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Stable Income

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banner image of Dean Winchester from the chest upwards, head turned to the side as he tips a cowboy hat and smiles. Laid over the image are the title 'Stable income', the author's name 'troubleseeker' and the artist's name 'Solstheimart'.

Dean Winchester is a drifter. He’s also a whole heckton of other things, of course, but him being a drifter is the main one. It’s an important bit of being him. It influences the other heckton of things he is. 

So yeah, he drifts. It’s what he is. What he does .

Not that he’s got anything against folks who get a mortgage and buy a house and fill it with a dog, several cats, and or kids. It’s just not a life he’d be good at living. It doesn’t match up with the essence of who Dean Winchester is. Hell, even thinking about it gives him the heebie-jeebies. 

Hinting at a fun part-time job potentially becoming a full-time thing is the best way to get him to quit. A lesson many now no longer his bosses learned the hard way. Signing a contract without an end date? No thank you, sir. 

Not that he’s never thought about it. He thinks about it every single time a boyfriend asks him to ‘move in’ move in. Every time a job actually does feel like something he could keep on doing. Every time Sam calls to tell him how life’s going in his white picket fence life.

Yes, Dean Winchester, the very one, thinks about giving up the road and letting Baby become a commuting car. Not that he’s ever gotten further than “Might be nice later”. Even a really nice job wouldn’t stay interesting long enough to pay off even a small mortgage. It’s the diversity that makes it fun. Interesting colleagues become repetitive after a month or two. 

It’s just life. His life. It’s not them. Patricia from accounting telling him the same damn story for the third time doesn’t annoy the rest of the small office. The pitstop crew manages to meet up every single Friday evening without feeling the urge to rip each other’s throats out. It’s just Dean who gets tired of places and people.

Dean who feels that itch. And oh God it’s an itch. So far, nothing’s ever kept him from scratching. 

A couple of goodbyes, some new addresses and phone numbers in his journal, and then it’s hello asphalt and wind in his hair, no matter how much people tell him he’s allowed to stay.

He just doesn’t want to. No fault of theirs; usually.

He wants to drive . Wants to explore, and roam. He needs to be free.

Obviously, things tempt him away from the road too. Even if they’re just temporary.

Numero uno, the big number one on the list of “stop driving for a bit”, is money. Yes, even Dean Winchester needs good old cash dollars. Gas doesn’t grow on trees, and neither does pie. Burger bushes are nothing but unfortunate figments of his active imagination. If he wants them, he’s gotta head for a store, and those fuckers expect you to pay for your purchase. 

Dean’s past his teenage years of sneaking around and stealing what he wants but can’t afford. He’s twenty-nine-not-thirty-yet-fuck-you and he can earn his keep like a big boy.

Without anyone else to really keep in mine, he doesn’t mind stretching himself a bit thin. He’s not going to die eating cheap stuff for a week, but when his pockets and bank account grow too light for comfort he finds a palace to stop. Not stop stop. Obviously. He doesn’t stop stop. It’s just a bit of a pause; yeah. 

Find a job. Earn some cash. Then boom, back on the road he goes. 

And he’s damn choosy about his pause spots. In need of cash or not, he’s not about to stay in a place he doesn’t like. Or in a place that doesn't like him . Only reason he’ll stop wherever he happens to be is when Baby needs help he can’t give himself. She’s well maintained, but bullshit does happen. Like asshole kids leaving hopped up firecrackers on the road for him to drive over- God he’d been pissed that time. 

Usually it’s good though. Life. With wide open roads stretched across the whole continental United States and the odd quick dip into neighboring countries at his disposal, he’s not short of choices. He goes where it feels right . No point to drifting is it’s not about feeling good.

Picking pause places is an intricate system based almost entirely on his own feelings. If a place doesn’t feel right, he’ll be out by sundown. Dean trusts his gut. Trusts the signs he’s learnt to read.

