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Bottles on the Beach

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Bottles on the Beach

Chapter One

It had been six years since he’d stepped off the set of Supernatural in Vancouver. Six years since the longest role he’d ever taken on had ended and a piece of Jensen Ackles still hadn’t adjusted to the change.

The show had run for twelve seasons and while some of the cast and crew had been willing to carry on the network had finally decided that season 12 would finally be the swan song for Dean and Sam Winchester and in some cases Jensen supposed it also was the end for him and Jared.

At the time Jensen hadn’t been sure what to feel when the call had been made to end the show that he’d been on for so long. The show that had changed his life and also given him his best friend…or had until the last day of shooting and Jensen had made the choice to put distance between himself and Jared.

He and Jared had grown up a little on the show; they had shared the good times, the bad. They’d been there when each man had married and Jared had been there on the day Jensen signed his divorce papers from Danneel but no matter how close they’d been and what he’d promised Jared about staying in touch he’d needed space.

There were days like this one as Jensen struggled to put on his professional face in front of newspapers, reporters and media that he missed his best friend. Not just because Jared had been a natural in front of the cameras and could cover for him on the days when he just wasn’t able to portray a smooth front but because he missed Jared’s laugh.

It had been Jared’s laugh that had first caught Jensen’s attention because when Jared laughed it was real. Unlike a lot of actors who could fake a laugh Jared Padalecki’s laugh was real, honest and the best one was the one that brought out his dimples.

Those were the laughs that Jensen missed. He missed being able to go over to Jared’s trailer on set to just talk or hang out. He missed the pranks his friend liked to play on other cast members or crew. He missed Jared as a whole and still tried to forget the look of confusion and hurt in those deep hazel eyes the last time they’d seen one another.

Jensen knew he’d been an ass in those last days. He’d covered the eventual hurt of the show ending as best as he could. He’d supported Jared, who had taken it the worst, as best as he could and promised the younger man they’d always be best friends and would stay in touch no matter where their careers took them.

He’d promised it and had meant it…until the last day at the airport when he’d just flat out told Jared that it might be better if they took some time to adjust to not seeing each other daily or speaking to one another.

The shock had been plain along with the hurt. A hurt that Jensen had longed to take back the moment he’d opened his mouth but before he could the shutters were coming down and Jared’s fake smile was back in place and just nodding blindly.

There had been a few calls since the show ended, but nothing in four years and not a day passed when Jensen woke up to stare at his reflection in the mirror and curse himself for being both a coward and a bastard because it wasn’t a need for space that he’d stepped away from the man who would always be his best friend.

It was plain fear of losing him anyway and a fear of what would happen to them if Jared ever figured out the truth that had forced him to shove him away, a fear of the longing and need that Jensen still felt even six years later.

The rumors about them, their ‘friendship’ and what else they might have been, had always been there. From the second season or so Jensen had first begun to hear the whispers online or at conventions that perhaps he and Jared were more than cast mates and best friends on and off set.

At first he’d denied them while Jared had just smirked and shrugged the comments off. It was harder at cons with the appearance of a sub-section of the fandom that liked to believe in things like Wincest or after Misha came the Destiel things.

Jared and Misha were more outgoing at the cons and better able to roll with the punches when those topics came up. It wasn’t as easy for Jensen so he’d learned to rely on Clif or Jared to handle those questions or comments. He just tried to not let on because if he let on then it might be harder to not reveal the truth that he’d managed to hide from everyone but his ex-wife and it was that truth that he’d pushed Jared away from.

Danneel had always known he guessed that his feelings for Jared had passed the casual friendship or brother like best friends that they’d been. She’d never mentioned it until two years after their divorce, a year after the show ended, as they were having a casual lunch to discuss their daughter’s birthday party and finally brought up that he was miserable without Jared and he should just call him and tell him that he loved him.

As much as Jensen had wanted to deny it as he had denied it to himself for so long he finally just couldn’t and had spent the day just talking to the only other person in his life aside from Jared that he could talk to about the feelings, the needs and also the need to protect Jared from ever finding out.

