Title: Mapping the Tides

Author: HalfshellVenus

Characters: Sam/Dean (Wincest)

Rating: M

Word Count: 5300

Summary: Wincest, early Season 2: Distanced from Sam by loss and grief, Dean fights the realization that he needs Sam far too much.

Author's Notes: This version of the story is largely identical to the original (posted on LiveJournal and elsewhere), but for the sex scene, which has been written down for posting on The story is an AU adventure in the post-ELAC Season 2 timeframe, written for the lovely poisontaster's birthday.


The sea is warm in Miami, but Dean is cold inside.

The sun never leaves them, shining down in a blaze of insincerity. But it changes nothing. Dad is still dead, the demon and the Colt are gone. And he and Sam are wandering aimlessly, trying to find their way back to a purpose, back to each other.

It's his own fault, Dean thinks. Sam needs him desperately, needs to be anchored to something real. They'd finally gotten Sammy to understand what family was worth, but Dean's not ready to be all that by himself just now. Dean can only manage surviving and keeping Sammy safe. Not happy—just safe.

It hurts watching Sammy cry. It always has, but now it's worse. Dean finally thinks the answer is to stop looking. Because if he touches Sam—or lets Sam touch him—Dean's not sure he'll ever be able to stop.

They salt and burn the bones of a poltergeist in Alabama. The smoke from the grave billows, then shifts direction in the wind. It envelopes them, smothers them, and Sam bolts off to vomit next to a tree, like he hasn't done since he was twelve. Dean knows exactly what Sam's thinking— the memories rush back with the smell of burning, leaving Dean feeling dazed and helpless. But he doesn't say anything, doesn't offer comfort. Sam probably thinks Dean's mad because he's acting like a baby, but it isn't that—isn't anything like that at all.

Sam is silent after that, too withdrawn to reach or understand. He collapses in a chair when they get back to the motel, doesn't respond when Dean offers him the first shower. Dean scrubs himself raw with the washcloth, getting the residue of ash out of his skin. He thinks about the hillside where they burned Dad's body, where his last bit of denial went up in flames. A sudden sickening heat comes over him, and he finds himself kneeling down in the tub, heaving his last bit of strength out into the drain.

When he comes out of the bathroom, Sam's still sitting in the chair by the window. Dean steps into the room quietly, hoping Sam didn't hear anything over the rush of the water. But Sam doesn't even stir. He stares out toward the parking lot, head leaning against the glass as tears slip down his face. Dean is caught by the curve of Sam's cheek, the grief-stricken tilt of his mouth. He wants to touch, to hold that sorrow in his hands like a chalice. He wants to thread his fingers through the silk of Sam's hair, brush them across those downturned lips and—

His thoughts crash to a halt as Dean's stomach stutters up into his throat.

The images are too vivid and far too close. They're within a hair's breadth of being real, of Dean just stepping over the brink and destroying what's left of his family. He and Sam have been stalled out here for months, at this impasse of inaction. Sam's going to pieces across the room now, missing their Dad and missing the brother that used to care about him. And Dean's worthless to both of them-- he's got nothing to offer but inappropriate fantasies that amount to betraying Sam's loneliness and trust.

Sam desperately needs his love, but Dean doesn't know what that is anymore. It can't be this—not these feelings, this fixation on Sam's physical qualities while struggling to ignore the heartbreak underneath.

Dean's sympathy is tainted. His love is poisoned. He backs into the bathroom and closes the door quietly before Sam notices him there and thinks Dean's rejecting him all over again.

In South Carolina, they quiet a siren off the coast of Beaufort. Clad in lifejackets and paddling a rickety old rented boat, Dean discovers that flying is not the only thing he's afraid of. Water's never bothered him that much before, but there's never been so much of it as there is here. Restless waves heave and toss their boat in the uneasy surf, and they're surrounded by chances for drowning just like the ill-fated sailors before them.

Earplugs save them, earplugs and a folding-together spell. The siren sings herself down into her own curse, falling helplessly into the waves for the last, deadly time.

Dean is shivering by the time they're done, can't wait to get someplace warm and dry. The solid sensation ofland under his feet now is pure relief, but he hides it in the face of Sam's nonchalance. Dean is still shaking, and it's the cold—has to be the cold. When Sam comes up behind him and enfolds him close against his own warmth, Dean nearly jumps right out of his skin.