Some signs are literally that. Huge fucking billboards just shy of flashing neons. They’re a bit of a tell when it comes to how the inhabitants feel about outsiders. Too many ‘Come to Jesus’ messages and bible passages next to the highway and they probably won’t be too thrilled to have a bisexual drifter in their holier than thou midst. No, thank you ma’am, Dean has no need to be accused of trying to convert the good local boys and girls to a life of sin. Drive right on through, and get nothing but gas and snacks. 

They can get awkwardly frank too, those billboards. MacDonald’s adds right above some asinine warning about diversity or invites to the local KKK club. People paid to have those put up. No wy are they paying him .

But there’s more subtle signs too. Signs he’s learned to read after years of driving aimlessly up and down the entirety of the United States. When flags outnumber inhabitants, for example. Or when there’s a very distinct lack of color. People wise.

Cities are more diverse. Too big to manage the level of bigotry or racism they can achieve in the average town. Once you are past the population number of everyone knows everyone, blessed anonymity sets in. But that also meant more damn noise. More people. More- more everything. Dean doesn’t stay in many bigger cities. He tried New York for all of two days, and the big apple can kiss his ass as far as he’s concerned. 

Yeah, Dean prefers very carefully selected smaller towns and the big open road. 

Smaller places were simple. Or- simpler, at least. You don’t need to live there for a decade to figure out how they worked. There’s a school, a church, a couple of stores along the main road, a gas station or two, sometimes a mall, and then there are some factories or workshops. Farms around them. Basic.

And most importantly, they always have a bar. No matter how religious or weird or backwater a town is, there is always a bar. 

And small town bars, Dean knows this for a fucking fact, have bartenders. 

Bartenders that know everything Dean needs to know. From which motel to stay away from ‘cause they have a ‘recurring’ bedbug problem, to which mechanic will let him help fix Baby. They also know who’s got work. Who pays well, and, more importantly, who tries to stiff the help. No such thing as a contract when you’re pitching in here and there.

Yeah, bartenders are an important part of Dean’s life. He treats them right, and they treat him right. 

So when the late summer heat drives him out of Texas and further north, Dean starts taking his time in each watering hole he comes across. Chatting up barkeeps isn’t a hardship, especially if he tips well. He’s not broke yet. But it’s always better to fill up his wallet before he actually runs out of cash. It’s a buffer that makes life easier. 

It lets him tip a bartender, and then they usually give more info.

It lets him get the good snacks; although Sam would probably have several things to say on how good they really were. Not that Sammy’s wisdom changes what Dean liked shoving into his gaping maw. Red Twizzlers could be made out of old tires and he’d still buy ‘em. 

Lets him visit quaint local museums too. Never expensive, but you still need to pay before they let you in to see their weird and wonderful shit.

Still. North he goes. In search of cooler weather and a job worthy of Dean Winchester’s hands.

Oklahoma is still too damn hot, and the lightbulb in Magnum is less impressive than he’s imagined. It’s a lightbulb. Old as fuck apparently, but still just a lightbulb. He sends a selfie to Sam anyway, and it gets him a singular lightbulb emoji in return. 

The gravity hill near Bartlesville is kinda fun, but he isn’t in the mood for cities. He’d only been in Lawrence for a little over a week and that’d been plenty of suburban life for him for the next five months. He loves Sam, he really, really loves the overgrown beanstalk of a man. But he doesn’t love him enough to stop driving. Not for long, anyway. Picket fence might work for the sasquatch, it does not work for Dean. 

No sir, not yet it doesn’t.

And Sam doesn’t want him around all the time anyway. Kid’s got his own life to live.

They’re not fire and ice, no, but Dean’s a take it as it comes kind of guy, and that doesn’t really mix well with Sam’s schedule dependent lifestyle. A fun filled extended weekend every so often is way better than a month-long stay that ends sour. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? Like the McRib! Those things wouldn’t sell if they were always available. You just had to wait long enough that you forgot about the bad stuff and started thinking of the good old days. That is, in Dean’s mind, the perfect recipe for a good family visit.

