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Jensen thought he'd be fine, thought he'd be capable of sleeping in his old bedroom without his usual bed partner. Jared had tended to crowd him anyway, but right now he'd rather have the heavy weight of a human or the affectionate warmth of a lover rather than the humid and stank dog breath with the rough lapping of his stubbled face by a long wet tongue before he was even fully awake.

"Fuck!" Jensen shot upright, swiping down his face with one hand. He put out his other hand, attempting to shove Fletcher, his grandparent's long-haired golden retriever, not only off of him but off the mattress. "Fletch! Jesus, man! ugh-yuck!" And it wasn't as if the dog had chewed on a dry bone or munched his dry food out of his designated bowl. It was like he'd returned from his early morning run, having dug through mounds of neighborhood garbage then intentionally busted through his doggie door, making a bee-line for Jensen's open bedroom doorway. Even as Jensen slid out of bed, still wearing tight briefs and slipping into his plaid pajama bottoms, Fletcher thought himself a puppy and that he and Jensen were still cuddle-buddies. "no! stop! Fletch! Seriously?!" Now it felt like the dog was trying to stop him from leaving the bed, ruining any chance of his escape. "no. NO!...bad doggie!" Jensen has to plop down on the mattress before he trips on his leg hems and breaks something—like his neck.

A light laugh penetrates the heavily panting silence. "Sorry." Jared covers his mouth to make his smile disappear. "This excitement might be my fault." He leans on the doorjamb, taking small gulps of the glass of orange juice he'd poured for himself. "I sent him to come find you for me."

Jensen sags his body, hearing Jared do some kind of commanding whistle with tongue and teeth, then snap his fingers. Fletcher obeyed with military precision, heeling at Jared's feet as if he was his lord and savior, then actually sat on his bottom, eager for the next command. Jensen shook his head, flabbergasted how easily trainable the older dog had been for Jared, yet a big, overgrown hard-of-hearing puppy for him. As Jensen goes to stand and walk, Jared is suddenly...right there! They bump bodies and knock heads; strange how they both reach out to hold Jensen's head, making sure he isn't too damaged.

"...ow!"

"—whoopsie!" Jared lazily pulls Jensen forward to kiss the sore spot at the hairline, taking a moment to inhale the smell of the shorn locks. He drops his hands to hold Jensen's biceps, still able to cup the glass in his large palm. He slides up to caress broad shoulders, then cups the sides of the neck. He leans forward to sneak a kiss on lips, laying their heads together. "That bed on the porch would be so much cooler if you were in it with me."

Jensen nods his head, closing his eyes on a heavy sigh. "Now I know why I often wished I'd gotten a full-sized bed, instead of a wider, longer twin." He gestures back to his bed with the toss of his head. "Still...Mom's pretty convinced her mother won't understand us—you an' I."

Jared rests one hand on the dip of shoulder to neck, then his wrist; he gives over the juice glass to Jensen. "hey, I get it. For so long, I've simply been 'Jared, the best friend'. It's a lot to take in—not just 'us', but you coming out after so many years of dating women."

"Dad an' I think it'll be fine, but Mom..." Jensen shakes his head, bowing chin to chest. "Her strict Catholic upbringing assures her that her own mother might not be 'hip' to the new generation's take on sex and sexuality."

"c'mon..." Jared motioned with head and holding out his hand. "...come downstairs with me. Let's sit on the porch an' watch the sun rise."

==&&==&&==&&==&&==

Before Jensen had left the bedroom, he had put on a random t-shirt from the floor, then left trailing behind Jared. Even as they walk downstairs to reach their destination, Jensen stops off to bring a blanket from the linen closet with him. Jared seems to be working off a sweat, so he must've gone running already; Jensen barely functions without a cup of coffee flowing through his veins. As he watches Jared stroll through the back screen door, into the window-lined sun-porch, Jensen moseys over to a kitchen cabinet to grab a clean mug and pours himself a cup. Once he prepares the coffee as he likes it, he follows Jared's steps. Jensen drops down the single step, looking over at the dangling ropes that hold the sleigh bed airborne—four thick twine ropes from ceiling to bolted hooks knotted into the plywood base. He can detect from the disarray of sheets and pillows that Jared had a fitful sleep as well.

Jensen motions with his head. "Why don't we sit on the bed?" It does look mighty cozy in the rising sunlight.

Jared has shifted to plop down on the left side of the older porch swing that's attached to the opposite end of the porch. "No. The minute I'm on there, I'll do one of two things..." He makes a peace sign with index and middle fingers. "I'll wanna sleep in your arms or...I'll wanna fuck you and—while I don't care what order those two happen in, you've forbidden us from entering that kind of intimacy with all the 'adults' around."

"oh, poo!" Jensen makes a pouty face as he settles into the right side of the swing's benchseat; he had put down his coffee mug on one of the small side tables, stretching his legs out to bump against Jared's thick thigh. Even in bare feet, Jensen can feel how warm Jared is, despite the chilled morning air.

