Charlie Bradbury is panicking.
There's no reason she should be; it's not like she's never been on a date before. Hell, she gets more action than Tony Stark before he smartened up and somehow managed to hook Pepper Potts, the lucky bastard. But this is different; this isn't just any old date with some random hot girl she picked up at Comic Con or a reproductive rights function. This means something to her and if she screws it up she has a hell of a lot more to lose than a little fun and some smokin’ hot sex.
Clothes are strewn about her bedroom (there's even a t-shirt hanging from the cardboard head of her Queen Amidala cutout) and she's standing there in the middle of the room in her Gryffindor House underwear and nothing else, quietly having a mental breakdown. She stares frantically around the room, struck with the sudden paralyzing realization that she has nothing to wear. She's going to have to cancel because otherwise she’s going to be showing up naked, and then she'll never get another opportunity and God knows she's been wanting this for-frakkin'-ever.
Her phone is in her hand and up to her ear before she realizes she’s even snatched it off the nightstand, ringing dully in her ear as she waits for it to pick up. She has a moment to freak out even further, wondering if she actually called to cancel her date before the sound cuts off as someone picks up on the other end.
Charlie breathes out a sigh of relief, because that's a very familiar, very male voice on the line. "Dean," she breathes shakily.
"Charlie?" Dean's voice takes on that worried, mother-hen tone he swears he up and down he doesn’t have. "What's wrong?"
"I think I'm having a panic attack," she says shrilly.
"What? Why, what's wrong? Charlie, talk to me."
"I don't have anything to wear," she says miserably.
There's a beat of silence and then Dean says incredulously, "Hang on a second. You're calling me mid freak-out because you—Charlie Bradbury, ladies woman extraordinaire, possessor of the kind of game that I only wish I had—can't figure out what to wear on a date?" He laughs and Charlie takes a break from panicking to glare into thin air.
"It's not funny, Winchester!"
"Seriously, Charlie, you've been on a hundred dates and rocked them all. What are you even worried about?"
"But this is different," Charlie says, her voice small. "This is Dorothy."
Dean's quiet on the other end of the line for a moment, because he knows exactly what she's getting at. He of all people knows how Charlie's been pining after Dorothy since pretty much the moment they first met.
"I'm coming over," he says and Charlie opens her mouth to protest but the line goes dead before she can get the words out. She falls backward on her bed with a moan, covering her face with her hands.
There's something wrong with Charlie's scooter.
It had been fine two days ago but yesterday it made this weird noise and today it's started lurching randomly every time she accelerates and she thinks it seems like it might be a poor evolutionary tactic to try to keep riding it like that. Luckily, she knows a guy.
She drives the scooter the short distance to Dean's garage, wincing every time it makes a weird noise or stutters underneath her, driving perhaps a little slower than she normally would, and it's a relief when she pulls into the driveway of his shop and up to the garage doors. The sign overhead still reads 'Singer Auto' in memory of Dean's surrogate father Bobby who left the place to him when he passed away a few years back. Before he passed, Bobby told him to change the 'Singer' to 'Winchester' but Dean wouldn't hear anything of the sort, so 'Singer' it stayed.
She parks the scooter, tugging the helmet off her head and makes her way to the door of the shop, pulling it open. There's no one at the reception desk so she goes right back, making her way through the shop to where she knows Dean works.
"Dean?" she calls, rounding the corner of a Ford Fiesta, but Dean is nowhere to be seen. His station is empty, his tools neatly tucked away like they always are when he leaves the shop for an extended period of time.
"Ugh, where are you when I need you, Winchester?" Charlie mutters to herself, fishing out her phone and scrolling through her contacts to find his number.
"Can I help you?"
Charlie looks up, startled, at the sound of the voice and her jaw drops open of its own accord. There's a woman standing there wearing a blue Singer Auto jumpsuit streaked with grease. It's one of the old ones, a little worn in places and it doesn't have her name embroidered on the breast like they usually do, so this woman must be new. At least, Charlie's never seen her before.
"Uh, hi." Charlie thrusts out a hand. "I'm Charlie. I'm this one's friend." She jerks her unoccupied thumb over her shoulder to indicate Dean's empty station.
The woman pulls a rag from the pocket of her jumpsuit and wipes her hand with a grimace before extending it. "Dorothy," she says, clasping Charlie's hand. "Dean went out for breakfast with his brother, I think. He'll be back in a few hours."
Charlie makes a discontented sound, raking a hand through her hair. "I have to be back at work by then. Could you maybe tell him I was here and that I need him to look at my scooter when he has time? I'll send him a text too."
Dorothy sucks her lower lip into her mouth, worrying it between her teeth as she considers. "I could take a look at it for you, if you want. I'm better with two-wheeled vehicles than Dean anyway. I've got a motorcycle."
A motorcycle? SWOON. Charlie grins at Dorothy. "Don't let Dean hear you say that. He acts tough but he's pretty sensitive on the inside. Don’t wanna hurt his precious man feelings."
Dorothy arches an eyebrow, smiling teasingly. "Oh he already knows, although getting him to admit it is a different story. So you wanna show me to this scooter, or what?"
Charlie leads Dorothy back out the door and to the little yellow scooter. She starts it up, letting Dorothy mess around with the gas and listen closely to the engine as she explains the jerking she’d been experiencing the past two days. Dorothy makes a slicing motion across her throat to indicate she's heard enough and Charlie turns the key to shut it off.
"Yeah you better not be driving on that any more than you have to. Lurching like that, it could be one of two things: either it’s a worn shifting cross—which would be the better of the two options, ‘cause the shifting cross is cheap to replace, even if it is tough to get at—or your gears could be worn, which would be expensive and take a lot longer to fix.”
