Chapter 1: Masterpost
Alpha-Mates: The story of two rival alphas forced into a mating bond.
Summery- What happens when two rival alphas are forced into a mating bond??
In a world where alphas hold power and mated-betas are naturally submissive to their alphas, two business competitors are compelled into accepting the other as their life-partner. In the inevitable clash of wills and egos, will the two rivals ever manage to attain domestic bliss?
Pairings/Characters- J2, (past) Jensen/OFC, (past)Jared/OFC, Chad M.Murrey, Christain Kane,
Disclaimer- Do not own any recognisable character. Written purely for the purpose of entertainment, no profit made.
For this story, I'm assuming a society with Alpha/Beta dynamics:
Alpha- The dominant group, can be either male or female; although female-alphas are generally less given to physical displays of strength, unlike their male counterparts.
Alphas can be 'turned' (either voluntarily, or as punishment) into Betas.
Beta- Again, can be either male or female, and are the child-bearers, irrespective of gender... un-mated betas are almost alpha-like, in their nature, but once mated, they are generally submissive (at least to their alphas).
Omega- They do not generally form a part of society, it is a status of the condemned, forced upon an individual as a punishment. Virtually have no rights to speak of.
Alright, now that I've explained the dynamics of this society, on with the story. :-)
Chapter 2: Prologue
Tyres screeched as the black SUV turned sharply, coming to a halt length-wise on the road to block the path of the silver Prius. Both cars juddered to a stop even as the Prius’ door slammed open to let out its irate driver.
“What on earth is wrong with you?” Jared Padalecki screamed at the other alpha as he stormed out of his Prius.
“Can’t let you do this, Padalecki.” The man’s voice was controlled- unruffled at being yelled at, and that, more than anything infuriated the other man.
“Why the hell not? Are you that desperate to be mated?” He asked belligerently.
The alpha raised his hands in the universal gesture of ‘I come in peace’, “You’re about to make the biggest mistake of your life and I-uh, well; I couldn’t let you do that in good conscience... Just-just hear me out, okay? And if you still want to go ahead with your plan- well, I guess, I’ll step aside and let you. Deal?”
Jared frowned; his rival was trying to help him? That sounded pretty far-fetched in his opinion, but he had to concede that the other alpha had made the effort and he should atleast show him the courtesy of listening. He nodded.
His muscles tensed automatically as the other alpha neared, and though he held himself perfectly still, he couldn’t help but snarl, “You going to speak up sometime today, Ackles?”
The alpha shook his head, “We’re pretty much playing for the same team now, Padalecki; and I’m doing you a favour here, so drop the attitude.”
“Not the same team, Ackles- never the same team.”
“No? You’d rather be an omega than be mated to me?”
Jared jerked; he had not expected the other alpha to bring up their impending mating so casually. He spat out bitterly, “What if I do?”
That seemed to shock the other man, “Seriously?” he spluttered, “Do you even know what it is to be an omega, Jared?”
The question was spoken softly enough that he could hear the genuine ring of concern. It surprised him. Jensen Ackles had been a thorn to his side for almost half a decade now, and neither of them had ever shown concern about the other; for that to change-
“You’ll lose yourself, Jared. Your right to clothes- to privacy. And you’ll never be able to say no. To anyone- irrespective of where you are. A fucking teenager could ask you to spread your legs for him in the middle of the street and you wouldn’t be able to refuse. Do you really want that?”
“You seem to know a lot about omega-hood.”He groused, although internally he reeled at the images painted by the alpha’s words.
“I read up on it... It’s not like I didn’t have the same idea myself, Padalecki.” Jensen walked over to rest his hip against the side of the Prius and looking at him this close, Jared could see the gold flecks amidst the green in his eyes. It took a minute for the implications of what he heard to sink in.
“You have an inside source at the counsel?” He asked, shocked. How else would the man have had time to read up on consequences otherwise?
He shook his head, “My legal team is good at predicting scenarios.”
“And mine isn’t?” He shot back, immediately on the defensive.
“Did you consult them before running out? Or, before attending the hearing today?”
He shook his head, chastised.
“Look, I-” the man paused, “My aide approached to me yesterday evening... he had done some snooping around, and had some idea about which direction the wind might blow; and believe me- I... well, freaked the fuck out. The upside was being able to figure out my-” he caught himself again, “our options.”
“And they’ll think of nothing before condemning either of us to omega-hood if we even try to wiggle out of this one.”
Jared sighed, “You think they’ll still turn me into an omega if I’m mated?”
“If you mate now, yeah... they’ll just claim it was an ‘evasion of justice’- not a true mate-ship... Plus, given the fact that they’re already baying for our blood, the probability is high.”
“And what happens to you? Are you turned into an omega as well?”
He shook his head, “I’ll go scot-free. You’ll be shouldering the blame for both of us.”
Jared dropped his head to rest against top of his car, “God, this is such a mess!”
Jensen huffed out a laugh, “We’ll figure something out. Trust me."
He nodded, already running scenarios through his head- none of them good; “So, are you willing to be the beta in this relation, ‘cause man, I’m not ready for that shit.” He glanced at the other man through the corner of his eyes.
“Oh, hell no!” He grinned, “Besides, with you there; I doubt they would even bother considering me.”
He jerked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just that I’m over the ‘golden period’ of conversions. Given my age, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be fertile even if they do turn me.”
“And I won’t?”
He shrugged, “You’re still in your twenties, aren’t you?”
“Shit!” He knew cursing would not help him anyway, but he couldn’t keep the expletive from flying out.
Jensen heaved a soft sigh, “I don’t know if it makes you feel any better, but I’m not going to ask them to turn you into a beta. Not unless I am forced to choose between one of us.”
“Actually, it does mean a lot. Thanks.” He looked up from where he was trying to hide his face within his forearms, “So, since neither of us is too keen on being turned, we ought to look at what other options we have.”
Jensen pushed off and away from the car, “You do that.”
He narrowed his eyes, “You’ve already got a plan, haven’t you?”
Green eyes twinkled with laughter as the man gave him a mock salute, “It’s better if we are not seen colluding together, Jared. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Our mating is supposed to be a punishment, Jared; and honestly?-I’m terrified that they may get more creative if there is even the possibility of us getting along.”
“Just- follow my lead tomorrow, okay? And don’t do anything stupid.”
He was left starring slack-jawed as the SUV rumbled away.
Chapter 3: Chapter-1
Jared knocked and entered the room exactly on time, but watching Ackles and the counsellor raise their heads from the paper they had been consulting, he felt a coil of dread twist in his gut-was he late?
“Ah, Mr. Padalecki. Please, come in.”
He nodded politely, feeling even worse when he realized that the other alpha was dressed immaculately in a crisp suit which contrasted sharply with his own casual T-shirt and jeans. Forcing himself to accept his freedom to dress as he chose (even if he would possibly lose that right soon), he sat down in the antique straight-back chair next to his intended-mate.
For his part, Jensen barely acknowledged him apart from a mirthless, polite smile which he hated on instinct.
“So, as I was just telling Mr. Ackles here; the council has proposed a traditional mating between the two of you.” He paused, “I guess what I’m trying to say is that you are to be Alpha Ackles’ personal beta-”
“Wait, ‘personal’? What the hell does that mean?”
“It means that the counsel has been far kinder to you than you deserve-”
He found his own anger flaring at the counsellor’s tone but Jensen shifted in his seat, discretely brushing their knees together as he moved; and though he hated to admit it, he was grateful for the reminder to keep himself under control. He could feel his face registering his horror as heard the end of the counsel-man’s rebuke
“-just your alpha instead of the entire staff at AcklesCo.” The man appeared smug as he noticed his shift in expression.
He glanced at Jensen, but the alpha seemed as unhappy with the situation as him. He forced himself to relax as he listened to the counsellor list what would be expected of him under his new status. He had to fight his rising gorge as the man mentioned the clause about ‘carrying on the line’ and an unbidden image of himself with an obscenely protruding stomach filled his mind. A knee brushed by his again and he could not help the grateful look he shot the other man. It eased something inside him to realize that even though they had been bitter rivals for years now, there was nothing on the man’s face to indicate that he found pleasure in Jared’s humiliation.
“Why does it have to be me? I mean, Mr. Ackles can serve as the beta in this mate-ship just as easily, can’t he?” He could not help but whisper.
“It’s not safe to force a conversion beyond a certain age, and Alpha Ackles is closer to that limit than you are; besides, there is a very strong possibility that he may not be fertile even if he does consent to being turned.-”
He closed his eyes; forcing himself to nod as the counsellor essentially listed the same reasons that Jensen had the day before.
Finally the man wound down and looked at him, “So, Mr. Padalecki; do you consent?”
He wanted to punch the man- was it not enough that he was to be stripped of his very identity? But no, he had to participate in his own degradation!
“I’m sorry to interfere; but would it not be prudent to lay the other options before Alpha Padalecki prior to his consent?”
He jerked at the soft voice. Jensen had come through- there were other options! He nearly wept in relief- forcing himself to remember that these new options- whatever they may be- might be even worse. However, it did help that Jensen had intervened before his ‘consent’- atleast now, they could not forcibly turn him saying he had consented.
The man frowned, but agreed. “Mr. Ackles has consented to an alpha mating if you agree to the same.”
Alpha mating? God, why hadn’t he thought of that himself???
“An ‘Alpha mating’ does sound more viable to our situation than the alternative.” He conceded.
The man’s expression told him that he would have enjoyed watching Jared being turned. The counsellor turned to face the other alpha, “Mr. Ackles; I would urge you to re-consider. Alpha-matings are notoriously difficult to maintain; and given your enmity, it would be prudent to re-organize the power dynamics between the two of you-”
His proffered mate rose from his seat to stand by the window- the tense lines of his back facing them.
The counsellor continued oblivious to the fury radiating out of Jensen, “Besides, Mr. Padalecki here would make a splendid beta- every alpha would envy you when they see all that strength submitting to you. And the pups he would bear-”
Jared felt the blush heat his entire face as the man continued describing him as so much meat- he was bracing himself to be put on display for Ackles’ consideration when he heard the other alpha’s roar of ‘Enough!’
Flashing green eyes turned to the counsellor, “Believe me, Sir; when I say I am perfectly aware of what a ‘splendid beta’ Mr. Padalecki would make. Even so, I decline the offer to have him turned. He would never forgive me for it- and I know this because I wouldn’t, not in his shoes. And yes, we may have been competitors for a long time; but we do know enough to respect each other. And that Counsellor is what should be the base for any mate-ship: Respect. I’m not denying that it will be a rocky road, but provided we are both alphas and not forced to turn into something we are not, we may just be able to establish some sort of real relationship eventually. After all, that is what the council wants, isn’t it?”
Jared just stared at the man, he had just put a brilliant spanner in the council’s plans and had the brains to make them complicit in his mechanisations- hell yes, he respected him.
The alpha continued in a softer tone, “Besides, given my history; as you are well aware, I doubt I’ll be able to connect to a beta- any beta.”
Jared turned to look at the counsellor who nodded briskly- pretending to support their agreement (and doing a terrible job of it.)
“And the claiming?”
“Can be taken care of right now.”
He dimly registered the words as an arm was secured across his chest, holding him in position. He felt soft lips brush against the side of his neck before sharp teeth clamped down- claiming him. Before he could protest, a gentle tongue lapped at the site of injury- soothing away the sting.
As suddenly as he had been restrained, he was let go and he whirled around, rising from his chair, “Wh-!!”
His words dried up as he watched the other alpha loosen his tie and push away the starched collar of his shirt, tilting his head to bare his neck submissively, “Your turn.”
He felt his blood rush south at the words- he had always marvelled at how erotic it was when a beta submitted to him; but to see an alpha doing that- all that power held carefully back as the man bared the delicate line of his throat; he wondered if he would ever tire of the sight. Abruptly recognizing that Jensen was still waiting for him, he moved forward but stumbled to a stop as he realized that he had no clue about how to claim his mate.
“It’s alright; you are allowed to touch me, you know.”
He smiled back gratefully as he placed one hand on the other man’s waist and the other behind his head to pull him closer. He could not help the thrill that passed to him as he repeated the motions that had been performed on him just seconds prior and was gratified when Jensen placed a tentative hand on his arm to support himself. He could feel the power in the body pressed against his and was humbled when instead of acting on his instincts; the alpha forced himself to stay pliant in his hold. And for the brief minute that it took to lay his claim, the world faded around them.
A cough had them drawing apart even though they remained standing side by side.
“Well, now that that’s done, you will both be escorted to your cell where you must spend the next forty-eight hours to ensure completion of your mandatory mating.”
Chapter 4: Chapter-2
Jared wondered if there would ever be an end to his abasement as they were first hosed down and then searched for contraband. Admittedly, the other alpha had done what he could to help him without arousing the guards’ suspicions but even then, the constant catcalls and slurs managed to wear on him in a way their rough handling could never have.
He was almost relieved when he was shoved into the cell with a muttered ‘time for you to spread your legs, Bitch’ when he registered the miniscule dimensions of their cell. He could have crossed the ‘room’ in twelve steps and the walls on either side felt close enough that he could stretch and brush them both at once. The sound of the steel door closing behind him sounded amplified in the tiny quarters and he started hyperventilating.
“Hey, come on... it’s gonna be all right man. Calm down. Hey-”
He registered the words dimly, but they could have been spoken in Martian for all the sense they made. He was vaguely aware of being manoeuvred into a sitting position; his mind a loop of ‘the walls are too close. Walls are closing in. Did they move? Yes, the walls are closing in. I’m going to die. Don’t wanna die. I’m- going- to- die. –Don’t -wanna- die.... so soft.
That broke through the incessant loop. Soft?
But yes, something soft was pressing gently against his lips. Maybe water?
He gave a tentative lick and jolted back in surprise when it felt like skin.
Worried green eyes met his, “Jay- can I call you Jay?” Then at his nod, “You back with me?”
He gave a shaky nod, abruptly realizing that the other alpha had just kissed him. The man seemed to read his mind because he gave a wry grin, rubbing a hand through his tousled hair; “Yeah, sorry about that. Didn’t know how else to distract you.”
But, now that he had drawn back, Jared could see the drab walls of their cell again and he felt himself panicking once more, “Kiss me again?”
The man huffed a laugh, but appeared to understand his desperation and leant back in, licking at the seam of his lips gently till he parted them, granting permission. And then the kiss was like no other he had ever participated in, Jensen mapped the insides of his mouth oh-so-gently that he failed to hide his thrilled whimper, and then their tongues entangled in a mock battle of supremacy which convinced him that he must be dead and in heaven. However, they could not live without air and ultimately had to part-albeit reluctantly. Both gasping for air and flushed from their make-out session.
“We should do that again!” he laughed, and though Jensen joined in, the alpha neither agreed nor disagreed with his declaration.
They lay like that for a few minutes before Jensen got up to poke around the room. The man finished a complete circuit of the room- not that that took more than a minute and a half-before moving to face him.
“Umm, what now?”
Jensen slid to the ground gracefully to lean back against the far wall as he looked up at him, appearing far more relaxed than he had any right to- under the circumstances.
“I guess we could start getting to know each other? Let’s start with …uh… our families?”
At Jared’s scowl, he raised a curious eyebrow, “Seriously? I thought that was the easiest place to start- I’ll go first, if you want. Dad passed away awhile back; so now, it’s just Mom, my kid sister and me. I have an older brother too, but he’s settled abroad, so…” He paused, shifting slightly as the first hints of discomfort flickered over his face; “And, I suppose you have been wondering about my ‘beta’- comment at our claiming… I uhm…knew someone.”
The last was said so quietly that Jared had to strain to hear even in the confines of their little cell. He guffawed, “I should have suspected- bloody betas. Duped you as well, didn’t they? And here I was wondering whether you would understand. There was this beta-” his tone shifted till ‘beta’ sounded like a slur- “I know that not all are like that, and have met more than a few who are really nice, but … anyway, I knew her back in college. Fell head over heels in love, you know? My family… well, they disapproved. In fact, Dad straight out told me that she was nothing more than a gold-digger. Fool that I was, I didn’t believe him. He uh- disowned me. I was already working my way up in this company by then, so it’s not like I was out on the road or anything; but she-she said she could not be with someone without prospects. Guess our parents do know best, huh?”
Jensen’s eyes had flashed briefly during his rant against betas, but he had not interrupted. “You, uh- spoken with your Dad since?”
He shook his head, “Don’t need to hear his gloating I told you so.”
The alpha gave a sharp nod. An uncomfortable silence descended in the room and just when Jared was starting to feel antsy, Jensen spoke again; “My uh… experience with betas has been slightly different. This beta I was talking about? She died.”
He could have bashed his head against the wall at the faux-pas he had just committed, but Jensen didn’t seem to be expecting an apology, he was just correcting an assumption- and Jared was really grateful for that.
“You... wanna talk about it?”
“No. Maybe later... but right now, I- I can’t.”
He nodded. He understood the sentiment- besides, given the fact that he had just spent the last few minutes expounding how much he hated betas, Jensen was perfectly justified in not wanting to speak to him on the subject.
They slid into a not-quite-uncomfortable silence again, and Jared found himself wondering how they would endure forty-eight hours incarcerated like this if they kept running out of things to talk about.
His alpha seemed to be honing his uncanny ability to read Jared’s mind; “You know, it’s really great that we get this chance to be away from the world for awhile, isn’t it?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“What? Your claustrophobia aside, we have tons of stuff to figure out before the world starts making demands on us again.”
“Alright, I’ll play along. Give me one good reason.”
“Uh... We need to discuss our companies?”
“You don’t think we can continue to compete, do you? ‘Cause that’s kind of what got us into this mess in the first place.... Plus, wishing ill of my own mate? I don’t think I can actually do that, man.”
“We were both chomping at the bit to take the other down not two days ago; and now you think you can’t compete with me? You hit your head or something?”
“Dude, you’re family!”
“And that’s your reason?”
“Okay, fine- I’ll grant that I am and have been pretty ruthless in business; but Jay, you gotta understand that the situation is completely different now...Besides, you’re not wrong about the fact that our past will be an issue. I mean, like you said; I can’t just go from hating your guts to protecting you with my life overnight... my uh- instincts will umm- want me to do that, but my conscious mind still remembers our former-let’s say interactions, shall we? It’ll take some time for that to change but-” he trailed off, shrugging.
Jared pursed his lips, he could see the conviction in the other man’s eyes; and even if he could not bring himself to believe in it, it was evident that the alpha was not all talk and no show; after all, the man had been trying to protect him since the hearing. Speaking of-
“Hey, you took the brunt of the hosing down we received this morning and I never got the chance to thank you-” he paused, wondering if he would be crossing some invisible line with his next sentence, “ would you mind taking off your shirt so that I can have a look?”
“I’m perfectly alright.” The protest was not unexpected.
“Great! Then you wouldn’t mind me confirming it.” He was nothing if not stubborn.
“Admit it; you just want to get me naked.” The man laughed even as he undid the clasps of their regulation button-downs. He dropped the garment on the floor and turned around, “See, nothing here.”
Only it wasn’t nothing. Jared blanched when he caught sight of the faint pinkish-purple marks decorating his mate’s pale skin. He trailed a gentle finger over them, trying to figure out how painful they were, but Jensen shifted away, “What?”
“You’ve got bruises.”
Jensen raised a curious eyebrow, “Really?”
“Not too bad, I guess... but dude, why would you do something like that?”
“You’re my mate.” And it seemed as though it really was as simple as that.
Jared sighed, shaking his head. His alpha was an enigma.
He was roused from his thoughts by the sound of an alarm. He sent a questioning glance at Jensen, “What the hell is that?”
“Last call before lights out, I guess.”
“Lights out? Dude, it’s not even late!”
“You do remember that we are incarcerated in a prison, right?” His mate’s eyes shone with mirth.
He scowled, “So, what’s the plan?”
Jensen followed his gaze to the too narrow bed. “I could take the floor?”
He turned, stunned. The man had bruises, and he was offering to sleep on the cold, hard floor? God, but he needed to start making more of an effort!
“Or, we could share?”
Although quickly shuttered, he did not miss the flash of hope in the man’s eyes, “You wouldn’t mind?”
He shook his head, “Umm... would you mind being on the inside, next to the wall?”
“Jay-” He watched as suspicion flared in those hazel-green eyes and abruptly realized that he had not even considered how bad things could have gone if Jensen had turned out to be a different sort of man. He had saved Jared, and with everyone already assuming that Jared was going to serve as the submissive in this relation, anything could have happened in the privacy of their cell. Anything could have happened -and not a single person would have questioned it or even found it odd, given their history.
And he had been naive enough to just accept it. And while Jensen had promised not to hurt him, he himself had failed to give any such assurance. No wonder the man was suspicious of his intentions!
“Jen- I can call you that, right? Since you get to call me ‘Jay’...”
The alpha gave a tiny smile as he nodded, “Okay, but I absolutely refuse to respond to ‘Jenny’, understood?”
“Deal... so, as I was saying, I promise I’m not going to take advantage of you in your sleep- it’s just that my claustrophobia-”
The man nodded, “Fine. I’ll take the inside.”
They had barely made it to bed when the lights went off, plunging the room in darkness. They lay in companionable silence for a while, each trying to keep to their side of the narrow bed.
Silence reigned for a few minutes before they heard the muffled growl from the cell next to theirs, ‘Assume position, Bitch!’
Jared stiffened- that could have been him getting abused right now if things had turned out different.
They heard sounds of a short scuffle before a rhythmic squeaking started up. A pained moan echoed through the thin walls and Jensen groaned, “There begins our late night entertainment.”
Even though it was morbid-humour; Jared could not help but laugh at that. He sobered as a thought struck him, “Jen, can I ask you something?”
“I was pretty much offered to you on a platter...” He hesitated, “I mean, you could have had that- if you wanted: me with my ass up- ready for the taking. That didn’t interest you at all?”
Jensen gave a mirthless laugh, “You ‘with your ass up- ready for the taking’ paints a very provocative picture, you know that?” He sighed before continuing, “Do I want you like that? Hell yes! I would have to be made out of stone if I didn’t... but Jared, I would like to have you like that out of choice- not...not compulsion. I would love to see you shiver from my touch- not out of pain or humiliation; but because you cannot have enough... You follow what I’m saying?”
He felt himself blush, did Jensen really believe that one day they could have that?
“You’re not what I pictured, you know?”
He felt the alpha shift, “And is that a good thing, Jay?”
He nodded, “Definitely.”
“You honestly believed that I would hurt you like that?”
“I had no idea what to believe, Jen... I mean we have been rivals for years now. I had no clue if you would actually jump at the chance to have me powerless and at your mercy... I had hoped not, and given your warning the other day I guess I prayed that I was reading you correctly; but frankly speaking, I had no idea what was going to happen.”
“And now?” The man urged softly.
“I think it’s going to be tough, but we may just be able to make this partnership work, you know?”
“I believe that, yeah... Goodnight, Jay.”
He yawned, shifting to make himself comfortable as he settled in for the night. He had no idea how; but yeah, they were going to make this work.
Chapter 5: Chapter-3
The first thing Jared was aware of was that his pillow felt harder than usual; he half-heartedly tried to fluff it before giving up.
Damn, but was his ‘pillow’ undulating?
He patted it twice, hoping this weird dream would end and his pillow settle so that he could surrender to slumber again. Only, his action seemed to somehow provoke his pillow into full-on shaking. He grumbled.
This time he most definitely heard a muffled snort. Great, now his pillow was reacting vocally!
He cracked an eye open and for a brief second wondered why his ‘pillow’ had buttons and seemed to be wrapped in a shirt instead of his favourite blue pillowcases before reality slammed in. He went rigid as he realized that he was snuggled up to his mate, with his face pressed against the alpha’s chest and a leg thrown across his hips.
Hesitantly, he peered up and met the amused viridian gaze.
“Umm...Hi?” His voice was an embarrassing squeak.
“Yeah-yeah.” He shifted realizing that he was still spread across the other man. God, but how was he supposed to live this down? An arm tightened around him, preventing him from moving away.
“Is there a reason to why I’m being held against you?”
“Umm, yeah... I like it.”
“You don’t mind me pinning you to bed like this?” He asked incredulously.
“Uh- no, I don’t mind.”
“But- I shouldn’t have-”
“Jay, I said- I don’t mind.” His mate enunciated slowly as though explaining something to a rather slow child.
He laughed. “You’re crazy.”
“Maybe.” The alpha agreed.
“But, you are planning to release me sometime, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, sure..." The arms holding him prisoner let go and for a brief second Jared felt their loss.
Even released, they both lay there, neither eager to leave the warm cucoon they had created. Ultimately it was Jensen who broke the silence, "Hey, Jay?”
“Dibs on the first shower?”
“Sure.” The alpha gave a grateful nod before levering off the bed. Jared shifted to fill the cozy hollow left by his mate's departure and closed his eyes, grateful to have a few moments to himself while the other man freshened up.
It was awhile later that Jared emerged from the shower absently rubbing his forehead.
“Thought I’d warned you about the low shower-head.”
“Didn’t hit myself on the shower.” He mumbled.
“The damn doorway.” He groused, feeling an embarrassed flush coming on.
Jensen roared with laughter, “Damn! You really are a sasquatch, aren’t you?”
He glared. “It hurts.”
“Oh, come here ya big baby; let me have a look.”
