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Forgiving the Past, Finding the Future

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Forgiving the Past, Finding the Future

Chapter One

Paxton, Texas; Present: 


“Seriously? You were raised in Texas, son. That’s the best you can come up with to toss at me right now?”


“I think those ten years in New York tamed you a little bit too much, darlin’. You tossed better at me earlier without even realizing you were doing it. Try again?”

At first there was just silence from the man locked in the small cell and cuffed to the standard issue cot. The man on the other side of the bars frowned at the silence and had just opened his mouth to offer another taunting jab when he saw his ‘guest’ take a deep breath. He stopped and waited for whatever was going to be hurled at him next.

“You’re a prick! You’re a no-good, backstabbing, lying, yellow-bellied, ball-less coward!”

“Better. I know you were always the quiet one but I knew you had a temper. I saw it today. You can do better than this, Jay.”

If looks could kill, Sheriff Jensen Ackles knew he would be flat on the floor of his small jail just by the hateful daggers being shot through the bars at him from bright hazel eyes. Right then they weren’t showing any traces of the golds, blues, or greens he knew they could have at other times.

“You’re a rich, arrogant, spoiled bastard and I hope one of these days one of your Dad’s stupid steers runs you down and sticks a giant horn up that tight ass before it stomps you into the damn mud like a bug!” Jared Padalecki shot back, frustrated and furious as he tugged at the cuffs holding his wrists to the solid steel cot. He struggled, the sound of metal against metal loud in the cell before finally letting loose with a string of rarely used, mostly forgotten obscenities, peppered with some suggestions for what Jensen could do or have done to him that not only crossed the border of creative but physically impossible in some cases. One actually had Jensen’s eyebrows raising before his lips curved up in a slow smile.

“And there’s my boy,” he chuckled, fighting not to laugh when he was shot a full on furious bitch face that he remembered seeing once or twice in high school along with another well-known gesture.

“You’re a sociopath!” Jared snapped, tossing his head to try to get the stands of long dark hair that had fallen into his eyes back so he could see the other man completely. “You’re full blown crazy as fuck!”

“No, I’m not either of those things despite what you might think right now.” Jensen understood how it could look that way considering Jared’s current location and predicament.

“You fake arrested me! You knocked me out and kidnapped me! How are those things not crazy?” Jared demanded angrily, giving his wrists another jerk but realized he was not going to get loose that way and would probably only hurt himself.

“I’m the Sheriff. I don’t ‘fake’ arrest anyone,” Jensen corrected, stepping closer to the bars to run his fingers down the metal slowly as if to delay his next comment. “You resisted arrest so that’s why you had your stubborn ass knocked out. It’s also not kidnapping since I did read you your rights. Granted you were unconscious while I did so but…”

“I didn’t do anything to warrant getting arrested for, jackass!” Jared still was having a hard time believing this was even happening.

Jensen watched Jared struggle a bit more before finally going still on the cot. Or his body went still. His hands and wrists were still twisting restlessly in the cuffs and the Sheriff worried about him possibly cutting himself. He’d tried to make sure he put the cuffs on loose enough to hold but tight enough to prevent slipping free from.

“You were speeding.” He shrugged, not disappointed when big and still soft looking, despite his fury, hazel eyes shot back to him incredulously.

“I was packing to leave this goddamn town!” Jared argued. A small part of him realized if this arrest was legit that everything he’d just shouted probably wasn’t going to help him in the end, especially given how he knew Jensen could be at times… like now.

“You were speeding earlier.” Jensen smirked, nodding his head to the side as if indicating outside the office. “When you tore out of the garage after shouting all that stuff at me, you were speeding. So consider this a… delayed arrest for a speeding infraction, as well as assault on an officer since you did punch me. Chad can be a witness.”

Jared turned his head fully this time so he could actually stare at Jensen as if he’d grown another head. He opened his mouth to argue that he hadn’t done any of that when he suddenly went quiet, recalling earlier that day when he’d stopped to see the one friend he still knew he had in his old hometown.

Five hours earlier: 

“He is everywhere I go, everywhere I look… There the asshole is! I think he’s stalking me!”

“Ummm, this is where I kinda remind you of how small this damn town is. You can throw a rock from one end to the other, I think. And… he’s the Sheriff so it’s sort of his job to be around.”

“Well why doesn’t he sit in his office eating donuts or drinking coffee like the cops in New York, then? Why is he in my face every time I turn around?”

“His sister, who owns the only floral shop in town, is marrying your step-brother… that’s why you’re back here from the big city. Don’t you guys kinda have to co-mingle or something?”

“No, we don’t! I hate him! He made it pretty damn clear how he felt for me fifteen years ago and… whose side are you on, Chad? You’re supposed to be my damn best friend!”

Debating on what to say, Chad Michael Murray took his time focusing on the wrench in his hand that he was using to pretend to work on the car in his shop all while listening to his best friend rant as he paced the garage. “I am your best friend, Jaybird,” Chad said finally, looking over the hood of the car. “I also have to live in this little shithole of a town after you pack your ass back up and go back to New York,” he added with a lot more tact than he figured was normal for him. “Jared, you knew when your Mom told you Dylan was marrying Lisa Ackles that coming back for the wedding would mean running into him… didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I knew from things Mom has said that he was still around.” Jared Padalecki scowled as he continued to stalk the cluttered and grease covered old one stall garage that had been in Paxton, Texas since before Jared’s father had been born. “She neglected to mention he was the local law and I never considered he’d be everywhere I went or that he’d been invited to the same wedding.”

“His sister is the bride!” Chad shot an incredulous look over his shoulder to stare at his friend as if he’d lost his mind. “Jared, you’ve been gone for ten years. You’re not the same kid you were when you… when you left.” He had to be quick to rephrase his original words but sighed when Jared merely turned away, knowing what he’d been thinking. “Dude, Jensen’s not the same either. To survive until this wedding and until you leave, you might actually have to be the bigger man, no pun intended, and talk to the guy!”

Pausing by the front window of the garage to look out onto the one paved street that the small rural town had, he looked back to where his usually light hearted, easy going friend was watching him while wiping his hands on an old rag. “Is that what people think, Chad? That I ran away?” he asked with the barest trace of bitterness in his voice. It was a voice that barely had any of his old Texas accent left after so many years away from the town of his birth and the town that had ruined his life.

“Folks have heard a couple different stories about why you took off so fast after graduation, Jared.” Chad tossed the rag away to reach for a beer that was sitting nearby. “Your Mom and Step-Dad sure weren’t gonna tell the truth. I know what you say but… Jared, did you try to talk to Jensen after that night?” he asked hesitantly, not surprised by the response that got him.

“He made it pretty damn clear that all he did that whole summer and all of my senior year were lies and he played me like the naïve stupid country boy that everyone always said I was!” Jared whirled from the window in a restless need to suddenly be out of the garage and away from his friend.

“Jaybird, wait a second! Oh shit.” Chad had started to step in front of his friend when something else caught his eye and he immediately knew the rest of his day was going to suck.

“How exactly did I do that?”

Turning at the deep, husky voice that suddenly spoke from the open door, Jared found himself confronted with the same crooked half smile and raised eyebrow that he had at the age of sixteen when he’d first met Jensen Ackles face to face on the first day of Jared’s freshman year.

They’d grown up in the same social circles, the same schools, but had never really met or even bothered with one another. Jared had always been too shy and considered the other boy and his group of friends arrogant, a couple pretty damn close to bullies. When a nervous Jared found himself struggling to open his locker door for the first time and turned to see the seventeen-year-old popular Jensen leaning there with that cocky smile on his ruggedly handsome face, he wasn’t sure what to say or do.

At seventeen, Jensen had been lean with a trim build of someone who played nearly every sport. He had blond hair, thick and full, kept a little longer than normal but not as long as Jared’s was now. His green eyes had a playful light to them when he gave the nervous freshman another grin before giving the stubborn locker a hard whack on the upper corner.

"I had this locker last year and it’s a bitch to open if you don’t know the trick," he’d said in a voice that was pure Texan drawl while letting his smile curve a bit more as he held out a hand. "I’m Jensen, by the way."

It took a low chuckle of amusement to break Jared out of his teenage shock that someone he’d seen at various parties and in passing in school hallways, someone that he’d been secretly crushing on since he first figured out at the age of thirteen that he might not be as into girls as his now divorced parents would like, was actually speaking to him.

"Oh! Thanks! I’m… I’m Jared, Jared Padalecki," he finally managed to say while praying he wasn’t blushing like he feared he might be. Especially after Jensen aimed that perfect and sinful smile right at him and had extended his hand for a shake.

"I know who you are, darlin’," Jensen had said, still gripping Jared’s hand firmly and using his free hand to reach up and adjust the strap of Jared’s worn book bag before it could drop off his shoulder. "That’s why I helped you."

"Huh?" Jared hadn’t been certain what exactly that meant. But before he could even think to ask or say anything else, a voice shouted from down the hall. It broke both the moment and Jensen’s playful mood, if the way his face tightened was anything to go by.

"Ackles! Stop flirting with the fresh meat! You’re supposed to at least give your buddies the first crack, even if that one’s not exactly my type!"

Shocked at the not so hidden implication and a little uneasy with being literally called a piece of meat by the dark haired guy down the hall, Jared had immediately tensed and started to pull back like he tended to do when uncomfortable, only to feel the hand on his shoulder tighten, though not painfully. He looked back up to see that Jensen was still holding Jared’s gaze even as he addressed the guy who’d made the comment.

"Back the hell off, Welling. You were told last year to leave the new students alone so leave this one alone or you’ll find your face meeting my fist out back after the last bell rings," Jensen growled with a look back over his shoulder to the now scowling teenager before glancing back to a nervous Jared. "Ignore the jackass behind me. He won’t bother you, and if he does, or if you need help with this locker again… I’m usually always around. Better get to class, Jared. It doesn’t pay to be late for Mr. Hillard’s History."  

Jensen smiled, threw a wink over his shoulder, then headed down the hall where his group of friends waited.

Jared had still been surprised and confused by the time he finished the day. The next few months, as well as his junior and sophomore years, were both thrilling and confusing as far as both his personal life and his studies went.

He really enjoyed his classes but hadn’t decided if he wanted to go to college in Texas or New York where his mother now lived. He also discovered he enjoyed playing baseball, even if he wasn’t as coordinated at first as some of the other players on the high school team. It had actually been Jensen who had actually helped him to become good enough to get picked for the team. He showed him what he’d been doing wrong while batting, was patient in explaining how to fix it, and then Jared had been good to go. It had been that experience that finished removing any doubts Jared had about being gay. He only wished he could get a handle on Jensen.

To Jared it seemed as if there were two Jensen Ackles; the one who gave him flirty, sexy little grins if they passed in the hallway or saw one another on the street in Paxton and the one who, when he was with his friends, seemed cold and distant.

It was hard to tell which Jensen he’d see or get. It all depended on the situation or day. It was harder still for Jared to tell himself that when he’d get those little smiles or light touches that no one else saw, that maybe Jensen wasn’t as cocky or arrogant as his pals.

By Jensen’s senior year, it was plain to nearly everyone in town that the Ackles’ oldest child and only son was on the fast track for an athletic scholarship of some kind. If he could keep his grades up and graduate on time.

It came as a huge shock and a bitter disappointment to many when Jensen not only failed to graduate by failing two of his final exams, but when he refused to play football while repeating his senior year. He stated loudly that if he had to pick a sport to play, he’d try out for baseball.

Jared had overheard his step-mother talking to some of her friends about how upset poor Vivi Ackles was that her son had not only failed and had to repeat his senior year, but had also blown his football scholarship and was refusing to play. On a whim, Jared immediately set out to find him.  

"What are you doing?" He’d located Jensen behind the high school throwing balls against the padded wall. Jared had never seen Jensen pitch before, when he taught him about hitting he’d mentioned that he hated pitching since he just couldn’t pitch well. Now as Jared watched him, he realized Jensen’s pitches were harder and faster than the team’s best pitcher from last year had been.

"Waiting for you to show up to ask me what I was doing," Jensen replied with his usual cockiness, throwing another ball before nodding to the glove on the ground. "Wanna catch for me, Jay?"

That nickname was the first one Jensen had started using. Usually Jared would correct anyone else and it had surprised him that he’d allowed Jensen to use it. Now he was too frustrated to start reconsidering his reasons.

Grabbing the glove he nodded that he was ready.

"You loved football," he said after he took a step back, balancing himself better when the first throw was hard enough that it moved him back a step. "I also thought you said you couldn’t pitch. You pitch pretty damn well, if you ask me."

"No, my father loved football," Jensen corrected while adjusting the grip on the ball so his next throw wasn’t as hard but still as accurate. "And I said I couldn’t pitch well. I never said I couldn’t pitch at all, darlin’." He shot a scowling Jared a smirk before it turned into a frown as he sighed. "I played football because as an Ackles’ it’s expected. I’m an Ackles, so I did. Now since I blew the scholarship and am already a huge disappointment to my folks by having to repeat senior year, I don’t have to. This year is for me."

Jared was confused but he knew enough about Jensen’s family to not push by asking questions. He continued to catch, the pair falling into a comfortable silence, until Jensen seemed to grow tired and signaled that it was time to stop.  

"If football was for your Dad, then what do you love then, Jen?" he asked curiously and saw the small quirk of Jensen’s lips at the nickname only Jared was ever allowed to use.

"Besides you? Not sure yet. I figure I’ll know by the time you graduate," Jensen replied and then waited for Jared’s wide eyes to meet his. "You okay?" he asked, grabbing onto Jared’s arms when he started to tilt to the side a little bit too much as if about to pass out. "Jared! Dude! I saw you dissect a frog without blinking. This freaks you out?"

"I wasn’t even sure that you weren’t straight!” Jared burst out, shaking his head and leaning into Jensen’s grasp. Jared had to replay the words as well as their meaning a couple times while remembering to breathe. “Hell, half the time I wasn’t even sure you looked at me any differently than Welling or the others did. Sometimes it was like I was something on the bottom of your shoe or… You know, that muscle in your jaw twitches sometimes."

Jensen’s jaw had clenched when he realized that not only hadn’t he been making things clear to Jared but that someone in his circle of friends had made Jared feel like he wasn’t worth what Jensen knew he was. He also kicked himself for allowing the role he had to play for his family confuse this big eyed, handsome, caring young man.

"Okay, I’ll deal with Tom and the others because you are not someone to be looked down on and you never will be." Jensen knew he couldn’t be fully honest with Jared about a couple things, like the reasons he had failed those two exams, but he would be honest with him about this. "Until I do graduate, until I can say I am out from under my family’s thumb and the control of their money, I can’t publicly say or do what I’d like to, Jared." He moved the hands he’d still had on Jared’s arms up to frame his face before doing something he’d been wanting to for far too long. "I love you."

Those words stayed with him all of that summer as they began to slowly, if secretly, begin to explore a relationship. It was in those moments that Jared began to understand how difficult it was on Jensen to pretend to be the son his parents wanted while inwardly being someone else entirely. The things Jensen said and did that summer, following into the next school year, had all seemed so real to Jared. He’d believed him when he’d softly whisper that he loved him while kissing him. He’d believed all of Jensen’s promises of coming out after graduation, of going to college in San Antonio together. He had believed it all… up until the night of graduation when it all turned sour.

Now he stood in Chad’s garage, staring into the same green eyes he could never forget, watching Jensen Ackles, or Sheriff Jensen Ackles, slowly straighten from where he’d been leaning on the doorframe. His body language, as well as the tightening jaw muscle, were clear signs that while he looked calmed, Jensen was far from it.

“You said I played you and that everything I said to you the summer about how I felt for you were lies. Care to give me some examples? Maybe actually tell me what the hell you think I did to piss you off so much that you’d just run away without even giving me a shot at fixing it?” he asked tightly while trying not to let on how many emotions were surging to the surface right then.

In the ten years since graduation night, since the last day he’d seen Jared, a lot had changed both in Paxton and with Jensen himself. It was clear that now was not the time to get into those changes as he straightened fully and met those damn hazel eyes that he’d been seeing in his dreams for too long.

“You’re the one who blew me off, Jared. You’re the one who lied to me about planning to stay in Texas and going to San Antonio! You chose to --ugh!”  

Jensen’s head snapped back when a fist he hadn’t been expecting or even saw coming suddenly nailed him square on the jaw, causing him to see stars and taste blood.

“Bullshit!” Jared snapped, suddenly furious. He was almost grateful for the sudden rage as it masked most of the feelings that were rising to the surface from being confronted by Jensen like this. He hadn’t expected the sudden pain and hurt to be so present. “You played me that summer because you knew you’d need help passing those two classes your ass flunked! You used me, used my feelings for you, because I was too damn stupid and made this mistake of telling you that you were the first guy ever that I liked, much less wanted to kiss! You lied to me, used me just so I’d help you pass and graduate!”

“Guys?” Chad had already been wary of this confrontation when he first saw Jensen in the doorway and while he had been mildly amused at first, now Jared’s voice was becoming louder and he was shouting things Chad was certain his friend wasn’t really aware of shouting. “How about we all calm down and you two go to separate ends of town until…” Chad stopped and sighed when it was apparent neither man was listening to him. “Okay, I’ll just be over here minding my own business and pouring hot oil in my ears.”

“I didn’t need your help to graduate, smartass!” Jensen could feel his temper sizzling but was trying to control it. It was difficult seeing as this was still a sore subject with him, one that his own friends still avoided unless they wanted to bleed.

Listening to Jared shout things back at him, things that weren’t true but had obviously appeared that way to the younger man given that he hadn’t told Jared the truth of why he’d failed and had to repeat his senior year, was hard. But he struggled to remind himself that he was not the hot-headed teenager he’d been once.

“You flunked and then you used me so you wouldn’t flunk and disappointment your father again!”

Jared had been trying to avoid this, avoid Jensen, avoid the memories and the emotions that had been starting to surface since he first arrived back in Paxton. But now that the door had been opened, he was having a hard time shutting it again.

“You fucked me! You told me you loved me. I trusted you, Jensen. I believed you and let you…” He stopped there before the words that were on his tongue could be said, seeing the way Jensen’s eyes had narrowed to hot slits as he had moved a step closer. Softer, Jared glared back just as hard and said,“You used me. Then, when you didn’t need me anymore, once you got your diploma, you set me up! You didn’t even have the balls to break it off with me yourself! You sent those jackasses, you… you...”

Jensen felt his temper getting closer to the surface with every word shouted at him, but it increased tenfold when Jared’s voice dropped to an accusing whisper. Without giving himself permission, he’d moved closer to Jared and in the small garage, he’d basically backed the taller man against the side of the car Chad had been working on. He’d just barely started reaching to grab onto Jared’s shoulders to shove him, determined that they were going to settle this here and now, when suddenly those words registered. This time it was Jensen who was staring.

“Come again?” He let his hands drop as if knowing that touching Jared right then was not the thing to do. But he didn’t back up, couldn’t, so he was close enough to see the heaving chest and big eyes as well as the clenched fist that all told him Jared was struggling to keep his own temper under control.

“Alright, I think we’re on two totally different pages or…” Jensen signed and started over. “Before I get into the whole I didn’t use you or need you to help me pass, I don’t understand… who did I send where and when? And… oh, shit. Jared, I…”

“Forget it. It’s over. I shouldn’t have brought it up or even have come back.” Jared suddenly realized everything that he’d shouted and that fact he’d actually hit Jensen, the damn Sheriff, seconds before it dawned that he’d been backed up against the car and Jensen was way too close now. “It’s been ten years. You’ve obviously moved on. I’ve… moved on. So all we have to do is co-exist until your sister marries my step-brother and then we don’t have to see one another…”

Jensen had been running Jared’s words through his head and thinking back ten years earlier when Jared disappeared from his life, thinking about all of the things that hadn’t made sense but he’d been too angry and hurt to consider them at the time. Now he was and now he was more determined than ever to get the young man in front of him to at least talk to him.

“Jared, I think we need to talk,” he started but suspected it wasn’t going to be that easy. He’d come on too strong already and by forcing a confrontation, he could tell that Jared was shutting down. The signs were clear, same as they were from the couple times he witnessed it back in high school. “Jay, I--”

“No!” Jared hissed, cutting him off, “No, you don’t get to call me that now! You lost that right when your boys jumped me!” Jared shoved both hands against the solid chest in front of him, moving Jensen back enough that he was able to slip free from where he’d been trapped against the car. He immediately moved to the side and towards the door of the garage. He suddenly wanted out of this building, away from this moment and Jensen as fast as he could.  

“I… I have to go. I have to change my flight plans,” he said over his shoulder, hating the fact that he didn’t know if he was truly talking to Chad. He paused at the door to look back at Jensen, heard Chad shouting at him to wait, but Jared knew he couldn’t. “I thought I was over it, over you, over what my stupidity allowed to happen but… I’m not. I won’t ruin Dylan and Lisa’s day by being here when I can’t stand to look at you. It looks like you and your crowd won again.”

“Jared!” Chad yelled, starting to run after his friend only to stop, whirl, and shove a hard, pointed finger against the badge on Jensen’s chest when Jared was gone and the garage door slammed with a final echo. “Go after him! Fix this, fix my friend or find yourself a new mechanic for that thing you call an ‘official vehicle’!” he declared firmly.

Sharp green eyes had followed Jared’s retreating form out of the garage, heard the engine of his rental car roar to life a second before tires were heard squealing away from the garage.

“What happened graduation night, Chad?” he asked after another second, shifting his gaze to the lanky blond mechanic. Chad’s jaw clenched and Jensen knew he had the story. “Chad? If you knew anything about why he left town, why didn’t you tell me? I sure as hell don’t have a clue. I don’t know anything about what he just yelled at me either since I never sent anyone to tell him anything. He stood me up!”

“No, he didn’t. Or he didn’t think he was. Damn it, Jensen! He’s my friend!” Chad was torn between being honest or risking Jared’s trust.

“He was my friend, too, Chad,” Jensen replied, letting his eyes close as he took a deep breath. “He was who I was willing to change my whole life for until he took off and refused to take my calls or return my texts to even say why all our plans had been scrapped.”

Chad looked at the still pained expression on the town Sheriff’s rugged face. He’d seen Jensen’s face during Jared’s outburst and could tell the man truly had no damn clue what really happened behind his back in the days leading up to graduation and then the night of. Chad sighed and closed his eyes.  

“Talk to Welling then if you really want to know why Jaybird left town to go to New York,” he said with a disgusted look, moving back to the open hood to go back to work. He glanced up to see the way Jensen’s eyes had narrowed and gave a tight nod. “I don’t think Kane was in on it, but ask Welling or Rosenbaum about Jared, Sheriff. Ask them what happened down at the creek. Then you’d better go talk to Jared before he leaves again... I don’t care if you have to use the cuffs to get him to listen to you. Just talk to him and fix this!”

When Chad went back to work under the hood, clearly ending any further conversation, Jensen headed back to the Sheriff’s office just up the street. In all reality, he’d actually just walked down to the garage because he’d noticed the shiny red Mustang that he perhaps hoped was Jared’s, thanks to the rental plates on it. If it was, he wanted to try to see if he couldn’t have a short face to face since he hadn’t been able to get Jared to even look at him in the week that he’d been back in Paxton.

Jensen had walked down rather than drive since it wasn’t that far. He’d overheard a good bit of Jared and Chad’s conversation before he finally stepped in the door and got punched in the gut by the rush of raw emotions just seeing Jared again caused.

Leaving the garage, Jensen thought of what Jared said and what Chad had. By the time he got back to his office, his temper was back to bubbling on the surface. It finally cracked the surface when he slammed open his office door to pin the dark haired man sitting behind the desk rewiring the computer system a burning look. Keep calm, keep calm, he told himself. Then, “Where the fuck were you on graduation night?”

“Huh? Excuse me? Whose graduation night, mine or yours? If it was mine, I was probably getting drunk or having sex or both…” he paused and chuckled. “Who am I kidding, I was probably doing that for both of our graduations. Why does it matter? And what burr crawled up your ass today, Sheriff Ackles?” Chris Kane leaned back in the squeaky desk chair to shoot his long-time friend a raised eyebrow. “Your little walks around town don’t usually have this reaction, so… you might want to take a step back, Jensen.” He pushed slowly to his feet when Jensen’s hands slammed on the desk. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

In Jensen’s ears all he was hearing was the hurt and basic betrayal in Jared’s still soft voice, a voice he’d noticed didn’t have the same sound of Texas in it that he remembered. He was swamped with flashes of memories from the past, struggling with trying to reason what the hell had happened that had caused Jared to leave, much less think Jensen had been behind whatever it was.

