Always Falling

When Dean was sixteen, he sent that kid who beat up Sam right to the hospital. Now Dean's in college and he's still picking up the pieces from that day — and that girl who landed right at his feet just complicated things.

Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine, and I probably wouldn't be putting them through so much hell if they were. Probably... ;-P

Rating: M (Language, angst and adult situations)

Warnings: I'm not even sure where to begin on this, except to say that a nineteen-year-old Dean Winchester that never was just waltzed into my brain and kick-started my muse. It is a companion piece to Strange Angels, and it does read better with that under your belt, but it's not absolutely necessary. Parts of this story are emotionally intense. And it's unabashedly AU.

Miscellaneous: There really aren't enough words in the world to express my thanks, but I'll give it a shot. Wenchpixie has supported everything I've ever written for this fandom with a devotion that always leaves me speechless and humbled. Embroiderama reassured me that it was, indeed, a solid story and that I sold her on my college Dean. Last though by no means least, Cariadean gave me perspective and came up with a much more kick-ass title than I ever could. Everything that rocks in this piece is because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me. I'd also like to thank FiremanPhil for giving me the idea to write this initially in one of our conversations, and also for convincing me to make some minor edits.

Feedback: Absolutely!

"You got to go to college. He had to stay home. I mean, I had to stay home. With Dad. You don't think I had dreams of my own? But Dad needed me. Where the hell were you?"

"Someone get him out of here!"

The attending doctor's voice was a sibilant hiss throughout the room, and two nurses — each grabbing a shoulder — started walking him backwards.

There was so much blood. Too much blood. A salty smell that reminded Dean of a promise he'd made once. He closed his eyes as the doors to the room swung open behind him, and he heard the sounds of the hospital around him. Normal. How could everything be so normal when she was lying in so much blood?

It didn't make sense.

It wasn't fair.

And suddenly Sam's voice was in his ear, trying to get Dean to sit — but his little brother's consoling voice was cracking despite the sure words spoken. She's strong, Dean. Everything's going to be okay. Each syllable another crack in Sam's throat, a puncture in Dean's chest as he tried to breathe. All Dean could do was remember the smell of her blood, see it sticky on the sheets, and there was nothing Sam could say to make him forget that — the only thing Sam could do was touch his goddamn shoulder and murmur how everything was going to be okay.

It had been a slow semester for Dean Winchester.

Hell, when he was honest, Dean would admit that it was a slow year — had something with Amy Clark back home over Spring Break, and nothing since the summer. Sure, he'd picked up chicks. He'd gone out to clubs with them or tried the whole dinner and a movie thing, but Dean knew it was all play-acting. After the whole thing with Amy, screwing a chick in the backseat of his car seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

Sam had told him when he came home for the summer that Dean needed a real girl — not some plastic Barbie bimbo who hung out with Dean's old high school friends. What the hell did Sam know? He was fucking fifteen, for Christ's sake.

Sam's idea of a real girl was someone who met him in the library to study, glasses and plaid skirt and no fun at all. And then Sam's eyes would go round like they always did, and he'd frown and look at Dean with such force it was like Sam was wishing something would come along and teach his older brother some lesson that only Geek Boy understood. Or he was constipated.

Whatever Sam had said, Dean hadn't gotten laid since May — and it was September. Barely September, but it was the longest dry streak that Dean had had since he was old enough to figure out how to get laid.

So he wasn't expecting a chick to fall into his lap.

He'd have waited a long time for that — the chick actually fell over his feet, walking too close to his chair as Dean tried to stay focused on a book about the Aztecs for his Anthro class. She turned the corner of the stack just as Dean stretched out his legs, and pitched over them with a small 'oof' that would have been cute as all hell if her books hadn't gone flying out of her arms — and the crack of her body connecting with the floor was something Dean would remember for a long time.

He stared at her like an idiot while Joe, his study partner, chuckled in his own chair. Fucker. Dean shook his head sharply, jumping to his feet and started helping her up. She was a little disoriented, gray eyes looking at him from behind a pair of glasses, red hair pulled back into two braids. She looked like nothing special — in her knee-length denim skirt, a short-sleeved black top and some scuffed combat boots — but her face lit up when she smiled.

"Thank you," the girl said softly.

