do the lightning thing too. Just for a moment. “Can’t you guys have a pissing contest once with just…piss?”
Castiel did not take his gaze from Dean. “We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians, 5:7.”
Dean tried very hard not to blink. At all. “When you're the master of the off-chance, well, you don't expect a lot. Led Zeppelin.”
Castiel‘s stare became severe. “The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of the aftermath. Led Zeppelin.”
“No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam,” Dean said, getting annoyed. “Led Zeppelin.”
Castiel took another step closer, bringing him just inside Dean’s personal space. “We are eagles of one nest; the nest is in our soul. Led Zeppelin.”
“Okay,” Dean said. “It’s awesome that you decided to assist on the bitch-ass motherfucking assmunching booger eater, but what’re you really here for? Another seal in danger? A demon you can’t find? Maybe take me back in time again for no good reason?”
Castiel looked mildly uncertain. “You wish me to leave.”
“No,” Sam said, jumping in, glancing at Dean. “You usually show up for a reason, that’s all.”
“There may not be a specific thing I require,” Castiel said.
“So then I guess you’re just here to hang out with us, grab some R&R,” Dean said sardonically.
Castiel raised his eyebrows and removed the shades. “I do not have any other pressing engagements at this juncture,” he said. “I would be amenable to…‘hanging out‘.”
“You just want Cheetos,” Dean said.
“I can get Cheetos whenever I wish,” Castiel said coolly. Or, more coolly than usual. “They are best when one partakes in the presence of friends.”
The three of them glanced at each other. Sam smiled a little.
“Does this mean I’m on the Big Christmas Card list?” Dean said.
“Let’s go hang out,” Sam said.
“So what do you guys do for fun, exactly?” Dean said in the car.
“Fun,” Castiel echoed.
“You know,” Dean said. “Compare wing size, quote the Bible at each other, play bingo. I’m sure there’s something you angelic types find to pass the time.”
“Existence is nearly always under some sort of threat,” Castiel said, leaning comfortably into the leather of the back seat. “There is little time for idle pursuits. Time…only has meaning for linear souls.”
Sam and Dean shared a glance that the angel couldn’t see. “But somewhere in all the time you’ve been…conscious, or alive, or whatever, you must have seen what peace looks like,” Sam said, craning his head to look at Castiel.
Castiel inclined his head slightly. “Prior to the Fall, there was an era that did not involve constant vigilance.”
“Metaphysical bullshit,” Dean said. “Here.” He reached under the seat and grabbed a family size bag of Cheetos.
Castiel took them reverently, opening them in short order and shoving a handful into his mouth.
“Don’t get it all over my car,” Dean warned.
Castiel said something that could have been benediction or insult for all they knew, since it was filtered through cheesy snack food.
“So what’d you do?” Dean said finally. “For ‘fun.’”
“Enjoyed the presence of my brothers and sisters,” Castiel said, mouth still full. “The universe is a vast and wondrous place.”
Sam and Dean glanced at each other again.
“One of these days, you’re gonna slip up and accidentally answer a question,” Dean said. “Maybe when you’re drunk.”
“Physicality, like time, is an experience and concept unique to humanity,” Castiel said. “There are things I cannot describe to you in terms you would necessarily understand. I would need to show you.”
There was immediate silence in the car. The brothers were very careful not to look at one another.
After a couple of awkward miles, a sign came up for what was ahead -- restaurants, gas stations, a mini-mall. A bowling alley.
“Y’know,” Dean said, “when I was little, mom used to keep me from being afraid of thunderstorms by telling me it was just angels bowling.”
Sam looked at him with mild surprise. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, she said that the loudest thunder was when they got a strike.”
“Did you believe her?” Sam said.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Dude, I was three. I believed almost anything. Dad used to tell me that fog was just clouds coming down to nap and get a drink of water.”
“What exactly is ‘bowling’?” Castiel said.
“There are some things that are uniquely human experiences,” Dean said with a smirk. “We’d have to show you.”
The alley was slightly off on its own, but shared a parking lot with a mini-mall and an Arby’s. It was a purple and green cinderblock monstrosity with an overabundance of neon signage. TechBowl.
Sam didn’t even attempt to question. If Dean had ever been in a bowling alley in his life, it would have involved girls or a hunt, but in no way had it involved actual bowling on Dean’s part. Still, he looked relaxed and slightly mischievous, both of which Sam was willing to play along with.
The entry way was full of prize machines with flashing lights and signs warning that some ridiculous number of tokens were required. The carpet was a puke-inducing combination of fluorescent and day-glo pinks, greens and yellows with a crossed-pin motif. Off to their left was a game area full of preteens, to the right was a concession area walled off from the bar, and directly in front of them was the check-in counter. Directly above that, there were several oversized stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling.
“Three thousand tokens?” Dean said, reading the sign with outrage. “For a giant stuffed animal that’ll just end up at Goodwill.”
“Like you didn’t take a shot at that for any girl who batted her eyes at you when you were a kid,” Sam said. “Or even last week.”
