There's a Fine, Fine Line

This is a vignette set in the Strange Angels' verse, written in response to the Crash and Burn challenge at the spn-het-love community on Livejournal. The piece does read better with knowledge of the 'verse under your belt. It is a companion piece to "Instructions for Dancing" and is set towards the end of Strange Angels.


Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine. The Colt isn't mine. Wish the car was mine. But I can only blame myself for the Circle of Enoch.

Rating: PG-13 (Angst! Schmoop! Swearing! Nerf Rocket Launchers!)

Pairings: Dean/OFC

Beta(s): The lovely misskatieleigh reviewed this on short notice for me and didn't once laugh when she found out I was writing a schmoopy angst fic with, um, Nerf rocket launchers. She helped me polish it for E, because it's schmoop for one of my schmoop goddesses. Everything that rocks in this piece is because of her. The mistakes? Those are all me.

A/N: Written for the fantastic embroiderama, who specifically requested Charlotte POV.


Dean was crouched on the balls of his feet, barricading himself against the wall as he peered cautiously around the corner – a tangle of nerves waiting for its spark, so edgy the hair on Charlotte's arms tingled when his eyes settled on his target and he braced the gun against his shoulder. He moved through his surroundings with a careless grace. Watching it always made her throat ache, the sharp tang of the hunt roaring through her chest every time his eyes flickered towards the shadow slowly inching its way towards him.

Charlotte held her breath when his instinct took over, feeling the push of the gun as it recoiled against her shoulder; the hard jolt that would have left a bruise if she had been the one holding it but it didn't slow Dean Winchester down. It didn't even faze him, loading another round into the chamber with a scream pulled straight from his gut. "Come and get me, you little fucker!"

"Dean Winchester!" Missouri Mosely's razor-sharp voice rang out from her armchair as she looked up from her cross-stitch. "I'd appreciate you not using that word in my living room."

Missouri Mosely didn't faze Dean, either. His idea of getting Ellie ready for bed included a pajama-wearing gunfight through the psychic's living room. Sam was in sweat pants but Dean wore his boxers and a t-shirt, both of them wielding Nerf guns that were so big they should have been illegal to use without a permit. Charlotte had given up trying to read her book when both of them started bounding through the room, her head so caught up with Dean's that she didn't realize what was happening until the spark rattled inside of her.

There's a fine, fine line between reality and pretend.

It was the closest she'd ever really come to hunting, feeling the rush as it coursed through Dean – even if he said she was tagging along on every job now that she decided to stay, making jokes about how she couldn't defend herself against the Circle with a broken leg and her book bag. Hell, it was the closest she'd ever come to brandishing her own plastic toy gun and running all over the house screaming at the top of her lungs like she was eight.

Little girls on crutches spent their time in libraries while skin grafts healed.

Dean chuckled as Sam stopped in his tracks, blinking down at the gigantic rubber missile that bounced off his chest. "You're getting sloppy, Sammy." Dean grinned. "I think you can't see around all that hair to shoot anymore."

"You think so?" Sam returned his brother's smile, leaning his bright blue gun against his leg.

"Got you fair and square." Dean snorted, not even hearing the patter chasing him from behind. Charlotte glanced at Sam, radiating calm like he knew that he'd lost, but Missouri laughed when the red light on Ellie's gun focused on Dean's head. "Son of a bitch!" Dean bellowed, whirling just in time for Ellie's dart to tag him in the neck. He waved his gun towards Sam. "You tag teamed me with Ellie?"

"All it took was a Twinkie," Sam returned smoothly. He stretched out his hand with a smirk, winking at Charlotte when she laughed out loud. Dean was the reason why Ellie's loyalty was so easily bought with just a Hostess snack cake, thanks to his habit of exchanging Ding Dongs every morning for swearing privileges. "Hand it over," Sam demanded.

"What?"

"The gun. Hand it over."

"Hell, no!"

"But you said the winner gets to use the special gun." Ellie grabbed Dean's right sleeve at the wrist, eyes going wide as she looked up at him. "And I'm the last man standing." She looked at Charlotte and then raised her chin defiantly, a move so like her own that a grin glimmered across Dean's face before the serious expression returned. "The gun is mine," Ellie added.

Missouri's laughter joined Charlotte's when Sam and Dean looked at each other – No girl gets the gun before a Winchester, Sammy. I don't think she understands the rules, Dean.

Ellie was just as stubborn as either of them, folding her arms across her chest with her little yellow gun peeking out over her elbow and a smile on her face like she'd just swallowed the proverbial canary. And the boys would give in – hunting demons hadn't prepared either of them for Ellie Jenkins but it wasn't going to be pretty, especially with Dean watching Charlotte laugh like she'd rejected him.

He was the one playing with a plastic toy that launched foam darts.

