Written by nyxocity
Art by essene
It’s 8 am on a Wednesday morning in July when Jared walks into Station 4 of the San Jose Fire Department, and it’s already hot as hell. Sweat trickles down his back as he walks inside the open bays of the brick building, the direct light of the sun leaving his skin with a sensation of relief. This summer has been cruel and viciously dry so far; it hasn’t rained once in the last twenty-nine days, grass and vegetation everywhere slowly turning brown and yellow as the heat’s worn on.
He slaps Tom’s hand as enters, the two of them falling into step as they move through the bay to the door to the main hallway.
“New guy starts today,” Tom comments.
C-shift—Jared’s shift at the station, and his team in particular—has been short-handed since Steve left. Jared’s been so used to Tom filling in on his team that he’d nearly forgotten they were hiring someone new.
“So what are we thinking?” Tom asks, grinning as they move to the door. “Saran wrap on the toilet? Whipped cream in his gear?”
Jared thinks for a second, mouth curling in a contemplative smirk. “Nah, he’s already experienced. He moved here from another department, right? We need to come up with something new.”
Tom squints, nodding thoughtfully, and then they move into the hallway of bustling bodies filing in, sharing hello’s and slapping hands with more than a dozen of the rest of the shift.
They all move through the corridor down to the door that opens to the dining hall. They always meet in the dining hall first, lunch and dinner sorted out before the day begins, if they have time. The room is filled with twenty-five men—a team of four for each truck, engine and rescue in the bay—all of them seated at the first three rows of long tables in the room.
“Okay,” the Captain—Jeff, or Cappy, as he’s more affectionately known—calls, clapping his hands together to get everyone’s attention in the dining hall. “So, today, it’s Chad’s turn to cook.”
Groans rise to fill the room, Chad rising up and standing amidst it all, fist pumping into the air.
“You know you love it,” he yells over the din.
“And that,” Jeff goes on, a knowing note in his voice, “means we’re all gonna be hurting tonight if we don’t pick something simple. So… turkey sandwiches for lunch?”
The group cheers, and Jared cheers right along as he and Tom slide into the bench seats of the closest table.
“Dinner, though, that’s a little bit harder,” Jeff adds. “What did you have in mind, Chad?”
“Fried chicken,” Chad answers immediately. “And mashed potatoes. I’d make carrots, too, but you fuckers don’t deserve it.”
A laugh ripples through the group.
Jeff raises his hands to the crowd, questioning without asking. “Pretty hard to screw that up,” he adds with a shrug.
It’s all for show; Chad’s cooking isn’t the greatest of them all, but he’s not terrible. Most everyone cheers and agrees to the menu, and Jeff turns to write it on the whiteboard. When he’s done, he caps the green dry-erase marker and sets it on the ledge, rubbing his hands together as he turns back to the group.
“And now that that’s settled...” he says, going more formal. “Today we welcome our newest team member.” Jeff gestures towards a guy sitting at the first table that Jared can’t quite see through the sea of heads in the way. “This is Jensen. He hails from the Dallas Fire Department, originally, so he’s got some field experience. He’s a quiet one, though, and we’re always suspicious of those types around here,” Jeff says good-naturedly, and several guys chuckle. “But he seems like a decent guy. He’ll be joining Chris’s team, working with Chad and Jared.”
Everyone claps, a few welcome’s yelled out. New guys are always a question mark; you never know how someone is going to fit in on a team. But he’s a firefighter, and that means he’s already a brother.
Jared just hopes he’s cool.
It’s 8:22 and Jared’s washing Engine 2, soapy sponge trailing up and over the rim of the back tire when he senses someone standing behind him.
He grabs the hose, prepared to turn and spray Chad or Tom—and the action dies, hand falling to his side, hose spilling against the concrete floor of the bay.
“Hey,” the guy says, lifting a hand to his forehead. “New guy, reporting for duty.” He sends a half-salute in Jared’s direction, but Jared barely notices—because this guy is gorgeous. Like, beyond-movie-star, superhumanly gorgeous. Beautiful green eyes, sharp cheekbones and angular jaw drawing down to a delicate point, full, sensuous mouth and short cropped dark-blond hair. He’s dressed in the usual station uniform blues, teeth gnawing against his own lower lip self-consciously.
The hose spurts in Jared’s hand, jagged patterns against the floor.
“I’m, um…Jared,” he says, automatically offering his free hand.
