They're gone for eight days, tracking a herd of wisent on the other side of the hills. They return with hands full of spoils, and Jared is already looking forward to the meal they'll have that night. Roasted meat or maybe a stew, something filling and hearty — a reward for a successful hunt.
He's one of the youngest hunters in the tribe, but he prides himself in being one of the best. He's bigger, stronger than most of the others, yet quick on his feet and a perfect shot. It's earned him a reputation — among the hunters of the tribe, but also among everyone that’s looking for someone to settle down with. The former makes him preen, the latter holds little to no interest for Jared. Not that he plans to never find a spouse, but he knows he's not going to find one among the men and women throwing themselves at him. He's probably one of the most sought-after members of their tribe because of his hunting abilities — tied for the spot, perhaps, with Danneel, beautiful and fierce and almost as good a hunter as Jared, and only being surpassed by Jensen.
Jensen is the son of the chieftain, future leader of their tribe, and that alone makes him more coveted than any other. His beauty is another reason Jensen has men and women lining up, desperate to catch his attention.
Jared thinks all of them are idiots. Jensen is beautiful and he's going to be the most powerful member in the tribe one day, but that's not what makes him desirable. It's his compassion for everyone in their tribe, his silent strength that has fascinated Jared all his life, the intelligence he shows when he speaks. Jared has spent hours walking the woods by their camp with Jensen, discussing tribe matters and hunting and their personal lives.
Rubbing at his chest, as if that can make the longing he feels deep inside him dissipate, Jared stares at the smattering of tents down in the valley. They're off in the distance still, looking tiny and far away, but Jared knows it won't be long now.
"What are thinking about?" Danneel asks. She's walking next to him, her long auburn hair pulled back into a braid.
"Home," Jared replies vaguely, and thinks, Jensen.
"The chieftain has passed," Colin, who’s too young to come hunting with them yet but has spent hours practicing with Jared, says. Someone, behind him, lets out a choked-off, wet sound, and Jared’s fellow hunters break out in noise. Shock, surprise, grief — it all mingles together.
A warm hand tugs at Jared's arm. "Jared," Genevieve urges. Her eyes are red, her hair more tousled than normal. "Come with me. Jensen wants to see you."
"Jensen," Jared murmurs. He drops his things, uncaring, and follows Genevieve at a quick pace.
She accompanies him until they reach Jensen's tent. Jared ignores each and every person on the way, brushing past people in a hurry. By the tent, Genevieve stops and reaches out, squeezing his arm.
"He's been trying to stay strong," Genevieve says. "But he's been waiting for you to return."
"Thank you," Jared says quietly. He meets her eyes, briefly, and then pushes the tent flap open and ducks inside.
It's dimmer inside, the light filtering in not nearly as bright as the open, sunny sky, and Jared blinks as his gaze settles on Jensen. He's standing in the far corner, and somehow he looks smaller than Jared remembers, sunken in.
"You're back," Jensen says. His voice sounds hoarse, pained. They lost their chieftain, but Jensen lost his father, the man Jared knows he's admired more than anyone else and tried to emulate all his life. Jared knows he must have spent the last few days trying to stay strong, handle the grief by himself, because it's what he does. And Jared knows how hard it is, having lost both his parents many seasons ago, before he was barely more than a child.
"Jensen," Jared murmurs.
He takes a few steps toward him and then falters. Jensen, his best friend and trusted companion, is no longer just Jensen, son of the chieftain, he has to remind himself. With a slight tremble, Jared sinks down onto one knee. He grabs one of Jensen's hands in his, brings it to his lips. It's not a brief brush of lips, as is customary, though; he holds Jensen's hand against his mouth for longer than necessary, then ducks his head down to press his forehead against it.
"My chief," he mumbles, and Jensen lets out a small sob. He pulls his hand from Jared's grip and slides it along Jared's cheek, the tips of his fingers tangling in Jared's hair. He tugs, and Jared looks up, getting up off his knees. Moments later, Jensen is pressed against him, his arms in a tight lock around Jared's shoulders.
"It's okay," Jared murmurs. He slides one arm around Jensen's shoulder blades and strokes the other up and down the small of his back. He feels Jensen's tears against his neck, wet and hot, his breathing ragged and painful.
"It's okay," he repeats. "I'm here. I'm here now. It's all going to be okay, Jensen."
They bury the chief, now that their group of hunters is back, and then gather for food and drinks. It's customary for those meals to be both an occasion of mourning and a celebration of the person who passed, but the mood remains somber that night. They lost the most important member of their tribe, someone who was admired and beloved, and there's little joy to be found.
Jared doesn't drink much. He sips the ale that was handed to him and keeps a close eye on Jensen. After his break-down with Jared, he hasn't cried another tear. He's already acting like the chieftain he was born to be, strong and calm, offering comfort to everyone in the tribe and accepting their comfort with grace in return. During the burial, he gave a speech about his father, and despite the pain shining through, the admiration he'd held for the man had overshadowed everything and Jared had been in awe of how collected Jensen was, how well he'd handled things. He'd held Jensen's mother in his arms, comforted her as she cried and shed a few tears as well — but Jensen has been strong since the moment they stepped out of the tent.
Now, people have scattered around the open place in the middle of their campground. A fire is roaring, food and drinks are being passed around, low murmurs filling the air. Jared is staying back, silent, watching. His heart hurts from the loss and for Jensen, but as he watches Jensen make the rounds he feels a sense of hope too, of pride. Alan had been an amazing chief, but Jared knows Jensen will surpass him, will build on what his father has started and take it even further. The tribe hasn't always had luck, has faced many trials and tribulations, but it has prospered over the last couple of decades, growing strong under Alan's firm yet fair rule.
Jensen, finally, approaches him and Jared offers him a small smile. "My chief," he murmurs, and is about to get down on his knee again, a formal recognition of a new chief, but Jensen puts a hand on his arm and shakes his head.
