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Claire figures Dean knows more about her kind of stuff — flannel and sneaking into bars underage and making your first kill before you’ve graduated high school — than Sam does, which is probably why they didn’t get along so good at first. Now, though, when she’s just off her shift washing dishes at some grimy bar off a lonely highway to maybe scrape together enough for next week’s food, Dean’s the one she calls. Just to hear his voice. Just to hear someone who cares about her.

“Hey, kiddo,” he says when he answers, which she likes. When Sam does it it feels condescending, but Dean manages to sound respectful while he’s at it.

“Hi, Dean.”

They breathe together in silence, while Claire scuffs her shoes against the gravel and puts off getting into her backseat sleeping bag for as long as she can. Finally, as the last coworkers whose names she never bothered to learn sidle into their cars and drive off into the night, Dean breaks the quiet. “What’s up?”

“I got—” A problem. A dilemma. A choice to make. “—a situation.”

“What is it?” Dean sounds more alert, ready to call in the cavalry, so Claire rushes to say, “No, no, not a hunting one, a— you know, a life situation.”

Dean doesn’t exactly sound relieved when he says, “So what’s the sitch?”

Maybe this was a stupid thing to call Dean about. She knows what he did to that gropey bartender from a month ago — knows, too, the way Dean looked at her after she was cured, the way Dean stumbled over his words when he asked how she was feeling — so maybe she shouldn’t tell him about this. He’ll just overreact.

“Hey, kiddo, if you don’t say something soon I’m gonna get Sam on the phone.”

Claire laughs easily in response. Sam would be way worse to call, and Jody, well. Hard no. “Yeah, I just— I dunno how to say it.” She breathes out. “I got… I got offered a hundred bucks to give a guy a blowjob.”

She flinches when Dean’s breath crackles along the line, loud and violent in the asphalt emptiness of predawn middle America. “Fuck, Claire—”

“Never mind, it’s not a big deal.”

Dean stays silent for a moment, and Claire’s stupidly, stupidly grateful that he hasn’t hung up yet.

“Well… did you?” Dean says it quietly, like it’s serious, not the way the girls from school used to gossip about making out or dry humping with their boyfriends. Well, obviously that’s not how he would talk about it. Dean’s, like, old .

She found a job and she’s still sleeping in her car. If Dean knew that, he’d probably realize it was a stupid question. “Yeah.”

“An’ how did you feel about it?”

Claire can’t read his voice at all, and the flat baritone makes her feel like she’s in a fucking social worker’s office or something. “What the fuck? Are you a therapist or something?”

“No, dammit, I—” She can hear, distantly, something tapping on something else. She wonders if Dean’s drumming his fingers on a table, or jiggling his leg like a kid. She wonders if Dean’s nervous.

He doesn’t say anything else, so she figures she owes it to him to at least wrap up the conversation. “I’m almost twenty, it’s not even a big deal. I just… I dunno if I should keep doing it. I’ll figure that part out later. Anyway. What’re you up to?”

Dean doesn’t take the bait, which Claire can’t really blame him for. Eventually, he says, “It wasn’t your first time,” lilting like it’s a question.

Claire laughs. “No, what the hell,” and doesn’t say it was her first time with a guy. Doesn’t say she’s not sure she even likes guys, but for a hundred bucks, she’s happy to pretend.

“I got paid for my first.”

Claire almost can’t breathe for a moment. The words drop into the silence like a hulking boulder crashing down a mountain, leaving unnatural stillness in its wake.

Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.  “Dean—”

“I’m not saying— I’m almost fucking forty, okay, I’m over it. I just want you to be careful. If you don’t have to do it, maybe this isn’t… maybe this isn’t a path you need to go down.”

Claire swallows. “I didn’t hate it,” she admits. It feels like a betrayal, now that she knows this about Dean. She wants to ask for tips, for stories, for a leg up into this world that she kind of encountered by accident, but she feels like she doesn’t have the skill to tread lightly enough in this conversation.

