She had no intention of checking anyone out tonight, but his hands caught her attention.
Whitney had a thing for hands and picking up on small details was literally her day job. It wasn’t something she had ever managed to turn off.
He was leaning against the bar right next to her. His left hand was in a semi-relaxed fist that forcefully staked his place at the bar, and his right was palm-down with cash under it. They were broad, rough, and freckled, and three of his knuckles were healing up from bad abrasions. When he absently played a drum solo with the right, she noticed a couple more bruised knuckles and that his nails were short and clean, but cut bluntly across and chewed around the cuticles. No rings on either hand. The matte black watch on his wrist was more special ops than stylish.
The most intriguing part was that absolutely none of this matched the well-tailored sleeves of his suit, which was a tastefully muted blue-gray. A man with a suit like that should’ve had a manicure and a shiny watch, and a man with hands like that should’ve been in a biker bar with a jukebox, not a busy Irish bar in midtown with polished wood and delusions of grandeur.
Whitney almost turned to look but thought better of it. Nope, not here for that.
Then the pretty redheaded bartender leaned toward him, asking, “What can I get for… you?” That little hesitation should’ve been Whitney’s first warning. She had been here for an hour and a half, and had watched a half-dozen men flirt shamelessly with the bartender, and found her friendly but professional. But this guy, whoever he was, had gotten through.
Then he gave his order and Whitney was momentarily distracted by the sound of him. “I know it’s practically a felony to not order Guinness in a place like this, but I think that tap over there says Murphy’s Irish Stout on it.”
She grinned. “Sure does!”
The right hand flashed two fingers while she watched it. “Pints, please. Don’t go easy on the foam.”
The bartender seemed to twinkle up at him, Whitney’s second warning. “One of today’s specials is our bomber size, that’s our 22 ouncer for the same price as the pint.”
“Mmm. Hurt me, Riley,” he half-growled flirtatiously. She could hear his grin without seeing it. She also noted that in her time here, no one had bothered to learn Riley’s name, or if they had, hadn’t bothered to use it.
But his voice is what brought her up short at the moment. He spoke with a lazy, ambiguously accented drawl. His voice was low and rough, in that perfect Johnny Cash sweet spot between Barry White and Tom Waits. If he smoked, he certainly didn’t smell like it.
It was just one more thing that didn’t match the suit and Whitney finally gave in to curiosity and slightly turned to check him out.
Unfortunately, the stunned “oh” that played in her head was simulcast to her mouth.
Turning his head to glance down at her, his face softened from what she imagined was a resting smolder to a knowing half-smile that clearly stated, “I get that a lot.” But he seemed more pleased that she was pleased, rather than pleased with himself, which made the silent acknowledgement endearing rather than insufferable.
He was a few years older than Whitney and, though she was sitting down, seemed like he was about a head taller. In his suit, he looked kind of pleasantly solid all over, his thick torso balancing his broad shoulders. In American football, he’d be a running back, built for power and speed all at once.
Green-gold eyes appraised her with a not terribly subtle once-over. He had a well-defined jaw with maybe three days’ worth of stubble, a strong nose (ah, more freckles) that would’ve overpowered a lesser profile, and a generous, pouty mouth. With his dark hair in a frat boy cut swept up with product and a navy-blue foulard tie done up in a Prince Albert knot tucked neatly into his waistcoat, he was James Dean dressed up like Cary Grant and it shouldn’t have worked. At all.
Attractive men didn’t really impress her. Over the last few years, she had worked with hundreds of powerful, attractive men who wore even nicer suits than his, and had developed something of an immunity. But this guy had something else: Total, unabashed, panty-dropper confidence, earned through – if she dared to guess – years of rigorous study in the discipline. It radiated off of him in waves. She could almost guess that his first act had been to imagine her naked, and that his goal from that point on was to find out what made her tick.
He glanced down at her nearly empty glass. “Martini, huh? Can I get you another one?”
“Sure,” she managed a smile. “Thank you.”
His eyes lit up and he asked silkily. “Do you like ‘em dirty?”