"You've already pledged yourself to me, Jared," he says softly.
Jared's gaze flits in the direction of Jensen's tent. "Not in public," he says. "Not for people to see."
"They don't need to. They know," Jensen assures him. "Nobody would ever dream to question your loyalty to me."
He lets his hand slide from Jared's arm and presses it against Jared's chest, right over his heart. Jared rests his own over it, squeezing Jensen's fingers.
"I should still," he tries, but Jensen shakes his head again.
"I would not ask my mother to kneel in front of me," he says firmly. "And I will not ask you either."
Jared smiles. "I already did, chief," he says lightly.
"I didn't see it coming so I couldn't stop you," Jensen replies. He steps closer, right into Jared's personal space, and turns his head, his forehead almost brushing Jared's jaw. "I forbid you to do it again."
Jared gives him a curt nod, not feeling like arguing with Jensen right then. They're both stubborn — it's the one thing that has ever really caused fights between them, neither of them willing to back down. Tonight, Jared will let Jensen have this little victory.
Jensen sighs and steps back. "I need to talk to a few more people, and then I'm going to retire."
"It's been a long day," Jared agrees.
"Will you come meet me in my tent, hunter?" Jensen asks, and there's a plea in his voice under all the false bravado. Jared feels his mouth go dry and he nods.
Jensen is sitting on his bed, pelts piled under him. He's taken off his cloak, the one Jared made for him only a year ago with the pelts of animals he'd hunted himself, but he's still dressed otherwise, looking tired.
"Let me help you," Jared offers. He sinks down onto his knees in front of Jensen and curls a hand around his calf, lifting the foot onto his lap.
"What have I told you about kneeling?"
Jared gives him a quick grin. "This doesn't count. There's nothing formal about me taking your clothing off," he says.
Jensen ducks his head, flushing, and Jared starts undoing the laces of Jensen's soft leather boots.
"You'll need to pick someone to do this for you from now on," Jared says conversationally.
"I can undress myself."
"Yes," Jared agrees. "But a chief shouldn't have to."
"Well, I think this chief will," Jensen says and sighs. "There'll be a lot of things I'll have to decide in the next few days."
"Yes," Jared agrees, pulling off the first shoe before turning his attention to the other.
"I will have to pick a second in command," Jensen says. His fingers brush a few strands of hair out of Jared's face, his palm settling lightly on Jared's cheek. "Would you?"
Jared lets the second shoe drop to the floor and looks up with a sigh. "No," he says. He turns his head and lets his lips brush over Jensen's palm. "I couldn't do it."
"I trust you more than anyone," Jensen argues. Jared gives him a small smile.
"Maybe. But your second will have to step in if you ever can't; they have to put the tribe first and do whatever is best for them. They might have to challenge you, turn on you, if you ever didn't do right by our people," Jared says. "I can't do that. I'd always put you first, no matter what."
"I want it to be you," Jensen replies, but by the tone of his voice Jared knows he's not arguing with him about this.
He smiles and reaches up to start undoing the wide belt around Jensen's middle. "Ask Jeffrey," he suggests.
"Will you be part of my council though?" Jensen pushes.
"It'd be an honor," Jared says. The belt falls away and he starts tugging at the thick tunic, Jensen lifting his hips to let Jared pull it up and over his head. It's summer so Jensen isn't wearing many layers, and he's left in only his breeches now. Jared scoots back a little and his fingers find the laces, tugging them open.
"Who else do you think I should pick?" Jensen asks.
Jared gives him a look before focusing on getting Jensen out of the last piece of clothing. "You've been trained to be the chief by your father since the day your were born. You've thought about this, talked to him about this. You know who to pick."
"I want to know your opinion," Jensen says.
Jared tugs firmly at the breeches, pulling Jensen a little further toward him, off the cot, and quickly divests him of the garment. "I think your father had an excellent council," he says. He gets up and goes to the bowl filled with water on the small wooden table, picking up a cloth from next to it and dipping it in.
"But?" Jensen prods.
Jared wrings out the soft cloth and returns to the bed. "You're not him. You should pick a council that suits you," he says and starts wiping down Jensen's arms and chest.
"I agree," Jensen says.
"I think it's important to have elders on your council. With age and experience comes a lot of wisdom," Jared continues. "But you need some younger members on the council too, people like you and I. A good mixture, you know? That's something your father never believed in. I thought he was an amazing chief, but that's one of the things I never agreed with him on."
"Neither did I," Jensen agrees and Jared nods. He kneels again and turns the cloth over, wiping Jensen's legs down.
"I think Danneel would be an excellent choice," he says softly. "She's smart and strong and she's not scared to stand up to you."
"You and her are a lot alike," Jensen murmurs. Jared looks up, smiles.
"Your father always believed she would be a good wife for you."
"Well, that was never his decision to make," Jensen replies. "What do you think?"
Jared drops the cloth and sits back on his haunches. "Don't ask that of me, Jensen," he says. "There are many things I would do for you, many things I'm willing to offer my opinion on if you desire it. But I will not help you pick a spouse."
Jensen's shoulders slump and he grimaces. "Sorry," he mutters and runs a hand over his face. "It's just… I thought I had years. And there are so many things I will have to do now, choices I will have to make that will impact the entire tribe and my life personally."
"It's a great burden," Jared agrees and stands up. "But if there's anyone who can do this, it's you."
Jensen looks up at him. "Your faith in me always astounds me, Jared."
"And your lack of faith in yourself always makes me sad," Jared counters, then he ducks his head in a show of respect. "I should retire now."
Warm, strong hands reach for him immediately, curling around his sides. "Stay," Jensen murmurs.
"Jensen," Jared whispers, shaking his head. "You can't ask for that."
