icebear_cw: (jared/jensen)





10 Land of Hope and Dreams




A month after the shooting, the snow starts to lessen. Not melting, not for a while yet, but there sun’s out more often and Jensen’s somehow feeling life's settling down again.

It's been quiet, lonely again. But threat-free as well. Which makes Jensen suspicious on so many levels that not even his dad and brother being around more often can lessen his fears.
It feels like everything’s on the edge, from his nerves, to things with his land and the animals as well. And this time Jensen doesn’t have a trained soldier around to save his ass again.

But nothing ever happens and Jensen finds a way to live between his suspicious tension and being bored out of his mind because no one’s usually around to entertain him. He comes into town so often that people start to notice and comment on it, but he never knows what to say.

He just can’t stand the silence on his ranch anymore, but he's not ready to admit it out loud, as pathetic as he feels.

“Ya stupid son,” Jim growls one evening in February and keeps sliding the shot glass out from Jensen’s reach. Jensen not really in the mood to argue and lets Sam place a coffee in front of him. Jim shoots Sam a look Jensen can actually easily interpret.

“What’ya mean?” Jensen’s only half listening to Jim, trying to figure out if he’s finally pathetic enough to ask someone about the map he’s been carrying around ever since he found it.

“Ya let him go. And there I thought ya liked him.” It’s said with such acceptance that Jensen swallows hard. He never said anything but didn’t try to keep it a secret either. This town thrives too much on gossip to be healthy sometimes, but when Jensen looks up at Jim, there’s only a crooked smile present.

“’M not stupid or blind, boy. ‘Cause we knew. Saw it in the both of you. Back at Mac’s little barbecue, during Christmas.” Jim says gently, gruff a little less evident in his voice and Jensen thinks he must look more than miserable if Jim’s using that tone on him.

The coffee’s like a lifeline now, the cup a wall he can hide behind. It actually wakes him up a little and he smiles gratefully at Sam. It gets him a smile in return, but also an eye roll.
“He up and left. Well, got taken actually. Didn’t have a say in it. I’ve got a phone, and pretty sure he knows how to use it.”

“Maybe he can’t call? Did you ever ask him where he’d go once the winter was over?” It’s Sam asking and to soothe the question she slides a plate of cherry pie and another cup of coffee across the counter.
Jensen stays silent and it’s probably all the answer those two need.

“Men,” Sam sighs.

“Son, there was a reason why I sent Jared your way that day,” Jim adds a little while later and manages to make Jensen look at him for the first time since Jensen entered the diner.
“Why?” It’s not news to Jensen that Jim might have sent Jared on purpose that day. He just never figured out why or maybe never thought of asking.

“Boy, I sent him, ‘cause I saw those black cars that day and guessed what was goin’ on. Knew who he was the second he stepped into the place. Looks like his daddy and older brother. Same thing happened to his family that happened to all the others over the range. Knew he was here for some sort of business, just didn’t know what. Thought you needed help. And I was right.”

“I told ya that Jared went home. Rebel base camp, out East,” Steve says, so low that only Jensen and Jim can hear him. Jensen hadn’t even seen him come in and slide onto the stool next to him.

Steve looks tired, a little rougher around the edges and not for the first time Jensen wonders why Steve has that kind of information or where he got it from. Steve fiddles with the fork sticking out of Jensen’s pie and Jensen slides the plate towards Steve.

Sam scolds him but places another plate without a comment.

Steve seems to read the question his face and shrugs.

“Been in the loop for years, Jen. Remember boot camp?” When Jensen nods, Steve shrugs again. “Got contacted there, had some computer skills due to my old man. They needed it. Needed someone out here keeping an eye on the place. Jim didn’t wanna but he helps me and Sandy all the time.”

Jensen doesn’t really know what to say to that. Rebels in his town is not such a surprise anymore, nothing much is. “Because of the lab up there in the mountains?”

“That, too. But mostly because of the land sharks that've been buying up the counties left and right for over a decade. It’s suspicious and they were right.”

Jensen nods, he doesn’t need to know more. It’s not like he can do anything anyway. He’s just a cowboy after all.

“What’ya say we go and get your boy. Gonna come with you, have to go to base camp and I thought that map of yours might come on handy figuring the way out,” Steve grins.

“The map?”