That totally shouldn’t have worked, but he sold it through sheer audacity. She found herself almost as flustered as the time she met Gerard Butler at a party. Well, there was nothing she could do but play through the pain. “Yes, very,” she answered, then waited a couple of beats. “Wait, did you mean the martini?”
The smirk turned into a warm, appreciative smile, complete with the glimpse of teeth, that made little wrinkles fan out at the corners of his eyes. Okay, maybe the Cary Grant thing wasn’t entirely the suit.
He easily got Riley the bartender’s attention again. “Gin martini, stirred, extra dry, straight up, four olives, and —” He cut her a vaguely obscene sideways look. “Very dirty.”
“Wow.” Whitney was legitimately impressed.
She’d been right about the resting smolder, as he lapsed back into it while straightening a tie that didn’t need straightening. Just as she was starting to miss his big, open grin and all the crow’s feet that came with it, it snuck back across his face. “I overheard you orderin’ the first one. But, admit it, I almost had you.”
You had me well before that, she didn’t say. Besides, he clearly already knew, and it was a little late for her to play hard-to-get. Also, this meant he’d noticed her before she noticed him and since he continued to flirt with her, she liked her chances.
“Dean,” he told her, unprompted. Then, almost as an afterthought. “Gillan.”
“Whitney.” She mimicked his pause. “Evans.”
As the bartender deposited a fresh martini in front of her, Whitney asked, “So, Dean Gillan, what it is you do that you wear such nice suits, but also look like you start fistfights for fun?”
Dean stepped back to examine his suit, hands spread defensively. “A man can’t dress up for a fistfight?”
She was still laughing at this when another man walked up and stood behind Dean, flashing her an apologetic smile. He wore a nice suit as well, in a somber charcoal gray. His tie, she noticed, was the red version of Dean’s blue one, done up in the same knot.
This man was taller, broader across the shoulders but much narrower in the hips. His suit was cut to flatter both, and he seemed to wear his more comfortably. He had dark hair, too, but his was thick and collar-length and fell slightly into his face when he looked down. His deep-set eyes were either blue or hazel, or possibly neither, and he had a sharper side profile.
She didn’t get the same dirty “down for anything” vibe from him that she got from Dean. At the moment, she was thankful for that. She didn’t think she could handle two of them. However, the hand that gripped his phone was big, his fingers longer, but with the same blunt nails. No ring on him, either.
With his earnest expression, all he needed was a pair of half-rimmed glasses and a tweed suit, and he’d be that college professor who didn’t understand why so many students sat in the front row. How was it that they hung on to his every word and were still failing the course?
Without thinking, she asked faintly, “Are the hot guys traveling in pairs tonight?”
She glanced quickly at Dean, expecting him to bristle or look hurt since the two of them had been hitting it off. All he did was give her a small smile that she couldn’t quite interpret.
Dean turned to the other man and fixed part of his shirt collar that had fallen. He theatrically licked a finger and made a move toward the man’s hair, which was only narrowly avoided as he turned back to her with a smile. “Whitney, this is my partner, FBI Agent Sam Blackmore. Sam, Whitney Evans. She thinks you’re hot for some reason, so try to act like it.”
FBI agents. Now the suits and busted knuckles made a little more sense.
Sam briefly glared at his partner, a blink-and-miss sort of thing, before looking down at her to smile, revealing dimples in his cheeks. He turned back to Dean, showing him his phone. “Get this.”
The two of them stood with their heads almost touching to peer at Sam’s phone, eyes tracking back and forth, Dean’s lips moving slightly. Then the two had the most truncated (and possibly most dude-like) conversation she had ever heard in her life.
Dean leaned in closer to scroll his index finger down the screen as their eyes tracked some more. Dean straightened to look at Sam. “What the hell?”
“I don’t know.”
“Seriously, what the hell?”
“I don’t know,” Sam said, more insistently this time.
“And there were —?”
“They find ‘em both?”
Sam frowned. “Just one.”
Dean turned to Whitney for a moment, smiling apologetically. “Bureau business, sweetheart, don’t go anywhere.”
“Why?” Whitney asked playfully. “Am I being detained, Agents?”
This earned her a shy grin from Sam and a much more suggestive one from Dean.