"I knock down chicks all the time so I can rescue them," Dean returned airily, bending down to pick up her books for her.

"Sounds like a good plan," she returned, and her cheeks flushed just a little bit — like she wasn't really used to flirting, but was trying it anyway — so Dean flashed her his cockiest grin, and she met him halfway with a shy little smile. "And it's got to be better than the serial killer approach to dating," she added, holding out her hand to him. "I'm Charlotte. Charlotte Webb."

"No kidding?" he asked, shuffling the books around so that he could shake her hand. "Dean Winchester." Never had a chick try and shake my hand before. He handed her the books, glimpsing a couple about Greek mythology in the stack, and some on psychology. One of them looked like a Latin textbook.

Her mouth twisted wryly. "My father has a unique sense of humor." Dean felt a shock in his stomach — just like the one Dad described from when he first saw Mom in every single story he'd tell about coming back from the war. No time to worry about that. The girl was smiling at him.

"So he named you after the band?" Dean had to grin. Some old coot out there named his daughter after a good old boy band from Georgia. Except Charlotte Webb didn't look like the daughter of any old coot. She looked like all the nice girls he never really hung out with in high school. The kind of girl that his constipated little brother would tell him was a real girl.

Real girls had kick ass cleavage. Dean wondered why he'd never noticed that before. And pretty nice hips underneath their skirts, even when they were wearing clothes that didn't show them off. Charlotte Webb had freckles on both of her arms, and a light scar on the left. He noticed her watching his gaze and biting her lip. "He named me after the book," Charlotte said, trying to catch his eyes with hers. Anything, Dean guessed, to keep him from staring at her arm. "You know, Zuckerman's Famous Pig?" she added.

Dean snorted. "Saw the cartoon." He scratched underneath his right ear suddenly, flicking the hair that brushed it. Why was he so goddamn itchy? "Hey, do you want to get lunch or something? It's the least I can do after knocking you down."

Charlotte's gray eyes widened, like she was startled by the question, and then she smiled. "Sure."

"You like Mexican?"

She nodded. "Do they have nachos?"

"Best I've had," Dean replied. He glanced at Joe over his shoulder. "See you around, dude." Joe snorted and shook his head, mouthed 'freshie' at him like it was a curse.

That's when Dean realized he'd gotten so desperate, he was scamming the incoming class for a date. Or whatever the hell you'd call taking the girl you knocked down to lunch. Except he didn't feel so desperate when they started walking out of the library, and when she lowered her head at one point while laughing at one of his jokes, her braids fell forward — and there was part of him that wanted to tuck her hair back.

She stared at him with narrowed eyes before glaring at the soggy chip that was bending away from her fingers.

"You lied to me," Charlotte intoned mournfully.

Dean chuckled. "I was just trying to get some chick to go eat tacos with me. I didn't know there were nacho standards."

"Well, for starters? They're not supposed to fall apart when you pick them up." She shrugged her shoulders and put the chip in her mouth before grinning at him. "But you scored points for bringing me to a restaurant where I can listen to a bad mariachi band and watch people throw themselves off a fake waterfall."

"They're cliff divers, Charlotte. And just wait until Chiquita the Angry Gorilla shows up," he retorted. "Then you'll recognize my true genius."

"You're bringing me back here once we're both old enough to order the Casarita," Charlotte answered. "By then, the mariachi band might not suck."

She was smiling like she'd just swallowed a canary, timing the whole damn thing perfectly — and Dean ended up spitting out the water he just swallowed back into his glass when he laughed so hard he started to snort. Charlotte Webb was pretty damn cute when she was trying to make you laugh, and she got this little glint in her eye which should have been a dead giveaway if he'd been paying attention.

Their food came right after that — he'd gotten the taco platter because it was all-you-can-eat and Charlotte had ordered chicken fajitas. Dean didn't need to be told twice to start chowing down, scooping up fallen bits with the shell after the first taco fell apart. She stared at him, eyes wide, when he inhaled the next taco — her shoulders shaking, and her hands going up to cover her mouth.

"You don't hang out with a lot of guys, do you?" Dean asked.

"There was Chuck back in my Latin class," Charlotte said slowly, "But we didn't share a lot of classes with our brother school. Just Latin and an AP English class when I was a senior."