“Jensen,” the guy introduces himself as he grabs Jared’s hand in a tight, brief squeeze. “Nice to officially meet you.”
It’s a tight, firm handshake, and Jared’s other hand flexes around the hose. “Nice to meet you, too.”
“So I heard tell you could maybe use some help out here?” Jensen drawls as he pulls his hand away, arching an inquiring brow at Jared.
His accent reminds Jared instantly of being home in San Antonio. Jared’s nearly lost his own accent, living in California the last three years. His mouth is dry, tongue heavy in his mouth as he swallows.
“Yeah,” he nods, clearing his throat. He slaps the sponge into Jensen’s hand, squish and splash, their fingers touching briefly around the edges.
The sensation is warm, almost electric, and Jared feels it long after they’ve settled into a rhythm, Jensen drawing the sponge across the engine in soapy swirls, Jared rinsing behind.
The tones ring out through the station at 9:08 am exactly, high note at the end dictating that they’re being called into action. The dispatcher’s voice fills the bay, telling them the specifics; an elderly woman with chest pains at a nearby address.
Jared and Jensen are still right there beside the truck when the call comes through, sponge and hose dropped in synchronicity, gear left right there beside the vehicle, ready to be stepped into. They both jump into their boots, yanking up their bunker pants and getting their hats on in under a minute. Chad and Chris arrive, pulling on their own gear as Jared throws in the rest of his gear and slides in behind the passenger seat of the engine. Jensen does the same, sliding in right beside him, door slamming shut.
Every medical call demands a driver/engineer, an officer, and at least two privates. Chad’s their engineer, and Chris has always been their lieutenant. Jared’s a private, three years on the team. He’s an emergency medical technician, as almost all firefighters are, but he’s not the driver or the officer, and that means he’s the main medic on every scene, along with the private beside him. That person used to be Steve, but lately it’s been Tom replacing the empty space, and Tom’s been with the station for years.
Today, Jared doesn’t know the guy beside him.
“Chest pains,” Jensen comments, glancing at Jared. Sirens echo off the buildings around them, Jensen’s voice barely audible. “We got a lot of these calls in Dallas.”
Jared cranes his neck to look at Jensen.
“Hottie at two o’clock,” Chris chimes out.
Jared notes how Jensen doesn’t turn to look.
“We get a lot of them here, too,” Jared says. “Usually doesn’t turn out to be anything serious.”
“Yeah,” Jensen says, shrugging. “Most times, it turned out to be indigestion or acid reflux. But that one time out of ten… you never know.”
“Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?” Chad demands of the traffic, laying on the horn and yanking the engine hard.
Both of them fall to the left as Chad swerves, and Jared ends up falling into Jensen’s lap, eyes flashing across Jensen’s as he falls, his hands grabbing Jensen’s shoulder and outer thigh for balance. Jensen’s hand descends on his shoulder, arm wrapping around his back and catching him neatly, evenly against Jensen’s thighs, his shoulder pressed against Jensen’s stomach. He can feel everywhere Jensen’s touching him, searing hot as the day outside, and God, he can’t be doing this, can’t be thinking or feeling this when they’re on a call, for fuck’s sake.
“Sorry,” Jared says hurriedly as he tries to push away.
“You all right?” Jensen asks.
“I’m fine.” Jared rights himself on the seat, cheeks flushing. He turns his face to look out the window, forcing himself to think about the call. “Indigestion or acid reflux, nine times out of ten,” Jared agrees, clearing his throat. “But you never know.”
“It’s that ten percent,” Jensen agrees.
It’s that ten percent; Jared knows it in the first minute, and Jensen does, too. Jared can tell just by meeting his eyes across the elderly woman. The rules say EMT’s aren’t supposed to diagnose—only a doctor can do that—but they do anyway, at least internally. They have to.
Jared tells Chris to call for rescue.
Jensen talks to her for the most part, keeping her calm while he checks her vitals and Jared checks the rest of her.
It’s so smooth, that Jared doesn’t even realize how smooth it was until after the ambulance has left with the woman in tow, sirens fading into the distance.
They go out on several more calls during the morning, all of them medical, none of them too serious, and there are chores to be done around the station in the meantime. When lunch time rolls around, Jared slides into his usual place at the tables. He’s aware that Jensen was several guys behind him in line, and he watches the way Jensen moves, slow and confident, like he’s got all the time in the world, plate balanced on one hand as he threads his way through the crowd around the serving table.
Tom slides in beside Jared, slamming into his side with one shoulder, knocking Jared off-balance.