And feeling particularly wretched; he obeyed wordlessly, remembering how his mom had been the last person to show such concern about his welfare. He stared at Jensen’s face, watching the careful way in which the alpha was recording his expressions as he probed the injury. It suddenly struck him that his mate was strikingly beautiful with his high cheekbones and wide green eyes framed by lashes thicker than he had seen on any beta.
“You would have made a gorgeous beta.”
Ackles stiffened before slowly pulling back to look at him, the emerald gaze flashing to jade.
Why did his brain to mouth filter have to stop functioning right at this instant?!?
“Jay,” Jensen’s voice was steady although the way his face had hardened showed just how furious he was, “you are definitely not the first one to make that observation and while maybe I should be immune to that by now... I well-” he paused, “let’s just say that irrespective of how I look, I can assure you that I’m all alpha... so don’t make the mistake of assuming me to be a beta, okay? You’ll regret it if you do.”
Jared nodded, realizing he had hit a sore spot. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
His mate gave a sharp nod, moving away.
Jared frowned, he guessed he understood where Jensen was coming from- after listening to all those comments about how he would be servicing his mate yesterday; he had a feeling he knew how it felt to be treated without the respect he had grown up expecting as an alpha; and if he was to take Jensen at his word- the man had endured more than his share of such remarks, given his uncommon features. No wonder the man was so twitchy on the subject!
He supposed it explained, at least in part- Jensen’s protectiveness over him. And it also said a great deal about the kind of person he was- ‘cause he could have just as easily grown to enjoy others facing a similar predicament, but no; his mate went out of his way to protect others from what he had suffered. He glanced up, watching the man as he devoted his entire concentration to straightening the bed; yeah- he needed to apologise.
The man looked up, his face carefully devoid of emotion.
“I’m really sorry about what I said earlier. I honestly didn’t mean to offend you. I-”
He was waved away, “Hey, it’s cool, man. I overreacted. Don’t worry about it.”
Even as he nodded, he couldn’t help but feel that something had changed between them. And not for the better.
Chapter 6: Chapter-4
Jared sighed in relief as the cab passed through the gates of apartment complex- It was good to be home.
Home. His territory.
He glanced at the other alpha through the corner of his eyes, Jensen’s face was blank- carefully screening whatever he was feeling as he stepped onto his former-rival’s land.
‘We are expected to live together, Jay. And I’m pretty certain you’ll agree with me when I say moving into the other’s house is probably going to feel like entering the lion’s den unarmed for the one who has to re-locate. But still, it may be worth taking a chance to spend a night- or two- at each other’s place and seeing if it works. We always have the option of buying a place together in case it doesn’t pan out.’
He wondered if that’s how his mate felt at the moment- entering a lion’s den unarmed.
Jensen craned his neck to take in the high-rise that was apparently Jared’s home. He had debated offering to be the first one to spend a night at the other alpha’s place- Jared’s previous day’s comment about him making a ‘gorgeous beta’ still fresh in his mind- before he decided that if one of them had to make the first move; right now, while Jared had no way of contacting anyone outside may be the safest time for him to pretend magnanimity.
Jared failed to suppress his smile as he led the way to the penthouse- he was, if he admitted himself- proud of having earned himself a penthouse while still in his twenties. He spared a glance towards Jensen, wondering if the alpha was impressed by his feat, but one look at his mate’s blank face and he knew that the man was lost in his own thoughts. He sighed. He could have done with some acknowledgement of this accomplishment- ah well, it was not to be.
He watched Jensen look around the living room, his expression speculative as he walked to the cabinet filled with curios. Jared supposed it was unusual for a bachelor to care about decorating his house, but it was him- Jensen could deal with it.
He grimaced as he realized what had caught Jensen’s attention- it was an old trophy he had won in college and stood out for its simplicity against his more extravagant knick-knacks- the only reason the award still graced those shelves was because he had worked so hard for it. The professor had been notorious for giving it to only those whom he deemed meritorious; he would decline naming any recipient of the award in the years he felt no one had worked enough to earn it. And Jared had won it when no one else had been able for three years.
“I should have known you would be one of Boyle’s boys.” Amusement layered the voice.
Jared jerked. How had Jensen kno- ?
‘JRA’- the non-descript initials in the list of Professor Boyle’s meritorious students (Boyle’s boys, as they were known) just above his own ‘JTP’, flashed before his eyes.
“You’re JRA!” The words left his lips without his knowing.
The alpha just raised a perfect eyebrow- the unspoken ‘you didn’t know?’- hanging between them. Then, the man gave a tiny smile, “Guilty as charged.”
Jared couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled out of him, “Man, Professor just would not shut up about you. It was like the sun shone out of your ass or something!”
Jensen snorted, “Dude, that’s one image I never wanted to have of myself!”
And laughing together at something that wasn’t really as funny as either of them made it out to be, Jared felt the unease that had started developing between them begin to dissipate.
He ducked his head as Jensen paused before the exquisite figurine of a male dancer- it was obvious from the sculpture’s pose that there was supposed to be another accompanying figure, and that’s what most of his guests commented on. “Yeah, it has a pair...”he admitted before Jensen could question him, “it’s supposedly with some collector- I’m yet to discover who and if they would be willing to part with it.”
The alpha nodded, “I can help you acquire it, if you want.”
“That would be great, thanks!” he acknowledged, so far- although many had inquired- no one had actually offered to help him locate the missing figurine.
“It’s not a problem.” Jensen shrugged as he moved to another piece of decor.
“You’ll mind if I go check on my messages?”
“It’s your house, dude; Do what you want!”
Jared nodded, moving to the hallway and hit ‘play’ on his voicemail. The initial messages were the usual work-related stuff that he normally dealt with, before a woman’s shrill voice accused him of un-gentlemanly conduct. He slumped wearily, recognizing the person immediately, as he listened to the rant.
A warm hand on his shoulder had him jerking upright.
“Shhh... relax, it’s just me.” A finger rubbed soothing circles at his nape, and he found his body obeying even if his heart was still hammering away-surely Jensen wasn’t planning anything in his own home?
“You heard-?” Anything to distract the alpha from whatever he had planned.
Even without looking, he could feel the man nod, “Kind of hard not to.”
Jared felt the tips of his ears turn pink, Lauren wasn’t exactly gentle in her rebuke, and considering Jensen knew next to nothing about him-
“Are you really guilty of being the boor she’s accusing you to be?”
“I thought as much... Umm, Jay? Were the two of you serious?” Jensen’s deep drawl sounded hesitant.
He frowned, “We weren’t. It was just a... well, a business arrangement, if you will. She has a real boyfriend she isn’t prepared to show and I ...uh...I needed someone on my arm.”
Jensen’s lips titled up in a sardonic smile, “I suspected as much. But, I’m guessing she has changed her mind now?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, for something that was a ‘business arrangement’, she’s having a rather vociferous meltdown; isn’t she?”
“Umm...” He ran a hand trough his hair, not completely comfortable explaining the situation, “It’s not the break-up that’s bothering her. Just that I didn’t exactly inform her I was mating with someone else.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Dude, it’s not like I got the chance. One day I was condemned to being turned into a beta and the next you were claiming me...” He paused when he saw his mate’s lips thinning in displeasure.
“Jared, can I tell you something?” Jensen didn’t wait for acknowledgement before continuing, “I know you have been forced into this mate-ship against your will; so...umm, as long as you are discrete-”
“Is that what you are planning to do?” Jared interrupted, unable to hide the hurt in his tone. Even knowing the reality of their mating, a part of him had hoped it would be real.
“No.” Jensen’s voice was soft but firm. “I want this to be real, Jay. Just- I thought- I thought you needed that option.”
He shook his head, unable to help his smile when his mate visibly brightened at his words. The audible rumble from his stomach ruined the moment.
“Sounds like someone’s hungry.” The alpha noted wryly.
He blushed, “What would you like for dinner?”
Jensen raised an eyebrow, wordlessly putting him in his place for treating the man like some chick he needed to wine and dine. “Well, what do you have?”
Jared coloured; it had been a while since he last took stock of his kitchen. “Let me check.”
It took only a handful of minutes to realize that his pantry was woefully under-stocked. “How does pasta sound?”
“With meatballs?” Hopeful eyes met his.
He laughed- it seemed as though the alpha was a man after his own heart. “Of course!”
“Need my help?”
“Nah, I can handle it.”
“So, it’s okay if I make some calls of my own?”
“Sure. You can use the study, if you want.”
The man nodded his wordless thanks, padding away from him on soundless feet. Leaving Jared to silently wonder if he was being too trusting, too soon.
Chapter 7: Chapter-5
“No, Chris... He’s my mate........... I know that, but-...........yeah, yeah. I-..........Chris!”
Jared paused outside his study, not wanting to intrude on the alpha’s privacy. He hesitated, wondering if he should come back after a few minutes when he heard Jensen’s exclamation; curiosity piqued, he waited just out of sight.
“No, you will not refer to Jared like that... Yes! You have to recognize that-.......” a sigh, “Chris, we are mated.....no, dude! I understood the first five times you said that.... It’s not funny!”
The alpha was obviously having an argument with this ‘Chris- person’ and the sudden, unexpected desire to soothe the man surprised him: apparently the mating-bond was more potent that he had given it credit.
He was debating acting on his instincts when Jensen’s words blindsided him- ‘Chris, for the last time- I will not tolerate you calling my mate names. And no, I don’t care if Jay doesn’t feel the same way.”
Jared blinked. No, he was not tearing up- something must have fallen in his eye. Choosing not to wait another minute, he knocked softly on the door and marched in at the alpha’s nod.
Jensen flashed a tired smile at him as he finished the call, “Man, sometimes I really wonder how Chris and I became friends.”
“I get the same feeling with Chad.” The words left his mouth without his permission.
“Ummm... dinner’s ready.” Jared said after a moment as he watched Jensen look around the study, taking in the walls stacked with books.
“Yeah?” Jensen asked distractedly, eyes glued to something on his bookshelf.
Jared followed his gaze, “Tolkien?”
“Uh- yeah. He’s my favourite author.” Jensen admitted, moving to take a closer look at the titles. He whistled when he noticed the rest of what took up his shelves. “Dude, Tolkien and Shakespeare?”
“I know it’s weird.”
“Not weird... its-” Jensen paused, searching for a suitable word.
“I was going to say eclectic, but I guess ‘freaky’ works just as well.”
Jared smiled, “What’s your all time favourite movie?”
“Umm...Star Wars?” The older man replied as he followed Jared to the dining room.
“Man, I think we can actually be friends.”
Jensen guffawed, “What if I had said something like The Notebook?”
“You would have guaranteed yourself a lifetime of teasing.”
Jensen was still smiling as he heaped pasta on his plate, “You’re a science fiction geek, then?”
“I wouldn’t say geek, but yeah, I do enjoy it a bit more than its normal to, I suppose.” Jared confessed, pleased to note that the alpha did not appear to shy away from his cooking. Given their history, it was absurd how easy they were with each other, and the cautious part of his brain warned him not to let down his guard too much.
“Dessert?” He asked once they had both pushed away their plates and had to stifle his laughter at the sheer adorability of Jensen’s pleased expression as he leaned back in his chair with his palms folded over his non-existent belly.
“Sure, what are we having?”
He walked to the freezer, “Ummm, Rocky Road?”
Jensen’s snort had him replaying his own words in his head and he shook his head at the unintentional pun. “I meant the ice-cream, dumbass!”
“Sure you did.” The older man agreed, poker-face in place; and Jared burst out laughing again. He could not remember the last time he had laughed this much during the course of a meal. He was about to comment on that when the ringing of the phone interrupted them.
“Would you get that, please?”
Jensen nodded as he moved to answer the call, “Padelecki residence.”
Jared let out a breath he had not realized he had been holding, happy to find the other alpha did not automatically assume rights to Jared’s property. Lost in his thoughts, it took him a moment to notice that Jensen’s expression had grown shuttered. The man had his eyes closed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, obviously trying to reign in his reaction to whatever was being said across the line.
“Mr. Murrey, please-....... No, I agree-”
Mr. Murrey? Chad was on the line???
The realisation forced him out of his stupor and he hurried over, quickly taking the phone in an attempt to contain the situation. He winced as he heard the last part of his friend’s diatribe.
Chad was actually threatening the alpha with bodily harm??? Damn, it would be funny if not for the gravity of the situation.
Concern for the beta had him turning pleading eyes to the alpha; and although his mate’s face was curiously blank, he felt himself relax when the man simply gave a curt nod and moved away.
The angry words stopped abruptly as he heard the sharp intake of a breath. “Jared? Oh god, I’m so glad to hear your voice... Are you okay? That bastard hasn’t hurt you has he? ‘Coz I swear, I’ll kill him myself if he tries anything...”
Jared laughed, “Slow down, dude... I’m fine.”
“Fine? How can you be fine? I heard about the verdict, Jaybird; I’m so sorry... Please don’t tell me that he has you jumping through the hoops at his command already...?”
“Dude! What are you talking about?”
“He turned you, didn’t he?”
“No.” Jared paused, “Jensen did not have me turned, Chad.”
"You're on first name terms with the guy now?"
"Well... yeah, I mean... we are together now, so..."
"And he didn't turn no? Or hurt you?"
“No, actually... he has been rather good to me so far.” He admitted grudgingly.
“But- but the verdict said you two would have to be mated-”
“We opted for an alpha-mating.”
“Ackles agreed to that?”Chad sounded incredulous.
“He was the one who suggested it in the first place.” Jared confessed.
There was silence from the other end as his friend mulled over what he had said. Tensing more with each second that passed without a word from the other side, Jared finally broke the silence, “Chad?”
“Something doesn’t add up, Jaybird... Why on earth would Ackles be nice to you?”
“I have no clue.”
“He hasn’t said anything?”
“When I asked, he just pointed out that we are mated now.”
“Jaybird, have- have you two, you know?”
“Hmm?” It took a minute for him to understand what his friend was insinuating, “What? No, Dude! Why would you even ask that?”
“You said you are mated, Jared. It’s kinda expected between couples... especially newly mated ones.”
“Maybe,” his friend ventured hesitantly, “he’s trying to soften you up?”
“Not gonna work.” Jared declared petulantly, “That’s not going to happen...ever!”
“Tell me if he tries anything, okay? I’ll take care of it.”
Jared had to laugh at his friend’s protective tone, “You do realize that he’s an alpha, right?”
“And I’m still unmated, Jaybird...” Exasperation leaked into Chad’s voice.
“I know, I’m sorry..." Jared apologised, knowing it was a sore spot with his friend, "Anyway look, I’ll see you tomorrow, alright?”
He hummed his agreement before disconnecting the call. Jensen was waiting for him back at the table, his face an unreadable mask.
“I’m sorry about-” Jared began; wanting to soothe any feather’s Chad might have ruffled with his antagonistic comments.
The older male waved him off, “I’m pretty sure you would have gotten a similar welcome-speech from Chris, so believe me; it’s cool.”
“Chad’s a beta, Jen; you’re not planning to-” He trailed off uncertainly.
“To take out my ire on your friend?” Jensen finished.
Jared nodded miserably.
“No, he was just watching out for you, Jay-”
“But the things he said-” Jared interrupted. He knew he was acting like a dog with a bone, but he could not help wanting to shield his reckless friend.
“The things he said just confirm how protective he is of you. I respect that, Jared.”
He nodded, not wholly convinced, but it was better than nothing.
Jared fidgeted as the evening wore on, the easy camaraderie of a few moments ago shattered by the phone call. As they finished the ice-cream in silence, he found himself wondering whether it was him or Jensen who felt the foreignness of their situation more keenly- Chad’s words a reminder to just who they were mingling with.
It was only a few more minutes before Jared decided to cut his losses, “Time to hit the hay?”
Jensen raised an incredulous eyebrow as he checked his watch, “Already?”
“Umm, yeah,” he scratched the back of his head, “Early to bed, early to rise, and all that?”
“Oh, okay...” The man hesitated, “Would you mind if I borrow one of your books?”
“You’re a night owl.” It was not a question.
“Is that going to be a problem?” The older alpha seemed reluctant to trample across any invisible boundaries.
“No, no... Of course not!” Jared hastened to reassure.
“Uh... I don’t mean to pry, but at what time are you up?”
Jared startled at the question, “Six-thirty, why?”
Jensen let out a heartfelt sigh, before grumbling a quiet ‘okay’.
Even knowing that it was probably going to sound condescending, he felt compelled to point out, “You don’t have to wake up early unless you want to.”
“You won’t mind if I sleep in?”
“Nah... Just, tell me when you want breakfast.”
“Yeah, that’s... that’s perfect.” Jared agreed, choosing not to voice the fact that he usually had breakfast at that hour himself.
“Alright-y then, goodnight?” Jensen’s voice lilted up at the end, turning his words into a question.
“Yeah-yeah... Goodnight, Jensen.”
They both paused in front of their respective doors, awkwardly staring at each other before Jensen gave a firm nod and stepped into the guest-room. Jared stared at the closed door for a moment longer before entering his own room- an inexplicable feeling of loss weighing him down. It’s not like he had ever shared his bed with someone- barring random hook-ups- and yet, barely having spent two nights with the alpha, he strangely felt bereft to sleep alone again.
Chapter 8: Chapter-6
The ripple of murmur that swept across the assembled journalists like wildfire was the first signal that Jared had of being interrupted. Pausing mid brief, he glanced towards his aide askance; but his senses tingled as his body screamed with hyper-awareness of his mate’s proximity even before Chad could whisper ‘Ackles is here’.
It was habit rather than a need for confirmation that had him swinging around in his seat to face his competitor. Jensen’s eyes glittered a dark jade and Jared wondered since when had he learnt the other man well enough to be able to gauge his moods from the shade of his eyes alone.
Despite his obvious fury, the older alpha had his features schooled in a polite- if not warm, smile. “I apologise for being late.”
Something tightened in Jared’s gut as he understood that he was cornered- if he objected to Jensen’s presence, his public image would take a bashing; if he expressed surprise, all the carefully crafted statements he had made would hold no value... really, his only option was to play along.
“I’m so glad you didn’t delay the meet on my account.” Jensen told him in a stage-whisper even as his eyes promised retribution.
“Of course” He murmured, pulling up a matching smile. Two could play that game.
With a smile that bordered on cruel, the older alpha perched on the arm-rest of Jared’s chair, brushing his lips across his temple. Instinct would have had him jumping away from the touch if not for the fingers digging into his shoulder, holding him in place. “Play nice.”
Jared felt a shiver run through him at the threatening words but nodded obediently as he leaned into the touch, forcing a smile to his lips- knowing they were being photographed.
The moment was broken by Chad who coughed loudly, muttering ‘I’ll arrange for a chair.’
Jensen laughed, “Don’t bother, we’re newly mated; a little proximity isn’t going to bother us. Right, Jay?”
Jared felt his face flame at the insinuation, “Jen!”
It was only when he heard the whirl of the cameras increase exponentially at his outraged exclamation that he realized that the older alpha had been banking on this very reaction. He bit his lip, trying to control his indignation at having been played.
“So, how much have you told them?” And in the blink of an eye, Jensen had turned completely professional; even though his fingers continued to rub distractingly soothing little circles at Jared’s nape- hidden from view.
“Your beta-” A journalist began, sensing the opportunity to re-launch the inquisition that Jensen’s arrival had interrupted.
“Alpha.” Jensen cut in.
“Pardon me?” The man looked genuinely confused.
“Alpha, Mr. Padalecki is an alpha.”
“We both are.” Jared added, understanding that this was one subject that he needed to support his mate on.
Both alphas registered the surprise on the faces of the assembled journalists, but refused to react. The slight squeeze on his shoulder as Jensen finally finally released him told him that his addition had been appreciated.
A female journalist was the first to recover, “Mr. Padalecki was just telling us about the upcoming merger...So, I was wondering-if you are both alphas; are you worried about in-fighting?”
Jared jerked in shock at the unexpected question, fortunately his mate was imperturbable, “Of course not! We had a healthy competition going...and for my part, I can assure you that I thoroughly enjoyed pitting my experience against Alpha Padalecki’s business acumen and I look forward to joining our resources together-”
“Do you agree with Alpha Ackles, Mr. Padalecki?” Someone interrupted.
“Uhm...I mean yeah. Yeah, I agree. I- err... we respect-”
“So you are not worried that now that Mr. Padalecki will have inside information on all your deals, you will have more situations like the one at Bridgestone?” The next question was fired before he had even finished his response.
Jared blanched, Bridgestone had been one of his greatest tactical errors and he was now paying for his oversight by being forced into a mate-ship with one of his biggest business rivals. He bit his lip, waiting to see how Jensen was going to handle the question.
“Bridgestone was an unforeseeable and an extremely regrettable accident. Both Jared and I have made repeated apologies over it, and while we understand that words cannot undo what happened, it has taught us both the need to be more careful in the future. And as far as your insinuation about Jared having wilfully caused such damage to property and personnel is concerned, I would advise you to tread carefully unless you want to face a defamation lawsuit.”
A light murmur went through the congregation at the undisguised threat and Jared had to wonder what Jensen hyper-protective-alpha stance would have on their future. Of course everyone would assume that Jensen was the lead-alpha in the situation...not that they would be entirely wrong in their assumptions.
“So, what else has been finalized?”
“Nothing, as of now.”
“We are yet to draw up the papers and everything...”
They both started answering the question at the same time and both paused to let the other continue, drawing hushed titters from their audience.
The rest of the press conference continued in much the same vein, Jensen taking the lead while Jared pitched in with a word every now and then. He was acutely aware of Chad’s glare at him as he allowed Jensen to take charge, but then again, Jared had never really enjoyed answering questions and was happy to pass on that responsibility to someone else.
His mate rose swiftly the second they finished, a possessive hand on his arm; “Is there somewhere private-?”
Jared’s eyes bulged, “Are you out of your fucking mind, Ackles?” He didn’t care-couldn’t care at that moment if someone from the press was still around or that they could be overheard.
“Is there somewhere private, Jared?” The alpha repeated.
“Fuck you, Ackles!”
“You want to do this here?”
Jared flinched. He didn’t know why- he was physically bigger than the other man, but something about Jensen’s alpha had him cowering before the other man. Besides, the logical part of him reminded that he didn’t want his entire staff to be within hearing distance when the other alpha ripped him a new one- and Jensen was definitely going to ‘rip him a new one’- he could see it in the glittering jade of the other man’s eyes. He shook his head resignedly, “Let’s go to my office.”
His former rival nodded. Once.
He nearly stumbled when he felt a proprietary hand come to rest on the small of his back, but he marshalled his courage and swallowed his protest as he lead the older alpha into his office. The hand left him once he stepped inside, but a second later he heard the door lock behind him with a soft ‘snick’ and felt the fear squeeze his heart in a vice-like grip.
Jared swallowed. Then turned around to face his mate.
Chapter 9: Chapter- 7
The soft ‘snick’ of the door locking behind them had Jared suppressing Goosebumps; fortifying himself with a deep breath he turned around.
Jensen simply looked at his mate, his expression carefully blank; but it did not take long for the alpha to become aware of his mate’s discomfort. Immediately the blankness dissolved into an expression of worry, “Damn, I'm so sorry, Jay... I completely forgot about your claustrophobia! Hold on, I’ll open the door.”
“Being locked in a closed room doesn't bother you?” The older man’s voice was sceptical.
“Not this room. I...Uh...I had it specially designed.” He admitted.
“Are you sure?” Some lingering concern was still visible in the man’s eyes.
“I’m sure. Now, why don’t we actually talk about what you’re here to discuss, Ackles?” Jared snapped, uncomfortable in the face of kindness.
“In that case, why don’t you explain what the hell was going on back there, Padalecki?” The alpha’s voice was controlled- no trace of the concerned mate from a few seconds ago. It was actually impressive; the way Jensen could switch gears so swiftly.
“What? The press conference?”
“Yes, the press conference that I had to hear about from my aide... Look, I was under the impression that we had decided to work together-”
“We did.” Jared confirmed.
“Yeah? Then why was I not told about Padalecki Ltd. holding a press meet to announce its ‘merger’ with Ackles Corp?”
“I thought it would be okay-”
“No, Jared.” The alpha’s voice was pure steel, “You thought you could pull one over me with that move. You thought; that by announcing it before I did, you could convince everybody that you had me on a leash.”
Jared bit his lip, “You really think that that was the message I was trying to send?”
“You weren’t?” An imperiously raised eyebrow enquired.
“My consultant suggested the move- everything had already been organised before I even came in today...” His voice trailed off, realizing that he sounded like an errant schoolboy angling to excuse himself from getting punished.
“Do you?” He tried to sound pleading; but judging from his mate’s expression, his voice came out more challenging than he had intended it to be.
“What’s your point, Padalecki?”
“No, Jared. The way I see it; we have three choices before us.” Jensen started counting them off his fingers, “One; we can actually work together. Two, we ignore one another. Or three, we continue to be at each other’s throats. You choose.”
Jared opened his mouth to respond, but then decided against it. He stood there for a few moments uncertain how to bridge the gaping maw that stretched between his mate and him.
Jensen regarded him for a minute before turning on his heel with almost military precision, “Call me once you’ve made your decision. Have a good day, Jared.”
The man paused with a hand on the knob.
“I- can I ask you something? Please?”
His alpha turned and for the briefest second, Jared was struck by the beauty of his mate’s features: even angry, Jensen still looked better than he had any right to; almost like an avenging angel.