Besides, two hot guys, and the one coming on strong was apparently secure enough that he didn’t mind that she thought the other one was hot, too? How often did that happen? Why on earth would she go anywhere?
Dean turned back to Sam, their conversation picking back up right where they left off. “If there’s only one —”
The two pulled back from the phone, processed something for a moment, then chorused, “Vernal equinox.”
Whitney laughed. “You guys have been working together too long.”
The two peered at her over the top of the phone and Sam smirked. “You have no idea.”
“When?” Dean asked him.
“Not until March,” Sam answered. “But then –”
“The other thing.”
“Well they —” Sam looked furtively at Whitney and seemed to select his next words carefully. “We probably won’t hear anything back until Friday.”
“Friday?” Dean brightened and happily braced Sam by the shoulders, giving him a firm little shake that made him roll his eyes. “You know what I’m gonna say next, right?”
“No idea,” Sam answered sarcastically. “But I’m guessing ‘something something pick this up tomorrow something something see you in the morning, Sam.’”
“Then you guess wrong.” Dean handed him one of the two big glasses of beer that were waiting next to him on the bar, before ducking his head to look the pretty bartender in the eye as he passed her a tip. “Thank you again, Riley.”
Whitney didn’t think it was the tip that made Riley straighten a bit and smile up at him.
“Why do you always do that?” Sam muttered as they turned away. “Give her a chance to finish her college education, Hef.”
Dean visibly balked at “Hef” but moved one hand palm-up under his chin and along the side of his head as if displaying a game show prize. “This is just my face, dude. It does what it does. I can’t control it.” He turned to look conspiratorially at Whitney, voice mock-mournful. “God knows I’ve tried.”
Whitney didn’t actually know which of them she liked better.
Sam ignored him and looked down at the beer in his hand. “Why’d you get me a beer if I’m just going back to the room?”
“’Cause you’re not going back to the room, you’re coming back to our table with me and Whitney.”
Whitney was as taken aback by this as Sam seemed to be. Not that she was complaining.
“C’mon,” Dean prodded gently, like he was trying to coax a pet back in from the outdoors. “You gotta sit for serious drinking, not as far to the floor.”
Sam shook his head, but followed them to the corner-most table in the back. Whitney noticed that Dean had a sort of hip-rolling strut. Because of course he did. She wondered if it was an affectation for her benefit.
The two both moved to pull a chair out for her, but Sam surrendered the right of way to Dean. After she was seated, Dean squeezed around her to the chair wedged directly in the corner facing the front doors, and turned it around to straddle it and rest his arms on the back. The suit now looked more incongruous than it had back at the bar. She found herself wondering what he wore when he was off-duty. Or maybe he had been a cop before a fed and hadn’t ever shaken it off?
Dean made an abrupt “put it away” gesture at some books and papers that were in Whitney’s place and Sam swept them into an open messenger bag before she could really get a look at any of it, though it didn’t seem like official research materials. Then again, if their case really involved the vernal equinox…
Sinking into his own chair, Sam watched Dean’s face intently.
“What?” Dean wiped at his mouth with his hand. “Do I have foam?”
“Uh… no. You… you got it.” Sam took a big swallow of the beer and leaned back in what she immediately recognized as feigned relaxation.
An attractive blonde server in her thirties stopped to ask them if they needed anything, and Dean jokingly gestured at Sam. “Can we get a double milk for this kid?”
As the server laughed and walked away, Whitney perked up. “Was that a quote from U.S. Marshals?”
Dean grinned. “I knew I liked you. See, Sammy, some people watch fun movies.”
Did he say Sammy? Hmm.
“Wait.” Sam blinked a couple of times. “Are you talking about the sequel to The Fugitive? That’s a terrible movie.”
“Actually…” Dean paused to take an operatically prissy sip of his beer and raised his chin haughtily. “Since it doesn’t continue, expand, or resolve the story from The Fugitive, but instead moves existing characters to a new story, U.S. Marshals is not a sequel, but… a spin-off.” Dean gave Whitney a wink that should’ve come with some sort of warning and then smugly looked at Sam across the table.