"Why not?" Jensen asks. He pulls Jared in and leans forward at the same time, placing a kiss onto Jared's stomach. Even through his tunic, Jared swears he feels the soft touch. He sighs when Jensen turns his head and rests his cheek against him, and Jared cards his fingers softly through Jensen's hair.
"You know why."
Jensen tips his head back. "I've been a good son all my life, Jared, doing what my father wanted me to — what the entire tribe said was right for me. I lived up to the image of a future chief. I just want something for myself tonight," he admits. "I will have to pick a spouse and settle down very soon, no matter if I feel ready for that or not."
"And you want to have some fun before you do that?" Jared asks harshly. Hurt crosses Jensen's face at the words and Jared instantly regrets them.
"I want this on my own terms," Jensen says. "I don't want to think about my father right now. About being the chief, the decisions I will have to make and all that lies ahead of me. Just one night."
Jared's shoulders slump. "And you want that with me?"
"There's nobody I trust more. There's nobody I love more," Jensen replies, and how can Jared say no to that? Not when he's been in love with Jensen for what feels like his entire life anyway. He cups Jensen's face in his hands, thumbs brushing over Jensen's cheeks, and holds his gaze.
When Jensen lowers his eyes and reaches for the belt around his waist, he doesn't stop him. The belt falls onto the ground with a thud, and Jared takes a step back, reaching for the hem of his soft leather tunic.
Jensen watches him undress, scooting back on the cot. Jared finally lets himself look too. He's seen Jensen naked countless times, splashing around in the river nearby, to get clean or to play. But he's never allowed himself more than a few glances, but now his eyes travel down Jensen's body and rest on his cock. It's thick and long, already hard and curving up. In the dim light of the lit oil lamp, Jared can see the tip is damp, and the curls around Jensen's dick are the same color as his hair.
Jensen looks back at him with slightly parted lips, eyes dark, following his movements as Jared pushes his breeches down. Jared finally joins Jensen, kneeling on the pelts, one knee between Jensen's splayed legs. Jensen's arms come around him immediately, pulling him in, and then Jensen's mouth is on his. The kiss burns like the summer sun on naked skin, fiery and all-consuming. Jensen's lips are soft, but his mouth is hot and wet, and Jared moans when their tongues slide together. He shifts, lowers himself onto Jensen's lap, and a jolt of pleasure goes through him when their cocks press together. He ruts down against Jensen, eager now, want pooling low in his stomach. How many times has he thought about this, imagined this? How many times has he pleasured himself thinking about Jensen? There's no turning back now; he's going to have this, even if just for one night.
Jensen’s hands slide lower, palming Jared's ass roughly and Jared grinds against him harder, gasping into the kiss. Jensen's hands help guide him, moving their bodies together. Jared wretches his mouth away from Jensen.
"How do we do this?" he asks, his question tapering off into a moan when Jensen mouths at his jaw, down his throat, sucking and kissing and biting. Briefly, Jared worries about marks, but he's willing to live with his friends' teasing if this is what Jensen wants. It's not like it's unheard of for unattached men and women to have a night of fun here and there, no matter what the chief believed to be right for his son. Hell, he knows Jensen has fooled around with people, experimented a little here and there — he even kissed Jared once, the night Jared turned eighteen summers and officially became one of the hunters. They never talked about it, never did it again, but it's one of the best memories of Jared's life.
Jensen finally pulls back, blinks at him with dark eyes, his lips bruised red. "I'm so close already," he admits.
Jared forces himself to stop moving, his breath coming out in sharp pants. "Can't have that," he says, resting his sweaty forehead against Jensen's. "Tell me how you want me."
He hears Jensen's breath hitch, his fingers flexing around his flesh.
"Jared," he groans.
"Anything. Anything you want," Jared adds, touching Jensen's cheek.
"You'd let me do anything?" Jensen asks softy. "You'd let me… inside of you?"
Jared kisses him sweetly, then nods. "Yes," he says. He lets his hands fall to Jensen's chest and he slowly pushes him back until Jensen is lying down, looking up at him with lust-filled eyes.
"We need oil," Jared says, shifting on top of Jensen so he can feel the hard press of Jensen's cock against his ass. The feeling is unfamiliar and thrilling all at once. Jared has been with a few people, but never like this, never has he let another man inside of him and just the knowledge of what is to come makes his stomach flutter. The knowledge that Jensen will be the first he allows inside of him makes something bloom in his chest, sharp and aching and beautiful. No matter who comes after, this will be something he gave to Jensen, something that is theirs alone.
Jensen is fumbling around next to the cot and his hand comes up with a small jug, closed off with a thick cork.
"Just have that conveniently next to your bed?" Jared teases. Jensen flushes.
"For, you know, when I," he says and makes a motion with his hand that sends a thrill through Jared.
"Fuck, that's hot," he says and leans down, kissing Jensen hard and fast. Then he takes the jug from Jensen, opens it, and pours some of the oily liquid onto his fingers. He grins, holding Jensen's gaze, as he reaches behind. It's a little strange, sliding his fingers down between his cheeks and pressing against his hole, but the touch feels good. He slides one finger in, letting out a small groan, and Jensen echoes the sound.
"Gods, Jared," he says.
Jared bites down on his bottom lip, presses in deeper and twists his finger inside of himself.
"How does it feel?" Jensen asks, voice rough. Jared shudders.
"Strange. Good," he says, breathing hard. He adds a second finger quickly, and this one burns a little, his hole gripping his fingers tightly.
"Jared?" Jensen asks.
"It's not bad," Jared says. "Kinda hurts a little, but not bad. Tight. Hot."