Dean had spent the last hour taunting Sam every five minutes as they raced from room to room on the first floor, ignoring Missouri's admonitions from her chair about her lamps. Dean Winchester was a walking ad for Nerf toys that would have made Sigmund Freud blush. All three parts of his stupid gun had been converted into some thing that he had to pump to activate and he cackled every time its big rubber rocket went flying, waggling his eyebrows at her and making cracks about how she'd be on the receiving end of his missile.

"I'm out," Dean said, switching guns with Ellie before plopping down on the couch next to Charlotte. Sam and Ellie shrugged and piled onto the other armchair, guns on the floor and Sam's arms automatically coming around Ellie's waist as she rested her cheek on his chest. It was impossible not to hug Ellie when she sat on your lap. Dean ignored them, staring at the neon yellow gun. "You suck, Charlie." He poked her in the arm with the tip of the barrel, the red light going pink against the white stripes woven into her sleeve. "You could have said something about Ellie." There was anger coiling inside his chest, so strong her jaw dropped.

"I wasn't even playing." Charlotte folded her arms, low across her stomach. The book she was reading fell onto her lap, breath coming out in a huff as she grabbed it and slapped it onto the coffee table. The damn man had no right rebuking her after he had relegated her to the sidelines.

"But you knew she was there."

Charlotte rolled her eyes. "The next time you want my help, maybe you should ask me for it." It came out harder than she meant it, no matter how true it was, and the way he was suddenly looking at her – like she was crazy for even thinking she could join in, with her gimpy leg and the way she'd probably fall down and shoot him – brought it all back; the sing-song voices of boys that followed her down the hall or across the yard when all she wanted to do was curl up underneath a tree and read. Clumsy Charlotte, the traitor's harlot. "Besides, the red light will help you with spelunking. You won't be able to miss your target in the dark," she added sourly, cheeks flushing.

Sarcasm only made Dean Winchester grin.

"I've got a nose for spelunking." Dean pitched his voice low, leaning in towards her as he brushed his hand against her neck. "My aim is perfect," he added. Charlotte's mouth went dry at the way her stomach tumbled, cutting through the voices she remembered as his fingers traced a line underneath her ear down to her collarbone, until Dean pointed the gun at her chest. "Bullseye," he said softly, the dart bouncing off her nipple.

There's a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a lie.

"Did a demon drop you on your head or something, Dean?" Charlotte snapped while she picked the dart off of her lap. Dean really did have the people skills of a wooden plank, thinking that she'd run upstairs with him because of the way he was flashing his crooked smile at her. "That left a bruise!" she yelped, sounding just like a fishwife screeching out her anger against the tide.

"Guess I'll need to do some emergency first aid," he said, lips right next to her ear. "If you ask me nice enough, I'll even blow on it before I put on a band aid." And she could feel it, could see him dragging her upstairs and throwing her onto the green comforter in the attic room – pulling up her shirt and bringing his mouth down to kiss the bruise, a gentleness that he didn't even use with Ellie. "You're so clumsy, I'm probably going to have to make a habit of it, Charlie," Dean added with a smirk.

Charlotte grabbed the gun and loaded the dart, eyes narrowing. You can't kill a demon by making it cry itself to death. She hadn't expected him to drop everything and stop acting like Dean, even if he'd done the impossible and moved his things into the little attic room Missouri was letting her use, but whatever was going on had only gotten more complicated after sex. She was tangled up so tight that she couldn't pick apart the strands anymore, couldn't see anything beyond the need to do something besides sit on a goddamned couch.

Charlotte Anne Webb was sick to death of watching.

Missouri was on her feet, cross-stitch on the seat of her arm chair, and was halfway across the floor of the living room when Charlotte pointed the gun at Dean's thigh. "Time for bed, honey," Missouri said, taking Ellie by the hand. Their footsteps banged up the stairs as Ellie's protests echoed down the stairwell and Sam stared at his feet.

Dean just chuckled.

"We both know you're not going to – " he began, eyes going wide when Charlotte pulled the trigger. The gun shook, her hand feeling the rush inside as the dart flew through the barrel. Dean shifted besides her, trying to move out of the way, and the dart thumped right into his crotch. "Jesus Christ, Charlie! You just shot me in the dick!"

"If you ask me nice enough," Charlotte purred, leaning in close to look him right in the eyes, "I'll even blow on it before I put on a band aid."

"Fuck that," Dean growled, pushing himself up off the couch. "You could've just said you had a headache or blamed it on PMS or something." He cocked his head and watched her slam the gun down on top of her book. "It's a good thing I didn't…" Dean added, shaking his head abruptly.

