icebear_cw: (jared/jensen)


Part II




07 Wrecking Ball




Jared’s out of the house by the time the first car comes through the gate.

Jensen’s close behind, back pressed against the cold stone of the porch, heart hammering in his chest and eyes focused on Jared. He’s a totally different person now, all in black, guns at the ready and face blank. That man's a soldier and once again Jensen realizes he has no idea who Jared really is.

“Stay behind me.” It’s an order and Jensen is close to snapping at Jared that this is his land and he’ll fight for it, that Jared has no idea what these guys are capable off when he takes another look at the man and thinks better of it. There’s a frown so deep that Jared looks years older and Jensen suddenly realizes he has no idea how old Jared is.

Two cars come into view, black and bulky, a model Jensen's never seen before. They look new, which can’t be because no one has built cars in decades. Not after the planet was swamped with floods, storms and every other imaginable natural disaster and resources were suddenly very, very limited.

The tires crunch on the fresh snow, the noise unnatural and foreboding. Jensen finds himself pressing closer to the wall behind him and Jared next to him. The rifle he’s holding is steady and his grip sure. This is his home, after all, and no one’s going take it from him as long as he’s alive.

It’s then that Jensen sees the mistletoe hanging over their heads and for a ridiculous second he wonders when Jared had found the time to put it up there. Then he realizes it’s just a few days before Christmas and anger churns inside of him. No one’s allowed to ruin his Christmas.

It’s like a wave that crashes over him when the first thug in black shows up right in front of him. Jensen has no idea when he stepped away from Jared’s shadow but he doesn’t care. He knows how to fight, knows how to bring a guy to his knees, in good ways and bad ones. Before he realizes, his knuckles throb and two of the morons trying to attack full frontal are groaning into the snow. There’s blood and Jensen’s insanely glad that new snow is starting to fall and will cover it soon.

The world narrows to the immediate situation, the guys rushing at him, the fight, hand to hand. Jensen hears shots, curses and pained groans and he's sure that the crack of bone is echoing through the winter air. But he doesn’t really register any of the sounds. Then suddenly he's grabbed from behind and a growl escapes him.

He hates when people touch him uninvited, hates it even more when he’s unprepared for it. He twists his body, gets his leg steadied under him and his back bowed down, so that his attacker is basically lying on top of him, then he rolls his shoulder, grabs the arm trying to choke him and flings the guy into the wooden planks left over from the fence repair. The guy doesn’t move and Jensen turns around to assess the situation.

There’s another one of the thugs trying to break down his front door and Jensen has just about had it with them. He marches up the front porch with a determination he doesn’t know he still possessed, grabs the guy by his shoulders and flings him over the railing. The thud that follows is more satisfying than anything Jensen’s has heard in ages. The guy doesn’t get up again.

Black Ops his ass. Those guys are bought and clearly have no idea what they're doing. They certainly weren’t the ones who almost beat him to a bloody pulp all those weeks early.

He turns, that's when he sees Jared; kicking, hitting and looking like a born fighter. It’s such a surprising sight that Jensen freezes for a second, watching. He stares and then moves when the guy on the ground in front of him attempts to get up.

Jensen’s knuckles throb even more after the guy is out cold. He looks around again, tries to find Jared. He doesn’t like what he sees. He doesn’t like it at all. He picks up the rifle he dropped during the fight and starts to run, yelling. “Jared!”


***




Jensen can’t see anything through the smoke coming from the barn, all he knows is that Jared’s in there and that he has to get him out. Tires screech and skid on the slippery snow and Jensen wants to fire his last shot at the vanishing car but thinks better of it. They're are gone, for now anyway, and he really needs to find Jared.

“Jared!” Jensen knows he shouldn’t shout like that but he can’t control it. His heart's hammering in his chest and his hands are so sweaty that he fears he’ll lose his grip on the rifle if he as much as stumbles.

Oscar’s barking from the barn gate, frantically and insistent. That’s how Jensen knows Jared’s inside. He’ll hit the fucker over the head when he gets to him, going out like this guns blazing and not even counting how many men they were up against.

Sure, they had the element of surprise and have gotten the better out of the men in black. But still, Jensen thinks, they should've though before charging right in. Maybe it could've been worse. But it’s bad enough that they got Jared cornered and set the barn on fire.

Jensen thanks a God he doesn’t really believe in anymore for the fact that they put the animals in the stable closer to the house yesterday. The barn had been too cold lately and Jared feared for the health of their animals, so they'd been moved.

“Jared, come on. Are you in there?” Jensen tries again and coughs when a cloud of smoke hits him right in the face. He feels the heat, hears it the closer he gets to the barn. He drags Oscar away from the gate, sends him off to the house and hopes Jared’s somewhere close to the door.

“Goddammit, Jared. Come one, say something.”

Jensen inches forward, holds his shirt in front of mouth and nose. His eyes water and he can barely make out where he’s going. No sight of Jared and the heat is almost unbearable now. He’s barely a few feet in and he knows he can’t go any further. He backs away from the flames, back toward the door. As he moves, he frantically tries to catch a glimpse of Jared and almost yells when strong arms wrap around his waist and drag him outside.

“Are you out of your mind?” Jared’s in his face, skin darkened with soot and eyes wide. He looks insane like that and Jensen wants to laugh. He feels strangely disconnected, suddenly calm, like right before storm.

“Am I … Jesus, I thought you were in there, you asshole.”

“What? Why?” Jared blinks at him.