Jensen curses and Jared lets his head fall forward when he feels Jensen's fingers slide between his cheeks. He rubs against Jared's hole, where his fingers are pressed in, feeling him and it makes Jared shudder on top of him. Anxious to take things further, Jared starts moving his fingers. The slight pain he felt at first has faded, and he feels himself relax around his fingers, the oil making it easy for him to slide in and out, the feeling of Jensen's touch there, so intimate, spurring him on more.
He stops once, pulling out to add a bit more oil. Jensen uses that moment to push the tip of one finger in, just enough to tease Jared, tug at the rim. What little patience Jared had left is gone after that. He adds some oil to himself, then scoots down to grip Jensen's cock in his hand, slicking it up with the oil as well. Jensen arches into his hand, eyes half-lidded and his lip caught between his teeth.
He takes a deep breath, trying to calm down, and then he lifts himself up. He holds Jensen in his hand, shifts around until he feels the tip of his cock slide between his cheeks. It takes a little maneuvering until he gets it where he wants it to go, pressing up against his entrance. Slowly, he lowers himself.
Jensen is way bigger than his fingers, and for a moment Jared doesn't think he will fit inside of him, even though he knows that's not true. But Jensen feels too big, too wide, his body clenching up against the pressure of the intrusion, fighting back against it. But then he feels himself give just enough for Jensen to push past the tight ring of muscles and slip into him, the oil easing the way. It hurts, the stretch unfamiliar and overwhelming, sharp in a way Jared didn't expect, but he isn't deterred. He grits his teeth, breathes through the pain and keeps going, taking Jensen in deeper.
"Jared," Jensen gasps.
Jared can't answer, can only let out a garbled noise. He stops moving when Jensen is all the way in, Jared sitting astride his hips. He feels stretched wide, Jensen so deep inside of him Jared doubts there's any space left in him.
"Are you okay?" Jensen asks, voice pressed. "You're so tight. Can't believe I'm inside of you."
Jared lets out a startled laugh, jostling him a little on top of Jensen. "Yes. Yes, you are," he says, breathless. He rests his hands on Jensen's shoulders, blinking down at him, and tries to control his breathing, giving himself a few more moments before he lifts up carefully.
Jensen grabs his hips and Jared starts moving slowly. His movements are a little hesitant at first, slow rolls of his hips as he tests out how it feels. Jensen makes soft noises, his hands clenching but letting Jared set the pace. Slowly, Jared moves faster, lifts off higher before sliding back down on Jensen. It feels amazing now, sparks of pleasure shooting through him, the feeling and the knowledge that Jensen is inside of him almost overwhelming. It gets even better when Jensen starts moving with him, rocking up into him. Jared is shaking, muscles trembling, and his balls feel too tight, every cell of his body alive.
Jensen arches, head thrown back and then Jared feels him come inside of him, hot and wet.
"Jensen," he cries and it only takes a few more movements up and down before Jared spills all over their stomachs, the orgasm rocking through him with a force he's never felt before.
He almost passes out, and he's glad when Jensen pulls him down, slips out and rearranges them on the pelts. They're sticky, sweaty, the air in the tent too hot, but Jared still presses up close.
Jensen wraps his arms around him, holds him tight, and he scatters kisses over Jared's cheek and mouth that Jared returns lazily.
"That was amazing," he murmurs.
"Yeah," Jensen replies. "Never felt anything that intense."
Jared grins and shifts against him, tangling their legs together.
"I can't believe you let me do that," Jensen adds, voice hushed, awed. "Let me inside you."
"I'd do anything for you," Jared mumbles sleepily, smiling at Jensen. Jensen looks at him, eyes never leaving his as he strokes his fingers through the tangles of Jared's hair. It's the last thing Jared remembers before he falls asleep.
"Time for me to be chief now, huh?" Jensen asks when their lips part. Jared smiles sadly.
"You'll be great," he says and touches Jensen's cheek. "And I'll be there for you whenever you need me."
"I know," Jensen says. Jared slips off the cot then and gathers his clothes.
"See you in the morning, chief," he says.
"Get some more sleep," Jensen says, then adds in a soft voice, "Hunter."
Jared doesn't. In his own tent, he lies down on his pelts and then tosses and turns until the sun rises and he starts hearing the normal bustle of the camp coming alive.
Everyone seems happy with the decision. When Jensen also announces his council — Jeffrey, Jared, Danneel, Jim and Samantha — there are some mumblings of protest, a few of the old council members urging Jensen to take more time to think about his decision. Jared knows some of the older members of the tribe are particularly unhappy about his inclusion in the council. A few summers before Jared was born, his parents and a handful of other people came from a tribe further north and asked to join the Ackles' tribe. Jared grew up here, among these people, but he knows to some of them it's still not quite the same.
Jared feels a sense of pride when Jensen firmly, but not unkindly, tells everyone that he's not going to change his mind. "My decision has been made," he says. "It's final."
Jared's never attended a council meeting before, but the way Jensen leads the meetings, the calm, convincing way in which he speaks and lays out his plans for the soon approaching cooler seasons amaze him. Jensen never once falters, though after the first meeting he seeks Jared out in his tent.
"Did I do okay?" he asks, and Jared pulls him into the circle of his arms.
"You were amazing, my chief," he murmurs, and smiles when he feels Jensen relax.
Behind his back, people are throwing names around, though, debating who they think Jensen will, or should, choose. Jared doesn't participate in those kinds of conversations, feels like he'd be disrespecting Jensen if he did, but he hears Danneel's name mentioned more than once.
Time passes and Jensen doesn't ask anyone, though.
"You will have to settle on a spouse soon," Jeffrey eventually presses during a meeting and nobody in the council argues with him. Jared feels his stomach twist at the words, but he knows it's time, too — Jensen has already delayed it for longer than he thought he would. Jensen doesn't look happy about it, but he nods.
"I'm considering my options," he says. "There are a few things I have to think about."
Jared doesn't know what it means, but he wonders if Jensen has someone in mind. The thought makes his chest ache painfully.
