It’s a beautiful day in New York. Winter’s not long over and the air is crisp. The sun is beating down valiantly as Dean and Jerry are seated outdoors at an Italian café. Dean knows the owner who lets them sit and smoke at a nice table, despite not actually being paying customers.
Dean takes a slow drag on his cigarette, absently watching the people passing by. His left ankle is crossed over his right knee, foot tapping to some tune playing in his head.
Jerry knows it’s written all over his face. Has been since the moment they first locked eyes across the diner nearly a year ago. He wants that face to turn, those eyes to look at him, but that might mean he has to stop gazing at Dean’s profile.
He doesn’t want to be jumping around Dean like an excitable puppy. He wants to be his partner, his equal, but he can’t see that happening anytime soon. Dean is everything he wishes he could be, everything he wishes he could have.
Dean’s voice is deep and strong, reassuring and smooth as silk. Jerry’s jumps an octave without warning, and he is constantly stumbling over his words as he tries to get everything out. Dean is mostly silent. When he does speak, it means something. Sometimes Jerry is just so fucking grateful that Dean chooses to speak those precious words to him.
Jerry knows he’s still growing. Grandma Sarah told him he’ll probably have another growth spurt when he’s about twenty, but he is still so much smaller than Dean. To be perfectly honest, he quite likes it. When Dean wraps his arms around in a hug, completely enveloping him…he feels safe; cared for. He can hide from the world in Dean’s shoulder.
Still, it would be nice if he were a bit more filled out. He’s not looking to be a barrel-chested muscle man, but to possess a torso a little less concave in appearance would be a start. He’s looking forward to the weather warming up so he can suggest they take a trip to the beach. However, things being as they are, at the moment he’d want to keep his shirt on.
Dean catches his eye and the corner of his mouth turns up in a smile. Jerry’s breath hitches. He’d been staring, but Dean doesn’t seem to mind. Dean doesn’t seem to mind anything. That’s another thing - whenever the tiniest element of Jerry’s life escapes his control, he gets apoplectic, but he’s never seen anything shake up Dean Martin.
He’s been staring at Dean for some time, the adoration on his face practically a declaration of love, and the only response he gets when caught is an understanding smile. Not a patronising smile. Not a sardonic smile. A genuine Dino smile. One that feels like the sun coming out. One that makes his cheeks warm and his stomach flutter.
Jerry’s hands itch to reach out, so he stuffs them deep into his pockets. He’s not entirely sure when it started, this need to be touching Dean, the need to be looking at him. He’s not even sure Dean sees him as anything other than a lost kid that needs protecting.
He can take care of himself, but letting Dean know that might upset him. Dean needs to be looking after someone just as much as he thinks Jerry needs someone looking after him.
Dean’s hand moves the cigarette over the table to tap the ashes out into the tray. Jerry’s eyes track the movement and he finds himself captivated once again. Those hands, they’re not show business hands. The knuckles are bruised with partially healed cuts, the origins of which Jerry desperately both wants and doesn’t ever want to know. The little finger is crooked and Jerry wants to kiss it better. His hand is steady, and his fingers are long and thick and strong.
Jerry’s mouth has gone dry. He tears his eyes away and extricates a hand from his pocket to take a sip of water.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Dean’s terrible British accent surprises Jerry into choking on his mouthful. He coughs and splutters as Dean’s large hand claps him on the back a few times.
Jerry laughs and takes another sip of water, holding it in his mouth and turning to Dean. He pretends to answer and spills the water down his front as he opens his mouth.
“You scared me, Bubbe.” Jerry’s words are garbled around the water still falling from his mouth.
Dean laughs. Jerry melts at the sound. Even his laughter is soothing and melodic. He can feel Dean’s arm casually draped over his shoulders, where it had come to rest after helping him escape his impending death by choking.
“Thought you were going to need the kiss of life there, pally.” Dean’s tone is humorous, the twinkle in his eye and his open bright smile radiating enjoyment.
Jerry can’t help himself. He knows it’s a risk, but he also knows he can play it off as hijinks if he needs to.
“I don’t wanna take any chances, Paul.” Jerry says, his tone mock serious.
In a flash, he takes Dean’s face in his hands and plants a kiss right on Dean’s mouth.
Dean freezes for a moment and then Jerry can feel his lips turn up in a smile. Jerry feels Dean’s hand move to the back of his head, those fingers raking through his hair. It’s going to take him ages to fix up but that’s the least of his concerns right now.
He can’t believe that Dean hasn’t stopped him, or pushed him away, or punched him. Dean’s never raised so much as a finger against Jerry, but he still briefly wondered whether this might be pushing the envelope a little too far.
Jerry can feel Dean’s lips, slightly dry and chapped from the weather, but soft – so soft.
Jerry moans into the kiss. He can’t help it. He has wanted to kiss Dean for so long.
He feels the hand retract from his hair and whines at the loss. He knows this has to stop, and soon. It’s probably only been a few seconds at most, but he’s never going to forget this. He wishes he could stop his mind and just exist in this moment forever.
Then Dean’s hands are at his front, palms on his shoulders, gently pushing him back and away. He keeps his lips connected with Dean’s for as long as he can, eyes closed, lips pursed and brow furrowed in concentration as if he might be able to conjure Dean’s lips back with the power of thought alone.
After an age, Jerry opens his eyes to see Dean smiling down at him. That indulgent smile which seems reserved for him and him alone. Jerry’s lips are still pursed and he can see Dean’s eyes are locked on them. Jerry smiles back at Dean.
“Feeling better now, Jer?” Dean’s still got that same relaxed and content tone that is starting to become Jerry’s favourite.
“Mhmm.” Jerry thinks ‘better’ may be the understatement of the century. He’s on a fucking cloud. He’s left the clouds, he is weightless. He is in space. He is in space and his brain is letting off explosions producing more energy than the nuclear fusion inside of all the stars he has ever seen. His heart is soaring.
“And Jer?” Dean reaches into his pocket and Jerry is instantly curious.
“Happy Birthday.” Dean takes out a small box, elegantly wrapped. It looks expensive. It looks like more than either of them can afford.
For once, Jerry finds himself lost for words and action. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, looking between Dean and the box.
“Well, are ya gonna open it?”
“Oh – y- yeah, of course!”
Jerry carefully undoes the packaging, untying the bow and gently removing the wrapping paper. The velvet box is navy and Jerry is almost too nervous to open it. When he does, it’s a set of cufflinks, each inscribed with a single letter, a ‘D’ and a ‘J’.
“I love them, Dean.”
Jerry can feel his throat constricting as his emotions catch up with him. Not only did Dean remember his birthday, he also went out and bought him a present. A thoughtful present.
Jerry closes the box gently, putting it safely in his inside jacket pocket.
He leans his head into Dean’s shoulder, hiding his face. He can feel his eyes stinging with unshed tears and doesn’t want to let Dean know just how much this means to him.
Dean’s arms come up around him in an embrace and Jerry lets a tear fall silently. He feels Dean’s arm run soothingly down his spine. Firm pressure, exactly the kind of comfort he needs.
He thinks Dean does know.
“I figured if we’re gonna be partners, we oughta make it official. I don’t want you runnin’ off with Sinatra or Como or Bing before we even get a chance.”
Jerry lets out a shuddering sob. It’s all so overwhelming.
Dean hooks an arm under Jerry’s knees, scooping him up to sit sideways in his lap. Jerry’s arms wind around Dean’s neck and with Dean’s wrapped solidly around him, he feels like a child being comforted.
Jerry buries his head back into Dean’s neck, smiling against the warm skin.
“You’re alright, baby.”