Any Chance Collision
Georgetown was the next step in the plan but her daddy was always telling her that life could turn on a dime. If the trick was learning how to dance, she had really screwed it up by tripping over that boy who bussed tables in the New South Dorm cafeteria.
Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.
Overall Rating: M (Language, Angst, Sex)
Overall Pairings: Dean/OFC (HET)
Author's Notes: This is a remix of Always Falling, resulting from a conversation with katelennon. I had no intention of writing a remix but she asked so many insightful questions about the other half of the story, my muse decided to answer them - but it took a little while for my brain to catch up and tell it properly. This is for you, Kate. mwah
Miscellaneous: The story is set in an AU where there are no demons, Mary is very much alive and Dean is a sophomore in college. And one wee little note about the posting schedule... I hope to post a section each week (there are a total of four sections planned) but life happens when you're busy making other plans. I will, however, be working solely on this story until it is finished - which is the only promise I can presently offer.
Betas: embroiderama has been on board since the inception of this story (and I mean that literally - she was one of the betas for Always Falling) and I will simply say this: she had the guts to call me when the characters weren't acting true to themselves because she loves them as much as I do and that is the best gift one can be given. annebelleca did her best to wrangle my overall wordiness and insane attachments to participles into much cleaner prose. quirkies made me feel like I had my own personal cheerleader while providing commentary on plot and characterization. ysbail, as always, provided insight into the characterization of our illustrious heroine. The good parts are all them. The mistakes? Those are all me.
Part One: The time I like is the rush hour
"I'm not the kind of girl who walks into a room and gets noticed, so when someone – "
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"We couldn't save the baby."
It was a brisk voice that she didn't recognize, its antiseptic tang making her stomach twist in on itself; a doctor's voice, weary and blood-stained, accompanied by the unsteady rhythm of machines. A tattered breath, shattered glass in her lungs, bubbled thick around her mouth and someone was wiping her lips gently – someone who smelled like talcum powder, the sweet perfume of a nurse.
Her belly was on fire, the pain blossoming through her chest when she heard his intake of breath; one sharp draw taking in the stitches across her abdomen, nothing more than dead weight sinking into the lumpy mattress. There was one sob so ragged that it should have left scars – just one – before the hand around her own tightened, rough calluses against her palm as the scents of oak and pine fought with sterile ammonia and a rusty tang that no amount of disinfectant could mask.
She hadn't told him about the baby.
It was supposed to be a surprise, a split second of normal – the last thing she remembered with any clarity before the thunder roared through her. He would have laughed and called her a dork but that wouldn't have kept him from smiling when he opened up the Father's Day card, cracking a joke about how the kid was going to inherit his musical taste because there was no way in hell he was letting her loose with a music collection that sucked ass.
" Charlotte," he whispered but she didn't answer. She was too tired to open her eyes, couldn't even squeeze his hand to let him know that she had heard him – couldn't even tell him that his voice was the chain that kept her from floating out of herself when she soared backwards, hitting the ground with a crack from a nightmare, and all she wanted to do was glide into the black so that the ache spreading through her chest would stop.
But his hands had pressed down on hers, held her spilling heart inside, amidst the screams and the lights and the rush in her veins that kept getting softer every time she tried to move her lungs.
Just hang on.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Her daddy always said that being late was right on time.
That might have worked for Aaron Webb.
People waited for him every day, long lines of screaming fans outside of his shows and record company executives who didn't want to rush his genius. There was even a groupie who used to wait for him by the mailbox at home, staying as far away as the restraining order required; she would just stare at them on their porch swing as Charlotte curled up underneath his arm and Daddy played the mandolin, crooning old folk songs into her hair.
But none of that mattered when you had a Latin test to study for and a paper due on Heart of Darkness.
Charlotte had pulled an all-nighter in the linguistics building, sitting at the table with her chin resting on her hands – conjugating Latin verbs out loud ad infinitum for the rest of her study group, hoping they would memorize something by morning. At least Catholic school had been good for that. An entire lifetime in plaid skirts didn't help her get to breakfast on time, though – all that was left when she stumbled through the front door of the cafeteria was a stack of stale toast and a scrape of oatmeal on the bottom of a cold pot.
She hated oatmeal, so she dumped some milk and half a container of honey into the bowl just to make it edible before shuffling to the nearest table. Joseph Conrad kept her company during breakfast but he was never an easy read and Charlotte was convinced that her English professor had included the book in the course simply to see how many people would actually read Joseph Conrad versus watching Apocalypse Now.
Her money was on Marlon Brando and the Ride of the Valkryies.
Jimmy and Maggie were already watching the movie when she met up with them in one of the multimedia rooms at the library an hour later. Charlotte had her notes ready and her paper outline prepared in advance but all Maggie wanted to do was drink coffee while Jimmy made jokes about the smell of napalm in the morning. She fled before Willard reached Kurtz's compound, feeling just as sick as she always did watching the trip up the river, and rushed towards the little alcove that was her own private refuge.
She turned a corner around one of the stacks at the same time some idiot who wasn't even supposed to be there stretched his legs. Her right foot hooked into his shin and she tried like hell to bite back the 'oof' as she face-planted into the cold tiles.