"Good shot," Danneel says next to him, her own bow and arrow half raised.
Jared grins. "Thank you," he says and starts making his path through the high grass to where the bird should have landed. Danneel follows.
"You know, I'm curious," she says conversationally.
"About what?" Jared asks.
"Jensen and you are very close," she says. As if that's not a commonly known fact, as if it's a surprise when, really, Jared and Jensen grew up attached at the hips, and Danneel has been their friend for just as long.
"Yes." Jared keeps his eyes ahead, feeling a little apprehensive.
"He's closer to you than anyone else," Danneel continues. "He trusts you and loves you, he values your opinions and beliefs."
Jared sighs. He can guess where this is going, and it makes something sharp and unpleasant bloom in his stomach. "I'm not going to tell him he should pick you," he says, voice a little crisp. The soft fall of Danneel's footsteps stops and then she laughs.
"Oh, if that's what I was looking for I wouldn't be talking to you of all people," she says.
Jared looks back at her, his lips pressed together in a frown.
"Because you've spent a night with him. That would make it a bit weird," Danneel states with a shrug.
Jared nearly chokes on his own spit. "How do you know about that?"
"Jensen told me."
"He what?" Jared exclaims. "Why? When?"
"A little while ago. You're not the only one he shares things with, Jared."
"I know that," Jared says. "I just… didn't think he'd tell people."
Danneel crosses her arms over her chest, her long hair blowing softly in the wind that's been picking up all afternoon. "I suppose he wanted to talk to somebody about it. And he couldn't go to his usual confidant, because, well, that's you."
"Yeah. Okay," Jared says. He scuffs his foot against the ground. "So, what is it you were curious about then?"
"You two are very close. You've been intimate with each other, which implies some sort of attraction too, I would think," Danneel picks up again. "Yet, you've never expressed any interest in becoming his spouse."
"It's his choice to make."
"Yes. But you've never said anything to any of us," Danneel says with a shrug. "Everyone else has. I can tell you exactly who is interested in becoming Jensen's spouse — but you? You're not giving anything away."
Jared shrugs. "I don't like the talk about Jensen's future. It's his personal decision."
"Well, maybe knowing how you feel would help him make his decision," Danneel says, voice gentler, and Jared startles.
"And how do I feel?" he asks, and starts walking again toward where the quail fell from the sky.
Danneel hurries after him, her steps less careful now. "I'm not blind, Jared. To how both you and Jensen feel," she says. "Why do you think he hasn't picked someone yet? Why he's so hesitant to make a choice?"
Jared pushes high grass aside, eyes starting to scan the ground even though he knows they're still a bit too far away. He doesn't deny that she is right about him. Danneel has always been able to read him better than anyone, even Jensen. She's perceptive, sometimes scarily so, and Jared has never been able to hide anything from her for as long as he can remember-
"Jared," Danneel calls his name. "I'm just trying to help. He's told me—"
"Don't," Jared says, turning around and shaking his head. "Don't tell me what Jensen told you in confidence."
Danneel sighs. "Okay, fine, I won't," she says. "But I'm telling you, you're the one he wants to pick. Not because he said so, but because I can tell how he feels about you. You're all he's had eyes for since we were teenagers. And you're both being too scared of what the other will say to take the first step."
Jared shrugs, looking away. He rolls his lip between his teeth, worrying the flesh between them. "Say you're right. Say he did choose me. You think that would be wise?"
"I can't produce an heir," Jared reminds her with a huff. "And I'm… there are people in the tribe who might be better suited. Your family has been part of the council for generations, Jeffrey's father and grandfather were both second in command to our chiefs. My parents only joined this tribe a few summers before I was born — it doesn't matter that I've grown up in this tribe, that it's all I've ever known, some people still see me as different."
Danneel scoffs. "So? You're our best hunter, Jensen's closest confidant and you're already part of the council," she says. "Who cares what some people think? You're family. As much as any of them are."
"Still," Jared insists.
"Jared. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather see at Jensen's side, leading this tribe with him," Danneel says. "Anyone else who I'd rather follow."
"It's a very prestigious position," Jared says, meeting Danneel's warm, brown eyes. "Most people would be surprised to hear you're not interested in it yourself."
Danneel cocks her head and grins. "Guess I'll have to settle for the second-in-command then," she says. "Being the chief's wife sounds way too demanding a job, if you ask me. And our marriage would be quite sad, what with both of us being interested in other people."
Jared stares at her, comprehension settling in. "You and… Jeffrey? Really?"
"He's quite handsome and very capable," Danneel says. "In all kinds of ways."
"Oh Gods," Jared groans. "Don't tell me. I don't want to hear any more than that."
Danneel laughs. "Fine. Come on, we have more work to do. We can't come back with just one quail," she says. "Just promise me to think about what I said?"
"I will," Jared agrees.
Over dinner, sitting on a log with his bowl of stew, his eyes keep seeking out Jensen, sitting not too far away. A few times, when their gazes meet, Jensen gives him a small smile that makes Jared's heart flutter.
After all the food is gone, Jared finally plucks up the courage to talk to Jensen. Like his father, Jensen always takes a walk about the perimeter of their campground to check on everything. Jared hurries after Jensen before he can lose sight of him and clears his throat.
"May I join you tonight, chief?" he asks, formal, his body held straight.
Jensen gives him a look, lips quirked up in amusement. "You may, hunter," he says.
Jared falls into step with him, staying silent as they walk past tents until they reach the flat, empty stretch of grass behind the camp. A line of trees looms in the distance. Jared knows the path Jensen takes well, around the camp along the treeline, down to the river and then back, circling the entire campground once.
"Dinner was very nice. Thank you for that," Jensen eventually speaks up.
"I didn't prepare it."