“Jay?” Jensen shifted uncomfortably under his regard.
“I-I was wondering about something that I noticed at the press meet...”
“What?” The barest hint of curiosity laced the alpha’s voice.
“I realize that part of the announcement was about our mating. But what I don’t understand is- Why is me...err...us being mated such a huge deal? We can always continue as before… I mean, we are both professional enough to be able to leave our personal lives out of our professional engagements, right?”
“We can do that,” Jensen allowed, “provided you are willing to play into their hands.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Jay,” Something softened in his mate’s expression. “Why do you think they compelled us into mating each other, huh? And when was the last time you heard of a ‘condemned mating’ actually being carried out?”
“What are you insinuating, Jen?” Something about his alpha’s tone made him nervous.
“Jared, you achieved in less than a decade what those incompetent fools couldn’t in thirty years… They were coasting along merrily when you suddenly thundered into their stronghold like some freak storm. And to add insult to injury, not belonging to the old-boys club didn’t faze you at all. You just settled in as though everything was fine and dandy before you went on to consolidate your position. You think they are going to forgive that? The only thing they have and you don’t is political back-up… and let’s be real, okay? Neither of us does subtle. We never denied our rivalry, hell; we played to the galleries and called each other names in front of the camera-”
“Yeah,” Jared nodded, “That explains why I was targeted. But you?”
Jensen gave a self-deprecative snort, “I inherited my company, and they are of the opinion that I haven’t yet earned my keep. And the fact that I never bothered to make nice with them might have ruffled some feathers, I suppose.”
“Nah, Ackles Corp owes its meteoric rise to you, Jensen… I mean sure, your great-grand daddy might have been the one to build the firm; but you guys weren’t making much profit. In fact, soon after your father took over, things got bad enough for him to consider declaring insolvency. But he was reluctant to admit defeat and ultimately managed to stabilize the company; although you guys were still just about breaking even at the point. Things only turned around after you took over the reins...” he faltered to a stop as realization sank in about just who he was talking to.
His mate seemed entertained, “Well well well…someone seems to have looked into the history of Ackles Corp.”
“It was the focus of my research for my thesis.” Jared admitted.
Jensen smiled, “I’m flattered… but I digress, Jay- the only reason for them to bind us together was the opportunity to take down two birds with one stone.”
“See, our actions- not that I’m proud of them- are actually not severe enough to warrant this kind of punishment. However, the timing for the whole Bridgestone fiasco was well- opportune, I guess… since the council is seriously involved in improving human-were interactions at the moment, they could not have had a better chance to showcase their devotion to the cause. Now, you and I know that irrespective of the scruples involved, you were smart enough to ensure that no humans got injured. But the fact that I have two injured Weres on my hands was enough ammunition to put us both in hot water. With the right amount of lobbying, it wasn’t hard for them to find us both guilty of malpractices- “
“Me more than you.” Jared interrupted.
“Yeah, but the situation could have been reversed just as easily. The fact that our rivalry isn’t a secret means that they believe that we are going to succumb to crab mentality and drag each-other down.” Jensen shrugged.
“And this way, they eliminate us both without lifting a finger.” Jared concluded.
“Exactly.” His mate confirmed.
“So, what do you suggest we do?” He looked up. It felt strange, collaborating with someone whom he had considered to be an enemy just the last week, but was his ally now.
“Jay; you’re the strategist, man... besides; I already told you my opinion.”
Jared sighed, “I think I finally have some inkling about why you blew your fuse when you heard about the press conference. I’m sorry.”
Jansen huffed, “I’m not looking for apologies, kid. It’s just that...”
“What?” He was curious about what the alpha was not saying.
“I felt betrayed, you know?” Jensen confessed. “I mean, there I was; trying to convince my team that working with Padalecki ltd. was in our best interests and my aide comes in, announcing that you’re holding a news conference to announce the merger of our companies. And. I. Have. Absolutely. No. Clue... what she’s talking about. It just swept away everything I had been telling them for the past hour.”
Jared could only imagine how humiliating it must have been for the other alpha. “I’m sorry; I didn’t think.”
Jensen nodded. “It’s done. Don’t worry about it.”
Jared reflected on all the other times Jensen had told him ‘Don’t worry about it’ since their mating and how things always seem to deteriorate after it; “Jen, honestly... I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. I- I just didn’t think.”
His mate managed a small smile which didn’t reach his brilliant eyes, but it was still a concession; he supposed.
“Tell me whatever you decide, okay?”
He nodded. It wasn’t like he actually needed to think about this; but Jensen expected him to weigh the pros and cons before making up his mind and he couldn’t bring himself to let his mate down.
Chapter 10: Chapter-8
“Finally.” Chad muttered.
Jared jerked in surprise at the venom in his friend’s voice, “What?”
“Your watchdog finally figured out that you are busy.”
“My watchdo-...you mean Jensen?” Jared gasped.
“Yes, ‘Jensen’,” Chad somehow succeeded in twisting his mate’s name till it was an insult. “Don’t worry; he’s on his way out.”
“Jen was here?” Jared squeaked, jumping to his feet.
“Jen? Since when did Ackles become Jen?”
“Since I mated him.” Jared growled, before hurrying out.
He frowned at the elevator as it plodded along- stopping on practically every floor; before deciding it was taking too long and rushing down the stairs. He nearly stumbled twice before sighting his mate’s immaculate suit heading away.
The man paused, and for a second Jared was afraid that he had insulted his mate too badly and that Jensen would not stop. But the alpha did halt, and waited for him to catch up.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you were here.” He hurried to explain even before reaching the older alpha, uncaring for the strange looks his disheveled appearance prompted.
Jensen raised a sardonic eyebrow but nodded anyway- apparently unwilling to call his mate a ‘liar’ to his face.
“Honestly, Jen. Chad just told me. Were you waiting long?”
“About half-an-hour.” His mate admitted.
Jared winced, knowing how irritating it was to wait- and especially for someone as busy as the CEO of Ackles Corp. “Sorry.” He repeated helplessly.
“Are you free now, ready to head back?”
Jared looked away guiltily, “I have a meeting scheduled... but –but I guess I can re-schedule if you want-”
Jensen raised a hand, halting his rambling; “Or, how about you give me a call when you are done, hmm?”
He bit his lip, “You sure you won’t mind?”
“Heading my own company here, remember?” Jensen grinned, “Go to your meeting, I’ll see you later.”
It was almost a relief to finally settle in the car next to his mate and head home before Jared remembered that today ‘home’ meant the Ackles’ residence. He willed his muscles to relax; reminding himself that he had already spent a couple of days mated to the other man and so far, nothing untoward had happened. Looking for any distraction from the dark path his brain seemed intent on, he focussed outside and noticed that Jensen was driving them away from the bustle of the city. Naturally, that undid whatever success he might have had at relaxing.
“So, umm...how was your day?” Jared blurted, suddenly desperate to escape the cloying silence of the car. Then realising that his question may prove to be more ammunition against him, he hastened to add, “I mean apart from the parts where I messed it up.”
Jensen chuckled, “You’re quite adorable when you are nervous, you know?”
He frowned, “Please don’t make fun of me.”
“I’m not. And my day went well, thank you... You may turn on the radio if you want some music.” The older man offered.
Jared nodded his thanks but made no move to turn on the player. “Jensen, do you think your family will mind having me over?”
The alpha shot him a look of confusion, “My family?”
He nodded, “You know, at your home-?”
“Oh, no...Of course they won’t mind. Trust me, Mom is always looking for someone to shower affection on and you’ll make a nice target. But...uhm...Jay, I- I don’t live with my family, you know? I mean sure; we visit each other like everybody else...but I have my own place.”
“Is that a problem?”
He shook his head mutely but wondered if things were going to change once Jensen was on his own territory.
Chapter 11: Chapter-9
Jared smiled as he brushed his fingers against the familiar polished surface of his table; knowing he may never come back.
“Are you sure about this, Jaybird?”
He nodded, turning to the door when his mate appeared, his expression warm.
He nodded, rising unsteadily to his feet even as his mate’s hands reached out to help him up- almost as though Jensen anticipated his clumsiness. The safety of the warm fingers pressed against the small of his back had him feeling optimistic as his left hand instinctively closed around the swell of his mid-section protectively.
Swell of his mid-section?!!
He jerked, his hand going to his firm- and thankfully flat, stomach automatically to check. He breathed out in relief- he was not carrying Jensen’s progeny; praise the Lord!
His relief however; was short-lived as he realized that he had fallen asleep on the drive to the Ackles’ residence and had no clue about where they were. Even now, he could feel the warmth of his alpha’s hand like a brand against his skin where the man had touched to wake him.
“Was I asleep long?” His voice sounded thick with sleep even to his own ears.
“Couple of minutes...maybe ten at most.” The alpha answered, his expression worried; having obviously picked up on the younger man’s unease.
Jared shifted nervously; although Jensen’s concern was heart-warming, he still somehow missedthe warmth in his mate’s eyes that had been present in his dream/nightmare. He peered out through the windshield, “Where-where are we?”
“Well, this is it; my home.” Jensen announced as he stepped out of the car.
Jared followed suit, looking around cautiously and realizing that the car was parked in a circular driveway. As far as the eye could see; there was nothing but trees- barring the quaint little house that they stood in front of.
The house, that looked deceptively simplistic- almost rustic... with its plain brick and wood layout exemplifying its neat lines. It was spread over a considerable area, Jared surmised, although it was only single storied. In an odd way, it reminded him of the cottages on old picture-books.
Following Jensen inside, he realized that the inside of the Ackles’ residence matched its outside- the decorations were plain: nothing extravagant or flashy to mark the alpha’s prowess; but the few pieces that were artfully spread across the room (and especially the ones in the alcoves on the far wall) were obviously exclusive- subtle in their significance, but noteworthy for their beauty.
The room- and by extension, the entire house- had a homey, lived in feel that spoke of warmth and happiness. It was so different from the impersonal lines of his own residence that for a moment Jared felt a pang of jealousy. He had never had much time to simply lounge about at his penthouse- always too busy with his work- obviously that wasn’t the case with Jensen Ackles.
“It’s quite hot today, isn’t it? I mean, I was expecting it to be far cooler given the surrounding trees.”
Jensen turned to look at him, the corner of his mouth tugging at a grin in amusement at Jared’s lame, laughable attempt at small-talk. “I have a pool; you can take a swim to cool down, if you want.”
“You have a pool?”
Jensen nodded, gesturing towards the huge glass doors across the room that lead out to a porch, “Go on, take a look; I’ll get some beer...unless you want something else to drink?”
“Beer’s fine.” He nodded, walking to the screen-door and stepping outside.
Much like the front of the house, the backyard too looked more like a forest than it should. Two towering trees bracketed the enormous porch that nearly extended the length of the house while others grew in some haphazard manner- he could see that someone-he wondered if it was Jensen himself- had done some gardening in the little clearing between the trees: it was almost as though the alpha had endeavoured to disturb as little of the natural beauty as he was able. The sound of falling water had him searching the backyard in the gathering twilight to find the source. He followed the sound along the porch, not wanting to step off and venture into the dense foliage without permission; it wasn’t long before he realized that the rocky outcrop to his right- just beyond the porch- was actually a little pool.
His eyes followed the clear water to its point of origin and he sucked in a breath as he realized that what he had thus far assumed to be a natural pool was in fact, man-made.
“I wanted the pool to blend in with the rest of this place.”
Jared jerked in surprise at the alpha’s voice, not having heard him join. He walked back to where the older man leaned casually against the wooden-railing, “It’s beautiful.”
They stayed silent for a moment as Jared tried to peer out and see the fence to the property.
“It’s nice here, peaceful.”
“Yeah, I didn’t- don’t really like the noise of the city... so when my grandpa brought us here one summer, I kind of fell in love with the place. I knew that I would make this my home.”
// ‘You have such large eyes, Grandma.’
‘It’s to see you better, dear.’ //
“I-I don’t really see a fence...” Jared twisted to glance at his mate.
“Umm...yeah, this is part of the Ackles’ estate. We have ‘bout 50 acres... But, only the part till the tree line is kept private, there are fields beyond them- for farming and the like.”
// ‘and such big ears...’
‘All the better to hear you, dear.’ //
“So; no neighbours?”
“Nope... At least not for a few miles.”
// ‘Why do you have such big teeth, Grandma?’
‘So that I can eat you, dear.’ //
Jared felt the breath leave his body in a gasp.
No neighbours, Jay... Nobody to hear you scream.
You will scream, won’t you; Jay?
He glanced up, slowly backing away from the alpha, “No.”
His alpha’s brow furrowed, “What-?”
“No, please.” He repeated; shifting away as the older man approached.
“Jared, wha-?” The alpha was almost on top of him now, reaching out.
“I said NO!” He shouted, turning as he tried to twist away and stumbled to the floor. He froze in place as he stared up at the man looming over him.
Jensen extended a hand to help his mate, but stopped short when he heard the barely suppressed keen of distress. Realization dawned as he peered into the frightened hazel eyes.
“You’re terrified...of me.” He whispered, moving back to give the younger man space.
Jared just blinked at him in surprise.
“Its- its okay, man... I-I’m not going to hurt you.” He told the petrified boy, helplessly running a hand through his hair; although he made no move to touch the young man again.
The younger alpha didn’t answer, but lifted himself from the floor; still maintaining a healthy distance between them.
Jensen shook his head ruefully, “I- I don’t know how to convince you of this, Jared; but I promise that you are safe here. Nothing’s going to happen to you, not on my watch... if-if you want; you are free to drive back. I won’t stop you.”
Jared nodded, his breath still coming in soft pants after his panic-attack; but he was feeling more coherent now. “Is this- is this how you felt yesterday?”
Jensen looked at him, biting his lip as he contemplated his answer, ultimately deciding that gentle teasing was the way to go, “Well, I wasn’t scared of you.”
“I’m larger than you. You really think you can take me in a fight?”
“I don’t think either of us is getting into a physical altercation anytime soon, Jay.” He frowned.
“Humour me. You really think you can best me, Ackles?”
“Physically, you are more formidable than I am... but who says I’m gonna fight fair?”
“Is that a threat?”
Jensen shook his head, his lips pressed into a thin line, “Nope. Although, it would be a threat if I told you that I’ve never lost a fight in my life, Jared.”
Jared nodded, accepting the warning for what it was.
“Come on, let me show you around.” The topic was changed swiftly enough that Jared had to wonder whether the whole episode had been some sort of weird dream.
Jensen threw open the ornate wooden doors to the first room on their left, “This is my... well, now I guess it’s our- room.” At Jared’s gasp, he added-not unkindly, “Or, you may use the guest suite, if you choose.”
Jared nodded, taking in the cosy set-up. Apparently, Jensen was more of a traditionalist than a minimalist. The room was decorated in the same rich tones as the rest of the home, although he could see evidence of the latest modern gadgets; everything had been adjusted to blend in with the old-world charm of the place. He glanced out of the window to realize that the master-bedroom directly overlooked the ‘pool’.
He turned in surprise to find his mate holding out a well-worn, but freshly laundered set of sweatpants and tee-shirt.
The alpha shrugged, “There’re mine; so they may be a little small for you, but I guess they’ll have to do for now.”
He nodded his thanks as he followed the alpha into the ‘guest-suite’; nearly as spacious as Jensen’s room, Jared was pleased to note that this room too was fitted with an en-suite bathroom. Unlike the other room however, this one looked out into the dark woods surrounding the house.
The tour continued into the study- and Jared noticed that most of the titles on the shelves were familiar to him. Strangely, it was the study-even more than Jensen’s bedroom- that felt intimate to Jared. He glanced at the highly wrought antique oak table that dominated the room, so different from the rest of the furnishing and Jensen gave a sheepish chuckle, “It was my grandfather’s- I couldn’t bring myself to replace it.”
“I like it.” Jared assured.
He was slightly surprised when Jensen made no move to open the last remaining door, “What’s behind here?”
Jensen made a ‘go-ahead’ gesture and Jared pushed open the door. And for a long minute, he couldn’t say anything.
It was a child’s room.
The walls were done in the same rich tones, but the colours here were a vivid swirl of green and yellow instead of the more sedate peach tones that filled the rest of the house. One wall had a collage of various Disney characters, and an alcove was stuffed with games and colouring books. The bed with its cheerful cover was slightly higher than normal at chest height- and had a rope ladder to aid whoever wanted to clamber up; although it had protective railings on the two free sides to keep a child from falling.
He turned back to face his mate who stared back unrepentantly, “My nephew’s four.”
Jared turned back to the room, seeing all the tiny touches that had gone into making it seem like a bright and happy place, seeing the effort the man standing silent behind him had put so that his nephew could enjoy a room that would be any child’s definition of ‘heaven’. Catching a few video-games tucked in to one corner, he raised an enquiring eyebrow- no way were those games meant for a four-year-old.
Jensen followed his gaze and smiled, “Josh’s son visited awhile back. He’s twelve.”
“You love them, don’t you?” Jared could hear the wonder and surprise in his own voice but was helpless to stop it.
“They’re kids.”Jensen shrugged, “Plus, they’re my nephews... its kind-of my job to spoil them.”
Jared smiled, someone who loved children this much couldn’t be all bad, right?
Chapter 12: Art (part-1)
Close-up of Jensen's antique oak table:
The kids' room:
Chapter 13: Chapter-10
Jared grinned- it had been a good day; the merger was progressing on schedule and Jensen had even popped in during lunch. Although his mate’s presence meant that it had been a working lunch, it had been surprisingly...nice. And now he was almost prepared to call it a day.
“You’ve got a minute?” Chad lumbered in- honestly, the guy needed to learn how to knock.
Jared nodded, “Yeah, what’s up?”
“You wanted to know why I don’t like Ackles, didn’t you... Well, here.”
The alpha frowned, but accepted the single printed sheet that was shoved at him. It took him a minute to realize what he was reading and what it meant for Jensen and his relationship.
“I guess this means that I’ve got to white knuckle it for these two years... that-that shouldn’t be too hard.” Jared said, aware that there was a tremor in his voice.
“No, it means you are screwed for life, Jaybird...at least till you wrangle control over this relationship.”
“But-but I’ll be thirty in two years-” This time he didn’t even bother hiding the fact that he was terrified- Chad had known him since forever, he could let his guard down in front of the beta.
“Yeah, but unless you can arrange something to ensure that Ackles does not age at the same time, he will still be older and with you rolling over the way you are now- he will be lead-alpha.”
“Shit.”He swore softly. He looked at the paper again and felt his gut clench at the thought of being forced to submit- to anyone, least of all Ackles; in any of the ways described.
An unexpected knock had him jerking up to find the last person he wanted to see right then, at his door.
“Jared, I just came to inform that-” It took a moment for Jensen to notice the tense atmosphere in the room and his mate’s pallor; “What’s wrong?”
Wordlessly Jared extended the printout, waiting as Jensen plucked it out of his hand and settled in one of the seats in front of him to read. It did not take long for his mate to digest the words and their meaning.
“This- is this true, Jay?”
Jared raised his head from where he had been intently studying the dust specks on his table at the excited tenor in his mate’s voice; and was surprised to realize that it was not excitement but... horror that laced Jensen’s tone. It was almost funny how neither of them even thought Jared was the lead-alpha; even though he was by far the taller of the two.
“What do you think, Ackles?” Chad spoke up before he could even react.
Jared cringed, it was one thing to antagonise an alpha over the phone or even indulge in some name-calling behind his back; but to do right in the alpha’s face was like taunting in lion with a twig- while standing inside the lion’s den, maybe.
For his part, Jensen seemed unaware of the hostility in the beta next to him-or even aware of his presence.
“I don’t know how to convince you, Jay...I’ve already promised you that I won’t hurt you- in any way... What else do you want- a signed statement?”
“A blood bond” Chad’s voice had no room for arguments.
“Chad!” Jared was appalled that his friend would even ask for such a thing- for although blood-oaths were not illegal, they were still viewed with suspicion owing to their extreme binding power; and a part of him hoped that his mate would continue to be oblivious to the beta’s presence.
This time though, Jensen both heard and seemed to understand Chad just fine because he disregarded Jared’s interruption as though he hadn’t spoken, “Very well, Mr. Murrey... When do you propose we do this?”
Chad smirked and Jared flinched at the dangerous glint in his friend’s eyes, “No better time than the present, Ackles.”
Jensen nodded. “I’ll need some paper... and a knife.”
Jared watched on in a sort of frozen horror as Chad put a stationery pad with the ‘Padalecki Pvt. Ltd.’ logo in front of Jensen before heading out for a knife; apparently it did not take his friend more than a few seconds to commandeer a knife because he was back before Jared could even begin apologising on his friend’s behalf.
His mate extended his hand to accept the knife but Chad continued it hold on to it, “Look, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you, Ackles; so there’s no way that I’m handing you a knife. Give me your hand, I’ll draw the blood.”
Jared blanched but Jensen nodded his head as though this was a very normal state of affairs. He watched with morbid fascination as Chad sliced deep into the meat of his mate’s palm before jamming in the point of an exquisite fountain-pen. Jensen hissed as the nib plunged none too gently into the fresh cut but continued to hold still for Chad to finish drawing the blood into the cartridge.
He watched as Jensen began writing, but then a drop of blood- fresh and ruby red, glittering like it wasn’t supposed to, splattered onto the paper and Jared was afraid of losing his lunch. He closed his eyes and looked away, consciously refusing to follow the drama noir playing out in his office. He only glanced up at Jensen’s gruff, “Here”; but glanced away again when Chad replied that they needed ‘three copies’.
“Three?” (Jensen’s voice.)
“I shall be keeping a copy with me, Mr. Ackles. Jay-bird here is too trusting to be given an only copy. Will that be a problem?”
“No, Of course not. I’ll prepare three copies... Ummm, if I may have some tissues, please?”
Jared forced one eye open to peer at ‘why’ Jensen was asking for tissues before wishing he hadn’t. Jensen was flexing his hand to re-open the clot and blood was steadily flowing from the wound again. In fact, now the blood was beginning to trickle off his hand in lazily forming beads- and hence the need for tissues.
Jared closed his eyes and focussed on breathing steadily, willing his mind to get over the unsavoury sight already.
“I’m done. You can open your eyes now, Jay.” There was a hint of laughter in Jensen’s voice.
Jared obeyed and grimaced at the gaping wound in his mate’s left palm. “Chad, could you please hand me a first-aid kit?”
“Oh, come on!” Chad groaned under his breath, but loud enough for both alphas to hear.
“Chad, Jensen gave you what you wanted; now shut up and get me a kit, okay?” Jared growled, frustrated with his best-friend’s behaviour.
“He’s just looking out for you, Jay.”
“You’re- you’re defending him?” He spluttered, “The guy shoved a freaking pen through your hand, and you’re defending him?”
Jensen shrugged, “he was trying to protect you.”
Jensen nodded, and then shrugged.
“You won’t hurt me.” Jared whispered.
“I just signed a blood-bond to that effect, Jay; of course I’m not going to hurt you.” The older alpha’s voice was tired.
“You could have refused.” Jared pointed out.
“Look, I have no intention of hurting you, Jay- in any way. And those things mentioned in that paper? I wouldn’t even dream of doing that- to anyone, least of all my own mate... so signing a blood bond about it? It’s no hardship.”
Jared nodded. There really was nothing more to say.
Fortunately, Chad came in at that moment, carrying a roll of cotton and some gauze. Wordlessly he wrapped the bleeding hand before rising to gather his things. “Ready to head home?”
“Yeah” The alpha sounded weary. Maybe it is the blood loss, a tiny, vicious voice whispered in Jared’s mind but he quashed it instantly- there wasn’t enough blood loss for Jensen to get lightheaded.
“I’m driving.” Jared announced.
Over the past two days they had started taking only one car- given they had the same destination. Jared’s Prius was parked in Jensen’s garage; and they had driven to work in Jensen’s car. Jensen did not put up an argument, throwing the keys to his SUV to Jared as he climbed in from the passenger side. The older alpha leaned against the window and closed his eyes almost immediately, his breath evening out before long.
Jared took a moment to watch his sleeping mate once they reached their destination. The delicate eyelids were faintly tinted with purple, highlighting just how weary his alpha must have been feeling. He wondered if Jensen suffered from insomnia, then deciding he had to find the answer later, he moved to rouse the slumbering guy.
“Jensen, we’re home.” He whispered, not wishing to startle the sleeping man.
The alpha blinked, slowly taking in his surrounding before shifting to face Jared. “What are we doing here? It was your turn today.”
“Wait, you said ‘home’ ...does that mean-?”
“I always wanted a country home.”Jared admitted, “Never thought I could either afford one or find it convenient before retirement; but this... seems perfect.”
“Are you sure, Jay? I mean, recent events are not interfering with your judgement; are they?”
“I’m sure... I really like your place, Jensen. Although that doesn’t mean I’m going to sell my apartment.”
“Of course.” They sat in silence for a minute before Jensen spoke again, “And, you trust me not to hurt you?”
“Because of the bond?” The older alpha’s voice was full of hurt.
“Because you promised.”
Chapter 14: Chapter-11
Jared stood in his living room and surveyed the boxes cluttering the space with some satisfaction- he had spent the better part of the morning packing his stuff in anticipation of his move to his new home... and it was funny how quickly his former-rival’s house had become ‘home’ in a way his own penthouse had never been.