They’ve got a Whatsapp chat thing going for the rest of the year. Pictures of giant balls of twine. A waitress who can bend her fingers all the way back. Cool license plates. A video of a cat he sees dragging a whole ass rabbit into the bushes. And in return, he gets selfies of Sam going for a hike and sweating away half his body weight. DIY projects that might become dangerous at some point but never actually end up stealing any of Sam’s fingers. 

Life is good.

The Centre of the US is a bit disappointing. There’s a plaque but that’s about it. Still takes a selfie to send Sam, of course, and gets told about the hose ban that’s destroying Sam’s tomatoes.

Life is hot, but it’s good.

He does some odd jobs on his way to what appears to be Nebraska. Taking a sledgehammer and a chainsaw to an old house is something he’d do for free, but if someone is paying him to do it, it feels that tad bit sweeter. He ends up following the contractor around for a week or two, and burns the back of his neck painting a house the most disgusting shade of green. Sam agrees. 

Two new phone numbers later, he’s back on the road. Goodbye Steve and charming wife Linda who took at least two pictures of his ass. Hello, actually Nebraska. 

The sun stops trying to murder him when he gets about halfway up the state. Still plenty warm, but he’s not actively dying every second he spends outside of an air-conditioned space. Sure, he could head west to a beach town and just go shirtless to score some easy hookups, but it’s the principle of the thing. Sunscreen costs money too. More so than laundromat quarters. 

With the weather about right, he slows down. Passes on a couple of wonky looking towns with motels that charge an arm and a leg for a room that isn’t any more comfortable than Baby’s back seat. 

Then there’s a place that’s having some kind of festival. He stays for one night, refuses a very clearly underage girl’s number, and leaves when the parade ends up being two old timers, a couple of ancient but cool looking tractors, and then just trucks with flags. 

Just as he’s decided to head for Hooker - mostly just because of the name, it would make an excellent selfie - he stops at a roadhouse called Harvelle’s. There’s a chalk sign with pie on it. Two dollars a slice. 

He’s got the time.

Harvelle’s, he decides, is very real . The building doesn’t feel even remotely new, and it doesn’t try to change his mind about that. A bit out of town. Dark wood everywhere. Old ass looking billiard’s table. A dartboard that’s probably the only thing holding the pinprick riddled wall together.

Full of character, and clean. Just as he likes it. 

Great coffee too.

“That black monster outside yours?” The waitress asks with a smile, refilling Dean’s cup and eyeing his scraped clean pie plate. She tried to take it away after coffee two, but it had crumbs on it then.

“Baby is not a monster,” he chastises, wagging a finger at the girl over his first sip; adds some milk. “She is a gorgeous piece of machinery, and she deserves your respect.”

“I’ll go tell her sorry.” The girl winks, and walks off to go deal with other patrons. 

There’s music, not too loud. Old school stuff. It’s soothing. Not a breath of fresh air, no way to do that here, even without people smoking, but a balm to Dean’s soul. He relaxes. Drinks coffee, writes in his notebook. Texts Sam to tell him where he’s at, how good the pie he just ate was. 

The girl comes back ten minutes later, wiping her hands on a well-used apron. “All good on coffee?”

“Mhmm,” Dean hums. “Can I get a menu?”

“We’ve got burgers, wings, onion rings, and pizza. Pizza’s frozen though,” she rattles off, not bothering to get an actual menu. “Unless you want more pie?”

“Burgers any good?”

“Tell you what, if you don’t like ’em I’ll whoop your ass and also comp the bill.”

“Burger it is. Cheese?”

“Of course we’ve got cheese.” She huffs, rolling her eyes with a grin as she drags a pen across a pad. “It’ll be fifteen. Good?”

“Sure. Can I get a-”

“Beer? ‘course.”