Loving Jared, needing Jared were things that Jensen accepted would never go away but he also couldn’t risk the press finding out and possibly ruining whatever Jared was doing then.

Since the show ended, Jensen had guest starred on a couple shows, did a movie but mainly just looked for that one special part that would make him feel alive again. Of course, he’d begun to understand that his other issue is he didn’t want to act with anyone but Jared and that wasn’t a possibility since according to his agent his former co-star had dropped off the map four years ago after a brief run on a sitcom ended badly.

Jensen had badgered Dani to find out where Jared was or how he was doing but she’d always hedged or said she would call Gen but then never brought the topic up again and his manager had just suggested he worry about his own career.

He enjoyed acting still even though no show or movie would ever fill him with the same joy as Supernatural had and no other co-star would ever get him or understand him the way Jared had so perhaps that was the reason Jensen had slowly begun to look into movie roles while also being lured back for a brief reprise of his first real break on TV as Eric Brady on Days of Our Lives.

The was why he was in front of the cameras now and he decided he disliked press conferences as much as he ever had even if his manager and the daytime show’s producer were answering most of the questions.

Oh, there were a few tossed his way about why he’d want to go back to the Eric Brady role after so long working as Dean Winchester. Could he play Eric still without any of Dean bleeding through…which was something even Jensen was curious about seeing because from the first script he’d read he had laughed at what Dean would have said and done to a few of Salem’s residents.

He’d almost thought the thing with the press would go over without any serious issues of him wanting to pull a Dean Winchester and tear someone’s lungs out. He’d been smiling and shaking hands when an older reporter from one of the better known TV tabloids had stepped up to ask a question that had literally floored him.

It wasn’t unheard of for him to get asked about his other co-stars, especially Jared but this question felt like he’d been punched in the gut. “Come again?”

“Umm, Jensen hasn’t been in touch with most of his old co-stars from Supernatural since the show ended so I’m sure he doesn’t really know what type of life style Mr. Padalecki has moved into,” he agent had been quick to step up when he heard his client’s tone of voice shift from the normal calm, mellow, just barely accented voice to one that was a little too much like his former character’s pissed off tone.

“What did you just say about Jared?” Jensen ignored his agent while focusing his attention on the reporter. “Did I know he’s what?”

The reporter had been one of those who had always thought there was more than friendship between Ackles and Padalecki and had gone out of his way at conventions and in other ways to either prove it or just post something to see if he could get a rise out of one of the young men from Texas.

He’d come to this information through a very reputable source and even went so far as to have the grainy photograph verified as real and not a well-made computer job like had been popping of the stars.

So when given the chance to toss the information and photo into the face of Padalecki’s former co-star and so-called ‘best friend’ he’d jumped at it.

He’d been at other events where Ackles had dodged or by-passed questions that he didn’t like and he’d originally thought that the actor might do the same with his question so it took him a beat as well as a sharp look from piercing green eyes to make him realize that he not only had Jensen’s full attention but he also might have gained his temper as well.

“Umm, what do you have to say about your former Supernatural co-star and friend living destitute on some beach on South Padre Island in Texas?” the man repeated, reaching into his pocket for the grainy photo while Jensen was knocking away hands from security to keep him from moving to the edge of the stage. “Witnesses and my source managed to snap a photo that I’ve verified to be Jared Padalecki living in some shack on a beach selling sand in bottles to tourists,” he arched a bushy brow while offering a smirk. “What do you have to say about how it seems one of you have succeeded while the other…not so much?”

Jensen had to fight the urge to snatch the photo out of the man’s hand as one of the staff at the event handed it to him. “This is…” he had to take a deep breath because while he wanted to deny the photo it was damn hard since it was a clear shot of his friend wearing ragged faded jeans, an old t-shirt that Jensen could remember giving the man for his birthday one year during season five and sandals.

“This is a fake,” he finally replied tightly, wanting to smash the now smiling reporter in his damn face because like many others he’d encountered over his years of acting Jensen remembered the man as the one reporter or camera hound that even Jared had tried to avoid. “Gen…Gen wouldn’t have let this happen to him.”