"Sorry," Sam says behind Dean's ear, his arms circling tighter, one hand clutching the collar of Dean's jacket closed against the wind.

"I'm— I'm okay," Dean stutters out, trying to pull away from Sam's grasp.

"Bullshit," Sam counters. He doesn't let Dean go, and Dean resigns himself to it with a sense of dismay. It's pure kindness, the way Sam's trying to soothe his physical or emotional discomfort. And Dean knows he's been far too much of an ass lately where Sam's concerned.

He stops struggling, stays put while Sam's warmth creeps into him.

It does feel better. He's not so cold now, not so edgy after being out in the middle of waiting destruction. Dean relaxes a little in Sam's hold, lets himself soften and lean into Sam. The ocean seems less threatening now, and the sun breaking through the clouds in the east throws blue light into the stormy dark-green waves. It's beautiful, he realizes. All of it. This moment, after what they've been through with losing Dad, is… nice. Dean notices Sam's other hand stroking absently along his chest, a lazy afterthought of affection—the kind they never allow themselves. He feels Sam strong and tall behind him, the way Sam's face is leaning quietly against the back of his head, and Dean has never been so reminded of Sam's size before now, of how it makes him feel so—

Panic ripples up from his gut, sending his heart slamming up through his throat. He jerks away from Sam, horrified at the direction of his own thoughts.

"We'd better go," he mumbles gruffly, not meeting Sam's eyes. His brother's frozen posture makes Dean feel guilty—Sam doesn't know, couldn't possibly know that it wasn't because he did anything wrong.

He reaches out to pat Sam's shoulder in passing, to undo the implications of pulling away so rudely. "Thanks," he tells Sam, then moves toward the car as fast as he can go without looking like he's running.

It's longer than he expects before Sam catches up with him and climbs into the passenger seat without a word.

Roanoke has an honest-to-god werewolf, and the only motel room they can find afterward has just one bed.

It's long after midnight, but Dean stays in the shower forever. He tries to calm himself down and not think of Sam, of how he'll be stretched out all long and lean beside him as soon as he gets in that bed. It doesn't work—he can practically feel the heat of Sam next to him, hear the low cadence of Sam's voice tickling inside his ear.

Maybe if he stays in here long enough, Sam will fall asleep without him. And then he can slide into bed unseen by Sam's watchful eyes, and turn his back on the whole dilemna.

Dean washes slowly, stalling for time. He lets the spray hit him squarely between the shoulders, pounding his obsession into nothing more than a vibration under his skin.

When he finally comes out of the bathroom, Sam's out cold and sprawled bonelessly across most of the bed.

What's he got to be so tired about? Dean wonders. That werewolf went down easy compared to some of them.

Dean edges into his side of the bed, pushing Sam back slowly and firmly until there's room for both of them. He turns the lamp off and lies down, and it's hardly more than a few seconds before Sam scurries closer in his sleep and presses his forehead into Dean's shoulder.

Dean's breath stills in his throat. His emotions are caught between the jolt down inside his stomach—like bitten-off hope, but that's ridiculous given who they are—and memories of little Sammy cuddling up to him at night, so glad of Dean's presence and so certain Dean would always keep him safe.

What Sam needs saving from now is Dean himself.

And Dean's suddenly so cold that he burrows closer to Sam even though he knows he shouldn't.

When morning comes, Dean wakes to the warmth of his brother against his side. Sam exhales slowly against his skin, setting up a tingling that rises in Dean's neck and flutters all the way down to his toes. Sam's arm is across Dean's waist, and even though it's reflex or accident it still feels like a kind of promise. It makes Dean ache for something he'll never have, something he isn't even allowed to actually want. Still, he turns his head helplessly until his forehead rests against his brother's hair. It's only for a moment, and Sam will never even know.

Why that makes Dean's eyes sting he couldn't begin to say. When Sam's hand tightens possessively against Dean's waist, it's like Fate is taunting him, tempting him with lies that could easily destroy him.

Dean pulls away sharply, a choked-off noise in the back of his throat. He stumbles out of bed to the sanctuary of the bathroom, leaving Sam blinking and bewildered in the reverberation of the slamming door.

There's a nest of vampires in Temperanceville, down on the peninsula. They find their victims elsewhere, drive an hour or more to other towns to keep the evidence far from their lair.

Sam and Dean track them down to an abandoned cabin—windows boarded up, and too many cars for such an isolated area.

Dean watches Sam watching the house, because Sam has to be sure these vampires are evil before he'll let Dean attack them.