“Asshole,” Jared mutters, grinning as he shoves his shoulder back against Tom’s.
“So what do you think?” Tom asks as he settles in, nodding at Jensen.
Jared refocuses on Jensen walking towards the tables, posture easy and relaxed as any native Texan. Wide through the shoulders, tapering down to a narrow waist and hips, uniform pants slung low, clinging to his thighs when he moves. Jared’s never seen someone make a station uniform look that good.
“He’s…” Jared says after a moment. “He’s good. Fits right in with the work.”
“Uh huh,” Tom comments, picking up his sandwich and contemplating it before he turns amused, knowing blue eyes on Jared. “And?”
“And nothing,” Jared tells him.
Chad sits down on Jared’s other side, announcing his presence with another hard shoulder thrown into Jared’s. “We talking about the new guy?”
“Yep,” Tom nods, grinning. “Jared’s got a crush on him.”
“Aw, Jay,” Chad coos, sarcastic affection dripping from his voice. “That’s so cute.”
Jared throws a casual elbow into Chad’s chest, hand picking up the sandwich from his plate. “Remind me again why I hang out with you two?”
“Jensen,” Chad calls out, waving a hand to get Jensen’s attention, and Jared’s going to kill him. “Come sit with us.”
Jensen turns from the place he was about to sit, greeting Chad with a smile as he begins to walk their way.
“Ten bucks says I can make Jared blush in the first minute of conversation,” Chad challenges Tom right across Jared like Jared’s not even sitting there.
“You’re on,” Tom shoots back.
And Jared’s out, dropping his sandwich and rising from his seat.
“Aw, Jay, come on,” Chad says, twisting around to look up at him.
Jensen’s there, standing across from them as he considers the situation. “You leaving?” he asks, looking at Jared. “It wasn’t something I said, was it?” he adds with a grin that hits Jared right in the gut.
He takes a deep breath and focuses on the situation.
“No,” Jared says, glancing at Chad and Tom. “It’s the idea of trying to have a decent conversation with these two asshats around.”
“We’ve struck a nerve,” Tom says, grinning at Chad.
“Don’t worry, Jay,” Chad says, mock-reassuring. “We won’t tell him all your deepest and darkest secrets. Gotta save something for after dinner.”
Jared rolls his eyes and grabs his sandwich, on second thought. “See ya, Jensen,” he says as he steps out from the bench seat, turning away before he can see Jensen’s expression.
He has no idea what Chad and Tom have told Jensen, or what Jensen must’ve thought of Jared’s abrupt departure, so he does his best to avoid seeing Jensen for the rest of the shift. He’s got plenty of chores to keep him busy in between calls, and calls are always so busy that there’s almost no time for talking. They get a call for a little boy with a broken collarbone at a nearby school playground, two calls for injuries at car accidents, one call for a fire at an office building that turns out to be a twitchy alarm system, and couple other medical calls that turn out to be fairly routine stuff.
But even as busy as they are on a call, Jared can’t help noticing how competent Jensen is at his job, the way his hands move as he works, as confident and easy as the rest of him. How they mesh together on the job effortlessly, like Jensen’s always been there.
Jared avoids dinner in the hall, too, taking his plate out to the rec room and watching some sitcom rerun while he eats. Chad catches him afterward in the hallway, trying to get him in on pranking Jensen—something about stealing Jensen’s gear while he’s sleeping and then rigging a fake fire call—but Jared passes. Chad is obviously annoyed, asking if Jared’s still pissed about earlier. Thankfully a call comes in, then, chimes ringing out.
Jared gets to bed in one of the dorms by midnight, and he’s sleeping soundly when a call comes in for his team. Groaning, he jumps up from the bed, racing to the door, sliding down the pole at the end of the hall, feet hitting the concrete floor of the bay. He stops then, realizing he’s the only one there.
He’s still processing that when someone dumps a bucket of ice-water down the pole hole, soaking him from head to toe. He blinks water out of his eyes, one hand still resting on the pole, and looks up.
Chad is laughing maniacally, and there are at least a half dozen of the guys hanging their heads out the doorway, whooping and yelling.
So the prank wasn’t for Jensen, after all.
“What you get for ditching,” Chad tells him, pointing.
“You are so dead,” Jared promises, before he bursts into laughter, too.
C-shift finishes at 8 am Thursday morning, and Jared goes home to get some solid sleep before he heads to his second job later tonight.