"Brother school?"

She nodded. "I went to St. Francis' High School for Girls."

"Did you wear cute little plaid skirts to school every day?" Dean asked before he could stop himself.

"Only someone who wasn't forced to wear plaid skirts every day for twelve years would ask that question." But Charlotte was smiling. "What about you?" She picked up her glass of iced tea and started bringing it up to her mouth.

"Well, I liked to wear my plaid skirts in the spring," Dean began, watching her swallow and then duck her head; she almost looked like she was choking. Charlotte Webb slammed the glass back down on the table with a resounding crack that seemed to echo through the dining room. "Gotcha," he added lightly.

"You prick!" she yelped, laughing so hard Dean was glad she was sitting in a booth. He didn't say anything, just started to laugh along with her because there was something infectious about the way she did it. "I was asking about school."

"Damn." He grinned back at her. "Do I score points for being a cross-dresser?"

"Probably. As long as you don't dress like Mrs. Doubtfire," she shot back, leaning her elbows on the table. The left one ended up right in her plate of guacamole, salsa and sour cream. "Oh, shoot," she muttered, twisting around in the booth to look for her napkin.

"Wait!" Dean cried. But it was too late. Charlotte whipped her left elbow off the table — and the plate landed on her lap. "Hey," he said softly — she looked so upset by those kids at the next table laughing at her that he wanted to kick their asses. Except people ended up in the hospital when he kicked their ass, like that blonde asshole who beat up Sammy; and knowing everything that came after, Dean would put that prick in the hospital again.

"I've got guacamole on my thigh," she announced. Charlotte bent down to take a closer look, while Dean glared at the kids laughing at her. "And some sour cream," she added, biting her lip. "A lot of the salsa ended up on your shoe."

"Yeah, I can see that." He tapped the heel of his boot on the back of the booth chair, shaking most of it off. "Pretty easy to fix. What about you?"

"I look like a baby puked on my lap." She wiped ineffectually at her skirt, and then put her shredded napkin on the table. "And I think I need some new napkins." She gave him a funny look. "So do you like clumsy girls, Dean Winchester?"

"I like clumsy girls just fine," Dean said softly.

"Just wondering," she returned. "You really didn't have to buy me lunch." Charlotte flashed him a lopsided grin. "I probably would have tripped in front of you anyway. I was a couple hours overdue on making a fool out of myself."

"And I'm a couple of hours overdue on asking you to go to a movie with me." He tried to keep his voice steady. Joe would probably laugh his ass off if he knew that Dean Winchester was asking a freshman chick to go to the movies with him. But it was Saturday and she kept getting cuter every time she said something.

"Do I get to pick the movie?" she asked.

Dean snorted. "That's pretty demanding from the chick who got salsa on my shoe."

"Well, they're doing a Monty Python retrospective in that little theater on Norton. A different movie every couple hours beginning at 6:00."

"Holy Grail?"

Charlotte nodded. "Midnight showing."

"You're on." He made a show of looking down at his watch. "We've definitely got time to go fix your skirt." And Charlotte whipped her head at him so quickly when he said it that Dean had to laugh. "I mean, you have to take it off, right?" he added. That made her blush harder than just about any girl he'd ever seen. Dean Winchester had lift-off. "I'm probably going to throw you in the back seat of my car and fix your skirt right then and there, Charlotte Webb."

"Are you serious?" Her voice was soft.

"Do I look like the kind of guy who eats crappy nachos just for kicks?"

That made her laugh a little, and she brought her arms around her stomach. Something in her eyes cracked when he just smiled back at her. She swallowed and took a deep breath. "I've got a single," she returned slowly, voice low in her throat despite the flush on her cheeks. "If you're serious," she added.

Dean was already waving the waitress down to get their check.

It took Charlotte a long time to fish her keys out of her book bag — mostly because Dean had her pinned to the wall near the door, hands on either side of her head, while he kissed her. Nice girls kissed pretty damn good — so forceful her teeth were clicking against his as they opened their mouths to each other. Dean would have started inching off her shirt in the hallway if he thought she'd let him.

