Jared isn’t quite sure where he is. Who he is. What he’s feeling.
Where he’s supposed to be.
It’s dark and it’s cold but he’s afraid to leave.
He’s not aware of anything, really.
He gets little flickers, little flashes of life and he blocks them out. He doesn’t want to know what’s going on out there.
He sometimes wonders if he’s even still alive. Is anyone out there? Is anyone at the wheel? Did he just fade away? Is it all over? It doesn’t really matter anymore.
When he thinks, it’s about Jensen. Eyes, smile, lips, heart, laughter, love. Jensen. All these beautiful things his mind will let him remember. Green, blond, platinum, tan. He thinks of Jasmine. One eye green and one eye blue. Soft fur and warm, wet tongue. Is anyone taking care of her? Does she miss her people now that they’re gone?
The world asks too many questions. There are too many answers he doesn’t have. They pull and tug at his mind, stinging like insects and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to feel, doesn’t want to know what happened to his world. It wouldn’t do him any good to know.
He stays where he is, pushed back into the dark and the cold. It’s safe here. The pain can’t touch him here.
He thinks maybe he can hear Sam, voice so loud and angry from wherever he is. Sam caused so much pain, and he just can’t take it. He’s too afraid.
Jared, you fucking coward!
It’s Sam yelling. It’s Sam being right.
Misha gets back to the apartment later than he had planned after falling asleep on Vicki’s couch during a movie.
The apartment is dark and he stretches his arms over his head as he walks down the hall towards Jensen’s room. He still can’t get over how weird it is to check up on Jensen. He was used to doing it for Jared – making sure he was never in his own head for too long and things like that. But Jensen has always been so self-efficient. He never needs help with anything.
Misha is surprised to find Sam in bed with Jensen. He has a split-second of hope where he thinks maybe Jared has come back, but then he really looks. Jensen is rolled away and Sam is flat on his back, eyelids fluttering slightly. He’s not sleeping.
Misha creeps into the room and slowly reaches out to poke Sam in the center of his chest. His eyes snap open and they’re cloudy and glazed over for a moment before they sharpen into Sam’s fierce gaze. He looks up at Misha and blinks a few times.
“What are you doing?” Misha asks in a whisper. Sam slowly sits up and swings his feet over the bed.
“He asked me to,” Sam replies. He stands up and puts his hand on Misha’s shoulder. “He doesn’t want to be alone. Stay with him, okay?”
“Sure,” Misha replies, and Sam nods once before tearing out of the room. Misha shrugs a little and kicks off his shoes before climbing into the bed. He reaches over to touch Jensen’s forehead with the back of his hand. He had been running a low-grade fever that morning and Misha was slightly concerned that he might be getting an infection.
Misha had always thought that all that ‘state of mind does wonders for the healing process’ talk was just bullshit, but now he sees that it’s true. Jensen’s temperature feels normal and green eyes flutter open to blink sleepily at him.
“Sam was here,” he croaks sleepily, and Misha nods. Jensen seems to think to himself for a moment and then he closes his eyes. “Shit.”
“What?” Misha asks, and Jensen shakes his head. He shrugs and rests his hand against Jensen’s shoulder. “Go back to sleep. I’ll change your bandages in the morning.”
“Okay,” Jensen says as Misha settles into bed with him. “I’m sorry you have to do this. If there was another way – “
“We’re not having this discussion again,” Misha tells him. “You’re one of the very few people in this world that I can, without hesitation, honestly say that I love. It’s not a problem. And I know you’d do the same for me.”
“I would,” Jensen replies instantly. Misha nods and rolls onto his side to rest his head on Jensen’s shoulder. “What are you doing?”
“I’m cold. And we might as well make this moment even gayer,” Misha replies. Jensen lets out a soft huff of laughter and Misha smiles. “Go to sleep, man.”
Misha wants to tell him that things will be better in the morning, but at this point he’s not so sure that they will be.
Sam has been yelling for an eternity.
It stirs something inside of Jared. It makes him step out of the dark place.
Jared blinks a few times and finds himself inside of a room he hasn’t seen for years. The walls are a dark, angry red and Sam’s eyes lock on him with a rage that makes Jared shake.