"Besides...I don't need you distracting me with what I want to say." Jared puts his right arm along the benchseat's back, turning his body to fit in the corner, hitching up his leg so he can place Jensen's feet on his thigh.

Jensen reaches behind him to adjust the pillow at his lower back. Jared uses his left foot flat to push the swing in motion; every so often, there's a slight creak of the chains straining, bearing the combined weight of the two men.

Jensen brings the hem to his nose, his arms cocooning the blanket around his body. "All right. Go ahead—hit me with the bad news."

"well, I was hoping we'd be sharing a room together so we could have our typical late night chit-chats." Jared tucks a hand under the covers, massaging the feet, rubbing over individual toes, then curling around the ankles. He gently soothes over the soft hairs on the skin.

"mmm—this is getting rather interesting. Now I'm intrigued." Jensen squints his eyes above the blanket he peeks over. He can't believe that what little touch he gets from Jared has crawled up his leg and made his cock tingle—well, not like he wasn't already growing a semi-stiffie from his wonderful dreams in Jared's absence. As he watches Jared's lips move—lips he's missed kissing and feeling against his skin—he imagines them on his body as that dark mane of hair descends downward. He gulps—uh-oh. "uh-huh?"

Jared bends his right arm at the elbow to rest his head. "You haven't heard one word I've said?" He can't help smiling. Jensen's dirty blond locks look more blond than ever in the strains of creeping morning light. There's such a little boy still inside this beautiful man, but Jared supposes that's due to being back in one of the homes of his childhood. Tough for Jensen to be manly and rugged when he's surrounded by two strong-willed women he loves to pieces and never tries to disappoint.

"oh, no....you're giving me that 'look' again."

Jared hides his wide grin with his hand, the one that shows most of his teeth. "What 'look'?"

"The one where you no longer wanna devour me, like a thick piece of ham steak, but where I'm made of fluffy clouds, holding baskets of kittens and shitting rainbows."

"Wrong. You're made of marshmallow fluff, cradling two puppies in your arms—biggest brown eyes ever—and you shit glitter...or confetti."

There's a loud creak and shake to the swing as Jensen attempts to get to his knees in order to crawl toward Jared. With the way Jared is seated, Jensen can't straddle, only dramatically slump across the lap and in Jared's arms. That's okay, for now. He tucks a hand down, sliding along the right inner thigh to groin and he feels the hidden bulge. Jensen goes right for neck, nibbling and licking. "mmm—even your sweat tastes super-sweet."

Jared sighs, extending his right arm out, laying the cheek on the flexing biceps. "oh, god...if only you hadn't banned us from having sex here. At all."

"christ...I take that shit back. If you don't find a way to fuck me right now." Jensen becomes ravenous for Jared, hands attempting to move up the jogging suit to pull at the dangling zipper bulb. As he gets that down in one long unzip, Jared pushes off the back of the benchseat to roll his shoulders and ease out of the soft jacket sleeves.

Even before he's free of the cuffs, Jensen has rucked the tank-t hem to mid-torso, tongue-kissing and licking every stretch of bare skin he sees, then follows the light spattering of dark hairs until they disappear under the elastic waistband. Jensen starts to move and shift, rolling his front as he's still on Jared's lap and slinking down at crotch level.

"no, no...uh-ahhh, no." Jared tries to prevent Jensen from servicing him, even though he knows his cock is throbbing intensely, possibly seeping precome.

"Jay, come on...I lifted the embargo. You can now sail your ship safely through my waters."

Both of them are chuckling deeply at Jensen's terrible analogy as Jensen sits upright and attempts to pull at Jared's soft jogging pants. "mmm..." He rubs over the inner thigh portions. "Love how much warmer you get when aroused. Like my own human furnace." Jensen pitches forward to drape over Jared's chest, wrapping him in blanket material. "I'm so bad. I can't help this need to take all our clothes off an' just be together, completely naked under this cover."

"You know exactly where that'll end up, Jen, and we haven't even talked about what I've decided."

"m'sorry. What did you decide?"

"Now the moment is ruined—can't stop thinking about seeing just how far we could get before someone finds us or barges in."

Jensen pushes off Jared to stand; the blanket lays over his back as he starts taking off pajama bottoms. Jared works at his tank-t, the bottom hem tugged along his torso and over his head, sending his hair in shambles. They both throw clothes in the same pile. Jared toes off his sneakers, then shoots upright to grab both briefs and jogging pants. Jensen's already flourished off his own t-shirt, now working on his underwear. Soon they both are naked, one admiring the other, mutually. It's tough to say who moves first: Jared with his one strong arm about Jensen or Jensen with both arms encapsulating them inside the blanket. Jared brings his other hand over, cupping the stubbled cheek, fingers sifting through short spikes to cradle the back of the head, wrist aligning with the spine. They nudge and press together, sliding cheeks and barely skimming lips. They merge brows, trying to catch a breath.

"It's been too long."

"—god, it feels like forever, though it's not been even two days yet."