The week had rushed by with both men adjusting to the quirks of the other and it had been surprisingly companionable between them. All too soon Jensen coming into his office for lunch carrying a container for each of them had become routine; and the one day that he had been unable to make it, Jared had crossed the street to visit the older alpha’s office.
Jared had expected things to be difficult between them following the signing of the blood-bond- and they had been, initially- only Jared had been determined to settle things between them again and it had required minimal prompting on his part for Jensen to reciprocate. And nothing screamed the older alpha’s forgiving nature more than his willingness to let bygones be bygones as he easily acknowledged Chad’s presence in Jared’s life, apparently holding no ill-will against the beta for his earlier action.
It had been more difficult for Chad, but the beta had eventually- reluctantly - seemed to accept Jensen’s role in his best friend’s life. He had protested-loud and long- when he heard Jared’s decision to move to the Ackles’ Residence, but when nothing swayed Jared’s mind, he had signalled his grudging acceptance.
Ultimately it had boiled down to both Jared and Jensen’s desire to make the best of their unexpected bond, and once they started getting to know each-other; it had been ridiculously easy to slot together. That was not to say they did not have hiccups, but both alphas were determined to make-it-work and having come to that decision, it was not difficult to reach some sort of compromise.
Jared grinned when he was jolted back from his thoughts on account of the incessant honking on the road below- this was one problem he would not have to face at Jensen’s house. He surveyed the -markedly emptier - shelves one last time before beginning the first of many treks to the car to begin the arduous process of carrying everything he had spent the morning packing in preparation of his move to the Ackles' estate.
His brow furrowed when he spotted a car ahead of him on the winding road leading up to the house, did Jensen forget to tell him that they were having people over???
He quickly got his answer when the car pulled up right at the door and his mate stepped out to greet their visitor- their young, beta visitor who flung herself into the alpha’s arms with a familiarity that made it obvious that it was something she did frequently.
Jared felt a frisson of -of something...course through him as he gunned the engine, accelerating hard enough to make the car groan as he neared the duo. Had his mate sent him to pick his stuff from the apartment so that he could enjoy some privacy with the beta currently nestled against his side?(And no, he was not jealous- just curious. Mind your own business, you busy-bodies!)
The engine’s loud roar had signalled his arrival ahead of him, so he wasn’t surprised to note that the pair opted to wait for him at the door instead of heading in; but what did surprise him was the fact that Jensen kept his arms firmly at the beta’s waist even as Jared approached them.
He tried to find a smile for the ‘guest’ but was taken aback by the blatant way in which her eyes roamed over him. Her perusal had obviously not gone unnoticed because Jensen smacked her arm lightly, “Stop making him uncomfortable, Em.”
Jared forced himself to hold onto his smile even though he rather wished to growl out a warning to keep her hands off his mate.
“Why, dear brother; if I didn’t know better I would say you were jealous!” She tittered teasingly.
Jared froze, “Brother?”
Jensen laughed, “Yes, this irreverent little shit is unfortunately my sister. Jared, meet Amelia. Em, I present to you my mate- Jared Padalecki.”
She raised an inquisitive eyebrow, “Padalecki?”
Jensen shook his head briefly, silencing her. Jared wondered what that meant, but before he could more than open his mouth he was swept up into one of the tightest hugs he had ever experienced outside of his own family and forgot his question.
“I always suspected Jensen was more interested than he was letting on when all he could talk about was the new ‘kid’ and the brilliant business acumen that said kid possessed.”
Jared could not help but laugh, “That true, Jen?”
“Bite me,” Was the petulant retort.
“Not in front of your sister”
Jensen nearly choked-Jared was flirting with him? He glanced at his mate and watching the tremulous smile immediately realized that while his words had sounded flirty, the younger man was just trying. He grinned back, hoping it would be enough.
Their quiet moment was interrupted with sudden screams of ‘Uncle Jen! Uncle Jen, come I wanna show you somethin'!’ as a mini tornado came rushing out of their living room to wrap its tiny arms around his legs. Laughing, Jensen hauled his nephew up on his hip as they made their way inside.
Jared watched with some amusement as the ruthless CEO he knew turned into complete putty at the hands of a four-year old. The youngster- Brian, had held out his hand the way he had seen adults do when they were introduced and watching that tiny hand get engulfed in his own as he shook it was something of a surreal experience. He wondered just what the child had wanted to show Jensen in the first place because he couldn't spot anything 'interesting'... Unlike the other two adults in the room, Jared had no experience with children and very soon found himself floundering as he attempted to answer the non-stop prattle from the four-year-old.
Finally, Amelia seemed to realize that Jared was out of his depth with Brian when he found himself talked into letting the child attempt ‘braiding’ his hair (pulling it out of his scalp, to be more accurate); and rescued him. He heaved a sigh of relief when the child was settled before the television with some animated movie to keep him engrossed; leaving the adults to talk amongst themselves.
Eventually Jensen headed into the kitchen to prepare lunch and Amelia followed him, swinging herself up on the counter as she munched random pieces of vegetables as Jensen chopped them and chatted to her brother. Jared planted himself at the table, where he could remain on the periphery of their conversation, but busied himself sorting through the mail he had picked up from his own apartment.
Finding one with the seal of his pack alpha’s office he immediately reached for it. It took a moment for the words to sink in and then he cursed softly, mindful of the child in the next room.
Both Jensen and his sister paused their conversation to look at him at his swearing. Jensen wiped his hands on the navy-blue apron at his waist, quirking an eyebrow, “What’s wrong?”
“I-I think I have been disowned by my pack-” He announced numbly and raised his head to see Amelia staring at him with her mouth open.
Jensen too had stopped fiddling with the apron strings and was looking at him. Finally, the older alpha seemed to shake himself out of his stupor as he bit his lip, “That-that’s kind of my fault; Jared.”
“Your fault? YOUR fault?” He roared, unable to reign in his temper even though he kept his voice reasonably low, “You actually wrote to them to have me evicted? You-”
“No!” The refusal was swift. “I didn’t ask them to do anything, Jay... it’s just that when you mated me, you automatically gave up your old pack to join mine. I-”
“What!” He could barely comprehend the meaning behind Jensen’s words. “But- but why?”
Amelia swung round to turn accusing eyes towards her brother, “He doesn’t know? You didn’t tell him?”
“Em, stay out of this.”
“Tell me what?” Jared demanded.
Jensen sighed, his shoulders slumping with the air of someone who was absolutely exhausted, “I’m sorry you had to find out like this...I guess I should have told you, but it completely slipped my mind. I’m sorry,”
Jared nodded to show his acceptance, not wanting to interrupt and delay finding out the 'secret' that Jensen seemed to be hiding.
Jensen regarded him quietly for another moment and ran a hand through his hair, tousling the dark blond strands. When he looked up, his face was grim, expression determined, “I- I’m a Pack Alpha, Jay.”
Congratulations on your mating!!!
Hope you find all the happiness you deserve with your new pack.
Chapter 15: Chapter-12
For a moment the words reverberated in the silence that descended the room at the announcement; but them Amelia was turning towards her brother with a low growl.
“Really Jensen... Even now?”
Jared’s brow furrowed, trying to decipher the silent conversation going on between the siblings.
It didn’t take long before Jensen’s sister was shaking her head vehemently; “No, you need to tell him the truth, Big Brother, you owe him that much!”
Tell him the truth???
“Tell me what?” Jared interrupted, “What else do I need to know?”
“It’s nothing-” Jensen began, only to be cut off by his sister again.
“To you, maybe; but it’s not nothing, Jenny... you need to tell Jared, please.”
Jensen made a low noise in the back of his throat in protest, “And I will, just-”
“Now” Amelia inserted.
“Jensen, what is she talking about?” Jared repeated.
“It’s not a big deal...”
“It’s a HUGE deal!” Amelia’s voice rose in pitch with her vehemence.
Making a split second decision, Jared decided to side with Jensen...kind of... maybe... atleast give him the benefit of doubt, “Em-”
“It’s Amelia” she snapped.
Jared raised his hands in a placatory gesture, mouthing a silent ‘sorry’; “Amelia, is this a bigger issue than Jensen being a Pack Alpha?”
She snorted, “Yes, because he’s not JUST a Pack Alpha, Jared... my brother’s also an Elder.”
She glanced briefly at him before turning to Jensen and deigned him with a smile so cold; she could have given him hypothermia. “Jensen’s an Elder... guess he forgot to say that too, didn’t he?”
Jared opened his mouth but closed it without saying anything. The tension in the room was almost a physical presence in itself.
“Jared?” The alpha- the Elder-Pack-Alpha, Jared reminded himself, questioned softly.
“Why?” He was pleased to note that his voice did not waver.
“Why? Why???” Jensen asked incredulously, “Because it doesn’t matter! Who the hell cares if I’m Pack Alpha or an Elder or a...I dunno... a younger? Or even a god-damned unicorn, Jared! You would have been forced to accept me as your mate irrespective! Tell me, would it have mattered if I’d told you this before?”
“It mattered to me.” Jared replied, his voice strangely soft after Jensen’s outburst.
“Really??? Name one- ONE thing you would have done differently if you knew this before!” Jensen demanded.
By now Jared was furious and screaming as well, “I don’t know; alright! I don’t know if I’d have done anything differently; but it mattered...matters” he amended, “-to me that you didn’t think I deserved to know the truth, Jensen!”
He was vaguely aware of Brian beginning to cry in the next room from the alpha pheromones flooding the room, but all his focus was on the emerald-eyed alpha in front of him.
Jensen stood silently before him, not answering his question; his body a rigid line of tension.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He repeated, rage making him ball his hands into fists; desperately wanting to pound something- preferably his so-called-mate’s pretty face.
Jensen’s eyes narrowed at his action even as he cocked his head at Brian's cries from the other room, but the alpha didn’t move a muscle; all the same Jared was suddenly beset by a stifling calm. He could still feel the fury pounding through his veins but something was holding him back from venting his frustration. The trapped feeling was relentless- surrounding and sticking to him like a cling-film.
Jared struggled against the restrictive calm, strangely focussed on everything around him: the low hum of the cartoon on TV, the soft-hiccupping sobs of Brian, Amelia’s muffled grimace as she fought the same choke-hold as him; the blood pounding at his own temple and Jensen’s laser focussed gaze on him.
As abruptly as he’d felt the unnatural calm, it disappeared in much the same way. “Because it did not- does not, matter.”
And in that second; listening to what Jensen wasn’t saying- he understood what had just happened.
Who says I’m gonna fight fair? ... Jensen had asked him on his first night at Ackles Estate, and right now Jensen was doing just that. Giving him a taste of what it would feel like to go against him. Not a full-scale show; but just a warning.
The alpha was letting him off lightly.
And Jared hated that.
With a low curse, not caring that Jensen’s sister was within hearing range; he stormed off to his room...still holding the crumpled ball of paper in his hand.
For a long moment, both Jensen and Amelia sat stunned at Jared’s furious retreat, but then Jensen shook off the surprise and went to move after his mate.
“Stay-” Amelia interrupted.
“Em, I need to explain-”
“No, Jensen; you don’t... Atleast, not right now. You just broke the news to your mate, Bro; and not two seconds later you went all Alpha on his ass; you really imagine Jared’s going to be receptive to ANYTHING you have to say now?”
Jensen paused at that, running a hand through his hair, “Damn, I really messed this one up, didn’t I? Okay, but I still have to try; he may not listen, but I need to apologise-"
"I'm the one who needs to apologise," She murmured quietly, "I- I forced your hand. And I shouldn't have done that. You could've broken to news to him gently..."
"I dunno, Em... in a way this was better- like ripping off a bandaide, you know?" Jensen mused, before looking towards where Jared had disappeared. "Look, I'm sorry 'bout exposing Brian to this, alright? I’ll make it up to him later... right now I’ve got to talk to Jared.”
He turned, sighing; sometimes he hated having such a willful sister.
“You go to Brian- kid will be soothed faster with you around... don’t deny it Jenny, just take care of him, alright? I’ll go talk to Jared.”
He shook his head and grinned crookedly, all too aware of his sister's protectiveness. “Just- just don’t be too hard on him. Please?”
Jared glared at the door when it was pushed open after a brief knock, “I didn’t say you could enter.”
Amelia looked at him unrepentantly, “I know, which is why I didn’t ask.”
“I-I’m sorry; I thought it was Jensen...”Jared stammered, surprised to see the sister instead of whom he’d expected.
“I sent him to watch Brian.” She answered the unspoken question.
“Yeah? He didn’t send you to cover for him?” He teased, relaxing slightly now that he knew it was the Pack Alpha’s rather plain-spoken sister. In the short time since they had been introduced to each-other, Jared found himself rather fond of the red-head. And something about the diminutive but powerful beta had a soothing effect on his haywire emotions. He briefly wondered if it had something to do with the Ackles’ lineage but quickly dismissed the idea; no way was a beta-irrespective of her heritage, potent enough to override an alpha’s emotions.
“You need to apologise to your husband, Jared.”
“Mate” Jared corrected.
“Husband indicates some sort of choice, Amelia-”
“And you didn’t have any, "She finished quietly, "Umm right...Sorry about that... and I shouldn't have interfered, but you needed to know and..." She shrugged, "Anyway, you still need to apologise to him.”
The alpha snorted in surprise, “I think your brain got scrambled by Jensen’s alpha-act and you’re a tad confused...it was your brother who lied to me-”
The unsettlingly familiar green-eyes narrowed skeptically, “Lied?”
“Yeah, you have heard of lying by omission; haven’t you?”
“But Jensen never denied being Pack Alpha, did he?”
She continued speaking over him as though he hadn’t answered, “And if I know him at all, I suspect he didn’t try covering for it either?”
Jared thought about the time he’d told Jensen that he’d received a call from the Council to prove their mating. The older alpha had been furious, and though he had not expressly said anything about his methods he’d promised to ‘take-care-of-it’; and true to his word Jared had received another call from the Council the very next day, apologising for the inconvenience caused and assuring him that he didn’t have to prove anything.
That should have been his biggest clue, he supposed; because who wielded that kind of power over the Council to garner an apology from them???
“No” he admitted softly.
“Then I suggest you shut up and stop judging my brother, Jared. You don’t know him or his reasons.”
Jared bridled at the rebuke from a beta, “And whose fault is that, Amelia? That I don’t know Jensen?”
She sighed, “What do you know about Pack-Alphas, Jared?”
“Umm, let’s see....They’re giant egos who expect the world to cater to their every whim...?”
She grinned at his snarky retort, “You’re mixing alpha-nature with Pack-Alpha...”
He shook his head in disbelief at her snark,“Uh-huh?”
She laughed, shaking her head, “Alright, let me tell you a story, okay?”
Jared nodded uneasily.
“I have another brother-“
“Adrian, I know.”
“Jensen told you about him?” She asked, surprised.
“Wow... he never speaks about him usually.”
Jared’s brow wrinkled in confusion, “Why?”
“Because Adrian is the oldest amongst us-”
“Good Heavens!” She swore, “Did you actually sleep through all your high-school history lessons?! You don’t think it’s weird that Jensen’s the Pack Alpha even though he’s the younger son?”
And Jared had never paid much attention to Pack hierarchy, but that was something even he knew. He didn’t know why he hadn’t noticed the anomaly till now.
“Yeah,” Amelia agreed, apparently satisfied by his silence, “He took everybody by surprise when he proved to be the stronger alpha... Dad and mom, they never mentioned anything, you know... but everyone knew that when the boys came of age, it would create a huge furore... I mean traditionally, it was Adrian who was supposed to succeed Dad, but then the Pack would have split its loyalties; and that was provided Jensen even actually agreed to back down. However, when Jensen was nearly seven; his scent abruptly disappeared.”
“What?!” Jared asked in surprise, because he could scent Jensen just fine, nothing overwhelming; but the alpha’s woodsy scent was perfectly clear to Jared- Even at this instant, Jared knew his mate was somewhere in the house simply by scent.
“Well, not disappeared disappeared, you know...” Amelia fluttered her hands in a vague gesture, “Just, it had lost its potency... he was just an average alpha by scent; not THE ‘future’ Pack-Alpha...and so...uh, yeah, Mom and Dad eventually figured that Jensen was suppressing his scent-”
“Seriously; at seven?” Jared tried to remember when he had learnt to control his scent enough not to give away what he was feeling all the time- he must have been what, fifteen/sixteen?
“Six and a half actually; but yes”
“But –but why?”
“Because he had figured it out that given how powerful his scent was, Adrian might be forced to step down in favour of Jensen... and to prevent that, he began concealing his scent... he wasn’t perfect at first; but he managed to reduce it enough that it was always less than Adrian’s. At that age he’d figured it out that the lesser number of people knew him to be the stronger alpha, the better chance Adrian would have of inheriting Dad’s mantle.”
“Wow...so how is it that-” He trailed off uncertainly.
“He’s Pack Alpha now?” The beta asked, “Well, at thirteen Adrian attended a seminar on medicine and decided he wanted to pursue that for a career. He was being groomed as Heir-apparent by then; so the first person he actually confessed to; was not Dad, but Jensen. He asked Jensen if he would accept that responsibility so that he could follow his dreams.”
“And Jen agreed?”
Amelia smiled; realizing that Jared had used the nickname unconsciously, “Reluctantly; he was...is convinced that Adrian only did it because despite Jensen keeping himself in tight control, any news of his strength would weaken the Pack... and so his brother had chosen to take the higher road.”
“You sound like you don’t quite believe that.”
“’Coz it’s not true. Adrian honestly didn’t want this job. And Jensen was somehow born for it.”
“Do you, really? Because so far I’m yet to tell you that Jensen offered to exile himself from the Pack.”
“He did what?”
“Exile himself... well, first he offered to make a public declaration that he would never contest Adrian for the position, but when Adrian refused; he said he could walk away and never come back... he was just nine then... so obviously, ever practical; he said he’d stay on till he was sixteen but then he would leave... it was only when Adrian still refused, threatening to run away himself if Jensen didn’t gracefully accept the title; that Jensen finally caved.”
“Now do you understand a Pack Alpha’s primary instinct, Jared?”
He stayed silent trying to picture Jensen at nine, pleading with his big-brother not to give up his rank and promising to stay away from home. His heart broke for the desperate-but-sweet little boy his mate had once been.
She gave a soft laugh, answering her own question; “Protection. A Pack Alpha protects, Jared. .. At seven he was protecting his older brother, Jared...and if Jensen didn’t tell you about this now, then it was because he was protecting you... or trying to, at any rate.”
Jared nodded, suddenly remembering the older alpha shielding him with his own body when they had been hosed down prior to their ‘Isolation’ to allow the mating-bond to settle; and the man who had slashed his palm wide-open to sign a blood-bond with less fuss than most people made for a stubbed-toe in his effort to prove that he would never hurt Jared. “I’m still not apologising to him, Amelia.”
“He won’t ask or even expect you to.”
Jared smiled softly, knowing it was true... for the first time since they had mated, he felt like he was close to unravelling the enigma that was Jensen Ackles.
Amelia reached for the door-knob; “He wanted to speak to you himself...explain... should I send him here?”
“No. Just- tell him I’ll need a little more time. Please.”
“I will.” She nodded, “Well, I’d better head home now, my husband will be waiting...Bye, Jared. Take care.”
The shadows outside had lengthened to cloak the surrounding woods in the diffused light of dusk when Jared opened his door at a hesitant knock to find Jensen waiting for him.
Chapter 16: Chapter-13
The shadows outside had lengthened to cloak the surrounding woods in the diffused light of dusk when Jared opened his door at a hesitant knock to find Jensen waiting for him.
Jared opened the door wider, moving aside to let the other man in; but Jensen stood frozen at the doorway. After a moment he prompted, “Alpha?”
Jensen visibly flinched at the honorific, “Don’t; please”
“I uh, I know you asked me not to disturb you; but I just came to...well, to apologise actually... and tell you that umm... there’s lasagne in the fridge, help yourself when you’re hungry... or anything else really and uh... well, I’m heading to my room; feel free to call me if you wa- need anything. Good night, Jared... once again, I’m terribly sorry.” And with a crisp nod, he turned away.
For a long moment Jared stood at the door, staring at the older man’s retreating back, but then he withdrew into his room, closing the door softly behind him.
Jared rapped softly on the door, a part of him hoping that Jensen would be asleep and not hear the knocking; but the rest of him ornery.
“Come on in, Jay.” A sleepy voice called from inside.
No luck; then.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside, getting a glimpse of the tee-shirt and boxer clad alpha before he dropped his head. “I wanted to apologize for today.”
“Apologise; for what-?” The voice was soft- confused.
He moved forward, trying to control his shaking limbs as he made his way to the bed. Placing a slightly trembling hand on the bed, he risked a glance. “May I?”
“God, Jay- you think you need to ask?”
That wasn’t an outright ‘no’ so he pulled himself up to kneel on the bed, legs splayed wide enough to display himself as he slid the robe off.
“I submit to you, Alpha.”
“What the HELL are you talking about?” Jensen didn’t appear to be sleepy anymore, in fact; he sounded wide-awake and freaked. Good.
“I apologise and I-I’m ready; ready to submit to you, Alp-” Jared repeated in a monotone, a detached part of him amused by how by-rote his words sounded.
“If you say ‘alpha’ one more time; heaven help me; I’m going to clock you one!” Jensen growled, clearly irritated; “And what do you mean by ready?”
“I- I prepared myself...” Jared confessed in a whisper, praying the older man wouldn’t ask him to elaborate. He wondered if he should be worried about the fact that he couldn’t feel anythingfrom the other man- nothing of the fury obvious in his words or the exasperation in his sleep-mussed eyes.
There was a moment of silence; then, “Show me.”
Feeling his cheeks burning with humiliation, Jared twisted, pushing himself down on his elbows and knees before reaching behind him and holding himself open. The sharp inhalation told him that Jensen had seen the lube glistening …in him.
He closed his eyes, waiting for his mate’s reaction; but for once he seemed to have shattered the Elder’s steely control. There was still no evidence of Jensen’s emotions (the Pack Alpha apparently too practised to slip like that); but the absolute silence spoke volumes towards what the older man was feeling. He bit his lip, hoping he would be allowed to close himself from prying eyes soon; because as much as he had prepared to permit his debasement; it was mortifying to actually be made to hold himself open for the alpha’s viewing pleasure.
Despite the fact that there was no more reaction from the alpha, Jared felt something change in the room- almost like all the air from the room had been sucked out with a vacuum. Anticipating either a leering comment or a violent claiming, Jared braced himself for either; but strangely the next sound he heard was a forceful exhalation of breath before the alpha- Jensen; his mind protested; patted high on his back, pushing with a gentle but steady pressure till he was flat on his stomach.
“Very pretty; now get some sleep”
For nearly the entirety of a full minute, Jared simply lay there, too stunned by his mate’s reaction to understand; when the words finally sank through; he scrambled to leave- mortified beyond belief by his own actions.
Jensen grabbed at him, neatly encircling his wrist in a manacle-like grip, “You came to my bed, Jared... I was hoping you would have the courtesy to stay.”
Jared gulped in a heaving breath, realising that it was both- a challenge and a punishment; before nodding and sliding back into the bed. Jensen stayed close- one hand coming to rest on Jared’s stomach.
He waited for the fingers to dip lower, but Jensen’s hand remained where it was; the Elder’s thumb tracing invisible, comforting circles around his navel. It was an oddly intimate gesture, reminiscent of strong alpha-beta pairs with the alpha curling his palm around the middle of his/her (expectant) mate in a silent vow of protection; for Jensen to replicate that gesture now- even unconsciously; especially in light of Jared’s performance just prior; was... jarring.
He froze, uncertain and unwilling to react; but Jensen, as uncannily perceptive as he’d proved himself to be, understood; climbing out of bed with a put-upon sigh. A moment later something soft hit his body, making him jerk in surprise.
“Pull that on, Jay... hopefully you’ll sleep better.”
Jared obeyed silently, smelling his alpha’s scent on the pyjamas. His ankles were lefty bare owing their difference in height, but barring that, it fit him remarkably well considering it wasn’t his. It was still embarrassing to lie back, given how his mate’s hand instantly reclaimed its former position... but it was oddly soothing too. He anticipated lying awake for the majority of the night, but sleep claimed him sooner than expected.
The other side of the bed was already cold when Jared awoke the next morning. Rubbing a drowsy hand through his bangs, he picked up the robe he had discarded carelessly on the floor last night (and Jensen had apparently picked after him because now it was folded neatly and sitting at the foot of the bed) and made his way to the kitchen to find the Alpha making hash-browns for breakfast.
“G’m”, Jared mumbled, sitting at the breakfast island and resting his head on folded arms.
“Morning” Jensen greeted dutifully, snagging a cuppa of steaming coffee from the percolator and placing it next to the still half-awake man. “Sleep well?”
Jared moaned softly in gratefulness as the perfect blend of freshly-ground premium quality cocoa-bean, sugar and cream hit his taste-buds. His eyes closed automatically as he savoured the taste for a moment before his brain woke enough to remind him of the previous night’s fiasco. He considered ignoring the elephant in the room for a nanosecond before admitting to himself that in this particular instance, denial was the way to go (not).
“Look Jen,” he waited until the viridian gaze focussed on him, “I-I’m really sorry about last night...”
“Sorry?” Jensen gave a bark of mirthless laughter, “You’re sorry? Heavens Jared; do you have any idea what could have happened if it had been anyone but me?”