“There you are,” Sam snarls, and lunges forward. Jared lets out a cough as Sam slams him up against the wall. The whole room is throbbing, pulsing angrily, and it’s easy to tell who has control right now. Jared swallows and stares into Sam’s eyes. “You fucking asshole.”
Jared shakes his head. Why is Sam even here? The last thing Jared remembers with any clarity is being at the hospital and hearing that announcement over the intercom.
“Jensen,” he croaks out, and Sam laughs bitterly.
“Oh, now you give a shit,” Sam replies scathingly. “Could have fooled me.”
“Jensen, is he – “
“He’s alive,” Sam finishes. He finally steps away from Jared and he blinks a few times. His head is throbbing. “No thanks to you. You just assumed the worst and fucking bolted. Do you have any idea how much pain you’ve caused?”
“I – I didn’t mean to,” Jared stammers. He feels groggy and off-kilter, worse than every other time he’s ever come back to awareness. How long was he gone? “It’s not like I wanted to go, Sam. It just happened.”
“Because you’re weak,” Sam spits out. He slams Jared’s shoulders against the wall again and stares right into his eyes. “Do you want to see what you did to him?”
“Sam – “ Jared starts, but it’s too late. There’s pressure at the edges of his mind and then he gets flashes of Sam’s memory. Jensen screaming from a hospital bed with panic in his eyes. Jensen with tears streaming down his face. Jensen lying despondently in bed with his arm stretched out over Jared’s side. Jensen not healing. And then, finally, Jensen pleading for someone to take his pain away with the most excruciating look in his eyes. “Oh god.”
“All of that,” Sam spits, “because you crumbled.”
“I’m sorry,” Jared gets out. He can feel himself trying to sob, but he can’t, not while he’s trapped in his own head. “I’m so sorry.”
“You need to get the fuck out there and make him happy,” Sam says, and Jared is surprised to see the anguished look in his eyes. “Or I swear to god I will spend the rest of my life trying to do it myself.”
Jared lets out a dry sob and nods. Sam puts his hands on Jared’s cheeks and presses their foreheads together. Jared is shaking so badly that he has to clutch at Sam’s forearms to stay upright. He wants to close his eyes but he forces himself to meet Sam’s gaze.
“Listen to me,” Sam starts, and Jared nods. “You are not as weak as you think you are. All of my strength, my power and bravery, it’s all in you. It’s already there. You don’t need me to use it, okay?”
“But Sam – “
“No, listen to me,” Sam replies. He continues to clutch at the sides of Jared’s neck, fingertips digging into tense muscle. “I used to protect you, but it’s not just you that’s at stake anymore. I can’t take away Jensen’s pain, but you can. And that’s what you need to go do now.”
“Okay,” Jared finally says. He lets out another sob and curls one hand in the front of Sam’s shirt. “Okay, I need to go.”
“Hey Jared,” Sam says just before he closes his eyes. Sam kisses Jared’s forehead and then pulls back to give him a smirk that’s so very Sam that Jared wants to cry even harder. He and Sam never got to say goodbye last time, not like he did with Chad and Sandy. “If I ever see you again? I’ll kick your fucking ass.”
Jared nods, shares one last look with Sam, and closes his eyes.
When he opens them again he’s flat on his back on the futon in the spare room. Every single muscle in his body feels tense and sore, and his head is throbbing so badly that he can barely even see. He takes a few deep breaths, shakes his head to clear his vision, and climbs off of the futon. He lunges for the door but it opens before he can get to it. He finds himself face to face with Misha, who looks like he was just woken up and he isn’t very happy about it.
“Sam, what the hell?” Misha asks. “Why are you yelling in here? Jensen just finally went to sleep.”
“Jensen,” Jared breathes. This time he does feel tears leak from his eyes. He wants to weep for all the pain he’s caused. “Oh god, Misha. I’m so sorry.”
“…Jared?” Misha finally asks. Jared nods and then gets the wind knocked out of him when Misha pulls him into a bone-crushing hug. Jared clings back for a moment and when they pull apart Misha is staring at him like he’s a ghost.