It came out anyway.
The idiot's friend snorted like it was Charlotte's fault that she fell. She probably would have tumbled to the floor anyway, seeing two people where she was always alone, but being tripped by an idiot had only made it worse.
It was easier to get back up when no one was there.
He stared at her while she pulled her legs in, straightening her skirt and sighing in relief when she realized it was still around her knees – but her books were all over the place and the strap on her book bag was cutting off the circulation in her arm. The idiot shook his head and jumped out of his chair. Charlotte blinked while he helped her stand, trying to figure out where she had seen him before.
He looked so sorry about the whole thing that Charlotte smiled at him.
"Thank you," she said softly.
"I knock down chicks all the time so I can rescue them." His voice was muffled as he bent over to pick up her books.
"Sounds like a good plan." He twisted to look up at her and grinned. Not even Miles had looked at her like that and a hot flush spilled over her cheeks when he unfolded gracefully into a stand, her books held firmly in his arms. No guts, no glory. "And it's got to be better than the serial killer approach to dating," she added, holding out her hand. "I'm Charlotte. Charlotte Webb."
"No kidding?" he asked, shuffling the books underneath his left arm before grabbing her right hand with his. "Dean Winchester."
It was only a matter of time before Charlotte said something stupid – a stuttering joke about Latin noun declensions that only she thought was funny, followed up by a snort that would echo through the library – and she wouldn't be able to make a quick getaway with her books clamped tightly underneath Dean Winchester's arm. "My father has a unique sense of humor," she said, mouth quirking into what she hoped was a smile.
Dean must have gotten the message because he started handing the books back, scanning the titles one at a time.
"So he named you after the band?"
She wasn't getting into that.
The question was easy enough to ignore when Dean Winchester's hazel eyes focused on her left arm. The scar was already standing out in bas relief thanks to the way he had her blushing. Charlotte bit her lip, giving a little cough. "He named me after the book," she returned, trying to catch his attention before he realized just how puckered the scar was and he got scared off by something worse than a dumb joke. "You know, Zuckerman's Famous Pig?"
Dean snorted. "Saw the cartoon." He looked away from her, scratching underneath his right ear. The other shoe had finally dropped – the scar that had frightened kids when she trailed behind Alma in the grocery store wearing a tank top had worked its mojo one more time. "Hey," Dean said abruptly. "Do you want to get lunch or something? It's the least I can do after knocking you down."
Charlotte's eyes widened and she smiled like a moron. "Sure," she managed.
"You like Mexican?"
She nodded. "Do they have nachos?"
"Best I've had," Dean said. He looked over his shoulder at the asshole. "See you around, dude." The asshole snorted and mouthed 'freshie' with a bend to his mouth that said Charlotte Anne Webb was pond scum.
They started walking towards the door together, standing so close that their arms were touching, and Dean cracked jokes that got more outrageous every time she glanced in his direction.
He was cackling by the time they passed the librarian's desk and Charlotte suddenly recognized the laugh. It belonged to the boy who bussed tables at the North Dorm cafeteria. He used it every time one of his friends came by and made some smartass comment about him being a good wife. He was the boy that Maggie and Janey and Anna would all flirt with whenever he stopped next to their table with his plastic tub and wet towel while Charlotte balanced a book on the table and tried not to listen.
She lowered her head, braids falling forward while she laughed at another joke, and she couldn't help wishing that he'd tuck one behind her ear as they passed through the front doors.
The sun was warm on the back of her neck when Dean launched into a story about his baby brother that shouldn't have been as funny as it was and he led her towards the biggest car in the back parking lot.
Maybe her daddy was right after all.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The nachos were disgusting.
She glared at the soggy chip in her hand, covered in cold cheese and bending away from her fingers.
"You lied to me."
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." Charlotte shrugged her shoulders as she popped the chip into her mouth. "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," Dean retorted. "And wait until Chiquita the Angry Gorilla shows up. Then you'll recognize my true genius."
"You're bringing me back here when we're both old enough to order the Casarita." She smiled sweetly, watching his eyes go wide when they both realized what she had said. Dean grabbed his glass of water and swallowed. "By then, the mariachi band might not suck," Charlotte added.
Dean started laughing so hard that he couldn't stop snorting and he spit his water back into the glass just as the waitress brought their lunch. She frowned at both of them, setting a plate of tacos in front of Dean and offering the perfunctory warning about the sizzling cast iron plate for Charlotte's fajitas.
He started eating before Charlotte had sorted out where to put her plastic bowl of tortillas and the plate of garnishes.
And Dean Winchester could suck up food faster than a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Charlotte knew it wasn't polite to stare at him, her shoulders shaking while she covered her mouth with her hands and watched Dean inhale his lunch with the broken pieces of his taco shells. He didn't care about the sounds he made or the people looking in his direction.
She wished she could live like that.
He looked at her suddenly. "You don't hang out with a lot of guys, do you?"
"There was Chuck back in my Latin class." Even the roadies in her father's crew had better table manners than Dean. "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."
"I went to St. Francis' High School for Girls."
Another wide grin split his face and he leaned forward, licking his fingers. "Did you wear cute little plaid skirts to school every day?"
