Title: The Bet
Author: Black Wingedbird
Author's Note: Challenge fic for the line: "Ten bucks says you can't go one week." Minimum of 1500 words. Be sure to check out Carikube's version under the same title!
"Ten bucks says you can't go a week."
Sam looked up from the laptop, a 'what-did-I-miss' expression through his bangs. "A week of what?"
"Without being a geek. Bet you can't go a week."
Half of Sam's face scrunched in denial. "Whatever," he said, and went back to typing.
Dean threw down the sports section, set aside his cheeseburger, and set the bottle of beer on the nightstand, all in order to sit up. The springs beneath him squeaked--the mattress had been well-used. "Seriously. When's the last time you went to the bars with me just to drink and pick up chicks? There's always an ulterior motive with you, man. You need to relax, just enjoy where we are, the people around us."
"Yeah, the chicks."
Sam kept his eyes down, and Dean threw a fry at him. "So what do you say? One week, you just being normal. None of this brainiac, nerd in the first row with thick glasses stuff you got going on. Deal?"
Again, Sam glared over the top of the computer. "I don't wear glasses and I never sat in the front row."
"Dude, two words. Latin Porn."
Sam flushed, looked away.
"Oh yeah. I found it. So not worth the translation."
When their gazes met again, Sam's had cooled to steel. "I'll see your bet and raise you one of my own. Ten bucks, one week."
Dean hesitated, a twinge of oh-shit fluttering through his chest. "Name it."
"Girls. No exchanging numbers, no touching, no mooching."
Dean thought about it, almost laughed at how easy it would be to beat Sam as his own game. Even following Sam's directions to a 'T', he'd still have lots of wiggle room--not his fault Sam hadn't been more specific. This would be like stealing candy from a baby.
Or ten dollars from a little brother. "One week. You're on."
"Morning, sunshine. We're out of hot water- but seeing how it's five hundred degrees outside, you could say I did you a favor."
Sam sighed deeply and curled in on the pillow, his bare back towards Dean. The air was thick and heavy with sweat and it made Sam's bones more pronounce, like some starving homeless kid in a third-world country. Dean tossed the bag of doughnuts near Sam's face and set the coffee on the dresser, just out of reach but still within smelling distance. "You should see the girl working the diner, man. She'll get your blood pumping alright."
Using his hand as a feeler, Sam searched blindly for the coffee and at last, sat up. Through narrow, sleep-fogged eyes, he glared. "Wait- girl?"
"Hey, I didn't get her number. No mooching, either."
Sam eyed him, searching for the truth.
Dean grinned, confident and honest. "I know where we're going next."
Sam's feet slid to the floor, he stood slowly like a mountain raising skyward. He shuffled to the dresser, grabbed the coffee, and held it as though it were his own beating heart. "You found a hunt?"
"No, I found a place. Kutztown. It's three hours east--if you get your shit together, we'll make it by lunch."
Dean beamed. "Awesome, huh? If I could name a town, I'd name it Kutztown."
"And you're a geek. Hurry up, daylight's burning and you still gotta find us something to hunt."
Sam glanced at the laptop. "You don't even know if-"
"Every town has a hunt, Sam. Just takes some research to find it."
"So this is a ploy to make me go geek and lose the bet on the first day? You found the stupid town, you can find the hunt."
"There's more than one way to skin a cat, Sam. You're missing the whole point of the bet."
"There's a point?"
"There's always a point. I'm trying to make you a better person, Sam. Loosen you up. Hook you up with a girl--a real girl. Get you mingling."
Dean snorted. "Yeah, with elderly people and dusty old books."
Behind his coffee, Sam looked guilty.
Dean grabbed his toothbrush and moved toward the bathroom. "Find us a hunt, but don't be a geek. Get out there and talk to someone. Preferably, a chick. Blonde. Cute."
Sam looked out the window, squinting against the fiery bronze sunlight. "I can talk to people, you know. I don't need you making bogus bets against me. The whole reverse psychology thing doesn't work anymore."
Scrubbing his teeth and foaming at the mouth, Dean stood in the bathroom doorway, dripping. "Not reverse psychology. Initiative. Go. Melissa, diner."
Sam rolled his eyes. "The whole 'no girl' thing? That's to make you a better person too," he said, and left.
Every town did indeed have a hunt, and Kutztown was no exception. A woman in white proved to be an exhausting, formidable foe and by the time the moon reached its apex, the brothers were closing in on the red neon 'vacancy' sign.
Across the street was a bar, surrounded by boxy farm trucks and old sedans.