“Because I saw you fucking run in there with those guys chasing you and then this whole damn thing went up in flames. What the hell was I supposed to think, huh?” He sounds hoarse, panicked and so not like himself.

It’s when Jared’s hands draw him closer that Jensen realizes he’s shaking like a leaf and that he can’t stop. This is so far removed from anything he saw or had to do in the army. This is something he can’t control and it scares him.

“Jensen. It’s okay. I got out before they set the fire.”

“I fucking know that now. Also, you can fucking fight.” Jensen has no idea why he’s saying those things but they need to be said. He can’t control his brain anymore anyway, and besides, he’s so damn confused right now.

“Dude.” Jared says, amused, and Jensen snaps. He's so tired of all their bullshit that he just gives in. He’s swinging before he can tell his brain no and then Jared’s flat on his back in the snow, wheezing. There’s some degree of satisfaction but not as much as Jensen hoped there’d be.

He just feels a little less angry. Betrayal is too strong of a word, but it lingers and Jensen can’t shake that feeling. So much for the innocent young man on the road just looking for work.

“Guess I deserved that,” Jared says while getting back up again and shaking snow from his clothes.

Jensen suddenly feels tired, drained even and he’s not willing to stay out in the cold any longer. “Come on, let’s go inside.”

They stumbled into the house, Jared bloody and torn; Jensen winded, angry and damn happy that they are still alive.

“You owe me an explanation.” Jensen’s surprised how by calm he suddenly sounds.

Jared nods and then steps closer. “I promise I'll explain everything. But can I do something first?”

Jared’s asking for permission, Jensen hears it loud and clear. For what, Jensen’s a little unsure about and doesn’t really dare to imagine. He nods anyway. Not even a second later and they're are pressed against the doorjamb. Jared’s kissing him; kissing him like there’s not tomorrow.

“Thought they got to you when I saw the front door open,” Jared says against his mouth. “Thought I was gonna come in here and find you dead or something. Then I heard you yelling my name. Happiest damn moment of my life.”

Suddenly Jensen doesn’t feel like talking anymore, instead he pulls Jared’s head back toward him so that he can kiss him again. It works and Jensen tells himself to remember this extremely effective way to shut Jared up.

Jared feels solid under his hands and Jensen feels alive. After the day they’ve just had, he knows they both need this right now. It’s almost life affirming how Jensen lets himself cling to Jared, how Jared clings right back. Jared’s mouth is hot against Jensen's skin and he shivers.

It’s been too long since he’s let someone this close, let someone in. It’s like a revelation. He needs this, he needs Jared. It scares him and elates him all at once. He's moaning out loud, raking his fingers through Jared’s hair. He feels wanton all of a sudden, too old to act like this but unable to stop himself.

He thinks, with his last shred of clear though, that It’s life affirmation at its best and then Jensen quits thinking the second Jared goes down on him.



***




Jensen dreams that night. Vivid and colorful, like he hasn’t in how long he can't remember. It’s not unusual but it rankles him. There’s sand and it’s dry, too dry. He doesn’t know where he is and he’s not even trying to find out. All he wants to do is find Jared. Because Jared’s not there. And Jared has to be there.

He he looks around, he sees that there’s blood in the sand, which suddenly turns to snow. The red pool grows bigger and bigger and Jensen can’t see where it’s coming from. Gun shots ring out through the suddenly freezing air and he sees his breath floating away from him. Instead of the bright sun, it’s suddenly dark and Jensen feels lost.

Then he’s home again, in the middle of the pasture, feeling the grass under his feet. Then he needs water so badly that he wants to cry and there's sand in his eyes, making them burn. He reaches out, his hands reaching and then suddenly touching, holding, fingers and he pulls. It’s hard and something heavy is pulling back but Jensen doesn’t give up.

He pulls and strains and groans and then he flies back. A heavy body flops down on top of him. Jensen doesn’t have the breath left to scream anymore. It’s Jared on top of him. Eyes wide and … dead. There’s a hole in his head. Jensen screams Jared’s gone. Jensen’s dream-self feels the loss so vividly that Jensen still remembers it when he wakes up hours later, even though the dream itself is gone by then.

Jensen wakes up breathing hard and blinking into the darkness. He feels weird, like something is going to happen and he has no way to stop it. He doesn’t like this feeling at all. It makes him feel helpless and hopeless deep inside. Something he’s always tried to swallow down and not allow to the surface. But after everything that's been happening lately it’s hard to keep it hidden and locked up.

“Jensen?”

“They’ll be back.”

“Yes. Probably. I’ll be here, though. Go back to sleep, Jensen.” Jared says softly into his hair pulls him closer and Jensen suddenly feels safe again.

He lets himself drift off to thoughts of Jared being there in the morning and how much he’d like that.





08 You've Got It




Jared wakes up with Jensen tangled around him. It’s such an unfamiliar feeling that he stays unmoving, just reveling in the feeling of having someone else in his arms. It feels like home, like something he's been missing for quite a long time, except without ever realizing.

The morning is quiet, curtains open and dawn tinting everything bluish-gray. Jared doesn’t hear a thing, not even Oscar moving around or the horses whickering – just Jensen breathing softly against his shoulder. The arm draped over his chest feels warm but not heavy, the leg wedged between his thighs is this close to uncomfortable but not yet. His own arm under Jensen’s neck feels a little prickly, like it’s close to falling asleep but Jared doesn’t mind. Jensen’s hair is spiky, unruly but soft against his fingers when Jared moves his hand.