"48hrs is long enough." Jared quiets Jensen with a kiss, breaking apart to brush nosetips. "Any more an' I'd probably throw you down on the dinner table an' take you in front of your family, not caring who I outrage."

"eh, that could put a damper on the evening meal. How 'bout settling for some under-the-table footsies—my bare foot running up your leg...over your thigh to press against your groin? Or...what if they let us sit side-by-side, and I grope you all night until I make you come inside your pants?"

"Like 'em all. One of us should be taking notes." Jared spins them, walking Jensen backward until he hits the thick railing, the back of his legs hitting the lower pillars. Jensen is unusually pressed against the wall of glass and screen.

Jensen can actually sit down and draw up his legs to lock around Jared, but doesn't go too high to open up his backside. Jared has other ideas; Jensen feels himself being taken by the hips and spun around, the blanket between their bodies. Jared thrusts deep and straight into Jensen's covered bottom. Jensen cries out, biting his lip to stem the noise, then splays his hands to balance himself on the railing.

Jensen pushes back as good as he gets. "nnngghh...Jay...fuck yeah! wan' you—so bad." He feels the blanketed warmth at his back with the cold morning air pelting him from the front. He can sense the fabric slipping from between their chests; Jared allows it to fall as he sends his left hand around, smoothing down the abdominal wall to grab hips in both hands and keep hold of Jensen while the blanket disappears.

Jared's right hand cups and soothes the ample bottom, then rides underneath to tickle the balls and tug on the sack. Jensen makes a little whimper as he chases Jared's fingers, then Jared lowers himself to the floor, on his knees. His two big hands spread the cheeks apart and he dives to suckle at the puckered skin exposed. He licks and pokes his tongue tip, shaking his head once he's just beyond the stretch of the anus. Jensen is bent over, forehead on folded arms, suddenly dropping a hand to touch himself and stroke furiously as he feels his hole being fucked by Jared's tongue. Jensen smears the leaking precome around his shaft, tugging hard and then stopping to stretch out the sensations of pleasure.

Each time he pulls away, Jared spits on the hole being opened for him as Jensen bears down with every counter-thrust backward. He widens Jensen's leg span, spreading cheeks wider and dipping toward to bite and nibble at the opening, sending the last few pokes of his tongue through, eventually getting slowly off of his knees, cock jutting out, wet with oozing precome. He keeps his tongue extended to lick a moist trail from anus through the crease, over tailbone and along spine. He pauses to tongue-kiss, one hand spreading a cheek open, while the other hand is used to jerk on his own cock with his saliva. He guides his cocktip to the gaped entrance, inserting once to absorb rectal juices, pulling out and riding the underside of his length between the split cheeks, jutting upward.

Jensen shivers, more from heightened sensation than actual cold. He feels Jared thrust hard, creating friction, building pleasure and want, then pulling back to ease just the bulbous head into his body. He wants it all, every bit of that length. He wants it so much that he's the one who completes the insertion, pushing off the railing to stand upright; his own cock so hard it pulls tight to his body, yet bounces off every time he moves.

"oh, god...don' move or I'll come." Jared gently bites down on the skin of the shoulder. He tucks his face in warm neck and nape, his arms embracing tight, one arm riding up the chest to splay a hand flat. As Jared adjusts to a slight squat, taking a few deep breathes, he slowly thrusts down and inward, then builds up the pace until he's pistoning in and out at a frenzied pace, causing Jensen to pitch forward to embed fingernails into the painted wood.

Jensen squat-thrusts against Jared, feeling his thighs begin to quiver and then he mumbles a wailing, "ohhh, fuck! m'gonna come...feels so good—gonna come so hard..."

Jared secures his arm about Jensen, pausing to back-walk and sit down on the cushioned porch swing. He slumps down to plant feet on the flooring, supporting the weight of Jensen by holding onto his hips. "ride me, Jen—ride me 'til you come—wanna see you come for me..."

Jensen likes this position because he can sit on Jared's thighs, his legs dangling while he bounces and fucks himself senseless on the fully erect inches inside him. He lays on Jared's chest, trying to grab the back railing of the swing in one hand, stroking his orgasm out of his body. He senses the build up again, feet tingling, thighs quivering and then the fullness of the shaft massaging him to an unreachable euphoria. He feels the rise of the heat, the pinpoint current right at the base of his cock and as he frantically pulls on his own length, the shivering begins. He has to let go of the swing's back, but then loses his equilibrium, falling backward on Jared.

As always, two strong arms hold onto Jensen as he jolts and spasms, wailing and strangling out cries of release; it had been so much more than just a release from his cock. The anal stimulation has sent Jensen into this crazy orbit where he looks like he's in convulsions. Jared's there, like he usually is, cheek to his cheek, hand cupping at his throat to keep Jensen's head steady and a huge palm petting over his flushed, quaking skin. Even minutes after, Jensen still keeps moving but in more of a relaxed mode. Jared continues to thrust, his cock almost being fully milked as Jensen's walls had contracted around him. He waits for Jensen to control his breathing and move a little in rolling his hips in response. Jared eases to stand, twisting their bonded bodies to face the bench and Jensen knows to lift one knee, then the next; he holds onto the back of the swing, beginning to watch Jared's solid thrusts into his backside, fitting perfectly against pelvis and hips, making the loud slap-slap noise of skin on skin contact. It wars with the sound of the clang-clang of the dangling chains.

