Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: I'm not really sure how I got this out of the prompts I was given, but...Dean falls in love in his last year.

A tomato dish with some kind of meat, some kind of peppers, some kind of special ingredient that signals bliss, that's what she serves him next, once he can no longer come up with any more creative options, any more new and exciting things.

Sam had joked, weeks ago, when they first arrived in town, when he first saw her in tattered jeans and a ketchup splattered Monk's T-shirt, that the only reason he went after her was because she didn't so much as flinch when he ordered chocolate chip and banana pancakes with a side of peanut butter instead of syrup. It was the first time in a month that his odd request was fulfilled.

"I'm telling ya, Sammy," he'd said, pulling into the motel lot later that day, "I'm in love," empty meaningless words making his shit-eating grin grow even wider.

But when he went back the next day, asked if he could substitute the fries in his order of cheese fries with hashbrowns, over done, fried crispy, and again she didn't flinch, didn't so much as question him about it, he felt something shift inside him.

It wasn't so much her taking his absurd order. It wasn't even the next day when she prepared his tofu steak herself on her break when the cook threw a fit. It wasn't that she did what he wanted, because, hell, half the women he'd been with he could have talked into a million and a half things that they normally would never do. And it wasn't that neither his orders nor his innuendo ever phased her, though that was an intriguing trait. It wasn't her tight little body, or her smooth creamy skin, or the faint scent of honeysuckle that trailed after her when she walked away. It wasn't even her smile, small and meek but a bright shining light none the less, or her strawberry blonde hair, loose ringlets bouncing in rhythm with words like innocent and sweet.

He didn't know what it was really. Still doesn't.

But the food, whether simply served or actually prepared by her small ivory hands, certainly helped, being the way to a man's heart. To his soul.

"Life's too short," he had told his brother a few weeks back when he finally inquired as to why Dean was ordering new and obscure foods, why he suddenly craved sushi and Pad Thai – neither of which he ended up enjoying, but he just had to try. Life's to short not to try.

"It's good?" she asks, shouting over her shoulder as she wipes down the counter across the closed diner. He doesn't say a word, only nods, watches that smile that breaks him flutter across her face when she sees.

They're six months in, six months out, halfway mark feeling like the point of no return. Already they've begun retracing their steps, going back for seconds from leads that led no where the first time around. Their options are exhausted, as exhausted as he is, eyes crossing and rolling back into their sockets, unseeing orbs leading useless info back into an uncomprehending brain. But what choice does he have? He's his brother.

But right now he needs a break. So the books get slammed shut, torn pieces of paper marking every page with possibility scrawled on it, and the television goes on. Lovely, mind numbing television.

It's a quarter past ten when he hears the key in the lock, drowsily shifts to his side in time to see Dean saunter in. "Where've you been?" he asks, more curious than anything, but damn if it doesn't come out stinging like an accusation.

He tosses a greasy looking paper bag onto the table, sheds his coat and shoes before dropping down to the bed nearest the door, arms folding themselves beneath his head as he adjusts to see the TV. "Diner," he says, simple as can be.

Sam sits upright in his own bed, fiberglass headboard bending and banging into the wall when he leans heavily against it. "For five hours?"

He shrugs, squints at the screen and says, "Dude, what the hell are you watching?"

"Five hours," he repeats, not so much as glancing back at the TV. "What were you doing there for five hours?" he asks, already knowing the answer. Because Dean's always been as transparent as they come where women are involved, and cute little small town waitresses have traditionally been one of his favorite past times.

But he doesn't answer, face splitting with effort as he says, working to keep laughter at bay, "Is this about cheerleaders? Sammy, are you watching some movie about cheerleaders?" To which Sam can only respond with an uncomfortable shifting, tightening of his lips and slight pop-click as his jaw snaps into place. "Dude," he says, propping himself up on his elbows, "I thought you got over this shit years ago. Still miffed about not making varsity?"

"Shut up," he snipes, only plausible reaction to being ridiculed for spending a week as a male cheerleader.

Dean laughs heartily, huge guffaws racking his body as he rises from the bed. "Oh, man," being all the words he can manage as the memories of those days flow back to him. Fifteen-year-old Sam seeming to think the cheer squad was as a good a place as any to meet chicks. Dad flipping out and threatening to move them then and there, pull him out of school if he didn't quit. "Good times," he mumbles absently, heading for the bathroom.