Charlotte managed to get the door to her room open, and they stumbled inside. She locked up the door behind him and his hands were all over her again. She reached behind her back, took a breath like she was steeling up her courage, and unzipped her skirt. It fell to the floor and she stepped out of it, her shirt skimming her thighs and she turned like she was hiding something.

"Hey," he said, voice low. "This isn't going to work if you don't look at me."

"I think this was a mistake. I've never done this before, Dean."

Fuck! He wasn't about to stop now. Dean stood behind her, moved his lips down to her neck. "I'll walk you through it," he whispered. "Might hurt a little the first time."

"No, Dean. I've had sex before...but never with someone I've just met." Charlotte's voice trailed off as turned. "And never without fair warning." She looked at him then, and he could see shiny skin on both of her thighs — more scars that looked like the one on her arm.

He didn't say anything, just started kissing her again and easing her backwards until she was sliding up onto the bed. He lifted her shirt, and started hiking it up past her abdomen. She swallowed when Dean stopped pulling up the shirt. He couldn't take his eyes off the scars on her stomach, nasty and angry.

"I'm kind of ugly," she stated. It wasn't even a question. She said it like it was matter-of-fact.

"What happened?" he asked softly, fingers brushing against her belly. Real girls had real problems. He forgot about that — when all you wanted was a quick fuck, the last thing you needed was a girl with history.

"My parents split up when I was really little," she returned. "I was staying with my mom over the summer when I was six and she fell asleep in her apartment. Dropped her cigarette onto the carpet." Charlotte's eyes were full, and she tried to smile at him wryly. That smile couldn't hide the fact that she was shaking a little. "You really interested in all of this?"

"Yeah." And that surprised him. "But you're not ugly. It just...surprised me, is all." The way she turned from him — her neck twisting gracefully as she tried not to show him she was almost crying — made her look so fragile that all Dean wanted to do was hold her. He shook his head sharply. "Did it hurt?"

Dean Winchester had just won the idiot prize of the year.

"I don't remember a lot of it," she replied, and suddenly all he wanted to do was lean down and start licking the scars — so Charlotte Webb would know that she wasn't ugly. "I was lucky. My mother didn't make it. I can't really complain about being in the hospital for a long time."

"My mom was in the hospital for a long time, too," Dean said, and she jumped when his tongue actually touched her stomach. "Cancer. About six months after my baby brother was born." He had her shirt off by now, pulling it up over her head with gentle pressure — and there were more scars coming down from her left arm.

"Is she okay?"

"Yeah. In complete remission for years," Dean said. "Doctors think it was one of those freak things." He'd never told any chick about his mom before, all the afternoons he'd spend in the hospital with Sammy on his lap or next to him in his stroller. Taking care of Sammy while Dad took care of Mom. Trying to make it normal that they were spending so much time in the hospital visiting Mommy. And when Mom came home for good, it was all worth it.

She had her arms around his neck and was kissing his jawline, tiny little kisses, and it was his turn to stiffen a little because no girl had ever done that for him — no girl had ever come up with some gentle way of saying everything would be okay in the end. "Are you still serious?" Charlotte asked softly, a catch in her throat.

"Hell, yeah," he breathed, and she finally seemed to relax when he started touching her again. His hands moved to the front of her bra, started unhooking it. Dean grinned. "What is it with you girls and front-loaders?" he asked suddenly.

That earned him a small giggle, and she stretched underneath him; no fear at all in her eyes when she looked into his. "I was hoping some hot guy would trip me in the library," Charlotte answered, her fingers in his hair as she arched her back, "So I wore my easy access underwear." She started pulling off his t-shirt, cheeks tinged with red. "You got a problem with that, Dean Winchester?"

"Not complaining. I like the easy access." And he spread open the bra after the final clasp opened, dipping his mouth down between her breasts — licking the saltiness between them. Mr. Happy was bursting against the fly of his jeans. It had been too fucking long.

And her hands found his jeans, unbuttoning the top button before sliding her finger down the zipper. He hooked his fingers into the waistband of her underwear and pulled them down. Couldn't even get them past her knees because she was inching his jeans down past his hips, and then he reached into his left pocket — trying to pull out the condom that wasn't there.


"Girls don't do it on command, you know," Charlotte returned, a little breathless. Damn, but the girl had a wicked mind.

