Life sure is strange.
Most of Jared’s colleagues never fail to bemoan their flawless health or lack of reasons to spend blissful hours in bed thereof.
“You gotta milk it for all its worth!” They often say.
He himself has rarely been sick.
It has less to do with his “bull like constitution” (Jensen’s word not his) and more to do with the constant realization that a tiny being solely depends on him for survival.
His situation has forced him to unwillingly watch his health….to look for tiny symptoms that most people happily overlook…and begrudgingly visit the doctor at the first notice.
Because he knows that if he falls sick….it’s his baby who will suffer.
So it’s not surprising that his bed-rest is not agreeing with him.
It’s been two weeks since he was discharged from hospital with a bag of prescription meds and some admonishments of taking it easy.
Two weeks since his world unraveled with a nightmare.
A lot has changed since then.
The biggest of them has been Jensen,
You may call Jared stupid but he’s still finding it hard to get over the fact that Jensen’s hasn’t left yet.
Hasn’t packed his bag and left with another major assignment in some other godforsaken country.
Old habits apparently die hard.
Last two weeks have passed like a beautiful dream….despite his health scare and all its perks.
It’s like one of those dreams that make you reluctant to open your eyes. You want to float in its heady sensation stuck between wakefulness and slumber even after it’s over.
Jensen has rarely left his bedside.
He has spent nearly every moment wrapped around Jared….as if trying to absorb all the morbid remnants of the horrific nightmare that caused all this in the first place…..
….. all his niggling self-doubts, fears and anxieties.
And the truth is…..
It’s working.Jared hasn’t been this worry free for a long time.
Jen has a very unique way of taking care of his ailing husband.
It carefully treads the threshold of protectiveness and yet stops right before it transforms into over coddling.
It’s like Jensen has an invisible fingertip over Jared’s nerves at all times…as if he intrinsically knows the inner workings of Jared’s restless mind and leaves no stone unturned to make sure he’s within reach.
The curtains of their bedroom has been drawn up in such a way that the couch of the living room is visible from the bed.
Jared’s isn’t sure who moved the couch in this manner…..but he can make a guess.
This way….he can see Jensen even when his husband isn’t next to him.
In these last two weeks, he has passed many a moment stealing surreptitious glances at Jensen while the other is working away in his laptop….feet firmly planted on the table in front of the couch.
Too many times Jensen would become aware of Jared’s incessant staring. Green eyes would melt into hazel ones across the room and Jen would saunter in and wrap himself around Jared.
These moments would be wordless.
With so many unsaid words hanging in the air between them with an effortless ease, silence would be the chosen medium of communication.
The changes in room settings happened in the first two days of Jared’s return.
The remnants of the horrific nightmare clung to his eyelids stubbornly. On the top of that, the multitudes of drugs in his system had wreaked havoc on his inner defences that he had tenaciously built up over the years.
He was still having mighty trouble of differentiating dream from reality.
His mind had lost all its precious coherence and was voicing all his repressed thoughts in a myriad ways.
May be …the Jensen lying still in the coffin is true.
May be….the Jensen sitting at his bedside in the hospital is a figment of his imagination.
May be….his life has ended after all.
It took Jensen quite a bit to convince Jared that he was real.
It wasn’t a problem in his lucid moments. But these moments were scarce.Under drug induced delirium, the leftovers of the nightmare reigned.
It was Jensen who came up with the idea of making subtle alterations in room settings….so that he was visible to Jared at all times.
So when Jensen is not in their room….Jared can actually see or at least hear him.
Running after their rambunctious toddler……reading newspaper on the couch….puttering in their tiny kitchen…or talking to the mailman.
For that Jared, it seemed a necessity.
But the Jared of today is beyond mortified. A thinly veiled voice within him keeps on whispering that he has let Jensen down….
He has always prided himself for being Jensen’s rock… Jensen’s words, not his.
It’s his inner insecurities that has stolen Jensen’s rock….his entire support system…his dreams.
And he can never forgive himself for that.
“No…you didn’t.” Someone murmured from somewhere near him …startling Jared from his reverie.
Wasn’t Jensen talking to the mailman? It seems he has teleported himself to Jared’s side at the first hint of his inner turbulence.
