Mac’s flip-flops slapped the dark grey rocks as she ran, tide lapping at her heels and stinging in the shallow cuts on her ankle. Big Bob and his stupid tourist traps—didn’t he know she wasn’t a stupid malihini? She’d been coming here alone since she was seven and a half, so that was a long time now that she was nearly eight. Any other day she’d look in the surf for something gross to leave on Bob’s doorstep. Like a tuna. A big rotting tuna so maybe he’d think twice about stringing up barbed wire where you couldn’t see it.
The waterfall slid from behind the curtain of leaves sheltering it from view, soft hush of spray getting steadily louder as she outran the waves. She stuffed the tough end of a ziplock between her teeth as she flattened herself between the rock face and the harshest push of the water, slipping behind it into the cavern beyond, crawling on her hands and knees to the tiny shrine she’d built to the Kupua. Carefully emptying the ziplock into her hands and then stripping the warm offering of its coverings, she placed it on the rock and sat back on her haunches.
“Okay!” she called into the darkness. The ceiling dripped. “We’ve talked about my parents, and I know you feel bad about that, so I won’t yell at you again. But this is for my brother, okay?” Gravel was digging into her knees, but she was careful to keep still. “So don’t you take him, too. Alright?”
She waited just a moment to see if there was an answer, but there never was. She was used to it, used to sometimes finding last week’s offerings untouched and kind of moldy—it wasn’t about if they took it, it was about if you left it.
“Enjoy your hot pocket!”
Mac barely managed not to break an ankle leaving—Jensen was so gonna kill her, she was so late—so she didn’t hear the soft snuffling from the darkest corner of the cave. Or see the scuffed and bloodied fingers that closed around the pastry with a quiet trill.
“Well, do you know where she might’ve—Mac!”
“I’m here! I’m am, lookit, I’m here!”
The knots in Jensen Ackles’s stomach didn’t let up when his baby sister skidded to a stop, her hair in a wild ponytail their mother would’ve pitched a fit about, but not as much as she would’ve objected to scratches on Mac’s ankles. Jensen caught one of her prettier classmates giving her a sniff of disapproval for them, or maybe for the dirt on her clothes, and the discomfort spread to his ribs.
Mac hadn’t exactly been Little Miss Popular before the accident, but Jensen was starting to realize that she might not be making friends at all. Or keeping the few she’d had.
“It’s your fault!” She stopped to kick ineffectually at his shin, and he winced at yet another pair of trashed sandals. “You ate the last hot pocket!”
“Mac, you can’t do that,” he hissed, dropping down into a crouch as she collapsed onto the school steps. “Skipping class? Huge no-no. But actually crawling out a window while class is still going on—“
“’No-no?’” she blurted, then pouted so hard he had to fight back the urge to squish her lips together like when she was littler and thought he’d made the stars out of mango ice cream. “Jensen, the Kupua—“
“Mac,” he cut her off, exasperated and just. So damn tired. “There is no such thing as K—“
“Shut up!” she screeched, leaping to her feet, eyes wide. “You wanna die too?”
Jensen froze, trying to remember how to breathe as a couple teachers looked their way. “Mac,” he said, “that’s—“
She shoved him, fifty pounds of pissed off sister knocking him on his ass before he knew she was moving. She took off faster than he could scramble upright, bony legs sprinting her out of sight behind a row of plumeria shrubs running along the main road.
“At least she’s heading towards the house this time,” he muttered, running after her with his blinders on.
So he didn’t see the gigantic mass of muscle until he’d nearly dislocated his shoulder slamming into it.
The muscles were stuffed into a black suit, blond balding head shaved into a buzz cut, bottomless sunglasses perched on a slightly burnt nose and a completely expressionless face. Jensen snapped an apology and sidestepped, but the suit moved to block his way. “Excuse me,” Jensen bit out, trying to get an elbow around the guy to move him out of the way.
“What do you mean,” Mr. Muscle rumbled, his buzz cut looking particularly threatening, “’this time?’”
“Um, none of your fucking business,” Jensen informed him, quietly in case the teachers had an ear turned their direction. He jerked his arm out of the way of Muscle’s grasp—“Seriously?”—and shoved past the lolo to get to his sister, thanks so fucking much.
He had to stop a couple times to pick up the remains of her flip-flops so they wouldn’t litter. No matter how many years they’d lived on Maui, the people of Hana always kept a special eye on the malihini-Ackles. Especially since…yeah. Especially since that. It was a small town, the last undeveloped one in Hawaii according to the tourist brochures—so yeah, close knit community. Lots of room for outsiders.
Who the hell’s business was it for some actual malihini—because Jensen knew every last soul in this town at least by sight if not name, so he knew a newbie when he saw one—to butt into their lives?
Well, besides the social worker dropping by in half an hour. Fuck.
Jensen sprinted across the driveway and tore up the stairs, cursing his fair skin every time his legs flashed their freckles below his shorts, the faint pink of his arms clashing with the flowery salmon-colored material of his obligatory work shirt. Mac had it so much easier—she browned in the sun, sometimes to an absurd degree if he didn’t make her lather in sun block like he did. Sometimes they didn’t even look like siblings. Sometimes he got skeezy looks from people wondering why a guy in his mid-twenties was wandering around with a girl not even out of third grade.
Maybe that’s what Muscles was thinking. Which was just…great. He loved looking skeezy around his kid sister.
“Mac!” he hollered the instant their rickety door caved under the shove of his shoulder. It stuck sometimes after a storm. Okay, it stuck all the time but especially after a storm. “We really don’t—Jesus Christ.”
“You swore,” Mackenzie sniffled from her post halfway up the stairs, ready to bolt again. Not that he would’ve had a hard time finding her, all he had to do was follow the blood trail.
“Mac,” he choked, “What the—What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” she protested, voice rising in what was promising to be a good wail.
“It looks like someone murdered a small animal in the foyer!”
“It’s my foot!” she snapped, shoving it straight out at him to show off the long but shallow cut along her instep. “It’s not my fault! I didn’t have shoes!”
“You didn’t have shoes?” a low voice rumbled from just behind Jensen, making him jump so hard he cracked his skull on the top of the doorframe.
“Sh—ow,” he switched. He didn’t curse in front of Mackenzie if he could help it, but—oh come on, didn’t Muscles have anything better to do than follow him home? Wasn’t his life fucking hard enough? “Okay, man,” Jensen growled through his teeth, instantly moving to block the way and Mac from view, “She’s my sister, alright? No need to call protective services or whatever, you can back—“
“I am…protective services,” Muscles said, eyebrow arching over his needlessly dark sunglasses.
Jensen felt cold. “…Yeah right.”
“You are Jensen Ackles. This is your considerably younger sibling, Mackenzie,” he rattled off in a deceptively bored drawl, “Your parents died in a car crash six months ago and I have been scheduled to meet with you on this day and time for the last two weeks. You have been given ample opportunity to provide a suitable reason for an alternate appointment and have failed to do so. Now that I am here, failure to permit entry and an interview with yourself and your sister will result in an immediate inquest, even more dire than the measures you have been subjected to thus far. And believe me, Mr. Ackles, your situation is dire enough.”
Jensen tried to keep his face blank, but his fingers were starting to ache where his nails were digging into the doorframe. “…You’re early,” he forced out after a moment, “by half an hour.”
“Sometimes,” the man hummed with a humorless curl to his smile, “half an hour is all it takes.”
“O…kay then,” Jensen said, trying his best to calm the fuck down. He cleared his throat. “Would you like to come in?”
“That would be the purpose of the mission, yes.”
Jensen bit down on a surge of soul-draining hysteria as the social worker lumbered through their door and instantly took in the state of their floor, red smears across the hardwood like some scene out of a horror flick. Then he shoved his game-face back on.
“Mackenzie, honey, you want me to take a look at your foot?”
Mac aborted a roll of her eyes at the nickname, but she said yeah as he climbed the stairs and held out her arms to be carried. Jensen swept her up and prayed very hard that this wouldn’t be seen as inappropriate touching or some other shit. If he didn’t hug her, who would?
Muscles lumbered heavily behind him, just in time to see the absolute disaster of their bathroom.
Jensen tried very hard to swallow his groan. He’d been up until two in the morning getting the house in order, and guess what? It’d taken ten minutes for an eight-year-old to make it look like the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in six months. She’d been looking for the bandaids, that was fairly obvious, but in the process she’d squished out half their toothpaste, knocked over the Listerine, and somehow found his so very rarely used and insanely well hidden (well, he’d thought so) bottle of KY, and dropped it in the sink, label on prominent display.
“Whoa,” he blurted, knocking their heads together as he held her one-armed to grab the lubricant and chuck it in the trash with a too-loud laugh, “I don’t know where you find these things, kiddo.”
“It was right next to your porn,” she supplied helpfully, and Muscles sucked in a breath. Jensen tried very hard to spontaneously be anywhere else.
“I’m really—“ he stammered when that didn’t work, “I don’t—I mean, I hide it! Hid it—I didn’t even remember—”
“Does your brother often inform you of his homosexual proclivities as well as deprive you of footwear and leave you unsupervised?”
“Hey, your knuckles say ‘Clif,’” Mackenzie pointed out a tad on the blatant side, but Jensen gave her knee a weak squeeze as he set her down on the toilet to let her know he appreciated it.
It went pretty downhill from there.
“Oof,” Mackenzie announced as they crash landed on the couch, Clif’s obnoxiously loud black Mercedes roaring down their driveway. She dropped her feet on the coffee table next to Jensen’s, and he could just make out the edge of one Paddington Bear Band-Aid from where he was never moving again.
Jensen grunted, maybe an agreement. Could people survive being thrown in a meat grinder? Felt like it.
At least Mackenzie had been spared the worst of it, off playing in her room while Clif gave him the verbal equivalent of a gangbang. Er. Or something not quite so… Jesus Christ, he needed to take bleach to the inside of his brain—apparently not saying anything that could be construed as adult content wasn’t enough, he had to stop thinking it, too.
No sex life that could in any way make an impact on her life, had been the general gist of it, but Jensen had resigned himself to celibacy pretty damn quick after his parents’ accident. He didn’t even really miss sex—or at least the complications that came with the getting of sex—and with an eight-year-old to look after, that was definitely a convenient feeling to nurture.
He was honestly expecting more sh—stuff about him being qu—a fa—gay, oh fuck it. Fuck this, he was trying so goddamn hard. Surely his parents hadn’t been this stressed, right? They did have the advantage of there being two of them, but single parents looked after multiple children all over the world on a daily basis; why was he failing so spectacularly?
Jensen’s plan to slip into a coma and die would’ve worked a lot better if there hadn’t been wiggling toes pressing into his ankle. He nudged her away once, twice, then gave up and mumbled, “So. That went well.”
“Uh-huh,” she drawled, suspiciously cheerful. Jensen snapped an eye open to look at her. “You know what that means!”
“Oh no,” he said instantly, trying to make his body run away and barely managing to turn sideways. “Mac, Mac, no. When I said it went well, I mean—it went really, really bad, kiddo.”
She scowled and half-heartedly thrashed her feet at him, adding some physical bruising to the mental. “You said! And I did my best—you promised, Jensen Ross Ackles!”
“Hey!” It came out a lot harsher than he meant it to at hearing his full name thrown at him, and her eyes instantly went huge and borderline tearful. “Okay, no, Mac. You do not get to use those eyes on me. Come on,” he prompted when her hands and her gaze dropped to her lap, dejected, and he tried to make his voice sound teasing, “no way was that your best, right?”
Wrong. Thing. To say. Mac burst into tears, hugging her legs up to her chest and burying her face in the skin bared by her cut-offs. For all that they’d been through, Mackenzie wasn’t a big crier—revenge yes, bawling no—and that meant she really had tried.
If that was her trying…shit. He really didn’t want to see what she’d do if she didn’t.
Jensen felt the last of his strength drain away with his sigh as he gathered her close to his side, looping an arm around her fragile shoulders and letting his cheek rest on the top of her head.
“You really want a puppy?” he asked, last ditch effort to make it sound weird.
She hiccupped, then shifted to look him in the eye. “Don’t josh with me, Jensen Ross,” she ordered in a perfect imitation of their mom, and he had to rough her manic hair so she wouldn’t see his face.
“Ugh. Fine.” He groaned, dragging a hand over his eyelids as she lit up, “But only—and I’m dead serious about this—only if you pay for pizza.”
“Okay.” She held out her hand for his wallet, pulled out a twenty when he forked it over, then gave both back. Easy as breathing.
“Okay, now, go get the phone.”
Mac shoved her foot in his face. “I’m gimpy!”
“God,” he groaned, letting her shove him off the couch, “I have to do everything around here.” He crawled laboriously into the kitchen just to make Mac giggle and leap onto his back.
“We’re in trouble, aren’t we?” she asked when they’d sprawled out on the kitchen floor, waiting for the phone on Jensen’s chest to ring for directions to their house.
Jensen tried to tell himself he wasn’t surprised by her anymore, and failed. “Nah, kiddo,” he lied, before he could realize it was sort of the truth. “It’s just me that’s in trouble.”
He was kind of hoping he’d be able to put off the dog thing for…oh…forever. Definitely until later than 7 A.M. on his one morning off.
“They don’t. Even. Open,” he grit out, grabbing her around the waist to fling her on the bed and smother her cackle of laughter with a pillow.
“You’re a lazy butt, Jensen Ackles,” she informed him, drawing his name into ten syllables and burrito-ing up in his covers until he didn’t have any. He (mostly) mock-growled and yanked them back, spinning her…off the bed.
“You okay?” he grunted when she stayed silent, figuring it was the brotherly thing to do.
“No,” she moaned piteously, flailing a hand over the edge of the mattress. “I’mma need a seeing eye-dog, okay? I did research,” she added, popping upright suddenly to tug at his hand. “These dogs, they like, they see for blind people and make sure they don’t walk into stuff and some of them even know sign language so it’s like, it’s like speaking dog, Jensen. So I want one of them.”
“They aren’t gonna have seeing eye-dogs at the pound,” he told her as she crawled back on the bed and tucked her head over her knees to stare at him until he got up—they had a routine. “And pound puppies are best.”
“Yeah,” she admitted slowly, “but I still want one that talks.”
“We’ll see what they have,” Jensen mumbled into his pillow, thinking maybe if they don’t have talking dogs… “After I get up.”
There were some faint clicking sounds Jensen should have paid more attention to, and then Jimmy Buffet was bitching in his ear that he don’t know where he’s a-gonna go when the volcano blows, and Jensen nearly cracked open his skull on the bedside table he fell out of bed so fast.
“How do you listen to this crap?” Jensen demanded, slapping his hands over his ears while he tried hard not to remember riding in the car with his dad, so little he had to look up at the steering wheel while his father tapped out the steel drum rhythm with his thumbs.
Mac giggled and launched herself at him, completely oblivious. “It’s not crap! It’s Jimmy Boo-fay!”
Jensen made a show of grunting as he slung her over one shoulder. “Weirdo. Why can’t you like High School Musical like all the other teenyboppers?”
“Put me down! Put me down! Stupid freak, you’ll drop me on my head!”
“You aren’t using it, are you?”
Mac screamed half-heartedly but thumped pretty damn mercilessly on his back as they teetered down the stairs.
Breakfast was a struggle, mostly because Mackenzie wouldn’t sit down long enough to eat anything, and Jensen was both morally and financially opposed to throwing out food. Finally, after an ultimatum or two, she gulped down the last of her cereal, even kept her pouting fairly quiet when he made her wear her hiking boots instead of going barefoot. The instant her laces were tied, though, she was out the door and down the stairs, dragging Jensen by a fistful of his grungy green t-shirt.
“We’re still early!”
“What if someone gets to our dog before us?” she shouted like he was even dumber than previously expected. “Move your big feet!”