“Oh, guess you guys weren’t such good buddies then if you also didn’t know that his wife left him a year after the show ended and took their two sons back to Idaho with her,” the reporter, flicked his pen open. “So, can you give me a quote, Mr. Ackles?”

Oh, Jensen could give the man any number of things but he didn’t think his agent, manager or mother would appreciate the words he wanted to use right then. “No, I don’t,” he managed to get out in what he hoped was a steady and calm voice because his chest had a knot in it while his stomach was rolling in huge bitter waves as he left the stage quickly.

“Jensen! Wait up, man,” his agent was calling but Jensen wasn’t waiting. He wanted inside the limo. He wanted away from all the eyes that were watching him in speculation and also away from the sharp whispers that he could still hear and knew by this time tomorrow it would be over every damn paper and tabloid what the little maggot had just tossed out there.

Locking himself inside the back of the limo, Jensen took a closer look at the photo he still had before snatching up his cellphone and hitting speed-dial.

“How did the press conference go?” Danneel asked from the other end while braiding JJ’s hair with ribbons. “Jensen?”

“How long have you known?” he asked quietly, rubbing at the pounding in between his eyes.

“Known what?” it was rare for her ex-husband and still friend to sound this rough or raw so it instantly worried Danneel. “Jensen? What’s wrong? Didn’t the event go well or…”

“The press thing went fine except my agent and the Days producer might be suing me because I think there’s going to be a delay in me starting to shoot the show,” Jensen jerked off his tie and suit jacket. “How long have you known and why didn’t you tell me, Danneel?” he demanded again.

Finishing up with her daughter’s hair, the actress/model/Mom sent her off to play while turning her attention to the clearly pissed off tone Jensen was using. “I can’t tell you something if you don’t tell me what you’re…”

“You and Gen are still friends, Dani! I know you still talk to her and have seen her since the show ended so you aren’t going to tell me that you didn’t know she left Jay and took the boys a year after Supernatural ended!” he snapped, anger now in full sway at her soft ‘oh’. “Damn it! Did she tell you where he is? Does she even know where he is now or what he’s doing? Does she even give a damn that he’s supposed to living on a beach selling sand in a bottle?”

“Oh, God,” Danneel whispered. “That awful little man got to you, didn’t he?”

Jensen had almost been relieved to think that her first exclamation was in shock over how it appeared his friend was living these days but his anger surged at the mention of the reporter because that told him his ex-wife had known everything and hadn’t thought to tell him.

“Yeah, the last part of the Q&A session and he tossed me the question of how do I feel knowing my ex co-star and supposed best friend was destitute and selling bottles on a beach while I’m still living the high life,” he ignored his agent as the man got into the limo before it pulled off. “Of course he had a photo to prove it and by tomorrow that and his words will be all over the damn place. So my question to you is how long have you known and why the hell didn’t anyone tell me?

“Jay’s my damn best friend despite how I made it seem to him when I shoved him away so you had no damn right to not tell me that he lost his wife and his boys right after the show ended and he probably gave her everything to take care of them to avoid the way the press hounded me when you and I split,” Jensen told her, focusing on the photo and how haggard his friend looked then and knowing what his next move would be. “Did…did she say if she knew if he tried to call me or anything?”

He thought to those few calls that he’d avoided and wanted to stab himself in the heart with something sharp as he could imagine what that had looked like to the younger man who had still always worn his heart on his sleeve.

“Jensen,” Danneel sighed while her tone took on the slightly stilted one that it used to whenever he talked about Jared. “This is part of the reason I never told you when I learned about the rumors. Gen and I talked about it when Jared first started becoming depressed. She wondered if perhaps seeing you, talking to you might snap him back but when she suggested that I guess he got angry and said that you’d made the choice to stop being friends.”

“I never said that,” Jensen argued but he stepped back because he could see how it had looked to Jared. “Damn it, you know why I needed to back off. If I hadn’t the press never would’ve left him alone or they would’ve just hounded him about us being…together and I didn’t want that for him.”

“For him or for you?” she tossed back curiously, hearing his sharp breath and knowing she’d hit a nerve. “Honey, I know why you pulled away and I know why you think you pulled away but let’s face it. You pulled away from Jared because you were scared to tell him how you really felt for him…how you still feel for him if by the way you’re gritting your teeth over the phone is any indication.”

