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W(h)ere we belong

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Prologue

A sharp crack resounded through the air. Pain, white hot and instant, lanced through his chest. He barely had time to cry out in surprise or pain or fear before his knees gave out, thudding against the unforgiving ground, too weak now, to hold up his body.

He was only vaguely aware of the warm gushing that bloomed red across his naked chest, mind consumed instead by the fervent prayer that it was all over now. That his sacrifice hadn’t been in vain. That the pain-filled road that brought him here, took him and only him to the murky underwaters of Death.

“Nooo!!!!!”

The scream, although saturated with anguish and terror, was exactly the thing that made this whole endeavor worth it. He felt himself being lifted and the comforting feel of strong arms encircling him made even the pain dull slightly. All at once, he was faced with the reminder of why he had done what he had done. And he could never regret it.
His body was shaking badly, his own shudders of shock mixing with the violent tremors of the man holding him. He wanted so badly to reach out, brush away the cascade of tears, tell the man that he was going to be okay, that everything would be okay with time.

“Don’t you do this to me,” the man begged roughly, bringing his face close to press their foreheads together. “Don’t you do this, don’t you leave me.”

I’d never leave you, he wants to tell the man. Not really. I love you.

As though the man can hear his thoughts, which sometimes seems likely, he screams for help before leaning down again to pepper his face with kisses. “I love you, God I love you so fucking much. Please don’t this to me, I’m begging you, please, please, please…”

“Love…too..” is all he manages to choke out before he has to succumb to the looming darkness. The last thing he hears is an anguished cry permeating the air.

And then, it is dark.

###

Chapter one: New Friends

Pain was a mistress Jensen was intimately familiar with.

Maybe it sounds morbid, and to an extent, it really is, but the fact of the matter remains, that Jensen had been through far too much pain in the seventeen years he’d been alive.
After losing both his parents in a car crash when he was no more than 2 years old, Jensen was palmed off to the system when his aunt and uncle thought themselves “too busy to entertain and raise a baby”. He was one of the fortunate ones, finding himself with a couple that loved him and treated them like their own. Quite honestly, though, it would soon come to pass that Jensen’s luck, ended there.

Jensen would argue that Lady Luck gave him one more good thing, just to spice up her never-ending quest for his torture and subsequent demise.

Of course, with the luck he had, it was quite a story to get his karmic payback.

~* Jensen *~

“Class, meet our new student, Jensen Ackles.”

Jensen fought the urge to groan as Mrs. Cohen, his new form room teacher, felt the need to announce his presence. This, as far as he was concerned, was the worst part of coming to a new school. Everyone feeling the overwhelming need to announce your arrival, like the entire student body hadn’t already weeded him out as the new kid.

Jensen offered his teacher a half-hearted smile at her efforts, that came out as more of a grimace. She nodded at him to take a place and, noting that the only empty seat was near the back, he figured that once, maybe luck was on his side for a little while. He nodded once to the dark-haired boy sitting next to him before slinking down in his seat in a vain attempt to lose the attention so kindly prompted by his well-meaning teacher.

Fighting against the urge to roll his eyes, he managed to stop himself from reacting when he noticed the boy next to him staring at him in his peripheral vision, obviously trying to be stealthy about it.

“Don’t strain yourself trying to be discreet,” Jensen commented dryly.

“You’d rather I stare directly at you?” his rough voice sounded slightly surprised, and definitely amused, and Jensen huffed out a small breath, lifting his head to meet piercing blue eyes. Jensen was never usually this direct, but last night had been a rough one, and combine that with the constant gazes attributed to his peers’ amazement at a new and fresh face? It was understandable that he wasn’t really in the mood to be affable.

“It beats acting like everyone else here with SNTS,” he snorted.

“SNTS?” the boy asked curiously.

“Shiny New Toy Syndrome,” Jensen explained. “You know, like when a kid gets some new toy for Christmas and he can’t help staring at it because it’s new?”

“You, being the new toy in this analogy?” he clarified, sending a grin Jensen’s way. Realizing that he was attracting attention now, which was his last intention, he returned to his original position and fixed his eyes on his table.

“Obviously.”

The bell for first period rang shrilly, saving Jensen from any more of a discussion, and with a small nod, he kept his head down and wove his way through the mill of students and out the door.

Stopping briefly at his locker to grab his Chemistry books, he groaned when he realized the door was jammed. Of course it would be. As he wrestled with the handle, cursing low under his breath, a hand suddenly shot out, slamming hard against the locker and making Jensen cringe at the sound that he normally associated with pain. He recovered quickly, however, when the door swung easily open, and as he turned to thank whichever Locker Whisperer had helped him, he was met once more by startling cerulean eyes. The boy grinned at him again, and Jensen wondered why he was being so friendly.

“Seems like we’re locker mates too,” he grinned, opening his own locker next to Jensen’s in the same way.

“Seems like,” Jensen mumbled, quickly grabbing his books and trying not to meet the boy’s eyes. It wasn’t out of disrespect, no; Jensen just didn’t trust anyone. Period. Generally, for that very reason, it was easier to just shut people out. For some reason, though, Jensen didn’t really want to shut him out. He seemed like a cool guy, and it wasn’t like he had a load of friends or even friendly faces at the moment.

“You should be more excited,” the boy smirked. “You get to see this gorgeous face every morning and have a good excuse for it.”

“Sure,” Jensen deadpanned before he could stop and think about his words. “At least you can fix my locker when I need to.”

The boy barked out a laugh and Jensen blushed a little as he realized what he’d allowed himself to say.

“I like you,” the guy grinned, nodding at him in approval. A glint of happiness sparked inside Jensen as he allowed himself a smile, forcing himself not to hide for once.

“I can hardly contain my excitement,” he rolled his eyes, grinning finally, as the boy let out another loud laugh.

“I’m Christian Kane,” he offered, holding out his hand. “Call me Chris.”

“Jensen Ackles,” he gripped the proffered hand, throwing caution to the wind. “Don’t you dare call me Jenny.”

“Noted,” Chris laughed, slamming his locker shut. “Now, Jensen, tell me; how good are your wingman skills?”

###

Chris was definitely a little more talkative than Jensen first thought, filling the time to walk to their chemistry class with mindless chatter, mostly about Sophia Bush, the head cheerleader Jensen guessed his new friend was obsessed with. He didn’t mind it; in fact, Jensen would go so far as to say he really enjoyed having something to fill in the mind-numbing silence he’d been stuck with since he left home and his best friend, Cas, in favor of coming here. Of course, with the way his foster father was allowing things to escalate, Jensen wasn’t holding his breath about this place either.

“…definitely want to bang that,” Chris finished, bringing Jensen back from his thoughts. He smiled at the wolfish grin his friend was sporting, and flicked his chin subtly in the direction of the cheerleaders with their backs facing him. Judging from the love-struck expression that suddenly found its way to Chris’s face, one of them was Sophia, and Chris definitely wanted more than to just “bang that”. He chuckled, for the first time in a while, nudging Chris lightly in the side.

“Lose the puppy-love look, Romeo,” he sniggered, and without missing a beat, Chris flipped him off, only serving to make him laugh again. Chris shoved him lightly to the side, and Jensen felt himself connect with something warm and solid.

“Sorry…” he started to say, before looking up in the hazel eyes of what he was sure was the most gorgeous guy on the face of the earth. His heart felt like it had stopped beating in his chest and the world around him seemed to come to a complete stand-still. All that mattered were the chocolate brown eyes looking down at him and the strong arms encasing him. He felt almost dizzy with the crazed impulse to bury himself in this handsome stranger and the worst part was, he knew he'd happily do so and stay in his embrace permanently, if the idea wasn't already bucket-loads of crazy.

What the hell was going on with him?

Chapter Text

~* Jared *~

The smell was downright intoxicating.

He had caught the faintest whiff of it coming into school, and the sweet smell had triggered every Alpha response in his body; he had even missed homeroom in favor of making sure that he hadn’t inadvertedly allowed his eyes to shift to its stunning amber, or allowed his canines to distend. Whatever the smell was, it was amazing, and Jared just wanted to wrap himself in it forever.

Which is why he couldn’t possibly understand why the rest of them couldn’t smell it.

“You’re imagining things, Jay-Man,” Chad clapped his back with a shit-eating grin. The blond set his books on the counter of the Chemistry lab and turned to face Jared. “There is no new smell.”

“You know I hate to agree with Chad- and I really hate to agree with him- but I don’t smell anything different either,” Genevieve piped up. The petite brunette shrugged her delicate shoulders. “We could ask Sandy though, and Danni and Chris and Misha and Tommy if they’ve smelt this amazing new scent of yours.”

Jared grimaced at the mention of Sandy; his ex-girlfriend had been not-so-subtly hinting at wanting to get back together, and as much as Sandy and him were friends since they were pups, the Beta had a special knack for getting under his skin. More than anything, Jared hated how she felt like she was better than their friends, even though she held the same power as most of them; they were all Betas, with the exception of Chad, Chris and Jared, who were Alphas. Jared was his father’s heir, and once they’d gotten together, Sandy had turned even haughtier, and once she’d proclaimed herself as Jared’s Beta, he knew they had to break up. For more obvious reasons, other than the fact that he was leaning more towards gay than bi these days.

She wasn’t his mate. Maybe Jared was being old-fashioned, but he was going to hold out until he found his mate, not force a mating for the sake of having someone. He’d heard stories about finding your mate; about how your world suddenly revolves around them instead of the sun. About the overwhelming feelings of love and lust and protectiveness, so primal and raw that you can almost feel it burning through the blood in your veins. Everything in the world ceases to matter with the exception of your mate and their happiness; it was literally like finding the other half of your soul, and people who have mated, often told him that it was similar to waking up from a dream. This life that they live before their mate suddenly seems like they’ve been going through life only semi-conscious, and now, they see everything with awakened eyes.

Who wouldn’t want to wait for that?

Sandy, for one. Jared knew that other members of the pack felt similarly to her, but a fair amount still believed in mating, and Jared was one of them. He knew it would be worth it, and he was willing to wait, however long it might take.

“Chris made a new friend in homeroom,” Misha informed them as he sat down, bringing Jared away from his fantastical thoughts.

“Bull,” Genevieve snorted indelicately. “Chris doesn’t do friends, let alone new friends. He just barely likes us."

“I saw him too,” Danni contributed as she walked in, her bag still on her shoulder. “They’re on their way here."

Jared was curious, to say the last. Chris had been his friend since as far back as he could remember, and even so, they weren’t all too close. For as long as he’d known him, Jared hadn’t known Chris to make a friend, preferring their pack, or sometimes even isolating himself a little. Whoever the alpha had befriended must have been something special. For a moment, Jared entertained the thought that it was a girl- could his friend have found his mate?- but quickly dismissed the thought when Danni spoke again.

“He was pretty hot too,” she divulged. “Like, smokin’. He’s in our homeroom.”

Jared was eager to see who had managed to so easily slip through Chris's walls and strike up a friendship against every possible odd. Besides, there was rarely any newcomers to their little town and for someone to come in their senior year? Must have been some circumstance.

Whatever thought he’d had, though, was obliterated when that sweet smell wafted over his senses again. His inner wolf roared in recognition and he fought the urge to shift, to hunt down the smell until he could find it and never ever let it go.

“It’s back,” he said in a low voice, frustrated beyond belief at the restrictions of being in his human form. “Tell me you guys can smell it!”

If he was hoping for any sort of agreement, he was sorely mistaken. He growled low in his throat as the scent became stronger and stronger…

…bringing it through the door…

…In the form of the most beautiful boy Jared ever had the pleasure of seeing.

His heart stopped beating, and the chatter around him muted to favor the rich, silken chuckle escaping from the boy’s plush, sinful lips. The alpha in him growled, roaring possessively when Chris touched him, something inside him chanting thunderously mine, mine, mine. Another laugh escaped the boy and it made Jared’s toes curl in pleasure; he wanted that sound to become a permanent fixture in his life.

Chris shoved the boy and Jared barely contained the protective snarl that was threatening to rip through him. He was brought to a crushing halt when the boy stumbled and with lightning quick reflexes, he bracketed his arms to brace the stunning boy against his chest.

“Sorry…” a warm voice as smooth as honey left the boy’s mouth as he turned his face up to look at Jared. Time halted, and all that mattered was that he keep the boy in his arms. He drank in the strong, square cut of his jaw and the light dusting of freckles that Jared wanted to trace with his tongue; he wondered idly where else on this boy’s body the adorable flecks were. Long lashes a shade lighter than his dirty blond hair framed mesmerizing, break-taking green eyes that, once they met his, made everything in Jared’s world make sense suddenly. The boy was saying something, but all Jared could focus on was the entirely too kissable lips that were just a breath away from his own, and still too far away for Jared’s liking.

Weird.

“Um…can I…?” The boy gestured helplessly to where Jared’s arms were still wrapped around him. Like snapping out of a trance, the world came back into focus, sounds filtering through and the stunned gazes of his pack members drilling a hole in him.

“Right, um…sorry…” he apologized sheepishly, offering the boy a small smile as he let go. It took every bit of restraint he had, since he was already fighting against the compulsion to allow his wolf to claim the boy as his own. “I’m Jared,” he introduced himself, for the first time in his life feeling shyness creep up on him.

“Jensen,” he returned, offering a hand. Jared had the strangest impulse to drag the offered hand to his mouth and press butterfly kisses over each knuckle in turn. Thankfully, he could still control his wolf most of the time, so the alpha had to settle for a handshake. Like an electric shock, the touch of the boy send sparks blazing over every inch of his body, and they both let go at the sheer force of it.

“Nice to meet you.” Jared was pleased to note that he was getting his vocabulary back in slow stints.

“Likewise,” the boy- Jensen- smiled, almost shyly before returning to Chris’s side. Jared let the question fall into his eyes as he stared at his longtime friend, and couldn’t hold back the sigh of relief as Chris shook his head minutely; no, there was no attraction to the boy, he had not claimed him. Chris was straighter than an arrow, but it never hurt to be sure. Although Jared was fairly certain that, even if the other Alpha had staked a claim, he would have had no qualms challenging him over it; and he would have won.

Whoa, wait; why was the thought of anyone else having him so unbearable? A growl was bubbling in his chest at the mere thought of anyone touching the green-eyed boy.

“Holy shit, Jay-Man,” Genevieve’s whispered exhalation caught his attention and he turned to face his pack members.

“What?” he asked, trying valiantly to ignore the fragrant smell that called to every cell in his body.

“Buddy,” Chad, for once, looked serious, and somewhat troubled. “I think you just found your mate.”

~*Jensen*~

Running a hand roughly though his hair, Jensen avoided eye contact with Chris until they were both seated at the lab counter furthest from that Jared guy. He sighed gustily; he had no time for a silly crush and really, why would someone like that look twice at someone like him?

“What just happened?” Chris asked suspiciously, flopping down next to him.

“Damn if I know,” Jensen answered, trying to control the shakiness in his voice. What was it about that guy? “He helped steady me and introduced himself, that’s it.”

“Didn’t seem like that was it,” Chris narrowed his eyes at his new friend. Jensen stuck out his chin in defiance, meeting the suspicious look head-on.

“Well, unless you saw something I didn’t, never mind the fact that I was there, that was it, Chris,” he insisted.

“Then why’s he looking at you?” Chris asked with a grin. Jensen fought hard not to turn around to see if he was right; he was not a pre-pubescent girl with her first crush, thank you very much!

Suddenly, the mystery guy’s impressive physique came to mind and Jensen’s mouth dried. Everything took on a different meaning and he groaned at the implications. “The guy is built like a freaking linebacker, Chris.” He worried his lip between his teeth. “I think I can safely say that I will be stuffed in a locker or hanging from a basketball hoop by the end of the day.”

Chris snorted. “Jared’s not like that,” he assured Jensen, who breathed a small sigh of relief, even if he didn’t quite believe the boy. “He actually is our linebacker, but he’s not a bully. Pretty popular, and can be downright scary if you mess with him, but he never reacts without provocation.”

“You know him?” Jensen asked, trying to sound casual.

“This town?” Chris scoffed lightly. “Everyone knows everyone.”

“Fair enough.” Jensen got the impression that his friend was relying on half-truths, but for the time being, he was willing to let it slide. God knew he was familiar with the need to use them. “Let’s just hope I haven’t caught his attention.”

“I think you have, just not in the way you think,” he smirked. “I know that boy, and staring the way he has been? Not his usual M.O. Usually, he’s the one being stared at.”

“I can believe that,” Jensen mumbled, earning a laugh from the blue-eyed boy. “But in any event, I’m just going to stay out of his way. The last thing I need is to deal with a pissed off Hulk-man who wants my ass on a pike.”

“I don’t think that’s where he wants your ass, Freckles,” Chris waggled his eyebrows and Jensen scowled at the nickname and his friend’s implication.

“Get your mind out of the gutter.”

“But that’s just such a fun place to be.”

Jensen glared at Chris as their teacher swept in through the doors, saving his scathing comment for another time. Chris just laughed; the ass hat.

“Alright people,” the teacher, a middle-aged man with a surly expression and a receding hairline crossed his arms and glared at the class. “I’ve just been made aware that there’s a new student in our class?”

“Yeah, Mr. B,” Chris nodded towards Jensen when he made no move to own up. Jensen picked up his head and after shooting Chris a glare, met the eyes of the man in front.

“Jensen Ackles, Sir,” he said, by way of introduction, face flaming with embarrassment. The man smiled slightly, losing some of the original frostiness in his expression.

“Welcome to Chemistry, Boy,” he inclined his head in a brief nod and Jensen offered him a relieved grin when he made no move to further publicize his existence. “Alright, we need to pick partners for the semester. I am going to approach people and they will pick a name out of the baseball cap. That will be your partner for the semester, non-negotiable.”

When the teacher- Mr. Beaver, Chris whispered to him- stopped in front of him, Jensen offered another tentative smile and picked a slip of paper. “Padalecki, J,” he read out, stumbling slightly over the surname. “What is he, Polish?” he blurted before he could stop himself.

“I get that a lot,” a deep, and painfully familiar voice cut through the chuckles of the class, and if Jensen was chagrined before, he was downright mortified now. Jared.

“Pick a bench, boys,” Mr. Beaver chuckled, moving on to Chris.

“Bush, S,” Chris read out. Jensen shot his friend a quick grin as he picked up his backpack; something told him this was going to be an interesting semester in the Chemistry class.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered an apology immediately as Jared drew closer. “My foot had a catastrophic first meeting with my mouth.”

Jared laughed indulgently, and the sound went straight to Jensen’s insides, basking in the sound. “That’s okay,” he assured him, hazel eyes warm enough to convince Jensen that he might not be a bully after all. “You made Mr. B smile on the first day of school, within the first 5 minutes of the lesson. You deserve a medal or something.”

Jensen smiled, averting his eyes. Honestly, he was kind of painfully shy. Somehow, he had hit it off with Chris, which was a rare event in itself. He didn’t see himself being able to make an impression twice in a day, especially on someone who was a walking sex God by himself.

“How do you like the town so far?” Jared asked, breaking into Jensen’s thoughts.

“It’s okay,” Jensen shrugged, still not meeting his eyes, and cursing the flush that was slowly creeping up his face. “Haven’t had too much time to check it out properly as yet.”

“You should,” Jared encouraged. “I’ve got football after school tomorrow, but if you’re not busy, maybe I could show you around after?”

Jensen blushed further, even as he tried to figure out what Jared’s motive behind his friendliness could be. “That’s okay,” he declined shyly. “You seem like a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel sorry for me, rack up good-guy points a la all-inclusive tour guide.”

“I’m not feeling sorry for you,” Jared interjected, confused.

“Good,” Jensen interrupted, before he could carry on. “Now, what do you know about Chemistry? I’m decent at it, at best.”

“I suck at it,” Jared declared sunnily, thankfully letting go of their previous topic. “The only Chemistry I’m familiar with, is the one between people.” He winked at Jensen, who promptly turned away again, blushing fiercely and try with dogged determination to ignore the fluttering in his stomach.

Yeah. It was really going to be an interesting semester in the Chemistry class.

~*Jared*~

“I can’t believe I said that,” Jared moaned into his folded arms, where he had burrowed his face in. They had just finished football practice, and he was waiting in the locker room until his friends were ready to leave.

“Neither can I, man, that’s gotta be the oldest line in the history of pick-ups,” Tom Wellings, another pack member chuckled as he slammed his locker door shut. “You find your mate, the guy you’ve been waiting your whole life for, and you use a pick-up line that stopped working about 3 decades ago,” he scoffed with a mocking grin. Without moving his head from its hiding place, Jared flipped his friend the bird.

“Jay-Man,” Chad’s voice broke through Tom’s roars of laughter. “Are you sure this is a good idea? Lusting after a human without the intention of lovin’ and leavin’ em?”

Jared picked up his head now, to glare at his friend, daring him to go on.

“I’m just saying,” Chad held up his hands defensively, “that sure, the guy’s easy on the eyes, but are you sure about trying to court him, or whatever it is you’re planning to do? Human mates haven’t existed in decades for a reason dude.”

“I’m sure,” Jared stated coldly. “What, do you just expect me to ignore my mate? I don’t even think that’s remotely possible.”

“I’m not saying ignore either,” he shrugged, and made the mistake of being callous. “I’m just saying that maybe you just need to bang him and get him out of your system. Don’t make the mistake of tying yourself to him, he might be more trouble than he’s worth.”

In a second, Jared had Chad slammed against the row of lockers, pinning him there with a muscled arm that didn’t do justice to the power coursing through him. A warning growl reverberated in his chest and red danced along the edge of his vision.

He is my mate,” Jared hissed dangerously. “Best friend or not, don’t you ever speak about him like that again, are we understood?”

“Yes, Alpha,” Chad nodded, letting his head fall submissively in remorse. Fighting past the anger burning hot in his veins, Jared let go of his friend and took a deep breath. He never threw his power around, and the pack knew that, so Chad was appropriately chagrined.

“Chad does have an inkling of a point though, Jay-Man,” Tom commented. “Don’t bite my head off,” he warned when Jared turned his attention and his growls to his other friend, “all I’m saying is that if you’re going to court a human, then before you mate with him, he has to know the truth.”

Jared calmed when he realized that Tom wasn’t about to speak against his intention to win Jensen over. “I know,” he nodded, running a hand through his hair and returning to his place on the bench. “I know,” he repeated. “But how do I have that conversation? How do you tell a human that you’ve met and spoken to for the better part of an hour, that you’re in love with him, and oh, yeah, that you’re a werewolf, but not just any werewolf, no, the Alpha destined to lead a pack, of which he already knows quite a few members? Not something you blurt out over coffee.”

“Good point,” Tommy conceded, “but you need to find a way, Jay-Man. Especially if you intend on mating with him. You gotta think things through here.”

“I don’t wanna think things through,” Jared pouted, his voice taking on a petulant tone.

“Where was this Jared when I wanted to crash the prom last year and pelt the seniors with stink bombs?” Chad asked incredulously, nudging him with his leg.

“He was side-tracked by the Jared gathering enough bail money for a worst-case scenario,” Jared answered dryly, rolling his eyes with a grin, showing Chad he was forgiven for his little tirade.

Chad pursed his lips in thought before nodding in agreement. “That’s fair.”

“Still gotta tell the guy, Jay-Man,” Tommy steered the topic back and slammed his locker door shut. “Have you asked him out yet?”

“Yeah,” Jared muttered, his face coloring. “He politely declined.”

“Oh, man!” Chad whooped a laugh. “Mr. Desirable gets shot down by the mystery new boy!”

“Shut up, Chad,” he griped, slapping his friend across the back of his head. “I’m gonna win him over,” he declared, a predatory grin lighting his face up. “I just gotta step up my game.”

It was time to bring in the heat.

 

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

Jensen felt, certifiably, like Death warmed over. He lay on his bed in a fetal position, trying to breathe through the searing pain, air coming out in sharp, short pants. Tears burned the back of his eyes and he swore inwardly as he tried to hold back a sob. You’d think after 10 years, he’d be immune to this. He’d stop being emotionally destroyed by it...

“Shit,” Jensen mumbled to himself as he turned the corner to get to their new house. The sight of the car in the driveway had his heart beating double-time and his palms growing sweaty; he was late.

He let himself in the house, hands shaking like a crack addict, praying to a God he no longer even believed in that his foster dad was passed out or asleep or, miracle of miracles, sober.

Of course, there was a reason Jensen no longer believed in a God.

He was scarcely through the archway leading into the living room before his face had a brutal reacquainting with a rough, calloused fist. The closed handed blow blasted across his face, and would leave a nicely colored bruise on his cheekbone by morning, but that was the least of his worries.

Caught off-guard, Jensen staggered under the sheer force of the blow. He was bulking up slightly now, so he didn’t fall as easily as he used to, but that only meant that Eric, foster father of the year (not), would try harder to send him sprawling. A well-placed kick to Jensen’s calf did the trick, and the man proceeded to rain blows on him. Curled up in a ball on the floor, trying to minimize himself as a target, Jensen only caught half of the words spewing from Eric’s mouth; a cacophony of insults and accusations that Jensen had heard longer than he cared to remember.

When he had refused to make a sound, refused to cry out, to beg for him to stop, Eric seemed to lose interest. Spitting one last scathing remark at Jensen, he had left, fumbling drunkenly through the hallway and up to his bedroom. Jensen stayed huddled on the floor for a moment, fighting past the blinding pain and the hurt that never seemed to go away. He couldn’t tune out Eric’s accusations any more than he could tune out the sound of rain during a thunderstorm.

“It’s your fault she’s dead, you ungrateful son of a bitch!”

Jensen flinched as the words rang with clear clarity in his mind; if not for the loud puttering upstairs, Jensen would have thought Eric was right the next to him, for all the lucidity with which the words resonated in his mind. He let out an involuntary whimper when he unfurled his body from its defensive slump. He ached everywhere, the coppery tang of blood assaulting his nose as he struggled into a sitting position. Trying to be clinical, he analyzed his quickly bruising body; his back and torso screamed with pain, and on account of all the boots he’d taken to that area, he was sure he had a few bruised ribs, maybe one or two cracked ones. His upper body was already starting to bruise blue and he was sure his legs were following suit, even covered as they were by his jeans. His lip had split from the blow and his cheek was still smarting, so he could count on there being a fantastic little reminder of his first day at his new school.

All in all? He’d had worse. And how messed up was that?

Gathering every last reserve of strength, he forced himself to his feet, gasping at the pain that scattered white bursts of light across his vision. Clutching his ribs, which were screaming in deafening protests to his movement, he made steady progression to the bathroom opposite his bedroom.

He needed a shower.

Standing under the spray and turning the water as blistering as he could stand, did little to help with his pain. If anything, the extra pressure and the scalding water over tender skin made the pain increase slightly, but it was worth it for the muscles in his back uncoiling for the first time that day. He scrubbed at himself almost mechanically, hissing when the contact intensified the pain in his midsection ten-fold.

Yeah, he definitely had a cracked rib or two.

After struggling into a loose sweatpants and Cas’s old and very baggy sweatshirt that he’d never bothered to return, he’d settled in a fetal position on his bed. It was then, and only then, that he allowed the tears that had been building up, to spill over. Even as he cursed himself for doing so, Jensen knew that it would never stop hurting. It would never stop hurting, because he could remember a time when he had called Eric “Dad”. He could remember a time when Eric had told the world with a proud smile, that Jensen was his son, and had threatened bodily harm to anyone who dared to say otherwise. Jensen knew he was adopted, had known since he was 6 and could comprehend what that meant, but for two wonderful years, he’d been told every day that it meant nothing to his parents. He’d been reassured, patiently and lovingly, and even as a child, he’d known that they had meant every word of it.

And then, the accident happened.

Jensen was 8 at the time, and suddenly, he was 8 going on 45, for all the things he had to deal with. For a month, he’d kept them afloat, using all the emergency cash he could find and the money he’d gotten for his birthday, while Eric found a comfortable little nesting place at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Jensen didn’t even have time to grieve before he was thrown head-first into running a household, the fear of losing Eric spurring him on, because even then, he understood the fear of being lost to the system. It was only when they’d run stone-cold out of cash, that he’d tentatively tried to speak to his father, more than ready to give up some of the weight crushing his little shoulders.

And that was the night the beatings started.

Eric apologized after the first few times; cuddled him close and bought him ice-cream and promised he didn’t mean any of the words he’d said. After that, things just went back to the same, and he had stopped apologizing, and Jensen had stopped expecting him to stop.

Still, he stayed.

Jensen knew all too well that he’d be fine to look after himself. He could easily find a job, and he still had enough of a nest egg in his bank account to tide him over until he saw out his senior year, courtesy of his old art teacher’s wealthy best friend, who insisted on buying Jensen’s end of the year project; an oil painting of the sea at nightfall; and thereafter commissioning him to paint pictures for his wife’s dentistry practice. He’d have no problem getting an art scholarship and working and studying at the same time held no real challenge for him. People, Jensen knew, would never understand why he stayed, regardless of how obviously capable he was of taking care of himself. But Jensen never needed to explain to anyone, in any case, the one thing that kept him in an abusive home for 10 years.

Loyalty.

Not to Eric, no; that ship had sailed a decade ago. His loyalty laid with his foster mother, and the father Eric used to be. They had taken care of him and loved him for 8 years; this was the only way he could repay the favor. And keeping Eric alive? Making sure he had food and didn’t drink himself into a coma or suffocate on his own vomit? That was the only way Jensen could think of to honor the memory of the woman he called his mother.

So he stayed. Even when most nights saw him huddled in this very same position on his bed, he stayed.

For her.

###

“What the hell…” Chris trailed off, aghast, taking in his split lip and bruised cheekbone. His friend’s expression immediately turned furious. “Who did that to you, Jensen?” he demanded, blue eyes flashing.

“Relax, Chris,” Jensen soothed, touched deeply by his friend’s concern. Obviously the amount of time they’d known each other held no impact on the protectiveness the other boy felt over him. “I fell down the stairs, no big,” he lied easily, wincing slightly at how he was already lying to the only friend he had in this hell hole.

Chris saw the wince, and misinterpreted it. “Like hell you did, and like hell it isn’t,” he scowled, reaching out to clasp Jensen around the back of his neck. His touch was gentle, even as he applied the slightest hint of pressure to get Jensen to move his head. Sighing, Jensen resigned himself to his inspection, tilting his head whichever way Chris manipulated it until his friend had seen for himself that there was no lasting damage to his jaw or cheekbone. When he finally let go, Jensen stepped back, and hissed when the motion jarred his ribs. His hands automatically went to his abdomen and the motion didn’t escape Chris’s notice.

“’It’s no big’ my ass,” he scoffed, advancing on Jensen with single-minded determination. Jensen panicked slightly, knowing that some of his other scars, both recent and not, would not be so easily dismissed.

“I’m fine, Chris,” he insisted, trying to dodge out of his way. “Really. Just clumsy, I guess.”

“Then why is your cheek bruised with the distinct impression of knuckles?” he shot back, the look of genuine concern in his eyes softening the sharpness of his words.

“Nothing is broken,” he tried to pacify, and Chris’s eyes narrowed in anger.

Before he could say anything though, there was an odd twisting deep in Jensen’s gut warning him of something nasty, and not two seconds later, a hand was sliding around his waist and turning him roughly around, pushing him none-too-gently into the lockers. Normally, it wouldn’t have pained in the least, but when the hard, unforgiving metal was being pressed into his tender, searing ribs, he doubled over with a grunt of pain. Abruptly, Chris’s hands were around his shoulder, supporting him as he turned an icy glare to whoever it was that got frisky with him.

“Jake, you stupid asshole,” Chris snapped out a reprimand, steadying Jensen as he swayed slightly.

“Whoa, you can’t tell me the boy’s that much of a little bitch,” the boy sneered, holding his hands up. Jensen gritted his teeth and forced himself to meet the jerk’s eyes, defiance flaring in his eyes.

“He’s hurt, you dick,” Chris bit out. Jake stepped towards him again, but that was as far as he got before Chris had a hand scrunched in the lapel of his shirt, and Jake got his just desserts as Chris slammed him against the lockers. “Don’t you even think about touching him,” he warned lowly, and Jensen couldn’t help but feel fiercely grateful for his new friend’s protectiveness, because God he couldn’t deal with a hormonal jock right now.

“Chris? Everything okay?” a smooth, deep voice cut through the air, and as if Jensen wasn’t already having trouble breathing, Jared stepped into his view. Jensen watched as Jared’s eyes took in his appearance, and the way he was still grasping at his ribs, and the warm hazel quickly turned fiery with a repressed fury that Jensen couldn’t really understand. From Chris, it was unexpected, but understandable. From Jared? It was a leap straight into twilight zone.

Flicking his eyes over Jensen’s form, and then glancing at Jake still trying to escape Chris’s grip, Jared’s body was taut with anger, and Jensen wondered again what was going on. Not that it mattered much at the moment, in the grand scheme of things, because right now all he could think of was the barely there fluttering in his stomach that had nothing to do with his ribs, when he looked into Jared’s blazing orbs.

Oh yes.

Jensen was well and truly screwed.

~* Jared *~

Rage burned through Jared as he took in the loud bruise on Jensen’s cheek and his busted lip, and it didn’t ease any when the boy braced his arm against abdomen, shielding his ribs. Darting his eyes between Jensen and Chris, Jared concluded from the lack of a fresh blood scent, that Jensen’s injury hadn’t been caused by Jake.

But Chris had him pinned against the locker, so obviously, the guy had done something.

Forcing himself not to lose his temper, Jared coached his fists out of their automatic clench. Chris abruptly let go of the boy’s collar, letting Jared deal with him in favor of checking on Jensen.

“I’m fine Chris, really, don’t worry,” he heard the soft, honey sweet voice reassuring the blue-eyed alpha. “He barely touched me, just the impact hurt my side, is all.”

Barely touched him?

That meant that Jake had touched him. Even just barely, that was not acceptable. Nobody could touch his Jensen; and Jared refused to acknowledge the possessive thought until he’d dealt with Abel.

“Lay off, Jake,” he warned darkly, his voice low with threats that he had no qualms carrying out. He allowed some of his Pack Alpha thrum to enter his voice and he got the desired effect, if maybe not with all the remorse in it.

“Of course,” Jake sneered. “Wouldn’t want to cross big bad Jay-Man and his little chew toy.”

“You wouldn’t,” Jared agreed coldly. “And he’s not a chew toy.”

“He’d make a damn good one, though,” Jake leered and Jared’s hackles rose. It was only the softest touch of a hand on his forearm, and the subsequent jolt of electricity that followed it, that stopped him from going Alpha on the arrogant dick in front of him.

“Let it go, Jared,” Jensen said quietly, squeezing his arm lightly. The man and wolf inside him purred at the contact and the honeysuckle drawl that made his name sound like a hallelujah chorus. Almost immediately, his temper subsided, and he turned to face Jensen, fighting the urge to cradle the boy’s face in his hands. The bruise there sent his blood pressure sky-rocketing once more, but he controlled it better this time, thanks in large part to the warm hand still grasping his.

“What happened to you?” he managed to get out, with some semblance of an even tone.

“Played face hockey with a stairwell that wasn’t nearly impressed with my skills,” he shrugged it off lightly. Unease and anger pulsed a jagged rhythm through Jared as he acknowledged the obvious lie- which meant, that Jensen was afraid of someone. And, Jared was willing to bet, afraid of what more fist-shaped and other bruises could litter his perfect body. There was a physical ache in his chest as he yearned to protect the gorgeous guy in front of him from whatever crap he’d had to deal with.

If there was ever any doubt before, there wasn’t any now. This boy was his mate. Human? Yes. Gorgeous? Undoubtedly. About to become Jared’s everything? Come hell or high water. Hard to obtain? Unfortunately. Someone to give up on? Not in a million years.

Jared was going to win over Jensen’s trust, and then his friendship, and then his heart. He was determined to.

Raising his hand slowly so as not to startle Jensen, he brushed the tips of his fingers as gently as a butterfly’s wings over the angry bruise. Maybe it was Jared’s imagination, but he liked to think that Jensen leaned almost imperceptibly into the touch. He lowered his voice to a murmur that only Jensen could hear, not even wanting Chris to be privy to their conversation.

“If the stairwell ever has anything else to say, you tell me,” he said; the fervor in his voice had Jensen looking up at him in surprise and doubt. “You tell me, and we’ll sort it out together. Same goes with Abel. He won’t come near you now, I’ll make sure of it.”

Running his fingers lightly across Jensen’s jaw one last time, Jared had to force himself to leave.

It was time to put some measures into place. Jensen was not going to get hurt again, if Jared had anything to say about it.

His mate would be safe.

He would make sure of it.

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

The rest of the week passed by almost anticlimactically. Chris didn’t even try to be discreet as he roved his eyes over Jensen every morning, looking for any new bruises. He’d offered every day to give Jensen a ride home, never deterred by receiving negative answers each time; it wasn’t that Jensen didn’t appreciate the offer, and appreciate the concern behind it even more, it was just that he didn’t want Chris to know where he lived. If Chris knew, and came by unannounced, there was a snowball’s chance in hell that Eric would be sober and a heart-warming host. Jensen didn’t want Chris to get involved in that, as he undoubtedly would, and so it just proved easier to keep him in the dark about it.

To keep everyone in the dark about it.

Jared had let the matter go, but Jensen knew he knew that it was no accident. The only silver lining was that both Chris and Jared seemed to think it was the work of a bully or a mugging turned violent. That aside, Jared had been the epitome of charming and suave every Chemistry lesson, and Jensen found himself looking forward to those periods more and more. Jared even made a point of making a little small talk every morning at homeroom, and it was quickly becoming Jensen’s favorite way to start off the day.

Not that he was falling for the guy or anything.

Jake and his crew were steering clear of him, but the looks they sent him made Jensen thoroughly grateful of their lack of a fatal after-effect. His father had behaved the past few days, likely because work had tired him out, and things were calm. Jensen didn’t drop his guard, no, but he could at least breathe a little now.

###

“Jensen!”

Chris’ yell had Jensen stopping immediately in his tracks. He turned with a grin and waited patiently for his friend to catch up with him. He chuckled as people parted to make way for him; for someone so awesome once you got to know him, people were pretty scared of the blue-eyed boy, in a way that Jensen couldn’t for the life of him understand. Chris had been nothing but friendly and cool to him since he’d been there, but at the same time, it seemed like Jensen was the only one he could be like that around. Even with Jared’s crew, Chris was the strong and silent type, only seeming to relax once they were alone again.

“I’m never going to get in with Sophia,” Chris grumbled as soon as he was in earshot. Jensen laughed.

“Maybe you should stop being so broody and actually talk to her in Chemistry, Romeo,” he teased with a grin, earning himself a scowl and a light shove.

“I talk!” Chris protested with a frown.

“Telling her to pass you the lead nitrate solution doesn’t count.”

“It’s words, and I spoke them, didn’t I?!” he elbowed Jensen softly, casting a hurt look at him.

“When are you going to man the fuck up and admit you’re crazy about her, and actually try to converse with her?” Jensen asked with gentle chiding.

“When are you going to admit you like Jared and actually agree to the dates he’s always asking you on?” Chris shot back.

It was true; Jared had been persistent in his offer to show Jensen around, offering every day at the end of Chemistry, and Jensen in turn, had been persistent in his declination. Jensen suspected he was no closer to giving up than he had been since day one, and he couldn't help wonder why that made him so happy. Suspicious, sure, but definitely happy too.

“I don’t like Jared,” he replied easily, ignoring the bitter taste of lies at the back of his throat. “I don’t know Jared enough to like him.”

Not true. Not really, at least. Jared had taken every opportunity to get Jensen to know him, answering any questions Jensen asked in great detail, and often offering up little snippets of information voluntarily, all the details of which Jensen had stored in an airtight vault in his head. The boy was fascinating, a conundrum of the stereotypical jock. He was gentle where he should have been rough, kind and loving where he should have been mocking and aloof. The only time that he had deviated from the gentle giant, was with Jake on Monday, and since that was aimed at protecting him, Jensen had no real objection. But none of this meant Jensen liked him…right? He just so happened to notice the way Jared’s warm hazel eyes sparkled when he laughed, or smiled genuinely. Just so happened to notice the dimples that were far too adorable on his glass-cut face, and notice the way he ran his hands through his hair when he was nervous, making his floppy hair stand up a little more than normal.

Those were just things he noticed. So there.

“I call bullshit,” Chris snorted. “You actually look forward to Chemistry, and call it personal experience, but there’s only one reason for that,” Chris winked.

“I look forward to Chemistry because I’m a good student,” Jensen shot back, mock-pretentiously. Make no mistake; Jensen really did love Chemistry. It was his favorite subject next to art; he loved the logic of it. The sense of it. There was always something that can be controlled, some solution that could make everything react exactly the way you needed it to. Jared’s presence in the class just exponentially increased Jensen’s original love of the subject. Having the admittedly gorgeous and gentle giant there to keep him company was something he could never have foreseen loving.

“Sure,” Chris rolled his eyes, “whatever’s gonna get you to bed tonight, Freckles.”

Before Jensen could scowl at his friend for the increasing use of that nickname, a voice called out;

“Yo, Jenny-Baby, did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”

A smile from ear-to-ear split across Jensen’s face at the familiar voice. Happiness flared like wild fire in his chest as he turned around, all his inhibitions as the new kid falling away at the voice he had been missing for the past week.

“No, but it sure hurt crawling all the way back up from hell, fucker,” he retorted, abandoning his books and starting towards the figure in the trench-coat.

Meeting him mid-way, Jensen returned the bear hug he was on the receiving end of. His old friend thumped him on the back and hugged him even tighter.

“Man, Jen, I’ve missed you,” he laughed, holding on for several seconds longer.

“Missed you too, Cas,” Jensen admitted. The week passed was the longest he was away from his best friend in 5 years. They let go of each other at Chris’ unsubtle cough.

“Hi,” Chris regarded Cas carefully. Jensen was reminded that his new friend wasn’t as comfortable around everyone else as he was with him, and he made a mental note to make sure that Chris was fine after all this.

“Chris, meet Cas, he was my best friend back home,” Jensen introduced. He only hesitated a split second before adding, “Cas, this is Chris, best friend from new home.”

It was definitely worth it for the small, but genuine smile that spread over Chris’ face. And honestly, it was only fair; Chris had been every bit the best friend Cas had been even if it was in a fraction of the time.

“Nice to meet you, man,” Cas grinned, shaking Chris’ proffered hand.

“Good to meet you too,” Chris offered another small smile before turning to face Jensen. “I’m gonna head on home,” he told him, punching him lightly in the arm and mussing up his hair a little, making Jensen grin and duck, batting away the offending arm.

“I’ll see you Monday,” Jensen nodded, sending his friend a broad grin which was promptly returned.

Turning to face Cas, he was met with blue eyes sparkling with uninhibited mischief. “Let’s get this weekend started, Jen!”

###

True to form, Cas was in the mood to mingle, and quite frankly, if it would keep him away from the house and Eric any longer, Jensen was all in. They were at home for all of 20 minutes to give Jensen a chance to change before they left to explore the town.

Deciding on a movie, it was like falling back into an old and familiar rhythm; Jensen got the popcorn and drinks, and Cas got the tickets, and they spent the entire movie mocking every single aspect of it. Worth every last cent, in Jensen’s humble opinion.

Not ready to call it a night, they wandered aimlessly around town, using the time to catch up.

“So…you’re gonna tell me why you have a split lip?” Cas asked gently. Thankfully, the bruise over his cheek had faded over the days and with the help of a little foundation he had for just such occasions, it was invisible, and he had gotten used enough to the pain in his side to walk without raising too much suspicion.

“I fell,” he shrugged, careful not to meet his old friend’s eyes. “It’s no big. Tell me what’s been happening at home.”

If he suspected the reason for the abrupt subject change, Cas sure as hell didn’t show it. “Oh, nothing much,” he said with forced airiness that immediately put Jensen on his guard, “Jimmy broke his ankle ice-skating and got mocked mercilessly for it, Adam’s been asking after you, and have you heard that Ruby got knocked up by Kevin? I swear that girl was always trying to prove that she wasn’t the stereotypical preacher’s daughter.”

But there was really only one part in that sentence that caught his attention. “Adam’s been asking after me?” he asked, gaping. If the tingle in his face was any indication, he had paled spectacularly.

Adam was Jensen’s first and only boyfriend, and in the spirit of Fate never giving him a fucking break, it had gone from a bed of roses to a bed of nails in the time it took for a Bugatti Veyron to go from 0 to 60.

At the beginning, Adam was all charm; sweet and caring and romantic and loving, so much so that Jensen ignored any misgivings he had about him, chalking his unease up to a lifetime of abuse. Things stayed peachy for a while; they got close, and Jensen felt for the first time that maybe, just maybe, he might be good enough to be loved. Might be worth being loved. The hot and heavy make-out sessions were true to their name and the level of concern Adam always showed him was one he hadn’t been exposed to since the accident.