“How long was I gone?” Jared asks, suddenly terrified of the answer. Misha bites his lip nervously. “Tell me.”
“A month,” Misha replies, and Jared’s knees nearly give out. “He’s… pretty messed up. It’s like he was mourning your death.”
“I never wanted to leave,” Jared replies. He blinks away a fresh set of tears and Misha squeezes his arm.
“This isn’t going to be an easy fix,” Misha warns him, and Jared swallows hard. “Go. Be careful with him.”
Jared steps around him to head down the hall. He turns into their bedroom and his heart jumps up into his throat when he sees Jensen. He looks so small in the giant bed. He’s so pale and there are dark circles under his eyes. Jared bites back another sob and wipes his eyes as he steps into the room. Guilt is tearing at his belly, making it hard to breathe. He gets down on his knees at Jensen’s side of the bed and reaches out to touch his hand.
“Jensen,” he says, and it comes out sounding so broken. He’s exhausted and he can feel blackness plucking at his mind, but he remembers Sam’s words. He’s stronger than he thinks he is. “Jen, wake up, please.”
Jensen’s eyes flutter open and land on him with a forced calm. After a few moments he blinks and then searches Jared’s face. He watches as his eyes widen with disbelief and then immediately fill with tears.
“Jensen, I’m so sorry,” Jared cries. He leans in and cups Jensen’s cheek in his hand, feeling rough stubble under his palm. “I didn’t want to leave. I thought you were – I shouldn’t have left.”
“You’re back,” Jensen says brokenly. He struggles to pull himself into a sitting position and Jared surges up onto his knees. He holds out his arms and lets Jensen come to him, unsure of the extent of his injuries. Jensen slips out of bed until he is straddling Jared’s lap and he lets out a sob as Jared pulls him into his arms.
He’s not sure how long they spend like that, clutching each other and crying, but the shoulder of Jared’s tee is soaked with tears. Jared feels guiltier with every single drop.
“Don’t leave me,” Jensen begs, and Jared lets out a sob before pressing his lips against Jensen’s jaw. “Please don’t ever leave me.”
“I won’t,” Jared replies. Jensen pulls back and puts his hands on Jared’s cheeks, looking into his eyes for a moment before he presses their mouths together.
Jared knows that it’s an impossible task, but he swears, right there against Jensen’s lips, that he will spend the rest of their lives trying to make this up to him.
And he means that.
The next day, Misha isn’t exactly surprised that Jensen doesn’t really ever let Jared out of his sight.
He brings them breakfast and actually is surprised when Jensen eats it all and even asks for another pancake. There’s a vast improvement in Jensen’s demeanor, even overnight. He’s regained his appetite and his skin is flushed with color. His eyes are more bright and focused. He looks, well, relieved.
Misha comes back into the room a little while after breakfast with the intent of changing Jensen’s bandages. Soon they won’t have to go through this anymore, which is nice. It hurts to look at Jensen’s wound every single time. Jensen is passed out across Jared’s chest and he’s staring down at him, fingers combing through his hair. Misha winces a little.
“He shouldn’t be lying like that,” Misha says, and Jared looks at him with a furrowed brow.
“Why not?” Jared asks. Misha raises an eyebrow and gestures vaguely towards his chest with the first aid kit in his hand.
“Because of the bullet hole in his chest?” Misha replies. Jared tenses up and looks stricken, but Misha doesn’t feel bad. Jared needs to face the reality of the situation. Finally he nods and kisses the top of Jensen’s head before carefully rolling him onto his back. He looks up at Misha, who just nods approvingly.
Jensen lets out a soft noise and his eyes flutter open. He immediately reaches over to grab Jared’s arm, and the expression on Jared’s face is pained as he tangles their fingers together.
Misha knows with every fiber of his being that Jared would die before willingly causing Jensen any pain. He must be kicking the shit out of himself right now.
“Hey,” Jared says softly. Jensen looks up at him and lets out a relieved breath. Misha clears his throat to alert Jensen of his presence.