He chuckled, and then shook his head. "Don't suppose you've got a condom," Dean asked. Now that didn't make him sound like a freaking dork or anything. Asking the girl you knocked down in a library whether or not she had a condom so you could screw her in her dorm room.

She shook her head. "No." Charlotte hitched herself up with her arms around his neck, lips just off his ear. "But I'm on the pill." He could feel the hair on his neck rise as her breath touched him.

"Oh." Dean looked down at her. "Oh..." Why the girl was still going for it with a screw-up who acted like he didn't even know about the pill — and couldn't even bring a freaking condom with him — was a question that Dean wouldn't be able to answer no matter how often he tried. "You're not worried..." Fuck. So now he was pretty much telling her he had the clap or something.

"I'm healthy," she returned. "You healthy?"

Dean nodded, slipping open her thighs with his knees as she shifted backwards onto the bed. "Yeah," he said shortly. "But what if I'm lying?" That's where a normal girl would have looked at him and told him to screw himself, but she just laughed and put her hands on his hips. "I'm serious," he added.

"I've got a feeling you're pretty trustworthy," Charlotte whispered.

"You do, huh?" Dean didn't even wait for her answer, didn't feel right telling her about his police record when it just going to end up being the same one night thing it always was — and then he was inside of her. Didn't even stop to see if she was ready, but the way she was grabbing onto his ass was probably a good sign that she was.

It was a little awkward, trying to figure out how to move against her. Her forehead bumped into his mouth, and Charlotte winced a little at that. She seemed nervous, too — uncomfortable with being touched, her belly against his. Just warmth against warmth at the intersection where their bodies met.

He leaned down and whispered, "It's okay."

And it was. Suddenly, Charlotte was sliding against him like she'd been doing it all her life and Dean just gave himself up to it — relaxed and loose-limbed as they rocked against each other. She made tiny little moans, and it was slow and sweet and nothing like that crap he'd done in the back of his car. Real girls fucked you like you were important, like you mattered more than just being a quick screw in an alley. When she looked up into his eyes and said his name while she came, Dean Winchester lost it.

And it was Sammy's fault, with his talk about real girls and shit. Dean had threatened to kick his brother's ass just to keep Sam from going on about it for weeks, but damn if Sammy wasn't right in the end.

Sam deserved a fucking medal.

Dean chuckled. Charlotte reached up and brushed his cheek with her hand. "See?" she asked, that shy smile playing across her face. "It's a lot better when you're not in the back of your crap car."

"She's not a crap car," Dean answered automatically, ignoring the freefall in his stomach and putting his arms around Charlotte Webb. "And you're just lucky I think you're fucking cute, because usually insulting my car puts you on my bad side." Her eyes widened, and the way she was suddenly kissing him brought a hitch to his throat.

He decided that she could call his car whatever the hell she wanted just as long as she promised to never stop kissing him like that.

The second time they had sex, they took their own sweet time.

Dean finally managed to get all of their clothes off, and he wouldn't let her do anything until he'd touched every single one of her scars with his lips and his fingers — and he didn't even get annoyed when Charlotte's eyes filled up with tears while he watched her skin flush. She didn't get annoyed when he suddenly stopped, realizing exactly what the hell he was doing, and sat up right in the middle of things.

"I'm scared, too," was all she said, and how the hell Charlotte Webb could know that was a mystery Dean would never solve. Dean didn't say anything back, but it was enough because she was drawing his mouth down to hers and her entire body opened up to him like a sigh.

Dean realized that a girl falling into your life wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though, especially when Charlotte started whispering his name — over and over, with a catch to her breath that made him want to push harder, slow and hard until she wasn't whispering, until his name was a scream and, oh, God, wouldn't that just, fuck, she cried out and suddenly Dean was the one screaming her name, and Charlotte was the one holding him while he trembled and something heavy was pulling him down, heavy and warm and sleepy.

The room was dark when he woke up. Charlotte was curled up on top of him, her hand flopped against her nose, and she snored a little. Drooled a little, too — a slick spot on his chest right underneath where her cheek was resting. Dean reached over and flicked on the light, the urge to run again itching in his fingers. He almost did it — eyes flashing on the pictures of her on the wall, with friends and a man who looked damn familiar. This girl had a life. Didn't need some screw up like him as a part of it.