Jared’s sort of astonished about the way how they ended up here, in this bed. Sure, he’s been watching Jensen, getting distracted during work because Jensen was lifting bales of hay or hacking firewood, muscles straining and sweat tickling down his skin. He even entertained some fantasies in the quietness of his room. But he never even thought about pursuing whatever it is that’s between them.

At least not until he saw that damn front door open and had a very vivid and scary vision of finding Jensen dead.

Through the weeks of living on the ranch, getting to know Jensen and this kind of life, something shifted inside of him. His focus realigned in a way Jared still can’t really grasp. What scares him about it is the fact that he’s okay with this shift.

“So you really are the brooding kind?”

He doesn’t jump at the words mumbled into his skin but he instinctively tenses up and tightens his hold on Jensen.

“Wow …” Jensen sounds all sleepy but somewhat more alert now, voice gruff and it’s doing things to Jared.

“Sorry,” Jared says, loosening his grip a little but not letting go. He’s determined to not make this awkward. Even in the dimmed light of dawn Jensen’s eyes are the greenest Jared’s ever seen and he feels a little weird for realizing this just now.

“No … no, it’s okay. I … Well …” Jensen shrugs, then sighs against Jared’s skin again snorts “This is not supposed to be this awkward.”

“But it’s a rule. Mornings after have to be awkward.”

Jensen laughs, low and deep. It rumbles against Jared’s skin where Jensen’s chest is pressed into his body. It’s a nice feeling, something he hasn’t had in way too long – and if he thinks about he might have to admit that he never felt quite like this before.

“Is this a good time to tell you that I never was one for abiding by the rules?” Jensen sounds amused, but also a little shy and it’s so not how Jared pictured this morning going that he starts to smile.
“What makes you think that I mind?”

Jared’s still playing with the soft hairs at the back of Jensen’s neck, feeling the other man shiver from time to time but neither make a move to get up. Jensen doesn’t say anything for a while, then just tilts his head up and kisses Jared.

Slow, like a welcome, so different from the licks and bites of the night before. Jared feels his chest constrict with an intensity of want previously unknown to him. He moves then, pulling Jensen on top of him and then just lets go.

They’re sliding together, sticky still from last night, slow with the remnants of sleep – not urgent but seeking out more. They touch, kiss, cling and it’s so much more than the frantic way of reassuring they are both alive.

Jared’s close to falling back asleep afterward, sun still not really up, when Jensen moves against him. Hand on Jared’s chest, head on the pillow next to Jared’s, mouth close to Jared’s ear. “Who are you?”

It’s like a jolt, something electric that surges through, tensing him up and knocking the breath out of him. It’s not just the words, it’s the way they're said and the moment they're said in. It takes Jared by surprise to realize that he’s been waiting for them to come.

Jensen’s silent and Jared feels his eyes on him. He doesn’t feel watched, rather contemplated and he’s suddenly grateful that the room's tinted in the dim dawn light. He doesn’t need Jensen to see the faint blush rising on his cheeks.

And then for some reason Jared suddenly feels like a tool. How could he think that he would make a passable ranch hand. He’s too much of a soldier, too much of a fighter to hide it all convincingly. He’s surprised it has taken Jensen this long to ask. But then again, dangerous full on fights against hit men would make any one re-evaluate the stranger on his farm.

“I …” Jared stops, because he really doesn't have any idea what to say or how to explain everything. Plus, he knows that Jensen'll eventually realize that Jared been lying to him about some very important things. But he still wants to tell Jensen. He’s just not sure how much would be wise.

Telling Jensen about himself would mean to tell him about CL Corp and Jared’s suspicion of what’s going on around here as well as with the government. He’s not sure Jeff would appreciate Jared spreading secrets around like that.

“I don’t know where to start,” he finally settles on and hopes Jensen will provide the best way to go. And of course Jensen doesn’t disappoint.

“How about from the beginning?” The smile is audible in his voice and Jared can feel it against his skin. When he thought about maybe telling Jensen the truth, or at least some of it, during all those previous weeks on the farm, working alongside him, Jared would've never dreamed it'd be lying naked next to him.

It feels so damn natural that Jared almost chokes on his words and sighs when Jensen presses a soft kiss into his skin.

“I know … I know, it’s weird how not awkward this is now. But, let’s just go with it for a while, ok?”

Jared thinks that if he wasn’t already way on his way to falling for this man, he’d start now. He blinks, frowns a little at the sun streaming through the curtains and decides not to think about this particular revelation just now.

“Okay … Okay, the beginning then. I … I grew up around here. Up north, over the mountain range. My family had a horse ranch, not far from the city but far enough away. My dad … uh, he used to be the governor.” Jared stops, not sure how to go or how to explain what exactly happened.

“Oh, royalty then. Nice one,” Jensen says, amused and curious. Not suspicious at all and Jared wonders how much these people around here actually know about the rebellion and how it started.

He chuckles a little, shakes his head then and goes back to staring at the red-orange glow in the sky. “Well, if you wanna see it that way. Uh … well, so he was close to the President, worked with him trying to unite the states again. Guess it wasn’t what some people wanted. Not back then and not now.”

Jared sighs, feels himself sleep into memories of a childhood that was happy and which was interrupted in ways he’d never wish on anyone.

“Padalecki… I thought that was familiar. Gerry Padalecki, right?” Jensen iterrupts his thoughts. And of course Jensen would know, Jared thinks. Everyone knows the story even if they don’t know the background.

“Yeah. It’s weird, people here know his name but that’s it. It’s been so long and his name is still around.”