“How do we know which one it is?”
Dorothy shrugs. “I”ll have to open it up and get a good look inside. Either way it’ll be a while before I can have it back up and running.”
Charlie groans, glancing at the watch on her slim wrist. "Crap. And I have to be at work in half an hour."
Dorothy scrutinizes her for a moment and then seems to make a decision. She reaches for the zipper of her jumpsuit and pulls it down, revealing a white v-neck t-shirt underneath the stained canvas, damp with sweat and clinging to her curves. Charlie swallows and tries not to stare.
"I'll drive you," Dorothy says. "Benny can hold down the fort until I get back. Just gimme a minute to ditch the suit and grab my keys."
When Dorothy reemerges she's jumpsuit-less, wearing a pair of ripped, well-worn jeans and zipping a camel-colored leather jacket over her t-shirt, a helmet tucked underneath her arm. "You'll want your helmet, Charlie," she says, grinning. "I've got the bike here today."
Charlie pulls her helmet off the scooter's handlebar and tugs it down over her hair, scurrying after Dorothy. Her bike is a classic Indian, dark cherry red and shiny chrome, and when Dorothy slings her leg over it, gripping the handlebars and starting it up, Charlie has to make a conscious effort to keep from drooling.
"C'mon, Red!" Dorothy calls over the roar of the motorcycle, and Charlie grins and hops on behind her. "Hang on tight," Dorothy purrs, revving the engine with a twist of her wrist. Charlie’s only too happy to oblige, a gleeful grin stretching across her lips as she wraps her arms securely around Dorothy's waist.
It's the most fun Charlie can ever remember having on her way to work, zipping through the traffic on the back of Dorothy's motorcycle, her front pressed up against Dorothy's back. She gives shouted directions and Dorothy navigates the city easily. The drive is over too fast, Dorothy pulling over to the curb outside of Roman Enterprises and killing the engine so that they can speak normally.
"I'll have a look at it when I get back and let you know how long it's going to be. Dean has your number?"
"Good. I'll fill him in when he gets back." Dorothy's brow furrows. "What time are you off? I'll make sure you have a ride."
"I'm off at six," Charlie says, grinning shyly. "And thanks for driving me and—stuff. It was nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too, Red," Dorothy says, grinning. She starts the bike back up, waving one gloved hand before she pulls back out into traffic, the bike rumbling back up the street. Charlie lifts a hand, waving dumbly, her face frozen in an awkward smile long after Dorothy has disappeared out of sight.
"Crap," she says. "Way to fall in love with the new mechanic, Bradbury. Crap, crap, crap."
She pulls herself away from the street, jogging up the steps to the office building and makes her way up to her cubicle, throwing herself into her desk chair and yanking out her phone to text Dean.
thx for the warning. new mechanic dangerously hot
u mean dorothy?
wait wat were u doing at shop?
Charlie rolls her eyes. scooter rebelling against me. needed u to work ur magic but u werent there. some best friend u r
sorry kiddo i'll look at it soon as i'm back
don't worry dorothy took care of it, Charlie types back, grinning.
Dean's reply is slow in coming, but when it does, Charlie rolls her eyes fondly. i bet she did bow chicka wow wow
"Walked right into that one," Charlie says to herself, laughing. ;) She texts back. need a ride home tho
maybe dorothy will give u a ride lol
Charlie grins and sets her phone aside to get some work done. She works slower than usual, her mind wandering insistently back to tall, motorcycle-riding mechanics.
Needless to say, she's more than a little disappointed when the ride waiting for her at the end of the day is Dean in the Impala and not a certain hot girl on a bike.
The doorbell rings twenty minutes after she hangs up with Dean, and Charlie stumbles to the door and opens it to admit her best friend. She's managed to calm down, reducing her panic reduced to a slow twisting in her stomach anytime she thinks about it. Dean blinks down at her and grimaces before striding into the room, letting Charlie shut the door behind him.
"Ugh, you couldn't have put some clothes on before I came?"
Charlie shrugs, glancing down at her bare legs below the red and gold striped boxers. At least she managed to throw on a t-shirt. "Hey, these are decidedly PG underwear. It's not like it's anything you haven't seen before."
"Yeah but I don't need to see that much you. You’re practically my sister," Dean grumbles, making his way to her bedroom, Charlie scurrying after him. He pauses in the doorway, his mouth gaping open as he takes in the disaster zone, his eyes wide. "What happened here?"
"I was freaking out, remember?" Charlie says pointedly and Dean makes a face like this is way more than I signed up for before he steels himself with a firm nod.
"Okay." Dean rubs his hands together and starts plucking clothes from the various surfaces of her room, tossing them in Charlie’s direction. She catches them with a muffled squeak of protest, holding them up to see what he's selected.
"Seriously, Dean?" He's tossed her a black t-shirt and blue jeans and Charlie suddenly remembers who she's talking to. "Why the hell did I ask you for help, again?"
Dean turns to glare at her with narrowed eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Uh, maybe that you have the worst fashion sense out of anyone I know," she says and Dean rolls his eyes.
"Listen, Charlie." Dean moves in front of her, his big, calloused hands coming up to grasp her arms gently. He ducks his head to catch her eye and she looks reluctantly up at him. "I know this means a lot to you. No one knows that better than I do. God knows I've listened to you whine about it for the last three goddamn years. But dude, it's Dorothy. You could show up wearing a fuckin' potato sack and she would still want you. The girl worships you." Charlie scoffs and Dean squeezes her arms firmly in reprimand. "And you're forgetting the cardinal rule."
Charlie sighs. "What would Hermione do."