But Sam's voice is strong and clear, demanding, when he calls after him. "We need to talk." And it must be serious if he's avoiding the ridicule, bypassing a chance to be pissy and pithy. So he turns, looks to his little brother for the first time since entering the room, really sees him for the first time in over a week, since arriving in Bangport – destination of choice merely for its name. He's tired, bags under his eyes, posture bent and curled. Tired and alone. "What are you doing, man?" he asks him in such a parental tone, concerned and chiding all in one, that it wipes the smile clean off Dean's face.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he says grimly, leaning up against the doorjamb.

"Dean," he intones, a thinly veiled question.

"Sam," he replies, a deep and demanding order.

"Dean," he repeats, head shaking gravely.

He snaps upright, an in your face move that usually intimidates. But on his brother it has no effect, his tricks don't work. "Why are you being such a bitch?" he gripes.

"Dude," he says solemnly, "I'm trying to save your ass here. And I'm doing it alone." He rises unsteadily, crosses the room in barely a single gigantic stride and plucks a book from the pile on the table, holding it up as though it were some sort of evidence. "I can't read all of this, Dean. I can't do all of this."

He snorts indignantly, "Bullshit, you're a bookworm. You love shit like this."

Sam's face falls into an odd sort of grimace, nothing but silence coming from him, only the television's giggles and cheers filtering in and out of their ears. "You think I love this shit?" he asks softly, tone measured. "You think I like this?"

"You know what I mean," he mutters, suddenly averting his brother's stare.

"I figure," he goes on, unaffected by what almost qualifies as an apology when it comes to Dean, "I'm lucky, right? My brother would die for me."

His eyes pop back up, square onto Sam's. "That's right, I would."

"Obviously," he says with a bit too much arrogance. "But you know, just once, I wish someone would be willing to live for me." His face curls with anger, index finger pointing into the air as he repeats, "Just once."

"Sam," rolls off his lips, only because no other words will.

But he's not done, no sorrowful look on his brother's face, no empty apology or forgive me, I'm hurting bullshit move swaying him. "If you want to give up, fine. Do it. You just need to let me know. 'Cause I'm sick and tired of busting my ass to figure this out while you're off dicking around with some waitress."

It's then that he wants to tell him the truth, wants to tell him she's not just some waitress, she's more than that. She's more. But admitting that to Sam would mean admitting a whole lot more than he's willing to admit right now. So instead what comes out is an overly defensive, "You don't even know her."

And because he doesn't know her, and because, right now, he doesn't know him either, Sam retorts bitterly with, "Neither do you."

He falters a bit, leaning his back into the doorjamb again, arching against the cheap hard wood, bumping his spine along its chipped surface. "Fuck you," rolls from him evenly.

"She's a distraction," he says plainly.

It takes him a moment to answer, but when he does he feels something descend on him, heavy on his chest, a smothering sort of truth. "I know that," he says finally. "That's why I need her."

"Whatever you want," she whispers in his ear, so close her breath condenses on his skin.

"I like the sound of that." He pulls her down to his lap, palms perfectly cupping her hips, around to her ass, as he presses his lips to hers, works his tongue in between.

She tastes like cherries, red ripe fruit, like the sweet cherry pie she'd served him up last night. Like spring and summer and welcome heat, late lazy evenings on a wraparound porch, listening to crickets, watching the lightening bugs filter in and out of being.

He knows exactly what he wants.

The room's dark when he enters, though it's barely one in the morning, barely even time for the infomercials to start up. "You with Grace again?" slices through the night, Sam's deep and heavy voice.

"Yeah," he answers softly, knowing that, even though he's talking, his brother is actually asleep, or close enough to it that he doesn't want to disturb him.

Sam sighs long and drawn, a sleep-filled sound that almost makes Dean snicker. Until he realizes where it's coming from. Cocking his head in the dark, squinting his eyes, he sees his little brother sprawled out in his bed, the one closest the door, the metaphorical if not physical barrier between all he knows and all he doesn't.

"Sam," he chirps, readying himself to nudge the drooling giant. But he steps back instead, stands lost and confused for one long moment before finally, silently giving in and crossing to the other side of the room.

He sleeps in the next morning, actually sleeps, unsure of how he made it through a night not waking once. It's the most restful slumber he's had in years.

"I want to go skydiving," she says, excited little girl quality to her voice making him smile as he runs light fingertips over her naked back. She looks up at him, chin resting on his chest, with so much enthusiasm in her eyes he almost considers doing it. Almost.

"No way am I jumping out of a plane. You gotta be nuts to do that shit," he rumbles sleepily, hand slowly migrating up to her neck, her hair.

"Well, who says you're invited anyway?" she asks with a lilt. "This is my list. You had yours." And he did, regrettably short and censored though it was.

