Shore to Ocean

(A Sequel to Imprint)

The heart can think of no devotion
Greater than being shore to ocean -
Holding the curve of one position,
Counting an endless repetition.

- Robert Frost, Devotion.

Jimmy doesn't mean to offer solace, let alone himself, but Dean's strange brand of gentleness (three parts ribbing, one part beer) draws it out of him - draws his hands from his sides to Dean's shoulders, in the parking lot behind Stubb's Bar, and Dean just stands there, breathing, not-looking into Jimmy's eyes.

Because it's obvious it isn't Jimmy he's looking at.

It gladdens Jimmy, somehow, for all that Dean looks more pained than relieved - because there is a certain symmetry to this, a returning rightness, and Jimmy would doubt himself except for the fact that the air warms between them, even if only by mere proximity, and surely that's better than the winter cold.

When Dean touches him, it is reverent and foreign, with sparks of the familiar - memories of glancing touches and lingering ones - that Jimmy only recalls with an impersonal distance, because it wasn't him, not really, and this particular touch is different, so different, not least because Jimmy is here to feel it.

Dean's thumbs smooth along his cheekbones, and Dean looks at him - or past him - with a lostness that Jimmy wants, desperately, to lift away, but all he can do is try not to tremble at the calluses of Dean's fingers, and at the warm, chapped brush of his mouth when Dean finally sighs, drifts closer, and kisses Castiel.

Because it's Castiel he's kissing. And Jimmy wants to make sure of that, somehow, wants to recall how it was, perfectly, and reproduce it - but Dean doesn't linger long enough for Jimmy to do that, moving instead to kiss Jimmy's forehead, and his ear, and each of his closed eyes.

Dean's hands are shaking.

"Dean," Jimmy says, and his voice comes out wrong - too fraught and present, not pure and - and certain like it should be. Still, he has to ask, so he does. "Are you okay?"

Dean huffs, smiles and pulls back. In that order. (The smile had curved against Jimmy's face.) "Yeah," Dean says, and steps away, pushing his hands into his pockets. "Yeah, I. You?"

"Fine," Jimmy says, and Dean snorts again. Jimmy has the peculiar feeling that Dean's going to apologize, or something equally ludicrous, so Jimmy shrugs and grins. The grin feels strange on his face - alien, unused - and Dean blinks at it. "Same time next week?"

"You know, if I keep sending you home drunk, Mrs. Gomez is going to hate me. Just thought you should know."

"My landlady has her own... habits, chief among which is a glass of vodka for breakfast. I doubt she'll mind."



"For breakfast?"

"Her consumption of hard liquor far exceeds yours. Her tolerance, too."

"Now you're just cheesing me off. Are you saying an old Mexican lady can drink me under the table?"

Jimmy quirks an eyebrow.

"Oh, no, you didn't. You didn't just. I'm totally going to prove you wrong."

"You do realize this means bringing Mrs. Gomez along on one our our - jaunts."

"Or I could just bring the beers to your place."

Jimmy stares at him.

"Uh. If that's - if that's okay. She lives just downstairs, right?"

Why does it feel like Dean's assuring him of the presence of a chaperone? Jimmy has no intention of being the teenage girl at a prom dance. Although he'll probably take to violent means of dissuasion if young men ever attempt to bring six-packs - of any kind - into Claire's room in college. When she goes to college. What is Jimmy thinking?

"Sorry," says Dean - and damn, Jimmy had wanted to avoid an apology. "This is weird, right? It's weird."

"No," Jimmy says, and then, startled at the vehemence of his tone, "no. It's - you're very welcome, of course. To my ratty abode."

"There aren't actual rats, are there?"

There weren't, last time Jimmy had checked, but - that was a whole week ago.

"Oh, man. No. I hate rats."

"Dean. You just got back from hunting werewolves."

"Exactly. I can't look at teeth-marks anymore. Hell, I can't even look at my own toothbrush. Or a burger I'm in the middle of eating."

Jimmy laughs. He doesn't mean to, but it's so - and Dean's -

- looking at him, again. Really looking at him, not past him, and he's got a smile on his face, for all that it's small and tentative and barely there.

"So. Next week?" Dean hunches his shoulders against the cold.

It really is getting cold again, now that Dean's stepped away. The Impala waits, black and glistening, under a shimmer-shawl of frost. It's quite a beautiful night, despite everything. Behind them, a strain of music escapes Stubb's open door, which slides closed a moment later, as a man in a baseball cap slouches out. He heads for his car, and his keys jangle - a glint of the sharpest silver, the flicker of a fallen star.

Perhaps this is the way the world is - insisting on being beautiful, on being stubborn and recalcitrant in the worst (best) of ways. Perhaps this is how God intends it to be. Jimmy can't be sure of it, but he still tilts his head, tightens his own jacket around himself, and smiles back. "Next week."


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