"Exactly, what would Hermione do? Before she settled for the wrong friend,” Dean says carefully, because he knows how touchy a subject this is for her, “she went out with fuckin' Victor Krum, right? International Quidditch star Victor goddamn Krum. And you've got just as much if not more game than Hermione."
Charlie glares up at him. "Watch it, Winchester. You're dangerously close to blasphemy."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Whatever. Just—wear what you usually wear. It's just coffee, and Dorothy's already head-over-heels for you." He releases her arms and Charlie takes a deep, steadying breath.
"Okay." Charlie nods succinctly, her hands falling to the hem of her t-shirt. "Get out of my room, I'm about to get naked."
In the end, Charlie decides on an orange t-shirt (one of the few she owns without some kind of graphics or fandom slogan screen-printed across the front), and forest-green skinny jeans. She could dress up—she's got that great new sheath dress she splurged on a couple months back—but it's only a coffee date, and Dean's right. Dorothy has seen her in everything from pajamas to pantsuits; it's not gonna matter what she wears, and she wants to be comfortable. She laces her feet into her comfiest Converses, then tugs a maroon cardigan over everything as a final touch.
Dean gives his approval in the form of a thumbs-up when she comes back out of the bedroom and does her best impression of a Miss Universe contestant. "Perfect. Dorothy's gonna love it." He pushes himself to his feet and opens his arms. "Now get over here and let me give you a hug." She steps into his arms, letting him wrap her up, surrounding her with his familiar, comforting smell and the solidness of his body. She sighs and curls her arms around his shoulders, smiling when he kisses her hair like the ginormous sap he is.
"All right kiddo, you got this." He slips his arms free from around her. "Not that you need it, but good luck. Knock 'em dead."
Charlie manages a cocky grin, forcing down the butterflies that rise up in her stomach. "I always do, Winchester."
Dean laughs. "There she is." He bumps his knuckles against her chin affectionately and turns to go. "Text me later. If you're not too busy." He waggles his eyebrows and Charlie laughs in spite of herself.
"Yeah, yeah, get out of my apartment." She shoves him out the door and hears him laughing all the way down the hallway.
"All right," she says to herself. "Let's do this." She throws her bag over her shoulder, shoving her keys into her pockets and snagging her scooter helmet off the shelf in the closet, heart hammering as she slips out the door and makes her way down to the parking lot. This is it. It's really happening.
She realizes she's grinning, her nervousness warring with her excitement. She's finally going on a date with Dorothy Baum.
Charlie's scooter is in the shop for two days before she gets a call on her cell phone. The caller ID reads "DEAN WORK" so she picks up without hesitation, expecting Dean and answering, "What's up, loser?"
There's silence on the other end and then— "Uh, is this Charlie?" and Charlie wants to sink into the floor and disappear, because that's a decidedly female voice and most definitely not Dean.
"Er, yes, sorry, I thought you were Dean. This is she." Charlie feels her face flame and wonders if it's possible for a person to spontaneously combust.
"This is Dorothy from Singer Auto."
"Hi Dorothy," Charlie replies miserably. "What's up?"
"The shift cross for your scooter came in this morning; it’s all up and running now, good as new. Dean says you don't pay so it's on the house and you can come pick it up whenever."
"Okay. I'm off today, I'll come pick it up now. I'll be there in— " Charlie looks at her watch— "thirty minutes? I just need to grab a cab."
There's a pause, the space filled with the muffled sounds of power tools and classic rock from the shop, and then Dorothy says, "I could come pick you up, if you want. I'm due for a break, anyway."
Charlie's brow furrows in confusion even as her stomach does an excited little flip-flop. "O-kay? You don't have to go out of your way or anything."
"It's not a problem," Dorothy replies hurriedly. "Besides, you think any chance to ride my bike is a chore?"
Charlie hears the smile in her voice and can't help her answering grin. "Okay, I'll see you in ten." She rattles off her address and promises to be ready and waiting by the curb.
As promised, when Dorothy pulls over to the curb and shuts off the bike, Charlie is ready and waiting, her scooter helmet clutched tight in one hand. Dorothy grins at her, flipping up the visor of her own helmet.
"Hi, Charlie," she says and Charlie's stomach leaps at the slow, husky drawl of her voice.
"Hey," she squeaks out. "Thanks for doing this."
Dorothy shrugs. "Like I said, it's not a problem." She eyes the apartment behind Charlie. "Nice place."
Charlie glances behind her and then back towards the building and shrugs. "Yeah it's not bad."
"Well, hop on, Red, I don't have all day," Dorothy says, cocking a teasing eyebrow to soften her words. Charlie smiles back and pulls on her helmet, getting on the bike behind Dorothy as the brunette starts the bike back up.
The shop is loud, music blaring the way Dean likes it over the grinding and buzzing of tools from all sides. Charlie follows Dorothy through the shop to her station, where the tall brunette pulls off her helmet and leather jacket, stashing them in the locker beside her workbench and raking her fingers through her hair to pull it back into a sleek knot at the back of her neck.
"Okay, so here's your keys." Dorothy hands the ring over to Charlie, her lips quirking at the miniature R2D2 keychain dangling from the ring. "You should be good for a few months at least. I changed the oil while I was in there too, 'cause you were due for it."
"Thanks! I owe you one," Charlie chirps, smiling up at the brunette, who quirks a crooked smile and shrugs.
"Hey, it's my job. It's parked on the west side of the building. You have any trouble with it, you give me a call."
Charlie opens her mouth, her brain scrambling through her impressive collection of pick-up lines because she really wants to ask Dorothy out before she misses her chance, but just as she's getting ready to grab the pen she sees sitting on Dorothy's table and scrawl her number onto the brunette's palm, she's interrupted.