“Yeah. It's a little treat from someone for taking Jared away like that. Just needed to know you have it otherwise I’d've dragged you out of here sooner. Watching you moping around is all kinds of depressing.”
“What about my land? The horses? Everything? This is so stupid.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

Jensen swings around to come face to face with his brother. “Josh?”

“Dude, if you don’t go and get you man, mom will talk my ear off how you’re so unhappy and deserve so much better. So please, be a man and get yours.”

Jensen’s out of the diner and untying Blaze in record time. He hears laughter and murmurs of finally following him out but he doesn’t care.

Steve’s right there next to him, huge grin on his face and some kind of giddiness emanating that's contagious. For the first time in weeks Jensen’s grinning again.

He’s on his way home without really thinking about it. Blaze needs rest, needs to be fed and Jensen has things to pack. Steve’s with him, helping, making plans and it feels like Jensen finally understands what's been bugging him for weeks now. He can finally do something.

He’s never made a journey that long, never even really left the county. And the only city he’s seen is the county capitol when he joined the forces.

The rest of his life, he's spent around these parts, even when he was in the army. But he won’t be alone and he now he knows where Jared is.



***




But time spring's in full bloom, they’ve made good progress. It took a month to go through the mountains, then a few more finding the right road leading East and making it halfway through the country.
He sees so much of a land, sees forms of life previously unknown to him and thinks that this is Jared’s life – out in the open and seeing so much more than Jensen ever has.

The landscape changes often, either natural or man-made. So do the people they encounter. Nomads, some kinds tribes living and moving through the counties east of Jensen’s mountains.

Cities re-building with anything people could find around, making them look like a bizarre puzzle and nothing like anything Jensen’s ever seen on TV or his history books. Small towns just like his own with people equally as suspicious or as welcoming, dotting their way east.

Road block after road block and Jensen more than once fears they’d run out of things to use as bribes. But somehow Steve always seems to have something hidden in the depth of his pack.
Jensen’s also aware that they stick out like sore thumbs, more so now that inhabited cities become more frequent. In their cowboy get ups, hats a little crooked from the journey already, boots scuffed and worn. But they never get more than a few odd looks or a comment.

No one much dares do anything when their gazes fall on the rifles attached to their saddles and the gun belt around Steve’s waist. They look rougher with each passing day, scruffy after weeks without a bath or a good shave. Life on the road’s not what Jensen expected it to be, but he also feels closer to Jared somehow, knowing how Jared's lived for such a long time.

He wonders about home a lot.

One evening they settle down for the night on the shoulder of an abandoned highway. Looking up at the stars, he wonders if the snow’s gone already and how everyone's holding up. They haven’t seen snow in weeks, warmer winds blow past them and both have packed their coats away a few hundred miles back.

But the further East they go, the less colorful the vegetation gets. Snow melts away into green vegetation. But soon full green trees and luscious grass slides over into burned yellowish one and trees that are small and sparse.

The desert is closing in on them and they stock up on anything that can hold water or drinkable fluids for them and the horses.

He misses Oscar something fierce, but is glad he didn’t take him along. Mac’s looking after him and he just knows his dog will be spoiled rotten once he’s back home. But at least he's safe. And Blaze is a good companion. Trustworthy and fast when he needs to be.

Milla, on the other hand, is a little bitch that needs to convinced every fifty miles or so. But she’s the one who saves his life and sometimes even Steve’s more than once.

She gets them through road blocks just by being stubborn and beautiful. She even gets them shelter once by cozying up to a little girl and her mother along the road, both – mother and girl - fascinated by the horse.

Steve brings up the story of Jensen trying to find his true love several times and they get warm meals out of it more often than not. Jensen feels kinda pathetic and little sick working that angle but as long as it doesn’t get them killed or arrested, he'll be fine with it. He can play the love-struck idiot for as long as he has to, especially since it might be a tiny bit true.

They’ll travel along the rim of the desert and not right through it. A decision they made as they drew closer to the desert and realized it would be way too hot and dangerous to cross such an unknown land with little to no protection.

One night, settled down against the backdrop of overgrown ruins of a bigger city – Jensen has no idea which one it is, never saw a city limits sign and doesn’t really care anyway – Steve’s in a talking mood.
Stories about rebel missions, about figuring out which corporation stands on which side of the government and who to trust are spilled into the warm night air. Cicadas make it a loud one but Jensen likes it. He’s gotten quite tired of the quietness of winter on the ranch. Jared’s loud self changed that irrevocably.