Jensen started to argue that it hadn’t been the reason but sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. She was right and they both knew it. “Losing him over the show not being on air anymore was one thing but…losing Jay if I had told him the truth would have broken me, Dani.

“I could stand to have him mad at me for breaking my promise to still hang out and stuff or to have him think it was all an act during 12 years but I don’t think I could have stood to have him look at me with those damn big eyes and walk away if I told him that I…” he drew off while noticing his agent seemed to be ignoring him as he talked on his own headset telephone to make plans, meetings and other career choices.

A career that Jensen no longer cared about or at least he wouldn’t care about it until he went to find his best friend in person, to see if he couldn’t fix what he’d caused to go horribly wrong.

“I don’t think that’s something you had to worry about because Gen says what started Jared going downhill was that he always said to her that he loved her and the boys but his one biggest regret, aside from the show ending, was never telling you how he felt,” Danneel remarked, already knowing what to expect next. “I guess you won’t be getting JJ this weekend?”

Chances to see his little girl were few and far between if one considered his schedule and Danneel’s but no matter how much he loved his daughter Jensen knew he couldn’t put this off any longer, no matter who he had to disappoint or make angry.

“I’ll get her next weekend or drop by during the week but…I need to go see him, Dani,” he glanced down to realize he’d been rubbing the wrist that he used to wear a leather bracelet on. “This isn’t right and if he needs help then I’ll give it to him…I’ll give him whatever he needs.”

“I think you already have just by going,” Danneel replied, hanging up to glance across the table at the petite black haired young woman who had come to visit since JJ just loved playing with her ‘cousins’. “If he finds out who told that reporter about Jared or who supplied the photograph all I can say is you better move to the highest point of Sun Valley and pray it snows because Jensen will be pissed off more than he is now.”

Genevieve Cortese formerly Padalecki since she’d returned to her maiden name nodded while watching the kids play. “I know but I didn’t know how else to get the information to Jensen and Jared’s too far gone now to know what he needs, Dani” she’d made the choice she had and would take the fall out as it came because she was only too aware of how protective of Jared her friend’s former husband had always been. “Jared needs him and you say he needs Jared so let’s hope they both realize that finally.”

It had taken Jensen several more days to rearrange his schedule, deal with a pissed off manager who had threatened to drop him if he took off to Texas on a pipe dream of playing savior to a man who had obviously not wanted found.

Of course adding the whole get a new manager to the list of things to do once he returned made Jensen’s head ache but he’d felt better after hitting the man in the face for that little rant against his friend.

The producers of Days had been far more understanding, of course Jensen also knew he still had friends there who understood him and he made another note to send his TV Mom several dozen flowers for her help in that regard.

South Padre Island, Texas was a small barrier island off the west coast of the state. It had been years since Jensen had been to the place and it had grown some since his high school days but he was thankful that this visit wasn’t during spring break because he feared finding his friend would be hard enough without thousands of college kids crowding the beaches.

He’d begged and pleaded with his mother to help him make reservations in a quiet beach side condo instead of a hotel since he wanted privacy and he also wanted enough room so that if he could convince Jared to speak with him that the other man wouldn’t feel like he was crowding him.

Even though Supernatural had been over for six years there were still moments when someone would recognize him and it never failed to leave a longing in his heart because even though the show had been hard work, the conventions hurried but exciting, the show and its cast had been his family for so many years and Jensen missed the hell out of it.

But what he missed most was the man he was hoping he could find as he drove over the causeway to enter the tourist town.

Since it was rare for him to take time off for any reason Jensen was also using this as a mini vacation which was his excuse for renting the convertible and not worrying about hiring anyone to follow him around.

Right after Supernatural went off the air as a weekly show to be seen only as repeats Jensen knew Clif had split his time between watching out for him and for Jared and he suspected when their long time bodyguard had mentioned one day that Jared had told him that it was alright to not be there so much that he should’ve gone right to his friend.