And then there was the jealousy. He had been obsessively jealous, hated all of Jensen’s friends and insisted on knowing exactly where Jensen was at all times. Jensen hated it, and once, he had adamantly refused to return Adam’s calls. That hadn’t been the tipping point though; it had been when Jensen went to find him at the school gym, and found him all but fucking Gabe Richards, the school’s notorious drummer boy and lead singer of a band. Instead of apologizing, Adam had screamed that he deserved it for sneaking around.

When Jensen had told him it was over? That was when the violence that was almost synonymous with Jensen’s lifestyle came into the equation.

Adam had lost it and Jensen had been left with another few scars to add to his mounting collection. Nobody, not even Cas, knew that part of the story. To everyone it was a simple case of Adam cheating, and Jensen intended on keeping it like that. There was no need for anything else to come from it, never mind the fact that admitting to what happened, would have opened a can of worms about Eric that Jensen simply wasn’t equipped to handle.

“Yeah,” Cas nodded, pulling Jensen from his memories. “He’s been badgering me about getting your number or something, he said he wants you back.”

Jensen gulped. “That’s not going to happen,” he insisted quietly.

“I know,” Cas nodded patiently. “But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s looking to get back together. What, do you have some guy here?”

A blush colored Jensen’s cheeks, and an image of Jared and that damning smile and dimples rose unbidden in his mind. Before he could ream himself a new one for allowing his thoughts to go there, Cas pounced.

“Oh my God, there is a guy here!” he gasped. “You been holding out on me, J?”

“There isn’t a guy,” Jensen feebly denied. “He’s just my friend.”

“Wait, that Chris guy?” Cas asked, frowning. “Because I gotta tell you, man, he seemed straight to me.”

“He is,” Jensen confirmed, “but he’s not the guy I was thinking about.”

“So there is a guy on your mind!” Cas crowed. “Tell me.”

“His name’s Jared,” Jensen revealed reluctantly. “And he really is just a friend. He’s not interested in me like that, and I’m not going to let myself get interested in him like that either.”

“Not everyone is Adam, Jensen,” Cas cautioned him, uncharacteristically serious. “It’s okay to trust someone and let yourself like someone.”

“Sure, sure, Dr. Love,” Jensen teased lightly, unwilling to get into this same discussion for the umpteenth and second time. “Let’s go grab a bite to eat.”

They headed towards the diner they saw up ahead. “You know,” Cas started, the sparkle in his eyes reigniting, “I finally managed to convince Meg to see a movie with me Sunday.”

“You’re kidding me!” Jensen clapped his friend on the back in enthused happiness. Cas had been crushing on Meg for years, and Jensen was happy for his best friend. “Why didn’t you start the conversation off with that?”

“I didn’t want you to get jealous,” he declared, holding one hand to his heart and the other reaching dramatically towards Jensen. “You know you’re still my one and only, Jenny-Bear!”

Half the diner turned to look at them at that.

And for the life of him, Jensen just couldn't give a damn about it.

~*Jared*~

Jared had to almost physically fight down the urge to hit the annoying brunette right in his stupid smiling mouth.

Seriously? Jenny-Bear? What the fuck kind of nickname was that? And since when was Jensen seeing someone?

Jared paid his sister only half an ear of his attention, his attention caught and held by the roughhousing Jensen and his pretty-boy boyfriend were indulging in, uncaring of the eyes that were on them.

“You wanna soda, Megz?” Jared asked abruptly. “I’m going to get you a soda.” Leaving his sister confused and clueless at their booth, he marched up to where Jensen and his date stood. “Hey Jen.”

Jensen turned, and damn if his form fitting black jeans and plain black V-neck tee wasn’t going to play a role in Jared’s jerk-off fantasies. The old, worn black leather jacket? An almost sinful touch. His big green eyes widened slightly in surprise and his breathing quickened a shade of a pace.

“Jared!” he managed to get out, almost as though he were choking on his own tongue. “What are you doing here?”

“Jared’s taking me to a movie after dinner!” Megan’s voice piped up from behind him, and in retrospect, Hell would have frozen over before Jared’s baby sister missed out on an opportunity to do the polar opposite of what he’d asked.

Jared watched as Jensen’s stunning green orbs dimmed significantly as he took in Megan. A hurt look flashed across his face and Jared wanted nothing more than to make it go away.

Then Pretty Boy decided to sling an arm around Jensen’s shoulders and that, Jared thought, could unanimously be considered the mistake of the day. Because Jared could see how Jensen tensed, in the second before his friend made contact. And truly, he was already on thin ice. But the possibility that he’d ever hurt Jensen?

Then it was game fucking over.

Before he could consciously realize his actions, Pretty Boy was getting real cozy with the wall and Jared’s forearm against his throat, and Jensen was yelling over the sound of the low growl rumbling in his chest.

“…off of him, Jared! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

Jared used as much willpower as he could muster and pulled away from Pretty Boy.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on with you, Padalecki,” Jensen said shortly, fixing blazing green eyes on him. “But you better get it the hell sorted out.” He flicked his chin in the direction of Megan. “Your date is waiting for you.”

Turning around, Jensen stalked out with Pretty Boy, leaving Jared floundering and apologetic in equal measure.

Okay. So Jared had a shitload of things he had to make right.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

Storming out of a diner proved difficult to do while dragging your lug of a best friend behind you, but Jensen was never one to be deterred by a challenge.

It was painful to leave Jared angry, but it was near impossible to leave him angry without looking back. There was a lump in Jensen’s throat that he couldn’t quite understand and the bitter feeling of disappointment that he understood all too well.

Because sadly enough, it wasn’t the first time he’d liked a guy who already had a gorgeous girlfriend.

But this time was different. This was Jared and Jared was…Jared was all that and a bag of fucking chips. Even if Jensen didn’t want to admit it, the tall, muscular, charismatic boy had gotten under his skin in the biggest way. Who wouldn’t like him? More to the point, who would ever be stupid enough to give him up?

So Jensen had effectively just lost any miniscule chance with Jared that he ever may or may not have had, and in yelling at him, had also just lost one of his only two friends. And when Chris heard he’d gone mental on Jared? Would Chris still want to be friends? Or did he just single-handedly stick a neon bright label on his forehead written all in caps that said “SOCIAL OUTCAST”?

Ok. So maybe Jensen understood the lump in his throat after all.

“Jensen, stop,” Cas’ firm voice finally filtered through Jensen’s mile-a-minute thoughts. He gripped both of Jensen’s forearms tightly, aiming sympathetic, saddened eyes at him. “I’m sorry, man,” he said lowly. “I’m sorry. Look, he seemed like he was a douche anyway, you’re better off.”

Jensen couldn’t find it in himself to nod; instead, he found himself fighting the urge to defend Jared. Jared was a great guy; it wasn’t his fault that Jensen seemed to bring out the worst in people.

“Let’s just go,” he said glumly. “I can fix you something to eat. I’m not really hungry anymore.”

Cas nodded, his brow furrowing and his mouth upturned in concern. They weren’t walking for three minutes when a shout of his name had Jensen turning instinctively for the third time that day.

“JENSEN!” Jared was running to them. “Jensen, wait please,” he called, a tinge of desperation entering his voice. Jensen was caught between two decisions- leave, or wait?- when the choice was made for him.

“If you’re going to keep being an asshat, you can just stay the hell away from him,” Cas barked, coming to stand in front of Jensen. Jared’s features darkened in anger, but he stopped, a few tantalizingly close steps away from Jensen.

“I just want to talk to him,” Jared said tightly. “Alone.”

“What, you’re not just going to push me into a wall again?” Cas sneered. “And no, you can’t talk to him. You’ve done enough already.”

“Lay off, Cas,” Jensen butted in, not unkindly. Damn if Jared’s puppy-dog eyes and the sincerity and sadness in his tone hadn’t had a direct link to Jensen’s heart. “It’s a free country.”

Jensen walked away from Cas, towards the direction of the diner again. Once they’d walked several paces, Jared pulled him into a little alley he hadn’t even noticed in his haste to get away.

“I’m sorry,” Jared apologized immediately. “Man, Jen, I’m sorry.”

Jensen felt a pleasant jolt at the nickname that sounded somehow different, somehow special coming out of his mouth. “I think you’re apologizing to the wrong person, Jared.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, hazel eyes boring into Jensen’s green. “I didn’t mean to put you in that position.”

“So you’re not sorry for slamming Cas up against a wall?” Jensen asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No,” Jared answered simply, honestly. Jensen adopted his patented “WTF?” expression and waited patiently for Jared to elaborate. “You flinched,” Jared said finally, matter-of-factly. “Before he put his arm around you. The thought that he might have hurt you at some point…” Jared’s voice turned low and deep. “It made me go a little nuts. Plus,” his face colored slightly now, “he put his arm around you. I may or may not have gotten crazy jealous. Anyway, I’m sorry I ruined your date. I never meant to upset you.”

“Wait, my date?!” Jensen’s voice was incredulous, turning even more so when the rest of the sentence caught up with him. “Jealous? You were jealous?”

“Yeah, on both counts,” Jared mumbled subdued. Jensen fumbled for a second, suddenly wanting for nothing more than to see Jared’s signature grin, dimples flashing and eyes sparkling.

Wrong on both counts,” he corrected gently. “Cas and I were not on a date, and we’re not an item. Cas is my best friend- my very straight best friend- from back home. He’s visiting till tomorrow. Besides I guess I don’t blame you; I seem to bring out the worst in people.” Jensen cringed.

“But…” Jared frowned in adorable confusion. “Ok, first of all, don’t think we’re not coming back to the little statement,” he narrowed his eyes. “Also…Jenny-Bear?”

“I’ve yet to prove it conclusively, but I think Cas was born to the sole purpose of annoying the hell out of me,” Jensen answered mock seriously. “And that includes using nicknames I’ve, in no uncertain terms, expressly forbidden.”

“You aren’t dating him?” Jared asked for confirmation. And ahh! There was that smile.

“That would be a resounding no.”

“I would have known that had I waited long enough for an introduction, huh?” Jared grinned ruefully.

“That would be a resounding yes.”

Try as he might, Jensen couldn’t keep the small smile off his face. When a sudden twinkle appeared in Jared’s darkening eyes, electricity shot down Jensen’s spine.

Before he knew what was happening, Jensen found himself crowded against the wall, the length of Jared’s toned body hovering half a millimeter over his own, smaller body, Jared’s hands on the wall at the sides of Jensen’s head, boxing him in. Even with the proximity blasting Jared’s body heat into him, Jensen shivered.

“You should know,” Jared murmured, his sweet, hot breath snaking down Jensen’s neck as Jared inclined his head. “Megan? My sister. Not a date, either. Also?” Jared leaned in closer, his lips in brushing distance of the lower curve of Jensen’s jaw, his voice dropping to a whisper. “I really like you, Jen.” Jensen’s breath hitched as Jared brushed his lips ever so lightly against the tender skin above the pulse point in his neck. “I really like you,” he repeated huskily, pressing a harder kiss to the spot just below Jensen’s ear and moving in even closer, so that Jensen was pressed tightly between the wall and Jared’s very warm, very firm body. With Jared trailing a line of kisses down his jaw, Jensen was a quivering mass of wantneedpleasenow by the time Jared reached the corner of his mouth.

“Jared?” the wrecked whisper escaped Jensen’s mouth without his express permission. It was only now that Jensen realized he’d closed his eyes; opening them revealed a hungry looking Jared, his pupils blown almost black as they zeroed in on Jensen’s lips. With a magic all their own, Jensen’s lips began to burn with the fervor to be pressed against Jared’s. Jensen almost came undone, his jeans becoming tighter and his neck flushing. “Fuck, please,” he moaned involuntarily, rolling his hips and gasping when he brushed lightly against Jared’s own hardening crotch. Jared’s dark chuckle rumbled low in his chest and his hands shot down from their position on the wall, gripping both Jensen’s wrists and forcing his arms above his head, pinning them there.

“Right here?” Jared growled, rocking sensually slow into Jensen and effectively pinning him even tighter against the wall, much to Jensen’s pleasure. “Right now? What would people say?” he teased, rocking again, harder this time, slipping one muscled thigh between his legs. Jensen’s teeth sank into his lower lip as a muffled, keening sound came choked out of his throat.

“Fucking tease,” Jensen breathed, losing all remaining scraps of coherency.

“Jen?” Jared’s groan was also a little breathless. “Will you let me show you around town a little? Come out with me and the gang tomorrow night.”

The same offer every Chemistry lesson, but damn if it wasn’t all about the delivery.

“Yuh-huh, fine,” Jensen agreed mindlessly. Honestly? He would have agreed to invade a third world country if Jared had asked just then, if he would just move those lips a fraction to the right.

The blood in Jensen’s veins sang and burned with success as Jared finally- fucking finally!- pressed his lips hard against Jensen’s mouth. Nipping lightly at Jensen’s bottom lip, it didn’t take much before Jensen opened, granting Jared admission.

Jared wasted no time, plunging his tongue into Jensen’s mouth, hot and skilled. Jensen gasped into the kiss, the sound muffled by Jared’s attack as he plundered Jensen’s mouth. Jensen rocked against Jared’s thigh and Jared growled again before pulling Jensen’s bottom lip into his mouth and sucking hard on it. Jensen’s strangled moan was swallowed by Jared’s mouth and he bucked impatiently as Jared’s thigh brushed against his hard-on.

“Jensen?” the sound of Cas’ approaching voice quickly cast them back to reality and Jared pulled languidly away, his expression screaming hunger and lust even as his smile was mischievous. Jensen didn’t even want to think about how he looked right then.

Cas stopped at the mouth of the alley, staring at them in suspicion. Jensen kept his head down, one hand grasping the back of his very heated neck.

“I’ll see you tomorrow night at the diner at say, 7:30?” Jared broke the silence as he backed away from Jensen. Picking up his head to meet Jared’s eyes, he caught the saucy wink directed at him and blushed all over again. “You should bring Chris and Trench Coat over there too,” he called out, shoving his hands in his pockets and grinning again, before walking away.

Without looking at Cas, Jensen stepped out of the alley and walked in the opposite direction, knowing Cas would follow him.

“What the hell just happened?” Cas spluttered, coming from behind him. He took in Jensen’s flushed face and bruised lips and grinned wolfishly. “He’s not straight, is he?” Cas asked gleefully.

“Nope,” Jensen answered, popping the ‘p’ sound with a smile of his own. “No, he is not.”

###

Jensen guessed that maybe Fate had found another soul to torture for a little while, because she was giving him a break for once. They had gotten home to find a note from Eric, saying that he’d be out the whole weekend on a business trip, and so Jensen could safely have Cas there without worrying about the repercussions.

It was difficult saying goodbye to Cas the next night. It had been a blast and a half having him around, but he had to get back for his date with Meg. He promised to try to visit again soon, which Jensen took some comfort in.

All too soon, it was 7.23, and Jensen was getting into Chris’ slightly beat-up truck. Chris had agreed to go out with them, on account of the fact that he wasn’t about to let Jensen go without any back-up, so together, they were headed to the diner. In a further attempt to keep Chris away from his house, they’d agreed to meet at the school gate, and Chris would drive them there.

“What happened?” Chris asked suspiciously as he climbed in, by way of greeting. “You’ve been turning Jared down the entire week, literally. What happened yesterday?”

Jensen couldn’t help the small smile that broke over his face. “He wore me down,” he answered casually, biting down hard on his lower lip in an attempt to reign in his totally irrational and probably one-sided feelings. Jared said what he did, probably just in an attempt to get Jensen to agree to go out. And to kiss him. And he was obviously successful on both counts; Jensen just wasn’t sure to what end, exactly.

Maybe he thought it was a sure-fire way to a good Chemistry grade? Yeah. That must have been it. Though saddened by it, Jensen could deal with it; he was more familiar with this, being used as a means to an end.

But his heart wasn’t.

Before he actually fell for Jared, he’d have to find a way to let the sinfully gorgeous guy know that Jensen would take care of their Chemistry grade; that the shenanigans were totally unnecessary and that Jared could just go back to his unlawfully sexy existence, thank you very much.

The thoughts quickly dissipated his good mood vibes, but again, at least it was familiar, and therefore safer than to hope or believe or, God forbid, lower his walls. Chris kept shooting him worried glances, almost as though he were aware of the rapidly depressing turn of thoughts in Jensen’s mind.

“Any idea what tonight’s plans are?” Jensen asked, redirecting his efforts from Jared-proofing his walls to artfully side-stepping his new best friend’s all-too-perceptive concerns.

“We’ll probably head to the Rec centre three streets down; it’s got the pool and darts and almost everything you could imagine in the way of fun, with all the intoxication availability of a church. Everything except booze is served.” Chris rolled his eyes. “If only they knew that we all had fake IDs and drank anyway.”

Despite himself, Jensen snorted. “Fake IDs are worth their weight in gold,” he agreed. God knew he needed to get into bars before; even if it was just to fetch his near comatose, paralytic drunk foster father.

“Good to know I won’t be the one to corrupt your innocence,” Chris smirked, chuckling lightly when Jensen gave him a one-fingered salute.

Jensen tried to hide his nerves about meeting Jared’s friends, but if Chris standing protectively at his side was any indication, he wasn’t succeeding. Jared’s face lit up with a smile when he saw them, and Jensen experienced a further moment of panic when he realized that he wasn’t sure how to greet him, especially now that he’d decided to call Jared on his bluff.

Side-skirting Jared’s arms reaching for him and ignoring the hurt look blooming on the line-backer’s face, Jensen leaned into Chris, once again grateful for the blue-eyed boy’s protective nature. Chris shook his head slightly at Jared, and he backed off, albeit reluctantly and with a tempered glare at Chris.

“Let’s go meet everyone,” Chris suggested evenly, not removing his solid presence from Jensen’s side, but not taking his eyes of Jared either. Jared nodded once, jaw clenched tightly, and led the way to the almost overflowing booths at the back.

“Jensen, I’m sure you know most of them,” Jared aimed a warm smile at him, “but in any case, this is Misha, Danneel, Sandy, Genevieve, Tom, Milo and Chad.” Jensen got an assortment of responses from the respective people as they were introduced. “Guys, this is Jensen.”

“I feel like I need to get this out of the way, before things get awkward,” a small brunette- Genevieve, if short-term memory served- announced. “Jensen,” she turned to him with a frank look on her pretty face. “You’re freaking gorgeous.”

Jensen coughed, choking a little on what may or may not have been his tongue.

“Fine as hell,” Danneel agreed with a nod, as though they were discussing the weather.

“Sex on legs!” Misha’s contribution earned a downright splutter from Jensen as he turned bright red, and a low rumble that could have been a growl escaped Jared’s mouth, while Chris just smirked.

“Um…thank you?” Jensen shrugged, aiming a half smile at the dopey looking boy and the now-giggling girls.

“You’re very welcome,” Misha grinned sunnily. The boy was either blissfully ignorant, or totally uncaring of the heated glare Jared was sending his way, but whichever it was, Jensen thought it was best for Misha’s sense of security that he didn’t see the blatant threats being directed at him.

Jensen smiled and raked his gaze over the group again, trying to suss out what he could from their demeanor.

Judging from the lazy smile Tom was aiming at him, the tall, well-built boy welcomed him with open arms, and the same could be said about the grinning Misha and the easy-going Danneel and Genevieve. The blond guy next to Tom- Chad, was it?- didn’t smile, but he didn’t look hostile either; he was looking at Jensen as though he were trying to figure something out. He looked wary, and cautious, as though he wanted to give Jensen the benefit of doubt, but couldn’t until he actually knew him. On the complete opposite pole to Tom and the others, the stunning girl Jared introduced as Sandy looked at Jensen with downright disdain. She did little to hide her contempt, and Jensen wondered what he could possibly have done to make the pretty brunette dislike him so much, so quickly. The last guy sitting next to Misha- Milo, it took Jensen a second to remember- seemed to pay him little to no attention, in favor of casting dreamy looks at Sandy. Jensen wondered idly whether anyone had even noticed yet, how madly in love Milo was with the cold girl.

“So, green-eyes,” Chad called out, his voice a mixture of breezy and challenging, “you play any pool?”

###

Chris’ assumption proved to be spot on as they entered Impala; the owner, Sam Colt, had opened it as a place “for the youth of this generation to have some clean fun” in, so as per its reputation, there was no booze.

Jensen sat on the edge of their large booth, with Chris on his right, sipping a Coke and trying to studiously avoid Jared’s eyes from where they bore into him from across the table. Tom was playing pool against Chad, and was losing dismally, much to the glowing satisfaction of the blond boy.

“And that’s the game, Wellings,” Chad crowed smugly as he sank the 8-ball in. Chad, the girls had told Jensen, had been unbeatable since they’d started coming to Impala. Jensen played a fair game himself- something about playing for stakes higher than bragging rights when Eric bit off more than he could chew- but he didn’t want to attract attention to himself, so he declined the offer to play in favor of observing. Chad played well; years of hustling as a way to make ends meet allowed Jensen to suss out when he was being had, and it also allowed him to appreciate a good player when he saw one, and Chad had some skill.

“Green-eyes!” the man in question raised a challenging hand, curling his fingers twice inwards in a blatant invitation, smirking almost mockingly. “You’re next.”

“I’m good,” Jensen tried to wave him off, even as everyone burst into noise, some encouraging him to go, some telling Chad to give him a break.

“Come on, Newbie,” Chad goaded. “What’s the bet I school your pretty-boy ass?”

Jared growled at that, before Jensen had a chance to react. “He said he didn’t want to, Chad,” Jared said hardly, flashing the blond boy a glare.

“Pretty-boy can’t talk for himself, Jay-Man?” Chad shot back, and judging from the shocked looks around him, it was unexpected. Jared tensed angrily, and Jensen clenched his fists in response.

Jensen could appreciate the back-up, but at the moment, the dominant feeling was annoyance. He didn’t need anyone shielding him; he’d been fine 10 years without it. He felt more irritation at Jared than he knew was fair, but damn if he’d act like some damsel that needed big strong Jared’s protection.

“Rack ‘em up,” he said, swallowing the last bit of his Coke and steadfastly refusing to meet Jared’s eyes as the tension broke, noise bubbling up again in the acceptance of the challenge.

“I’m sorry, man,” Tom grinned amicably at Jensen, ignoring Jared’s anger, “but I’ve got ten on Chad.”

“Me too,” Genevieve piped up.

“Five on Chad,” Danneel grinned apologetically at Jensen.

“Looks like nobody’s willing to bet on Jared’s little Chemistry buff,” Sandy sneered, effectively insulting Jensen and simultaneously reminding him of exactly what he meant to the hazel-eyed boy. Jensen flinched, and Chris’ arm slung casually over him in a protective embrace.

“I would,” he defended, glaring frostily at Sandy. “In fact, I’m betting on Jensen, and matching every one’s bet, who bet on Chad.”

Jensen’s eyes widened as he glanced at his friend; Chris grinned at him in reassurance, and Jensen felt warmth flood his chest.

So this was what it was like having someone believe in you. Be willing to bet on you. Be in your corner, even without knowing whether you could deliver.

He had originally planned to take Chad close, hustle enough to show some level of skill, but ultimately let Chad take the game.

But now?

Now, Jensen’s friend- his best friend- had bet on it. Bet on him. The stakes were on. And Jensen knew how to play the pressure, and this time, he didn’t even have to hustle.

He got up slowly, stopping only when a low voice added to the fray.

“I’m with Kane. Ten on Jensen.”

He didn’t dare to look back at Jared as the words were spoken, but he felt determination fill him again. As he took the cue and started chalking it up, he sent an almost feral, cold and calculating smile at Chad.

This was gonna be good.

~*Jared*~

Jared’s mouth dried as Jensen started chalking up the cue, resting it lightly between his thighs.

If only he could be that fucking cue.

When Jensen sent that smile at Chad, and when he leaned down, back arched in a sexy curve, cue lightly gripped in his hands, looking for all the world as a predator on the prowl, damn if all the blood in Jared’s body rushed rapidly south. With a rough flick of his arm, the balls went scattering over the table, two sinking immediately. The table went silent, and Chad glanced at Jensen, slack-jawed.

Ignoring the look, Jensen bent down even further, his legs spread wide and his ass jutting out in a way that made Jared ponder the feasibility of pounding into him right here and now. All traces of uncertainty were gone as Jensen took deep breaths and shot effortlessly, dropping another ball. He moved around the table with undeniable grace, eyes focused and calculating as he roved his gaze over the table. When he perched himself on the edge of the table and brought the pool stick to rest against the small of his back, and his hips pushed out just so to allow him to take the shot without being hindered, Jared had to literally shift to the edge of his seat and, under the poor coverage of the table, press the heel of his palm on to his increasingly interested cock, in an attempt to will his erection away.

Jensen glances sharply up at Chad suddenly, and as though he were coming back to awareness, relaxed his posture slightly, looking a little less predator than before. When he missed the next shot narrowly, Jared was willing to bet it was deliberate, and from a look at Chad and Chris, they seem to think so too. Chad took a few shots and sunk a few balls, getting ahead of Jensen by one ball before he messed up. By the look on his usually smug face, he knew that he’d as good as lost now.

The slightest hint of a smirk played on Jensen’s lips as he got back to work, clearing up the table in a show of demolition that did very little to help the growing problem in Jared’s pants. To sink the 8-ball, Jensen had to reach right across the pool table, and the way he splayed out, the combination of him lying against the table and his ass sticking out so invitingly, nearly made Jared lose it right there. With the slightest flip of his wrist, the ball rolled smoothly over the table. Jensen straightened and held out the cue to Chad, without even turning to look at the almost poetic way in which he pocketed the black ball and took the game; it was one of the hottest things ever, that Jensen didn’t even question whether it would go in.

Everyone was silent for a few seconds. Chad looked dumbstruck, and Jared felt a stab of satisfaction; Jared knew Chad had been giving Jensen a hard time as a messed up way of protecting him, but he deserved to be put in his place, the fucker.

Jensen stopped next to Chad, leaning against the pool table, his face down and his arms crossed, facing away from Jared’s long-time best friend.

“By the way,” he said in a low voice, friendly, and slightly amused. “My name? Not green-eyes. It’s Jensen.” He knocked his knuckles twice on the pool table as he shoved off it, sauntering to the table.

Jared grinned as the catcalls and shouts ratcheted up from his friends. Gen and Danni were squealing, uncaring of the money they had lost, while Tom was irritably impressed. Sandy was sulking after her little bitch-fit backfired, and Chris was beaming, grabbing Jensen around the cuff of his neck and pulling him into a one-armed hug of sorts.

“That’s my boy,” he laughed, ruffling Jensen’s hair, and if Jared wanted to stick out his leg and trip Chris like they were in kindergarten again, well then that would just be an unfortunate incident. “Pay up, suckers!”

Money exchanges hands, and Jared doesn’t even glance at what he’s given before he pockets it. He didn’t need the money; getting to watch Jensen like that would have been worth losing that tenner over. As Jensen smiled indulgently at Chris’ gloating, Jared got the feeling that he wouldn’t have shown his true skill if not for the fact that Chris had bet on him.

“Yo, Jensen,” Chad called out, a genuine smile now lighting his features. “No more stakes. But I definitely want a rematch.”

Jensen’s answering smile would have made a Greek God jealous.

After schooling Chad in a few more games, they decided to play doubles.

“Okay, look,” Chad grinned suddenly at him, and Jared swore inwardly at the look he recognized all too well. “Wellings and I versus Jensen and Jay-Man.”

“That’s not fair,” Chris protested immediately, casting an apologetic look at Jared. “We all know Jared’s hopeless at pool. You’re setting Jensen up because he’s new.” Chris frowned slightly, and Jared was once again baffled by the protectiveness the other alpha was exuding. He felt sure that him and Jensen wasn’t an item…were they?

“If Jensen wants to keep his newfound rep, he’s be able to beat us handicapped,” Chad smirked. Jared pouted, only half-jokingly.

“Right here, guys,” he raised his arm halfway. “Within full hearing range.”

“I don’t mind,” Jensen’s smooth voice spoke before either alpha could respond. Jared perked up hopefully; Jensen had been avoiding him the whole night, so maybe this was a peace offering, or something. Sending a huge smile to Jensen, he was concerned when the smile he received in response seemed a little scared, a little wary, and a lot more than a little sad.

Jared needed to get Jensen to himself as soon as possible.

Jared tried to break, and failed miserably, the cue slipping in his clumsy grasp and not even touching the white ball.

“Let’s try that again, Jay-Man,” Chad rolled his eyes, and Jared fought the urge to flick his nose.

Before Jared could act on his impulse, a warm and solid presence was at his side. Jensen.

“Ignore Chad,” he said steadily, lowly. “Focus on the target.” He adjusted the cue in Jared’s hands, not once touching him, but nonetheless sparking something in Jared. “Hold the cue lightly at the top, let it slide smoothly in the V between your thumb and index finger. Let your right hand do all the work. Once you feel the motion of the cue is smooth enough, angle your cue to where you want to hit.” Jared followed the soft timbre of his instructions, all while trying to regulate his breathing. Looking up, he noticed Jensen’s green eyes tracking the length of the cue thoughtfully, and he shifted almost self-consciously. “Very good,” Jensen praised, and Jared grinned. “Now just lean down, it will help you get a feel of what you’re aiming at, and snap your right arm forward in a smooth jerk.” Jared followed the instruction and his face nearly split with the force of his grin when the triangle of balls scattered across the table. None fell in, like it did with Jensen, but it was the first time Jared broke and the balls actually moved from their position, so he could totally count that one as a win.

Under Jensen’s firm, quiet, patient tutelage, the pair beat Chad and Tom. His mate was a great teacher; he never mocked or got exasperated, but he offered praise without a second thought if he thought it was deserved. His voice was quiet and low, so as not to make Jared feel like he was under a spotlight, and his words were sure and calming.

Their partnership- and damn if Jared didn’t revel in the word- worked well, and they went unbeaten for the rest of the night. When Jensen paired up with Chris for a final game against Chad and a significantly less hopeless Jared, it came as no surprise that Jensen and Chris won.

“I can’t win without my partner,” Jared shrugged softly, catching Jensen’s eye and trying to convey the weight in his words with his eyes. “I can’t win without Jensen.”

Jensen blushed, coming back into his self-awareness and shyness almost immediately.

When Jared saw Jensen about to get into Chris’ truck, it could have had a lot to do with his possessiveness when he shouted out,

“Jensen! Why don’t I give you a ride home? We’ll consider it payment for the pool lessons back there.” He sent Jensen his best smile. The boy hesitated a second, before nodding, exchanging a look with Kane and then heading with Jared back to the pick-up.

This time, Jared was determined. By the end of the ride, he would get Jensen to agree to a date with him, one-on-one.

“Jared,” Jensen’s quiet voice stopped him before he could turn on the charm.

“Yeah?”

“We need to talk.”

Aw, fuck. Famous last words.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

Jared tried not to let his foreboding show as he shifted the truck into reverse. He quickly found out that he was unsuccessful when Jensen sent him the smallest of smiles. It relaxed him some, but what worried him was the fact that the smile didn’t reach Jensen’s eyes.

“It’s okay, don’t be nervous,” Jensen said quietly. “I get why you did it, it’s understandable.”

Jared’s brow creased in confusion. “Why I did what?” he asked curiously.

“Kissed me.”

Jared’s face split into a grin. “You get why I kissed you?” he repeated, chuckling slightly. “Well, I would hope you did, I’d hate to think anybody else kisses you randomly, for different reasons.” Jared would have bristled at the very thought, had he not been totally distracted by the wince that was barely noticeable pass through Jensen.

“Yeah,” Jensen replied hollowly, his vice slightly thick. “That would pretty much be the only reason.” Jared’s heart ached at the pain lacing his mate’s voice and he wondered at which point in the conversation he had shoved his foot all the way up his mouth. “In any event,” Jensen continued before Jared could ask, “I just wanted to tell you that you needn’t bother keeping the charade going, I’ll be sure to keep our grade strong regardless, you don’t need to do all…this.”

Jared was fairly certain he’d never gotten so badly lost in a conversation, so quickly, before in his life.

He found himself at a loss for words, and as he glanced at Jensen, he saw the smaller boy slouched slightly, seeming deflated from the high he was riding after the pool games. This, more than anything, pulled Jared from his funk, and he quickly pulled over. Jensen straightened in alarm, fear flooding those stunning emerald eyes, and the sight punched Jared like a fist to the gut. He never wanted for that look to be on Jensen’s face, ever.

“Jensen…” he breathed, reaching out to cup the boy’s cheek, needing suddenly to feel the reassuring softness of his skin under his palm.

When Jensen flinched, Jared felt like he was the one who’d been struck.

“I’m sorry,” Jensen muttered almost instantly, forcing his body into a relaxed position. Jared’s hand was still suspended, frozen mid-action in his shock and almost incapacitating rage. Tentatively, his mate raised a hand and pressing two gentle fingers on to his wrist, guided his hand back down, bringing Jared back to the present.

“I would never hurt you, Jen,” Jared choked out in a hushed murmur, the words springing to his mouth before he could really even think about it. Jensen smiled at him, a forced, tired shadow of the bright grin that Jared only saw a handful of times himself. He missed that 1000-watt smile like a physical ache, only now realizing just how much it could brighten his entire world, turn it from black-and-white to full-on fucking Technicolor. His finger rose unbidden to trace a light, lazy pattern just below Jensen’s right eye, thinking fleetingly how his smile didn’t reach those expressive green whirlpools of emotion. Jared felt admittedly elated when Jensen didn’t flinch at the contact this time; instead, he closed his eyes and ever-so-slightly leaned his head into it. Jared mentally commended himself on his seeing through the Herculean effort not to kiss those plush, sexy lips. Moving his finger further down, joining up the dots of freckles that looked far too adorable on his mate’s face, Jared repeated, “I would never, ever hurt you. I would sooner chew off my own hand than to lay a single finger on you. You know that, right? Please know that, Jen. Please believe me.”

Startled, wide green eyes snapped up to meet Jared’s hazel. Jared felt exposed, as though those sharp, stunning orbs could see straight through him, penetrate all the outer walls and look directly at Jared’s soul. He thought he should feel uncomfortable, laid bare for this complex and mysterious human to analyze, but instead, he felt nothing short of a pure and utter rightness. Jensen’s eyes on him were not calculating or judgmental; it was like a warm caress of love and acceptance. He felt amazed that anyone could give him such a sense of home.

The next words passed through those sinful lips, squeezed Jared’s heart in a vice grip of sheer satisfaction and overwhelming relief.

“I believe you.”

Unable to stifle his urge any longer, Jared leaned down and caught Jensen’s lip in a light kiss.

Or, at least, it was supposed to be a light kiss.

But then Jensen had to go and sigh, that tiny little breathy moan that set Jared’s entire body on fire. He wanted more of those sounds.

With a half-strangled moan himself, Jared forced himself to be patient. Cradling Jensen’s face in both hands without breaking the kiss, Jared flicked his tongue over Jensen’s bottom lip, asking permission. Jensen gasped at the sensation, and Jared was nothing if not an opportunist. Licking quickly into Jensen’s mouth, he swallowed the boy’s subsequent moan, only to contribute with a loud groan as the tastes permeated his senses.

Mapping every ridge, Jared chased away the lingering taste of Coke and pizza, until he finally tasted the unique, sweet taste of Jensen. Jared finally understood the cliché behind saying someone tasted like summer rain and candy floss. Kneading the boy’s jaw, Jared caught his bottom lip between his teeth and nipped lightly, before sucking it hard. Jensen strangled another gasp, his hands flying up belatedly to tangle in Jared’s hair. Jared gasped as the contact sent a fresh wave of desire crashing through him.

Jared,” Jensen moaned breathlessly, and the sound nearly had Jared coming right there. Gripping Jensen’s hips, he lifted the boy in one motion, not as smooth as he would have liked, given their enclosed space, but landing him on his lap anyway. Jensen shifted to straddle him, his back resting on the steering as he ground down, forcing a choked, guttural moan from Jared’s lips as their hard cocks pressed against each other through two, rough layers of denim.

Jensen,” Jared growled, sucking hard at the sensitive skin of the boy’s throat. “Say it again…say my name again…” he bit down on the skin and Jensen let out a strangled scream.

Jared!” he mewled, rocking his hips mindlessly into Jared. For his part, the alpha in him was immensely enjoying the friction and the sense of possessiveness, but even as he felt starved for the taste and feel of Jensen, he knew that they needed to talk first. He couldn’t let Jensen think that this thing between them as anything short of real, of fate, of destiny.

Nothing short of love.

Because yes, Jared may not have known much about the writhing, green-eyed beauty in his lip. He may only have known that Jensen was his mate, was the best damn pool player he’d ever met and that he liked Chemistry, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that Jared loved him. Against all odds and defying all logical reason, Jared was in love with him.

“Jen, stop,” he breathed. “We need…we need to talk.” When he tensed, Jared felt an icy cold seep into him at the thought of losing Jensen now. Gripping him firmly, one hand on his hip and the other wrapped around his waist, Jared nuzzled lightly just under Jensen’s jaw. The boy relaxed, and effectually, Jared did too, sighing happily when Jensen leaned his head and placed the softest of kisses on Jared’s mop of brown hair, so soft that Jared would have thought he’d imagined it if not for the sound.

“Okay,” the soft mumble came. Jared leaned back to look at the boy on his lap. Jensen looked steadily back at him. “What do you wanna talk about?”

Jared ordered his thoughts quickly. “What were you talking about earlier?” he asked curiously. “About our Chem grade?”

“I was telling you that you didn’t need to do this,” Jensen gestured between them, “you didn’t need to pretend to want this, just so that you’ll get a good Chemistry grade. I can help you get a good grade, you don’t have to…”

“Jensen,” Jared interrupted incredulously, “do you honestly believe that…that I…” Jared could scarcely get the words out. Determinedly, he rolled his hips, pressing his still hard erection over Jensen’s thigh, eliciting a moan of pleasure from the other boy. “Does it feel like I don’t want you?” he asked in a low growl. “Would I be this painfully hard for you if I only wanted you to get my grade up?”

“W-why…” Jensen hitched in a quick breath. “Why do I feel like…like the answer to that is…is a n-no?”

Jared laughed lowly. “Because you’re a fucking smart guy.” He bucked his hips upwards again, several times in quick succession, reveling in the keening sounds it pulled from Jensen’s throat. “Because you’re my fucking smart guy,” he added, voice deepening as he acknowledged his possessiveness.

“Jared,” Jensen gasped tightly, “you gotta stop moving if you want us to talk, man.”

“Right,” Jared chuckled breathlessly again. He tried hard to regain his train of thought, and when he did, he couldn’t help his eyes narrowing. “Jen, what did you mean when you said yesterday that you tend to bring out the worst in people? When I was apologizing for scaring off your trench coat friend?”

“Because I do,” Jensen shrugged. “It was my fault you got mad and we fought, and I was rude to you, even though I was the one at fault.”

Jared felt his heart hurt in his chest as his mate spoke so calmly and frankly. Tightening his wrap around Jensen’s waist, Jared peppered gentle kisses over his face until the melodious, heavenly sound of the boy’s light, but genuine laughter filled the car.

“Jen,” he breathed, locking eyes with Jensen, “that was not your fault. It was all on me. I was acting like a complete jackass. That had nothing to do with you, and you were right to be rude to me, on account of the previous jackass-ery we just spoke of.” Jensen huffed another small laugh, and it felt more like a victory than any of Jared’s football games. “Jen,” he continued, serious now, “you make me want to be a better person. I don’t know why,” he lied, “but even though we just met a week ago, when I’m around you, I want to be as good as I can be. You do nothing but bring out the absolute best in me. It’s only been a week and I can say that with 100 percent certainty.”

Soft green eyes peered at him from under ridiculously long lashes, and when Jensen nodded tentatively, not looking convinced at all, Jared made it his mission right then to make Jensen believe every word he was saying.

“Anything else you want to talk about?” Jensen asked, cocking his head to the side in a gesture that was too fucking adorable for words. Jared forced himself to think rationally.

“Just one,” he said seriously, and Jensen bit his bottom lip, ripping a shudder of desire from Jared at the absolutely sexy sight it provided.

“What?”

“Jen?” Jared cleared his throat, nervousness bubbling up in him, despite their position and their obvious chemistry. “Will you go out on a date with me?”

The blinding smile Jared received was worth all the apprehension and the week agonizing over it.

“I would really like that, Jared,” Jensen accepted shyly.

“Yeah?” Jared couldn’t stop himself as he grinned widely.

“Yeah,” Jensen laughed. “But I think I should maybe get off your lap for now,” he grinned mischievously.

“I don’t know,” Jared leered playfully at the gorgeous boy. “I really like this position.” He let his hand dip a moment from Jensen’s hip, to brush over the top of his ass. Their deep, needy moans amalgamated into a carnal sound of pleasure that did nothing for either of their raging hard-ons.

Fucking tease,” Jensen blurted breathily, and Jared nipped at his throat, licking over the mark he’d sucked into the skin earlier.

“Oh, I’ll deliver soon enough,” Jared promised darkly, in a low rumble. Jensen laughed, flopping back into his seat. Jared instantly missed the soft heat of the other boy’s body.

“I have no doubt.”

Jared flashed him a wolfish grin and started the truck again, pulling on to the road before reaching over and taking Jensen’s hand in his own. Every few minutes, he picked up the hand in his to press a light kiss to different knuckles, the inside of his wrist, his palm…the relaxed smile lighting up Jensen’s eyes and face was almost addictive. So caught up was he in his love-struck happiness, he didn’t even think to wonder why Jensen asked to be dropped off at school instead of giving him his home address.

When they pulled up in front of the school, Jared dragged him in for another toe-curling kiss, licking deep and sucking hard; Jared honestly thought that if anyone could make Taste Of Jensen into an ice-cream, they’d be into a multi-million dollar goldmine right there. When they finally broke apart, Jensen grinned, bit his lip again, unconsciously, and started out of the door.

Suddenly, something tugged at his mind and Jared flashed back to the start of the conversation, where he’d thought he’d monumentally screwed up. “Oh, and Jen?” Jared smiled as Jensen turned to face him, the barest hint of a smile playing on his beautiful features. “Just for the record? I kissed you because I fucking wanted you, and when I said that nobody else should, for any reason, I meant that I’d have to kill anyone who kissed you, on the principals of a terribly possessive and jealous boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” Jensen asked, an adorable blush coloring his cherubic cheeks.

“Yeah.” Jared bit his lip suddenly, unsure of whether Jensen was fine with that. “Are you…”

“I like it,” Jensen reassured him quickly, grinning shyly. “I can get on board with that.”

Jared laughed exuberantly, feeling lighter and happier than he could ever remember feeling. “Me too, Jen. Me too.”

 

~*Jensen*~

For all his bitching and moaning about couples and their over exaggerated happiness, Jensen now had to consider that maybe it wasn’t all over exaggerated, because he was still seriously wondering whether he’d been roofied, with the way he felt like he was on cloud 9.

The weekend could safely be considered perfect. Eric came home late Sunday night, too tired for much except a half-hearted slap to the back of his head and a few barbed comments that, although cruel, couldn’t dampen his mood. His best friend had come to visit, and for all his concern, it was as if nothing had changed between them. He had his first kiss which, on the hotness scale of 1 to 10, registered a whopping and well-deserved 14, and several subsequent, equally hot kisses thereafter. He had almost- almost- fit in with everyone, especially after displaying his pool skills.

Most of all, for whatever odd reason, the hottest and most awesome guy in the whole school (possibly in the whole world, but Jensen still needed a little more data to conclusively prove that one) asked him out. Wanted to go on a date with him. With him. It was a dream come true, and even as Jensen forced himself to be ready for the other shoe to drop, he made himself also enjoy it while it lasted, before Jared found out how damaged and not worth it he was and left. Because the memories? Jensen knew without question that it would get him through years of sorrow; when his life turned dark and cold, as he knew it would, he could pull forth the memories of the most amazing, most beautiful hazel-eyed, floppy-haired boy who could turn his veins to liquid fire with a look, a touch, a caress of their lips. He could wrap the memories of Jared&Jensen around him, like a trusty warm quilt in the storm of his life, a shelter, a haven to get him through the torrid weather. He would always know that this perfect slice of heaven had been his once upon a lifetime ago, and that would get him through anything.

###

Walking into school the next morning, Jensen was surprised when he heard several voices shouting across the grounds to him. He lifted his head to be greeted by the smiling faces of Misha, Genevieve, Chad and Jared. Jensen grinned and before he could think on how out-of-character he was being, he waved at them.

“Come and chill with us, Jense,” Genevieve beckoned him, smiling broadly.

Jensen hesitated; he had met Chris at their lockers every morning last week, and although it was the furthest from a thing of theirs, even though it was likely just coincidence, Jensen felt oddly like he would be letting the other boy down or hurting him if he didn’t.

“Later,” Jensen called back, laughing at Misha’s dramatic groan. “I’m gonna go meet Chris at our lockers first.”