"Charlie? Come to pick up your little Scooty Puff Junior?"
Charlie whirls to scowl at Dean. "Not everyone needs to overcompensate for something Winchester," she shoots back at him, stopping him with a hand on his chest when he goes to hug her. "Whoa, take it easy there, Huggy Bear. You've wrecked enough of my t-shirts with engine grease, thank you very much."
Dean rolls his eyes fondly, hooking his arm around Charlie's neck instead. "New kid treating you okay?"
"We'll see when I drive it home, but I'm sure she did a great job, if it's anything like that motorcycle she has," Charlie says, shooting a smile in Dorothy's direction while silently willing Dean to realize he's harshing her game. Mercifully he loosens his hold, but leaves his arm slung companionably around Charlie's shoulders as he turns to Dorothy.
"We're about to order subs, Baum. You should have a look at the menu and tell Benny what you want; he's ordering." He turns to look down at Charlie. "Why don't you stay for lunch, Charlie?"
She shrugs. "Okay, but you're buying."
"Duh,” he says, ruffling her hair and ignoring her answering protest before pulling away.
Charlie follows Dorothy over to the break room, where the menu for the sub shop is lying open on one of the tables. "Are are you two dating?" Dorothy asks suddenly and Charlie has to bite back a guffaw of laughter.
"What, me and Dean?" Dorothy nods and Charlie giggles. "Oh my god no. I'm totally gay. Like as a three-dollar bill, gay." She sneaks a glance up at Dorothy, glad to she she doesn't look freaked out by the admission; Charlie's been out of the closet since she was a kid and she's not gonna hide who she is for anyone. "Dean's my best friend. We LARP together."
Dorothy blinks. "Excuse me?"
"LARP? Live action role play? We dress up and stage fantasy battles down at the park. It's awesome." She grins broadly up at the taller woman. "I'm the queen."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me at all," Dorothy mutters softly, her lips twisting into a grin, and Charlie smirks back.
"Hell yeah. You should come sometime. You could be one of the knights."
Dorothy raises a sharply arched brow. "I'm not sure if that's exactly my cup of tea," she says. "But I wouldn't mind hanging out with you—and Dean—some other time. I don't know many people here yet."
Charlie nods excitedly. "Well we have movie night every Friday at Dean's place. Benny and Victor come sometimes too, and Dean's brother Sam and his friend Kevin; it's usually a total sausage fest. You should come to the next one; we could use some more estrogen around that place."
"I'd like that," Dorothy says, smiling, and hands Charlie the menu. Charlie smiles to herself and settles in to pick her lunch, appeased by the knowledge that today's lunch won't be the last she sees of Dorothy.
That Friday, Dorothy shows up at the Winchesters’ house with shocking punctuality at 7 pm on the nose, bearing a six pack of beer and a box of microwave popcorn. Sam’s still upstairs (“Probably blow-drying his hair,” Dean scoffs) and Dean is in the kitchen cutting peppers for the nachos he’s making, so it’s Charlie that opens the door to admit her.
“Hey,” she says grinning, holding it wide open and gesturing for Dorothy to come in. “Find the place okay?”
The brunette nods, letting Charlie take her coat to sling it over the banister, settling her motorcycle helmet on the bottom stair. “Am I late?”
Charlie snorts. “Freakishly early, actually,” she says. “Cas is on his way, and Jo and Victor will probably still be a while. Benny said he might show up after his date, but we won’t wait for him.”
Dorothy’s eyes go wide and she glances down at the six pack clutched in her hand. “Damn, I should have brought more beer.”
“It’s all good,” Charlie says, grinning as she leads Dorothy through to the kitchen. “Pretty much everyone brings their own booze, so we’ll have plenty.”
“Hey Dorothy,” Dean pipes up from where he’s moved on to sprinkling peppers over a cookie sheet filled with an impressive heap of nachos.
“Boss,” she greets him with a grin. “Can I help you with something?”
Dean chuckles. “Only if you’re a better cook than Charlie,” he says. “She’s the only person I know who manages to screw up mac and cheese.”
“That was one time,” Charlie gripes, opening the cupboard to pull out a bag of chips. “I can help, just watch.” She pulls open the bag with exaggerated care, pouring them into a large plastic bowl from one of the cupboards. She presents the bowl with a mocking flourish. “Voila. Just call me Iron Chef.”
Dean rolls his eyes but when Charlie glances over at Dorothy, she finds the mechanic is grinning appreciatively, and Charlie feels a pleasant flutter of interest somewhere in the vicinity of her stomach. She smiles back, only tearing her eyes away when Dean clears his throat pointedly.
Dorothy helps Dean grate cheese while Charlie scrounges for more snacks in the Winchesters’ well-stocked cupboards. While they wait for the nachos to bake and for the arrival of the rest of their friends, the three of them settle on the couch, munching on chips arranged artfully by Charlie on the coffee table. Dorothy asks about Charlie’s job working in IT for Roman Enterprises, which leads to Charlie rambling on about that time she hacked into Dick Roman’s hard drive one day just because she got bored. All the while Dorothy watches her with keen interest, laughing at her jokes and teasing her, and Charlie’s basically forgotten they’re not alone in the house until Sam finally makes his way down from upstairs.
“Ugh finally,” Dean gripes, digging an elbow into Charlie’s side. “I thought I was gonna be third-wheeling it all night at this rate.”
“Shut up, Winchester,” Charlie snarks back, ignoring her flush and jabbing her own elbow into him in retaliation. “Hey Sam, have you met Dorothy?”
Charlie handles the introductions while Dean goes to plate the nachos. He reappears just as Cas lets himself in the front door, followed not too long afterward by Jo and Victor.