There's a smooth rocking motion of the swing taking Jensen away while Jared remains firmly planted, nearly pulling him out of the hole. But Jared has quick reflexes, falling forward to grab onto the swing's back, right next to Jensen's hands. The action causes Jared to sink deeper and at a different angle. Jensen is pushed forward, letting out a near-squeal, and as their hands meet and fingers tangle to hold on, Jared pumps hard and fast until he can feel his own orgasm peaking; he wishes he could have those all-over body orgasms like Jensen, but he does come damn close. He lifts his right foot, plants on the swing's seat, and he's jutting in at an even deeper and twisted angle that sends Jensen into bucking furiously under him.

"...fuuuck—how—?! Again?!...m'gonna come again—how do you—?"

Jared runs his hand up Jensen's neck to turn his face backward over a shoulder and silences him with an awkward reach-around kiss; Jensen lifts his left arm to curl about Jared, panting heavy into his parted mouth as they move together in tempo. Jared drops his foot as he slows his thrusts and stops long enough to ejaculate a long stream of semen deep into the anal cavity. He grabs onto Jensen's back and begins to pound slow and deep, grinding against the bare ass until he has Jensen bent over and shaking, pushing off the back rung to lay back-to-chest, perpendicular with Jared standing stiff and tall. Jensen simply drains every drop left out of Jared's cock, his legs making wavy motions on the soft cushion at each of jolt of pleasure. He keeps pumping back against Jared, growing weaker by the second. He starts to droop in Jared's arms. Jared eases out of Jensen's body, moving back to plop Jensen on his feet. Jared snatches the blanket from the porch floor, then wraps Jensen up like a burrito so he can lift him into his arms.

Jensen's arm hooks around Jared's neck. "—jesus, this is a bit much. I coulda walked."

Jared nudges and kisses the side of Jensen's face near his lips. "Indulge me. I like caring for you, holding you in my arms." He walks them to the other end of the sun-porch where Jared's hanging bed is. He settles Jensen down, watching him carefully tuck his body under layers of cool and temperate linens. Jensen makes certain to move as far over as he can to make room for Jared; Jared's already easing down to crawl over and wrap himself around Jensen as he gets rid of the flimsy blanket.

"oh, sah-weet! look..." Jensen points beyond the glass and screen walls into the overview of the huge backyard.

The horizon is burnishing yellow-gold with red tinges as the sun rises, changing dark blue sky into light blue; clouds are backlit like they're on fire.

"mmm..." Jared locks both arms around Jensen's neck, resting biceps on shoulders. "Favorite time of the day with my favorite person—I could become very spoiled with this to wake to every day." He nuzzles the back of Jensen's head, resting his brow on the softness.

Jensen sighs, leaning back into Jared's hold; he pats one forearm. "Good luck with that. Mom says her mother has nine lives, and god knows which ones she's on now. You'll have to pry this house from her cold, lifeless hands."

"hmm...I think I can outlive her. I just need to turn on my charm, like I did for you, to win her in my favor."

"well, why the fuck not? You've got everyone wrapped about your fingers, including Fletcher, who is more stubborn and willful than his owner."

"Dogs understand me. It's not about ownership..." Jared rubs at a spot on Jensen's chest. "...it's about unconditional love...lasting loyalty and a never-ending supply of promises to always be there, and have your back."

"god, listen to you—soun's like a proposal." Jensen shuts his eyes to face-plant in a pillow, but he's quickly back up, looking wide-eyed over his shoulder. "That wasn't a proposal, was it? And that's not what you wanted to talk about either, right?"

"hey, hey—ssshhh..." Jared presses his face to the side of Jensen's, easing him into calm. "...don't give yourself a useless conniption. You're good; we're good."

"—so good," Jensen releases on a mild groan under breath followed by a smirk.

"—and we'll be fine. Promise you that." Jared slides his hand down Jensen's face to shut his lids, gently pushing his head back onto the pillow. "—sleep now. I'll be joining you shortly." Of course he punctuates the comment with a wild yawn, trying to stem the severity with his hand.

Jensen is able to lay on his side as he talks; this is how they end their evenings back at their own place. "Next holiday, it will be your family. Less of a nervous wreck and I won't feel like some complete failure for not having a wife and 2.5 kids."

Jared brushes four fingers over Jensen's exposed back. "We got the house and dog-thing down pat." He lets out a light chuckle as he teases with a tickle at Jensen's hairline. "I think you assume too much with their expectations of you. As long as you're happy and content, I think they'll be happy."