"No. But you hunted the quail," Jensen points out. "I hear you and Danneel were very successful today. More so than the other hunters… again."
"It's not a competition," Jared replies. Jensen grins at him.
"No. Though some of the others treat it as such and I have to tell you, you're not their favorite person."
"Their only concern should be that there's food for everyone this winter. It doesn't matter who has hunted what."
"As your chief, I agree," Jensen says, nodding. He is walking leisurely, eyes scanning their surroundings slowly but straying to Jared every so often. "But as your friend, I have to say I'm quite proud of you. You've improved since the last summer, and I didn't think you possibly could. Maybe, if I'm not too busy, I can come with you one of these days, just for an afternoon?"
Jared smiles. "Don't you have more important things to do, chief?"
"I can make some time. I always liked watching you hunt," Jensen admits, knocking their arms together.
"I remember," Jared says softly and nods. "I'd like that."
"Good," Jensen says. "I promise I'll walk as quietly as I can so I won't chase away all the prey."
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Jensen," Jared teases, and Jensen rolls his eyes.
There's the sound of children's laughter, a bit muffled, coming from the campground, and they both turn their heads, smiling. "I bet they're playing hide and seek," Jensen muses. "Remember, we'd play that almost every night after dinner when we were younger?"
"Yeah," Jared agrees and laughs softly. "We'd hide in your father's tent all the time and nobody dared to go in there and look for us."
Jensen snorts. "Yeah. Well, except Danneel when it was her turn to seek," he says. "I don't think that woman was ever scared of a damn thing in her life."
"Your father usually told her where we were hiding, too," Jared says and Jensen gives him an affronted, wide-eyed look.
"No, he did not."
"Yeah. Danneel told me a long time ago, made me promise not to tell you, because you always took that game so seriously," Jared says and grins. "She was always your father's favorite."
Jensen's expression softens, smile getting fond, and he nods. "Yeah, she was."
"Did you know about her and Jeffrey?" Jared asks tentatively, kicking a small stone away with the side of his foot.
"Yeah. That's been going on for a while."
Jensen chuckles. "Jeffrey has asked her to be his wife three times already," he says.
"And she said no each time?"
"Yeah, but they both know she doesn't really mean it. It's like this game they're playing. She gives him a different excuse every time and tells him maybe she'll say yes next time," Jensen tells him, bemused. "I think the fact that she's not falling down at his feet just makes him like her even more. They're a good match."
"Is that why you're not picking Danneel?"
"No," Jensen says softly and looks at him briefly, before sighing.
"You have someone in mind though." It's not a question, and it's the most direct way Jared dares to approach the topic. He can't come right out and say anything, pressure Jensen in any way. Ask if Jensen is considering him. He wants to, more than anything, but he's also never been so scared of anything in his life at the same time.
"I do," Jensen admits and makes a face, nose scrunching up a little, crinkles lining his eyes. Jared knows every single one of Jensen's expressions, has seen them all countless times, yet he can never look away, never get enough.
"I'm sure it's the right choice, Jensen," he encourages, soft, not daring to be hopeful just yet.
Jensen sighs. "I don't know. I… it's hard. Not because I'm not sure about… him. What if he rejects me?" he asks. "Worse, what if he doesn't, even though he doesn't feel the same way about me, but he thinks he has to say yes? I couldn't live with it if I ruined things with… him."
"What if he does feel the same way though?"
"He's never said anything to make me believe he does."
"Well, maybe he's shy or doesn't want to push you," Jared says and then, deciding to take the leap, he sucks in a breath. "Maybe he's been in love with you for a really long time and just never dared to tell you, because he doubted you'd ever see him as more than a friend. Maybe you've been the center of his life for as long as he can remember and he was way too young to really know what love was, but he looked at you one day and knew you'd be the only one he would ever want to spend his life with anyway."
Jensen looks at him, eyes wide, his cheeks taking on a soft, pink flush. "Is he in love with me?" he asks, softly.
"Yeah. I've heard he is."
"Yes," Jared says, more firmly now.
"So, you think if I asked him to be my spouse, he'd be happy? He'd want that?" Jensen asks, lips twitching up into a small smile.
"I think he would. More than anything." Jared nods. Jensen's smile widens.
"Okay. Good to know," he says, sounding relieved, his smile getting wider, easier. "I suppose I don't have to wait much longer then, huh? I think people are getting kind of impatient."
Jared hums in agreement. Ahead of them, the river is getting closer, the water dark and moving along slowly. It parts the valley into two, the mountains on either side framing it. Jared's eyes follow the water, to where it fades into the distance, curving its path across the land. Eventually, the mountains will give way to flatter land, meadows and forests, until the river reaches the big sea.
His parents' tribe was from somewhere closer to the sea and they used to tell him stories about it, about traveling further south when the colder seasons set in and then back up the river in spring. Here, it's warm enough even during winter that they can stay stagnate. Sometimes, their hunters have to travel a little further, widen their hunting grounds, but their tents are never taken down.
Nomadic life, his father once told him, was a lot harder, the land further north less fertile, the winter season unforgiving. Here, with the Ackles' tribe, his parents found a home, a place to raise their child. Jared doesn't think he ever told him how grateful he is for what they sacrificed for him, for the life they gave up just so their child could one day have an easier one.
"Never forget how lucky you are, to be part of this tribe," he'd told Jared. Jared wishes his parents could be here now, see the hunter, the man he has become, the spouse he will hopefully be, too.
"Jared," he calls, voice quiet.
Jensen curls his hand around Jared's wrist, the touch gentle, and leans up. His lips brush against Jared's cheek, quick and sudden.
"Sweet dreams, hunter," he says.
Jensen is standing in the opening of Jared's tent, holding the flap back. Jared puts his bows and arrow down and nods. It's been three days since their conversation and Jared has been feeling nervous and on edge ever since, waiting. Hoping.