His beer glass stopping halfway to his mouth, Sam asked, “Wait… was that… were you being me?”
Dean nodded his head with a smirk. “Huh? I nailed it, right?” He added, sotto voce to Whitney, “I’ve been practicing.”
Shaking his head as if disappointed in both of them, Sam’s thumbs moved quickly across his phone’s screen and then turned it around so they could see it. “Look, U.S. Marshals has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes."
“Yeah, you’re right, now I can never watch it again,” Dean said drily. “That’s a solid flick, man. You’ve got Tommy Lee Jones, RDJ, and that cute French chick who played Wesley Snipes’ girlfriend.”
“74% of the world isn’t as easily amused as you.” Sam winced at what he’d just said and looked at Whitney contritely. “Or… you. Sorry.”
Whitney shrugged, feeling like she was a supporting character in a buddy cop movie like Lethal Weapon. Dean probably liked that one. Sam probably pretended he didn’t.
“This kid looks up the reviews for dive bars before he’ll agree to go,” Dean told Whitney incredulously. “Dive bars. What’s the review gonna say? ‘I had seven beers, they were fine, I passed out on the pool table and no one drew a dick on my face, will recommend to my friends’?”
Sam glared. “What if they had a salmonella outbreak or rancid bathrooms? Wouldn’t you want to know in advance?”
“I’m with Sam on this one,” Whitney conceded. “I don’t want to end up at The Titty Twister.”
“First of all," Dean ramped up. "I’ve spent my entire life looking for The Titty Twister like it was El Dorado.”
Sam confirmed this for Whitney with a slight nod.
He rounded on Sam. "Secondly, any respectable dive bar has a rancid bathroom, that’s why it’s a dive bar.”
Sam interrupted to huff in disbelief. “Did you just use the word 'respectable' and –?”
Dean plowed ahead. “And… And, as we’ve been over so many times, you don’t use that bathroom under any circumstances. Not even to hover.”
He turned to address Whitney now. “And you… you lost a point by agreeing with him.” His forced stern expression faded back into a smile. “But then you got it back by referencing From Dusk Till Dawn. That was a close call.”
Sam groaned and spoke to Whitney with a mischievous air that she liked very much. “We have to change the subject or he will talk about the snake dance and I can’t go through that again. Last time he talked about it for an hour, and it’s only a four-minute dance.”
“Not if you keep replaying it.” Dean fixed his eyes on a point behind his partner’s head, and he must have been watching the movie in his own brain because Sam waved a hand in front of his eyes to interrupt.
Whitney ate one of her four olives, looking from one of them to the other. “You guys are fun. I thought feds were supposed to have sticks up their asses.”
“He carries both of our sticks,” Dean said. Was that a little wink he gave his partner? “He won’t admit it, but I think he likes it.”
She didn’t know whether to laugh more at Dean’s proud “yeah, you heard me” expression or the dirty look Sam shot him from across the table. The comment would’ve seemed strangely sexual, but she knew that law enforcement officials had that unvarnished way of trash-talking that civilians didn’t often understand.
“What do you do?” Dean asked as Sam’s dirty look faded in intensity. “When you’re not being picked up by two federal agents?”
“I’m –” Wait. Had he said – two? Did he mean picked up as in…?
It was obvious from his reaction that Sam had the same question, but Dean was looking only at her.
Whitney watched them for a moment and started again. “I’m a high-level intermediary for some of the corporate interests in the area.”
Sam squinted, then laughed under his breath. “So, you’re a fixer.”
Whitney smiled at him demurely, tilting her head slightly. “That term has taken on some unfortunate connotations. But… yes, I pay attention. I solve problems.”
The two of them exchanged a brief look, eyes widening and brows raised.
“Like Winston Wolfe?” Dean asked, clearly intrigued.
“Or more like Michael Clayton?” Sam offered.
Dean had another one. “Madeliene White?”
Sam broke away from Whitney to look at him. “What?”
“Inside Man. Jodie Foster's character. You’re the one who wanted to watch it. We watched it.”
“I know the movie, Dean, I just didn’t think you were paying attention, since it didn’t have Salma Hayek dancing with a snake.”