“I’d have gotten exactly what I asked for” the younger alpha admitted in a hoarse whisper, wishing for something stronger than coffee-despite the early hour; “and I deserved nothing less for the way I acted... but Jen, it-it wasn’t anyone else and-and I’m so-so glad that it wasn’t, you know?”
Jensen waited for a moment to see what he else had to say before realising that the younger man was waiting for his reaction. And with an effort, he brought himself under control; “I’m sorry too. I should have told you.”
Jared raised wide hazel eyes to take in the other alpha, a soft smile playing on his lips at the unexpected apology; “Can- may I ask why you didn’t?”
The blond head ducked in an uncharacteristic display of embarrassment, “It sounds so stupid in hindsight...”
“I’d still like to know; ya’know?”
“It- it wasn’t intentional... at first I thought I’d tell you later ‘coz there was just no time... but then- then you were already so damn terrified Jared that I- I couldn’t...”
“Because I was terrified? Of what?”
“Me? The whole situation? ... You’d just been ordered to mate someone you considered your rival-”
“Yeah, about that; how is it that they lobbed us together, Jen? Aren’t Pack Alphas supposed to be above the law?”
Jensen shook his head, “I was asked, before the trial... but that meant the entire blame would’ve landed squarely on your shoulders.”
“So - you just said you’d what- share the blame?”
The man shook his head again, “I waved off any special considerations... it’s not like it’s public knowledge about my status; Derek- as the Chief, was the only one on the council who knew; if I’d chosen different maybe the rest would have been informed but since I didn’t...”
Jared held up a hand, palm outward in the universal sign for ‘wait’, “Okay, interruption; why isn’t it public knowledge?”
“Hmmm?” the Elder’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“Why isn’t it public knowledge? Shouldn’t the people know who their Alpha is? I mean, I must have looked up on you any number of times...on the ‘net, newspapers, magazines... the works, you know? And I never found anything even hinting about your status... So, I was kind of wondering...why?"
“Security reasons; primarily”
“Yeah, the lesser number of people know who I am; the smaller target I paint-”
“Hold on; you’re telling me you’ve got assassins gunning for you?”
Jensen shrugged, the air gushing out of his lungs in a sarcastic murmur, “Perks of the job”
Jared’s eyes widened even further, his voice dropping another few decibels, “So... have there been- like attempts; on your life?”
“A couple of times”, Jensen nodded
“A couple of times- Couple of times!” Jared spluttered, “And you didn’t think it necessary to mention?”
“It’s been years, Jay; decades even... so relax. Besides, I have an excellent security team.”
“How can you even say that?”
“Say what? -that my security detail is excellent? ‘Coz I know it is! Excellent and discrete... I mean, you didn’t even notice that they’ve been tailing you for the past week, did you?”
But Jared was already shaking his head- the latter part of the statement not even registering yet, “How can you say that I don’t need to worry when at any moment it’s possible for me to lose my mate?”
“Whoa! Relax; it’s not as dire as it sounds... you think I wouldn’t have warned you otherwise? It’s not like I’m directly involved in Pack business anymore- at least, not as much as I should be... and the last attempt was when I’d just taken o’er the reins from Dad. Things have... settled ... since then.”
Jared hummed noncommittally; unsure what to make of Jensen’s reassurance. The older man waited for a moment before rising from his seat, “C’me on; I’ll show you-”
Jared followed silently, not all that surprised to realize that Jensen was leading him into the study but completely taken aback when the Alpha pulled down a map from the shelves, spreading it across the ornate desk.
Jared squinted at the name of the territories, surprised to note that although they were vaguely known, it wasn’t something he recognised.
“This marks all the Pack territories,” Jensen explained, gesturing at the map, “Now, I’m guessing you don’t find the names all that recognizable... but that’s because this map only shows the Pack titles. You’ll be more familiar with this-” And the Alpha placed another map over the first one; this one having the names and details in bold black and red prints on a transparent layout.
Instantly Jared realised that this was the map he had grown up studying and the one commonly found in diaries and atlases. Seeing the names of the Pack Lands over the better-known human demarcations felt like looking through a magic-mirror. His eyes quickly located the portion (done in pale butter tone) designated ‘Ackles Pack’- it was easily one of the five largest territories in the continent.
“Now-a-days of course the actual borders of the Pack Lands hold little meaning as we have turned them all into soft borders. There is nothing to stop the Packs from inter-mingling and moving across territories freely. However, in the event of a dispute- for instance, a case where the Were’s Pack identity is in question; it is generally solved by using the old borders.”
Jared nodded his understanding, fascinated. “You are familiar with both maps?”
“I have to be.” Jensen confirmed.
“Wow” Jared whispered, confessing, “I never had much head for geography- all those names and details confused the hell outta me. And I only had to read one map”
Jensen laughed, low and easy; “Learning them was an arduous process.”
“But you did?”
“Part of being an Alpha-heir; I guess”
“Must’ve been awful?”
“Nah... I mean, yeah; it sucked at times; not to be able to go out and just hang-out with your friends, y’know? But it wasn’t all bad”
“Umm, I don’t know... what would you like to hear about?”
“Pack business? How is it that you don’t sit at the Centre? I mean, I went there once-”
Jensen chuckled at his pinched expression, “Not a pleasant experience?”
“I don’t sit there ‘coz like I said earlier; I’m not directly involved in Pack business... I’ve got a team who take care of affairs on my behalf. They’re the ones who handle the day-to-day details... I’ve kind of been remiss since-” Jensen paused, staring through unseeing eyes at the maps still laid out on the table.
Jared didn’t dare interrupt, hoping the Alpha would continue.
Jensen closed his eyes for a moment; blocking out the world- then a deep inhalation as he shot a guilty look at Jared. “I think there is something else that you should know...”
Jared’s brows leaped in surprise, “Another secret?”
“Not exactly a secret,” Jensen hedged, before sighing “but it is something I’ve neglected to tell you”
Jared stared back with a steady gaze, “Okay”
“I mentioned Tracy, right?”
“The beta you lost?” Jared asked, trying to place the name.
The older alpha nodded, “Yeah... thing is; she wasn’t just a beta, Jay... she was my beta.”
“You were mated?” The ‘before’ was unspoken.
“Married” Jensen corrected, picking a framed picture from the desk and handing it to him.
Jared let out a low whistle as he stared at the happy couple smiling in the picture- an attractive red-haired beta in her pristine wedding gown smiling up at the tuxedo-clad, green eyed alpha whose own attention was firmly focused on the girl in his arms. “She’s beautiful!”
“She was,” Jensen confirmed, his voice breaking on the past tense used.
Jared looked up startled, only to find the shimmery verdant gaze set on the picture in his hands. Although the alpha was in control enough to hold his tears at bay, it was evident that his eyes were wet.
“I- I should be telling you the details, but-”
Jared reached out instinctively, placing a comforting hand on the Elder’s bicep, “It’s alright. You can tell me whenever you’re ready.”
A warm palm covered his hand as the alpha scrunched his eyes shut, “Dammit, it been nearly ten years, Jay! Why can’t I still talk about this?”
Jared said nothing, just left his hand on the alpha’s arm; waiting for the man to re-gain control of his faculties gain.
Jensen sniffed, blushing adorably as he glanced up with reddened eyes, “Sorry.”
Jared shook his head, waving off the apology before handing back the picture; surprised when instead of replacing it in its original position; the older male put it face-down in one of the drawers.
“You can leave it out; I don’t mind.”
Jensen smiled, “No, and she wouldn’t have approved either.”
They stood awkwardly in silence for a moment before Jensen moved to refold the maps and return them to their position on the shelves. Jared watched quietly till it was done and then cleared his throat.
Jensen turned to face him, surprise written all over his features, “Of course”
“Since you were already mated once before; is – uh, is that why you could promise me that I wouldn’t be turned? ‘Coz you already have a Beta?”
Jensen was already shaking his head before he even finished, “It’s the reason I told the councillor that I didn’t want to be mated to another beta and so would not be turning you; but somehow I doubt that that’s what you meant. Am I right?”
Jared stared back wordlessly.
Jensen gave an acknowledging nod. “My mate is Pack Beta, Jared... and that means that-”
“No, you promised!”
The Elder raised his hand in a placating gesture, “I’m not going to turn you, Jay... a ‘Pack beta’-” he gestured around the title with air-quotes, “is a rank; it has nothing to do what-so-ever with whether you are alpha, beta or hell, even omega. And the Pack beta is higher up on the hierarchy than any alpha, you know... all alpha’s bow to the Pack Beta; not the other way ‘round”
“All alphas; barring one”, Jared scoffed.
“Barring none.” Jensen inclined his head in a symbolic gesture.
Jared drew in a startled breath, “that’s – that sounds like a lot of responsibility.”
Jensen chuckled softly, “Why do you think the screening for Pack Beta is so stringent, huh? The Beta wields incredible power; Jay. They have unrestricted access to the Alpha, and if they are crafty enough; can be the ones virtually running the pack. Traditionally, the Alpha was the only one not permitted to choose his or her own mate because of this very reason...”
“But you made an independent call to agree to accept me as your mate, right?”
“Yeah, things have been slowly but surely changing... even then; there are claims and offers between Packs once the Alpha-heir reaches maturity.” He wrinkled his nose, “It’s all very political.”
“So you and Tracy-?”
“Oh no, it wasn't-... uhm...Tracy moved to town when I was in high school... and we fell head-o’er-heels in love. I proposed at prom and we were married before we set out for university.”
“Sounds like a fairy-tale.” Jared said wistfully; remembering his own college years.
“It was,” Jensen admitted, “at least until I lost her six years later.”
Jared watched the fleeting expression of pain on his mate’s face and decided to change the topic; “So I was-?”
“My last ditch attempt at picking a mate of my own choosing..well; almost...I was being requested to find a new mate pretty much since the year after she passed away; and then when the council ordered the ‘forced mating’ I figured ‘why not’?” Jensen admitted honestly.
“’Why not’ indeed.” Jared muttered crossly. He knew the reality of their mating; but to hear the truth was still upsetting.
“Yeah,” Jensen shrugged, “I mean you were a strong alpha in your own right. I knew that you would be fair to my Pack... and the best part was that you held no illusions to the nature of our relationship. Besides, I respected you enough to know that you were someone I could picture myself growing old beside. And the fact that you were being offered to me on a platter was perfect too.”
“Offered on a platter” Jared muttered with no real heat, “compare me to a bunch of grapes, why don’t you?”
Jensen laughed, then made a face, “which reminds me that I need to apologise to your Alpha-”
“We didn’t have any choice, but the fact remains that I pretty much stole you from your Alpha. I mean, yeah, Romanowsky's an Ackles as well, but our mating means you are no longer directly under him and- Jay...shit- I should’ve called him earlier!”
“My alpha?” Jared repeated uncertainly, the majority of Jensen's mumbled explanation flying over his head.
“You’re going to call my Pack Alpha?”
Jensen nodded, amused by Jared’s surprise.
“You-you sure? I mean I doubt he even knows me... of me, I mean and-”
The Alpha chuckled, “It’s expected of me, Jay”
Jared swallowed; abruptly aware that as easy as he was to be around, his alpha came from a different background altogether. “Can I listen in?”
“Sure” Jensen picked up the receiver, quickly dialling the number and waiting for someone to answer the call.
Jared’s hand hovered over the ‘speaker’ button for a moment before punching it in. Jensen grinned at his star-struck expression, quickly sobering at the soft, feminine ‘hello’ from the other end.
“May I speak to Alpha Romanowsky, please?” The Elder’s voice was crisp, confident.
“Just a moment, Sir; may I know who is calling?”
Jared watched in silent wonder as Jensen seemed to transform right before him into the Pack Alpha.
Jared noted with some amusement that Alpha Romanowsky’s voice sounded elderly over the phone; not that it was surprising, considering the Alpha was well past sixty.
“Alpha Romanowsky, how nice to hear your voice!”
“Elder Ackles, you humble me...”
Jared could hear the inherent respect in the words.
“To what do I owe this honour?”
“Ah, please; the pleasure is all mine; Alpha... I actually called to apologise for not seeking your consent prior to mating Jared-”
“Oh, please!” the Alpha scoffed like an old friend- Jared wondered if he was; “I know the circumstances of your match. I hope young Padalecki is well.”
Jensen met Jared’s eyes as he answered, “Yes, yes he is... although your letter came as something of a shock-”
The older man chortled, “I can only imagine. How did he take it?”
“Umm about that; I have a request... I haven’t spoken to him about this yet; but if he so chooses... would you permit him to continue as a part of your Pack despite being my mate?”
Jared’s eyes bugged.
Romanowsky sounded equally surprised, “There is no precedent for this, Alpha...”
Jared noted that the older man used the honorific automatically; and Jensen seemed to expect (and accept) it, not reacting like he hated being called that as he had the previous evening.
“I know, Sir... but would you consider it?”
A pause, then; “I would be honoured to host the Ackles’ Pack -Beta in my Pack, Alpha...”
“Thank you, I’ll get back to you once I’ve discussed it with him,”
“Son,” for the first time the Alpha’s voice softened with something other than just plain propriety, “as happy as I would be to accept someone as talented as your mate into my folds; think carefully before you make this decision-”
Jensen’s own voice softened in response, “I- I just don’t want to force anything on him; Ronald”
“And you won’t. You’re a good man at heart; Son. I’m sure your mate will see that.”
“That’s- Thank you, really. I’ll talk things over with Jay and we’ll make the decision together.”
“Good. And you know you can call me, right... especially now that we’re family? Either of you.”
“Thank you, I’ll tell Jared.”
“The kid’s had some tough times lately... especially since his falling out with Gerald-”
Jared’s eyes bugged, how did the Pack Alpha know about that, and Dad’s first name? He refocused to hear what else was being said.
“-give him time... I’m sure he’ll come around.”
“I promise I’ll take good care of him, Alpha”
“I know you will, Son. I know you will.”
Jensen chuckled softly, “It was good to talk to you, Ronald, really. And once again, thank you.”
The older man laughed, “Take care, Kid.”
Jared fixed determined eyes on Jensen the second the phone touched its cradle, “I’m Pack Beta; right?”
“Yeah, of course.” Jensen answered, surprised.
“Then I’d better start accepting my Pack, Jen. I’m staying an Ackles.”
Chapter 17: Chapter-14
Jared looked up from his book at the soft knock to find Jensen leaning against the door; phone tucked between his ear and shoulder; one hand still raised and the other occupied by a mammoth bag of Doritos.
Tossing the bag over, he pressed a hand against the mouthpiece to muffle his words, “My friends want to meet you.”
Jared shrugged as he opened the bag one handed- the other busy holding down his place between the pages, popping a handful into his mouth.
Jensen nodded, “Friday sound good?”
“This Friday?” He asked around another mouthful of the fried snacks.
“Okay, sounds good.”
Jensen relayed the information before hanging up and turning to Jared; looking around self-consciously before perching on the edge of the bed. It didn’t escape the younger man’s notice that his mate treated this room as Jared’s domain even though he was the legal owner of the entire estate.
“You’re sure you don’t mind?” Jensen questioned, reaching for the bag of munchies.
“Nuh-uh” Jared shook his head, deliberately marking the page he was reading before setting the book aside to face Jensen, “Should- should I be worried?”
“Uh,” the alpha scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, “I just hope they don’t end up offending you.”
Jared curved up a teasing brow, “That bad?”
“Well, imagine Chad at his protective best... if he were an alpha and actually trained for it... that’s Chris.”
“I see.” Not laughing- No Sir, not laughing at all.
Jensen didn’t miss his expression, “You – uh... you don’t sound worried...”
The younger man shrugged- forcing himself to be serious, “I guess I’ll just have to deal with it, won’t I?”
“I could try...postponing?”
“Nah... It’s cool. I was just yanking your chain, man. Relax.”
“Why don’t you call your friends over too? We could turn this into a mixer...“
Jared’s forehead wrinkled as he thought about it, but the Pack alpha was already counting heads, “Well, Misha’s busy this weekend, so I’ve got Chris, Tom, James and Steve from my side. And, from yours we have Chad and-?”
“Seriously?” The older man’s eyes crinkled, “Just one?”
“Yeah... I- I don’t really have too many clos-”
The Alpha held up a hand, halting his words, “You don’t hafta explain, man... I- I was just surprised; I mean, you seem to be more of a people person than I am.”
He shrugged, “Not really close to anyone, I suppose.”
Jensen clapped his shoulder as he rose, “Okay then, I guess I better do the honours...you’ll tell Chad?”
Jared nodded, watching the other alpha grab his phone, already dialing as he walked out of the room.
And so it was that on Friday Chad accompanied them to the Ackles’ residence instead of heading home. When his mate and aide continued to talk shop even as they perched on the seats around Jensen’s kitchen island with beers in their hand; Jared groaned inwardly, guessing it was pretty much the only common topic of discussion for the two. Despite his attempts at steering the talk to things other than work, the two continued to return to the impending merger of their two firms. When Chad got up to retrieve a file from his bag to clarify some point, Jared threw up his hands in defeat, grumbling about workaholic friends.
It was an hour and a half before the two finally decided to call it a day, closing their files and laptops as they moved towards the drawing room; switching on the TV as they sprawled on the couch. Jared watched them contemplatively for a moment before heading to his room to freshen up.
He felt much more alive after his shower and changing into a fresh pair of jeans and a button-up, noting without comment that Jensen too had changed into casuals sometime during his absence. Gratefully accepting the beer bottle Jensen held out to him, he sank into the plushness of the rug, leaning to rest his back against the front of the couch and thankful that for once, Chad seemed to be getting along fine with Jared’s mate.
“Why-” Chad licked his lips, “why is he on the floor?”
Jensen simply shrugged, his eyes still glued to the TV, “It’s his place.”
Jared watched the horrified expression flit across his friend’s face and realized that Chad was going to explode a second before he did.
“What?” Chad rose from his seat - absolute fury written in every line of his body, growling “You bastard-”
Having already anticipated the move, Jared managed to get between the glowering beta itching for a fight and his confused mate, “Dude!”
“No.” Chad shook his head, still glaring daggers at Jensen over Jared’s shoulder- both alphas having climbed to their feet at the first accusation itself, “You told me he’s treating you well, Jaybird...and that? That is not being treated ‘well’.”
The younger alpha rolled his eyes, “Seriously Chad? You roomed with me for four years, man. How many times did you see me using the couch during that time? Jensen didn’t mean to insinuate that I wasn’t allowed on the furniture- just that I prefer to be able to stretch my legs. Isn’t that right, Jen?”
He glanced towards the wide-eyed older man- willing him to take the hint. Jensen nodded, managing a faint, “That’s what I meant.”
“Besides,” he grinned, collapsing back on the floor next to his mate again now that the calamity had been averted, “Jensen hands out amazing head-massages.”
And as if that was the cue, the Pack alpha’s hand dropped on his head, the fingers burrowing under the hair and scratching gently. Jared barely stopped himself from moaning in pleasure, but judging from Chad’s wrinkled nose he wasn’t very successful.
“Get a room.” The beta muttered crossly, trying not to look at the two mates and focussing on the TV screen.
Jared snorted and tossed a popcorn at his friend, “My house, my rules.”
Jared accompanied Jensen when the doorbell rang announcing Christian Kane- Jensen’s oldest friend. The alpha turned out to be vastly different from Jared’s expectations- not tall like either Jensen or Jared himself; Chris was, to be blunt- rather short for an alpha. And the shoulder length dirty-blond curls softened the chiselled features of the older Were into something distinctly beta-ish.
“Jenny-boy, it’s been awhile!”
Jared raised an eyebrow at that; clearly remembering Jensen telling him that he didn’t answer to ‘Jenny’. The Pack alpha shrugged, apparently reading the silent question in Jared’s eye. “He’s known me since I was in preschool. And I can’t seem to convince him that I’m no longer that kid.”
His words appeared to alert the older Were to Jared’s presence because he turned towards him with an extended hand, “Mr. Padalecki, it’s great to finally meet you.”
Jared’s eyes widened in disbelief as he finally met the brown gaze completely, “Same here...I- You seem really familiar. Have we met before?”
Chris guffawed, slapping his arm and turning to Jensen, “So Jenny, your mate seems to have better observational skills than you did...”
And tuning out Jensen’s childish retort, Jared suddenly remembered the Elder telling him something about having his security tail him discreetly- although he’d overlooked the words at the time. He turned towards the shorter man incredulously, “You’re part of Jensen’s security?”
“I think I’m going to like you just fine, Padalecki.” Came the non-sequiter even as Jensen mouthed ‘head-of-security’ behind Chris’ back.
“Just Jared, please”
Chris nodded- patting his back, “Alright, ‘Just Jared’... tell me where you guys stock your beer.”
Jared smiled, nodding discretely at Jensen as they moved towards the living room. It wasn’t long before the rest of Jensen’s friends appeared. Tom Welling- almost as tall as Jared himself was obviously the diplomat of the group; every word measured and carefully considered before being spoken. And although he was friendly with Jensen, Jared noticed that the man deferred to the Pack Alpha in subtle ways.
In direct contrast, James Lafferty was openly obsequious to Jensen- greeting the older man in the traditional fashion with a bared throat. He was also the only one dressed in a button down and formal slacks; the lack of a tie and jacket his only concession to the informal nature of their get-together. At a fresh twenty-four, the dark haired man was considerably younger than the rest of them as well- which perhaps explained his reticent nature.
Jared had already forgotten the hullaballoo with Chad over his sitting on the floor and resumed his former position on the soft rug. It was only when Jensen returned with a bowl of popcorn from the kitchen and slid down to join him on the floor that he realized that despite having been tight-lipped during the exchange, the alpha had not missed a thing. Jared saw the confusion flit across both Tom and James’ expressions even as an approving smile appeared on Chad’s lips and frowned- Jensen shouldn’t have to cater to others in his own home.
Jensen called him aside during the next commercial break, turning to Jared with a worried look, “I’m so sorry...”
“For what?” Jared asked in genuine surprise.
“I didn’t mean to make this into an alpha hang-out... It’s just that Misha and Vicky had a prior engagement and Steve has a concert tonight. I- I didn’t know, I’m sorry...I hope Chad isn’t too uncomfortable?”
“Dude, Chad’s unmated. I’m pretty sure he would be more uncomfortable to be treated like a ‘proper’ beta if you know what I mean.” Jared soothed. “So... Misha, Vicky and Steve are the ones breaking up the overdose of testosterone in this all-alpha group, huh?”
Jensen laughed, shaking his head, “No, actually Vicky- Victoria to anyone outside our group, is Misha’s Alpha... and Steve... well, he’s Christian’s mate.”
“Seriously? Chris is mated?”
Jensen nodded, “Yeah, not as long as either Tom or...” he trailed off, suddenly uncomfortable.
“You?” Jared ventured hesitantly.
The older alpha gave a sharp nod, “Like me Tom got mated right out of high-school. It’s actually how we first met. Being the only two mated alpha’s in our Business studies class in college helped us bond. And later when he applied to intern under Dad; we came up with the whole concept of an ‘Alpha-committee’ to take care of the daily responsibilities of a Pack-Alpha. It helped that his mate Whitney and Tracy got along like a house on fire.”
“It must’ve been hard on them too, losing her.” Jared mused, realizing that all these people had known Jensen for far longer than he had.
Jensen sighed, “I guess... though at the time I was too selfish to notice anyone else’s grief.”
“Jensen, no... I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like for you to lose your wife. I’m sure Tom and Whitney understand.”
“So, now I know about how you met these guys...”Jared continued, turning to the chopping board to slice the tomatoes for a salad, “All except James”
The Elder alpha laughed, “James... well- it sounds totally cold-blooded; but we took him in because we wanted to make sure he wasn’t a threat. He’d joined the Alpha-Committee a couple of years ago and literally tore through the ranks- rising like some freak storm. It was Tom’s idea to pull in him- see if he had some ulterior motive.” He shrugged, expertly tossing the vegetables he was busy stir-frying, “We ourselves forgot he was a relative new-comer he bonded so well with us.”
Jared smiled; he was beginning to like Jensen’s friends. They seemed like the kind of people he would’ve become friends with himself, “So he’s the only unmated guy in your circle.”
Jensen’s eyes twinkled with mirth when he turned to glance at him- eyebrows waggling mischievously, “Why mate o’ mine... are you planning on a little match-making?”
Jared stuck his tongue out, appalled at the very concept, “Dude, No!”
Once done with the salad, he left Jensen to finish and plate the dishes; moving back to the living room to find Chris engrossed in the game. Chad glanced up at his arrival, shifting to make space for him on the couch but Jared waved him off, collapsing back on his usual spot. Snatches of conversation from the low murmur to his left told him that James was trying to convince Tom to ask something. He glanced at them surreptiously, but it was only a moment before the taller alpha conceded; turning to them as he enquired, “If you don’t mind my asking, whose Pack do you belong to?”
The beta glanced at Tom curiously, “Alpha Quentin. Jay-bird here’s from the Romanowsky Pack.”
Jared cleared his throat self consciously as he corrected, “Actually, I’m an Ackles now.”
Tom and James nodded as though they expected it (-which they probably did) while Chad gaped at him, “Dude, he made to change your name? And what’s that gotta do with your Pack identity anyway? An Ackles can’t be a Romanowsky or something?”
“Or something,” Jared answered evasively.