“Budge up, lovebirds,” Dean teases, nudging Charlie’s foot with his own. “We gotta make room for the rest of these suckers.”
Charlie inches over on the couch and freezes when her shoulder bumps against Dorothy’s. She glances over cautiously but Dorothy doesn’t seem phased, leaning her elbow against the armrest and relaxing into the cushions as Cas and Jo settle themselves on the empty stretch of couch to Dean’s left, Victor and Sam claiming the big, squashy armchairs on either side. Charlie forces herself to relax too, keenly aware of the warm expanse of Dorothy’s body pressed against her side.
It’s Jo’s turn to pick the movie and she decides on V for Vendetta, which means that Dean’s going to be quoting V for the foreseeable future, a fact that Charlie complains about loudly while he puts the DVD into the tray.
At her side, Dorothy shrugs. “I can deal with my boss spouting off about the fifth of November for weeks in exchange for two hours of Natalie Portman.”
A gleeful grin tugs up the corners of Charlie’s mouth as she turns to beam at Dorothy. “Can we be best friends now?” she asks as the rest of the room dissolves into laughter.
Dorothy chuckles, leaning in to nudge Charlie’s shoulder with her own. “You got it, Red,” she replies with a grin. She doesn’t pull away, the contact starting a slow burn in Charlie’s stomach, lighting her up from the inside out as the movie starts to play. She bumps her knee against Dorothy’s, grinning to herself when Dorothy bumps her back.
It's not until she's halfway to the coffee shop, waiting at a red light and already running five minutes late that she realizes she's still wearing her glasses. "Crap," she curses to herself. “Crap, crap, crap.” Three years they’ve known each other and she’s successfully managed to avoid letting Dorothy see her in her glasses, and of-frakking-course, their first date is the day she forgets to switch them out for her contacts.
Taking a deep breath, she forcefully shoves aside the panic that wells up under her skin. Whatever. So Dorothy will see her in glasses, so what? If this goes as well as she hopes, Dorothy will be seeing her glasses all the time, preferably on mornings-after.
She parks her scooter at the curb in front of Home Brew, squeezing in between a beat-up Toyota and a shiny new silver Chevy Impala, grinning at the face she knows Dean would make if he saw the vehicle ("That tin can ain’t fit to bear the name Impala"). She pulls her helmet off and checks her hair in the scooter's little side mirror, combing her fingers through it to rearrange it around her shoulders. Finally, she cocks a finger at her reflection, making a click noise with her tongue. "You got this, Bradbury. What would Hermione do?" She takes a deep breath and makes her way to the door.
The coffee shop is busy, most of the little tables filled by groups of friends or solitary patrons flipping the pages of paperback novels or tapping away at laptop keys. Music filters low out of the speakers around the room, filling the room with soft jazz over the hum of voices. She looks around, finally spotting Dorothy at a round table in the corner, her gaze directed out the window next to her. Her friend is still shockingly punctual, her helmet already off to one side of the table and familiar leather jacket draped over the back of her chair.
Charlie makes her way over, weaving her way past the other customers and the myriad tables scattered around the room. "Hey," she says, and she can't help the grin that tugs at her lips when Dorothy looks up at her and smiles.
"Hey," she replies, standing up and, after a moment's hesitation, stepping forward to wrap Charlie in a hug. Charlie sighs, letting her arms coil around Dorothy's waist before reluctantly pulling back. She glances down quickly, taking in the neat brown pants and pressed white button-down that Dorothy's wearing, the sleek black boots on her feet. It's a startling change from the Dorothy she usually sees, either in her stained work jumpsuit (now with her name embroidered across the chest as she's been working at Singer Auto for over three years now), or in a t-shirt and jeans on movie nights.
"You dressed up," Charlie cries, dismayed, plucking at the hem of her own t-shirt. "Damn it, I was going to dress up but Dean said—"
"Hey," Dorothy says, squeezing Charlie's wrist, her hand warm and gentle where it curls around her arm. "You look great." She smiles, lifting her free hand to touch the glasses. "I like the specs."
Charlie grins in spite of herself, flushing, and Dorothy chuckles. "And I love it when you blush," she says, which of course, only makes Charlie blush harder.
"You didn't order yet?" Charlie says, setting her helmet on the windowsill beside Dorothy's and tugging off her jacket, draping it over the back of her chair.
Dorothy shakes her head. "I was waiting for you."
"All right then," Charlie says, clapping her hands together. "What'll you have? I'm buying this round."
Charlie comes back a few minutes later with her own black coffee and Dorothy's green tea, setting the saucers carefully on the table before slipping into her seat across from Dorothy.
They're quiet for a few minutes, idly sipping their drinks and looking anywhere but at each other, poised on the edge of awkwardness. Charlie scrambles for something to say, her earlier panic threatening an unwelcome return, but Dorothy beats her to it, setting down her tea cup and clearing her throat.
"I'm glad we're finally doing this."
Charlie blinks, then feels a broad grin stretch across her face. "Me too! Don't laugh but I wanted to ask you out the first time I met you, when I met you at the shop. And then Dean totally p-blocked me when I came to pick up my scooter."
"What about all the other times we hung out after that?" Dorothy asks, an amused smile curling her lips, one eyebrow cocked. “We’ve been friends for what—three years now? And you didn’t think you could’ve asked me out any of those times? All those Christmases we crashed the Winchesters’ place, all those LARP meets—”
“That I finally convinced you to come to!”
Dorothy ignores her, continuing, “All those game nights at your place, all the Friday night movies at Dean’s, none of those seemed like the right time?”