"Didn't ask me to play your silly little game?" Charlotte finished, anger funneling just as sharply as the dart and hitting Dean square in the chest. "We both know I'm not good enough! I couldn't even shoot you in the leg without messing it up." She averted her eyes. No wonder Sam had wanted to leave her at that stupid Roadhouse right along with Ellie. Her breath was ragged and she swallowed, remembering the look on his face when she straddled him the night before. "I'm just a mistake, right?" she asked.

It was Miles' voice superimposed on top of hers when she said it – not Dean's – but it was already too late.

There's a fine, fine line…

Dean opened his mouth and shut it with a clenched grimace, face completely white. "Right," he answered softly. He turned on his heel and stormed from the room, confusion fighting with the ache Dean left in his wake as he stalked up the stairs. Charlotte's throat hurt, watching the bow of his shoulders as he walked away. She didn't realize that her hand was stretched out towards him until it flopped back into her lap.

"What the hell was that all about?" Sam asked, his voice shaking.

Charlotte couldn't look at him, curling up around the arm of the couch. "You wouldn't understand, Sam." She didn't understand it herself, why everything distilled down to sex and need and fear.

"I think I understand just fine."

"Then explain it to me." Before Dean Winchester, Charlotte had never been out of control – would never have shot someone in the leg, even if it was just with a Nerf gun. You're cold, Charlotte. Miles had told her that when she called him three days ago. An ice princess. Doing more than just fucking you was a mistake. He used the same calm voice the first time he said that he loved her and the only time he had the guts to tell her the truth was when she was staring up at the St. Louis arch; listening to Dean and Ellie laugh, Sam blocking her face from both of them. I just felt sorry for you.

The couch dipped next to her as Sam sat down, putting his arm around her and holding on while she flinched against him. He flinched himself when his hand brushed against her scar, rough underneath the thin fabric of her top. It was that faint sickness in his stomach that Charlotte never felt with Dean – even when Dean was thrusting inside her, hands touching her everywhere like he was trying to memorize each swirl and curve of skin and scars.

There weren't any lies in the way Dean touched her, the way his breath intermingled with hers. Both of them laid bare without any promises beyond tomorrow and it had been as close to perfect as anything she remembered from before the fire, warm and clear like her father singing in the kitchen. Dean had traced every single scar, with his mouth and his fingers, and made her feel like she was the most beautiful thing in the world – not some scarred chick you had to screw with the lights off.

Not a mistake.

"Why do we always push away the people who matter?" Her voice wavered and Sam finally removed his arm, his shoulder still touching hers. Just like Dean does. Charlotte wouldn't cry, feeling the burn behind her eyes and the heat at the back of her neck. Feeling him, moving around purposefully upstairs. He was probably grabbing all of his stuff and moving it back into the room with Sam because she was too scared to even try and tell him how broken she really was. "Is it to keep them safe?" Charlotte added.

"If I could answer that question, my dad and I probably would get along."

"I think it's to keep us from getting hurt." Charlotte trembled, bringing her legs up underneath her and resting her head on his shoulder. Sam jumped as her head came down, shock rippling through him; she could count on one hand the number of times she'd deliberately touched him. Sam probably could, too. "But it hurts the other person, too. So it's not keeping them safe at all." Sam's head was suddenly resting on top of hers.

"I'm sorry, Charlotte."

"For what? I'm the one who messed things up with Dean," she said, voice cracking.

"For telling you that you needed to stay at the Roadhouse." Sam's voice was calm but his stomach fluttered, twin to the rumbling in her own. "I'm just…" His voice trailed off and he shook his head sharply. "I'm having visions from the other side, about what Shemhezai is going to do to people once it gets out. Raping you. Torturing Dean." His voice was barely a whisper, coming out in a rush. "You don't even know how that thing wants to hurt Ellie."

She shivered. The stark admission was so unexpected in the face of the stoic way the Winchesters faced problems, Charlotte settled her hand on top of Sam's thigh with a sharp intake of breath.

"So you were trying to protect me?" Charlotte managed after she caught her breath.

"Yeah…" Sam snorted. "So much for that, huh?"

Charlotte sat up quickly, wiping her eyes and blinking rapidly at him. He looked like he wanted to put his arm around her again but she squeezed his hand instead, heart beating so hard against her ribcage that it echoed along with the footsteps walking back into the living room. Dean stood in the doorway, mouth working as he watched both of them.

"I got this for you, too, Charlie." And Dean tossed a box at her. She managed to catch it with help from Sam, her fingers brushing against the brightly colored cardboard. It had a plastic insert, another yellow gun inside of it with the name N-Strike Maverick proclaimed proudly on the side.

"You bought me a Nerf gun?" Charlotte asked.