"mmm-yeah, I suppose. I'll have a better perception once we're back home in our own bed." Jensen closes his eyes again, feigning sleep. He never sees Jared's features or his lips purse as he thinks about the "home" Jensen talks about—it isn't really "theirs", because it's Jensen's alone. And, sadly, "our bed" is really Jensen's bed. Even the dogs are Jensen's as Jared had to send his babies to live with his parents for the time being, until he had bought a house of his own.

Jared pulls the blankets further around Jensen as he slumbers on his right side, Jared rolls onto his back, right hand flat to his chest while he bends and tucks his left arm under his own head. He pins his side to Jensen's curved back, tucking a leg between Jensen's bent legs. It isn't long before Jensen flips onto his left side, lifting Jared's right arm to fit himself where he knows he will always belong—the perfect fit.

==>>==>>==>>==

Jared is sleeping as deeply as Jensen, and he has learned not to flip-flop over the bed like he usually does. He's still in the same position as when he had fallen asleep; he's slunk more down on the goose-feather mattress, his head tilting to the left at an awkward angle that will surely give him a crick in a few hours if he doesn't lift his chin to align his spine.

Jensen's not help. He's laying more heavily on Jared's chest wall: ear, side of face and neck and shoulder on the mid-to-upper chest, his right arm tight about Jared and tucked under the torso. Not only is he climbing Jared, but his legs have been purposefully tangling with Jared's.

This is how Roberta finds her grandson the second she enters through the back screendoor, from off her trek through the backyard. She had no idea that the tall, dark-haired young man would still be asleep; she had seen him wide awake, on his run with Fletcher. She had been up before everybody, even before the blue hue of early dawn, dressed in her husband's old hunting gear, using his 22-gauge rifle. She knew she had to look ridiculous, being this covered, but it kept her warm in that tree look-out as she had caught the wild geese that frequently flew over her property. She had been scoping their nest out for a few mornings, before her daughter's family had arrived. Three dead geese hung from her carcass satchel, necks broken and lifeless bodies dangling. She would've been on her way into the kitchen, back through her house if she hadn't taken that second look at that Padalecki boy.

Ever since Jensen had brought that young man to the Bowers holiday get-togethers as a "plus one", she hadn't thought much of him except he had appeared to make her grandson happy, never having heard that particular laugh of Jensen's sound like that since her husband, Errol, had been alive. Her had come this lanky, smart-mouth of a kid who would constantly break out in wide smiles no matter what emotion he had been feeling, so quick to laugh and crack hilarity despite being in the middle of emotionally charged moments. Somewhere, along the way, he had gone through some type of growth spurt, a swan dive into maturity that had catapulted Jensen's best friend into a changed man. She wasn't able to look directly at the young man for too long, not with those shifting hazel eyes that kept staring to intensely. She had known almost immediately that the relationship between Jensen and Jared had become something more. She hadn't gone senile yet.

The only thing she had been worried over was Jensen's being able to cope with the sudden change in his once-perfect life and to move on into a different path that gave him some journey toward happiness. Jared Padalecki had appeared to be doing that almost better than any of the Bowers and Ackles could have hoped for.

Roberta had hated how she had been making Jared feel, like he wasn't allowed to come over with Jensen. She had made sure to tell her daughter, Donna, to make a mention to Jensen that he could bring an extra body if he had begun to "see" anyone. Now, here's Jared, and he looks even more devastatingly handsome as she has kept avoiding looking at him or being in the same room with him for too long. He hurts her heart, not because he's with Jensen, but because she hasn't been able to get it out of her head how much he looks exactly like the man she had given her heart to—her first love. And that hadn't been the man she eventually ended up marrying. Roberta isn't sure Jensen wants to hear about the "icky" sentimentally romantic details, but she can't help envying her grandson, wanting to pull him aside for one good ole heart-to-heart, tell him to hang on and not to let go—ever.

Sliding off the satchel of geese carcasses first, settling the rifle down against the wall, Roberta tugs off the leather gloves and pockets them in the hunting jacket. She can't help feeling secondhand pain at the sight of the dark head tilting forward, chin squishing to left shoulder; Jensen seems stuck for good on top of the deeply breathing chest. Using those perfect stealth-like mother-ninja moves from years ago, she steps bedside, reaching under to grasp the back of the warm nape under the thick brown hair. She removes one pillow, leaving a single one behind to tuck under his head until it meets his broad shoulders; The plushness cradles his head back and gets him to stretch stiff neck muscles as he eventually ends up turning his head to the right, displaying a stretch of elongated neck on the left side of his face. She detects the steady pulse race from the main artery pumping. She curls her gnarled hand, petting down the rough cheek and silky hair. She feels her rheumy eyes moisten, wishing she had the guts to say one word of kindness to this young man who had done so much for her grandson when no one else knew how to come to Jensen's rescue.