"Alright," he says, fingers curling themselves up in her waves. "What else you got? Wanna go bungee jumping? Rock climbing? Spelunking?"

She shifts on top of him, face rising above his as she gasps, mock affronted. "Are you calling me a cliché?"

He laughs, kisses her forehead as she lowers herself back down, breathes out, "Never," even as he breathes her in.

"Well," she starts, voice no longer light, almost pained, "I am." She drops her head a bit, nuzzles into his neck, his chest, breathes him in. "Before I die," she mutters softly, so quiet he can barely hear, "I want to fall in love. Get married, have babies. Be happy."

His tightens his hand in her hair, fist clenching involuntarily. "I love you," he says, soft and deep so that she feels it more than hears it. Feels it rumble up out of his chest amid the strong and steady beating of his heart.

"I love you," she responds, pressing her eyes tightly shut against all that follows. Get married, have babies. Be happy.

"I have a lead on a Shaman in Idaho," he says, one espresso too many rushing his words, his breath, as he blows by Dean, shoving clothes into his duffel.

"A what in where?" he asks, more than just a bit taken aback by walking into this unexpected whirlwind.

Sam slows, though doesn't stop, looks up at his brother just long enough for Dean to gauge the seriousness of his expression, the weight of what's being said. "They call him a miracle worker, say he can make any dream a reality." He shrugs, tries to downplay the hope in his voice. "It's worth a try."

"Yeah," he mutters, nodding absently. "I guess so."

"I mean, we've just been sitting on our asses here for like a month, wasting time," he spouts, talking just to fill the silence.

Dean shifts uncomfortably, fiddles with the keys in his hand, clink-clinking them around. "I wouldn't say," he starts, but is quickly cut off by brother motor-mouth.

"We gotta go. Now." He tosses him some of his laundry left felled on the floor. "This could be our last chance."

He doesn't know how to say the words, that's the thing. He can't say them, can't tell her why he's going, can't tell her what it means. But she looks like she knows, like she's known all along. And that makes it even harder. "Grace," he tries, slow and drawn, softer and more measured than he may have ever spoken before. "Grace," as though it's an answer to some looming question, as though she were the answer he'd been searching tirelessly for. "I have to…I'm not…"

"You're leaving, huh?" she asks him innocently, meek words drowned in sober truth.

He nods, can't say a thing, can't say goodbye.

She moves in close, presses her body against his, warm and comforting, a perfect fit, melting into his chest, the circle of his arms. Her hair smells like honeysuckle, light and fresh. When they kiss, she tastes like cherries, ripe and sour-sweet. Her smile still breaks him.

"I've got your heart?" she asks, lips curled into a grin, eyes shimmering with sorrow.

"You've got my heart," he says, giving away just one more piece.

They go for as long as they can, searching endlessly, inquiring over and over and over again. Reading, looking, begging. But there's just no way. That's what they find. There's just no way.

He's down to one week when he tells Sam to stop, never really convincing him, never really thinking that he could. But he says it none the less, "Stop," simple and demanding. "Stop," drawn and pleading. Because if he works himself to death to find the answer, then it isn't really an answer at all. If he doesn't enjoy the life he's been given, then the one about to be taken from Dean was all for nothing.

"You're my brother," he says, the implication ringing in his tear-strained voice. I can't stop. I won't. But I won't let it be for nothing either.

As it turns out, sometimes things really are just that simple. Sometimes things really do work out in the end. Sometimes all you need is in fact a little bit of faith. Sometimes God's grace befalls even the most undeserving, lying in wait, hoping to be seen.

He'd made deals with devils but never thought to look to God. He'd summoned a demon to do him a favor, but never thought to pray and simply ask for one. "You could have just asked," she tells him, too much truth in too few words.

"I didn't," he tries, stutters and stops.

When her hand touches his face it's the same as always, same warm, soft, safe feel shooting from her fingertips. He leans into it, into her, closing his eyes without even realizing. "You should never be afraid to ask," she whispers in his ear.

So he does, "Stay with me?" rolling off his lips in a child's desperate voice.

She almost laughs. "You're the one who left."

A faint, feckless grin spreads across his face as he leans back, away from her embrace. "I came back. Counts for something, doesn't it?"

She traces the line of his jaw with her fingertip, light, long sweeps, a touch he's felt in his dreams for months now, trails left cold and clammy upon waking. "I won't stay if you're just gonna leave," she says, more assured than he's ever heard her be.

"Okay," he mutters, as simple a promise as possible. "Okay." And he stays for as long as he can, stays for the rest of his forever.