But then she shifted in her sleep, and Charlotte blinked at him while she sat up, and she smiled. "Hey," she said softly. Her hand slid across his chest, and she made a face. "Oh, God, I'm sorry," she yelped, pulling up her comforter to wipe it off.

"Girls drool on me all the time," he returned lightly. "Hazard of being so goddamn handsome."

"I drool on my pillow all the time." Charlotte's face crumpled, breath coming out in a hiss. She shook her head sharply. "And, in case you wondered, it's true. You've spent all afternoon boinking the world's biggest dork."

"Lucky for you, Winchester boys are closet dork fans — especially when they boink us back." He tugged on one of her braids. Boink? The girl was too damn cute to be in the same bed with Dean Winchester, juvenile delinquent. Reformed, but still... "You sure got a lot of pictures of real people. Back in my room, it's mostly centerfolds and stuff."


"Yeah. My roomie's a real macho perv." Dean grinned, but he could tell by the arch of her eyebrows that Charlotte wasn't buying it — probably knew that nearly half of those centerfolds came from magazines with Dean Winchester's name on the address label. He poked her in the arm. "And you're not one to talk." He pointed towards a picture of her that looked pretty recent, finally recognizing the guy. "You've got a picture of yourself with the lead singer of Charlotte's We..."

Fuck a duck...

"That's where my father's unique sense of humor kicks in," Charlotte admitted. She grimaced. "He named the band after me."

"Holy shit!" Dean couldn't keep himself from saying it, and the look on her face hurt — people probably sucked up to her because of her dad. Even he had to admit that he wouldn't have given her a second look if she walked on by without falling down at his feet; she was pretty enough, but it was like she deliberately didn't call attention to herself. "That must really suck," he added with a low whistle. "Bad enough he gave you a crappy ass name, and then you have to see it all over the place because he's famous. I hope you get royalties or something for emotional damages because the whole thing just freaking blows."

She started to laugh and the tension in her shoulders eased and suddenly Charlotte Webb was throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him on the cheek, which no chick ever did. Just his mom. But when Mom kissed him on the cheek, Mr. Happy didn't start waving hello. Thankfully...

"You like Thai?" Charlotte asked. "I thought we could go out for dinner before the movie. My treat."

"Uh..." Dean scratched his neck. "Never had it." Dad wasn't too keen on exotic foods. Winchester men usually stuck to the basic food groups — pizza, beer, hamburgers and apple pie. Except Sam would eat anything.


"Don't mind trying it, though," Dean answered. He didn't mind trying a lot of things, come to that. Thai food probably wasn't so bad — Sammy had a friend from Japan, and he used to bring home all sorts of food that Dad would never touch. Dean didn't like the raw fish shit but some of those rolls hadn't been so bad. Especially the fried ones. "Don't mind at all." He put one hand on her arm. "But I'm paying for the movie."

"And I'll buy the snacks," she returned. When he looked at her funny, Charlotte blushed. "Movie theater nachos aren't even made with real cheese. It's not fair to force you to pay for my junk food addiction."

"Hell, Charlotte. I was raised on Cheese Whiz and crackers. That's Winchester soul food," he replied. "You're a chick after my own heart." The words were out before he could stop them, and most of his friends would have laughed and made a comment about him being a fucking pussy.

But Charlotte Webb just cocked her head and said, "Cheese Whiz should be its own food group," before she started kissing him again.

Dean hoped that Thai place was open late — and it was a damn good thing that she'd chosen a midnight movie — because there was no way Charlotte was leaving that bed without getting laid again.

They fell into an easy routine after that.

They'd go to their classes, meeting up for lunch on campus at the cafeteria if they could, and then he'd go to work study and she'd go to her psychology study group. Then they'd go the library to study, eating dinner together when Dean didn't have his kick-boxing class; he'd find her after a shower in the campus radio station, making copies of obscure music no one else cared about. Week days were pretty boring.