Jensen moves, turns a little so that his entire front his pressed against Jared’s side. It shouldn’t feel as good as it does. It shouldn't make Jared want to just roll over and be claimed by Jensen all over again. He feels the need, the want and knows he can’t indulge. Not now.

“Jared, he was our governor after all. Of course we know his name. And even if no one’s talking about it, we all know about the allegations as well. This is a small town where travelers stop all the time. We know.”

The relief flooding into his veins feels so good that Jared sags and realizes only then how tense he was. Jensen snorts a little but doesn’t say any more.

“Uh … I should stop underestimating you guys.” Jared finally says.

“Yes, you really should. Just because we don’t have constant access to civilization doesn’t mean we're living in the Dark Ages. Information still travels, especially when it’s about politics and the approaching civil war.”

“Sometimes I think this town is more civilized than the cities could ever be. Technology is everything there but life can be so simple and good without it.”

Jensen outright laughs this time, long and deep and it makes Jared smile despite the gloomy mood in the room. “Dude! Technology would help so damn much around here and would make my life way easier,” Jensen says through laughter and Jared gets it, he understands what Jensen means and laughs as well.

They lose themselves in laughter for a few minutes, kissing between bouts of snorts and more laughter and finally settle down against each other again.

“I do have a TV, ya know.”

It’s all Jared can not to stare at Jensen incredulously. “You… damn. Where?”

“In the closet down in the living room. I use it sometimes when I need to check news feeds or whatever. There’s only two channels so never enough to warrant the waste of energy to turn it on,” Jensen says a little sheepishly and Jared immediately forgives him the hours of boredom where Jared had wished for a movie screen or at least some radio that goes beyond the range of the mountains. He pouts a little for a while and grins when Jensen just shakes his head in exasperation.

“So, your dad? He stepped on people’s toes?” Jensen prods at him.

“Yeah. Repeatedly. His views on the environment and democracy were not what some of his political adversaries wanted to hear, nor was it what lobbyists needed to work their way through government. The President, though, supported most everything.”

The sun’s making its way up from the horizon and red is changing into orange and yellow. It’s a beautiful sight, with the ice hanging in front of the window and the white mountains in the distance. The feeling of home is back with a force that makes Jared gasp a little.

“What?” Jensen asks, quiet and low.

“Just … the sight of the world outside. It’s what I remember. I loved to wake up early as a child, spring out of bed and run outside into the snow. Drove my mom crazy. I’ve missed this so much that I didn’t even know it anymore. The East is home now, where my life has been for so many years, but it’s not everything. This, this town, your house, all of this, it feels better in ways I can't even … I can’t say why.”

Jensen’s smiling, a smile private smile that Jared rarely sees and when he does, it makes his breath catch in his throat. This time is no different.
“What happened to your home?”

“They burned it down,” Jared hears the steely coldness in his voice, feels Jensen tense up a little and lets his fingers go back to playing a soothing pattern over Jensen’s skin in a way of apology.

“Who?”

“Hired men. Nothing proven but my dad, and the President, think that it was head money offered by the Vice President and some corporations that still have their hands in government business. It’s messy. They burned the ranch down, we barely got out. My brother was already in the capitol, going to school with the President’s kids. So my dad packed us up and moved us there, mainly to protect us. Never been back since, until now. Came close a couple of times but never felt like making the final step.”

“I’m sorry, Jared.” It’s all Jensen says but it’s already enough.

Jared feels himself calming down again, breathing going even and heartbeat slowing to a normal rate. He didn’t even realize he was growing more agitated with each word.

Jensen’s presence is helping a lot and it's also the one thing that suddenly scares him. He has no idea how long he’ll be around and making Jensen his so-called safety blanket is such an idiotic move that it borders on self-harm. Jared pushes those thoughts firmly away.

“Your dad’s a rebel, huh?”

“Fuck, no. Far from it.” It burst out of Jared with such vehemence that Jensen's laughing all over again. But the picture of his dad in rebel gear, fighting Black Ops and government troops is just not something Jared can imagine at all.

“He’s on the President’s staff.”

“Top secret government stuff, I guess?” Jensen’s still smiling, willing to take what Jared’s giving him, even if it’s not much.

“Yeah.”

Jensen pushes himself onto his elbows and looks down at Jared, a small frown marring his features and he looks so thoughtful that Jared can’t resist the urge to raise his finger and smooth the frown lines out.
“What?”

“Your father isn’t, but … you are.” It’s not even a question. A statement, said so casually that Jared freezes for a second and blinks. He can’t answer it, still doesn’t know what to say or how to explain.

Jensen waits a second longer and then nods. He gets up and walks into the bathroom, pulling the curtains in there open, flooding the room with morning sunlight. He’s naked, muscles moving and body held in a way that speaks of confidence and self-awareness. Jared swallows hard, torn between the urge to say something and just jumping Jensen.

“Jensen.”

Jensen sticks his head back in the room and looks at him, open and not mad at all. But there’s worry in his eyes and suddenly Jared knows what’s going on. Jensen’s worried for him.

“ I…”

“They’re after you?” This time it’s a question and Jared knows how to deal with those.

“Yes. In a way. I stole some important information. Had to lay low and was sent here.” There’s no use in providing all the information right now.

Jensen nods and vanishes back into the bathroom. Jared flops back down, sighs and thinks about his next words. They'll have to be chosen carefully and he doesn’t want to mess this up. For some reason Jared thinks messing this up now is way worse than labeling it as just a one night stand right after waking up would have been.

He hears the old pipe creak to life while Jensen cleans up. He feels all the more sticky and also a little disgusting now.