Dean pointedly scratched the corner of his eye using only an extended middle finger, and Sam just as pointedly ignored him.
So, they watched movies together? Was being FBI partners not enough time in each other’s company?
“She was more of a power broker, actually,” Whitney said.
Dean frowned. “Those aren’t the same thing?”
“Power brokers are more about politics,” Sam explained. “Influencing things to turn out a certain way rather than trying to fix them. Like Henry Kissinger.” Sam added glibly for Dean’s benefit, “You might not have heard of him, since he’s not from a movie. He’s a real person.”
A nod and an obviously fake smile, all cheeks and no teeth, was his reward from Dean. There was just enough hostility in that look that she thought Sam might pay for this put-down in some small way when they didn’t have a guest.
Whitney took a sip of her martini to forestall laughing. “Well, if we’re sticking with fictional fixers, I guess I’m more like Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. Though I’m much more diplomatic, I’d like to think. Usually.”
Dean leaned back, almost more in the corner than the chair. “Hmm. So when someone needs a fire lit under their ass, they call you.”
“Something like that.” She ate another olive. “When things are broken, they probably call someone else. But before that, they call someone like me to get things moving when they’re stopped, or stalled.” She smiled at Dean. “Not as many corpses to dispose of on that side of things.”
Smiling back, Dean raised his hand to get their server’s attention. “I’m orderin’ another round.”
Sam objected. “Dean, we haven’t even eaten anything.”
“Why do you think I’m ordering stout, dude?” Dean drained what was left in his glass and set it down with a thump. “The steak of beers. I bought you a burrito this morning, it’s not my fault you didn’t finish it like I told you to.”
Whitney sat back to watch them as they continued to bicker. There was no malice in it for them as near as she could tell. It seemed like more of a sport.
It wasn’t that they were excluding her exactly, and Sam especially would turn to her and loop her into it whenever he saw an opportunity, but the person they were trying most to entertain was each other. Which was fine. She usually preferred observing people to actually talking to them anyway.
As the give-and-take continued, she couldn’t help it. She started to notice things.
When she and Sam had started talking between the two of them, Dean would act out in some small way to get Sam’s focus back on him. She was flattered at first, thinking Dean didn’t want to share her. But when it happened the second time, she knew it was Sam he didn’t like sharing.
Dean was possessive then, jealous. Each time she watched it happen, Sam played annoyed but the rest of his body language betrayed that he was pleased. This was theatre.
They struck her as two very different people who shouldn’t have gotten along: Well-spoken vs. blunt, intellect vs. instinct. It was like the president of the chess club had hit it off with the motorcycle bad boy, and the two had bonded over some kind of shared experience, or maybe they had survived some kind of traumatic event. And now they filled in each other’s blanks.
But it was the little flickers of light between them as they argued that struck her the most. It was a little half-smile here, and a fond eye roll there, putting on a show for each other and, to a much lesser extent, her. The jaded, bossy senior partner and the eager, put-upon junior partner, each pretending they didn’t enjoy their roles.
There was more than friendship here. Or partnership. These two had tunnel vision that was only aimed at each other.
Whitney had guessed wrong: She wasn’t in a buddy cop movie. She was in a rom-com that thought it was buddy cop movie.
After they finished a second round, Sam started to relax, and Whitney was delighted that his cheeks flushed red when he was drunk. Sam touched them self-consciously. “It happens sometimes, I don’t know why.”
“It’s adorable, makes me feel like I just bought him his first beer.” And the little light in Dean’s eyes matched that statement of “adorable” with actual adoration that she wasn’t sure he knew he was showing. “Alright, this needs to be the last round, or we won’t be having fun tonight for very long.”
There it was again, that cryptic “we.”
Sam rose awkwardly, the handle of the messenger bag already in his hand. “I’ll leave you to it.” He turned to glance down at Whitney. “It was nice to m—”
Dean silently pointed his finger from Sam to the chair. After a moment, Sam sat back down.
The two of them then seemed to go into some silent discussion, somehow conveyed only through facial tics, Dean’s more forceful, Sam’s more uncertain.