“Hey, man,” Misha starts as he holds up the first aid kit. “Hate to wake you, but it’s time for – “
“It’s time for Jared to take Jazz out for a walk,” Jensen cuts in. Misha and Jared turn to look at him and Jensen pulls himself into a sitting position much quicker than he should. He looks terrified at the thought of Jared leaving the room, but he tries to hide it with a smile. “Could you? She missed you.”
“Yeah,” Jared says slowly. “Sure.”
He leans over to give Jensen a long, lingering kiss before climbing off of the bed. Jensen furrows his brow as he leaves the room and then looks over at Misha.
“What the hell was that about?” Misha asks as Jensen slowly swings his legs over the side of the bed. He grunts as he stands and follows Misha into the bathroom. Jensen lets out a breath as he sits down on the closed toilet seat.
“He just came back,” Jensen grits out as they both work to get his shirt off. Misha is displeased to see that the wound is more red and tender-looking than it was yesterday. He’s been moving around too much. “I don’t want him to see anything that could be triggering.”
“Yeah, that’ll work,” Misha says with an exasperated eye roll. Jensen just glares at him. “Look, he needs to face reality. Hiding from it is what caused all this in the first place. He needs to deal.”
“And he will,” Jensen says firmly as Misha gently cleans the wound and applies another bandage. “Just not right now.”
They share another long look but Jensen finally wins. He’s in a fresh set of clothes and on the sofa watching television by the time Jared and Jazz return.
Misha just sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
By that night, Jensen is absolutely exhausted.
For the last two weeks he was supposed to be up and (carefully) moving around a little, according to Jack, but he ignored those orders in favor of lying in bed to mope.
Now that Jared’s back, Jensen is determined to get back on his feet. He watches TV with Jared and Misha and helps with dinner. He even sits at the table and eats every last bite. Misha looks at him like a parent proud of their toddler for eating all their veggies. He probably deserves that. He hasn’t had the heartiest of appetites lately.
After dinner he goes downstairs to watch Jared toss a ball around with Jazz in the courtyard area of their apartment complex. He leans heavily against Jared in the elevator on the way back up and covers a yawn with his hand.
His chest feels like it’s on fire. He isn’t used to this much activity since everything happened and he hurts all over. Jared is looking at him with a concerned expression and Jensen just smiles up at him. Being with Jared again is worth the pain.
Misha doesn’t seem to feel the same way.
“Go to bed,” Misha says as soon as they walk in the door. Even Jazz tries to herd him down the hall by nipping at his heels. “And take your pill.”
“Jeez, dad. Anything else?” Jensen asks petulantly, which doesn’t really help his case. Misha just raises an eyebrow.
“This is as active as you’ve been since your accident and you have physical therapy tomorrow,” Misha tells him. He turns to Jared who stands immediately at attention. “Take him to bed, and make sure he takes a pill.”
Jensen glares at Misha even though he knows he’s only trying to help. He doesn’t want Jared to dote on him, and he definitely doesn’t want Jared to be stressed out. He just wants everything to be normal again.
He wants his life back.
“You heard the man,” Jared says. He pats Jensen gently on the ass and smiles at him. “Get to bed.”
Jensen rolls his eyes and shuffles down the hallway towards the bedroom. It takes some effort to change out of his jeans and into his sweats. Bending down is what hurts most of all, and Jensen is wincing by the time he crawls into bed. Jared comes in a moment later with a glass of water and hands it to Jensen, motioning towards the bottle of pills on the nightstand. Jensen rolls his eyes and takes one as Jared kicks off his pants, pulls off his shirt, and crawls into bed.
He gets under the covers and stretches out his arms and legs, face scrunched up in concentration. The familiar sight aches after so long without seeing it and Jensen bites his lip.
“What?” Jared asks once he finishes his stretching routine and looks over at him. “Jen, what’s wrong? Do you hurt?”
“No, I just – “ Jensen stops and takes a deep breath. He really doesn’t want to cry anymore. He’s done more of that in the past month than he has in his entire lifetime. “I missed you.”