The burger is delicious, as is the cherry pie he gets afterward. Apparently, he shows enough appreciation for her cooking to learn that the waitress is called Jo and that she was the one who made the pie. 

“So,” Jo asks, sliding across beer number three. “You just passing through?”

“Might stick around for a while,” Dean tells her. Yeah, it feels right here.

“Burgers that good?”

“That, and the pie.” It’s not quite flirting, but Dean plays the game. Banter. Fun times.

“Good choice.”

“You know any good places to stay?” He plays with the condensation on the glass. Nudges the coaster.

“Depends on what you’re planning to do.”

“Not sure yet, any jobs that need getting done?” There’s an old notice board at the far end of the room, but Dean’s sure she’ll be able to give him more accurate info than the scraps tacked up there.

Jo wipes at the bar, thinking hard as she makes the old wood shine.

“Not many, but the Novaks are looking for extra hands for a cattle drive. You know how to ride?”

Dean does know how to ride, so she draws him a simple map on the back of a cardboard coaster, and warns him that the owners are twins.

“They’re really good people,” she insists. “But they like pranking new guys, and I think it’s even funnier when they can’t. Tell ‘em Jo sent you, they’ll give you a chance.” 

The farm isn’t too far out of town. Well-fed and watered, Dean takes it slow and still gets there in a little over half an hour. If he puts his foot to the pedal it’d take him 20 minutes tops. Which means he can go get burgers and pie after work. 

If he gets hired, of course- if he even decides he wants the job. Farms can be fun work, but farmers are mostly a hit and or miss. Though Jo does seem trustworthy.

No harm in having a look.

The Novaks run a medium-sized operation. A mailbox at a lone gate, and then just a long dirt road up to an old-school-looking house. It wouldn’t seem out of place in a period film where people stand staring out across fields in old-timey clothes. A few barns set off the main dirt road; each slightly more modern than the next. The smallest one’s seen better days but it gives the place more character. With a good couple of horses in their pastures, it’s almost romantic.

Real cowboy shit. Minus the cows. 

Dean waits for the dust to settle before he gets out of the car. He doesn’t mind giving her a wash, but detailing the inside isn’t something he does quite as often. 

 

“Can I help you?” a guy on a quad asks as he rolls out of the nearest barn; old, loose t-shirt giving Dean a peek at well-developed, sunkissed muscles. A farm life and good food kind of look that’s easy on Dean’s eyes. Arms like that could- Dean abandons the thought. He’s here for work, not a hookup. 

“Looking for the Novaks.” Dean smiles politely, resisting the urge to tip an invisible cowboy hat. Could he be one of the Novak twins? That- oh fuck that would be hot.

“They’re up in the house,” the guy drawls as he points, accent hinting he’s not local either. And just like that, Dean’s hopes of two young and hot Novaks are dashed to pieces. Serves him right for being too damn thirsty. Two guys looking and talking like that- he’d be in trouble. Self-control is all good and dandy till you meet a bunch of hot guys and lose your fucking mind over them. 

“Thanks.” Dean waves at the dust cloud that follows the stranger, and heads up the porch steps. The flower beds aren’t too neat; they fit. 

The house is well kept, and in Dean’s book that’s a good sign. Means he’s less likely to get stiffed at the end of the job- usually. Some people get rich by not actually paying for labor. It sucks, but it happens. But Jo didn’t seem like a liar, so Dean opens the screen door - no bell - and raps a knuckle on the whitewashed wood. 

It doesn’t take long for a dark head of hair and blue eyes to show up. With his expectations freshly lowered, he’s not quite ready to withstand that level of sex appeal. On par with the quad guy, if not that extra bit more attractive. Since when is Nebraska the place where hot guys gather? Isn’t that what California is for?

God, maybe one of the Novaks is married and he’s a son? Another help? Cousin? Farms like this are mostly kept by older couples up in their 50s along with their kids or a cousin or something. Not the 30-something hottie glaring at him.