The San Jose fire department is full-time, which means Jared gets benefits and a salary, but this is still California; living isn’t cheap, and most of the privates hold down second jobs. A shift at the station is one day on for twenty-four hours, with two days off in between shifts, and Jared spends two of his days off every week working part time at the 7-11 near his apartment. Their hours are flexible enough to fit with his shift time so he can sleep in between, and it’s not the worst job he’s ever had.
He works 4 pm to midnight at the store, and everything’s going along normally until about 11:40 pm. Jared’s restocking snacks towards the back of the store when the door opens. He glances up at the security cameras behind the counter to get a look at who’s coming in.
The cameras are too far away for Jared to make out anything except the guy’s general body shape, but it’s an impressive shape. Jared finishes putting in the last of the bags and then carries the box to the front of the store as the guy makes his way down the aisle to the Hostess snack cakes. Jared gets a much better look at his body on the cameras, noting the way he walks, casual and confident, hands stuffed in the front pockets of his jeans. He realizes there’s something familiar about the guy in the split-second before he recognizes Jensen.
Jensen? What the hell is Jensen doing here? Does he live nearby?
“So you work here?” Jensen asks, walking up to the counter. He’s got a package of Twinkies in one hand, a bottle of Coke in the other. Jared wouldn’t have guessed Jensen for the junk food type, going by the muscles in Jensen’s arms, those broad, well-muscled shoulders that Jared can see through the cling of his t-shirt.
“So you eat Twinkies and drink Coke for a midnight snack?” Jared responds, words popping out before he can catch himself.
“Only when I’m nervous,” Jensen answers, smirking.
“Nervous? You?” Jared asks, because, seriously. Based on his looks alone, Jensen is a God on most people’s rating scales, and Jared already knows how incredibly competent he is. What does a guy like this get nervous about?
“Been known to happen from time to time,” Jensen tells him.
Jared is waiting for him to continue, curious as all hell and hoping Jensen’s going to share, but he doesn’t.
“This is a good part-time job,” Jared finally says, shrugging as he shoots Jensen a smile. “Healthier than Twinkies.”
But Jensen’s expression has gone serious.
“So, listen,” Jensen says, swallowing. “I’m not the world’s best talker, but I figure since we’re partnered up at the station,” he makes a vague motion with one of his hands against the counter, “we should talk.”
Jared studies Jensen’s face carefully, trepidation rising in his throat. “About what?”
Jensen tilts his head slightly to the side. “I’m not sure what happened at lunch yesterday… but I think maybe we got off on the wrong foot.”
Dammit. Jensen does think Jared left because of him. And really, what else is Jensen supposed to think after Jared avoided talking to him for the rest of the day? Of course Jensen thinks that.
“Oh, no. That wasn’t about you,” Jared blurts, and then quickly reconsiders. “Well, I mean, it was,” Jared amends, “but not like that.”
Jensen’s frown shifts slightly, eyes going puzzled. “Well… glad we cleared that up, then,” he drawls, unconvinced.
Jared opens his mouth and the chime above the door rings out as a customer walks inside. Jared bites down on his lower lip and breathes out his annoyance slowly.
“What are you doing tonight?” Jared asks.
“Nothing,” Jensen says. “Just a hot date with my junk food.”
“I’m off in fifteen—you wanna go grab a beer or something? We could, you know, talk better then. Like that,” Jared adds, wanting to bite off his own tongue and die on the spot.
Jensen doesn’t seem to notice as he nods. “Okay.”
There’s a small bar nearby that’s not nearly as populated as ones two blocks over, where the local night life likes to hang out. They get a table towards the back and order a couple bottles of Miller Lite. Jared drinks most of his in the first few minutes while he nervously explains to Jensen that Chad and Tom were taking bets to embarrass him in front of Jensen. He leaves out the part about the embarrassment stemming from the fact that Jared’s got a crush on Jensen, though. Because he doesn’t.
Jensen seems to understand, and they talk about work for a little while. Then Jensen asks Jared about his accent and they get to talking about Texas, and the Cowboys and local places. Jensen’s new in town, which Jared already knew; he moved here a few weeks ago after he got confirmation on his job at the San Jose fire station. Chad was the one who told Jensen where Jared worked and when, though he doesn’t live all that far away from Jared’s place. He seems laid back and genuinely nice, and every time he smiles, Jared forgets what he was saying for a couple of seconds. Jensen’s got a warm, dazzling smile that makes the corners of his eyes crinkle just the tiniest bit, and Jared feels like he got smacked upside the head with a stupid-stick every time Jensen turns it on him.