Charlie mock-glares at her friend. “It was hard! Our friends were always there and you know how Dean is, he takes every opportunity to embarrass the hell out of me.” She rolls her eyes. “I’m glad I’m not Sam; he must have had such a hard time getting laid with that dork for a big brother.”
That first night she hadn’t had a chance to get Dorothy alone after the movie ended before she had been basically swept out the door along with the rest of their friends. The pattern continued in much the same fashion; it seemed like every week Charlie found herself on the too-small couch with four of their friends, squashed between Dean and Dorothy. With the curve of Dorothy’s thigh pressed warm and firm against hers, it was hard to keep herself from making a move, from slipping an arm around Dorothy’s waist or pressing into her side. And if it wasn’t there, it was at LARP meets, or the garage, or the movie theatre, but it was never the right time, with all their friends around and Dean’s constant teasing, and one way or another she never got around to asking.
“And then it was like the longer I waited the harder it got; once you’re in the friend-zone it’s hard to get out!” Charlie finishes.“I thought I missed my chance, and you seemed pretty content with the way things were." Charlie takes a sip of her coffee to hide her smile. “Anyway, what about you, I notice you never asked me out either!”
“No, but I took you with me on my trip back home,” Dorothy says accusingly, arching one eyebrow. “I would have thought the great Charlie Bradbury would realize that was me trying to make a move.”
Charlie’s mouth gapes open and closed like a fish. Why hadn’t she realized? “Damn,” she says under her breath. “You mean I could’ve been getting laid that whole trip and I just didn’t get the hint. Damn.”
Dorothy chuckles warmly. “And then you met Gilda at LARP and I wasn’t going to try to get between you and your fairy princess. I was happy for you, even if I was jealous as hell. She was a great girl.”
"Yeah she was,” Charlie says nodding, her smile turning sad. She takes a sip of her coffee, trying to turn her mind away from thoughts of her ex and back to happier thoughts.
“Hey,” Dorothy says and a hand lands, warm and gentle, on Charlie’s forearm. “I’m sorry I brought her up.”
Charlie shakes her head, adjusting her glasses where they perch on the bridge of her nose. “It’s okay. We broke up a long time ago.” She flushes suddenly, remembering, her lips parting as she grins across the table. “But then there was. Um."
"That night in the garage," Dorothy says, smirking and Charlie laughs.
It's late when Charlie stumbles into the garage, already a little tipsy and with a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels stuffed in the bag slung across her chest. It had been a short cab ride from the bar across the street from Gilda's apartment to Singer Auto but she's eager to keep drinking, to forget.
"Dean!" she yells, her voice echoing through the building. It's quiet aside from the buzz of a few small tools off to the right side of the shop, most of the mechanics having already gone home for the day, but Dean usually works late, and when she couldn't get him on his phone she assumed he was still at work. "Where are you, Winchester?"
She jumps when Dorothy slides out from under a red GMC on a rolling cart, her jumpsuit covered in the day's grease and a smudge of black across one cheek. "Charlie? What are you doing here?"
"Looking for Dean. Is he here?"
Dorothy shakes her head. "No, sorry. I offered to stay late today so that I could finish up here, so he took the night off early."
"Crap," Charlie groans, sinking down on the low stool next to Dorothy's workbench as Dorothy straightens up, wiping her hands on a dirty rag she pulls from her jumpsuit pocket.
"You okay, Red?" Dorothy asks, slipping the wrench she'd been holding back into her immaculately organized toolbox. She eyes Charlie's bag pointedly, where the neck of the whiskey bottle is sticking out from underneath the flap. "Anything you want to talk about?"
Charlie rubs her hands over her face, staving off angry tears. "Gilda and I broke up," she says miserably.
"What?" Dorothy's gasp is a little gratifying because to be honest, Charlie was more than a little shocked by it herself. "But I thought things were going well?"
"I thought so too. She's going back home. To Britain." Charlie rubs furiously at her eyes. "She just sprung this on me today out of nowhere."
"Jesus," Dorothy says, squatting down beside her and putting a comforting hand on Charlie's knee. "Did she say why?"
Charlie nods miserably, unable to meet Dorothy's eyes. “She said she’s been missing her home, her family—which I totally get, don’t get me wrong, but this was the first I’ve heard of it. She’s leaving in a week.”
Dorothy stares for a moment before patting Charlie’s knee and pushing herself back up to her feet. "Okay," Dorothy says, unzipping and stepping out of her dirty jumpsuit. "I'm cutting out early; this truck can wait til tomorrow. Pass me that whiskey."
Charlie scrounges up a pair of dusty shot glasses from inside Dean’s desk in the office—left behind from the last time they’d partied here after hours—and she and Dorothy then proceed to get rip-roaring drunk. Shots and commiserating devolves into angry ranting and finally—somehow—singing. Charlie commandeers Dean's stereo and hooks up her iPod and she and Dorothy dance around to the best of lady-rockers, running up and down the shop and dancing on work-tables until they finally collapse in a giggling pile together on the couch in the break room.
"I can’t believe she up and left like that," Dorothy yells over P!nk singing "So What". She fumbles for the remote for the sound system where it’s threatening to disappear between two of the couch cushions and turns the music down a few notches. "I thought Gilda was pretty cool."
"So did I," Charlie says, blinking blearily at Dorothy, who's pressed into her side. "But I get it. Her family's there and they need her. I just wish she'd told me sooner and didn't just hit me over the head with it out of nowhere like some kind of covert strike."
Dorothy nods thoughtfully. “Yeah that was a bit of a low blow. I’m sorry, Charlie. I know how much you loved her.”
Charlie scoffs, looking down at her shot glass, refusing to make eye contact. “Yeah.” Her eyes burn and she blinks away the sensation, glaring at a drop of amber liquid clinging to the inside of her glass. Bringing it to her lips she tips it back, chasing the last drop with her tongue.