“Yeah?” 

The deep rumble throws Dean off-kilter again. Not a cigarette ruined my throat kind of rasp, just a soulful- Dean clears his throat, nods his head, and smiles. He’s here for an interview. Keep it together Winchester.

“Hi, I’m looking for the Novak twins? Jo from the Roadhouse said you might have some work for me?”

The guy stares at him till it gets a tiny bit uncomfortable; eyes narrowed as he looks Dean up and down. It seems like he passes some kind of test, because the man nods at him and opens the door with a quick gesture.

“All right. Come on in.”

The inside of the house is as traditional as the outside. Wooden floors. Whitewashed furniture. But there’s accents that hint at the owners’ personalities. They like bees- and star wars.

“Jimmy!” The guy yells into the house as he leads Dean to a big sturdy looking table with yellow flowers shoved messily into a blue stone vase at the center. “Get in here, we’ve got an interview.”

“You said Jo Harvelle sent you?”

“Yes, sir.” Dean stammers as he sees the near exact copy of the first guy walk out of what might be the kitchen. Twins- huh. 

“All right. Iced tea?”

Dean can feel himself falling in love right then and there. He nods. “Please.”

-------------------

The Interview isn’t all that special. Can you ride? Can you lasso? Can you drive a tractor? Do you have a license that legally lets you drive tractors? Have you done cattle drives before? Any health concerns that might hinder working with animals from horseback or quad? You understand these won’t be normal working hours? 

Nothing he’s not heard before, and it all melts together into the monotone of a job interview. What Dean remembers is the gruff-voiced guy introducing himself as Castiel Novak, and his brother - who manages an entire octave more towards normal - is called Jimmy. Castiel and Jimmy. Jimmy and Castiel. 

They run the farm on their own, they are the bosses, they expect shit to get done and that’s about it. Salary. Bedding. Meals. Time frame. It’s pleasant and to the point. 

Dean likes these guys. Not just ‘cause they’re hot as fuck, but because they’re good people. Or they’re really good at acting like they’re good people. He’s not going to be earning an amazing check here, but he’ll not be run ragged for it either. 

They’re nearing the end of the questions, and Dean’s second glass of tea - sweetened and delightfully tangy - when the guy who’d pointed him towards the house walks in. He takes off his boots at the door, Dean notices, the house is meant to stay clean, got that. And introduces himself as Benny, Benny Lafitte. 

“He’s one of the two farmhands who work here full time. He knows what’s gonna happen, and when it needs done if we’re not around.”

“You joining us for the drive, brother?”

“If I get hired, yeah.” Dean’s not pushing his luck. Tea and cookies make people polite but he’s not got the job yet. He really wants to stay though. Out of the four people here, three of them are smoking hot already; it’s good odds for a couple of weeks of company. Fantasy wise if nothing more.

“You show us you can ride and rope well enough, and pinky promise you’re not bailing on us last minute and you’re all good.” Jimmy laughs. 

And he does show them. They have him saddle a gentle enough mare called Darlene, and let him loose on a cow that’s had to go through this more than once. The contempt in her large eyes as Dean throws a lasso around her neck on the first try is tangible. She doesn’t move a hoof and goes back to grazing the second she’s left alone. Darlene, at least, seems to appreciate Dean’s attention, and lets him put on a pretty good show. 

After that, it’s just paperwork. Name here, sign there. The contract is nothing too fancy, and it’s clearly one they’ve been using for seasonal hires for years. 

Garth, the other permanent fixture on the Novak farm, shows up to congratulate him on his new job, and shows him the sleeping arrangements. It’s not something all farms have; certainly not the ones Dean’s worked at so far. Either you get a sleeping bag in a barn, or you find a motel. Or you camp out in your car if you have one.

No need for a motel here, Garth insists.