"Only someone who wasn't forced to wear plaid skirts every day for twelve years would ask that question," Charlotte retorted but it was impossible not to return his smile; the way his eyes lit up made her stomach tumble underneath her rib cage. "What about you?" she asked, picking up her glass of iced tea.
"Well, I liked to wear my plaid skirts in the spring," Dean said, timing it perfectly with her first swallow. Charlotte ducked her head, choking on her tea, and slammed the glass back down on the table with a crack that echoed through the dining room. She wanted to crawl under a rock when more people started watching them but Dean just grinned at her. "Gotcha," he added lightly.
"You prick!" She surprised herself by laughing, leaning back against the vinyl seat, and Dean's grin devolved into a chuckle of his own. "I was asking about school."
"Damn. Do I score points for being a cross-dresser?"
"Probably. As long as you don't dress like Mrs. Doubtfire," Charlotte shot back. She couldn't stop giggling, leaning her elbows on the table to keep from sliding off the seat. Her left elbow landed in her plate of guacamole, salsa and sour cream at the same time that her napkin slipped off of her lap. "Oh, shoot," she muttered, twisting to grab it.
Their eyes met as the plate fell in slow motion and landed upside down in her lap, the contents splattering everywhere underneath the table. Kids were laughing and pointing at her even after their parents told them to shush but the parents smiled like Charlotte Anne Webb was a walking circus clown. She had the multicolored clothes to prove it.
"Hey." Dean's voice was soft but his eyes looked wild. His right hand was clenched into a fist, shaking by his water glass.
"I've got guacamole on my thigh," she said, bending down to survey the damage, "And some sour cream." She couldn't blame Dean for being pissed; she spilled food all the time – Miles had even walked out on her on prom night after she accidentally splashed his tuxedo with olive oil, leaving her behind to pay the bill. "A lot of the salsa ended up on your shoe," Charlotte added, biting her lip.
"Yeah, I can see that," Dean said, staring fiercely at the kids one table over who were still laughing. He tapped his boot on the back of the booth, eyes softening when the salsa slid onto the floor. "Pretty easy to fix. What about you?"
"I look like a baby puked on my lap." Charlotte wiped the mess on her skirt as hard as she could, the paper napkin shredding in her hand. "And I think I need some new napkins," she said, setting the tattered pieces next to her glass of iced tea. He was watching her with a small smile and Charlotte cocked her head, trying to figure out why he wasn't leaving.
"So do you like clumsy girls, Dean Winchester?" she asked finally.
"I like clumsy girls just fine."
"Just wondering," Charlotte returned. "You really didn't have to buy me lunch." Dean's eyes slid down to her chest, a half-smile flickering across his face that made her grin and her heart start pounding like a jackrabbit at the same time. "I probably would have tripped in front of you anyway. I was a couple hours overdue on making a fool of myself."
"And I'm a couple of hours overdue on asking you to go to a movie with me."
His hand was so close to hers that Charlotte wanted to touch it but she wasn't that brave – not when the nicest boy she'd met in a long time was asking her to go out on a date. He was probably just being polite.
"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 of hours beginning at 6:00."
Charlotte nodded. " Midnight showing."
Dean looked down at his watch like he was trying to find one of the secrets of the universe and Charlotte started tracing the patterns on the wallpaper, waiting for him to change his mind.
"We've definitely got some time to go fix your skirt," Dean said. She whipped her head around so quickly that one of her braids smacked into her face. Dean laughed. "I mean, you have to take it off," he added. Her entire body was on fire all over again, the blush spreading out from her belly. He leaned towards her. "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?" It was a tiny whisper.
"Do I look like the kind of guy who eats crappy nachos just for kicks?"
Charlotte knew where it was leading and a small laugh bubbled out of her, arms automatically wrapping around her stomach because 'too fast' and 'too soon' rumbled through her ribcage, but his smile made her believe enough in Dean Winchester to close her eyes and jump.
"I've got a single." It came out more slowly than she wanted it to and her voice dipped low into her throat despite the hot flush roaring through her cheeks. "If you're serious," Charlotte added.
Dean was already waving at the waitress to get their check.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Pulling her keys out of her book bag would have been easier if Dean hadn't pinned her against the wall, a hand on either side of her head.
Charlotte wasn't about to stop kissing him long enough to actually look in the bag, her teeth clicking against his when she sighed into his mouth, but she rummaged blindly through the front pouch. Her fingers brushed against a sharp metallic edge and she dragged herself away from him long enough to unlock the door and stumble inside.
Dean's hands were already roaming down past her hips when she locked the door, pulling her close to him with stormy eyes that shot a spark down between her thighs. Charlotte took a ragged breath. The only thing keeping her secret was a scrap of fabric but she tugged at the zipper resolutely until her skirt fell to the floor.
The way he kissed made her blood sing, made her want to do every reckless thing she had ever dreamed, but she couldn't even look at Dean Winchester when she stepped out of the denim piled around her feet.
"Hey," he said. "This isn't going to work if you don't look at me."
"I think this was a mistake," Charlotte managed. "I've never done this before, Dean."
Dean moved behind her, his lips brushing against her ear. "I'll walk you through it," he whispered. "Might hurt a little the first time."