Roberta can't dawdle on him or she'll burst into tears. She cups her hands around Jensen's head, kissing his hair and moving back across the porch floor to pick up her things, making her way back into the house. She walks the geese to the sink, setting them in the first stainless steel basin, then wanders into the hallway close to the front foyer. She takes off all her hunting gear, even unlacing the boots to kick them to the closet floor. She parts the row of light coats and thick jackets to hook the rifle back on the wall, closes the door to turn around and hook the strap to the carcass satchel on the basement doorknob; she'll take this downstairs to give it a thorough sanitized washing in the large sink. By the time she returns to the kitchen, she catches sight of the tall, half-naked form making himself a cup of coffee. She briefly admires the intricate back muscles, then wanders to the sink to wash her hands, hoping the sound of the water will drown out the silence.

Jared places the mug down on the island counter, slowly meandering to the fridge to locate the liquid creamer in the door shelf. He stands in front of his coffee cup, trying to wake and be sure he doesn't fuck up this moment, coming off too douchey. Like an ass kisser. He obviously knew that Roberta had seen he and Jensen in bed together, not being close because of how much they were good friends—-not with the way Jensen drapes himself over Jared when he's feeling needy during sleep. Eventually, the water running is turned off. He takes a long sip of coffee, puts the mug down and slides down the counter to approach Roberta's side, hand to her back. “Mind if I—?” Jared is instantly splashed with droplets of blood-tinged water and dirty, sticky goose feathers.

Roberta had been spooked by the simple touch, and Jared being in such close proximity. “oh, cripes, boy!...m'sorry.” She reaches for a dishtowel and starts swatting at him to clean him off.

It's worse than being doused as Jared feels each sting of the towel pelt his bare skin. “It's all right.” He yanks the rag out of her hands. “You can stop!”

Roberta notices the red welts forming on the surface of the biceps. “jesus, now I'm—”

“Please!” Jared begs with a soft laugh as he wipes off his chest and the pajama pants he wears. “I'll be fine.” He throws the towel over a shoulder. “Show me what you need me to do for you.” He can see that her hands don't function properly after coming out of the cold and too much physical activity; they don't bounce back as easily at this age.

Roberta is grateful for any help she can get. Jared will make quicker work of her task; she a little startled he seems willing and unafraid to get his hands dirty in blood and geese guts. She clears her throat, drawing away to reach for her own coffee mug, puring out the liquid to drink it straight. She heads to a nearby counter-caddy that dispense out her daily medications; she takes the ones that help ease her hand pain. It's in her head and ready to come out of her mouth, wanting to know Jared's intentions toward her grandson, but she truly never expected him to feel he could open up to her like a busted water pipe.

“I thought being out here—-in your home from his childhood—-with Jensen during this time would give me some idea to what he wants, or what he needs.” Jared makes a sad face, then shakes his head. “Turns out, he's even worse than he is when we're at home.”

Roberta clears her throat after another swallow of coffee. “Boy's been spooked by his Poppa's death. I don't know that he's ever had a better soundin' board for advice, from a male perspective, than he had in Errol.”

Jared nods in agreement. “I can tell. I mean, I can see the subtle shifts he takes now in being close to people. I'm genuinely amazed I managed to get this far—-this close to him.”

“I can tell how much he means to you.” Roberta feels a bit freer admitting what she's held back for too long. “I like that 'bout you.” She gives him a quick side-smile but then goes back to her stoic face. “Granted, it ain't been smart of ya to wear that heart so loosely on your sleeve, but it is what that boy needs these days. An' you don't seem like you shirk your loved ones t'all when it comes to reciprocatin' feelings.”

Jared slows down the plucking, then twist the faucet knob to decrease water flow. “He had bought that house for Danni.”

“...mmm, ghosts in the halls. I know what tha's like.” Roberta knew there were some issues still chasing Jensen.

“Not just that. He hasn't done anything to change a single room. It's...jarring to find pieces of her tucked away in tiny corners. I hate bringing shit up over and over. I want to give him time to grieve...” Jared pauses, feeling a hand press to his left shoulder blade.

Roberta can hear the hidden pain in that voice, an all too familiar pain. Now she really wishes she had cut this young man some slack and had stopped listening to her daughter. “—don't.”

“—what?”

“Best you can do is make new memories. Plant your feet and stand your ground.”

Jared understands each statement, even though they both have no coherent tie to the other. “I did make him buy a new mattress. Even a new set of linens, then I bought him some sets last Christmas and this birthday. I wasn't—” He was moving one hand around to explain himself. “—-this has been ongoing, before we had gotten intimate, and I wasn't stalking my prey to force Jensen to build me a nest. I wasn't expecting this to happen between us.”

“I know, kid.” Roberta pats the back in reassurance. She's pretty sure Donna has made Jared feel like he had to explain himself as Dannel had been an ideal daughter-in-law. “I understand more than you know.” She cups her hands at her lower back, watching Jared's deft fingers make quick work of the geese. “Who does the cooking?”

“Both of us, but I like to do the sweeter stuff: pastries, pies and cakes. I've got a chocolate truffle mousse—-Jensen teases me that it's just fancy puddin'...” They both chuckle at the absurdity of Jensen; how you can take the boy out of the country, but not the country out of the boy. “It's one area of the kitchen Jen trusts me to do on my own, and I do it well.”