"Do they have thoughts?" Dean whispers uncertainly.

"Yes." Sam smiles softly. "Almost everything has thoughts, except zombies. And the vampires here feed on humans, so we're good to go. You want the back door or the front?"

"Front," Dean says immediately.

But it's Sam who makes it in first, unlocking the front door while Dean's still trying to get it open without waking anyone. Sam jerks his head toward the back of the house, and Dean follows, his face flaming.

Sam's scythe—bought at a Coast-to-Coast hardware store four months ago—makes short work of three of the vampires while Dean goes to work with his Bowie knife. The last four awaken, one clawing long gashes down Dean's back while he fights off two others. Sam eviscerates the last vampire, distracting it before moving in for the kill. Then he takes out one of Dean's attackers, and Dean finishes up by destroying the rest.

"How bad?" Sam asks.

"Okay," Dean grunts out between breaths. The wounds hurt like a sonofabitch, but he's not about to admit it.

Sam must be able to tell, because he pushes Dean into the passenger seat of the car and drives them to the motel while Dean struggles to find a position where his back isn't touching anything.

"Bathroom, now," Sam says when they arrive.

The scene in the bathroom isn't new—though never from vampire claws before—but it's usually Sam kneeling in the tub while Dean cuts his shirt loose.

Dean's grateful for the towel under his knees while Sam works, and in time he realizes that Sam is every bit as gentle as he usually is himself. His brother wrings a washcloth out over Dean's back again and again, moistening the pieces of the shirt and letting them soak until they pull away more easily. Then it's hydrogen peroxide over the wounds, and Dean's out of the tub and into the towel Sam holds out for him.

Dean suddenly feels like a four-year-old, but that vanishes when Sam's hand brushes the side of Dean's hip to guide him out to the bedroom. Dean becomes hard in response to that sure, intimate touch, and he bolts for the bed and lies down on his stomach to hide the evidence.

This is it now—he's completely fucked. His own body is betraying him, ready to take a leap into someplace more deadly than anything they've fought.

You perverted asshole, he accuses himself. Are you so desperate that you're ready to kill the last shred of innocence Sam still has?

Sam's hands soothe Dean's skin while awakening the rest of him, and Dean grits his teeth and thinks of ectoplasm and bodies turned to slime. "Sorry," Sam says, giving him whiskey and Motrin against the pain he probably thinks Dean's feeling. Then Sam cleans and closes everything efficiently, stitching the deepest gash with precise movements while Dean's hand clenches the bedspread weakly.

"Better?" Sam asks, when he's done and Dean's body is finally quiet.

"S'good, Sammy," Dean slurs drunkenly.

Sam leans in to turn out the light and draw the covers back for Dean, and Dean grabs an arm and brings Sam down for a sloppy, heartfelt kiss.

It's sweet and wet, and over too soon as Sam pulls away.

"Dude, What?" Sam says, and then Dean's sober in an instant.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, he thinks. This is it, Sam surely knows now—it's got to be right there on Dean's face.

"Good night," Dean chokes out hurriedly, turning off the lamp and hoping for the darkness to swallow him.

He closes his eyes and waits for Sam to hit him, or to say something. Instead, after an unbearably long moment, Dean finally feels the mattress shift as Sam gets up.

They don't talk about it. Not even after four days of waiting for Dean's back to heal enough to move on, four days of daytime television and Sam going to the Laundromat and the store while Dean's stuck lying on the bed and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For awhile, Sam dresses and undresses in the bathroom, but on the second day he stops. Dean tries not to look at Sam in general, not to gaze at him like a lovestruck dork. Every now and then Sam catches him before Dean looks away, just stares at him unblinking. Dean can feel those eyes behind him. Their judgment sets his cheeks on fire.

They eat dinner at a café on the fourth night, because Dean's ready to gnaw on the furniture for excitement after days in that motel room. The food is passable, but the waitress is blond and stacked. She catches Dean's eye from over near the bathrooms after her shift ends, and he gets up from the table and saunters over, ready to enjoy a little 'restroom rodeo' before bed.

A hand falls on his shoulder before he even reaches the cash register, and he turns to find Sam glaring at him.


"We're leaving," Sam says firmly.

"What, now? I'm kind of busy here, Sam. I'll meet you back at the motel."


"What do you mean, No? I'm going to 'Christo' you in a second if you don't knock it off-- what's your problem?"