“That’s good. That’s really—” and Dean’s voice hitches, just a little, and Claire wants to see him. Wants to give this weird old guy a hug. “I’m glad.”

Claire watches the stars, a little chilled in her windbreaker and shorts but not cold enough yet to move inside her car. “Should I stop?” she finally asks. She’s not sure what answer she wants to hear.

“If you’re making money, being safe, and you don’t— you don’t hate it, it doesn’t make you feel dirty or, or bad, or—” and it hurts, knowing that Dean must’ve felt those things, as much as she tries to tell herself he’s not her problem. “Anyway, I’m not gonna tell you to stop if it’s not hurting you yet. Seriously. It’s your body, you’re an adult, you can— as long as you’re safe—” Dean breathes out.

Claire waits for him to continue.

“Fuck, kid,” he says finally. “I can’t— you always have us, okay? You need money, you come to us, or you call me and I’ll come get you, okay, you don’t— you never have to do this.”

Yeah, okay. Fair. “Did you have to?” she blurts out, unthinkingly. “Aw, shit.”

Dean huffs a laugh at her awkwardness. She waits for him to say something, and eventually, after minutes, maybe twenty or thirty of them, have passed, he says, “Yeah. Yeah.”

She doesn’t know what to do with that. All her friends are traumatized — shit, she’s traumatized — but that doesn’t mean she’s any good at dealing with it. Shit. “I, I’m sorry, I—”

“No, kid, don’t,” Dean says, all gentle-like. He’d be a great dad, she thinks suddenly, tears pricking at the back of her eyes. She had a dad, and now he’s gone, and she just thought that the best friend of the guy who stole him would be a Good Dad. Fuck. Fuck. “Hey, I’m just— I just—” and Dean doesn’t know she’s having a tiny crisis about the fact that she just thought he’d be a good fucking dad so he keeps going, “I didn’t want you to ever have to deal with this. Straight up. But that’s not on you, okay, it’s not your fault, and no matter what you do, no matter how you handle this, I’m in your corner, okay?”

She sniffles, and hears Dean go aw fuck under his breath. “Do you—” She wants to say, do you think my parents would hate me for this,  but they’re dead, they’re fucking dead, and anyway, Dean never knew them so it doesn’t matter. “Do you think Sam would say the same thing?”

Maybe it’s a dumb question, but it’s a good coverup. Dean sighs. “Yeah, of course he would. Choice is really important to Sam.” She forgot to ask what time it was over there, hell, for all she’s paid attention they might even be in the same timezone, because Dean sounds like he’s ready to pass out. “And I— one time I fucked that up for him. Maybe it’s because he’s my little brother. Maybe it’s ‘cause I never got a choice so I didn’t—”

Claire listens as a grown man breaks down on the phone with her. Fuck. Fuck. This is so not what she wanted. “You gave me my choice,” she says quietly, like that’ll fix everything.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to do,” Dean says. “But I promise. You make a choice about your body and your life, I’ll back you up a hundred percent, okay? If your choice ends up being not safe, or hurting you, we’ll help you figure out what you really wanna do, okay? We’re never gonna force you to do anything.”

“Thanks, Dean.” She watches the sky start to lighten, and checks her watch. It’s almost four. “I gotta— I gotta go.” She’s gotta make her way into her sad little car and sleep, hoping no one finds her in the back parking lot of a bar that’s fucking called Pugface Jinkle’s. Seriously.

“You stay safe, okay,” Dean says. “And if you ever want a home cooked meal, you know where we are.”

Claire makes herself roll her eyes, and she cranks her voice into something resembling sarcasm, just so she can say, “Yeah, thanks, Dad.”

Dean snorts, but he’s gentle as anything when he says, “No problem, kiddo.”

And even though she’s sleeping in a car at four AM, miles out of anywhere, she realizes; maybe she’s not as alone as she thought she was.