Jensen listens, getting to know his old friend better than he probably ever would've otherwise and wonders why he’s never cared about anything going on in his country before.

“You had your life to deal with. The ranch, surviving,” is what Steve answers when Jensen says as much.

“You did too and still cared.”

“Jensen, I slipped into it without knowing what was really going on. Your life’s so much more than mine ever was. And hell, the land you have ... you’re doing something already with those turbines. It’s what the President wants. Not going back to the old ways but providing more comforts for the normal people.” Steve makes sense but Jensen still doesn’t see it this way.

The city around them is being reclaimed by nature, greens and browns instead of the grays of concrete and steel. One of those lost places no one wanted to build up again.
Jensen lets his head fall back against the wall behind him and looks up at the reddish night sky. Desert sands already tinting it like they do during summer back home.

“This is stupid, isn’t it? To just up and go chasing after someone I barely know.”

“Well, yes. But it’s what you needed to do. You’d’ve to go your whole life wondering what if otherwise. And Jensen, you aren’t one to wonder, you just do, always have. So why should it be different this time?”
It’s a good question; one Jensen’s not really sure how to answer. He’s not really thinking about what will happen ones he finds Jared, sees him again. It’s still so far out.
“Yeah… no idea. I’m kinda not ready to go down the teenage emo route and asking things like ‘what if he doesn’t even like me like that.’”

Steve laughs into the evening, settles down on his blanket and gets dinner going. But he doesn’t say anything for a while.

Jensen stretches out, groans when his muscles protest.

He’s used to spending his day on a horseback but week after week, month after month is new to him, too. He’s tired, painfully so, and just wants this trip to end. A sigh escapes him when he finds the best position to settle his tired bones in.

“You’re in love with him,” Steve suddenly says into the night and Jensen turns his head so fast that the concrete behind him scrapes painfully along his skin. He looks at Steve in the dim light of the small fire between them. Steve looks serious, not mocking or amused.

“Yes.” Jensen’s never let himself think about it that much, or really at all. He’s on this journey and he knows why but he never lets himself really think about the reason.

Because if he’s the only feeling this way, the end of this trip will become painful in a whole different way. But, yes, he’s in love with Jared, otherwise he doesn’t think he’d be on this trip. It makes him smile, the way he can just accept it now. He’s here and he doesn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Good.” It’s like Steve just wanted to make sure that Jensen knows why he’s doing this and Jensen thinks it’s settled now. Something inside of him just slid into place.

They don’t speak for the rest of the evening and settle down to sleep with one of them taking watch and the dead city around them being louder than anything either of them is used to.







11 We Are Alive




Almost four months after they started this trip, after numerous encounters with government troops, barely avoided arrests, countless bribes and a journey neither of them would have thought possible, they finally arrive at the base camp.

It’s a former military base, which makes sense. Old barracks still in use, main halls and drill areas re-built and re-dedicated. It’s not all gray, as much as it is camouflage and much of it is hidden under nets of shrubbery.

It all looks so much like something out of those old action movies that Jensen and his brother used to watch that he stares for a while and then almost falls of his horse when a guard pops up out of the ground in front of them.

He can’t imagine how they must look but with the way the guard eyes them, it’s not a pretty sight. They're both covered in bruises neither of them can hide, scruff that’s turned into full grown beards and their clothes are almost unsalvageable.

Their horses are exhausted and Jensen finds himself apologizing over and over to them, earning weird looks and doesn’t care one bit.

Steve gets them in and settled in no time, though. They still stick out here, with their wide eyed looks at anything remotely close to advanced technology and their hillbilly appearances. It takes them both a few days to get used to the dynamics of a rebel base camp, especially to how strictly organized everything is. They indulge in hot meals and try not to gape in amazement at every little bit of tech.

With Steve’s connections it’s easy to get assigned jobs, which then makes it easy to blend in and pretend to belong. What he realizes pretty fast is that most of the higher ranked agents at base camp are actually part of the nation’s army and are working from within the government. Some still undetected.