"You are not getting off that easy, not after what happened the other night," Sam hisses.

Now Dean's so damned embarrassed by the whole scene that he couldn't follow through in the bathroom if he wanted to. He ducks outside and starts walking up the road, leaving Sam to pay for their meal.

He considers running as soon as he hears the footsteps marching up behind him, but the idea's useless-- Sam's been faster than him since high school. Dean can't escape his brother, but he can try stonewalling with denial until Sam gets bored.

Sam grabs his shoulder again, spinning him around. Dean is instantly pissed off. "What the fuck, Sam? Quit mauling me."

"Not until you face up to this problem."

"You cock-blocking me back at the café? You've been doing that for years."

"You sublimating all the time. Waitresses, barmaids, god knows who else—anyone so long as it's not real."

"There's no room for 'real' in the way we live, you know that."

"Oh, I think 'real' is staring you in the face every day, but you're just too chicken to admit it."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, dude, so save your breath."

"Really," Sam says, pulling Dean close and sweeping a knowing hand across his ass.

Dean gasps, even more shocked when Sam yanks him up against his chest and runs a thumb across his lip.

"Sam! You can't—"

"You did." Sam's kiss steals all the words that Dean could say.

It's heady—hot—with Sam gripping Dean's ass to force him tight and hard against him. Dean strains through the front of his pants, shaking with mixed emotions as Sam caresses him and swallows every sound.

It's—god it's good, right here, this, with Sam's leg between his thighs and bucking up underneath him—and Dean's rock hard and whimpering, struggling for breath while Sam ratchets him up with every lick and touch.

Sam's arm moves under Dean's and around his back, lifting him up in a rhythmic bounce. And it's that feeling of Sam's huge hand wrapped around Dean's ribs that brings him back to Fuck— Sammy. No! as he jerks back out of the kiss to stand on his own.

"What… what are you doing?" he gasps, lips still tingling in betrayal of the choice he's trying to make.

"Helping you prove my point," Sam says huskily.

And god, Dean would be a goner at the sound of that voice alone, except that he sprints away into the night then like the coward he clearly is.

"You can't stay in that shower forever," Sam calls through the bathroom door.

Not forever, but I can outlast you, Dean thinks. He's not going to discuss this or deal with it in any way, except by denial. That's always worked in the past. Denial is how he keeps living from one day to the next.

He doesn't understand what got into Sam back there, because it's crazy—hell, both of them are crazy right now.

Dean knows Sam can't possibly want this. And though a huge part of him wants it more than anything, the other part remembers that you don't corrupt your little brother with this kind of sickness. He owes Sam too much to let that happen.

After a moment, Dean thinks he hears rattling, and he's right—Sam's big feet stomp their way on into the bathroom. Must've picked the lock.

Sam throws back the shower curtain and Dean startles, covering his groin with a washcloth.

Sam just gives him a look. "Stop being a freak, Dean. I've found our next job, so get your ass out here."

"In a minute," Dean squeaks, yanking the curtain shut again. Sam never barges in on him when he's locked the door. Never does anything like half of what's already happened tonight.

Dean dries off and dresses hurriedly, glad for something now to distract them both.

It's a death-spirit, according to what Sam's found. Not their first time for one of those—sometimes the spirits are vengeful and other times they're looking for justice.

"Five bodies in a ten-block radius." Sam points to the Mapquest image, circling virtual locations over the screen.

"We're going to have a hell of a time getting close to that," Dean mutters. "Probably being tracked as a serial killer, with all the crime scenes taped off."

"Maybe we'll break out the cop uniforms, revisit the scenes."

"Yeah, you like those uniforms. Because you think I'm totally hot in that outfit, don't you?" The words are out of Dean's mouth before he even realizes what he's saying.

Sam's slow smile absolutely does not help the situation at all.

"Uh, I'm, uh— gonna run an errand," Dean stammers.

"No you're not. Now see what Dad's journal says while I look up some more details on the Web."

Dean eyes the door, but finally picks up the journal and starts skimming over the pages. He's halfway through it by the time he falls asleep on the bed, there on his stomach with the journal squashed under his face.

Wilkes-Barre is inland again, the air quiet and still, and it makes Dean restless.

Sam's presence fills the motel room and the car, and it's only a matter of time before one of them fucks up again. Depending on how you define that, because Sam keeps pushing and Dean's closer than ever to caving in. Sam's like a dog with a bone—won't let go of the teasing, the touching, the sly glances in Dean's direction.

