Jerry grabs Dean’s hand to help him up over the rocks and together they scramble toward civilisation. Keeping hold of Dean’s hand, Jerry drags him behind a sheltered outcrop of raggedy trees. He peeps back at the beach from behind a trunk, eyes round and mouth hanging open. He looks so funny, Dean can’t help but smile to himself as he stands buttoning up his shirt.
“Do you think we got away with it, Jer?”
“Yeah!” Jerry says, sparing him a flash-quick glance before resuming his lookout. “I think we did!”
A beat passes. Dean tucks his shirt into his pants as neatly as he can, which is not very, considering how crumpled it is. Slowly, Jer turns back to him.
“You’re making fun of me, “ he pouts. “You kiss me and then you make fun of me.”
“Aww, Jer. Only a little.”
Jer’s eyebrows draw together and he pouts even more, eyes downcast. Dean keeps his distance but dips his head slightly so he can look up into Jer’s face.
“Only ‘cause you’re cute,” he says. Well now, that’s better. Now he can see a big smile trying to break through even as Jer struggles to suppress it.
“I am kinda, ain’t I bubbe?” Jer says, flashing him a quick, sparkling glance before looking away again, twisting his fingers together.
Dean sighs. He does look almost impossibly sweet, with his baggy pants, and his skinny little ankles all bare. His jacket is sitting askew over Dean’s shirt, which is enormous on him and still undone. The cuffs and tails hang longer than his jacket and the jacket’s pockets bulge awkwardly with his bundled-up undershirt and socks and all the other bits and pieces hurriedly stuffed in there.
Jer’s hair has dried fluffy and the sea air has left a light wash of pink high on his cheekbones and across the bridge of his nose. He looks so soft and tempting. Dean sort of wants to discover all his most sensitive places and bite them, just to see what he’d do. That’s only the wolf in him rearing its head though, and the wolf is just about tame enough to know that there’s a time and a place for that kind of thing, and here and now isn’t it.
“Sure you are, “ he smiles. “But look at you, scruffy boy. You’re a mess.” He waves a hand in Jer’s general direction.
Jer holds his arms out to the sides and looks down at his dishevelled self.
“Well, I don’t know what you want me to do about it,” he says. “One minute we’re at a peachy keen party in Hollywood with champagne and dancing and everything sparkling, then next thing I know it’s dawn and we’re running across the beach with our underwear in our pockets. Escaping from some crazy old lady.”
Dean starts to giggle, and Jerry gets that gleam in his eye.
“I mean! I slept in a car; I been walking around, falling over rocks; I been in the ocean; I been frozen half to death, the whole body is icicles now; I been ravished by some kind of big dumb Italian mermaid. I barely know up from down no more, and here you’re complaining about my attire?!”
“Okay, okay!” Dean says, laughing as he beckons Jerry closer. “Just… come here. Let me help you out some. We might actually run into somebody soon, got to look halfway decent at least.”
Jerry schleps over from his hiding place by the tree, stands in front of Dean and looks warily up at him through his eyelashes.
“Alright,” Dean says, planting his hands on Jer’s shoulders. “Let’s tidy you up, huh?”
His eyes fall to the waistband of Jerry’s pants. It fastens with two buttons on a long tab that wraps snugly around his waist, tapering a little towards one hip. Thinking he’ll need space to tuck Jer’s shirt in, he casually flips each button out of its hole with a deft twist of his fingers. The movement tugs Jer’s hips forward and he sways a little, resting his hands lightly on Dean’s forearms for balance.
As he works on loosening the waistband, Dean notices that a light dusting of sand is still clinging to Jer’s skin. Without really thinking about what he’s doing, he gently sweeps his palm across Jer’s belly, brushing the sand away. The muscles under his hand tense and he hears a sharp little intake of breath. Looking up at Jer, he sees that his boy is biting his lower lip.
“Sand.” Dean says.
Dean sees now that there’s actually even more sand on Jer’s chest, clinging damply to the soft hair there. He sweeps both hands, more deliberately this time, over his collarbones and across his chest, down to his sternum and over his belly again. The grains tickle as they sprinkle over his hands and fall away.
Jer’s hands shift away from his forearms and settle on his shoulders, giving him more space to move unrestrained. His eyes have drifted shut, and Dean feels the soft movement of air as he exhales deeply through his nose.
“Feels good?” He asks quietly, still stroking. Jer smiles slowly and nods, eyes still closed.