Jensen hears more and more about the fights on the streets, how the President’s people are in danger of losing without the help of the rebels and Jensen thinks that this world is more fucked up than he had imagined. But they’re nowhere near getting close to Jared during those first few days and Jensen’s starting to get frustrated.

Then Steve turns up one morning with a huge grin and papers in his hands. “Get up, Jenny boy. Got a better job for you.”

“Fuck you, stop calling me that. It’s bad enough that half the guard already think it’s my name,” Jensen grumbles and heaves himself up from the cot assigned to him. It’s his day off and he’s not really in the mood to work today. He’s no step closer to finding or even seeing Jared than he was on the day they arrived, two weeks ago.

“Stop being such a princess. Got a courier job for you. Messages from ground camp to headquarters.”

Now Jensen understands Steve’s grin. Rumor has it that Jared’s at headquarters, has been back for a few weeks.

“Yeah?”

“Yep.”

“I’d tell you I love you but I haven’t even said that to Jared and there’s no way in hell you’re the first guy in ages to hear it from me. But how the hell did you manage that?”
Steve laughs at that, pulls Jensen into a hug and then lets him get ready for the day.

“Dani. She’s Jared best friend and can’t apparently stand him whining anymore. I heard her complaining to someone and just sat down next to her. Almost got kicked out of the cafeteria for that alone. No one sits down to one of the rebel leaders without being asked to. But imagine the reaction when I mentioned your name and that you're here, she lit up and dragged me off.”

Steve winks when Jensen comes back out of the bathroom, when Jensen motions him to go on, Steve laughs again. “Wish I could say it was all hot and kinky. But we just plotted how to get you in headquarters. She came up with courier thing. Apparently they need one since the comm-channels are unsafe.”

And that’s how Jensen ends up working as a courier for in the rebel base camp without ever having had contact with the rebellion before. He’s kinda proud that he doesn’t falter at the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

Jensen, more than once, realizes how he's been living under a rock for almost all of his life and that he'd wanted it that way. Things are worse than he ever expected and he finds himself wondering what else is going on that he has no idea about.

He doesn’t see Jared in person until he’s cleared for delivering messages directly into the headquarter offices. And the first time he meets Dani is the day he's finally cleared.
“Jensen. Hi, come on in,” she says when he knocks at her office door to get his badge.

He closes the door when she asks him to and then stands there, feeling a little awkward and way too old to be standing in front of the principal or feeling like that at least.
She nods once she’s studied him and then smiles. “I approve.”

Jensen snorts, then laughs and shakes his head. He really is too old for this. “Thanks … I guess.”

“Well, it says a lot that you're here. For him?”

This time he nods and there are no words necessary.

“Okay. It’s time you get back together. Because seriously? I’ve had to deal with him moaning about you for months. I thought he’d complain about the farm work or the county live or whatever. But no. No he goes and gets himself attached to you and then proceeds to moan about how hot you are and he can’t do this ... blah blah … and now he’s all mopey, thinking you don’t want to see him again after the way you parted.” She sips at the coffee that Jensen had totally missed on her table. Jensen just looks at her, hopes that his face as impassive as he wants it to be.

“Right. I’m a bad best friend because I’m telling you this. I get it. But man, if you’d been subjected to it you’d to bitch about it as well. And, really, it's not so much embarrassing as much as to show you that you both are on the same page,” she says with a grin, then hands him his badge and sends him out again.

It’s so surreal that he cracks up as soon as he’s back in his and Steve’s room and can’t stop for a long time.



***




Jensen does the job for three weeks before he catches the first glimpse of Jared. It’s not really unexpected how his heart clenches and his breathing speeds upj but he still has to tell himself to calm down.
It’s just for a minute or so but it’s enough to settle this deep down fear that Jared’s not okay, that people have been lying to Jensen about him. Jared looks tired, worn out and less like himself. But he’s still Jared.

Tall and with a strength that shines through despite the rough exterior.

Jensen thinks the scruffy look sort of suits him even with the tiredness lingering around the edges. Jared’s walking through headquarters, talking to someone who might be his brother judging by their comfortable body language. And then they're gone and Jensen’s standing in the hallway with a stupid smile on his face.

It takes another two days for Jensen to finally get his chance. He’s just delivered a message and is about to turn back when Jared walks out of one of the offices. Jensen just stops short and watches.
He’s not even staring, only watching and taking Jared in. Then a cough from behind makes him move aside and it also makes Jared look up. The look on his face is almost comical, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.