“You should be proud.” James cut in, eyes narrowing at Jared’s evasion, “Being an Ackles is nothing to be shy about.”
“Yeah well, I still don’t know who my Alpha is, James; so excuse me for not answering in more detail.” Jared retorted, the alpha in him not taking kindly to being spoken to like that.
“You don’t have one,” Tom interrupted, trying to diffuse the situation, “Jensen’s the only one you answer to, Jared... Didn’t he explain it to you?”
Even having suspected it, Jared was still surprised by the information. He mustered a smile for the Vice-President of the Ackles’ Alpha Committee, “Nah... He’s an idiot that way.”
James bristled at the perceived insult to his leader, “Mr. Padalecki, I would advise you to remember that the idiot is our Alpha.”
“And I would ask you, Lafferty; to remember whom you’re speaking to.” Jensen growled, having come in with the tray and obviously overhearing James’ words. Jared risked a sideway glance to see the narrowed jade eyes and realized that Jensen was actually seriously angry- that it wasn’t simple posturing.
The younger alpha too seemed taken aback, “I-I apologise, Alpha-”
“I’m not the one you need to apologise to, James.”
And something in Jensen’s tone must have alerted the younger male to exactly how upset Jensen was, because he tilted his head- baring his throat submissively for the Pack Alpha almost without conscious thought despite addressing his words to Jared, “I’m sorry, Mr. Padalecki; it wasn’t my place to speak to you like that.”
“Hey, it’s cool man; relax.” Jared assured, placing a discreet hand on his mate’s back and felt the tension ease out.
Jensen nodded, scratching the back of his neck with an apologetic expression, “S’rry.”
It was Chris who broke the ensuing awkwardness, hollering that some people were trying to catch the game and that they needed to keep it down unless they wanted to be gagged. Tension diffused, all three men focussed on the TV; Jensen sinking down on the rug next to Jared again.
Chad was the first one to check his watch during the after-game chit-chat. Jared raised an eyebrow, making the beta shrug as he pulled out his phone, “It’s getting late; I’d better summon a cab- what’s the address again?”
James Lafferty spoke up before Jared could reply, “I could drive you home- unless you object?”
And for the first time since he’d known his friend, he saw Chad at a loss of words, stammering-“Uh...you won’t mind?”
The unmated alpha shook his head as he rose to his feet, offering a hand to help the beta up, “It’s not a problem.”
Jared was even more surprised when instead of telling him off like he usually did, Chad accepted the help. Nevertheless, he pulled James aside when Chad went to collect his things.
“I know, you’ll kill me if I don’t treat him with respect-” The younger alpha began with a smirk, frowning when Jared simply held up a hand.
“No... Chad’ll do that himself. I just wanted to tell you that you won’t be winning any brownie points by treating him like a delicate flower, okay? He’s far too independent to appreciate being all wined and dined.”
“So... does the fact that you’re telling me this mean I have your blessings?”
Jared shook his head, beginning to like the gutsy attitude despite himself, “Dude! Who he sleeps with is none of my business, okay? But he let you help him to his feet when usually he just turns others down and I think... or to be more accurate, now that I’m settled myself-I’m hoping that he too will find what he’s been looking for all these years.”
“You do remember that I just met him for the first time today, right?”
“And yet, you’ve been watching him more than the game.” He shot back, grinning when the younger man went scarlet at his words.
“What’s the hold-up?” Chad’s voice came from the door.
James shot him a small smile before moving away- only to be yanked back by his sleeve, “And yes, I will kill you if he’s hurt.”
Jensen appeared at his side as he watched the duo drive off, “Everything alright?”
He nodded- deciding to fill Jensen in later and turning back in when the red tail-lights were all he could make out in the dark. He walked in on Tom trying to give Jensen a slim white envelope.
“What’s going on?”
It was Tom who answered, “Alpha Beaver’s invited you guys to their annual harvest festival.”
Jensen scowled as he added, “It’s a Pack-Alpha gig.”
Jared had to smile at the errant school-boy expression on his mate’s face, “And last I checked, you were Pack-Alpha, Jen.”
Seeming to realize that Jared wasn’t all that opposed to the idea, Tom swiftly changed track and offered the envelope to him, “Try to convince him to attend, will you?”
Jared glanced dubiously at the sealed envelope thrust into his hand. “Tom-”
“Jensen refused to attend any of these events after Tracy.” He explained, turning to the Elder as he continued, “And I get it man, but you have Jared now. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to introduce him to the life? And this is fairly small-scale. It should ease him in nicely-”
“Why can’t you go?” Jensen asked petulantly.
“I did- do go, Jensen... for the past decade, I have been going in your stead; but it’s not good for the Pack, man. Do you know what the results of the last survey were?”
He continued before either of them could reply, “Ninety percent could identify me as the spokesman for the Alpha Counsel. No one identified you... Not-One-Person! And these were people who are directly involved with the alpha Committee in one way or other. Can you imagine the state of the rest of your Pack?”
Jensen shrugged, “Doesn’t bother me.”
“I know,” Tom sighed, “You are not vain like Alpha Johansson to need the constant ass-worshipping... but it’s not right that no one recognises you, Jensen. You are our Alpha... You have to come forward at least once in a while.”
“I agree with Tom, you should attend, Jen.” Jared added.
“Et tu, Brute?”
He rolled his eyes, “Stop being a drama-queen.”
“Just consider it. Please.” Tom added.
And the fight seemed to go out of Jensen. “Fine; I’ll think about it,” He grumbled, still petulant.
Tom nodded as he rose to his feet, “Thank you.”
“You’re leaving?” Chris, who had been silent up to this point asked.
“Yeah... Whitney’s going to worry if I turn up any later.”
“Yeah, I guess I should be heading home too; Steve’ll be waiting.”
“I thought he was on tour?” Jared asked, confused.
“He is.” Chris confirmed, “But he’ll wait for me to call after I reach home.”
And suddenly it was a different side to all these men that Jared was discovering: deeply committed family guys who were as careful with their mates’ happiness as they were of the welfare of Jensen’s Pack.
Chris waited till Tom drove off before turning to face them, “For the record, Jenny? I think Tom’s right on this one- you should go.”
Jensen nodded, “I said I’ll think about it, didn’t I?”
Chris continued to stare back steadily till Jensen caved.
“Alright, fine! I’ll go. There, happy now?”
“I’m sure your pack will be.”
“And don’t you dare teach that trick to Tom!”
The older man just laughed, extending a hand to Jared, “It was nice meeting you, Kid... I have a feeling you’re going to be good for him.”
Jared blushed, feeling the hot band that had been constricting his chest all day ease- not having realized till that instant that he’d been waiting for the man’s approval. Anybody else wouldn’t have mattered; but as Jensen’s oldest friend, he had a feeling that Chris’ opinions carried the same weight with Jensen as Chad’s did with him.
Chapter 18: Chapter-15
Jared found himself inwardly relieved when he realized that Jensen had reserved seats for them in first class- with his height, he had to virtually sit with knees around his ears in the cramped economy seats. He was in the process of adjusting his bag in the overhead baggage rack when his Were hearing picked up the air-hostess’ hushed whispers about having difficulty in seating someone in economy. Glancing over he saw a harried mother of two trying to reason with the airhostesses to help them find an alternative other than re-booking the airline tickets. Narrowing his eyes he cast his gaze downward and faltered.
One hand firmly clasping her youngest; her other was resting on the back of a wheelchair with her older child- a little girl whose entire right side appeared to be in plaster. A closer look told him that it wasn’t her ‘entire’ side, but both her arm and her leg, hip downwards was done up in plaster.
No way would the girl- no older than twelve, be able to ride in economy- and hence the problem; he guessed. He cast one last wistful glance at his comfortable seat before heading over.
“Hey, uh- I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation and ummm... if you want, you can swap seats with me.”
“Us,” A voice corrected and Jared glanced over his shoulder to find Jensen by his side.
The mother’s face still remained pinched.
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I have two kids...”
“Your youngest can sit in the seat originally designated for him,” Jensen cut in smoothly; “He’ll be perfectly safe with us, and you can check on him a couple of times during the flight if you wish.”
Jared felt a muffled wave of warmth-safe-protection and realized that it was coming from his mate. He watched as Jensen crouched in front of the little boy, “What d’ya say, little fellow, want to sit with us?”
He wasn’t surprised when the little boy nodded, slipping his hand out of his mother’s hold and placing it in Jensen’s extended palm. The older alpha silently asked for permission with a raised eyebrow and at the mother’s nod, straightened to his full height with the child cradled on his hip.
“Your seat numbers?”
The air-hostess who had been watching the whole exchange silently finally spoke up, “I’ll take you to your seats, Alpha.”
Jared heard the sharp exhale behind him as the woman realized they weren’t human and paused for the barest fraction of a second for her objection; but when none were forthcoming, he followed his mate across the partition to the cramped economy side.
“You take the aisle-side, it’ll be easier on your legs,” Jensen whispered to him as he ushered the child to the window-seat.
He shot the man a grateful look as he watched him help the boy fasten his seat-belt before doing his own. It was only after he was seated that he noticed the air-hostess still hovering.
She blushed, the heightened colour visible even through the layers of make-up, “It was very kind of you two to offer your seats. Thank you.”
“They needed ‘em more than we did.” Jared told her.
Feeling eyes on him, he glanced to his side to find Jensen watching him; an unreadable expression on his face. On questioning, the older alpha simply shrugged; but Jared realized that in that moment, Jensen hadn’t been seeing his mate; he had been watching his Pack Beta.
He waited till they were air-borne before pulling out his in-flight reading from his bag, peripherally aware of Jensen pointing out the major landmarks visible from air to the child next to him. When clouds were all that was visible, the boy turned to them with curious eyes.
“Is it true that you turn into a wolf during full-moon?”
Jared nearly choked- only a five-year old could be so adorably tactless; but before he could even think of the proper way to answer, Jensen was answering the boy.
“That’s just a myth...what’s your name, Kiddo?”
“Michael. What’s yours?”
Jensen smiled, “I’m Jensen and this is my mate, Jared.”
“Pleased to meet you.” The boy answered with what Jared assumed was his idea of ‘grown-up talk’.
“Same here.” Jensen returned. Then, “How did your sister injure herself, Michael?”
The boy seemed to wilt, “T’was my fault...I- I hadn’t seen the car and-and then she was pushing me out of the way... but it hit her!”
“Hey, sshhh... it’s okay, Kiddo. She’s going to be fine... C’mon, deep breaths now-” Jensen soothed, “Sshhh... these things happen sometimes, Michael. Stop crying... do you think she’ll like it if she hears about you crying?"
The boy shook his head, desperately wiping at the tears which had spilled over his cheeks, “No-no... she told me I needed to be brave.”
Jensen nodded, apparently remorseless at having guilt-ed the youngster, “And she’s right, you know... crying won’t help.”
The boy turned wet eyes towards the older man.
“But you know what will?”
Michael shook his head.
“You can help her by doing some of the things she usually does- she helps out your mom a lot, doesn’t she?”
The child nodded, “Yeah, Angela is always doing things for mom.”
“Yeah, and maybe you could do some of those things till she heals...”
“But I don’t know how!”
“You can always ask her to teach you, Michael. It’s always okay to ask if you don’t know something.”
The boy bit his lip, apparently digesting what he’d been told, then: “Can I ask you something?”
Jensen nodded, “Sure, shoot.”
“Why did you call him that?”
“Uh- because he is?” Jensen paused, “It’s like he’s my husband, but since we’re Weres, we call it a ‘mate’.”
“But that Lady called you an Alpha. What does that mean?”
Jared winced inwardly, wondering how Jensen would field this one.
“Well you know how to say ‘Sir’ or ‘Mister’ sometimes? It’s something like that. As Weres we have Alphas and Betas, although we respond to Mister or Sir as well.”
“But you can’t call a human an Alpha?”
“It’s complicated, but in general, no. You can’t.”
“But what if I want to be an Alpha?”
“It doesn’t work that way, Kiddo. Sorry.”
The boy pouted for a second before turning with another question, “But I can still have friends who are Alpha?”
“Or Beta,” Jensen nodded, “Sure. I’d like to think so... I’m your friend, aren’t I?”
Before the boy could respond, the airhostess came by with their meals and Jared put away the book he’d (not) been reading. He was mid-way to finishing the platter when he sensed someone come to a pause next to him. Looking up he realized it was Michael’s mom, but her eyes were not on him.
Glancing to his side to check what had caught her attention; he found his mate helping the child manage his food- his own meal untouched.
“Jen,” He called softly, alerting the man to the mother’s presence.
Jensen turned and his cheeks went adorably pink when he noticed his audience. “Ma’am?”
The woman smiled, “You’re surprisingly good with children. Experienced much?”
He watched from the corner of his eyes as the older man paled slightly before regaining his composure, “I have two nephews- the younger is very close to Michael’s age.”
The woman nodded, “Thank you both for your help. It means a lot, really.”
“Our pleasure, Ma’am.” Jared answered, catching Jensen nod in agreement in his peripheral view.
As the plane began its descent, the intercom came alive announcing that the flight was honoured to have an Elder Alpha and his mate travelling with them and due to security reasons, everyone would be requested to remain in their seats while the dignitaries disembarked.
Not surprisingly, the announcement was followed by a loud series of groans and Jensen briefly buried his head against Jared’s shoulder, “I told Jim not to do this...”
Jared patted his arm, half-heartedly listening to the muffled curses from behind them as people objected to the delay, partly-horrified and partly -amused.
“Stay prepared, we get up the second the seat-belt sign goes off.” Jensen whispered to him.
“Aren't they going to come on board to escort us?” He whispered back.
“I don’t care if they are- I don’t plan to give them a chance.”
He nodded, following the instructions and getting up as soon as the clearance came through. He waited as Jensen picked Michael up and carefully manoeuvred himself out into the aisle before heading to the front of the airline.
Jared was pleasantly surprised when Jensen paused just before the First-class Partition and offered their co-travellers an apologetic smile, “We are sorry for the inconvenience caused by our presence, we’ll be out of your hair as soon as possible. Thank you for your co-operation.”
The unconventional gesture had some of the complainers flush a bright red while the rest applauded the Alpha’s humility.
He followed as Jensen dropped Michael off with his mother and proceeded to step off the flight. He never expected the entourage awaiting their arrival on the tarmac.
“Jen?” He whispered.
The Alpha shot him a wry smile before confidently walking to the small group.
“Elder Ackles.” A balding, bearded man- who looked suspiciously like Gerald Padalecki greeted, head tilted and neck bared.
Jared blinked- it was one thing for their compatriots to accept Jensen’s dominance and completely another to see someone old enough to be their father to do the same.
“Jim,” Jensen answered warmly- apparently not surprised by the show of submission.
“We’re honoured to have you here, Alpha.” The older man said, reaching out with both hands to clasp Jensen’s.
“You humble me, Jim... and you know all this wasn’t necessary.”
“Pah... it’s nothing.” Alpha Beaver brushed aside his concerns.
“I’m serious, Jim,” Jensen cut in firmly, “Let’s not trouble these good folk anymore, shall we?”
The older man laughed, clapping the younger alpha n his back as he ushered them towards the waiting car; “Still concerned about everybody else’s welfare, huh?”
Jensen’s smile was strained but he didn’t comment, following the man to the car. Alpha Jim raised a questioning eyebrow when Jared moved to follow them; making Jensen clear his throat awkwardly, “My mate, Jared Padalecki.”
Jim nodded, offering a polite smile but didn’t acknowledge Jared any further.
He shot his mate an inquiring look, but Jensen just shrugged helplessly. Jared wondered what he was doing wrong when Jim frowned in visible disapproval as he sat next to his mate, nearly jumping out of his skin when Jensen placed a possessive hand on his knee. He watched Alpha Jim’s lips thin in displeasure; but since the man didn’t vocalize the reason behind his discontent he didn’t know how to smoothen the situation.
“We’ll be staying at Trevor’s?” Jared finally dared to ask, using his past visits to the town to name one of the popular hotels and hoped it was a neutral enough topic to break the silence permeating the car.
“Of course not!” Jim looked affronted at the very idea, “We’ll be hosting you in our own home.”
“We really wouldn’t mind-” he began just to be cut-off by a raised palm.
“It’s no bother.”
Only it appeared that the alpha and his family had indeed gone into a lot of trouble for them. He watched Jensen fidget uncomfortably, but it was when they realized that the alpha was giving them the Master suite that he objected.
“Jim, we can’t-”
“It’s not a problem,” The older man insisted.
“No, I-we insist, Jim... even if you don’t mind, we do. Please, we’ll be much more comfortable the guest room.”
“The bed’s really small-”
“We’re newly mated, Alpha. I promise, we won’t mind.” Jared added, hoping Jensen wouldn’t object to the white-lie.
Jared wondered if he was being paranoid, but it felt like he was constantly being judged (and found lacking) by Alpha Jim- who though polite enough to keep his objections to himself, kept shooting these tiny frowns. Things nearly came to a head when he sat down next to his mate for dinner.
The older man’s lips thinned as Jared helped himself to the mashed potatoes before passing the bowl to Jensen. He gently kicked Jensen’s feet to throw a questioning glance, but the Elder simply pressed his lips together; ignoring him in favour of speaking to their hostess.
“Aren’t you going to join us, Karen?”
“I’ll eat later, Alpha.” The matronly rotund woman smiled as she brought the pot-roast to the table.
Jensen shook his head, “You really think we’re going to start eating without you?”
It amused Jared to see the woman blush at his mate’s words.
“C’mon, Karen;” Jensen coaxed, “Join us, please?”
The woman shook her head, “It’s not right...” but there was no strength behind her words.
“And when have I ever followed those antiquated rules?” Jensen argued. “You know I hate to impose like this on you in your own home, Ma’am... don’t add to my guilt; please?”
“It’s okay, Sweetheart. Join us.” Alpha Jim added softly.
Jared wasn’t surprised when the beta gave in with a shy smile (-after all who could deny the request of so many), setting another place on the table for herself. He watched Jensen mouth a ‘thank-you’ to her and shook his head- for all his shrewd business acumen, his mate was a marshmallow inside.
Dinner was a pleasant affair; the home-cooked fare was excellent and the Beaver family were skilled at making the guests feel at home. In fact, by the end of the first course; Jared was comfortable enough to gently tease the Pack Alpha’s daughter about her college exploits.
It was only afterwards when the two Pack Alpha’s retired to the study and Jared, feeling at a loss went to join them that his old feelings of insecurity rose to the fore again.
Jensen- busy poring over whatever documents Jim had given him didn’t notice the shocked disapproval on their host’s face at Jared’s entry. Feeling inexplicably like an errant schoolboy, he retreated back to the dining room to help Karen and her daughter clear the table. He followed the older beta back to the study and felt left out when the woman simply murmured something in her husband’s ear before stepping out again.
Jensen, totally oblivious to the situation suddenly looked up, “Jay; take a look at this, will you?”
He frowned as he accepted the slim file, slightly offended that Jim still didn’t offer him a seat. He spotted a bean-bag in one corner and dragged it closer; sinking down on the faux- leather as he perused the pages.
Despite the small size of the room (-two and a half such room’s could fit comfortably in Jared’s suite in Jensen’s house); Jared was glad when they eventually retired for the night. He rushed through his pre-bedtime rituals before collapsing on the bed; surprised to note that Jensen still had his head buried in the sheaf of pages.
“Planning to burn the midnight oil?” He asked between two massive yawns.
“Hmmm?” Jensen looked up, “No... you- uh, you can turn off the light.”
“Do it yourself once you’re under the covers.” Jared mumbled, burrowing into his blanket.
“You... you don’t want me to take the couch?”
Jared forced one eye open, “Jensen, stop being so damn dense! We’ve shared the bed enough times by now for me to know you’re not going to molest me in my sleep. C’mon.”
The alpha didn’t need a second invitation; quickly changing into soft cotton sweatpants and a tee-shirt before sliding under the covers. He reached across Jared to get at the lamp accidentally brushing his chilly feet against the taller man’s.
Jared cursed, jerking away at the sudden touch of cold; “Dude! You’re feet are like ice!”
“Sorry! S’rry...” Jensen muttered, yanking his feet back to his side of the bed.
For a moment both of them were silent and then Jared decided what-the-hell; turning to pull the older man into the curve of his body, “Put ‘em between mine.”
“Jay,” Jensen whispered- voice a whiskey rough rasp in the darkness of the room.
“They’ll warm much faster this way,” He continued as though the other man had never spoken, tangling their feet together.
For a moment Jensen held still; and Jared could feel the tense muscles cording and jumping- then he blew out a breath, melting against Jared’s body.
Jared heaved a sigh of relief when his mate didn’t stir as he manoeuvred himself out from under his arm. But just as he slid out of bed, he heard the blankets rustle behind him as Jensen lifted himself up on his elbows, “Wha’s wrong?”
He forced a smile to his lips at the bleary expression on the alpha’s face as he shook his head, “Nothing... Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Jared; I’m too sleepy to argue right now,” he raised himself slightly higher before sending a mock glare at his mate, “And it’s frickin’ cold, man... Get back in bed!”
Jared stared at the still sleepily-blinking alpha.
“C’mon, Jay... C’mere.” The man coaxed, extending a hand- palm up for him to grasp.
After a moment he nodded as he acceded and accepted the hand allowing himself to be pulled flush against the older man. He wasn’t expecting the warm fingers to pet his hair as Jensen nuzzled against the hollow behind his ear.
Jared closed his eyes, both hating and needing the comfort, “Nightmare.”
He felt Jensen nod behind him, but to his credit, he refrained from prodding- giving Jared the freedom to share as much as he was comfortable with. He wondered what it was about Jensen that made him drop his walls so easily- to an extent, it had to be their mating bond at work; but from what he knew- since they were both alphas it shouldn’t be this potent.
He hadn’t allowed himself to be this vulnerable with anyone since leaving his home more than a decade ago- was this the impact of his pent-up emotions?
Or was it something else... like Jensen’s ability as Pack alpha to influence the emotions of those around him.
He sighed, burrowing closer to his mate’s side, knowing that the last wasn’t true- Jensen would never manipulate anybody like that; least of all his own mate. Besides, his one brush with the Alpha’s power had taught him that feelings not his own were distinctly alien; and this?
This was all him.
It took another minute but the reverse psychology his mate was using on him seemed to be working because he found himself muttering, “You’re lucky, you know?”
Jensen’s answer was a non-committal ‘um-huh’.
“I mean, I realize that you were under tremendous pressure growing up, but at least you weren’t a disappointment to your family...”
The fingers splayed on his abdomen tightened and he patted the hand absently, “Dad always looked at me like... like he was never happy, you know? Like it was all my fault somehow.”
“I’m sure it was a misunderstanding, Jay...” Jensen whispered.
He shook his head, for the first time not attempting to wipe the tears cascading down his cheeks, “NO, he- he wasn’t wrong... I’m kinda the black sheep of the family, Jen. They’re all academicians and he wanted me to be the same, but I-” He trailed off.
“He’s proud of you, Jared. He would have to be an idiot not to.”
He smiled, leaning back into the warm body pressed against his. “Alpha Jim reminds me of Dad.”
“Yeah? I thought Gerald would be taller.”
Jared snorted, “Dad is... but otherwise-”
“They look remarkably alike.” Jensen finished.
“Why don’t you give him a call?” The older man asked after a moment, “I mean there is no rule that says that he has to be the one who extends the olive branch first; right?”
“I don’t know what to say-”
“Tell you what, let me make some enquiries, alright? Then we can talk to him together.”
“You’d do that for me?”
“You’re my mate, Jared. Of course I’ll do it for you.”
“Alright, thanks.”Jared mumbled, surprised by the sudden drowsiness.
“Hmmm...” He snuggled deeper into the blankets, already half asleep.
And maybe soft lips pressed against his temple in a chaste kiss.
Or maybe, it was a dream.
Chapter 19: Chapter- 16
Jensen stared at the shopping bag Jared dropped in his lap, “Jay?”
The younger alpha plopped down on the bed, grinning at the surprise in his mate’s expression, “What? Surely you didn’t think you were appropriately dressed today, Jensen.”
“Looked completely out of place in your elegant suit? Yep!” Jared finished for him.
“This is your solution?”
“Um-hmmm... why don’t you try it on?”
The elder obeyed grudgingly, and Jared had to admit that Jensen looked rather fetching in the plain-tee and leather jacket combo.
“It’s not too casual?” The alpha enquired, surveying himself in the mirror.
And Jared’s verdict proved right on target when the next day’s local papers all had an image of the Pack Elder in said outfit. He hoped no one noticed him tucking a copy of the same in his bag as he packed for their departure.
“Hmmm?” He asked, not glancing up from the shirt he was folding.
“How do you feel about a little detour on our way back?”
Jared could only stare as the entrance to what Jensen introduced as his childhood home loomed closer: the stone steps were lined on either side by flowering plants in full bloom, making the entry-way resemble a painting he had seen at some exhibition once. In fact it was so much like the painting- or at least his memory of it; that he wondered if the painter had actually been inspired by this house. He was no longer surprised by how massive the ranch house was: apparently sprawling or small didn’t change the fact that Pack Alpha’s as a rule preferred houses to apartments.
Maybe it had something to do with how they were closer to their Lupine heritage than other Weres.