When she looks back up, Dorothy is watching her, her gaze trained on Charlie’s mouth, eyes dark. Their eyes meet and Dorothy coughs, prying her gaze away. Inexplicably, Charlie feels a smile twitching at the corners of her lips, warmth radiating through her abdomen in spite of the gaping Gilda-shaped hole underneath.
“Were you checking me out, Baum?” she asks, whiskey making her bold.
“Maybe.” Dorothy smiles ruefully. “Sorry. I’m a little drunk.”
“So I’m hot when you’re drunk? Good to know.” Charlie grins, leaning in to bump her shoulder against her friend’s.
“I always think you’re hot,” Dorothy says and then flushes pink, mortification creeping across her features. “Oh god, you need to take this away from me.” She groans, lurching sideways to wave the whiskey bottle in Charlie’s direction. “I swear I didn’t mean to come onto you the same day that you and Gilda broke up.”
Charlie grins wider, swaying into Dorothy’s side and prying the whiskey bottle out of her hands, opening it with some difficulty and pouring them both another shot in spite of Dorothy’s half-hearted protests. “So what you’re saying is, you might come onto me some other time?”
Dorothy manages to roll her eyes. “Shut up, Bradbury,” she grumbles, tossing back the whiskey in a quick motion. She licks her lips, chasing the last drops with her tongue and Charlie finds herself following the motion with her eyes. She’s suddenly very aware of how close they are, of the attraction she’s been nursing for Dorothy since their first meeting that has never abated over the years they’ve been friends. She can feel the heat of Dorothy pressed up against her side, their faces only inches apart and it would be the simplest thing to lean in and kiss her. And if the way Dorothy’s looking at her is any indication, she wants it too.
Charlie doesn’t let herself think anymore, she just moves, closing her eyes and pressing her lips to Dorothy’s. They’re soft, and they don’t taste like anything so much as the whiskey they’ve both been drinking. Charlie feels a swooping excitement in her stomach when Dorothy kisses back, pressing almost imperceptibly back into the kiss. She smiles against Dorothy’s lips, and the heat in her chest spreads when Dorothy’s hand slips over the few inches between them to curl over Charlie’s.
It’s nice, and she can’t help but think finally—finally, after all these years of friendship they’re finally getting somewhere, and all it took was a messy break up and most of a bottle of whiskey to get them there.
A break up. The heat in Charlie’s belly turns to stone, a lead weight pulling her back down to earth through the haze of whiskey and Dorothy’s nearness. She pulls away abruptly, jerking her gaze down to her own lap and choking down the dismayed sound clawing its way up her throat.
“Hey,” Dorothy says, and her fingers tighten around Charlie’s. “It’s okay. We don’t have to.” Charlie looks up and Dorothy smiles, a little sad, a little regretful, but mostly understanding. “It’s not really the right time for it anyway.” She gestures at the nearly-empty whiskey bottle. “You just broke up with Gilda, you’re heartbroken—don’t even try to deny it, Red, I can see it on you—and we’re both more than a little drunk.”
Charlie laughs wistfully, and scrapes her free hand through her hair. “Figures. I finally make a move and find out that you’re into me too, and it just happens to be when I’m all broken up over someone else. This is the part where you’re supposed to be saying ‘I love you’ and I would say ‘I know’. Or you should be giving me orders and I should be saying ‘as you wish’. But no.” She groans and slumps back on the couch. “Worst. Timing. Ever.”
Dorothy’s lips twitch into an amused smile. “And I’m supposed to be Buttercup in this scenario?”
“Oh god, you’re perfect,” Charlie groans.
Dorothy laughs, and Charlie smiles across at her. Dorothy goes to withdraw her hand and Charlie moves, flipping their grips so that she can cling to Dorothy’s retreating fingers.
“No,” she says, hating that it sounds like begging. “Just let me have this one thing. Please.”
“Okay,” Dorothy says, smiling, and she settles their hands into a more comfortable grip, relaxing back into the worn leather of the couch. “So what’s your strategy for the next battle, oh Queen of Moons?” She arches an eyebrow and Charlie’s stomach flops wistfully with the expression, even as she smiles at the change in subject.
“Well I’m thinking we position our archers along the north bank…”
“That was an interesting night,” Dorothy chuckles, shaking her head.
Charlie laughs, hiding her grin behind her coffee. “That’s the understatement of the year. I seem to remember you dancing on Dean’s workbench. Damn, I wish I got a picture of that.”
Dorothy rolls her eyes. “I always regretted that our first kiss was when we were both drunk, the night you broke up with Gilda.” Dorothy shakes her head. “It seems like we wasted it. You don’t get a do-over on your first kiss with someone.”
Charlie’s grin broadens and she waggles her eyebrows. “Aw, Dorothy! I didn’t know you were such a romantic.” Dorothy cocks an eyebrow, fighting the amused curl of her lips as Charlie continues, “Well, maybe we wasted our first kiss but there’s always a second.”
Leaning forward across the table, she pushes her coffee mug to the side, taking the tea from Dorothy’s hands. She stretches forward, letting her eyes slip closed and ignoring the nervous twist of her stomach as she purses her lips comically. Dorothy huffs a laugh, but then her hand is falling over Charlie’s where it lies flat on the table, and their lips meet, soft and warm and sweet. This time Dorothy tastes different, like green tea and cherry-flavored lip balm, but her lips are still soft and warm, and when she kisses back, warmth still pools low in Charlie’s belly along with the spark of happiness in her chest.
When they break apart, Charlie can feel the heat in her cheeks and sees an answering flush in Dorothy’s. They smile stupidly at each other for a long moment before settling back in their seats.