“I know,” Jared replies. He looks so disappointed in himself, and Jensen doesn’t want him to feel that way. Jared curls up next to Jensen, lying on his side next to him. Jensen tries to turn to face him, but Jared keeps him on his back with one heavy hand on his shoulder. Jensen huffs and turns just his head instead. Jared is looking down and his eyes are wet. “Jensen, I – I can’t possibly begin to describe to you how sorry I am. I know I’ll never make it up to you, but like I said, I will spend my life trying.”
“Jared, it’s not like you wanted to check out, right?” Jensen asks, and Jared shakes his head. Jensen rolls onto his side despite Jared’s protests and looks into his eyes. “Where did you go?”
“I’m not really sure,” Jared replies slowly. He rests his hand on Jensen’s hip and squeezes gently. “I just remember that you coded, and I thought you were – I thought you were gone. I tried to stay, Jensen. I swear I did.”
“I believe you,” Jensen says as he slides his fingers into Jared’s hair. A tear rolls down Jensen’s cheek and he doesn’t even bother to try and wipe it away. So much for not crying. Jared’s eyes are glassy and wet and Jensen stares right into them.
“I let you wake up to Sam,” Jared sighs. “Of all the choices.”
“He wasn’t so bad,” Jensen tells him. Jared raises his eyebrow skeptically and Jensen smiles a little. “Yeah, he was different. Not as angry, I think. We got along okay after awhile.”
“He was pretty angry with me,” Jared informs him, and Jensen blinks.
“You talked to him?” Jensen asks.
“You could say that,” Jared says sheepishly. “I think he dragged me out from wherever I was hiding.”
“He promised he would,” Jensen replies throatily. He reaches out to tuck Jared’s hair behind his ear and leans in to kiss his forehead. Jared rolls him onto his back and slings his arm gently over Jensen’s chest just above his bandages. He props himself up on his elbow and looks down at Jensen’s face. He looks so guilty and so upset with himself that Jensen’s heart clenches. “Hey, stop. You’re back and I’m okay.”
“I just – “
“Kiss me, Jared, okay?” Jensen pleads. He puts his hand on Jared’s cheek and looks up into his warm eyes. “C’mon, really kiss me.”
Jared leans down to press their mouths together and it’s not long before the kiss deepens. Jared keeps Jensen pinned down by his shoulders and there’s little he can do other than put his hands flat against Jared’s chest.
This kiss feels so amazing – it’s everything Jensen has needed to feel over the past month. It’s full of love, passion, devotion, and everything else Jared feels for him. It’s Jared, and that’s all Jensen will ever need.
They kiss until Jensen is too tired to do so and then he falls asleep, safe and warm in Jared’s grasp.
Jared is thwarted in his attempt to accompany Misha and Jensen to his physical therapy session.
Misha snatches Jensen’s car keys and tosses Jared the keys to his own, which has been sitting mostly unused for the last few weeks. Jared catches them and tries very hard not to pout.
Judging by the look on Jensen’s face, he desperately doesn’t want to leave Jared’s side. But his mouth says otherwise. He tells Jared to go to school and try to salvage what he can of his course load so they can meet up afterwards.
It’s a flimsy excuse and Jared doesn’t miss the way Misha’s eyes roll when he suggests it.
But still, he’s in no position to argue with Jensen. He could ask for the moon right now and Jared would figure out a way to pluck it from the sky, even in the daytime.
So instead he watches Jensen and Misha leave, and then he gets into his car to go about his day. He makes an appointment with his counselor at school to see if there is anything he can do to graduate on time. He’s almost done with grad school and he would hate to repeat a semester.
After he leaves campus, he swings by his psychologist’s office. His visits had decreased to once every two months, but after his sudden relapse he knows he needs to change that. He actually catches Dr. Shanahan on his way out to lunch and explains the situation. He walks out with an appointment for the following day.
He goes to the grocery store and gets everything he needs to make Jensen’s favorite shrimp dish – the same one he made on the night Jensen was shot. It’s about time he got his meal.
He tries not to think about how it’s a month too late, and how one dinner isn’t going to fix all the damage Jared caused. But still, he can try.