Not wanting to wait for an answer, Jensen waved at them one more time and jogged toward the doors. He wasn’t surprised to see that Chris was already there, leaning against the lockers and waiting for him, presumably.

“Yo Freckles,” he called out warmly when he caught sight of Jensen. Shaking his head with a sigh, he resigned himself to the nickname and smiled back. “You’re late!”

“Jared and Friends wants to hang out,” Jensen explained. “You game, or do you wanna moon after Sofia, or something else completely?”

“Shut up, I do not moon,” Chris shot back, his hand shooting out and catching Jensen lightly across the chest.

“Sure,” Jensen rolled his eyes with a teasing grin as he twisted out his locker combination. As he hoisted his backpack up, Chris’ fist shot out absently to crash into that spot on his locker that Jensen could never seem to pinpoint. “Thanks,” he muttered as he packed in his books for the first period.

“Yeah,” Chris waved his hand dismissively. “How do you know they want to hang out?”

“They asked me when I came into school,” Jensen explained distractedly.

“You didn’t go to them straight?” Chris asked quietly. Had he not been busy sorting his books out, Jensen may have noticed the intense look on his best friend’s face.

“I went to them, told them we’d come later.” He shrugged.

“Why later?” Chris pushed.

“Because I was coming to meet you here,” Jensen answered patiently, closing his locker. “And I didn’t know if you’d be game for it.”

Chris fixed Jensen with a look he didn’t quite understand before throwing a casual arm around him and steering him to the doors. “Let’s hang with your boyfriend and co. I can shoot seductive winks and masculine poses at Sofia tomorrow.” Jensen grinned.

“You Stud, you.”

 

~*Jared*~

Why?

Why, why, why, why, why, why, why???

Why were Chris and Jensen so God damned close? How had Chris managed it? Did he have competition? Was Jensen interested in Chris?

The thoughts were driving him crazy, and he didn’t even notice it when Tom, Sandy and Danneel joined their group. He did, however, notice it when Jensen and fucking Chris joined them.

Damn it, what was wrong with him? He liked Chris this time last week.

As soon as the question entered his mind, he knew the answer, bringing to mind the words stored deep in his memory bank.

Beware, my Lord, of jealousy. ‘Tis the green-eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on.

Ok, so maybe it was weird to be quoting Shakespeare, but then, Jared was an alpha werewolf, in love with a human boy he’d known for a week (an awesome week, Jared thought that was worth noting), juggling pack problems with football games, Calculus and now, jealously and the start of a new relationship. Fuck if he wasn’t entitled to a little weird.

Finishing his little internal monologue with a satisfied nod, Jared determined that the only possible port of call would be to talk to Chris. Then Jensen. Maybe Genevieve. Not Chad. Never Chad.

As Misha threw an arm around Jensen, Jared made a mental note to talk to him too. Maybe establish a strictly-no-touching rule.

But he had an order to follow now. “Yo Chris,” he called out. “Come to the truck with me, I need to return your CD.”

The bastard smirked knowingly at him. “Sure thing, Jay-Man,” he nodded, shooting Jensen a reassuring smile before resuming his cocky smirk. As soon as they were a few steps away, he grinned. “So, you wanna talk about Jensen? Better get started, Lover Boy.”

“Are you interested in him?” Jared asked, cutting to the chase.

“No,” he answered steadily, and Jared breathed a sigh of relief when he detected no deception. “I’m straight, man. Jensen’s a fine-ass man, but I don’t think of him like that.”

“Does he think of you like that?” Jared frowned at the thought.

“He’s crazy about you, man,” Chris rolled his eyes.

“Then why are you two so close?” he asked in frustration. “How did you do what I’ve been trying to do for a week, in the space of an hour?”

“Trusting and being close to your best friend is different than trusting and being close to your boyfriend,” Chris said easily. “I get the feeling he’s been hurt before, and if he’s going to trust you even more than he trusts me, he’s gonna need time to get to that point.”

“Fair enough,” Jared allowed with a pout. He hesitated before ploughing forward with the question that had been on his mind since that first Chemistry lesson. “Chris? How did you become his friend so easily? Let him in so easily?”

“He called me on my crap,” Chris laughed affectionately. “I mean, everyone meets me and is automatically scared of me, and then this guy comes out of nowhere and calls me on staring at him. It was fucking hilarious man,” he chuckled. “Jensen has guts, and backbone. Then after that, he kind of became the little brother I never had. I’d always wondered when I was younger what it would have been like if…” Chris swallowed convulsively, and Jared nodded in sympathy; everyone in the pack knew Chris’ story. “In any case,” he cleared his throat and continued, “Jensen is like that to me. He’s my little brother. I don’t need to know much to know that. I mean, look at what happened this morning! We never planned to meet anywhere, ever, he could easily have hung out with you guys, but he came to the lockers, to meet me first and include me in his plans. Jensen is one of the most steadfastly loyal guys I’ve ever met, and to have that loyalty shown to me without any hesitation…” Chris fixed piercing blue eyes on Jared. “I’m never going to take that trust and respect and allegiance lightly. I’m going to prove to him I deserve it.”

Jared nodded in understading, feeling like an ass for doubting Chris and his intentions. But at least now, he had a different idea…

“One more question Kane,” he grinned. “Will you please help me find ways to woo Jensen?”

It took several bribes and more pleading than an alpha of his stature would care to admit, but he had Chris on board. And they had a kickass plan.

The J.A.W (Jensen Ackles Wooing) Initiative would commence shortly.

Jen wasn’t going to know what hit him.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

“I need your help, oh wise and great one.”

Chris flopped dramatically into his seat and Jensen grinned in amusement. They still had five minutes before English started so Jensen turned his attention to his theatrically slumped over best friend.

“Yeesh, must be pretty important for you to be complimenting me,” Jensen teased.

“Shut up, jerk,” Chris grumbled, peeking out from underneath folded arms, and his pouting was so uncharacteristic, Jensen had to smother a laugh.

“Shutting up. What’s the epic dilemma?”

Jensen didn’t do a very good job of smothering his amusement, evidently, since Chris’ pout only deepened, and he huffed, crossing his arms and staring moodily out of the window. Laughing, Jensen reached out to cuff his friend on the side of the head.

“Alright, alright, I’m sorry,” he apologized with a grin. “Stop pouting, Chris, it doesn’t do much for your reputation as the Sexy Brooder.” Truthfully, as much as the pout was cute, Jensen didn’t much like it on Chris. He hated seeing his friend upset; Cas had always teased that he had a marshmallow centre, so he figured he was better off keeping that part under strict lockdown.

Chris snorted, forgetting his sulkiness in favor of his amusement. “I do not brood,” he scoffed.

“Tell that to the girls,” Jensen pointed out. “But hey; at least they think its sexy, so I guess its not the worst title to hold.”

Chris considered this, furrowing his brow. “That’s a good point. I am sexy.” He shrugged, as if allowing the statement.

“You needed my help, Dr. Sexy?” Jensen reminded him, rolling his eyes.

“Right!” Chris snapped back to reality, grinning brightly at Jensen, making him smile softly. “I need you to tell me ways to woo Sofia.”

Jensen snorted. “Do I look like someone who’s an expert on wooing girls?”

“Better you than Chad,” Chris shrugged, and Jensen sobered at the thought.

“When you put it that way…” Jensen bit his lip in thought. “Seriously, though, man, I know nothing about Sofia.”

“You don’t need to know,” Chris urged. “Give me some standard tried and tested stuff. What would woo you?”

“That would be your first mistake, dude,” Jensen shrugged. “Wooing someone, although I’m no expert, should be personal, not some random tried and tested, predictable cliché.”

“So you would be wooed by personal gestures?” Chris asked doubtfully.

“Yeah, I guess,” Jensen nodded. “Find personal and unique ways to do normal things.”

“Normal things being?”

“Yeesh, Chris,” he grumbled, “you’d think that you’ve never had to woo a girl before.”

“I never did,” he frowned. “They usually come to me.”

A surprised huff of laughter bubbled through Jensen. “This is going to be fun,” he chuckled. “Okay, first step is public acknowledgment. Everyone, guy or girl, likes to be acknowledged in public as someone that you’re interested in. It’ll help the jealousy factor and it’d go a long way towards convincing them that you’re serious.”

“Public acknowledgement, gotcha,” Chris nodded gamely. “What’s next, Mr Miyagi?”

Jensen snorted. “Well, Christian-San, I guess you gotta think of cute, personal ways to make her feel special,” he shrugged, thinking about what would make a person feel swept off their feet. “Little, cute gestures that show her you’re thinking of her and that you know the little stuff about her. Sometimes, it’s knowing the little things that make the biggest difference.”

“Cute and personal gestures, I hear you.” Nodding and making a large tick in the air with his index finger, Chris indicated that Jensen should continue.

“I think knowing her friends would be important,” he offered. “Don’t only interact with her, she’ll appreciate it if you bother to be friends with her friends too.”

“Play nice with her friends.” Chris looked a little disgruntled at that, and Jensen didn’t bother hiding his grin, while wondering idly whether Chris was really making an internal list.

“And I guess an epic first date would be the clincher,” he concluded decisively, far more invested into this plan that he thought he would be. “You gotta think of something super special and personal, something that you think will take her breath away. Semi-private, because you don’t want her to freak out, but you want to show her you don’t want to share her either. You’ll want to show her a more personal side to you, too, because she’ll want to see that you feel comfortable enough around her to be the person you hide from everyone else, and that way, she’ll feel comfortable enough to reciprocate. And more than anything, you have to do something that shows her that you were paying attention all those times you’ve spoken to her, stored each detail to memory, because it was her. Because you’ve always listened to her, because you felt what she said was important, even if it might seem small and insignificant to anyone else.”

Chris was silent for a moment after Jensen stopped speaking, and Jensen worried he’d said something wrong when his friend simply looked at him for a solid, quiet minute. Before he could say anything, Chris finally spoke.

“Fuck, Jen, I think I just fell in love with you,” he said, laying his hand over his heart, only the mirth dancing in his eyes indicating his teasing.

Jensen burst out laughing. “Fuck you, man,” he shook his head, running a hand through his hair.

“No, man, that was fucking beautiful,” he protested around a smothered chuckle, mimicking Jensen as he took out his books. “Jesus, I’m glad you’re gay, dude.”

###

I saw a bird’s nest today, on my way home, and I thought of you.

Jensen stared at the text on his ancient phone, biting his lip. He had bought the phone for himself, so he was proud of it despite it being out-of-date, and he and Jared had exchanged numbers after school. It had been, by far, the best Monday in the history of Mondays, but now, Jensen was slumped in confusion.

It didn’t sound like a pick-up line. But then again, what did Jensen know about flirting? Adam had basically laid his claim, and Jensen had happily gone along, there hadn’t been much in the way of building up to a relationship. Which was a large part of the fact that Jensen’s heart was valiantly trying to jump out of his chest at the message Jared had sent him. How did you reply to something that obscure? And was it a good or bad thing that he thought of him when he saw a bird’s nest? Did it mean Jared thought he was a safe choice or something? And was it a good or bad thing if he was a safe choice? Or did it mean that he thought Jensen had to leave the nest and stop being such a baby?

Jensen briefly entertained the thought of smashing his phone in a frenzied panic, but he figured that idea might have some psychotic tendencies submerged in it.

Sighing, he eventually steeled his nerves and replied:

How did a bird’s nest make you think of me?

Almost immediately, Jensen wanted to take it back.

What if it was something he was supposed to understand right away? What if it was a joke that Jensen didn’t get, and now Jared would think he was a total idiot?

So caught up in his new strain of stressing, Jensen nearly missed it when his phone beeped with another text.

It didn’t. I saw it, and then I thought of you, because I think of you all of the time :-)

Jensen giggled- fucking giggled!- becoming giddy with relief that he hadn’t already messed up his sliver of a chance with Jared. Before he knew what was happening, his fingers were flying across the keyboard of their own accord.

How long did it take you to think of that one? ;-)

He didn’t even have time to be horrified at how nasty it could have sounded without the teasing inflection of his voice as a buffer, before Jared replied.

Some of Math, most of English, a little bit of Geography…ok, fine, the entire day! :-) But you have to admit, it’s better than a pick-up line.

Jensen laughed again, feeling light and happy for the first time in forever as he started dinner. Putting the roast in the oven and setting the sauce to a low boil, he leaned against the counter to reply, not wanting to leave the food unattended lest he burn the house down.

I don’t know. Pick-up lines are all about the delivery.

Setting his phone on the counter, Jensen stirred the pot of sauce and put the roasted veggies in the microwave. Eric would be home in about an hour and if Jensen wanted to avoid a bad beating that Jared and Chris would most certainly catch on to, he had to have dinner ready. The house was already clean, and all his work, complete, and Jensen hoped to hell that would suffice tonight.

Maybe you’ve gotta demonstrate this delivery you think allows pick-up lines to work?

Jensen flushed as he read Jared’s reply. With a smile playing on his lips, he decided not to think too hard on his replies, because really, how many times can you freak yourself out before giving yourself an aneurism? Jensen definitely didn’t want to be the one to find out.

Maybe sometime ;-)

Taking the roast out of the oven and pouring the sauce into a bowl, Jensen was surprised when his phone chirped again. Pleasure bubbled inside him; did Jared really want to talk to him?

Did you know that adding nitric acid to a potassium hydroxide solution would have no reaction? …Also, what’s your favorite color?

Jensen snorted. Jared was either as bad at Chemistry as he claimed to be, or he was as smooth an operator as everyone else claimed him to be.

That’s a lie. The acid will react to the base in a neutralization reaction to produce a salt and water. And my favorite color is silver. What’s yours?

Jared’s reply came almost immediately, and setting the food in the warming oven, Jensen barricaded himself in his room and settled down in preparation of maybe actually having a conversation with the single most awesome guy in the world.

I know! But I figured you would have to correct me, and then in turn, you would have to tell me your favorite color, and social obligation calls for you to ask me mine, and hey presto! We’re in a conversation that you’re obligated to see through till the early hours of the morning :-)

A laugh bubbled up in Jensen. So... definitely smooth then.

###

Something was up.

Jensen didn’t know what, he didn’t know when it would happen, hell, he didn’t even know who was involved, but something was up.

Walking into school Thursday morning, it felt as though there was a light buzz in the air, one that he was reacting to in kind. The corner of his lips tugged upwards in a half smile as he saw Chris with Jared and the gang; it would seem that his friend was learning to be sociable after all. As he walked towards them, Jared was the first to look up. Jensen was hopelessly far away from them, but he liked to think that Jared sensed him coming, that Jared just knew the moment he was in the same vicinity, rather than to face the reality that Jared had probably just turned around by fluke. Whatever reasons were in Jensen’s mind soon fled as Jared aimed that broad grin at him, and Jensen could see those dimples flashing even from a distance. When he had closed the distance between them, Jared called out, not overly loud, just loud enough for his voice to carry the short distance.

“Hey Jen.” Coming forward a few steps to meet him halfway, Jared surprised Jensen by snagging him around the waist and pulling him into a quick hug, landing a firm kiss to his temple. Jensen flushed a most spectacular shade of red as the girls squealed in excitement.

“Finally!” Genevieve squealed, clapping her hands together in childish excitement. “It took Jared long enough!”

“It took me all of one week!” Jared protested, pulling an immobile Jensen firmly into his side, arm looping around his waist and his thumb curling into Jensen’s belt loop.

“Exactly,” Danneel rolled her eyes. “That’s 6 days too long.”

“I disagree,” Misha called out, pouting playfully. “Jared worked too fast. Hey Jense, if you ever get tired of the giant, I’m very available to be a far more pleasing substitute.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, stunning a laugh out of Jensen and a growl out of Jared.

“Sorry, Meesh,” Jensen grinned, quick to stop a retort from Jared. “I’m neither mentally unstable, nor am I straight, and I would have to be either to ever tire of Jared.” Aiming a shy smile at him, Jensen was pleased to see Jared’s broad grin. Jared leaned down to press a swift kiss to the soft spot just under Jensen’s ear, chuckling against his skin when Jensen flushed again.

“Gah!” Chad brought his hands up to fist at his face. “My eyes! They burn!!”

Jensen thought he was entitled to laugh as Jared tackled Chad, putting him quickly in a headlock.

He tried to ignore the daggers Sandy was sending his way, but it was difficult to do when she wasn’t even bothering to hide it. Likely seeing the same thing, Chris positioned himself next to Jensen, leaning casually against his shoulder. Shooting him a grateful look, Jensen relaxed, oddly at ease thanks to Chris and his protectiveness.

Maybe they weren’t the only ones who sensed the tension in the air, because Tom suddenly piped up.

“As much as I love seeing Chad getting his ass handed to him, maybe we should leave this for when we’re shif-…” he broke off abruptly, eyes widening as he clamped his mouth shut with an audible clack of his teeth, looking like a kid caught in a lie by his mom. Everyone around him tensed almost imperceptibly, even Chris, and Jensen was awash with the feeling that he was the only one on the outside of a very important circle.

“If we’re shitfaced when it happens, how will Jen remember it?” Jared blurted, breaking the silence that seemed to last a lifetime, but probably only lasted a few seconds. Half-hearted laughs arose and an undignified noise from Tom that seemed to count as agreement, but it was Jared’s eyes that told Jensen a truth. They were still bright with fresh panic and the way they stayed on him made him believe that his reaction to their little cover-up was important to Jared.

And suddenly, Jensen felt like the punchline to a bad joke.

Panic began to build in his chest, and a bitter taste hit the back of his throat. Silence reigned over them and Chris and Jared, the only two people Jensen wanted to turn to for comfort, were somehow in on the joke. Before it could escalate, Jensen felt a familiar weight press into the space between his shoulder blades, and he turned his head to meet the clear, steady, blue-eyed gaze of his best friend.

Jensen knew without a doubt that he trusted Chris. Unbidden, flashes of the boy protecting him and having his back without asking anything in return came to mind.

Jensen tore his gaze away from Chris and landed on the wide eyes of his maybe-kinda-sorta boyfriend. In those deep hazel depths, he saw a blaze of hope, and an intense something that Jensen couldn’t put a name to, having never seen it before. In the instant that their eyes connected, a strange, almost out-of-body peace came over Jensen. The fear squeezing his heart in a vice grip vanished, replaced instead by the memory of Jared’s concern, his smile, his warmth, his affection. The phantom touch of his lips against Jensen’s skin burned, an ethereal reminder of the fact that Jensen trusted Jared, felt something for him stronger than was healthy, stronger than he ever thought he could have felt in such a short space of time. What they had between them was something that defied all of Jensen’s logic and broke every wall and barrier he ever set up to protect himself. He could hardly remember his life without Jared, now, and if he could trust in them enough to push away all of his doubts and fears and give them a try, couldn’t he trust in Jared enough to know that he was probably overthinking this? That there probably wasn’t a secret, that Jensen was just paranoid?

The tension melted from his body. Jared was different. Jared wasn’t like all the others. He would never keep a secret and hurt him like that.

Right?

 

~*Jared*~

Jared watched as Jensen’s shoulders released their tense set, and on cue, everyone else relaxed too. The relief was like a ton of iced water in the middle of the Sahara, and needing the solid and reassuring presence of his mate next to him, Jared moved to take Jensen into his arms. He could feel the amount of trust in Jensen’s response weighing on him like an anvil; Jared just hoped that he was protecting Jensen as much as he thought he was, and not just digging a deeper hole.

Now, though, he had to focus on the J.A.W. Initiative. Speaking to Jen the past few days were nothing short of amazing and not for the first time, Jared wished there were more hours in the day so that he could spend it with Jensen.

###

“I’ll get you a car, a house in the Hamptons, a lifetime supply of MNMs, and I’ll give you my kidney if you ever need it.”

Jensen’s laughter lit up Jared’s soul; he was shaking so hard from it that he was doubled over, tears of laughter streaming from his eyes as he fought for breath. Jared grinned, his face heating up a little when Beaver rolled his eyes at them. Chemistry was the only period they sat together, aside from homeroom, because Jen was intent on passing his classes (much to Jared’s hormone’s dismay), and because Jen insisted that they could spend time together out of class because he wouldn’t compromise the time he spent with Chris. Not for the first time, Jared was jealous of the blue-eyed alpha, but at least now he knew he had nothing romantic to worry about.

They had been compromising back and forth for the last hour, Jared’s offers getting steadily more ridiculous, resulting in Jensen’s sweet, yet uncontrollable laughter.

“You’re gonna buy me a car, a house in the Hamptons, and a lifetime supply of MNMs, and give me your kidney if I agree to hang out with you after football today?” Jensen repeated, managing to get the words out through stints of laughter.

“That sounds about right,” Jared nodded, grinning at the stunning boy in front of him. Jensen didn’t seem to know it, but he positively glowed when he just let himself go. His laugh was already Jared’s favorite sound in the whole world; Jen threw his whole body into his laugh, and the sound was something Jared already had committed to memory.

“If you throw in a blue balloon, I’m in,” Jensen said mock seriously, barely hiding his broad smile.

“You got yourself a deal!” Jared grabbed his hand and shook it, pumping hard and smiling his widest, most charming smile.

“You’re insane,” Jen laughed fondly, turning his attention back to their work.

“Insane is such a harsh term for it,” he smiled serenely. Gently plucking the vial with purple liquid from Jensen’s hand, he set it down and turned to him with a straight face. “Back to important matters now…” Jared laughed when Jensen punched him lightly in the arm, shaking his head in exasperation and reaching for the vial. “Our date!” Jared announced brightly, as loudly as he could without getting heard by Beaver and his super hearing. “Saturday, I’ll pick you up at 5?”

Blushing, Jen ducked his head and nodded, smiling at the smoking concoction on their desk. “Sounds great, I’m looking forward to it.”

“But we have to get through the whole of tonight, and Friday, and Saturday morning and afternoon before it comes,” Jared pouted, only half-jokingly.

“Well we’re hanging out after school, so technically only Friday and Saturday,” Jen offered, smiling indulgently at him and absently reaching out to push the stubborn lock of hair hanging on Jared’s forehead back behind his ear. Jared almost purred at the touch, welcoming the electricity that bubbled under his skin at the touch of his mate’s hand; a touch and electricity once so foreign that was now as natural as breathing.

Smiling dopily, Jared only nodded, grabbing the vial and throwing its contents into their experiment tube. Jensen made a sound of warning, and before Jared knew it, the entire mixture began bubbling upwards, hissing and smoking dangerously, turning orange and bubbling over the top.

PADALECKI!” Beaver shouted.

Jared could only grin sheepishly as Jensen almost hit the floor with laughter.

###

Watching from the end of the hallway, Jared couldn’t stop grinning. His last period was free, while Jen had History, and he considered it a free well spent.

Jensen opened his locker with some help from Chris, and promptly burst out laughing. Jared watched, pleased, as Jen continued to laugh in delight as he pulled out a toy car, a little figurine of a mansion, a bean, and a packet of MNMs with a blue balloon tied floating to it, from his locker.

“God, Jared is fucking incredible.” Thanks to his superior hearing, Jared caught the murmured whisper, and warmth filled him from the inside out.

The J.A.W. Initiative was in progress.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

“Is not!”

“On what grounds are you arguing this?”

“On the grounds that I said so, so there!”

Jared punctuated his statement by sticking his tongue out and crossing his arms over his chest, feeling only mildly insulted when Jensen burst into laughter.

“Yeah, that’s definitely a strong argument,” he teased, looking more relaxed than Jared had ever seen him. Something inside him warmed at that, and he had to consciously remind himself that they were sprawled on cushions on his floor, in the middle of a spirited debate over whether Cool Runnings was a better movie than The Titanic.

“The Titanic is a classic,” Jared pointed out.

“It’s ridiculous,” Jensen snorted, getting up to throw his empty can of Coke into the wastepaper basket at the corner of Jared’s room. “What kind of a respectable captain misses a glaringly massive iceberg in the middle of his path? And I bet that plank was more than big enough to fit both of them, either Rose kicked him off, or Jack chose death over being stuck with her.”

Jared burst into laughter. “Cynical much?”

Jensen shrugged, leaning against the wall to face Jared, his face saddening a little. “I guess I’ve never much had reason not to be.”

Jared felt his heart crumple. Wanting nothing more than to make Jen smile again, Jared rose, and in the same quick motion, raced at Jensen and tackled him, pulling him on to the bed, being sure not to jostle him too much and incidentally hurt him. Jen was shocked into inaction, and belatedly began to laugh as Jared landed lightly next to him. Hoisting himself on his palms, Jared held his body over Jensen’s so that every inch of them was connected in a barely there touch. Normally sparkling emerald eyes turned a dark forest green as Jen reached up and lightly fisted his hands in the sides of Jared’s t-shirt, pulling down with the gentlest of pressure and effectively giving Jared permission to kiss him.

Jared moved slowly, not wanting to diminish or belittle the sheer amount of trust it took from Jen to allow him closer, given the history of hurt he had gone through that Chris had alluded to.

Stopping his lips mere breaths away from Jensen’s, Jared murmured, “I’m going to give you every reason in the world not to be a cynic.”

As their lips met, Jared reveled once more in the soft fullness and the sweet taste that was so unique to his stunning, perfect mate. Not nearly trusting his hormones in the big, comfortable bed as it was teamed with the alluring smell of his Jen, Jared kept the kiss light and teasing, a slow series of nips and licks and sucks, his touch running reverently over Jen’s lean body, all hard edges that should be uncomfortable, but instead fit perfectly against Jared’s body.

The missing puzzle piece of Jared’s existence in every way.

Before he could deepen the kiss as much as he wanted to, Jared pulled back, situating himself back next to his mate and running a hand through Jen’s hair before resting it lightly against his waist, his thumb rubbing circles into the soft jut of his hip. Jen turned and propped himself up on his elbow, facing Jared, and looking into soft green eyes, Jared’s heart warmed with the knowledge that this moment, this stitch in time, was just them together, untouched by the world and its ugliness. In this space- in their space- Jared wasn’t an alpha werewolf destined to be the leader of his pack, and Jensen wasn’t a boy touched by something that hurt him and made him untrusting. Jared wasn’t hiding a world away, and Jensen wasn’t hiding a world of secrets in those entrancing emerald orbs.

They were just two, love-struck teenagers, wrapped up in a bubble of happy togetherness, not hiding an ounce of themselves and not even feeling the need to.

And it felt amazing.

It was something Jared had never felt before in his entire life, not even with the pack-mates he grew up with. Never before had he felt so free to be himself, without the worry about being judged for thinking or feeling or acting a certain way. He felt as though he could bare his soul and not have to worry about what he would receive in return; because he felt certain it would be love and acceptance.

Jared took a moment to revel over the fact that a month ago, he would never have associated infatuation with himself, but now, he was in love.

The way the tides could change…

“Jay?” The nickname felt special as it came out of Jensen’s mouth.

“Yeah, Jen?” Jared murmured, not wanting to ruin the perfection of the moment by speaking too loudly.

The boy hesitated for a moment, before speaking. “There was this guy at my old school.” Jared sucked in an inaudible breath; Jen was opening up to him, for the first time. Voluntarily. He felt the importance of the moment impress itself heavily upon him, and he kept quiet, nodding encouragingly for Jensen to continue. “There’s some things I think you should know about it,” he said finally, exhaling a shaky breath. “I think it will explain a lot.”

 

~*Jensen*~

Something like concern flickered in Jared’s eyes, but he made no move to stop Jensen, so he took a deep breath and willed himself to have some courage.

“His name was Adam,” Jen started his story, keeping his eyes trained on Jared’s chest as his fingers played idly with the buttons there. “He was basically a grade-A dick, but I was naïve and he was my first boyfriend…” Jensen sighed softly, once again berating himself for his stupidity. “He was charming and sweet and thoughtful and kind, at the beginning. I knew I didn’t love him, but I guess I thought I could grow to love him, you know?” Scrunching his eyebrows, Jensen tried to put into words the feelings that were swirling through him. “I always figured love was something developed, not found, but then…” he stopped himself abruptly, and the words died on his tongue:

But then I met you, and I realized love was instantaneous, like a meteorite striking across your path.

Shit.

He couldn’t say that!

Too soon, Jensen, too soon! Back it up!

Biting the inside of his cheek, he hurried to speak, hoping to gloss over his blunder. “It doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that I learnt that sometimes, bad things happen.” He sighed once more, fingers tightening marginally on the button he was almost pulling loose, at the same time that Jared’s fingers on his hips pressed a little harder. Fleetingly, Jensen registered that Jared was tensed, wound like a coil.

“Anyway, he got jealous. Really jealous. He hated Cas, and cut me off from the few people I was friends with in school. He got really controlling and overbearing, and I mean, I think possessive is hot, to an extent, but he crossed the line, I mean…” Jensen knew he was babbling now, and the only thing that stopped him was the slight shaking that reverberated through Jared’s entire frame. Jensen leaned back a little to peek at his boyfriend.

Jared’s eyes were screwed shut and his jaw clenched, the epitome of barely restrained and concealed rage. Ordinarily, given his history of abuse, this would have scared him…Jensen wondered why he still felt safe, and the absolute furthest from afraid.

Placing his palm over Jared’s heart, Jensen tried not to notice the harsh and rapid thumpthumpthump that beat raggedly against his sensitized skin. Placing the other hand over the taller boy’s overheated cheek, Jensen maneuvered himself until he was facing Jared head on. Instinctively, he matched his breathing pace with Jared’s and thereby forced him to slow his breathing to match a more even pace than Jensen slowed down to.

“Calm down, Jay,” he murmured soothingly, lowly. “It’s okay now.”

“What line did he cross, Jen?” Jared asked roughly, opening his eyes to reveal turmoil and searing anger. In that moment, Jensen knew Jared could never find out about the abuse at home. Hands gripped tighter and eyes searched desperately, but Jensen could only feel every atom in the glow of concern and compassion and- dare he say it?- love , that Jared was showing him with every shadow of a caress with his arms, his eyes, his lips.

“Jared…” the breathy exhalation only served to tighten his boyfriend’s features even further, with an unlikely combination of love, fear, compassion, pain, and utter fury.

“Jen,” he forced the word out. “What. Line. Did. He. Cross?”

“Don’t do this to yourself,” Jensen tried again, but this time? He knew his efforts were pointless.

“Did he…” Jared propped himself up on one elbow, running a haphazard hand through his hair before settling it back on Jensen’s hip, gulping convulsively as you would dry-swallow a large pill. “Did he touch you?”

Jensen hesitated. “Define touch…” he hedged uncertainly.

That sick son of a bitch!” Jared snarled, bolting upright. Jensen hastened to follow him up, placing his forearms over Jared’s in a motion meant to calm.

“He hit me, Jay,” Jensen said calmly, almost detached. “Nothing more. Before your mind goes to all those places, he only ever physically assaulted me.”

Only?” Jared scoffed, as his trembling grew more pronounced. “I’m going to rip his fucking throat out and tie his hands together with his esophagus,” he snarled, and for a moment, Jensen worried that his boyfriend was making less of a threat and more of a promise.

“As vivid a picture as that is,” Jensen frowned momentarily, “how about we not do that, and then pretend that we did, huh? Less jail time, less psych evaluations? Besides, he has little tiny T-Rex hands, he’d just slip right out.”

Jensen’s quip had the desired effect; Jared glanced at him for a moment in shock, before releasing the stiffness in his posture and huffing out the most begrudging of laughs.
Jensen grinned and took both of Jared’s hands in his own, synchronizing their breathing once more. After a little while, Jared gently took the lead, and pulled them both back to the position they were in before. He scooted a little closer once they’d settled, until his forehead was pressed against Jensen’s.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized softly. “I kind of lost control over there. That was the last thing you needed.”

“It’s okay,” Jensen shrugged it off lightly. And it was. He would go so far as to say it was nice to be stood up for. “I feel safe around you,” he confessed shyly, unwilling to bring his eyes to meet Jared’s.

“Good,” the boy’s voice sounded choked as he pulled Jen closer. “Good, I’m glad.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, each boy lost in their thoughts. “How long, Jen?”

Jensen sighed quietly at the question he’d been expecting. “Two months, until one day I landed in a hospital and caught a wake-up call. No one knows about what happened, not a soul, except you.”

Jared was quiet for a few breaths, absorbing this new information and likely tamping down his temper. Finally, he nodded and pressed his lips with infinite gentleness to Jensen’s temple. “Thank you for telling me.”

“You deserved to know,” Jensen replied, shifting uneasily as a new thought occurred to him. “It’s going to be real fun telling Chris this story.”

Jared actually snorted. “Yeah, maybe don’t mention a name. If I’m just barely stopping myself from hunting the son of a bitch down, you know Chris is going to tear up the state until he gets his hands on him.”

“I’ll never understand why he’s so protective,” Jensen chuckled fondly, “but I appreciate it more than I can say.”

“Ask him,” Jared suggested, trying to adopt an aloof tone and failing dismally. “It might be good for you two to exchange stories.”

Jensen nodded thoughtfully, not wanting to ask anyone but his best friend about this story. They sat in silence, drawing strength and comfort from their presence next to each other.

“Jay?” Again, it was Jensen who broke the silence.

“Mm?”

“Can I tell you a secret?”

Jared leaned back to look into Jensen’s eyes again, relaxing when he saw the smile there. “Shoot.”

“I liked The Titanic better; but it made me cry, and Cool Runnings made me believe in the impossible, so I’ll never admit to liking the former.”

“Huh…well played, Jen. Well played.”

###

“It’ll be fun! What’s the bet we don’t even miss anything, really? Come on, live a little!”

Chris looked at Jensen with a mixture of amusement, doubt and suspicion. “Who are you, and what have you done with my best friend?”

Jensen snorted. “Come on, Chris, I’m talking about skipping class, not robbing a bank or ganking the president.”

“Jen, you’d sooner assassinate the whole freaking White House than to bail on Art,” Chris pointed out, and Jensen pouted at how well his best friend knew him. Honestly, it would suck to bail on Art, but they couldn’t afford to bunk Math or English or History or Geography, and this was Chris’ only free, so Jensen was willing to make a sacrifice.

“We hardly ever have the opportunity to hang out anymore,” Jensen frowned. “We’re always around people now.”

“And whose fault is that?” Chris teasingly sniffed. His brow scrunched as he considered another thought. “Whoa, Freckles, if you want to stay up all night, braid each other’s hair and spill the down and dirty about Padalecki, let’s not, and then say we did.”

Jensen raised an eyebrow and smirked condescendingly. “Ok, first of all, who the hell still says down and dirty?” Chris flipped him off and Jensen snorted. “Secondly, you have a pretty set stereotype about gay guys, you know that, Kane?”

Chris grinned. “Nope, Freckles, it’s just my assumption of you.”

“Bitch,” Jensen rolled his eyes with a smile. “Now bunk with me! Come on, Chris, if we get caught, I’ll take the heat.”

Chris sighed long-sufferingly. “No, you won’t,” he refuted, “I got your back. The things I do for you, Jen,” he groused.

Jensen grinned victoriously. “You lo-ove me!”

“Not in the Big-Gay-Love kind of way,” Chris blushed, choosing sarcasm over admitting he cared.

“Not even in your dreams, Chris,” Jensen winked.

“You’d be lucky to have me, Jerk!”

Their banter continued as they walked, no real destination in mind. Jensen was surprised when they ended up in a park, but Chris didn’t seem to share the feeling.

“I haven’t been in a park since I was…” he thought for a long moment. “Seven years old.”

“I love coming out here to think, especially at night, or at sunrise,” Chris revealed in a low voice. Jensen nodded wordlessly and they settled on the jungle gym, Chris splayed out on the climbing net and Jensen perched on the ladder leading up to the top of the slide.

Jensen knew his best friend better than he gave himself credit for. Instinctively, he could tell that Chris wouldn’t offer up his story first, not for any other reason than the fact that he would feel like he was burdening Jensen by telling him it. If Jensen told him the Adam story first, then at least he would feel like they’d be on even footing…right?

“Chris, I have to tell you something…” Jensen hesitated, then ploughed on. “Promise you won’t freak out.”

 

~*Chris*~

Christian Kane was, for the most part, a calm guy. People were scared of him, no doubt, but that was because people were always afraid of what they couldn’t predict, of what they couldn’t understand. Their fear of him was not something justified by any one incident where he lost his temper or bench-pressed a semi, or some other ridiculous shit that people made up. Their fear was because of the fact that he was quiet, observant, unruffled. Sharp as a tack and quietly lethal, he was a lone wolf, in every sense of the word. He loved his pack-mates to the depths of his heart, but he could not find it in himself to be a part of them, always feeling the weight of his past pressing down on him, a phantom heaviness that settled over his shoulders and heart.

Until Jen.

Mysteriously enough, when the light-haired, green-eyed boy snarked his way into Chris’ heart, he had done more than just bring light into Chris’ darkened world, done more than just bring company into his life of loneliness. Unexpectedly, Chris had found family in this human boy, more so than he had even found with the pack, relating to him on a level that only a brother could; they were always on the same wavelength, and never out of tune with each other.

And it was the damndest thing.

When he realized that he would have to be spending time with the pack if he wanted Jen to be happy with Jared, he had initially been horrified. He’d thought of a million different ways to get out of it, and had eventually decided on going cold turkey on Jensen; he’d made a place for himself in the pack, integrating himself beautifully, gracefully, until everyone there adored him except for Sandy, the queen bitch, and subsequently Milo the Minion. The last thing Chris wanted to do was to take that away from Jensen due to his inability to be social.

Jensen never knew it, but he was planning on starting his gradual break-off that day that Jensen found him by the lockers. But then he had to go and show more loyalty than Chris ever knew was possible without a blood connection. Jensen would never know it, but that day Chris decided that if Jensen would choose him over the pack, stick with him even when he’d gotten Jared, then Chris could never drop him. He had to prove that he was worthy of such loyalty by showing such loyalty in return.

Knowing all this, you can only imagine his surprise when they hung out with the pack, and there was no crushing feeling of guilt and no feeling of being out of place. Somehow, with Jensen at his side, the odd heaviness lifted, and if Chris were about waxing poetical, he would have said that by being there, Jensen took on half the burden until Chris couldn’t even feel it anymore.

Whatever had happened, he now actually felt a little like he belonged in the pack. He got along well with everyone who didn’t have a problem with Jen, and surprisingly, even Chad was beginning to grow on him. He could appreciate the fact that the blond boy had given Jen a chance to earn his respect and had acted accordingly thereafter. Now that they had, Jen actually got on with Chad like a house on fire, even as he always maintained this unfathomable closeness with Chris, no matter what.

So yes. Christian Kane was a relatively calm guy. But all that changed when someone messed with his best friend and brother.

That son of a bitch!” he snarled viciously, trembling as his anger manifested itself, his body begging to shift, hunt the fucker down and tear him limb from limb. “Give me his God damned name, Jen!”

“So you can earn yourself a shiny new criminal record and a cozy little jail cell?” Jensen retorted evenly. “I’m gonna pass.”

“Jensen Ackles, give me his name, or so help me God…” Chris let his voice trail off in an ominous threat, annoyed at his friend’s inherent goodness.

“Or what? You’re gonna beat it out of me?” Jensen snorted impishly at the irony. Chris, on the other hand, couldn’t find it in himself to be amused.

“Not funny, Jen,” he groused. His insides still churned with the knowledge that his best friend had endured two years of hell at the hand of some low-life. His temper simmering below the surface, Chris decided to aim his anger at a slightly more tangible target. “Where was Cas during all this?” he demanded.

Likely sensing Chris’ diverging fury, Jensen hastened to answer, putting out a placating hand palm-up. “Cool it, Chris. Cas, to this day, knows nothing about it. No one does, save for you and Jared.”

That shut Chris up immediately. Though he was humbled beyond belief at the fact that Jensen trusted him enough to tell him something he hadn’t even told his best friend of at least 6 years, he was also furious that the bastard hadn’t paid at all for hurting the other boy.

“Jen,” his voice gentled in compassion for the secret Jensen had carried with him. “Why didn’t you tell your parents, or report him to the cops?”

Jensen flinched and Chris frowned suspiciously, his radar going up. Before he could begin his Spanish Inquisition again, Jensen blurted out:
“I was adopted. My foster mom died when I was 8.”

Chris felt his chest constrict as his breath left him with a whoosh. How much had Jen had to endure in his short life? Chris wrote off his suspicion, figuring that the loss had caused a rift between Jen and his father, or Jen had had some kind of twisted shame from the whole event. He nodded understandingly, fighting against his instinctive misgivings when Jen almost slumped with relief at his acquiescence.

“I wanted you to understand,” Jensen concluded, settling down and redirecting his gaze skywards. “I appreciate how protective you are, and I wanted you to understand why I can get so hesitant and tense around crowds.”

“It’s understandable, Jen,” Chris comforted gruffly. He was proud of his friend for his strength, and told him as much. Jen shut his eyes and deflected the compliment with sarcasm, and Chris wondered whether the asshat ex-boyfriend was the reason Jen had such a warped perception of his worth.

Chris made a mental note to wrestle the dick’s name out of Jared, who undoubtedly was privy to that information.

Shifting his head to the right, Chris saw that Jensen had closed his eyes during Chris’ little internalized rant. He carefully studied the other boy’s unmoving profile, glad to see some facsimile of peace on an expression that by all rights and demands, should be twisted with anger and darkness. Jen’s breathing was a little more labored than usual, and that alerted Chris to the realization that telling his story had taken more out of Jensen than Chris could have guessed.

He began to think on his past. On his story. For years, he had blamed himself for what happened 9 years ago, and it had changed him in ways that a 9-year old had no business knowing. Jensen had brought back some of that little kid inside him, made him remember the Chris he used to be. The Chris he was proud of being. The loving, caring, perceptive, protective, steadfast and loyal Chris, as opposed to the reticent, reclusive, self-condemned Chris with little to no patience for people and a self-worth that was basically non-existent.

Was that not grounds enough for Jensen to be deserving of the truth?

It didn’t take a second to answer that question. Jen deserved the whole story.

“I used to be an older brother,” he blurted out of the blue. Jensen didn’t even flinch, but he did open his eyes and bring his gaze to Chris, who now looked resolutely at the suddenly fascinating shapes of the clouds above him. “And a son.”

“What happened?”

Just the firm, deep, calming timbre of his best friend’s voice and Chris found his story pouring from his mouth, almost unbidden.

“It was just me and my younger brother, Hardison. He was 6 when it happened. See, my parents had made friends with some…travelers,” Chris stopped himself from saying `A travelling pack.’ “I suspected that they weren’t all they claimed to be. They just seemed a little off to me.” Chris shuddered, remembering the cold flush that spread through him the minute he’d met the three big wolves. A pack consisting solely of an Alpha, a Beta and an Omega wasn’t uncommon a few centuries ago, when pack wars was a more common occurrence and humans began to question their existence and attempt to trap and hunt them. In these times, however, given the newfound independence of Omegas and the work put into eradicating the brutalization of packs by reigning powers of the hierarchy, it was nearly unheard of to find a pack of 3 traveler wolves. It was this that fascinated Chris’ parents, and it was also what had set off Chris’ internal alarm bells. “I didn’t trust them, for some reason,” he picked up his tale, “and I told my parents that, but they thought I was watching too many bad horror movies.” Chris swallowed convulsively against the bitter tang at the back of his throat, on his tongue, his palette. “They knew our house, and they broke in. I was playing hide and seek with Hardison at the time, I was hiding in a closet…I saw everything,” he confessed, his voice breaking. “I saw them ransack the house, beat and kill my parents…they made Hardison watch, and he was…he was screaming for me…I was just…I couldn’t…I…”

It dimly registered in Chris’ mind that he was gasping for the breath his lungs starved for. It felt like his airways had closed, until suddenly warm, heavy arms draped themselves across his shoulders, around his chest. Reassuring murmurs in a voice as smooth as whiskey and sweet as honey tumbled into his ear; he focused on that voice, on the gentle rumble that spread along his back from Jen’s chest, on the encompassing arms that promised to hold him together while he couldn’t do it himself. He realized belatedly that he was clutching on to Jen’s arms, but he couldn’t find it in himself to be embarrassed with his brother. He hadn’t thought or spoken of that night in 9 years, and now it was like all the emotions he’d bottled up since then was spilling out.

“I got you, Chris, I got you buddy,” Jensen was soothing him. “You’re safe now, I got you man…I got you.”

With those words, Chris’ chest opened up, his airways free once more. He gulped in grateful lungfuls of air, feeling it when Jen’s body relaxed in relief. Regulating his breathing and working past the panicked frenzy of flashing memories behind his eyelids, Chris finished his story in a choked voice.

“They killed Hardison, and then they came after me. I only realized then, that they knew I was hiding there. They just anted to make me watch. I bit one of them, restled free and ran for my life. I ran into one of our neighbors, and they called it in. We never caught the bastards,” he shook his head in disgusted regret. “But one day, I will, and I’ll make them pay. I won’t go looking for them,” he reassured, when he caught the flash of a frown from Jensen. “But the world isn’t a big enough place for them to evade me forever.”

