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Bargaining

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Jokes aside, Dean doesn’t usually chase after jailbait. At twenty-two, he’s more than capable of finding hookups his own age or older at bars and the occasional frat party at KU. High school girls, with their curfews and their allowances and their driver’s permits, are too much trouble and not enough payoff when he’s just looking for something quick and easy without any messy strings.

Rachel Nave—class salutatorian, homecoming court, and virgin—is anything but quick and easy. Dean, however, is willing to make an exception for his little brother’s prom date.

He doesn’t spend much of his time these days at home, but he clears his schedule for the night and greets Rachel and Sam at the door with a grin and a wink when they stumble in after the dance. Sam trips over both his words and his feet as he kicks off his shoes and gives Dean a suspicious once-over, and it’s unclear whether he got a little drunk at the after-party or he’s just nervous—probably just nervous, knowing Sammy.

Such a nerd, that kid. He’s staring Dean down like he doesn’t trust him further than he can throw him, and that isn’t far, between Sam’s limp-spaghetti arms and his ass parked at a desk with his head buried in a book most of the time—usually textbooks instead of comics, these days, with all the advanced-AP-honors classes he’s been taking. Summer’s coming, but Dean’s already betting Sam will spend all of it cooped up in his bedroom reading ahead for his college courses.

In three and a half months, he moves away to Stanford. Dean can’t say he’s happy about it, but he has to admit that losing Sammy to California will make some of Dean’s problems easier to navigate.

“What are you doing here?” Sam demands now, shoes off, tie loose around his neck. He’s a little flush in the cheeks and keeps shifting his weight from one foot to the other; the combined effect is making Dean nervous, makes him want to quell Sam’s restless energy by pinning him to the ground and—

“Well, I live here,” he replies, lacing thin amusement through his voice. “And I couldn’t just skip out on my baby bro’s senior prom, now, could I?”

“Couldn’t you, though?” Sam mutters with a roll of his eyes. “Rachel, uh, this is my brother, Dean; have you met—?”

“Everybody knows your brother, Sam,” Rachel says quietly, peeking up at Dean like she’s scared of him, which in all honesty she probably should be. Dean’s going to eat this girl alive. “Um, can I use your bathroom?”

While Sam recites directions to the first-story restroom, Dean steps forward to sweep Rachel’s thin pink jacket off her shoulders, wispily trailing his fingers along the bare skin of her arms underneath it before hanging the thing up in the front coat closet. He pointedly watches her ass while she clogs away, then stops Sam with a laugh from retreating to the privacy of his room. “Let me pour you two lovebirds a couple drinks. My treat.”

Sam raises his eyebrows. “Mom and Dad aren’t gonna like that.”

“Relax, kiddo. Mom and Dad aren’t gonna know. I’ll meet you in the living room, yeah?”


Dean mixes Sam’s drinks stronger than Rachel’s, makes little bargains with himself: He’ll only pour a second round if they ask him for it; he’ll only keep flirting if Rachel flirts back; he’ll only try to touch her if Sam does first, and boy, does Sam touch her—passes out flat drunk with his face nuzzled in her belly, his head slipping down from her thigh straight into her crotch.

“Don’t mind him,” Dean tells Rachel, smirking and leaning in to rub Sam’s shoulder roughly. They’re jammed in together on the couch, Sammy in the middle. “My brother’s a nerd who doesn’t know how to treat a woman, but he’s harmless.”

“So what you’re saying is you know how to treat a girl,” she says carefully, curling her chin down to watch where she’s stroking Sam’s head in her lap. Her fingers are shaking a little where they’re brushing through the sweaty bangs plastered to Sam’s forehead.

“I know how to treat a woman.”

Their eyes meet across Sam’s snoring figure still nestled between them. Rachel is clenching and unclenching one fist around tufts of the pink taffeta in the skirt of her dress. “Everybody still talks about you at school, you know,” she says in a sudden rush. “Everybody’s always asking Sam about his loser dropout brother who works at the garage on Fifth.”

“They are, huh?”

“Except they don’t care if you’re a loser and a dropout. They just want to get close enough for you to notice them.”

Dean’s still touching Sam’s shoulder, skims his fingers a little too long across Sammy’s neck before bumping them against Rachel’s hand. Their pinkies lock somewhere above Sam’s ear. “This your way of telling me you want to get close to me?”

“It’s prom night,” says Rachel with a dark cast over her eyes, “and my date clearly isn’t going to.”

“You’ll have to forgive Sammy his manners. My brother, the lightweight.”

“I don’t mind,” she breathes, and there’s a moment where Dean could end this right now if he wanted to—could duck upstairs to his room to bang one out with his brother’s face in his mind’s eye like he does most nights, get up the next morning and go through another day avoiding the kid he’s not allowed to want to touch. He doesn’t know how long he’s been looking at Sam the awful, not-allowed way—because he’s a fuckup; because Sam’s his only friend and Dean needs more from him the less he gets; because he’s spent a lifetime listening to the echoes of some other (take your brother outside as fast as you can) dream that not one of six therapists has been able to drown out—Dean’s strong, but he’s not that strong: he can keep his trap shut and his hands off his little brother’s dick, but not much more. In three and a half months, Sam moves away to Stanford, when at twenty-two Dean still can’t stand to move out of this house and away from him—can’t stand to watch Sammy connect with another person if there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Dean can intercept it.

He smirks again and refolds his hand around Sam’s shoulder when Rachel kisses him. If Sam hates Dean for it when he wakes up half an hour later, still half-drunk, and starts crying—well, then, Sammy’s that much safer for the distance.