Roberta smiles, nodding her head. “I'm gonna need a helper for the holiday meal. I like to start early, once I wake that morning.”

Jared slowly nods his head, comprehending what Roberta is offering him. “I run early in the morning. Jus' tell me when, I'll do my run before or after we start.”

Roberta gives a solid bounce to her head, a quirk to the end of her mouth as she is highly pleased that she's beginning to build something with Jared. “We have a Bowers' family tradition. We take an early evening drive, after the meal, around the nearby neighborhoods to see the start of the Christmas decorations and lights...”

Jared doesn't look at Roberta, just raises both eyebrows to wait for what she's about to say to him.

“...why don't you boys stay behind, take a drive later on when it's darker out.” Roberta can see that Jared is picking up on what she's trying to tell him. She will leave them alone in her house for an hour or more. “I'll be sure to start hankerin' for some hot cocoa or, uhm...whatever that new-fangled coffee place sells tha's sweet an' affordable.”

Jared realizes he's been right all along. Donna has had him freaking out for no reason. He turns on the water, giving the plucked geese a warm bath before he brings them to the second sink basin to place over the drainer. When he's done, he dries his hands on the towel over his shoulder. He moves back to the island counter to grab his mug, shifting around to take a stool at the breakfast bar. “You know, I need to find the right time to ask him...” He brings the mug to his lips, watching Roberta turn with lightning speed to clutch at her chest. “oh, shit!...no-no-no-no...Bertie, not THAT!” Jared slides down off the stool to Roberta's side.

“oh Lordy, boy!” Roberta swats away Jared's hands. “My medicines ain't even had time to settle.”

“I know, I know. I'm sorry.” Jared lightly snickers, dipping his head to make sure Roberta is truly all right. “Sometimes I don't know how to talk.” He still shapes his hands around her arms and soothes up and down. “Sometimes I say too much...or I stop in the middle of a thought for no reason.” He takes a little step back to lean on the counter. “wow...so you thought I was gonna propose, too?”

Roberta lifts her chin in curiosity. “Ain't that usually what happens at these family gatherin's? An' you've been actin' antsy since ya got here.”

Jared tucks his hands behind his back, sitting on his palms. “I don't know what's wrong, but...I can't help but think I may have done an idiotic thing. I really want to be with Jensen. I don't wanna lose him over a mundane issue like where we live. So, on my days off, I've been lookin' at houses. I've been with him long enough to know what Jensen likes; we share so much in common about domestic stuff. I've been paying close attention, and I've jotted down good notes. I want to ask him to go see these homes with me that I've arranged with a Realtor—-tha's all.”

“Where?”

“I was hoping right where we live already, but just not in that house.”

“Good. 'Bout time Jensen washed away that girl for good.” Roberta waves her hand in the air, like she swipes away the memory of Danneel. “ She's moved on, got herself a new life—-seems happy, from what Donna keeps her nose buried into.”

“jesus...” Jared dips his head, putting chin to chest. “Jensen thought she might be doing something like that.”

“I told her she needed to stop, or she needed to keep it to herself. I guess she keeps some kinda hope alive they'll get back together.”

Jared shakes his head adamantly. “Not gonna happen.”

Roberta likes the confident determination she can hear in Jared's voice. “You got a goodness in you and a refreshing strength. My gran' son is a difficult man to hold. I'm pretty certain he needs an equal, or a better, partner.”

“I think he and I compliment one another. We cared about the other even as friends. I also have an advantage.” Jared smirks as Roberta lifts a curious eyebrow. “I know what his Ex is like.”

Roberta releases a hearty laugh, shaking her head. “Maybe I'll treat Donna and Alan to a movie. I like that new one with that Hawaiian wrestler.”

Jared furrows his brow in mild confusion, but then figures it out. “The Rock? You mean...Dwayne Johnson?” He's utterly flummoxed that Jensen's grandmother knows a current pro-wrestler like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Or that she even knows who he is, what he used to be before he got into film.

“oh, poo!” Roberta softly shoves Jared's shoulder joint. “Errol an' I used to watch Saturday mornings matches ages ago when Jensen was little, then we watched all those Monday night RAW events. Up until his death.”

“Cool...awesome.” Jared is even more intrigued as he hears where Jensen picked up that “oh, poo!” saying he uses to clean up his explicatives when he's around his family.

The screen door creaks open, Jensen wanders in bleary-eyed and shivering as he stomps around in Jared's jogging suit, having had to roll the leg hems a few times. “Is there still coffee left?” He carries in his old mug, walking over to dump out the older tepid coffee in the first sink basin, giving a cursory glance to the three dead geese in the next sink over.

“Some.” Jared moves to the coffee maker, pulling out the carafe to tip it around and show the swallow of coffee left at the cotton. “I can make a fresh batch.” He turns perfectly just as Jensen—-huddled into himself—-gradually barrels into the huge chest wall. “aww...I think I was missed.” Jared settles his hands at Jensen's back, rubbing and soothing over the jacket material as he glances over at Roberta. “You hungry, man?”