The night air whipped through the Impala, its coolness a welcome relief after a day of high humidity. Dean rubbed the back of his neck, mashing grit into the coarse hairs there, and forced his eyes open. Outside, the road blurred into a river of back and yellow.
"You look tired."
Dean looked over at Sam, still awake enough to notice the sly grin. It made him weary. "I am. Saving your ass night after night tends to do that."
"So you gonna turn in?"
Dean turned into the motel parking lot. Light streaked over the Impala's hood and the tires crackled over gravel. "Yeah, I am. You gonna play twenty questions all night?"
Sam glanced out the window, his reflection flashing pale on the glass. "Gotta be a record for you, going to bed before the bars shut down. Sounds almost… geeky. You avoiding something?"
And there it was. "No, and it's not geeky," Dean snapped, dropping his hands from the steering wheel as the car idled. "It's normal. People sleep when they're tired."
"What, don't tell me you wanna go over there and toss some down after that thing threw you against a tree. Dude, a freakin' bird's nest fell on your head."
"Go to sleep if you want, it's okay. It's more than okay--it's responsible. Smart…"
Sam raised his hands. "You said it, not me."
Dean thought about it, had visions of Sam forever holding this night above his head as the one night Dean whimped out before Sam. The thought unsettled him, made him seasick and competitive. He dropped the car into reverse and glanced at Sam before checking the mirrors. "You're buying."
"So me and Josie, we saw it looking in through her bedroom window and we screamed and freaked out, because we were alone and naked except for out bras and panties and stuff, but when we saw that face and how ugly it was with that big long scar and it looked like it's eyes were fake or dead or something, I don't know, I ran away too fast. We both did, and we ran downstairs and hid in the bathroom until her parents came home, but they never saw anyone and the cops couldn't find any evidence but I'll tell you--we weren't dreaming. That thing was real, and it looked… spooky. Wait, so how did you know we were in trouble? Do you work with the police?"
Dean blinked, suddenly aware the room was silent. Claire was looking at him with big blue eyes, waiting, wringing her hands as she clutched a large leather purse. Her breasts jiggled with every breath.
"No," Sam said, all too eager to step up to the plate. "Not really. We're more like private investigators."
Her eyes got even bigger, her breasts even closer. "Really? That is so cool. You guys are so brave."
He could smell the sweetness of her skin, the flowery shampoo scent clinging to her hair. Her robe fit large and loose, just barely covering her black lacey bra. Dean swallowed, forced himself not to jump her right here.
When Sam spoke again, there was a change in his voice. Something more distant, something sinister. "Dean really did all the dangerous stuff. That thing almost killed him. You should have been there… Dean took it out. One shot, to the head. He's got excellent aim."
Fire heated Claire's eyes. "Really?"
Dean squirmed, grinning nervously. "Not that good…"
"See those arms? Yoga. Keeps him in tune with his more sensitive side."
Dean glared at Sam, then shifted back to Claire. She was so worth more than ten dollars.
But it wasn't just the money, it was the principle of the thing, and Dean would never let himself be outdone by his baby brother. Never.
He stood up just as Claire was reaching for him. Her hand dropped, she looked up at him in confusion, and he cursed Sam for each of the fifty eight steps it took to reach the Impala.
Sam sat at the bar, the greasy scent of frying beef hugging him close in the dim light. The crowd was thin and the hour late, and between exhaustion and boredom, stacking the sugar packets as high as they could go seemed to be an honorable feat. Delicately, one hand holding up his chin and the other poised above the stack, Sam let go of the last packet.
It settled onto the stack perfectly, and he grinned.
The bell above the door jangled, preceding a blast of air that sent the stack fluttering down to cover the bar, his lap, and the floor. Sam sighed. Thank God Dean was five blocks away, washing off the day's stink in a crappy motel shower.
A girl sat down next to him, grumbling and stabbing at her cell phone with undue intensity. "Stupid piece of shit. Best coverage in America my ass! You--Oh no you didn't. No! Give me back my contacts, you cheap hunk of--Damnit!"
The bartender looked at the girl, then at Sam, then disappeared into the back without so much as a 'good luck'.
Thanks for nothing! Those better be the best burgers in the world, you leaving me out here with psycho-woman like this. Steeling himself, Sam spared the girl a glance. "Everything okay?"
"No!" she snapped, now stabbing at the buttons with brutal force. "First my very important call is dropped, now this thing ate my list of contacts! I was in the middle of a sale, if I don't complete this now, the client goes somewhere else and I'll lost my job!" True panic hung in her voice, gathering like crystals in her eyes. "I don't know what to do!"