"Of course," he says eagerly. "Did you need something from me?"
"Yeah, actually," Jensen says. He steps in closer, lets the flap of the tent fall close behind him, and clears his throat. "I wanted to talk. I've decided to tell the council who I've picked as my spouse tomorrow. Providing that my proposal is accepted, of course."
Jared stands up straighter, his heart feeling like it stops and then picks up again, faster. "Jensen?"
"Jared. Let me say this," Jensen says, voice quiet. He holds Jared's gaze and all Jared can do is nod.
"You're very important to our people, and to me especially," Jensen continues, reaching up and placing a gentle hand against Jared's cheek. "We've grown up together, gone from children to men, and I admire you so much. You take care of us, provide for us, and you're so kind to everyone, no matter what. I don't know what I would have done without you in my life. You listen to me, comfort me, talk to me when I need advice, guide me without ever pushing me. I could never love another person as much as I love you, Jared, and I cannot imagine anyone else by my side."
"Jensen," Jared repeats softly, his chest feeling tight. Jensen gives him a small smile.
"You're a great man, a great hunter, and a great friend. I would be very honored if you agreed to be my husband, to share our lives, side by side, and lead this tribe together," he says. "If you continued to guide me, to tell me when I'm wrong, support me when I'm right. And I promise to always be there for you, to support you, too, and love you and cherish you."
His breath hitches as he finishes and he ducks his head, hand falling from Jared's cheek to his chest. "Please," he adds. As if it's something he has to ask for, to beg for. As if Jared's answer wasn't set in stone, for years and years.
Jared covers his hand, noticing how much his fingers are trembling under his, and squeezes them gently. "I would love nothing more than to be your spouse, my chief."
Jensen breaks out into smile. "Yes?"
"Yes," Jared says and Jensen leans up, bringing their lips together.
By the time they sink down onto the pelts, they're both naked, ceremonial clothes strewn around carelessly. Jensen pushes Jared flat onto his back and covers his body with his own, grinning down at him. He looks flushed, happy. Outside the drums are still beating heavily, the sounds vibrating through the campground.
Their wedding ceremony had been followed by a big feast, a lot of drinking and dancing around the fire in the middle of the campground. Not everyone had been ecstatic about Jensen's choice, though nobody dared to openly question it. He knows some of the older people, those who would never look at Jared and not see an outsider, had hoped for someone else at Jensen's side. But Jared has also been surprised by how many have expressed their approval of Jensen's choice.
Jensen nudges Jared's legs apart, settling more comfortably between them, and cards his fingers through Jared's hair, pushing it back. "You're my husband now."
"I am," Jared agrees and smiles up at Jensen.
Jensen kisses him, the brush of his mouth against Jared's soft and sweet. Jared can still taste the residue of the honey-sweet mead they'd had and he licks it out of Jensen's mouth slowly, sucking at Jensen's bottom lip.
He's buzzing with pleasure and from the drinks, and he grinds up against Jensen. He's been looking forward to this all day, and it's been on his mind for even longer. Since that first night, since he took Jensen inside of him and found out what it really felt like, this feeling of being filled and owned so completely, a pleasure more intense than any other he ever felt. He can't wait to feel that way again, to be joined with Jensen once more, and the many times that will follow after.
Their cocks are both hard and full, sliding together between their stomachs.
"Jensen," Jared murmurs, and Jensen cards his hair back, kisses the side of his face almost tenderly, comfortingly.
"Yeah. Okay," he says in a hush, like that one word tells him everything he needs to know.
He grabs the oil from next to them, shifting back to sit between Jared's legs and smiles down at him.
Jared pulls his legs up a little, lets his thighs fall apart. His face heats up, both from excitement and embarrassment for putting himself on display like that. But he is so eager, so desperate to have this again. Finally. And Jensen is looking flushed too, just as aroused as he is, his thick, long cock curved up against his body.
Jensen pours some oil onto his fingers, the sheen glistening in the light coming from the dancing flames of the oil lamps lit inside the tent. He reaches between Jared's legs, and Jared bites back a moan at the sensation of slippery fingers sliding between his cheeks, brushing up against his hole.
Jensen rubs the pad of a finger over it, applies pressure without pressing in. "Okay?" he asks in a soft voice.
Jared whines, the sound low and broken. "Yes," he says and shifts, trying to press down on Jensen's finger, get it inside of him faster.
"Has nobody taught you to be patient, hunter?" Jensen asks, but he starts pressing in. His finger feels thick, prying Jared open inch by inch, slowly. He thrusts it in and out, his touch careful.
"I'm not going to break. Give me more," Jared pants. He wants to feel Jensen stretch him wide open again, the pleasure and pain of being filled, claimed.
"I don't want to hurt you," Jensen murmurs. His free hand comes to rest on Jared's knee, rubbing it.
Jared huffs out a strained laugh. "I'm really sorry to have to tell you this, but I didn't save myself for you for this night," he teases. "I can take it."
Jensen's lips quirk up. "No? I'm shocked," he says, and Jared feels a second finger brush against his hole as Jensen pulls the first one out almost all the way, and then he slides back in with two. Jared moans.
"Tell me, husband," Jensen murmurs, grinning at Jared. He twists his fingers inside of Jared, making him cry out at the sudden, sharp pleasure that shoots through him. "Tell me about the man you allowed to do this to you, to have you. To have this, what is rightfully mine. Was he good? Was he worth it?"
"Yes," Jared answers, breathless. He works his hips down onto Jensen's fingers, seeking, wanting. "Yes, he was. He's the man I love more than anyone else, the man I love with my entire being."
Jensen's grin softens, and he leans over Jared, pulling his fingers free as he pulls Jared up against him into a kiss. Jared latches on, kisses Jensen back just as fervently.