“Jensen?”

Jared’s in front of him a second later, arms wrapped around him, tight and sure. Jared’s strong, solid and right there.

Jared's actually alive and it takes Jensen a second to realize it. Seeing him and feeling him against his body are two different things. Then he’s all wrapped around Jared as well.
“Fuck, Jensen. They told me … you … God, they you said didn’t want to see me again, when I woke up.”

“Who told you that?” Jensen asks against Jared’s skin, feels the shiver and taste the saltiness. God, how he missed this. Just one taste, that one night and Jensen became addicted, he realizes that now. As stupid as it always sounds, one night was all it took.

“I … Jeff.” It’s not directed at Jensen but at the person standing behind Jensen. He lets Jared draw away a little, moves so that they are standing side by side, facing whoever Jared’s just addressed.
“I’m sorry, little brother. We needed to get you to safety. You needed to recover and get back to being focused. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do but Dad insisted. He wanted you home. That’s why I left Jensen the map.” Jeff actually looks guilty and Jensen believes it.

Jared just growls and then leads Jensen out of the room. Jeff lets them go. Soon they'rey are in what must be Jared’s room. Awkward silence spreading between them and Jensen can’t take it anymore.
“Come back home.”

It’s all he says because there isn’t anything else left to say. There isn’t anything else he wants to say. And it’s the most important thing right now anyway.
So he says it once and then waits for Jared’s answer, hoping it'll be the one he’s been imagining all this time on the road, looking for the man right in front of him. Jensen never thought about staying at base camp and only now does he dare to hope that Jared wants to come back with him.

Silence stretches again, almost too long until Jared shakes his head and drops down on the rickety bed. Jensen watches as Jared almost folds in on himself and at first he thinks Jared’s crying.
“What? Why are you laughing.”

“Can’t …” Jared hiccups through his laughter. “Can’t stop … it’s ridiculous.”

Jensen can’t help the smile that creeps up his own face, seeing Jared laughing like that makes something snap inside of him. The whole time he wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing, now he knows he is.

“What is?”

“How fucking happy I am that you asked this. That you actually came for me. I hoped but … It’s ridiculous and I can’t stop laughing …”

Jensen knows the signs of shock, sits down next to Jared and pulls the other man into his arms. It doesn’t take long, a second or maybe a little more than a minute, and Jared’s hiccups change. Jensen feels the tears against his skin and draws Jared closer.

“It’s okay. I got you now. Won’t let ya go again.”



***
***


They leave two days later.

It doesn’t seem to be too hard for Jared to leave. He’d gotten his things packed faster than Jensen can blink, drives off to say goodbye to his parents and is back half a day later. It’s weird how fast it goes and how right it actually feels.

The only thing Jensen doesn’t like is leaving Steve behind. But the other man decided to help out at base camp and come back once things have settled down.

The goodbye there is short but heartfelt and Jensen really doesn’t know how to thank Steve for getting him all the way here.

“Just … be happy,” Steve says, tips his cowboy hat and joins a decryption team just coming back from a mission.

Jeff’s not happy but lets them go, hands over supplies and the newest reports from the troops across the country. Jared smiles when his brother hugs him and says he’d always knew Jared would end up going back home.

The way Jared looks just then, Jensen knows it's true with such clarity that Jensen chokes up a little and hides his face against Blaze, pretending to check his saddle again. He sees Steve smirk and flips him the bird.

Danneel makes Jared promise to check in every other week and Jensen actually laughs at the puppy dog eyes Jared sends her. But Jared promises anyway.

Their journey back home is easier and feels so different form the trip East that Jensen knows that this is a whole different journey. It’s not his now, it's theirs. Jensen has to remind himself several times that it’s really Jared on Milla right next to him and not Steve, or someone else.






12 Swallowed up by the Whale




“Wanna know what I did at base camp these past few months?” Jared asks one night. It’s getting cooler again and Jensen thinks he can smell the mountain air already. They’re closer to being home now than they are to base camp and Jensen likes it.

They’re lying next to each other, sleeping bags spread out under them, blankets over them. It feels like a camping trip but it’s so much more. The stars are clear above them, breeze cool on Jensen’s skin.

“What?”

“Got better. Survived and I got what I wanted.”