Being a virgin would have been a hell of a lot easier.
"No, Dean. I've had sex before…but never with someone I've just met." Charlotte steeled herself before pulling away from him and turning around. Her shirt barely skimmed her underwear and, even with her curtains closed, the room wasn't dark enough to hide her secret. "And never without fair warning," Charlotte added, seeing Dean's eyes go wide when they focused on the shiny scars that marred her thighs.
She expected him to say something but Dean just kissed her, pushing her slowly backwards until her legs hit the edge of her bed and she dropped onto the comforter. Charlotte trembled when Dean curled his hands around the hem of her shirt, lifting it slowly past her abdomen. She watched him, swallowing when the shirt stopped moving.
Dean was staring at the tangle of white scars looping across her belly like snakes, the skin around his eyes stretched tight as they flickered along the whorls.
"I'm kind of ugly," Charlotte said.
She wasn't able to answer until Dean brushed his fingers across the swell of her stomach.
"My parents split up when I was really little," she began. "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." Dean hadn't stopped touching her and she tried to smile. He smiled back, pretending that he couldn't see the tears standing in her eyes or feel her body tremble when his thumb rubbed a circle around what was left of her belly button. "You really interested in all of this?" Charlotte asked suddenly.
"Yeah." And he kept right on rubbing her belly. "But you're not ugly. It just…surprised me, is all."
Charlotte turned her head to the wall with a sharp breath, praying to any saint who would listen and begging them all to keep her from crying.
"Did it hurt?"
"I don't remember a lot of it." Just the way the hospital smelled and the sluggish flow in her brain whenever the morphine started pumping through her IV. She remembered every hard lump in her mattress and the way she hated the sound of her physical therapist's voice pushing and pushing with a 'one more time' or a 'show your daddy what you can do' whenever it hurt so much that Charlotte wanted to curl up into a ball. "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. He was leaning down, breath hot on her stomach, and Charlotte jumped when he licked down the length of one scar. "Cancer," he explained, sitting back up and gently tugging her shirt up over her head. "About six months after my baby brother was born."
"Is she okay?"
"Yeah." Dean's breath hitched when he said it, pushing her slowly backwards against the mattress. "In complete remission for years. Doctors think it was one of those freak things."
He stretched out on top of her and the only thing stronger than the urge to hide was the need to put her arms around his neck, holding on loosely while she kissed up his jaw line. Dean stiffened every time her mouth touched skin but she was no stranger to things that cut deep. "Are you still serious?" Charlotte asked, not even trying to hide the catch in her throat.
"Hell, yeah." One hand traced the scar on her arm before Dean started unhooking the front clasps on her bra and Charlotte's body took over, nipples straining against the lace whenever the underside of his hands brushed against them. He grinned, leaning down to suck on the nearest one through the thin fabric – nipping at it gently until she gasped and tangled her fingers into his hair.
"What is it with you girls and front loaders?" Dean demanded suddenly.
Charlotte giggled but he didn't wait for her answer, moving to her other breast. "I was hoping some hot guy would trip me in the library," Charlotte gasped, arching her back and holding on tight when Dean sucked harder. "So I wore my easy access underwear," she added. He was wearing too many goddamn clothes. Charlotte tugged his t-shirt up over his head, blushing when their eyes met. "You got a problem with that, Dean Winchester?"
"Not complaining. I like the easy access."
He unclasped the final hook, spreading the bra open while his mouth dipped down. Dean licked a line between her breasts, the rough skin of his palms only making her nipples harder, and her hands started moving on their own. They didn't stop until they found his jeans, slipping the button at his waist through the buttonhole before sliding her finger down the bulge pressing against his zipper. His moan made her hands work faster, hooking her fingers into his boxer shorts and inching them down past his hips right along with his pants.
He distracted her by pulling down her panties.
"Fuck," he said, one hand scrabbling into his pocket.
"Girls don't do it on command, you know."
Dean chuckled, but that didn't stop him from shaking his head like the joke was on him. "Don't suppose you've got a condom?"
"No." The stupid part of her brain had a mind of its own, the part that didn't care about being cautious or doing the right thing. Charlotte looped her arms around his neck, blood thrumming with 'him' and 'now' and not wanting to look back. "But I'm on the pill," she whispered in his ear.
"Oh." Dean looked down at her like she had hit him across the back of the head with a two by four. "Oh." His face screwed up suddenly. "You're not worried…"
"I'm healthy," Charlotte answered. "You healthy?"
"Yeah." He slipped open her thighs with his knees, as easy as breathing, and Charlotte sank back against the comforter. "But what if I'm lying?" His brow furrowed, eyes darkening as he looked down into hers. She laughed softly, resting her hands on his hips – but if Alma ever found out that Charlotte was taking the word of some boy she barely knew, she would chase Charlotte through the house with a frying pan. "I'm serious," Dean added.
"I've got a feeling you're pretty trustworthy."
"You do, huh?"
Her daddy would say that liars never cared enough to ask questions that counted for something. Before Charlotte could answer, Dean slipped inside her between one heartbeat and the next and the only thing that came out of Charlotte's mouth was a soft moan. She swelled around him, opening her thighs wide with a throb that sang 'deeper' and fingers that demanded more.