“Sammy, I had so much more to offer than any toy,” Dean said with a leer.
Castiel was staring at the neon lights, the black lights, and the acid-trip bowling-on-Mars mural on the far wall.
“You’re going to try and make us bowl, aren’t you,” Sam said to Dean. “And you’re not even going to join in.”
“I just don’t do bowling, Sam,” Dean said. “But watching you teach an angel to bowl is going to be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”
Sam rolled his eyes and headed for the front counter to get shoes. “Cas is maybe about your size, right?”
“No one’s my size, Sam.”
Sam waved Dean off and walked away.
Castiel blinked at Dean. “This is fun?”
“Yes,” Dean said. “We’re having fun, any moment now. You’ll see.”
They followed Sam and his newly acquired armload of creepy public shoes toward lane 3. When they reached the stairs leading down toward the recessed lacquered floors of the lanes, though, Sam braced Dean with a forearm. “Nope, no street shoes past this point. You wear the skanky, two-toned shoes, or you stay up here.”
Dean opened his mouth to argue, but Sam handed him a pair of shoes and said, “This was your idea. If you wanna heckle, you do it with the ugly shoes on.”
Castiel removed his sunglasses and eyed Dean with concern.
Dean sighed and took the shoes. “You better put up the kiddie bumpers for Cas,” he grumbled.
Sam took Castiel to pick out a ball from one of the numerous carousels scattered around behind the lanes. Dean sprawled in one of the loud green plastic chairs and watched, knowing Sam was also telling Cas the rules, able to tell by the way Sam was gesturing. Two lanes over was a family. Parents, two kids around eight or nine, giggling, yelling scores.
Dean wondered what it said about him that watching his brother teach an Angel of the Lord, a Bird of God, how to bowl was less foreign to him as a concept than the little family. He watched Sam comfortably palm a ball and point down their lane. Castiel stared up at Sam with close attention, and suddenly, having to wear the stupid shoes didn’t seem all that bad.
Dean glanced down at their street shoes, all lined up under a table, SamDeanCastiel, and grinned.
Sam swung his ball a little before pointing at the marks on the floor. Then he stepped up and let the ball go. He managed to take down all the pins right of center.
Dean whistled with two fingers. “Time for glasses, Sammy.”
Sam ignored him and waited for his ball to return. Castiel watched the pins reset with the same mildly detached curiosity he seemed to show most things.
Sam tried to pick up the spare and failed, leaving the seven pin standing. Dean applauded. Sam murmured something to Castiel once the pins had reset again, and Castiel picked his carefully-chosen ball up from the ball return. Sam stepped off to one side, then frowned in confusion when Castiel suddenly held the ball close, up and in as if he knew what he was doing with it. Then, with the kind of form Sam and Dean had only seen on TV several months earlier during the Olympics, Castiel approached the lane, let the ball go with a flawless spin, and landed a strike.
The brothers stared expressionlessly for a moment. Then Dean got up.
“Beer,” Dean said.
Castiel beat Sam soundly at the first game while Dean kept bringing them beer. Castiel was treating the beer like water, which meant things were going to get even more bizarre pretty damn soon.
“My vessel apparently appreciated this game,” Castiel told Sam.
Sam smiled. “Looks like it.”
Castiel nodded, looking almost satisfied. “This is a worthwhile pastime.”
“It’s a good way to pass an afternoon,” Sam said.
“It’s always five o’clock somewhere,” Castiel said, swigging his beer.
Sam was torn between laughter and dismay at further evidence that Castiel was picking up all of Dean’s philosophies.
“Dean should try to bowl with us,” Castiel said, waiting for his ball to return.
“Dean doesn’t really feel like this is a ‘cool’ activity,” Sam said.
“But it was his idea.”
“Life’s little ironies, Cas.”
Castiel looked up. Dean was in the carpeted area, sitting with his feet propped up on an extra chair. “Dean, you should try this,” he called.
“There are holes I’d prefer not to stick my fingers into,” Dean called back with a smirk.
“That’s not what I heard,” Sam said.
“Hey,” Dean said, rising, “Some of us have standards, Sam.”
Sam opened his mouth to retort, but Castiel laid a hand on his arm and looked up at him. “It’s your turn, Sam.” He turned and looked up at Dean. “Why is this game ‘cool’ enough for me but not for you?”
Dean looked startled for a moment. “Uh…”
“You disdain this game, but suggested that I play it. So do you believe yourself to be superior to me?”
“Whoa, whoa,” Dean said, raising his hands in defense. “Hey, I never said that. Don’t pull this sanctimonious bullshit with me.”
Castiel looked at Sam, then back at Dean. “Prove your sincerity by getting us more beer.”
Dean dropped his hands in exasperation and stalked away.
“Not many people can flip him that kind of shit and get away with it,” Sam said.
“Am I ‘people’?” Castiel said, head cocked slightly.
“Yeah,” Sam said, turning away to get his ball so he could take his turn. “Our people now, I guess.”
Sam took down only four pins that time and another two when they reset. He shook his hands out. “Haven’t done this in ages. Wrists are wearing out.”
