Heart tag, season two. One mention to Playthings.

I've drawn a picture for this fic and placed it on my profile if anyone wants to look at it.

Disclaimer: I don't own them.


A tickle skittered over his exposed arms, goose bumps dotting his skin. A quick glance out the Impala's window confirmed what his nerves already knew. Sunset loomed in the immediate future, the daily alternation of sunlight and moonlight just mere minutes from completing another natural cycle. Falling below the Californian landscape, the sun yanked not only light from the sky, but warmth from the air. Shirt damp and without his leather jacket, the cool breeze would easily draw to Dean's skin. But physical coolness held less enduring pain than emotional trauma.

Dean would join the Polar Bear Plunge and splash into the surf naked if he could erase the emotional winter currently frosting his brother and himself.

Chesapeake Bay nowhere in sight, Dean did not have such an option.

A dead woman in San Francisco lay in their past, uncertainty casted a shadow over their future. In the present, Dean had an arm slung over the bench seat, Sam's forehead resting against the Impala's leather, head tucked next to Dean's bicep. With one leg stretched over into the passenger-side floorboard and the other mashed between's Sam's weight and the seat, Dean had Sam encircled in a cradle without actually holding him. Dean's skin itched as his shirt began to dry plastered against his chest, the fabric having been moistened by his brother's spilt tears, snot, and spit.

Dean had glided the Impala off the road just as he had spotted Sam's face flush over, the psychological ghosts of Sam's guilt and pain having sprung up to haunt him. Sam's face had connected with Dean's chest as soon as the Impala's engine had cut off. Dean had felt hot tears run slowly down his own face and chin as Sam's pain had spilled out from his frazzled nerves and shivering body. And although now Sam had dislodged himself from Dean's breast, tears continued to flow freely from his half-lidded, glazed eyes.

Phantom needles poked and prodded at Dean's eyes, the tiny, metaphorical attackers wishing to bleed more saltwater from the older man, but Dean resisted. Pulled away from him, Sam would witness the shed of moisture. Having been unable to shield his brother from freeing Madison from the monster hidden within her, Dean felt he could at least shield his brother from his own pain and helplessness. So he stayed quiet, silently offering support and comfort as Sam heaved sharp, quick breaths in and out of his lungs, his throat too hoarse and raw to vocally weep anymore.

And then Dean felt it.

Sam's shoulders suddenly jumped, his chest puffing out and then deflating. The jerk caused the tears streaming down Sam's face to pan out in odd paths across his cheeks. Sam's nose wrinkled, as if the tears smeared over his skin itched. Suspecting an increase in Sam's distress, Dean instantly nudged his bicep against Sam's temple, inching his arm closer around his brother.

But then Sam jumped again and groaned, annoyance squeezing its way through the tears marring his exhausted vocal cords.

Dean's brows pulled together once he realized the hitch in Sam's breath did not belonging to a sob.

"Aw, you gotta be kiddin' me, Sammy."

Dean's hand automatically came down between Sam's shoulder blades, giving his brother a couple of firm, quick pats.

"H—hey," Sam's raspy voice squeaked, the man startled by the sudden and somewhat rough contact. Sam trained his red, watery eyes on his older brother. "What—" Sam broke off, another hitch interrupting his breath. "What are you doing, Dean?" Sam asked, shrugging in an attempt to reject Dean's thumping hand.

Dean immediately stilled, his mind flashing back to a baby Sammy who'd sometimes catch the hiccups by sucking down too much air with his formula. The cure had been as simple as gently patting the little warm bundle on the back. Dean shifted uneasily, realizing he had unconsciously reverted to burping an adult Sam to end his hiccups. But the awkwardness of the situation faded instantly. Dean stared at his baby brother, the kid's lashes and cheeks heavily slicked with wetness, his hair mussed and his nose red. Sam, with all his steeled muscle and unyielding strength, looked as fragile as the baby he had bottle fed.

"You've," Dean swallowed convulsively, looking for his voice, but not knowing what to say. "You. You've got the hiccups, dude." Dean mentally rolled his eyes as soon as the words left his mouth. "C'mon, Dean. Really? The kid's been wailing for God knows how long and that's the first thing you say'ta 'em?"