“Crowley doesn’t like it.” he chatters; mouth moving as swift as his legs. “Says we’re stealing his business and ruining his establishment's future. Not that we care much what he thinks, if a couple’a rooms a year are all that keep him afloat he’s not doing great anyway. He’s a weird little guy, but not too bad once you get over his suits. Owns and runs the cupcake bakery in town too. Red velvet. To die for. Trust me. Anyway,” 

The guy’s at least a head shorter than Dean but he’s fast . Scurrying around as words fly out of his mouth like they’re going out of fashion. Helping Dean pick up his duffel and other odds and ends from Baby’s trunk without standing still for a single second.

“You’re the first seasonal guy to show up. We still need ‘nother five or six before we can actually go out to get the cows, but I think they’ll wait till there’s a crew of ten this year. Herd’s been growing mighty fast since we got some new bulls. And safety first, you know. There’s no point to going all the way out there and then just running the cows all over the place, right?”

Without pausing his chatter for an answer, Garth heaves at a giant sliding barn door and ushers Dean through it. 

“If we spread the guys too thin, someone gets hurt. Novaks don’t like it when that happens.”

Dean hums, taking in the large space that’s obviously meant for either hay or cattle; thick steel bars dividing the place up into sections. Basic, but effective. What’s not basic is what looks like a trailer home, built into the corner to the left of the barn door. Complete with fake wooden details, windows, and a porch. Garth sees his face, and laughs. It’s a nice laugh. Honest.

“Yeah. Previous owners had their guys sleepin’ in their trucks or bringing in the big buck for Crowley. Novaks didn’t like that. No, they did not. Not one bit! People don’t sleep well, and then they make mistakes.”Garth gestures wildly. “It’s pretty cool, mostly just a bunch of containers they used at construction sites bolted together with extra internal walls. Works well enough. Better than the back seat of a car, for sure. Though that’s just my opinion.” Garth’s eyes twinkle above his natural smile. 

Happy dude. Cute-

“My Baby’s back seat’s pretty comfy,” Dean nods. “But I wouldn’t want to do more than nap there for more than a weekend. Let alone wrangle cows after.”

He gets a clap to the arm for that, Garth smiling so broadly his eyes crinkle.

“Exactly. Now the twins, they take care of their people. Novaks are fair and above board. And you work better when you’re happy.” There’s no key to the main door. It’s plain inside; blue carpet and white walls. “That’s my room.” Garth points at the first door on the left. “All the rooms have their own keys, so you can leave your stuff in there safe enough. Benny’s got his own place in town with his wife, so he’s driving in and out. You want groceries, you ask him, or you drive out yourself, ‘course.”

There’s a tiny kitchen and seven more bedrooms. 

“You’re here first, so you can choose.” Garth spreads his arms and points at the four doors on the right that face the barn. “Those are singles, but you’ve a view of the cows. Something goes wrong, you’ll hear it. The others are doubles, but you’ve got a view out. I don’t share.”

It doesn’t take Dean long to decide, slinging his duffle onto a nice queen-sized bed and admiring his view. The empty, dimly lit barn. He’s not bunking with guys he has no idea he’ll like if he doesn’t have to. With his luck, he’d get to sleep next to a homophobe or something. Or someone who snores. 

No thanks.

There’s extra sheets stuffed in a cupboard in the hall, and two shared bathrooms that Garth swears up and down have amazing water pressure since he fixed it right up. Not the Ritz, but Dean’s paid to sleep in places that were worse than this. 

“The kitchen works well enough, but most people just use it for snacks 'n stuff. The meals are up in the main house. You got a cellphone?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you give your number to Jimmy? Wait, it’s probably in your contract. Anyway, he sends out a text when it’s time to eat. We’re spread too far out to bother trying to yell or ring a bell. Oh, and text back if you’re going to skip a meal or take it later. Jimmy likes to wait till everyone’s there.”

Dean nods, taking in the information as he makes the bed. “Food any good?”

“Jimmy’s amazing.” Garth has a far away dreamy look in his eyes. “You’ll see.”