He could probably tell just by the way she flailed against him that Charlotte Anne Webb had only slept with one person in high school. There was nothing sexy about a scarred chick with most of her clothes off and she was so clumsy that she was seconds away from splitting open Dean Winchester's lower lip with her bony forehead.
Even lying down, she was still a klutz.
"It's okay," he whispered.
And it was.
He stretched her slowly, kissing her breathless like nothing else mattered but the way she tasted, and her body started curling into the curves instead of fighting the way her belly slapped against his. Dean plucked tiny little moans from her whenever her hips bucked, his breath a tattered counterpoint to the smack of the headboard against the wall and the rush in her veins every time his nails grazed down her arms. She was falling in slow pulls, meeting him push for push and picking up speed with every scratch – blown apart at the seams with a 'Dean' and a spasm and the look in his eyes.
His entire body jerked when he thrust up inside her, coming with a burning rush and a roar that might have been her name. He started catching every noise she made with his mouth, pulse fluttering against hers while she trembled around him, and there was nothing between them but sweat and goose bumps. The breeze swirling outside her window opened the curtains just enough for sunshine to shimmer across his shoulders.
Dean chuckled and Charlotte brushed her hand down his cheek with a little smile. "See? It's a lot better when you're not in the back of your crap car."
"She's not a crap car," Dean retorted but his arms tightened around her. "And you're just lucky I think you're fucking cute, because usually insulting my car puts you on my bad side."
Charlotte's eyes widened – he hadn't said 'ugly' and he hadn't said 'gross' and he didn't look away like Charlotte was one huge mistake, even when she was laying there with her underwear hanging around her knees and a stupid grin flickering around the corners of her mouth because Dean Winchester thought she was fucking cute. She pulled his mouth down to hers and kissed him, trembling all over again when he sighed into her with something bigger than a promise.
She decided that he could trick her into eating disgusting nachos any time he wanted to as long as he always kissed her back.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Charlotte grew up listening to songs filled with kismet, verses overflowing with sex and need and fear pounded out to screeching guitar riffs and the backbeat of drums that declared war against the bass line.
She never understood what those songs meant until Dean Winchester laid her bare, using his mouth and his fingers and the way he whispered her name every time she shivered. Something in his eyes cracked when their eyes met and Dean sat up, looking as lost as she felt. They were barreling towards a crossroads, two kids in one of her daddy's songs running as hard as they could because the second time always meant more than the first.
The second time was when you took a chance, finding something you never knew was missing or making the mistake you could never take back, and it swallowed you whole no matter what happened – two sides of the same coin and all you could do was watch and wait for heads or tails.
"I'm scared, too," she whispered, sitting up to kiss him on the shoulder.
Dean twisted to look at her, eyes going wide, but he didn't resist when she put her arms around his neck and drew him backwards.
Charlotte's mouth opened up underneath his when he bunched his hands into her pillow and suddenly all that mattered was the way he rammed hard inside of her, hard and slow and fast, and his name was coming out over and over like her very own prayer. Her heels slid into the backs of his knees, hips rocking and everything, God, everything she was poured out of her with a scream and a roll of her hips – and, fuck, she was popping like a bottle rocket and he was howling her name and all she could do was hold onto his shoulders until his arms wrapped around her.
Charlotte listened to him breathe, an entire night of studying Latin pulling her down into something warm and heavy.
She woke up when light coalesced underneath her eyelashes, sitting up slowly and blinking at Dean while she adjusted to the glare from her desk lamp. He was still there smiling back at her, all rumpled hair and warm skin. "Hey," she said, rubbing her hand across his chest. It was slick to the touch.
She had drooled all over him while they were sleeping. "Oh God, I'm sorry!" Charlotte grabbed the edge of her comforter, wiping off his chest as quickly as she could.
"Girls drool on me all the time," Dean said lightly. "Hazard of being so goddamn handsome."
"I drool on my pillow all the time." The words fell out of her mouth before Charlotte could stop them, her face screwing up as she waited for him to laugh. "And in case you wondered, it's true," she murmured. "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." Dean grinned, tugging on one of her braids, before looking up at her picture wall; black and white photographs of her cousins and two friends from high school, along with the obligatory family shot. "You sure got a lot of pictures of real people. Back in my room, it's mostly centerfolds and stuff."
She sure as hell couldn't figure out why a beautiful boy who covered his walls in centerfolds would spend the afternoon screwing a clumsy girl who drooled on his chest.
"Yeah. My roomie's a real macho perv." He scratched underneath his ear when Charlotte raised her eyebrows, as nervous a gesture as her blushing, and poked her in the arm. "And you're not one to talk." Dean pointed at the most recent picture she had taken, snapped near the porch swing before her daddy left for his summer tour. "You've got a picture of yourself with the leader singer of Charlotte's We…" His eyes narrowed.
So he named you after the band?
"That's where my father's unique sense of humor kicks in," Charlotte said. She grimaced. "He named the band after me."
"Holy shit!" Questions flickered across his face, variations of the ones that Charlotte had been asked all her life. She lowered her eyes. "That must really suck," Dean observed 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 freaking blows."