“Chris, I…” Jensen shook his head, his voice thick. Cautiously, he wrapped his arms around Chris, holding tighter when Chris relaxed in the embrace rather than pushed him away. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” he mumbled. “No child should have to…God, Chris, I’m sorry.”

“I should have protected him, Jen,” Chris whispered, tortured. “He was my baby brother. He was my responsibility. He…”

“…would have wanted you to be safe and alive,” Jensen butted in, fixing Chris with a sympathetic, but firm look. “You were shock, Chris. You were 9 years old, for Christ’s sake! What did you expect from yourself? Besides you couldn’t have helped Hardison,” he pointed out gently. “You would have just died next to him.”

“That would still have been more honorable,” he argued, flinching when blazing anger sparked green gems.

“Don’t you ever say that, Chris,” he condemned lowly, the soft growl more effective than any shouted threat. “Don’t you do that.” Shaking his head against the unpleasant thought, Jensen asked; “So what happened after that?”

“I was the last remaining kin, so I inherited enough to live comfortably. Jared’s dad, Gerald Padalecki…he really helped me out. He and Sherry, Jared’s mom, they took me in for a long time, I don’t know whether Jared ever told you that.” Jensen shook his head, and Chris was oddly touched by Jared’s display of loyalty. “Gerald Padalecki helped me become an emancipated minor when I turned 16 and I moved out. I still visit, on occasion. I owe them a lifetime.”

The best friends, the brothers, sat for a long time in silence. It was a companionable quiet, comfortable and safe.

“Chris,” Jen finally murmured. “I’m glad you got out alive. Life would suck without you.”

Chris’ eyes burned with emotion as he fought to answer without sounding choked up. “Life would suck without you too, Freckles,” he said softly, warmly, before sobering up to confess. “Jen, you’re like a brother to me. It hasn’t even been that long, but you’re like my little brother. You actually remind me of Hardison a bit…” he smiled nostalgically. “You would have liked him, and he would have liked you too. With you, it was like I was being given a second chance to be a big brother. I wont let you down, Jen,” he vowed. “I promise.”

Jensen nodded, feeling the weight of the promise wrap around him like a safety blanket. “I know, Chris. That goes for me too.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

After much careful contemplation and in-depth pondering, Jensen had come to a conclusion.

Alcohol sucked out loud.

Sure, he’d tried it, and sure, he’d enjoyed it. But that was a controlled intake of it, and Jensen knew from personal experience, that in excess, it was trouble with a side of fucking hell.

###

“I had no idea that had happened to him.”

Jensen felt a small tremor ripple through him as he contemplated what hell that must have been for his best friend. Jared tightened his arms around him where they sat, Jensen’s back to Jared’s chest, staving off the sick feelings and leaving him feeling safe, protected, and pleasantly warm. Unthinkingly, he turned his head to snuggle into the crook between Jared’s shoulder and chest. Like it was a chain reaction, Jared dropped his head, resting his cheek atop Jensen’s head. An innate peace fell over Jen, one he hadn’t felt in over a decade, and as hesitant as he was to label the luxurious feeling, he would be lying if he called it anything less than a sense of belonging.

A contented sigh escaped his lips and he felt Jared smile against his hair. “I’m glad you’re in my life,” Jensen whispered, almost inaudibly, terrified of confessing an inkling of the strength of his feelings for the boy he’d been with all of 2 weeks. Was it ridiculous, how strong he felt in such little time? Jensen had never believed in love-at-first-sight, but what else could explain the all-consuming fire in him? The fireworks that went off in him that had Jared’s name etched all over it? His stomach twisted with nerves, uncertain of himself and speaking his heart’s purest truth. Had he ruined what they had going by falling too hard, too fast?

But then, Jared surprised him every day, in almost everything he did. Jensen felt like they could read each other’s minds for how often they were on precisely the same wavelength, but then Jared would go and do something that would just defy everything Jensen expected and he was reminded how new they were. It was a roller-coaster, and Jensen never wanted to get off.

“I’m glad you’re in my life too, Jen,” Jared murmured, shifting to the side to press his lips to the crown of Jensen’s head. “I don’t ever want to lose you.”

The very possibility of that knotted Jensen’s throat into a mangled mass that threatened to choke him. He didn’t know what was going on with him, why this relationship meant more than the world to him, but he knew this:

He could not lose Jared.

Losing Jared? That would be like losing life. It would be ripping his heart straight out of his chest and tearing the rest of him to ribbons. It would be tying a noose around his neck and cutting off his breathing. It would be starving him of food and nourishment. It would be leaving him tied up in the middle of the hottest desert without any water.

No. that was a lie. Losing Jared, would be so much worse than any of that.

Rather than dwell on a possibility that would destroy him, Jen huddled closer still, glad that the upcoming dusk was bringing a slight chill to blame it on. Upon his and Chris’ arrival at school, Jen had insisted on Jared following them so that Chris didn’t have to drive alone. He was adamant that he was okay, but Jen was loathe to leave him so emotionally vulnerable. It took a fair amount of reassurance from Chris for Jen to leave him at his little house just out of town, but eventually, the green-eyed boy was persuaded to curb his mother-hen instincts.

Instead of going home, Jared and Jensen went back to school, lounging on the bleachers long after the track-team had vacated the grounds. It was a rare night off from football for Jared, and Eric had the 6 to 6 shift at work, so neither boy was in a hurry to end their time together in their personal bubble of happy togetherness.

They watched the sun disappear behind the forest-like growth of trees that ran along the borders of their school football field, a comfortable silence between them born from contentment and the peace they seemed to find only in each other’s company. Jared’s hand was absently tracing a pattern on Jensen’s hip, while the other hand was hooked lightly again, in Jensen’s belt loop. This small gesture spoke of possession, but to Jensen, it also spoke a little of fear. Fear to let him go in the event of losing him.

Maybe he was looking too much into it, but Jen kind of liked any gesture on Jared’s part that spoke of holding on to him. Holding on to them, even if Jen didn’t quite deserve someone as amazing as him.

Jensen wasn’t even surprised by how similarly their thoughts ran, when Jared sighed. “I wish we could stay here forever.”

Jensen’s heart swelled even as he joked lightly back, “Stay in school forever? I was kind of hoping to graduate this year.”

“Smartass,” Jared huffed playfully as Jensen snickered. Jared shifted his position slightly, and Jensen moved to get off him, embarrassed at the thought that Jared had been uncomfortable. “No,” Jared protested softly, holding him in place with his arms. “I was just squirming because I wanted to tell you something.”

Mollified, Jensen snuggled back into place and directed his gaze to the sky that was a fascinating blend of pink and orange and white and blue, sensing that speaking would not be made any easier on Jared with him staring at the long-haired boy.

“Jen,” Jared’s voice was hesitant, “what do you think about…how do you feel about your future?”

For some reason, Jensen’s insides twisted. Unsure as to what exactly was being asked of him, he turned to his default setting. “I think it’s great it and all, but not really my type…”

Jared snorted, tension melting off him. “Smartass,” he repeated fondly. “No, I mean, where do you see yourself going? We’ve got a whole year, but it’s going to fly by.”

Jensen thought carefully about how he was going to answer that. “I don’t know, Jay,” he hedged. “I’m not sure yet, where I want to take my life.”

“I guess I’m not entirely sure either,” Jared admitted. “I want to help people, that’s about the extent of what I know.”

“I guess it’s okay not to know yet,” Jensen shrugged. “That’s what this year is for.”

“Have you…have you thought about…” Jared began to fidget once more as he mumbled something under his breath.

“Thought about…?” Jen asked gently.

“Who you want to spend your future with,” Jared finished, tensing unconsciously.

Jensen mirrored the action, feeling restricted in his boyfriend’s embrace as terror incapacitated him. Was Jared already trying to tell him that he didn’t want him in his future? Was it something to be worried about, the fact that when Jen thought of his future now, the only clear thing in front of him was Jared? Was their relationship about to crash and burn before it even properly began?

“I…um…” he squeaked, turning red. “Uh…I guess I don’t know…I think…” he fudged clumsily.

“Me too,” Jared replied immediately, sounding abrupt. “I mean, it’s not like I expected…we’ll end up meeting new people and…and then…”

Pain so intense that Jensen almost doubled over with the sheer force of it, ripped into him unforgivingly. He felt bile rise in the back of his throat and he ripped himself away from Jared, an instinctive response, his body craving from years of experience to get away from the source of the pain.

But God, this was worse than any pain that he’d experienced before. It was harsher, more raw, and even at his best attempt to move away, shield himself, the pain just followed him wherever he went, an ache bone deep that overshadowed any physical pain. He felt like he was drowning in liquid fire, and God, how could he have ever let himself hope for forever? He knew better than that!

“I have to go, it’s getting late…” he heard the words coming out from his mouth, like an out-of-body moment, and felt himself rise to his feet without his mind even registering his body’s motions. Sluggishly, he comprehended the fact that he was stumbling down the steps, getting away from Jared as fast as he could without tipping him off to his pathetically soul-crushing grief. He thought he heard Jared call out his name, a pain-filled, regretful sound, and he clenched his eyes shut as he hit the ground and broke into a run, eager to get away from the kindness in Jared’s pitying gaze.

He couldn’t recall getting home if his life had depended on it. What he did recall, was seeing Eric’s car in the driveway.

When it was already 7.30pm.

Terror bundled on top of his already frayed emotions, Jensen edged towards the house, trying in vain for some indication of what to expect inside.

Opening the door slowly, he was greeted with screaming silence and oppressive darkness. Feeling sick to his stomach with nerves, he flicked the passage light on, and his first shuddering intake of breath assaulted his nose with the vile stench of liquor.

He shut the door and made his way to the kitchen on shaky legs. Eric was leaning against the counter, whiskey in hand, beer bottles lining the table behind him. One glance at the whiskey bottle confirmed that this was not Eric’s first taste of the good stuff that night. His posture was relaxed, but it was in the way that he wasn’t looking at Jensen that set alarm bells off in his mind.

“I…I thought you had the graveyard shift today?” Jensen squeaked, voice trembling. He nearly jumped a foot into the air when Eric broke his immobility to throw one of the empties against the opposite wall in a flash of movement.

“Is that your excuse for being 4 and a half hours late?” he asked quietly, the steady, calm voice contrasting his reaction sharply and being somewhat more terrifying than any of the times he’d shouted. Jensen suppressed a whimper, his fear getting the better of him as he stood, already emotionally shredded.

“I’m sorry…” was as far as he got before Eric was on top of him, raining fists of fury pounding into every available inch of skin. Alcohol sucked out loud, he decided again.

His knees gave out and he curled in on himself, a small sob bursting through his chest.

Truthfully? He took every blow happily, welcoming the familiar, physical pain over the crushing agony that seemed to grip him from the inside.

He took his beating, but even that had nothing on the pain that filled his heart at Jared’s four simple words, his unwitting confession.

We’ll meet other people.

 

~*Jared*~

Jesus fucking Christ, Padalecki, do you try to be such a fucking moron or does it just come naturally to you?”

Jared winced at Chad’s growl. After his monumental screw-up with Jen, he was torn between his gut instinct to follow the green-eyed boy and hold him close and beg him to never meet other people, and his brain’s directive to give Jensen time to cool down lest they fight over something like this. In the end, he’d listened to his head, and naturally sought out his best friend for advice. Chad had looked ready to mock when he’d opened the door, but seeing the open look of pain on his best friend’s face had likely stolen that reaction. In a rare show of care, Chad had dragged him to his room, and sat silently opposite him as he told his story from start to finish.

Which, surprisingly enough, ended up in him being ripped a new one by aforementioned best friend.

On the one hand, Jared was glad his best friend had accepted his mate to the extent where he would defend him. On the other hand, it was a surprise, since Chad was usually on his side.

Chad softened slightly with a sigh when he noticed the slightly kicked-puppy look Jared was sporting. “Look, buddy,” he leveled with him in an even rarer moment of seriousness, “Jen is a human. First off, he’s obviously been through some shit in the past. I don’t know what, but I know it was enough to make him pretty shaky on the trust scale. What’s he going to think now that you basically implied you wanted to break up with him after senior year, not to mention the fact that you’ve only been dating two weeks?”

“But he could have…” Jared began to protest, his insides clenching sickly.

“No buts!” Chad interrupted him, aiming a stern look at him. “Secondly, he’s a human!”

“You said that already,” Jared couldn’t help but snark.

“He’s your mate,” Chad continued, heedless, “and he’s a human. The fact that he’s human doesn’t make him any less susceptible to exactly what you’re feeling. Human or no, Jensen will feel, will know that there’s a profound bond between you two, and will feel about you just as strongly as you feel about him. That’s the beauty of finding your mate, but imagine the doubts and insecurities that would come from having these feelings and not totally understanding why.”

“How do you mean?” Jared asked in confusion.

“Love at first sight is not normal for humans anymore, Jay-Bird,” Chad sighed long-sufferingly. “It’s interpreted as flakiness, carelessness, lust, even. You understood this immediate, bone-deep love because you’re a Were and you grew up knowing the meaning of mating, and also because you could smell that Jen was your mate. To Jen, he has all the same feelings without any of the knowledge on what he’s feeling. He’s gotta be scared that he’s falling so fast, too fast, and he’s gotta be thinking that you’re probably not feeling as strongly as he is, since like I said, love at first sight is not really a thing anymore. He’s gotta be terrified that you guys aren’t going to last because he doesn’t know if you love him as much as he already loves you…and then you basically go and tell him that you’re not planning on lasting with him!”

Jared could feel his face paling with every word that left his friend’s mouth. He’d never thought of it like that…just assumed Jen would be accepting of the fact that they’d fallen in love. But Chad was right; which teenager fell in love within two weeks of being with someone? It was hard enough on Jen without the monumental mess up Jared had stirred with his wounded ego when Jen hadnt immediately answered I want you in my future.

“Crap, I should have just told him I wanted him to be a part of my future,” Jared realized belatedly. Chad rolled his eyes.

“No fucking way, Sherlock. Give the man a medal.”

Jared grinned briefly; this was why Chad was his best friend. For all his goofing off, the blond-haired Alpha had an innate sense of the people around them, and oftentimes had an insight into them that rivalled even the ones closest to them. He could be a jackass sometimes, sure, but he as loyal and fair and dependable, and Jared could always count on him to tell it to him straight. Even when it came to sharing his insights on Jen.

Jared was instantly filled with an overwhelming desperation to get to his mate. To apologize profusely, beg him not to ever consider other people, plead with him on the idea of a future together. He couldn’t afford to mess this up; he had to take away all Jen’s doubts and insecurities, while bearing in mind that this was all terribly unfamiliar territory to him, even more so than it was to Jared.

Jared didn’t even bother to explain himself, knowing that with Chad, he didn’t really have to. He just jumped up and took off, laughing lightly when Chad’s shout filled the air around him.

“Go forth my son!” he yelled. “Make me proud!”

Jared made a mental note to hug his friend when he saw him next, before flipping him off.

It didn’t take too long for Jared to track his way to Jen’s house, having never been given the address before. He racked his brain for excuses to make as to how he found the house, coming up blank and hoping to hell Jen wouldn’t ask.

As he neared the house, unease began to build inside him, and he picked up his pace slightly in agitation. The feeling only worsened when he rapped on the door and it swung open a little bit. The stomach-turning, but unmistakable smell of his mate’s blood filled his nostrils and panic seized his insides. Probably courtesy to remembering Chris’ story, Jared’s mind pictured the worst.

“Jen?” The strangled sound left his throat as he staggered into the hallway, a dull roaring in his ears and the phantom grip of terror vice tight around his chest. He followed the smell, petrified that he was going to be met with the sight of…

Oh God.

Jen was lying on the floor in a fetal position, blood covering him. Through the panic-induced fog that clouded his mind, Jared made out the tell-tale signs of breathing, and relief nearly crippled him. The reality of the situation crashed into him and the roaring in his ears turned silent in a burst of clarity so sudden it was almost as though it had a mute button. A strange sound between a snarl of rage and a whimper of pain tore from deep inside him and he was sliding on his knees next to Jen in a second.

“Jensen!” he choked, pulling the barely conscious boy halfway over his lap. “Jen, baby, what happened? Oh, God, are you okay? I’m so sorry, baby, I’m so, so fucking sorry. I should have…I didn’t…if I had…God, Jen, please just look at me? Wake up? Let me see those big, beautiful eyes, Jen, open those eyes for me, baby, please?” he begged, barely cognizant of what he was saying.

He could have sobbed with relief when Jensen stirred, blinking blearily up at him. Confusion swam into unfocused green orbs, and Jared instinctively cradled him closer, needing to reassure him, to protect him.

“It’s okay, baby, it’s okay…everything is gonna be alright, I promise…I gotcha Jen, I gotcha…” he cooed, nuzzling the top of Jensen’s hair and the side of his neck, kissing every available space as he did. The green-eyed boy lifted his arms weakly to place them on top of Jared’s, his own show of reassurance.

Jared swallowed past the crushing grief and blinding rage with much difficulty, focusing for now on the love of his existence.

“Jay?” he mumbled, and Jared held him a little tighter, mindful of whatever injuries his boyfriend might have. “’M okay.” In spite of everything, Jared huffed out a tiny laugh.

“Of course you are, tough guy,” Jared murmured, his voice gruff with emotion. “Jen, baby, what happened? Who did this to you?” All the control in the world couldn’t have stopped the slight growl that perforated through this question. Whoever had dared to lay a hand on his mate, would soon be making a close acquaintance with his incisors.

Jensen tensed and tried to sit up, and with a sinking feeling, Jared knew that whoever had done this, had been the same bully that hit Jen the first time.

“Just give me a name, Jen, or a description. Anything?” he pleaded lowly.

“I don’t know, some guy followed me…” Jensen mumbled noncommittally, and even without his wolfy senses, he knew his boyfriend was lying.

Who was he trying to protect?

“Don’t lie to me, Jensen,” he snapped, his anger at the situation filtering in a way that he knew wasn’t fair.

“I’m not,” Jensen whispered tiredly, pushing himself up and nearly face-planting as he finally got vertical. Jared was next to him in an instant, steadying him, but Jensen pushed away the helping hand, irrationally angering Jared further.

“You were basically unconscious just a few seconds ago, Jen, would you please stop being stubborn and let me help?” he barked, feeling sick and disgusted with himself when Jensen instinctively flinched.

“I’m ok, I need to clean the blood before my foster father gets home,” he replied, his voice barely more than a pained slur. Jared’s heart clenched even as his insides flamed with disbelieving anger.

“We need to report this, Jensen!” he fought.

“We don’t need to,” Jen insisted stubbornly, taking deep breaths in an attempt to sound more regular, reaching for the cloth on the kitchen island, one arm wrapped around his abdomen and the other gripping the counters for support. Jared’s chest clenched in alarm at the thought of whatever injuries Jensen might have sustained; from the smell of it, the blood flow was staunching, and that was a crying relief, but Jen must have been in agony. Stubborn boy…

“You’re in pain,” Jared pointed out, trying to keep his voice level. “Please Jen, at least let me take you to the emergency room.”

Jensen gritted his teeth and pulled up his shirt, beginning to prod at the mass of bruises and cuts. Jared could only gape for a second, before regaining control of himself.

“Jensen!” he admonished with a frown.

“I’m fine,” Jen declared weakly, ignoring him and flipping his shirt down again. “Few bruised ribs at best, lots of cuts, and head wounds bleed like the Thames, but I’m okay.”

“When did you get your doctor’s degree?” Jared drawled sarcastically, scowling.

“I did an advanced first aid course,” Jensen mumbled. “I’m going to be okay.”

Jared may have believed that if Jensen hadn’t punctuated that with a drained sway back on to his heels.

Looping an arm around his waist, Jared bodily moved Jensen towards the chair in the room, depositing his precious cargo safely and delicately.

“Tell me who did this, Jen,” Jared demanded. A small voice inside him cautioned him; don’t push him now. Don’t fight. He’s been through hell already.

But then, when did Jared ever listen?

When Jen didn’t immediately answer, all Jared’s previous icy terror exploded inside him, and before he knew it, he was yelling.

“Who the hell are you protecting, Jensen? This guy beat you to a pulp, until you nearly blacked out, and still you want to keep him safe? You were supposed to tell us if something like that happened to you after the first time! God damnit, Jensen, how are we supposed to stop this from happening if you don’t seem to want to help?”

“Don’t yell,” Jensen requested quietly, his voice even, and for some reason, this set Jared off even more.

“I’m going to yell all I want, because God, Jen, I thought I’d lost you for a second there! I thought you were dead!” he hurled out. “Now you refuse to talk to me about it, you refuse to talk to Chris about it…Chris!” Jared flung his hands out, turning to face Jensen who was leaning in exhaustion against the table. “Have you told Chris yet? Of course not! I’m going to tell him! I’m going to phone him right now, and tell him exactly what’s going on!” Jared threatened, whipping out his cell phone and jabbing his thumb down on number 8.

“Leave Chris out of this…” Jensen slurred, trying again to stand up. Jared gritted his teeth in frustration and put the phone on speaker as it began to ring, preparing himself to go off on a tangent until Jen spoke to him about this whole damn mess.

“Hey Jay-Man,” Chris greeted. “How’s your J.A.W. initiative working out? Freckles fall ass over heels, madly in love with you yet?”

Jared froze, his blood rushing to his feet and dismay gripping his body. Jensen too, had frozen, and looked at Jared now, wide green eyes begging for an explanation.

Silence descended over them, a thick coat of tension. Jensen looked lost and crushed and it broke Jared’s heart, but still he struggled to get into motion.

“Of course he probably did,” Chris continued obliviously, “I pulled off my parts of the plan perfectly.”

A choked, broken sound caught in Jensen’s throat and his face crumpled with pain. And this, finally, snapped Jared out of his inactivity.

“Jen…” his voice came out as a hoarse plea, and he reached out, flinching a little when Jensen took a step back.

“What’s the J.A.W. Initiative?” he asked in a wobbly voice. “What plan?”

“Jen, please…” Jared wasn’t sure what he was pleading for anymore, but he felt like he was on the verge of losing the most important thing of his existence.

“God, Jensen,” Chris’ breathy voice came over the speaker as it dawned on him. “Listen to me…”

“No!” Jensen forced out, getting up in a sudden motion that nearly had him toppling back on to the unforgiving ground. Jared reached for him, and it was like a punch to the gut when Jensen wrenched himself away from reach. “Just get out, Jared. Leave.”

“Jen, sweetheart, please,” he begged, tears leaping to his eyes. “It’s not…”

“What I think?” Jensen guessed bitterly, tears cascading down his cheeks. “It’s not what I think? How could that have been misinterpreted, Jared?”

“If you’d just listen to me…”

“You’d make up some fluffy white lie and we can pretend this never happened?” Jensen scoffed. “I had enough of that from Adam.”

Something in Jared snapped right then and he was overcome with anger. Without consciously realizing what he was doing, he flung a hand out in exasperation and caught the edge of one of the beer bottles he hadn’t noticed was strewn on the counter. It smashed to the floor and Jensen yelped, raising his arms over his head in fear.

Icy cold trickled down Jared’s spine and his mouth went dry. What did that son of a bitch do to Jen?

Jensen straightened, his face ravaged with pain. “Please just go, Jared,” he muttered, such defeat in his voice that it broke Jared’s heart all over again. “Please just leave. I don’t have it in me to play games anymore. I can’t.”

“Just let me explain, Jen, please…” Jared breathed, swiping a hand over his face to clear the salty tears there. Chris was saying something, Jared couldn’t even bring himself to try to listen to him, but it didn’t matter since the next words out of Jen’s mouth shut them both up.

“There’s nothing to explain.”

Jensen staggered feebly down the hall into a bathroom, the decisive click of the lock sounding eerily similar to the rip it made in Jared’s heart.

Leaving the house, walking away, Jared couldn’t have remembered doing that if he tried. When he finally tore himself from the thud thud thud of his feet against the pavement, he realized he was in front of Chris’ place. The blue-eyed alpha took one look at him and sighed cavernously, before inviting him inside. Jared didn’t realize he was crying the whole way until Chris tossed him a box of tissues.

“I lost him, Chris,” Jared said hollowly. “I messed up.”

“What happened?” Chris asked, more gentle than Jared expected.

After telling his story in jerks and stops, Chris was homicidally enraged. “Who hurt him?” Chris demanded, body trembling with the need to shift. “Don’t think I’m not going to address the fact that you hurt him first, but who beat him up?”

“I don’t know,” Jared answered miserably. “I fought with him for not telling me. I yelled at him. I pushed him.”

Chris made a frustrated noise at the back of his throat before throwing himself on to the ottoman opposite Jared. “Look, Fido, we’re both going to track Jen down tomorrow and apologize to him. He’s going to forgive us, he has to…we’ll beg and plead if we need to. Okay?”

Jared just nodded dolefully, leaving Chris’ place and walking a little bit until he reached the beginning of the forest before shifting and trotting to the clearing he had found a few years ago. It was his private place, and if any other Were had discovered it, they’d left it as his. Settling on to the grass, he buried his face in his paws, whining pitifully, the ache in his chest a prominent pain.

He shifted again and pushed his shaggy hair back behind his ears, gazing mournfully at the murky clouds above him that seemed to mirror his mood. He felt deserving of it when the rain began to fall, not moving to cover himself even when it began to pelt heavily down.

He just closed his eyes and let the rain mix with the tears still trickling down his face.

His heart ached and he could almost pretend he could smell Jen close by if he really tried. Some part of him realized he should be heading home, and on autopilot, he began to walk, the rain still drenching him.

Bone-deep exhaustion settled in him and by the time he reached the mouth of the forest, he was drained out. Sliding down the trunk of the nearest tree, Jared gave up on moving. He settled on the floor and closed his eyes, his tiredness winning out.

Before he passed out, the sound of his mate calling out for him filled his mind. Jared just wished it wasn’t only in his head.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

For someone who’d had more than their share of bumps and bruises and breaks and beatings, it sucked out fucking loud that Jensen had still never experienced as much pain as he did when Jared left.

As soon as he’d heard the door close from his hiding place (i.e. the downstairs bathroom) he’d wanted to stumble out and beg Jared to come back and explain, to tell him that everything wasn’t just a sick fucking joke.

But no. He stayed in the bathroom, choking on sobs and clumsily wrapping his bruised-to-hell ribs and the assortment of bruises and cuts littering his entire frame. Thankfully the cut on his head didn’t need stitches, so he just left that one after cleaning it out.

On the plus side, Jensen could pretend that he was sobbing from the patching up.

His gut gnawed uncomfortably with fear after he finished taping himself up. More than anything, he wanted to believe everything Jared was trying to say. After all, he’d made friends with Chris even before he’d met Jared, right? And what had Chris possibly done to make him want to fall in love with Jared? He’d never even thrown the tall boy compliments or anything.

What would woo you, Jen?

Jensen cursed lowly under his breath as he realized the intent behind Chris’ line of questioning that day. Honestly, he wasn’t sure whether that made him even angrier or whether that thawed him out some. Much as he wanted it to be as simple as that, he was still deeply hurt by both betrayals, even if Jared’s motive was “wooing” him.

He sat on the stairs and nursed his sore midriff, trying to sort through the jumble of emotions that were smothering him.

He thought back to the day he’d met Jared. That day in Chemistry, falling into his chest was an accident. Picking his name as a Science partner was coincidental. Running into him at the diner was happenstance.

Then Jared had kissed him.

Nowhere, not once in that equation, was there some sort of plan. Logically, Jensen knew that whatever Initiative Chris and Jared had started, probably wasn’t meant to harm him. Chris wanted to rip the heads off anyone who dared to glance at him wrong, and that reaction was tame in comparison to Jared’s protectiveness. In his heart, he could never see them deliberately hurting him. He knew what his real issue was, and he would have to talk to them about it, but he knew too, that he would forgive them. The betrayal of trust would be a little harder to forgive, but if he was entirely straight, he figured he could nurse his anger for a day, swear them, and then all would be forgiven too. Who could really stay mad at a betrayal aimed at wanting to give you happiness?

Things with Jared, after both their fights, complicated things a bit. Jensen thought back to their first tiff, at school, about their future. Jared had been so tentative to ask…Jensen had assumed that he was making it clear that he didn’t want a relationship after high school. Did that make any sense though? After the way Jared doggedly pursued him, after all the promises sweetly murmured and all the confessions nervously whispered, did it make sense that Jared would put a timeline on their relationship? His broken heart ached to scream ‘YES!’ and leave it at that, but Jensen had long since vowed to listen to his head if his heart was broken and thinking irrationally. It was what got him out of his relationship with Adam.

On this logic, Jensen was hard-pressed to admit that it didn’t seem like Jared to take the time to woo him only to drop him after a year. Also, his actions and his expressions and that God damned look in those hazel eyes…all spoke of forever. And Jensen knew he wasn’t reading wrong, because like it or not, he knew how to read Jared.

In retrospect, Jensen guiltily conceded, he could have been less hesitant in his answer. Jared had gotten abrupt, and although it seemed unfathomable for someone as hot as Jared to have a fear of rejection, it wasn’t totally unheard of either. Jensen could have sucked it up and told Jared that he wanted him in his future, so that fight wasn’t without his fair share of the blame. Already forgiving him that, Jensen vowed to forget the incident in his mind, even as he wouldn’t forget the lessons it taught him.

Quite truthfully, Jensen wasn’t even mad at all the pushing and shouting Jared had done when he was demanding answers about who hit him. He wasn’t mad, because he could understand the reaction so very well. Even half-conscious, he remembered with vague clarity the moment Jared had walked in…

“Jen, baby, what happened? Oh, God, are you okay? I’m so sorry, baby, I’m so, so fucking sorry. I should have…I didn’t…if I had…God, Jen, please just look at me? Wake up? Let me see those big, beautiful eyes, Jen, open those eyes for me, baby, please?”…

It’s okay, baby, it’s okay…everything’s gonna be alright…I gotcha Jen…”

That amount of concern, that level of fear and upset, the utter love that couldn’t be disguised as it flowed through those words…it spoke volumes about Jared’s reaction. He’d shouted and gotten as upset as he did out of love for Jensen, out of a desire to protect him and the frustration that came from not being able to. If anything, Jensen appreciated his anger because it was more love than was shown to him in 10 years. Those tender hands lifting him, those loving caresses and nuzzles and kisses…how could Jensen ever be mad about that?

But, then…this J.A.W. Initiative.

Jensen meant what he had thought earlier; he couldn’t be very mad at a betrayal aimed at bringing him happiness. What was difficult to get over was the fact that he felt lied to. He wondered what of him Jared really knew, and more than that, he wondered if Jared understood why he was most upset about this. The bottom line was that he needed to talk to them, soon.

He absently rubbed at his abdomen. Even after a couple hours, his gut still churned in pain combined with this sickeningly familiar twist of fear.

What was he afraid of?

The image of Jared’s crushed expression barged into the front of his brain. The sight shattered his heart and he whimpered as his eyes began to sting with tears once more. He was afraid for Jared? Why? Unbidden, the thought of worst case scenarios crossed his exhausted mind, of all the things a distraught and distracted Jared could get hurt by. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind before his cell rang.

Chris’ number flashed ominously on the screen, and while every atom in him wanted to ignore the call, the same way he’d been doing all night, his instincts were screaming at him to take this one.

That didn’t mean he’d have to be gracious about it.

“Fuck you,” he answered, voice cracking with pain.

“Jense, please man, I’m sorry,” Chris sighed, sounding miserable. “Just don’t hang up. I need your help; it’s Jared.”

Jensen was fairly certain he’d never moved that fast before in his entire life.

Point blank ignoring the screaming protests of his traumatized body, Jensen shot up from his place and grabbed his set of house keys. “I’m on my way to you,” he told Chris shortly.

Moving quickly with injuries like his was like embedding salt in a bad open wound, but Jensen soldiered on, terror churning in him as he contemplated what could be wrong with Jared. Had he gotten hurt? Did he get jumped, or attacked by an animal, or hit by a car? Like the loop of a Final Destination marathon, horrible alternatives settled in his mind, spurring him on to move faster. Deciding that this counted as an emergency situation, he boosted a car two blocks over- turns out people are very unobservant at 10 after 1 in the morning- and tramped the accelerator to Chris’ place, resolving to return the car before sunrise and buy himself something cheap to run around with.

At Chris’ place, Jensen flew out of the car, barely aware of whether he’d pulled the handbrake up or not. One hand still grasping protectively at his middle, he threw open the door, face set in pain.

“Chris!” he called out roughly, a harsh bark that he could barely recognize as his own voice as it was saturated with pain, fear, worry and panic.

The blue-eyed boy appeared immediately, rushing forward with a frown when he noticed the tell-tale signs of Jensen being wounded. Before he could wrap an arm around him in support, Jensen held up a hand, halting Chris’ progress. The sharp sting of betrayal still smarted in Jensen and as much as he knew this wasn’t the time to knock out their issues, he also knew that he wasn’t about to just pretend that nothing was wrong.

Chris stopped, a crestfallen expression coming over his face that almost changed Jensen’s mind. Almost.

“What happened?” Jensen asked, trying to bring the topic to focus. “Where’s Jared?”

“I don’t know,” Chris answered heavily, meekly following Jensen’s unspoken command to put their fight on hold, an action uncommon of the Alpha.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Jensen asked, an edge creeping into his voice that he’d rarely heard before. “I thought he was here and there was something wrong.”

“He’s not here, and that’s what’s wrong,” Chris said grimly. “His mom phoned to see if he was here, and I covered for him, but that was 45 minutes after he left here. I haven’t been able to track him down, and I thought he’d gone to your house, but from your reaction I guess not.”

“Jesus, and this was how long ago exactly?” Jensen cursed, fear streaking through him and mixing with the lingering hurt to produce a volatile anger.

“About four hours ago,” Chris cringed.

Dozens of emotions sizzled underneath the surface, but in a show of maturity, Jensen pushed them aside to deal with the problem at hand. Fact of the matter was, he needed to find Jared and make sure he was okay.

“I’ll go south of here, you go north, on foot, we’ll meet back here when we find him,” Jensen instructed, more authoritative than he’d ever been before in his entire life. To an extent, it surprised the hell out of him, but with the threat of Jared being hurt, all bets were off. His shyness and uncertainty melted away because he had no time for those emotions to be clouding his judgment. All that was left was a steely determination to make sure Jared was okay, and if- God forbid- he wasn’t, then heads would be rolling.

Jensen turned on his heel before waiting to see whether Chris would follow his directive. He wasn’t entirely sure what was pushing him to head south, but something in his blood, something hidden deep in his soul, told him that the guy he loved- and he did love him, even though he had a moment of stupidity- was somewhere south of here.

As much as he wanted to try to take the time to understand what all these instinctive feelings he had about Jared meant, he also knew he couldn’t spare that time. He could berate himself later for falling into one of those flaky, love-at-first-sight moments, but now? He had a boyfriend to find.

Following these instincts proved to be a test of Jensen’s faith in himself. Calling Jared’s name and pushing forward in a move uncharacteristic of the Jensen that existed Pre-Jared, the green-eyed boy was forced to admit that somehow, Jared’s complete confidence and faith in him had rubbed off somewhere along the line. Reaching the forestry on the outskirts of town, Jensen hoped to hell he’d be able to find his way back to the main road if he went in.

Turned out, he didn’t have to.

Slumped against a tree at the forest mouth, Jared’s eyes were closed and he was unmoving, two things that damn near stopped Jensen’s breathing. His heart in his throat, Jensen stumbled to Jared’s prone form.

“Jared?” he choked. “Jay, wake up…” he shook his shoulder slightly, tears blurring his vision and his throat feeling as raw as though it’d been sliced open. With shaking hands, he pressed two fingers against Jared’s throat, sobbing in relief when a strong thudding beat against his icy fingers. Checking him over cursorily and determining that he had no injuries, Jensen yanked Jared’s still-unresponsive body to his, hugging him with a ferocity that actually didn’t surprise him.

He sent Chris a quick text to meet him back at the house, and then summoning a strength he didn’t even know he possessed, Jensen lifted Jared over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, not wanting to aggravate his middle by cradling him; he would be of no use to Jared unconscious and bleeding out next to him. He trudged back the way he came, ignoring it when the cuts he’d patched up began to bleed again.

When he finally got back, Chris sprinted to him, seeing his faltering steps and sensing that his strength was just about tapped out. Dropping to his knees, Jensen allowed Chris to pull Jared’s arm around his shoulder and transfer Jensen’s precious cargo to his shoulders.

“Do you have any clothes that would fit him?” Jensen asked quietly. “He’s soaked through, I don’t want him to get cold.”

“Nothing,” Chris shook his head regretfully. “Why isn’t he waking up? Should we be taking him to the hospital?”

“No,” Jensen shook his head. “I checked him over, he’s alright. He’s had a pretty rough night, this is likely just his body’s way of forcing him to recuperate. He’s protecting himself.” Chris nodded, looking reassured until he glanced down at Jensen’s own soaked t-shirt, which had made the blood on it run and it looked a dreadful sight. “Put him in the car,” Jensen instructed. “We’ll take him to my place and settle him down properly.” Jensen sighed; there was no point in trying to hide his house from them anymore, he would just have to hope that there would be no more surprise visits.

They worked together wordlessly and Jen was glad Chris didn’t ask where the car came from. True to his vow, Jensen dropped Chris and Jared off at his place, settling them in the sitting room before quickly returning the car to its unsuspecting owners. His whole body was close to shutting down for how much he’d pushed it past its limits.

Walking gingerly into the house, he was beyond relieved to see Jared stirring. Grabbing a towel from the linen closet, he went to stand next to Jared as he came awake. Exhaustion-clouded hazel eyes locked on him, making Jared look years younger. Softening slightly, Jensen held out the towel, and when Jared made no move to take it, he stepped right in front of him, positioned between his knees, and began to gently towel-dry his long locks of hair. Respecting their need to be alone for a moment, Chris asked Jensen where the kitchen was, claiming he was going to bring some water for both of them. In a succinct, low voice, Jensen answered him, still not looking away from Jared’s hair. Try as he might, he couldn’t make eye contact just yet.

“Jen…” Jared murmured.

“Why would you just run off like that?” Jensen interrupted softly, his worry and anger and relief all melting into his voice. “Why didn’t you go home?” His unspoken words hung heavily in the air; you scared me senseless.

Jared didn’t answer, but the puppy-dog eyes he aimed at Jensen was effective enough. His anger dissipated immediately and he laid the towel on Jared’s lap with a sigh.

“I’m going to get you some dry clothes, you’re wet to the bone. You want to take a shower?” Jared nodded listlessly and Jensen’s heart squeezed in sympathy, but still he trooped wearily up the stairs to grab a pair of Eric’s sweats and a hoodie. Jensen’s would never fit Jared’s tall body, and although the size would be baggy on Jared’s leaner frame, at least he would be warm.

He hadn’t even been 10 minutes, so it surprised him (and unfortunately also warmed his heart) to see Jared had cuddled on to the couch and fallen straight back to sleep, a cute little furrow to his brow. As much as he worried about the taller boy’s comfort, he couldn’t bear to wake him up now. Gently, he nudged Jared and maneuvered him into a semi-sitting position where he mostly slumped against Jensen. He wrestled Jared’s still-soaked t-shirt off and, trying hard not to admire the expanse of chiseled chest that would have made Adonis jealous, he tenderly pushed the sweatshirt over Jared’s torso, deciding that the jeans could stay.

Jared immediately curled back to sleep, and Jensen allowed himself the tiniest of smiles, deciding that now was as good a time as any in their relationship to find out that Jared was not a good person to wake up.

With a small frown, he realized that even in his head, he’d still referred to them as a relationship. Snap. It seemed that every part of him seemed inclined to forgive Jared.

Sighing, he pulled the afghan hanging over the back of the couch and draped it over Jared, absently pushing back a lock of hair that came over his eyes before he straightened up. Chris was waiting patiently, leaning against the archway leading to the living room, observing the show of love with a tiny bittersweet smile on his face. Jensen approached him warily, not wanting to talk just yet, but unwilling to fight either.

“I’ll just head back home…” Chris started uncertainly, scuffing the toe of his sneakers anxiously against the floor. Jensen smiled inwardly; so obviously repentant, Jen couldn’t find it in himself to doubt the sincerity of Chris’ friendship. While he might have before, he just couldn’t see any part of Chris doing anything unless he meant it.

He didn’t quite know where all this trust had suddenly come from, but damn if Chris and Jared, despite their little antics, weren’t the ones most deserving of that kind of trust.

And a little slack.

“You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let you walk back in the pouring rain,” Jensen stated quietly. “I don’t want you to get sick or hurt any more than I wanted Jared. Stay in our guest room tonight. I can lend you my sweats and a shirt.” Jensen didn’t even question whether Chris would hear his unspoken words; I’m not ready to fully forgive you yet, but you’re crazy if you think we can’t get past this.

“Are you sure?” Chris asked, a hopeful glint in his eye. Jensen nodded, happy knowing that Chris had heard what he couldn’t say.

“I’m sure.”

###

Never again would Jensen underestimate the power of a bath.

Sure, he loved showers; the pulsating jets of steaming hot water were his salvation more times than he could count. But at the moment, lying in scorching bath water did his bruises more wonder than he had ever thought possible.

Jensen had woken up before Chris and Jared, a product of last night’s drama playing on a loop in his head, and the pain he still felt scissoring through his body which felt, for all it’s abuse, like it had been through a meat tenderizer. Not wanting to wake either boy up with the noise a long shower would make, Jensen had decided to suck it up and take a bath.

And God damn, what a life-changer that had been.

The water was beginning to cool after the fourth time he’d refilled hot water to it, and his skin was beginning to prune, but Jensen’s muscles were looser and he was in much less pain that he had been in since last night. The bruises were there, and pretty spectacular, and time in the bath water had given him ample opportunity to look at every scar and bump and bruise. He felt self-conscious of them all, aware now of just how much of his body was covered in scars from his past. Most of them were relatively small; a testament to his practiced ease of stitching himself up. There was one scar across his belly that he was most conscious of, because it was one he hadn’t treated himself.

That was from the time Adam had put him in the hospital.

But that was a story to think about…well, never again, hopefully. Closing his eyes against the memories that were trying to assault him, Jensen relaxed further down in the water, focusing on his breathing and gratifying in the small fact that the steam made that feat easier. Once he felt he could get out of the tub without doubling over in agony, he did so, unplugging the drain to get rid of the water and wrapping a towel around his waist. He darted quickly to his room, aware of the need to hide his scarred body from his guests, and quickly dried himself. Uncaring of his appearance, he took comfort over fashion and hastily donned his sweats and Cas’ old sweatshirt that he (still) had no intention of returning. Jensen snorted when he realized he generally only wore the sweater when he’d been beaten, because it was so baggy, it never touched the bruises. Nevertheless, he appreciated the small modicum of comfort it afforded him.

Padding softly to the kitchen, art folder and sketch book tucked neatly under his arm, Jensen checked on both his guests before setting his things down on the large kitchen table and rifling around the cupboards for something to make for breakfast. He’d fully restocked their pantry just a few days ago, after selling one of his paintings online, so he decided to make pancakes, bacon and eggs.

About half an hour later, bacon was sizzling on the frying pan, the pancake batter was mixed and ready to fry, and Jensen was sketching mindlessly as he stood by the stove, waiting to flip the bacon. His pencil was flying over the paper as he sketched, broad sweeping arcs quickly transforming into sharp little swipes as the need presented itself. As he worked, Jensen realized that the soft grey tones were taking on the shape of a starry sky. He’d drawn the stars, the murky looking clouds, and now, he was drawing the full moon, peeking out from behind a few wisps of a murky, more darkly shaded cloud. He hummed in approval, a low sound at the back of his throat. This was a moderate sketch, one he could make better with his paints. The sound of the bacon popping and footsteps coming down the hall brought him out of his reverie. Deciding that not burning breakfast was more important, Jensen turned his attention to the frying pan, busily flipping the pieces over and congratulating himself with an inward pat on the back when he found they were crisp to perfection. He didn’t have to turn around, though, to know it was Jared.

“My mom says I have an internal alarm bell that rings when I smell food.”

Jensen grinned ever so slightly as he piled the bacon on a plate. Switching another plate on the stove to low, he got out a spatula and a spoon and grabbed the pancake batter. “I hope you’re fine with bacon, eggs and pancakes?”

“Are you kidding?” Jared snorted. “I’m coming to live with you.” He stopped abruptly, and awkwardness pressed upon them. Jensen was sick of it by now; they needed to talk this out.

“I need to multi-task,” he waved the spatula to indicate his point. “We’re going to talk about this over frying pancakes.”

“Right now?” Jared asked uncertainly.

Jensen nodded determinedly. “Right now.”

###

~*Jared*~

It was the sound of gentle footfalls that woke Jared up.

He didn’t need to question how he knew it was Jensen, the scent of his mate wafting into his senses and confirming his thoughts. He awoke slowly, remembering last night in bits and fuzzy pieces.