The old pump moans under the pressure and Jared snorts when Jensen curses his way through his morning routine. The water heater is out of commission and the water must be close to frozen. Jared’s looking forward to his own turn in the bathroom

When Jensen comes back out, hair wet and spiky, sweatpants and a t-shirt on, Jared has a hard time taking his eyes off. Jensen just smirks,“That why you went up the lab? Rebel mission or something?” Jensen says it so casually that Jared almost misses the suspicion lying underneath the words. It hurts a little but he can’t blame Jensen, not for this and definitely not now. Jensen doesn’t know him and he’s just realizing it, Jared guesses.

“Don’t look at me like that. Everyone knows what’s up there. We just don’t talk about it, in case someone wants to blow it up again and take down the other half of the mountain.”

Jared blinks, dumbfounded and feeling more than just a little stupid. Underestimated again and he’s paying for it now. His research skills seem to have taken a break since he arrive in town.

“Yes, it happened before. 15 years ago. No one’s been back there. Rebel mission?” Jensen’s taking this rebel thing better than Jared expected.

“Kind of. The data I stole, it had these coordinates. Had to check out. But Jensen, I’m really just here to lie low. I’m sorry. But I thought telling you … it might endanger you more than me just being your ranch hand helping you fight to keep your land … Which, by the way, I didn’t know you had to when I got here. I’m nothing big, just someone trying to find a better way of life. I sometimes work for the rebels, though. Guess I was doing a good enough job that they thought protecting me was worth it.”

The lie in there feels like ash on his tongue and Jared doesn’t know why he didn’t tell the whole truth. It’s too late now and he hopes it won’t came back to bite him in the ass. He watches as Jensen stops toweling his hair dry for a moment and watches him, taking in the way Jared lays there, waiting.

Then he nods again, discards the towel and smiles.

“’M gonna make breakfast. Still have a ranch to provide for. Hurry up, bet Oscar's waiting for his morning run.”

The relief Jared’s waiting for doesn’t come and he sort of flees into the bathroom, suddenly looking forward to the halfway to frozen water. It's the punishment he deserves, after all.



***


Jensen talks him into spending Christmas in town.

Mostly because Jensen’s family will be there and they’ll be celebrating at Jim’s. Jared feels a little weird through the whole thing.

Sure, Jensen's mom keeps him entertained and occupied through most of the holiday, but he misses his own family. It’s not the first Christmas he's spent away from them, wouldn’t even have been the first one on the road either.

But it’s different this time, with him being so close to their old home and this thing between him and Jensen that makes him feel all mushy inside and which makes him want to tell his mom all about it.
He talks to Jeff the night before Jensen drags him into town. And one look is enough for Jeff to know. “Dammit, Jared.”

And Jared can only shrug and look down at his shoes. He feels like 12 again when he broke his dad’s old DVD Player and felt bad for weeks after even though his dad just hugged him and showed him how to fix it.

“I know. Just ... don’t say it, okay? It’s stupid and it’s not going to work out but … I ... Jeff, I couldn’t ….”

“I get it.”

Jared looks up at his brother then, surprised at the soft tone Jeff’s using and sees that Jeff really does get it. If he’s that obvious then things will definitely fall apart sooner or later.
He can’t imagine Jensen’s looking for more than just a fling while Jared’s around. He can’t imagine Jensen to be the kind of man who wants someone clinging to him when he’s used to living alone and being his own person.

“Damn. Just be careful Jared. We got news that your little altercation with the hired guns made it to the higher ups.”

“Fuck. Fuck, Jeff. I … I put him in more danger than he was in before, just by being here. He’s just fighting for his land and I brought the rebellion to him. That’s not fair.”

Jeff nods, seeing something his eyes and sighs. “Listen, Jared. We can get you out of there but it'll take a few days. I’ll send people out to get you. Hold on for a little bit longer. Watch out for anything suspicious, we've got proof now, after all. The data you found, we've found proof for all the business and how CL Corp’s undermining laws and the government, even the parts they’re supposedly working with. It’s all there, Jay. It also says why they want the land up there. Jensen and everyone else’s, even the town. It’s the old mines, goal and iron. And the old oil rigs.”
Jared stares, swallows and then just throws the nearest thing he can get a hold of against his room’s door. This is it? They’re just so greedy that everything in their way has to go. “Oh fuck them all to hell. They’re not even lawfully allowed to step foot on the lands around here.”

“Well, yeah, only they kind of bought up all companies around there without anybody noticing. Subsidiaries, which act on CL’s behalf and when the local politicians allow themselves to be bought, CL can step in and act. Jared, things around here are getting rougher now. With us getting too close, they're fighting back. We got casualties, Jared, and we need you here.”

Jared’s angry enough that he’s silent on the way to town, so silent that Jensen comments on it.

“Got bad news?” It stops Jared short and almost makes him slip on the snow. Jensen’s hands are there, holding him, providing steadiness. There’s a twinkle in Jensen’s eyes Jared's never seen before.
“I’m not stupid, Jared. I might have thought I was going crazy with you talking to invisible people. But it makes sense now. I also hope you didn’t break anything earlier.”

“Was just a book,” Jared says contrite, then silently curses himself again for being less subtle then he thought he was. But then Jensen’s a clever man. “And yes, bad news. But don’t worry about it. Let’s enjoy Christmas, okay?”

“Okay.”