If Sam didn’t want to be part of this, why was he? He was a big dude, the bigger of the two. He didn’t have to do what Dean was suggesting. He could’ve just gotten up, said “goodnight” and walked away. But he didn’t.
Did he want to be talked into it? And why did Dean want him there if Sam clearly didn’t want to be?
This was shaping up to be a very interesting evening.
As their secret sign language thing continued, Whitney looked up local hotels on her phone and found one that looked like it was very nice. “Let’s skip another round and just get to the main event.”
Dean beamed at her. “You are singin’ my song.” Absently, he reached over and slid the beer that Sam clearly wasn’t going to finish toward him, picking it up and draining it in one swallow, looking at Sam directly the whole time. Then, with another hand command that indicated Sam and then he and Whitney, Dean went to settle the bill.
Whitney had never made a wager in her life, but she was ready to bet money that these two were in love.
When she got out of the bathroom and walked outside, they were standing together (very close together) against a shiny black muscle car. (She could guess who did most of the driving.) From the body language, it seemed that Dean was giving a pep talk, one hand flat against Sam’s chest.
She approached only to hear Dean say, “Think I’m gonna poke you in the eye? You’ll be at the other end.”
They didn’t see Whitney yet, so she decided she might as well eavesdrop.
“But it’s –” Sam’s hand was anxiously raking through his hair. “We don’t – It’s weird, right?”
“Nothin’ you haven’t seen before, puritan boy.”
“Dean, those times weren’t by choice.” Sam protested. “They were usually because you forgot to hang the thing I made on the door.”
Hold up. Hold. The. Hell. Up.
Did these two… live together?
Dean braced him by the shoulders again. “Look, we only get to play it one day at a time, man.”
Sam stared at him, confused, then rolled his eyes and huffed. “Bull Durham? Right now?”
Dean’s laugh was in no way repentant. “Seriously, you’re good and lubed up and you’re probably feelin’ a little loose so you just have to go with the –”
Sam noticed Whitney standing there and slapped at Dean’s chest quickly in the universal “stop talking” gesture.
The two stepped away from each other slightly. Slightly. Sam was obviously considering the last words Dean had said, and his face flushed as if he was going to try to explain that Dean didn’t mean that kind of “lubed up” or that kind of “loose” but Dean held up a hand to stop this before it started and asked her, “You ready to go?”
“Absolutely, I already picked a place, but I need to make a stop on the way over, won’t be ten minutes.” She pointed at a silver Audi in the adjacent row. “Follow me.”
Dean’s grin was infectious as the prospect of sex grew nearer. Sam smiled, but also looked like he wanted a trapdoor to open beneath him and pull him down into the earth, never to be seen again.
The hotel clerk was a lady in her 60s and, to her credit, when Whitney paid for a luxury suite with one king-sized bed for the three of them, her expression only changed subtly. It was that kind of place, with all the discretion that the rates could provide.
Dean caught the woman’s reaction and grinned back shamelessly, then turned to look at Sam as if sizing him up. Sam seemed to be carefully pretending that none of this was really happening, staring in feigned fascination at the shelf next to the front desk with all the different pamphlets for local tourist attractions.
“California king,” Dean amended, turning back. “If you have it.”
Whitney wasn’t sure what to expect when they got into the room. More small talk? Not that she hadn’t enjoyed their small talk at the bar. Should she call room service and have them send up more drinks?
The two of them shared a soft “huh” as they walked into the room. Likely, the FBI only paid for the minimum accommodations while they were on the road.
As soon as the door was closed behind Sam, Dean casually took off his jacket and draped it over the armchair next to the door, and she watched as Sam, who seemed to be foundering, followed his lead with their socks and shoes next.
Under his jacket, Dean wore a horizontal shoulder holster in soft brown leather that looked like it was out of the 1940s. Whitney was considering asking him to put it back on once he had taken off everything else.
Next was Dean’s waistcoat. Sam didn’t have one of those, so he went with his button-down next. Just as Dean was deftly removing his tie, Sam tried to do the same and hesitated. He looked at Whitney as if he hoped she wasn’t watching, but she couldn’t not watch this play out.
Sam’s eyes darted back to Dean. “I can’t undo your stupid knot.”