Somehow, from the forest, he’d ended up in Jen’s house, on the couch. Even if he wasn’t so finely attuned to his mate’s feelings, the relief hanging off Jensen was almost palpable, so Jared assumed he’d been missing for some time. Judging from the lack of Feds and rapidly mass-produced milk cartons with his picture on it, no one had told his mom he’d been missing, so he dismissed that particular stress. His brain and body had chosen that particular moment to shut off against all the stress he was dealing with, and as such, his mind was sluggish and uncooperative. His mouth felt like it had been stuffed full of cotton wool and his body felt weighted down and clumsy. Even as Jen had dried his hair, so carefully as if he was made of glass, Jared couldn’t make himself offer to do it himself, or thank his mate for taking care of him. He decided to take a shower, try to restart his brain so he could talk to Jensen, who looked crushed with worry when he asked him why he’d run off. Unable to dredge up any kind of coherent response, Jared had simply sought comfort from the green pools of Jensen’s eyes. They had turned warmer at his gaze, and somehow, Jared hadn’t felt so lost after that. When Jen had left, he remembered wanting to curl up and wrap himself with the warmth of Jensen’s eyes and love.

And now it was morning. Apparently his mind and body had decided that it needed the rest of the night off, because Jared felt fine when he woke up now. The smell of sizzling bacon danced over his senses and he pulled himself up, realizing now that Jen had grappled with him enough to push a dry sweater over him. Padding softly on bare feet, Jared automatically gravitated to where he could smell his mate was. His stomach growled in appreciation of the smell and the fact that his mate was associated so closely with the smell.

Jared stopped in the doorway, glancing first at all the pencils and papers scattered over the table. Two books, both overflowing with loose pages, sat one on top of the other, and an array of stationery as well as larger sheets of papers were strewn over the countertop. His eyes traveled to where Jensen stood, taking out the bacon, a writing pad and pencil discarded on the counter next to him. His mom’s voice rang in his mind and he grinned inwardly at the irony.

“My mom says I have an internal alarm bell that rings when I smell food.” Really, he thought, my alarm bell rang when I smelt you.

Jared hated that he couldn’t see his mate’s face, and this fact alerted him to the fact that Jen was wearing a sweater clearly not his own, for how baggy it was on him.

“I hope you’re fine with bacon, eggs and pancakes?” the smile Jared heard in Jensen’s voice eased the ball of tension in his stomach, even as he filed the sweater away under “Questions To Ask Jen Later When He Isn’t Angry With Me”.

“Are you kidding?” he smirked unthinkingly. “I’m coming to live with you.” Jared froze as soon as the words left his mouth.

Fuck, talk about foot-in-mouth disease.

Jensen’s brow furrowed slightly in the middle and his lower lip jutted out before getting sucked into a vice grip between his teeth, in what Jared had come to recognize and label as his Serious Face.

“I need to multi-task. We’re going to talk about this over frying pancakes,” he asserted, jabbing his big, flat spoon thing in the air to drive his point across. Jared briefly wondered why they would make a spoon flat and put slats in them, before he decided it was possibly best he didn’t know.

“Right now?” he asked, hating how hesitant he sounded, almost as though he’d actually asked what the big spoon was called.

“Right now,” Jensen nodded, pouring some of the batter on to the pan before leaving it to settle before turning to face Jared. “What on earth were you thinking, disappearing like that?” His voice was soft and gentle, but Jared could hear a shadow of the strain and worry his mate had felt in his voice. The Alpha took comfort from it; things could surely not be as bad as he thought if Jen still worried that much about him?

“I wasn’t thinking,” he admitted, deciding honesty was probably his best approach at the moment. “Everything just sort of crashed and burned when I walked away from here thinking that I’d lost you.”

The hitch in Jensen’s breath was what made Jared glance up, just in time to see his mate turn away, clear tears falling rapidly from both eyes.

This was all it took for instincts Jared didn’t even know he had to kick in, unable to stand seeing the love of his life in pain. He strode forward in two big steps and wrapped his arms tightly around Jensen. The green-eyed boy resisted at first, pushing weakly at Jared’s big biceps, but Jared persisted, holding tighter. He was rewarded when Jensen gave up any inclination to get away, and melted into Jared’s desperate embrace. The occasional tremor wracked his body as Jensen tried not to cry, and Jared tried to absorb each shiver and eradicate them with his warmth.

“I don’t ever want to lose you, Jen,” Jared murmured the words he’d spoken just the day before, and they hung heavier on his tongue as they took on a fiercer meaning. “I’m so sorry.”

“The future argument, that was all my fault,” Jensen hiccupped. “I choked. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! I wanted to tell you so bad that I wanted you in my future, but this is all happening so fast, and I don’t know how I could feel so deeply after such a little space of time, and…”

“Shh, Jen,” Jared hushed, brushing soft little kisses on Jensen’s hair and temple. “I know. I’m an idiot, I could have just told you myself. I just didn’t want to pressure you…Chad explained in very colorful detail, what an ass I behaved like.” Taking a deep breath, he pulled away enough to cup Jensen’s face between two big palms, placing a tender kiss to the corner of his mouth before pressing their foreheads together. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

Jensen sucked in a shaky breath, composing himself and dragging the back of his hand over his eyes roughly. “I think I forgave you for that a long time ago.”

“When?” Jared asked somewhat playfully, thumbs brushing with infinite gentleness to swipe away the tears Jensen had callously missed.

“About an hour after it happened,” Jensen admitted with a pout, scrunching his nose in that most adorable way he had and pulling away to put on the next pancake.

Jared laughed, feeling some of the tension leave his shoulders. He knew that the most important thing to apologize for, was the one thing they hadn’t spoken about yet, and he also knew that he owed Jensen an explanation and a groveling apology.

“Jen, about the J.A.W. Initiative…” he hesitated a split second before ploughing right into his story. “It was just an idea me and Chris had, so that I could woo you! It was nothing bad, I swear! In retrospect, I guess that I shouldn’t have needed help wooing you, just that Chris was your best friend and I really didn’t want to mess this up, because God knows I’ve messed up plenty before, and I couldn’t afford to mess up with you, because you’re everything and I would have never forgiven myself if I’d messed up, of course, I’ve already messed up now…” he cringed, without stopping his monologue, “but that’s not the point, really, the point is that I thought I needed the help, but I actually didn’t, all Chris really did was tell me what you said, and it wasn’t- no offense, Jen- it wasn’t very helpful because it was all so generalized, but then we spoke on the phone the whole week and I never wanted to stop talking to you, and somewhere along the line I realized that you were right all along, and that I could woo you just by listening to what you said, not that it was difficult to do that because everything you say is just so interesting and different to other people, but fact of the matter was that the whole thing was just a way to try to make sure that I could charm you, and…”

“Jesus, Jared, breathe!!!” Jensen cut across his rant, alerting Jared to the fact that his highly amused mate had been trying to interject for several minutes now. Jared gulped in a mammoth breath, belatedly realizing that his chest was burning with a need for air. He grinned sheepishly at Jensen, who had an entertained little grin playing on his lips as he expertly flipped and then put on the last batch of pancakes. “Don’t pass out on me, Jay.”

Jared beamed, his heart soaring at the beloved nickname that had been glaringly missing for the past 15 hours or so. “Okay,” he managed to utter, a dopey smile still gracing his love-struck face.

“Jay,” Jensen started gently. “I figured all that out last night. I thought about everything, and the thing is, is that I don’t think you or Chris really get what’s bugging me about this. I was hurt that you guys lied to me, and inadvertently played me, but I can’t be too upset about that since you were trying to charm me, and that is by far one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me.”

“Jen…” Jared’s heart squeezed in pain. “Sweetheart, I never meant to…you know I never wanted to hurt you…”

“Neither did I,” Chris’ voice came from the entrance to the kitchen and it was a testament to Jared’s remorseful pain that he didn’t even hear the alpha coming.

“I know,” Jensen maintained quietly, looking between them both. “Even as mad as I was, I couldn’t even entertain the possibility that either of you wanted to hurt me. What gets to me is the fact that I gave that advice regarding Sophia, not me.”

“So I didn’t charm you right?” Jared asked in confusion.

“No, you did,” Jensen refuted, trying to figure out how to get his point across. “But everything I told Chris to do was things that were really sweet and thoughtful and great, which fits Sophia, because she seems like a nice person, but not me. Sophia deserves to be wooed with that much effort and time, she’s worth that. I’m just…”

“Stop!” Jared interrupted harshly. “You’re not just anything. You’re everything, Jen…God, you’re fucking everything. You’re worth all of that, and so much more…how could you even think…”

“Jensen,” Chris’ low timbre cut through Jared’s disbelieving fumbles. “Man, you’re upset because you think that you don’t deserve that level of adoration?”

Jensen nodded uncomfortably, busying himself by stacking the last of the pancakes next to the other ones. He lowered the heat and moved the frying pan, preparing to make the eggs, when he was gently pulled away from the stove and turned around to face Chris. Jared was still unable to comprehend how his mate had thought so far from the truth.

“You’re worth more than any of that, but the thing is, is that nothing in the world is worthy of wooing you,” Chris said steadily, his grip firm on Jensen’s shoulders. He moved one hand up to grip the back of his neck, maneuvering his face until their eyes met. “I would have told Jared to get you the sun, the moon and the stars if I thought he could.”

Jared watched as the weight of the words impressed itself upon Jensen, and tears made his boyfriend’s eyes shine. Both Jared and Chris meant those words, and Jared knew he would have to make sure that Jensen did too, someday soon.

“Fuck, Chris,” Jensen finally replied, and judging from the teasing smile playing on his face as he placed his hand over his heart, there was an inside joke Jared didn’t know. “I think I just fell in love with you.”

The growl that came from Jared’s chest had both of them bursting into laughter that melted the tension like it was butter on a barbecue.

“Damn, Freckles,” Chris ruffled Jensen’s hair fondly. “I thought we weren’t going to tell Jay-Man about our illicit love affair?” Even knowing they were joking did nothing to quell the fire of jealousy that flared up in Jared’s chest.

“Fuck, Chris, I like you, but you better be joking,” he bit off. The other boy laughed and Jensen stepped forward tentatively to wrap his arms around Jared’s waist. He purred with pleasure at the contact, feeling like a part of him had been returned to him; as though not having Jensen in his arms was like taking away a vital organ…

…like his heart.

This time, Jared noticed as Chris discreetly slipped away to give them some space. Leaning down, he trailed soft little nips and kisses all the way along Jen’s jaw, then down his neck, stopping to suck at the hollow at the base of his throat. Jensen shivered and ground lightly forward, Jared almost dropping from the pleasure that fogged his mind, not even fighting against the purrs that rumbled deep in his chest.

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, Jensen Ackles,” Jared murmured into his mate’s hair. “I’ve been waiting my entire life for you, and nothing in the world will ever measure up to you. Nothing will ever mean as much, or be worth as much to me as you. You deserve more than the world, please let me give you that.” He pulled away and cupped Jensen’s cheek in one big palm. “You’re everything to me, Jen.”

“You’re even more to me, Jay,” Jensen admitted, looking down bashfully. “There’s only one thing I’d like to know now.” His mate looked up, a more playful sparkle in his eyes that Jared had missed fiercely.

“What’s that?” he asked, butting his nose against the top of Jensen’s jaw, a wolfish display of affection that he couldn’t withhold.

Jensen grinned mischievously. “How do you like your eggs?”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

While Jensen was frying the eggs, Jared decided to help set the table. It didn’t escape his attention, how domestic it felt, and it filled him with a sappy sense of satisfaction.

Approaching the table, he was greeted once more by the sight of all the books and papers strewn over the surface. Picking one up at random, he wondered what on earth his mate had been busy with.

The sight that met him took his breath away in a barely audible whoosh.

It was an oil painting in magnificent detail, depicting the sun rising high over a mountain crest. Barely discernible arcs of silver and yellow expertly giving the impression of rays of light were strewn tastefully over the snow-capped, jagged mountaintop. The sky was what caught his eye the most, it’s blend of colors and the slight smattering of stars that still lingered looking lifelike in its detail. Jared would have sworn it was a photo if not for the intricate little symbol at the right hand bottom corner; the letter J inordinately woven around an A.

“Jen, you drew this?” Jared breathed in awe. Jensen turned around, blushing when he saw what Jared was holding up.

“Yeah,” he nodded, looking chagrined. “They’re not very good, but it’s relaxing…”

“Are you kidding me?” Jared raised his eyebrows with a scoff. “This is brilliant, I can barely find the words…Jen, you’re an amazing artist!”

“Thanks,” he beamed at the praise, even as he inclined his head shyly. “I’m no expert, but I love doing it.”

Jared thumbed through the pages; various pen and pencil sketches, oil paintings and a couple of coal drawings met his gaze, some of Jen’s trench-coated friend, some of nature, one with a phoenix rising from the ashes. The last one in the second book caught his eye the most.

It was an oil work of a beautiful, smiling woman; her hair flowed loose around her shoulders and she was sitting in a bed of flowers of the most exuberant colors. A testament to Jen’s skill, her eyes seemed to sparkle through the canvas and her curved lips made Jared feel that she was about to start laughing.

“Jen, who’s this?” Jared asked, feeling the weight of the question hang over him, even if he wasn’t entirely sure why.

Jensen glanced at him, flipping the last omelet on to a plate. His eyes filled with sadness and he unconsciously curled a little into himself, turning to brace his palms on the counter. Jared put the painting down carefully, coming to wrap his arms around Jensen’s waist from behind. He rested his chin on Jen’s shoulder, angling forward to press a chaste kiss to the sensitive spot beneath his ear. “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he added, squeezing him lightly.

“I know,” he nodded, turning his head to the side to rest it against the top of Jared’s head. “She was my foster mom,” he said finally. “She died in an accident when I was 8.”

“Oh, Jen, I’m sorry,” Jared murmured regretfully. “I shouldn’t have…”

“No,” Jensen shook his head, turning in Jared’s grasp to rest his hands over Jared’s chest. “I want you to know more about me. I know that I’m about as forthcoming as a mob boss with lockjaw sometimes, but I’m going to try.”

Jared felt a wave of emotion come over him, and he pressed his lips firmly to Jensen’s, taking his mate by surprise. Jen opened up easily for him when he flicked his tongue over his mate’s bottom lip, and Jared plundered his mouth, chasing the taste of his mate and running possessive hands over Jensen’s body that finally came to rest, one grasping his hips and the other slipping down to grope covetously at the sexy curve of his ass. Jensen rolled his hips forward, slipping one leg between Jared’s muscular thighs, making the Alpha groan and rock into him to get some friction to his increasingly hardening cock, a desperate mass of wantminematenow at the moment.

Jared manhandled him, pushing him against the counter and lifting him to perch on it’s edge. Jensen let out a small squeak that had Jared grinning against his mouth. Slipping his hand underneath Not-Jensen’s sweatshirt, Jared fluttered his fingers softly over the smooth skin of the small of his mate’s back, delving teasingly over the top of his ass. Jensen arched with a mewl, and Jared bit back his instinctive groan. So fucking responsive…

“Gah! Get a room, Jesus Christ,” Chris’ voice burst through their little bubble of heated desire, effectively cooling them both off. Jared grinned as Jensen’s cheeks burned a bright red; he pressed a teasing kiss to the pulse point in Jen’s throat and let him slide back down from the edge of the counter, enjoying how this essentially had his mate brushing down the length of his body.

“Technically, the kitchen is a room,” Jensen retorted tartly, and Jared had to smirk with pride at the way his mate could still spark back and fight, even in light of his chagrin. His Jen was feisty, and unlike most meat-headed Alphas, Jared would have it no other way. It was a part of Jensen that made him Jensen. Jared would never want him to lose that. “Besides,” Jensen threw a dish cloth at the chuckling alpha, “my house, Kane. I can kiss my boyfriend wherever I want. So there.” Jensen stuck his tongue out and cuddled into Jared’s side. Jared shook his head fondly, laughing freely at the amused look on Chris’ face as he looped an arm around Jensen’s waist. He was disappointed at the lack of belt loops on the sweatpants, so he settled for hooking his thumb on the edge of Jensen’s pocket. If he minded the action, Jensen never showed it, and Jared enjoyed having that connection; it was a symbol to him, that he would never- could never- let his mate go.

Chris shook his head at Jensen, smiling softly, and Jared could see the other boy’s love clear as day in his eyes. Consciously reminding himself that Kane felt brotherly love for Jensen, Jared still couldn’t help but loop his other arm around Jensen and press a light, possessive kiss to the top of his head, a show of ownership, maybe, but then, this was his mate- Jared figured he was entitled to fend off any possible outside interest in the love of his life.

The paintings and drawings were scattered across the table, as Jared had left them, and he stiffened when he saw them catch the blue-eyed alpha’s attention. He wasn’t sure whether Jensen was willing to share his art yet, seeing as how he hadn’t told them about it all until then. Jen looked up when he felt Jared tense, and he turned to look at Chris. Surprisingly, he simply turned in Jared’s arms, relaxing against him with his back to Jared’s chest, and observed Chris looking at the artwork. Jared took his cue from Jensen, unwinding his tense stance and watching the moment that it dawned on Chris, that Jensen had been the one to do all that.

“Jesus Christ…” he mumbled, still looking through the drawings slowly and whistling appreciatively under his breath. “Fuck, Freckles, did you do all this?”

“Guilty,” Jensen nodded, biting his lower lip. “They’re just rough work, though…”

Jared tightened his arms around his mate, hating how much he underestimated such an awe-inspiring talent. Jared swore inwardly that he was going to rectify the wrongs that had been done to his gorgeous green-eyed soul mate, and that he was going to exact a special brand of avengement on whoever made Jensen doubt himself.

Justice a la Jared.

And it was going to start with one Christian Kane if he continued to keep his trap shut and leave Jensen in suspense.

He narrowed his eyes at the other alpha, barely suppressing a warning growl. Chris continued to look at all the pieces, stopping; like Jared; at the painting of Jen’s mom. Seeming to sense the line Jared had toed over earlier, he simply laid the canvas delicately on the middle of the table, then turned to look straight at Jensen with a serious face.

“If this is your rough work, then you’re going to be a millionaire by 30 if you take the time, kid,” he stated frankly.

Jensen snorted, the relief in his laugh obvious as he pulled away from Jared’s arms to gather the canvases and pages. Jared felt the loss immediately, and he rebelled against his human urge to pout and his wolfish urge to howl. Jensen cleared the table, arguing with Chris all the while about whether his paintings were good or not. Jared stepped back from their friendly, brotherly bantering moment, and made use of the distraction to really look at Jensen.

His movements were stilted from the beating he took yesterday, and Jared still wondered who the mystery person was that had whaled on his beautiful mate. He had the faintest whiff of a scent, not enough to follow, but that wasn’t something he could address right now. He forced himself to think on the other things; the graceful efficiency that Jen operated with. The easy smile that quirked his full lips upwards far too seldom than it should be. The way his broad shoulders were, for once, relaxed, and the way the crinkle in the middle of his forehead seemed lost in the smooth, worry-line free face that Jared could swear had been imprinted directly on his soul.

Jensen threw his head back at that precise moment and laughed loud, a belly-deep, rumbling sound that stole Jared’s next heartbeat, and right then and there, Jared knew what the most beautiful part of his Jensen was.

As though he could sense his gaze and thoughts, Jensen turned around, green pools of warmth searching Jared out, full lips breaking into a full-on smile as his gaze came to rest on him. It lit Jared up from the inside, and in that single moment?

Everything was right in Jared’s world.

###

“He’s hurt bad, Jared.”

Chris’ voice penetrated Jared’s happy fog, effectively busting his good vibes as Jensen’s bruises came to mind. The awful picture of him on the floor, bloody and beaten, sprang to the back of his eyelids and he swallowed convulsively.

“I know, man,” Jared answered with a world-weary sigh. Anger twisted his gut, and he clenched and unclenched his fists, the repetitive action speaking volumes about his frustration. “But I don’t know what to do if he won’t talk to me.”

“He’s tight-lipped with me too,” Chris huffed, kicking angrily at the sidewalk as they walked to their houses. "We can’t push him though, or he’ll never open up.”

“I don’t want to push,” Jared agreed softly, thinking about Jensen’s confession when they spoke that morning.

I want you to know more about me. I know that I’m about as forthcoming as a mob boss with lockjaw sometimes, but I’m going to try.

He was getting further with Jen than he’d thought possible at the beginning of all of this. It meant so much more that Jared hadn’t had to probe and poke and Spanish Inquisition him; Jensen had come to him, he wanted to share with Jared without any prompting and that felt to Jared like a priceless gift. The gift of immense and astounding trust, given to him when he’d least deserved it, making it all the more precious.

How could he possibly belittle such a gift by goading Jen into talking to him? It would only push the other boy away…Jared would just have to trust his mate to come to him on his own.

“What happens if, in some inherently-Jensen, self-sacrificing move, he doesn’t come to you?” Chris asked in disbelief, when Jared spoke his intention.

“I have to trust him,” Jared repeated grimly. “I’ve been trying so hard to get him to turn to me, to rely on me, without any sort of reciprocation. Maybe the best way to get him to trust me, is to start by trusting him.

Chris was quiet for a moment, before he nodded. “That’s a pretty good point, Padalecki. I don’t like our odds, but I guess there isn’t really a better plan at the moment.”

“Nope,” Jared agreed somberly. Thinking of Jensen’s laugh, his spirit lifted slightly. “What I can do, is show him one hell of a first date tonight.”

“You need help with that plan, Romeo?” Chris asked with a teasing grin, and while Jared was amazed at the yards their something-resembling-friendship had taken, he was also grateful for it. All because of Jen, somehow, he was sure.

“No,” he laughed, declining the offer. “I think it’s best you and me don’t make plans for a little while,” he grinned ruefully. “Besides…I got this one.”

 

~*Jensen*~

Jensen took his time cleaning the house and erasing all traces of his overnight guests. Eric had phoned earlier, simply barking out a slurred announcement that he was going to be gone the rest of the weekend, and Jensen was glad for the reprieve.

He had just had another, very relaxing bath, when he remembered that he was supposed to have a date with Jared tonight. Was it still on, despite their little fight? Or was there a making-up period before they could go on a date?

His gut told him to be ready, because knowing Jared, he wouldn’t allow a silly thing like social norm postpone a date he’d been working towards for weeks.

Feeling so much better after his scalding hot soak in the tub, Jensen felt something creep up on him that he hadn’t felt in long, long years.

Excitement.

It pounded a jagged rhythm in his heart, butterflies assaulting his stomach and a ridiculous grin playing on his lips. Nervous energy came off him in waves, and for once, he embraced it. He had never felt this way about Adam; maybe a little jittery, sure, but never completely wrecked, can’t-stop-smiling, white hot energized!

After succumbing to the stereotype and trying on four different outfits, he decided on the one he thought was the best of the worst. Jensen felt subconscious in his dark, faded jeans (with the artful rips he’d made after ripping one hole by accident) paired with the green V-neck that clung tightly to his upper body for how small it was becoming. He scuffed the toes of his old sneakers against the floor, biting his lip unconsciously as he debated whether he looked fine or not.

Before he could decide to change into something else, there was an almost ominous knock on the front door. His heart leaped into his throat, and a wide smile broke over his face. It was as though all the blood in his arms concentrated in his neck, as a flush crept up his throat and his palms got clammy.

Either this is normal for a first date, which means I did the first date wrong with Adam, or I’m dying, which would really be just my luck, he thought ruefully, a giggle bordering on hysterical bubbling in his throat. Taking a few cleansing breaths, he finally mustered the courage to open the door.

Those little breathing exercises? Completely and utter pointless considering the fact that Jared looked nothing short of breathtaking. Dressed in dark navy jeans that were tea-stained on the thighs, and a navy hoodie jacket over a grey button-down hanging untucked, Jared left his mouth dry and his throat working convulsively as he tried to breathe and find the words to tell Jared how amazing he looked. Jared’s own words stopped in his throat as he looked at Jensen, and the bright smile froze, a look of wonderment and awe slipping into darkening hazel orbs as they stood for a minute just drinking each other in. If Jensen didn’t know any better, he’d have said that Jared was as stunned speechless by his appearance as he was by Jared’s…but that wasn’t possible. He looked downright scruffy next to the taller boy.

“You look absolutely gorgeous, Jen,” Jared finally managed to get out, a smile twisting his lips as Jensen looked confused. “You got plans tonight, hot stuff?”

Jensen blushed and grinned bashfully, nerves wreaking havoc on his insides. “Yeah,” he cleared his throat in an attempt to sound normal. “Yeah, I have plans.”

Jared’s face crumpled in temporary confusion. Forehead and nose scrunched in the most adorable way, he cocked his head to the side and aimed wide eyes at Jensen. “Plans with me, right?” he clarified. “You don’t have plans with anyone else? We were just joking around?”

And just like that, all of Jensen’s nerves and shyness was gone. He let out a body-shaking laugh and Jared grinned softly at him. “Yeah, Jay,” he nodded, still chuckling. “Plans with you.”

“Good,” Jared bobbed his head up and down happily. “It would have been a little awkward otherwise.”

Jared stepped towards Jensen, pulling him into his arms. He relaxed in the strong warmth Jared always offered, sighing contentedly when his boyfriend butted the bottom line of his jaw softly with his nose, and Jared nuzzled into the side of his neck when he tilted his head up in an almost submissive gesture.

“You really do look stunning sweetheart,” Jared breathed, trailing kisses up to his ear before biting the lobe softly and sucking it into his mouth. Jensen panted at the sensation and instinctively rocked into Jared, bunching the material of his shirt in clenched fists. Jared trapped his ear between his teeth and grazed it as he pulled away, just bordering on a sting of pain. Jensen’s breath was already ragged and he tried desperately to pull in a lungful of air.

“You’re not looking so bad yourself, Jay.” His voice was rough and almost unrecognizable as it was saturated with desire. He grinned, a moment of confidence coming over him. “As Misha would say, you look like sex on legs.” He punctuated his statement with a teasing little roll of his hips that had Jared biting down on his neck. Jensen let out a strangled gasp as Jared sucked unforgivingly on the spot, forgetting any intention they had of going out in favor of being pressed against every last inch of Jared’s hard, toned body.

“You carry on like that, with that deep rough voice and those sexy little teases, then we aren’t going to leave your house tonight,” Jared promised in a dark murmur that was so full of desire that Jen automatically shivered.

“You say that like it’s supposed to be a threat instead of a promise,” he answered without thinking, “I would have no problem being housebound.”

“Bound…” Jared smirked saucily. “Now there’s an idea worth exploring,” he winked lecherously and Jensen moaned at the implication.

“Now who’s teasing?” He couldn’t help the pout that spread over his face. Jared laughed throatily and seemed to force himself a few steps back.

“The whole point of the J.A.W Initiative was to woo you, Jen,” he grinned. “I didn’t get into so much trouble, just to back out at the first date. And I planned the whole thing with no help from Chris, so I’m really anxious to see whether I was being too presumptuous when I turned down the help.”

“Your wish, my command,” Jensen winked, a responding flush of desire painting his chest and neck red as Jared’s eyes darkened at the inflection. Jensen made a mental note to explore this little kink of Jared’s as he grabbed his keys and ran a hand through his hair. “Let’s go.”

It was almost amusing, and it was definitely adorable how quickly the change came over Jared. He went from a lusty, hungry guy ready to shove him against the nearest wall, to the over-excited, gentle giant that somewhat resembled a puppy. Taking his hand gently, Jared led him to the truck and even went so far as to open his door for him.

Jensen put the back of his hand to his forehead, fluttering his lashes dramatically. “Chivalry is not dead,” he proclaimed, smirking at Jared’s antics. The taller boy barked a loud laugh, blushing lightly.

“Shut up, I’m nervous,” he defended as he hopped in on the driver’s side, brown eyes sparkling.

“Don’t be,” Jensen smiled warmly. “It’s just me.”

Jared leaned over the console and caught Jensen’s lips in a searing kiss that made his head spin. “When are you ever going to learn,” he asked softly, breath wafting temptingly over Jen’s face, “that you’re never just anything?”

Jensen didn’t answer, but in a show of boldness that he wouldn’t have associated with himself a few weeks ago, he leaned up and kissed the side of Jared’s neck, just below his strong jaw. Jared smiled at him, the soft and enamored look telling him that it didn’t escape Jared’s attention that it was the first time Jensen had been the one to initiate a kiss. Jared grabbed his hand after reversing out of the driveway. The tall, hazel-eyed boy kept their interlinked hands resting lightly on his upper thigh, his thumb rubbing gentle circles on Jensen’s palm.

“Where are we going?” Jensen asked as Jared took the turn-off that took them out of town. Jared smiled mysteriously and brought the hand he was holding to his mouth to pepper small kisses over Jen’s knuckles. Jensen thought it was a pretty good compensation for not telling him where they were going.

When they finally did pull up, it was next to the mouth of the forestry on the edge of town, not the same place that Jensen had found Jared before, but around the same district.

“If you brought me here to make out, we could have done that at my house,” Jensen teased with a grin.

Jared rubbed the back of his neck, a tell-tale sign that nerves were taking hold once more. Jensen reached out and fondly pushed a lock of his hair behind his ear, following the path until he was tugging lightly on the ends of Jared’s hair. He leaned into the touch, and Jensen made another mental reminder that Jared loved it when Jensen petted his hair.

“I’m going to love whatever we’re doing, because I’m doing it with you,” Jensen reassured him softly, flushing at the raw truth in his words.

But it was definitely worth it for the dazzling smile that lit up Jared’s face as he held Jensen’s hand where it was and leaned in to steal a kiss.

“We’re going for a picnic, in my favorite place in the whole world,” Jared told him when they broke apart. “I haven’t showed this place to anyone before, I wanted to share it with you.”

Jensen’s heart squeezed with- he had to admit it now- love. What else could it be with this gentle, loving, caring, amazing boy?

Wordlessly, Jared took a picnic basket- and yes, he’d actually found a picnic basket for it- from the back and they headed on to a pathway. It thinned out as they walked and Jensen understood why nobody else would have gone this far in; it hardly seemed like a trail anymore, but his trust in Jared won out over his doubts.

It was already approaching 6.05pm when they finally stepped out of the woodsy landscape and smack into a wide, open clearing, picturesque in its beauty. The odd crop of flowers brightened the meadow that was still bathed in the last dredges of sunshine. It was warm, for the time was close to dusk, but not chilly yet; the perfect blend to appreciate the beauty of the secluded place without burning from the heat. Jensen couldn’t find his voice, but thankfully, Jared had seen his speechlessness for what it was- awe.

“I know,” he murmured happily. “You like it?”

“I love this,” Jensen whispered, terrified that speaking too loud would somehow shatter the illusion and everything would turn to ash. This place seemed to stunning to be real.

“Beautiful,” he murmured reverently, as Jared came to his side, his gaze on Jensen instead of the view.

“Most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Jared murmured, not taking his eyes off Jensen, and good Lord wasn’t that cheesy? But good Lord, didn’t it work?

His insides melted and he turned into Jared, kissing the hollow at the base of his throat. “Thank you for bringing me here.”

“I was going to take you to some fancy restaurant, but I figured you could appreciate this place as much as I do.”

Jensen smiled into his boyfriend’s chest. He remembered with stunning clarity one of the first few doubts he’d had about the J.A.W. Initiative- what of me does Jared really even know?- and immediately, his doubts vanished. Jared knew him; he was right in saying that he hadn’t really needed Chris’ help.

“You figured perfectly,” Jensen told him, tilting his head up for a kiss and enjoying the happy excitement that the small gesture brought to his boyfriend. “You know me better than I thought, Padalecki.”

Jared grinned widely, looping his arms around Jensen and playing with the hem of his t-shirt. “I’m really glad to hear you say so, Jen.”

They stood for a while, basking in the closeness and this newfound level they’d ascended to. Jensen was all for luxuriating in the moment, but Jared suddenly straightened, back rigid and eyes wide as he looked down at Jensen.

“What?” he asked in alarm, muscles tensing in the same way it always would before a beating.

“Jen!” Jared exclaimed, bouncing a little on his feet, looking every bit the eager puppy. “We just had our first fight!”

Jensen threw his head back with a loud laugh; he’d probably laughed more in the past day than he had in…months?

No. Years.

A mischievous sparkle entered his eyes as he mustered up the courage for what he was about to do; something he’d wanted to do since day one.

Hooking two fingers of each hand on either side of Jared’s belt loops, he used all the power he had to yank Jared against him, their hips pressed flush together, and claim his mouth in a deep, wet, dirty kiss. It didn’t take long before Jared took control of the kiss, which suited Jensen just fine as Jared wrapped one long arm around his waist, holding him there, and the other brought up to cup his jaw. Steeling his nerves one more time, Jensen rocked forward and ground his hardening cock demandingly against Jared’s, rocking relentlessly and moaning loudly into their messy kiss.

Before Jensen could react, he found himself spun quickly around and pulled back, the hard bulge in front of Jared’s jeans pressing in God, the most amazing way against the curve of his ass. Jared moved his hands, bringing one up to gentle angle his head up, so Jared could have access to his neck, and the other roughly palming him through the coarse fabric of his jeans. The contrast between the gentle hand and nips and suckling on his neck, and the rough hand palming his jean covered crotch was almost too much to take as Jensen whimpered, a needy sound from the back of his throat.

“You’re a fucking tease, Jen,” Jared growled, slowing his movements torturously. “I bet you wouldn’t mind if I pushed you up against the tree and fucked you hard and fast? In fact, you’ll probably love it, won’t you Jen?”

The image popped into Jensen’s mind, driving him almost mad with lust. “Fuck, yes…” he moaned grinding forwards and backwards, unsure which ministrations he was enjoying more.

“Stop!” Jared groaned into his ear, his voice completely wrecked. “You gotta stop, Jen, or I really am going to fuck you into the tree, right here right now.”

“Do it,” Jensen rumbled, voice thick with want. All he cared about at the moment was feeling every inch of Jared, getting closer than he possibly could.

“No, we can’t,” Jared panted, forcibly pushing himself away.

The sharp and unforgiving sting of rejection bit deep into Jensen, and it was as effective as a cold shower. How had he misread the situation so badly?

“Jen, no,” Jared spoke quickly, gathering him into his arms and holding him tightly against his chest. Jensen placed his hands hesitantly on Jared’s chest, feeling like a scolded kid. “No, sweetheart,” Jared’s whisper was hot on his neck as Jared wrapped himself around Jensen’s body. “Our first time together is not going to be like this, on the spur of the moment. It’s not going to be on the first date, in the middle of a forest, against a tree that’s going to scrape up your back. You’re too important to me, for me not to do this properly.”

Jensen relaxed with each word, feeling treasured in Jared’s arms, something he hadn’t felt since the last moments before his foster mom had died. Jared was peppering his face with kisses and he nuzzled the side of Jen’s neck, butting against him softly with his nose to get him to look up. He pressed their foreheads together and Jensen felt, more than heard, their breathing sync up. When Jared spoke, his lips brushed teasingly and just barely over Jensen’s.

“Not like this, but definitely soon,” he promised in a low whisper, lowering one of his hands to rest possessively over the top of Jensen’s ass. Jensen sighed happily and nodded, his forehead slipping down. Jared lifted his head up with the motion and Jensen allowed his head to drop on to Jared’s chest. Jared lowered his face, effectively tucking Jensen under his chin, and they stayed like that for a while.

“Jay?” Jensen whispered.

“Mm?”

“We had our first fight, and our first make-up kiss,” he smirked devilishly, trying to reclaim the moment. Jared laughed, kissing the top of his head fondly.

“If that was the make-up kiss, then fuck, Jen, I can’t wait for the make-up sex.”

Laying out the blanket Jared had brought, they had eaten their meal and were now looking up at the sun setting, and Jensen wanted nothing more than to sketch the beautiful view it produced. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind before a sketch pad was dangled in front of him.

“I figured you’d want to sketch the view,” Jared grinned. “And if I’m honest, I kind of want to see you work.”

If his life had depended on it, Jensen couldn’t have spoken a single word.

Kissing Jared deeply, he accepted the new sketch pad and proffered pencil, and immediately began sketching furiously. He drew it from their vantage point, drawing the edges of the checkered blanket and only their feet propped next to each other. He drew the grass and flowers around them, then finally, the tall trees in front of them, and above that, the sun setting.

“I love drawing the sun setting and rising, as you can see,” he mumbled while he worked, finding himself wanting to explain his quirk to his boyfriend. “I love it, because it shows a lot into the mindset of the person who looks at it. I almost always draw it so that you can’t tell whether the sun is setting or rising, and I love to find out what people see when they look at it; whether they see a sun rising, and their lives at a new beginning, or if they see a sun setting, and something coming to a close in their life.”

Jared didn’t answer, but Jensen knew it was more because he didn’t want to interrupt Jensen’s drawing zone. He was vaguely aware that it was getting steadily darker, and Jared had moved away from him for a moment, and after a beat, soft light surrounded them. Still, he didn’t pick his head up, and Jared simply sat at his back, one arm slung around him, content to just watch. By the time he had finished the sketching and shading, it was dark, and in a moment of inspiration brought on by gratitude at Jared’s patience, he sketched a quick, big star to the right of the setting sun, using line inflections to emphasize how brightly it was shining, even in the light of dusk.

“There was no star, Jen,” Jared spoke for the first time, a low contradiction.

“I know,” Jensen replied passively, beginning to outline initials inside the star. “This is my star. It’s the Jay-Star. No matter where I am or what time it is, I always know it’s there.” He couldn’t bring himself to care for how clichéd he might have been being, because he meant every last word of it. “Bright and stunning and always there.”

With that, Jensen finished off the letters: J-A-Y.

Handing it to him, Jensen finally looked up, and the sight took his breath away. Draped around the trees were soft fairy lights, hundreds of them, making the meadow look all the more magical. He sat up, kneeling on his knees. How could he have missed this? It was so romantic and perfect, and he’d just carried on drawing!

He turned to face Jared, ready to apologize profusely and thank him endlessly for everything he was…but not for the first time, Jensen lost his words in his throat. Jared was still sitting in the same position, still looking at the sketch, still unmoving. He felt uncertainty rear its ugly head, and he bit his already bruising bottom lip.

“I’m going to make it into an oil, it’ll look better then,” he promised tentatively. “It’s just a rough pencil sketch at the moment, but…”

Jensen’s voice was cut off by his muted intake of breath as Jared looked up at him, showing him the unshed tears glistening in his hazel eyes, the shiny sheen a mockery of the spark that usually twinkled there. “Jay?” Jensen breathed, making the address more of a question while he tried to hold himself together. Seeing Jared on the verge of crying had him almost coming undone.

“The Jay-Star,” Jared murmured in a rough, choked voice, thick with potent emotions. Jensen’s chest suddenly felt like it had caught alight in the most spectacular way, and unbidden, his eyes began to burn with sensation of crying.

“Yeah,” he whispered back, loathe to intrude on the intimacy of their moment by speaking even a little louder. “The Jay-Star.”

Without warning, Jensen found himself yanked forward and crushed to Jared. In a swift motion, Jared flipped them over so that he was draped over Jensen. Jared dipped his head so that their foreheads were pressed together and their lips were inches apart.

“Thank you,” he said in a low, uneven drawl. “It’s stunning. It’s amazing. It’s absolutely perfect. You’re absolutely perfect. Jen, I…just, thank you. Thank you so much, Baby.”

He closed the space between them with the softest, most tender kiss Jensen had ever experienced. Softly caressing, his lips and tongue traced and mapped every inch of Jensen’s mouth, while his hand ever so gently worked at his jaw, one thumb running reverent circles that coaxed Jensen into allowing him to delve in deeper. The kiss was soft and unhurried, not nearly as hungry as desperate as all their other kisses, but the inferno ignited between them just seemed all the more powerful; a slow-burning blaze in place of a spontaneous combustion. Jen was content to let his boyfriend take control, and Jared kept up the languid pace that only seemed to ratchet up the heat between them.

I love you, Jensen thought, excited for the day he could finally muster up the courage and strength to say so. I love you so damn much, Jared Padalecki.

 

~*Jared*~

“…and then she kind of just turned around, and told him that I had the talent and drive and support to become the next Picasso if I wanted, and that Math was not going to make or break my life. She always had my back, even if my biggest problem was second-grade math,” Jensen chuckled lightly. “Sometimes makes me grateful she never had to have my back with some of the stuff I face now.”

Jen was finally opening up to him about his foster mom, Jody, and he got the distinct impression that his mate wasn’t talking about facing the Math they had to learn now. They were sprawled on the blanket, staring at the stars with Jen tucked snugly into Jared’s side. Jared’s arms were wrapped tightly around his mate and Jensen had fisted Jared’s shirt in his hands. They’d been cuddled together for a long time, just talking, not wanting to stop after Jensen revealed that he had no curfew because his foster dad was out of town for the night, and Jared had phoned his parents to tell them he’d be staying late at Chad’s and crashing there.

The smallest of shivers rand down the length of Jensen’s body and pressed so tightly together, Jared couldn’t help but feel it. He felt vaguely triumphant as he sat up with Jen and began to pull off the hoodie he’d worn; he had deliberately worn it so that he could give it to Jen, not wanting to know whose sweatshirt his mate had been wearing that morning, just wanting Jen to wear his from now on. He firmly, but tenderly put the hoodie on for Jensen; it was so big that it hung off Jensen, drowning him.

Jared knew he wanted Jen to wear his jacket instead of whoever’s jacket it was this morning, but damn, he could never have foreseen what a fucking turn-on it was. Not only did it highlight how small Jensen was compared to his bulky frame, but it also made his mate smell like him, and God it was the most amazing thing in the world. If he’d had a say in it, he’d never want to see Jen in anything but his clothes ever again.

They relaxed back into their original positions, and Jensen yawned into the sleeve of Jared’s hoodie. Jared knew his mate had probably gotten little to no sleep the night before, in pain and worrying about him, so it was endearing to watch him fight the battle with sleep. The overwhelming want to take care and protect Jensen flooded him, and Jared tightened his grip around his mate, who turned his head unthinkingly and snuggled deep into the crook between Jared’s arm and chest. It provided a firm modicum of comfort, having Jensen tucked under his arm, because Jared felt for the first time like he could protect the love of his life from everything if he could just keep him there.

“Is sleepy,” Jensen mumbled around another yawn as he pushed himself even closer to Jared, who grinned at the realization that he was now dealing with a semi-conscious mate. “You’re warm,” he added as an afterthought, and Jared chuckled. “You’ll be my blanket.”

“Yeah, sweetheart, I can be your blanket,” he whispered fondly, bringing his other arm to wrap around Jensen, who promptly nuzzled his head contentedly into Jared’s chest. My wolf is rubbing off on you, Jen, Jared thought in amusement.

“Night, Jay,” Jen sighed happily, his body becoming lax in Jared’s arms.

Jared chuckled, figuring that the rest of their epic first date could wait until they woke up. “Night, Baby. Sweet dreams.”

Jared was met by soft and even breathing and he looked down to see Jensen out cold, snuggled deep into his hoodie and chest. His face was free of the tension it usually carried, making him look years younger, and the implicit display of trust was almost more than Jared could take.

As tears formed in the corners of his eyes, Jared thought one more time about the Jay-Star, and what he had almost said, but hadn’t had the courage to complete.

He shifted them so that he could lay his head on top of Jensen’s, tangling their legs so that he was wrapped around his mate in a most protective, but loving embrace. As he began to drift off to sleep, his thoughts were on the words he was so close to saying, for how much it was written in his heart and soul.

I love you. I love you so damn much, Jensen Ackles.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

When Jared awoke, it was to the most stunning sight of the first rays of the morning sun basking over the meadow. The only sight more beautiful, was when he looked down to see his breath-taking mate still snuggled deep into him, still sound asleep. He nudged Jensen’s face affectionately with his nose, tightening his grip around the smaller boy and breaking up his gentle nose-butting with soft, loving kisses. Sleep-softened, Jensen stirred, and hid his face in Jared’s chest.

“Don’ wanna ge’up,” he mumbled, reaching around and grabbing Jared’s t-shirt in a vice grip. “Go back’a sleep.”

“Wakey, wakey, Jen,” Jared chuckled softly, a teasing lilt to his voice as he reached a hand up to push his mate’s hair away from his face. “The sight is gorgeous.”

“I’ave a perfectly fine sight right where I’em,” Jensen grumbled, burrowing his face into Jared’s chest to make his point. Jared chuckled warmly, grinning fondly when Jen’s breathing evened out once more. He resigned himself to drinking in the wonderful sight of his mate, and enjoying the peace and serenity that their Jen&Jay bubble offered him while doing some real soul introspection.

Jared could definitely think of worse ways to spend his morning.

The first thing Jared could think of was the Jay-Star; even now, threatening tears still teased the back of his eyes. He had been caught unawares, and like an anvil descending, Jen just had to go and bring Jared to his proverbial knees with a quick, simple sketch and a few quiet words spoken so casually that it seemed the action had come naturally, instinctively to Jen. He had felt so overwhelmed, never expecting to be given such a great and precious gift by his mate, not feeling even close to deserving of all it meant.