Sam's forehead puckered in a mix of both confusion and grief. "What? Dean, I don't," another hiccup ballooned out Sam's chest, "I don't care. Dean. What does that have to do with Madison? She—"

"Hey, hey, dude. Calm down." Dean's bicep tickled, Sam's hair brushing up against his skin as the kid started to shake his head. "Hey—alright, alright. That had nothing to do with Maddy, okay? Just calm down, alright?"

Sam's muscles tensed, and his breathing increased as more water gushed from his tear ducts.

"Dude, don't go there," Dean said, picking up on he train of thought coursing through his baby brother's brain.

Mom.

Jessica.

Dad.

All dead.

Even now, everyone around me dies.

Dean could hear those drunken words blasting within his brother's brain, just as they had blasted through his drunken mouth in that hotel room in Cornwall, Connecticut.

"Damn it, Sam. Don't go there."

Sam closed his eyes and shook his head again, grimacing to himself. Dean recognized the look instantly. Disappointment tinged with loathing. Sam targeted himself with those emotions.

"Oh, for—Sam. Cut it out!" Dean clapped his hand to the back of Sam's neck and pushed the kid back into his collarbone and muffled him against his shirt, silencing the argument the kid no doubt wanted to deck out with him.

Dean did not want Sam to see his own self-disappointment and self-loathing. "Why didn't you let me take that damn gun from ya, huh? Why didn't I just take in from ya?"

Sam's chest jutted in and out as his breath shuddered, the top of his head bumping Dean's chin each time his diaphragm continued to contract. Dean wondered why Sam's diaphragm decided to randomly spaz out in, arguably, the most untimely moment possible.

Suddenly, Sam's breath sputtered, a hiccup rising at the same moment Sam tried to sniff down a sob. Dean grimaced as Sam's ribs collided with his own, the kid choking on his own saliva.

"Alright, that's it." Dean reached behind him and snatched the half-empty water bottle he had been nursing. "Dude, open your mouth."

"Huh?"

"Drink this." Dean tilted Sam's head back and shoved the plastic to Sam's chapped lips.

"Dean, what? Why?" Sam asked, caught somewhere between annoyance and confusion at Dean's sudden obsession with his hiccups.

"'Cause I'm not gonna let you get choked out by a couple of damn hiccups, okay? Shut up and drink it, will ya?" Dean didn't wait for Sam to respond, spilling the water past his lips.

Sam grunted, but vacuumed down the water quickly, the cool water acting as a balm to his raw, irritated throat.

"Alright?" Dean gently pulled the empty bottle away from his brother, watching Sam's chest rise and fall. "They gone?"

Sam sighed, tired, and rested his forehead back on Dean's collarbone. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so."

"Good," Dean said, giving his brother a few pats to the back of his neck, sensing sleep approach his emotionally strained and exhausted brother. Dean pulled his jacket tighter around Sam, but halted when Sam's chest jumped again, his head bumping into his chin. Again.

"I take that back," Sam said, squirming a little to avoid the wet spot on Dean's shirt.

"No. For real, dude?" Dean leaned forward and reached for the glove box, inadvertently squishing Sam to him.

"Ow, Dean. The hell are you doing?"

"I'm huntin' the frog in your lungs, that's what I'm doing."

"Diaphragm, not lungs, Dean."

"Yeah, whatever. Here." Dean plopped a bag of peanut M&M's on his thigh and palmed a handful out. "Eat this. Sugar'll take care of them."

"What? No it won't. Stop screwing around. Seriously."

"I'm not, dude. Are you really gonna bitch at me for giving you chocolate? Eat the damn candy." Dean pushed his palm against Sam's mouth, forcing the M&M's to slide onto his tongue. Dean could hear the candy crunch against Sam's teeth, and he gave his brother's back a couple of more thumps after he swallowed the chocolate down. "They gone now?"

Sam waited a beat before nodding, his diaphragm reverting to its normal rhythm.

"See? I told ya I'd take care'a them."

"Congratulations."

"Hey." Dean planted his palm over Sam's forehead and slid his hand down Sam's eyes and cheeks, brushing the tears from his skin. "They ain't the only thing I'm gonna take care of. Hear me?"

Sam stared at him, and then deflated against his chest.

He'd been heard.

End


I got this idea when I caught the hiccups the other day.

I read online that you could get rid of a baby's hiccups by burping them.

Constructive reviews welcome.