And Jensen’s mom was every bit as maternal as his mate had promised. She greeted them both with warm embraces and Jared was pleasantly surprised by her warm welcome after Alpha Beaver’s reticence. He privately wondered if the older Alpha had found him lacking of the potential to fill Tracy’s shoes.
However, most of his worries were forgotten by the ease with which he fitted in with the Ackles’.
The evening was going surprisingly well considering this was the first time he was meeting Jensen’s mother and he found himself relaxing in the warm feelings till unexpected guests came calling. Mary Ackles went to open the door as the boys hurriedly moved the little castle of soda cans they had made on the living room table. Jared was putting the cushions back in their designated places -from where they’d ended up piled on the floor in front of the couch; when he heard Jensen curse under his breath, “What?”
“It’s Tracy’s parents.” Jensen whispered back, rising as the senior couple entered the room. Jared tried to blink back his shock.
“Colonel.” Jensen nodded, extending his hand for a shake.
The older man laughed as he neatly side-stepped the hand-shake and moved in for an embrace, “You haven’t called me that for years; Kiddo. Don’t start now.”
“Sorry... Dad.” Jensen murmured with a brief hesitation as he accepted the hug.
“That’s better.” The man thumped him once on the back before releasing the Pack alpha and glancing at Jared, “And you are-?”
“Jared... my- my mate.” Jensen answered for him; and the younger man could feel the shame in the words.
And Jared knew that Jensen wasn’t embarrassed of him and it was just the situation... but hell if that didn’t sting!
The colonel’s eyes narrowed and for a moment Jared was afraid the older man was going to lash out but he only grabbed Jensen’s shoulder, “Hey, no; none of that now. There’s no sin in finding happiness again, son. Tracy would have wanted you happy.”
The alpha nodded and Jared could see his throat working as he tried to speak past the lump in his throat at the mention of his late-wife.“I-”
This time it was Tracy’s other parent who stepped up; “We know; son. We know. You two had some great years together and we couldn’t have asked for more, and ... and it hurts to admit this; but you made her happier than we ever did, Jensen. So while we’re always going to miss her, it’s okay to want to move on. You’re still young, Kiddo.”
Jensen nodded gratefully, his expressive eyes brimming with unshed tears, “She made me happy too; she-”
“Sshhh...” The beta whispered; drawing the grieving widower in a brief hug in an effort to comfort- Jared was not too sure it worked.
“And you deserve to be happy again; you’ve gone too long without another beta-” The colonel added.
The pack alpha shook his head as he straightened- his eyes still red, though dry now; “Not taking another beta. Jay’s an alpha.”
The two older men smiled tenderly, “its okay... whatever you choose; as long as you’re happy, alright?”
Jensen managed to pull up a smile as he reached out to Jared; discretely wiping at a tear in the corner of his eye, “S’rry.”
“C’mon,” He rolled his eyes. “...It’s cool man, I-... I just wish I could have met her too, you know?”
Jensen ducked his head but moved to sit next to Jared as everybody moved to sit. They exchanged small-talk for awhile before Jared excused himself- it was incredibly nice of Tracy’s parents to accept and actually talk to him, but he didn’t want to stretch their kindness too far.
It was a couple of hours before Jensen returned to the room and Jared couldn’t help but smirk at the red that suffused his skin when his eyes fell on what Jared had been reading.
“Please tell me you’re not-“
“’Course not;”He laughed, “reading the other articles... not my fault if your face graces the cover.”
“I’m sorry about earlier-” Jensen began.
Only for Jared to cut him off with “I told you that it’s fine... besides, s’not like I didn’t know about Tracy earlier... just-” he paused, continuing only at the older man’s questioning look; “You could have told them that you didn’t actually choose me; that it was a compulsory mating.”
Jensen shook his head, “Mom was there too, remember? Didn’t want her to know.” He mumbled.
Jared nodded. He could understand that even if he couldn’t relate.
Jared woke sometime near dawn feeling inexplicably cold in the early morning air, and for once he wasn’t surprised to note that he had curled into the older man in sleep- his head fitting in comfortably just under the Elder’s chin. Once he had pulled the blanket back over himself from where he’d (apparently) shrugged it off in the night, he paused to take in the peaceful expression on his mate’s face; his fingers tracing the contours of one defined cheekbone of their own accord.
Jensen scrunched his face adorably at the touch, making Jared repeat the gesture in a childish need to see him react again.
“Ugh,” the alpha mumbled, still partway asleep and ineffectually trying to bat the exploring fingers away, “Trace... le’mme sleep...”
Jared froze, heart constricting painfully at his mate’s sleep-addled words. “Not Tracy,” he ground out, “Jared.”
And whether it was the wrong baritone or whether it was his words, he would never know; but Jensen’s eyes flew open, “Jay...what?”
“It’s Jared.” He repeated helplessly.
The alpha’s brow scrunched up, confusion clear in their green depths, “Hmm?”
“You called me 'Trace'...” Jared whispered.
Jensen’s eyes closed guiltily, “S’rry...”
“Its fine,” The younger man dismissed the apology, wanting to erase that look off his mate’s face, “At least it proves that you’re not cheating on me.”
Jensen’s eyes widened in remonstration, “I wouldn’t!”
Jared stretched forward to press his lips against the alpha, murmuring “I know.” He pulled back as he felt the man stiffen, “Jen?”
But the older man simply stared back at him for a moment before arching his head and stretching to continue the kiss. Jared responded enthusiastically, crowding closer till he was almost on top of the other man and despite his willingness to continue the make-out session, Jared could feel Jensen’s muscles clenching and unclenching under him as the man fought to relax. He knew that every instinct in the alpha had to be screaming to roll over and pin Jared under him and yet, Jensen remained pliant in his hold, not fighting his dominance.
“You’re allowed to say no, you know?” He whispered; nuzzling against the hollow in the alpha’s neck not sure if the Alpha really wanted this or if Jensen was just playing along.
“No...” Jensen hesitated, “I mean, I... It’s not that I don’t want this-”
“But?” Jared prompted.
“Mom’s two doors down, dude.”
And that was the equivalent of a bucket of cold water.
“Damn!” he whispered, rolling away and collapsing on his back next to the (now chuckling) alpha.
“I could-?” Jensen offered hesitantly after a minute, but Jared waved him off, panting harshly as he fought to bring himself back under control. He thought he would find it hard to reclaim sleep after what happened but within a few minutes, he was already half-way to dreamland as he burrowed into his mate’s side.
The next time Jared awoke, he was alone in bed; the covers neatly pulled over him and Jensen’s pillow pressed against his side in a poor substitute for the other alpha. Huffing incredulously, he made his way to the kitchen; blinking around blearily as he waited for the caffeine to hit his system.
“Slept well?” A female voice enquired and Jared turned to find Jensen’s mother watching him.
“Yeah,” He answered, grinning as he caught the time on the wall-clock behind her, “A little too well, judging by the time.”
He watched her putter around the kitchen as he finished his coffee and was about to pick up the morning’s newspaper when he saw her pick up some clippers and a sunhat as she headed outside. Following uncertainly, he watched as she tended the flower-pots he had admired on his way in the previous day, realizing that the beta was responsible for their upkeep herself.
“Can I help?” He offered, feeling ridiculously useless as the older woman worked expertly on her garden.
She glanced up, peering at him thoughtfully for a moment before musing, “Maybe you could help me trim some of the higher branches.”
Jared nodded enthusiastically and set to work; realising within a few minutes that the task was much more difficult than it looked. For a while they worked in silence, then; “Tell me about the first time you two met.”
Jared nearly clipped his finger in surprise but managed to bring himself under control when he turned to glance at her, “Uh- what?”
“C’mon now, don’t be shy... how did you two meet? Was it love-at-first-sight like last time?” Mary coaxed.
“Last time?” He repeated blankly.
“Oh, Jensen didn’t tell you? He was a goner the first time he saw Tracy- with reason, I might add; that girl was something else. He didn’t talk about anything else for weeks after. Harold and I teased him about having already found a mate before even playing the field, you know? Little did we know how right we were...” She smiled, shaking her head wistfully, “They made a lovely couple.”
For a moment, Jared felt like he was the nameless second mate from ‘Rebecca’- forever overshadowed by the brilliance of his husband’s first wife. Shaking his head to dispel the feeling, he muttered softly, “It wasn’t quite like that with us.”
“Tell me.” Mrs. Ackles cajoled.
“I- I’d read about him before I ever met him, actually. My business Studies class had been asked to prepare a report on some company and I’d picked Ackles Corp... Jensen was... rather... inspiring- if you will; in paper at any rate...then we met.”
“And you thought he hung the moon and the stars.” She finished, smiling.
Jared shook his head, “Quite the reverse, actually... I found him arrogant and condescending.”
The beta raised a questioning brow, making him continue, “There was a trade-fair... more of a conference, actually,” He amended at her confused expression; “I was there with my aide and busy discussing our upcoming presentation, I-” he blushed, “I literally walked into him...”
“I’m sorry...I- you’re Jensen Ackles!”
Cool green eyes lifted to meet his gaze, answering despite Jared’s exclamation being impossible to mistake as a question, “Yes.”
“I’ve read so much about you... and it’s so nice to finally meet you in person, Sir. I’m Jared-”
“Padalecki- the kid who thinks he’s big enough to join the big boy’s sandbox. I know.”
“You don’t think I qualify?” Jared hissed, Jensen’s dismissive manner rubbing him wrong.
The first hint of a smile tilted the corners of the older man’s lips, “You’ll be the best judge of that, Kid.”
Jared bristled at the teasing and somehow that exchange was what settled the tone for their future interactions.
“So when did that change?”
“Hmmm...?” Jared questioned, having gotten lost in his memories to forget his audience. Hindsight proved that despite its packaging, Jensen’s criticism had always been positive; even though he hadn’t realized it at the time. Speaking of-
“Hey, do you know where Jen is? I haven’t seen him all morning.”
Jared found Jensen sitting with his knees drawn up and legs crossed at the ankles in front of the grave-marker. He didn’t look up when Jared sank down Indian style on the grass next to him- shoulders brushing, but he didn’t shift away either. For a long moment, neither of them spoke and Jared was beginning to wonder if he was intruding when the alpha began speaking.
“It was an automobile accident.” Jensen whispered so softly that for a moment Jared wasn’t sure that the older man wanted him to hear; irrespective he pressed his palm against his shoulder in a move he hoped was comforting but not really having much confidence.
“She’d said she wanted to tell me something... I was caught up in work all day, so I told her I’d meet her at Flame n’ Grill.”
“On Moore Avenue?” Jared asked when the older Were lapsed into silence yet again.
“Yeah,” Jensen nodded, “She never made it... It- it had been snowing lightly; and the tyres lost their traction on the slippery road. She braked- hard...” For a moment Jared wondered if Jensen was going to continue- because really, what else was left to say? But to his surprise, after a moment the man continued, “They found her car like that- parked neatly to the side... the-the autopsy reported cause of death to be cervical dislocation.”
“Cervical -what?” Jared asked, unfamiliar with the term- his head still playing scenarios of the beta’s car crashing into another and trying to wrap his mind around the fact that that hadn’t been the case.
“Dislocation- Her neck snapped due to the whiplash caused by the abrupt brake...it-it killed her instantly.” The Alpha drew in a gasping breath before adding softly, “Doc said that she didn’t- didn’t suffer.”
Jared closed his eyes- he had not expected that. He tried to picture it and failed. It was easier- so much easier; to imagine her colliding with another car; the lamppost; something- something jarring and cruel and inevitable than the reality of her having successfully avoided that fate only to die because of how she’d avoided it. It was harder to have nothing to blame for the loss of her life apart from her own reflexes.
“I’m sorry.” He murmured, finding the words to be woefully inadequate. “Did- did you ever find out what she’d wanted to tell you... before?”
Jensen nodded, head lifting slightly so that Jared could make out the unseeing gaze, “She was pregnant.”
The words seemed to reverberate inside Jared’s head as he squeezed his eyes closed, unable to comprehend how Jensen had managed to endure that.
“She’d just found out that day.” Jensen continued- voice inflectionless.
“Oh, Jesus!” He couldn’t help but groan- he hadn’t known the older man long, but the single month they had spent together had been more than enough for Jared to figure out that Jensen was the kind of man who revelled in his family. And given how Amelia frequently charged him with the responsibility of her child; Jared suspected that this was something that Jensen hadn’t shared with anybody- hell, by his own admission; Jensen hadn’t spoken about Tracy’s death prior to this; and the fact that she’d been expecting their baby? Jared would bet his company that nobody knew that.
“I- we’d been trying for awhile and the news wasn’t exactly a surprise to me- to either of us I’d guess, but that was the day when she’d gotten the confirmation from her doctor and-” His voice cracked, making him unable to continue.
“Hey,” Jared murmured; feeling completely useless, but recognising that something needed to be done. He gently tugged on the older man’s arm and was gratified when Jensen turned into his shoulder without protest.
“You don’t have to be strong all the time, you know. And it’s just us here... you can let go. It’s- it’s okay.” He murmured softly, hesitantly entangling his fingers in the short hairs at Jensen’s nape.
The Pack Alpha didn’t reply verbally but Jared could feel silent tremors coursing through the broad shoulders as Jensen pressed himself closer. They sat like that silently for a long moment before Jensen shifted to curl on the lush grass with his head in Jared’s lap. Jared froze at the change in position for a minute before resuming carding fingers through the older man’s hair. He glanced down briefly to realize that Jensen had his eyes closed, lashes clumping together wetly even though there was no other evidence of his grief. His breath would escape him in a shuddering gasp every once in awhile; but Jared chose not to draw attention to it.
Sitting there in the quiet morning, running his hands through his mate’s hair as he stared at the simple gravestone was oddly peaceful and he allowed his mind to drift. And it may have been because of their recent conversation but he found his thoughts drifting to the children’s room back at the estate- the obvious thought and care that had gone into its planning and he found himself swallowing past a lump in his own throat, “Jen?”
“Brian’s room back home, was it originally...?” He couldn’t bring himself to finish.
“No!” Jensen’s voice was understandably hoarse, “No... I- uh, I didn’t move to this house till...after. We’d- we’d talked about moving someplace away from the city once we had kids, but hadn’t exactly decided anything.”
He paused for a long moment before confessing, “I couldn’t stand all the memories in our apartment, so I- I moved.”
Jared nodded, grasping at the first thought to distract the older man from the memories which were obviously tormenting him. “So the- the apartment, you still go there sometimes?”
Jared felt the motion as Jensen shook his head, “No, sold it... although I did have the opportunity to...to visit; recently.”
Jared’s brows climbed as he tried to think of another question to make Jensen continue speaking- “How’re the new owners?”
He watched as Jensen cracked a smile at that, eyes still closed, “Owner- not plural; he was single until recently. Nice chap, quite an interesting fellow, actually.”
Jared narrowed his eyes, “Interesting, huh?”
“Yeah,” Jensen answered, one eye sliding open to peer up at him, “You might know him, used to live in the penthouse at CityView Heights.”
“Penthouse at CityView...” He repeated dumbly before realization hit, “Jensen, that’s where Ilive!”
“Used to, now you live at the estate with me; remember?” Jensen corrected lazily, stretching as he moved to sit up.
And it was like some huge cosmic joke, Jared thought- he’d been unknowingly chasing after Jensen for most of his life: the choice of his Major, becoming one of Boyle’s Boys, the apartment... If he’d been the kind of Were to believe in such things, he’d have said they were destined to be together.
He opened his mouth to share his observation with Jensen but was interrupted b y the mellifluous trilling of Jensen’s cell-phone.
“Hello?” Jensen’s voice was crisp- confident; no sign of his recent breakdown.
Jared watched as the Elders brows furrowed more as the call continued till finally the man agreed to whatever was being said with a sigh.
“What?” Jared asked as soon as the alpha hung up.
“Work,” Jensen rolled his eyes, “Ruining my plans like always.”
“Apparently our shares have taken quite a considerable hit- I need to head back and do some damage control...” He shook his head, “I’d hoped that for once I would have been able to stay for Mom’s birthday; but no-”
“When’s her birthday?” Jared interrupted.
“Okay then,” He nodded to himself, quickly going through all possible scenarios, “You should stay.”
“Huh?” Jensen glanced at him as though he’d grown a second head, “Did you hear a word of what I just said? I can’t stay, man!”
“Stay,” Jared repeated more firmly, “I’ll fly back tonight. You can come in tomorrow evening or the next day. I’ll handle it.”
“Dude,” The younger man interrupted, “The merger’s been finalized; it’s both our companies now. Let me take care of this.”
Jensen still looked uncertain, “You’re sure?”
“Positive.” Jared confirmed before nodding towards the grave, “Say your goodbyes, I’ll see you back in the room, okay?”
Chapter 20: Chapter-17
Jared bit back a groan as he spied the throng of reporters waiting in the lobby to corner him and the headache which had been plaguing him all afternoon threatened to blossom into a migraine. Still, he marshalled his reserves to force a smile as the microphones were thrust into his face.
‘Padalecki Ltd. Has lost four of its biggest clients after this merger, how do you explain that?’
‘Where is Alpha Ackles?’
‘Ackles Corp. Is at its lowest in a decade, what are you feelings on that, Sir?’
‘Was taking down Ackles Corp from the inside your original intention, Alpha Padalecki?’
‘The merger is being touted as the worst business decision of the century; your comments?’
“We’ll make new clients. Jensen has a family event, he’ll be here tomorrow. Hell no! - It has never been my intention to sabotage Ackles Corp. And it’s been less than a week; don’t you guys think it’s too early to decide whether it’s the worst decision ever or not?” He replied, counting off his answers on his fingers before pausing, “I think that answers everything. Did I miss anyone’s question?”
A low murmur of dissent went through the group before a voice spoke up, “Sir, how do you explain flying first class to HillTop and attending Alpha Beaver’s harvest festival when your company is struggling to pay its non-regular staff?”
“Whoa! Things are most definitely not that dire.” Jared laughed, even though he felt like screaming- the migraine a heavy pounding beat behind his eyeballs by now. “The Padalecki-Ackles Corp Pvt. Ltd. may be dealing with a loss in stock-value at the moment; but I promise you that we’re not struggling to pay our employees- Any of our employees.”
“And you would do better to check your facts next time, Ma’am... Jared and I did not use company finances to fund our trip.” A low voice added from beyond the crowd of journalists- even though it was not particularly loud, something about the gravity with which the words were spoken made it carry.
And if not for his headache, Jared would have laughed at the way the crowd parted like the red sea to reveal Jensen standing at the other end: dressed in the leather jacket Jared had gifted him and towing his suitcase; obviously having arrived from the airport directly.
“Jen,” He couldn’t help the relief that covered his tone, moving forward instinctively to wrap the man in a brief one-armed clasp; “How’d it go? I thought you were coming tomorrow?”
The older man accepted the short hug as he shook his head, voice low as he spoke for Jared’s ears alone, “Mom was furious at me for having abandoned you; told me she wouldn’t speak to me if I didn’t get my ass back here.”
Jared chuckled, “I’m sure that wasn’t her choice of vocabulary.”
Jensen shrugged, grinning; “It’s what she meant.”
Jared shook his head- and immediately regretted the movement when it felt like a pickaxe through his eye and watched wordlessly as Jensen quirked an eyebrow at the assembled media, “Any further questions?”
It was apparently the wrong thing to say; because instantly a voice piped up, “Why the harvest festival?”
“Why did you choose to attend this event in particular?”
“No reason,” Jensen assured, “We were invited.”
By the time they were safely inside their car; Jared was flinching at every loud noise and scrunching his eyes against the bright headlight of the oncoming traffic. He longed for the softness of his mattress as he pressed his face against the cool glass of the side window, praying they wouldn’t get held up in traffic.
He gratefully surrendered to the alpha’s supporting grasp when the older man helped him to his room- his own eyes mere slits to ensure he didn’t run into the wall. Jared collapsed on the bed the moment he reached his room; wanting to crawl under the covers immediately, but knowing he would end up regretting it if he didn’t step out of his work clothes first.
Sitting in the dark with eyes closed and breathing deeply as he tried to push back the agonising pain enough to be able to sleep; he was taken aback when a cool tumbler was pushed into his hands. He blinked blearily, nodding gratefully when a pill was pressed into his other palm and popping it without question. He sat quietly for a minute afterwards, savouring the refreshing cool of the water and relaxing his hold from around the glass when Jensen took it away.
“Let me help you?” The Elder whispered, mindful of how his volume affected Jared.
He nodded his consent and regretted the gesture as the pain spiked again- even though he didn’t feel like talking just yet. Jared’s eyes snapped open in surprise when he felt his shoes being carefully removed; taken aback to see the older man on his knees before him. He blinked, even the little light that pooled in from the living room cruelly assaulting his eyes; but feeling too unbalanced to permit himself the pleasant darkness.
Jensen wordlessly proceeded to remove his socks and the reached for his belt, murmuring ‘may I?’
He felt more than saw the alpha pause with his hand on Jared’s belt and simply leaned back to grant access in silent permission. He was more than a little uncomfortable sitting in front of Jensen in just his skivvies, but the alpha was obviously not bothered by his near nudity; helping him slip off the jacket and shed his shirt before tucking him in under the thick blankets. Finally relaxing as his head hit the pillows, he allowed his eyes to slip shut again; unable to help leaning into the touch when Jensen carded his fingers through his hair.
He wasn’t sure when he dropped off to sleep, but when he woke next, soft morning light was filtering in through the curtains and his last night’s clothes were sitting neatly folded on the edge of the dresser.
Jared had already finished his morning run and his first mug of coffee the next morning by the time Jensen stumbled in all bleary eyed; passing a steaming cuppa wordlessly as he waited for the alpha to wake up properly.
“Hey,” Jensen managed after a few sips.
“Hey back,” Jared grinned.
“How’re you feeling today?”
“Good,” He admitted, glancing up from the file he was skimming, “Pretty good, actually.”
“Huh,” The alpha mused, “What happened last night?”
“I’d skipped lunch...”Jared admitted guiltily; unable to help the warmth spreading through him to have someone that actually cared when Jensen glared. He wondered how to thank the older man for watching over him the previous night, but ultimately settled for- “I’m glad you’re back.”
The alpha gave a brief nod of acknowledgement before leaning over his shoulder to see what he was reading. “For today?” He enquired, eyebrow arched.
Jared nodded, “Best to be prepared.”
“Well I’ll be,” Jensen laughed, “Padalecki’s actually scared!”
Jared shrugged, grinning at the good-natured ribbing, “Not my fault you have oversized bullies you call employees!”
“Don’t worry; I’ll protect you.”
“I know.” Jared whispered, and saw the alpha shift uncomfortably at the abrupt seriousness; but couldn’t help wanting Jensen to know that they were on the same team now.
Jared frowned but refrained from barging in as he watched a heavily pregnant beta waddle into the conference room through the clear glass wall separating it from his office. The furrows deepened when the beta hauled Jared’s executive chair from its position at the head of the table to the spot on the immediate left and settled into it, pulling out thick folders and slamming them on the table before relaxing back to massage his back for a moment. He supposed he could sympathise- the omega looked about ready to pop and he found himself wondering if the guy should be office at all.
His phone chirped at that moment with a message from Chad that he was held up at the cafe and would arrive in a few minutes- and that they could start without him. He smiled, knowing he had never started a meeting without Chad and wasn’t about to begin now; at least the message had managed to draw his attention back to the papers he was supposed to be reading. Lost in the numbers he jumped at the sharp knock on his door, looking up to find Jensen gesturing towards the next room. Nodding he began to gather up his papers; unable to sneak a look at the next room as his mate entered and the beta raised a hand in greeting.
He wasn’t sure what the sudden wave of anger meant but it spurred him to move that much faster and he was just stepping inside the room to hear the low laugh of the beta as he laughed over something Jensen had said.
“C’mon, Ackles; you know a simple hello is never enough for me; give me a kiss!”
He blanched, muscles tightening when he realized that his mate didn’t seem too worried at the words; only relaxing as Jensen pressed a chaste kiss on the beta’s cheek and noticed Jared, hand extending automatically to draw him closer.
“Jared; this crazy guy is the one who handles all the legal affairs for my company. Misha; this is my mate- Jared Padalecki.”
Jared couldn’t help his blush at the low whistle Misha greeted him with, “Hel-lo, Handsome!”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Collins.”
“Oh, call me Misha; I insist. And I should sue the two of you on behalf of betas everywhere for taking away our chance to land one of you lovely specimens.” He mock threatened.
Jensen laughed and after a moment of hesitance, Jared joined in.
“Jared, I hope you don’t mind me snagging your chair; with the kids using my kidneys like a football, I really can’t sit on straight-backs anymore.”
“It’s no problem.” He assured, dragging Misha’s abandoned chair to his place as Jensen pulled in another one from the side. The older alpha shot a questioning glance but Jared nodded as the angled both chairs to fit side by side at the head-of-the-table.
He flushed when he realised that Collins was still staring at him, the beta only grinned- revelling in his discomfort and blinked cheekily at him, “Ackles, you sure you won’t let me have an hour or two with your boy?”
The older alpha chuckled, not bothering to look up from the pages he had opened, “Don’t let Vicky hear you say that, Mish.”
“Too late.” A female voice snapped and Jared glanced up expecting to see a furious alpha but was pleasantly surprised by the grinning face. Apparently she was used to Misha’s antics.