On Friday, though, they'd go out to a movie, and dancing on Saturday at the club where her friend was a DJ; that's where Dean learned that being clumsy as all hell didn't keep her from shaking her little ass for as long as there was music. Sometimes, she even managed to get him to join her, laughing at his stupid head-bobbing thing. Sundays were lazy mornings, where she'd sing to him — always off-key — and he'd sing back — not off-key — and he would have felt like a fucking dork for doing that if she didn't make it seem so natural.

Charlotte Webb made every day seem fucking natural, with the way she smiled and the dumb little jokes she made even though she talked too much and tripped over her own feet more often than was probably legal.

And every night, Dean would end up back in her dorm room and they'd spend hours studying the vocabulary of each other's body — the touch that made her cheeks flush, the pressure that caused his hips to quiver. Murmuring promises with lips and fingers and sounds pulled breathlessly from each other. Skin to skin. It should have scared him, being so close to someone like that. No secrets. Just two bodies lost in amber.

There was nothing he didn't end up telling her, caught between her thighs. She'd kiss him when he talked about the fight, how he turned his life around to get into school. How his dad had told him he could remake himself in college, and not be the fuck-up who hospitalized some kid in a fight. He'd kiss her when she told him about living without her dad around, what the fire was like. How hard physical therapy was and how she hated being so shy.

Thanksgiving snuck up on them so fast, Dean didn't even think to ask her what her plans were until the week of — when he was rushing to get his Anthro paper done, and Charlotte was working on an application for a summer intern program in town at the Children's Hospital. Turned out that she was going to be spending it with her dad, and Dean already had tickets that his parents paid for to go home.

Dean wondered what it meant that neither of them remembered to ask, and then realized it didn't really matter when she looked so upset by the same thing. Charlotte promised him that she'd call him every day, and that she'd do something special for him on Sunday when they both got back.

Damn girl was true to her word on both counts. Even Mom made fun of how long they were on the phone with each other — joked about how the Winchesters should get an extra phone line just for when Dean came home from school. Dad just looked thoughtful when Dean tried to talk his way out of it.

And when Dean got back, Charlotte was waiting for him in her room and she did a little striptease for him, singing some song about how she didn't want anybody else and how she touched herself when she thought about him.

Well, calling it singing was being nice — she was still off-key, probably always would be — but the words were damn sexy. And Charlotte tripped when she did one turn while shimmying her hips, falling right into his lap; wearing most of her clothes and the high heels that made her trip faster than she would have in her combat boots, but she was pretty damn sexy, too. At that point, Dean figured she was fair game and jumped her.

It was Mom who came up with the idea of Charlotte coming to Lawrence for winter break. Dean had finally told his parents about Charlotte's dad, wondering why he kept it secret. Probably because, just like he expected, Dad didn't believe him. Charlotte's Webb was going to Europe on a holiday tour, and Charlotte was just going to stay home anyway — said she'd knock around the big farmhouse for a month, maybe go visit some of her cousins. Mom figured it might be a good time to meet the girl.

They were walking back from the campus theater, both a little shaky from Saving Private Ryan, when he asked her. "You want to come to my house for Christmas?" Dean said it casually, like he was asking her to go get pizza with him after the movie — which was a pretty damn good idea provided the girl had the stomach for it after a war flick. "Mom and Dad said you could stay for the whole winter break. You'd even meet Geek Boy." Didn't mention that she'd probably end up meeting some of the chicks he screwed if they went to any parties and some of the friends who still tried to get him into trouble whenever he went home.

"I'd love to," Charlotte replied, standing on her toes to kiss his cheek, and her smile made him feel like his chest would crack. She grinned suddenly, slipping her arm through his. "So does pepperoni sound good, or do you want sausage and onions?"

"How about we do a combo?"

"Works for me."

And Dean almost thought that would be the end of it — except then Charlotte started making plans. About how to get there; and he was all for the road trip, given that he knew his folks wouldn't let him stay in the guest room with her. And that would let him bring his car, so he could take her places his folks wouldn't care about. Out of sight and out of mind was how Winchesters dealt with things.

Charlotte Anne Webb was a plan-making freak.

But by the time they left, she'd figured out how long it would take them to get from Washington, DC to Lawrence — about two and a half days, two if he drove— and she managed to get presents for everyone in his family. From both of them. She asked Dean what he was going to get for his family, and then went out and bought them — used his own money — because he was working on a Gothic Art and Architecture project. And then she figured out something to buy each of them from herself. Not to mention a bunch of that crap Christmas food from the store that sold sausages. The presents were wrapped and ready to put under the tree three days before they even needed to leave for Kansas.