He reached for his phone, hand half-way to his ass. "You know the number? You can use my-"
"It's in my phone book, which I can't get to!" she whimpered, her anger giving way to tears now and the cracks in her voice made him sympathize.
"Okay, here. Let me look at it. I learned a trick on the internet, I might be able to help."
He held his hand out, and she hesitated only briefly before plunking the phone down in his palm. "No promises," he warned.
"I don't have anything to lose."
It was good to hear that, because he wasn't sure if he remember the exact combination of buttons to push. So Sam did as much as he could remember, filling in the gaps with educated guesses. He'd stumbled upon this 'reboot' code a couple months ago, when the MP3 player in Dean's phone froze up and blocked the whole phone. Since going without a form of emergency communication just wasn't feasible, Sam had taken it upon himself to scour the web for a quick fix. And low and behold, buried deep within a techie message board, the magical combination of keys were written out and free for the taking. So Sam took.
And just as Dean's had, the phone in his hands went dark, then chimed a fresh and innocent welcome as it powered on. The girl broke out in a huge watery smile, and Sam handed the phone back proudly.
The cowbell above the door clanged harshly, copper beating against glass as a gust of air rode in. "Ah-ha!" Dean exclaimed, pointing, stomping towards Sam and the girl. "I knew it! You are such a geek, Sam! You're the only person in the world who's memorized the reboot combo to every electronic device ever made. Fork it over, loser--I want my ten dollars."
Sam stared, his jaw loose. The girl smiled and looked down, away, pulling back from him as she slipped the phone into her purse. Dean plopped down in the seat beside her, dropping his forearms on the counter like he owned the place. Sam blinked. "It was a setup?"
"Don't take it too hard, Sammy. Lots of people are amazed by my cleverness."
The bet would've been over tonight. All week he'd made stupid little sacrifices, one-upping Dean as they warred over who had the stronger will. Damnit, he'd won this thing, had it in the bag a week ago. It wasn't that he was a geek by default--that had been a role assigned to him years ago, a way of being useful when he was still too young to hunt. It had been what they wanted, what they needed, and he'd lost his abhorrence for the job long ago, finally learned to accept it and shut up. Dean's gloating now stung a little, deep down, but Sam quickly salved it with vengefulness.
He faced the counter, staring at the dull, opaque water rings. "Night's not over yet. Think we should eat here, mingle with the locals." With a meaningful look to Dean, he added, "Maybe hook up with some girls."
True to his nature, Dean showed no signs of weakness. "Fine. You're on, Geek Boy. No problem."
The tension between them crackled, and the girl slid from the stool and cleared her throat nervously. "I'm just gonna go, then," she said gently, as if she spoke too loudly they would suddenly see her and pounce. "Sorry, Sam. You're brother told me you guys had a bet and asked if I could act--nothing personal or anything, you know?"
The bartender peeked out from behind the kitchen door, eyebrows arched high on his forehead.
"Yeah," Sam said as he glared straight ahead. Deserter.
"Good luck to each of you," she said. "May the best man win, or whatever. Dean--call me later. Bye."
And she was gone in a breeze of flower-scented air, the cowbell echoing her departure.
The bartender slipped through the door, a grease-soaked paper bag in tow. "On the house," he said to Sam as he set it down.
Dean clapped him on the shoulder, smoothly sliding into the girl's seat. "Score. Thanks, man."
As Dean grabbed the bag of food and started pawing through it, Sam replayed what the girl had said before she left. Something stuck out, a tiny splinter in the silk of her words. Something--
"She gave you her number!"
Dean froze, one hand buried in the paper bag. "What?"
Sam turned toward him, straightening, looking Dean straight in the eye. "She so outted you! You got her phone number. You couldn't even plot how to make me lose my own bet without losing yours--dude! You lost!"
"No, now wait a minute. It wasn't like that, she was--"
"Oh, I know exactly how it was. You were all Mr. Charm and Smooth Moves, and she played right into it. Probably gave you her number five minutes after you introduced yourself, right?"
"Well, more like three…"
Sam held out his hand, palm up. "Cough it up. Ten bucks."
Dean squirmed, his face wrinkling, and searched for an escape.
"You lost, fair and square, Dean."
Later that night, the hard-won ten dollars and then some peeked over the bartender's apron pocket, waving at Sam every time they passed by. Mockingly. Chattering in high-pitched little chipmunk voices about how Sam really should have known better, and asking if the empty beer bottles on the table were really worth it. But across the table, Dean had a long-legged blonde on his lap and they looked happy (see: drunk) but it was the familiarity of the scene that did, in fact, give Sam a warm fuzzy happy feeling.
God he was such a girl.
Sam rolled his eyes, then went back to reading the local newspaper.