And Dean, well, Dean's coming unglued. He's stuttering and blushing, and constantly second-guessing everything. Sam didn't just—Wait, did I do something to— "Sam, hands!" Dean yelps out.

"Right on the ends of my arms," Sam answers back, sliding his grasp up around Dean's shoulder and turning to smile innocently at his brother.

"Uh…" Dean begins, but Sam takes pity on him and guides Dean over to the computer.

"This one happened while we were driving," Sam says. It's a new death, within the geographic cluster of others. "I want to start here, before the survivors start forgetting things."

They head out after breakfast, interviewing the family and friends. The trail goes backwards from that point, death by death. Lily Haines was the first victim, just a week back from a honeymoon in Europe.

"What if she brought the spirit back with her? It'll be hard to salt and burn anything then."

"That's the best way," Dean agrees, "but sometimes you've got to compromise. I'd settle for taking anything we find and sending it back to where it came from."

They don't find the entity, but they find its nexus—an ancient locket in Lily's jewelry box. It sets off the EMF meter as soon as they enter the house, and they track the source by process of elimination until they reach the bedroom and the noise from the machine is deafening.

"The man in the locket's picture looks awfully young," Sam says.

"Maybe old enough to kill, though— Could be that's what made our spirit so angry."

"I hate when it's metal," Sam mutters.

"I hear you," Dean says. "But at least it's small enough to cut up and burn the pieces. Then we can do the cleansing ritual and save them to scatter in the ocean."

"Better hope it doesn't kill us even from the bits while we're waiting to dump it."

"We'll make a little salt-circle prison for them. That should do it." They grab the necklace and go.

The Yellow Pages give them the addresses of several hardware stores ("GPS," Sam suggests, but Dean gives him a look). There's a Home Depot just a few miles away, exactly what they're looking for. Sam admires the wall display of tools while Dean attacks the locket with a pair of tin snips. Soon Dean has a handful of little pieces, and he dumps them in a baggie. Sam buys some lighter fluid as karmic payback for borrowing the tool instead of buying it

They torch the remains of the locket in a fire-ring of rocks, and then salt what's left before gathering it into another bag. Then Dean scoops out a hollow in the bag of rock salt and buries the whole bundle nice and tight.

It's only one-o'clock—enough time to beat another day's room-charge if they hurry back and check out now.

They pack as quickly as always, collecting the toiletries from the bathroom and then shoving everything else inside their duffles. Dean hears Sam gasp behind him, and he turns to see Sam doubled over and clutching his head.

"Sam!" he calls out, but Sam can't talk or do much of anything once the visions take hold.Sam tilts forward crookedly, and Dean rushes over to catch him before he falls. Useless, completely useless—Sam's so much heavier that he mows Dean down like truck. Trapped underneath Sam's weight, Dean can hardly move as Sam crouches on top of him and burrows in tighter in search of comfort and escape.

Dean pulls an arm free, patting Sam awkwardly on the shoulder as Sam groans and grinds his own forehead down into the floor. Dean can feel Sam's tension shifting, jerking in tandem with the distressing sounds he makes as the images/noises/sensations change second-by-second. Sam's said they're always vivid, even when they don't make sense. They're always painful—Sam's pain, other people's pain, refracted panic and fear and death.

Sam's whole body just suddenly lets go on top of him, and Dean knows this one is over.

"Sam—" he croaks out, barely able to draw breath. Sam lifts his head up unsteadily, his eyes falling on Dean there below him. Sam's hand moves slowly, brushes Dean's hair back from his forehead. He looks as if he's searching for an answer only Dean can provide.

When Sam leans in to kiss him, Dean lies hypnotized by the certainty that it isn't real. But that touch is so wondrous and thorough, so full of need and acknowledgement and love. Dean tries not to let it affect him—Don't be weak, he tells himself— but he's already losing the war. The kisses steal down inside him so quickly, so completely, that soon he's shaking under Sam with wanting and denying it all at once. Sam kisses harder, his hands cupping Dean's face. He thrusts up against Dean's lap, and Dean opens his mouth to Sam's with a groan that shames his soul.

That slow rocking and rolling across him makes it impossible to think—Dean becomes sound and sensation and heat. Desire rises up within him, captures his protests and turns them inside-out. Sam pulls off Dean's shirt and then his own, letting skin slide and sing through the haze of the afternoon light. By the time Sam unbuckles Dean's pants and strokes down inside them, Dean has lost all sense of himself. The only word left is Sam.