Which pretty much meant he had to slow to a snail’s pace. It was like a rule. The instant she gave up and let go, he started running, and between the two of them it turned into an all-out race to the pound behind the police station on Ilio Street.
It was pretty run down, but Jensen had gone to school with the guy behind the counter—Tom, beautiful but dumb as a tub of boardwax—so he straightened up a little when they stumbled to a stop in the lobby. They’d dated for about a week in high school, not that Jensen was entirely convinced Tom remembered. Didn’t make him any less fun to look at.
“We want a dog,” Mac announced before Jensen could get the air to speak.
Tom looked a little surprised but said, “You’ve come to the right place, I guess.”
Maybe the previous metaphor was giving boardwax a raw deal. “Hey, Welling.”
“Hey…you. So you wanna…?” he nodded towards the room labeled ‘Dogs’ and Jensen tried hard not to widen his eyes too much.
“Yeah, thanks. That’d be great.” Seeing as Mac was already tugging him that way.
Jensen hated kennels. This was the part he’d been dreading most when he agreed to a pet, because the hardest part was going to be walking out of here with just one dog.
Or…not. Because…there really weren’t any.
Mac looked around at the empty cages, and then leveled her gaze at Jensen like this was his fault.
“Maybe they’re just back further,” he said, because honestly, there was never an empty shelter in Hawaii. With all the strays he saw running around, no way was there not one single dog in need of a home. And they were getting a dog from a pound, even if he had to borrow a car and brave the Hana Highway.
Just as he was about to give up and ask Tom if they were in the right room, Mac perked up, pulled free of his grasp and bounded down to the far end of the cage line-up, dropping into a crouch in front of something…something that had fur, but was not in a cage.
“Mac,” he warned, forcing his steps to stay cautious as he hurried over, “wait, Mac, we don’t—“
The thing crept out of its hiding place towards Mackenzie’s beckoning and baby talk. And it wasn’t…that bad. Actually, it was really kind of cute, in a bizarre, disproportionate way. Definitely a dog, and not like, some sort of mutant bear, which had been his first guess. Its head was bigger than the rest of its stocky body suggested it should be, covered in lightly tanned fur and darker bristles down its back, probably with some German Shepherd in there. Darker triangle ears flopped on either side of a pair of startlingly blue-grey-green-brown eyes made even more noticeable by the brown markings along its eyelids, and twin spots on either side of its muzzle made it look like the dog had dimples when it smiled at them—insomuch as dogs could actually smile.
“Um…” Jensen stalled, for no reason he could actually put his finger on. “Mac, I don’t—“
“You’re so pretty,” she crooned, her hands looking impossibly small as she reached to pet its head. The dog looked startled, flinched away, and Jensen had Mac in his arms faster than either of them could blink. “What did you do that for?” she demanded, jabbing her elbows at him as the dog let out a low whine. “Look, you scared it!”
“I didn’t—Mac, he’s not in a cage, we don’t—“
“You don’t know it’s a boy!”
He dipped them half upside-down to check, Mac’s ponytail swinging in his face and the dog looking more than a little perplexed. “Now we do.”
The dog wagged his tail.
She was squirming in earnest now, so he put her down before he lost an eye but kept a good grip on her shoulder. “Let me just—check with Tom, alright? He might not be for sale.”
“You’re such a grownup,” she griped, but let him pull her as far as the lobby, if only because the dog was following them just out of reach of her grabby fingers.
“Whoa,” Tom said when he saw the animal, “Where’d he come from?”
Jensen shot a long slow look at the room they’d just left. “What do you mean?”
“Oh hey,” Tom chuckled, waving a hand in front of his face, “Never mind, man. ‘M kinda baked this morning, yeah?”
“What were you baking?” Mackenzie piped up, and Jensen was going to kill him.
“Uhh…brownies,” Tom nodded vaguely. “Yeah. Hey, so you want him?”
“Mac,” Jensen said, folding down to her level—and consequently, the dog’s. Those big strange eyes met his over her shoulder, curious and baleful and something else, and he was really projecting, but Mac was mirroring most of those emotions herself. He let out a soft groan. “Seriously? This is what you want.”
“Yeah,” she said, like What planet are you from? as she looped an arm around the dog’s neck. He didn’t flinch this time, even leaned into her a little, and those were both really good signs. “He’s good. I can tell.”
The dog made a soft ‘roo’-ing sound, and Jensen was so fucked.
“You cannot skip class anymore,” he ordered, jabbing her hard enough that she’d feel it but not more than that, “Okay? For no reason, whatsoever. If you’ve got your Kupua thing on Fridays, wait for me and I’ll go with you after school, okay? And I’ll stay far enough that they can’t see me, alright? Deal?”
“Deal,” she agreed, giving his hand a good shake.
“And,” he added, holding her grip, “we both have to do better for the CPS, okay? That’s nonnegotiable.”
“Dude.” Her eyes rolled, but he held on until she said, “Yeah, okay, okay! Can we get him now? Please?”
“Yeah, that’s $68 dollars,” Tom mumbled when Jensen straightened up, and Jensen winced even though he’d been prepared for a lot worse. “And uh, get him spayed at some point, yeah?”
Jensen blinked. “You mean neutered?”
Tom shrugged, palms out. The dog whined.
He sighed and signed his name on the check, then again on the adoption forms, and heard himself ask, “Does he have a name?” before he remembered who he was talking to.
“Duh!” Mac huffed as the dog sat almost on top of Jensen’s feet and panted quietly up at him. “Kawelo!”
“Seriously?” Jensen asked, “What is with you and these Kupua things?”
“Don’t listen to him,” Mac told the dog—Kawelo—as she smooshed his face (Jensen kept an eye on them both in case the canine wasn’t digging it, but he didn’t seem to mind). “Kawelo was the most awesomest Kupua ever.”
Tom gave them a free collar and leash as soon as the papers were signed, and a big bag of dog food Jensen was sure looking forward to lugging home by himself. Mac got to hold onto Kawelo, which honestly went a lot better than Jensen was expecting—the big dog paced easily along between them while Mackenzie rattled off everything she wanted to show him in their house, where they could play fetch and how Jensen would take him running every morning (Jensen squawked indignantly and told the dog no way in hell was he getting up earlier than he already did, humoring Mac in the idea that the dog both actually understood them and gave a damn), and Kawelo seemed happy enough to get out of the kennel that he didn’t mind. Or whatever. Jensen was still wrapping his head around the fact that he had willingly signed on for another mouth to feed.
Speaking of which… Jensen stopped them next to a fruit cart parked at the end of a driveway on the way home, one working on the honor system. “Can you hold onto these and Kawelo?” he asked, and Mac barely stopped monologue-ing long enough to hold out her arms for the bunch of bananas, two mangoes, and a pineapple while Jensen slipped a five into the till. He wound up carrying the pineapple in his teeth before too long when Mac started wincing at the prickles on her bare skin, and Kawelo almost tripped over his own feet he was so busy staring. Dumb dog.
“Afirmative,” the for-all-intents-and-purposes-man sighed as he adjusted the focus to better view the trio headed to the beach, “He has achieved contact.”
“I love it when you say ‘affirmative,’” his companion hummed as he wriggled close enough to hook a leg around the other man’s hips under the ruse of spying through the same binoculars, “It’s much more positive.”
“Michael,” the first sighed, “I wish you would stop underestimating him. Perhaps he has a devious plan.”
“Misha,” the second mimicked, “he’s your crack baby. When have you ever had a plan that worked?”
“What is a crack baby?” Misha asked, frowning, but Mike only rolled his eyes then rolled away, offering Misha a hand up. “For a native you are not particularly helpful in explaining colloquialisms.”
“Dude,” Mike said, “do you want me to sit here explaining colloquialisms or would you like to keep an eye on your boy?”
The scientist blinked. “I believe I would prefer the second option. Though as to whether—”
“Alrighty then. And hey, I thought we talked about you dressing yourself. As in, you weren’t going to do it anymore.”
“You were gone quite early this morning.” Misha frowned down at himself. “Is there something inappropriate with the clothing I have on?”
Michael blinked, as if it was suddenly hard for him to speak. “Silver lycra is not…in this season.”
Misha nodded, hesitantly. “I will trust your judgment as you have lived among the humans for many years.”
“That’s great—really Misha, good initiative—but you don’t have to strip right now.”
They spent the rest of the day at the beach once Jensen dumped the dog food at home, packed them a lunch, and grabbed his board and sun block. Kawelo took a liking to Jensen even quicker than he did to Mackenzie, never going farther than five feet from him, even (especially) when Mackenzie threw sticks for him to catch.
"He might not be a stick dog," Jensen tried explaining at one point when she was getting frustrated. "He could just be a ball dog.”
“Then we will buy him a ball,” she decreed, and Jensen shot the dog a look.
"You know sticks are free," he pointed out. Kawelo even looked a little sheepish, which was kind of too adorable to stand. “You’ll put anything else in your mouth,” Jensen muttered, looking out at the sea. The dog wagged his tail and continued chewing on the end of their beach towel.
Jensen picked up his board and hollered for Mac to stay sharp as he slid out across the water, and part of him wasn’t actually surprised to see the dog paddling after him with a grace that he certainly didn’t possess flopping about on shore. He rolled his eyes and stayed in the shallows, not about to lead a dumb mutt out into the rolling waves of the surf.
“Go get Mac, boy, go get her,” he prompted, and no one was more surprised when the dog actually obeyed, albeit with what looked like a roll of its eyes. Kawelo bounded up on shore and over to Mac and her sand castle, waiting until he was within half a foot to shake off and drench her. She squealed and then shrieked when Kawelo took off with her plastic shovel.
Jensen snorted, letting a foot dangle in the water to keep from drifting out to sea while his sister and her dog tussled in the sand. The longer Kawelo was out of that kennel the more comfortable he seemed, exuberance growing until Jensen called him into the water again just to wear him out.
“Good boy,” Jensen praised only a little sarcastically when Kawelo met him. “Glad to see you know who’s boss.”
“I’m boss!” Mackenzie shouted over the waves, but Kawelo looked like he was smirking at them both, so Jensen flicked water at his face and started racing him to shore. (The dog won twice over, but he had four legs; what the hell did anyone expect?)
Jensen hosed them all off behind the Tiki bar he worked weekend nights at, Mac shrieking at the cold water and Kawelo snapping big mouthfuls of it out of the air. He made sure to fill a tub up for him before he tied him up, deliberately ignoring the crushed look on the dog’s face he was half-sure he was imagining anyway.
“But I want to stay out here with Kawelo,” Mac whined, and the dog gave an answering whimper.
“I don’t want you out here alone. And yeah, yeah, Kawelo would be there and how can I leave him alone blah, okay? I get it. I’m unreasonable. Come on.” Jensen nudged her along despite her protests, shooting the dog a glare over his shoulder. Maybe less of a glare than he meant to, because Kawelo looked so damn dejected it made his insides hurt.
“We got a new puppy!” Mac crowed before Jensen could open his mouth to apologize, bounding up to Ben in a way that said Jensen was going to have to keep an eye on her tonight if he didn’t want her sneaking out back.
Ben, a massive Hawaiian with an affinity for Jack Daniels and TV dramas, leveled Jensen with a look.
“He’s tied up—not gonna be a problem,” Jensen promised as he ‘scrubbed in’ (a Grey’s Anatomy terminology which had stuck) and washed the rest of the salt off his skin.
"Better not be. This ain’t your boarding house.” But he handed Mac her virgin lava flow—half strawberry daiquiri mix and half piña colada—and she settled in her corner behind the bar with her doodle-riddled homework, so Jensen took a breath and dove in.
It was pretty standard for a Saturday—or at least a Saturday off-tourist season, which meant more locals than malihinis slapping money on the syrup-sticky counter. Jensen poured and shook until his wrists ached, flirted when he had to, made small talk to the morose. Two guys lingered at the bar longer than most and Jensen tried to give them space—they were sitting a little too close to be buddies—but they were also a little too close to Mac’s corner for his comfort, even though there was no way they could—
“Hey, isn’t that your kid sister?” the one with a shaved head asked, tipping his glass toward the front door and turning away before Jensen could even answer.
Some guy was crouched down in front of Mac outside the bar, offering her a pink plumeria flower.
Jensen elbowed no less than ten people on his way to get to her, glass breaking in his wake as people stumbled and dropped their drinks. He could not give less of a shit, fury burning hot in the back of his throat by the time he caught the flimsy screen door and shoved it open, slam of wood making the man’s head snap up in a panic.
“Yeah, buddy, be scared,” Jensen snarled, striding for them.
The guy—probably younger than Jensen even, with huge soulful eyes and floppy brown hair (trustworthy face, Jensen’s brain spat)—stumbled back and almost fell before he got his bare feet under him, tearing off into the darkness. Of course, the instant Jensen started after him he caught a flash of buzzcut in the parking lot.
Black suit. Knuckles said ‘Clif.’ Jensen ground to a halt with the sheer effort it took not to scream, "You have the worst fucking timing," on top of fighting the fierce need to rearrange the floppy-haired guy’s features into something a lot less appealing to little girls.
“Mac,” he snapped instead, through his locked jaw, “what the hell?” He flinched and shook his head and Clif was heading their way, shit. “Heck. What the heck? What the heck, Mac?” The freak hadn’t even been wearing a shirt, for Christ’s sake, and his shorts looked suspiciously like the ones Ben had hanging up on his clothesline behind the bar. And the sick fuck was offering his sister flowers.
He didn’t notice until now that she was pissed off and tearful, trying to reach the flower dropped on the pavement despite the grip he had on her arm—not too tight, but he loosened his hand a little anyway.
“He was just being nice!” she yelled, punching at his hip and thigh, “He was helping me find Kawelo!”
Jensen felt like he’d swallowed a hundred poisonous toads by the time Clif reached them. He barely managed to get Mac behind himself, her body suddenly stiff with nervous vibrating tension as she realized who their audience was.
Clif shoved a hand towards the bar. “Is this really the environment you want your sister in?” he growled like a kick to the gut. Even deeper than that as Jensen realized Clif was just as angry, had probably seen Mac talking with a stranger a few seconds before Jensen had.
“It’s just for the weekend,” he said, trying to keep his voice level. “My regular babysitter is out of town.”
“You should have found a replacement.”
“It was last minute—and anyway, it’s a total tourist bar, she was perfectly safe—“
“—inside,” Jensen finished, words tumbling past numb lips. “I told her to stay inside.” He made himself breathe. “Look. I know we keep showing you the wrong foot, but we’re working on it, we are. We’re getting better.” He swallowed hard. “You keep…catching us at bad times.”
“Coincidence I can accept,” Clif bit out, too-white teeth clenched together, “but not at the expense of a child’s safety or wellbeing. This is two strikes against you, Ackles. It would be in your very best interest to make sure there isn’t a third.”
Clif asked Mac a couple questions to make sure she was alright, and even through the depressingly dark shades (that the man was still wearing at night, no less) Jensen could tell a disparaging look when he was getting one. Then Clif was gone, and Jensen numbly led Mac around to the back so he wouldn’t have to drag her through an alcohol saturated crowd. Kawelo sat up when he heard them coming, tail wagging guiltily because hoo boy was he not wearing his collar.
“What’s were you saying about the dog?” he asked, words coming out thick in his throat, and then Mac ripped free and ran to him, throwing her arms around his furry neck. He dimly noticed Ben’s shorts hanging lopsided on their line before he picked Mac up and carried her inside, ignoring her (honestly fairly half-hearted) protests as he put her back in her spot.
“You move again,” he warned, and let the sentence drag out. She nodded, jaw firm, cheeks still damp and the flower crushed in her hand. Jensen went back out and got Kawelo tethered again, going up another notch on his collar so he wouldn’t be able to slip free again.
Still. Jensen wasn’t entirely surprised that Kawelo managed to wiggle out of his leash within half an hour to sneak into the bar on his belly, ears pressed flat against his head as he dropped it in Mac’s lap. He didn’t really have the energy to care at this point, as long as Ben didn’t find out.