This is my star. It’s the Jay-Star. No matter where I am or what time it is, I always know it’s there. Bright, and stunning, and always there.

He could hear the underlying message in Jen’s words; the projection of his mate’s gratitude that he was there, and the overwhelming feelings that Jen didn’t yet know how to put a name to. If only he could explain the mating concept…

…which took Jared’s thoughts once more to deeply buried secrets.

He was lying to his mate. No matter how he chose to spin it, no matter how much he told himself we was protecting Jen, it didn’t change the fact that he was lying, one thing he knew would hit Jensen the hardest because trust was a huge part of their relationship. What scared Jared the most, was the thought of losing the trust he’d built through the fault of his own cowardice. He knew that losing that trust, would also mean losing Jensen, and that was a thought that could almost cripple him with devastation and grief. There was nothing in the world, no torture or any obscene amount of pain that could compare to that level of agony.

The only thing that came close to that fear, was the fear of actually telling him the truth. What if he freaked out? Called him a monster, and never wanted to see him again? It would be a moral dilemma of epic proportions, because on the one hand, he wanted to always do what was best for Jen, and he wanted to always heed his every wish, no matter whether it hurt him or not. On the other side of the coin, it would shatter him to ever leave the love of his existence. It would break him in ways that nothing else ever could to see him with another man’s arms around him, kissing him, hugging him, holding him tight, sharing a home, a bed

Jared was breaking into a sweat at the very thought of it, his blood pumping furiously as his body heated with the force of his fury. He couldn’t even stand the thought of anyone touching what was his. He hadn’t even realized that he’d tightened his grip on Jen until the boy stirred restlessly in his vice-tight grip. He loosened his hold, made a few low, soothing sounds, and Jen snuggled into him once more, nuzzling his nose into the crook of Jared’s neck, and falling back to sleep.

Jared’s heart constricted with blazing love and he knew what his heart had already confirmed. He could not live without his Jensen. And that begged quite a fine question… What if he ran? Ran, and never looked back?

More to the point, wouldn’t he be entitled to? He would have every right in the world to run, because it was Jared’s fault for not being upfront with him to begin with, and how could he drop such a life-changing bomb on Jen and expect him to react calmly? Laugh it off with a slap to his shoulder and an affectionate kiss? Tell him it didn’t matter that they weren’t both the same? That they weren’t both human?

Jen was being amazing with learning how to share his life with Jared more and more, and he was returning the favor by hiding a whole world from his mate. His whole world, because his wolf was in his blood, it was an integral part of who he was. And what did that say about him, that he was still hiding it?

He had spent countless nights since meeting Jensen, wondering how he could possibly get by without mentioning the Were packs to him. He thought about just avoiding it all, but then the thought of never being intimate with Jen was enough to drive him crazy (and make him need to jack off, just on principle) and besides, his parents would never be okay with that option. Then he thought about telling Jen about it figuratively, and gauging his reaction, but then he got to thinking about whether knowing without Jen knowing that he knew, was worse, or better than not telling him about any of it…and it was around that point that he’d confused himself terribly, and had to stop to take a drink of water and regroup. His last option had been to just leave. Just take Jen away, be happy with him the rest of their lives, sans packs and Weres and Alpha heirs. The option had held its fair amount of allure, but he could never turn his back on his family, on his pack. Not for his own benefit. He couldn’t just suppress his wolf, and quite honestly, he didn’t want to lie to Jen their whole lives. What kind of a relationship would that be? And he had to be considerate of Jen and Chris’ relationship as well. Both of them had found a certain sort of brotherhood in one another that Jared wasn’t sure he would ever understand, and he didn’t think he was meant to. Regardless, he could never take Jensen away from Chris, and vice versa. It would have been great if they could just play the Legendary-lovers-eloping scene, but he neither had the heart to do it to his mate, nor did he entertain the thought of being able to do it himself.

Which brought him back to square one.

How much longer could he keep up his litany of lies? It wasn’t fair to either of them, most especially to Jen. He had been hurt enough in his life.

But, by who?

All of the scars he’d mentally catalogued on his boyfriend’s body painted the back of his eyelids. He couldn’t stand the fact that he still didn’t know the cause of them all, and it struck him hard that it was an ongoing thing. Who would dare to lay a single finger on the mate of the future Alpha? It meant that it had to be a wolf from their rival pack, or an ignorant human, and that lessened his suspect pool to about 30% of the population. He was not above single-handedly interrogating said 30%, but he was determined to let Jensen come to him of his own volition. He got the feeling that Jen had little to no control normally, and the last thing he wanted was to be another Adam.

Who, now that he was thinking about him, Jared was going to tear limb from limb, enjoying each snap of his bones and subsequent scream of pain in a most sadistic way.

He couldn’t believe anyone would treat someone as rare and precious and amazing as Jen, the way Adam had. The jackass had abused him, and that wasn’t something Jared was sure he could overlook. Every day, he fought his instincts to hunt the bastard down, and he was sure his will was wearing thin.

Jensen’s insecurities made so much more sense once Jared knew about Adam. The son of a bitch had completely wrecked his self-image, and it never failed to baffle Jared just how much of himself Jensen didn’t see.

“You’re more treasured to me than the infinite riches of royalties,” he murmured to Jensen’s sleeping form, feeling an overwhelming need to let his mate know he was loved, even if he couldn't really say the words.

Like he was attuned to Jared’s voice, Jensen’s eyes blinked blearily open, tightening the hand still gripping Jared’s shirt.

“Time to go?” he asked in a small voice. Jared smiled indulgently, pushing back his boyfriend’s hair and refraining from answering. If Jen wanted to sleep more, Jared was more than happy to oblige. Jen pouted and nodded, mumbling something into Jared’s shirt that sounded suspiciously like acquiescence.

As Jensen rubbed his eyes and stretched out, Jared’s hormones came back to life. He pushed back the fervent desire to run his tongue along every ridge and crevice in sight, saving that particular fantasy for a day when he had whipped cream in his arsenal too. Mmm…

“I’m sorry I fell asleep on you and didn’t want to watch the sunset with you,” Jensen apologized, his voice rueful and still thick with sleep. “You brought me to your favorite place in the world and I chose to sleep.” Jared bristled, and was immediately about to respond to the unwarranted self-disgust in his mate’s voice, when it hit him.

And Jared couldn’t believe he hadn’t figured this out earlier, and said so.

It was Jensen slipping out of his arms and standing up that shook Jared from his inactivity.

“Jen?” at Jared’s muted address, his mate turned to face him, eyes wide with question. “You know how I told you I was bringing you to my favorite place in the whole world?” Jensen nodded the affirmative, wheeling his hand in the air in a gesture that told him to carry on. “I have a new favorite place in the world,” he announced with a small smile, his heart feeling warm even as he wondered why it took him this long to realize what his heart had known all along.

“Do tell,” Jen invited with a grin, raising an eyebrow inquisitively.

“My favorite place in the world is wherever you are, Jen,” Jared told his mate truthfully. “Right next to you? That’s where I always want to be…need to be. My favorite place is with you in my arms.”

He may have realized it late, but Jared had never spoken truer words in his life.

 

~*Jensen*~

Jen’s eyes widened at Jared’s quiet and earnest proclamation. He knew in his heart that Jared wasn’t feeding him a line, he wasn’t like that, and it flummoxed him, being treated the way Jared treated him.

His chest tightened, as though someone had reached into his chest and squeezed his heart. His breathing became sharp and choppy and if he wasn’t so shocked at the truth in Jared’s words, he was sure he would be crying.

Wordlessly, he sat back down and wrapped both his arms around Jared, nuzzling into his chest and closing his eyes in content. Jared’s chest rumbled against his cheek as his boyfriend made a low sound of approval that sounded almost like a purr. Jensen slipped one leg between Jared’s and the hazel-eyed boy immediately responded by curling a leg around it and resting his other foot against Jensen’s unoccupied ankle. Jared bent his head and rested his cheek on Jensen’s downturned head and Jen relished in the comforting feel of Jared’s breath against the back of his neck.

They didn’t speak for a few moments, and Jensen smiled in bemusement as he realized that they were wrapped around each other, unable to fit a paper between them, and it was terrific that there didn’t need to be anything sexual about it. Although he was eager to get to that part…

Before his raging hormones could betray him and ruin the quiet intimacy of the moment, Jen leaned his head up and angled his mouth to slot against Jared’s, in a vain attempt to stave off his desire to jump his boyfriend. They kissed slowly, languidly, tongues teasing and teeth nipping. Jensen snaked his arms around Jared’s neck and pulled himself up Jared’s body a little. The friction made Jared growl, and the sound shot a potent flare of desire right through Jensen’s body.

Well, he tried, at least.

Pulling himself up a little further, he untangled his legs from Jared’s and brought them upwards. Pushing against Jared, he maneuvered them so that he gently pushed Jared on to his back, then he draped himself over him, straddling him and still keeping them chest to chest.

He finally broke off the kiss to sit up, rolling his hips teasingly where he sat straddling Jared’s hips. His boyfriend growled, a deep and guttural sound at the back of his throat, as his hands shot up to grip almost bruisingly at Jensen’s hips. Using his hold, Jared pulled, urging Jensen into another hip roll that had both of them moaning loudly. Jensen slipped his hands under Jared’s shirt, running his fingers teasingly over the defined six-pack before brushing playfully softly and quickly over his nipples. Jared bucked upwards, grinding his hardening crotch into Jensen in response. Jensen mewled and immediately redirected his attention to Jared’s jeans. He palmed Jared’s dick through his jeans and Jared almost came off the floor as he arched wildly. Before Jensen could comprehend the change, Jared flipped them with a power Jensen didn’t know he possessed, swopping their positions and straddling him with a grin.

“Always such a fucking tease,” Jared groaned lowly. “You see what you do to me?” Jared took his hand and pressed the palm back against his denim-clad erection, pushing into it and making Jensen moan like a porn star. “Why don’t I return the favor, baby?” he asked roughly, taking Jensen’s wrists in one hand and pinning them above his head. Holding them there, he relocated his other hand to the hard bulge in Jensen’s jeans. Jared rubbed his thumb teasingly over the damp spot where Jensen’s cock had leaked pre-come, before rubbing his big hand in wide circles while Jensen thrashed underneath him. It amazed him that Jared could still hold his wrists in place, but he didn’t question it for the pleasure overload he was experiencing at that moment.

In a quick motion, Jared divested him of his hoodie and rucked his shirt up to his chin and flicked open the button and zipper to Jensen’s jeans. Descending like a hawk swooping down on its pray, Jared attached his mouth to one nipple and sucked hard, reaching down at the same time to slip his giant hand into Jensen’s underwear and run a light touch around his cock, skin-on-skin for the first time.

“Jared!” Jensen screamed, bucking wildly into the touch, and his boyfriend ignored him in favor of flicking his tongue back and forth over Jensen’s painfully hard nipple. Jared lightly fisted his dick, and Jensen thought he was going mad from the pleasure since all he could manage to get out was a continuous whimper of his boyfriend’s name. “JayJayJayJay…”

“You taste so fucking good, Jen,” Jared growled roughly, the vibration sending a whole new sensation under Jensen’s skin. “I can’t wait to see what you taste like when I suck you down and make you come down my throat.”

And those words were his undoing.

“Jared!” he moaned again, reaching the edge of the cliff, right at his peak and ready to come just from Jared’s hand pumping his cock and his mouth playing with his nipples.

His boyfriend rubbed his thumb over the slit of his cock, spreading the pre-come before pumping his dick unrelentingly once more. “Come for me, Jen,” he commanded huskily. “Come for me, come on my hand baby.”

Who was Jensen to refuse?

With a strangled cry of his boyfriend’s name on his lips, he arched off the blanket completely and came harder than he ever remembered making himself come. Jared rubbed him through his orgasm, murmuring a soft cacophony of praises and telling him how fucking hot Jen looked coming undone for him.

When he finally descended from his high, he felt boneless and wonderfully sated. Jared let go of his wrists and framed his face with both hands, kissing him softly and sweetly.

“What about you?” Jensen asked, his voice a low drawl. Jared grinned mischievously.

“Believe me, Jen,” he winked, “watching you fall apart was enough to make me do the same.”

###

After they had mustered up the energy to get off each other, they’d driven to Jen’s house and used separate bathrooms to clean up. Now they were lying down together on the couch, watching The Titanic, Jensen’s back to Jared’s front, spooning lazily. Jensen was glad they hadn’t messed up Jared’s hoodie, because he loved wearing it. It almost felt like it was Jared’s personal claim on him, rather than just the sweet offer because Jen was cold. He felt like he was being wrapped up in Jared, and being able to huddle down into it and breathe in that smell that was just pure Jay, was a heaven Jen had been painfully unfamiliar with.

“Jay?” he turned his head a little to be able to look at Jared properly, pausing the movie to speak to his boyfriend. “You know, you haven’t really told me much about yourself.”

“Are you kidding?” Jared asked, quirking an eyebrow with a grin. “You might know more about my family and my life than my little sister.”

“Sure, you told me about that,” Jensen dismissed, “but not about you. What you’re like. I means, you know about my art, and my geek and stuff, but I highly doubt you’re just an amazing quarterback and a pretty face.” He leered at Jared, who chuckled fondly.

“You know, I think you’re the only one outside of Chad who thinks there’s more to me than the football player,” he said softly. Jensen heard the unspoken thanks, and he kissed the underside of Jared’s jaw in response, waiting for him to elaborate. “I like football,” Jared said, resting his chin on Jensen’s shoulder. “I also like other stuff. I like…” Jared blushed, piquing Jen’s interest.

“Tell me,” he urged gently. “Please?”

“Poetry,” Jared mumbled, turning his head into Jen’s neck. “I like poetry.”

“Poetry?” Jensen repeated in disbelief.

“I know, I’m a cliché,” Jared muttered, starting to pull away. “I’m not any good either…”

“Don’t say that.” At the sharpness of Jensen’s words, Jared ceased his movements. Jensen turned himself around, careful not to fall as he faced his boyfriend. “I bet you’re amazing, just like you are at everything else. Recite one of your poems to me?”

“I don’t remember them,” Jared refuted uncomfortably.

“Liar. Tell me the one you wrote most recently.”

For a long moment, they stared at each other, Jensen instinctively knowing to stay quiet and let Jared think. After several beats, Jared took a deep breath, and spoke in a barely audible murmur that was just for Jensen:

I count the hours, the minutes, the seconds
Until the moment I see your face.
Judging from the rapid thumpthump of my heart
My heart seems not to be keeping pace.

But I’ll rue destiny and I’ll defy the stars
So we can be together my love,
Listen for my signal; a howl at the moon
And the song of a pure white dove.

Wait for me, young love of my heart,
At the tip of the mountain’s crest
Two hearts will unify against the Fates
And two souls, finally together, will rest.

For a moment, Jensen couldn’t speak at all, for the massive lump that had taken residence in his throat. His eyes were wide where they were locked on Jared’s hazel orbs, which were steadily shining with self-doubt.

“It’s called Souls Together Will Rest,” Jared mumbled. “I wrote it three days ago. I know it’s not…”

“Don’t you dare tell me you don’t think it’s any good,” Jensen stopped him short. “That was the most amazing thing I’ve heard in a long, long time. That…Jesus, Jay, that gave me chills! I mean, I like Shel Silverstein as much as the next guy, but that was just…breath-taking. Jay, you’re…God, you’re amazing, you’re so damn talented!”

Jared looked lost for words. “You’re comparing me to Silverstein?” he asked in disbelief. “I’m nowhere near that level of…”

“You’re already there, Jay,” Jensen said resolutely. He pressed a chaste kiss against Jared’s lips. “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing that with me.”

“You’re the best, Jen,” Jared mumbled, leaning down to capture his lips in another slow kiss.

Jensen still couldn’t get the poem out of his head. The emotions in them struck him deep; he felt the pain of the lovers’ forbidden passion and he felt the strength of their will to be together.

“It’s like drawing the sun setting and rising,” he mumbled unthinkingly.

“Jen?”

“You know how I told you that I like to see what people think when they see my works of the sun rising or setting, because it gives me perspective into them?” Jared nodded the affirmative. “Well, your poem is like that. The ending, I mean. Some people can see it as the lovers having died for their fight to be together, and so their two souls rest together. Or, they could see it more as two souls finding each other, and being at rest because they’re together, and no one really knows what happened to them thereafter.” He pondered his own insight, unable to deny the lack of pain and the influx of inner peace the ending had brought him. “I think I see them as the latter.”

“You’re amazing,” Jared chuckled lowly. “I gave it to Chad to read, and he thought the former, but you thought exactly what I was trying to capture of them. Their uncertain future for their soul-entwining love.” Jared’s eyes took on an expression Jensen couldn’t really put a name to. It seemed like he was worried, and scared, and at the same time, incredibly torn. He seemed desperate and edgy, even as he exuded ferocious calm.

“I think that people spend their whole lives looking for that kind of love,” Jensen said softly, feeling his heart squeeze in acknowledgment of the love he’d found in Jared. “So I think that come what may, their souls will always and forever rest together, no matter what complications the future brings with it.”

“Yeah?” Jared’s eyes slowly lost some of its desperation, and though he wasn’t sure what he did to help, Jensen was glad he did something to remove that awful expression from his boyfriend’s normally sparkling eyes.

“Yeah, Jay.”

He pressed the play button, and the sounds of Jack and Rose’s voices streamed through the TV set. As he snuggled down into Jared’s arms, safe in his arms and wrapped in his hoodie, Jensen made a mental note to himself:

Return Cas’ sweatshirt. Hide Jared's in the closet.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

“This day sucks out loud.”

Jensen didn’t even care that he was grumbling as he took a seat next to Misha in the bleachers. It was the last 10 minutes of lunch and he’d stayed in the library the whole time to finish a History report, and was starving to death just then. He took out his sandwich after greeting Gen and Danni, who were sitting in front of them. They returned the greeting and turned back to grin sympathetically at Jensen.

Chris and Jared weren’t in school. When Jen had asked, the gang had just mumbled some vague story about Jared’s older brother being in town for the day, and how Chris, Jared and this Jeff guy were pretty tight. Bottom line was that Jen’s Monday sucked out loud without his boyfriend and his best friend there.

“Cheer up, Jen, I’ll keep you company,” Misha waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Gen groaned and Danni smirked.

“It’s like you want Jared to kick your ass,” she remarked dryly. “And you know he will, so stop whatever it is you’re thinking and drink your juice, Meesh.” She turned to Jensen with an eye roll and a smile, ignoring Misha’s mumbled protests. “So, Jen, what do you have next?”

He finished chewing the bite of his PB&J before answering. “I have a double free, and the art room is open, so I think I’m going to work on my portfolio.”

“That’s great,” Genevieve exclaimed. “Jared was bragging about your art all of Sunday afternoon.”

Jensen quirked an eyebrow, feeling uneasy about everyone else knowing about his works. “Where did you see Jared?”

Gen’s eyes widened as she misinterpreted his perturbed tone. “Oh, God! We all,” she gesticulated haphazardly around them, “we live in the same district, we’re basically all neighbors!”

“Cool,” Jensen nodded uncertainly, too wrapped up in trying to find a way for his art to go back to anonymity to bother much with Genevieve’s anxiety over the mix-up. He tossed his paper bag into the bin just as the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. He made a quick escape- no matter what, he’d never feel totally comfortable without Chris and or Jared there- heading to the art room where he could relax and let go.

Thinking that he’d be alone, Jen was shocked to find someone already at work there. He leaned against the door jamb, evaluating the boy’s work with a critical eye. The kid had some talent, no doubt, but he could use some major work with his details, line work and use of color. Before he could clear his throat so as not to startle him, the boy caught a glimpse of him in his peripheral vision and sprang up in the air, green paint sloshing down the front of his left pant leg.

“Gah!” he yelped, looking helplessly with wide eyes between the stain on his jeans and a frozen Jensen. He took a few quick breaths then aimed a tiny, sheepish smile at him. “Um…hi?”

Jensen couldn’t help himself. He burst out laughing, doubling over with the force of it. He was grateful to hear the boy start laughing with him, because he would have hated to offend him.

“God, Kid, you gotta be more aware of your surroundings,” he chuckled, a tear slipping from the corner of his eye in his mirth. The boy grinned at him, eyes sparkling.

“I kind of get lost in the zone when I paint, you know?” he explained with half a shrug, rubbing the back of his neck shyly. Jensen’s lips quirked; by the laws of probability, he guessed he was bound to meet someone who shared his art geek at some point in his life. “Well, no, how would you know?” The boy continued to speak, mostly to himself as he scuffed the toe of his sneaker against the ground. If Jen had to hazard a guess, it would be that this boy was a freshman. “It’s not like you paint, and get zoned out randomly…”

“Actually,” Jensen interrupted with a reassuring smile, flicking his head in the direction of his open canvas, “I know exactly what you mean.”

“That’s yours?!” the boy gaped, shyness forgotten in favor of his awe. “You’re the Stars At Midnight Over Texas?”

“Well, no,” he smirked in amusement, “the painting is. I’m just Jensen.”

The boy blushed again, ducking his head with a rueful smile. “I’m sorry, I geeked out again. Nice to meet you, Jensen, I’m Conner.”

“Good to meet you too, Conner,” he smiled amicably. “And don’t worry, I geek out about art almost on a daily basis.” He made his way to his still unfinished canvas, for the first time not feeling self-conscious of someone else seeing his unfinished painting.

“I’ve been trying to figure out who could paint something like that,” Conner followed him, bouncing on the balls of his feet. The kid had a good energy. “I mean, that’s not school level, that’s professional stuff right there!”

“I’m glad you think so, kid,” he smiled, his cheeks heating mildly in a pleased blush. Impulsively, he decided to offer his advice. “Your work shows some pretty promising talent itself, you just need to bring in the more technical aspect of art to it. The passion and the enthusiasm is there, though, and that’s the biggest battle won.”

“You think?” Conner brightened, smiling brightly. “That I have promise, I mean?”

Jensen nodded resolutely. “Of course I do.”

“Would you…” the boy blushed again, looking down and trying to force the words from where it was stuck in his throat. “Would you…I don’t know…would you maybe mind…you know, giving me…uh, any pointers, and things, so I can…um…improve?”

Jensen started slightly in pleasant surprise. “Sure Conner,” he nodded slowly. “I think I can do that.”

“Aw, well isn’t this little nerd herd cute?”

The hateful voice was one Jensen could recognize, despite the fact that he’d met its owner all of 3 times.

Sandra McCoy.

The pretty girl was standing in the doorway with her arms folded over her chest, sneering at them in resentment. Jensen sighed inwardly; he wasn’t even sure anymore, what fight they were having, but he mentally prepared himself in any case.

“Hi, Sandy,” he greeted evenly, a tight smile stretching over his resisting facial muscles. “Always such a pleasure.”

She sneered at him once more, before turning her eyes to his painting. His muscles coiled and unease settled like a boulder in the pit of his stomach.

“What a pretty painting, Jen,” she simpered, and he cringed at the sound of Jared’s nickname coming out of her mouth, sounding like a foul curse. “I think it needs some color, though…”

Before Jensen could react, she snaked her arm out and grabbed the open pot of red paint sitting on his easel, flinging it over his painting.

Born from years of practice, Jen’s body locked down and he went stoic, unable to react to the mess that was supposed to be the centerpiece of his portfolio. Conner however, extended no such practice.

No!” he gasped, one hand reaching towards the painting in a delayed defensive reaction, looking at the dripping disaster. His face was set in an aghast expression. “You ruined it!”

“Aw, Jensen honey, you have a groupie,” Sandy cooed mockingly, taking a step towards Conner. Protective instincts rarely honed sprang to the surface, and Jensen quickly placed himself halfway in front of Conner.

“Leave the kid out of this,” he commanded lowly. “Whatever your problem is, it is obviously with me, and not him.”

Jensen was beyond relieved when Conner took the opportunity he’d created and scampered away from the art room. Now just to face the Queen Bitch…

“Look,” he tried for a placating tone, fighting past his anger and the despair at seeing some of his best work destroyed. “I don’t know what your problem is with me, but can…”

“I’ll tell you what my problem is!” she interrupted him shrilly, losing any façade of calm she once possessed. “My problem is you! You don’t belong here, Jensen, and you most certainly don’t belong with Jared! I do! I’m his soulmate, not you!”

“Well, I don’t know about soulmate,” Jensen fought the urge to roll his eyes, “but I am his boyfriend until he or I says otherwise, so I can see why you have a problem.”

“I don’t have a problem, you do!” she snapped. “We were meant to be together, no matter what Jared says, you’re not what he thinks you are.”

“You’re right,” he nodded mock solemnly. “I told him I was a normal boy, but really, I’m Batman.”

A look of disbelief flitted across her face. “Wait…you don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?” Jensen frowned, trying to ignore the seed of unease in his gut. “That you’re a raving lunatic?”

Even though he saw the slap coming, he couldn’t bring himself to raise a hand in defense. Her hand slammed into his cheek, the sharp burn telling him she drew blood somehow. The slap left his face stinging, and it took every ounce of his energy not to react. He brought his hand to his cheek and he wasn’t surprised when it came back wet with blood. Three slashes across his cheek? The girl must’ve had some kind of French tips.

He looked at her, the calm and even expression on his face designed to set her off even further.

“You need to learn some respect!” she hissed, raising her hand once more. Jensen was about to shield his face, still not wanting to hurt her, when suddenly another hand shot out, gripping her wrist with what even Jensen could tell was brutal force.

Jared?

No. Not Jared.

Who?

“You need to learn to keep your crazy better hidden, it’s starting to show, McCoy,” Chad snarled. Jensen’s eyes widened at the source of the unexpected help. Conner hovered in the doorway, and Jensen put two and two together; the kid had gone to Chad for help. A wave of gratitude fell over him.

Chad flicked Sandy’s hand away, obviously not sharing Jensen’s discomfort for retaliation. He ran a cursory gaze over Jensen’s form, eyes narrowing dangerously when he zeroed in on the scratches on his cheek. He whirled around.

“Let me put this in a way you can understand, McCoy,” he snapped angrily. “Jared. Does. Not. Want. You. He wants Jen. So let me be very clear when I say that Jensen is family now. You lay a single hand on him again, and Jared is gonna be the least of your worries.”

Jensen was shocked by the protective tone, grateful for the sentiment from Chad, who he was never fully certain had accepted him. The blonde boy wrapped a supportive arm around his shoulder and guided him out of the class, dismissing Conner with an authoritative flick of his head. Jen was numb as Chad led him to one of the benches at the front of the school.

“You okay, Jense?” Chad’s uncharacteristically serious and concerned voice cut through Jensen’s shock. He looked up at Chad, nodding slowly.

“Yeah,” he cleared his throat, sitting on the bench. “Yeah, I’m good. Are you?”

Chad grinned, his face relaxing. “Nope,” he shook his head teasingly, “because you just got your ass kicked by a girl.”

Jensen snorted derisively, the tension between them melting away. “I wouldn’t really call her a girl.”

Chad froze, his face losing some of its color. “What do you mean?” he asked slowly. Jensen frowned, confused at Chad’s reaction.

“That girl doesn’t have nails, she has claws,” he joked. “Or a really good French manicurist.”

Chad laughed, but it sounded more forced than normal. “Yeah,” he nodded, running a hand through his hair. “I hear you, man.”

“So…” Jensen hesitated. “Thanks for all of that back there.”

“Jared aint the only white knight around here,” he grinned, the smile looking more genuine now. “We just like to let him think he is.”

Jensen shook his head with a smile. “So why aren’t you with them today?” he asked. Chad looked alarmed once more, and although Jensen was beyond suspicious about Chad’s edginess, he hastened to clarify. “Aren’t you close to Jared’s older brother too? I mean, since you and Jared have known each other so long.”

“Oh,” Chad laughed weakly. “No man, Jeff always hated how much better looking I was.”

“It’s a wonder you don’t have a girlfriend, Murray,” Jensen remarked wryly.

Chad wrinkled his nose in mock confusion. “You know, Jense, my mom says the exact same thing…” Jensen laughed, feeling more comfortable with Chad than he could have anticipated. The blond grinned at him and perched on the edge of the top of the bench. “Naw, I had to come to this dump,” he jerked his thumb at the school building, “to meet with that career guidance counselor. My mom thought getting some direction in my life was more important than a reunion with my buddies.” The disgruntled tone of his voice made it clear that Chad didn’t share that opinion.

“So what’d did the guy say, anyhow?” he asked, trying to change topics.

“He said that with my drop-dead gorgeous looks and questionable skill set, it seems only natural for me to go into the stripping business,” Chad smirked, holding his arms out as if to display his body. Jensen smiled, the wise-crack unable to stop him from noticing that the mirth didn’t reach Chad’s eyes.

“I don’t know,” he said lightly. “Anyone who can play pool like you can must obviously be a Physics nut, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you have this weird knack of seeing deeper into people than sometimes even they can see. If you ask me, I think you’d make an excellent psychiatrist or therapist, or anything you want to be really.”

Chad’s smile slid off his face and a vulnerable look of uncertainty came over him. “I don’t think so, Jense. I’m not…”

“You are,” Jensen refuted gently. “I get it. People see you as this smartass football player who’s just another jock with no brains and a future in Hero-To-Zero. Thing is, Chad, is that people’s opinions shouldn’t matter. You know how smart you are, even if you choose not to show it, and if people can’t see you for exactly how talented and gifted you are… well, then those people don’t really matter, now, do they?”

“You honestly think I’m better than all of this, don’t you?” Chad asked, the barest hint of awe coloring his tone. Jensen nodded firmly.

“I know you are.”

Chad hesitated for a while before tentatively offering; “I really like physics, but I’ve always been into the idea of working with kids, getting into their minds and trying to help them. You think there’s any demand for like, a child psychologist or something?”

Jensen grinned encouragingly, leaning into a more comfortable position so they could talk. “The world is in desperate demand for Chad,” he smirked. “If he’s in the form of a child psychologist, why the hell not?”

 

~*Jared*~

Jared finally understood why people so detested Mondays.

The day was a nightmare from start to finish. When he’d woken up, for the first time excited to go to school, his dad had come into his room and told him that the Alpha of the rival pack wanted to meet. He needed Jared, Chris and Chad to be there for the meet, and Jeff was even coming in from where he’d escaped to a couple years ago, choosing a family life over the life of an Alpha heir. On top of not getting to see Jen for the whole day, Chad also couldn’t make it for the meet, after his mom insisted that his career guidance meeting was more important than being back-up. Jared felt the briefest twinge of jealousy- he wished his parents would even entertain the possibility that he could do more than take over his father’s business- but he quickly dismissed it.

The meet had gone on the entire day without any real progress. There was a lot of backhanded jibes and far too many close calls from both parties, and they were no closer to living together peacefully. Jared’s gut sensed a war on the horizon, and he hoped to God he was wrong.

Still in their wolf form, he gestured to Chris that he should join him. He was on his way to the little creek they had found when they were all pups, and he knew his friends would be waiting there to get the low-down on what happened with the Morgan Pack. Chris seemed to hesitate slightly, before slowly shaking his head. Jared didn’t need to shift to understand what Chris was trying to say; he was only comfortable around them when Jensen was there too. Jared pawed the ground, indicating his acceptance, and broke into a run, needing to let out his pent-up energy. He felt worried about Jensen for some reason, during the meet, and though he knew his friends would look out for his mate, he was still as anxious for a report of their day as they were for his own report back.

Jared felt peaceful as his powerful legs ate up the distance. His paws felt amazing against the woodsy soil, and the wind rippling his brown-black fur brought back the comfort that his wolf always supplied. Too soon, he was at the creek, and sure enough, his gang was lounging there in human form, clearly awaiting him. He looked around for Chad, who he knew would have brought him jeans, and was slightly alarmed when he saw the blond was not among them.

Before he could decide how to phrase his question, the man himself burst into the clearing, panting slightly. “Sorry I’m late,” he apologized sheepishly, tossing the pair of jeans at Jared. He caught them gently in his teeth before retreating to the cover of the shadows to shift back and yank on the denims.

“What happened?” he asked when he came out. Chad turned to him with a tempered expression on his face.

“I was with Jensen, walking him home. Your bitch of an ex-girlfriend is what happened.”

Jared’s gut clenched and he listened with mounting anger as Chad relayed his story; how he was heading to the ground to practice a few throws when a random freshman came and told him that someone was bullying Jensen. How he got to the art room to see Jensen’s painting destroyed and his cheek slashed open with distinctive marks, with Sandy poised to hit him again and her nails elongated into claws. How he heard her telling Jensen that she was supposed to be Jared’s soulmate, not the other way around. By the time Chad was finished, Jared was seeing red.

“Where is she?” he demanded, itching to get to the beta for daring to lay a hand on Jen.

“That might not be the worst of your worries, Jay-Man,” Genevieve interrupted, looking troubled. “I was telling Jensen about you bragging about his art, and I think he might’ve thought I had put my foot in my mouth because I said I had seen you on Sunday. He seemed upset, I think he might have thought there was something going on between us.”

“Jesus, Genevieve,” Jared groaned, panic mounting. “Anything else happen that I should know about?” He began to back away from the clearing, not expecting an answer.

“Are you sure that Jensen doesn’t know about the pack?” Chad blurted, stopping Jared cold. His blood turned to ice as he turned to his best friend, paling spectacularly.

“What are you talking about?” he asked slowly, almost choking on his dread. If Jen found out from someone other than him…that was the end.

“Just some things he said today,” Chad fidgeted, his nervousness out of character. “He said that he wouldn’t call Sandy a girl, and that she had claws instead of nails, and then he asked me why I wasn’t with you guys today, as though he knew the alphas of the pack had to be present at today’s meet.”

Jared was torn. There was a chance that his boyfriend had found them out, but Jared also knew Jensen. His mate was sharp as a tack when it came to reading people and their dynamics, and so attuned was he to Jared, it would make sense that he would want to know why Chad wasn’t where Jared was. He recognized that they were generally in the same vicinity of each other, even if he didn’t know the reason behind it. The other two comments sounded so typical of Jen’s sarcasm, that if he was lucky, he was still in the clear.

“He’s too genuine,” Tom’s voice broke the silence. Everyone turned to look at him, and he shrugged calmly. “Jensen is too genuine a person to keep a secret of him knowing. I may not have bonded with him over Jared like Genevieve and Danni, I may not have a raving crush on him like Meesh," Jared stifled a growl at that, “and I may not have a pool-table-brotherhood with the guy, like Chad, but if there’s anything I can tell off the bat with him, its that Jensen isn’t that type of guy. If he knew, he would have told you by now.”

Jared was stunned by his friend’s accurate and whole-hearted description and acceptance of his mate. It meant a lot to him, since Tom had warned him against Sandy from the get-go, and he relaxed now, remembering to trust Jen…and he did.

Which only left Sandy to deal with before he went to check on his stunning, precious mate.

He found the beta easily enough, and no matter what calm he’d built up, his vision was still bathed in crimson the minute he saw her, and it didn’t help that she was bad-mouthing his mate to Milo.

In the next second, he had her loosely pinned against the tree, her throat instinctively bared in submission to the future Alpha. “How dare you touch him?” he snarled protectively. “Did you honestly think you could make the love of my life bleed and expect me to be okay with that?”

“Jar…Jared, I…I didn’t…” she stammered, eyes wide. Jared was vaguely aware of Milo trying hesitantly to pull his arm even a little away, but a single warning snarl thrown over his shoulder took care of that.

“You don’t ever come near my Jensen again, do you hear me? I mean, do I make myself clear?!” The growl ripped through his teeth, his body hot and his wolf hovering dangerously close to the surface.

“Yes, Alpha,” Sandy nodded meekly. It took all his willpower, but he let her go, still unwilling to hurt her physically. He took a few deep breaths, unable to truly let go of his anger.

“I’ve known you a long time, Sandy,” he said coldly, “but I’m not sure who you are anymore. Let me be frank when I say that if there is a next time, if you ever hurt him again, if you so much as look at him wrong, no amount of history between us will stop me acting on my instincts to protect Jensen. At any cost.”

Walking away with that lilting threat looming, Jared was so caught up in his anger that he didn’t even notice Milo showing Sandy his phone, and the small, devious smile that replaced her fear.

 

~*Chris*~

“Remind me again why I can’t do anything about the bitch?” Chris snarled in barely contained rage. For once, they’d reached school at the same time, and Chris was greeted to the sight of Jen’s slashed open cheek. The alpha and protector in him was ready to rip the beta’s throat out, but Jen could neither witness that, nor was he willing to budge on his argument that Chris shouldn’t retaliate.

“Because you’re a stand-up guy and she isn’t worth it,” Jensen repeated obediently. Chris continued his litany of complaints as they walked to the school doors, barely suppressing the urge to haul his best friend to the nurse, just in case he didn’t clean it out properly. God himself only knew where Sandy had her filthy paws.

“I’m telling you, Freckles, I…” Chris stopped dead when they opened the doors. The hallways were littered with A5 sheets of paper, all showing the same picture:

Jared pressing Sandy up against a tree, with the caption: `The best way to spend my Monday’

His forearm was loosely pinning her by her shoulders, the other hand trapping her right wrist against the tree. You couldn’t see Jared’s expression, but by the proximity of their bodies, you didn’t have to.

Chris flushed with the force of his fury. “I’m going to kill him,” he vowed in a low rumble, gripping one of the papers in one tightly clenched fist and storming away from an immobile Jensen, feeling badly for leaving him like that, but also not wanting to be near him for how angry he was.

He walked up to the tall Alpha and spun him around roughly. “What the fuck do you think you’re playing at, Padalecki?” he snarled menacingly. Jared glared at him in annoyance.

“What the fuck are you talking about, man?” he asked incredulously. Without a word, Chris shoved the piece of paper at him. Padalecki stared at it, shocked, becoming white as a sheet. His breath was coming out in shallow pants and a desperate gleam entered his eyes.

Jensen…” he whispered, nearly a whimper. He turned in despair to Chris, who was torn between slugging him on principle and listening to his gut, which told him the other alpha hadn’t been seducing his bitch of an ex-girlfriend. “Where’s Jensen?” he asked, pleading now. “Please Chris, you can punch me later, you gotta tell me where Jen is!”

“Why the hell should I?” Chris demanded, slightly more lucid now, but still simmering with rage.

“Listen, Kane,” Chad butted in evenly, his somber tone speaking to Chris more than Jared’s desperation for how rare it was. “Jared went over to Sandy yesterday to tell her to leave Jensen alone. My best guess? He lost his temper. But I can tell you right now, he’s too in love with Jensen to even contemplate hurting him like that. You gotta tell him where he is, so that he can tell Jensen himself.”

Chris hesitated a moment before nodding jerkily, his gut winning out. “It doesn’t help. Jensen saw all the pictures. He’s probably halfway home by now.”

“First Genevieve’s comment, then Sandy’s insults and now this.” Jared ran his hand through his hair, the force of it making it seem more like the boy was aiming to yank his hair out. His brown eyes glistened suspiciously as he bent over, his hands on his knees. “Why the fuck does everything work against us?” he muttered, mostly to himself.

He grabbed his bag, and Chris knew he was going after Jensen.

Only, it turned out they didn’t have to.

Jensen stormed past them, not even seeming to realize they were right there, marching determinedly to the table where Sandy and her cronies sat. He slammed the picture down on the table in front of her, making her let out a little scream of shock.

Chris exchanged looks with Jared and Chad, the whole pack moving simultaneously to where Jensen was.

“Listen to me, Sandy, and listen well,” he commanded, his voice flinty and ice-cold. They slowed, able to hear everything that Jensen was saying. “You can say whatever the fuck you want about me, and you can do whatever the fuck you want to me, but now you’re messing with Jared and his reputation, and that is not okay with me!” he snarled. “This is between you and me, so you leave him out of this! If this was your brilliant idea to make me rethink being with him, then you’re more than just a bitch, you’re fucking clueless too. I trust Jared with my life, and I don’t care about whatever he might be hiding because I know it’s not this. He would never hurt anyone like that. He’s got more honor and integrity in his left little toe than you have had in your entire life combined, and if you ever even think of undermining that- undermining him!- to get back at me, then you and I are going to have some serious problems.” He leaned in close, still not seeming to even realize that they, or anyone else, was there. “Jared is amazing,” he stated lowly, “and I pity you for letting him go. But don’t you dare hurt him just to get back at me. Don’t you dare hurt him, period. You do what you want to do, but to me, not to anyone else. You got that?”

Huh…it took him a minute, but Chris finally identified the fierce burning in his chest.

He was so proud of his best friend.

 

~*Jared*~

The barest hint of a breeze would have knocked him off his feet just then.

Just a few seconds ago, he’d been on the edge, so sick of everything and everyone working against him and Jen, trying to pull them apart at every God damned turn.

Now?

He was awed, gratified, and so freaking in love it was barely believable. Jensen had fought against those odds. He hadn’t stood up for himself, but he’d stood up for Jared, he’d stood up for them, with every possible reason in the world not to. He had every right to confront Jared, or even leave him, because it was obvious the picture wasn’t photo-shopped, but instead, Jen had such faith in Jared and in their relationship, that he’d taken a giant leap of trust and actually defended Jared against Sandy. It was the last thing on his mind, but Jensen had been worried about his reputation.

His mate still hadn't even noticed they were there yet, and quite frankly, Jared wanted his mate too fucking much to stay there much longer.

“Jen, baby…” he murmured. As if attuned to his voice, Jen responded, straightening up and turning around.

“Jay…” his mate breathed, sounding relieved and exhausted. “I’m so sorry about…”

“Don’t,” he smiled, unable to find it in himself to taint his happiness and love by dealing with Sandy at that moment. He would leave that to Chad and Chris, who would both undoubtedly want revenge on behalf of their best friends. He took Jensen’s hand and pulled him to his truck, walking quickly through the small crowd that gathered, needing to get Jen into his arms, feel his mate’s lips on his.

As soon as they rounded the truck and came into semi-privacy, he backed Jen up against the door, claiming his lips roughly with his own. His tongue plundered Jensen’s mouth, swallowing the smaller boy’s sinful moans.

“God, baby…” Jared growled, slipping his hand down to palm and grope at Jensen’s ass. “Ditch with me,” he said impulsively. He needed to be alone with Jen, and he needed to hold him, and assure him, and thank him so profusely for being him and for believing in them even when every bone in his body must have fought his heart’s decision. “I need to just be with you, away from the rest of the world for a little while,” he admitted, not caring about the desperation in his tone. “Please, Jen? Will you let me be with you?”

He chanced a look at Jen, and was met with sparkling green eyes that stole his breath away in the same manner that Jensen Ackles had stolen his heart; instantaneously.
Looking up at him from under those ridiculously sexy long lashes, Jen smiled brilliantly and nodded.

“Forever and always."

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

“…and then Chris nearly punch my lights out when he showed me what Sandy had done,” Jared concluded. They had come back to their clearing in the forest and after they had cuddled a little, basking in being together, Jared had begun his story about how the picture got taken, and everything that happened thereafter. Jen remained silent, letting his boyfriend talk, returning the favor since Jared had let him tell his story without interruption. He could appreciate the effort that took, especially when he told Jared about Sandy ruining his painting. “I was so sick of everything working so much against us, Jen,” he admitted, hiding his face in Jensen’s neck. “Sometimes it feels like everything is conspiring to break us apart.”

Jensen’s heart squeezed in sympathy. He had been so blinded by rage at the tangible proof that Sandy would hurt Jared that he hadn’t even had time to consider the effect it had had on his boyfriend. Jared must have thought Jensen was distraught and ready to break up. Hell, if it was anyone else, Jensen thought he might have been. The trust he had in Jared never ceased to amaze him. He looked at the floppy-haired boy and the pain in those hazel orbs stole his breath. He pushed away a lock of stubborn hair and he pressed his forehead against Jared's. “I’m so sorry, Jay,” he pressed little kisses all over Jared’s face until he relaxed slightly. “I should have come to you first, and told you that I was okay, that we were okay. I just…I was so angry, you know? What must all the teachers now think, with Sandy’s little attempt to get back at me? I didn’t even think to come to you, all that was going through my mind was telling Sandy to leave you the hell out of all this."

He wriggled down so that there were on eye-level. Cupping Jared’s face gently with his hands, he looked resolutely into his wide, melted Hershey kisses eyes. He couldn't yet say the three words he really wanted to say, but he knew that he needed to reassure Jared that he wasn't alone in what he was feeling. “You should know…I don’t have faith in much. I don’t believe in much. But this? When I was faced with this? I didn’t have a single doubt in my mind that you wouldn’t hurt me like that. For everything in the world that I don’t believe in, I’ll be damned if I don’t believe in us.”