Dean stripped out of his own button-down like he didn’t care if it still had buttons tomorrow or not. He had good, solid biceps. “I’ve shown you like three times, dude. Watch the YouTube video I sent you, and practice.”
“Whenever I try to untie it, it gets worse.”
Sighing wearily, but not at all convincingly, Dean stripped out of his white undershirt. He was just as broad and meaty as she had imagined, but none of it was fat. Given the amount of stout he had just put away, he must’ve had the metabolism of a hummingbird. If she knew him better, she would’ve warned him that metabolism slows down at forty, and she figured he was coming up on that.
When he turned around to rescue Sam, she could see every ripple and groove of his back. The deep valley down the middle looked more pronounced because of the bulk of muscle on either side. Out of the suit, and from the side, he looked almost svelte compared to how he looked from the front.
Sam raised his chin and exposed his throat so Dean could more easily access the knot. Dean picked at it from where Sam had tightened it and then undid it as effortlessly as he’d undone his own before yanking it unceremoniously out of Sam's collar, making the younger man jump a little with an annoyed grimace. Whitney wondered if Dean had picked out their ties this morning, and if he had tied Sam’s tie. She was wondering a lot of things.
Dean was unfastening his belt as Sam was still unbuttoning his shirt. When Dean turned, Whitney saw an ornate tattoo with a star at its center, just under his collarbone. She was actually expecting more ink on him than that.
After Sam pulled his undershirt over his head, she gaped at him, stunned. She wouldn’t have known it, but Sam was some kind of Greek god under that suit, his muscle was more structured, more by design, whereas Dean’s seemed more incidental. They were intellect vs. instinct even in this. Dean could’ve posed as Michelangelo’s David (though he was packing considerably more heat, given the outline of his black boxer briefs), but Sam was the Farnese Hercules.
Thank god both types coexisted. She wouldn’t want to live in a world where they didn’t.
As Sam reached up to smooth down his disheveled hair, Dean slapped his hand away. “No, we talked about this. You get that middle part every-thing-behind-the-ears thing, it looks stupid.” Dean stepped closer. “Here, look at me.”
She watched them, open-mouthed, enjoying this unguarded moment.
It wasn’t the way that Dean reached up with both hands to muss his partner’s hair further so that it hung messier around his face. It wasn’t even the way that Dean stood back to admire his handiwork, and then stepped forward to make minor adjustments.
It was the second or two before Dean had even slapped his hand, where Sam had ducked his head with a good-natured eye roll, waiting patiently for Dean to “fix” his hair.
And then it was a few seconds after where Dean seemed to give his partner a critical assessment that was not confined to his hair. “There. Looks better that way.”
Was she watching a live gay porno? That’s what this felt like. The “story” part of a porno before it got to the good stuff.
Sam turned to put his pants on the chair and she saw it.
The same tattoo that Dean had, in exactly the same location on his chest.
“Alright, guys, time out,” Whitney said finally, leaning forward.
Both men jerked toward her in unison.
They had literally forgotten she was in the room.
She smiled. “This is where I get off.”
Their bewildered expressions matched like their damn tattoos, and Dean’s eyebrows were raised, mouth quirked in a half-smile. He had only just realized that she hadn’t removed any of her clothes, not even her shoes.
“The ride,” she expanded. “This is where I get off the ride, now that I’ve got you two where I want you.”
As Dean put himself between her and Sam, he went through an abrupt transformation. Suddenly, he moved with military bearing and every muscle she could see was… not tense, exactly, but ready. There was no more Cary Grant; it had all burned away. There wasn’t even James Dean.
This, she ventured, was Dean Gillan. The real one, under all the charm and showmanship. She was looking at Mr. Fistfights-for-Fun, in the flesh. In almost all of his flesh, actually.
“What are you?” He asked, voice stripped bare of any sultry teasing.
In that moment, she could see the man who wanted to wrap his fingers in his younger partner’s long hair and fuck hard into him for those little disparaging remarks back at the bar.
As Sam stood just behind Dean to back him up, puppy face gone hard, she realized she was legitimately frightened of two men in their underwear. Granted, they looked like MMA fighters, but she imagined that looking intimidating in underwear was a special skill.