“You knew what I was planning for the night.” Jensen’s tone was hard, cold as he glared at who’d been his longest friend still in Paxton.

Christian Kane had technically been born in Oklahoma, but his family moved to Paxton when he’d been small and this was his hometown. He’d met Jensen in pre-school and while his family didn’t have the money the Ackles or even the Padaleckis did, they were still well off enough that their parents all mingled in the same circles. He and Jensen were the same age, but due to the issue of Jensen falling behind a year, he’d graduated a year ahead. He didn’t need an explanation to understand what his oldest friend’s question meant.

“Yeah, I knew,” Chris agreed, shrugging gently as he sank back down in his chair. He kept his eyes on Jensen, easily reading the man’s body language. “Hell, all of us knew what you’d been planning ever since you pulled that hair brain stunt in what should’ve been your senior year.”

“Did Welling and Rosenbaum know about that night in particular, Chris?” Jensen asked tightly. “Did you mention to Mike what I’d planned to do that night?”

“Jensen, it’s been ten damn years. I can’t remember if I might’ve bitched to Mike about you planning to leave town that night with the Padalecki kid and not tell your parents about your choices!” Chris rolled his eyes, frustrated, but blew out a hard breath. “Yeah, if I happened to tell Mike then probably he blabbed to Welling since those two were tight back then. I wouldn’t have cared if the prick got run over by one of your Dad’s steers, but that’s just me.” He leaned up some to stare into Jensen’s face, seeing the emotions there as easily as he always could. “What’s going on, Jensen? I know he’s back for the wedding and I know he’s been avoiding you like the plague which could make this wedding interesting, but…”

“Do you know anything about what Welling did that night to make Jared leave town?” Jensen demanded, silently hoping his friend didn’t.

Chris had been grumbling under his breath when he suddenly looked back up, surprised, his blue eyes going wide. “What? What Welling did to -- What the hell are you talking about?” he asked incredulously, starting to wave a hand in dismissal only to stop, think, before slumping back with a low growl. “Son of a bitch. I thought Mike was just drunk off his ass…” Sighing, Chris explained, “Remember when you and Welling had that fight, about five years back or so? Mike went off on this guilty confessional and I just…”

“What… what did Mike say?” Jensen’s temper was once again rising and he tried to focus instead on trying to figure out how the hell he was going to convince Jared to listen to him without arresting his stubborn Texas ass. “Chris, Jared thinks I used him to graduate! Jared believes that everything I ever said to him over that summer and our senior were lies! He said I ‘set him up’ so my buddies could jump him, that I didn’t have the ‘balls to tell him the truth’ so I sent Welling, which is bullshit!

“I blew graduating on purpose when it became apparent Tom was failing because I refused to allow Jared to be alone in that school with him considering how much he hated him! I wouldn’t have allowed Tom near Jared if I wasn’t there. You know that! So what the hell did Tom do to make Jared believe that crap?” he demanded, reaching over Chris’ desk to grab his friend by the front of his jacket so he could pull him closer. “I loved Jared, Chris. I would’ve blown it all, lost it all, to take him away from here so we could be together without the hassles from either of our families! Fuck, I was going to! You knew we were supposed to meet under the old clock tower in the square but… he never came and you…

Chris was very aware of how dangerous this situation was and knew he needed to get a word in and calm Jensen down, but before he opened his mouth he felt the stinging pain of a hard fist land against his jaw.

“Damn it, Jensen! Wait a second and let me… I told you what I thought would keep you from going off half-cocked and ruining what you still had!” he shouted, blocking the next fist with his forearm as he was able to jerk free from Jensen’s grasp and put some space between them in the Sheriff’s office. “No one knew why the kid took off! I didn’t even know until Mike got drunk that night and started blabbing crap about how Welling had gotten ahold of your phone the day you all graduated. He sent Jared a text or something that said the plans changed and to meet you someplace else. And--”

“Son of a goddamn bitch!” Jensen had been angry before but now he was pissed. “Do you know if he’s working his shift at Starla’s yet?” he demanded, glancing at the clock on his office wall. “And is the other jackass in town by any chance?”

“Yeah, Mike’s working the bar until probably six or seven and… yeah, Welling’s in between drilling jobs so he’s been back a couple days,” Chris had a hunch how this might play out and was already putting his 5’9” stocky frame in front of his friend even as Jensen was turning towards the door. “Jensen, wait until you’re calmer. You’re the damn Sheriff, so you can’t go in there like a pissed off boyfriend considering…”

“Considering what? Considering I’ve still mainly kept it private that I’m gay as to avoid the hassle my parents would cause me if I came out while living here?” Jensen sneered, pausing a second before removing his badge. “Fine. I’m at lunch. You’re the deputy. You can stay here or follow me, most likely arrest me. Your choice, but I am finding out what happened. I plan on seeing Jared one more time before he runs again and this time, I will give him the truth about everything!”

Jensen stormed back out the door, leaving Chris to stare and debate before grabbing the discarded badge, the keys to the old Sheriff’s Blazer, his weapon and his wallet.

“I’ll either be shooting someone or paying for the damages he’s about to cause again,” he muttered sourly. “Damn it!”

Starla’s Saloon was one of the original buildings left from Paxton’s founding back 1876. It had been listed in the historical association, so it’s original appearance had been maintained both on the outside and inside. Though the inside had been updated entertainment wise and contained a pool table, a jukebox, a dart board along with the refurbished older poker tables.

One entire side of the saloon looked like something out of an Old Western movie with the shiny bar top and the glass mirror behind that was well stocked with different bottles of alcohol. Newer taps for different beers had been added as well, though their labels were old fashioned.

Starla’s wasn’t as packed as the smaller, more modern bar outside of town but it did get some clients in for lunch or just to sit at the poker tables to shoot the bull, play cards, or watch the owner.  

Starla, who most in town claimed had to be over one-hundred, usually sat at the end of the bar in a faded dancing girl dress and harmlessly flirted with anyone who came in. There were also days she sat there with her gnarled old cane close to her hand in case she felt a need to slap it upside any young uppity cowboy’s head if any trouble was started in her place. On that afternoon she was keeping a sharp eye on the dark haired young man who’d been there since the doors opened even though she’d told her bartender to cut off his liquor hours ago.

“Michael!” she snapped from her stool, cane cracking on the shiny black bar top to make sure she had the tall and lanky bartender’s attention. “When you quit work, you be sure to take that one out of here with you!”

“Yeah, that was my plan, Starla,” Michael Rosenbaum assured his boss while tossing his friend a sour look, wiping the bar clean while placing another cup of black coffee by Tom Welling’s hand. “Drink that so you start to sober up some,” he muttered sourly, tossing him a bitter look. “Damn it, Tom! I thought you were on a job in Oklahoma for the next few months. Why’re you back so soon?”

“Jackass running the rig said I came to work plastered and high too many times so he fired me.” Tom Welling lifted his head from where it had dropped to the bar, aching from too much booze and a crack from the old woman’s cane earlier when he got loud after she cut off his drinking off. “C’mon, Mikey, give me a shot.”

Shooting a glance down the bar to where he noticed Starla was watching with eagle eyes, the bartender just shook his head. “I won’t lose this job because of your drinking, Tom. In fact, I think you’d better go on back to where you’re staying and sleep this off.”

“No. I think he’d better take his drunk ass out of my town and this time stay the hell out.”

The deep, pissed off voice of Jensen Ackles wasn’t anything that Mike hadn’t heard before. Seeing the fury on his face when he stepped inside the saloon, badge missing, and his narrowed green eyes locked on Tom, on the other hand, was something he’d only seen once or twice. A sudden gut feeling told him that Starla was about to be using her cane to break up one hell of a fight.

“You lose that shiny badge, boy?” the ancient old woman shouted while easing off the stool, cane in hand.

Jensen slowly moved his eyes from where his former friend sat slumped at the bar, giving him a hateful glare, down to the wrinkled but still heavily made up face of the saloon’s owner, offering a slow but tight smile.  

“No, I’m at lunch and off-duty right now, so the badge stayed at the office.”

“You planning on breaking my saloon up again, boy?” Starla asked in the same way she’d speak to him when he’d been a teenager looking for trouble. “I can still whack you with my cane a few times right after I use it on that one’s ass.”

“Welling won’t be bothering you, Starla,” Jensen assured her while moving his eyes up. When he spoke, it wasn’t to Welling. “Mike! Got a question for you and I highly recommend you answer me.”

Mike sighed, tossing the rag over his shoulder while stepping out from behind the bar. He wasn’t shocked that Jensen suddenly had questions since the town was small and everyone knew who Jensen’s sister was marrying. “Yeah, I figured you might. Is that why you left your badge behind?” he asked, not surprised when he saw the Blazer pull up outside and Kane step into the saloon. “Jensen…”

“I’m asking you because if I ask that prick, I think we all know what would happen.” Jensen heard Jared’s accusations in his head again, but this time he thought he understood them, had suspected some of what might have happened. “I have plenty of questions but… I’m sticking to this one right now.” He stepped closer to Mike, ignoring Chris' voice behind him. “What the goddamn hell did Welling do to make Jared leave that night?”

Shooting a look over to Chris who merely shrugged, Mike understood the odds of him bleeding were huge. He’d seen Jensen during the months after Graduation Night. He’d seen the rage the man still had if anyone brought up the younger man, like Tom had made the mistake of five years prior. That had actually been what finally caused Jensen to stop being friends with the dark haired man at the bar. This time, Mike feared what his reaction would be.

Running his fingers back through light blond hair, he was trying to quickly debate if telling the truth now would help or hurt the situation when he found himself yanked closer to a furious Jensen’s face instead.

“He thinks I sent you! He thinks I told you to do whatever the hell you bastards did that night!” Jensen snapped, his patience too thin to wait for his ‘friend’ to work up a lie or decide to tell him the truth. “Jared said he got jumped. Tell me the truth, Mike. Chris said you blabbed a lot to him the night after I beat the crap outta Welling for mouthing off about Jared too much, so now you can blab to me.”

Mike knew that night ten years ago would come back to bite him in the ass. He hadn’t been happy with Tom’s plan that night and he sure as hell wasn’t happy with it now. He had actually liked the Padalecki kid, as most of their group called him, despite Jared being only a year younger than most of them.

“Jensen, what happened that night… Look, Tom said it was just going to be a prank of some kind. He said it was just a joke on you to keep you waiting since it wasn’t exactly a secret what you were gonna do that night.” He cringed as he said it, only now realizing how stupid he’d been. “Jensen… I… I didn’t know what Tom was planning. And when I figured it out I--”

“You stopped me an’ the boys from stompin’ his usele-useless stupid ass into the mud after I bro-broke his arm, you-you-you wuss,” Tom’s slurred voice spoke up from the bar, lifting his head to shoot Jensen a sneer. “You were gonna leave town, give up all the, all the money your folks had handed to you on a goddamn silver platter, for that faggot! You were the goddamn golden boy and you were willing to give it up, give up the hot chicks, the hot sex, the money for what? For Padalecki! You would’ve run off with him that night if I hadn’t stepped in and told him the truth!”

Silence hit the saloon as those words were spat out.  

“Uh-huh.” Chris squeezed the bridge of his nose and could hear Jensen’s teeth grinding while Mike was whirling to try to get his drunk friend to shut the hell up. “Jensen, I only have about $500 in my wallet so don’t break anything in here that’s going to cost more than that.”

“The truth?” Jensen’s tone was low, ice cold as his eyes went to slits and he stepped around a groaning Mike. “Define ‘truth’ then for the class, Welling, since most everyone who knows you knows that you’ve never told the truth a day in your goddamn life!” he snapped, batting away the slow and way off fist that went to hit him. He grabbed the drunken man by the front of his shirt and jerked him off the barstool. “You didn’t know anything about me, not really, definitely not enough to think you could speak for me! What did you tell him?”

“Told… I tol’ him how you only used his ass to get through those classes you flunked outta and how he wasn’t good enough, even if you really were interest’d in guys, which… which all of us knew you weren’t, but the stupid kid was too dumb to see he was bein’ played all that time,” Welling sneered, rolling his eyes, too hammered to fully grasp that every word he spoke now was pissing Jensen off even more. “He brought that beatin’ on himself. I would’ve finished him if Mikey there hadn’a been a wuss, so I told him what else you tol’ me and the guys to do to him if he didn’t high tail it outta here and not… ugh!

Welling hit the floor of the saloon after Jensen’s fist hit him full on in the face and only a sharp slap of a cane across his chest in warning kept the Sheriff of Paxton from continuing to pummel the man that Jensen now understood had been responsible changing his life.

I didn’t tell you or your so-called buddies to say or do anything to Jared! You knew thanks to Rosenbaum’s big mouth that I was planning to leave Paxton with Jared that night! You knew that I’d planned that entire damn year to basically tell my parents where to stick their goddamn threats of cutting me off if I ‘dishonored’ them and came out as gay! You had issues with him from his first goddamn day of high school when you saw I’d talked to him--”

“You were makin’ an ass outta yourself and our group over him!” Tom suddenly shouted back, spitting blood and a loose tooth out as he tried to get back to his feet, only to go back down when the tip of Starla’s cane was pressed against his chest. “I helped you, Ackles! I kept you from making the biggest mistake of your life! I--”

“Cost me the life I wanted with the man I wanted!” Jensen glared, not caring if anyone in the saloon heard the altercation or not. He’d long since lost his parents’ approval and while he’d returned to Paxton after finishing college in Houston, it was under his own terms and he chose his life as best as he could.

“That boy in town now?” Starla asked, positioning herself in between Jensen and the glaring Tom. Beside him, Mike knelt down to try to convince the drunk man to keep his mouth shut. “He came for Dylan’s marriage to your sister, didn’t he?”

Jensen took another moment to glare at Tom before blowing out a breath, looking down at the older woman who had kicked him out of the saloon plenty the summer after Jared had left and he was trying to decide which direction to go. He forced himself to relax, his voice softened as he spoke to her.

“Yeah, he came. But thanks to me not knowing what happened and him still believing this jackass’ threats from ten years ago, he’s probably halfway to the airport on his way back to… wherever he made a life for himself,” he replied, wincing when he felt her cane swat him in the leg. “You never hit me this much as a kid, Starla,” Jensen complained, dragging his leg out of firing range. Suddenly the keys to the Sheriff’s blazer were shoved into his hand. “Huh?”

“Go out and talk to Jared. I made a call before following you. He is still out at the motel outside of town, but did tell them that he’d be checking out early,” Chris remarked, stepping around to go toward Mike now that he had Tom on his feet. “Go. Or else we both know you won’t forgive yourself if you don’t settle this with him. You both deserve the truth.. I’ll handle Welling before Starla breaks her cane on his head.”

Jensen looked at the keys for a long moment before nodding. “Get him out of Paxton before I get back from seeing Jared,” he told Chris without needing to say anything more on the subject. He was still angry but accepted that there was nothing to be done now except try to apologize and hope a piece of the boy he once knew was still inside Jared, a piece that would listen and maybe one day forgive him. “Oh and Chris?” He stopped just as he stepped out the door to glance back, an idea of Plan B forming in case Plan A failed. “Don’t come back to the office right away if you happen to see the blazer, okay?”

“What? Why? Jensen!” Chris had been reaching for Tom’s arm when he paused to consider the reason for that request. He saw Mike’s lips twitch and Starla’s rough laughter belted out and realization dawned.. “Shit. I so did not need that image,” he muttered sourly.

The modest motel outside of town was decent for such a small community, though Jensen had been surprised when his sister told him that Jared wasn’t staying at the Padalecki ranch. Pulling up, he noticed the rental car parked outside of unit one with the trunk opened and luggage already inside.

Jensen hesitated before pulling into a parking spot, debating on the best way to handle this. Jared’s temper was already up and he recalled from years past how he tended to get when upset, hurt or angry; Jensen suspected he wasn’t going to get Jared to talk to him easily.

“Let’s see how this goes.” He parked behind the rental car, shut off the engine, and stepped out, promising himself that he was going to keep his temper. That was his plan until he heard the voice from the now open motel room door.

“What the hell do you want?” Jared hadn’t expected to see Jensen again, hadn’t wanted to see him again if he was honest with himself. He just wanted to pack, check out, and head for the airport with every worry of pissing off his family on the backburner until he got home.

Seeing Jensen earlier at Chad’s garage had reminded him that no matter how many years it had been, just seeing the man could make Jared feel sixteen again. The last thing Jared wanted was to risk the pain again by staying any longer. He’d take the accusations of being a coward and a disappointment but he refused to be made a fool of again. It didn’t matter if Jensen had genuinely seemed shocked earlier by some of what he’d shouted at him, Jared would protect himself this time.

Hearing the sound of an engine and a door closing, Jared moved to the door of his room, carrying his last few pieces of luggage. He stopped immediately and felt his stomach knot as he watched Jensen step from the official Sheriff’s Blazer.

His question might not have been the greatest considering the other man was the local law, but Jared really didn’t want a fight in the parking lot of the motel. He just wanted to go back to his empty apartment in New York City and try to once again forget the deep green eyes and smile that still made him weak at the knees.

“I was hoping we could talk about things,” Jensen replied as he stepped to the door, seeing Jared’s body tense. He had a strong hunch what was about to happen even before the door started to slam shut. “Jared! Let me explain!”

“I don’t need your explanations, Sheriff. I got all of those I needed that night!” Jared stepped back to close the door only to have Jensen put his foot in the jam, slapping a palm against the wood. “I’m leaving, Jensen. We don’t have anything else to say to one another.”

“I think we do since you don’t know anything about that night ten years ago.” Jensen did not want to make this public but he suspected Jared was not going to make this easy, something he honestly wasn’t surprised over. “Jared, talk to me. Listen to me and… No, not this time, kiddo.” He saw the punch coming this time and was able to step back to avoid it, catching Jared’s wrist tightly before stepping closer. Green eyes locked on hazel ones and he was reminded that this reaction wasn’t out of pure anger. “I can explain, if you’d let me.”

Jared tensed the second his wrist was caught, tried to jerk it free, but quickly remembered that despite the slender build, Jensen was a lot stronger than he looked. “Go to hell!” he gritted out, struggling despite the pain it caused him.

The moment’s Jensen’s eyes narrowed, his lips curving slowly into the almost dangerous smirk that told Jared he’d pissed Jensen off, he realized that might not have been a smart thing to say.

“Huh. I’ve been living there since graduation night, darlin’.” Jensen tightened his grip a second before he went with Plan B. “When you wake up, maybe you’ll be a bit more willing to talk. Until then I’ll add the apology for this on to the one I owe you for Welling’s stunt.”

Frowning in confusion, Jared worked harder to try to free his arm. Suddenly he felt his jaw explode as a rapid fast punch took him off guard and then he felt his forehead hit wood a second before blackness overtook him. Feeling his legs buckle, Jared thought he felt himself start to fall, but was caught in strong arms. The last thing he heard was Jensen’s voice softly speaking to him.

“Sorry, Jay, but if this is the only way I can get you to listen to me then it looks like you’re under arrest.”


Chapter Text

Forgiving the Past, Finding the Future

Chapter Two

Paxton, Texas; Present: 

“I’m going to sue your ass as soon as I get loose and out of this goddamn town!” Jared shouted and gave the cuffs on his wrists one final furious tug before finally slumping on the cot, throwing a glare toward the cell door. “Why’re you doing this?” he asked, a touch of his natural Texas drawl returning as his voice dropped slightly. “I don’t want to hear your lies, Jensen! I don’t want--”

“I never lied to you, Jared,” the Sheriff replied, hating to see the look of defeat on the handsome face and accepting the lump in his throat was guilt for causing Jared more pain. He just needed him to listen, at least once. “And you can sue me, beat the living hell out of me when I undo the cuffs, but… please, just let me explain my side to you. My side, Jared, not the lies Welling told you. Please?”

At first it looked like Jared might still refuse. He turned his head away to stare at the concrete cell wall, his chest heaving with the exertion he’d spent trying to free himself from the cuffs. Jensen was at a loss to what to do; he hadn’t truly arrested the younger man and knew he was crossing a lot of lines and was breaking a few laws.

“Talk,” Jared suddenly spoke up, head still averted as if not wanting to look at Jensen while he did so. “I don’t suppose you’d consider at least opening the cell door while you do it?”

Jensen had already been thinking of doing that since he had a flash of a memory from high school and was cursing himself silently for being so stupid as to think locking the door to the small cell would help convince Jared to give him the time of day. He vividly recalled the first time he’d bloodied Tom Welling’s face for a stupid and cruel prank he’d played on the freshman after a football game, so knew this was not going to help.

Unlocking the door, Jensen stepped inside after giving the keys a toss towards the desk. He left the door ajar to show Jared that it was unlocked and they weren’t closed in together as he knelt down, still trying to keep as much distance between them as the small cell would allow.  

“I never sent Welling, Mike, and whoever the hell else he recruited to jump you, Jared,” he began, keeping his voice low like he had when it was just him and Jared after school and no one else was around. “I had no damn clue he’d grabbed my phone to send you a fake text. I knew my phone had gone missing day of graduation but just assumed I’d left it somewhere at home and my parents had picked it up.”

Jensen blew out a slow breath. “I waited for you by the clock like we’d agreed on. I…” he cleared his throat against the sudden swell of emotion and started again, “When you didn’t show up, I thought either you’d gotten scared about taking off with me given the hell we both knew we’d be in or that you’d changed your mind.” He glanced down at his hands, fingers playing with the band of his watch on his wrist. “ I think I waited until about sunrise before figuring out you weren’t coming. When I got home I tried to text you and call you, but the calls went to voicemail and the texts went unanswered. Then I heard you’d left town and went to New York where your mom was living and... never really figured out why.”

Jensen tried to not let the hurt he still felt over that night come into his voice but guessed he hadn’t been successful when he heard the cot squeak as Jared shifted as best as he could on it. Somehow he knew if he looked up, those big hazel eyes would be watching him.

“No one ever answered me when I’d ask why you left so quickly and why you went to New York. Though, Chad would give me dirty looks whenever I came back from college.” Jensen guessed he should’ve pressed Chad for answers even if he might’ve ended up with a tool embedded in his skull. “I went to Houston to study Criminal Justice and when I graduated I… came back here.” He made an absent motion with his hand as if unsure of how to express what he wanted to say or what he meant.

Jared had resigned himself to the fact he was stuck until Jensen got off his chest whatever he felt he needed to say. He wasn’t interested in hearing any lies or bullshit Jensen wanted to spew to make himself feel better about being a jackass. His plan was to just stare at the wall, try to forget how small the cell was even with the door open, especially since Jensen stepped inside, and let the man talk.

He’d planned on not listening, not caring if Jensen felt guilty about setting him up or using him. It was only when he heard where Jensen had chosen to go to college that Jared shifted as much as he could with his wrists still cuffed so he could look over to where Jensen was kneeling. His wary eyes stared at the ruggedly handsome man, flicking down to see Jensen was absently toying with something on his wrist.

“You… you got accepted at San Antonio,” he muttered, inwardly wincing at how bitchy he sounded, even to himself. “You said it was a better school for--”

“You.” Jensen looked up at the same time as Jared’s eyes widened and their gazes locked. “My family wanted me to go to Texas A&M since that was a tradition in the family I guess. I chose San Antonio originally because I knew it had the classes you needed to be able to get closer to a Masters or a Bachelor’s in Drama or the Arts.” He took a shaky breath and swallowed the lump in his throat as Jared’s eyes continued to stare at him. “It had decent courses for Criminal Justice, something else my father and I disagreed over, but I chose it because of you. I knew they had off campus apartments we could rent together and I was planning on getting a part time job or something to help cover us.

“After you… left like you did, I wasn’t really sure what I’d done to hurt you or make you angry enough to leave without saying anything. You were never one to not confront me. For weeks, months even, I still half expected you to get in contact with me and tell me what happened. I didn’t have the heart to go there since all it reminded me of was the plans we’d been making for when we could finally get outta Paxton. I’d close my eyes and all I could do was see and hear you...” He stopped to glance down, seeing that he’d been fingering the thin bracelet he’d worn since high school, ever since Jared had given it to him. “So, I chose Houston. It was still a good college, though it wasn’t Texas A&M, but for the most part it all worked out.”

Jared was trying not to let on how much hearing that Jensen had only chosen to go to San Antonio because it was good for him rather than himself. It made him want to believe, but it was still hard to shrug off the memories and pain of that night. “If your folks wanted you to go to Texas A&M so badly, why’d they give in to you going to San Antonio?” he asked suspiciously, frowning when Jensen’s eyes dropped back to the bracelet and giving an awkward cough. “Shit! They didn’t know you’d been accepted there. Did you even tell them?”

“No, I hadn’t told Mom and Dad yet that I’d decided to enroll at San Antonio instead of Texas A&M. I was waiting to drop that little bombshell on them,” Jensen replied, lifting his eyes at the strangled sound that he remembered meant Jared was shocked and almost exasperated. “Had you told your folks you were leaving Paxton that night with me?” he countered and smirked when Jared’s jaw clamped shut. The bitch face he was given, however, almost made Jensen smile; he remembered those from before as well. “We both had reasons for leaving that night, Ja- Jared.” He had to stop himself from using the nickname that still felt so natural.

“Yeah,” Jared snorted, “my reason was that I didn’t want my step-mother finding out and blabbing it to your mother! My parents and step-family at least knew I was gay back then! Yours didn’t have a clue and I knew that was why you wanted out of this town, Jen!”  

Jared hadn’t realized he’d used Jensen’s old nickname until he met the other man’s eyes and watched the side of his lips quirk up in that slow and annoying smirk he tended to use.

“Fair’s fair… Jay.” Jensen smirked and then smiled wider when Jared dropped his head back to the pillow with a frustrated groan.

“Fine! You can call me Jay but you have to earn the right to use the other ones again!” Jared shot back, lifting his head for a second only to drop it back with another groan of exasperation. “God! You are still so goddamn exasperating! I hate you!”

Jensen’s smile dimmed a little at that since he understood that Jared had every right then to hate him. Sighing, he made a gesture as if asking for permission to move closer to the cot and was slightly surprised when Jared gave a nod.

“Yeah,” he started, carefully choosing his words, “I wanted out because I knew I had to be out before telling them that not only was I gay and not going to the college of their choice, but that I was madly in love with you.”

“But you…” Jared started, only to stop and force himself to take a deep breath while restlessly twisting his wrists again only to suddenly go still when he felt a hand close over one of them. Glancing over to see that it was much easier to see Jensen’s face with him closer he chewed his bottom lip a second while debating with himself. “Look me in the eye, Jensen. Look me in the eye and tell me that you didn’t send Welling to jump me that night or say the things he did. I-- huh?””

Understanding that he’d been given a shot at maybe making this right between them even in a small way, Jensen made certain to move slowly. He reached his free hand out to touch the side of Jared’s face just lightly enough so he could make sure their eyes held.

“I did not send that jackass or his friends to jump you that night,” Jensen stated firmly but softly, careful to be sure his words were understood but also knowing he needed to tell Jared the rest of it. “Jared, I refused to allow Welling close to you at any given moment because I knew for whatever messed up reason that he hated you or hated that I spent time with you. Hell, I flunked my senior year just to make sure he didn’t screw with you!” he added and then waited less than a minute for that to sink in.

Jared still wasn’t sure if he fully believed Jensen but his resolve to hold onto all the hate and bitterness he’d been feeling for the last ten years was starting to falter. Then Jensen’s last comment sank in and he blinked before frowning, unsure if he’d heard him correctly. “You… you flunked two of the required classes to graduate because-” he murmured, hazel eyes narrowing when he watched Jensen cough uneasily, “-- you… Jensen, you blew your scholarships and chances at playing pro-ball by flunking out! So… What did you do?”

“I flunked those classes on purpose after Chris told me that Welling was failing and would have to repeat the year,” Jensen told him, going on to explain while seeing that Jared seemed to be trying to find either his voice or his temper. “Chris and I were both supposed to graduate. I didn’t trust Mike enough to have your back and while I knew you could take care of yourself usually, I also knew how Welling was. So, I… I flunked out so I’d have to repeat.

“Yeah, I blew all those things and took one hell of a beating from my father when he found out I flunked, but at least I knew I’d be there to watch your back. I was able to make sure Welling knew I’d break his goddamn legs if he messed with you like he did that time during the Homecoming Game of your freshman year.” He decided to leave out just how badly his father had reacted and again when he finally revealed to his family the real reason he flunked out.

“I never wanted to play pro-ball, Jay. I told you that football was another family thing that I was expected to do, so I was only too happy to have blown that, but I was not leaving you to deal both with a hectic senior year and a jackass bully who just wasn’t taking my warnings to leave you alone to heart! Obviously...” Jensen muttered the last word sourly.

Jared watched the sour look spread across Jensen’s face and knew he was angry. Something clenched in his stomach and he opened his mouth to reply, saved when Jensen pushed forward. 

“I loved you, Jared. I felt protective towards you, especially when it came to you getting hurt by one of my so-called ‘friends’.” Jensen reached up to brush unruly hair back out of Jared’s eyes before letting the back of his knuckles lightly ghost over a razor stubbled cheek. Jared’s eyes watched his every move, but Jensen noticed he didn’t seem quite as angry as he had been earlier. “Yes, I knew you could fight but-”

“Yeah, well given the beating I took at the creek along with the broken arm and dislocated knee,” Jared interrupted and Jensen snapped his mouth shut. “I’m not so sure about the whole ‘fighting back’ idea since I sure as hell sucked at it that night.” Jared rolled his eyes. He was still bitter but found he wasn’t as angry with Jensen now that he believed the man hadn’t set him up to be hurt.

Catching the twitch of the muscle by Jensen’s eye and noticing how his jaw clenched told Jared that Jensen was angry about him being jumped and hurt. He cleared his throat, deciding it best not to go onto that topic right then. Except Jensen wasn’t ready to let that drop it seemed.

“How many assholes besides Rosenbaum did he have with him?” Jensen demanded tightly. He could easily picture the scene even without any more description from Jared and wished he’d gotten a few more shots in on Welling earlier that day. “Jared, how many jumped you?”

“Mike really didn’t do anything except stand there. I’m not sure if he expected it to happen.” Jared bit his lip, moving his wrist again until he felt Jensen’s hand shift to touch his and he sighed. “I think there were four other guys. I didn’t see them at first since I was angry anyway and then…” he drew off with a shrug.

“Why didn’t… No, you believed that I’d sent them so I know why you didn’t call me or reply to my texts.” Jensen wished he could go back ten years to change the pain and betrayal Jared had felt but knew that was impossible. “Damn them and damn me for not thinking to go look for you when you were even just a little late. I know apologies won’t take it back and won’t change how you feel for me now but… I am sorry, Jared.”

Jensen began to move to stand while reaching into his pocket for the key to the cuffs. “I’m sorry you were hurt back then. I’m sorry you thought I did it or that I used you to help me pass those classes. I’m sorry you didn’t get to go to the college you originally wanted and I’m sorry if you thought I was stalking you since you came back for the wedding.” He sat on the edge of the cot and began to reach up to unlock the first handcuff while feeling Jared’s eyes staring at him.

“You… you really flunked those classes on purpose?” Jared was still unsure on that little issue even though back in school he couldn’t understand how Jensen had failed since he knew the man was smarter than he usually let on. “Seriously? You flunked out just to… You do know if you uncuff me right now that I probably will still take a shot at you just for the whole flunking out thing, right?” he asked, leaning his head back as far as possible so he could watch Jensen’s long fingers slowly run over the back of his hand before inserting the key into the cuff’s lock.

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t, sweetheart.” Jensen’s smile was still tight but teasing when he used the one other endearment he’d use for Jared; it had still been new between them before it all went wrong. “I told Chris not to come back for a couple hours anyway so you can take a shot or two. I admit that I deserve it. But then we need to work on a compromise since our siblings are marrying one another and we’re going to the wedding.”

“Step-sibling,” Jared automatically corrected. He accepted his father’s marriage long ago and he’d even accepted the two step-brothers that marriage gave him. But he didn’t really look at them as ‘family’ in that sense. “I meant it when I said I can leave, Jensen. Dad and I barely speak anyway. It was my mom who insisted I should come to the wedding.” He felt the first cuff loosen and gave a brief debate on his next move. “Dylan won’t even notice if I’m not there.”

“I’d notice since it would be my fault if you leave now,” Jensen said, unlocking the other cuff before sitting back to watch as Jared lowered his arms with a wince. “Sorry. I know this was a little uncalled for but I didn’t think you’d listen to me. I wanted to at least… ugh!

Jensen’s head snapped back for the second time that day as Jared snuck a punch under his guard. This time as he tasted blood in his mouth the Sheriff of Paxton reminded himself that he’d given the man permission to take a shot at him.

“Okay then,” he coughed, running his tongue over his teeth as if testing to be sure none were loose, “Feel better?”

“About you knocking me out so you could arrest me and cuff me to this cot in a cell just to make me listen to you? Maybe a little,” Jared admitted with a shrug, sitting up slowly to carefully work the stiffness out of his arms and neck. “Accepting that you didn’t lie to me or use me or set me up to be jumped? Yeah, I do feel better knowing that I can stop hating you and stop feeling so stupid that I believed what I thought to be lies.”

Nodding in understanding, Jensen knew it would take a lot more than a few words and a fist to the jaw to get Jared to fully forgive him. He was willing to give him the time, to give him anything else it might take, to at least allow them to be friends again.

“You weren’t stupid, Jared. You were young. You had no reason to think a text from my number wouldn’t actually have been sent by me,” he replied, starting to stand so he could offer some space between them. He felt strong fingers suddenly close over his wrist and he looked down, confused. “Jared?”

“Now ask me if I feel good about learning that you screwed yourself out of that full scholarship, even if you didn’t want to play pro-ball, because you felt like you had to stick around to protect me from that jackass prick Welling!” Jared’s eyes narrowed at the same time as his grip on Jensen’s wrist tightened, seeing green eyes go to warning slits but ignoring both the warning and the way Jensen’s body began to tense. “Because no, I don’t feel good about knowing that, Jensen! I don’t feel good knowing it’s my fault that all your plans got screwed because you chose to protect me or that you didn’t think I could look after myself!”

“I knew you could protect yourself normally, Jared. It was Welling I didn’t trust. You were still too naïve and…” Jensen saw the quick flash of anger in Jared’s eyes a second before he once again tasted blood, his face taking another fist. He snapped forward, this time grabbing onto it before he could be hit again. “I’ll only give so many free shots, Jay,” he warned in the tone that meant his temper was on the surface but he was trying to fight it. “I felt protective towards you. I loved you and didn’t want you hurt.”

“I loved you too! I’d been putting up with Welling’s crap since I was in middle school and he decided I was a good target!” Jared snapped, trying to pull his trapped wrist free while his other hand had released Jensen’s wrist to grab onto his uniform shirt. “Yeah, after you started paying attention to me he got worse, but I still didn’t want you to blow your life or-”

“I didn’t blow anything!” Jensen wasn’t sure why they were shouting at one another about this or why this is what Jared chose to focus on, but he was curious to see where it went. “I would never have gone to college on that football scholarship because I didn’t want to play football! And nothing is your fault! I made all my choices because-”

“You said you chose San Antonio because I was going to go there and that it was a good school for me! You didn’t go there because I didn’t! Instead you went to Houston!” Jared realized he was yelling a second before he also began to realize how close to Jensen he was on the cot.

“Yes, I chose to go to San Antonio because it was better for what you wanted. But it also had the criminal justice courses I wanted,” Jensen agreed while keeping his grip on Jared’s one wrist and trying to ignore the feelings that were starting by just being this close to the clearly angry young man.

“I pulled out of going to college there because San Antonio was for us. It was where we’d chosen to go, not only to college but also to start a life away from our families. But again, I don’t blame you because you’d been hurt and thought I’d lied to you, so of course you wanted to get as far away from me, from Texas as you could,” he went on while slowly, almost hesitantly, reaching out to let his fingers brush over the bruise he noticed on Jared’s jaw from where he’d punched him earlier.

“But… but you came back here, came back to Paxton to be a small town Sheriff.” Jared had stopped trying to free his wrist, stopped moving all together at the touch on his face.

A piece of him, the cautious piece that still had doubts, was telling him to move and put a safe distance between them until he could figure out what he wanted or what exactly Jensen was doing. Another piece however didn’t want to lose the feeling of those calloused fingertips gliding over his jaw or the way deep green eyes had suddenly settled on his face.

“Did you ever tell your folks or… or…” Jared sighed, “I’m trying to stay angry with you for being over-protective and… Jensen, you could’ve gone to some big city to be a cop or a Fed or…” He paused to gather his thoughts again; an act made harder because Jensen chose that moment to offer the one damn sexy smile that never failed to turn Jared’s brain to mush.

“Yeah, that sorta came up and out during the shouting match Dad and I had over my decision to go to Houston over Texas A&M and that I’d been planning to go to San Antonio until things changed.” Jensen was quick to shake his head, his finger touching lips that had just started to open to argue. “My choices, my life, Jay. If anyone is to blame for how things turned out, other than Welling, it’s me because I didn’t look for you that night or push to find out what happened sooner. I’m sorry that you lost out going to the college you wanted -- unless New York was better for you. Was it?” he asked but caught the quick flash of unease on Jared’s face before it was gone.

“No, not exactly,” Jared muttered but didn’t want to get into his life just yet. “Why’d you come back here to be the sheriff?” he asked curiously, unaware that the fingers he’d clenched into Jensen’s uniform shirt had relaxed a little but still touched it. “Your family…”

“My family disowned me the day I told them I was gay and going to college in Houston. We’re cordial and polite to one another when we have to see each other but hardly speak. Well, that was until Lisa announced she was getting married and wanted me at her wedding,” Jensen told him with an easy shrug of acceptance. “I had a small trust from my grandparents that Dad couldn’t take away. I get paid well enough for being Sheriff and I live in the apartment above the office here. As for why I chose to return to Paxton rather than find a position in any other city in either Texas or another state?” Jensen paused, biting his lower lip before eyeing Jared carefully. “Do you promise not to swing on me again if I tell you the truth?” he asked with a teasing smirk, knowing how this news might go over given Jared was still upset with him.

Jared blinked at that, instantly suspicious. “Is what you’re about to say going to make me want to swing on you again?” he demanded and frowned. “Why would your reason to come back to Paxton to be law and order make me want to hit you?”

“Because I chose to come back here as a sort of punishment until I could make things right with you one day.”

“You… no. You did not just say that. I heard you totally wrong just now.” Jared pushed to his feet, swaying a little but refusing the steadying hand that Jensen offered. “You had no clue that I’d even come back here! I swore never to come back here after I left because I believed the lies and didn’t want to see you! What would you have done if this marriage hadn’t come up? What if I’d never come back?” he demanded, starting to stalk the small cell as Jensen slowly stood. “Would you just have stayed here in Paxton? Are you happy being Sheriff here if there’s problems with your family?”

Jensen considered the questions as well as his answers and decided this might require more space and a stiff drink. “Let’s go sit at the desk or up in my apartment where I have liquor and… Jared!”

Yanking the cell door shut with a clang, Jared whirled to glare at a shocked Jensen. “No. You wanted to talk? You pulled this crap stunt to get me to listen to you? Fine! Now I want you to look me in the goddamn face and answer my questions!” he snapped, ignoring the flash of heat he saw from Jensen’s eyes and the way his nerves were climbing since Jared understood Jensen’s temper was probably now at his limit. “Are. You. Happy?”

“Not with you right this second I’m not since you just locked us in here!” Jensen muttered, stepping closer to the cell door only to have to quickly catch himself when two hands shoved against his chest, taking him back several steps and bringing his already simmering temper up another notch. “Watch it, Jay. I’ve been willing to take those shots to the face but now you’re pushing me.”

“So push back but give me an answer!” Jared knew he was pushing but he was still upset from earlier and this wasn’t helping his emotions. “Are you happy?”

“Define.” Jensen’s jaw was clenching but he took a step closer to Jared and was silently pleased that this time Jared didn’t budge or back away as he had in the garage earlier or like he would when they’d been teenagers. He smirked a little more when he saw Jared’s eyes narrow at him in frustration.

“Here! Are you happy here? Are you happy working in Paxton?” Jared knew he was yelling but he hated that damn smirk Jensen had and he hated when the man seemed to be deliberately baiting him. “And tell me the truth!”

“Okay. Then truthfully? No, I’m not happy here,” Jensen replied with a shrug. “Are you happy where you are since you didn’t seem to want to go there when I asked earlier?”

Jared opened his mouth to snap a reply only to shut it, take a breath before starting again. “This isn’t about me right now!” he shot back, refusing to be pulled off his topic or distracted. He gave another shove to Jensen’s shoulder only to feel his wrist grabbed this time. “Why stay if you don’t like it?” he demanded only to scowl when those green eyes stared at him. “Fine! If I’d never come back, if we’d never been able to settle our issues, would you still stay here despite hating it?”

“Yes,” the answer was said calmly, seriously, and without a blink of hesitation as Jensen held Jared’s eyes fully. His grip tightened on the wrist he had a hold of at the same time as he shoved so Jared’s back hit the bars of the cell. “Now ask me why, Jared. Ask me why I stayed in case you ever came back, even for an instant.”

Not needing any encouragement for that question it was out of Jared’s mouth even before it began to click in his brain the situation he might be in. The wrist that was trapped in Jensen’s hand was pulled up and held over his head against the bars as Jensen stepped forward until their chests bumped. “W-why?” he asked again, refusing the sudden rush of fear that might have also been mixed in with an emotion of a different kind.

Jensen kept his grip tight enough to hold but not hurt while catching Jared’s other hand to repeat the process, watching Jared’s wide hazel eyes change just slightly. Jensen could tell that while the younger man was wary this change, it wasn’t all fear. He took a big chance by leaning a little closer so his lips were just barely touching Jared’s ear. “Because, Jared. I love you.”

The three words were said softly but easily heard. Jared could feel warm breath on his ear when soft lips brushed over the shell once, then a second time. Jensen’s already soft voice dropped to the low, husky one he’d used that never failed to affect Jared before and still could; he swore he felt his knees shake and another part of his anatomy decided to take notice.

“I loved you ten years ago, Jay,” Jensen murmured, adjusting his grip so he could easily hold both wrists under one hand. With his now free hand, he reached back to suddenly catch a handful of long, thick dark hair, giving a careful yank that had Jared’s head going back. He released a sound that could’ve been a moan of pain or of something else. “I love you right now… And that’s why I came back to this dustbowl of a town,” he went on as darkening hazel eyes, now flecked with deep gold, locked on his. “Even if you hate me after this, even if you go back to wherever your life is now with whoever who’ve found to love you, I at least wanted you to know that I still love you, Jared Padalecki.”

“Fuck!” Jared groaned, biting down on his lip to try to keep the rest of what he wanted to say in. He was having a much harder time fighting back his body’s sudden reaction to the feel of a lean, rugged body now pressed fully against his.

Jensen’s chuckle was low and deep, the sexy one that he used to only give this man in front of him. “Yeah, well, considering when you slammed the cell door, it locked and my keys to it are on the desk… that might actually happen, sweetheart.” He offered a slow sinful smile when wide and now stunned eyes managed to find his again. Jared started to tense against him, then froze when it sank in what he’d done by shutting the cell.

“I wasn’t trying to avoid answering you, Jared. I was just trying to get some space between us to do it. It was starting to become really hard to be this close to you in a very small space without putting those cuffs back on you for an entirely different reason,” he explained, fighting his own body’s need for more as Jensen was reminded of just why he’d been trying to put space between them and how long it had been since he’d let himself truly want anyone.

“You…” Jared had to take a second to allow his brain to catch back up since he was finding it hard to concentrate on anything besides the feel of Jensen’s body so close as well as lips gliding playfully down his jaw without actually touching him. “You seriously left the cell keys on the desk?” he managed to ask, wondering if his voice really sounded as rough as he thought it did to his own pounding ears.

“Yep.” Jensen gave another tug of long hair, deciding he really liked the length of it as well as how Jared reacted to his touch. “I keep them on a separate ring from the cuff keys. When I unlocked the cell I tossed them back on the desk since I didn’t plan on getting locked in here. Now we’re stuck until Kane gets his ass back.”

Jared considered those words, tensing his arms to feel that while Jensen’s grip on his wrists was solid. he suspected that if he wanted to free them that he could. “How… how long do you think he might be gone?” he asked, voice dropping slightly to a softer tone with his drawl coming back a bit more.

He was unaware that he’d relaxed even further until Jensen’s knee suddenly nudged his apart easily. Jared was fighting not to moan at the feel of warm breath on his skin when Jensen’s mouth trailed down the length of his neck without allowing any actual contact and Jared was starting to get anxious and annoyed.

“Well, I told him to stay gone a couple hours so considering this is Chris and he might have decided to drive Welling’s drunk ass all the way to the county line to avoid me losing this badge if I shot his useless ass… I’m going to safely say… I have no clue. But it won’t be anytime soon,” Jensen remarked, lifting his head from where he’d just slowly been blowing warm air against the hollow of Jared’s throat and telling himself he would not actually touch him until he was certain it would be allowed. “Got any ideas to keep us distracted until he does get back?” he asked with a teasing smile.

Jensen recalled that Jared had some minor issues with small spaces thanks to that damn prank Tom played on him back in high school. It was one of the reasons he’d left the cell open when he stepped inside; now he was concerned about keeping Jared distracted in case any of that claustrophobia might still be there. As it turned out, it was Jensen who was distracted when Jared did something totally unexpected.

“Yeah, actually I do,” Jared said and took the biggest risk of his recent life. Taking advantage of how close they were, as well as how close Jensen’s face was to his, Jared moved his head as much as the fingers still in his hair would allow and caught a surprised Jensen off guard with a fast kiss.

Jared kissing him was the last thing Jensen had been expecting to happen between them. The kiss was fast, just barely a brush of soft lips against his, but it was enough to catch him by surprise and enough to send his blood rushing to a lower part of his body. Fingers still twisted in his hair, Jensen gave a quick tug, pulling Jared’s head back enough that he could look into the deep hazel eyes with flecks of golds and blues now showing staring at him and waiting for a reaction.

Running the tip of his tongue over his lips slowly, Jensen heard the soft groan from Jared at the same time as he felt him tense his arms as if wanting loose from his grip. “Tell me what you want to do, Jared,” he commanded, tone low, huskier now as it got when nerves and emotions were fighting for control. “I need to hear the words from you.”

“Kiss me.” Jared knew that wasn’t exactly all the words he wanted to say, but he wasn’t quite certain how to phrase exactly what he wanted. One of Jensen’s eyebrows went up, almost challenging him, while using the way Jared’s head was held to ghost a whisper tease of a kiss over his lips.

“That all you want me to do, darlin’?” Jensen could almost tell what Jared wanted; he wanted the same thing but he needed to hear it spoken. He needed to be sure that Jared knew what he was saying. “Because kissing you still isn’t a problem for me but it might get boring if…”

Feeling Jared tense, seeing the flash of annoyance on his face, reminded Jensen of another time he’d teased the younger man. Jensen knew what Jared was about to do a second before he relaxed the grip on his hair to allow Jared’s head to move freely and this time when he went to kiss him, Jensen was ready and kissed back.

This kiss was fast as well as hard as both men were desperate for the games to be over. But after so many years apart, they were still wary with the other; it was difficult to relax and trust the other fully.

“Kiss me and then put those goddamn cuffs to some actual good use… Sheriff,” Jared whispered against Jensen’s mouth once he’d broken the kiss.

“With pleasure.” Jensen’s smile was slow and sinful as he gave Jared a second to catch his breath before letting go of his trapped wrists, using both hands to capture Jared’s face between his palms. He kissed him deeply, both passion and desire clear.

In the back of his mind where coherent thought still lingered, Jared knew he owed Jensen some explanations of his own about a few things. A second later when the touch of a teasing tongue was felt gliding over his lips, Jared decided thinking could wait in favor of giving Jensen the permission he seemed to be seeking by letting his lips part so the curious tongue could enter and begin to explore.

Jensen was still debating with himself on how to let this happen when he felt Jared respond to the light touch against his lips. Not only by opening his mouth for his tongue but by meeting the kiss and tongue fully with his own at the same time as his hands moved to Jensen’s hips.

“Damn, I forgot how it felt to kiss you,” he murmured against Jared’s lips in between kisses that he alternated between teasing and demanding. “How soft your lips still are and…” he paused to lightly catch Jared’s bottom lip between his teeth, tugging gently until he felt him shudder with a low moan of desire. “…and how damn sweet you still taste, Jay.”

Jared groaned into the next kiss but it was the sudden feel of calloused fingertips moving from his face and gliding under his shirt that had him arching forward against Jensen. Impatience was now starting to get the better of him when he tried to catch Jensen’s hair with one hand only to realize that even while it was slightly fuller than it had been, it was still too short for grabbing.

“Less kissing now works for me, Jensen,” he muttered on a gasp when he was suddenly tugged away from the cell bars and toward the cot. He was lost in the sensation of hot lips closing over a hardening little nub on his chest without even realizing or caring that his shirt had been pulled off over his head. “Fuck!” he gasped and felt his blood heat more at the low, husky laugh he heard next.

“You still have that one-track mind that I thought was so adorable back in school.” Jensen had made swift work of Jared’s shirt when he pulled him away from the bars. It had taken him a fast second to get his breath back when just a brief look at the broad shoulders and muscular chest reminded him that some things had certainly changed in the last decade.

“No, you’re just as slow about fucking me now as you were the first time too,” Jared shot back, impatient but also as nervous as he had been their one and only time together. The combination of emotions made his tone testier as well.

“Still as bossy, too, I see.” Jensen smirked, once again catching a handful of hair to give it a pull back while also controlling the speed in which he lowered Jared back to the cot. “Remember what I said to you the night in that barn loft, Jared?” he asked, hoping his own control won out because he could feel his jeans getting tighter just from this little bit of contact and every look shot from lust glazed hazel eyes. The way Jared moved now made Jensen want to just let go and take control.

Jared did remember. That night usually wasn’t far from his dreams when he allowed himself to dream of Paxton and of Jensen. Right then however he wasn’t sure his patience was going to win out. Every time he tried to settle down, to give Jensen control, the closeness of the cell began to make him on edge. 

He debated mouthing off to try to get Jensen to react faster or to not draw this out, but when he opened his mouth to retort Jared had to focus on just breathing. He swore all his spit dried up at the sight of Jensen’s uniform shirt being unbuttoned and slid off his shoulders, the black t-shirt he wore underneath being peeled up and over his head.

It used to have the same effect on a teenage Jared back in high school whenever he’d see Jensen strip off his shirt. Now he realized that while Jensen had always been lean and slender, the past ten years had given him more of a trim, muscled build of someone who still worked out regularly.

“Holy shit, you’re still gorgeous.” Jared didn’t realize he’d actually spoken those words aloud until Jensen’s dark green eyes met his, surprised. Jared wasn’t sure if he should blush for having spoken or apologize. At first all Jensen did was stare at him before sinking to sit on the edge of cot and placing a hand gently in the center of Jared’s chest.

“Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to actually say that…huh?” Jared blinked when a kiss was placed in the center of his forehead and he had to fight the rush of feelings that threatened to come from both that unexpected kiss and the look of raw emotion he could see on Jensen’s face. “I… I ruined the whole angry, frustrated vibe we had going here, didn’t I?” he asked while hoping he hadn’t just ruined it all. “Jensen?”

“You were the first person to ever call me gorgeous back in high school,” Jensen told him while working on not letting show the sudden rush of emotions hearing Jared say that to him had brought back or how they hit him now. “I knew back then that how I acted, the games I played to keep up my image, got me certain looks from the girls and even a few guys... but you were the first one to actually say it, mean it, and not look at me differently.

“Your honesty, the way you could openly express yourself and your emotions, was one of the reasons I fell for you, Jared,” he went on, letting the tips of his fingers move in slow circles against the center of Jared’s chest before starting to inch down towards his jeans, his gaze locked on Jared’s face. “I thought you were drop dead gorgeous back then but never had the guts to tell you. Because while being with you allowed me to be honest, I still was scared, Jay. I’d been laughed at for being honest before and-”

“You needed new friends in school, Jen. I never would’ve laughed at you for expressing your feelings,” Jared remarked and took a chance by lifting his hand, placing it on Jensen’s face and instantly felt his heart jump to his throat when Jensen turned his face just enough to place a kiss against the center of the palm. “I wouldn’t then. I won’t now but… can we put off all the deep emotional stuff until we’re someplace other than a tiny cell with a locked door?” he asked curiously, noticing for the first time this cell didn’t even have a window. With that realization he felt his breath start to get quicker until once again Jensen’s hand touched his chest and his eyes moved back to his.

“Keep looking at me, sweetheart. I’ll keep you distracted and too busy to think about anything else,” Jensen promised. He’d felt Jared’s breathing pick up at the same time his eyes started shooting around the cell and knew he had to put everything heavy on the back burner for the moment. His focus needed to be on Jared and giving him what he thought they both wanted right then. “Do you still want me to use the cuffs?” he asked, “We don’t have to.”

Jared considered for a second, tipping his head back far enough to let him see the cuffs that were still hooked to the metal frame. Glancing back to see Jensen waiting while his fingers had started to tease down his chest again, he nodded. “Yeah, I want you to,” he said and saw Jensen’s lips quirk up slowly. “Did the fact that cuffs are standard tools of being a cop inspire you to want this career, Jensen?” he teased but then caught the flash of seriousness on the rugged face and realized he’d opened his mouth again. “Jen, I’m… mmhm… I forgot that was your favorite way to shut me up.”

“The most fun way. too.” Jensen smiled, taking the hand that Jared had placed on his face to kiss his palm again before raising it up and hooking the cuff. He repeated the step with Jared’s other hand until he was locked in place. Only then did he choose to address the question. “If I’d still had you in my life then maybe, but to be honest? I’ve never considered using the cuffs in a non-official way before now,” he admitted, taking a deep breath and a huge risk. “I’ve also never made love with another person, man or woman, since you so when I say this might not take as long as I want, I won’t be lying, Jay.”

“You… but…” Jared was once again on the fringe of frustration and anger but then recalled something said between them on a night long ago. “I didn’t think you’d keep that promise considering… things,” he murmured, letting his lashes fall closed to try to buy himself the time to cover the wetness in his eyes. Once again, this man had surprised him.

“The night we made love I promised to be faithful to you regardless of anything else. That it didn’t matter who thought I should fool around with every cheerleader or girl in a short skirt that flirted with me.” Jensen shifted a little to allow his fingers to flip open the button on Jared’s jeans, finding the fly and beginning the slow process of unzipping it. “I won’t say that between then and now I hadn’t been forced on a couple dates by my parents or that I hadn’t tried to force myself on a few in college to try to get over you. But since my parents figured it out and disowned me and I moved back here, I haven’t. As for taking anyone to my bed? No, I didn’t do that.”

Jensen wished he could take his time but knew he had to keep Jared distracted. He finally got the jeans unzipped and made quick work of Jared’s shoes and socks before beginning to peel the denim down long legs that had him holding his breath without realizing it by the time he was finished and Jared was naked and cuffed on the cot.

Standing slowly to undo his own jeans in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure from his hardening cock, Jensen gave himself permission to let his eyes wander over the tall, well-built body until he saw Jared’s cheeks turning a faint pink as if the intense look embarrassed him.  

“You are still drop dead gorgeous and hotter than hell, Jared,” he said and gave the slow, sinful smile that always made Jared smile back; not disappointed this time either. “I don’t have any lube with me so…” he paused while trying to figure out how to continue with his original plan or if he should make a new plan when he heard the cuffs rattle as Jared began to get edgy. “Stupid question but… would you trust me to do something?”

“If I didn’t give you some trust, I wouldn’t be naked and cuffed, dude,” Jared shot back testily, sighing at the raised eyebrow he got in return. “Jensen, do something before I remember it’s not fair that I am naked and you aren’t.”

“Bossy,” Jensen smiled but understood, “If my jeans come off, this would happen too fast and you’d end up hurt,” he explained the reasoning to why he’d left his jeans despite having undone the zipper. “We both might have changed in little ways since the last time we were together, but the one thing that will never change is I refuse to hurt you during sex. Trust me and I can still make this work,” he added as he knelt on the narrow cot after gesturing for Jared to pull his one leg up.

Jared had lost his ability to focus again at the tone of voice used to say those words. He wanted to tell Jensen that he didn’t have to worry so much but lost his chance when soft lips leaned forward to catch his mouth in a deep kiss that held all the heat, as well as something more, that he could recall from years earlier. Then his mind was blown totally by what happened next.

“Remember when you got us kicked out of the library?” Jensen asked, dropping his tone to the low sex and honey one that he knew from experience turned Jared on. He slowly kissed his way back down the younger man’s body, stopping to give special attention to the hollow of his throat and both hardening little nubs of his chest.

“Huh? Ummm, no, you got us kicked out of the library,” Jared managed to correct before letting his eyes cross at the feel of Jensen’s lips gliding down his stomach, tongue hot as he moved over and around his belly button.

Deep green eyes lifted to see Jared’s head was tilted down as if to watch him but his eyes were more black now as desire took over fully. Jensen loved how they seemed to darken even more when the tip of his tongue dipped into his belly button. “No. You were the one who shouted and Mrs. McKenna kicked us out for disturbing her ‘good’ library patrons.”

“You made me shout because you thought it would be a good idea to blow me right there in the damn library under the table and I wasn’t expecting it, jerk!” Jared gasped, body arching as much as it could at the feel of Jensen’s mouth sliding lower to lick and nuzzle the sensitive skin between his thigh and groin. “So it was your fault. Hell, we probably still aren’t allowed back in that building if she’s still working there.”

“She is and I’m not. But she did say she’d forgive you since I was obviously a bad influence on you.” Jensen smirked, running his fingers down Jared’s left leg while he got settled between them enough that he thought he could pull this off. “But I think I figured out a way to keep you distracted while blowing you, Jay,” he said with a slow grin that had Jared groaning and his already active cock dripping more. “Trust me, babe?”

Realizing what Jensen was planning, Jared had a second to draw in a breath before nodding and relaxing as much as he could when two fingers were placed against his lips.

Jensen bit his lip against the moan that wanted to come as he watched his fingers be slowly drawn into Jared’s mouth and felt him begin to suck and lick them. Confident that would keep Jared distracted for the moment; he turned his attention to the large red and weeping cock that he took in his other hand, stroking it a few times before lightly licking up the length.

Jared tensed briefly but then swore his body would explode as he watched with interest as the mushroom head of his cock was slid past Jensen’s lips. He watched himself disappear into Jensen’s mouth as he began to slide up and down on the length with a slow precision that almost had Jared distracted on what he was doing with the fingers in his mouth. His attention snapped back when he almost choked and had glittering green eyes shooting up to his.

He gave a quick shake of his head to assure the man that he was fine, continuing to suck on the two digits in his mouth and fighting his body’s sudden urge to thrust up to gain more heat on his cock. He didn’t want to risk choking Jensen as he skillfully sucked him. It wasn’t long before both men were deep into the moment.

It had been a long time since Jensen had given anyone a blowjob or even considered it, so he’d been wary at first. But like so much with Jared, it seemed natural to him as he took the head in first, slowly suckling on it, and  using the muffled moans and words he barely understood as Jared sucked his fingers as encouragement to take the cock deeper into his mouth.

Jensen tried to focus on sucking Jared’s cock while also watching the man himself as he sucked on the two fingers that Jensen planned to use to help in the next part of his plan.

Making out on the jail cot wasn’t the easiest thing since they were both over six feet tall, but Jensen would make it work until his so-called deputy returned to unlock the door and he could take this to his apartment above the jail.

Pulling his fingers free, he smiled around the cock in his mouth at the mumbled complaint. He reassured Jared with a long, sultry look, asking him silently to just wait for more. Jensen eased his hand back under Jared’s hips with plans to begin to stretch him with the fingers that Jared had just sucked on. It was a plan that Jared must have picked up on. He felt Jared shift a bit on the cot to try to lift his hips when they were suddenly and rudely reminded that not everything went according to plans.

“Oh! Oh shit! Oh Holy Mother of my Aunt Petunia!”


Chapter Text

Forgiving the Past, Finding the Future

Chapter Three

“Oh! Oh shit! Oh Holy Mother of my Aunt Petunia!”

The sudden and very much unexpected shouting shocked both Jared and Jensen who had almost forgotten in the heat of the moment building between them, that they weren’t in a private location.

“Shit!” Jensen swore as he quickly pulled off of Jared with a wet pop. He almost fell off of the cot in his haste to grab for his shirt to try to cover a now fully blushing Jared until he could get his jeans. Over his shoulder he threw some well-aimed curses at  the man who’d interrupted them. “Damn it, as soon as I get outta this cell and I stop Jared from hyperventilating? I’m locking your ass up, Murray!”

“I’m blind! I am scarred for life and… Kane! I need bleach! I need you to gouge out my poor innocent eyeballs! I need… oh my God! Put some damn clothes on or… hey! Isn’t this taking advantage of your badge? Kane!”  

Chad Michael Murray had entered the Paxton jail a few steps ahead of the actual deputy with plans to rip the so-called Sheriff a new asshole for locking his friend up for no good reason.

That, of course, had been the plan before he stepped inside and got an eyeful of what had been happening in the cell. Now he had his back to the bars with both hands covering his eyes while shouting for a confused Christian Kane who was coming in the door.

“Murray, what the hell are you going on about?” Chris demanded, eyes locked on Chad who was now in his face, shaking him and begging to ‘make the horror stop’. “What horror? Why are you scarred for life and… okay. Yeah, now I might be as well,” he muttered upon seeing what had freaked Chad out. “I take it I’m back too soon, Sheriff?” he asked, averting his eyes as Jensen growled at him to unlock the cell. “Unlock the- how’d the hell did you get locked in with him, Jensen?”

“I left the keys on the desk after I unlocked the cell. He got angry with me about not answering something and pulled the door shut before I could tell him that I didn’t have the key to the door! Now unlock the damn door and then get Chad the hell out of here before I find my damn gun and shoot you both!” Jensen snapped, quickly unlocking the cuffs and softly apologizing to Jared who had turned more toward the wall. “Chris! Unlock the door, dammit!” he shouted after feeling the shoulder under his hand shaking. “Jay, I’m sorry. I let it go too far. I shouldn’t have let this happen here, I should’ve thought about someone other than Chris coming in. But no one ever does! And…”

The sound of the key unlocking the cell and the door being pulled open was heard just as a blanket was tossed in and hit the back of Jensen’s legs. “You’re just damn lucky that it was Chad who came in ahead of me and not the Mayor or God forbid the Pastor’s wife,” Chris remarked, stepping away from the now open cell to give the men some privacy while Jensen stood to hold the blanket up so Jared could hastily pull his jeans and shoes on.

“She already thinks I’m a soulless heathen who has no business being Sheriff here, so this would’ve just given her more ammo to use with the town council to fire me.” Jensen shrugged, glancing back to see the worried expression Chris was giving him. He chose to ignore it for the moment and instead, looked to where Chad had retreated to a far corner with his eyes still clamped shut.

“Did you want something other than to make me feel even worse than I did earlier?” he demanded of the auto mechanic, fingers wanting to reach out to Jared but unsure if that would be welcome right then. A quick glance showed that all Jared was doing was sitting on the cot, staring at the shirt in his hands.

“Huh? Oh. I was coming to kick your ass for arresting Jared or whatever the hell you did since the motel manager said she thought that had been what had happened,” Chad replied from between his fingers, peeking out to see if it was safe for him to look. “I had this whole lecture about being a bully and a jackass who used his badge to bully Jaybird but then I walk in and see…Oh my God! I need a drink! I need to burn my retinas or-” His grumbles about having those images embedded in his brain for the rest of his life were cut off by Chris’ loud voice..

“You need to shut the hell up before Jensen decides to shoot you! Or I do!” Chris snapped, pinching the bridge of his nose while shaking his head in frustration. “Did this illegal arrest at least settle the issues between you two?” he questioned curiously, noticing subtle movement from behind Jensen that Jensen was unaware of. He wondered how much liquor he’d be bribing a muttering and scowling Chad with to get him out of the office.

“Well, it settled a few things I think,” Jensen admitted, blowing out a breath and going to step out of the cell. He stopped when he felt the light touch of fingers against his and quickly looked down to see that while Jared’s head was still lowered, his hand had moved up as if seeking his. “Jared? Come on, let’s get you out of this cell now and we can see if Chad wants to throw a punch or-”

“We’re not finished.”

The tone was low, the drawl that hadn’t been there for years now bled into his voice when he finally spoke after having the time to consider what he wanted to do now that the cell door was open.

Jared could tell from Jensen’s voice that he felt bad for what had just happened. He also suspected Jensen was concerned that Jared thought he’d allowed them to be caught in the position they had been. Honestly, he had given that a brief thought until he felt Jensen’s hands shake while uncuffing him and replayed the words he’d whispered to him.

"I am so sorry, Jared. I swear despite how this looks that I did not plan on actually getting walked in on with you naked. That would never be something I’d do and I swear if you give me a chance that we aren’t finished yet."

Now, as he heard Jensen speaking to him as well as the mumbling from Chad and a growling Chris, Jared lifted his head to see that Jensen was looking at him warily, as if unsure.

“Chad, go work on a car or take my wallet and Kane and both of you go get drunk or something, anything, so long as neither of you are around here for the next few hours… or the rest of the night,” he said while standing. “I think Jensen and I still have things to settle, to finish,” he added, starting to lift his hand only to have it caught and held as Jensen’s lips began to curve up into a slow smile that still caused Jared’s heart to jump.

“Chris, take the blazer and go be the deputy,” Jensen said while meeting and holding hazel eyes that were now mixed with golds, blues, and greens like he hadn’t seen on Jared since his return to Paxton. “Actually, if you take Chad and lose him I’ll give you my badge and you can be Sheriff for the next twenty-four, possibly forty-eight hours,” he went on, letting his fingers mesh with Jared’s while Chad gagged and started to yell about ‘images that he couldn’t ever unhear’.

“Um, okay, no. I will go patrol and I will go lose the big mouth here, either at his garage or at the bar where I will be sure to remind Rosenbaum that he owes me for not kicking his ass outta town along with his buddy, but you are not dropping the hassle of being Sheriff on me just so you and Padalecki here can go do things that I do not need to know about or think about,” Chris replied firmly, grabbing the Blazer keys from the desk and turning to shove a wide eyed Chad out the door. He paused to glance back at Jensen with a smirk. “Also, there’s a wedding that you both are supposed to attend so just remember any marks you leave on him need to be where no one can see.”

“Get out, Kane!” Jensen yelled, not amused by the teasing comment. He started to offer another apology for his friend’s less than tactful teasing, when once again Jared was able to take him by surprise. He turned back to see that in the short time it took him to slam the office door in Chris' laughing face, Jared had retrieved the cuffs and was standing there holding them out to him. “Jay.”

“You said if I gave you a chance that we weren’t finished,” Jared reminded him, motioning with the cuffs. “Well, here’s your chance, Jensen. Finish what you started in that cell and if you leave a bruise or a damn mark on me that someone can see, I don’t give a damn.” He took a step closer, wondering if it was just him or if Jensen was suddenly being more cautious. “My family here already thinks I’m a whore, so it won’t matter. If you really mean what you’ve said to me today, any of it, if you still want me then... I want you too. I-hmm.”

Jensen moved quickly to close the short space between them, catching Jared’s face between his hands and kissing him firmly to stop the words that had suddenly lit the fuse on Jensen’s temper. “You are not a whore,” he said after breaking the kiss. “Even if our sex were to bruise you, or I leave a couple interesting marks from kissing you, that does not make you a damn whore, Jared. Understand?”

“I understand that you mean that but I’m just saying that you don’t have to be scared to touch me like you seem to be now,” Jared replied while meeting each kiss fully. He was so engrossed in kissing Jensen that he didn’t even realize how skillfully the man had maneuvered them out the back door of the Sheriff’s office and up a small flight of steps until he heard a door close and his back was suddenly against that door. “My family…”

“Your family is a bunch of assholes,” Jensen shot back, still furious that anyone would actually consider telling Jared that to his face. “No offense. And you’re more than welcome to say the same about mine. I usually do if I have to have more than fleeting moments with my parents.” He braced himself with his hands flat on the door so his body had basically bracketed Jared in, making sure he didn’t step close enough to make the other man feel trapped. “You’re not a whore, Jared. Stop listening to-”

“I was. For two years... and that’s why my family feels the way they do for me now,” Jared broke in, suddenly needing Jensen to understand things that he hadn’t cared about before coming back to Paxton.

Watching Jensen closely for the reactions he knew should be coming, Jared held his breath when the man leaned back enough to stare into his eyes as if trying to decide if Jared was joking or telling the truth. Then he waited for the disgust to cross Jensen’s rugged face, for him to step back, move away from him, or even to kick him out the door. Jared waited until he finally started to get nervous, fingers nervously fidgeting until finally Jensen took a half step back. But instead of reaching for the doorknob as was expected, he reached for Jared’s hand.

“Do you want to talk about it? Or at least the part that you feel was important enough to bring this up now?” Jensen had been shocked but then his shock turned to confusion and he had a hunch that would soon be turning to anger at his ex’s family.

“I brought it up because I felt you needed to know you weren’t about to fuck the same guy you had before.” Jared tensed subtly when Jensen’s other hand raised. He saw that Jensen recognized the reaction, but didn’t appear angry over it as he let it rest on Jared’s cheek.

“I didn’t ‘fuck’ you before and I’m not ‘fucking’ you now,” Jensen corrected carefully as he worked to keep his expression calm despite the simmering temper he could feel. He kept his touch light while he palmed the side of Jared’s face.

He had seen and felt him tense when he moved his hand. It was something he’d seen in Jared when they’d been in high school and though he’d suspected the reason, he’d never pushed for answers. He wanted to push now but knew he had to focus on the present for now.

“Remember what I said downstairs about thinking about what I said to you that night in the barn? I want you to apply it again because I made love to you then and I plan on making love you to now.” Jensen adored watching Jared’s face when he said this; at first it was like he was confused, his forehead wrinkled and eyes searching, but when Jensen brushed the back of his knuckles down over his jaw, Jared’s face softened and his eyes sparkled. Jensen just wished he didn’t still look wary, a fact that made Jensen’s heart ache. “Answer me one question right now and anything else can wait for later… or over brunch,” he offered a teasing little smile that at least had Jared’s lips curving. “Are you safe?”

Jared blinked but then blushed as he replied to what he thought Jensen meant. “Oh! Yeah! Yeah, I’m clean,” he reassured him, only to gasp at the feel of Jensen’s lips brushing over his in a teasing kiss before tugging him away from the door and back into his arms.

“That wasn’t what I meant, but thanks for clearing that up.” Jensen smiled against Jared’s lips when they frowned. “I meant are you safe physically now.Or do I need to put out an APB out on someone’s ass in New York?”

It took a couple seconds for Jared’s brain to catch up and understand what Jensen was meaning. As realization dawned, he felt something loosen in his chest that he hadn’t realized was there. The tension remaining between them seemed to slip away; despite the years that had passed, the misunderstandings between them from before and since his return, Jensen still seemed to care if he was safe.

“No, there’s no one that needs one of those and yeah, I am,” Jared finally replied, unaware of when he relaxed or when his arms had wrapped around Jensen. He leaned in to meet his lips, their kisses began to heat again and talking about his past --or talking in general-- wasn’t high on his list of things to do. “Can talking wait until that brunch you mentioned?” he asked, groaning at the feel of hot lips locking onto his pulse point and beginning to suck until Jared knew there’d be a hickey there in the morning.

“Definitely,” Jensen agreed in a low husky drawl that made Jared shiver almost as much as the feel of the man’s mouth and hands did. “Ignore the mess. No one usually gets past the living room to see the bedroom.”

A quick glance showed Jared a small and cluttered bedroom with clothes, shoes, boots, books and papers scattered over nearly every available surface except the bed. The bed, he noticed, had been made expertly, but then recalled Jensen’s mother had been a little obsessed with that chore.

“Bed’s clear. We’re good,” he muttered, distracted at the feel of calloused fingertips running down his chest. “Hell, our first time was in a barn on the outskirts of your family’s ranch.”

Jensen still inwardly cringed at that innocent reminder. “I’m so sorry that I didn’t think to give you more that night, Jared. I should’ve kept to my original plan and waited until we got out of Paxton but…”

“If we had waited, my first time would’ve been with some faceless jackass instead of someone I cared for, Jensen,” Jared replied, catching Jensen’s expression tighten briefly before softening as Jared reached for his hand to let their palms touch. “I don’t regret that night. Do you?” he asked somewhat hesitantly, starting to frown when a heated kiss took his breath.

“I regret not giving you the first time you deserved or at least letting it happen in a bed instead of a hay covered loft. I do not regret making love with you, Jared,” Jensen broke in, voice dropping to the huskier, honey coated sex tone that he rarely used unless it was with this man in front of him. “Let me make it up to you?”

Jared nodded and began to sit down to remove his shoes only to give a gasping laugh when gentle fingertips touched his chest to give a playful push, landing him on the bed with his hair in his eyes. “Hey!”


The simple word growled lowly and mixed with the possessive glint in darkening green eyes made Jared swallow and aware of another effect on his body. He felt his cock once again twitch with interest at both Jensen’s tone and the next kiss that found his mouth.

“You… damn I forgot how good you are with your mouth… you forgot the cuffs,” Jared managed to say in between hot kisses and moans of pleasure as Jensen began to kiss his way back down his body before pausing to remove his jeans and briefs again.

“We’ll explore just how kinky you got in the Big Apple some other time, sweetheart. We don’t need cuffs now.” Jensen looked up after peeling the denim jeans down long legs to offer a slow sensual smile while beginning to kiss his way back up until Jared’s body was soon covered in a thin sheen of sweat and his cock was dripping pearly drops of precome.

Stretching out beside Jared on the bed, Jensen could almost read the confusion mixed in with building lust in darkening hazel eyes. His eyes were slowly turning more gold as his lust grew. “There’s no hurry, Jay. This time, there’s no reason to rush or worry about someone walking in on us. This time, I plan on giving you all of my attention and I will give you what I should’ve given you that first night,” he promised, lips gliding along the edge of Jared’s jaw before sliding down his throat to suck a line down to his collarbone. “Relax for me? Or is there something else you want to share with me?”

“Probably... but not right now,” Jared admitted, arching when long fingers trailed down his stomach to tease over his cock. “I’m not sure how much patience I have for this first time, Jensen,” he warned and gasped out a cross between a moan and a curse when Jensen’s mouth found a rock hard little nub and began to roll it skillfully with his tongue. “None if you keep doing that!”

Jensen chuckled but loved watching and listening to Jared as he slowly made love to his body without actually touching his cock. He’d left his own jeans on, but had to undo the zipper to relieve the building pressure of his cock straining against the material.

Deciding he’d tormented both of them enough for the moment, he gave a soft kiss to Jared’s well kissed lips before giving a hip a light nudge, encouraging him to roll over. Jensen laughed at the mumbled ‘about time’ he heard as Jared moved quickly to roll to his stomach and was quick to give a teasing slap to his hip to urge him to his knees so he couldn’t rub his now freely leaking cock on the bed.

“You can come if you have to while I’m stretching you, but it won’t be by rubbing off,” he said in response to the next well-chosen comment aimed his way. “Hands on the wall or the headboard, sweetheart.”

Jared was muttering under his breath about ‘bossy tops’ but did as he was told while seeing Jensen digging in the nightstand. “This is why I said you should’ve brought the cuffs,” he mumbled under his breath. “If I say you don’t need lube will that make that vein in your jaw… never mind, it does.”

Yes, we need lube and…” Jensen grabbed the bottle he’d been searching for and moved to kneel on the bed behind Jared, kissing his shoulders until he felt him relax again. When he glanced down, he went still. “Jared?”

The sharper, harder tone told Jared what Jensen must have seen and he sighed while letting his head rest on his arms. “If I promise to explain about the scar later when we’re resting up from whatever you plan to actually do to me, would you please just keep doing what you’re doing?” he asked hopefully, glancing back to see Jensen’s eyes were narrowed, considering disagreeing. “Please, Jen? If you want to hear it, I’ll give you the whole boring, sordid, and disgusting tale of the last ten years of my life but… please, just… just make love to me first.”

The way Jared struggled on those last few words told Jensen that his life in New York had not been easy. It also told him why Jared seemed to be resisting his attempts to slow things down, to show actual care with him instead of rushing. Regardless of how badly he wanted to know about the long, thin white scar on Jared’s lower back, Jensen realized he had to wait for a better time. Right now his focus needed to be on the wide eyed young man in front of him.

“Relax for me, Jared,” he murmured, leaning up to meet Jared’s lips in a kiss that Jensen kept slow, gentle. “Remember two things and just relax. One, I won’t hurt you and two, I still love you.”

Jared smiled, feeling his cheeks heat the same way Jensen could always make happen when letting his voice drop it to that low, sex and honey coated sin drawl. Over his shoulder he could see Jensen holding the bottle of lube in his hand while he slowly kissed along the width of Jared’s shoulders. Jared waited for the cold feeling of the lube as it was poured down the crease of his ass but gasped in surprise when it was warm and the fingertip the followed it was gentle. “Jensen…”

“I’ve got you, babe,” Jensen promised softly as he proceeded to run the tip of his index finger down the crease a few times until he felt Jared start to relax a little more. It was only then that he let his fingertip find the puckered hole to slowly begin to rub around the rim before slipping inside.

Jensen honestly wasn’t certain who groaned louder, Jared or himself at the sudden feeling of tight heat closing around just his fingertip. “God, I don’t think you were this tight the first time we did this.” He paused to settle his own body down while wishing he had shed his own jeans, the clothing now becoming too tight for comfort. In the back of his mind he knew it would’ve been too easy to rush if he had. Now he just prayed for patience. “Can I ask how long it’s been?”

“Since I had sex or since I had sex and enjoyed it?” Jared’s body was on fire, his cock red and leaking a steady stream of precome while he struggled to keep still, to not push his hips back now that he felt Jensen’s single finger finally pushing past the first ring of muscle. Both men were already well past their point of endurance but Jensen was stubbornly trying to not rush. “Truthfully? With you. Jensen, if you stop I swear I will end up in that cell again because I will hurt you!” he warned tightly upon feeling Jensen go still behind him.

“I’m adding that to the list of things I want to know about later,” Jensen muttered but then let his lips kiss Jared’s neck until he worked his way to the knob of bone there and began to suck. As soon as he felt Jared’s body relax more and his finger was soon able to slip up fully, Jensen felt safe to begin to move it back and forth until he was shaking as much as Jared was as desire built.

It seemed like forever to Jared before he felt the burn of a second finger being added. But this time the mild burning sensation melded into another sensation much quicker, this one being a feeling that Jared realized was a little odd for him to feel, and one that he quickly realized he could get used to.

Jensen had been working on slowly stretching Jared until he could begin to scissor two fingers easily. He still avoided touching that one spot that he recalled could get the best reaction out of his ex. He let his forehead rest against the back of Jared’s neck, giving them both a chance to settle before he tried to add a third finger to the mix, when suddenly it hit him that he could hear Jared softly whispering in his distracted state.

“You’re reciting the periodic table during sex?” Jensen’s smile was amused, loving. He loved Jared even more when he watched him duck his head with a shy smile at being caught doing something that might seem stupid to others. “Last time we did this I think you recited the Gettysburg Address.”

“Distractions to keep me from growling at you to hurry the hell up before I implode,” Jared tossed back with the first sight of a dimpled smile and Jensen swore his heart stopped. “You really need to go faster before I die of old age or blue balls, Ackles.”

“You’re still bossy, Jay.” Jensen smiled but leaned up and pressed a tender kiss to the corner of his mouth. He slid off the bed to shed his jeans and boxer briefs quickly, seeing Jared shift enough that he could watch him and loving both the way his already darkening eyes went even darker and the faint blush that formed when he looked away quickly. “I love that one minute you’re mouthing off and the next you’re blushing like you did the first day we met. Like what you see, sweetheart?” he asked with a sexy smirk, kneeling back on the bed while reaching into the nightstand again.

Jared did but he was still unsure of how to express himself with Jensen without looking or feeling like a naïve kid again. His sex life in the last ten years hadn’t all been bad, but it had also not been like what Jensen was offering. It was taking Jared time to readjust to not only be with a man like Jensen but also to be able to be himself in return.

Taking a slow breath to settle his sudden burst of nerves, Jared made himself look back over his shoulder at Jensen. He reached forward and  caught his wrist just as he was removing a foil wrapped packet from the nightstand.

“I thought you were hot back in school and I told you earlier that without a shirt you were still hot. Now, I’ll tell you the same thing you say to me… you’re drop dead gorgeous and hotter than hell.” He caught the flash of surprise on Jensen’s face and felt something loosen in his chest when Jensen smiled fully -- not the teasing or cocky one he had but the real, honest smile that Jared had learned early on could be rare and hard to see. “I also don’t want you to use that,” he nodded towards the condom while letting their eyes meet, “I meant when I said I was clean. I get it that you might not trust that but…”

Dropping the condom back in the drawer, Jensen caught Jared’s face between his palms to kiss him deeply, waiting until he felt Jared respond a bit more before letting the kiss deepen. “I do trust you,” he whispered against Jared’s lips, tracing over them with his tongue. He tugged an unresisting Jared around so they could kiss more, their hands touching each other slowly. “I just wasn’t sure what you’d want this soon or-”

“I… I want to feel you, Jensen. I want to feel you in every way possible,” Jared groaned when calloused fingers trailed down his chest, but was more distracted at the feeling of his red and angry cock rubbing against Jensen’s. He swore he was going to lose it any second now. “Jensen, please… I… I don’t know if I can last long if you don’t… huh?” He blinked when he was lowered back to the bed, head placed on a pillow like he was glass, and it took him a second to get over his confusion at the sudden change. “Jensen? What’re you… oh my God!”

Jensen realized the second he turned Jared that he’d pushed him past the limit where he’d be able to go much longer without some relief. Making a snap decision to change his plans, Jensen knew the moment he watched Jared’s confused face melt into something much softer, almost boyish again, that he’d made the right choice. He knew by the shout that followed that his next move was also the correct one.

He’d slid down Jared’s body to settle between his long legs and used Jared’s confused, distracted state to finish what he’d started down in the jail. Jensen still had plans to make love to Jared but he knew neither of them would make it to that point without some relief, relief in the form of Jensen slipping the head of Jared’s cock past his lips to begin to suck. He started slowly at first before picking up speed at the sounds and words he knew Jared wasn’t aware he was even saying.

Lifting his eyes up, Jensen saw that Jared’s eyes, now almost fully dark with just a thin ring of color, were watching him. His lips were parted just slightly while he was digging his fingers into the comforter rather than reaching out to touch him.

“Jen… fuck!” Jared couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen anything hotter than Jensen at that moment, his mouth sliding up and down his cock while his fingers rubbed lightly along Jared’s thigh to soothe him when he started to move restlessly as the need to come got more intense. He held back, hesitating on letting himself come, wanting this to last.

Watching Jared’s face closely as he slipped his free hand between Jared’s legs and back to lightly touch his balls, Jensen frowned around the cock in his mouth when he realized how heavy and tight they felt in his palm. He could taste the sweet and salty tang of pre-come on his tongue so he knew Jared was beyond ready to climax. At first Jensen was confused, then it hit him what must be happening and he seriously wanted to punch whoever the hell Jared had been with back East.

Pulling back until just the head of Jared’s cock remained between his lips, Jensen reached up with his free hand to catch Jared’s tense hand. He saw those eyes move back to his, need and desire so plain that it reminded Jensen of the young men they’d both been once. Meshing their fingers so their palms touched, he held Jared’s eyes while offering a slow nod just as he began to hollow his cheeks, moving faster, and giving a gentle squeeze to the tight balls in his other hand.

Jared gasped at the feeling on his balls, but it was watching Jensen suck faster while giving him silent permission that had him giving in to the need for relief. “Oh my… Jensen!” he shouted as he felt his climax hit hard and fast. He wanted to try to warn Jensen better, but lost the ability to do anything when he realized that Jensen wasn’t pulling off like he’d expected him to.

The moment Jared realized he was also swallowing was when it seemed like his brain melted. He wasn’t sure of a conscious or coherent thought for the next several moments, not until Jensen was suddenly beside him, kissing him, and Jared moaned with pleasure.

“You are so damn hot, Jared,” Jensen murmured between soft kisses, smiling as he heard the soft moan when he let Jared taste himself on his lips. “So hot, so perfect, and so mine.”

The last words took a couple seconds for Jared’s overheated brain to register and once he did, his eyes that had drifted closed in pure bliss from the strength of his orgasm, opened to stare into brilliant green ones. 

“You’re pretty presumptuous that this isn’t just a one-time thing or that I’ll want to pick something up with you again,” he replied with what Jared thought was a pretty good straight face. That was until he watched Jensen’s lips curve up slowly as he leaned closer to begin to kiss him again. “After all, ask my family, I’m just a… mhmm!

The kiss that Jensen used to cut off what he suspected was coming, was hot and hard but not demanding. He caught a handful of hair to give Jared’s head a yank back, but still not with enough force to hurt. “You’ll tell me about your time in New York. We’ll talk about exactly what we both might want or need from the other if we do decide to take this out of the bedroom and to that other level but, and this is the part I need you to understand, Jay, you will never use that damn word about yourself ever again,” he growled it quietly but with enough of a harder tone that Jared understood.

“You might change your mind once I tell you stuff,” Jared warned, arching when Jensen’s fingers began stroking his spent cock while licking and biting along his jaw until he shivered. “I… I can’t stay in Paxton, Jensen. I won’t go back to New York, but I also can’t stay here. My father would make my life hell and you-”

“Let me worry about me and we can add relocating you to the things we need to talk about over brunch… or lunch… or dinner or… Maybe we’ll skip the wedding and just stay here,” Jensen smiled when he heard Jared laugh and caught a flash of his dimples when he move to lever himself over him before kissing down his chest again.

“Kane would break in the door. Or your Mother would,” Jared muttered while swearing his eyes just crossed at the same time as he felt his cock start to stir again. “Hey, did you… I mean, don’t I owe you for… ummm… Well I guess you can see why I made a bad escort. I blush too much trying to ask if you wanted me to umm…”

“You’re adorable when you blush.” Jensen smiled and kissed him again, this time deepening it so their tongues could play and tease each other before pulling back to see Jared’s eyes were more gold right then. “And to ease your mind, I came right after you did.” He carded his fingers back through Jared’s hair to get it out of his face while smiling down at him. “And now, I’m going to make love to you. No, stay on your back.” He saw the confused look and smiled gently while lightly palming the side of Jared’s face. “I want to see your face as we make love, Jay. I want you to see me while I make you come on just my cock in your ass.”

Jared groaned at that image, unsure if he’d be able to climax again so soon. But as he watched Jensen move back until he was again between his legs, his fingers feathering over his stirring cock, he began to reconsider that worry.

“Just relax and trust me, sweetheart.” Jensen reached for the lube again to slick his cock, and squeezed more onto his fingers so he could make sure Jared was still open enough to take him without too much pain.

Once he was certain of that, he took one long leg and lifted it up over his shoulder before positioning the head of his cock at the entrance of the well stretched hole. Giving a slight push, Jensen had to fight back the sudden urge to claim quickly when tight heat immediately closed around his cock.

“You’re still so tight,” he muttered, stopping to give them both time to settle and so Jared would have a chance to adjust. “Okay?”

“I will be once you actually move,” Jared replied, voice a little more strained as he was struggling against the burning pain caused by not having any sex recently and now having Jensen’s thick cock splitting him open slowly. “Jensen, I love you, but if you don’t move soon and stop treating me like fragile glass or like I might break if you go too fast or get too rough, I’ll probably hit you. Then you’ll have an excuse to use those cuffs,” he added with a small smile, trying to reassure Jensen.

“Yes, I’ve been hurt before. Yes, I’ve had a lot of rough sex. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve had any at all. Do I think you’ll hurt me before this is over? Yeah, but not for the reason you’re thinking,” he was quick to put in the second Jensen’s body went rigid and his eyes shot to Jared’s with a frown. “I don’t mean physically, Jen. Hell, even though so many years have passed I still know you’d never hurt me physically. I mean emotionally because I know I’m already way more emotionally attached to you, to us, than I should be since I know I can’t stay with you.”

Jared reached a hand up to touch Jensen’s face, feeling his chest tighten when Jensen turned his face enough to press his lips against the center of Jared’s palm. “See? You do those little things without even thinking about it. You see me as someone to care for, to care about. You don’t see me like those others did. I… I love you but this time… Jensen, I need you to make love to me without being worried about leaving a mark or a damn bruise.

“I want to feel you for the next damn week when I move. I want to be able to see the results of this moment when I look in the mirror. I want…” He paused to think of the word he needed and then had to decide if he had the guts to say it as he watched Jensen’s green eyes darken with each word spoken. “…you,” Jared finished after finally choosing to take the chance that honestly had brought him back to his former hometown. “I want you.”

“You’ve got me, darlin’,” Jensen returned, voice deep, raw with emotions he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in years. He caught Jared’s lips in a deep kiss that held heat and desire but also something more; something that would take both men time to adjust to feeling or accepting. “Mine, Jay,” he whispered into his ear before he kissed him again and gave a another thrust of his hips, taking his cock up another half inch into the tight channel that was slowly accepting Jensen’s cock as Jared’s body relaxed. It took another three thrusts before Jensen felt himself come flush to Jared’s body.

Jared had become so lost in watching the array of emotions on Jensen’s face as well as overwhelmed with the minor, annoying burning feeling as his ass stretched to allow Jensen’s cock entry, that when it disappeared and became a much more intense and pleasurable feeling, he had been totally unaware that his own cock had once again hardened and was now dripping a slow stream of precome on his stomach. “Jensen…”

Supporting himself on his arms, Jensen took a moment to catch his breath and to settle his body’s need for more. He loved watching Jared’s face during this time because it had lost so much of the hardness it had from earlier that day. Now as they looked at one another, Jared’s hand moving to lay flat over Jensen’s heart, his expression had softened to remind Jensen of the shy, quiet young man he’d fallen in love with years earlier.

Understanding that he’d pushed them both to the limit again and seeing the exhaustion on Jared’s face starting to show, Jensen gave a nod to reassure him that he knew what he needed, what they both wanted now. This position wasn’t the easiest for that, but Jensen wouldn’t have missed seeing Jared’s eyes go wide and the next few words that rolled out of his mouth at the first solid thrust that took his cock up to hit Jared’s prostate, for anything in the world.

“Holy shit!” Jared obviously wasn’t a virgin, hadn’t been since he and Jensen had been together the first time ten years ago, but he couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt anything like that. “Do that again?” he asked and swore if it had been possible, he would’ve melted at the low throaty chuckle Jensen gave him before he did exactly as asked. “Fuck! I’ve missed that,” he groaned, biting his lip as he found a rhythm to move that matched Jensen, “I’ve missed you.”

Jensen almost didn’t catch those softly whispered words, his focus entirely on making sure each move of his hips made sure to give Jared pleasure by hitting that spot inside him. He could feel Jared’s grip on his shoulders getting a little weaker and had been working on picking up his pace when he heard Jared whisper that little admission and Jensen had to swallow the sudden lump in his throat.

“I missed you too, Jay,” he returned in the deep husky voice that shook just enough to show how real the emotion was.

Keeping his weight on one arm, Jensen used his free hand to brush Jared’s sweat soaked hair out of his face to give a slow smile while gently easing the leg that was still over his shoulder down to the bed. In response, he immediately felt Jared try to wrap both legs around him as if to bring him even closer in his need for release.

“I love you, Jared,” Jensen said before meeting Jared for a heated kiss, drawing on his bottom lip while giving another solid thrust of his hips, hitting Jared’s prostate fully. Just as he was about to tell the clearly strung out young man that he could touch himself to help him come if he needed to, he felt Jared’s inner muscles clamp down around his cock. His name was shouted on a half gasp at the same time hot come hit his stomach and chest as Jared came for the second time that day.

Watching Jared as he worked through his climax, Jensen tried to hold his own back in order to give Jared time. But he was losing that battle and finally gave one more thrust and let himself fall over the edge with Jared.

Jared’s ability to focus was rapidly fading from the unexpected force of his second orgasm. He hadn’t been expecting it to be as strong since it hadn’t been that long since his last one. He knew he was going to crash. He struggled to hold his eyes open to watch Jensen’s face this time when he felt him jerk, saw his eyes lock on his, and then felt the warmth filling him. Jared wasn’t sure who moaned, him or Jensen at the feeling.  

“Jen…” he gasped, as a gentle touch of fingers met his cock to help him milk the moment for all it was worth. As if he knew, the moment it became too sensitive to touch, Jensen let go and leaned closer to kiss him slowly this time, just a loving kiss that Jared returned until his body finally gave out on him.

The arm holding him up was starting to shake from the effort of keeping most of his weight on it while he’d helped stroke Jared’s softening cock before he heard the soft whimper that told him it was time to ease off. Sliding his fingers away, he kissed Jared again but this time slowed the kiss down. He kept the heat out and just gave him the love that he felt when he glanced up in time to see a flash of white a second before Jared’s body went limp under him.

“Jay? Jared?” Jensen felt panic for a brief second while struggling to work past his own climax to check on Jared, worried that perhaps this had been too much after everything else he’d put him through that day.

He’d just started to push himself up with plans to ease out of Jared when he caught a relaxed, sleepy and sexed out smile on the younger man’s face. Realizing, with great relief, that Jared’s breathing was deep and steady, Jensen guessed he’d finally just been knocked out and would sleep it off.

Once his body relaxed, his skin starting to cool, he eased out of Jared’s body, resisting the urge to just stretch out and follow Jared’s example to sleep and recharge. He padded to the bathroom that was off his bedroom to grab a warm cloth. After wiping himself quickly, he moved back out into the room to clean Jared free of sweat and come, wishing he’d grabbed one of the suitcases he’d tossed in the back of the Blazer earlier so Jared might have something other than his jeans to put on when he woke.

For the moment, a sheet would do, and he covered Jared on the bed before quickly taking a shower and pulling on a pair of sleep shorts. Then he worked to pull the dirty comforter off the bed without waking Jared and found a clean one as a cover once he was finished. He crawled underneath the sheet and stretched out on the bed before pulling the new comforter up over them.

Jared gave a sleepy mumble that made Jensen smile, relaxing more than he had in years while fighting back a surge of raw, unexpected emotion that hit him the moment Jared shifted in his sleep to move closer to him. He held his breath as Jared’s head settled over his heart while a long boneless arm was slung over his stomach.

“Yeah, Jared, I’ll be here when you wake up,” Jensen murmured in response to the mumbled comment, pressing a kiss to the top of Jared’s head and wrapping an arm around him before letting his eyes close, plans already building in his head on how to keep the contentment he’d just found.


Chapter Text

Forgiving the Past, Finding the Future

Chapter Four

A steady heartbeat under his ear, the feel of calloused fingertips brushing gently through his hair before tracing his jaw, and the smell of coffee were what slowly began to bring Jared Padalecki back to reality and out of the pleasant dreams he’d been having. As Jared’s brain began to reconnect, he had to think of where he was, what he’d been doing. It suddenly clicked just as a familiar voice was heard speaking to him.

“You wakin’ up or should I start to worry that maybe something I did yesterday really did do some damage and just let Chad hurt me with a wrench?” Jensen Ackles’ voice had more of its Texas drawl than it had before Jared remembered crashing after his second hard orgasm. It also sounded calm but the huskiness of it is what pulled Jared fully back awake; he loved to hear Jensen’s voice when it was deep and husky like it was then.

Opening his eyes, he realized that his last memory had not been a dream after all and that he had actually made love with his ex-boyfriend and had fallen to sleep in his bed. Yawning, Jared looked up to meet bright green eyes. “Hey,” he mumbled, voice still rough from sleep. “I was half afraid I’d dreamed this,” he admitted while refusing to admit that the sound he made as lazy fingers trailed down his back almost sounded like a purr.

“Dreamed what?” Jensen asked calmly. He’d woken up about an hour ago to find Jared literally sprawled all over him. Instead of being annoyed, the Sheriff actually found that he enjoyed it.

He’d disentangled himself long enough to make coffee for them, bring it back to the bedroom, and slipped back between the sheets. He had to laugh when Jared shifted after feeling the warmth of Jensen’s body, back beside him until he was back where he was comfortable. Jensen was content to just let him sleep, lying still himself to consider what had happened the day before and what might happen now.

Watching Jared start to wake up reminded Jensen of the last time he’d had that pleasure and loved the boyish smile he got when Jared’s eyes opened to look at him. He couldn’t help smiling back and reaching to run his fingers through Jared’s hair.

“You... us. What we did,” Jared replied with a shrug, starting to move only to go still when his face was tipped up and a gentle kiss was placed on his lips. “It’s been a long time since I woke up not tense or worried,” he smiled as he returned the kiss, “It’s been a long time for that too.”

Jensen almost said something, but he wasn’t certain Jared was ready to hear it. He cleared his throat and flipped them to another subject, one that he felt might be safer. “Do you want to eat now, or shower, or…”

“I was a paid escort for two years,” Jared started talking, his voice soft but steady, “It wasn’t working the streets, but at the end I was letting people fuck me for money... so I guess it depends on how you look at it. My family could be right to call me a whore.” Jared glanced up to see Jensen watching him seriously. “I told you I’d tell you more about my life since leaving Paxton when we woke up. I… I also need you to understand things about me before anything else might happen between us or before I let myself fall any harder for you again than I have,” he explained, uneasy until he saw Jensen nod.

Jared took a deep breath, trying to decide where to start, how to say what he needed to say. He moved so his head was on the pillow, staring up at the faded ceiling. “I knew it was a mistake to go to Mom, to go to New York, as soon as I was there... but by then it was too late. I was still hurt, confused, angry and felt that I’d burned my bridges, so I applied to Columbia and was accepted. It wasn’t with the full scholarship like I’d been offered at San Antonio, but it was a plan.

“Mom was still trying to live the high society life she’d had while married to Dad. She’d already burned through the settlement amount she’d gotten from the divorce and was basically living on the monthly alimony checks. She’d moved in with her then boyfriend who became ex-husband number two shortly after I moved to New York and made no bones about reminding me I was on my own.” He felt the bed shift as Jensen moved but was surprised to feel him roll to his side to face him instead of sitting up or even getting up.

“I was eighteen and had just blown my chance for a full ride, and convinced myself it was a good idea to go to her since she’d been pushing to have me move to New York ever since she left Dad. I figured out quickly why Dad fought for custody. She just wanted me for the child support she could’ve demanded.”

Jensen had never cared for either of Jared’s friends parents, if he was honest, but it was easy to see how that had probably been what Jared’s mother was after. He also had no trouble seeing her refusing to help him when he needed it. Unsure what to say, he stayed quiet to allow Jared to speak at his own pace, reaching over instead to take a restless hand to hold it in his own.

“I hated New York,” Jared continued, squeezing Jensen’s hand once, “I hated the crowds. I hated either being looked at like some out of place hick or as an object, and that was from some of the people Mom hung around. I got a job bussing tables at a diner on the weekends and worked at the campus bookstore to afford rent at a cheap place that I shared with a couple girls.” Jared frowned slightly but glanced to the side to watch as Jensen merely sat still and listened. “The condensed version is in my second year, the new drama teacher began paying more attention to me. I was stupid and naïve because I thought it was because he really saw something in my acting.

“Two months later, the guy came on to me really hard. I turned him down, and when he increased his efforts, I dropped the class. I thought that was the end of it until a few weeks later when I was called into the Dean of Student’s office where I was informed I was being kicked out due to an anonymous person accusing me of stalking another student, of being caught doing meth, and cheating on a test. All of which they had investigated, of course.” He looked over at the sound of teeth grinding but Jensen’s eyes were still calm, despite the muscle on his jaw twitching. “I tried to fight it but the jackass had supplied a doctored video using voiceover of different ‘scenes’ he’d been having me read for him. I didn’t push for the rest of their ‘evidence’. Finally, I just decided college wasn’t for me and didn’t apply anywhere else.

“Mom was supportive. She said she knew I wasn’t smart enough to go far in college but she was still certain my body could get me into acting. The problem, of course, was the money to get there. She had a friend who knew someone, who knew someone, who was hiring for a job she felt certain I could do since it wouldn’t involve talking or- If you keep that up you’re gonna crack a tooth.” Jared had actually winced at the sound of Jensen’s teeth grinding together. “Should I take a break so you can vent or at least call my mother what I figure you want to?” he asked, sitting up but not tensing when Jensen didn’t let go of his hand.

Jensen was tempted to do more than call the woman every name in his head right then. He was tempted to see how much trouble a small Texas Sheriff could cause someone clear in New York, but decided to hold off until this tale was finished. “No, I’m good.” He saw the raised eyebrow but ignored it. “Go on. Go on, Jay. Tell me the rest before I decide to distract you by moving this sheet and blowing you.”

“That is so not fair, Jensen,” Jared groaned, grabbing a pillow to swat at Jensen with before putting it across his legs and hearing the low chuckle that move brought. “At first when I was hired it was just straight escorting little old ladies with too much money and pink poodles to boring parties, the opera, or the ballet. After the agency took their cut, I still made enough to pay rent, buy something more than rice and noodles, and was able to buy a bike to get around the city while looking for a real job. About six months later, I got the first of a new breed of client.”

It was hearing the tone in Jared’s soft voice change, the drawl that had just started to return vanish, as he spoke of the year and a half that taught him about another side of life that he’d never dreamed of or believed existed that warned Jensen to stay close. He knew that there’d be no light hearted teasing or fooling around after this.

By the time Jared told him in varying degrees of detail about both the men and women who would hire him, the things they’d expect their money to buy for them, what they asked him to do, it explained why he had fallen back into the habit of expecting to be cuffed or restrained in some way. Jensen was well beyond pissed off but doing his best to cover it. He could tell Jared was having a harder time speaking as it came closer to explaining about the scar on his back, but despite Jensen gently interrupting to say that he didn’t have to tell him anymore, the younger man insisted he did.

“You need to know it all.” Jared had gotten too on edge just sitting on the bed so while telling Jensen how he’d gone from a basic escort to a glorified hooker, he’d taken the underwear and jeans from the floor so he could be dressed as he began to pace the small bedroom restlessly. “You need to know so any decision you make won’t be based on who I was but who I am now.”

Jensen pulled his own jeans on but didn’t move from the end of the bed where he was sitting. He understood why this was important to Jared, but he also could’ve told him that his decisions had been made and nothing said now would change his mind. A cell phone sounded from the other room but Jensen ignored it and slowly closed the space between them to where Jared had stopped beside his cluttered dresser and seemed to be looking at the scar on his back and upper shoulder in the mirror.

“Tell me about them only if you want, Jared,” Jensen said quietly, stepping closer but making no move to touch Jared in case he was too deep into the memory of how he’d been injured. “Jay?”

Jared heard the concern in Jensen’s voice. He had to take a second to try to recall if even his own parents had sounded even half of that after learning of his injuries and the seriousness of them. Sadly, he knew they hadn’t.

“I’d already told the owner of the agency that I wouldn’t be resigning, but I just wanted to finish out my contract with them and then I was done. It wasn’t a popular decision; in that short span of time I’d become so numb and trained to bury myself in my mind during a ‘date’, making me valuable. They knew they’d lose money because very few male escorts would do what the rougher clients wanted without demanding higher prices; something I didn’t know was required for certain acts until the end.” Jared met Jensen’s eyes in the mirror, giving a slight nod that it was alright to come closer.  

“I’d gotten a job full time as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Greenwich Village. It didn’t pay a lot, but it was full time with insurance, and I’d be able to afford my rent without working as a hooker or wondering if that would be the night that some crazy would get past the agency screenings.

“I was one month from being out when I was assigned a repeat customer. It was an older woman whose idea of ‘kinky’ would scare even the hardest core Doms in the sex clubs. But from the first time we’d come to an agreement, there were certain things I would not allow and she never went past those lines. Until... that night, when she involved someone else.” He stopped and took a slow breath to settle himself back down, jerking at the sudden touch to his shoulder, then quickly reaching back to grab Jensen’s hand before it could retreat. “Don’t let go. I’m okay but… this is the first time other than to the cops that I’ve talked about that night.”

Jensen was struggling not to reach out to the shaken Jared and pull him into his arms. He held back but left his hand resting, comforting, on his shoulder. He bit his tongue to keep from interrupting in outrage as Jared started describing what happened. Jensen could easily picture the scene, and got angrier as Jared continued, surprised when he didn’t taste blood with how hard he was biting down.

“When she was finished, it was less rough, not as long as usual, so maybe I should’ve expected something was up. But I’d been having trouble focusing since dinner and I just wanted to leave. Then she let her son into the room, patted me on the cheek and told me to ‘be a good boy for her baby’, that there’d be a bonus if I didn’t make too much of a fuss.” Jared’s teeth were clenched but he was unaware that his fingers had clenched around the edge of the dresser while telling Jensen the rest. “Her son had been banned from using the agency it seems. I was told by the owner if he was ever around when I was with her that I was to politely excuse myself and to leave. No one would ever tell me why... That night I figured it out when the sadistic bastard beat the living hell out of me before fucking me. Then because I still fought back when the blades came out, he shoved one in my shoulder while slicing the other across my back.

“I’m not sure what happened after I passed out from the pain, but I woke up in the hospital with the cops and my boss there with a bunch of doctors. They said an inch more and I would’ve been paralyzed... As it was, there was enough damage to my shoulder to require surgery and then physical therapy for it and my legs for the next nine months.” His entire body shook as if trying to shake off the bad memories; this time he didn’t tense as Jensen stepped closer.

Jensen had listened and made mental notes of the names Jared had used. He had serious plans to do a check to be sure the asshole who’d hurt Jared, who could’ve done so much worse, was either still in a cell or dead. Right then though he needed to get the haunted look out of Jared’s eyes but when Jared kept his eyes trained down on the dresser, he suspected there was still something he needed to share.  

“That agency paid for everything, right?” Jensen asked while trying to figure out the best way to actually say and do what he wanted without scaring the crap out of someone he now realized hadn’t known a lot of actual care in years. “Did your mom or dad…”

“Mom and Dad were only concerned about berating me and calling me names. They said it was my own fault for whoring myself that I’d been hurt. To say I have very little to do with any of my family now would be an understatement and I mainly only came back now because Mom wouldn’t let it drop. And I wanted to… to see if you really were here.” Jared tensed briefly at the feel of gentle fingers gliding over the scar on his back, relaxing back against the solid weight of Jensen’s bare chest.

“The agency paid the bills as well as my rent and utilities since they knew they’d screwed up by not keeping tabs on the woman’s son, despite her claims he was in a mental hospital. They let me out of the rest of my contract and even gave me a huge bonus…  with the stipulation that I didn’t sue them.”

He smiled wanly as he heard Jensen’s next few words. “Yeah, I know... but by then? I just wanted to move on. So when I was out of therapy, I moved to upstate New York where I’ve been working in a little restaurant learning things and saving as much as I could.”

Turning now to face Jensen, Jared rubbed a hand over his face and was surprised to feel the wetness there. “So there’s my life. That’s who I am, and according to my parents, what I am. I should’ve told you all of it before we… umm, Jensen? What’re you doing?” he asked when Jensen’s lips curved slowly up into a half smile and he backed Jared up until he was sitting on the edge of the dresser. “You… I…”

“I’m debating on the best way to say what I want to without you freaking out or getting defensive on me,” Jensen began as he stepped close enough to box Jared in by using his legs on either side of his. He moved slowly as he took Jared’s face between his palms and asked said, “I asked you once if you were safe -- you said you were. I asked you if you were happy-- that got a different answer. Tell me what would make you happy, Jared.” He leaned in close enough to let his lips touch Jared’s face with light kisses. “Right now. Forget how things got screwed up between us, forget what happened to you, what would make you happy right now?”

“Starting over,” Jared replied without thinking but quickly shook his head, “But I can’t come back to Paxton, Jensen. I…” He gasped at the feeling of warm lips kissing him and his fingers slowly uncurled from the dresser to reach for Jensen’s hips. “I… I was offered a job in a restaurant in San Antonio. Head chef type of thing until I save up for my own place, but…”

Jensen smiled against Jared’s lips, moving them down to his neck while once again ignoring his ringing cellphone. “You’d move back to Texas?” he asked carefully, needing to be sure of this before taking his own next step. “You said--”

“I said I can’t stay in Paxton. I can’t because I know my father would make my life a living hell,” Jared responded, noticing a soft ringing but immediately distracted by Jensen’s mouth on his throat. “He’ll still try if I even move back to the state, but… but I’d be more willing to deal with it if I had something or someone to make it worth it,” he added with a shrug, nerves suddenly building when it hit him what seemed to be happening.

“Really? And if I said I might be able to arrange that someone or something, would that make you more prone to accept this job and move to San Antonio?” Jensen asked with a teasing little smirk. He started to move his one hand when suddenly a much louder ringing was heard and he shot a hateful glare towards a pile of clothes on the floor. “Seriously? Who the hell even knows this number?” he growled, starting to stalk towards the pile when he glanced back at a seemingly confused and wary Jared. “Stay put. We’re not finished with this talk yet.”

Jared hadn’t even been sure they were having an actual talk when he blinked at what he saw uncovered on the floor. “You have an actual landline telephone?” he asked with a playful smile, laughing when an old shirt was tossed at him. “Dude! Is that thing rotary?”

“Shut up or I’m not cooking you breakfast, Jared,” Jensen shot back but smiled as he did it. He’d missed the teasing and playful banter that had once been natural between them. Grabbing the receiver of the phone he answered and the tone he used on whoever was on the other end was not as playful.  

“What?” he demanded shortly, eyes narrowing to slits at the gruff voice on the other end of the line. “Kane, how’d you get this number since I didn’t give it to you and what the hell do you… excuse me? You’re where-- and they’re what? For what reason! ...Oh shit.”

Jensen had been thinking of just hanging up on his friend until he learned the reason for the call. Now he just wanted to pound his head into the wall. “No! No, do not let either of those damn old fools shoot anyone or themselves, and I’ll be there!” he snapped, squeezing the bridge of his nose in frustration. “And please, for the love of God, tell me that you did not hear of any of this through the grapevine or else I’m not only firing you but unfriending your ass! Kane? Chris? Son of a bitch!”

“What’s wrong?” Jared wasn’t going to ask since he figured it was town Sheriff business, but now as he watched Jensen stand with the phone still clenched in his fist while growling curses at his Deputy and muttering about ‘stupid morons’, he got more than a little curious. “Bingo ladies fighting over a rigged game again?” he asked lightly but was totally not expecting the answer he got.

“My sister ran off with the best man and your step-brother eloped to Vegas with the Maid of Honor. Oh, and our fathers are now facing off with rifles at the church.” Jensen turned after grabbing for a clean shirt and tossing Jared his from the floor while smirking and pulling the gaping man by the arm. “And you’re coming with me, so grab some coffee while I run down to the office to grab my badge and my gun,” he finished and left a still stunned and staring Jared to do just that.

Jared was still processing the first stunning piece of news before registering the other, bolting after Jensen once he’d pulled his t-shirt on. He caught up outside just as he was stepping from the Sheriff’s office with his badge in place and checking his pistol before shoving it into the holster he’d slipped on.

“Jensen! If I go out there I promise you that will just make things worse!” he argued but was forced to blow out a breath when Jensen merely stared at him. “This will be blamed on me, y’know. One of them will say our fighting caused the happy couple stress and-”

“I’m guessing the ‘happy couple’ has been playing the other for a good long while and finally got smart.” Jensen noticed the Blazer had been parked in front of the office so he nodded to the passenger side, halfway surprised that Jared merely glared at him with a sulk but got in. “Trust me, Jay. It’ll be fine,” he added while leaving the ‘I hope’ to himself.

The drive out to the local church took less than ten minutes. As the Blazer pulled into the parking lot it was both easy to see and hear the disturbance. Two pickup trucks were parked across from one another and both had holes in the doors were shots had already been fired. The Deputy’s car had been pulled between them and Jensen’s jaw clenched as he took in the broken windows and dents in it; the plan to stop the two shouting older Texan’s from shooting at one another had clearly failed.

Flipping on the siren on the Blazer to try to get attention, it was plain to see when it only garnered attention by a smirking Chris Kane and a frazzled Pastor, that Jensen’s idea of this being easy to sort out was most likely incorrect.

“Shut up, Jay,” he muttered before Jared could give him the response he knew was coming. He stepped from the Blazer, pulled his pistol, and shot it twice in the air. The sudden unexpected shots did serve to finally stop Robert Ackles and Charles Padalecki from shooting and shouting at one another.

“Hey! First thing, I want insurance information from you two because the town is not paying for the damage to that damn cruiser!” Jensen snapped, striding forward to grab the raising rifle and jerking it out of his father’s grasp. “This isn’t 1866 either! You can’t go having shootouts in the church parking lot, Dad! Chris -- get that gun off the other one before he shoots his own foot off or-” He stopped to whirl with his own pistol aimed when a shot hit a little too close to his boot. “Fire that weapon again and I’m hauling both your asses to jail, old man!”

Jared had stepped out of the Blazer but stayed back since he was unsure what to do that wouldn’t ignite the situation more. However, when he saw the bullet hit the dirt near Jensen’s boot and realized his father had actually aimed it there, he started to move. He only froze when green eyes shot his way, telling him to wait.

“This doesn’t concern you any, boy!” Robert Ackles snapped, trying to get his weapon back, glaring furiously when it was tossed to Chris who had already collected the other fuming man’s rifle.

“You two are shooting rifles in the church parking lot! At each other! There are broken windows in my damn cruiser and one of the church’s stained glass windows has been shot out!” Jensen shouted furiously, trying to ignore the anger building already that his father wasn’t seeing him as the local law but as someone to be ignored because of who he was. “I’m the Sheriff! Respect the badge if not the son you disowned, Dad!”

That seemed to stun the glaring older Ackles, so taking the time he had, Jensen shot Chris a weary look. “Details?” he asked, hearing the gravel crunch and knew even before he saw both older men’s looks change that Jared had approached. “Official and what the rumor mill at the beauty salon has been filling you in on that you never warned me was happening.”

“Officially, from what the Pastor told me happened, he arrived to open the Church for the rehearsal later but no one other than the parents of the bride and groom showed up.” Chris leaned on the hood of the cruiser but Jensen knew he wasn’t really relaxed. He was prepared in case he had to move quickly, eyes moving to keep then aimed between his friend, the two feuding old men, and a wary Jared while the nervous Pastor just paced and muttered about his broken windows. “Two hours later after ignoring many, many phone calls, Dylan answered to say he and Mindy, your sister’s best friend since grade school and Maid of Honor, were halfway to Vegas to get married and will be spending two weeks in Italy on a honeymoon.”

“Huh,” Jensen grunted, tuning out the shouts of his father across the gravel to Jared’s father about stolen airline tickets. “And the other half of this equation?” he asked curiously. “Where’s Lisa and… Wasn’t the best man some bodybuilder jock from LA?” he asked and saw both Jared and Chris nod. “Well, that makes sense why she’d pick him,” he muttered, eyeing Chris curiously. “How long have Dylan and Bendy Mindy been seeing one another?”

“Jensen!” Robert snapped while Jared’s eyes got bigger. The Pastor choked but Chris merely grinned. “Your sister’s friend comes from a respectable Christian home and--”

“About a year or more according to Mavis at the salon who got all the good gossip as Lisa and her BFFs were getting their hair and nails done weekly,” Chris interrupted, debating on the best way to drop the next loaded bomb into the mix. “According to her, the whole dating, courtship, and wedding between Dylan and Lisa was a put up job they arranged in order to get what they both wanted without having the usual huge parental fight. They knew exactly what would’ve happened if Dylan said he wanted to marry the daughter of the town butcher and Lisa just wanted the hell out here by going with some stud out of LA.” He waited for the expected fathers to slow down the next round of shouts, insults, threats, and curses before glancing at Jensen. “Oh, and then there was the other reason they faked their engagement, as if those other reasons weren’t enough.”

Jensen was having a hard time deciding between arresting the now shouting men or shooting them both. He regretted bringing Jared with him when it seemed his warning about being blamed was about to come true when Charles Padalecki finally zeroed his rage in on his son.

“Did you know your brother was dating someone other than the Ackles girl?” he demanded, furious that this was happening as well as unwilling to admit that someone else could be at fault.

“Step-brother,” Jared corrected automatically and then shook his head, “No, I’ve barely talked to Dylan since I got back. That’s why I wasn’t sure why Mom pushed for me to come to the wedding or why I was even invited.” He rolled his eyes while hoping most of the bitterness didn’t come out in his voice. “It’s not like we’re one big happy family, Dad.”

“Well, maybe we’d still be a family if you hadn’t gone off track when you moved to New York and sold yourself like some cheap two-dollar whore!” Charles shouted angrily, unaware of when his son went pale and when Chris suddenly moved to catch Jensen’s shoulder just as he started to turn.

“Back off and cool down, Mr. Padalecki,” Chris urged, thinking he should’ve handled this on his own without involving Jensen. “I think if there’s no more shooting, and you and Mr. Ackles agree to pay the Pastor for the cost of the window--”

“And the broken windows in the cruiser,” Jensen interrupted, shrugging off the hand on his shoulder while moving more toward Jared to keep between father and son. “Though technically firing those rifles within city limits is an offense... so hauling them both in still sounds good to me.”

The senior Padalecki was roughly the same height and build as his son, but working a ranch gave him a little more muscle, a fact that he’d used to his advantage nearly all his life and was used to getting him his way with most in the small Texas town.

“This doesn’t concern you! This is a private matter between Ackles and myself, boy!” he snapped, reaching past Chris to shove Jensen back a step. “If I want to involve the law I’ll put a call out to a real Sheriff or the state cops. Not a hot shot who got that badge cause of his daddy’s money.”

“Okay then, I’ll just step out of this now.” Chris decided and moved back out of the way of whatever happened now while seeing the way Jensen’s whole body language changed. “Badge, Jensen. Remember the badge,” he called out warningly as his friend turned slowly, fingers twitching in a way that told the Deputy that Jensen either wanted to swing or pull his weapon.

The badge pinned to his shirt was all that was keeping Jensen’s temper reined in. But not by much. The hand that touched his arm next did more to hold him back as he heard Jared murmur something to him about it not being worth it.

“Actually, my old man didn’t want me to have this job and tried his best to buy off the Mayor and the council so I wasn’t hired as Sheriff,” Jensen replied, voice tight but steady when he spoke to the older man. He stepped closer to the glaring man while ignoring his own father. “And so long as this badge is on my chest, you two shooting at each other, busting windows, and acting like spoiled brats does concern me. Now, step the hell back and watch what you call Jared or the next thing I do is cuff you both and let you cool off in a cell.”

Being spoken to like that clearly took the senior Padalecki by surprise. He’d become accustomed to most in town respecting him like they did the older Ackles’ as well, so to have someone he viewed as beneath him refuse to bow down, much less defend his own kid, irked him more than he was by recent events.

“I’ll speak to my so-called son any damn way I please, Sheriff ,” Charles returned, the sneer evident in how he stressed the title. “You might wear that badge but that don’t mean anything to me when I can own this town. If you knew anything about that boy there you might not be as quick to defend him! Now, get the hell… ugh!”

Jensen grabbed the arm that had just gone to shove him aside as if to reach for Jared, twisting it roughly up behind Charles’ back while shoving him against the hood of the battered cruiser. He shoved his weight forward to pin the growling older man but it was the sound of his pistol cocking that seemed to have the desired effect when he felt him go still.

“Actually, I do know about Jared. In fact, let me tell you what I know about your son, Mr. Padalecki,” he growled, voice hard, low, and ice cold as he learned closer, putting more weight on the arm he had pinned. It was easy to ignore both the voices of Chris and his own father right then. “First off, I know that if you had given him half of what you’ve given Dylan or your other two step-sons, that maybe he wouldn’t have had to take that damn job in the first place. If you or his goddamn mother had supported your actual blood son, even just an inch, instead of condemning him or blaming him when he could’ve been killed or left paralyzed, maybe you’d realize what an awesome, wonderful, caring, and talented man Jared is. Now let me tell you what else I know…”

Jensen paused. Taking a deep breath, he yanked Charles around but kept the pistol aimed steadily to force the man to stay leaning back on the hood of the cruiser. He kept his free hand pressed solidly to his chest. “I know that ten goddamn years ago if my so-called jackass of a friend hadn’t tricked Jared, lured him away from where we were supposed to meet, beat the crap out of him while telling him a bunch of lies about me, that I would have taken your son the hell out of this town.”

“Oh crap,” Chris groaned, trying to keep an eye on all involved parties while digging for his phone to punch in a number. He noticed how shocked Jared seemed by what was going on, by what Jensen was saying, but it was more the two older men as well as the clearly stunned Pastor that the Deputy tried to keep in his line of sight in case things went worse than he figured they were about to.

“Hey! Lose the wrench or whatever tool you’re using right now because I’m deputizing your ass, Murray. Get out to the church on Lawson Lane ASAP. I’ve got two pissed off old men with rifles, two mad-as-wet-hens women inside the church, and Jensen just basically outed himself. I need backup!” he snapped to the sputtering mechanic before pocketing his phone and deciding who to intercept first.

“No, to correct you just now, I did just out myself officially in case my wonderful parents hadn’t already spread it around that their only disgrace of a son and the town Sheriff was homosexual.” Jensen smirked having heard his friend’s call while watching as realization dawned on Charles what was being said even as his own father was snapping at him to stop his nonsense. However it was more the other voice, the soft, stunned voice he heard behind him that told Jensen he was making the right choice when he looked down into Charles’ face one more time.

“Jared and I were supposed to meet the night of graduation at the clock tower in town. We’d been seeing one another steady for a while then.” He paused to slide his gaze over to his red-faced father, lips curving into the smirk he used that he knew pissed people off. “You got angry because I refused to go to Texas A&M? I chose Austin because of Jared. I chose to fail my senior year because of him. I loved him and I was giving everything up for him until lies and hatred got in my way.”

Dropping his eyes back to Charles, he saw the man’s mouth start to open and merely stared at him until he stayed silent. “If I had known what had happened to him that night, if I had known before yesterday why he ran from here, from me, if I had known where he was or what the hell was happening with him, I would have gone to New York for him even though he believed those lies and hated me.

“You made up your mind to write him off when he wasn’t the son you wanted. You did the same thing my dad did when I stopped toeing the line. Well, here’s some news you both can take and choke on: I still love that wonderful, loving, intelligent young man standing over there probably hyperventilating at what I’m saying. I told him that yesterday when we made love -- stop choking Kane! -- I told him that this morning, and I will tell him that every day that he gives me the chance to.  

“Now, so long as I wear this badge you had better never let the word ‘whore’ come out of your mouth in regards to Jared or I will shove this gun someplace anatomically incorrect and you will not like it.” Jensen gestured with his pistol to stress his point before slowly stepping back to look between both older men as if daring either to say something to him. Then he turned from them to meet Jared’s wet, glittering, hazel eyes.

Shoving his pistol back in its holster, he could could just barely make out his mother’s high piercing voice shouting from the door of the church over their father's resumed, angry arguing. He ignored every other person around them and walked to where Jared was standing as if frozen to that one spot.

“Okay, I probably should’ve talked it over with you before spilling that to our fathers and probably anyone else inside with good hearing, but I also meant every damn word, Jared.” He rubbed his suddenly damp palms on his jeans before reaching for Jared’s hands, seeing they were shaking as much as Jensen feared his were. “I loved you back then. I never stopped loving you. I love you now and… if you’ll let me once you’re settled either in San Antonio or anywhere else, I will love you always,” Jensen said, voice thick with emotion while meeting and holding Jared’s eyes. Their fingers meshed as he chose to add one final thing. “I love you, Jay.”

“What’d I miss?” Chad Michael Murray had just pulled up in his tow truck, stepping out just in time to catch the last half of Jensen’s emotional admission and how close to tears Jared was. Behind them, their fathers were growling at each other and at their sons who seemed oblivious to everyone else right then. “Do you owe me money or do I owe you money if this is what it looks like it might be?”

Chris gave a rude gesture at the same time as he bolted forward to head off a furious Robert Ackles. “I’d rethink whatever you’re planning on doing or saying because right now you could get off with a few charges including, but not limited to, shooting up a church and a Sheriff’s car. But if you, either of you, open your mouths to either of them right now, and Jensen gets pissed off again, I won’t promise what’ll happen,” he warned while glancing back to see his friend had placed a hand on Jared’s face and they seemed to be talking quietly to one another.

“Mr. Ackles, you knew for years, despite ignoring it or trying to cover for her, that Lisa’s been sleeping with half the guys in this town under forty. Not including Murray, of course, who was probably the only smart man living here and avoided her like the plague,” Chris went on while Jensen was distracted.

“Dude! Jensen owns a gun and knows how to use it! Plus he’d kick my ass if I ever let Lisa actually get anywhere every time she’d bring that fake car in for an oil change,” Chad snorted with an eye roll, adding with a grin, “I’m surprised he never shot you.”

“Shut up, Chad, or I might shoot you!” Chris hissed, wincing as he heard his name shouted. “Yeah, Jensen?” he asked with a cringe, “I thought you were busy with the kid.”

Jensen’s eyes were still on Jared but he’d long since learned how to multi-task. He’d also learned how to keep one ear open around him at all times despite appearing not to be paying attention at all. “Did you sleep with my little sister, Kane?” he asked, seeing Jared’s eyebrow lift curiously and giving a smirk in return.

“I’m pleading the fifth on that, Ackles. Go back to whatever you’re doing. I’ve got this handled now.” Chris didn’t think it would be that easy and figured he would end up bleeding sometime but right then was trying to keep any of the parents from reigniting a very short fuse. “Everyone in this town knew Dylan was hot for Missy but her father hates you, Mr. Padalecki, so would’ve never given permission for him to date, much less marry her.”

Charles started to open his mouth only to shut it when his wife hauled off to hit him with her huge flower printed purse. “Let Christian speak, Chuck!” she snapped, nodding to the Deputy to continue.

“Dylan wanted Missy. Lisa wanted anyone who could get her the hell out of Paxton since it’s been plain for years that she wanted more than the ranch life in a small Texas town, settling down to raise kids like her folks were planning.” Chris hid his smirk at the muttering Robert Ackles was doing and hoped Chad and Jensen would keep their mouths shut. “According to Mavis, the deal was pretty simple: Lisa would help Dylan get with Missy, arrange for the elopement to Vegas, and give them the tickets to Italy that would be given to her for a honeymoon present if he’d do two things for her.

“The first was to hook her up with one of his friends from California which explains the sudden appearance of the bodybuilder as the best man, and…” He stopped to consider this next comment when he decided to throw caution to the wind. “She wanted him to get Jared back to Paxton.”

“Huh?” Jared hadn’t been paying too much attention up until right then when he heard his name mentioned. “Why would…” He glanced down at the feeling of Jensen’s fingers squeezing his and saw his crooked smile as things began to come together. “Oh.”

Chris shook his head but seeing the parents still weren’t catching on, blew out a breath. “Lisa knew Jensen was sticking around Paxton just waiting for a chance to make it right with Jared over that mess Welling caused to happen. She figured if her and Dylan faked a marriage and Dylan pushed to have Jared invited, he would come back and maybe her brother would finally get to do what he wanted. Possibly more,” he explained, shooting his friend a dry smile.

“Ahh, so that explains Lisa’s comment the other night about me still getting to marry an Ackles sometime soon.” Pastor James Grey had been watching the events that unfolded around him since the first rifle shots were fired earlier, focused on the hard faced parents as they glared at each other, but it was the young Sheriff and Jared that drew his attention now. “And that also explains why she chose my church to have their marriage in instead of the one her uncle runs on the other side of town.”

“What? What are you saying?” Robert Ackles demanded when it finally sank in. “No! Absolutely not! I will not stand here why you suggest that my… my only son marries some-”

“You disowned me a long time ago so you don’t get to pull the indignant father act now, old man,” Jensen shot back as he started to turn, only to stop when Jared caught his arm. “And my warning not to call Jared another name goes for you and Mom as well as the Padaleckis.”

Jared was still getting over the shock of what Jensen had done, as well as learning that his step-brother had actually done something for him for once despite it being a condition to getting what he wanted. He was aware how on edge Jensen still was and how easily another fight could break out, so he was trying to encourage Jensen to just let Chris deal with the rest of it. Then, of course, Chad decided to open his mouth.

“Hey Jaybird! Why don’t you and Jensen just save time and get married now?” Chad called with a laugh, stepping back to avoid a huge purse that was aimed at him and the upset shouts of Jensen’s mother and Jared’s father. “The Pastor’s here, Kane and I are here, and I’m sure Chris has enough pull down at the courthouse to get a license pulled together if he sweet talks the clerk there that thinks he’s a ‘stud muffin’,” he nearly choked on the last word and dodged something thrown at him.

Jared was staring wide-eyed at his friend, shocked that he’d even suggest that given how close to bloodshed their parents were. Hoping his face wasn’t as red as he feared it was, given the friendly old Pastor was nodding right along with a gleeful Chad, he went to apologize to Jensen. He stopped as he saw him eyeing the church before turning and meeting his eyes. “Jensen, I… Chad’s not… Jensen?”

Jensen knew Chad wasn’t serious, knew that it was his way of distracting the furious parents or inciting more trouble, he wasn’t certain which. He did see the Pastor nodding and considered something his sister had told him last week when she stopped by the office to lecture him on sidestepping Jared.

"You love him, you hate Paxton. You won’t move on until you fix this mess with Jared. I got him back here so you could. Now fix it, tell him, hope he forgives you so maybe you guys can be happy someplace else! Because if you stay here… this place will kill you one way or another, Jensen."

Seeing the worry in Jared’s eyes when he turned back to him, Jensen considered it another second before reaching into his pocket for an item he’d carried on him for ten years. “Would you want to?” he asked, hoping his nervousness couldn’t be seen or heard despite the fact he thought he could hear his own heart. “I mean, we’ve both changed in ten years but… would you want to?”

“Would I want to what?” Jared’s brain was shutting down. He blinked a few times as he followed Jensen’s gaze to the church and then back. He swore his knees were shaking when he realized what Jensen meant. “Marry you? Oh God,” he whispered, shocked but quick to grab Jensen’s hand when he mistook his response as a negative. “Yes. God, yes, but…”

Taking a breath, Jensen ran what he’d pulled from his pocket around in his fingers before slowly lifting his eyes to see Jared’s gold and blue flecked eyes were wide with more caution than he liked. Jensen understood that regardless of what happened in the next few moments, full trust would be something to be rebuilt over time.

“You know that night of graduation... leaving town, starting a life together in Austin, wasn’t the only thing I planned on giving you,” Jensen began slowly, letting his nerves settle while his voice dropped to the low, husky tone that was all emotion and usually all for Jared. “I’d been planning for two months and going over in my head that whole night while I waited for you on what I’d say when I did this…”

Jared’s heart was slamming into his ribs and his legs nearly buckled as Jensen moved. Before Jared could ask anything or let his mind catch up, Jensen dropped to one knee on the gravel, a ring held up between his fingers. “Oh my God. You’re serious?” He thought he heard himself ask while the roar of other sounds and voices from near them faded from his ears. Only Jensen’s voice mattered to him.

“This isn’t the speech I’d practiced and I’m winging it, literally, since I know this is asking you to give a lot of trust really fast as we rebuild what we lost,” Jensen began carefully, praying he wasn’t making a mistake or pushing things too quickly. “And I’m not saying we have to get married today… though we could… but I just want to say, I love you Jared Tristan Padalecki. I love you. I want to marry you. I want to toss this badge at Kane and start over with you whether it’s in San Antonio or Nome, Alaska. I just want to be with you, Jay. If you want me,” he went on and then could only hold his breath as Jared’s eyes filled with tears.

Chris had been distracted by shouting Ackles and Padaleckis so he’d lost track of what was happening behind him until he heard Chad calling him. “What?” he growled, vowing he wasn’t actually going to shoot any citizens but was quickly losing his patience. “Didn’t I deputize you over the phone to help me clear these people out of-- What the hell did Jensen just do?” he asked after looking to where a grinning Chad was pointing.

“Ummm, I think you might need to call your new girlfriend at the courthouse and beg for a really huge favor for a really fast marriage license.” Chad hadn’t been serious with his original suggestion, but now as he’d stood with the Pastor to watch the two clearly in love men and Jensen go to one knee, he’d do whatever it took to see it happen.

“Yeah, it kinda looks that way.” Chris wasn’t sure to groan or growl at this turn of events, stiff arming Robert Ackles before he could storm past him with plans to interrupt the moment. “I will haul your ass off in cuffs if you open your mouth, Ackles,” he growled, glaring at both men. “Neither one of you give a damn about your sons, so my advice? Go home, get drunk, vent to whoever will listen, but leave Jensen and Jared the hell alone. Jensen! Did you just ask the kid to marry you?” he asked over the shouts and insults being hurled as two battered pick-ups and two sets of disgruntled parents drove off unhappily.

“Yeah, I think I did,” Jensen replied without moving his eyes from Jared’s face, starting to fear he had rushed things when all the younger man did was stare at him.

“Did he accept or is he going to faceplant on the gravel?” Chris decided to try to break the shock Jared was obviously before letting Chad do it.

Jerking at the sudden question, Jared blushed for a second before slowly giving into the trembling of his knees and sinking to the ground to offer a slow dimpled smile while giving a nod of his head. “Yes, I want you and yes, Jensen Ackles, I’ll marry you,” he said and then laughed when he was tugged forward into Jensen’s arms after the man released the breath he’d been holding. “I love you, Jen,” he whispered against Jensen’s neck.

“I love you, Jay.” Jensen heard his voice break, knew there were tears on his face, but didn’t care. All he cared about was the man currently in his arms and that after so many years of heartache, they had a chance to face and heal their past while building a future.

After slipping the ring onto Jared’s finger, surprised that it actually fit after so long, he caught Jared’s face between his palms and kissed him deeply. But this kiss didn’t hold heat; it held promises of a life to come.

A whistle from behind them, as well as some non-subtle mock gagging and Chad complaining about bleaching his eyes again, had them breaking apart. Jensen relaxed as he heard Jared laughing. Standing with Jared’s hand in his, he shot a glare to their friends before looking back at Jared.

“What do you or when do you…” he started to ask when once again Jensen was reminded of just how easily Jared could surprise him.

Jared had been doubting a lot of his choices for the last decade, but the one choice he had no doubts about was the one he’d just made while Jensen had been kissing him. Coughing to clear his throat, he glanced around before offering Jensen his best dimpled and happiest smile and then looked at their friends. “So… let’s have a wedding.”


Chapter Text

Forgiving the Past, Finding the Future

Chapter Five

Five Years Later: 

“I cannot believe you did this… again!”

“Why not? I warned you I would if I had to.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t seriously think you’d actually do it! What the hell am I going to tell the kitchen staff that saw it?”

“Tell them the truth! That it’s our five year wedding anniversary and your impatient husband wasn’t letting you work through it, so he arrested your ass… again.”

With a sound that was a cross between a groan of frustration and desire, Jared Padalecki shook his head to toss the hair out of his eyes since his hands were currently cuffed behind him. “Yeah, I could... except most of them know my soon to be ex-husband left the police force last year after scaring me nearly to death by getting himself shot. Next suggestion?”

“Well, you could tell them that your wonderful, loving, handsome husband who loves you more every day has a kinky side you never knew existed, if that helps.” Jensen Ackles grinned while reaching one hand over to brush the hair back out of Jared’s face, letting the back of his knuckles skim down the side of his face, and felt the light touch of warm lips when Jared turned his head. “And I’ll even offer to wash dishes next weekend to make this up to you since you won’t let me wait tables anymore.”

“Jen, the last time I let you near customers you arrested one and had another couple in tears! So no, you are not allowed to wait tables,” Jared replied with an eye roll, ignoring the snort he heard from beside him. “Marta might not even let you in the door after this stunt. Where’re we going? Our place is the other way.”

“It’s a surprise and Marta knew what I was planning to do so she’d already called for backup to make sure the restaurant wasn’t short-handed.” Jensen heard the sharp inhale and decided it was a good thing he’d left the cuffs on for the moment or else he figured his husband of five years might have throttled him.

Five years. It still amazed Jensen that after so long of being alone, of the lies that had originally tore them apart, that he and Jared had actually been married for five years.

They didn’t actually get married that day he originally proposed, despite Jared being okay with the thought. They waited another month to actually exchange vows and rings since Jensen insisted on buying an actual set of wedding bands.

Jensen’s choice of marrying Jared wasn’t well received by his family. Nor was Jared’s any happier with his decision to accept Jensen’s proposal. There was no family present at their small ceremony, instead they were surrounded by friends. Chris Kane kept vowing to veto if Jensen resigned as Sheriff, but that decision had also been made the day he asked Jared to marry him.

“Jared’s been offered a job in San Antonio. I won’t put either of us through the hell of a long distance marriage and Chris, you know now I could never stay here,” Jensen had told his griping friend later that week after turning in his resignation to the Mayor’s office. “My parents would force a confrontation that would cost me that badge, or his family would, and I’m not willing to lose him again like that. I put in a couple applications for a couple police departments in San Antonio and close to it. You’ll be fine as Sheriff until the Mayor can find someone else… and don’t let Chad be Deputy. He’d shoot his foot off.”

After ten years apart, the men found out quickly that while some things had changed in their personalities, others had stayed the same. While there were a few disagreements and tense moments that made Jensen wonder if Jared wouldn’t end up regretting his choices, he was happy to see that while Jared was still quiet, he also was determined.

“I let my doubts and fears chase me away from you, away from what we wanted, once before. I’m not making that mistake again,” Jared had said one night after a near altercation between Jensen and one of Jared’s step-brothers had left both men on edge. They’d ended up snappish over a silly little thing like who was supporting who until Jensen found a job in their new home city. “I’m scared out of my mind that I won’t be able to handle this chef position, or I won’t be a good partner for you, or you’ll get bored, or… I hate that smirk and you know it!” he’d complained when he saw that Jensen’s scowl had turned to a slow smile. “I don’t want it to look like I can’t carry my own weight in this marriage, Jensen.”

“Sweetheart, this place wouldn’t have offered you head chef if they didn’t think you could handle it. You can handle anything you set your mind to. If not, you wouldn’t have survived the hell you went through in New York,” Jensen had reassured the nervous young man while shrugging off his own nerves, reaching out to lay his hand over Jared’s heart.

“I love you, Jay. Yes, we’ll have fights because I still want to protect you, and it might take us more time to get used to one another, but I will never get bored with you. You are a source of never ending surprise to me, Jared. And I know our life together will not be boring and one day you will have that restaurant of your own,” he declared, adding, “We’ll make it regardless of what anyone here might say. It took us ten years to get here, to be together again. We’ll make it. I promise.”

And they did.  

At times, Jensen knew they both had doubts; moving to San Antonio was new to them both and while Jared had a job waiting, it was a little harder on Jensen to not have a steady job or a steady income already in place.

Their first apartment was a little bigger than the one over the jail in Paxton, but it was close to the restaurant where Jared worked so he could walk and Jensen could drive his truck once he was hired on with the local County Sheriff’s department.

It was a jarring change for him to go from Sheriff of a small town to a Deputy Sheriff in a big area, but his experience paid off as he quickly was able to prove himself to his superiors and moved up in status and rank. It also surprised Jensen the difference in the types of crime and violence he now saw. Crimes that he knew existed but hadn’t had to deal with in Paxton now became almost a daily occurrence to the point where he started to seriously doubt his career choice.

“There are other ways to be in law enforcement and the justice system other than being a cop, Jen,” Jared remarked one evening after he’d come home from a long day of learning that being head chef meant a lot more than just cooking and giving orders to a few other cooks.  

He found their small apartment nearly dark as Jensen sat with an open but untouched bottle of whiskey in front of him and his uniform shirt on the floor, covered in blood. The bottle of aged whiskey had been a wedding present from the saloon owner and Jensen had graciously accepted it, even though he knew Jared wasn’t much of a drinker, hardly ever drinking more than a beer or two.

“Some drunk jackass with a chip on his shoulder stabbed his girlfriend in front of her child all because she wanted to go to some night classes,” Jensen had explained once Jared had settled down thinking the blood was Jensen’s. “Earlier today we were called in to help the local police arrest a bunch of drug addicts and not a damn one of them were older than eighteen, Jay. Maybe staying in Paxton isolated me too much.”

“No, you care too much and you want to help people but sometimes you just can’t,” Jared told him while sitting beside Jensen and just letting him talk until finally he fell quiet. “There are other ways to help, Jensen. I know you love your job, but promise me if things get too bad or anything really happens, that you’ll consider one of the other options. I can’t lose you to this job or the darkness that it can bring if you let it eat you up inside. Promise me, Jen,” he added quietly.

Finally sitting back on the sofa, Jensen eased his arms around Jared to just hold him and draw strength and comfort from this man who loved him and that he loved so much. He heard the unspoken worry in Jared’s softer voice and knew he was concerned. “I promise,” he murmured, kissing him slowly before adding to reassure the doubts he could still see in Jared’s eyes, “I promise I’ll look into other jobs and I promise that you will not lose me because of this, babe.”

The couple settled into San Antonio and their lives seemed to relax and go smoothly. Jensen never fully adjusted to the increased crime or the degree in which people just seemed to hate and hurt one another, but he slowly learned how to deal with it and not bring it home with him as much. Times that he did were when Jared was always there to help him cope.

In the four years that followed, they had ups and downs like any couple. They had simple disagreements and actual fights but always made up either the same night or by the next day. Never once did Jared ever worry about being hurt during one of those fights because he knew Jensen would never raise a hand to him in anger. The one time their sex had gotten a little rougher than usual, and Jensen saw bruises on Jared the following morning, it took Jared an hour convincing his apologetic spouse that he was fine and, like he’d told Jensen once before, he didn’t want treated like a doll.

The biggest fight they’d had came when Jared was given the opportunity to buy out the owner of the restaurant where he worked. Jensen wanted to give him the funds out of the money he’d been saving while working in Paxton rather than Jared getting a loan. It seemed reasonable to Jensen, but not so much to a stubborn Jared.

They’d had an actually shouting, almost screaming match that morning before Jensen had finally stormed out to go to work. It was only as Jared was walking the block and half to the restaurant that could be his with just some financial risk, that he realized this had been the first time since their marriage that Jensen hadn’t kissed him goodbye as he left.

It was a simple thing the Texan knew but something about it bothered him. It bothered Jared a lot more when Jensen didn’t stop by for lunch like he always did, hadn’t called or even returned any of the texts a worried Jared sent over the long day and into the night.

“Your husband offers you money to buy this place and you want to turn him down?” Marta Valdez, the petite but fiery older Hispanic woman who had been hostess of the restaurant since it opened nearly thirty-five years earlier stood in the kitchen to glare at him after Jared had finally told her what had happened earlier with Jensen.

“Mi higo, I love you like my own blood son, so that is why if I could reach that head of yours without a stool I would slap you!” she said while doing the next best thing since Jared towered over her by more than a foot and a half; she took a skillet and used it to hit him in the arm. “Jensen loves you. He wants to see you happy. He knows you love this place and we all love you or else I wouldn’t have told Jorge to offer it to you.”

Jared knew he’d been sulking all day. He knew he’d snapped at the staff more than usual to the point the still present owner had growled at him to settle down or he’d put him in a timeout. He was surprised to learn that Marta had been behind Jorge offering the place to him, but right then he was too busy rubbing his throbbing arm to do more than yelp.

“Hey! Give me that before you break it! Or me!” He grabbed the swinging skillet while blowing out a breath. “I think I screwed up, Marta. Yeah, the missed kiss bugs me but… he’s not calling back or he didn’t come for lunch and… the last thing my father said to me before Jensen and I left Paxton was I’d never be anything and would end up using Jensen.”

Marta let loose in a string of rapid Spanish that Jared couldn’t understand but he did think she might have called his father a few unnatural names. “This man, this man does not know you, my Jared. You are a good boy. You are a proud boy. But sometimes you have to know when to not be so prideful and let your husband help you!” She stared up at Jared’s worried eyes and finally smiled, motioning him to bend down so she could take his face in her hands. “Let Jensen help you, Jared. Let him give or loan you this money so you can own this place. Do this for me or I will not cook for you on Sundays until you do.”

“Great, blackmail me with food.” Jared rolled his eyes smiled wider than he had all day as he nodded. “Fine. As soon as I can talk to him or get him to talk to me I’ll see how he wanted to work it. But if I’m a huge failure and we end up living on the streets, I’m blaming you!” he told her with a teasing smile, hearing his name being called from the front of the restaurant.

“Bah! You cook too well to fail. Or if you do, I have plenty of room. I’ll take my two favorite boys in on the condition of none of that kinky hot sex I bet you have.” Marta laughed as Jared’s face turned blood red.

“Nope, nope, no talking about hot sex or any kind of sex around you!” Jared decided to try to call the Sheriff’s office as soon as he got this last order out when he looked up to see Jorge in the door. Something about the usually stern face man’s now concerned expression had an icy knot forming in his stomach. “Sorry for the delay on that steak dinner, Jorge. I’m getting it…”

“Jared, let Mick take over the kitchen. I need you to come into my office, son.” the restaurant owner glanced to Marta before stepping aside to allow Jared to see the grim faced Sheriff that was standing there. “Something’s happened, Jared.”

“Where’s Jensen?” Jared demanded, body frozen as he tried to follow the words being given to him but nothing seemed to be gelling inside his mind except for what he was not being told. “Yeah, I got it. Undercover operation. Six week investigation. Raid gone bad. I got all of that. Now tell me where the goddamn hell my husband is!” he’d finally shouted into the Sheriff’s face, unaware that he’d even grabbed the man by the front of his shirt until Marta was there, shoving her way between them. “Where is Jensen?”

“He’s been shot, Jared,” the grim faced older man replied, reaching out quickly at the same time as Jorge was grabbing for Jared when his legs buckled. “Jensen was covering a civilian, a young mother and her child who’d stumbled into the firefight by accident. He took his vest off to try to protect them, but before we could get to them he took two bullets to the back and one to the side. I’m sorry, son.”

The rest of what was said was all white noise to Jared. He barely had a clue how he even got to the hospital or most of what the doctors and nurses said to him as they tried to explain about Jensen’s injuries even after nineteen hours of surgery.

He recalled the words ‘punctured lung’ and ‘possible paralysis’ but the rest were clinical terms than he could barely grasp. All Jared understood right then as he sat in the waiting room with Marta beside him and several of Jensen’s fellow officers, was how close to losing Jensen he was and that the last words between them were angry ones.

It was another twelve hours before he was finally allowed to see his husband. Jensen remained unconsciousness for another three days; a fact that scared Jared even though the doctors all seemed confident that he’d heal and they’d managed to fix the damage the bullets had done.

Sitting beside Jensen in the hospital, Jared held his hand while talking to him about anything he could think of. He rambled about them buying the restaurant and the changes that he thought might work to update the place to a more family friendly but still fine dining place to eat. He did not mention to his unconscious spouse the end result of deciding to call and tell Jensen’s parents of his injuries, since Jared was still shocked at the cold response Robert Ackles gave. It was when he ended the call that Jared understood why Jensen had told him, except for their few friends that there was nothing left in Paxton for them.

It was on the third day of sitting beside Jensen’s bed that an exhausted and terrified Jared finally let the walls he’d put up to hide his fear and worry crack as the first tear fell onto the hand he held tightly. “You promised me that this damn job wouldn’t cost me you,” he said, voice low, rough from days of talking and a steady supply of bad hospital coffee. “You promised I wouldn’t lose you. You promised me, Jensen! Don’t you dare leave me like this!”

Jared’s voice cracked on a sob that was the start of a break he couldn’t shut off. He wasn’t sure how long it was before he realized not only had he been sobbing in between broken words, but his tears had been falling on their joined hands.

Softly admonishing himself for the break, Jared started to let go to grab some tissues when he froze at the feel of stiff fingers attempting to close around his. “J-Jensen?” he stared at the weak fingers before tear filled eyes shot up to see long lashes starting to flutter on pale cheeks. “Jensen? Can you hear me? Are you… no, never mind. Let me call the nurses!”

Panic was now setting in that perhaps Jensen shouldn’t wake up without an actual doctor or nurse in the room. Jared went to move to hit the call button, but stopped when he saw Jensen’s lips moving. No sound escaped and Jared watched as his eyes struggled to open for the first time in days.

“Jensen, don’t try to talk yet. You got shot and you’ve been unconscious for days so just stay still and…” Jared debated on going to get a doctor or reaching for the glass of ice water beside the bed when he saw the first fleck of color as Jensen’s eyes parted enough that he could see the green of his eyes. “Jen… God, I thought I was losing you,” he whispered, wiping at his face and once again saw Jensen’s lips move This time Jared leaned closer and caught the words, words that made him nearly break into tears again.

“… No-not… losin’ me.” The words were whisper soft and halting as Jensen fought the pain he found himself in to soothe the fears and tears that had helped to pull him back to partial consciousness.

Jensen wasn’t sure of much right then as he struggled to make his eyes stop swimming so he could bring Jared into view. He thought he recalled them fighting over some money, he recalled the raid going bad, and then his panic when he’d seen a woman and child about to be in the crossfire. Jensen thought he recalled pain and then all he thought about was someone telling Jared so he wouldn’t worry if he didn’t call him back right away.

Now as he dragged himself out of the darkness at the sound of Jared brutally sobbing and calling to him not to leave him, Jensen guessed he was injured a lot worse than he originally thought. The pain was intense and he didn’t think he’d be conscious long, so once he pulled Jared’s pale, haggard face into view and finally felt his fingers close around his, Jensen worked on saying what he had to before he faded again. “…Llove… love you, Jay.”

Jensen’s injuries were serious still but thankfully he recovered without being paralyzed. His right leg had been effected to the point that while he would get the strength back in it with months of therapy, it had been decided by Jensen that it was time for him to keep that promise to Jared. He resigned his badge despite being offered a desk position.

“Will you regret it?” Jared had asked one night after he’d helped Jensen from the shower as he still had moments when his legs would falter from the slight nerve damage one bullet had done. “Being a cop is all you ever wanted.”

“No. Doing something in that line of work so I could help people is what I wanted,” Jensen corrected as he dropped to the bed, pulling Jared down with him so he could roll him under him before his still worried husband could chastise him for not relaxing like he was supposed to. “Like you said once, there’s more ways to help than being a cop. I just have to find one that suits me or… I’ll find something else I can do that I like. But to answer your question,” he paused to catch Jared’s face between his hands and kissed him, “No. I won’t regret resigning because I made you a promise that the job would never take me from you. I realized while listening to the doctors explain the injuries, the results, and how long I’d be in therapy just how close I came to dying, Jared.”

Jensen brushed his fingers down Jared’s face to smile and slowly he caught the first hint of a dimpled grin forming. Jared leaned into the gentle touch, waiting for Jensen to continue.  

“I decided that I want us to grow old together. I want to see you build your dream of owning that restaurant and maybe a couple more to go with it. I want you, Jared. I’d rather wait tables or do dishes for you than risk breaking that promise to you.”

That had been a year ago. Both men had learned to adjust to the changes in their lives and while they still had disagreements, there was never a time that Jared left the apartment that he wasn’t kissed and kissed well.

After Jensen was out of the hospital and getting back on his feet, Jared did buy the restaurant despite still having fears about failing and wasting Jensen’s money.

“It’s our money and I have all the confidence in the world in you, Jared,” Jensen had said the day Jared signed the papers that put the business in his name. “You’ve worked so hard for this. I have faith in you, sweetheart. All you need is to have that same faith in yourself.”

Jared still had his doubts but after a year, his restaurant renamed ‘The Double J’, was popular and successful with both locals in San Antonio as well as tourists for its different cuisines and friendly atmosphere. Determined to keep it successful, Jared still tended to work the kitchen as much as he could despite having hired cooks and other staff that were capable of handling the crowds.

Marta had refused to retire or allow anyone to take over her duties, so she still ran the front of the place with an iron glove while also giving her boss an earful if she feels he’s taking on too many duties instead of allowing others to help him. The fact that the feisty older woman had been yelling at him earlier that day before Jensen decided to pull his surprise visit to ‘arrest’ him should have warned Jared that something was up.

He knew it was their anniversary and Jensen had been acting uneasily sneaky the last few weeks but would just grin, kiss him, and say it was a surprise when he asked. He also remembered being told that if he even thought about working late that night that Jensen would come to haul him out of the kitchen one way or another. Jared just hadn’t actually been expecting the cuffs.

“Where’d you get the cuffs?” he decided to ask while noticing that they weren’t chaffing his wrists like he thought they would considering he’d been twisting them. “I thought when you turned in your badge and gun that you turned these in too.”

“I did. I bought those about a month or so ago at a little shop I discovered while working,” Jensen admitted, glancing beside him to see Jared moving a little more, guessing the cuffs now had been on long enough to make him nervous. With a light touch to his back to signal for Jared to lean forward he reached over to unlock the cuffs by pressing on the hidden switch he knew they had. “I bought a few things from that shop actually.”

Blinking in surprise, Jared stared at the trick cuffs he now held while realizing they were also padded for both comfort and safety. He ran his tongue over his teeth while stretching his shoulders and arms in the truck. “Jensen? Have you been shopping for sex toys without me?” he finally demanded and felt a warmth start to coil in his belly at the deep laugh from beside him.

“Yeah, I was. But you’ll have to wait to see what else besides the cuffs I bought. I left the toys back at the apartment.” Jensen flipped on the blinker to signal a lane change, taking a turn that in Jared’s sudden distraction of wondering just what else the man had bought, he hadn’t even seen. “I have different plans for tonight. Plans that I hope you’ll like.”

Slipping the cuffs into the glovebox, Jared smiled and reached out to let his hand rest on Jensen’s shoulder. “I’m spending the night with you so whatever you have planned I’ll like. Now where the hell are we?”

Jensen laughed at that since he knew Jared was patient only to a point and he’d probably about reached that limit forty-five minutes ago. “Patience, sweetheart. You need to trust me a little more than usual for this next bit,” he replied, glancing beside him to see Jared staring at him curiously. “I want to surprise you, Jay. If I ask you to close your eyes and don’t peek for a little bit, would you?” he asked.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, Jensen. What would I see?” Jared asked with a laugh but considered the request a second before finally nodding. “This better be one good surprise since you know I hate not seeing where I am,” he muttered but decided to close his eyes just to make Jensen happy.

Jensen had been working on this surprise for their anniversary for months once he decided against all the more standard romantic ideas he’d come up with and quickly crossed off. It took him longer to find the perfect location to spring it, and was glad he’d come out earlier in the day to prep as much as he could before ‘arresting’ his busy at work husband.

Glancing over as he slowed down to be able to take the path needed, Jensen’s lips curved up into a soft smile upon noticing that after closing his eyes Jared appeared to have fallen to sleep with his head pillowed on the arm he’d placed on the door. Parking the truck, Jensen shut it off and once he saw that Jared didn’t wake up from the lack of the engine noise he chose to let him sleep for the time it would take him to finish setting up.

He eased out of the truck, grabbed the items he’d packed carefully in the back, and got to work. Looking around to be sure it was all to his liking, Jensen went back to his truck to look in and smiled again at the relaxed, almost boyish face of the man he knew he would love for however long he had.

Tapping on the glass lightly, Jensen watched as Jared woke up and swore he would never get tired of seeing that first sleepy smile every time Jared woke up and saw him. “Hey, sleepy head,” he murmured, voice huskier than usual as Jensen was suddenly swamped with a rush of raw emotions.

Realizing he’d fallen asleep and must have been sleeping for more than a couple minutes, Jared felt his cheeks heat with some embarrassment that he’d actually fallen to sleep on their anniversary. “Jen, I am so sorry,” he started to apologize while reaching for the handle only to blink as the door was suddenly opened to allow Jensen to tug him out of the truck and into his arms with a deep and hot kiss. “Well maybe not that sorry if you kiss me like that again.” He grinned once they broke apart to catch their breath. “So where are… whoa.”

Jared wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting but what he saw when Jensen stepped to the side wasn’t anywhere close to anything his imagination could have thought up. He was both stunned and in awe of the sight in front of him and the work Jensen had put into setting it all up.

“What… what is all this?” he asked once he got the lump out of his throat, looking down as Jensen took his hand and began to lead him through a field of grass toward where he saw a good size tent set up under a grove of trees that had a dozen or more lit lanterns glowing to offer a soft glow.

Stepping closer, Jared realized with a sudden jump of his heart what this was and had to fight not to let the tears he felt burning his eyes fall when he saw the small creek and the blanket under the trees near a tent with some simple food and a bottle of wine with two glasses. “You…”

“I refused to take you back to that spot in Paxton because I didn’t want memories of that night of Welling’s screw-up to sour anything new between us,” Jensen began after he stood back to allow Jared to look the scene over and realize he was giving him the night of romance under the stars that he’d promised him once. “I’ve been looking all over the place for a spot that might work. When I was laid up and all I could do was Google things, I started looking outside of San Antonio until I stumbled onto this little place.

“That time Chris was visiting for the weekend and you had that huge reunion party to work, I had him drive me out to speak to the older couple who owned this field. I explained what I was looking for and why. I explained that I wanted to give my soon to be husband of five awesome years a night like I should’ve given him the first time I made love to him,” he went on, letting his voice drop lower as he stepped up to turn Jared towards him and gently brushed away the tears he found with his thumbs, following with his lips.

“Chris gagged a lot but the Saunders, who you’ll probably meet sometime tomorrow, thought it was the most romantic thing they’d heard since they were young and agreed to work with me in using the field.” Jensen motioned to the blanket. “I know it’s not a meal exactly and I swear to take you out to an actual restaurant this weekend but-”

“No, no, this is… this is perfect,” Jared interrupted once he got his voice back, dimples showing as he gave Jensen a bright smile. “I love this,” he said and then let his voice drop softer while moving into his husband’s arms, “I love you, Jensen.”

Smiling, Jensen eased them down to the blanket, fingers meeting Jared’s before leaning close enough to kiss him slowly on both cheeks, the corners of his eyes, and the center of his forehead before finally moving to his lips. “I love you too, Jared,” he whispered into the kiss but knew he had to pull back before he forgot to feed Jared. “Food first and then we can make out.”

“I’d rather we make out and save the food for breakfast,” Jared muttered just as his stomach reminded him that he’d actually skipped lunch that day and sighed while accepting a small finger sandwich that Jensen had held up.

“We need to eat to have strength for later, darlin’,” Jensen chuckled, opening the wine while slowly feeding Jared and himself a mixture of tiny sandwiches and bits of fruit covered in chocolate.

The air was warm that night as it blew lightly over them. Jared laid back in Jensen’s arms to watch the stars shine in the sky while the lanterns blew in the trees. The smells of damp grass, clean water and just fresh air reminded him of when they’d been teenagers first falling in love.

“Jensen?” he leaned his head back enough to see deep green eyes look down into his. “Make love to me?”

“That was my plan, Jared,” Jensen replied in the deep and sexy tone that only Jared ever was graced to hear. “This won’t be fast, Jay,” he warned while standing easily to pull Jared up with him. “Tonight, I plan to give you what I didn’t the first time in that old barn. I plan to give you the slow, gentle, passionate first time you deserved but I was too selfish to think to give you.”

Jared was already trembling from the kisses they’d been exchanging on the blanket. These words nearly had him melting but he managed to nod his understanding while silently hoping he had the patience to withstand the slow pace since he could already feel his body reacting to not only Jensen’s voice but also the closeness of his body.

Stepping into the tent after Jensen had pulled the flap aside, he had a second to blink and take in the fact that his husband had come fully prepared for this. There were strings of battery powered little lights strung up inside the tent to offer soft lighting while the majority of the space was taken up by the queen size blow up mattress that was covered in a sheet.

“I debated on rose petals but Chris threatened to have my head examined and Marta was afraid you’d get too emotional... so I settled with one rose,” Jensen spoke as he entered, nervous that perhaps he’d gone too far. “This is where you can say I’m too sappy and I’m treating you like you’re fragile again but… I don’t know how else to show you or say how much I love you or how damn glad I am that you came back into my life when you did, Jared.”

Understanding how difficult it was for Jensen to express his deeper emotions at times, even with him, Jared knew this night and everything about it was his way to speaking things that often might not get said or shown. He considered briefly saying something to lighten the mood but knew when he turned and saw the raw emotion, the love on Jensen’s rugged face, his best course of action was to merely hold out a hand, smiling when it was taken and held loosely.

“Promise me when we celebrate our 50th anniversary that we can do this?” he asked with a smile that grew as Jensen’s fingers began to unbutton his shirt slowly until it slid free from his broad shoulders.

“I promise, Jared,” Jensen replied after peeling his own t-shirt off over his head, meeting Jared’s mouth for a kiss that he worked to keep slow while gently laying him back on the air mattress. Once they were laid out, Jensen went to work on the jeans his husband wore so he could undress him with a careful precision that both men knew would be hard to withstand. “I’ll give you whatever you want for the rest of our lives. Tonight? Let me give you this.”

Jared didn’t trust his voice so he gave a nod and was rewarded by a brilliant smile that slowly turned into a hot and sexy smirk as Jensen began to slowly make love to his body before even starting to open him for what turned out to be a night of slow but passionate love making that left them both spent, exhausted, but happy.

The last climax, Jared had lost count of how many Jensen had managed to give him, knocked him out for the longest time he could remember. When his sexed-out brain reconnected, he saw that he’d been wiped off and dressed in a pair of soft sleep pants, covered in a light blanket, with Jensen holding him.

“Hmm, shower sex with toys when we get home?” he asked sleepily, turning more into Jensen’s arms so his head could find the one spot that he preferred to sleep on. He was still half asleep, body nearly boneless but happy as he heard Jensen’s low throaty chuckle wash over him while long fingers carded back through his damp hair before gliding down his arm in a familiar soothing motion.

“You are still so one-track minded about certain things, babe.” Jensen was exhausted but he pushed himself to stay away until Jared was asleep. As much as he loved seeing his first smile upon waking, he loved watching the boyish innocence his husband still had when he first fell to sleep as well. “We’ll see. But I can promise you sex with toys before the weekend is over. Oh, and I might’ve told Marta you wouldn’t be into the restaurant until Monday,” he decided to add lightly, waiting to see how asleep Jared was when he felt him go still but one eye pried itself open to try to stare at him. “She said if she saw you before Monday then there was something wrong with me and I should see a specialist.”

Snorting a little at picturing the older woman saying those exact words, Jared debated waking up enough to argue about leaving the restaurant in someone else’s hands for an entire weekend when he felt Jensen’s fingers move to his back. He considered a weekend of nothing but Jensen and take-out food and decided he’d risk some financial loss if it meant seeing Jensen’s smile every time he woke up from sex.

“Okay,” he finally agreed in a mumble, eye drifting closed again. He was soon falling into a comfortable sleep with the sound of Jensen’s heart under one ear and his husband’s voice speaking softly about maybe buying a ranch, but he ignored that as being asleep and hearing things. “Love you.”

“I love you too, Jared,” Jensen smiled. He watched until Jared was still, his breathing deep and steady to know he was asleep fully before letting his own body relax into sleep.

Jensen looked forward to being able to give Jared many more years together as well as many more nights of romance like this. “I just have to survive telling him that I did buy this place and now he can have the herb and vegetable garden he wanted for the restaurant… along with cows and chickens and maybe some horses.”

Finding the perfect field for his night with Jared hadn’t been all Jensen had found when he stumbled on the Saunders’ little ranch. He found something that he felt would allow him to still follow his own dream of helping people. He just had to convince Jared he hadn’t lost his mind.

“You bought a ranch. You bought this ranch. You bought this ranch that has a very nosy cow. Tell me again, now that I’m fully awake and don’t have a baby cow drooling on me, why?” Jared had woken up still in Jensen’s arms, a position he would have happily stayed in until a noise made him open his eyes, look over, and then nearly jumped a foot off the air mattress with a startled shout that woke Jensen and annoyed the small looking cow that had made its way into the tent sometime during the morning.

Now Jared was sitting at an old kitchen table being served a massive breakfast by a matronly looking woman with snow white hair and a happy smile while staring at his sheepish looking husband.

“Ed and Adele, they’ve run a program with the county that helps troubled kids or kids who might not have a place to go after school or on weekends,” Jensen began his story again, understanding that Jared was right to be skeptical but could see as he ate and listened to him that he was also wavering in his decision that he was crazy. “After I talked to them about borrowing their field for the night, I saw the For Sale sign. I knew you’d been talking about getting a bigger place, maybe outside the city so you could build a garden or herb thing to have fresh stuff for the restaurant, so I started talking to Ed.

“If they sold it to someone they’d have to end the program. I talked to some people in the county who handles the professional end of it and because of my experience in law enforcement, it wouldn’t be that hard for me to become certified to be allowed to keep the program open.” He paused so he could reach across the table for the hand that was already reaching for his. “You once said there were other ways than carrying a gun and working the streets as a cop to help people, Jared. I can help people, kids, who might otherwise end up like some of the ones I had to arrest or worse.”

Setting his fork aside to focus only on Jensen, Jared could see how much this meant to him. He’d known since he stopped working after his injury that it still bugged Jensen not to be doing anything or anything that he viewed as worthwhile.

“You stood by me, you took a lot of risks by helping me get my dream, so I can’t do any less,” he said while turning Jensen’s hand over in his so their palms touched and reached over to let his other hand lay against a stubble covered cheek. “You gave me my dream in helping me open my own restaurant so I’ll be with you as you help kids… but that cow has got to learn some boundaries,” Jared added with a dimpled smile a second before Jensen laughed and then pulled him closer to kiss him.

Jensen wasn’t sure if Jared would agree this soon but knew when he made the joke about the cow that he was okay with this choice. “Thank you,” he whispered in his ear, “And yeah, I’ll make sure all the animals stay in their assigned places or at least no cows in the bedroom.”

Jared opened his mouth to retort to that when he suddenly stopped, thought, and smiled his best smile. “Jensen? Can we have dogs?” he asked and was already deciding what kind when Jensen laughingly said they could get as many dogs as Jared wanted or could care for.

It turned out that by the time their sixth anniversary rolled around, the couple had four dogs, three cats, several smaller animals that the kids in the program helped tend to, as well as several horses and cows. Jared built a greenhouse and had a garden that he was surprised also attracted a few of the teens to and began to show them how to plant and care for the things they grew.

Jared still worked the afternoon shift at the restaurant but always came home to Jensen and their brood of animals, including one cow that still met him every evening when he drove up.

“Thank you,” Jensen said one evening after Jared was done lecturing the cow about escaping the pen and had settled on a porch swing that Jensen had hung up with some expert phone help from Chad.

“For putting up with that cow?” Jared rolled his eyes but rested his head on Jensen’s shoulder as they settled in to listen to sounds that Jared hadn’t realized he’d missed hearing at night on a ranch. “You’re lucky I love you.”

Pressing a kiss to the top of Jared’s head, Jensen smiled. “No. Thank you for coming back to Paxton and for giving me another chance, for letting me fix my mistakes. Thank you for loving me, Jared.”

“Thank you for still wanting me, Jensen.” Jared placed the hand with the gold wedding band over Jensen’s heart when he felt it taken and held as they both finally settled that their past had been healed and now they could continue to let their future grow.

The End

Art post by white_laurel