He took a quick look around for Dean, who would have had something risqué to say in response. Dean was nowhere in sight.
“Would you like to rest?” Castiel said. “I don’t want you to suffer discomfort.”
Sam patted his shoulder. “That is the nicest thing an angel has ever said to me. I’ll just watch for awhile.”
Dean reappeared with a pitcher of beer and set it down on the counter above their lane just hard enough to make a point but not hard enough to spill. “Okay, smart mouth. There’s your beer.”
Castiel went over and lifted the pitcher down and drank directly from it.
“Aw, dude,” Dean said, stretching one arm out along the counter so he could rest his head on it. “Shit.”
Sam sat in one of the chairs near their lane and laughed.
Castiel put the pitcher down to catch his breath. “Wow.”
Dean sighed. “I hope AA takes angels.”
“Come down and bowl, Dean,” Castiel said, picking up his ball and holding it out toward Dean. “You can put your fingers in my holes.”
Sam howled with laughter, leaning over in his chair.
Dean pointed a finger at Castiel. “That’s a new level of wrong, even for you.”
Castiel’s eyebrows shot up. “I don’t understand. Earlier, you said --”
“Just don’t say ‘holes’ near me ever again,” Dean said.
Castiel visibly went on pondering how he might have offended, then he gave up, picked the pitcher up again, and swigged.
Sam was laughing silently, eyes scrunched tightly shut.
Twenty minutes later, there was a fairly drunk angel just throwing strike after strike when he wasn’t wandering among the ball carousels and examining different balls. The drunker he got, the more fascinated he became with the differences in color and weight. Dean and Sam ate cheeseburgers and watched.
“He learned Zeppelin lyrics,” Sam said.
Dean grunted. “So he could use them against me.”
Sam smiled. “Teach a guy to drink and swear, and before you know it, he wants you to put your fingers in his holes.”
Dean turned away so that Sam would think he was pissed, but Sam wasn’t fooled, if his laughter was any indication. Dean positioned a ketchup packet and brought his fist down on it, splattering Sam, who yelled and ducked.
Unseen, Castiel was in the background taking all the balls off the carousels and setting them free to roll around the floor. Dozens of them were rolling around before someone from a few lanes down started yelling at him, and by the time Sam and Dean realized what was going on, one of the employees had come down and was headed for them with a really pissed off look on his face.
“Getting kicked out of a bowling alley,” Dean said. “One of the proudest moments of my life.”
Castiel came up, flushed and looking pleased with himself until he saw the splatters of ketchup on Sam’s face that hadn’t been completely rubbed away. “Are you hurt?”
“No,” Sam said, grabbing their shoes. “C’mon, get your shoes off before we get into more trouble.”
Glares followed them out, and Dean smiled and waved. “Shit, we keep this up, everyone’ll want their own angel.”
Sam hung back and whispered something to Castiel, who caught up with Dean as they passed the check-in counter.
“I would like a giant stuffed animal,” Castiel said.
“Aw, you gotta be kidding me,” Dean said.
Sam was laughing again, and Dean refused to look at him.
“No giant stuffed anything in my car,” Dean said. “You guys are killing me, today.”
As they walked out into the parking lot, thunder rumbled to the south.
Dean glanced at Castiel, who was smiling just a little.
They got Castiel back into the car and had been on the road for less than two minutes when Castiel shot bolt upright in the back seat with a look of wide eyed concern.
Dean glanced at him in the rear view. “What’s --”
Castiel hunched over a little.
“How much beer do you think you can put into an angel before something gives?” Sam said.
“Cas? Don’t you dare hurl.”
“I am not going to ‘hurl’,” Castiel said. “There is a very uncomfortable pressure…lower.”
Another thing Dean never imagined was having to find a secluded side road so that an angel could experience pissing in the bushes for the first time.
“I’m glad he ditched the trench coat,” Dean said, looking everywhere but in Castiel’s direction. “It would have given this a real flasher vibe.”
“You know he doesn’t have to do any of this,” Sam said. “He can snap his fingers and not be drunk, or have to be hungover, or find himself pissing in the bushes. He does all this human stuff just to amuse you.”
“Well, good for him,” Dean said. “Whatever.”
“I think he’s got a big angelic crush on you,” Sam said.
“I don’t wanna hear it, Sam.”
“Hey, angels are androgynous, so it’s not like you have to get all freaked out, even with the borrowed form.”
Dean shot Sam a glare. “That was your idea of making this better?”
“You know we can’t be the only humans he knows,” Sam said.
“But we have to be the coolest,” Dean said. “I am, anyway.”
“He trusts us enough to let us get him wasted and get him out of bar fights,” Sam said. “He’s not stupid.”
Dean shook his head, resolutely staring out the driver‘s side window. “What do I care if some angel trusts me?”
Castiel stumbled back up to the car. “Sleepy,” he said as he opened the back passenger side door. He stretched out across the back seat.
Sam smirked at Dean. “Which dwarf does that make you?”
Dean grumbled and started the car.
There were worse things to have in the back seat.
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