Dean nodded as Sam hopped off the couch. "Yeah," he said, scratching underneath his ear. "I figured you'd want to play, too, once your leg was better. I thought you wouldn't want to be running around until you actually could." Dean coughed. "You limp when your leg gets tired and…" Hazel eyes flickered at Sam's face and he coughed again, sharp in his throat. "You going to make popcorn, Sammy?" Dean squared his shoulders. "We need snacks if we're going to watch a movie."

Sam grinned. "Is that what you're calling it?"

"We're watching The Goonies," Dean continued, not even answering Sam's question. "Bunch of freaky kids saving the day? They should be our heroes or something." He smiled brightly at Charlotte, mouth going lopsided. "You're the geek kid who makes all the gadgets, Charlie. Bet you can catch a missile or two with your pincers of power."

"Well, that's my cue," Sam snorted, shaking his head as Charlotte's cheeks turned red.

They stared at each other while Sam puttered in the kitchen, opening cupboards loudly. The slap of wood against wood was followed up by the electronic beep of the microwave and Dean finally came into the room, kneeling down in front of her and resting his elbows on the seat of the couch. Charlotte swallowed.

And you never know 'til you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb.

"I am so stupid." She clutched the box to her chest, edges sharp against the inside of her arms. Charlotte wished it were him but it was the closest she thought she could get after the things she said. You limp when your leg gets tired… You could clone Miles Kincaid a hundred times and he still wouldn't add up to one Dean Winchester – and it had nothing to do with demons or hunting.

"You're the dumbest smart chick I know, Girl Genius." Dean's voice was soft as he took the box from her hands, setting it gently on the couch next to her.

"It's just…" Charlotte's throat hurt again, remembering the way his shoulders looked as he walked away. There was another slam from the kitchen, the sound of a bag being ripped open and popcorn falling into a bowl.

"I know you've been hurt bad, Charlie." He lifted up her shirt, looking down at her stomach. A shot of nausea hit her from the small hallway into the kitchen, and she could hear Sam's intake of breath as Dean exposed her belly. But there was nothing like that coming from Dean, just one hand brushing against the scars while she looked down at him.

An entire apology sat burning in her brain but she couldn't remember the words when their eyes met. "But you're not him," she said lamely. It was so much less than Dean deserved but he was grinning anyway, like Charlotte had just handed him a golden ticket and he was going to the chocolate factory – despite the glimmer of a dark-haired girl in his eyes. He looked like he was about to say something but then he plopped his mouth on her abdomen and blew the biggest, wettest, raspberry she'd ever heard.

No one had ever done that to her before, and it tickled, but the way he looked up from between her legs sent aftershocks somewhere else. And Dean was unrepentant, his smile coming down to do it a second time until Charlotte placed a hand on each cheek. "You're a goober, Dean Winchester." Before he could protest, Charlotte slowly bent down and lightly touched her lips with his.

That didn't keep her from sliding off the couch as she leaned into him, sprawling across him as they both fell to the floor. "You want to go upstairs and get some practice with your pincers of power?" Dean said softly, ignoring the groan that came from Sam as his younger brother settled onto the armchair nearest the TV.

"Nope. Chunk is my hero."

But she kept right on kissing him when Sam started the movie – until Data showed up and Dean made a crack about how she needed to watch to get pointers on her gadgets because he didn't want her pincers to break from all the thrusting pressure.


A/N:

This was written for the lovely embroiderama, who spurred me on with the idea of Winchesters and Nerf rocket launchers. She also specifically requested Charlotte POV. And, well, I should have been working on her bigbang beta but I think she was trying to help cheer me up after one of my friends passed away unexpectedly last week. Not as cheered up as I would like to be but I think Patrick would appreciate the sentiment, even if it's just a wee fanfic for a friend.

The title of the story is a song from Avenue Q. And I guess this is technically songfic, since Charlotte has a habit of thinking about song lyrics that reflect her situation. You should Google the song lyrics, though. They are quite lovely. In this case, they're really about Miles and not Dean. (My brain is clever sometimes…)

Yes, I researched Nerf guns and they are real. Dean uses the N-Strike Unity Power System (aka, the Nerf Rocket Launcher). Sam uses the N-Strike Longshot CS-6. Ellie's model is the N-Strike Nite Finder EX-3 and it includes a red light beam for targeting. The N-Strike Maverick is a multi-round gun with six darts, perfect for snagging Dean in the crotch multiple times.

And, yo: Chunk is my hero. I still break out into a grin every time I hear the immortal words "It's a stiff!"

This scene takes place proper in Chapter Twelve of Strange Angels, after the scene in the mall but before Charlotte wakes Dean up the next morning. Obviously, the crashing and the burning was short-lived. The chapter, though, was primarily Dean POV with a smattering of Sam, so it was nice to give Charlotte the opportunity to reflect on what had happened and to address her past relationship.

If you've read "Instructions for Dancing," you'll recognize the fact that both stories share the final ending scene.