They sit for maybe half an hour, and then Jensen says he’s got to get home to bed. He touches Jared’s shoulder on his way out, hand warm, sending tingles rushing through Jared’s arm, and says he’ll see Jared next shift.
Jared sits there for a few minutes after he’s gone, staring down at his empty bottle. He can still feel the light pressure where Jensen touched him, and Jensen touching him is pretty much all he can think about.
So maybe Jared does have a crush. But it’s purely a physical thing. It’s not like he even knows Jensen. And it’s 99% likely that Jensen’s straight, anyway. So his new partner is a gorgeous, competent, seemingly genuine nice guy. Jared’s a professional. He can deal with this. Or, he could, if it weren’t for the way he feels when Jensen’s eyes meet his. The way his voice goes straight to Jared’s gut. The way they fell into complete synch from the very first moment on the job.
The way they fit, without even trying.
God, he has to stop thinking about this.
He doesn’t stop thinking about it, though. In fact, the more he tries not to, the more it’s all he can think about. During their next shift together, Jared’s every non-working moment is spent being incredibly aware of Jensen, his every word, every movement, and itsucks.
He manages to get some sleep between 5 am and 7 am, and then he’s up, heading through the showers early on Sunday morning. It’s near the end of the shift, and he has every intention of paying Chad back for last shift’s ice water stunt, bottle of olive oil in one hand, ready to be switched for Chad’s shampoo. He’s passing the first shower stalls when one of the opaque doors opens and Jensen emerges, wearing nothing but a towel hanging low around his waist.
Oh. My. God.
There’s still beaded water clinging to Jensen’s tanned, muscled skin, and he’s not as cut as Jared is, but he’s perfectly fit, wide, strong shoulders and lean chest muscle, narrowing at the waist, abs rippling under the skin, towel just revealing the crease where his inner thigh begins. Completely unselfconscious, his hair tousled and towel-damp, and there’s a gleam of playfulness in his eyes as he looks at Jared.
“Where you headed with that?” Jensen asks, looking down at the bottle in Jared’s hand.
“I… um…” Jared swallows hard and forces himself to look away from all that gorgeous, bare skin, following Jensen’s gaze down to the olive oil. “I was…” he lifts his hand weakly.
“Revenge, huh?” Jensen asks, and Jared can hear the grin in his voice. “Nuff said,” he adds, like he gets it, holding up his hands. “You were never here, this never happened.”
Jensen turns and walks off, bare feet padding against the tile, and God, the muscles in his calves—
“Olive oil?” Chad demands from behind Jared. “Seriously? Jay. I am offended here, buddy.”
Jared turns on Chad slowly, annoyed.
“I am worth way more than an olive oil prank.” Chad is shaking his head like he can’t believe it. “Christ, didn’t I teach you better than that?”
“And here I was gonna go easy on you,” Jared returns levelly.
“Now I know I taught you better than that,” Chad grins. “New boy’s got you going soft,” he whispers into Jared’s ear, slapping Jared lightly on the back of the head as he passes Jared by.
The gesture is asshole and affection in equal parts, and Jared smiles ruefully despite himself.
He works later that same night at the 7-11, 4 pm to midnight. Jensen doesn’t come by, and Jared doesn’t know why he thought Jensen might. They’re partnered at the fire station. It’s not like they’re best friends, or anything.
He sleeps until 8 am, and this is the day he gets things done; paying bills, running errands, making phone calls, grocery shopping and working out before cooking himself dinner. After dinner, he watches a movie and then turns on the news for an hour or so before he goes to bed at 11 pm.
It’s the same pattern he’s been living in for the last three years. Ever since he finished his first year of college and decided that his parents were wrong and he was right; firefighting was what he wanted to do with his life. He’d given them their chance; he’d taken that first year of college, and he’d even had a good grade point average by the end. But he’s known ever since he was thirteen, watching television coverage of rescue from the wreckage of the World Trade Center; this was what he wanted to be.
The day of the week assigned to each job changes accordingly with his firehouse schedule, but the pattern is always the same. It’s a familiar rhythm, an incredibly rewarding one, even if he sometimes feels like he does now, staring at the clock as it approaches midnight, wishing there was someone lying beside him.