Dean steps a little closer, gently parts the open sides of Jer’s shirt and slips both hands inside, up under his arms. He spreads them to encompass as much of Jer’s ribcage as he can, then begins to stroke exquisitely slowly all the way down his sides. He lets his fingers flow softly over the bumps of his ribs, rounding out the delicate curve of each one before moving onto the next. When he finally meets fabric at Jer’s waist, his fingers stray a little way under the open waistband, their tips just barely stroking over his smooth hipbones before sliding around and coming together at the small of his back. There’s a lovely, gentle hollow there and Dean presses the pads of his fingers into it, coaxing him closer still.
Jer hums softly and sways toward him. He’s started playing with the hair at the nape of Dean’s neck, dipping slender fingers under his open collar. They need to stop this, Dean knows that. They need to start the day, find something to eat, figure out what they’re going to do. He’s supposed to be helping Jerry get dressed, not… feeling him up, or whatever this is. That’s not what this is.
His hands wander up Jer’s back and describe his shoulder blades with wide, curving strokes; they trace his delicate vertebrae all the way down to that addictive little arch at the small of his back. The sensation of rough sand falling away to reveal the smooth skin underneath makes Dean’s palms tingle. He brings his hands back around to Jer’s sides, letting his gaze follow their path so that he doesn’t have to look Jer in the eye when he says, almost apologetically,
“Can’t stop touching you.” He hopes to God he doesn’t look as vulnerable as he feels. A moment passes before Jer speaks, like he’s letting that sink in.
“Then don’t,“ he replies simply, the slightest crack in his voice. “Who says you’ve got to stop? Not me.”
Just as Dean musters up the nerve to look at Jer’s face, his eyes flutter open. He’s smiling, making it impossible not to smile back.
“NBC might have something to say about that. And Mr Helffrich.”
“Ha,” Jer says, “screw him! What does he know? We’re giving the great American public everything they never knew they wanted."
“Oh, is that what the great American public wants, huh?” Dean says. He touches the open sides of Jer’s shirt, brings them together and slowly starts fastening the buttons from the bottom up. “A couple of idiots who are half crazy about each other.”
“Half each, like everything else.”
Jer huffs a little laugh and watches Dean’s hands as they work on his buttons. He stops two from the top. They stay silent for a few moments as Dean runs his hands around Jer’s waist, tucking his shirt in snug and close.
“So, then…” Jer looks at him. He pauses, chewing his lower lip for a second like he’s screwing up his courage.
"Then... you like me?” It’s said carefully, in his real voice, and it’s so very different from all the times he’s said it before. His eyes are steady on Dean’s. He means it. Dean holds his gaze; it’s not easy, but he makes himself do it.
“I like you.” He says emphatically. “I like everything about you.”
Jerry’s eyes are starting to fill.
Dean’s first instinct is to crowd Jer up against the nearest tree and show him exactly how much he likes him, but no. He muzzles the wolf. This isn’t about that, he knows that for sure. It’s not about this animal thing between them that they’re only just starting to bring out into the light. What it’s about is: the best friend that he’s ever had in his whole life, just wanting to be wanted.
Jer’s got his pick of pretty girls willing to have him for a night, or an evening, or an hour. And he’s got dozens of people in his life who care about him: his parents, for all they’ve got a funny way of showing it; aunts; uncles; cousins; old, old friends. But Dean knows that, until he showed up, Jer felt like no one ever really liked him. Never thought that anyone truly wanted to call him their friend.
“Really, Jer,” he says. “Of course I like you. C’mon, I mean, who lends you his aftershave when you’re trying to impress some showgirl, huh?”
Jer gives him a slightly watery little smile.
“Who’s shared with you every single goddamn sandwich he’s bought since 1942?”
He laughs properly at that.
“Who holds your head when you decide to try liking scotch again and get sick? Hmm? Who rubs your back when you can’t sleep?”
There are definite tears in Jer’s eyes now but he’s smiling through it, radiant. Dean lays a hand over his own heart.
“Me, Jer. That’s who.” He takes a deep breath. “Don’t you know I’ve been head over heels in like with you since the very first moment we met?”
Jer takes a deep shuddering breath.
“Paul, “ he says, and clean new tears spill over. He glances away for a second, then back at Dean, pulling himself together. “Paul. You know that last thing? When we’re trying to sleep and I lie on my stomach and you rub my back?”
“Mm-hm?” Dean says, reaching one hand around behind Jer and warmly demonstrating that he certainly does.
“I’m… well, I’m not sure most guys' buddies actually do that, you know?”
Dean laughs and pulls him into an enormous hug.
“Well then,” he says quietly, right in Jer’s ear. “Ain’t we the lucky ones?”