There, on the motel room floor, they give each other the last hidden pieces of themselves. Kissing and touching, licking and rubbing, they swirl and glide in a frenzy of sensuality. When a final sweep of Sam's thumb pushes Dean over the edge, and he throws back his head and groans as Sam sucks on his throat and growls.

"Anything you want, Sammy, anything," Dean whispers. Sam kisses him softly, and takes off his own pants, tossing them out of the way.

Sam climbs back on top of Dean, crouching over him before flattening himself against his brother. He moves slowly, firmly, pressing himself harder into Dean with every thrust. Sam's face above him is like nothing Dean has ever seen, flushed cheeks and heavy-lidded eyes as Sam bites the corner of his own lip and keeps on going. So beautiful, and Dean breathes in sharply, unable to look away. He hooks an arm around Sam's waist, sliding a hand down Sam's flank as the other hand slips between them and grasps Sam confidently. Sam speeds up steadily, his hips working with muscled strength as Dean hangs on tight. "I—it—Ohhhhhh," Sam moans, and Dean pulls him down for an ardent kiss. When it's over and Sam's breath is back again, he curls around Dean and holds him close.

They lie there warm and sated, finally beyond the barrier that has lasted so many years. It is like the calm after a storm, and the softness of Sam's kisses nearly breaks Dean's heart.

The exorcism in Belfast is an excuse more than anything. It puts them back near the ocean, where the remains of the locket will bother no-one save the deep.

Sam chants the Latin while Dean waits with holy water and a salt-loaded shotgun. The family crowds outside the door, worrying loudly as the ritual produces more and more drastic results. Finally it is done—at the cost of furniture, but the spirit's hold is gone. The boy is weak now, but blissfully unaware of the last few days. The brothers leave the family to tend to him and to the reconstruction of their lives.

They have mended their own differences, the two of them, everything easier since that afternoon in Pennsylvania.

They don't avoid each others' eyes anymore—the challenge is to focus on driving or work instead of flirting and teasing each other senseless. So many years—a lifetime—of growing up together, but they still act like the newfound lovers they suddenly are. Quiet spots on the road call for pulling off and climbing all over each other. Downtime at motels is spent in lovemaking and the aftermath that brings them closer, heads together and bodies intertwined as the television rolls out other lifetimes in faraway places.

The drive to the cove is quiet, the two of them trading smiles and casual touches as they travel along.

Sam offers to take the boat out alone-- phrases it so tactfully Dean could almost pretend Sam didn't notice his behavior a few weeks before. But letting Sam be apart from him (never mind the possibilities of the treacherous sea) makes Dean nervous in a way he can't ignore. It might be superstition or just stupidity, but he doesn't care: they do it together or not at all.

The waves are gentle today, the motorboat gliding easily across the water. They pick a spot about a mile out, and taxi sideways as they scatter the locket's remains. Spread out broadly, forever encased in salt-water, its power should be barred now from causing further harm.

Seagulls wheel and dive overhead, distant cries carried away in the wind. The crooked outline of the shore awaits the brothers as they skim safely back toward the dock to return the boat.

The sun is back behind them later as they sit on some rocks, eating sandwiches from the Boat Rental's tiny market. They watch the ocean, comfortable in silence. Dean feels like a weight has been lifted.

He's waking up inside now, in all those places that drifted into darkness months ago right after his father died. All that he fought so hard to keep at bay-- all those feelings for Sam, all of Sam's longing to heal him—has come to pass now, saving him and not destroying him as he feared.

Dean didn't know it would be like this. The heat of Sam's love gives him strength—it melts the frost of his emotional fortress. This is not like what he's taken from strangers in passing, those touches that mimic love but can never have the same effect. Dean didn't know that real love could make him happy, could make him whole.

He didn't know he could give it as well as take it—that anyone would want it.

Sam's hand on his shoulder stills Dean's contemplation. That smile tells him Sam's been waiting for his attention, and Dean's happy to oblige him. It's always been Sammy, right from the beginning, always somehow Sammy at the center of Dean's world.

Sam's kiss is long and sweet, and Dean lets the beauty of the moment wash over him as he holds his brother close.

The world is quiet now but for the soft lapping of the waves—restful and complete, like the feeling inside Dean's heart.

----- fin ------