Jensen isn’t quite like anyone else Jared’s ever known. They’ve got a good rhythm, an almost perfect exchange of jibes and stories, getting to know each other little by little. And Jared feels… like there’s something extra special to every word and glance and exchange, and he’s mostly sure that’s all his interpretation. But every now and then, Jensen meets his eyes and smiles in a way that sends Jared’s heart skidding sideways.
And well... that’s just Jensen. So gorgeous that just looking at him is like staring into the sun.
They’re starting to become friends. Jared tries hard to remember that anything else is all in his head.
The end of July is scorching and dry, still not a drop of rain in sight, but Jared’s feeling good as he begins his Thursday shift. He and Jensen are washing one of the engines together when Jared finally asks why Jensen moved to San Jose.
Jensen’s hand hesitates in mid-swirl with the sponge, soapy bubbles dripping down his wrist, rainbows catching against his skin in the sunlight.
“No pressure,” Jared says, more casually than he feels as he kneels, hose trained on the inside of one of the wheel wells, glancing up at Jensen through the edge of his bangs. “You don’t have to answer.”
Jensen looks back at the sponge in his hand, pushing trails of bubbles across the deep red. He’s silent for so long that Jared finally trains his eyes on the water spilling from the hose, licking his lips and trying to think of something else to say.
“It’s okay,” Jensen finally says. Jared’s eyes cut to him across the distance. Jensen’s gaze is fixed on the motion of his hand against the engine. “I moved here because I wanted to make a new start. My last relationship… ended badly.”
Jared takes that in, turning it over. “What happened?”
Jensen half shrugs, shaking his head. “She didn’t understand.”
It’s not like it’s a huge shock; Jared has always assumed Jensen is straight.
His heart still sinks inside his chest.
“She didn’t get the fireman lifestyle,” Jared concludes, pushing out the words against the tightness in his throat. He gets it. It’s not unusual; there are plenty of women who don’t enjoy their man being away for a full twenty-four hour stretch once every three days, putting their lives in danger every single time. Jared can’t blame them. It’s a tough way to live.
Jensen’s face tightens, hesitating, lips parting as if to speak and then closing, eyes glancing away.
Tones ring out above them, then, ending on a high note.
A man has collapsed on a nearby sidewalk. Dispatch tells them on the way that there’s a young man on the scene administering CPR. By the time they get there, someone else has clearly taken over the administration of CPR; this is no young man—the guy is forty if he’s a day.
Jared knows everything the second he sees the victim lying on the ground. The victim’s stomach is obscenely bloated, filled with air; a clear indication that CPR is being administered incorrectly.
Jared and Jensen move in to assess the situation while Chad and Chris play crowd control, moving everyone back from the area. A few moments later, Jensen is performing CPR on the victim, Jared monitoring the vitals.
The ambulance arrives in under a minute, Chet and Eric jumping down from the back. Jared tells them there’s no heartbeat or breath while Jensen continues CPR, and then they’re pulling out the paddles.
They shock the man multiple times as Jensen and Jared stand back, watching. By the time it’s all over, Chet is shaking his head, finally handing the paddles over to Eric.
The forty-something man is looking at Chet with fear-filled eyes, a split second from comprehension and completely terrified of it.
Chet breaks the news and a young man who looks about seventeen-years-old pushes into the scene. The younger guy’s face is streaked with tears, and he looks furious.
The full story comes out quickly, Chet taking the young man aside while Jensen and Jared listen in, keeping an eye on crowd control.
Apparently this young man—Jeremy—had been on his way back to high school when he’d seen the victim fall down. Jeremy had ascertained that the victim’s heart was not beating, and had begun administering CPR correctly to the victim. The forty-something man had come along a few minutes later and insisted that his wife was a nurse and that he knew CPR better than Jeremy, at which point the security guard at the building they’re standing in front of had made Jeremy stop. The older man had taken over, but had failed to tilt the victim’s neck properly, filling the victim’s stomach with air rather than the lungs. Jeremy had seen what was happening, gotten frantic and screamed at everyone that the older man was killing the victim, but no one had listened to him.
Jensen’s mouth is a tight, drawn line, jaw set and eyes hard as stone by the time Jeremy has finished speaking. His eyes light on the forty-something man standing near the curb.
The security guard breaks into the conversation then, explaining that Jeremy is “a kid” and the older man said he knew what he was doing, and that there’s no way he’s going to jail over this—which is the point at which Jared stops listening and Chet demands that the man wait by the building door he’s assigned to until the police get there.