“Ah, the love of my life has finally arrived.” Misha announced theatrically and lumbered up to pull the petite alpha into his arms.
The woman rolled her eyes, “Stop acting like you haven’t seen me for days, honey.”
“Ah, but every minute apart feels like an eternity!” Misha refuted with arms waving to match his melodramatic throw before sobering and grinning at his mate, “I’m honest, Vic; I did miss you.”
“That’s only because I had your juice bottle.” The woman shot back even as she pressed the bottle OJ into his hands; one hand casually brushing against the swell of his stomach. “Kids okay?”
Misha nodded as he settled back into his chair; gratefully sipping at his bottled juice.
“When are they due?” Jensen asked.
“Twenty-seventh.” Misha pouted.
“Wanted a Christmas baby, huh?”
And Jared wondered how Jensen had known that when all the beta did was nod. As they all settled and began discussing the major issues; he was suddenly grateful they had planned to have this private counsel before the rest of the board came in- he wasn’t sure he could have handled encountering the Collins for the first time in public.
Chad burst in after another minute; carrying coffee for all of them and panting from having power-walked all the way back from the Starbucks down the block. He was by now used to Misha’s over-expression to not be stunned when the beta groaned at the scent of the aromatic brew; growling under his breath that he planned to spend a few hours of quality-time with the beverage once the kids were born to make up for abstaining now. Caught up in trying not to laugh he nearly missed the betrayed expression on Chad’s face. For a moment he was puzzled; but then as the beta pulled out a chair on the far side he realized that Chad had always sat next to him for meetings but with him sandwiched between Jensen on one side and Misha on the other; the beta felt like he had been replaced.
Trapped in his guilt, it took him a while to refocus on the conversation and he abruptly realized that he must have missed an entire chunk of it because now Vicky was looking over something in her files and saying that something was crazy was enough that might just work even as Misha snorted indulgently. Apparently the duo could be professional when the need arose.
He blushed, unable to articulate that he had no idea what was being asked and judging from Jensen’s knowing smile, the older alpha knew it.
“You think we can afford it? Obviously we’ll not be making any kind of profit from the orphanage... I think we barely have funds enough to pay for the material cost; but if the structure is impressive enough it might just bring our clients back.”
He nodded then, grateful to have the details and sure that the colour on his cheeks announced to everyone who cared to know that he hadn’t been paying attention. He glanced at Chad, quirking an eyebrow at his long-time aide, “Whatd’ya say, dude?”
“I don’t know.” Chad growled, “Ever since we got partnered with Ackles,”- the name was hissed angrily- “things have been going wrong, Jaybird.”
Jared’s eyes narrowed- he had thought the beta had gotten over his dislike for the Elder Were;he heard the soft rumbles that preceded a growl emanate from both Misha and Victoria, but Jensen himself was still calm.
“Chad,” He warned.
“NO!” The beta growled, I have no idea what he’s done to you to have you bending over for him; but you’re acting like a damn idiot, you-!”
Everyone jumped at the vehemence behind the word; Jensen’s eyes were flashing a dark jade but for all his fury, Jared had the odd sense that Jensen was still in absolute control; angry, yes; but not so angry that he would lose control over his alpha-side.
“Not one more word against him; you hear me?” The voice was low, “I won’t argue that the merger has hit both companies quite badly; but that isn’t Jared’s fault. And I don’t see you jumping in with any suggestions; so lay off the blame, clear?”
Jared sighed as he stared at the abandoned Christmas dinner. Perfectly aware that it was illogical to feel this way, but he had lost his appetite about the time Jensen left to help with Misha’s labour: apparently the beta had gotten his wish of having Christmas babies.
And despite his history, Jensen was still quite obviously fond of children. Jared couldn’t help but wonder if his inability to bear pups would end up as the reason for them growing apart more than all their history. Unable to chase the thought from his mind, he glanced at the mirror and sucked in a breath at the tee-shirt stretched taut over the bulge in his middle. Gingerly he placed one trembling hand over the bulge, stroking over it and cupping a hand underneath to support the tiny weight- marvelling at how huge his hand appeared and nearly hid it from view when he splayed his fingers over it.
He wondered if he was being silly, but then he remembered the fake belly their teacher had forced all the betas in class to wear to deter them from unprotected sex. Considering he would be saying yes to a lot more than simple sex if he agreed to this; he didn’t think it sounded too far-fetched to walk around with a cushion pushed under his shirt- at least Jensen wasn’t going to be back for hours; so there was no threat of ridicule.
Lost in thought as he luxuriated in the tranquil moonlight, he jumped when warm arms slid around him before the familiar scent had him relaxing into the hold, a shiver going through him when one of Jensen’s cold hands pushed under his layers to close over his the flat of his belly. The tightness of his shirt and jacket pressing against the cushion he still wore to push the hand more firmly against his skin. He could feel the embarrassed flush heating his face and was grateful when the older man said nothing.
Clearing his throat awkwardly, Jared managed to ask, “How’d it go?”
“Good, Misha and both babies are doing great.”
He nodded, leaning a bit more so that the alpha could hook his chin over his shoulder, “Vicky?”
“Over the moon.”
He nodded again, biting his lip before daring to voice his question that had been plaguing him since Jensen firmly refused Jared’s offer to accompany him, “How come she didn’t consider you a threat too?”
Jensen chuckled, the sound soothing something in him, “’Coz I’m the Pack Alpha.” It was another minute before he spoke again, “In the old days the Pack Alpha was the only alpha permitted in the birthing dens... and given how most of the pack was on the same cycle, it would be days before he’d emerge. The Pack beta handled everything during those times; especially the defence.”
“Uh-huh,” The older man nodded, continuing softly, “A pack is always at its most vulnerable during the birthing season- easy picking for any rival who wanted to lay claim.”
“But... wouldn’t the alpha be more useful at the front-lines?”
The Elder didn’t reply verbally but Jared could feel him shaking his head, “It was more important to keep the betas calm. Besides, a Pack Beta is no less formidable than the Alpha- in fact, often times Betas are way more ferocious than the alpha could ever hope to be. The Betas were the ones who led the charge at those times; the alpha brought up the rear; a last line of defence before the betas and their pups.”
“What- what happened if the Beta was expecting himself... or herself?” He was sure Jensen could hear what he wasn’t asking.
“They’d be in the den... usually the last one to give birth from what I’ve read.”
Jensen chuckled, “Like you wouldn’t believe.” A cold nose pressed into the hollow behind his ear, nuzzling quietly before Jensen whispered, “Pack Betas are some of the strongest Weres one could ever meet, Jay.”
He swallowed, trying and unable to picture it. “J-Jen?”
He closed his eyes briefly, trying to gather courage for what he was about to ask, “D-do...do you need me to give you an heir?”
Dry lips pressed over his pulse-point, “Not going to turn you, Jay.”
“We can adopt... or opt for surrogacy; if you want to be a father that bad. As for me needing an heir, I have nephews... you needn’t worry about my bloodline ending with me.”
He nodded- something loosening in him at the reassurance; abruptly aware of how close Jensen’s lips were to his: he’d just need to turn his head and-
He turned his head.
Jared could feel the surprise in the momentary stillness of the other Were’s body and then he was gasping in surprise when Jensen retrieved his hand from its resting spot over his stomach, dragging out the cushion as he did. But before he could explain himself, he was being turned around and warm hands were sliding over his back; stopping at his nape to angle his head and dry- soft-lips descended on his.
He could feel the other’s interest and it seemed to spur his own arousal; surging forward to press them even closer together and only snapping back in surprise at the unexpected tendril of lust- and shame- as he realized that for the first time in his life; instead of wanting to claim, his instinct was to bare his belly and offer himself. Jensen’s gaze was literally sparking fire- like a lithium flame- but the Elder’s eyes were tender as they met his.
“Whatever you want,” The words were a whispered reassurance, a balm on his suddenly turbulent emotions.
He nodded, moving forward hesitantly again and relaxing when Jensen didn’t question what had caused him to withdraw. Jensen nipped at his lips again and Jared opened them on instinct, granting access and relaxing as the older Were mapped the inside of his mouth like he had all the time in the world. He found himself moving forward- seeking- when Jensen gentled the kiss to a stop; only then realising that at some point they had moved back from the porch to Jensen’s room. He swallowed.
He looked back into green eyes to find them hopeful.
“Just sleep, I promise.”
It was an incessant beeping that dragged him from his dreams. He blinked blearily, trying to figure out the time even as Jensen stopped the annoying ringing.
Jared smiled at the sleepy, half-swallowed greeting- yeah the Elder was as heavy-eyed as him. Grinning, he tightened his hold over the sweat-pant clad hips and closed his eyes again feeling confident that Jensen would retire again once he was done with the call. The abrupt tensing of his mate’s muscles had him blinking his eyes open again, peering up petulantly as he lost his living pillow with the Elder straightening up from his half-sitting position.
He furrowed his brows as he noticed his mate's frown and knuckled away his sleep to listen in on the one-sided conversation:
“Please tell me you’re-“
“Yeah- yes... No, I’ll tell- yeah. Thanks for telling me.” Another sigh, as the man pinched the bridge of his nose, “No, no...It’s just that we could have really done with some good news now.”
Chapter 21: Chapter-18
Jared blinked; coming out of the reverie he had slipped into and recognized that they had reached Padalecki Towers. With a brief nod at Chad he stepped outside, pausing as he considered his options. He ducked his head to peer back in through the car-window, “Hey, Chad?”
The beta leaned across the seat, “Yeah?”
“I’m gonna talk to Jensen; you carry on ahead, okay?”
The blonde’s features briefly creased in annoyance but the beta nodded, “Sure, Boss.”
He shook his head at his friend’s adamant refusal to use his actual name before crossing the street and heading into the older alpha’s office. Jensen’s secretary just smiled as he breezed past her, obviously knowing better than to stop him. But he halted as he realized that he had walked in on a meeting.
Jensen caught his eyes and wordlessly stood; nodding at the two men he had been speaking with, “Guys, we’ll continue this some other time, alright?”
He briefly wondered what the employees thought of the abrupt dismissal and had no clue what his expression was to have garnered such a response; but then Jensen was pulling him into his arms and Jared couldn’t have brought himself to care as he buried his head in the crook of the Elder’s neck and allowed the tenuous grasp on his composure to slip away.
Jared wasn’t sure how long they stood like that but when he finally- finally - managed to regain some semblance of calm, he realized that Jensen was crooning soft words of comfort as he rocked him; the cradle of his arms a warm and comforting shelter.
“Thanks,” He croaked out, pulling reluctantly away to look into the older man’s eye. His eyes felt scratchy and his nose was blocked, but although the pain had lessened somewhat; the grief was still very much present.
The Elder simply shook his head, walking them to the leather couch as though he understood Jared’s need to stay close. He waited till Jensen appeared to be seated comfortably before drawing close again, tucking his head under his mate’s chin even though his greater height made the position slightly uncomfortable.
Jensen didn’t object; silently running his hand up and down Jared’s back and he realized at that instant why he hadn’t broken down on Chad like this despite having known the man longer: because the beta couldn’t have given him this.
“Can’t believe he’s gone...” He mumbled after an indeterminate amount of time.
Jensen nodded, “Wish I had tried reaching out earlier,”
Jared pulled back to glare momentarily before snuggling close again, “Pretty sure that’s supposed to be my line.”
He felt the alpha shake his head, “I remember what it’s like to lose your Dad... And yeah; maybe you are all grown up now, and maybe you guys didn’t speak for a decade... but he’s still the guy who raised you. And I wish I could have met him. .. Hell, if I’d simply asked Ronald about Gerald when I asked for your hand, we could have met him!”
“Jen, if we’re going to be playing ‘if-I-had-done-this’ then let me say if I’d not been such a stubborn idiot and just picked up the phone then my last words to the man wouldn’t have been ‘I-hate-you’,” He mumbled petulantly against the man's neck.
“I’m sure he knew you didn’t mean it that way, Jay.” The Alpha comforted, fingers carding gently through his hair.
He nodded, “But I could still have called him, Jen. Told him he’d been right. And said that I didn’t hate him- that I... that I missed him.”
Jensen hushed the hiccup and tightened his hold on him, “Spoke to your Mom?”
Jared bit his lip, fresh tears springing in his eyes at the memory, “She –she said she didn’t have-didn’t have a son.”
The Elder planted a quick kiss on his forehead and continued stroking his back, not wasting breath on empty commiserations. He had nearly relaxed into the hold when he felt the sharp tug of a spasm as it started low on his back and slowly travelled up his spine, making him gasp.
“What?” Jensen asked, shifting along with him so that despite having straightened, he was still firmly ensconced in the older man’s arms.
“Cramp,” He managed to bark out; tensing as the pain moved- seemingly igniting every single nerve on its path as it climbed upwards.
“Okay, relax...” Jensen coached, “Deep breaths, Padalecki. C’mon now...”
He threw a dirty look over his shoulder even as he tried to breathe through the rapidly spreading soreness.
“Damn it, Jay!” Jensen cursed, lowly warning “Gonna go all alpha, okay?” Before his voice took on the double timbre of the Pack Alpha- the second one inaudible but tangible in the goose-bumps that rose up his skin in response, “Relax.”
And before he could comprehend, his body was reacting to the command, the tenseness dissolving as he went boneless in the Elder’s hold.
“Good, now breathe. In...out; good boy. Again, deep breaths, Jay. In... Out.”
He mutely obeyed, regulating his breathing to match his mate’s and continuing till the sharp agony lessened somewhat, settling into a low throb.
“Better?” Jensen whispered, voice back to normal as he nuzzled behind Jared’s ear.
He nodded wordlessly.
“Alright then, let me have it. How bad did I piss you off this time by going Alpha?”
“You were trying to help-”
“Not an excuse; although you are less susceptible than anyone else.”
“Besides,” Jared whispered, ignoring the interruption and filing away the information for later, “it was kind of hot.”
Jensen snorted, “Seriously?”
He nodded, ducking his head to hide his eyes behind his bangs. “Guess I should let you get back to work now...”
Jensen hummed absently, his fingers probing Jared’s back and shoulders thoughtfully.
The older man glanced up, green eyes sparkling, “I think I should give you a massage.”
Jared spluttered- whatever else; he had never expected those words from his former business competitor.
“What? I’ve been told I’m good with my hands...”
“Here?” Jared hedged, wavering between temptation and apprehension.
“Sure, why not?” Jensen shrugged, “It’s not like anyone else is going to stumble in unannounced. And I’ll make sure to lock the door.”
Jared nodded hesitantly, “Ummm... how do you want me?”
“Bent over the table, shirt off.” Jensen answered instantly, rifling through a drawer before turning with a triumphant ‘Aha!’
Jared smiled briefly before doing as recommended, feeling self-conscious once his shirt was gone- he was glad his mate’s office didn’t have a glass wall like his own did; grateful for the privacy afforded by the solid concrete wall. Jensen cleared out a space on his desk for him to lean against and he didn’t dally, moving to spread himself across the emptied space as he pillowed his head on folded arms. He tried not to think about just how vulnerable his position was if Jensen decided to take advantage of it.
The alpha’s palms were warm against his skin, although whatever it was he had poured on him was not, and after a few initial tentative brushes, Jensen seemed to find his rhythm; really getting into the impromptu massage.
“Hey, Jared?” Jensen called after a minute or so.
“Hmmm?” He mumbled, having relaxed into the firm strokes despite the awkwardness of leaning over Jensen’s work table.
“You... you’re really a Sasquatch, man...” Jensen began hesitantly.
He giggled, “Yeah?”
“Yeah, you can laugh all you want,” Jensen grumbled, “But fact is; I can’t reach your shoulders well enough to work them unless I press up against you. That okay?”
Jared blinked, lying silently for a moment as he tried to understand what Jensen was trying to tell him and ultimately deciding it didn’t matter. He nodded.
He jumped slightly when he felt the front of Jensen’s pressed dress-slacks brush against his legs, before realizing that it was just the tycoon stepping closer. He had not noticed before, but previously, it had just been Jensen’s hands on him as he worked Jared’s cramped muscles.
Jensen obviously wasn’t trying to work in a free grope as he massaged Jared, because his hands stayed all business: detecting one knot after another on his back like they had a map of them before digging in and working them over till they dissolved. It hurt some, but it was the good kind of hurt.
He felt his shoulders relax as they were massaged, but before Jensen could finish, the comfortable silence was shattered by the ringing of his phone.
The Elder cursed softly before retrieving it from his jacket pocket and Jared shivered in the sudden cold now that Jensen was no longer pressed up against him.
“Oh, hey Kiddo! What’s up?” He glanced up at Jared who was buttoning his shirt, mouthing ‘it’s my nephew’.
The younger man furrowed his brows, whispering “Is everything alright? Amelia?”
Jensen shook his head, whispering “Other one, its Adrian’s kid.”
And then he was responding to whatever had been said on the phone, “Seriously? That was today?”
A pause, then, “Yeah, yeah; I know. It completely slipped my mind and what? Your Dad couldn’t call once to remind me?”
Jensen pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking briefly before continuing, and “No, it’ll take too long for me to come up; you get yourself a cab. Give them my name and the directions to my office... Of course I’m at work, Kiddo!... yeah, yeah... okay then, see you soon.”
Jared held back from commenting as the pint-sized twelve year male old version of Jensen’s sister (barring the coal-black hair) looked up at him contemplatively. After Jensen had explained how he had obviously forgotten all about Adrian’s son coming over for a visit given the upheaval in their companies and in their lives; he could not really blame the older man. Besides the child was a welcome distraction from the memories of how he had failed his late father.
“You’re really tall.” The child finally decided.
Jared forced a grin, “I suppose I am.”
“And you’re Uncle Jensen’s new mate?”
He nodded again.
“Good,” The child announced solemnly, “He needed someone.”
And Jared barely held back from laughing at the adult sounding words.
“Ready to head out?” Jensen called, as he approached them.
He nodded, “Was just chatting with Petey here.”
“It’s Peter,” The boy corrected instantly and Jared saw Jensen’s knowing smirk.
“C’mon, Pete, daylight’s a-wasting! Hop in.”
The younger boy seemed familiar enough with Jensen’s house to head straight to the children’s room, not even bothering to grab his suitcase as though he knew Jensen would haul it in for him. Jared tried not to frown at that.
“He’s a kid,” Jensen told him, obviously not mistaking his simmering disapproval.
“Yeah, but he’s due to head a Pack someday, Jensen; from anyone else, it’s excusable. Not from Pete.”
The Elder bit his lip at the reminder, not appreciating being told that his nephew needed to change; but didn’t deny the truth in his mate’s words.
Jared felt Amelia come up to stand next to him as they watched the two children frolic in the pool next to the house. Accepting the chilled beer with a smile he returned his attention to the boys in the water.
“I guess Jensen’s right, you are a true Beta.” She confided in a conversational tone.
Jared froze, “Pardon?”
“You knew nothing of Packs till recently and now you’re already willing to do anything to protect our Pack, aren’t you? Including consenting to being turned.”
His jaw pulsed at that but he refused to answer.
“But you’re safe; Jensen won’t do that to you.” She assured, obviously realising she had inadvertently hit a nerve.
“I know.” He managed.
“But you think he should,” She mused.
“It’s just...” Jared shrugged, waving a hand towards the children who were busy splashing each other “I can’t picture either of them taking on a Pack Alpha’s responsibilities... I mean, they’re young I know, but...Was- was Jensen like this when he was a kid?”
Amelia shook her head, “No; but you can’t have a Jensen every generation, you know? Sometimes the line weakens before strengthening again.”
Jared had never claimed himself to be any good with kids but he was still embarrassed with how relieved he was when Peter left with Amelia and Brian on Sunday evening. It made him wonder how he would fare if he and Jensen ever decided to go for children of their own- especially given he (they) would be missing that biological link with said child.
“What’s eating you?” Jensen asked, sliding into the armchair across from him and passing over a chilled beer.
“So still thinking about who succeeds the Pack after me, then?”
Jared cracked a grin at that, “Not really... was thinkin’ it’s good that we can’t have kids of our own, I guess; because apparently... business deals I can handle, kids?” He pulled a face, “Completely different story.”
Jensen watched quietly for a few seconds, simply sipping his beer before leaning forward, “Can I tell you something?”
“Stop worrying about that. We... we’ve not been together for even a year, Jared; and there’s too much going on at the moment. Let’s just get to know each other first, alright?”
Jared nodded, feeling his lips tilt in a wry smile, “Not like we can change our minds if we don’t like something about each other.”
To his surprise, Jensen reached out to snag his arm at that, peering into his eyes earnestly “There’s always a happy medium called compromise, Jay. We can make this work.”
“I know,” He confessed, surprised by how much he meant the words, “But can we convince our investors?”
“Hey Jared; you back?”
Jared nodded before realising that the alpha couldn’t see him across the phone connection. “Yeah, got back a few minutes ago,” he confirmed.
“Great, had lunch?”
He smiled as he heard his mate’s question- it was well past their usual lunch hour, but it was obvious that Jensen had been waiting for him to come back from the site. “Not yet, you’ll come by?”
“Yeah, see you in five.”
He filled Jensen in on his on-site observations and the changes to the original plan he thought might be needed based on those observations while they ate. His mate was his usual patient self as he listened and made recommendations where needed. Deep in discussion over the blue-prints spread across his table, they both startled at the sudden knock on his door.
“Dude, You need to eat some-... oh.” Looking up he saw Chad begin to enter before freezing as he noticed Jensen’s presence.
“Mr. Murrey, why don’t you join us as well?” Jensen rejoined, automatically rising to his feet at the beta’s entry in an antiquated gesture of courtesy.
“I... nah; its fine. Thank you.” Chad replied stiffly before swivelling sharply to walk out.
The alpha frowned as he reclaimed his seat after Chad had left, “Did I interrupt something?”
Jared shook his head, trying to dislodge the guilt- he and Chad didn’t have any plans, but they usually ate together after site-inspections; except, he hadn’t remembered their little ritual till Chad had arrived at his door, ready to drag him down to the cafeteria.
“Umm, we’ve been invited to a new year bash,” Jensen remarked casually after awhile when it became clear that the focussed mood with which they had been poring over the blue-prints had disappeared.
“Lafferty’s hosting,” Jensen elaborated, “And I guess it might be a big do ‘cause it’s not at his place.”
“Where is it?” Jared asked for the lack of a better question.
“Uhm... here, let me check,” The alpha paused, scrolling through his android before nodding as he located the e-invite. “5B, Maple Street.”
Jared’s eyes widened, “I know that address.”
Green eyes lifted curiously, urging him to continue.
“It’s Chad’s place.”
The corners of the alpha’s lips tilted in a smile, “Didn’t realize they were serious,”
“Me neither,” Jared admitted slowly, biting his lip at the slow stirring of guilt- time had been when he would have been the first person to hear if Chad even liked an alpha, no matter that he was seeing someone seriously enough to host an event together.
Now, he was the last to be informed.
Despite the soup of regret and sadness and curiosity fluttering around in his belly, Jared discovered the party to be surprisingly enjoyable.
Chad doesn’t treat him any different than he ever has and Jared wondered if the beta had not said anything about dating James Lafferty only because he’d assumed Jared to be already aware. And it stung to know that he hadn’t.
Given Lafferty was the co-host; he was not really surprised to note that almost all of Jensen’s friends had been invited too. And barring Chad’s neighbours- a feisty alpha named Sophia and her mate; and his and Jared’s other college room-mate, the guest list was almost identical to the gathering he and Jensen had hosted.
And this time, he finally met Chris’ mate- Steve. Even Misha and Victoria arrived with their precious bundles in tow and though they left early, the half-hour they spent had everybody in the house fawning over the twins.
Jared grinned at his mate’s indignant squawk when Misha unceremoniously handled one squirming baby to Jensen while he headed to change the other when he couldn’t find Victoria but felt his old feelings of inadequacy return when the child relaxed easily into the Pack Alpha’s grip.
“Wanna hold ‘im?” Jensen whispered, glancing up at him.
“And risk traumatising the poor kid? Dude, you’re crazy!” Chad butted in.
Jensen was not swayed though, emerald eyes focussed on his mate, “Jay?”
He bit his lip, holding out his hands uncertainly to accept the tiny blanket-covered bundle, “What if I drop him?”
“Then I kill you.” Victoria; who had returned from wherever she’d been, murmured but didn’t try to stop Jensen transferring the sleeping child to his arms.
“Sshhh, easy,” The Alpha guided, but Jared was already tuning out everything else to focus on the tiny fragile life in his arms. The child remained soundly asleep throughout the entire episode and before he knew it Misha had returned and was reclaiming the cherub.
The Collins left soon after, and Jared looked around trying to locate his mate when saw Tom Welling pull Jensen aside. Curiosity had him trailing after them only to see Tom offer an official looking envelope to the Alpha. Jensen sighed but nodded, accepting the envelope and slipping it into his inside coat pocket. The duo continued to talk softly and Jared headed to the kitchen to see whether his friend required any help, not wanting to eavesdrop.
“I was wrong, you know?” Chad told him as the beta directed him to set up one of the snack trays, “You’ll make a great Dad.”
“Yeah?” Jared asked wistfully.
“Jay-bird... you know you deserve a real family, right?”
“And... I can help you, if you want,” Chad continued quickly, “I can be a surrogate for your kid.”
Jared whirled around to face his friend, overwhelmed at the offer, “You’d do that?”
“For you,” The beta nodded.