Jared is surprised to find that he beat Jensen and Misha home. He puts the groceries away and takes Jasmine outside to toss the ball around a little. He brings Jasmine in through the side door and they climb up the stairs, reaching the hall just in time to see Jensen and Misha stepping out of the elevator. Jensen has his arm around Misha’s shoulders and his face is pale and lined with pain. Jared swallows hard and feels his heart rate start to climb as he rushes forward to open the door.
“What’s wrong?” Jared asks as Misha helps Jensen inside. When Jensen spots Jared he tries to stand up on his own. Misha lets out a growl and Jensen waves a hand.
“Nothing,” Jensen says. He’s trying to sound casual but his voice is shaking. “Just a little sore. I’m going to go take a pill. Misha, I might need you in a minute.”
Jensen heads slowly up the hallway and Jared whirls on Misha with a pleading look in his eyes. Jazz lets out a low whine and heads after Jensen.
“What’s going on?” Jared demands. Misha sighs and meets his gaze. “Misha, come on.”
“It’s nothing,” Misha replies. “Physical therapy isn’t a picnic. It hurts him.”
“Then why doesn’t he – “
“Look,” Misha cuts in, “I don’t agree with what he’s trying to do, but I’m not getting in the middle of it. So, here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m going to go in there and change his bandages and then I’m going to leave, and you’re going to talk to him. You can handle it.”
“Misha, I’m sorry,” Jared finally says after a few moments of silence. It seems like he can’t do enough apologizing.
“No one blames you for what happened except for you,” Misha replies. Misha has always had a way of cutting to the point. He’s not a fan of bullshit, and Jared loves him for it. “It’s over and you both want and need to move on. But before that can happen, you have to actually face it.”
Jared just nods. His eyes are wet, again, and Misha rolls his eyes fondly before pulling him in for a hug. He clings tight and marvels over how he managed to find the two greatest people in the world, and how they actually want to be a part of his life.
Misha disappears into the bedroom and Jared flops down onto the sofa to gather his thoughts. He vaguely gets what Jensen is doing. He’s trying not to let Jared see that he’s anything less than okay, and while noble of him, it sort of sucks to know that Jensen can’t fully trust him right now.
He’s sure that Sam is gone. They said their goodbyes and Sam’s final words will never leave him. Now he just has to prove to Jensen that Sam’s strength resides in him, that he won’t break as easily ever again.
Misha comes out and snatches his sunglasses from the table near the door. He slips them on and gives Jared a nod.
“I’ll be at Vicki’s,” Misha tells him. “Call me if you need me. Or better yet, text me and let me know you don’t so I can spend the night with my girl.”
Jared lets out a soft snort and then nods. Misha gestures down the hall and then slips out the door. Jared takes a deep breath and heads into the bedroom. Jensen is flat on his back on the left side of the bed and Jazz is curled up at his feet. He has on a thin, white v-neck tee and Jared can vaguely see the outline of the large bandage on his chest. He swallows hard and steps into the room.
“Hey,” he says softly. “Did you take your pill?”
“Yep,” Jensen replies. He maneuvers a little and puts a pillow behind his head. “I’m feeling much better.”
“Good.” Jared takes a deep breath and runs his fingers through his hair. “So hey, why didn’t you want me to come with you today?”
“So that you could try to get stuff worked out at school,” Jensen replies casually. “Speaking of, how’d that go?”
“I’ll tell you after we talk about this,” Jared replies. He sits on the edge of the bed and bites his bottom lip as he looks over at Jensen. “You won’t let me go to the doctor with you, you won’t let me in the room when Misha is changing your bandage, and you won’t admit to me that you’re in pain. Why?”
“Jared, I don’t want to talk – “
“Why?” Jared repeats. He curls his fingers around the bump of Jensen’s toes under the blanket, and Jensen’s eyes narrow a bit when he looks at Jared. “Tell me.”
“I need you to see that I’m fine,” Jensen finally says. He gives Jared a look that shows him just how much he doesn’t want to have this discussion. “I can’t look weak around you.”
“You’re never weak, Jen,” Jared replies softly. “Why would you say that?”
Jensen takes a deep breath and Jared just waits for an answer. Jared knows he isn’t going to like it when Jensen scrubs his hand down his face and shakes his head a little before answering.