"He must be lucky," Jensen whispers when they break apart, words smeared against the corner of Jared's lips.
"No. I am," Jared replies, and he's rewarded by another kiss, slow and deep. So full of feelings it makes his chest ache.
They part and Jared presses his forehead against Jensen's, brushes their noses together. "Make me yours," he says quietly.
"You already are," Jensen replies, but he pulls back. He picks up the oil again, drips some onto his palm and fists himself, until his cock is glistening.
He grabs Jared's legs behind the knees, one hand slick and slippery, and presses them further up, splays them wider apart. With the bulk of his body leaning over Jared as he gets into position, he holds Jared in place and then reaches between them, gripping himself to guide himself in. Jared feels the thick head of his cock press between his cheeks, nudge up against his entrance.
He meets Jensen's eyes and gives him a nod, breathing out slowly as Jensen starts pushing inside of his body. He's prepared for the pain this time and it doesn't feel as overwhelming as it did before. He tries to stay relaxed, to keep his breathing even, and welcomes the feeling of being filled, of Jensen smoothly sliding into his body. Where he belongs, from now on for the rest of their lives.
Buried all the way inside of him, Jensen plants one hand on either side of Jared's head, dips down to kiss him tenderly. Jared strains up to kiss him back, head lifting off the furs.
"I love you," he murmurs against Jensen's mouth, and feels him smile, before Jensen pulls back.
"I love you, too," he replies and starts moving. He rolls his hips, carefully, sliding out a little and pressing right back in. Each thrust gets a little bolder, harder, until he sets a rhythm to the sound of drums still going strong outside, loud and fast. The pressure against that spot inside of Jared, Jensen's cock spreading him wide open and driving deep into him, sends sparks up his spine, heat pooling deep inside his belly.
He throws his head back, digging it into the furs, and moans. Little noises keep falling from his lips, his sounds of pleasure mingling with Jensen's ragged breathing, his quiet grunts. Jared rests his hands on Jensen's shoulders, holds on. He gets lost in it, the sensation, the feel of Jensen, the hard, warm body on top of his. Claiming him, owning him.
This, here, more than the ceremony earlier, is Jensen staking his claim. Making Jared his, just as much as he is giving himself to Jared in return.
Jared spills between them, body and heart overwhelmed, the pleasure rolling through him in waves, consuming him. Jensen pushes in harder, faster, hips working relentlessly. He buries his face in the crook of Jared's neck and his cock deep inside of him, and Jared feels the sharp sting of teeth biting into his flesh as hot seed fills his insides, making him cry out again as Jensen trembles on top of him.
Some of the oil lamps have fizzled out, but Jared knows dawn will break soon enough.
He lies curled up in Jensen's embrace, their bodies facing each other, his head tucked under Jensen's chin. He feels exhausted and full of energy all at once, giddy almost. He's sore from their repeated coupling, and yet he wishes they could go one more time, that he could have Jensen slide back inside of him. The thought makes him sigh, shift closer to Jensen and hiss a little at the movement, his limp cock pressing against Jensen's thigh.
Jensen brushes his hair back, kisses the top of his head. "I think you will have to take a break from hunting for a few days," he teases.
Jared tips his head back just enough to look at Jensen. "I will have to tell everyone my husband was too insatiable," he says, letting his hand curl around Jensen's upper arm, feeling the raw strength under his palm.
"You will do no such thing, dearest," Jensen says and kisses Jared's pursed lips.
"They will know anyway," Jared says and the thought fills him with smugness rather than embarrassment. Pride that Jensen — strong, capable, perfect Jensen — is his husband and that he is the one Jensen chose for himself.
He overheard his parents talking once when he was a child, when they thought he was asleep, his mother confessing how terrified she was that they had made the wrong choice. That they had damned Jared to a life in a tribe that was much stronger, much more prosperous, than theirs, but that would never fully accept them. That they'd look at Jared with the same weariness, the same careful distance that they looked at them with.
He wishes they hadn't died before he could prove to them that they made the right choice, the best choice. That they gave Jared a life he cherishes, a tribe that allowed him to thrive, and a person that loves him.
"What are you thinking about?" Jensen asks quietly. He tucks strands of hair behind Jared's ear, then smoothes his hand down Jared's naked back.
"My parents," Jared replies, just as quietly. "I wish they'd been here to witness me marrying you."
"They did," Jensen murmurs and kisses the top of his head again. "They're watching over you from up in the stars. Just like I am watching over you down here."
"You think so?"
"I know so," Jensen says. "They've seen everything, Jared. The first time you joined the others on a hunt. How hard you worked, how you honed your skill every day. The day you got initiated as a hunter. They've watched you strive, grow up into a beautiful, strong man. And they watched you tonight, as I pledged myself to you, too. And they must be so proud, of who you have become, the place you have carved out for yourself among our people."
Jared feels his eyes burn and he presses his face into Jensen's shoulder.
"My sweet, strong hunter," Jensen whispers. "They know. And they're just as proud of you as I am, love you just as much."
Jared nods, holding Jensen tightly against him, soaking up his warmth and strength.
"And I think they knew, before they passed, that you would marry me one day, that you'd take the place of the chief's spouse," Jensen continues. "My father knew, too."
"We were six or seven. He'd taken me on a walk around the tribe grounds and was telling me about being a chief, the responsibilities that came with it, and the responsibilities of the chief's spouse," Jensen says. "And I told him I'd marry you one day. He laughed, but I think he knew."
"Because sometimes he looked at us, as if he was trying to figure us out. He was a smart man," Jensen says. "He knew it was never a choice for me, because I never even looked at anyone else."
"Me neither. Not really," Jared says and noses Jensen's collarbone. "I tried to make myself. But it never worked."
"Good," Jensen says. "You're mine, hunter. You always have been."
"And I always will be," Jared promises quietly.