During the Christmas get together, Steve pulls him aside and asks for news. He curses just as violently at it as Jared did and even has to hold back so he won’t alert anyone to what they are talking about.
As weird as it is to be here and celebrating Christmas, Jared’s glad he’s got Steve and Sandy, who both know what’s going on. With things at home being less than ideal, Jared’s itching to head back home and fight. And yet he also doesn’t want to leave at all.

One look at Jensen, surrounded by his family, is enough that Jared finds he wants to fold in on himself and hide until everything is over, preferable with Jensen at his side.

He’s not a coward though, he won’t run away.



***




Things really fall apart the moment Black Ops show up. This time it’s the real thing, they have back up and they know who exactly Jared is.

“Agent Padalecki, we know you're in there. Nice of you to present yourself to us. Got a nice price on your head. Too much for a fucking rebel leader if you ask me. Too much for a fucking traitor anyway.”

Jared flinches, knows the voice and thinks it’s really kind of ironic that his own boot camp instructor is hunting his ass down. Life can be very ironic if it wants to be. And Jared’s not really appreciating it right now.

Jensen just stares at him and doesn’t even seem to be furious. He’s standing in middle of the kitchen, silent and face unreadable. It scares Jared more than a little.







09 Rocky Ground




Jensen looks at Jared and he's tired of being lied to, even though he's not even sure if he wants to know the truth.

He’s not sure where he stands with Jared, especially since he'd thought that things were okay, easy and, for once, clear between them. Now he guesses he'd been wrong. But Jensen also doesn’t have the presence of mind or the patience to deal with everything right now, considering there are more important things.

“You lied to me, Jared. Again. Even after I asked you for the truth. It’s not so much that you didn’t tell me, I get that. But you outright said that you aren’t anything, anyone, important in the rebellion.” Jensen’s surprised how calm he actually sounds and feels.

“Jen … I … it’s not that easy.” Jensen almost feels sorry for Jared at the words, his tone, but stomps down on the feeling. He’s a little too angry right now.

“No, Jared. It really would've been that easy,” Jensen manages to say before the first shot is fired and shatters the kitchen window. Great, he thinks, this time it'll be harder to get out of the fight and Jensen’s seriously not in the mood to face the destruction of his home.

They both dive under the kitchen table and Jensen tries not to be surprised or annoyed by the fact that Jared has his guns ready. A rebel leader. Of course that's what he is. Even though Jensen's known about Jared's connections to the rebellion for several weeks, it still surprises him how dramatically Jared changes when he’s in fighting mode. Which is exactly what it is. Jared’s a soldier and it’s finally clear as a day. Why Jensen tried to convince himself otherwise, he can’t even say anymore.

Agent Padalecki.

Government agent. Jared told him, his family's close to the President. Jensen never even thought about Jared being close as well, because only agents work for the President or the Vice President. Jensen knows just so much about the rebellion, enough that he knows how the President’s Guard split up and took sides after yet another argument in Congress five years ago. It was all over the news back then.

Agent Padalecki.

It makes sense somehow.

Only Jensen can’t connect the man he’s been living with for the past few months with the man he’s seeing right in front of him. Dammit, he thinks. He never has any luck with men, no matter how nice they seem or how handsome they are. He glares at Jared just as the next round of shots fly through the windows.

“Stay here, don’t move. I’ll see how many there are.”

“Jared?”

“Yes?” Jared turns to him and Jensen kisses him, without really knowing why. Then he slaps Jared right across the face. He almost laughs at the stunned look. He feels like one of those hard, tough heroines in those stupid harlequin novels his sister used to adore. Tough, hard and unwilling to let the dashing hero help her out only to end up on love with him. It’s really sort of pathetic how much Jensen feels like one of those women right now.

“What the fuck?”

“I’m not a fucking damsel in distress who needs to be rescued. I’m a damned cowboy who was in the Army and knows how to fucking shoot someone. So don't ever tell me to hide and stay back again, Mr. Rebel Leader. Got it?”

Jared nods, blinks and grins. “Got it. Gonna fight them?”

“Damn right I am and afterward, I’m gonna kick your ass, too.”

Jared grows serious then, nodding and is out from under the table before Jensen can tell him that last bit was mostly meant as a joke. Jensen hopes he’ll have the chance to tell Jared later.



***




Jared goes down hard right next to Jensen. Snow blood-red around him already.

There’s silence around them now and Jensen knows, just knows, they're being hunted. He looks around for the smoke, figures they’ll set everything ablaze once they made sure Jensen and Jared are either captured or dead. For one strange second, Jensen mourns the loss of his home, his animals and then suddenly his own life.

Then he’s back in the present.

He’s sort of in a trance, moving on autopilot more than anything conscious. He doesn’t know how many assailants are left, so he holds his one gun close and tries to get Jared back to moving. But that's no use.
Jared’s groaning in pain, half conscious and barely holding on. They're in the woods after finally running when they had a chance. They'd taken several men and one of the cars out along the way. Only the men had gotten Jensen in the arm and had him crashing, falling, down the steep hill going toward the town several times. Jared always following, running backwards and firing with everything he had left.
In one special moment, it was a beautiful sight. Jared, almost suspended in movement, shooting and shouting for Jensen to move.

It was a little bit like in the movies when a scene was set into slow motion to have it a strong impact. Jensen sees it all again, when his eyes are closed, sees Jared move, mouth open as he's turning to shout something and then his eyes growing wide. Slow motion for the strong impact indeed.

And an impact it did have.

It was the exact moment Jensen saw Jared going down, hit by two bullets at the same time, stumbling, then flying and finally rolling toward Jensen. Jared never stopped shooting back until he landed with a crash and the air pushed from his lungs as he fell mere inches from Jensen’s position.
They’ve been trying to run ever since.