Has he been talking aloud? Jared couldn’t help but ponder.
It was Jensen again ….prompting a furious blush on the cheeks of the hazel eyed man.
It’s always disconcerting to realize that Jensen can actually chill inside Jared’s head….as if he belongs there.
Jared wraps himself around Jensen….burrowing his face in that enticing crook of Jensen’s neck. It has been his favorite escape route whenever conversations seem to tax on his last reserve.
Jensen smiles in response.
His quite laughter reverberates through Jared’s body prompting a shiver. Jared knows the reason behind it.
He’s hiding from Jensen…in Jensen himself. If that’s not an irony…..nothing is.
It takes Jensen some effort to wrest Jared from his nook. And even then Jared’s hazel eyes make every effort not to meet Jensen’s green ones.
“It’s not really hard to guess what you are thinking Jay.” Jensen whispers as he kisses Jared’s slack lips.
“I’m all you think about….”There’s something in Jensen’s tone that makes Jared look up at him from his chosen refuge.
Jensen’s staring at him.
Normally Jared can read him like a book.
They both can.
It has been a long time since they realized that they have this uncanny ability to read each other….to the point of pain.
They can actually finish each other’s sentences….Even the unsaid ones.
However romantic it may seem in stories….it’s really anything but.
However it has a plus side.
Jensen has never been able to hide anything from Jared.
Until now that is.
Jared….as it seems… has lost his touch when he needs it the most.
Jensen is looking at Jared with this strange closed off gaze that betrays nothing.
He’s looking …but not really looking at Jared. It seems as if Jared’s a translucent veil and Jensen’s gaze is piercing through it straight ahead.
And it scares Jared to no end.
“Jen?” Jared’s voice shakes as it tries to rouse his husband from his reverie.
It seems it’s not Jared’s words in itself but the desperation in it that does the trick. Jensen’s face clears off in an instant.
“Jen?” Jared holds the freckly cheeks within his palms and brings it down till they are breathing in the same intimate air.
There’s something special about these moments. Something intangible and sacred. With words hanging in the air….unsaid and true…..silence seems to latch on and smoothen the creases on the edges of their bond.
Jared knows he needs to open up. He has bottled up everything for far too long….and there’s no better moment as now. He grabs Jensen by his shoulders and reverses their position in one swift move….and Jensen suddenly finds himself in the bottom.
“Hey.” He murmurs again.
Hazel eyes melts into green ones as Jared’s broken voice crashes into Jensen’s consciousness.
“What’s the matter Jay?” Jensen cups the face he loves so much within the palm of his hands…
This tiny gesture is supposed to make it easier for Jared…but it makes words even harder. Jensen is looking up at him with such hopeful eyes….bursting with love.
What is Jared supposed to say?
“Jensen ...I don’t want you to stay?”
Or should it be…
“Jensen I’ve really sucky self-worth issues and you need to leave so that I can prove to myself that I can still handle everything on my own?”
Jared finds himself at loss of words just like ever.
He decides to voice the worst of his fears.
“Je..Jen? Don’t change. Please?” That’s what scares him the most….Jensen giving up a part of himself for Jared.
Jensen’s different. He has a greater calling than others like him who live within the clichéd cycle of work, play and sleep.
Jensen’s a dreamer. He has a vision of a world far beyond the comprehension of others. Jared will die if Jensen ceases to be Jensen.
He opens his lips to say something only to be shushed by a callused fingertip.
“You and I….will not contrive….a heavenly game…in this mortal lair.
We'll not be trapped…by tearful songs…we'll hold no charm …for cupid's snare.
For you and I…thrive fearless by…the knowledge 'We are'…in the life we share.
We shall hoist….in fateful cause…the flag of love…and choose to dare.
When life is brisk…we seek no peace…but grace the pain…and do forbear.
If the sea is rough…and the sailing tough…we'll stand by us…as death looms near…”
Jensen’s words are permeating across his senses like drops of water on a scorched earth. Jared knows this poem. Its words are something he has lived by ever since he has had Jensen.
He didn’t realize he’s crying until Jensen kisses his eyelids.
The green eyed man brings Jared’s face infinitely closer to his so that his breath is ghosting across Jared’s ears.