The trip was pretty uneventful — weather stayed nice most of the way, and Charlotte actually liked it when he cranked up Metallica. Not like Sam, who probably tried to figure out ways to burn Dean's entire cassette collection when he got pissy. And every night they'd spend together in their motel room, playing each other so well that notes were stretched; her breath in concert with his, their bodies so in time he could almost believe in magic.

They didn't get much sleep at night, but they always left on time in the morning.

Sam was already running out the door to meet them, ganglier than ever and his dark hair a shaggy shock, as soon as the Impala came within a block of the house. He and Charlotte got out of the car. It was kind of funny watching his little brother and Charlotte stare at each other warily; both of them were doing their best not to meet the other's eyes, but then Sam took a swallow and asked Charlotte if she liked Shakespeare.

When she nodded, Sam took a deep breath. "Would you like to go see Shakespeare in Love with me? It's an R-rated movie, and I can't get my parents or any of my friends from school to go and I really want to see it in the theater." Sam shot it out in one gulp, staring at her with his puppy dog eyes, and then took another breath. "And there's no way Dean'll take me. He doesn't do chick flicks. And I'm pretty sure the movie's a chick flick, because it's a love story and Dean doesn't do love stories, either. Says they're sappy."

Dean Winchester knew he was truly screwed when Charlotte started laughing and then threw her arms around Sammy, hugging him loosely. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather go see the movie with, Sam Winchester," she said, "And I'll even make Dean go see it with us." She looked at Dean over Sam's shoulder, and she never even mentioned that she'd already made him go see it, or how grudgingly he did. Dean figured he'd go see it again if Sam wanted to tag along.

The face-saving wisecrack died in his throat when he saw Mom and Dad standing in the doorway, coming out onto the front porch. Mom was wearing one of the Christmas sweaters Sam got her every year — and Dean knew she only wore them for his little brother, because Sam's taste in chick's clothes sucked hard — and Dad was beaming at Dean like a lunatic after his eyes appraised Charlotte Webb. She was wearing what she usually wore — long skirt, only with a nicer shirt than usual and a brown leather jacket she got early for Christmas from her dad.

"Son," Dad said as they walked closer. Sam was making noises behind them, exclaiming about the bags of presents that were now in the back of the car. "Glad you could make it," his father added, extending his hand towards Charlotte. "I'm John. This is my wife, Mary. I'm going out on a limb and guessing you're Charlotte?"

"Thank you both so much for allowing me to stay with you," Charlotte returned, shaking Dad's hand while trying not to stare down at her shoes. "It's a pleasure to meet both of you, Mr. and Mrs. Winchester."

"Introduced ourselves as John and Mary," his father replied, giving Dean another wide-eyed look. He wanted to crawl into the pavement and stay there awhile. "Mr. and Mrs. Winchester are my parents," Dad added. Mom was just smiling at both of them while Dad held open the door for her and Charlotte walked inside.

Dean didn't immediately follow, giving Mom a hug before going inside. Ever since Mom got sick and even though she was better now, Dean never let a day go by where he didn't hug her if he could. He knew it was lame, and he was supposed to be some punk kid making a new life for himself in a new town where people didn't know about Dean Winchester the screw-up, but Mom was important. Dean could feel that knowledge bloom through his veins like a virus, the surety that Mom was always important.

"Are you happy, Dean?" Mom whispered into his ear.

It shocked him. Mom usually didn't ask him crap like that. "Yeah," he said softly, "I guess I am."

"Good," his mother said, letting go of him and turning on her heel. "She looks happy, too."

He followed her into the house.


Yes, there is a real Casa Bonita. And there really is a gorilla named Chiquita. I can't make these things up, man. Wait until I write about the Inn of Las Vegas...where you can rent rooms by the hour and they ONLY take cash.

The fabulous JMM0001 decreed that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was Dean's favorite movie, in her story "For Once, Then Something." The one thing that really just got him to laugh. I liked that idea so much, I used it myself.

As always, criticism is welcome. And feedback just makes me dizzy.