Jensen not sure about the time, but it might have been an hour since the last shot. They're clearly not untraceable, leaving bloody prints all over the place. But no one’s tried to kill them in the past hour, or whatever it is. But Jensen’s certainly not ready to relax yet. Far from it.

Jared’s not safe, he's bleeding out right next to Jensen, who thinks this is what war must feel like. He can’t feel his fingers anymore, or his nose or ears. No hat or gloves, just his jacket, thin jeans and boots he'd put on in a hurry. Jared’s not dressed any better, either. So they’ll either bleed to death or freeze to death – whichever comes first.

“Leave me here …” Jared says, almost so low that Jensen barely hears him and when he does he shakes his head.

“No … Jared, no. You can’t … you’ll freeze.”

“You can get help, Jen. Town’s …” a cough rattles through his body and Jensen sees blood trickling down Jared’s chin. “Town’s not too far ... down … down there.” A shaking hand’s pointing toward the direction they've been stumbling toward.

“Cover me with needles and snow, will create pro …protection ‘gainst cold. Please, Jensen, get help.”

And Jensen knows Jared’s right. Out of the two of them, just he might actually make it. It’s the hardest decision he’s ever made in his life. He knows it’s right but he can’t help the feeling of betrayal cursing through him. He’s practically abandoning Jared, to be found by their pursuers, free to be captured. Jensen doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

“Go, Jensen. I’ll be … fine.”

“Right.”

But Jensen does as Jared tells him to, covers him with needles and snow, and creates a blanket. Then kisses Jared and promises to be back soon with help. Silently he prays that he’s telling the truth.



***




Jensen’s not sure where he is but it can’t be that far away from town. His head hurts, he can feel the blood running down the side of his neck. His hands throb where the gravel of the driveway pulled the skin open, his knees feel even worse.

He suddenly wishes he hadn’t shoveled the snow away from the driveway. At least it would've made the landing softer. His left arm’s numb and he doesn’t feel the blood running down there anymore.
But he can't waste time worrying, especially not about himself.

His heart's pounding in his ears while he stumbles through the night, hoping he won’t be too late. A car would be nice right about now or a horse, especially a horse.. He needs to be faster but he left Blaze out on the pasture and Milla with him. So his feet will have to be enough for now.

His horses. A breath catches in his throat and he swallows hard, wincing at the pain. He can only hope they’re still alive. He’ll beg the Sheriff for the truck if he has to. He'll do everything necessary to get back to Jared as fast as possible.

Jensen makes the mistake of looking down at his hands. A second later he’s kneeling on the ground retching and whipping his scratched hands on the snow. Most of the blood isn’t his and the sight of it makes him retch again.

His bruised stomach cramps and fear grips his heart tightly. He can’t fail, can’t let his body fail either. He has to get to town, get help. It’s the only thing that matters and Jensen makes himself think about only that one thing.

Jensen’s mind is blank when he gets back to his feet and slides his way down the path toward town, except for one thought: Jared. Jared alone and fighting for his life. It’s all he thinks about.
He stumbles into Jim’s diner just when Sam’s about to close down for the night, slides against an ice patch and almost crashes through the door. Sam’s there to catch him and gasps out loud when she takes a look at him. “Good God, Jensen. Jim! Jim, come back here. Jensen’s hurt.”

He hears her voice, knows what she’s saying but everything starts to fade to black around him. Lips dry and cracking but he has to say it. He clings to the arms holding him up, feels when they start supporting his heaving body even more.

“Jared. Shot him. Need help.” He gasps the words out, then everything goes black.



***




Jensen wakes up to total darkness and panics. He's screaming, thrashing and creaming some more when he feels hands on him, holding him down. Flashes of men with guns, black masks, pain. It’s all muddled together in the fog that surrounds his mind.

“Shhh, Jensen. It’s okay. Jared’s safe. So are you.”

Just about then is when Jensen realizes he'd been screaming Jared’s name. His throat raw and his cheeks feel wet. He’s not even thinking about being embarrassed about it.

A soothing voice whispers to him and it takes him longer than he wants to admit befolre he realizes it’s his mom. There’s a cold cloth placed on his forehead and Jensen almost sobs in relief before he lets darkness claim him once more.

Jensen wakes up several times without being really conscious but he remembers screaming every time. On the third day he stays awake longer, conscious and realizes that he’s in the hospital a town over, his mom and sister sitting next to his bed and watching on. They talk to him a little, read books and are there every time he wakes up.

Then Sam’s there and Jensen’s mom just looks at her and then nods.

“Jared’s okay, Jensen,” Sam says with a small smile, relief shining out of her eyes and Jensen relaxes, slumps into the bed and closes his eyes for a moment. When he opens them again, three knowing pairs of eyes are watching him. Jensen doesn’t even care about the faint flush on his cheeks.

They don’t tell him anything else, though. Not for a couple of days at least and Jensen lies there, wondering where Jared is. He tries asking if Jared’s really okay and then why he hasn’t shown up yet, but all he gets in return are sad looks and no answers.

He feels like he's about to climb the walls, has had enough of the old wooden panels that line the hospital room and the smell of sterile soap. He wants to know what happened, where Jared is and if his ranch is still standing.

He gets his answers from someone he’d never thought could provide them. When Steve enters his hospital room, Jensen’s getting ready to ask for another dose of a very rare and expensive sleeping pill so that he doesn’t have to stare at the wood panels and white ceiling any longer.