“Because the first time in over four years that I wasn’t your perfect pillar of strength, the first time I needed someone to lean on, you vanished.” Jared sucks in a breath at that, blinking rapidly as the words sink in. There it is, all laid out between them. “So no, I can’t be weak. But I have to say, Jared, it gets really exhausting always being the strong one.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Jared finally mumbles. He swallows hard and blinks against the sting in his eyes. “I wish I could have been as strong as you needed me to be.”
“Me too,” Jensen replies. He huffs a breath and stares up at the ceiling while Jared takes a moment to get his thoughts together.
“I can’t change what’s already happened,” Jared tells him. “But I can promise that it will never happen again.”
“Oh, so the next time I almost die you’ll stick around?” Jensen looks angry and hurt, and his eyes glisten when he fixes them on Jared’s face. “How can you promise something like that?”
Jared swallows hard against the lump in his throat. He crawls forward on the bed and puts his hand over Jensen’s. His eyes are flooded with tears and guilt is clawing at his belly. His heart is breaking at the sight of Jensen’s face and he knows that if he can make it through this, he can take anything.
“I love you, Jensen,” Jared starts. He squeezes Jensen’s hand and slides his thumb across the platinum band on his ring finger. “I thought you were dead and I just – I shut down, because that’s what I always did when something was too big for me to handle. But Sam made me realize something. I’m not the only one that needs protecting anymore. I’m not used to being needed, but now that I know I am? Nothing could keep me from being that person for you. I can be strong for you, I know it. I’m just sorry that I didn’t see that before.”
Jensen sighs and shakes his hand loose from Jared’s grasp. He’s terrified for only a moment before Jensen is reaching up to wipe away the tears he had no idea were even falling.
“I’ll prove to you that I can be what you need,” Jared promises. “If you’ll let me.”
“Of course, Jared,” Jensen replies. He puts his hand on Jared’s cheek before sliding it down his arm. “I’m sorry for what I said. It’s just – these last few weeks haven’t been easy. But I do believe you. I trust you.”
“Good,” Jared replies. He takes a deep breath to steady himself before putting his hand low on Jensen’s belly. His thumb hooks under the hem of Jensen’s shirt and he drags it up over his bandage. “I can do this.”
“Jared, no,” Jensen says. He tries to push his shirt down but Jared gently tugs his hands away. Jensen looks up at him with scared, pleading eyes as Jared carefully pulls away the tape. “You don’t need to – “
“Yes, I do,” Jared replies firmly, and then pulls the bandage away. The sight of the wound marring Jensen’s perfect skin takes him by surprise, even though he was expecting it. He feels darkness pushing at the edges of his mind but he closes his eyes and presses right back against it, forcing it back until his mind is crystal clear again. He opens his eyes and trails a shaky fingertip down the side of the scar. It’s nearly healed. Jared can see where the stitches dissolved and where the outermost edges have already healed over, turning shiny and pink. “Oh, Jen.”
“I’m okay,” Jensen says thickly. He takes Jared’s hand and presses it against his heart. The bottom of his palm just barely brushes red, inflamed skin, so he gently presses in with just his fingertips to feel Jensen’s heart beating. “See?”
Jared nods and squeezes his eyes closed as another set of tears escape his eyes. He feels the overwhelming urge to just bury his face in Jensen’s neck and weep, but then he thinks of Sam’s face. He thinks of the strength in everything Sam ever did, and he takes a deep breath as he searches for it inside himself.
Soon he’s no longer shaking and the last set of tears has fallen from his eyes. He’s as still as stone as he leans down to press a kiss to Jensen’s thrumming heart. He leans up to kiss Jensen’s mouth, soft and slow, before pulling back to look into his eyes.
“I promise I’ll never leave you,” Jared vows. He smiles softly and puts his hand on the side of Jensen’s face. “But dude, it has to be mutual, alright?”
“I’ll never leave you,” Jensen says thickly, chuckling softly as he reaches up to wrap his fingers around Jared’s wrist. “I love you.”
Jared grins and kisses him again, carefully smoothing his bandage back across his chest with his free hand. Jensen wraps his arms around Jared’s shoulders and cries into his neck, finally letting out everything he never allowed Jared to see.