He looked like he wanted to crawl underneath her comforter when Charlotte started laughing. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed Dean soundly on the cheek. "Do you like Thai?" she asked. "I thought we could go out for dinner before the movie. My treat."
"Uh…" Dean looked away and scratched his neck. "Never had it."
No one could be that itchy without a serious case of psoriasis. He probably thought she was trying to pay him back for the crappy nachos.
"Don't mind trying it, though." Dean grinned at her, cocky and defiant and drinking her in like she wasn't the clumsy girl who tripped over his feet. Miles never really looked at her, even during sex, but Dean Winchester could make a girl blush just by saying 'yes' to Thai food. "Don't mind at all," he added. Dean put one hand on her arm. "But I'm paying for the movie."
"And I'll buy the snacks," Charlotte said. "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 Cheez Whiz and crackers. That's Winchester soul food." He snorted. "You're a chick after my own heart."
Dean didn't blush – he didn't even scratch himself – but she recognized the way his jaw clenched, wishing he could force the words back inside. Charlotte cocked her head with a small smile. "Cheez Whiz should be its own food group," she said, leaning forward to brush her lips against his.
Dean's hands squeezed her shoulders, holding her tight against him. Her fingers were already in his hair, tongue darting into his mouth while he drew his nails slowly down her arms.
They would never make it to the movie if she kept kissing him.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
When Charlotte's alarm went off on Monday morning, Dean was gone.
He hadn't left anything behind, like a sock or a note or the t-shirt that he wore underneath his long-sleeved shirt – nothing that he could use as an excuse to come back. There wasn't even a dent in the pillow where he had slept, the scent of him missing from the soft cotton. Charlotte wouldn't have known he had been there at all if it wasn't for the scratches on her back and the way Dean had pulled the comforter off of the bed.
It was time to wake up.
The bathroom was empty so she didn't have to wait for one of the showers. Charlotte rested her forehead against the tiles and wrapped her arms around her stomach, letting the hot water pour over her back until it turned cold. She had never expected him to stay – one perfect weekend wasn't a promise, washed away in a frozen spray that swirled down the drain.
Even the sun on her skin as she walked to the cafeteria couldn't melt the icy fingers in her belly.
She found Jimmy and Maggie at their regular table, sharing a grapefruit.
They started laughing when Charlotte pulled a highlighter out of her book bag and began marking up her paper outline between sips of orange juice. Jimmy cracked the first joke and Charlotte pasted a smile on her face when Maggie pretended to be shocked that Charlotte hadn't finished her rough draft, especially after she had missed Jimmy spinning at Alfie's the night before.
Charlotte wasn't about to tell them that Dean was feeding her cold pot stickers dipped in a spicy sauce that he deliberately kept dripping on her so that he could lick it off.
She wasn't about to tell them anything, deflecting their questions until Jimmy left for his Economics class and Maggie decided to walk with him as far as the sports center. She waved as they left, choking on her orange juice when a plastic tray slammed down on the table.
Dean Winchester slid into the chair across from her, leaning forward to pull off a piece of her toast. He popped it into his mouth, sucking the strawberry jam off of his fingers. "Morning, Charlotte," he said, stretching her name into a drawl that had her squirming.
What are you doing here?
"Good morning," Charlotte said. He stared back as if nothing had changed, an expectant smile flickering across his face. She swallowed. "What are you doing…after dinner?"
"I'm going to the library with you."
"And since I don't have to get up at the ass crack of dawn to wash dishes, I'm going to figure out how many different noises you can make before your alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning." Dean grinned, snatching a piece of sausage from her plate. "Hearing you scream my name sure beats listening to you snore."
"I do not snore." Charlotte leaned down to pull her organizer out of her book bag, hoping he didn't see her cheeks turn bright red.
She had only screamed his name once.
"You sure as hell do," Dean shot back. He chewed on her sausage, watching her write 'library with Dean' on the calendar. "You might as well write down 'dinner with Dean' right before that. I'm pretty sure we'll both remember 'sex with Dean' but go ahead and write that down, too. Just in case."
"You're just lucky I think you're really cute, Dean Winchester, because usually making fun of my schedule puts you on my bad side."
Charlotte glared at him over the edges of her glasses, which only made Dean laugh harder. She managed to get his whole schedule for the week, filling in the calendar with his classes and his kick-boxing practices and his work study shifts. His cackle reverberated through the entire dining room, telling anyone within a ten-foot radius that Charlotte Webb was pretty damn sure of herself if she was using a pen to write him into her schedule before winking at her and grabbing another piece of sausage.
But Dean was waiting for her after psychology class. He poked Charlotte on the arm, telling her that she had forgotten about lunch. When Charlotte turned around to poke him right back, he leaned down and kissed her.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dean Winchester was not part of her plan.
The plan was Alma's fault, choosing Charlotte the summer that she turned ten.
Charlotte had wanted to spend the summer reading The Chronicles of Narnia but Alma had volunteered them both to work at a homeless shelter. Charlotte worked in the food kitchen, doing easy things like making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Alma would flash a proud smile whenever she ate lunch with the shelter kids.