Having brought his arms to his chest, tucking his whole body to Jared then settling his head under Jared's chin, Jensen mumbles against the bare skin. “mmm—-I could eat.” He moves his head around so he can find his grandmother. “I could really go for your fruit waffles, Gran'ma.”

“oh, you would—-would you?” Roberta crosses her arms, squinting one eye at Jensen.

“What?” Jensen raises his head sharply.

“Nothin'.” Roberta had only been trying to rile Jensen to react, but then she realized she could use this as a prime opportunity. “There ain't no need for you to feel guilty or ashamed 'round me, boy.”

Jensen gulps, flashing a quick look up to Jared, who has averted his head, but kept an arm around Jensen's shoulders to hold him close. “Mom said not to—”

“oh, blah-blah-blah-blah...you need to start thinkin' for yourself an' this wonderful man you got beside you, who loves you, kid. Loves you the way you're supposed to be loved. I don't give a good god-damn if he's a man...or if he's built like a brick shithouse...” She waits to let their loud bursts of laughter to die, joining in only at the end when they had wiped the moisture from the corners of their eyes. “or, you know...sculpted like a fine racehorse...”

“Stallion.” Jensen mutters with tongue in cheek.

“Mustang, actually.” Jared boasts with some pride.

Roberta glares at both of them with her squinting eye again.

Jensen can't help but lower his eyes, feeling ashamed for not thinking better of his grandmother. “I'm sorry.” He allows his body to move as Jared rubs his back, then settles an arm about his waist. “Jared is a truly good man—-one of the best.” He looks up at Jared to share a small smile with him. “...he even gets better every day I'm with him.”

“Good.” Roberta nods on a solid bounce of her head, crossing her arms, tucking her hands away. “Tha's how it should always be.” She hopes this was as close to what Errol would have said to Jensen. She wants to say more but will wait until she has a better private moment with her grandson.

“So, uh...” Jensen leans into Jared as he flits his gaze back and forth to look at his grandmother and then away. “...was it a shock or, you just went...'typical Jensen'...?”

Roberta narrows her eyes, then looks at Jared who has kept his head bowed almost this whole time, never sputtering a word. But the young man's facial expressions speak so much more than words. “I may be old, but I ain't blind or dead.” She focuses her gaze on her grandson. “It was 'bout time you noticed how much love this boy's had for you.” She gestures to Jared with her thumb, sighing heavy. “At least you have the privilege of knowing you've been loved better all this time just as friends. Never realizing until right this moment your 'one' had been there beside you.”

Jared bumps Jensen; Jensen bumps Jared right back as they both look to one another under their lowered lids.

“Was it inevitable for you and Poppa?” Jensen asks with a curious lift to his eyebrow.

Roberta goes still, clearing her throat. “Do you mean love at first sight?”

“That or...” Jensen shrugs one shoulder, not sure what his grandmother will admit to him. “—-some type of unique romantic entanglement.”

“You really wanna know?” Roberta questions with a dip of her chin because she's not sure Jensen's ready to hear this kind of truth about what he's believed for so long about her and Errol.

“I asked, didn't I?” Jensen gives out a slight chuckle, peering up at Jared with a smile. Jared returns the smile, but has prepared himself for some different truth to come out of Roberta's mouth.

“Yes, you did, but...do you really wanna know the truth—-my truth?”

“Wha—?” Jensen nearly does a double-take. He's never heard anything about Roberta's prior life before she met his grandfather, Errol. “Is it—-bad?”

“It's...a little depressing. Not a 'happily ever after'.”

“Errol was your 'one'?” Jared inquires.

“No, he wasn't.” Roberta can hear the floor above them creaking, meaning that Alan and Donna are waking up and moving about, ready to come downstairs. “We should talk more, but later.” She starts sweeping her hands toward the two young men. “so...shoo! Shoo! Git outta my kitchen. I got waffles to make.”

Jared uses his whole body to protect Jensen and walks them both out the backdoor and one step down to the land on the porch flooring. They make a sharp turn to the left, heading toward the porch swing side. Jensen plops down first, tucking himself into a corner of the cushioned seat, pulling knees up to set feet down. Jared eases down beside him, leaning back to stretch both arms out along the back of the swing; he lets his fingers play at the jacket covering the shoulder joint. He plants his own bare feet to the porch flooring to set the swing in motion.

“—jesus christ...can you even fathom that?”

“What?” Jared turns to look at Jensen, taking his right arm down to curl it around Jensen's knees.

“One minor change in a single choice—” Jensen snaps his fingers. “—-the ripple effect sending residuals waves through the fabric of my family, and I wouldn't be here.”

“You would still be here, but just not here, in this exact moment.”

“—-with you.” Jensen adds with the slide of his body toward Jared, lifting the arm so he can fit under.

“huh?”

“You have any thoughts on whether we're always destined to be together—-in some capacity?”

“mmm—” Jared squeezes his arm around Jensen to bring him close. “I don't know.” He presses the side of his face into Jensen's head. “I kinda like where I am right now.”

 

---the end