Baldy and his companion had moved from his immediate vicinity, though the scruffy one in the unfortunately colored Hawaiian shirt seemed to have an aversion to blinking when he stared Jensen’s way. Another admirer, just what Jensen needed. Baldy kept snapping his fingers in front of his boyfriend’s face with increasing annoyance, then grabbed his wrist and hauled him out of the place.
Great, Ackles, way to repay the guy.
Jensen scanned the crowd for someone else to focus his attention on and came up with an entire pack of Norwegians wearing the same Hilo Hattie pattern doing shots. So at least he something to keep his brain minimally occupied for the rest of his shift.
“Are you mad at me?” Mac asked on their walk back, moonlight spilling across the pavement in front of them. Jensen had Kawelo’s leash in his hand but no dog attached to it, the canine following along at Mac’s side without incentive. He still looked a little guilty, but it could’ve been Jensen projecting again.
"No," Jensen said after a moment, "Disappointed.”
“Oh.” He knew without looking that she was staring at her shoes, hands shoved as far in her pockets as they’d go. “That’s worse.”
“Yeah, it is.” Her silence turned stony, stubborn, hiking boots shoved against the cracked pavement but her footsteps steadily getting softer the longer they walked. He let her stew all the way home, until they were inside the house, up the stairs, ready for bed, and Jensen was tucking her underneath her tropical fish blanket. “You know better, Mac," he said then, blunt.
She huffed and flung her hands behind her head, staring miserably up at the ceiling. "Yeah,” she muttered after a long grudging moment of Jensen refusing to move. “But he didn’t look—“
"Creepy comes in all sizes. If anyone ever tries to get you away from me, you kick and scream and holler and then run away.” He made sure to keep the expression on his face steady. Small crying girl looking for her dog—what would Jensen have done in floppy-haired-guy’s place? He bit back…something. So maybe he was a little overprotective. Sue him. He had a right to be.
“Can I have a bedtime story?” Mac’s voice came out legitimately timid. Jensen caught himself searching for Kawelo and found him hovering in the doorway, looking uneasy. Or pleading, or cautious, or who the hell knew anyway because he was a dog. Mac noticed him a split second after Jensen and called him over with eye-watering high notes before wrapping her arms around his furry neck to rest her chin on his head. Which left Jensen under the direct influence of two pairs of puppy eyes. They even whined in sync.
“God, I’m such a pushover,” Jensen groaned, flopping back on the bed across Mac’s knobby knees. The dog made another noise, this time almost like agreement, and Mac giggled at his glare. “So, what? You want the Kawelo story?”
“Yes, please.” She even sounded remorseful as she arranged pillows under his head and freed her legs to curl up at his side. Kawelo’s heavy head dropped on Jensen’s mostly-bare knee and he found he…really liked the warmth. Surprisingly.
“Trying to butter me up,” he grumbled at them both and closed his eyes. Took a long, deep breath. Dragged his dad’s words from the back of his head to the tip of his tongue and then out.
“Once upon a time there was a Kupua. And Kupuas are,” they chorused before Jensen continued, “ancient Hawaiian trickster gods. Pranksters. They sneak into your room at night and mess up your things,” he teased with a predictable and totally avoidable tickle attack, which Mac dodged.
“They do not,” she said with more conviction than he expected, but he shook it off.
“They might. They definitely cause things like heavy traffic and tourist season, and spilled drinks and misunderstandings and missing shoes.” He fell into it easier now than he had for the longest time after his parents’…accident. Some of it was pure Hawaiian mythology, some of it was his dad, some of it was Jensen. His dad used to call it ‘the folk process.’ “Their mischievous ways—” Another poke at Mackenzie. “—are because their ancestors were part animal—sometimes a bird or a dog or a rat—and when a Kupua baby is born an animal soul sneaks inside to make it faster, smarter, stronger. And Kawelo,” they said together, “was the best of them.”
Kawelo—the dog, Kawelo—followed Jensen all the way downstairs to the kitchen, something smug around his muzzle and those weird eyes never leaving Jensen as he fished out a beer and collapsed on the couch. Maybe it was one of those canine things. Jensen was staring right back, and maybe (he was pretty sure he’d read this somewhere) the dog saw eye-contact as a challenge of authority.
“Too fucking bad, fido,” he said softly over the barely audible late night TV, tipping his bottle to where Kawelo had plopped himself down in a corner of the room to stare at Jensen some more. “I am the top dog, alpha male, and I—and I totally forgot to feed you at all.”
Kawelo’s tail wagged cheerfully as Jensen dragged himself upright with a heartfelt groan, rubbing a hand over his face as he stumbled back into the kitchen and fished out one of their tackier plastic bowls, muttering, “I am an awesome caretaker is what I am. Fuck.”
The dog’s ears pricked forward when Jensen set the bowl down in front of him, but he seemed far more interested in watching Jensen move than the promise of food—yet another creepy, weird thing about him. Jensen forced himself to watch the grainy pictures on TV and drink his beer, even when Kawelo finished chewing and started creeping forward on his belly the same way he had at the Tiki bar.
Jensen flicked a glance over when Kawelo reached the coffee table. The dog stopped instantly, like one of those rabbits on the discovery channel that don’t realize there’s no snow for them to be camouflaged against. “You are such the weirdest dog,” he muttered. Kawelo’s mouth opened in something like a grin.
Something funny happened on the TV and when Jensen next looked for Kawelo he had his big furry head propped up on the couch cushion nearest Jensen’s legs, blinking up at him in a picture of purest innocence.
“Dude,” Jensen grunted, frowning at him around his beer bottle, “Creepy.”
Kawelo’s long tongue slid out and lapped the fingers of Jensen’s free hand just once, and Jensen jumped a little at the wet rasp before he moved his hands out of reach. The dog smirked at him. And didn’t move.
“Okay, fine!” Jensen snapped, shoving over on the sofa to make room for his—no, Mac’s—massive ass dog, who leapt up so fast and so delighted that Jensen had the fleeting thought of what kind of family had ditched this creature at the shelter, and did they maybe have the right idea there. Kawelo ignored his grumblings—well, yeah, he didn’t exactly speak English now, did he?—and settled down (more or less) with his head in Jensen’s lap no matter how many times Jensen tried to direct him elsewhere.
A commercial for Cherished Possessions—which as far as Jensen could tell was a knock-off of Antiques Roadshow—came on, demanding his full attention with their declarations of never ending love for 16th century dog figurines. Maybe if he stared hard enough this wouldn’t actually be happening. He wouldn’t be bonding with this animal he had no real assurance he’d be able to keep.
“…find the one you can truly cherish,” the spokeswoman crooned, pressing a ceramic beagle to her unrealistically ample bosom, “money isn’t an object. There’s a connection, a bond, that transcends—“
Kawelo whined, nosing at him. “Dude,” Jensen growled, “there’s no way you have to go out yet. Settle.” The dog huffed something like a sigh but obeyed, settling its head back on Jensen’s knee.
About halfway through the next commercial break Jensen froze when he caught himself stroking Kawelo’s head, less struck with how soft his fur was than the fact that he hadn’t actually pet Kawelo before.
The dog blinked up at him when his hand stilled, then licked his wrist, tail flopping contentedly back and forth in the TV light.
Jensen peeled his eyelids apart to grey-blue morning light and the sound of Mac’s voice in the kitchen. God, what time was it? He had to work Sundays, the alarm on his watch should’ve woken him… Jensen blearily checked the timepiece and swallowed a groan. Two hours earlier than he—or any human—should have to be at all conscious. He was gonna kill Mac and dump her body in a pit of rabid monkeys.
He felt like an extra from The Living Dead when he finally managed to get vaguely upright and stumbling to the kitchen, extra sounds that shouldn’t be there filtering in through his lethargic brain. Guy’s voice. Was the radio on? Did they even have a radio in the—
Floppy-haired guy was in his kitchen. Floppy-haired guy was in his kitchen wearing Jensen’s swimming trunks and nothing else. Floppy-haired guy was in his kitchen wearing Jensen’s swim trunks and standing next to his sister.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jensen wasn’t exactly thinking clearly, but the split second after the even smaller one it took for him to cross the floor, he had a fistful of floppy hair and yanked him backward, startling a sound out of the sick fuck like a wounded animal. Jensen didn’t let go, dragging him backwards so far he contorted, twisting trying to stay upright, and landed on his ass.
His face looked even more guileless and scared and innocent in the daylight, Jensen thought through his blind fury, which maybe wasn’t so blind if he was noticing shit like this.
The guy was built, too, and probably taller than Jensen standing up, and even the fact that he was whimpering was barely enough to keep the intimidation creeping up Jensen’s spine. Intimidation, or feeling like he was kicking a potentially stalkerish possibly pedophilic puppy. Jesus.
“You sick freak,” Jensen bit out, trying to curtail the absolute worst of his cursing with minimal success. “What part of this seems okay to you? You followed an eight-year-old girl home and broke into her house—apparently naked, because you’re wearing my clothes—”
“I—“ the guy said, or something like it, mouth fumbling around with different shapes.
“Jensen!” Mac shrieked loud enough that he realized she’d been doing it for a while, and punched him so hard behind his knee that his leg actually buckled for a second.
“You’re hurting him!”
“You’re hurting me!”
She was already digging her tiny little nails under his own to make him leg go, hard enough that Jensen had to jerk back and shake out his hand as he caught Mac around the middle with his uninjured arm, hauling her away from this strange man.
“You need to get out of my house.”
Mac started kicking and biting like he was the one attacking her while their real home invader continued to gape at them from the floor, strange eyes wide like…like Jensen had a gun on him or something. Mac was shouting, he realized, yelling, “He’s ours, he’s ours,” over and over while she pounded her tiny fists against any part of him she could reach.
“He’s our crazy stalker?” he finally snapped when one blow struck a little too close to his groin, and she went abruptly limp, dead weight so fast he fumbled and dropped her on her feet without letting her go. He still felt it like a kick to the gut when he saw the tears gathering in her eyes as she glared up at him, and he wondered fleetingly if it had always been this bad.
Then she said, “He’s our dog, you dumb face.” Which was bizarrely easier to believe than what came next: “He’s. Our. Kupua.”
“Oookay,” Jensen said, getting a firmer grip on Mac and hauling her with him as he backed away, real fear this time ricocheting up his back. “I don’t know what the hell you said to her,” he told the man on their kitchen floor, “but take your time stealing shit because I’m leaving and then I’m calling the cops.”
“You’re cussing!” Mac shrieked. Like that was the real issue here.
Jensen hauled Mac up in his arms again and made for the door, chills running violently across his shoulder blades at the thought of leaving someone like that in their house, in the home that was supposed to be safe, one of the few things their parents had left him that was his, God damn it, his to protect, just like Mac, even though it was falling apart and the door would not fucking open, what the hell was this shit and why, why wasn’t it opening they hadn’t even had a fucking storm last night—
“It’s locked,” Mac grit out. Jensen froze.
“Did you—“ he tried after a split second.
“I can’t reach.” Which wasn’t entirely true, but Mac liked to use that excuse instead of admitting she wasn’t quite strong enough to turn the big heavy bolt. And unless the Shirtless Wonder had climbed through one of their windows—which he couldn’t have, they didn’t open from the outside and Jensen was conserving air conditioning while they could still afford it which meant locking them tight—or he’d moved the giant rust bucket of a refrigerator entirely blocking the back door, which was also locked and dead-bolted…
“Did you pick the lock?” Jensen asked a little muzzily, brain still trying to figure things out past what the hell what the hell as he turned and found their intruder on his feet in the doorway, top of his floppy hair brushing the doorframe and his hands palm-out at his sides. He kept his head tipped forward just a little so he still had to look up to meet Jensen’s gaze, shoulders curled inwards like he was expecting to get hit.
It was his eyes. That weird melee of blues and grays and browns that were exactly like—
“Kawelo,” Mac said, holding out her arms to him.
“No,” Jensen shouted, loud blunt word coming out childishly adamant. “No, this is just—” Because Ka—this guy, this stranger, had looked at Mac when she said it like— “That is not Kawelo.” Oh yes, let’s get the important things straight first. “That,” Jensen croaked out, waving vaguely in his direction, “is not our dog.”
“Is so,” Mac retorted petulantly.
“Jared,” said the guy, the word fumbling out and clumsy.
“Watermelon,” said Jensen, rocking back on his heels a little, “because it’s apparently an awesome time to say things that don’t mean sh—shtuff. Jared?” he said again, because—because what?
“Jared,” the stranger said again, surer this time as one huge hand splaying over his own chest, multi-colored eyes earnest and hopeful. “Jared?”
Mac mirrored his expression exactly.
“…Oh come on!” Jensen cried, flinging a hand at Jared—Kawelo—what the fuck ever. It just couldn’t—wasn’t— “In no universe is this something that actually happens, Mac!”
Jared made a soft, distressed noise, and something hot and unreasonable flipped over in Jensen’s belly.
“Okay, shut up? Please,” Jensen added quickly. He needed to sit down. He couldn’t sit down because there was a stranger in his house, with his sister. He was going to fall over.
Knuckles brushed his face, bruised and battered, scabs marring Jared’s tanned skin and even though Jensen flinched hard enough to pull something, what he couldn’t do was pull away. Jared…This guy calling himself Jared... This close, he wasn’t—he wasn’t someone Jensen could back away from, and not just because yeah, at full height he had a good couple inches on Jensen, who was not small. And not because this guy should be in some sort of Penthouse-Playgirl magazine either, and not because this close Jensen could smell the sea on him and plumeria flowers.
You don’t get injuries like that—or like the darkening bruise on his shoulder, the scrape on his knee—by being a danger to other people.
Jensen took a steadying breath and looked again with the eye he’d been training to recognize things like this before he’d had to drop out of college. Jared—and he was sticking with that because Kawelo just would not compute in his brain—wasn’t... There was a look people got in their eyes when they didn’t feel safe, and Jared... That wasn’t quite it, or it wasn’t it anymore, but Jensen couldn’t think of a thing that he had done that could’ve taken that look away.
Good job making the guy feel welcome, kiddo, something like his dad’s voice hummed in the back of his head, half soft disapproval and the other amusement. But honestly? Jensen really didn’t think his dad would approve of a strange man in the house with Mac, let alone one who may or may not be their dog.
Also, it didn’t change the fact that Jared had a hand on his face, battered knuckles curling around the shape of his cheekbone.
“Aww,” Mac crooned the way only little sisters can, “I think he likes you!”
“Mac,” Jensen begged. Jared followed the turn of his head with a sound like a bird cooing.
“Jensen,” she whined back, only like she knew she’d already won, hands shoved on her hips.
Whoever had invented the phrase ‘rock and a hard place’ had probably known an Ackles.
“What do you want me to do?” he finally demanded, and felt almost gut-punched at the smile that exploded across Jared’s face.
“Nothing!” Mac cut in like it had been an actual question, bouncing forward to take Jared’s free hand with one that had just been fist-pumping. “Promise, Jensen. I’ll take care of him. He’s just like a big puppy—he is a big puppy—“
“Oh my god, please—“ Jensen broke off, not sure what he was going to say but sure it wasn’t good or child friendly.
“I got this,” she promised with a light punch to his hip, and then latched onto Jared’s elbow and yanked his hand off her brother with a flash of something Jensen wanted to be proud about. Distantly. You know, way on down the line. “C’mon, Kawelo, let’s go get you some clothes!”
“Hey, let’s call him Jared,” Jensen said, voice coming out a little like a stewardess after a 16-hour flight, “for the sake of my sanity.”
“Yeah, okay,” Mac drawled, giving him a look that said, That ship has sailed. “Come on then, ‘Jared.’”
“Kawelo,” Jared tried weakly, looking back at Jensen as the little girl hauled him away. Trying, Jensen was pretty sure, to be convincing.
Jensen gave them both a pathetic sort of wave, and they disappeared up the stairs.
Not a good idea not a good idea oh my ever loving fuck I need a drink, Jensen thought, and then, Where does she expect to get— and then—
He took the stairs two at a time.
“Your shirts are ugly,” Mac announced, hauling a hug-sized section of clothing from his closet to dump on the bed. Jared cocked his head to the side with a noise that meant something like, Really? You think so? Jensen made a quick detour at the entrance to his room to bang his head against the doorframe.
“Such a drama queen,” she tsked at him as she yanked Jared into a seated position on the bed and proceeded to dress him up like a Barbie. Er, Ken doll. Jared looked happily confused, lifting his arms like a puppet when she prompted.
Jensen crossed his arms and waited for her to realize that there was no way Jared could fit into his clothes. Not with those shoulders. Hell, not with those biceps, for one—what did the guy do? Mainline protein?
While they were occupied, Jensen let his mind work things out. So, Jared was obviously foreign. Obviously gorgeous. Obviously…okay, as much as it stung to think it, obviously well-meaning. Not as creepy a pedophile as previously assumed. He was. He was probably a hot shot model flown in for some beach shots who saw a little girl crying about her missing dog last night and tried cheering her up, and maybe—maybe—when Jensen had come running he’d been scared so badly that he’d run into the woods, gotten lost, and decided to follow the little girl home. Having slept in the dirt and fought a wild Hawaiian bear for some honey (which explained his injuries—or maybe he got them while scrambling through the woods) he…snuck in through some secret passageway in the roof and invited himself to breakfast.
Whatever, case solved. Jensen sank down the wall until he hit the floor, letting out a sigh of something definitely like relief, and not at all like uh-huh, yeah. Fuck.
Jared did not fit into any of Jensen’s shirts. Did Mackenzie believe that before she made him try every single one in Jensen’s closet? No, she did not.
“Give uuuuup,” Jensen begged from the general vicinity of his knees. Jared roo-ed, just like a dog, a quiet and curious sound which was Jensen’s cue to not look up. Or make eye contact, ever. “Mac. Mac. Mac. Mac. Mac—“
“We can.” He had to stop and let out a low groan before he cold make words again. “We can pick him up something at a thrift store, okay?”
“Yeah,” she said, voice dripping sarcasm, “and we’ll just walk in with a guy who doesn’t even have shoes.”
“Mac,” he tried again, “It’s Hawaii. No one will notice.”
Her foot came down so hard Jensen’s spine jerked in an unnatural position getting his head up to check on the floorboards. “Jensen,” she hissed, so much like their mother it hurt to look at her a little, “he is an Ackles.”
“You don’t even—Wait, no, Mac, no—“
Jared’s eyes felt like two wide spotlights on his skin as he scrambled after Mackenzie, jamming his finger on the door on his way out and nearly killing himself tearing down the hall. Jensen almost caught her when she skid around the corner, still felt exactly where Jared was standing, what he was looking at, what he shouldn’t be seeing. What he didn’t have a right to see. Not a fucking Ackles.
Too late. She had the biggest box overturned, yanking free piles of carefully folded clothing Jensen hadn’t seen for six months. She kept her face down, movements efficient and unhurried until she just…stopped.
“Mac…” His voice came out tight, hoarse, torn between anger and just being sad. “These are Dad’s.”
She shook out a blue Hawaiian shirt with a hard jerk. “He’s not using them.”
Jensen tried to push all the ugliness he was feeling out of his lungs, one long exhale before he could talk. “That’s way too practical, kiddo.”
He didn’t have to look to see Jared’s expression; he could feel it, like this strange, bizarre anomaly of a person was writing it across his skin. What should I do and How can I help and What’s going on all rolled into one tense bundle of incomprehension standing in the doorway to their parent’s bedroom.
Mac scoffed, but it was half-hearted at best even though her conviction didn’t seem to be. “He’s gonna give it back. Here, K—Jared,” she amended with a wrinkled nose at Jensen’s abrupt cough, “Try this one.”
It was mostly dark red with big fat cream-and-yellow coconut halves dancing across it, and Jensen thought he remembered seeing his dad wear it once. Probably a gift—his dad hated wearing white. Jensen scraped up a smile for Mac at her choice, and she managed to look not as smug as she could’ve been winning that argument before she turned her attention to helping a man twice her size navigate buttons.
Jared frowned at them like Jensen used to stare at anatomy text books, nearly inaudible grunts of frustration puffing past his lips as he held the button and the hole together like that would magically make the two stick.
So. Probably not a model then. Even Tom could navigate buttons 90% of the time.
Jensen took over, knocking Jared’s fumbling fingers out of the way and ignoring how warm they felt for how bruised they looked. Jared kept his head ducked and his eyes on Jensen’s face, watching through his lashes, eyes wide enough to soak him in. Jensen felt like the guy in the Mickey Mouse costume at Disney World the way Jared was looking at him—or what he knew about Disney World from the grainy commercials on TV.
“Good?” Jensen asked out of habit when he finished, nearly blindsided by Jared’s beaming grin. “Uh, good. Mac, I’ve got to get to work.”
It was much easier to deal with a whining eight year old than one wise beyond her years, it turned out. Who knew?
“No, I don’t care, Mac—You want Clif to crucify me for leaving you alone? Jared doesn’t count, Mac!” Jensen shot a quick glance at Jared to see if he’d offended him, but Jared seemed particularly interested in Jensen’s left earlobe, leaning close to poke and trill at it. “Not when he can’t—Dude, seriously?” he said, turning his attention to their guest, “Personal space.”
“Roo,” Jared crooned happily, smiling with his mouth open.
Jensen gave him a look, and then slid it over to Mac.
“Well, we can’t leave him here!” she pointed out with a jut of her head. “Obviously. He eats things.”
In the two point six seconds since he’d last looked at Jared, their guest had taken to sucking on the lapel of his own shirt. Jared’s eyebrows leapt. What?
Jensen let out a little helpless noise of his own. Jared looked fucking delighted.
So maybe collapsing across the counter of The Snax Stand was a little melodramatic. Bite him.
“Aw,” Kristen cooed down to the back of his head, “What’d the munchkin do this time? Paint your toenails?”
“That was one time.”
“Never gonna let you live that—down,” she finished, last word that fraction of breathless that meant she’d caught sight of Jared. “Jensen.” One gloved finger flicked him in the head. “Who is that insanely hot guy playing catch with your sister?”
It took a lot more than Jensen would ever admit to lift his head and straighten, rolling one shoulder in a shrug. Especially since he knew they weren’t so much playing catch as they were playing fetch, and he just couldn’t—hell, he could barely listen to the sound of Jared’s big delighted belly laughs without feeling…feelings. “Just a stray I picked up somewhere. Hey,” he added before she could pry, “I was wondering—your dad have anyone file a missing person’s report in the last couple days?”
She stopped to think about it, blond hair sliding off her shoulders when her head tilted. “Not that I can remember. Hey,” she mimicked, leaning more than half of her upper body on the counter to peer around Jensen’s head, “if I say I did, do I get to keep him?”
“Mac’s got dibs.”
“Right,” she drawled, grin lopsided, “Mac’s got dibs.”
“I need to go to work sometime today,” Jensen pointed out, attempting to arch an eyebrow.
“Yeah, yeah. Bring the rugrat on over.”
“Um,” Jensen coughed, “That’s—um. I kinda need you to watch both of them?”
Kristen stared at him, hot dog wheel squeaking in the background. “Well, twist my arm.”
“He doesn’t really speak English,” Jensen said quickly, ignoring the sharp frown on his face, “And he likes to put things in his mouth.”
“I’mma let you think about that all day,” Kristen said eventually. “Because I know I will be.”
Jensen dug a knuckle into his left temple, focused on that instead of a hundred thousand images he wasn’t allowed to think about lurking at the back of his mind. “I hate you.”
“Hey…” She caught his hand and tugged him forward, and for a second Jensen let himself feel like someone his age. Someone who had time to hang out with his friends. Someone who suddenly wasn’t a dad and a big brother to a kid under the age of ten. “So I’ve got Friday night free this week and I was thinking—“
Jensen braced himself.
“…that there’s no way I’d rather spend it than watching Disney flicks and practicing my hair braiding skills. Think I could talk Mac into being my guinea pig?”
“Kristen…” he started, sagging a little under her touch. “What the hell am I supposed to do with a free Friday night?”
Her eyebrow arched, eyelashes flicking in Jared’s direction. “Anything you want. Just breathe a little, Jenny.”
He had to scowl at that. “Don’t—“
“Hey, that reminds me, Chris is in town!” She leaned forward fast enough to kiss his cheek before he could jump back, and then her eyes widened, smile curling as she looked at something over his shoulder. “Whoa. That got someone’s hackles up.”
Jensen closed his eyes and did not look at Jared for as long as he could, until he had to make himself walk over to the picnic bench he’d left them by. Jared was—frowning, eyebrows pulled together, gaze darting between Jensen and Kristen like he wasn’t sure what had happened.
Not Jensen’s main concern, suddenly. Chris was in town.
“Jared’s sad,” Mackenzie announced, just in case it wasn’t obvious.
“Really,” Kristen said, so maybe it wasn’t. Mac nudged her with an elbow and nodded to the table Jared was perched on, face turned towards the last place they’d seen her brother.
“I think he likes Jensen,” Mac added, drawing the word out twice as long the way Kristen had taught her.
“Really,” Kristen dragged out just the same. She handed Mac another stack of napkins to stuff in the dispenser. “What makes you think that?”
Mac gave her a look.
“Okay, okay,” Kristen laughed, “No stink eye, I give. So do you think Jensen likes him back?”
“Jensen’s not allowed to like people.” Maybe Mac didn’t need to stuff the napkins in that hard but hey, they deserved it.
Kristen arched an eyebrow. “Says you?”
“Says Clif,” she grumbled, then added in the direction of her knees, “Stupid head.”
Jared slid off his table and slunk a little closer to them with a soft whine, looking shy. Mac dropped everything and held out her arms. “Come here!” He smiled, jogging over quickly and leaning over until she could ruffle his hair. “Good boy!”
When Mac looked over to check on her Kristen looked a little worried, but Kristen also hid it quick, shoving aside plastic forks and spoons to make room for him on their table. Jared sat on the bench part instead by Mac’s knees, blinking happily up at them both while Mac continued playing with his hair.
“Hey, rugrat?” Kristen asked after a minute, “Is Jared related to you?”
“He’s family,” Mac said instantly, and Jared ducked his head to hide a blush.
“Whoa, hey,” Kristen said like she was startled, and then she dropped down to the same bench to see Jared’s eyes. “Jared? Do you speak English?”
Jared turned his face up at Mac, air sliding through his mouth like he was trying to make words. “I…” he finally managed to get out, and then his voice broke into a frustrated whine.
“He doesn’t speak it but he gets it,” Mac snapped a little defensively, wrapping her arms around Jared’s head. “Don’t bug him.”
“Okay. Okay, that’s fine,” Kristen backed off, then chucked her knuckle under Jared’s chin. “You’re okay.” His smile was only a split second hesitant, relieved. Kristen mirrored it like she couldn’t help it.
“You do like Jensen, though?” she asked, and Jared ducked his head again, mouth falling open as his cheeks went hot under Mac’s fingers. “Yeah?” He nodded, Mac bouncing with him. “Hmm,” Kristen said, and then after another long minute of sorting forks, she added, “Maybe Jensen can’t like you because you’re related.”
“That’s not it,” Mac snorted. “He’s adopted.” She patted Jared’s head, happy Jensen had thought that up before they’d left the house. “And anyway, I told you—he’s just not allowed.”
Kristen hummed, watching the sea breeze ruffle Jared’s hair. Then she looked up at Mac. “Hey, did I tell you Uncle Chris is in town?”
“…Huh,” said Mac, and instantly felt Jared’s eyebrows bunch in a frown. Kristen’s too, but she didn’t know. Mac wasn’t even supposed to know.
“Hey, Gary. Paper or plastic?”
“Plastic pollutes the environment and mass murders natural wildlife.”
“Right,” Jensen said, hand already reaching for the bags. “So plastic?”
Gary leered cheerily while Jensen loaded up his half a zucchini—they sold half-zucchinis? Pre-packaged half zucchinis? Really?—and his duct tape, nail files, and a book on tape. “There’ll be a place for you in the nuclear winter,” Gary promised as he trundled off.
Jensen waved and said, “Looking forward to it,” just like every other weekend.
Hasegawa General was the biggest bulk store in Hana, and took up less space than the post office down the street. Concrete floors, concrete walls, and every shelf stuffed, literally stuffed, with everything anyone could possibly need and then some. Jensen loved watching the faces of tourists who stumbled in to find pantyhose next to the frozen halibut. Just locals in today, though, expertly disentangling their frozen TV dinners from the scuba gear.
Ten more minutes to go and he’d be off. Jensen’s stomach had snarled loud enough to upset Barbara Pule when he was ringing up her frozen cashews, and that was almost an hour ago.
“Hi, Jensen!” Jensen caught the corner of the cash register with his hip when someone—some little, cute but dead meat person—caught him around the knees in a tackle. “Surprise!”
“Uh, yeah,” Jensen said tentatively, eyeing Jared because there was a guy who didn’t know enough to not climb behind the counter with him. Mac still hadn’t let go of his knees when he took a quick look for his manager, asking, “What’s up, kiddo? I thought I was going to get you from the Snax Stack when I got done.” Like he did every other day.
“She had to lock up early.” Mac slid down that last inch so she could wrap her legs around his ankles, beaming up at him. “Jared walked me over. Hey, guess what!”
Jared walked her over. Jesus, it was only across the parking lot. Jensen’s stomach should not be doing as many flip flops as it was right now. “What?” he asked, and suddenly couldn’t remember how long he’d been staring into Jared’s smiling eyes.
“We made dinner,” Mac said, leaping to her feet as Jared thrust out his hands, long fingers wrapped around white and red striped paper. “Jared made you your sandwich all by himself!”
“He did?” Jensen’s voice broke a little at the end, but he wasn’t sure if it was starving gratitude or that same sort of dread he’d felt yesterday when he was lugging back that bag of dog food. “Well, I’ve got to finish up real quick but why don’t you go grab us some Froot Loops?”
Christ, she was practically bouncing off the walls. Jensen shared a glance with Jared before he realized he was doing it, and then Jared didn’t so much open his mouth as part his lips and murmur, “Sugar.”
Jensen’s knees almost gave out. Literally. He clutched the register so hard his knuckles turned bone white for a second before he could get any sort of blood flow to his brain. Still, he should have waited until he had a better word to say than, “What?”
Jared blushed, high and embarrassed, looking to Mac. “No, that’s right,” she promised, running back to grab hold of his hand and start dragging him towards the coolers in the back. “We taught him words today,” she added just to Jensen with a wide-eyed pointed stare, and Jensen nearly fumbled Mrs. Scorsese’s apples right onto the floor.
The problem with having lived through your parents dying—well, one of the problems—was that everything suddenly got a lot more relative. Example: previously, Jensen might have described the following ten minutes as the longest in his life, especially after he gave them money for the cereal, ran it through, and Jared took a post by the door just to stare at him.
Stare was the wrong word. Watch was better. It was like being soaked up, or soaked in, studied but not—analytically. Fuck. Jensen felt like he was on display, Jared’s low, broken voice humming sugar through his blood.
He still said, “Thank you,” when Jared handed him the sandwich on their way out the door, even if it meant he’d be subjected to yet another beaming grin.
“Eat,” Jared prompted, and there went Jensen’s knees again. He peeled back the paper to give his hands something to do besides shake, took a big bite so he didn’t say something stupid.
“Oh—yum,” Jensen choked out around his mouthful, “I don’t think I’ve had this much mustard in my life.”
Jared’s dimples were so deep it made the already difficult task of swallowing nearly impossible. Jensen chewed grimly on, folding the paper methodically back in place around the food until Jared caught his hand, cupped his own around the back of Jensen’s and nudged the sandwich back towards his mouth with a curious whine.
“I can’t eat it too fast,” Jensen said, only half a lie, “I’m too hungry; I’ll get a tummy ache.” Tummy ache. He was actually saying the words ‘tummy ache’ to a grown man. “It’s good though,” he added, which was all lie but sort of worth it for the look on Jared’s face. Maybe.
“Five o’clock and all is well!” Mac called out into the sunset hazy air. Tradition, trying to see how many birds she could get to call back.
“Yep,” Jensen answered, reaching down for her hand, “Three hours, kiddo. Whatcha wanna do?” She already had Jared’s hand, so she swung between them for a couple steps before answering.
“Sounds good. Did you guys eat?”
“Yes,” Jared answered, and god damn it, Jensen’s knees had to stop doing that.
“Okay,” he said after a split second, voice almost steady, even, “I’m just gonna get something to wash this down with.”
They detoured to some vending machines where Jensen spent all the spare change in his pockets on a root beer and a funsize bag of Fritos so he’d have something in his stomach besides mustard, and then it was a ten minute walk back to the Snax Shack—closed up now—overlooking the cove. It was just a tiny little bay, less than a standard city block, but it had coral and fish and a big rusty anchor and an octopus named Spongebob, so Mac was pretty much set once Jensen snagged her a mask and snorkel from their hiding place in the empty refrigerator out behind the Snax Shack. She kept her bathing suit on under her clothes all weekend for opportunities like this.
Mac was in the surf before Jensen picked a spot to sit down.
“She’s half fish,” Jensen muttered before he could stop himself. His dad used to say it, and his mom would always answer, Only half? Jared made a curious sound as he dropped down beside him, and Jensen couldn’t help flinching at the eager expression turned his way. “Not literally.”
He stuffed his mouth full of Fritos and chewed. Jared—Jared settled his rump better in the sand and drew his knees up, Jensen’s father’s shirt riding high and tight on his biceps, toes wriggling in the sand. Not looking at Jensen for once, even though he had to be wanting to. Right?
Jesus. Narcissist, much?
Jensen cleared his throat, quiet, maybe even a little guiltily. “So,” he blurted before he could change his mind, “Um. Did you have a good day?” He flicked his eyelashes out of the way so he could see Jared’s face, and got socked in the gut with the same shock he’d had when he realized he’d spent the whole day not petting Kawelo. Not welcoming him into the family and Jesus, yes this was bizarre, but it was probably pretty bizarre for Jared, too.
“Yes,” he answered, voice as low and cautious as ever. Good thing Jensen was sitting down this time, because that word was a doozy.
“Y-yeah?” Jensen coughed, trying to hide his stumble. “I heard you learned some good words today.” God, he was in parental mode. He didn’t know how to get out of it.
“Yes,” Jared said again, something in his eyes telling Jensen he knew that tone, too.
Okay, step back. Revaluate. Just because Jared was lacking in vocabulary didn’t make him stupid. Jensen had never gotten stupid vibes off the guy, just naïve. You took English, Ackles, recognize the different connotations.
“I’m sorry,” Jensen mumbled, picking up his sandwich as a peace offering. Jared smiled all the way to his eyes, every damn time. “Um. I’m just—I’m trying to think of questions that won’t—” He trailed off, eyes flashing Jared a look that he hoped meant Help me out and Do you understand? I’m trying.
Jared propped his head up on his knees, blinking patiently.
“Okay, so. I’m just gonna stick to twenty questions here and…feel free to jump in if you’ve got the words. Or you want—whatever.” He huffed, brushing the sand off on his shorts so he could run a hand through the back of his hair. “Okay. Okay, are you a Kupua?”
Jared shook his head, no hesitation. Something tight in Jensen’s stomach dissolved, slid out on a sigh. “Hoo. Okay, alright. So—wait, but you are…Kawelo? This isn’t some sort of scam or undercover Child Services op or anything, because—well first off we don’t have any money and second—” Too many questions, too much emotion on his face. He turned back to the ocean and watched Mac swim in a lazy circle, drifting closer to where he knew the anchor was. “You are Kawelo, the dog?”
“Not—“ Jensen’s eyes snapped helplessly back to him, watching Jared’s big hands gesture to himself, brows creased in thought. “But…yes.”
“Not now,” Jensen translated, head tilting heavily to one side, “But you can be.”
Jared nodded, and for the first time his smile was tight.
“I’m just—I’m trying to wrap my head around it,” Jensen promised, holding up his hands to show he didn’t mean to be such a colossal dimwit. “You’re not a Kupua. Do you have a word for what you are?”
Jared’s mouth twisted, but in the end he shook his head.
“But you don’t mean any harm? I’ve got a kid sister to look after,” Jensen added before Jared could get upset, “I have to ask stuff like this.”
Jared shook his head almost shyly, then he reached out and touched Jensen’s chest. Should not should not should not have felt so damn electric, Christ, and Jensen’s brain was still reeling when Jared said his own name.
He touched Jensen’s chest again, pressure splaying his fingers. “Jared.”
“What do you— Jensen,” he said, enunciating.
“Jared,” Jared mimicked, then huffed out a breath and scooted closer on the sand, turning, until Jensen was between his legs and Jared had a hand cupped around his ear. He felt like his heart was going to give out on him, it was pounding so hard. Fuck. Jared’s breath hot against his neck and all he wanted to do was get closer—further away. “Jared,” Jared said again, only this time…this time it sounded a little like, “Chared.”
“Chared?” Jensen repeated dully, trying to shake the fog out of his head. “Chared’s not a word.”
Jared looked confused, hurt. He shook his head hard. Yes, it definitely is. “Char-edssh,” he pressed, just slurring it more, and Jensen held up his hands to tell him to calm down before he had an aneurism then stopped.
“Cherished?” he tried, and watched Jared’s face light up in the dying glow of the sun.
“Yes,” Jared breathed.
Which is exactly when Mac started screaming.
Jensen was never ever having kids ever, God, no worrying about adoption agencies for this gay man because Jesus fuck if this was how he felt when it was his sister, how the hell did people function when it was their kids?
He wasn’t thinking any of this. He wasn’t thinking fuck all except Mac, Mac, Mac in a constant screaming loop inside his head. Where the hell was she? Where the hell—He hit the surf running, shoes still on, and plunged into the water just as the sun disappeared on the horizon.
Then he was thinking, It wasn’t even—God did it end in a gurgle? Mac was drowning.
His eyes burned from the salt water, but there, just on the edge of his vision, he saw bubbles and it didn’t fucking matter. He’d carve his eyes out with his bare hands if it meant he’d get to her. Something huge moved next to him, ahead of him, and a scream caught in his throat before cloth brushed his outstretched arm and he realized Jared, not shark.
Mac was struggling with something, fighting what looked like seaweed wrapped around her leg—Jensen couldn’t see. Too dark, murky, sand thrown up from the ocean bed, but she was still kicking, pale limbs lashing out. Jared appeared, shirt billowing out around him, got his arms around Mac and his feet planted on the dark thing and he kicked off, shoved it back, headed for the surface.
Jensen strained every muscle he had tearing through the water for them, and the first thing he heard when he came up for air was Mackenzie coughing his name.
“Mac,” he croaked out, just as wrecked, and got an arm around her and Jared both just in time for Jared to get yanked beneath the waves.
Mac screamed and screamed his name and Jensen nearly inhaled seawater jerking her back, spitting out curses. What the hell, what the hell—
Oh god. Jensen locked his grip on her and swam, choking out promises—“I’ll get him, I’ll get him—” but he had to get her.
They made the pier in what felt like years, but couldn’t be more than a couple seconds, and Jensen threw her as far as he could out of the water so she could lock her arms around the rotting wood and haul herself up. “I’ll get him,” he promised one more time, breath coming so short at the sight of her shivering fingers on the pier, and then he dove.
He came up quick, made himself calm down enough to get a real lungful of air. Plunged.
The sea pressed in on his eyes, ears, nose, heavy and alive. The tide was slowly dragging at the sand cloud, revealing clusters of brain coral and sea urchins and no fish. No Jared.
Fuck, Jensen, think. Bubbles. Jared would be making—
One last breath of air and he rolled, forcing his body into the form that would get him there fastest. Jared was caught on something, tugging at the buttons on his shirt and thrashing his legs out, slicing them up on the coral. Blood in the water. Jared looked terrified.
Jensen got one hand on Jared’s neck first, wrist second, made him look at Jensen and realize he had help. Jared made a startled, helpless noise muffled by his throat and the water. Jensen didn’t stop to think—he grabbed Jared’s face in his hands, turned it towards him, and pressed their lips tight together.
Jared went absolutely still, but when Jensen blew against his lips Jared’s instincts kicked in, breathing in.
Okay, Jensen flashed with his fingers when he pulled back, and then he wrapped his arms tight around Jared, planted his shoes on the piece of coral snagged on his dad’s shirt, and slammed everything he had against it.
It snapped. Jared pulled free, struggling for the surface, and Jensen mentally told every save-the-reef eco-biologist in a ten mile radius to go suck it.
Cool, sweet air tore at his throat with a ragged sound when he dragged it in, Jared coughing and gasping even worse beside him. Jensen wasn’t sure how but they weren’t far from shore. He forced his shaking fingers to tug at Jared’s shirt and then they were back at it, swimming as best they could without pulling their faces in the water. Fuck, if Jensen never did another breaststroke it would be too soon.
His hands scraped the sand before he realized he could stand, too focused on Mac running down the beach towards them, shrieking something that was probably their names. The water in his ears made everything sound muzzy, far away. Jensen hauled one shoulder above the lapping tide and just stopped, too worn out to move.
Jared, though, was anything but lethargic, pawing at Jensen with huge, grasping hands until Jensen struggled up on one elbow and hauled him closer, further up the beach with him, because maybe if Jared was on dry land he’d calm down. No dice, Jared just clutched at him harder, high, confused notes spilling out of his throat between haggard gasps, and Jensen made himself open his eyes and sit up.
For a split second, Jensen could have sworn Jared’s irises—tangle of blues and browns—were the size of a quarter. Then Jared’s clumped lashes blinked.
“What.” Jared’s brows were in a knot, his fingers cold and sandy when he pressed them to Jensen’s mouth and then his own. “What? Wh…”
Jensen spat sand off his lips and caught Jared’s hand, pinning it between them until Jared had to stop and realize how badly he was shaking. “It’s okay,” he croaked out, forcing himself to make eye contact. “It’s—I was a lifeguard for three years. It’s called buddy breathing. You’re okay.”
Mac got to them just then, flinging herself in Jensen’s arms to shake and cry against his neck.
“You’re okay too,” Jensen whispered, and hugged her back tight just to make sure.
They had almost two hours before Jensen had to go to work. He needed at least ten.
“What grabbed you?” he asked when he could sort of breathe again. “Mac?” he asked when Jared just looked away.
“I dunno,” she said, sniffled, then rolled off him to look at her leg like she was expecting to see marks. Jensen’s stomach turned over even when there weren’t any.
“Crap,” he said, hauling himself upright as fast as his strained muscles would allow. “Jared—“
Jared was lying on his back, eyes closed, breathing quickly and quietly through his mouth like he didn’t want to draw attention to how much fucking pain he had to be in. Jesus. The coral had done a real number on his left calf, shredding the skin from knee to ankle, rubbing literal salt in the wounds.
“God—dang,” Jensen hissed, choking down worse curses in front of Mac. He didn’t realize he’d put his hand on Jared’s thigh until those strange eyes blinked up at him, tight at the edges. “Come on.” He moved that hand to Jared’s back and didn’t let himself think about touching bare skin as he hauled Jared to his feet. “We’ll get you home and get you cleaned up, wash that salt off you.”
Jared clenched his jaw and nodded, but he didn’t whimper once on the way home.
Once he was inside, though? Different matter. Mac bounced anxiously on the other side of where Jensen was supporting him, but the instant Jensen wrestled the door open she was up the stairs digging for supplies. Maybe it wasn’t so much Jared reaching the house that cut off his control—maybe it was Mac out of sight. Either way, a nearly silent whine wrestled its way out of his throat, and it fucked Jensen up so bad it was like getting hamstrung and belly shot all at once.
Here’s the thing Jensen would never admit to any living soul: He could read a hundred articles about death in Iraq or hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of people dead, but you show him one clipping of a family talking about a pet they had to leave behind even though they knew their homes were going to be destroyed, and Jensen’s a fucking mess. Jesus, fuck, what was he thinking giving himself a weak spot like that?
Jared’s not an animal. He got that between his teeth and bit down, even when he stumbled on the stairway and Jared whimpered so low in his chest Jensen felt it in his ribs.
He sat Jared down on the edge of the tub with his leg under the spray, only turning the knob halfway so the water pressure wouldn’t push against his cuts while Mac got him her tropical fish blanket and her worn blue bunny who was missing one eye and her very favoritest book on Hawaiian mythology. When Jared managed to get through to them that he didn’t know how to read she sat down at his feet and started reading to them both. She kept her back against Jared’s good leg and her foot on top of Jensen’s the whole time.
“Hey, kiddo,” Jensen said when the sand and the blood was washed away, leaning over to ruffle her damp hair. “It’s okay. We’re okay.”
She nodded, mouth pressed in a line, and finished the story she was on.
By the time she was done Jared was bandaged up, and Jensen had to leave soon if he wasn’t going to be late two nights in a row. Fuck. He let himself rest the back of his head against the bathroom tiles for a second. God, he wished—he wished he could let Mac stay home with Jared. He wished they could both—
“You don’t have to go,” he blurted, suddenly, realizing it was true. Jared didn’t have to. He made his voice go softer, thumb moving absent circles on the skin of Jared’s knee above the gauze before he noticed. “I mean, you could stay here if you’re not— You could just rest.”
Jared looked like he could use it. He had some major adrenaline withdrawal working against him, but he rubbed a hand through his hair, shook his head, and stood up, favoring his good leg.
“Hold up a sec.” Jensen trotted down to the master suite and came back with a Hawaiian shirt covered in red, orange and yellow sunsets behind silhouettes of palm trees. “Try not to wreck this one?” he said, voice shaking a little on his attempted joke, “Dad actually wore it sometimes.”
Jared smiled down at it for a moment before stripping off the old one. Jensen pretended not to notice.
“Two strawberry daiquiris?”
“Sure, coming right up.” Jensen flashed the bald—shaved—whatever, the-guy-who’d-been-here-last-night-with-his-boyfriend a smile. “Hey, uh. Thanks for pointing out my sister yesterday. She gave me a heart attack running outside like that.”
“Yeah,” the guy grinned with a quick shrug. “Kids. What are you gonna do?” His eyes drifted to where Mac was set up at a table with Jared, attempting to teach him Go Fish. Jared caught the guy looking and straightened up, frowning, but the man just tipped his white and green fedora in their direction, took his drinks from Jensen with a brief, “Thanks,” and wandered off to the opposite side of the bar.
If Jensen caught himself smiling down at his dishrag thinking about the protective look in Jared’s eyes, well. Nobody’s fucking business.
Especially not Clif’s, who was lurking in the same corner as baldy and his boyfriend, like Jensen couldn’t pick out that black suit from a mile away. Jensen didn’t really care. All his worst nightmares were whispering about that—shit, whatever that was at the cove—and what would’ve happened if Clif had been there. So the big guy could sit there and order as many nonalcoholic drinks as Sandy would bring him, Jensen did not care. He might even chip in for—
Jensen’s head snapped up the same time as his hackles. Nobody but— Oh.
Chris leapt half up on the bar to loop an arm around his neck and haul him close, pressing Jensen’s face into the thick smells of whiskey, cigarettes, and leather. He closed his eyes. Did not inhale.
“What are you doing here, Chris?” Which was dumb, Kristen told him he was in town. Of course Christian Kane would drop by. Of fucking course.
“Sayin’ hi to my boy,” Chris said against his forehead, leaving with a wet smack of a kiss. Jensen rubbed the spot with the heel of his hand as Chris landed back on his side of the bar. His hair had gotten longer, brushing the top of his shoulders as he arched an eyebrow. “I’m allowed to do that, right?”
Jensen arched an eyebrow back, so maybe Chris wouldn’t notice how roughly he was scrubbing his glass. “I never said you weren’t.”
“Right.” Chris’s slow southern smile still did things to Jensen as guitar-calloused hands beat out a brief tattoo on the bartop. Made it seem almost casual when he said, “Hey, where is the little rugrat?”
Kristen calls her rugrat, too, Jensen hissed at himself, trying to unclench his jaw. He didn’t manage it enough to speak, just nodded towards their table. Jared was focused entirely on holding his cards, tongue peeking out between his teeth, and Mac was laughing so hard she was almost toppling over. Then as Chris turned his attention their way, Jared straightened just like before, eyes wary, flicking between Jensen and the stranger sizing him up.
“Cute.” Chris angled himself back on one elbow, black tank pulled tight across the muscles in his chest, arms flexing like he didn’t think Jensen would notice. “Finally invested in a babysitter.”
“Back off, Kane.”
“Now, that’s not very polite.” Chris dragged the back of his thumb over one lip and pushed off the bar. “Gonna go say hi to my favorite brat.”
“Chris—Chris, don’t—” Jensen dropped his dishrag on the counter and grabbed Sandy as he rounded the bar. “Hey, can you watch the bar for a second? I’ve gotta—“
Then Chris was hollering, “Hey there, kiddo!” and Jared was on his feet, blocking Chris’s way. Jared didn’t know him, his eyebrow told Chris that. And boy did Chris look small against six-foot-four of overprotective muscle, ridiculous enough that Jensen had to swallow a smile down with the knowledge that that’d be rubbing Chris the exact wrong way. Napoleon Complexes ‘R’ Chris.
“You wanna back your fat ass up?” Chris sneered, advancing well into Jared’s space. “I’m gonna say hey to my girl.”
“She’s—“ Jensen cut himself off. It wasn’t his call.
“I’m not your girl,” Mac said, sticking her head out from behind Jared. Jensen could see her tiny fist clutching onto a handful of sunset cloth, watched her jaw set and her green eyes burn. “You didn’t want me.”
“What?” The word felt like a balloon let loose. Jensen stared at her. “Mac, who told you—“
“I heard you fighting,” she muttered at the floorboards. “He wanted you to dump me in foster care.”
Chris actually attempted a scoff. Jensen was going to kill him.
“Excuse me, gentlemen.”
Jensen’s blood froze. “Clif—” He hadn’t even seen the big man move.
“I was simply wondering,” Clif rumbled, sliding down his sunglasses to reveal a pair of pale blue eyes, “if you might care to take this conversation outside. We seem to be drawing a crowd.”
Jensen closed his eyes. He was going to hit someone, and he really, really hoped it was going to be Chris. He grabbed Jared’s wrist blindly, squeezed it probably too hard. “Stay here.” Then he dragged Chris outside without a word or touch between them.
“Come on,” Chris drawled when they were out in the cool night air—cool being relative, but it felt good on the back of Jensen’s neck. “What the kid said—that’s nothing new.”
“Why did you come back, Chris?”
He gave Jensen a smirking, slanted look. “I gotta spell it out for you?”
“Right.” He didn’t know why, but that seemed to knock the anger out of him. Now he was just…tired. “Get out of town, Chris. Stay away from my family.” He started back towards the bar.
Chris snorted, loud and ugly enough that Jensen hesitated, but he didn’t turn around until Chris grabbed him, forcing him to. “You really like playing house with that special ed case in there? Tell me, did you tell him it was a pants popsicle or a boxer banana to get him to suck you in his mouth?”
“What the fuck, Chris?” Jensen demanded, yanking his arm away, even though that more than anything was going to leave a bruise. “What the fuck business is it of—Chris?”
Chris had gone sheet white in the space of a second, eyes wide and terrified and locked on something just over Jensen’s shoulder. Jensen froze, gaze flying to the wall behind Chris that showed the shadow of something—someone?—with motherfucking horns, frills shuddering like that fucking spit-o-saurus from Jurassic Park, and it leaned forward, low rattle snapping out through the air.
Chris took off the split second Jensen spun around, heartbeat cutting off his air as—
No monster. Just Jared standing in the doorway with a cheerful smile on his face, lifting one hand in a wave.
“Wh—“ Jensen jerked back around, but all the shadows showed now was the floppy curl of Jared’s hair. “What just—?”
Jared shrugged with his whole body, whole face, mouth pulled into a Who knows? that Jensen wouldn’t have bought for a second from Mac.
“Hookay,” he said after a second, rubbing the back of his neck. “Doesn’t matter. Don’t care. Chris is gone.”
“Yes,” Jared said, decidedly cheery about it.
Jensen let out a breath that was only a little shuddery. “Hey,” he said, because he wasn’t sure if his legs were up for walking yet, “Come here. You’ve got something…”
Jared padded over, easy, and Jensen could see Kawelo in the way he moved, even in the way he ducked his head obediently for Jensen to fish out the piece of blue paper caught in his hair. Or.
“…Huh,” Jensen said after a very long moment. Jared’s face was so close to his, staring intently while he waited for Jensen to choose an emotion. Jensen had nothing. Not even when the light blue—feeler?—curled shyly around his ring finger.
While Jensen watched, a second antenna grew from beneath Jared’s hair to brush lightly at his fingertip. Jensen felt it in a low, rolling shudder down his arm, and he tried to keep his breathing steady as the blue bit of flesh reached out for him, so slow, tentatively yearning, to trace the shape of his cheekbone.
Jared nudged the air by Jensen’s nose, soft, curious noise slipping out of his mouth, curled at the corners. A What do you think? and Is this okay?
Jared kissed him.
It was just a press of his lips, soft and warm and molding to the shape of Jensen’s mouth with a soft puff of breath, and Jensen thought—God—thought maybe, maybe aliens—fuck, aliens, Jared was a, is a—maybe aliens don’t know how to—
Jared slid back just enough to make that noise again and Jensen used the hand in Jared hair to haul him back and show him how the earthlings do it.
He felt like every nerve was on fire, Jared’s huge hands on his back and his free one on the side of Jared’s face, guiding him, showing him, opening for him, opening him up, and Jesus Christ he knew, he knew that Jared was a quick study but goddamn, all Jensen wanted to do was crawl inside him and never—
Jensen shoved Jared back. Not very far because the antenna/feeler thing wouldn’t let go, but far enough so he could breathe. Jared’s irises were huge, just like at the beach, gulping him in. Jensen closed his eyes and tried to think.
“Mac.” They snapped back open. “Mac. Where—?”
“With.” He stopped, frowned, then made a rectangular shape the size of his shoulders.
“Clif?” Jensen asked, let relief sink in enough to calm down. “Okay. Okay. Can I have my hand back?”
Jared looked surprised, and then he looked towards his hairline. The feelers reluctantly retracted.
“Right.” Jensen swallowed. “Um.”
He was losing his mind. He was losing his mind. …Alien. He shouldn’t have to think the word human when he was describing himself. Or anyone. It should’ve been pretty self fucking explanatory. He needed something—real. Mac. Mac was real. Work was real. He had to work. “I’m gonna,” he said, and walked the way his finger was pointing.
The sounds of the bar pressed in hot around him, beating against his eardrums as his feet stopped moving. Clif wasn’t there. Mac wasn’t there.
“You said you left her with Clif!” Jensen’s fingers were digging too hard into Jared’s wrist, yanking him through the crowd even though Jared hissed every time he came down on his bad leg. Jensen’s heart clenched, trying to feel bad about that, but he couldn’t fucking think. “Jared! Where the hell is she?”
It wasn’t like Jared was dragging his feet not wanting to look for her; Jensen tried to make himself realize that. He was right at Jensen’s side, moving people out of his way with his free arm, ducking his head to look kid height. Breathe.
“HEY!” Jensen bellowed, snapping a few heads in their direction. “ANY OF YOU SEE A GUY IN A SUIT LEAVE WITH A KID?”
Two bottle blond Asian women pointed towards the door with worried, high pitched words tumbling out of their mouths that Jensen didn’t pay attention to. Jared got them to the door and out into the open air of the parking lot, the women and another handful of concerned locals following on their heels. Jensen couldn’t think about them, only had eyes for a black Mercedes and the suit standing—
Jensen felt like he was drowning all over again. That was Clif. Standing in the woods. Hollering for Mac. Oh god oh god oh fucking god—
“Where is she?!” he yelled, dropped Jared’s wrist to shove Clif so hard he almost fell.
“She—I was simply—” Clif’s sunglasses were missing, his pale blue eyes wide.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Baldy from the bar came running up, and Jared went so stiff at Jensen’s side it hurt just being close to him.
“I simply wanted to speak with her alone. The bar was too noisy, and no place for—“
“You—” Jensen spat, every muscle in him vibrating, “—someone she doesn’t know—you hauled her outside, away from people—”
“Get in your car—Get back in your fucking car!” Jensen moved to shove him again, stopped only by Jared’s fist locked in his shirt. “You find her!”
“Calm down, Mr. Ackles,” Clif placated, “You’re in no condition to help her—”
“I am in better condition than you!”
“Alright, now,” Baldy growled, catching Clif by the back of his suit and turning him in the direction of his vehicle with surprising strength. “Let’s focus on the kid. We’ll check the beach,” he added, motioning to his scruffy boyfriend, who took a step forward and said, “You have an admirable wardrobe.”
“Huh?” Jensen blurted.
“Haha, you’re cute,” Baldy said, tugging his boyfriend away. “But, seriously, we’ll find her.”
The Asian women took the opposite direction. Clif turned out of the parking lot and went fuck knows where. Jensen turned to Jared and found Kawelo instead.
“Oh thank god,” Jensen breathed. “Go get her.”
Geckos skittered luminescent along the plant leaves as they passed, the damp quiet and muffled bird calls covering the sounds their scrambling footsteps made, monkey howls reverberating through the palm trees.
In a world like this, aliens seemed less absurd.
Kawelo moved like a shadow, like he wasn’t actually touching the mossy ground Jensen kept sinking up to his ankles in. So, so very much a bad idea to run into a rainforest at night. So dumb. God, Mac. What was she—
Jensen nearly fell when the trees gave way to flat, bare ground. He stumbled into Kawelo, stroked down his back to apologize, and raised his head to see—his refrigerator. The old junker fridge blocking off the back door of his house. That was his house, he was—
It was like getting hit by a car—like his parents must have felt—when Mac slammed into him.
“Oh, Jesus. Jesus Christ.” He was cursing, didn’t care, got her up in his arms and crushed her. “I could f—freaking kill you, you stupid little brat!”
Mac released him just enough so she could smack the back of his head. “He was—He was going to take me away, jerkface!” Was? Jensen thought, stomach heaving before he shoved that thought away. “And you told me to!”
“I didn’t mean into the forest in the dead of night!”
“Your fault you didn’t say!”
Kawelo leaned against Jensen’s leg and lifted his head to lick her toes with a soft whine. “You stay out of this!” Jensen snapped, and instantly deflated when he met the dog’s—Jared’s eyes. “I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry. Thank you. You did good.”
His legs were shaking so badly he wasn’t going to be able to stand much longer, but he knew if he sat down now he wouldn’t be able to get up. “Come on,” he mumbled into Mac’s hair, and he was probably getting bruises from her grip on him. He couldn’t really care.
At the top of their rickety stairs, just above the handle on their weather-worn doorknob, someone had tacked a note. Jensen pocketed it before Mac could see. He had a pretty bad feeling he knew who it was from.
“You cut up your feet again?” he asked against her hair, sliding the door shut once Jared’s tail was out of the way.
“Nope,” she mumbled. She sounded exhausted, but that didn’t stop her from digging her heels into his back. “Wearin’ sneakers, ‘member?”
He carried her upstairs and to her room. The note in his pocket crinkled loud enough to hear when he sat down, but Mac just frowned drowsily and demanded the story about Pele and the Hog God. Jared curled up on the bed beside her with his eyes on Jensen, and Jensen didn’t even pretend it was for guilt or permission. He just started talking.
She was out long before he got to the part where the Hog God turned into a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, but Jensen kept talking until the story was done.
Jared’s eyes stayed on him when he stood to leave, but he didn’t make to follow.
Jensen sat down in the middle of the hall.
The first call was to Ben at the bar to apologize for skipping out on work, and to let him know Mac was home safe. Ben sounded strangely gruff like there was something stuck in his throat, but he promised to get word out to the search parties.
Second call was to Kristen’s dad down at the police station just in case they’d been informed. They had, which meant the third call was to Kristen telling her to calm down.
He couldn’t make the fourth call.
Clif was going to take Mac from him. The very least he could do was make the guy sweat it a bit.
No, that wasn’t fair. Jensen sighed and hunched over his knees, wondering how he’d made it into the living room. No one deserved to panic over a missing kid.
He called Kristen back and gave her Clif’s number, then unplugged the phone.
Galaxy Quest was on TV. So was Fifth Element. Jensen tried to muster up enough energy to snort at the irony, put it on the channel running a commercial for Greenpeace, and turned the volume down so low he could barely hear it.
Jared padded downstairs just when Fred Kwan started making out with tentacle girl. He was human shaped, wearing an old pair of Jensen’s swim trunks and a pink shirt Jensen recognized from the bottom of his sock drawer. Jensen felt his heart flip over like it was happening far away. But still happening.
“Hi,” Jared said, sleepy and sweet, a There you are. He didn’t wait for Jensen to answer, just climbed on the couch and curled up so he could fit, resting his head on Jensen’s knee.
“Hey…” Jensen let out, and cut himself off before his voice shuddered too hard.
They watched in silence for a while, Jared’s lashes brushing Jensen’s skin every time he blinked and frowned at the aliens on TV. Jensen—Jensen deliberately stroked his hand through Jared’s hair, twining the locks around his fingers, combing out the tangles. One, then both of his antenna crept out to touch his wrist. There you are.
Jensen sagged back against the couch. “If we ever make it through this,” he said, barely above the hum of the TV, “one day this will all be very funny.”
Jared lifted his head to see him, looking for all the world like Jensen had bared his entire soul. Like he knew what was going to happen to Mac. Jensen’s eyes blurred until he couldn’t see his expression anymore, a wet laugh shaking out of his lungs.
“If we don’t then it’ll just be sad.”
Jared whined, a high longing note in the back of his throat as he gathered Jensen up until he was wrapped in a cocoon of arms and legs and Jared, plumeria and skin and the sea. Jensen hid his face against Jared’s neck and tried not to shake too badly while he cried.
Knock knock knock
Jensen jerked upright so fast he thought he felt something in him tear. Fuck. What time was it? He hadn’t even gotten a chance to tell Mac. Shit, he hadn’t told Mac.
Jared growled, still human but only just, it looked like. Not a morning person. Alien. Whatever. Jensen dodged the limbs trying to keep him on the couch and limped to the front door with his stomach pounding in time to his heart. He heard Jared’s nails click on the floor at his heels and his body automatically blocked the doorway so the dog wouldn’t get out. Running on autopilot in the face of certain emotional trauma. Kawelo—Jared—did not approve.
His first thought was: It’s not a suit.
His second thought was: It’s not Clif.
His third thought was: It’s too fucking early for Jehovah’s witnesses.
“Can I help you?” he croaked, dragging the sleep out of his eyes. Then, “Oh, hey—Uh.”
“Hello again,” said Baldy from the bar with a polite half bow. “I’m Mike, by the way, we never managed to get introduced.”
“Hello…Mike.” Jensen let his hand get shaken, turned his bleary gaze to Mike’s boyfriend, who had to get nudged before he stepped forward. Jared let out a low rumble so close to the back of Jensen’s knee it almost gave out in self preservation.
“I’m Misha.” He grabbed Jensen’s fingers so hard Jensen thought they were going to break off. “Hi!”
“Hi, Misha. Hey, look.” Jensen sagged a little against the door so he could kick a foot back and nudge Jared away from his major arteries. “I’m sorry if no one got a hold of you but we found my sister alright. Um. Thanks a bunch for helping look, though.”
“Oh, no problem.”
“We were pleased to be of service!”
“Yup. Pleased. That’s…us.”
They didn’t move. Mike was the only one who looked uncomfortable about that.
“Uhh,” Jensen added, “But…thanks for dropping by to check on her?”
“Yes!” Mike clapped his hands together. “That’s the ticket. We wanted to check on the kid. So, if you don’t mind—“
Jared’s growl was mean, hackles up, teeth bared. “Whoa,” Jensen blurted, instantly blocking Mike’s entrance to protect—well. “I’m really sorry about my dog, guys. He’s not used to company. But you know,” he added real fast when Jared’s snarls got louder, “now’s not really a good time anyway. It’s really early and—” Clif is coming. Jensen scraped together an apologetic smile and gave Mike a nudge back out the door, keeping himself between Mike and Jared. “Why don’t I give you guys my number and you can drop by some other time?”
If she’s still here.
Misha opened his mouth but Jensen could not give a flying fuck, and neither could the door.
“I wasn’t going to let them in,” he said to Jared, heading for the kitchen to write down the number—or at least, a number. “You didn’t have to get so vocal about it.” Jared kept grumbling, pacing back and forth in front of the door. “Okay, seriously, use your words,” he said, giving Jared a push out of the way and, incidentally, towards the living room, so he could open the door.
The porch was empty.
Jensen stopped then took a tentative step forward. Not at the bottom of the stairs. Not in the yard. “Mike?” Jensen called, but he had to admit he didn’t call very loud.
A black Mercedes pulled into the driveway. Misha and Mike disappeared from his mind.
“Shit,” Jensen breathed, and slammed the door shut.
“Bad,” Jared said, coming out of the living room while he tugged the pink tee over his head and kept walking directly into Jensen’s space. “Bad,” he said again, eyes wide with Get it? and obviously clueless to the changes in the situation.
“Jared,” Jensen hissed. “Clif is here.” Jared tilted his head. “Rectangle—rectangle suit guy? Clif.” He was going to start shaking in a second, panic thick and painful in his throat. “Jesus, Jared, he’s going to take Mac. He can’t take Mac. Right? I mean, there’s got to be more than a couple informal—and then—and it’s a school day, he can’t—”
“Jensen?” Mac mumbled sleepily from the top of the stairs. She rubbed a fist over her eyes and yawned. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing—nothing, kiddo.” Jared turned incredulous eyes on him and Jensen grabbed his arm, whispered, “Please. Please, can you watch her? I’m going to talk to Clif, try to reason with him—”
Voices, loud enough to be right outside the door, cut Jensen off. Hard. They should have heard footsteps. Hell, he should have heard footsteps when Misha and Mike left. It sounded like one person—one man—on their porch, speaking to someone away from the door. Jensen couldn’t be sure, but it sounded a little like the guy named Misha.
“—not yours!” Now that was Clif.
Mac was the first one scrambling for the living room, Jared and Jensen on her heels in a second, Jared scooping her up in his arms to get them all there faster. They landed on the couch with a collective thump, Jensen’s hand on Mac’s head to keep her from rising too high in front of the window.
“Shh,” Jensen ordered, and they peered over the windowsill.
Clif was at the bottom of their stairs, spitting mad at whoever was on their porch—whatever was on their porch, because Jensen wasn’t so sure it was Misha at all. He couldn’t get a good look at it, but jesus, the rattling hiss didn’t sound human. Clif yanked off his sunglasses and clutched them in one white-knuckled—one black-knuckled—Jesus Christ was that a—?
“Eww,” Mac pulled a face, “Why is he holding a squid in his hand?”
“He’s not.” Jensen exchanged wide-eyed glances with Jared. “I think that is his—”
Something shattered and broke, inside the house. Jensen sucked in a breath and grabbed Mac, shoved her behind him in the same instant Jared moved to shield them from the threat.
Mike stumbled in the living room trailing electrical chord. “Hoo boy,” he said, kicking free before he turned to face their warped little family. “Did you know there’s a fridge blocking your back door?”
“Um,” Jensen said, “Yeah.”
Mike laughed a little out of breath and took a step towards them, brought up short by Jared’s rattling snarl. His antenna were out, frill flared and the same blue-green-brown of his eyes, and Jensen noticed for the first time a dark brown ridge down each arm to the point of his light blue claws. He was willing to bet there was a matching stripe down the middle of Jared’s back, just like Kawelo.
Jensen looked at Mac. She looked at Jared, jaw slanted sideways. “Huh.” She squinted at him. “They don’t make Kupua like they used to.”
“Hey, man,” Mike said, hands up and pretty much entirely unphased. “I come in peace. I’m not after your boy.” Jared growled. “—Or your girl. But my boyfriend’s out there so if you don’t mind—” He joined them on the couch with his hands held high, sliding up close enough to peer out the window.
Clif didn’t really look like Clif anymore, so much as a black, blobby, tentacled thing in the middle of their driveway. Jensen had never been more grateful for the strip of trees between the lawn and the road in his life. But still.
“Mac,” Jensen asked, voice quiet, “You think that might’ve been the thing that grabbed you in the cove?”
“Aw, man, you were grabbed by this thing?” Mike groaned sympathetically, forehead falling forward with a thump. “I’m so sorry about this. It doesn’t really understand a difference between water and air. Breathing wise.”
“You’re sorry?” Jensen demanded. “What are you saying? That you’re—”
“Uh, probably. Hang on.”
Misha—that had to be Misha, he was wearing Misha’s garish orange shorts that clashed with the dark blue of his frill (his frill)—took the stairs three at a time, hit the ground in a crouch, and launched himself at Clif like some crazy combination of a linebacker, a cougar, and E.T. Clif bulged when Misha hit him, like squeezing a water balloon in the middle, swelling the last of his features until they were unrecognizable, black and swollen and writhing.
“Oh, nice. To the left, to the left,” Mike cheered under his breath. “No, your other—Behind you!”
“So,” Jensen drawled, ten million times more nonchalant that he actually felt. “Mike?”
“Yeah—okay, watch, watch—There you go.”
“Mike.” His hand came down on Mike’s shoulder, squeezed, shook. “Hi. You need to tell me what you’re doing here before I shove your ass outside with the aliens.”
“Hey!” Mac snapped, giving him a smack for cursing the same instant Jared let out an objecting whine.
“The other aliens,” Jensen amended. “And also how you managed to move a twenty-ton fridge by yourself.”
“Pfft,” Mike snorted, “That was not twenty tons. Believe me, when you start getting the freaky teaky powers, give that rust bucket a lift and tell me that’s twenty tons.”
“When I get what?”
“The—you know.” Mike wiggled his fingers their direction. Or, more specifically, his direction and Jared’s. “Power of voodoo. Hoodoo. Do what? Remind me of the babe.”
Jensen turned to share a What the ever loving heck? look with Mac, but when he turned it on Jared he found the alien preoccupied with glaring a hole the size of Mount Everest in the side of Mike’s head.
Jensen dug his thumb and middle finger into either temple, sinking lower on the couch until it was just easiest to face front, away from the madness outside.
Jared was instantly there, running his hand—claws retracted—over Jensen’s fingers and face, so much concern in every touch that Jensen had to hold his wrist to make him stop. “I’m okay,” he promised, thumb running over the vulnerable skin covering Jared’s pulse. “Just give me a second.”
Jared didn’t need a second. Jared was out of his crouch before Jensen could blink, yanking Mike back by a fistful of his puka-shell patterned shirt. “You,” he snarled, and Jensen got the gist of it without any other words: Your fault.
“Okay,” Jensen blurted, shoving himself up onto his feet and in between them. “Okay, Jared and I are going to go on this side of the room, and you’re going to stay on the couch. Mac, if he moves off the sofa? Kick him in the balls.”
Mike’s disbelieving laughter turned into a wince pretty fast when Mac showed him her teeth.
Jared was still breathing hard under Jensen’s hands, face turned away until Jensen grabbed his chin. “Hey, now,” he said when Jared startled. “Jared. Jared. This—that thing—did you know Clif was an alien?”
He kept it slow and calming, doing his best to make Jared see he knew the answer even before Jared shook his head. Something outside let out a gurgling shriek but from the look of Mike and Mac’s fistpumping it wasn’t one of the good guys.
“Then it’s not—Hey,” he said as Jared tried to pull away. “It’s not your fault. Jared, you saved her.”
Jared jerked his head in Mike’s direction, and it was either, He knew, or I knew about him. Jensen turned, walked back across the room, and grabbed Mike by the back of the neck.
“Did you know this thing was after my sister?” Jensen’s voice sounded eerily in control for the way his blood was thrumming.
“Did you even try to stop it?” Jared felt uncomfortably close all of a sudden, heat radiating off him like a furnace. Mac looked worried, wide eyes turned to him. He forced his grip to ease up.
“We didn’t know where it was until this morning, alright?” Mike had his hands up, wrists against the top of the couch. “And we really didn’t expect it to be people-shaped. When Misha engineered it—”
“When Misha did what?” Jensen blurted. “What?” he added to Jared’s Is this entirely necessary? grunt, “I’m sorry, but the guy looks like he couldn’t engineer his way out of a paper bag.”
“I’ll have you know he’s really very good with his hands.”
“Um, TMI,” Jensen said, tightening his grasp again—this time more or less for show. “So Misha—whatever, made the monster out there?”
“Yeah,” Mike said like Took you long enough. “We figured it would stick to animal shapes, which is why we were scoping out the pound for a while. Only that guy,” he said pointing a finger at his boyfriend through the window, “got one whiff of this guy,” thumb jab at Jared, “and we suddenly had a whole bunch of other stuff to worry about because apparently your guy is going through something like alien puberty where he thinks anything with an ounce of space juice is creeping in on his territory. Mainly, you.”
Jensen looked at Jared, who’d backed up far enough to level Mike with a look of wary but grudging respect. Okay, so the weirdo knew his shit. And Jensen wasn’t going to think about alien puberty until—never.
“But you aren’t an alien,” Jensen made himself ask.
“Noo,” Mike drawled. Paused. Leered. “But I’ve had my fair share of space j—Erk!”
“Hello, there is a kid present.”
“So you’re like,” Jensen said after he’d backed off again, “You’re his mate?” The word sounded weirdly…appropriate. For those two. Christ, if Chris had ever called Jensen his mate they would’ve both wound up in the hospital. If Jared—
“Mate,” Jared said, and Jensen’s traitorous knees turned to butter as Jared caught his gaze. “You.”
“Not—” The word came out barely audible. Jensen shook his head and struggled to turn his attention back on Mike. Important. “Why is Clif after Mac?”
“He’s—We’re actually pretty sure he’s not.”
Something hit the house like a bus, the force of a bus, incorporeal as a wall of sound but hard enough to blow out the window right by their heads. Mac shrieked but Mike’s hand was on her already, shoving her out of the way of flying glass. Jensen stumbled when whatever it was slammed into him, knocking him against Jared as Mike was thrown from the sofa. Jared didn’t move an inch, though he seemed more than happy to have Jensen in his arms. Jensen turned his head just enough to see Mac cough at the dust cloud, unharmed, before she pointed at Mike.
“He’s off the couch!”
Mike rolled on his side to cover his balls, coughing out, “It’s Jared. We think he’s after—”
His voice cut off with the absence of sound from outside. No birds. No humming insects. Dead quiet in suddenly the worst sense of the phrase.
Mike hissed out Misha’s name as he got to his feet, holding a shallow cut on his arm. The only reason Jensen knew he had one on his own face was because Jared whined and leaned in close enough to lick it before Jensen stumbled back and away, after Mike, trying so hard not to think about that word mate as Mike yanked open the door to—a whole lot of nothing.
More nothing than they were expecting. Mike nearly stepped into thin air before he realized the porch steps were missing. His head snapped up, and Jensen could see the exact second steps stopped mattering when he saw Misha lying in a crater the size of a car.
It was a twenty foot drop, easy; their house was built on the side of a hill. The distance didn’t even trip Mike up; he hit the ground running for Misha with a kind of strange grace Jensen had only seen from Jared.
The Voodoo. If he ma—stayed with Jared… Mike made it sound like some of the alien stuff rubbed off. Jesus. Why didn’t his brain think that was a bad thing? Probably too fucking occupied watching the way Misha’s dark blue feelers touched Mike’s smiling face.
“Okay,” Jensen started, tearing himself away from their reunion. “We—Oof! Ffffreak,” he hissed when Jared set him back on his suddenly unstable legs, twenty feet lower than they previously had been. “Please don’t—grab me and jump off of things! Without telling me,” he added, faltering a little in the face of Jared’s smirk.
Jared brushed their noses together so fast Jensen wasn’t entirely sure he didn’t imagine it, then leapt the twenty feet back onto the remnants of the porch to repeat the process with Mac. She thought it was awesome.
“Wuss,” she added just for Jensen, sticking her tongue out over Jared’s shoulder.
“You had warning,” he pointed out, not in the least bit pouting. Jared flashed his dimples.
“Next time you want a pet,” Mike was explaining to Misha (in an only slightly shaking voice) when they walked up, “I’m taking you to the damn pound.”
“They have aliens there, too,” Mac chirped helpfully.
Misha looked intrigued beneath the dust and swelling start of a black eye. “That was certainly the case before.” Then he caught Mike’s glare. “But. Or…not?”
“Something smaller than a pony this time,” Mike continued as he hauled his boyf—his mate—upright. Misha instantly and seamlessly fit against his side, one feeler sliding low to touch the tip of Mike’s ear. “Or hey, we could get you a pony, and you could put it on a treadmill and generate power for the robot I am going to build to destroy all of your lab equipment.”
Misha whined, sharp and distressed. Jensen exchanged glances with Mac, still in Jared’s arms. Definitely the same species.
“Or maybe something like a gerbil. Or a fish.”
“Why was your—pet after Jared?” Jensen cut in, “And by the way, in case you’re taking a poll any time soon, I’m all for your diabolical science shop of horrors equipment getting eaten by a pony.”
Misha looked liked he was going to scowl, glanced at Jared, and thought better of it. Jensen let the part of himself shutting out anything to do with Jared drop far enough to notice he was trying his very best not to tense up again or snarl at these two while he was holding Mac, tiny tremors skittering down his arms.
“That’s…rather impressive,” Misha said, apparently noticing the same thing. Jared’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure I would have been able to stand this close to another of my kind during our courtship.”
“You were barely able to stand at all,” Mike snorted. His saving grace, as far as Jensen was concerned, was that he was the only one to get the joke.
“Do you want me to…” Jensen said, offering to take Mac. Jared shook his head and settled all the way in his skin, maybe a little too still but otherwise calm. Mac kept stroking his hair, giggling when an antenna stretched out to touch her nose.
Jensen snapped his fingers in front of Misha’s nose to get the speculative scientist look away from his—away from Jared. “Focus, please. Why on earth—or, uh, whatever…galaxy you’re from—would Clif be after Jared?”
“Ah.” Misha looked uncomfortable, frowning briefly at Mike like this was his fault. “What did Michael tell you about Jared’s—dislike of us?”
“Puberty?” Misha blinked at Mike, and Jensen could hear the same stumbling pronunciation that Jared sometimes had. “I don’t—”
“It’s not exactly that,” Mike cut in. “It’s sort of…pheromones. Jared’s giving off ‘hey wanna mate?’ vibes for you, but the critter picked up on them instead because it was the only alien around. But it literally had the brain of a pea,” Mike continued, demonstrating with his fingers. “It thought the girl belonged to Jared, and that you were competition. Or something. It’s all very vague. Like I said, size of a pea. Anyway, it must’ve figured out last night that looking like Clif was a way it could get close enough to kill you and grab Jared for himself.”
“So.” Jensen had to swallow a couple times before he could talk. “So. You’re telling me the blobby tentacled thing wasn’t always Clif—he was just Clif this morning.”
Mike’s eyebrows twitched a little. “Um. Yeah?”
“So you’re telling me Clif is still on his way over, still going to try to take my sister away, and now there’s a crater the size of a Buick and what is probably his stolen Mercedes in my driveway.”
“Dude,” Mike scoffed right over Mac’s protests, “He’s not gonna take your sis.”
The malahini-Ackles stared at him in incomprehension.
Jensen finally made himself ask. “And you know this…?”
Mike stretched, far too casually, instantly drawing Misha’s less-than-chilly gaze. “I may or may not have dropped some top branch military code words—that he, as an ex-special services agent, would undoubtedly have understood—into our conversation last night. Maybe.”
Mac and Jared turned both their heads in Jensen’s direction, Mac hesitantly stage whispering, “I don’t know what that means.”
“He’s just coming by to sign some papers,” Mike said, baring his teeth in a grin. “And as for the car, Mish and I can get that bad boy back in his driveway before his army surplus alarm goes off. It’s, like, five in the morning.”
“Jensen,” Mac whispered, snagging a grip on Jensen’s shirt to haul him closer. He went, stumbling, trying to remember words.
“Who are you?”
Still smiling, Mike threw an arm around his mate and turned them, sauntering towards the car. Jensen heard Misha trill something in Mike’s ear.
“Thanks,” Mike said, grinning into the kiss.
“I—” Jensen said, just a touch too loud. He bit his lip to shut up, looking first at the house, and then at Jared and Mac. Took another breath, then gave up and rubbed a hand over his face. “We’re going to need a ladder.”
Clif, when he showed, did not look at the missing porch steps so hard Jensen thought he was going to pull something. Jensen tried a couple stammering excuses even though he’d told himself he wouldn’t, but Clif just went pale and muttered, “Sign here,” until Jensen gave up. He wasn’t even entirely sure what he was signing, except they seemed to be some sort of performance reviews. Nowhere in there did they say he was surrendering custody, and that was the only thing that mattered.
Clif stopped right before he got back in his car, the whole process having never made it past the driveway. “I think you’ll do your best by her,” he said, and Jensen could see the half-truth in there, too, without the sunglasses in the way.
“My best is all I’ve got,” he answered, maybe pushing his luck just a little. He didn’t need to hear Clif saying Let’s hope that’s enough. Mac had Jared’s best working for her, Kristen’s, and maybe even Mike and Misha’s.
They were going to be okay.
Jared trotted around the house just as Clif pulled out of the driveway, his arms full of lumber from Jensen’s dad’s attempt at a greenhouse some eight months back. It was mostly intact, seeing as it’d never made it out of the protective covering. Jared smiled at him when he got close, a quiet and curious curl of his lips that Jensen could read better than Shakespeare.
“So,” Jensen said, accepting an armful of wood to lay out across the remnants of steps they were using as work horses, “I heard somewhere that you’ve been leaking pheromones.”
Jared suddenly seemed really interested in an imaginary bird flying over head.
“Hmm?” he hummed like he hadn’t heard, curve of his cheekbones turning pink.
Jensen thought about all the things he would normally say—things like, Do you understand the ramifications of entering into a long term relationship with someone raising a child? But Jared obviously did know. He’d never acted like it was him and Jensen with a side order of Mackenzie. It didn’t feel like Jared was an outsider trying to integrate into their family, just a piece they hadn’t known was missing from their puzzle.
He knew there was a helpless sort of grin pulling at his mouth when he sidled over to Jared and let the head of his hammer fall into Jared’s open hand, keeping a light enough grip on the handle that he could tug him closer to watch the answering grin dimple Jared’s face.
“You know how to use one of these?” he asked.
Jared said, “I will learn,” against his mouth, and kissed him.
What did he need, anyway? Assurances? This mate thing sounded pretty damn permanent.
“Mac! There better be shoes on your feet!”
“Okay, they’re going on now, Shoe Nazi.”
“Shoe Nazi!” Mac agreed, ducking her head so Jensen could walk over her on their stairs. The porch ones were almost done, but for the time being they were stuck using the back door. Jensen had watched Jared move the fridge further out of the way and thought, Huh. Voodoo.
“Please don’t teach my sister new words,” Jensen said, pained, and leaned forward so he could kiss Kristen’s cheek.
“Shoe Nazi!” Jared chirped from the doorway. Jensen was 99% sure it was just to piss him off. The other 1% was that Jared like to show off.
“Or my boyfriend,” Jensen amended, pulling a face.
Kristen laughed, ruffling his hair. “What kind of aunt and surrogate sister would I be? Huh?”
“A better one?”
“He means thank you,” Jared said, only a little bit of hesitation before each word. Jensen conceded a stealth high five with Mac to show their solidarity on the goal of giving Jared a twang by the end of the month.
“Yes, he does,” Kristen agreed, twinkle in her eye that Jensen knew he wasn’t going to like. “I’m just glad he found something to do on a Friday night.”
“Oh my God,” Mac wailed, slapping her hands over her eyes. “We need to leave before they start kissing.”
“Okay, okay,” Kristen laughed, leading her temporarily blind ward towards the back door. “We’re going. Have fun you two!”
Jensen waited until the door was firmly shut before he rubbed at his eyes. “Christ. I don’t think she could’ve winked any harder.”
“Mmm,” Jared hummed against the space between Jensen’s neck and shoulder, hands settling on his hips, thrumming with the kind of energy they’d been fighting all week while they settled into their new life. Jared spent a good chunk of time as Kawelo—especially at night—because he said sometimes it was easier to be around Jensen like that. Jensen didn’t have to ask which times.
Jensen took a breath and turned in Jared’s grip, even when it settled even tighter, Jared’s thumbs pressing into the flesh just under Jensen’s hip bones. “Kiss me,” Jared said when Jensen didn’t immediately.
“Oh, I’m going to,” Jensen promised on an exhale that was only a little bit unsteady. “First,” he added before Jared could duck his head, “Ground rules.”
Jared frowned, arching an eyebrow. Really?
“Yes, really. Just—Can you try to keep the alien to a sort of…minimum? Like, don’t grow tentacles or something without warning me first.”
Jared just rolled his eyes, and did the one thing he’d discovered pissed Jensen off without fail.
“Jared, put me the fuck down!”
“No,” Jared grinned, shaking his head hard enough that his hair flopped in his eyes as he bounded up the stairs towards Jensen’s bedroom. “I want to see your pants banana!”
“Oh my g—oof,” Jensen yelped as Jared dumped him on the bed. “It’s—” he panted, trying to remember how to breathe with Jared crawling up his body, “It’s pants popsicle or boxer—Jesus Christ, you could—Oh, you could do that some more.”
Jared let his hips roll again, just his hips, the rest of him blanketing Jensen in a hot, heavy weight, pinning him in place as Jared rutted coaxingly against him. Coaxingly. Like Jensen wasn’t rock hard and aching against Jared, like his eyes weren’t glazed and his mouth fucking slack already, God, what did Jared want? “What are you waiting for?” Jensen snapped, or tried to. It came out as a sort of breathless plea.
“You,” Jared smiled down at him, this glorious heart-stopping smile that crinkled his eyes at the corners. He leaned down and nuzzled him, lips brushing Jensen’s but not kissing even though Jensen arched his neck up, asking. The stretch of his throat snagged Jared’s attention and he pressed his face against it and inhaled.
Christ. Jensen shook, was shaking. Like this, Jared’s scent was everywhere, in everything he breathed, in every cell of his skin. Jared lifted his head and Jensen thought—
Jared’s pupils dilated so fast Jensen thought he was having a stroke, just as he felt the first bead of precome slide from his tip, dampening the boxers that were—“Whoa!”—suddenly not there, not there at all, were somewhere around his ankles and that, that was Jared’s face hovering just inches from him, breathing him in, soaking him in. Jared’s antennas were unfurled, rigidly curled towards him, eager but not touching. Jensen bit his lip and tried to remember how to breathe. He’d figured on the feelers, honestly. He had not figured his reaction to them.
“Jared,” he panted. Jared’s gaze snapped up, then back down, flush dark and hungry on his cheeks as he draped himself over Jensen’s legs and fit his hands into the grooves of Jensen’s hipbones, tilted his head, opened his mouth, and started at the base.
“Fuck!” Jared used his teeth. And in—oh God—the good, the best way, sliding the front of them from the middle to the edge of his shaft, lightest tease of sharpness as Jared let his lips part to slip his tongue through, easing the threat of hurt with hot, slick licks.
“Do you do a lot of this on your planet?” Jensen panted, doing his very best not to imagine Jared writhing in a sea of alien bodies. Jared lifted his head to smirk at him, then shook his head. Jensen let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, and instantly sucked it back in as Jared ducked back down.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he stammered, tangling his fingers in Jared’s hair. If they could just keep talking he just might make it to the actual sex. “Wait. So.” Jared gave him a look under his bangs, and Jensen got a weird sort of trembling feeling in his stomach. “Have you done this at all?”
Jared blushed, finger tips trailing circles on Jensen’s hips. “Am I…wrong?”
“No, no, no,” Jensen chanted immediately. “No way. Not a thing wrong. Jesus.”
Jared took shameless advantage of Jensen’s dropping his head back on the bed to lick a slow, damp line from the base of Jensen’s cock to just under the head, holding him down as Jensen shuddered.
“Okay,” he blurted, nearly choking on his own tongue, “Okay, but. You learned somewhere, right? Please, please, please tell me Misha didn’t—“
“Misha showed me…spider webs.” It turned to spy dar wehbs in Jared’s mouth, and fuck, one of these days they were going to find out if Jared could talk Jensen all the way to an orgasm.
Focus. “Spider webs? Oh.” Oh, Jesus. Jensen swallowed, or tried to. “You went on the—“
Jared let out something like a snarl and sucked him into his mouth—apparently done with talking—and it was all Jensen could do to clutch the sheets and not fucking come. Jared’s mouth opened like a dream, gulping him down like he had never heard the concept of gag reflex, and Jensen was trembling so hard he could barely breathe. Couldn’t talk. He was so close, God, so close, he was going to, and then it’d be—
“Jared,” he begged, “Jared—Fuck, Jared, stop, stop, Jared—”
Jared lifted his head but didn’t let Jensen slip completely from his mouth, teeth caught just under the ridge of his head so light he could barely feel it, balanced on the curve of Jared’s tongue. He raised an eyebrow. Jensen had to remember what vowels were.
“This is going to be over,” he managed to gasp out, but only because his eyes were squeezed shut, “so fucking soon if you keep that up.”
Jared made a Point? sort of growl and swallowed him back down.
“JesusJesusJesus,” Jensen hissed, nearly crawling out of his skin the pleasure spiked so high. Jared’s throat constricted around the head and Jensen was reduced to high pitched whines that made Jared smile around Jensen’s cock.
Something in Jensen snapped. He jerked his legs out from under Jared and caught him under his arms, yanking him halfway up his body before Jared could so much as gasp. Jensen got a hand on the back of his neck, half t-shirt and half hair, and hauled him up by it, legs locking around Jared’s hips the instant he got his mouth on him. His nails raked Jared’s skin as he dragged the shirt off, earning himself a hiss and Jared’s wrecked panting.
Jared struggling out of his shorts was a remarkably human sight, the warmth pooling low in his belly distracting Jensen just enough that he was on his front with his wrists caught in one of Jared’s hands at the small of his back with no fucking clue how he got there. Then Jared used his free hand to spread Jensen’s cheeks, and he forgot why the hell that was ever a problem.
The first touch of Jared’s tongue wasn’t teasing, wasn’t meant to ease him into it. It was eating at him, slick curling flex of muscle as deep as Jared could get it, and the press of his fingers was trying to make that deeper. Jensen keened, lips pulled tight over his teeth as he tried to smother the noises into the comforter. God, fuck, this was. He didn’t, couldn’t. Jared dropped his wrists to hold Jensen open with both hands and Jensen’s nerves were so shot he didn’t even realize it. His hips rutted every helpless centimeter they could move.
One of the fingertips playing with his hole slipped in up to the knuckle, then all the way inside. Jensen went still. So still. That. That should have. He should have felt.
He dragged his head up an excruciating inch to look over his shoulder and see Jared licking the fingers of his spare hand. Only. Only the saliva looked thick, shiny. Jared caught him watching and gave him a dopey, horny version of a smirk before he turned his head to drag the flat of his tongue across the space where Jensen’s ass met the back of his thigh. He tried his best not to spontaneously combust when the saliva started to heat.
Holy shit, no wonder Mike was so fucking smug all the time.
Jensen spent what felt like fucking eternity trying to keep himself from flying apart at the seams as Jared licked him, stretched him, then licked him again. Jensen whispered a hundred million things into the sheets until words stopped making sense, until he was such a mess that he didn’t register that Jared was moving until his teeth sank into Jensen’s shoulder.
He yelped, bucked, swore, and Jared didn’t let go. Instead he arched his spine, canting his hips until the head of his cock pushed past the tight and thoroughly worked over ring of Jensen’s ass. Jensen gulped in noises, fighting the hand Jared had in the small of his back keeping him from bucking back and taking Jared all at once and then Jared was suddenly in, filling him up, surrounded in slick and heat and Jensen, fuck, Jensen felt like he should be crying it felt so good.
High, helpless whimpers spilled out of Jared’s mouth, and Jensen could feel the flick of Jared’s eyelashes against his skin as Jared’s eyes squeezed shut. Jensen dragged together just enough muscle coordination to reach back and press his fingers to the back of Jared’s skull, holding him there.
Jared let out a ragged, helpless cry and drove into Jensen, working a frantic hand between Jensen’s body and the sheets, the sound ricocheting down Jensen’s spine all the way to where Jared was thrusting into him, working him open. One brush of his fingertips and Jensen was gone, gone, devoured by a white-hot white-noise that tore through every inch of him except the pinpricks of Jared’s teeth on his skin.
Feeling Jared lose his rhythm and fight the contractions of Jensen’s body to pound into him, hearing the snarl muffled against his neck and feeling Jared spill into him, scorching hot and endlessly wet, dripping—it was like coming all over again.
It took ten of the top twenty best minutes of Jensen’s life before Jared moved, leaving Jensen’s ass and shoulder throbbing pleasantly with the beat of his heart. No more grace, Jared flopped on his side, then his back, eyes closed, blissful smile curling his reddened mouth. One of his feelers drifted over to brush Jensen’s cheek.
“You,” Jensen mumbled, when he’d rounded up enough brain cells to make words. He had more to say after that, he was sure, but that...seemed to sum it up.
“You,” Jared agreed, smiling at him like Hey there, and Yeah, and Love you. Then his eyebrow quirked, lips pursed in a dare. “Mate.”
“Mate,” Jensen said with his own arched brow, which in no way faltered when Jared’s hand skimmed down his back to dip in the crease of his ass.
So. Jared liked the voodoo. Good to know.
“I want,” Jared said, voice slow and syrup sweet, brushing their noses together as he grinned, “banana pancakes.”
Jensen could barely move, but arching an eyebrow was something worth accomplishing. “Pants banana pancakes?”
Jared shrugged—“Okay!”—and tackled him.
...Except for the soundtrack, which is totally HERE. ;3