“How was that?” Charlie asks, adjusting her glasses where the’ve slid slightly down her nose. “Better?”
“Much,” Dorothy replies, her smile widening.
Neither of them makes a move to pull their hand back, and their fingers stay laced together on the tabletop.
“So what was the last straw?” Dorothy asks, reaching for her tea with her free hand. “What made you finally ask me out?”
Charlie’s thumb skims absently over Dorothy’s and she fidgets with her hair, tucking it behind her ear. Things had been strange between them for a while after that night in the garage. Dean found them passed out on the couch together the next day, and he only kept from teasing her when she told him about the breakup. The next time she’d seen Dorothy, she’d acted as though nothing had happened, and Charlie had wondered on more than one occasion if the mechanic had forgotten, the memories lost in their drunken haze.
Charlie most certainly hadn’t though. Every time they spent time together after that she found herself thinking of it, dwelling on the memory of Dorothy’s lips on hers, of the warm press of their thighs together on the worn break-room couch. Every time they sat beside each other in the back of Dean’s Impala on the way to the movies or when their hands brushed during game night, Charlie’s mind flashed back to those events, and she wondered if she’d lost her chance.
Eventually things had gotten easier; the ease of their friendship returning with time. They kept up their silent agreement not to discuss what had gone down that night, not the kiss, not the things they’d shared, and definitely not the drunken dancing. But then, months later, the waiting had just gotten to be too much.
“It was at LARP,” Charlie admits. “Remember our last meet? When you presented me with the Orc King’s corpse after we won the battle?” A slow grin creeps across Dorothy’s lips, and Charlie flushes, forcing herself to continue. “And then you got down on one knee and presented me with your sword and then you frakking winked?”
Dorothy laughs, remembering. “Yeah, that was a little rash.”
“Yeah well, I decided, screw it. You said we wasted our first kiss but I still think it was amazing, and in that moment I knew I didn’t want it to be our only kiss. So the next time I saw you and we had a spare second alone I just—“ Charlie shrugs—“went for it.”
“I should have known that all it would take was some big knightly gesture to win you over.” Dorothy grins across the table at her, her fingers tightening once around Charlie’s. “I’m glad you asked me.”
Charlie smiles back. “Me too.”
Dorothy finishes her tea and goes up to the counter to get them both refills, and Charlie watches her go with a smile on her face. When she comes back, it’s with a giant, soft cookie that they split, and Charlie moans indecently at the first bite, flushing at Dorothy’s easy laugh.
It’s easy between them, has always been easy between them. They talk about the next LARP meet and reminisce about old ones. Charlie talks about her current project at work and Dorothy talks about the motorcycle she’s restoring in her free time, a big, black Harley she’d acquired off one of their longtime customers. When Charlie asks if she can take it for a spin once it’s done, Dorothy arches an eyebrow and smiles crookedly in the way that Charlie loves, and just answers, “We’ll see, Red.” They bicker like they always do, smiling between the teasing, and throughout it all, their hands stay laced together on the table between them.
Charlie looks back at her panic this morning and chuckles ruefully to herself, shaking her head when Dorothy cocks her head questioningly. It was stupid really, to worry about going on a date with one of her best friends, someone she’s always gotten along with so easily. And to think that she’d been worrying about what shirt to wear, about forgetting to switch out her glasses for her contacts.
She smiles, skating her thumb over Dorothy’s. “So,” she says finally, after draining back the last of her coffee and setting her mug back on the table, “what do you say we grab some more of those cookies for the road and go back to my place?”
Dorothy chokes out a surprised laugh, but she squeezes Charlie’s hand before separating them, standing and grabbing for the jacket slung across the back of her chair. “Race you, there,” she says with a crooked grin and Charlie winks, snatching up her own jacket and helmet.
“As you wish,” she shoots back over her shoulder, and grins at Dorothy’s answering laugh.
It’s early the next morning by the time Charlie walks Dorothy to the door, wearing Star Wars boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt she got at San Diego Comic Con last year. She stretches languidly while Dorothy pulls on her boots and zips on her coat, grinning smugly at the pull of tight muscles that had gotten an extremely pleasant workout the night before.
“What are you grinning about?” Dorothy asks as she straightens up, her hand falling on Charlie’s hip and tugging her forward.
Charlie shakes her head, standing on her tiptoes to press her lips to Dorothy’s. “Nothing,” she says between sweet, chaste kisses. “Just remembering this hot chick I hooked up with last night.”
Dorothy laughs, reaching to tuck a stray strand of hair behind Charlie’s ear. “More than just a hook-up, I hope.”
“Duh,” Charlie says, winking cheekily. “It took me three years to get her; I’m not about to let go without a fight.”
They kiss goodbye once more, and Dorothy promises to stop by with pizza and beer after she’s done her shift at the garage. Charlie shuts the door behind her, unable to stifle the broad grin tugging at her lips, already looking forward to another amazing night with her new girlfriend.
She hums “So What” as she fixes herself a cup of coffee and slathers cream cheese onto a bagel, making her way back to the living room. She turns on her XBOX, slumping down on the couch and pulling out her phone as the Destiny load screen fills her TV.
Bradbury scores, she types into a new text to Dean and hits send. The reply comes quickly, and Charlie rolls her eyes at her friend’s eagerness. Frankly, she’s surprised she didn’t wake up to a string of texts harassing her for an update.
aww, Dean says. my little padawan’s all grown up.
shut up, Winchester, and get on Destiny so we can kick some alien ass.
aye aye cap.
A second text comes while she’s waiting for him to log in. proud of u kiddo.
thanks old man, she replies, and grins.