They might have had totally different personalities, whereas Jared had always been more outgoing and liked to chat with people and Jensen was the more private, more introverted of the pair but never would Jared just tell Clif to not watch out for him.

The island was still packed with tourists even in late August but Jensen was glad that it wasn’t overly crowded. There were miles of beach to search though he was hoping someone local might be able to give him some help since a 6’4” man that looked like Jared would still stand out, especially if what he’d been told about him selling bottles of sand was true.

He took the time to stop at the condo he’d rented for three weeks though he didn’t plan on being here that long. He checked in with his parents as he’d promised to do when they learned of his sudden trip to the island while he unpacked his bags.

Jensen hadn’t told his folks the full truth behind his sudden decision to visit South Padre but he suspected they had their own suspicions about it because Donna Ackles had always been able to see through his best lies while even his Dad had made a few comments about his sudden decision to put space in his friendship with Jared.

After unpacking, Jensen took a brief stroll on the beach down from the condo with some hope that he’d just stumble upon his friend but after an hour he decided that it wouldn’t be that simple.

Since cooking for himself still wasn’t one of his favorite things to do, Jensen found a nearby seafood place to have dinner.

It was a small sized place compared to others on the island but the staff was friendly and after about an hour he decided to approach the owner, an older man with long white hair and his wife, to ask if they’d ever heard of someone matching Jared’s description.

Jensen hadn’t used the photo he still had that the damn reporter had shown him. Instead he slid a photo Jared from one of the last official conventions they’d attended the last year before the show’s finale aired.

“This is probably six or so years old so he might look different now but…I was told he was living on the island somewhere,” he stated when the couple just looked at the photo for a long time before eyeing him with more caution.

“You don’t look like the snoopy reporter type to me, son,” the old man finally spoke, rubbing a hand under his grizzled white beard as if considering Jensen better. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told that other man if you’re here to bother that boy and cause him more pain then you can turn around and just leave.”

Moving quickly to step in front of the man, Jensen shook his head. “No, no. I’m not a reporter or from any newspaper or tabloid or anything like that,” he assured them, digging into his wallet for a photo of both of them together. “My name is Jensen Ackles. Jay…Jared and I used to work together on a TV show. We were friends…” he paused to rephrase that. “We are friends but I…messed up and lost touch with him and didn’t realize he’d moved down here or anything until I was told. Now I’m trying to find him.”

Pete and Stella Spalling were lifelong residents of South Padre and had been since they’d moved here as high school newlyweds in 1959 so they’d seen a lot of people come and go but none had touched them on a personal level as the boy who’d come to their island five years ago that winter.

They’d never had kids of their own so they always made sure to look after the new arrivals who seemed to need looking after and Stella had known right off the first day she’d seen the boy sitting on the beach down from their dock that he was more lost than others.

“You call him…Jay,” Stella had caught that right off as she took a better look at the photo of this young man and a boy who certainly did resemble their Jared except there was more joy and happiness in his eyes in the photo than she’d ever seen him portray now except for the one time he’d been reading a newspaper and something had caught his eye that made him laugh.

“It’s…his nickname or at least what I call him,” Jensen admitted, thinking that he actually couldn’t recall Jared letting anyone else call him that except for Jensen. “His name is Jared…Jared Padalecki and I really want to find him. I swear that I’m not here to hurt him and if he has been hurt by anyone I’ll do my best to help him.”

The older couple exchanged glances before Pete motioned back to Jensen’s seat by the bar. “You who he talked about when he first got here?” he asked, pouring himself a drink of scotch but giving the boy coffee.

“I…I don’t know,” Jensen didn’t want to say too much since he wasn’t sure of his friend’s standing in the close knit community.

Stella had disappeared to come back with an old newspaper. “He can’t keep much with him since that damn shack is hardly fit for crabs or rodents to live in much less a human being and I don’t see how he fits since he’s so damn tall,” she laid the paper on the bar to point out an article that had been circled. “This is one of the few times I’d seen that boy really smile or laugh. You’re his Jensen I’m betting.”

Looking at the paper, Jensen felt his lips curve at the article that had been printed when the rumors of his return to daytime TV had first started circulating and since he’d always sworn never to return to the show he was certain what had made his friend laugh.