He whispers the rest….
“For you and I…thrive fearless by…the knowledge 'We are'…in the life we share.”
Jared finds himself too choked up to speak.
Jensen has never been the one for roses and candle light dinners….walks across the beach or long drives under a starlit sky.
Jensen loves Jared by sharing his world with him.
Until Jensen, Jared was perfectly content leading his life within a cosy little circle….happy with his own ambitions and dreams and not at all concerned with the wider world beyond.
Jensen blew it to pieces.
His arrival in Jared’s life made him conscious of humanity beyond his grasp….of people he never knew….of countries he hardly bothered about….
Of turmoil he wouldn’t have otherwise cared.
Jared still remembers their first Valentine’s Day.
When all of Jared’s friends were planning romantic getaways with their better halves….Jared suddenly found himself signed up for a Humanitarian Aids group to Haiti.
It was the year when Haiti had an earthquake of a devastating magnitude.
Jared like most others was perfectly content with giving it a cursory glance on TV screen while surfing channels…. sparing it an occasional thirty seconds of grief if he felt like it.
It was Jensen who was covering Haiti that year when it was hit with a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake.
Just like always, Jensen refused to watch the rescue operations from the side lines like other journalists. Once he returned home, he signed himself and Jared as volunteers in Red Cross relief operations.
That was Jared’s first Valentine’s gift.
There was no quaint candle light and roses for him. No hushed words and soft kisses.
Yet Jared wouldn’t change it for the world.
For…on a day when all his friends were busy in their private celebrations….Jared and Jensen stood hand in hand inside the biggest relief camp in Port-au-Prince.
Thousands of kids were falling victims in massive cholera outbreak after the earthquake….and Jared couldn’t help but feel apologetic at his own short-sightedness.
Gifts and romantic dinners seemed to pale in comparison.
They had back breaking jobs tasks throughout the day just like other volunteers…tending the sick…helping the medical personnel in every way possible.
They forgot everything else.
But the kiss they shared at the end of each one surpassed anything Jared had ever experienced.
That’s his Jensen.
Jared lives Jensen every moment ….and he doesn’t know what he would do if things changed….if Jensen suddenly thought he needed to change for Jared.
“Thinking loudly again …” It was Jensen’s voice that shattered his musings.
Jensen is looking at him with eyes full of mischief….and Jared finds himself smiling in spite of himself.
“Was thinkin ‘bout Haiti…” Jared buries himself in Jensen’s warmth.
“We shared a bunk bed.” Came the amused reply.
Jensen’s laughter proves contagious as Jared joins in. He pokes his husband’s stomach in lieu of his answer…shaking his head in fond exasperation.
Jensen actually spearheaded an entire relief effort and sharing a bed with Jared is the only thing he finds worth remembering.
Two six plus male in a single bed ….stolen kisses and furtive hand jobs to top it off.
“Wanna take you there again someday.” Jensen mused absentmindedly producing a big smile in Jared’s lips.
“Really Jen?” Jared looked like a kid before Christmas. He smiled as a beautiful inner imagery assaulted his senses. Him and Jensen…hand in hand in an unknown land… for a cause near to their hearts.
Jensen lowered both of them till they are lying on a single pillow…face to face…nose apart.
“Just get well soon Jay. Wanna give you the world.” He kisses Jared on the forehead and murmurs .
And just like that Jared crashes to the ground at the literalness of the words.
Jensen has the world.
He had it until Jared failed him with his own insecurities. He can’t even begin to perceive what he’s forcing Jensen to give up.
Everything that Jensen has dreamed of since he was old enough to dream.
He’s forcing Jensen to bend backwards….from something that rightfully belongs to him.
It’s true he wants Jensen with him. There’s nothing he wants more. But until now he never realized what Jensen would have to lose to be with Jared.
“Stop thinking so much Jay. Everything’s all right. I swear.” As if mindful of Jared’s inner turmoil…Jensen gathers him within his arms.
Sleep is a great pacifier.
It evens out the odds and smoothens out all the wrinkled edges of our consciousness. It washes away the guilt that has gathered about….and paints life in bright hopeful shades.
Even if temporarily.
The sleeping Jared is at peace at last.