Jeremy is fraught with tension, every muscle pulled tight as a cord, whole body thrumming as Jared touches him. His eyes are dark, sad and furious, and Jared… doesn’t usually try to play the guessing game when it comes to what happened on the scene before he arrived, but he believes Jeremy. He believes Jeremy tried—really hard--to save the victim’s life, even after there was obviously no hope that anyone was going to listen to him.
Jared looks to Jensen, knowing the next step is to calm Jeremy down until the police arrive.
Jensen’s walking toward the curb, sunlight glinting off the reflectors on his bunker pants as he steps from the shade of the building. The forty-something who’d been giving CPR when they’d arrived is babbling to someone else standing nearby, and Jensen steps neatly between the two of them.
“Sir,” Jensen asks, abruptly cutting off the man’s tirade. “Did the victim have a pulse when you took over?”
“What?” the man asks blankly, blinking at Jensen.
“Did you check the victim’s pulse before you began administering CPR to the victim?” Jensen clarifies.
The man shakes his head, looking mystified. “I... no.”
“Did you observe whether or not the victim’s heart was beating before you administered CPR?”
“I… saw him cough a few times, while the other guy was…” the guy trails off for a moment and then adds, “He was alive.”
“Chad,” Jared calls, motioning, and those blue eyes snap to meet Jared’s across the radio he’s speaking into. Jared cuts his eyes toward Jeremy, and Chad nods.
“Jeremy,” Jared says, clasping Jeremy’s shoulder, “go wait for me with Chad. He’s the guy right there by the door of the engine, on the radio.” Jared points, and Chad sends Jeremy a smile, waving him over.
By the time Jeremy’s on his way, Chet’s already interceding between Jensen and the guy, edging in slowly and calmly, talking to the older man as Jared walks up, putting a hand on Jensen’s shoulder.
Jensen’s still strung tight, shoulder stiff under Jared’s hand… and then he relents, stepping back.
“Okay,” Jensen says, walking in the direction of the engine.
Jensen doesn’t say a word the whole way back to the station, and Jared glances over at him a few times, reading the tight set of his shoulders, the way his hands are clasped into a single fist across his knees.
Jared understands. He gets it. He’s only been on the job three years to Jensen’s five, but he knows how it goes. No matter what you see, no matter how hardened you get, you’re still human. And every now and then, there’s that one call that breaks the camel’s back—the one that breaks past the barriers they have to set up to survive.
To his credit, Jensen holds himself together enough that no one else seems to notice. Jared lingers in the bay as Jensen pulls out of his bunker pants, taking his time with his own. Everyone else has already moved on, gone into the hallway, and for the moment, they’re alone.
Jared clears his throat as steps back out of his bunker pants, fingers playing at the buckle of the belt on his uniform.
“Are you okay?"
“It shouldn’t have happened like that,” Jensen growls, fist hitting the engine.
“Jensen…” Jared breathes, moving up behind him, hands falling against the back of Jensen’s arms, drawing him gently from the truck.
Jensen moves with him, leaning back against Jared. He shakes his head against Jared’s shoulder. “That was a stupid reason for someone to die.”
Jared nods, taking in a quick breath as his hands slide down Jensen’s arms to his elbows, squeezing lightly. “I know.”
“If they’d just let that kid keep doing CPR…” Jensen’s body is still tense, tight as a drum in his hands.
It’s nothing Jared hasn’t thought already.
“I know,” Jared whispers again, just letting Jensen lean back against him. He can feel Jensen’s heart pounding inside his ribcage, back pressed to Jared’s chest, arms shaking lightly in Jared’s hands.
It happens to all of them, occasionally. Doing this kind of job, you know you can’t always save everyone, but some days it gets to you anyway—especially something like this, where it should have been prevented.
Jensen stands there for a maybe a minute, breathing deep, nerves leveling out. He pulls from Jared gently, leaning forward toward the engine, and Jared lets go of his hold.
“Thanks,” Jensen says, voice low.
“No problem.” For a moment, Jared isn’t sure how to disengage. He touches Jensen’s shoulder briefly, feeling awkward, and then he gives Jensen some time alone, heading out to the hallway.
Chad wants to prank Jensen that night with the scenario he’d pitched to Jared last week. Jared tells him, unequivocally, no.
“What is your problem, dude?” Chad demands, annoyed.
“Do it next shift,” Jared says. “Just… not tonight.”
Chad narrows his eyes on Jared, tilting his head to the side, looking at Jared like he’s never seen him before in his life. “You’re serious?”
“As a heart attack,” Jared replies, not backing down.