Jared pulled away to look at him and Jensen pressed their foreheads together once more, needing the closeness. He ghosted their lips together, once, twice…chaste little kisses that started a slow burning blaze deep inside him. “Jay,” he whispered, keeping his eyes closed, “I don’t know much, and I can’t control the future, but I can tell you this: for as long as we’re together, there is no force in the world strong enough to take me away from you.” Jensen’s heart clenched in uncertainty, forcing himself not to wonder whether Jared could be taken from him; as strong as he could be for Jared, it would mean nothing if it wasn’t a two-way thing. “Whenever it feels like they’re conspiring against us, you tell me, and I’ll show you that even if they are, they’re fighting a losing battle.” He finally opened his eyes to find Jared’s hazel eyes watching him, silent tears clinging obstinately to the ends of his lashes. “We’re the best team there is, babe,” he smiled, the nickname slipping from his lips without conscious thought on his part.

Those stubborn tears finally fell from Jared’s eyes as he surged forward to fuse their lips, arms wrapping around Jensen in a passionate embrace. He devoured Jensen’s mouth, swallowing every moan and plea that fell from his lips. Jensen pressed forward, eager for the feel of Jared, reveling in every inch of him being pressed into the ground by Jared’s hard, toned body. He wasn’t sure at what point in time he’d developed such an iron-strong belief in them, but he liked it. It felt like he could finally rest his head on something real…like he could finally lean on someone and like he was finally loved. At the same time that it was so easy to be Jared’s, he knew that it wasn’t something that would happen again. Deep-seated certainty told him that he would never feel this way about another as long as he lived.

Maybe he felt the deep change in Jensen’s line of thought, because Jared slowed the kiss, less hungry and more languorous, not lacking passion, just lacking the hurry they usually kissed with. Jared kissed him like he was mapping out every ridge of Jensen’s mouth, hands touching like there would be a test on every contour and angle of his body. He kissed him like they had all the time in the world, and like he was starved for the taste and feel and touch of Jensen. He kissed him like he was the most precious thing in the world and like he was savoring each second that he got to spend like this. God, he could spend his entire life kissing Jared...Jensen tasted the saltiness of tears on his boyfriend’s lips, and in an urge to comfort, he snaked his hand up Jared's neck, reaching to tangle it in the locks he so loved to play with.

When they finally pulled away, neither of them really felt like talking. Jared rolled on to his back, taking Jensen with him so that he was sprawled over his chest. Jensen buried his face in Jared’s neck, inhaling deeply, enjoying the woodsy, almost spicy scent that seemed unique to his boyfriend. Jared nuzzled his hair and Jensen suppressed a smile at the puppy-like behavior. Almost unthinkingly, they joined their hands, being close to each other enough for them in that moment.

Jensen turned his head and pressed his lips to the hollow at Jared’s throat. His chest rumbled with satisfaction and Jensen smiled against his skin.

“Jen?” Jared murmured, his hands around Jensen tightening until he took the hint not to move.

“Mm?” He settled against Jared’s chest more comfortably, entirely too content to just stay there.

“Thank you for believing in me,” Jared whispered. “For believing in us. I know every part of you must have been rebelling and wanting to leave me, but thank you for having faith in us. For knowing me. For knowing that I would sooner die than to hurt you. Against the worst of odds, you still stood by me, and I’m not even sure I would have had that kind of strength. Thank you, baby…just, a million times, thank you.

Small kisses rained over the nape of Jensen’s neck, hot splashes from tears tickling him. Jensen balled his fists in Jared’s shirt, his own tears now pressing into the soft material.
“I’ll always stand by you,” he murmured thickly. “The sky itself could come crashing down on us, and I’d still be right there next to you. You're everything to me.”

Jensen pushed back a little to look at his boyfriend, reaching a hand up to caress his cheek, fingers lightly tracing the shadows under his hazel eyes. “You didn’t sleep last night,” he observed, his heart clenching in worry. He shimmied up Jared’s body, cursing his hormones as the feel stirred the embers pooled low in his stomach. He rolled off Jared, landing on his back and pulling his boyfriend’s arm, encouraging him to pillow his head on Jensen’s shoulder. Jared snuggled into him, wrapping his long arms around Jensen's waist, and Jensen enjoyed being able to do for Jared what Jared usually did for him.

He carded his fingers gently through Jared’s hair, absently humming a soothing tune under his breath until the taller boy’s breathing evened out. He pressed a gentle kiss to Jared’s hair, content to stay like that until he woke up…he really needed the rest, it seemed.

Unfortunately, the stillness also gave Jensen’s mind plenty of time to wonder.

It terrified him that Jared was being so patient about the day he’d found Jensen lying in his kitchen, bloodied and battered. Terrified him, because it all the more accentuated the fact that Jared deserved to know what was happening. How could he tell his boyfriend, though, that it wasn’t someone random, but his own foster father who was beating him? Jared would freak. Either he would hurt, or God forbid, kill Eric, or he would decide that there was too much baggage to handle and walk away. It was the second option that scared him the most, because how could he handle Jared walking away from him? It surely wouldn’t be the case, that Jared would simply kiss him and tell him that he supported Jensen in whatever he chose to do, because there was no way Jared would stand back when Jensen was getting hurt, a fact that was both comforting, and distressing. It wasn’t like he could go his whole life without saying anything about it, though. He’d explored that option, but it wasn’t feasible, because what kind of a relationship would they have if Jensen was always holding back a certain part of himself? As much as he hated to admit it, the abuse was and always would be a part of his life. He’d decided a long time ago not to let it control or define him, to just have it be part of him that taught him to be strong and survive, but at the same time, he couldn’t expect Jared to understand. Sometimes, when he was curled in a ball on the floor or bent over in pain in the shower, he didn’t quite understand it himself. He hated to keep secrets from Jared…

…but then, he wasn’t the only secretive one here.

He knew that Jared was keeping a secret. He didn’t know what, and that bothered him more than he wanted to say. When he’d seen that picture of Jared and Sandy… he couldn’t help his mind immediately flashing back to catching Adam cheating on him in the school gymnasium. It was actually that memory that convinced him Jared could have never hurt him like that, because if there was ever anything in the world that Jensen was sure of, it was that Jared was NOT Adam. As scarred as he was by Adam’s abuse and his cheating, Jensen had been healing by every one of Jared’s tender touches and whispered words of devotion and adoration. While this almost made up for whatever big secret Jared was withholding from him, it didn’t change the fact hanging over Jensen like a dark cloud, that whatever the secret was, it could destroy them just as surely as Jensen’s own secrets could.

Jensen looked down at the mop of brown hair that splayed over his chest, and the gentle curve of Jared’s face peeking through. Smoothed now, and unencumbered by the problems of the real world, Jared looked content and peaceful and younger than he usually did. His forehead bore no creases and his mouth was lax, and the only other expression Jensen found as endearing, was the one with Jared’s smile. There was no denying the fact that he had fallen in love with Jared. He wanted to be angry with himself for falling into the trap that seemed so clichéd and teenager, but whatever the burning was inside of him whenever he so much as thought of Jared…was there anything else that feeling could possibly be defined as? Suddenly, a line to the old song Jody used to sing all the time popped into his head;

I don’t know much…but I know I love you. And that may be, all I need to know.

Jensen brushed a kiss light as air over Jared’s hair. Maybe it was true. Maybe it would be enough just to know that he loved Jared.

He sang the line softly, not wanting to wake Jared up but feeling an almost overwhelming need to tell him nonetheless.

“I don’t know much...but I know I love you. And that may be all I need to know.”

###

Crash, thunk!

Chad’s grin split across his face. “Stripes thirteen, center pocket, just like you said.” His voice was awed, and Jensen smiled at his excitement, so different from the disgruntled looks of the third team they were schooling that night alone. They had come to Impala with Jared and Chris, who were sitting at the booth, all four of them having agreed to hang out a little while. Chad made a mean partner, and they were literally unbeatable, but Jensen couldn’t help but miss his partner.

He looked over at Jared, who was in deep conversation with Chris. He wondered idly what they were talking about, making a mental note to ask Chris about it tomorrow.

“Stripes nine, corner pocket,” he called, leaning down to align his shot. He took a deep breath and jerked his wrist, twisting it perfectly so that the ball hit off the table and spun to the right corner. A smug smile found its way to his face when Chad whooped as the ball sunk neatly into the pocket.

He straightened up, tensing when a voice sounded from behind him;

“Oh, don’t get up, you looked so damn fuck-able all spread out for me like that.”

Jensen turned around, his blood simmering slightly as he met the smirking face of one Jake Abel.

 

~*Jared*~

“She knows that Jensen doesn’t know about the Weres, and that you’re an Alpha,” Chris pointed out in frustration. “You honestly think Sandy is not going to use that to cause trouble? And what if someone else spills the beans to him? What then? He deserves to know, and he deserves for you to be the one to tell him, Jared!"

They were in Impala, Chad and Jen playing the pool circuit while Jared and Chris were discussing the fact that Jared needed to tell Jensen about their secret. Jared wanted so badly to argue, to tell Chris to mind his own business, to insist that they were handling it fine and that nothing would go wrong...

Jared knew it was a vain hope to think that Sandy wouldn’t make use of the fact that she knew Jensen was in the dark about their lives. Like it or not, the time to keep this from Jen was quickly coming to a close. All his fears came rushing to the surface and he felt an overwhelming desire to be close to his Jen.

He glanced over at his boyfriend, who was calling a shot and leaning down to take it. A rush of love flowed through his veins as Jen made the pocket, Chad cheering and Jensen simply grinning in satisfaction. Jared’s blood ran cold when Jensen straightened up, and Jake and his cronies, Sebastian and Mark, were standing behind him.

He didn’t hear what Jake said, but both Jensen and Chad tensed up. Chris and him got up together, striding quickly to them.

“Back off, Abel,” he heard Chad growl menacingly. Instantly, his body flushed with anger at the implication that Abel had been interfering with his mate again. After the first time he’d slammed the guy into the side of the school building, you’d think he’d have heeded the warning to leave Jen alone.

“The bitch likes all the attention, Murray,” Jake responded snidely. “Don’t you, you little whore?” he turned to Jensen and Jared was ready to tear the boy’s throat out for daring to talk to his mate, let alone insult him.

“You must be confusing me with a mirror,” Jensen replied before Jared could act on his impulse, making him grin despite his anger. The boy started forward, but stopped when Chad stepped slightly in front of Jensen and Jared and Chris finally managed to push their way through the crowd that gathered.

“Don’t mind him, Jake,” Shepard sneered, aiming his glare at a fuming Jared. “He’s got a fine mouth now because his little bodyguards are here.”

“Yeah,” Jake jeered, lip upturned in a disparaging motion, stepping even closer to Jensen until they were only inches apart. Jared barely suppressed the urge to floor the arrogant boy, needing to wait for Jen to give some kind of signal that it was okay to deck him. He didn’t want to have a fight with Jen about him being over-protective, but Jake was really pushing it…

“Besides,” Abel continued, looking scornfully at Jensen, “look at them. It’s not like the hulking jocks are good for anything else, except maybe taking turns to fuck him.”

This would have been the comment that threw Jared over the edge…if it hadn’t thrown Jensen off first.

In a move so fast that none of them could have anticipated it, wolf senses and all, Jensen’s knee shot up, nailing the boy in the sternum before he threw a right hook and a quick follow-up elbow jab that floored Jake faster than he could take a second breath. Blood painted his mouth and gushed from his nose as he lay there wailing and swearing blue murder. Chris, Jared and Chad were standing stock-still, only snapping out of their stunned reveries when Jensen rotated his wrist experimentally and picked up his jacket.

“Whoops, I think I might have tripped into you there, Abel,” he commented lightly, shrugging his leather jacket on. Leaning down, he spoke in a whisper only they could hear. “Don’t you ever talk about them like that again.”

Casually, Jensen turned around and walked away. They followed him, Chris ginning like a maniac, Chad laughing his ass off and Jared wanting nothing more than to get his mate horizontal (or even vertical) on the nearest available surface.

“That was sick, Freckles, where’d you learn to fight like that?!” Chris asked excitedly.

“You know I have 17 years of history before you guys met me, right?” Jensen grinned sheepishly. “You pick up a couple things along the way.”

“Then why didn’t you deck Sandy?” Chad demanded. Jensen snorted.

“I may not be entirely sure what Sandy is,” he shook his head, “but I don’t hit girls. Or girl-resembling devil spawn.”

Jared roared with laughter, grabbing Jensen in a hug and kissing him firmly. It was all he could do not to take his mate right there and then.

“I’m so fucking proud of you,” he mumbled against Jensen’s lips, which were curving into a smile. Guard lowered, Jared couldn't help his fleeting thought.

God, nothing could go wrong right now...

Famous last words.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Shepard and Roche were hauling Jake out of Impala. He still had a big mouth, even unable to walk straight. He spat out a mouthful of blood, and Jared sensed that things were about to get messy. Foreboding stilled his heart and he pushed Jensen behind him, an argument the very last concern in his mind now.

“Show him!” Abel spat, mopping at the blood and straightening to aim a challenging glare at Jared. Damn wolf-healing. “Show your precious little mate exactly who he’s defending! Show him, Padalecki!”

Jared's heart stopped at the turn their confrontation was taking and a growl ripped through his chest, at the worst possible time betrayed by his Alpha temper.

“I’m not going to tell you again to back off, Abel,” Chad growled, coming to stand next to Jared. Jared bared his teeth at Jake in warning, his canines already distending slightly in his rage.

“Come on, Freckles…” Jared was grateful for Chris trying to get Jensen out of there. Then at least, he could deal with Abel…

“Mate?” Jensen asked, alarm coloring his tone. “Jay, what’s going on?” Then aside, he hissed, “Let go, Chris!” Jared knew Jen would never have left then, but it was something to hope for at least. In a last ditch attempt to save their relationship, Jared chanced turning his back on Jake, forcing himself to calm down and leveling his desperate gaze at his boyfriend.

“Go home, Jen, please,” he pleaded softly. “I’ll explain tomorrow.”

Maybe the look in his eyes did it, or maybe it was the plea, but Jensen softened and nodded slightly. Just as he was about to relax, just as he thought maybe- just maybe- he was in the clear, the world and Jake Abel just had to screw him over.

“No! Show him, Jared, or I will!” Jake screamed threateningly. Not waiting for an answer, he lurched forward and shifted in mid-air, a black wolf taking his place.

Just like that, Jared's world crumbled all around him.

He heard Jensen’s choked off gasp, and he wanted immediately to go to his mate and beg him for forgiveness, but he was terrified of the disgust he knew he was going to see there. Before he could dredge up the courage to face the love of his life, Mark and Sebastian shifted too, and Jared knew that there was a bigger problem than losing Jensen’s trust and love.

And that was losing Jensen.

The three wolves advanced on them and with muttered curses, Chris and Chad flanked him. He nodded once, the pain in his heart overshadowed only by the knowledge of what would happen if he didn’t do what he had to do. He channeled his pain into sheer rage, wanting nothing more than to get back at the ones who put him in this position.

Swallowing the bitter pill, Jared didn’t allow his tears of heartbreak and anger to fall as he, in one fell swoop, took the last step in destroying the relationship he’d begun to build with his mate.

He shifted.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

Werewolves.

As in…werewolves.

As in, shifting into giant furry beasts with claws and what big teeth you have there, minus the grandmother and red-hooded squint eyed chick.

As in, werewolves.

Jensen knew in some part of his mind that he was hyperventilating and he knew panic was beginning to fog up his senses. He knew that he needed to get his ass into gear… but the fact of the matter was that his boyfriend, the guy he was in love with, was now a russet brown-black wolf standing…crouching in front of him. And God, didn’t that warrant a little bit of shock?

Jared wasn’t human. He was a werewolf! And he’d kept that a secret! In the back of Jensen’s mind, he wondered idly why he seemed more upset at the secret keeping, than the secret Jared had been keeping. Then it occurred to him that it didn’t matter, because aside from the fact that there were more important matters at hand, there was also the little reminder that Jensen himself was keeping a secret of his own.

But then…werewolves!

He tried to choke out Jared’s name, beg him for an explanation, but his throat closed up. He was glad of it, in retrospect, because despite his current state of disbelief, there was still a potential fight to break up. All at once, sharp and crippling terror struck his heart like a lightning bolt; what if the Jake-Wolf was stronger than the Jared-Wolf? What if he hurt the Jared-Wolf?

The very possibility sickened him to his stomach.

And then it was clear.

It was Jared.

Jay.

His Jay.

His heart obviously held no concern for whichever…form, he was in. So why did his head?

His epiphany was cut short by a harsh growl permeating the air around him. His insides were shaking with fear, not for himself, but for Jared. He was going to fight three wolves, how would he ever…

His question was cut off mid-thought when Chad and Chris suddenly disappeared, to be replaced with a sand-colored and a copper-colored wolf respectively.

No, of course they were werewolves too, why wouldn’t they be? Since when has Fate made it easier on me?

Jensen dismissed his thoughts, instead choosing to be grateful that the Jared-Wolf had the back-up. The massive beast stalked forward, and in a crazy, fleeting thought, Jensen reveled in how much the motion reminded him of an angry Jared.

He was still rooted to the spot, unable to react, when Jared let out a menacing growl that made the hairs on the back of Jensen’s neck stand up. He knew that he was safe- no matter his shock, he knew without a doubt that Jared would never harm him- but he felt afraid of what Jared might try to do to Wolf-Jake… and whether or not Wolf-Jared was strong enough to win.

Before he could contemplate their next movement, Wolf-Jared and Wolf-Chad were sprinting forward and Wolf-Jake and Co. were retreating. A choked expulsion of breath whooshed from his chest as Jensen fell forward on to his knees, wanting to call out to Jared and tell him not to give chase, because what if it was a trap?

It took Jensen a second to realize that the Chris-Wolf was still there. The coppery animal wasn’t facing him, but it stood in front of him in a protective way that he couldn’t have mistaken as anyone else’s. His muscles were tensed and coiled underneath his fur as he darted his gaze from side to side, raising his muzzle in the air. Jensen instinctively knew Chris was looking for trouble, the boy’s first reflex to protect Jen. The familiar gesture actually made Jensen relax enough to roll his eyes at the inherent big brother that resided within his best friend.

When, Jensen assumed, he had finally deemed everything safe, Chris shifted back, long limbs and hair taking the place of the creature, so if Jen had missed it before, he definitely hadn’t now. He averted his eyes at Chris’ semi-nudity; he most certainly didn’t need to know it, but he couldn’t help noting that Chris was not a boxers guy, but a briefs guy.

“I, uh…I’m decent.” The rough voice seemed tentative and pained, and Jensen experienced a moment of panic at the thought that he’d gotten hurt without Jensen even seeing it. The thought spurred him on to stride purposefully to his best friend, now clad in the jeans he’s seemed to have taken off before shifting, and who seemed to be bracing himself.

Jensen stopped short, ice blanketing his heart as he recognized the motion as one he used to do a lot until he’d met Jared and Chris and the gang. He touched two fingers to Chris’ wrist, happy that no flinch accompanied this motion. No abuse, then, probably. In his worry for the boy, it didn’t matter to him that Chris wasn’t all human, because Chris was still Chris, his best friend, just like Jared was still his boyfriend. “Why do you think I’m about to hit you?” he asked gently, eyes wide with concern.

Chris’ eyes mirrored the action. “You’re not?” he asked incredulously. “I kept all this a secret, on my behalf and on Jared’s, I lied about it, I wasn’t planning on telling you…and you’re not going to deck me?”

“I could never hurt you!” Jensen protested indignantly. He thought on Chris’ confession. “And I guess I’m hurt you wouldn’t have come to me, but I think I can understand why. It’s not only your secret to tell, and I’m not entirely sure I would have believed any of it, had I not just seen it.”

Chris stared at him for a minute, dumbfounded. “You’re awful understanding about this all,” he managed to get out eventually. Jensen flinched, knowing that he was keeping his thoughts at bay, trying to make sure he didn’t completely freak out. Once he did, he would need to have a long talk with Jared, but the more immediate concern at the moment was making sure none of them were hurt.

“I’m sure it’ll hit me later,” Jensen nodded thoughtfully, turning serious at the more pressing matter, “but right now my boyfriend is chasing a manic wolf and I’m terrified he’s going to get hurt. We need to go after them.” He started to move, only to be pulled back by his jacket sleeve by Chris. He huffed in annoyance, shaking off the hold and pouting even though he was aware of how little this helped his case.

“You want to go after Jared?” he asked in amazement. Jensen bristled, crossing his arms as anger burned in his chest.

“He’s still susceptible to injury, he’s still Jared, and he’s still mine.” Jensen aimed a glare at the other boy. “I swear, Chris…if you tell me not to go after him…I love you, man, but I swear to God, I will kick your ass.”

Chris huffed out a disbelieving breath, the slightest, awed smile finding its way to his lips. “Ok,” he nodded in astonishment. “Ok.”

###

By the time they’d found Jared and Chad, Jensen was a nervous wreck. He was fairly certain his overtaxed imagination had come up with every possible combination of every factor that could have resulted in Jared being hurt or…or worse.

Of all places, they were on the football grounds at school, deserted as it was on a Friday night. Jared was still in his wolf form and huddled in a ball in the middle of the field and Chad was sitting on the bleachers, looking worn and tired, his usually cocky smile nowhere to be seen. He started when he saw Jensen and Chris approaching, and as much as Jen wanted to run to the mass of fur curled up on the field, he also knew that they didn’t need an audience for the conversation they needed to have.

“Is he hurt?” Jensen demanded in a hushed whisper as soon as they were in Chad’s earshot. “Are you hurt?”

“We’re both fine,” Chad dismissed, looking at Jensen with his blue eyes opened wide. “And you…you’re here.

“Of course I am.” He gave Chad a one-armed hug, thumping him on the back. “Chris will fill you in, but right now, I think Jared and I need to be alone.”

“Maybe you both need some time,” Chad hedged, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth in a gesture so unlike him that Jensen had to smile. “Don’t do anything rash, Jense, you might think differently when…”

“I’m not going to hurt him, Chad,” Jensen soothed. “I just want him to stop hurting.”

Chad hesitated a second before nodding and handing Jensen a pair of Jared’s jeans. They turned to leave and Jensen made his way across the field, shivering slightly in the cold night air. The huge wolf picked his head up as Jensen approached, and he wondered whether Wolf-Jared could smell him, or whether Human-Jared could sense him. Those thoughts left his mind when the wolf began to whimper lightly, lowering his head to the ground between his big paws. Jensen could hear the heartbreak in it and it tore him apart.

“Hey,” he soothed unthinkingly, reaching out a hand and moving forward slowly. “Jay…please, Jay, it’s just me, I…I’m not going to…do you even understand me?” he wondered out loud, unsure how to approach the subject.

The wolf’s head dipped slightly then came back up in an approximation of a nod. Jensen huffed out a small breath. “God, this is so bizarre…”

Wolf-Jared whimpered again and Jensen cursed his big mouth. “No, Jay…please, babe, let me just…” He thought that he should feel ridiculous, talking to the bear-sized wolf in front of him, but surprisingly, he didn’t.

Even as logic rebelled against him, his heart only saw his hurting boyfriend.

The wolf stilled, and Jensen suspected this was the best he was going to get until he told Jared that he wasn’t here to break up with him, as he was sure the wolf thought.

And wasn’t that just the weirdest thought in the world?

“We need to talk face-to-face, Jay,” he murmured, getting on to his knees and holding out the jeans hopefully. “Please?”

After a minute, the massive wolf transformed into his boyfriend. This time, Jensen watched as every limb grew out, the fur seemed to sink into his skin and his face morphed into human form. Wordlessly, he held the jeans out, and Jared quickly changed into them, still not talking or looking at him.

“Jared…” he tried to start, but was shocked into silence when Jared abruptly dropped to his knees next to Jensen, gripping his forearms and looking into his eyes with the desperation of a drowning man, tears shining there and slipping down his cheeks.

“Jen, baby, please…I just…I’m sorry, I mean, please don’t…” he mumbled brokenly, and Jensen’s heart broke all over again. He squeezed Jared’s arms, forcing him to quieten down.

“Jay, you gotta listen to me, okay?” he said gently. “It’s my turn to talk first.”

Jared seemed to deflate at this, curling into himself. Jensen sat on the field cross-legged and pulled on Jared’s arm to get him to open up a little. The hazel-eyed boy looked up, sorrow radiating from him.

“Jay,” he started, some of his earlier worry springing to his mind. “First of all, you cannot just sprint away from me then go missing for hours. I’m getting real tired of that little trick. I was worried sick that Jake and his minions might have hurt you! Do you have any idea how close to crazy I came, looking for you?” He kept his chiding gentle as he checked Jared over for any injuries, letting out a small sigh of relief when he found none. He cradled Jared’s hand loosely in his own, taking a deep breath in preparation of everything he was about to say.

“I’m sorry,” Jared mumbled in a small voice, rivulets of tears cascading down his cheeks. Sighing, Jensen thumbed at the moisture tenderly, his heart overpowering his mind once more.

“Jared, you should have told me something,” he stated quietly. “Keeping this a secret from me was the worst possible thing you could have done. That I had to find out like that, I think, hurt me even more than knowing that you’re…” Jensen hesitated to find the right word. “Different.”

“You think I’m a monster,” Jared whispered hollowly. “This is why I didn’t…”

“Whoa,” Jensen stopped him, frowning slightly. “I don’t think you’re a monster.”

“You don’t even know what to call me,” Jared pointed out miserably.

Jensen nodded. “That’s because I don’t want to offend you. Jake, yeah, him I’d call a monster, but seeing you on the field before you…changed, I would have called you an overgrown puppy.” Jared’s head lifted, an expression crossed between hopeful and scowling caught on his face. Jensen snickered lightly. “See what I mean?”

“Jen,” Jared shook his head desperately, “I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell you so badly. But I was just…God, I was terrified. The very idea that you wouldn’t want to see me again, the thought that you’d look at me and see a monster…it was more than I could take. You have to know, though, that I never meant for you to find out like that! Never! I would never want you to be afraid. I was going to tell you everything tomorrow, I just…” his breath hitched as he squeezed his eyes shut, “I just wanted one more night, if you were going to leave me.”

“But Jay, you haven’t given me the chance to react,” Jensen objected softly, not trying to hurt him, but trying to make him see. “Every day that you didn’t tell me, you took that choice away from me.”

Jared seemed to crumble in on himself, even as he nodded slightly. “I understand,” he whispered.

Jensen sighed cavernously, wondering where all his common sense had gone. Because to him? Jared was Jared. It killed Jensen that no normal reaction was forthcoming from him, but his heart was just sort of saying “Oh, so he’s a wolf? That’s cool. Does this rule out date night on days with a full moon?”

“You obviously don’t understand,” he contradicted softly, catching Jared’s chin between his fingers and lifting his face to meet his eyes. “I don’t understand why, and I don’t understand why I’m not hightailing it across the Pacific by now, but I don’t care that you’re a werewolf.”

The overwhelming feeling of rightness that washed over him at the absolute, naked truth in those words, almost made him miss Jared’s eyes widening comically.

“What do you mean?” he asked quietly.

Jensen shrugged helplessly. “It makes absolutely no sense to me either, but I only feel like I need to be bothered by the wolf-thing because logic dictates I should be. But there is no part of me that feels like you’re any different. What I feel for you? It’s not defined by what you look like, by what form you’re in. To me, you’re still Jared.”

Jensen took one of Jared’s hands in both of his own, playing with it in his lap. “You know, I think you and me together had kind of made me stronger.”

“How so?” Jared asked, as if he were in some kind of trance.

“Well,” Jensen thought, “I wouldn’t have been able to stand up to Sandy and Jake if they hadn’t have messed with you… and I never knew I could ever trust a guy the way I trust you… and also, I’ve almost never been strong enough to listen to my heart. And yet here I am.”

“But…I’m not human, Jen,” Jared said in confusion, the briefest flickering of hope lightening his darkened eyes. “How can you trust me and feel safe around me when I’m not even human? It’s the main problem with Were-Human relationships.”

“Adam is a human,” Jensen shrugged, trying to put into words the distinction he felt was important. “He damn near killed me. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that I feel safer with him than I do with you.” Jensen brought the hand he was holding up to his lips, pressing a light kiss against Jared’s knuckles, letting go of some of his anger at the obvious agonizing Jared had put himself through trying to find a way around this. “I feel safer with you than I do with anyone else in the world,” he admitted. “There are a lot of things I don’t know about all of this, but one thing I know I’ll never have to question, is how safe I am when I’m with you. You’ll never hurt me, not intentionally.”

Jared’s eyes widened in anticipation as he leaned forward and cradled Jensen’s face between his massive palms. “I need you to tell me, Jen,” he said desperately. “I need you to say the words.”

Jensen closed his eyes briefly before lifting them to meet Jared’s. He put his hands on top of his boyfriend’s and licked his lips once, unconsciously.

“I’m not in love with Jared, the buff, lean, floppy haired, hazel eyed boy straight off the cover of a magazine,” he said steadily, tightening his hold on Jared’s hands so that he wouldn’t pull away. “I’m in love with Jared the protector, and Jared the caregiver. I’m in love with Jared the sweetheart, Jared the team player, Jared the best friend and Jared the poet. I’m in love with your soul. No strings, no conditions, no matter what. The only thing that’s changed, is that I’m now in love with a half-human, half-werewolf, fully-amazing guy who gives new definition to the phrase one in a million. I’m in love with you.”

 

~*Jared*~

His heart stopped beating and the world around him narrowed down to the face cradled in his hands.

Jensen loved him.

Jensen loved him.

Jensen loved him.

Jensen was in love with him!!!

“You…you’ve never said that to me before,” he choked out, eyes burning as he stroked Jensen’s cheek and smoothed back his hair, anything as an excuse to touch his mate’s face.

“I guess I haven’t,” Jensen whispered, enchanting green eyes seeming to wrap Jared in happiness and comfort.

“I love you too, Jen,” he breathed, uncaring of the tears they were both shedding now. “God, I love you too, baby, I love you so damn much.”

He leaned forward, and just before their lips touched, Jensen murmured, “You still have a lot of explaining to do.”

“I know.”

Their lips brushing against each other’s now, “And don’t think you’re forgiven for everything just yet.”

“Never.”

Jared landing the smallest of kisses on Jensen’s slowly responding lips. “And don’t think that just because I love you, that means…”

“I love you too.” Jared claimed his mate’s lips roughly, swallowing the moans he made and pulling Jensen on top of him as he sank backwards, quickly plastering Jen’s body against his own. He nibbled Jensen’s bottom lip, licking into his mouth when the boy’s moans gave him access. He sucked Jensen’s tongue and slipped his hand into the smaller boy’s back pocket, groping his ass hard while he rolled his hips upwards.

“Jay…” Jensen moaned as their hardening crotches brushed teasingly against each other. “Please…”

As if Jared needed any more encouragement. He rolled them over, being sure not to press his whole weight against Jensen, and divested his mate of his shirt, leaning down immediately to latch his mouth over one dusky pink nipple and gather Jensen’s wrists in his hands. He nibbled and sucked and kissed and licked until Jensen was a writhing mass underneath him and his nipple was a hard nub, before switching over to the other one and showering it with the same attention, still not relinquishing his grip on Jensen’s wrists.

Jensen was jerking his hips up mindlessly by now, his breath coming out in these sharp needy little sounds that were driving Jared mad. He crushed his mouth against Jen’s again, fucking his tongue in and out of it in a dirty demonstration of what he really wanted to do. He left Jensen’s mouth and trailed hot, open-mouthed kisses down his mate’s body as his hands busied themselves unbuttoning Jensen’s jeans. When he reached Jensen’s navel, he glanced up and saw Jen’s head thrown back in pleasure and his wrists exactly where he had left them, a gesture of submission that hardened Jared’s cock even more. He carefully pulled Jensen’s jeans off, trailing kisses down his left leg as he did so and coming back up by kissing a trail up his right leg.

He sucked the skin of Jensen’s inner thigh into his mouth, biting and sucking until a dark mark was left there. He growled in pleasure, loving Jensen marked all over his neck, torso and thighs as his. Jensen’s cock was straining against his underwear, a damp spot where pre-come had seeped through, and Jared was overcome by desire.

“So hard for me, Jen,” he groaned as he peeled his mate’s underwear down and his cock sprung up, curving towards his belly. “Just for me?”

“Only you, Jay,” Jensen moaned breathily, rotating his hips enticingly. “Only ever you.

Jared’s inner Alpha growled in pleasure. “Can I taste you, baby?” he asked, his voice a guttural wreck. “I want to suck you, need to taste…”

“Oh, God, please,” Jensen whimpered. “Jesus, fuck, Jared, please…”

Jared dipped his head and ran his tongue along the vein on the underside of Jensen’s hot length, coming up to delve his tongue into the slit, reveling at the musky, salty-sweet taste that burst across his tongue. Jensen’s hips shot up of their accord, his strangled gasp resonating loudly in the otherwise quiet grounds. Jared pressed down on Jensen’s hips with his hands, pinning him there while he took the top of Jen’s cock gently into his mouth, suckling sweetly and occasionally tonguing the slit. He bobbed his head up and down, coaxing more of his mate’s thick length into his mouth and enjoy the keening sounds coming from him.

Squeezing his hips once in warning, Jared eased his hands off his mate, humming in pleasure when Jensen stayed put. With one hand, he reached up to tweak Jensen’s nipples in time with his sucking, the other hand going to fondle his balls. Jensen panted wildly, moaning Jared’s name.

“Jay, Jay, Jay, oh God, oh, fuck, Jay!”

He pulled off Jensen’s cock slowly, smirking when he whimpered at the loss of contact. “You liked that, Jen?” he asked, his voice rough and low as his hand took his mouth’s place, slowly stroking Jensen’s dick. “I did. You looked so sexy for me, begging me to keep sucking you. You taste so good, baby, I wanted to keep sucking you until you came down my throat, but then I wouldn’t get to do this.”

Without warning, he delved the hand that was wet from stroking Jensen’s shaft between his ass cheeks, dipping one finger teasingly into his mate’s hole.

“Jay!” Jensen screamed, coming off the ground, exploding as he came all over himself and Jared. Jared massaged his rim and cock through his orgasm, muttering inanely about how fucking sexy he looked. When he’d ceased spasming, Jensen finally took his wrists from their position above his head and pressed his palm directly over the hard bulge of Jared’s jeans. Jared moaned, jerking his hips into the contact slightly.

Jensen flipped them over, straddling Jared’s legs as he reached his hand down Jared’s jeans. Jared groaned, knowing that a hand-job was the furthest they could go if Jared didn’t want to knot Jensen yet. He reached up and grasped Jensen’s ass again, spreading him open wide and fingering his hole again. Jensen threw his head back and moaned like a porn star, grinding down at the same time that he wrapped his hands around Jared’s huge member. He jacked slowly upwards, rubbing the slit with his thumb and spreading the pre-come there, before bringing the thumb to his mouth and sucking it provocatively.

“Fuck, baby,” Jared breathed. “Such a little slut for me…bet you want more of that, huh? Bet you wish I was going to put my big cock up your tight little ass.” Jared pushed one finger slowly in, demonstrating his point as Jensen let out a breathy, needy little keening sound. “Fuck, baby, you look fucking fine like this,” he growled lustfully. “You look so perfect just like this, fuck, you’d look even better bouncing off my cock. You want that, baby? You want to ride my dick? Want to bounce on my lap until you come untouched?”

“Fuck, yes, Jay,” Jensen cried grinding harder down, a light sheen of sweat glistening over his naked body. “I want to ride you, then I want you to fuck me hard and fast and dirty, take me deep, then I can suck you clean.”

“Ngh, yeah, Jensen baby,” Jared moaned, bucking his hips upwards, pressing against Jensen’s hands. Jen ducked down and pulled away Jared’s jeans and briefs. He lifted his head to see Jensen wrapping those sinfully plump, cock-sucking lips around the head of his shaft and the sight made him come undone.

“I’m coming, Jen!” he managed to groan out a warning before he was shooting his load. Their chests and thighs were hit with ropes of white cum, and for coming without a knotting, Jared had to admit that was pretty fucking fantastic. He groaned when Jensen dipped his head, beginning to lick the cum off his chest with sexy little kitten licks that had his dick twitching desire pooling low in his stomach once more.

Knowing that a second time around, he wouldn’t be able to keep from knotting Jensen, Jared flipped them back over, uncaring for their stickiness as he claimed Jensen’s mouth in a tender kiss. “I love you so much, Jen.”

“I love you, Jay,” his mate replied, sounding soft and sleepy. After a few beats, his eyes fluttered open and warm emerald eyes locked on to him, filling him with its love. “We need to get cleaned up, talk about…well, everything, and sleep.” Jensen punctuated his statement with a huge yawn before adding, “Not necessarily in that order.”

“Where should we go?” Jared asked dubiously, wondering whether Jensen’s dad was still out of town on business, knowing that his were not. They couldn’t go to Chad’s, because his best friend would never let him live it down, and because Mrs Murray would feel obligated to fill his parents in, and Jared cringed at the possibility of going to Chris’ like this. The other alpha was likely displeased with him for worrying Jen, and for landing them both in hot water by not saying something sooner, so he was content to wait to see Chris until Jen would be with them the entire time, and possibly several other witnesses.

“You have spare clothes in your football locker, and we’ll use the towels too,” Jensen stretched, distracting Jared with the sumptuous view it provided.

“Um, Jen?” he finally snapped back to attentiveness. “Generally on a Friday evening, being that there’s no school on Saturdays, they tend to lock the place up. Climbing over the wall to get to the grounds was one thing, but there’s locks on all the doors.”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” Jensen grinned, pulling on his still-clean jeans and leaving them unbuttoned as he begun to walk towards the locker rooms. Jared tucked himself back into his own jeans and followed suit, brow wrinkled in confusion. “There’s no alarms in there right?” Jensen threw over his shoulder.

“Nu-uh,” Jared shook his head, “but just for clarity’s sake, I’d like to repeat that there is a lock.”

Jensen chuckled lightly, and Jared took the moment to bask in the sound. Not for the first time that night, he thanked every God and star that Jensen had blown his mind out of the park and reacted in a way Jared could only have dreamt he would. He had been certain he was going to lose the love of his life; when he had seen Jensen walking up to him and ask him to talk face-to-face, he felt sure he was facing losing his mate forever. Now that he knew he hadn’t, he felt on top of the moon! And Jensen had told him he loved him! Screw the moon; Jared was positively flying.

Did it get better than this?

With Jensen at his side, it just might.

 

~*Jensen*~

Walking was quite a monumental task when all your limbs felt like jelly.

Jensen soldiered on, intent on getting them cleaned up, because as understanding as he was being about this whole…wolf, thing, he thought he deserved a lot of clarity on the matter, not to mention the fact that a little information would go a long way towards calming the panic attack that he just barely kept at bay every time he thought long enough of the surreal reality they were floating in.

“You’re going to explain everything once we’re done here, right?” Jensen confirmed, keeping his voice level.

“Whatever you want to know, I’ll tell,” Jared promised, finally coming into step next to him. His boyfriend smiled brightly at him, and suddenly, things didn’t seem all that scary anymore. “I’m so happy to be able to talk to you about it now,” he grinned, actually bouncing in his steps a little, and Jensen mentally concluded that his boyfriend really was an overgrown puppy. “Thank you so much for all of this, Jen,” Jared turned serious, hazel eyes shining in a way that reminded Jensen exactly why he’d chosen to listen to his heart. “You have no idea how much it means to me that you’re willing to give us a chance after all this. I honestly was terrified that you’d never want to see me again.”

Jensen thought about all the events leading up to that moment and reached out to take Jared’s hand in his own. “You have your own point,” he admitted carefully. “I don’t know how I would have reacted in a different situation, but the adrenaline at the time sort of kick-started my mind-boggling epiphany that you were still my Jay, wolfy or otherwise.”

“I like being yours,” Jared mumbled, pulling Jensen until he was tucked into his side. “And I like you being mine even more.”

“Hey, I may be very understanding about the magnitude of the secret you were keeping,” Jensen poked Jared’s ribs playfully, “and it may be that you were in a tough position. You’re still, however, going to be doing a hell of a lot of groveling, mister.”

“Yes, dear,” Jared teased, kissing the top of his head while he laughed. As they approached the locked doors, Jensen reached down, pulling his left pant leg up to reveal a stitched in little pocket. Jared frowned in puzzlement as his mate took out two bobby pins from the secret little pocket.

“It helps to always be prepared,” Jensen defended, seeing the confusion on Jared’s face.

“What a good little boy scout,” Jared grinned. Jensen’s next comment, however, accompanied with a most saucy grin, had him groaning out loud.

“I was too naughty to be a boy scout.”

“Fuck, Jen,” he moaned throatily. “You’re making it very hard for me to have any sort of self-restraint.”

Jensen grinned mischievously at him and Jared smacked his ass playfully. Kneeling down, Jensen positioned the bobby pins in the locks and in under 30 seconds, there was a soft, unmistakable snick as the lock popped open.

“That was almost embarrassingly easy,” Jensen scoffed, while Jared just gaped. His mate grinned at him again. “Might I just repeat; 17 years of history before you guys knew me. I wasn’t always the Jen you know, Jay.”

This statement was delivered with a tone a little too aloof for Jared’s comfort. He got the feeling that Jen wasn’t as comfortable with that fact as he made out to be, but he thought now was the worst time in the world to push his mate.

They entered the locker rooms and cleaned up quickly, Jensen swatting away Jared’s wandering hands with playful grins every time he got side-tracked. Before long, they were out of the school yards and walking to Jensen’s house, which was still, to Jared’s worry, empty.

A comfortable silence had descended upon them as they walked, Jensen tucked into Jared’s side to stave off the crisp air. His mate was practically falling asleep on his feet as he walked, too stubborn to speak up, so Jared simply held as much of him as he could.

Once they’d reached the driveway, Jen was fighting to keep his eyes opened. He blearily tried to open the door, and Jared smiled indulgently as he took the key away and did it himself. As it opened, he bent down to lift Jensen into his arms, cradling him lovingly. Jensen immediately snuggled into his chest, and was asleep before Jared could kick the door closed. He ascended the stairs with ease, his mate barely a weight in his arms, and angled his mate with profound tenderness into his bed, covering him with the quilt.

Jen reached up blindly for him, pulling him down to lie next to him. Jared’s heart sang with happiness as he spooned Jensen to him, nuzzling his face into the crook of his mate’s neck, pressing light kisses there.

“I love you, Jen, more than the moon and the stars,” he promised in a whisper. Jared’s heart shone when Jensen surprised him, mumbling back his response.

“I love you too, Jay, forever and always.”

They were together.

They were okay.

They weren’t lost.

Everything was going to work out.

Our talk could wait till morning, he figured, snuggling closer to Jen.

Jared fell asleep with his mate in his arms.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

###

“Jensen!”

Jensen woke with a violent start, bolting upright and rousing Jared in the process. Fear numbed his body and he felt like a deer caught in the headlights when the voice boomed again, closer now.

“Jensen!”

Fear clogged up his throat and his breath came out in sharp, choppy pants at the familiar voice. “Jared, you have to hide,” he choked out, pushing at his boyfriend’s body. “Now!”

“Jen come on,” Jared wheedled, “don’t you think it’s about time your dad found out about us? I really wanna meet him.”

“No!” Jensen all but yelled. “Just trust me, and hide! And whatever happens, don’t come out until I tell you to!”

“Are you embarrassed of me or something?” Jared demanded, hurt flashing through his puppy-dog eyes.

“No!” Jensen denied in frustration, trying to keep a handle on his temper. “It has nothing to do with you! He just…he won’t…he might…”

“Jen, listen to me,” Jared began to argue, only to be cut off abruptly by the door swinging viciously open to reveal Eric, foaming at the mouth and wielding some or other weapon. Jensen's breath caught in his throat as he instinctively threw his body forwards, moving in front of Jared protectively.

“I knew it!” he bellowed. “I knew you were going behind my back, sneaking around, dirtying my house! I’ll teach you a fucking lesson, boy!”

Jensen yelped and curled into a ball as Eric lunged at him, striking him over and over with what felt like a leather whip. “Please, no Dad, please stop, I’m so-sorry!” he sobbed, barely cognizant of the yells coming from his father and boyfriend.

“Get the fuck off of me, you little bastard!” Eric yelled, and Jensen lifted his face to see Jared pulling his foster father back, murderous intent on his face, clear as day. Eric swung the whip around and caught Jared across the face, drawing blood.

“No!” Jensen was on his feet before he could think about it. Blood oozed from him and he could barely stand, but he couldn’t just stand there and let Jared get hurt. “Leave him alone!”

“You’re talking back to me for him?” Eric screamed, his face turning a spectacular shade of red. “You feeling so much for your little fuck-buddy, then fine, I’ll leave him alone, then.”

Eric advanced towards Jensen and he could barely let out a whimper before Eric had him in a chokehold, the whip wrapped vice tight around his neck. He grabbed frantically at it, tearing at the skin of his throat to try and get a grip on it. Choking and flailing, his vision beginning to blur and his lips turning blue, he barely made out Jared’s form in the mirror, sneaking up behind Eric.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one who saw it.