It hurts, it makes him ache down to his core, but he stays strong and holds Jensen through it.
Somewhere, back in the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind, Sam smiles proudly at him.
[one year later.]
Jensen lets out a sharp gasp as Jared slams him up against the wall.
It quickly turns into a laugh as Jared hooks his hands under Jensen’s thighs and lifts him off of the floor. He wraps his legs around Jared’s waist and clings to his shoulders as they kiss. It’s a dirty, filthy kiss and Jared moans softly.
“Jared, come on,” Jensen chuckles, but he tilts his head to the side when Jared’s mouth slides down the side of his neck. “We can’t do this here.”
“Your fault,” Jared mumbles. His words are muffled against Jensen’s warm skin. “Too pretty, had to taste.”
“Mm, you wanna fuck me?” Jensen asks, and Jared nods before biting down softly at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Jensen lets out a low moan, all wound up and strung tight. “Mm, want you in me so bad.”
“What the hell are you two doing in there?” Josh’s voice filters through the door and Jensen sighs. He lets his legs slip from Jared’s waist and chuckles into his ear.
“Busted,” he breathes, and Jared whines in protest.
“Are you two seriously trying to have a quickie in the bathroom at your nephew’s sixth birthday party?” Josh demands. Jared and Jensen share a mischievous grin. “There are children out here!”
“We locked the door!” Jared calls out. Jensen laughs and buries his face in Jared’s neck. He loves moments like this – when they act like giddy teenagers, high on hormones and romance.
It’s been almost six years since Jensen met Jared, but they love each other more every single day. It’s sort of incredible.
Jensen kisses Jared for a long moment before pulling away to open the door. He meets the disapproving glare of his older brother, and he just smiles sweetly. Josh rolls his eyes in fond exasperation.
“Ashley is looking for Jared,” Josh informs them, and Jared goes bounding past them out of the bathroom in just his swim trunks. Jensen has on a matching pair, and he doesn’t miss the way Josh’s eyes linger on the scar in the center of his chest. “Dude, you have to help me wrangle all these kids.”
Jensen laughs and follows Josh out into the backyard. There are small children everywhere, and Jensen’s heart melts when he spots Jared carrying Ashley on his shoulders. Jensen is twenty-eight years old and he’s officially settled in as an attending physician at the hospital. His internal clock is starting to tick loudly in his ears. He’s thinking about kids, and he’s thinking Jared might be on the same page.
He walks over to Jared and Ashley and he swings her off of his shoulders to hold her in front of him. She giggles and squirms as she reaches out for Jensen.
“Hi Jen,” she says. She looks at his chest and reaches out to point at his scar. “How’d you get that?”
“I got hurt last year. You came to visit me in the hospital, remember?” She shakes her head adamantly and Jensen chuckles. She’s still staring unhappily at the scar and Jensen steps forward, taking her hand and pressing it against the scar. “It doesn’t hurt me anymore. I’m okay.”
Jensen took excellent care of the wound and the scar is nowhere as bad as it could have been, but it’s still very noticeable. It’s a coin-sized curl of white scar tissue against tan skin with little web-like cracks to show where he was ripped open and put back together.
It’s like a badge of honor.
Jared smiles softly and reaches out to put his hand over Ashley’s against the scar. Jensen smiles up at him.
Jared has kept his promise. He’s shown no signs of breaking and there’s nothing to say he can’t handle stress. A few months earlier, Jared and Misha had gotten into a car accident. It wasn’t anything major – just enough to really shake them up. Misha was knocked unconscious by the steering wheel and Jared stayed calm and alert all the way through Jensen stitching him up in the ER.
Jensen was proud of the way Jared handled it, even if he did refuse to leave Misha’s side for three days because of a simple concussion.
Jensen leans forward to take his niece and give Jared a soft kiss at the same time.
“Hey, I love you,” Jared tells him. Jensen grins and kisses him again. Ashley giggles and squirms in his arms.
“Love you too,” Jensen replies, just before pushing Jared forcefully into the pool. He comes up laughing, and it’s the most gorgeous thing Jensen has ever seen.