Jared can see the calculation in Chad’s eyes, and that’s never a good sign. In fact, that’s a sign that Jared should probably cut his losses right now. But he can’t. Won’t.
“Don’t.” The word is succinct, bitten off hard.
“Does he know?” Chad asks, expression shifting into intent curiosity.
“About the prank?” Jared asks, exasperated, about to push past Chad.
Chad’s hand closes on Jared’s shoulder, holding him in place.
“That you’re falling for him,” Chad clarifies, his gaze piercing.
It should be banter, their usual quid pro quo of bullshit, but it isn’t.
Jared pretends it is anyway.
“Screw you.” Jared shrugs Chad off, looking away as he brushes past.
When the shift ends without incident, Jared is relieved. He doesn’t manage to catch Jensen before he leaves, though. Jared had wanted to see how Jensen was feeling before he went home, make sure he was all right.
It’s more than that, though.
He can’t get the memory of Jensen leaning back against him out of his head. Jensen’s heart beating fast, slowing as he relaxed into Jared’s grip. It had been innocent, completely innocent; both of them caught up in the emotion of the moment, and Jared feels guilty for even noticing now how Jensen felt under his hands, pressing up against him, when all Jared should be thinking about is how Jensen was feeling.
But he is. He’s doing that too. He shakes off the memory and focuses on that.
Maybe he should get Jensen’s number off the roster sheet, give him a call. See how he’s doing. Jared would do that for any of his other team members, for most of the guys on his shift for that matter. This shouldn’t be any different. Normally it wouldn’t even be a thing—he wouldn’t even stop to think. The fact that he is right now…
He turns and walks briskly to the board in the hallway, its ancient cork covered in a rainbow of colored sheets of paper. The schedule is dull by comparison, sheets of white paper with alternating light-blue rows, shifts and names printed across each one.
There. Jensen Ackles, Shift C. Ten numbers printed in the furthest column, and all Jared has to do is punch them into his cell phone, save them so that when he gets home he can pull them up and dial them.
He gets as far as putting them in, entering Jensen’s name and saving the contact. But he knows by the time he gets halfway home, feet carrying him along the city blocks, that he isn’t going to call.
Chad’s words don’t roll off as easily as Chad’s hand left his shoulder. They echo in Jared’s head for the next couple of days, catching him at odd moments, when he’s least expecting them.
Does he know? That you’re falling for him?
No. No, Jensen doesn’t know. Because Jared isn’t falling for him. He can’t be. He’s not allowed to be, because—
My last relationship ended badly. She didn’t understand.
Because Jensen is straight. He’s never going to feel for Jared the way Jared could feel for him.
The way you could? Chad’s voice, gritty throat full of cigarette smoke floating knowingly through his head. Or the way you already do?
And fuck Chad, anyway. What the fuck is Chad doing inside his head, pulling this psychological bullshit?
This is all Chad’s fault. And he is so paying that motherfucker back. Jared still owes him for that pole-hole stunt.
Chad’s fault. Completely and totally.
It rains on Sunday morning, wetting the surface of the world, dust rising off the ground in low clouds as heavy droplets hit parched earth. Jared stands just inside one of the open bays, watching them fall.
It’s almost August, and the rain should fill him with a sense of relief; flash fires have been a threat hanging over their heads since the beginning of July. It stops too soon, though, earth barely wet before the sun peeks out from behind the clouds again.
Jared isn’t sure he knows what relief even feels like anymore, anyway.
The tension of having Jensen so near is getting to him, and it’s not going away like he’d expected it to. He’d expected that his feelings would start to ebb and slowly fade as the days went by, but they don’t. If anything, they’re getting stronger, and it’s so not acceptable, or even moderately cool.
He shoves the thoughts to the back of his mind and turns to look at Jensen with a smile before he sets his mind completely on work.
He manages to make it through most of the day without focusing on Jensen too much beyond working with him.
“Drinks tomorrow night at Paulie’s—don’t forget,” Chris says smacking Jared’s shoulders as he passes. He turns, long light-brown hair falling forward as he winks one blue eye at Jared. “Jensen’s gonna be there,” he adds before he turns away, grinning.
The whole crew tries to get together at least once a month, go out and let off some steam. It’s usually a good time, shot contests that end in really bad karaoke capping off the night.
Hmm. Getting drunk with Jensen around when Jared can’t be one-hundred percent responsible for what comes out of his mouth?
Jared thinks he’s going to sit this one out.