She loved eating with them – they didn't expect Charlotte to say much but they didn't look at the scars on her arm any more than they looked at their own cuts and bruises.
And they told stories.
She would nibble the edges off of her Ding Dong while she listened, caught up in the war between Heaven and Hell – the secret myths passed down from shelter to shelter, where God had abandoned the world and where angels fought a losing battle against Satan.
In their world, the Devil walked the earth in the skin of a man and the Virgin Mary cried bloody tears in mirrors and killed any child who called her name three times. The stories were full of angels that danced in neon lights and there was a Blue Lady who taught a song that protected them from the dark, the only thing that could hide a child from Bloody Mary and the demons who tried to keep their souls from finding the angels' encampment.
Those kids believed that when they died it was their duty to find the angels and join the fight against Satan. God might have abandoned the world but that wasn't important, not when they could fight at the angels' side using nothing but the lives they had lost.
They were heroes, willing to fight in death for a cause they would never win, and all they got in return were black eyes and broken bones from their parents and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by strangers.
Charlotte swore that she would do something to help them when she grew up.
Even her daddy had laughed at the idea of a girl who hated talking to people becoming a social worker but he signed the check for her first semester's tuition at Georgetown all the same.
Dean didn't laugh when she told him the story, a whisper in the dark that Charlotte murmured into the curve of his neck. Secrets always slipped out when they were tangled up in her sheets, her palm on his chest while his heart beat underneath her fingertips.
Dean's secret was kept locked underneath a cocky grin and a swagger – a twelve year old boy named Sam, beaten into a coma the summer that Dean was sixteen.
There wasn't much to do but hold on tight, ignoring the ache in her arms when Sam's body was falling because some bastard had nearly killed Dean Winchester's baby brother in a parking lot. She would never let go, not when Dean's voice was a crack in the dark – a sharp-edged whisper about the red haze in his eyes right before he pulled the kid off Sam and slammed him into the ground.
No one hurt a Winchester without paying for it and Alex Masters was no exception, ending up in the same hospital as Sam.
Dean ended up doing community service. He would have gone to jail if the kid hadn't confessed that Sam was just laying there, bleeding onto the asphalt, before Dean barreled into him.
His payment came from the court-appointed psychologist who said Dean had a 'violent streak' and forced him into anger management classes. After one paragraph in a court record, Dean Winchester became branded as the boy who put a kid into the hospital with his bare hands – a bad boy in his leather jacket. Only one person besides his parents believed in him, a school counselor named Jim Murphy who helped Dean get the scholarships he needed at a university where no one would ever know what had happened back in Lawrence, Kansas.
Georgetown was Dean's second chance.
Charlotte Anne Webb wasn't a part of his plan, either.
But that never kept her from waking him up on Sunday mornings, scratching circles on his belly while she sang to him. Dean's face would scrunch up and he would make a crack about her caterwauling loud enough to scare ghosts. He would wake her up on Saturday mornings, hands holding her thighs open while his mouth dipped down between them. Charlotte would blush and she would whisper things that made his eyes shine.
They went to bad martial arts movie marathons and stuffed themselves on greasy pizza, meeting up with Jimmy and Maggie and Bobby for breakfast and walking to class together when they were done. She watched him spar in the sports center, all power and grace and the catch in her throat when she realized all over again what Dean Winchester would do to protect someone he loved. He would kiss her hard and push her out onto the dance floor, his laugh louder than the music when she started whirling underneath the tacky disco ball, and he always picked her up when she fell.
And they made promises when the dark had a rhythm of its own, a shared vocabulary of lips and fingers and flushed skin – the codex of two bodies without any secrets.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thanksgiving snuck up on them, between her application for a summer internship program and Dean's anthropology term paper.
They both had flights back home on Wednesday. Charlotte didn't want to move when they said goodbye, clutching the collar of his leather jacket while they stood in the middle of Dulles' east terminal. She memorized the smell of his hair, whispering that she would call him every night and murmuring that she would have a surprise waiting for him when they both got back.
As she watched the back of his head disappear into the crowd, Charlotte promised herself that she would never let a holiday go by again without bringing it up before it was too late to do something about it.
A car was waiting for her back in Savannah, along with Uncle Jacob and all of her cousins. Alma was waiting on the porch when the car pulled up to the house, standing next to her daddy, and both of them smiled when Charlotte tumbled out of the car and started running. They met her halfway up the steps, the smell of Alma's chocolate chip cookies wafting out the screen door as she hugged them.
But she already missed Dean.
Charlotte made herself wait three hours after Thanksgiving dinner before she excused herself from football and turkey sandwiches, sneaking a piece of chocolate pie out of the kitchen, and headed upstairs to her room. She ate the pie slowly, working out what she would say when someone answered the phone, and sucked in a breath while she dialed Dean's number.
The phone rang three times before a soft voice said, "Hello?"
"May I, uh..." Charlotte shook her head sharply. So much for rehearsing it. "May I speak with Dean, please?"
