Author's note: Just a bit of brotherly happy and a break from the unrelenting angst, as promised especially for mb64, with some extra happy thrown in for BlueStrawberryIII.
"Blonde… or redhead?"
Sam shot his brother a pained look. "Dean, no. I'm not doing this. They're people, not categories."
"It's a fair question, Sam!" He pointed with the neck of his beer bottle toward the door, and Sam reluctantly followed his gaze to a group of girls in close-fitting attire leaning together around a table near the bar. "As a male of the species, you have certain innate preferences. There's no shame in knowing what you like." He eyed Sam suspiciously. "You are a male of the species, right?"
"You mean to tell me you can't take one look at that group of girls back there and tell me immediately which one you'd want to spend some quality time with."
"Honestly? No. And you're disgusting."
"Oh, I'm disgusting. And that's why I'm always the one getting all the action."
"The fact that you call it action is disgusting."
"You're adorable." Dean glanced back at the table of girls and flashed a smile. Then he turned back to Sam and said in a low voice, "Just between us, Sammy, when I say action, I mean fucking."
Sam made a face.
"When I wave you over, bring the dimples, capiche?"
"Dean!" he threatened.
It was too late. Dean had already picked up his beer and was making his way toward the table of girls, swagger and charm securely in place. Sam gritted his teeth and wished there was some way to disappear out the back without getting his ass handed to him later.
He hated the wingman act. Granted he was usually the one Dean begged and cajoled into starting the conversation, tasked with breaking the ice and introducing his brother to whatever girl Dean had pre-selected as his mark. It wore on him. It wasn't Sam's thing. Sam dated, he fell in love. And that, he'd done carefully and only a handful of times. Sam didn't just fuck.
Dean was different. This was Dean's way of losing himself, in brief flashes of intimacy dulled at the edges by drink and anonymity, hands and mouths and smiles and softness eager to let him be whomever he needed to be without demands or expectations. It healed the broken parts of him, it gave back what the job took. As much as he kept his distance from the world and held it away from himself at arm's length, Dean needed touch. He needed it like air.
Sam watched his brother lean against the table, his hip grazing the body of the blonde beside him so easily that it was almost intoxicating. He'd be lying if he said he didn't envy the way Dean handled himself. Next to Dean, he still felt so stilted and awkward, like the lanky teenager he'd probably never grow out of being. Maybe that was why he retreated from this kind of thing altogether instead of embracing it the way Dean did.
There were four girls at the table, all of them pretty in different ways, all of them smiling and listening with rapt attention to whatever Dean was telling them. He leaned close to the girl with long, dark hair and said something just to her. She looked toward Sam, her brown eyes wide, a smile spreading over her deeply tanned skin and making her cheekbones pop. She was stunning. Sam looked down, feeling a flush creep into his cheeks. He didn't want this. He wanted Dean to leave him out of this.
But Dean was calling his name, gesturing with his whole arm to come over, and Sam pushed back his chair and walked over, trying to exude a certainty he didn't feel.
Dean brought his arm around the blonde beside him. "This is Candy—"
She elbowed him, laughing. "Sandy!"
It was clearly already a joke between them. Sam tried to look interested.
Dean gestured to each of the others, introducing them to Sam. He lingered on the brunette, meeting Sam's eyes. "Isabel," he said, and a look passed between them. You like? Dean said without words. I don't want to do this, I told you, Sam replied in kind. Dean gave him the slightest of eye rolls.
"Anna and Shelley are gonna call it a night," Dean went on, his arm nestled possessively around Candy-Sandy's waist. "So if you're all right with keeping Isabel here company, I've promised Sandy a ride in the Impala."
Sam smirked. He had no doubt.
"Absolutely," he said, trying to keep the monotone out of his voice. "You guys have fun."
"Isabel has a car, so…" Dean added.
"Right," Sam said. Their hotel was across the street. The room was his for the night. He got it. Christ, Dean might as well be telling him to hang a sock on the doorknob.
Dean gave Sam's shoulder a squeeze and headed out.
Isabel leaned across the table and raised her eyebrows at him. "Hey. You okay?"
Sam inhaled and forced a smile. "Yeah. Look. I probably need to be honest with you."
"Your brother already told me. Sam, right?"
"What do you mean, already told you. Told you what?" Sam's stomach clenched, spinning out a hundred different horrifying fictions that Dean might spun to explain his lack of interest in sex, if that's what she even meant. Knowing Dean, he could have told her anything.
She surprised him by reaching out and taking his hand in hers. "About hunting."
"What?" It was literally the last thing he'd expected, and he drew his hand back in shock. "I'm sorry… but. He told you what?"
She looked a little put off by his reaction. "Just that… you guys just got back from a hunting trip. And that it's been hard on you. Because you don't really like hunting, but you do it for him."
"Oh. Wait, Dean said that?" Sam felt his pulse coming back down to normal even as he tried to wrap his brain around the fact that he was openly discussing what they did with a perfect stranger.
"What do you hunt?"
Monsters, Sam thought. Instead he said, "Anything that threatens people." Even that much felt good to say out loud.
"It sounds dangerous."
Sam looked down, biting back the urge to admit how much it tore him up every time something threw Dean across a room or drove something sharp into him. He gave her a kind smile. "This is nice of you, really, but you don't have to stay. I'm sure this isn't what you signed up for tonight. "
"Really? What is it you think I signed up for?"
She clasped her hands coyly under her chin, and Sam saw the glimmer of an engagement ring on her finger. She saw him notice and smiled, holding the finger up between them. "Afghanistan," she said. "Deployed two months ago."
"You must miss him," Sam said.
"So what are you doing here with me?"
She shrugged and smiled. "I'm a good listener."
Sam woke the next morning to sunlight, Dean, and Styrofoam cups of gas station coffee. "There's donuts," he said, holding out a cup as Sam ran a groggy hand through his hair. "But I'm not sure how old they are."
"Did you try one?"
"What, are you insane? They're donuts. The first thing I did was put one in my mouth."
"And you mean you still can't tell…?" Sam smiled and shook his head, taking the cup of coffee gratefully and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. "Did you just get in?"
"While ago. Soon as you're showered I figure we can head out."
Sam nodded, his hands cupped around the warmth of the coffee, watching Dean move around the room picking up stray clothes to shove into their duffle. He was glad to see Dean at ease again, a renewed calm settled back into place with last night's tightly coiled spring of energy spent. He had clearly let go of whatever needed letting go.
And so had Sam. He realized with a start that he was feeling the same sense of calm he saw in Dean.
"You actually meant quality time," Sam said, the realization dawning on him all at once.
"Quality time. You knew I wasn't in it to get laid last night. That's why you introduced me to Isabel, not the single girls. You wanted me to talk."
Dean grinned at him and took a drink of his coffee.
"Definition of a good wingman, Sammy. Always got your back."