“He’s home,” Steve says without preamble and Jensen stares, mouth open and eyes wide.

“What?” He chokes the word out after a minute and curses when his arm connects with the metal rail of his old hospital bed. It creaks with every move and Jensen wonders if they are short on oil every time he tosses and turns during the night. The sound is annoying the hell out of him

Jared’s home … Jensen blinks.

“His brother. He took him home a day after you came stumbling into town. We found Jared just in time. He was bad but alive. His brother had people with him and a car, like s snowplow or something. Asked after the ranch and took off again. I checked your place a day later. Everything’s still in there. Oscar’s with me. Jim’s looking after everyone else. I saw that a few windows were shot out and tire tracks in the snow. Blood, too. No bodies, though. Guess they cleaned up after themselves.”

It’s too much to take in. Way too much. Jared’s gone and Jensen didn’t even get to say he was sorry for not coming back. He didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye and for some reason, that hurts worse than any of his wounds.



***




Returning home is strange. It’s so good to see his horses, his cows, his sheep – well, all his guys – again. He almost sags in relief when he see that everything is where it belongs.

His dad’s hand is at the small of his back and Jensen needs this contact. Oscar is at his side, as always, supporting him with a simple whack of his tail against Jensen’s leg. As they walk around, images crash into him.

Fresh snow's covered all the traces and there’s no sign anymore that something horrific happened. Even his window's been fixed. He asked Steve, about the bodies, the traces of the fight.

Steve had been vague but implied that Jared’s brother had it all cleaned up. And now, seeing that it’s true, makes anger rise up in him. This is his land and people were here, cleaning up, without him being present. He feels betrayed, like he should've been the one cleaning up, fixing things. Him and Jared.

However short this thing between them was, it doesn’t feel right that Jared’s not here. It’s too abrupt and he's lacking closure, which Jensen thinks is what’s bothering him the most. He has no idea how Jared’s doing, if he’s really as fine as everyone claims.

Jensen walks upstairs slowly, looking around. Jared’s room’s empty as are his closet and dresser.

Jensen settles back into his daily life, while the gun shout wound in his arm heals nicely and doesn't hinder him all that much.

Every other bruise is minor compared to it. He’s getting better every day, only he’s not. Not really. He doesn’t even really mourn the fact that he’s lost someone he’s probably in love with. He just feels numb.
The revelation that this thing between him and Jared might mean more to him than he first realized, and that he's got no idea and no way to find out what Jared’s been thinking about them, goes unnoticed – well, he isn’t really in the right state of mind to realize he’s even had it.

Everything around the house and the ranch reminds him of Jared now, of how he moved with his guns blazing and never took a step back. How Jared took care of Blaze and Milla, told Oscar how important a good watch dog is. How he tried to watch Jensen subtly and failed because he'd always end up out right staring. Jensen just never mentioned it, because he enjoyed the eyes on him and figured they’d do something about it when the right time came.

The snow-covered wood by the fence that Jared lugged around before the first snow is no longer visible anymore, but Jensen knows it’s there.

Just like he knows he still didn’t put away the empty coffee cup on the kitchen counter from their last breakfast. It’s little things, like the shell casing he finds on the floor and knows it’s one of Jared’s or the lone black t-shirt that founds its way into Jensen’s dresser somehow. If Jensen ends up sleeping with it and not feeling the least bit pathetic, he doesn’t care.

Now it seems like everything's somehow connected to Jared and it’s hard to go on like Jared’s not a part of his life anymore.

Just the simple fact that Jared’s not part of his life anymore makes everything not okay. It’s not okay at all and Jensen just doesn’t know what to do about it. So he mopes. Mac tells him as much right to his face, when she and their parents visit Jensen a week after he’s been allowed to go home.

It makes Jensen snort and then wince when the movement makes his arm connect with the door frame. That has his mom fussing over him to such an extent Jensen feels ready to snap.

He wants to get away, to get himself just a moment alone, and so he flees up the stairs and somehow ends up in Jared’s room. To say it’s weird would be putting it mildly. The room itself hasn’t changed, Jared didn’t do anything to it during his stay. But there’s something important missing in it. Life.

There are no clothes strewn around, no dirty dishes on the dresser, no spilled water on the floor beside the bed because Jared can’t sleep without a full glass next to the bed. There are no damp towels on the door knob and the curtains are as straight as Jensen had kept them before.

Jensen sinks against the wall, slides down until his sitting there with his legs drawn to his chest and his eyes slowly making their way through the empty room.
He misses Jared. It’s such a clear thought on his mind that he has to smile. Of course he misses Jared. The man has inserted himself into Jensen’s life, acting like a mirror to show Jensen how much of a fortress of solitude the ranch has become. How lonely his life had been.

On his second look through the room his eye catches something white peeking out from under the bed. It must have fallen there while whoever cleaned out the room took away Jared’s things.
Jensen moves slowly, ignoring the still lingering pain in his arm and neck, then reaches forward and tugs a rather large piece of paper from under the bed. He frowns and then realizes that it’s a map.

A map Jensen's never seen before.

It’s not his, maybe Jared’s but Jensen doubts it. It looks newly printed, smells chemical in ways Jensen’s not used to and the paper feels way too soft in his fingers. It's a map of the East. With a cross marking some sort of special location.

It’s not really clear whether it was left behind on purpose or by accident. But for some reason, Jensen holds on to it, because thinks it might actually mean something.

In the end it’s Jim and Steve that help Jensen figuring it out.


Part II B + Epilogue

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