He hasn’t clipped Jensen’s soaring wings mid-flight. He hasn’t chained Jensen’s dreams.
In sleep ….he finds Jensen flying high..with Jared by his side.
Jared’s son is a pintsized traitor.
Yes…that’s what he is. He smiles inwardly at the ridiculous comparison.But that’s the only word that comes to him as he watches the spectacle unfold before him.
It’s officially breakfast time in Ackles household…even though Sammy has been up since four in the morning just like always…their own little rooster.
Jensen has taken over the task of feeding the baby and Jared can’t help but feel jealous at how smoothly it’s going so far.
“Don’t make a mess…okay kiddo?” Jensen gently advises their son who angelically nods his head while eating a banana.
“Goobbaa! Deedee goobba!” The little boy babbles.
It prompts a gentle laughter from both fathers whose eyes shine with barely concealed amusement.
“Yeah Kiddo…Good Boy!” Jensen grinned.
Sammy goes back to his food without a hitch.
Last time Jared tried this….Sammy ended up wearing his meal. He had mashed banana in ten different places of his body.
Bath time had been anything but fun….with a hyperactive puppy for a son and an exhausted dad.
Sammy is totally gone for his Dee just like Jared himself. It always makes him smile.
Throughout the day, their son follows Jensen like a lovesick puppy. Chubby little fingers clutching whatever part of his Dee he finds available. Back of his jeans, tee-shirt, fingers or legs….
Or hanging from his neck like a spider monkey.
It always makes him realize how much his baby misses Jensen.
He looks down on the table and realizes that their pancakes are getting cold.
Jensen’s busy with their little munchkin and Jared’s too engaged in watching them to focus on breakfast. He spears a pancake with his fork and extends it towards Jensen, who accepts it with a knowing grin.
The breakfast goes smoothly after that…as soon as Jared takes over the task of feeding himself and Jensen.
Wonder of wonders….their baby goes down for his mid-morning nap without a hitch.
“You gotta share the secret with me….you know?” Jared murmurs once they are lazing on the ratty old couch.
“Huh?” Answered Jensen from somewhere behind Jared.
Really…heaven would freeze before Jensen gives up his position of the big spoon.
Jared used to have much too fun pulling Jensen’s leg about the fact that he’s in fact much taller than his big and brawny husband. But he hasn’t yet been able to make Jensen give up his big spoon status.
“Jensen…the baby whisperer.” Jared poked his husband’s ribs eliciting a childlike giggle.
“You’re forgettin to add Jared whisperer… Jay.” Strong arms encircle him from behind as Jensen’s tone washes over Jared.
“Yeah….that too.” Jared closes his eyes.
He’s too blissed out to lie or protest.
Jensen’s scent is embracing him like beautiful morning breeze and Jared at last finds that elusive thing he had been searching for so long.
At least for some time.
They had spent the better part of the day lazing on the couch just like they always do.
It’s officially bedtime, even though Jared has spent ninety percent of last two weeks in bed and it’s losing its charm.
The end of Jared’s medical leave is looming closer and he’s sure Jensen has used up all his leaves as well. However sweet these days might seem….they both have to return to their jobs shortly.
Jared looks down at the exam papers on his lap and gives a forlorn sigh.
These have been delivered at his doorstep this afternoon and have formally signaled his return to the real world.
Jensen’s as well.
He’s sure he can convince Jensen not to make any major changes as of yet. Jensen belongs to the world as much as he belongs to Jared. He won’t let him give up his most cherished dream so quickly.
Waking up to Jensen’s sleeping face every morning is what Jared’s dreams are made of.
Last two weeks were part of that beautiful dream…and Jared has ravenously soaked up every moment of it.
He wants to have Jensen every day….to feel him at each dawn and daybreak….to fight with him like every other couple without constantly eying the table calendar on the bedside table...to finally get rid of the nasty habit of counting days ….
…to sail effortlessly in life secure with the knowledge that Jensen will return home each afternoon.
But their life isn’t about what Jared wants.
He had fallen in love with Jensen in his entirety…
He has loved the Jensen who stays close just as acutely as the Jensen who leaves him. Jensen’s dreams are his as well.
His husband has worked hard all his life to be what he is today.
And Jared won’t let anyone crush it…not even Jensen.
He won’t let Jensen settle for anything else till everything clears off….till the fear of Jared’s ill-health and insecurity looms large in the air around them….till Jensen is driven by a misplaced guilt over something he hasn’t even done in the first place.
It’s rare for Jensen to be awake at this hour of the day.
Hell…he doesn’t even remember the last time he had been awake at this early hour when he’s home. Cuddling with a pliant sleep-warm Jay is too much of a temptation to resist.
Normally he would be entwined with Jared much like an inseparable vine….sharing the same intimate space in every conceivable way.
But right now…sleep’s an elusive mistress… playing hard to get.
Jared is blissfully asleep on him…lulled by the steady rise and fall of Jensen’s chest.
His fingers are carding through Jared’s hair in an unconscious gesture long borne out of habit. It’s probably soothing him more than Jared himself.
It’s moments like these that make him ache fiercely for everything he has missed.
Never in a million years would he wish harm on Jared. His Jay is his life. But in spite of that he’s thankful for Jared’s aneurysm.
If Jensen hadn’t been blindsided by its suddenness, he would have continued to sail through life with half a picture….with half of Jared….the half that always smiled….that pretended to be okay…that waved him goodbye in the airport with a huge grin.
In all these years he had never seen the other side of his husband….the side that’s insecure and bloody scared. Jared has been able to flawlessly hide it beneath his sunny exterior until it tore along the seams and burst open before Jensen’s own eyes.
His gaze drops once again on the inconspicuous brown envelop resting on his lap. It’s an official mail from Lorreta Devine, VP and Managing Editor of BBC Worldwide.
Effective from the next financial year, Jensen will manage and oversee BBC's multi-platform news gathering operations from the Middle-East and South-East Asia. He will be based in New York…his and Jared’s home. His appointment as the Bureau Chief of BBC Worldwide’s operational headquarters in New York has something to do with the fact that Jeffrey Dean Morgan is finally taking up the reigns as the Editor-In-Chief of the channel leaving his place vacant.
Mark Sheppard and Jeff had put strong recommendations for Jensen to Lorreta, and the fact that Lorreta herself is an alumnus of Jensen’s Alma mater Stanford helped.
She had personally overseen quite a few of Jensen’s notable projects due to her keen interest in Middle-Eastern politics and had been full of praises for each of them.
Although Jensen shouldn’t be kidding. He knows as well as anyone that it was his resume and credentials as much as anything else that made the upper-management of his media house zero in on Jensen for the job.
But here’s the kicker.
It’s not the first time he had been offered the job. Some years back he had been offered a similar position in their headquarters in Dallas.
The Dallas bureau is not as important as the New York one, but the offer was quite lucrative. But Jensen was the rising face in international news journalism and the thought of being cooped up in one place rather than witness the news first hand made him claustrophobic.
Jared encouraged him to follow his heart just like always…. warm hugs and big smiles and all.
Jensen had been reluctant to leave Jared and was on the verge of accepting it.
But Jared being Jared refused to let his husband do anything against his heart.
Jensen is quite sure the saga is gonna repeat itself.
But there is one difference.
Jensen isn’t going against his heart this time around.
He’s still goin to miss the thrill of chasing the headlines. But it will be a challenge to fill in the shoes of someone like Jeff.
And Jensen loves challenges.
Even more than that….he’s gonna be with Jared everyday.
Life blooms before him in bright hopeful colors.
He’s gonna have his fill with everything he has missed so far.
Jay and Sammy.
Jensen looks down at his slumbering husband and gently kisses his forehead. It’s time to get up. He has to meet Lorreta in a couple of hours.
He gently shakes the man snoring on his chest and smiles when Jay crinkles his nose cutely.
“Hmmm?” Comes the reluctant half-awake answer from the man on his chest.
“I hafta go…. Got a meeting in an hour.” Jensen brushes the rumpled hair from his husband’s sleep warm forehead.
That gets Jared’s attention in an instant. His eyebrows fuse in their usual anxious way as he stares a while before answering.
Jensen knows what he’s thinking. Jared’s probably thinking that he’s gonna meet Mark to discuss about his next assignment.
“Mark?” Comes the hushed answer. It seems that Jared is still grappling with the suddenness of events and Jensen rushes to soothe him.
“Nope. The Vice-President.” Jensen kisses the slack lips again to distract Jared from his erratic thoughts...
Jared sighs into the kiss. Once it’s over ….he burrows himself in Jensen once again.
He has to speak up…and meeting Jensen’s eyes is still something he still finds hard.
‘Jen? You can go you know? I’ve got a clean bill of health now…isn’t it? No need to worry and hold off work for me. You should go.” Jared speaks from somewhere inside Jensen’s neck and his voice is muted as a result.
Jared closes his eyes and swallows….
He has just told Jensen that he’s not needed…and Jensen hasn’t responded yet. It’s ominous.
But when Jensen speaks….he surprises Jared.
“You can’t make me go baby. If you push me out….I’m gonna tent in the backyard.”
“Whah?” Jared stutters as he struggles to detach himself from his husband’s limbs and sit up. Jensen’s gone crazy for sure.
“Not goin. Nada. Nope. You can’t make me..” Jensen shakes his head mimicking their little son .
And he begins again
“We have so many fights to catch up on you know?…..and make up sex..” Jensen gives a sly grin.
“We gotta have those too.”
“Go on our second honeymoon….make another munchkin with you and see you waddle all over again…” Jensen finishes in a childish giggle as the picture of a pregnant Jared invades his senses.
Jared shakes his head in fond exasperation. He opens his mouth but is quickly hushed with a finger on his lips.
“Hafta get ready Jay. We’ll talk when we return okay ?” A kiss and Jensen’s off.
Soon Jensen zooms off.
Jared buries into the pillow that smells like his husband and smiles.
Something feels so right this time…as if there’s a sudden gust of fresh air somewhere within and that old claustrophobic feeling is all gone.
He isn’t exactly sure what changed.
Jared falls into a relieved slumber ….Sammy tucked under his arms. Jensen had cleverly lifted the sleeping toddler from his crib and brought him to Jared…so that he doesn’t need to get up when Sammy wakes up from his morning nap.
Jensen was talking about a meeting….and it leaves Jared pondering. Meeting at this early hour could mean a lot of things.
God. He can’t wait for Jensen to return.
It was around ten in the morning that when iphone chimes.
“Jen? When’ll you come back?” Jared answers in a rush. Jensen's a worry wart...and is callin to see if Jared's okay for sure.
The meeting’s over then.
“Family of Jensen Ackles?”
The shrill unfamiliar voice shatters his inner peace in a nano second.
Why does a stranger have Jensen’s phone?
“Who’s this? Why do you have my husband’s phone?” Jared extricates himself from his toddler’s grasp and struggles to get up from the bundle of blankets one handed.
Something’s not right….and he feels himself shaking.
“There’s been an accident.”
The rest of the words were blur. Every once in a while words like accident, drunk driver, DUI, collision, hospital, head injury filtered across his consciousness.
The man repeats the hospital address in an impassive intonation and Jared nods robotically.
He doesn’t know what to feel.
That’s what Jared’s feeling right now.
It’s just like his nightmare….the one that spurred their fate into action. The one that brought Jensen back to him.
Is Jensen going to die…..only for real this time?
The last thing that Jared said to Jensen burns into his heart.
“You should go.”
Jensen wanted to stay and Jared asked him to go.
Is it gonna be the last thing he ever tells his husband?
As the broken man haphazardly puts on a crumpled t-shirt over his jeans, he feels surreal.
There’s so many things he hasn’t told Jensen yet.
So many feelings unsaid and unexpressed….so many wordless moments left unshared….another munchkin….
And Jared breaks down crying.
“I…..I can’t. I can’t….” He mumbles….all his mighty efforts to prove himself strong enough to live without Jensen suddenly vanishing into thin air.
His minds plays on those words like a broken record on an eternal loop.
He can’t live without Jensen.
“You can’t make me go.” Jensen had whispered.
He tried to show Jensen that he’s strong….and that’s burning him alive.
He picks up his sleeping baby and the diaper bag…. and looks for the car keys in the drawing room.
He has to go to Jensen.