“Yeah, that’s me,” he confirmed, looking up at the couple. “He asked you to keep this?”

“This and anything else Stella comes across regarding you in the paper or movie magazines,” Pete nodded, watching this boy, anyone younger than sixty was a boy to him, and watched his rugged lean face soften as he took this news in. “He comes in once or twice a week for a meal if he makes enough and if not Stella goes out to leave a basket of goodies to last him since that boy can be a bit stubborn about accepting charity or help.”

That made Jensen’s eyes lift, a deeper frown coming back. “Makes enough?” he repeated, still not understanding how the hell Jared could have lost all his fortune. Even giving a good bit to Gen for alimony and child support for the boys still would have left him money and then there was still royalties coming in. “What do you mean?”

“When Jared first came to the island he barely had forty dollars in his pocket, the clothes on his back and a small suitcase of trinkets that he said were things he couldn’t leave behind when he left his old life behind after his wife took their sons and left him because he was depressed and not working like he could have been,” Stella replied sadly, beginning to make several thick cold cut sandwiches as well as some tuna and lobster meat ones. “I found him sitting on the dock one night and got him to come home with me that night because we were having a cold spell and I could tell he’d been coughing again.”

“Coughing?” that caught Jensen’s attention because for as long as he’d known Jared his friend could come down with a cold, the flu, bronchitis or whatever by just looking at someone who was sick on set.

There wasn’t a winter or cold season in 12 years that Jared hadn’t come down with something or another and it had usually fallen to Jensen to nurse his co-star back to health; mainly because Jared was a bad patient and even when he got married Jensen had lost count of the times Gen would call him if they were on break so he could tell his friend to stop being a baby and take the damn cough medicine no matter if it wasn’t the right flavor.

“Oh, I swear that boy gets sick every time the weather changes, but only once was it bad enough that Pete had to drag him into the ER. That was the time about three years ago I think when he got pneumonia after staying out too long into the night gathering sand for his bottles and then he got soaking wet rescuing a pup that someone had dumped into the water,” Stella shook her head while wrapping the food up to place it in a basket and eyeing Jensen to see a muscle twitch in his jaw. “I thought we’d lose him that time. He recovered but he’s never quite regained his strength so he mostly stays up by the old shack a friend of Pete’s owns and lets Jared stay there.”

The more Jensen learned the less he liked it and the more he hated himself for letting it get this bad all because he was too much of a coward to face the truth earlier. “Umm, sand?” he had to ask.

“Oh!” Stella’s face lit up while even Pete grinned a little as his wife reached above the bar to take down two typical looking glass bottles with cork stoppers but yet as Jensen looked he realized both were filled with varying color sands in different patterns that looked artistically layered and very fancy. “He’s good with his hands when it comes to pounding a nail or painting but he mostly enjoys creating different color sands to put in these bottles,” she handed one to Jensen so he could get a better look. “The first time I complimented him on the one you’re holding I thought his face would explode from how wide he smiled.”

“He sells them to tourists to make money to eat but mostly he keeps the pup in food and warm blankets and does without for himself,” Pete eyed Jensen again. “You ask me, that boy’s lonely and looking for something that he just can’t find around here. You here to help him find that something?”

The old man was shrewd but also a good judge of character. He’d picked up a good hunch on what Jared was missing from the boy’s second month on the island and also the few things he’d mumbled while fevered. Now he was trying to judge if this new arrival would help or hurt and he was a bit harder to pin down.

“If he’ll let me then I’ll give him whatever I can,” Jensen replied while meeting the old man’s eyes calmly, knowing he was being measured and didn’t mind.

This pleasant couple had clearly taken his friend under their wing as much as Jared would let them. Now it was Jensen’s turn to step up to the plate again and fix what he’d so blindly allowed to happen when he’d hurt his friend however unintentionally.