"I'll ask him." The boy's voice cracked at the end, dipping down into a lower register, and something muffled the noise on the other end of the line. Charlotte remembered Sam's shy smile and shaggy hair from a picture that Dean had shown her and it didn't take much to imagine Sam holding his hands over the mouthpiece. "Dean, there's a girl on the phone for you!" The faraway rumble in the background must have been Dean because Sam sighed. "I'm not telling some chick you're hitting the can," he bellowed. "That's gross!"
Sam Winchester sounded just like the little brother Charlotte had always wanted.
He coughed and spoke directly into the phone. "My brother is indisposed at the moment."
"I can wait," Charlotte answered.
"Okay…" Sam drew out the word with another resigned sigh. "I'll let him know." Whatever he was using to cover up the mouthpiece wasn't working the way Sam thought it would but Charlotte didn't have the heart to tell him that she could hear everything he said, not when he was trying so hard to be polite to her. "She's not buying your stupid bathroom story," Sam yelled. "And I'm so not telling her that you're taking a dump. Don't even – " There was a thump. "Screw you, De – "
"Son of a bitch!" Dean was suddenly roaring into the phone. "Amy, are you deaf or something? I already told you three times that we're not going out tomorrow and we're not going out on Saturday. We're not doing anything together. Ever. Just deal with it and stop fucking calling me! You got that?"
"I got that." She grinned. "Lucky for me, I'm not Amy."
"Oh, shit. Charlotte?"
"I'm not interrupting anything, am I? I wouldn't want to keep you from hitting the can." Charlotte tried to say it with a straight face but she ended laughing so hard that she almost dropped the phone. "You should be ashamed of yourself," she added, curling around her pillow. "Making your baby brother run interference for you with a stupid bathroom story."
"Yeah, well…" Dean's voice trailed off. He was probably scratching underneath his left ear. He took a deep breath. "You alone?" he asked, pitching his voice so low that they were back in her dorm room and he was looking up at her from between her thighs.
"I'm sharing my room with my cousin Maisey."
"Damn. So you're going to make me have a boring conversation." He snorted. "Am I the only one who thinks the Macy's parade sucks? I mean, we all know how it's going to end every year."
"We could talk about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."
"Hell, no. That would just make you want to sing the goddamn song about being truly scrumptious and I'd have to find a window to open so I could hold the phone as far away as possible to keep my ears from bleeding. You'd be killing cats all over Kansas."
Charlotte was still laughing when Maisey came to bed. She excused herself long enough to drag the hallway phone into the nearest bathroom and it was almost four in the morning when she tripped back into her room, stubbing her toe on the door with a little 'crap' that made Maisey giggle. Charlotte limped to the bed, slipping into her pajamas and curling up onto her side underneath the sheets.
Maisey poked Charlotte's shin with her toe and asked her if the boy from the bathroom was cute. Both of them giggled when Charlotte told her that Dean Winchester was fucking cute.
She left home on Sunday morning when it was still dark, waiting until the last moment to say goodbye to her daddy. He whispered 'stay happy' into her hair and he was already waving goodbye as Charlotte walked to the car. She tried to make small talk with the driver but he looked about as thrilled to be driving back-country roads as she was to be alone with a stranger, so Charlotte pulled Pride and Prejudice out of her book bag and let them both have some peace.
When she got back to the dorm, Maggie was waiting for her with a slinky green dress, a garter belt and a pair of high heels. Charlotte thought she looked like an idiot, with her hair curled and more makeup on her face than she had worn in four years of high school. She had even let Maggie pluck her eyebrows and put red nail polish on her fingers, drawing the line when Maggie wanted to bring in some of the boys on their floor to tell Charlotte how she looked.
Charlotte had other things to worry about, going over the lyrics in her head just to make certain she remembered them while Maggie kept making last-minute additions to her handiwork. After Maggie left, Charlotte practiced the dance to the point where she could get to the second verse without falling down.
The look on Dean's face when he stepped into the room was worth Maggie's ruthless abandon with her tweezers.
Charlotte pushed him towards the bed, locking the door and staring at him over her shoulder. She expected him to laugh when she started singing in a breathy voice, sounding more like Mickey Mouse than Marilyn Monroe, but all he did was watch. Charlotte shimmied her hips when she started the chorus, slipping one of the straps off her shoulder with an 'I touch myself,' and caught her heel on the floor rug.
She fell right into his lap, turning as red as the polish on her nails – but it didn't matter, not with Dean murmuring 'you're keeping on the shoes' before he started sliding the second strap down her shoulder.
The title of this story is a song lyric from "I Have the Touch" by Peter Gabriel. A more detailed analysis of this choice will be included in the final author's notes for the story.
Georgetown, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't actually have a Social Work graduate program but…given that Casa Bonita (complete with its cliff divers and Chiquita the Angry Gorilla) is actually in Denver, I think I can be forgiven for adding a Social Work program to Georgetown.
The stories that I allude to in Charlotte's flashback to working at the homeless shelter are based on the ones in the Myths Over Miami article. The stories themselves are absolutely fascinating to me and I go back and read the article at least once a year.
Ellie Jenkins, for the curious, was a character I created based on the kids I read about in the article.
For those non-Americans, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ends with Santa Claus on his sleigh. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, likewise, is often shown on TV during Thanksgiving weekend.
The song Charlotte uses in her attempted striptease is "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls.