There are few things worse than getting up at 6am after four hours of sleep. At least, this is the thought that swims into Dean Winchester’s brain as his alarm clock excitedly begins to blare, jolting him out of a dream he was thoroughly enjoying – something about soft skin and the warm sweet tang of homemade apple pie.
He sighs and peels open his lids, sticky with sleep dust as he rolls over to slam a weary hand down on the clock, and stop Kansas from trying to persuade him he can ‘lay his head to rest’. Really, it’s a poor choice for an alarm, he thinks idly, swinging his legs out of bed, and wincing as his joints pop.
It’s not even like he has anything motivating him on this dreary Friday stretching ahead, just arduous and achingly dull work at the garage till five, then a shift over at the Roadhouse till god knows when. Thing is, he’s trying to make a good impression on the owner, Ellen, because he’s determined that she let him advertise his Event Planning business there. Not that he’s holding out much hope for that particular pipe dream right now, given the severe lack of clients and profit he’s getting out of it. He’s good at Event Planning though he knows, damn good, and so he’s not going to give up just yet – he can’t help but feel like if Ellen would just give him a shot, maybe even let him advertise the Roadhouse as a venue for his events, he could actually make something of it. So yeah, he’ll be serving beers and clearing tables tonight until Ellen physically pushes him out of the door. He has to give the impression of a dedicated worker.
His phone sings noisily at him as he spits the last of his toothpaste into the sink, and he jogs back out into the bedroom to grab it before it stops ringing. One glance at the caller ID has him smiling like a lunatic and he answers immediately, tucking the cell between his shoulder and his ear as he goes to hunt for a clean t-shirt.
“Sammy!” Dean exclaims into the phone before the caller can spit any words out. “In’t this a little early for you? Even you power-suit lawyers gotta get your beauty sleep y’know. What’s Jess gonna say if you wake up one morning and you’ve aged fifty years in one night?”
“Shut up, jerk.” Sam says frostily, but Dean can hear the smile in his voice. “And don’t call me Sammy, it’s embarrassing.”
Dean chuckles, finding a t-shirt at the bottom of his drawer and taking a moment to pull it over his head. He hears muffled voices when he brings the phone back to his ear, and then suddenly a clear, tinkling laugh erupts down the line.
“Sorry Dean, I think I’d still love your little brother, Benjamin Button curse or not.” Dean smiles at the familiar teasing beauty of Jess’s voice in his ears. She really is great, he thinks. Probably the only person he’d be comfortable seeing stand beside Sam at the altar in a week or so. “Though I’m not cleaning your false teeth, Sam. There is a line.”
Dean hears a disgruntled, “No fair!” in his little brother’s most petulant tone, and then lots of muttering and wet kissing noises.
“Woah, woah!” Dean cries, holding the phone out at arm’s length and taking the opportunity to pull on his work jeans, “If I’d wanted this kind of call I’d have dialled Mistress Magda!”
“Sorry, Dean.” Sam says, sounding very happy and a little breathless. “I know you’ve got work now, that’s why I’m calling so early. I just wanted to ask when you’re coming down? My bachelor party is two days before the ceremony as you know, and… well I’d just like it if you got here as soon as possible.”
Dean’s forehead wrinkles as he strides out into his cramped, moss-green kitchen, hunting for his keys and jacket. “Why’s that?”
“…I just miss you. Duh.”
Dean smiles at Sam’s words; they are touching, yes, but Dean knows his brother well, and right now he smells bullshit. “Sam?”
“…Okay, well, promise not to get mad…”
Dean braces himself for the worst, leaning against one of his cheap pretend-wooden countertops. “Spill.”
“Dad’s been really bad lately. Way worse than usual. Usual I can handle – but now it’s like he’s back to square one! He’s moody and aggressive - even with Jess!”
Sam’s words are like pins threading themselves into Dean’s heart one by one. His Dad’s drinking has been at the root of every problem he or Sam have ever faced. He managed to convince himself that their father would restrain himself for Sammy’s big day, but apparently that’s not the case. Dean will be damned if he lets John ruin his baby brother’s wedding day with his reckless behaviour, like he’s already ruined so much else. He forces himself to keep listening nonetheless, gripping the countertop tightly with his free hand.
“I think it’s cause she maybe… reminds him of Mom a bit? I mean, obviously I’m just guessing here, but… anyway, I just- I’m at my wits end, Dean. I’m worried he’s going to ruin everything. I can’t do that to Jess, she’s so excited…”
“Woah, woah.” Dean says, holding up his hand to silence Sam, as though his little brother could see him from all the way in Lawrence. “Look, don’t worry about it, okay? I’ll come down soon, I swear, I just gotta…” Dean sighs heavily, thinking of what will await him when he gets back home, his eyes fluttering closed, “…I gotta sort it out at work. But listen, you know Dad; the guy can’t get enough of wailing on me about every stupid little failure in my life. Once I’m there, he won’t even have time to be rude to any of the other guests.”
Dean means it as a joke, but the silent crackle on the other end of the line is an immediate indication that Sam is now worrying about Dean too.
“Sammy, I want you to stop worrying okay?” Dean says urgently, willing his brother to take the advice. “You know what they say about anxiety bringing on premature menopause?”
There’s a pause, and then – “You’re such a jerk.”
Dean smiles when he hears Sam’s mildly relieved chuckle. “Okay, Dean. We can just… once we’re both here I’m sure it’ll be a hell of a lot easier.” He says, and Dean grimaces, thinking that as much as he wants to see Sam, dealing with John Winchester has never been anywhere near easy. “Oh, and I do miss you, by the way.”
Dean smiles, mentally punching himself for getting so gooey over that ridiculously cheesy statement. “Yeah, yeah, you big girl. Miss you too.”
“Sooo… you gotta rush off to work? Or is there still time for me to probe you for information about your plus-one?” Sam quickly asks, feigning really bad nonchalance.
Dean rolls his eyes and pushes off the counter, casting a forlorn glance towards the cereal cupboard before pulling on his shoes, grabbing his jacket, and heading out the door without breakfast. “I’m not bringing a plus-one Sam, we’ve been through this.” Dean laughs, and he hears an irritated sigh from the other end of the phone.
“Yeah, but I thought you were joking.” Sam says, and he sounds genuinely bewildered. Dean laughs again. “I mean it’s you, Dean. Why the hell aren’t you bringing someone?”
“I’m just not interested in anyone right now.” Dean replies, locking his door and taking the stairs down to the lobby two at a time. If his tone is a bit curt, well it’s only Sam – Dean’s not worried about him taking it to heart.
There’s a long pause, and for a moment, Dean wonders if the line has gone dead. He nods to Kevin – the kid who lives in the apartment below him – as he passes him in the lobby, before striding out the door of the building, grinning at the poor guy when he notices his Mom running after him, a few extra textbooks in her hand, as if he wasn’t already loaded down with enough.
“Sam? You still there?”
Dean hisses a little as he steps out into the frosty morning air; it’s much colder than it was yesterday. He wishes he’d thought to bring some gloves.
“…Dean, is this because you don’t want everyone to know about you… liking guys?”
Dean stops dead in his tracks, almost dropping the phone. Unfortunately, he is in the middle of a busy street, and he only narrowly avoids an oncoming bus, jumping to the safety of the sidewalk just in time.
“Dean, what was that?!” Sam cries, having heard the bus’s blaring horn and several other drivers angrily shouting obscenities. “Are you okay?”
“Sam, what the hell are you talking about?” Dean grits out, continuing his march towards the car, parked a few streets away because living in the city is a bitch. He’s steadfastly ignoring the newly found blush staining his cheeks. He hears Sam let out a sigh and wraps his jacket tighter round himself to block out the cold.
“Dean, look it’s okay!” Dean makes a sort of yelping scoff-noise, alerting several suit-clad passers-by. He can’t quite believe this is happening to him. Especially right now. “I don’t care at all! Actually, I think it’s great. I kinda suspected a bit… y’know, with the whole ‘Dr Sexy M.D’ obsession… and that time I caught you in your room with that picture of a guy in an army uniform-”
“Okay, Sam! Jeez!” Dean practically yells, and he’s at his car now, so he ducks quickly into the sanctuary of the Impala, cutting himself off from the world, her sweet leathery smell never failing to put him right at ease. “How did you even…?”
Dean trails off, leaning forwards until his forehead is pressed against the icy metal of the steering wheel. “Oh, actually Jo confirmed it for me. She didn’t mean to or anything, so don’t have a go at her, I was just asking about you, and… she said you weren’t seeing anyone but that you were flirting a little with this guy that comes in to the Roadhouse now and again.”
Dean thinks about the ‘guy that comes in now and again’ - his name is Benny. In reality he’s not Dean’s type at all, but he’ll take what he can get. It’s not like attractive single gay guys are a common occurrence in his everyday life. Plus, the guy is kinda hot in a beefy, ‘bear’ kind of way.
“This is… this is not good.” Dean says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. The car feels the same as it always has, which is comforting, but Dean’s world is closing in on him. Sam knows? Does that mean Jess knows? Probably, he reasons. Those two are like a two-headed beast – you can’t tell one something and expect the other not to immediately know about it.
Dean’s finding it difficult to breathe. He’s been comfortable with his sexuality for years, but that’s around friends. Not Sam, or… other family, God no. He shudders at the very idea. When he’s with his family he has a specific role to play, always has done. He has to be strong-Dean, player-Dean, the bordering-on-womaniser, the loveable rebel. He has no idea how to act around them now. This wedding is going to be a nightmare, he thinks.
“What?” Sam is asking, shocking Dean out of his miserable inner spiral. “It isn’t?! Dean, don’t worry, oh God, have I done something terrible?” Sam sounds genuinely distraught, and Dean wants to comfort him, but he can’t help feeling like Sam knowing this is a really huge mistake. “Dean, look I won’t tell anyone, okay? Not if you don’t want me to. I mean, I told Jess… but she won’t tell either I swear! You don’t have to bring anyone. God, Dean I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, I just want you to be happy! I want to see you as happy as I am – I’m sorry, I didn’t know you wouldn’t want me to find out-”
“Woah, hold on!” Dean interrupts before Sam can give himself a brain haemorrhage. “…You really don’t care? I mean, you don’t… think of me any different?”
Sam pauses, as if trying to determine if this is a trick question. “…No. Of course not. Why would I? It’s just guys instead of girls. Hell, maybe one day I can get a new brother in law.”
Dean actually balks at this information, silently sending all his prayers out to whatever liberally minded teachers and college friends pushed Sammy through his law degree. “Wow. Um. Thanks, Sammy. That means a lot actually.”
“Yeah, no problem Dean. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Just get your ass down here already would you?”
Dean smiles, and shakes his head, blinking away really stupid tears. “Okay then. Love you, Sammy. I’ll see you soon.”
“Love you too, you big girl.”
Dean stares out of the windscreen for a few long moments after the phone goes dead before he shakes himself, realising he’s probably monumentally late for work.
“Shit!” He exclaims, glancing at his watch and realising he needs to step on it.
“Well, look who decided to show up to work today!” Is the first thing Dean hears as soon as he walks in to the garage. He rolls his eyes at the familiar voice, smiling a little and heading straight for the row of pegs where the navy, particularly fetching oil-stained jumpsuits hang.
“What can I say, Jo? I’m guess I’m just a rebel at heart.” Dean turns and winks at the blonde-haired girl leaning against a Ford Fiesta, its hood popped open behind her, a disapproving smirk on her lips.
“You’re lucky I don’t report you, Winchester.” She says, shaking her head so that her ponytail swishes like a puppy’s tail. She turns back to the engine of the Fiesta, leaning in and unscrewing something in its murky depths.
Dean chuckles and shoves his feet quickly into the legs of the jumpsuit, pulling it on and zipping it as fast as possible. He checks around to make sure nobody else has taken much notice of his tardiness, and he lets out a sigh of relief. He seems to have gotten away with it this time. He breathes in the familiar smell of rust and oil, his muscles relaxing as he glances around the garage – this, he knows. This, he can handle. He saunters over to Jo, coming to lean over the hood with her, ignoring her eye-roll.
“If you report me, who’s gonna teach you all the tricks of the trade?” Dean asks, giving her a charming grin. She scoffs at him and turns to the toolbox at her feet, selecting a large rusty spanner.
“Well it sure as hell won’t be you!” She retorts, starting to fiddle about in the car’s innards as Dean watches, supervising. He pretends to be insulted. “The only thing you do is stand there moaning about your love life and gossiping about all the customers. Shameful.”
Dean grins at her, chuckling slightly at the look of intense concentration on her face. A voice in the back of his mind reminds him that it was Jo who effectively outed him to his own brother not too long ago, but she didn’t know. So Dean doesn’t mention it.
“You love it.”
Jo grins up at him, her cheeks a little flushed from the exertion. “Hmm, maybe. It’s hardly gonna help me move up from ‘trainee’ though is it?”
Dean laughs at that and moves around her to the toolbox, selecting a larger, adjustable spanner to make things easier for her. He hands it to her and she smiles at him gratefully. “You’re doing great! Rufus’ll be so impressed when he sees what you’ve been doing he’ll hire you on the spot.”
Jo makes a ‘hmmph’ sound, but continues working. Dean loves it when Jo works here, which is quite often nowadays. She provides a much needed relief from the heavily masculine ‘beer, women and cigarettes’ talk of the other mechanics. Jo doesn’t put up with it, delivering her views on the misogynistic way the guys talk almost as soon as she stepped through the door, much to their chagrin. Dean had needed to hide his laughter several times on Jo’s first day; when the guys had heard they were getting a girl trainee they probably thought they’d get some flimsy bimbo to ogle and show off in front of. What they actually got was Jo, as feisty as she is brilliant and determined at every job she’s given. After she’d threatened two of the guys with groin punches and pepper spray when they hit on her in the early days of her training, they basically started to leave her alone. Except Dean of course, but then, he’s not very likely to warrant a punch to the groin for trying to get in her pants is he?
Their relationship is of course strengthened by the fact that Dean knows and works for Ellen, Jo’s mom. Dean usually gives Jo a lift to the Roadhouse after they finish at the garage; that way his mind is at ease, and he’s also in her mom’s good books. Not that he would ever dream of using his friendship with Jo as a means of getting his Event Planning business off the ground, but he can’t deny it helps that Ellen is getting stories of what an awesome guy he is fed to her over the breakfast table every morning.
By the time lunch rolls around Dean is starving. He’s changed five tyres this morning and is still trying to mend the damn Ford Fiesta with Jo. Some idiot’s done a number on that poor baby. Dean winces in sympathy for it whenever he looks at the melted turbines.
He tells Jo that he’s heading to the local fast food joint to pick himself up a burger, and asks if she wants anything. With an order of a skinny one-pump latte and a garden burger for his strange, feisty little friend, he heads down the street, teeth chattering as soon as he’s away from the heat of the dying engines.
He’s just finished ordering the burgers when his phone starts ringing again, and it takes Dean an embarrassing, numb-fingered fumble down the front of his jump suit in order to reach the damn thing. He doesn’t bother looking at the caller, thinking it will probably be Sam again.
“Hello?” He says, handing over a ten dollar bill to the guy behind the counter, cheerfully sporting a nametag that reads ‘Alfie’ over his red and white pinstripe uniform, Dean can’t help but notice.
“Dean…” A crackly voice pours out of the phone, and Dean’s heart immediately sinks.
“Oh, hey Dad.”
John Winchester chuckles darkly on the other end of the line, and Dean thinks how different things must look back home compared to here, in this garishly bright diner with grease in the air.
“You sound sooo happy to see- to hear m- my voice.” John is stumbling over his words, and it doesn’t exactly take a genius to work out he’s drunk. Dean closes his eyes, silently praying for this not to be happening.
“Course I am, Dad.” Dean grits out, grabbing the paper bag filled with burgers and drinks so harshly that Alfie’s signature smile wavers a bit. Dean grimaces in apology to the guy and heads back outside, barely noticing the cold against how hard his heart is pounding. A horn blares in the busy road beside the pavement he’s walking on. “What’s up?”
He hears heavy breathing for a few seconds, and then a disgruntled noise. “You at that no-good car shop again, boy?”
Dean ploughs forwards into the crowd, pushing through the lunchtime crush of people filling the narrow sidewalk, and ignoring the shouts of ‘hey!’ directed at him. He just needs to get back to the garage, to see Jo, to get in the warm, to eat something…
“Yeah, what of it?”
“I thought I told you to quit that fuckin’ poor man’s job.” John spits down the line, and Dean swallows down a bolt of rage. He hears a hiss and a snap, like a can opening. “It’s fuckin’ embarrassing telling people my own son is a grease monkey.”
“Dad, did you ring me up just to bitch at me about my job?” Dean asks, and he fights to keep his voice level. He looks around for a second, momentarily disoriented, which is nonsensical because he’s worked at the garage for well over five years now. He must have gotten distracted, taken a wrong turn. Fuck.
John continues on as though Dean hadn’t spoken. “And they ask about Sam, and I say ‘oh yeah, Sam’s great, he’s a lawyer in New York City. He’s getting married to a great girl.’ But what can I say about you?” Dean whirls around, searching frantically for street signs, anything. The top of the paper bag has become crumpled to a pulp in his hand. He wants to tear the phone away from his ear, because he’s heard this before, and it’s stupid to listen to it, like having it drilled into you. But he can’t help it. This is his Dad, the person who he’s supposed to make proud. “You’re a delinquent who ran out on his family, a high school drop-out who became a fucking mechanic and a waiter-”
“Dad, stop it!” Dean cries, interrupting, and he heads towards a street he thinks looks vaguely familiar. He feels a spot of something wet and cold on the hand holding the burgers and he realises it’s snowing. Fucking fantastic. “I’ve told you over and over about my business, you just never listen to me-”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud, Dean! Party planning? You expect me to believe you’re actually following through with that horse shit?” John’s cruel tone is enough to get Dean blinking back hot tears, which he hates himself for. “You and I both know that you’ve given up on every damn crazy thing you’ve thought up. Sammy’s the one with the dedication, with the ambition – you keep going like you are you’re just gonna end up miserable, dirt poor, no education – and you can forget about women Dean-o.”
John is chuckling now, and Dean has to stop walking, meandering over to a nearby brick wall and slumping against it, letting the snow fall in a flurry around his face.
“I know you might not have any trouble right now, Dean, you’re young. You’ve got the looks. But you think any girls are gonna be interested in you when you’re fifty, with a beer gut and still wearing a jumpsuit?”
Dean looks down at the jumpsuit he’s wearing helplessly, the word ‘Dean’ embroidered in bold white lettering across the heart. He’d loved it at first, couldn’t wait to wear it. He was so proud; a part of the team, accepted finally. Now he wants to tear it off and throw it in that slush filled gutter by his feet. A blonde man in a charcoal suit stares up at his tortured expression as he walks by, his face the picture of apprehensive curiosity.
Dean thinks of Sam, as he always does when he’s at his lowest. His Dad is still breathing on the other end of the line, waiting for Dean to reply. He thinks of how Sam told him not that long ago that he accepted Dean totally for who he was. How great it had felt, like a tremendous weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Sam didn’t care that he liked guys, didn’t even care that he’d kept it quiet. He just wanted to see his brother happy, and dammit that’s the kind of thing that’s going to have Dean blubbering like a baby.
If Sammy can be that accepting, why can’t Dad, Dean thinks miserably. He’d take anything from the guy, a glimmer of hope on the other end of the line when he mentioned his own business, anything. He can forget about telling his Dad what he told Sam today, the guy would probably have a coronary. He doesn’t want to imagine the things he’d say.
He stares down at the snow gathering into a greyish sludge already around the edges of the pavement, just wishing for this to stop. For some relief from his Dad’s endless torment. He’s never going to be good enough, it seems.
And then Dean suddenly thinks, to hell with it. His Dad hates the way he is now, it’s hardly going to matter if Dean admits everything and it makes it worse is it? Hell, John might accept it, might marvel at Dean’s bravery in coming out suddenly. He could tell his Dad and it could bring them closer somehow.
Suddenly he just needs to say it. He needs to stop the lies, the women he pretends to love so that his Dad will lay off him a little while longer. He needs his Dad to see that he’s his own person, he has his own thoughts and feelings, he’s not just some hollowed out shell desperately trying to slink around in his and Sam’s shadow.
“Dad, I’m gay.” Dean blurts, and he wonders if that’s a snowflake or a tear he can feel on his cheek. A woman passing by with a blanket-wrapped child in her arms looks up at him when he says this, and she smiles. Dean smiles back at her, surprised, and then she’s gone. “So, uh,” Dean continues quickly, not waiting for a response from his father, “I guess that kind of clears up the problem about no women wantin’ me, huh?”
“You little shit, you think that’s funny?” John hisses, and Dean is surprised at the venom in his voice. He wants to start moving again, Jo will be wondering where he’s got to, and this cold brick is seeping through the fabric of his shirt and jumpsuit.
“Uh, no Dad. I don’t think it’s funny, I think it’s who I am. Who I’ve always been.” Dean replies, wincing a little when it sounds like something out of a pre-teen drama.
“Oh for Christ’s- Dean what in the hell do you take me for?” John asks, and Dean struggles to hear through the slurs. An alcoholic, child-abusing prick? Part of him wants to say.
“Look, Dad, I should have told you before, I get that, but I’m not gonna apologise-”
“You expect me to believe this isn’t just another one of your foolhardy, egotistical ideas?” John exclaims, and Dean is honestly a little speechless at that. Is he serious? “God, you just love to think of yourself as the centre of everything don’t you? Dean, if your mother were here…”
“Don’t you fucking dare bring Mom into this!” Dean yells, and suddenly he’s walking again, pushing past everyone trundling by on the pavement, their collars turned up against the blizzard. Dean is a little surprised at his own reaction, but it seems to have bought him a few moments of stunned silence. “Jeez Dad, I don’t know how much you’ve had today - though I can guess at around a keg full - but you honestly think that I would make up a lie about my own sexuality just for attention? Attention from you?!”
“Wait till Sam hears about this… he’ll be so disappointed. He looks up to you, Dean.”
“Sam already knows, Dad.” Dean says with pride, and a part of him punches his fist in the air when John Winchester is once again speechless. “And he’s fine with it. Because family are supposed to love you no matter what.”
John sucks a breath in through his teeth. Dean lets out a tiny exhale of joy when he sees he’s on the street of the garage at last. “Lying to me is one thing, Dean. But lying to Sam… We both know you’re gonna grow out of this little phase as soon as your done dicking around ruining your brother’s wedding with your casual references to your newly found, faggy lifestyle. Don’t try and pretend like it’s some noble feat, that you’re coming out of the closet after all this time, suddenly eligible for a damn civil partnership.” Dean’s teeth clench together and he almost stops walking. “I bet you haven’t even got a guy in all this have you?” John lets out a throaty chuckle and Dean’s mouth goes dry. “Have you ever even been with a guy? Or did you decide this new found sexuality while doing a little experimental browsing one day?”
“Actually I do.” Dean says, louder than is probably necessary. He walks into the garage at last, and his face must look murderous because two guys actually scurry out of his path. He throws down the now sodden paper bag on a wooden bench nearby and runs a hand through his snow speckled hair. “Have someone, I mean. A guy. A- a boyfriend I guess you could say.”
“…I see.” Dean can hear John’s smirk. He still thinks he’s making the whole thing up. “Will I get to meet this mysterious man of yours?”
“Of course. At the wedding.” Dean grits out before he can stop himself. “We’ll see you there, Dad.” He says icily, and without another word, he hangs up the phone.
It takes just three short seconds before the enormity of what he’s just done comes crashing down. He falls to the floor beside the bench, his knees pressed against his chest as he buries his face in his hands and groans deeply. Jo is by his side in an instant, shooting a ferocious glare at the one mechanic daring to chuckle at Dean’s lack of bravado.
Jo wraps an arm around Dean’s shoulders, pulling him in towards her as she kneels beside him. “Dean? Oh shit. What happened?”
Dean relaxes into her embrace a little, thanking God for putting her into existence. “Oh, fuck.” Dean groans quietly, “Jo, it’s really bad.”
“Hey, shh.” Jo soothes, stroking a hand down the back of his head as he leans against her shoulder. “Whatever it is, we can figure it out, okay? Just take it from the top. We’ve got all day, Dean-o.”
Dean takes a deep, shuddering breath in, but decides that she can either help or she can’t. Either way, she needs all the info. He opens his mouth, and tells her about the stupidity of answering his phone before looking at the caller ID while buying burgers.
“That asshole!” Jo is saying, and whilst Dean might usually rip her a new one for trash talking his Dad, right now he is in complete agreement. “Ugh! No wonder you said that! I would have, too! Imagine not believing you just cause… well for no fucking good reason!”
Dean can’t help but chuckle a little at Jo’s rage. Talking to Jo has actually made him feel a little better. I mean, he’s still in a world of shit, and he probably won’t be able to talk to his Dad ever again at this rate, but at least he’s got Jo on his side. And if there’s one thing Dean can be sure of, it’s that Jo Harvelle is on the side of the good-guys.
Dean stares into the abyss of the truck’s bonnet, spotting at least three faults immediately, which isn’t fun, but will keep him occupied at least. Well, it would have, but Jo seems to have spotted them too, and she’s currently leant over the biggest of the three, tightening and twisting with her nimble fingers.
Dean lets out a sigh, and tries to slam a wall down in his mind against all the shit his Dad was trying to drum into him with that phone call. Does he really flake out on everything? Is that how people see him? As someone who just gives up on everything he’s ever tried? He dropped out of high school sure, but he always knew schooling didn’t agree with him. He’s pretty sure his teachers threw a party once he left. He also tried working at his Dad’s business for a bit, helping John manage his chain of stores, selling guns, knives and other less-completely-legal weapons. Just the kind of thing Dean is morally opposed to. He’d quit after three months when a guy shot his own wife with one of the pistols he’d bought in their Indiana store.
The event-planning is something he’s been working on for years, and he’s been trying to get his name out there in every way he knows how. He’s even done a little bit of work here and there, and his clients are always so impressed, but he’s just one guy, and he doesn’t have many contacts yet.
Now his Dad is actually suggesting he’s going to give up on being gay? That’s so absurd Dean can’t even wrap his head around it. He supposes maybe it’s partly his fault for parading Lisa Braeden around in front of his father last time he was up there visiting, but she was pretty and nice, and he knew it would stop his Dad from laying into him too deeply. He still feels awful about Lisa, given that he had to tell her he was gay in order to end it with her. She wasn’t too pleased about having her time wasted.
So it looks like now Dean is going to have to prove his homosexuality to his father with his wonderful, long-term, committed boyfriend which- oh yeah! -he doesn’t have.
Dean groans again, resting his forehead against the arm holding up the bonnet of the truck. Jo looks up, concerned again. “Jo, this is so, so bad. What the hell am I gonna do? Where am I gonna find a guy - in less than a week - that’s willing to pretend we’re hopelessly in love to satisfy my homophobic, alcoholic Dad?”
“Hmm…” She taps the handle of the spanner she’s holding against her pointed chin, “so – don’t get mad – I’m guessing you’re completely against any ideas of telling him the truth-”
Dean’s ferocious glare cuts her off before she can continue that train of thought.
She chews her lip, and for a second Dean thinks it’s because she has no clue what to tell him. Then he recognises the expression on her face. It’s half-consideration, half-anxiety. “Well….”
Dean pounces on the idea that hasn’t even tumbled from her lips, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her so desperately that she giggles. “What? You got an idea? Don’t hold out on me, girl.”
Jo smiles, her internal debate seeming to crumble under the weight of Dean’s desperation. “Well, okay.” She breaks free of his grasp and turns back to the engine, screwing and tugging impatiently while she talks. “So last year at prom, this guy called Gary Frankel – total nerd – he showed up in a tux with this fuckin’ gorgeous woman on his arm, she’s gotta be at least twenty-two, right?”
Jo looks up to make sure Dean is following the tale, and he nods slowly, wondering if this story could possibly have any relevance to his current plight. It’s a nice distraction though. “Yep. Don’t swear. Go on.”
Jo rolls her eyes, but turns back to the engine and continues. “Yeah, she’s like in this skin tight black dress, short blonde pixie cut, looks like she’d gut you if you tried to feel her up during a slow dance but whatever.” Jo clears her throat, and Dean listens on, amazed. “Anyway, the night goes on and people are like, congratulating Gary, asking how he got her, and he says, ‘she fought her way out of Hell for me’. Weird, right? And then after a while it turns out-” Jo barks a sudden laugh, making Dean’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “-she spiked the punch with tequila, so she and Gary get kicked out of prom and we all think he’s the new coolest kid in school.”
Dean wonders if that’s the end of the story, but Jo straightens up, having finished doing whatever she was doing, and wipes her oily hands down the front of her jumpsuit.
“That’s when his Mom shows up, looking for him, screaming about how he’s spent two grand on an escort for his prom.” Jo leans back against the car beside Dean, raising her eyebrows a little to see if the point has hit home yet. “And as it turns out, this Gary kid got the girl – I think her name was Mel, Meg? Meg, yeah that’s it – off some escort site where you can hire women or men to be your date and they’ll pretend whatever you want. Obviously he got a bad one, cause she kinda ruined his night with the tequila and shit- I mean stuff, but from what I hear their service is generally quite reputable.”
Dean side eyes Jo warily, unable to comprehend what she is inferring.
“So… what you’re essentially saying is… I gotta get me a hooker?” Dean asks, disbelieving, and Jo makes an exasperated sound. Dean chuckles and pushes off from the car, about to make his way towards one of the other guys, and back into sanity-land. “Thanks for the help, Jo. But I think I’m better off brainstorming alone on this one.”
Dean rolls his eyes when he sees Jo slamming down a tray on the un-cleared table next to his. He tries to gather up the plates and glasses on his own table as quickly as possible, but Jo is determined, and they end up clearing at exactly the same speed.
“I’m just saying, don’t write it off. I know escorts have a bad name-” Jo starts to say, but Dean scoffs loudly, almost knocking over a beer glass. “-but me and some friends took a look at the website after everything went down – just for the laughs y’know - and… I gotta say, it looks legit.”
Dean gives her an exasperated look and lifts his laden tray easily, turning to head back to the kitchen without another word. He exchanges a glance with Ellen behind the bar as he goes, and she inclines her head sharply, indicating he needs to spend a little while serving drinks. Dean winks at her mischievously in reply, earning him an eye-roll. He’s just pushed his way into the steam clouded kitchen, plunking the tray down by the sink for the kid (a guy named Ash, sporting a mullet and a twenty-years-too-late love of heavy metal) to wash up when Jo saunters in after him.
“Oh for Christ’s- Jo, look you’re not even supposed to be working tonight!” Dean cries, trying to dodge past her as she scowls at him. He pushes through the door and back into the floor of the restaurant, heading over to the bar, Jo hot on his heels. “Go do your homework or something. I appreciate the help, but honestly-”
“Dean, will you stop being so pig-headed for a second?!” Jo interrupts, and Dean smiles apologetically at a customer he was about to serve. Ellen chuckles at Jo’s exclamation as she pours a beer for a customer. He’s behind the counter with Ellen now, but Jo has followed him, seemingly because she wants to make his life hell, and he glares. “All I’m asking is that you take a look. It could be the answer to all your troubles!”
Dean doesn’t respond, choosing instead to face the customer in front of him and take the order. He busies himself with memorising the drinks and getting glasses, thinking that he might have succeeded in getting Jo to leave him alone. Then he feels something being slipped into his jeans pocket.
“Just take a look.” Jo whispers in his ear, and then she’s gone. Dean looks up, ready to retort, but finds only Ellen’s grinning face instead. He finishes the drinks order, weary and unable to summon up the strength to chastise her any longer.
“Something I need to know about?” Ellen asks over the cheerful hubbub of chatter from the customers. Dean smiles, pouring three shots of tequila for the gentleman in front of him.
“I’m sure you’ll hear about it later.”
Ellen lets out a hearty chuckle, and Dean thinks that it’s probably her loud, lively attitude that ever attracted customers to the Roadhouse in the first place.
(Chapter One, Part One: The Phone Call)
(Chapter One, Part Two: An Escort Boyfriend)
(Artwork by Minteey).