Title: A New Leaf – Gen (1/? Works as a One-Shot)

Author: XinaMarieUhl

Rating: PG for mild language

Spoilers: Through the end of Season 2.

Disclaimer: I disclaim everything. Forever. And ever. Amen.

Words: about 900

Summary: Dean decides to, well, turn over a new leaf and live the time he has left to him differently.

Notes: A WIP that works quite well as a one-shot … more is coming soon, though. It's actually written for a challenge, but can't say which one or it will ruin the surprise for you! Betaed by Harry Potter Fan Fic writing genius Cheryl Dyson.

Sam had been bitching about how hungry he was for 47 miles (Dean had noted the first bitch on the odometer) when they finally stopped in some nameless diner off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The frizzy-haired waitress took forever to serve them, but as soon as she'd plunked plates of burgers and fries down in front of each of them, Sam snatched his up like a beggar who hadn't eaten in three days.

Dean considered his brother and felt some inner conviction tell him it was time. Right here, right now—no more waiting, and no more fear. Well, maybe a little fear. Or a lot.

Dean cleared his throat. "Sam, look. I have something to tell you – and I'm only going to say it once, so I want you to hear me, okay?"

"Yeah, sure," Sam said distractedly around a huge mouthful. "Man, this is good – aren't you gonna eat yours?"

As if he could right now. Later, after he'd done the unthinkable, said the unsayable. Or whatever.

Dean took a deep breath. There was only one way to do this. And that was to just spill the beans. Heart pounding like a war-drum in his ears, he opened his mouth. His voice sounded surprisingly calm and strong.

"Sam, I love you."

Sam kept on chewing for a moment, his attention on the French fries piled on his plate like a spill of cordwood. If cordwood were yellow, and covered in grease. With ketchup on the side. Okay, bad analogy, but under the circumstances Dean couldn't be expected to come up with anything that required more wit and intelligence than that.

Sam didn't say anything for a moment, didn't even seem to have heard Dean. Dean saw the exact instant that his words penetrated Sam's hunger-crazed brain, because his eyes widened and locked on Dean's. He froze, like a deer in the headlights, and his jaw dropped to reveal partially chewed hamburger, bun and lettuce.

"Dude, that is just gross," Dean said. "Come on, I thought you outgrew 'see food' in the fourth grade. Close your mouth, will you?"

Sam tried, blinking. Then he said, "You--" but he couldn't talk around the huge mouthful. Instead, he chewed desperately, like the burger had suddenly turned into dry, lumpy sawdust in his mouth. Man, what was it with all the lumber references?

Sam swallowed finally, and wiped his mouth with a napkin. His eyes hadn't left Dean's.

"Did you say that you love me?" He said in a hushed tone, his eyebrows raised almost as high as his hairline.

Dean shrugged, felt his throat tighten. God, he hated all this touchy-feely crap. But he had to do this. A little more than eleven months from now and the Crossroads Demon would come collecting her payment. Before that, he had a lot of living to do. And a lot of that had to do with taking care of Sammy.

"Yeah, I did," Dean said. "And I do. More than pretty much anything."

"You … I don't know what … wow," Sam said. He looked dazed. Like Dean had just hit him upside the head with a 2 by 4.

So, good. Sam seemed to understand. Thank God that horror was finished. Dean sighed in relief, and popped a fry in his mouth. Now, time to get down to business. "Hey, pass me the ketchup, will you?" he asked.

Sam barely looked at the bottle as he pushed it toward Dean. He was still staring at Dean like he'd just come back from the dead. But the dazed look evaporated as a slow, wide smile spread across his face, indenting his cheeks with those deep little pits. Or dimples. Whatever.

Sam said, "Um, I--"

Dean put out a hand to stop him. "Look, don't say it. I didn't tell you so that you'd tell me back. I just wanted to make sure you know, is all."

Sam grabbed his hand, warm and strong. "Dean," he said. And oh, God, he was talking in that tone of his, that gentle, wondering tone. The earnest, sappy one. But before Dean could make a wisecrack to ruin the moment altogether, Sam went on.

"I love you, too."

Warmth surged through Dean's chest, unexpected and so damn powerful that he thought he might have fallen on his ass if he hadn't already been sitting down. The clamor of the diner, the rush of color and activity of the world around them, receded. Suddenly Sam's face, his smile and the fall of his hair, the pattern on his blue and white plaid shirt, appeared clearer and more vivid, more detailed, than he'd ever seen before. Instinctively, he knew that this was one of those moments, the ones that would remain forever, imprinted on his brain like a timestamp, indelible and eternal.

Fleeting, too.

Dean nodded at his brother, and released Sam's hand, suddenly very interested in shaking the ketchup out of its glass bottle. Sam didn't try to hang on, just went back to devouring his hamburger. But he kept smiling for a long time.

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