“I’m a fixer,” she said quietly, hoping to bring down the temperature in the room just a bit. “I get things moving when they’re stopped, or stalled.”
She indicated Dean first. “You want to be here. You want to fuck me. But, more importantly, you want him to see you fucking me. You want to show off, you want him to see how good you are at this. Because he’ll see what you do to me, and he’ll wish it was him, and you like the thought of that.”
Dean stepped just a little closer, but she continued.
Then Sam. “You do not want to be here. At least, not for me. You want to be with him, and you see sex-by-proxy, even sex you don’t want to have, as a way to get that. Something might accidentally happen between the two of you, something might... slip in? That’s your hope. But me?” She smiled. “You don’t want me. You don’t want anyone else but him.”
Dean snorted derisively and glanced at Sam with an unspoken “can you believe this bullshit?”, but drew back slightly when Sam wouldn’t meet his eyes. She couldn’t help but notice that Dean made no specific denials of her assessment of him.
She went back to Dean. “You want him. Maybe more than you’ve ever wanted anything, but you don’t think you can have him.”
Then to Sam. “And the same for you. What is it, FBI regulations about fraternization?” Neither of them would look at her now. “Because I have a newsflash for you: It’s really obvious. You’re not subtle. Any supervising agent you have who hasn’t noticed is either oblivious or looking the other way because you’re good at your jobs. If I hadn’t had three martinis before I saw you at the bar, I would’ve picked up on it a lot faster.” She went back to Dean again. “You gave it away, almost right away, and I missed it at first. When I made the remark about your partner being hot, you didn’t get jealous. You didn’t get angry. You were… honored. Proud. You were gratified that someone else found him hot.”
She could tell by the hard line of his jaw and eyes that looked all but dead that Dean’s temper was barely in check, and even though neither of them could look at the other, Dean held one hand against Sam’s stomach as if holding him back.
“We could all still hook up,” she continued calmly. “Or the two of you could hook up, and I could just watch.” To Dean, “You would like that, wouldn’t you? Why is it that when you’re fucking a woman and your partner’s around, you can’t seem to lock a door, or hang a sign? You want him to see you, just like that, in all your glory. All naked, sweaty, panting, and fucked-out.”
Sam shifted uncomfortably behind Dean.
“And you,” she addressed to Sam. “Your partner doesn’t strike me as being a particularly quiet lover, and I doubt the women he’s with are quiet, either. And you’re a trained FBI agent. You listen at doors before you open them. You already know what’s happening on the other side, so why do you open it? Why are you always so, so shocked by what you see?”
“You’ve got us wrong,” Dean said finally, but even he seemed to realize that this was a weak rebuttal.
“I’m wrong about a lot of things,” Whitney admitted. “But not people. I’m always right about people.”
Whitney stood now, hands spread placatingly with a plastic bag hanging from one wrist. “You can treat this room like a pocket universe if you want. A place where you can resolve all this tension and want and then, if you don’t feel like talking about it after that, you agree to never speak of it again. But I don’t think your partnership would survive. I think you’ll like what happens in here, if you give it a chance.”
She handed the plastic bag off to Dean, who took it only reluctantly, letting it hang from two fingers like it was something foul.
“That’s what I picked up on the stop before we drove here,” Whitney explained. “I don’t think either of you have done this before, so I thought it might ease things along. For your bottom… or that is to say, Sam’s bottom.”
Dean looked a little smug at this appraisal, which Sam caught. As if fully realizing what he was being smug about, Dean’s face went carefully neutral.
“You’ve got the room until noon tomorrow.” Whitney put her purse on her shoulder. “It’s a luxury suite. There’s room service. You can simply decide that you’re going to sleep here and nothing will happen. But if I were you…” She smiled. “I’d make it memorable. I might even see it as a challenge to break the bed.”
Whitney walked past them, still not entirely unafraid but playing it off. Right before she closed the door, she said, “It was nice being an intermediary for something other than a multinational corporation.” Finally returning the wink Dean had given her earlier, she said. “Good luck.”