Jensen’s about to joke, to say that of course Jared did, because Jensen’s right there but something in Jared’s voice stops him.

“And what is that?”

“Justice.”

Jensen finds himself moving then, closer to Jared, under the second blanket and arm wrapping around Jared’s chest. It’s the first time since their hug at camp that they’re this close.
Something’s been holding them back.

There haven't been any real touches – safe for the occasional hugs - , only accidentally, no kisses either. It’s like they're suspended in a phase of watch and wait. Neither of them dares to make the first move, like they’re afraid of shattering this thing between them, like it’s not real just yet.

The second Jensen touches Jared both of them take a deep breath and settle against each other. Again, Jensen’s surprised how right it feels. “Tell me.” He murmurs.

Jared nods, pulls him closer, mirroring the way they were when Jared told him who he was. This time, though, Jensen knows Jared will tell nothing but the truth and he’ll finally get to know who Jared Padalecki really is.

“Remember when I freaked out about CL Corp? The day I found that letter?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, the CEO. Chad. He … he used to be my best friend. We grew up together. His family was close to mine. He always joked that being best friend’s with the son’s governor will make him famous one day. Well, it turned out to be true. In more than one way.” Jared sounds detached but Jensen hears the emotion lying underneath the words. He doesn’t move, doesn’t interrupt and knows Jared needs to find his own pace to tell this story.

“His father was big in the electricity and mining business, developing advanced technologies, too. Not very environment friendly though. My dad’s laws.. Let’s just say he didn’t like them. At first it was just arguments between them. But then it was between our families. Chad stopped speaking to me and I wondered why.”

Jared turns toward Jensen, a sad smile on his lips and Jensen does what he’s been wanting ever since he saw Jared again, he leans in and fits their lips together. It’s not sexual, not at all. It’s reassurance and says I'm here and I'm with you.

Dry lips and a smile against his own is what Jensen feels in return and it’s almost enough to make this whole year okay.

Jared goes back to telling his story when they pull away. “We couldn’t prove it for a long time, but old Lindberg’s men set our ranch on fire that night. The next time I saw Chad again was when I was already in agent training, boot camp and his company was still dealing with the right side of the government. He was there to get mining deals done, I think. Man, the way he looked at me, pure hatred. Found out later that he blames my family for his dad’s heart attack. It’s all a mess. Not really sure how to explain it.”

Jensen moves in again when Jared stops talking, kisses him deeper this time, truer. Then he lets Jared continue his story.

“Chad became his old man, greedy, attention seeking and ruthless. No scruples and always looking for a profit. When things within the government started to fall apart, he chose to play each side against the other. The President, thankfully, realized early enough and stopped dealing CL Corp but couldn’t stop Chad from infiltrating the other side. I was already on the Presidents guard by that time and it only made Chad hate me more. He tried several times to get me arrested for treason. That’s why I lived on the road for so long. Joining the rebellion was just the next logical step
.
“The data I stole, before I ended up on the Silver Star … it belonged to CL. It ended up being all their business plans, the way they undermined law, using bribes or even getting rid of everyone in their way. It was all there. Still is. Your land … they wanted it to open up the old mines again. Coal, iron … whatever was there.”

Jensen’s not sure what to say to that. He never really thought about why they wanted his land. He only ever cared about how to keep it from them. But just thinking about everything being destroyed makes him sick.

“We got proof of their connections to Black Ops while I was out of commission. Got proof that CL was behind the threats and attacks on the farms, ranches and towns. Yours, too. Got a raid set up and all that. Um … I kind of went a little crazy.”

“How crazy? Do I even want to know?” Jensen hears his own amusement in his voice but feels dread creeping in as well.

“Well, I sort of took the command away from the team leader and walked into CL Corps Headquarters on my own,” Jared says a little sheepishly but without regret.
Jensen understands. “So what? You walked in there and dragged him out to be arrested?”

Jared laughs then, the sound ringing out into the night, unrestricted but bitter. Jensen waits for Jared to go on.

“Not quite. Got shot by one of the guards. No worries, though, it was just a graze. In the end it wasn’t even really a fight. I was kinda disappointed about that, actually. The raid team officially submitted all the evidence to court, so that even the official government troops couldn’t look the other way. They had to help us, dragged Chad out of his office in handcuffs.” Jared sighs then, deep and a little frustrated as well. Fingers playing with Jensen’s hair in a way that makes Jensen think Jared doesn't even realize he’s doing it.