“Then you’ll do well to take this basket of sandwiches up to him,” Stella placed some bottles of water, some first aid supplies, a jar of pickles, some treats for the pup as well as a bag that Jensen could tell contained his friend’s favorite candy. “Pete can draw you a map to that old shack but it’s due to rain before the morning so I do wish you’d ask him to come back to our place to sleep. When I saw him the other day he was looking tired and sounded like he had that damn congestion back in his chest again so it’s only one bad night when he’ll make himself sick again.”

Taking the basket, Jensen smiled. “I’ll make sure he’s warm and out of the rain, ma’am,” he promised as he’d already decided that he’d do whatever it took to get Jared to return to the condo with him if only for a night so they could talk.

“I hope you like dogs because he won’t go anywhere without that dog that he still calls a pup even though it’s finally growing into its feet,” Pete snorted, drawing a crude map on a piece of paper. “It’s a good watch dog for him though. Jared had a run in with a few rich kids down here on Spring break last year. One of the punks jumped him and gave him a good cut on his side but then good ole Dean jumped the punk and tore a chunk outta his fancy jacket.”

“Dean?” Jensen felt that same lump in his throat as he heard what his friend had named his dog before simply smiling. “Yeah, I happen to like dogs and Jay’s pretty much always had one so I’ll be okay and so will he.”

Taking the basket and map, Jensen realized the so-called shack was clear up on a rocky section of beach several miles from his condo and also one hell of a walk for Jared to get into town if he wanted to.

He drove as far as he could before pulling his rental off the road, putting the top up and locking the car to continue on foot after leaving his shoes behind in the car since he hadn’t thought to wear sandals. He also rolled the sleeves of his shirt up to his elbows before picking the basket up and heading off up the beach.

The night sky was clear right then with a full moon shining and stars out to light his way as he walked. Slowly Jensen realized how quiet and peaceful this section of beach was. It was too out of the way for most tourists to just stumble on and probably too rocky with too much tide for the locals so it must be empty except for a former actor and his dog.

Shifting the basket to his other hand, Jensen eyed the uneven sandy ground as the rocks began to creep up so he had to watch his footing as he heard the sounds of barking off in the distance as well as a voice that he knew he’d never forget.

Jared’s Texas accent didn’t always come out unless he was tired or sick but yet Jensen heard it now as he walked around a series of large rocks to see a fluffy but large dog that appeared at this distance to be part German Shepard and part hairball but was drew Jensen’s attention was actually his friend.

He’d seen the changes in Jared from the photo but as he drew closer to use the light of the moon it felt surreal to be standing just feet away from where Jared knelt on the beach throwing a stick for the dog while carefully picking up discarded bottles that had washed up on shore from the tide and also running his hand through the dry patches of sand.

Jared had always been healthy looking and he almost always had longer hair than Jensen but now the soft long dark hair that nearly every hairdresser on set had loved to mess with appeared longer than normal and stringy as the scruff of a several days old beard could also be seen.

The black V-neck t-shirt had seen better days as had the ragged jeans that had holes in the knees and the cut off cuffs frayed from too much use as Jensen realized those were the very jeans he’d watched Jared buy with his first paycheck from Supernatural.

Setting the basket down on a flat rock near a bag that seemed to be where the bottles were going it took Jensen several heart wrenching moments before he moved. It had been six years since they’d seen one another or spoken and so much had obviously changed for both of them but as he looked closer to watch as the fluffy mix of a dog brought the stick back and Jared wrapped his arms around its neck to rub his face in the fur Jensen still could see the boy inside the man Jared had always been no matter what the situation.

The dog sensed him first as Jared’s attention had gone to picking up another bottle that had washed up in the rising tide but instead of growl or bark like Jensen had thought the dog would do it merely sat there to watch him curiously as if sensing that he wasn’t a threat to its owner.

Taking a deep breath to settle the nerves that he suddenly realized he had, Jensen stepped fully onto the section of beach. There was so much he wanted to say all at once that he finally settled on the most right thing that came to mind.

“Jay.”

Jensen heard the shake in his own voice and for a moment feared it had been so long and whatever had caused him to come to South Padre that his friend might not remember him but as Jared slowly shifted on his knees to look up immediately at both the voice and the use of his nickname Jensen watched the surprise filter over that scruff covered face before the smile slowly came.

“Jen.”

TBC