“Wasn’t as satisfying as you’d hoped?” He offers, voice quiet.

“No ... yes … Kind of, I guess. It was all so anticlimactic in the end. He got arrested. Black Ops is in the middle of being dismantled. We have all the proof we needed … and well … People will get their land back, you'll get to keep your home. It’s why I went in there. I just ... I wanted to kick his ass. But now he’s in jail and everyone’s happy. Only, it’s not that easy. CL is still there and I have no idea what his lawyers will do to get him out. I can tell it’s not over. But for now, at least, the battle's mostly won. Let’s just hope the war’s a long time off.”

It’s a pragmatic view but one Jensen can’t deny is true. He's gotten his land back, and he finds it comforting that Jared has had a big part in it. Only Jensen hasn’t thought about it in way too long, focused on finding Jared and bringing him back home. He has a home, still, and suddenly that makes it into his thoughts.

“Thank you,” Jensen says against Jared’s mouth and then doesn’t let him answer anymore. Jensen knows Jared understands.

Jared lies Jensen down that night, spreads him out on the woolen blanket on the forest floor under the stars. It’s not romantic or meaningful. It’s just them being back together, telling stories with their hands and mouths on each other’s bodies, feeling alive for the first time in months. It’s them.

Jared has Jensen writhing beneath him.. There’s no rush now, no need to speed things up, so he spends hours learning Jensen’s body. And then allows Jensen to do the same.





Epilogue

+


13 American Land



Everything looks different from up here, somehow even more beautiful if that’s even possible. It took Jared a long time to be able to climb up the turbine and do actual repair work on them. But now that he knows the steps, knows what to do, he can enjoy the spectacular view it gets him. He loves it up here now, loves the freedom and the knowledge that this is home and it’s safe. He's fought hard for it and for a while didn’t think he’d be back or could have this.

He straightens his hat and grins when he thinks about talking to Jeff later via holo-link in this get up. The comm-link at his wrist buzzes.

“What?”

“Stop daydreaming and fix the engine, Jay. Not much time until the storm comes in. And I actually want to keep our promise and make an appearance at Sam’s tonight.” Jensen’s voice sounds so close but he’s actually half a mile away, up on one of the other broken turbines.

“How’d you know I wasn’t fixing anything?”

“Because I know you, Jared, and you always take a few minutes for the view and your daydreams.”

“But my daydreams are nice. They all feature you." He's grinning.

“Stop it and watch the sky, dumbass.” Jensen actually sounds worried now which has Jared scanning the distant mountain tops for any signs. And indeed, there are black clouds gathering, meaning nothing good's on the way.

“Be done in five, Jen. Meet ya at the gate?”

“Okay. And, thanks, Jay.”

“Sure, Jen. Be safe. Love ya.”



***




Jensen grins when he shuts the comm-link off. He has been doing that a lot lately, catching flack for it even more often. He just can’t help it. The love thing and saying it out loud is so new that it makes his heart beat faster every time.

Finally things have quieted down somewhat – more peaceful than they ever were before. The land’s his, officially and there’s no way anyone’s ever going try anything like that again. This is rebel land now and everyone knows it. And if anyone should dare and try, well he’s got his very own gun slinging Special Agent there to protect him.

It’s slightly ridiculous how much he likes having Jared around again. It makes the time where he wasn’t around seem like a dark shadow, a nightmare. The numbness from back then still lingers a little and when Jensen allows himself to think about it, he has a hard time not sinking back into this feeling.

It’ll take a while for things to settle, for everything to go back to how they were those first few months when Jared came to the ranch. Maybe not the same as they were, but close enough. But right now they're well on their way, working on it and letting life happen however it wants.

Jensen pats Oscar gently when the dog sidles up to him, then turns and leaves the field of turbines behind. Work’s done for the day and he hopes that Jared will hurry up, too. Jensen has plans for tonight and they involve his voice and Jared’s reaction to it.

Blaze patiently waits for Jensen to get back up and then turns towards the house without Jensen having to say much. There, up on the back of his horse, with his dog sprinting away up front and Jared’s laughter still in his ear, Jensen realizes that he’s happy.



The end.



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