Eric let go suddenly and Jensen gasped in grateful lungfuls of breath, wheezing and coughing violently. He could only watch helplessly from the floor as Eric swung a meaty fist that connected with Jared’s jaw. Jared stumbled backwards and tripped on his shoes, falling to the floor and hitting his head on the corner of the dresser on the way down. There was a sickening crunch and thud with the impacts that made Jensen’s heart seize up in terror.

“NO!!” he screamed hoarsely, uncaring of how much pain his throat was in. He scrambled to Jared’s prone form and choked on a sob when he saw the pool of blood at Jared’s head. His boyfriend was unmoving and Jensen pressed a trembling hand to the pulse point in his throat.

Ice cold and still as death.

“No, no, no…” he moaned brokenly, pulling at Jared until he was draped across his lap. Desperately, he pulled back Jared’s eyelid.

A glassy, hazel eye stared back at him.

He broke down, sobbing uncontrollably over Jared’s still body. “You killed him!” he screamed, out of his mind with heartbreak. “You killed him, you killed…”

You killed him!” Eric bellowed. “You killed him just like you killed Jody and just like you killed your own parents! You kill everyone you love, you’re nothing but a curse!”

“No!” Jensen whimpered. “No, I didn’t! I mean, I didn’t…didn’t mean to...I…I love him…I loved them all…”

“And you killed them,” Eric hissed. “Everyone around you dies!”

“No…” Jensen sobbed, clutching at Jared like this would somehow bring his boyfriend back. Suddenly, underneath his arms, skin became fur.

He looked up to find Wolf-Jared growling at him, eyes a deep red that was far from the hazel he had seen before.

Not Jared anymore, he realized. Just wolf.

He let out a piercing scream as the wolf attacked.

###

Jensen sucked in a breath, eyes snapping open, immobilized with residual terror. His heart was pounding in his ears and his blood was roaring, his cheeks streaked with tears.

Just a nightmare.

A horrible, terrible nightmare.

Jensen woke up slowly, still spooned snugly against Jared, warm and close, and that was about where the good feelings ended. Terror still shook his heart and despite Jared’s warmth pressed close to him, he could still feel the phantom iciness of his boyfriend’s skin under the pads of his fingers. Ghost pains burned his throat as he sucked in breaths, panting as though he’d run 10 miles, and he cleared it, shifting slightly.

“Jen?” Jared mumbled, rousing a little. “You okay, baby?”

“I’m okay, Jay, go back to sleep,” Jensen soothed, seeing that it was still dark out. He must’ve only slept about two hours, and he stomached lying to Jared with the knowledge that he wanted his boyfriend to rest some. “I’m just going to get some water.”

Jared nodded sleepily, turning around and huddling back to sleep. Some of the frozen spikes of fear in his heart melted at the sight and he leaned in to press a kiss to the nape of Jared’s neck, silently taking comfort and welcoming the crushing relief at the warmth that greeted his lips.

He slipped out of bed, taking his cellphone with him. Eric had been gone for about a week now, and as much as he loved the reprieve it gave him, it had also begun to worry Jensen a little. Not only about the possibility of Eric finding him the way he did in the nightmare, but begrudgingly enough, also worry that he might have gotten into some kind of trouble. There was really only a handful of places he would go…Jensen had visited the local bars during the week, had checked in at Eric’s work and the Sunday after this one was Jody’s birthday anniversary and while it was early to have made a trip back home, he couldn’t rule it out either.

Hating how in the dark he felt, he punched in a number that he didn’t think he’d ever use again.

“Cold Oaks, this is Dodge.”

“C’mon, Al,” he smirked at the familiar tone. “You cant tell me Dodge actually caught on since I left.”

“J-Ross!” Aldis whooped enthusiastically. Jensen actually managed a chuckle at the old nickname; he was pretty sure his old friends were the only ones who incorporated his middle name into the nickname they’d found for him. “My man! How’s the new digs treating you?”

“Same shit, different area code, man,” Jensen grinned to himself, wondering how his friend would react the werewolf bombshell. “How’s The Oaks been holding up since I skipped town?”

“Good, man,” Aldis laughed. “Folks can actually come around and shoot some pool now that our resident shark up and left. My profits are riding the fumes, JR, riding the fumes!”

“You can say it, Al,” Jensen replied, pausing dramatically. “You guys miss me hardcore. I don’t blame you, I was always the gang’s main heavyweight.”

“Fuck you,” Aldis chuckled fondly. “We do miss you man,” he admitted warmly. “All of us do.”

The emotion from the usually tough-as-nails barman caught Jensen unawares and he swallowed the lump rising in his throat. Sure, he wasn’t all happy about the guy he had been at that time of his life, but he couldn’t deny he’d made some actual friends in the rush. He felt a rush of guilt at not bothering to contact them.

“I miss everyone too,” he finally responded, smiling bittersweet. “I especially miss the free shooters,” he grinned slyly, and his remark had the desired effect as Aldis bellowed a laugh.

“Y’little bitch. What brings your voice to the other end of my very blown-up telephone, man?”

“Just checking if my old man’s been frequenting the usual joints,” he replied casually, slipping easily back into the Jensen that existed Pre-Jared, guarded and cool. “You still got your ear on the ground floor?”

“Damn straight,” Aldis confirmed. “I heard some whispers around town…aint heard nothin’ concrete yet, but I’ll give you a call if I do.”

“’Preciate it, Al,” he nodded, rubbing his hand over his tired face. Back to the waiting game.

“You okay, man?” Aldis asked cautiously. “Somebody givin’ you trouble there?”

Jensen hid his chuckle with a cough. Not only was the idea of somebody troubling him with Jared and Chris around downright laughable, but also, were all his friends always this overprotective, or had Chris started a chain reaction? Because, God, he’d never noticed this before.

“Naw, man,” he refuted, smiling affectionately. “They know they need to back off.”

Aldis whistled low, and Jensen could hear the smirk in his voice. “Your reputation precede you or something?”

“Or something,” Jensen agreed cryptically, smiling to himself. He hung up on his friend after a few more minutes of talking, with the promise to visit should he ever choose to, quote unquote, slum it up again.

He felt a little more in control knowing that there had been talk about Eric being back home. With Aldis, he’d soon learned, the man always hedged his bets, so if he told you something might be true, it was likely a soon-to-be documented fact. He hoped to hell he wouldn’t have to go back there…but then, Jen had always been a realist, and in the spirit of that, he’d resigned himself to the possibility of having to head back. Maybe he’d even swing it so that he could visit his mom’s grave on her birthday. Maybe take some flowers…Jody had loved flowers.

Jensen was so deep in thought that he didn’t notice Jared’s soft footsteps until big arms wrapped around his waist from behind. Jensen tensed for a split second before melting into the embrace and banishing his fear from the nightmare with a squeeze to Jared’s big forearms. Peace settled inside him and he relaxed the fists that he didn’t even know he’d begun clenching. God, they really needed to talk about the wolf thing…

“You didn’t come back to bed,” Jared mumbled, pressing a warm kiss to the sensitive spot beneath his ear. He shivered happily at the touch, a thrill shooting through him at the fact that they were sharing said bed, something he’d neglected to react to in his state of sleepiness.

“Yeah, I needed to call an old friend from back home,” he whispered. Turning around, he thought it best not to volunteer any more information. He wrapped his arms around Jared’s neck and pulled him down for a tender, gentle kiss. His boyfriend tasted of pine and summer rain, and Jensen hummed happily as he pulled away and rested his head on Jared’s chest.

Jared wound his arms around Jensen’s waist, resting his cheek against the top of Jensen’s head. It felt so easy to forget the world and all the real life dramas they had to face…it felt like together, they could face the whole world. Jensen cuddled in Jared’s protective embrace gave him a feeling of safety that he’d never known before. They fit. They clicked. They matched. God, how could Jensen ever not have accepted all of Jared? The only thing he couldn’t accept, was a world where they weren’t together.

“Jen?” Jared’s murmur broke Jensen from his thoughts. He squeezed tighter, pressing a kiss to Jared’s shoulder, bared by his wife beater.

“Mm?”

“What was your nightmare about?” Jared asked in a small voice, hands playing with the hem of Jensen’s t-shirt. “Did I….was it about…”

“Yeah,” Jensen settled for a half-truth, and before he could explain, Jared pulled back, aiming wide hazel eyes at him, filled with pain and desperation.

“Did I…” he choked out. “Did I..hurt…?”

“No,” Jensen answered immediately, firmly. He framed Jared’s face, pressing a sweet kiss to his lips. “I’m just a little disorientated because I know nothing about all of this, but Jay, I meant what I said. In your arms is the safest I’ve ever felt.”

It took a few minutes, but Jensen maintained his eye-contact and the contact between them, and Jared softened, smiling lovingly down at him before butting his nose against Jensen’s temple and licking the underside of his jaw. Pleasant shivers rattled through the smaller boy even as he laughed.

“I feel like I should have known you were a puppy,” he teased, mischief in his eyes. “You’re always doing those wolfy gestures.”

“Pretty hard to suppress sometimes,” Jared admitted with a grin, nuzzling his neck to make a point.

“Don’t want you to suppress,” Jensen sighed happily, little flutters in his chest at the displays of affection. “You’re adorable.”

“My wolf is not adorable!” Jared snapped up and sniffed indignantly, pouting slightly. “I’m an Alpha, Jen, you can’t call me adorable!”

“I don’t know what you mean, so I can call you anything I want, Padalecki,” Jensen retorted around a yawn.

“I’d start explaining, but I think you need more sleep, baby,” Jared smiled fondly. “Back to bed?”

Jensen felt that small thrill shoot through him again as he nodded, yawning again. He let out a yelp as the ground disappeared beneath his feet. Jared lifted him clear off the ground, cradling him with a grin, and Jensen threw his arms around his boyfriend’s neck instinctively.

“Jared, you overgrown puppy, put me down!” he demanded, the effect of his words lost behind the slight huff that accompanied it.

“Call me a fierce wolf,” Jared grinned as he began to walk. Jensen squirmed, laughing breathlessly.

“Mangy mutt!” he retorted with a smirk, once they were in his bedroom.

Jared grinned evilly, and Jensen yelped as he was thrown onto his bed. He laughed loudly as he bounced off the mattress, night terrors and worries about going back to find his father all forgotten as Jared’s smile blazed through him. Without preamble, Jared slipped off his wifebeater and wriggled out his jeans, shifting into a wolf almost flawlessly.

Jensen bit back a gasp of amazement. He had been distracted previously, but now? With the outside world staying firmly there, and the moonlight streaming silver through the window, Jared’s Wolf looked magnificent. Regal. Breathtaking. From the long curve of his back to the proud set of his posture, from the strong graceful limbs to the hazel slanted eyes that seemed to solidify that it was Jared in there…

It was the kind of beauty Jensen had never thought he would experience.

“Beautiful,” he murmured, eyes wide in wonderment. Jared crouched low, his tongue lolling out, looking suddenly playful, and Jensen huffed out a laugh.

‘M gonna getcha, Jen!

Jensen laughed out loud as Jared’s voice manifested in his head, a split second before he realized…Jared’s voice had manifested in his head! He stood there motionless as he comprehended this new piece of information. Was it because he was dating Jared? Or because he knew their secret now?

His thoughts were interrupted when Wolf Jared launched himself on to the bed, pinning Jensen down with a gentleness that belied his size. Jensen laughed again, deciding to just go with the flow as Jared butted his muzzle softly against his cheek. Jared licked his jaw in exactly the same spot, the tenderness in the action only amplified as he was in his wolf form, and Jensen shivered, same as before.

Love you, Jen.

“Love you, Jay,” he replied, and the wolf butted his cheek again, a small rumble going through his chest that sounded suspiciously like a purr. Jared settled himself carefully next to Jensen, resting on his belly and tucking his paws close to himself. Hazel eyes regarded him warmly, even in lupine form seeming to glow with love.

And all at once, Jensen’s brain got with the picture his heart had been painting all along.

Wolf or no…it was his Jared.

There wasn’t an inkling of hesitation in him as Jensen cuddled into the wolf’s soft, warm fur. He could almost feel his boyfriend’s surprised warmth and love at the trusting gesture, the wolf’s relief almost palpable in the air around them. Unconsciously, Jensen petted the fur at the top of the large creature’s spine, just as he would have played with the ends of Jared’s hair. Predictably, the gesture soothed both him, and his wolfed-out boyfriend. Sleep began to tug at the edges of Jensen’s mind, all of his worries and concerns melting into the background.

Sleep, mo chroi. He heard Jared’s tender whisper. Dream sweet, baby. I’ll keep the nightmares away. I’m here now.

And Jensen did, because Jared was.

 

~*Jared*~

Jared woke up curled around Jensen, unable to tell where he ended and where his mate began.

And what a way it was to wake up.

Somewhere during the night, he’d shifted back to human form and, not wanting Jen to miss the warmth of his fur, Jared had snuggled the other boy close and wrapped them both in a blanket. His heart burned in his chest as he thought back to how Jensen had cuddled into his wolf, making the Alpha in him hum with heady pleasure. It was almost as though Jensen could read his mind last night, laughing at his antics and taking comfort from his unspoken reassurances. He wished, not for the first time, that he could talk in his wolf form, but even without any communication, Jensen seemed to understand what he was doing.

Jen shifted in his sleep, burrowing closer into his chest, and his mate’s proximity and his scent, combined with Jared’s half-undressed state, had his cock twitching in interest.

Jensen ducked his head and his breath ghosted hotly over Jared’s exposed nipple, making the Alpha bite back his groan. He leaned down and nibbled on the top of Jensen’s ear, tracing the shell with his tongue before biting and sucking the earlobe. Jensen squirmed, rolling his hips as he came to awareness.

“Morning,” he greeted, and damn if Jensen’s rough, sleep-addled voice didn’t send need shooting through his body. Jared dipped his head down to capture his mate’s lips in a fierce, claiming kiss, one hand dipping down to tease the edge of Jensen’s sweats waistband. Jensen arched into him slightly, and Jared slipped one muscular thigh between Jensen’s legs, brushing against him teasingly. Jensen panted into the kiss and Jared sucked on his tongue almost lazily.

“Morning, mo ch…baby,” he grinned when he pulled away, burning from the hooded desire blazing in Jen’s green orbs. He’d just managed to stop himself from calling Jensen “mo chroi”, a pet name his grandfather had had for his grandmother that he’d always remembered and thought was sweet. He decided to keep that nickname in his head, at least until Jensen could consciously decide whether he was going to stay with him. He bent to quickly nibble at Jensen’s swollen lower lip. Jensen made a small sound at the back of his throat and Jared swallowed the sounds with another long, deep kiss.

As he was exploring the cavern of Jensen’s mouth, something occurred to him and he pulled back slightly.

“There was no good reason in the whole world to stop that,” Jensen groaned theatrically.

Jared chuckled, butting Jensen’s temple with the side of his nose. “Do you remember when we first started texting each other?”

“Hmm…” Jensen pulled slightly back, a thoughtful expression on his face as he absently gnawed on his already red and swollen bottom lip. “You saw a bird’s nest and I had a minor stroke,” he nodded the affirmative. “Go on.”

“Minor stroke?” Jared laughed loudly. “Jen, what are you talking about?”

“I wanted to smash the phone against the wall,” he admitted with a wry grin. “I didn’t know how to reply.”

“So you were gonna smash the phone?” Jared’s body shook with laughter. His apology was on his lips for laughing when suddenly, startlingly warm and loving green eyes locked on to his own hazel pools. His breath caught, and he thanked his stars for leading Jensen into his life. He must have been doing something right to have been given the gift of having the stunning boy in his life.

“It was a better alternative than going on the lam,” Jensen defended, grinning sheepishly as Jared threw his head back in laughter, coming back to the present. “What about that day, anyway?”

Jared got up and fetched his jeans off the floor, wriggling into them. “You still have something to prove to me,” Jared waggled his eyebrows, casting a meaningful grin at Jensen, waiting for him to figure it out.

He could see it when his mate did.

Oh!” Jensen laughed, eyes crinkling at the corners. “You want me to prove to you that pick-up lines are all about the delivery?”

Jared grinned, nodding as he crossed his arms and waited. “Impress me, Jen,” he challenged playfully.

He would never have been prepared for the way Jensen responded to a challenge.

Moving with a slow, very deliberate grace, Jensen got out of the bed, keeping smoldering emerald eyes locked on Jared the whole time. Jared swallowed hard as he took in the sleep tousled hair, Jensen’s low riding sweats that showed off a teasing strip of his hip bones, and the snug and tight t-shirt that did nothing to hide Jensen’s lean, toned body.
When he finally came to stand in front of Jared, Jen didn’t stop. He kept coming forward, making Jared step back instinctively until his back hit the wall, something he’d never done, but felt compelled to do now, if only to see where Jensen was going with this.

His mate boxed him in, one hand placed on either side of Jared on the wall, and all through this, not once did Jensen’s hooded eyes leave his own. His pulse jumped in his throat.

“Call me Fred Flintstone,” Jen murmured, his voice so dark and deep and sexy that Jared could hardly comprehend the words. “Coz baby, I can make your bed rock.”

In his mind, Jared knew that the line was absolutely ridiculous, but those vibrant eyes that were so full of dark and dirty promises, that low rumble of his voice was as smooth as whiskey but still somehow, as rough as sandpaper, and when Jensen delivered that line with his own teasing little rock of his hips, Jared was fucking done for.

He let out an almost animalistic growl, lust burning through his veins until the need to claim, possess, get drunk off Jensen was the only thing on Jared’s mind. He wrapped his arms around Jensen’s waist and turned them around, slamming Jensen against the wall before he lifted his mate, gripping the back of his thighs to make sure that Jensen wrapped his legs around his waist.

“All about the delivery, huh Jay?” Jensen smirked at him, looping his arms around Jared’s neck.

Fuck yeah,” Jared groaned, slamming his lips forcefully against Jensen’s, a passionate and frenzied clashing of teeth and tongue, sucking, nibbling, and plundering until he felt inebriated with desire.

Walking them backwards over to the bed, Jared let the feel of the bed hit the back of his knees before he fell backwards gently, taking Jensen with him so that the smaller boy didn’t take any impact. He rolled them over, grinding against Jensen with slow movements that were driving them both mad. The green-eyed boy threw his head back with a small moan, exposing his throat in submission and making Jared’s inner Alpha growl with pleasure. Jared kept up his grinding while kissing a trail along the long column of Jensen’s throat. He stopped at the hollow at the base of Jen’s throat, sucking deep and unforgivingly at the sensitive skin, growling as he bit and sucked a deep mark on to pale skin.

“Gonna mark you up so good, Jen,” he promised in dark desire. “Gonna mark you all over, show everyone that you’re fucking mine.

“Yeah, Jay,” Jensen panted, obviously on board with the possessiveness in the Alpha’s tone. Jared, far from any level of patience by now, ripped Jensen’s shirt right up the middle, moving the material out of the way of his mouth as it descended on golden, freckled skin. Jared traced each little cluster of the adorable freckles, then proceeded to map out Jen’s torso solely with his tongue.

As promised, by the time Jared’s unrelenting mouth reached Jensen’s sternum, the boy was covered in dark marks, writhing in mindless pleasure.

And that was when he saw it.

Jared had never really seen Jensen during the day without his shirt on, and the fairy lights at the clearing that night, and the moonlight on the grounds last night couldn’t have picked up on what he was looking at now. He remained frozen, suspended in the air with his eyes locked on the long, jagged, pale scar across Jensen’s belly.

“Jen?” he whispered hoarsely. “Baby, what…?”

Jensen caught sight of what he was looking at, and Jared knew as soon as Jen’s face burned red, that he was going to try to cover it up and escape. He lowered his body more flush against Jensen in a preemptive move, trapping his wrists in one hand and reaching the other to cradle Jensen’s face.

Jensen’s breath hitched and he closed his eyes. “It was the only time I didn’t suture myself,” he whispered, anguish tainting his tone that ripped apart Jared’s heart. “Adam, he...he, um…he had a knife, and…”

“Oh God,” Jared whispered, horrified, icy cold seeping through his bones as he realized how close he came to losing Jen before he even got to know him. He felt nauseated and terrified and desperate, all at the same time. He pressed his forehead against his mate’s, needing to reaffirm their connection, cement the fact that his mate was here, and alive, and okay, and his. He didn’t realize he was tensed and panting slightly until Jensen maneuvered his hands out of Jared’s grasp and wrapped his arms around Jared’s neck, playing with the ends of his hair and rubbing his coiled neck in soothing motions.

“It’s okay, Jay,” Jensen whispered, leaning up to press a kiss to Jared’s still unresponsive lips. “It’s okay, I’m here, I’m alright, we’re both okay…everything is okay. I promise. Shh…”

Jared let his head fall into the crook between Jensen’s neck and shoulders, inhaling his mate’s scent and seeking comfort in the way that he knew he should have been providing.

“How bad was it, Jen?” he asked, his voice shattered. He briefly wondered why he was being such a masochist, but truthfully, he needed to know. He couldn’t explain the burning need, but he thought it had something to do with what he was going to do when he finally hunted that son of a bitch down.

“Jared, don’t do this to yourself.” Jensen’s voice was pleading as he butted his nose against the top of Jared’s jaw, the closest he could reach with Jared’s face still burrowed into him. Jared lifted his face to look at his mate, aiming wide, puppy-dog eyes at him. Jensen’s eyes fluttered shut, but not before Jared caught the resignation there. “Three times,” he finally whispered, opening agonized eyes to look at the Alpha. “They lost me on the table three times. When he knifed me, it broke a rib that was already badly fractured, and it pierced my lung.”

A dull roaring filled his ears and Jared felt like he was choking on his own tongue. “Baby…”

“Stop. He has no place here, Jay,” Jensen interrupted him, palms framing Jared’s face as his mate synchronized their breathing, waiting for him to follow suit. “This is you and me. He doesn’t belong here.”

Jared nodded jerkily, making a valiant effort in calming himself down and letting explosive relief drown the anguish that flowed through his veins. “I’ve got you,” he murmured, kissing Jensen’s lips softly. “I’ve got you, you’re mine, baby. I’m never gonna let you go and I’m not gonna let him hurt you ever again.” He kissed away the tears falling from Jensen’s eyes, letting his own fall too as he chanted the words inwardly, a constant mantra of a reminder that Jensen was here with him, warm, alive, breathing. He pressed their foreheads together with infinite gentleness, the preciousness of his mate with him something he had neglected to be grateful for and the reality of what could have been impressing itself on him until he was weak with relief. “I’m not gonna let him hurt you ever again,” he repeated, reassuring his mate and himself.

“I know,” Jensen nodded, nuzzling into him, eyes closed like a newborn wolf cub. “I know you won’t.”

The burning need to claim his mate was replaced now, with an even fiercer need to affirm his life. Starting at Jensen’s temple, Jared drew a trail of butterfly kisses, soft nips and sucks down along his jaw, to the corner of his mouth, then trailing a path along his bared throat. He stopped to suckle another bruise on to the juncture between his mate’s neck and shoulders, then continued his path downwards, scraping his teeth along Jensen’s collar bone before suckling each nipple into his mouth, ignoring Jensen’s moans. He strayed from his intended path only long enough to pepper kisses over the spot when his mate’s heart was beating, resting his ear there for a moment to hear and feel the reassuring thumpthump that gave him a reason to keep breathing himself. Finally, he managed to tear himself away from the glorious sound, scraping his teeth over the ridges of Jensen’s lean torso until he came to the scar.

Pressing his hands into Jensen’s hips to hold him in place, Jared mouthed along the scar, kissing, biting, sucking, licking at the physical reminder. He felt Jensen’s belly fluttering under his ministrations, muscles wound tightly to keep from moving. He traced the old wound with his mouth three times, one for each time that he’d almost lost his love.

Finally, he sat back a little, looking at Jensen even as his fingers absently traced the jagged path over and over, as gentle as the breeze created by a butterfly’s wings. His mate was looking at him with tears of wonderment in his eyes.

“You’re not disgusted by it?” he asked in a tiny voice.

“Never,” Jared breathed, crawling back up Jensen’s body to bracket his face with one arm on either side of it, resting against the pillows. “Every inch of you is beautiful, Jen. The scars just add to your beauty because it shows how strong you were- are- for surviving. I love your scars, Jen, because they’re reminders to me that you’re still here. Scarred, but breathing, alive, with me.” He bent down to capture Jensen’s lips in a gentle kiss. “They’re a reminder that I’ve been given a precious chance to have you.”

Jensen’s tears were flowing freely now. “I love you,” he whispered, setting Jared’s heart alight. God, no matter how many times he heard those words, it would never be enough. “I love you so God damned much, Jay, forever and always.”

He smiled at the phrases that were quickly becoming their trademark.

“I love you too, baby,” he whispered. “More than the moon and the stars.”

 

~*Jensen*~

“Ok, so you’re going to be the head of the pack, because you’re the pack Alpha’s heir, and because your older brother chose to leave the pack for his wife, who was a Beta from another pack,” Jensen clarified as he sprinkled the last of the grated cheese over the lasagna he was making. It seemed that talking over him cooking would become a thing of theirs, since Jensen was calmer when he was multi-tasking and Jared was obligated to remain focused if he wanted any of the delicious smelling meal.

Jared had explained the pack hierarchy as best he could, and already, Jensen felt better knowing something concrete. It didn’t really surprise him that his boyfriend was not only an Alpha, but also the head Alpha; everyone deferred to him most of the time anyway, be it human or wolf.

“Yeah,” Jared nodded his head, bringing Jensen back to their discussion. “Jeff still visits from time to time, but he’s part of his wife’s pack now.”

Jensen furrowed his brow, wondering how to phrase what was on his mind. “Packs aren’t all that different from families, right?”

“Right,” Jared grinned, seeming happy that Jensen had said so. “We’re all a huge family.”

“Then weren’t there people who disagreed or were against Jeff leaving for his wife?” he asked curiously. “I mean, what if some of them viewed it badly?”

“They didn’t,” Jared refuted, “but in the rare case that someone would have disputed me taking Jeff’s place, I would have had to beat them in a formally issued challenge. We would have to fight until one of us surrendered or couldn’t fight anymore.”

Jensen shuddered at the remote possibility of having to see that, glad he didn’t have to. Jared smiled reassuringly when he voiced his thoughts.

“It would never have happened,” he said confidently, shrugging lightly. “Our pack has great respect for mates and mating, and even if someone disagreed with Jeff’s leaving, they would have still been supportive because he was doing it for his mate.”

The word triggered a memory in Jensen, of Jake’s hurled words the previous night. “Tell me about this mate thing,” he requested as he slid the casserole carefully into the oven. “Jake said I was yours?”

Jared blushed, right to the roots of his hair, and Jensen would have laughed if his boyfriend hadn’t looked so uncertain. Pushing back the desire to giggle at the adorable face, Jensen leaned over the kitchen counter, towards Jared, propping himself on his elbows. “Come on, Jay,” he soothed, cocking his head to the side as Jared lifted his eyes to him and mirrored his pose so that they were closer to one another. “I promise, I’m not running.”

Jared took a deep breath, then nodded slightly. “It’s pretty simple to explain,” he mumbled. “As wolves, we believe that we all have one true mate; the one person on the face of the earth perfectly suited for us in every way. Our soul mate, if you will. We believe that we can recognize our mate in a lot of different ways apart from the instant attraction and connection; they have a smell different to anything we’d ever smelt before, for example, and as the mating bond grows, it’s even been said that mate’s can practically tell what their significant other is feeling, or thinking. Not straight out, but they get a flavor of it, in a way. Not many wolves still believe mates exist, because the world is a massive place, after all, but there are always some of us that spend our whole lives searching and waiting for our mate.”

Jensen would have fallen to his knees if not for the counter propping him up. He was Jared’s mate? It would certainly explain why he could hear Jared’s thoughts. But God, his soul mate? Jensen wasn’t sure why it wasn’t scaring him to be shown the level of commitment Jared was alluding to, but all he felt was humbled, grateful and almost tearful with emotion. He knew that Jared was something special…but his soul mate? Jensen could so get on board with that.

“Do I smell different to you, Jay?” he asked softly, needing the confirmation from Jared instead of Jake. “Am I your mate?”

Jared’s eyes never steered from his. “Yes.”

He needed no more of an invitation.

Crossing around the table, he climbed onto Jared’s lap and caught his lips in a tender, searing kiss that left them both breathless. He felt the tension leave his boyfriend- his mate- in a favor of a possessive hunger and euphoria.

Mine,” Jared growled against his lips, hands roaming frantically, almost as though he were trying to touch everywhere at once. “My mate. Mine.

“Yours,” Jensen agreed, elation making his veins sing as he uttered the truth.

He may not have been a were, but Jared was written in his soul and resided in his bones. He understood.

 

~*Jared*~

Without warning, he hoisted his mate up and set him back down on the edge of the table. Jared quickly stepped between his legs and crashed his mouth to Jensen’s, swallowing the dark blonde’s moans and breathy gasps.

Jared rocked gently into the open V of Jensen’s legs, making the smaller boy throw back his head, submitting his throat with a low whimper. Jared growled in pleasure and nipped a trail along Jensen’s slender neck, leaving bruising marks over the already purpling skin, which didn’t escape Jensen’s notice.

“I’ve got hickeys over hickeys, Jay,” he chided gently, an exasperated smile playing on his lips. Jared retaliated by thrusting his denim-covered cock over Jensen’s and swallowing the answering keens, possessiveness roaring through him at the multitude of feelings and desires.

“Good,” he stated firmly. “Now everyone can see that you belong to me.”

Jensen poked him none too gently, stabbing his finger to Jared’s chest as he narrowed his eyes. “Not that I’m property or anything, am I Jared?” he challenged warningly.

“Not at all, mo chroi,” Jared hastened to agree, an amused smile lighting up his face at his mate’s fire, unwittingly slipping his nickname in.

Mo chroi?” Jensen’s eyebrows furrowed. “What does that mean? You called me that last night too.”

Jared started in shock. He was sure he’d mind-spoke the words in his wolf form…but he must have been mistaken…

Mo chroi…it’s a name I remember from my grandparents,” he admitted sheepishly, dismissing his concerns. “It means ‘My heart’.”

Jensen sent him a warm, tremulous smile. “I love it,” he whispered, pressing his lips against Jared’s once more. Jared cradled his mate’s face, petting the side of his neck and nuzzling into his temple when they broke their kiss.

“So…” Jensen continued, pushing away slightly so that he could face Jared. “Who do I know that’s a were? I assume everyone in the gang?”

“Yeah,” Jared nodded. “But they’re the wolves from our pack.”

“There’s more than one pack here?”

“Yeah, at the moment, there’s two,” Jared nodded. “The Padalecki Pack and the Morgan Pack.”

“Wouldn’t there be disputes between the two, for power and land and whatever?” Jen asked, scrunching his nose in thought. “Or are you amicable?”

Jared beamed at his mate’s sharp intuition and observations. “There’s always been a power struggle between our packs,” he confirmed, rubbing gentle circles into Jensen’s hipbones. “We’ve been negotiating a treaty since before I was born, because the thread that stood between us and a pack war was always just the feeble belief and surface bond of the packs that existed between Morgan’s brother and my father. Three years ago, Morgan’s brother died; he was ambushed by what we believe was a traveling pack. Morgan took over as Alpha because his brother had never sired any heirs, and he was always convinced that our pack killed his brother. Ever since, we’ve been teetering on the edge of war, and we seem closer than ever these days.” Jared allowed a small sigh to escape him as the tension from the packlands came back to the forefront of his mind. “Morgan’s always been waiting for one of us to slip up, give him a reason…I worry that his patience might have reached the end of its tether.”

Jensen framed his face, pressing their foreheads together in silent comfort and support. Jared drew strength from the feel of his beloved mate pressed against him, the love almost bursting through his chest from it’s sheer force.

“It’s going to be okay,” Jensen whispered. “You wanna know why?”

“Tell me,” Jared whispered back.

His mate wore a confident smirk, eyes sparkling. “You’re Jared fucking Padalecki,” he grinned arrogantly, making Jared laugh loudly. “You’ve got your family, friends who would die and kill for you, and for whatever it’s worth, you’ve got me too. We’re all right there with you and as long as we’re together, no one can stop us.”

“How in the world did I get so lucky to find you?” he marveled quietly, nuzzling Jensen and licking the side of his neck playfully.

“Funny,” Jensen smiled warmly, “I was just about to ask you the same thing.” The green-eyed boy kissed him quickly once more, before going to check on the lasagna in the oven. “Jay,” he threw over his shoulder as he worked, “I’m gonna go ahead and assume Jake and his friends are part of the Morgan Pack. Anyone else I know?”

“Yeah,” Jared nodded, running through the list in his head before he answered. “Sophia Bush?”

“Holy shit!” Jensen yelped, the shock of the revelation stunning him enough for him to inadvertently touch the burning pan. Jared was next to his mate in the following second, sucking the reddened finger into his mouth, soothing the pain away with small swipes of his tongue. Jensen’s eyes darkened with lust at the picture, and Jared felt himself getting hard at the pretty picture it painted in his head.

Jensen shook his head, seeming to come back to reality. “Looks like me and Chris need to talk about a few things,” he muttered, gently extracting his hand to pull the steaming pasta out of the oven and set it on the cool stovetops.

“About what?” Jared asked curiously, reaching for the top of the lasagna to scoop a piece of bubbling cheese. Jensen swatted his hand away, glaring at him as he pulled back in shock, automatically pouting.

“Did you not just see me burn my hand on the steaming hot lasagna?” his mate asked him exasperatedly, a small smile playing on his lips. “Patience is a virtue, Jay.”

“You sound like my mom,” Jared complained good-naturedly. “I bet she’s gonna love you when you meet her this Friday.”

“Your mom…wait, WHAT?!

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

“Sophia Bush is your mate, isn’t she?”

The words were out of Jensen’s mouth before the door to his best friend’s house was even fully open. Chris stared at him for a moment, slack-jawed, before composing himself.

“So Jared’s told you about the mating stuff then, huh?” he nodded with a small sigh. “Yeah, Sophia’s my mate.”

“I don’t understand,” Jensen stated, furrowing his brow. He ducked under Chris’ arm, heading to the kitchen to leave the Tupperware container of lasagna he’d brought his friend and ignoring Chris’ sarcastic mumbles about being invited in. Judging from the disheveled state of his friend and the light circles underneath murky blue eyes, Chris had only just woken up. He felt badly momentarily, for bombarding his friend, but that emotion was quickly overridden by concern.

“Make yourself at home,” the shorter boy snarked when he entered the kitchen. Jensen smirked as he dished a portion of the food out and put the rest in the refrigerator after taking a quick minute to flip his friend off. Grabbing a fork, he sat at the counter and pushed the plate in front of the chair opposite his, in front of Chris.

“I know you haven’t eaten yet, and God knows you need more balanced foods than you eat now,” he chided gently. He hated the fact that Chris didn’t have the benefit of someone to take care of him, and had taken it upon himself to make sure that Chris, at the very least, ate (mostly) right and applied to colleges and for scholarships. “Now, it’s four pm, and you’ve obviously just woken up. You wanna tell me what kept you up all night?”

Chris flashed him a cocky smirk that held none of its usual affection and sincerity. Just…blank. “You’re a kinky bastard, aren’t ya Freckles?”

Jensen rolled his eyes, unwilling to let Chris talk his way out of it. “Sure, because hooking up always leaves those shadows in your eyes and of course, you’re always this tense around me. What was I thinking?”

Chris shifted uncomfortably, making no move towards the offered food. Jensen softened at the sight of his friend’s usually clear blue eyes darkened by what looked like apprehension and worry.

Wait…apprehension?

“Shit,” Jensen cursed lowly as it dawned on him. “Have you been up all night worrying about me? My reaction to you being a wolf?”

Chris’ lack of a response said more than the boy himself ever could have hoped to say.

Jensen slipped off the stool he’d climbed on to and threw an arm around Chris, giving him a rough, one-armed hug. “I know I didn’t make the time to drive this point home last night, and I’m sorry for that, but I meant it whole-heartedly when I said I wasn’t mad at you. And as far as the wolf thing goes, I’ll tell you something along the lines of what I told Jared; I don’t give a fucking damn. You’re my best friend; the only thing that’s changed, is that now you’re totally getting a rubber bone for your birthday.”

His quip had the desired effect as Chris bellowed a laugh and elbowed him lightly in the gut. “Fuck off, Freckles! I am not a puppy!”

“Yeesh, Jared said the same thing! So touchy,” he mock sniffed, not bothering to hide his grin. “Now eat, damn it! Before I replace it with kibble.”

“Yes, Mom,” Chris rolled his eyes, picking up the fork even as he tried to hide the warmth in his expressive eyes. Jensen smiled, pleased with his efforts even more so when Chris actually whimpered a little at the taste. “I take back everything nasty I ever said to you, Freckles. Move in here with me tomorrow.”

Jensen chuckled at the thought of how Jared would react to that offer. “I would,” he grinned, “but I like your head on top of your body, and my boyfriend not in jail.”

“That’s fair,” Chris smirked. “Fuck, Freckles, I gotta ask, man…how are you taking this so well? You’re so calm and unfazed by it all. How are you not hightailing it to the Canadian border by now?”

Jensen thought about his answer, not wanting to hurt his friend, but at the same time unwilling to lie to him. “I’ve seen evil in my life, Chris,” he finally settled on ambiguity. “I’ve been around it. You’re not it. Jared’s not it. Maybe this is messed up, but in my life I’ve learnt that most monsters are of the human variety, and frankly, sometimes they’re far worse than what our nightmares conjure up. I’ve never judged people on anything but their actions, and you guys have protected me at every turn. You all being werewolves had nothing to do with how safe I always felt around y’all. There’s no part of me that could see any part of any of you, as something bad. Except maybe Jake,” he added as an afterthought, “but that might be a biased opinion.”

“No,” Chris snorted, “that douchebag is almost as bad as his daddy.”

“I wouldn’t know, but I feel sorry for his mom in that case,” Jensen grinned.

Chris eyed him speculatively. “Jared didn’t tell you the whole story,” he said suddenly, cocking his head to the side. “He told you about the Morgan pack?”

“Just that the two packs were at loggerheads,” Jensen supplied. “And that Sophia Bush and Jake Abel were part of the pack.”

“They’re more than part of it,” Chris spoke around a mouthful of lasagna. “Jeff Morgan, the pack Alpha? They’re his family. Jake is his only son.”

“Shit!” Jensen breathed, eyes widening. “Jake is the Alpha heir?” Chris opened his mouth to speak again, and Jensen absently added, “Don’t speak with your mouth full, you animal. You’ll choke on something.”

Chris rolled his eyes, swallowing pointedly. “Abel and Sophia are first cousins, and Sophia is Morgan’s sister’s kid. Jake’s mom died when he was little, and keeping her maiden name was the one thing Jake defied Morgan on. In the end, Morgan allowed him to keep it provided that, as soon as Jake come of age, that he dedicate himself fully to the title and become more involved with the pack. As it is, Jake is only in school not to raise any suspicion.”

“How do you know all this?” Jensen furrowed his brow in confusion.

“I’m an alpha too,” Chris explained, “which means I’m generally part of the entourage Gerald Padalecki takes when we meet the Morgan pack to talk about the treaty, which has been happening more often than not these days. One of the alphas of the Morgan pack, Sebastian Roche? He isn’t as bad as the others. He told me the story in bits and pieces over the years.”

“He runs with Abel, right?” Jensen confirmed, a picture of the boy springing to mind. “Yeah, he seems to have a bit more of a head on him than Sheppard and Jake. So does Sophia.”

Chris stayed quiet at that, finishing off his pasta and getting up to put the plate in the sink. Jensen tracked his friend’s movements with his eyes, debating on whether to push him or not. When a few minutes ticked by without any response from the blue-eyed alpha, Jensen bit his lip and stood up to move towards the motionless boy.

“Chris,” he started gently, clamping a hand gently over his friend’s shoulder. “Is that why you won’t make a move on Sophia? Because she’s in Morgan’s pack?”

“Yes, and no” Chris answered softly, leaning into Jensen slightly, who promptly shifted his position to press back against the extra weight, holding him up. “I’m not making a move on her, because I don’t want to put her in that position. I never want to make her have to choose between her family and her mate, and with the way our packs are, that was bound to be the only choice available to us.”

Jensen’s heart squeezed with how romantic and sweet and thoughtful the gesture was, so typical of his best friend, and so tainted with the politics caused by the rivaling packs.

He chewed mindlessly on his bottom lip, trying to find a way to voice his doubts tactfully. “Chris, buddy, do you think that’s your decision to make?” he asked gently. “I understand you wanting to protect her, hell I even admire it, but Sophia’s a big girl and she seems pretty independent…she strikes me as someone who can take care of themselves. I just feel like she wouldn’t really appreciate your looking out for her if it’s at the expense of her choices.”

“I know you’re right,” Chris mumbled, “but I can’t not protect her from that. If the words ever came out of her mouth? That she knew we were mates and didn’t care about the packs, and wanted to be with me? I wouldn’t think twice.”

“And if it doesn’t? You’ll be unhappy the rest of your life?” Jensen asked, fearing that he already knew the answer.

“If the situations were reversed, you wouldn’t do the same for Jared?” Chris asked instead. Jensen looked away in quiet acknowledgement, because he could argue till he was blue in the face, but that wouldn’t change the fact that there were no limits to what he would or wouldn’t do to protect Jared.

A somber silence fell over the friends, each lost in their own thoughts of the world of complications they were embroiled in.

“Jen-SEN!”

A whiny shout and the sound of Chris’ front door tumbling open brought them from their respective reveries. Jensen and Chris exchanged bemused half-grins as Chad and Jared came bursting into the kitchen, each trying to grab the other in a head-lock. The wrestling friends came to a stop in front of them, and Jensen raised his eyebrow in silent question. Jared crossed his arms and glared at Chad, who looked overly smug.

“Chad ate the lasagna you sent for me to have for dinner later!” Jared accused with a pout, sounding all of three years old.

“Jensen meant for you to bring it for me!” Chad retorted. “So there!”

It would have been fine if it was left there, but it was probably Chad sticking his tongue out at Jared that did Chris and Jensen in.

Melting the earlier tension like butter on a frying pan, they burst out laughing. Chad and Jared did nothing to help the situation; in retaliation, Jared had launched himself at Chad and their wrestling match begun anew. Suddenly, Chris stole around the table and Jensen watched with a grin as he took out the lasagna in the fridge and tried to discreetly hide it.

But then, Jensen guessed that werewolves would have super sensitive senses of smell.

Everything went eerily silent for a single moment, as Jared and Chad looked up from their tangled position, straight at Chris, who froze like a deer in the headlights with evidence in hand. Jensen was immobile in his place, too, responding to the sudden inactivity around him.

And then war broke out.

As the fighting alphas scrambled to get to him, Chris darted to Jensen, standing behind the green-eyed boy, and Jensen instinctively held his arms out, acting as a shield.

“Stop!” His voice rang out just before Jared and Chad could tackle him. “Think about it, you tackle me and I won’t make anything for a month.”

Chad flashed him a pout and Jared sent him a sultry, dark grin. “I bet I could convince you otherwise,” he stated huskily, taking a step towards Jensen, who couldn’t stop the smirk spreading over his face.

“I’ll tell your Mom on you,” Chris piped up from behind him, and Jensen couldn’t stop his guffaw at the stricken look on his boyfriend’s face.

“That’s not playing fair, Kane,” Jared groused, looking petulant.

“I got your back, man,” Chad added gleefully. “I’ve got plenty that I’m sure Mama Padalecki will be dying to hear.”

Jared looked to him, puppy-dog-eyes in full effect, and Jensen reacted instinctively, wrapping his arms around the taller boy’s waist. Jared buried his face in the crook of his neck and he aimed a stern glance at Chad and Chris.

“I don’t support tattling,” he mock-reprimanded, mirth dancing in his eyes. “And stop messing with my boyfriend, or he will be the only one to get my cooking for a year.”

“Sorry, Jared,” the other alphas chimed obediently, in perfect unison. Jared smirked at him, and he winked back playfully, the timed responses driving home the camaraderie between them. Looking at the three alphas surrounding him, Jensen marveled at the fact that they meshed this well together, against the odds and expectations.

It was nice.

No. More than that.

It was awesome.

 

~*Jared*~

“Thanks for breaking up the tension before.”

Jared tore his gaze away from where his mate was dishing up half of Chris’ portion of lasagna for Chad, stifling his amusement as Jensen swatted Chad’s wandering hands away from the open Tupperware container. He turned to grin at Kane in acknowledgement of the blue-eyed alpha’s gratitude.

“Anytime, man,” he nodded amiably. “I felt some of Jen’s anxiety over our mating bond; Chad and I figured you could use the distraction.”

Chris nodded slightly, and Jared wasn’t overly surprised when the other alpha offered no explanation. “I guess now would be the right time,” Chris announced suddenly.

Jared raised an eyebrow in silent question, rotating his wrist in a motion for Chris to elaborate.

“For our talk,” he clarified, straightening his posture and fixing Jared with a menacing look. “Jensen is my little brother,” he stated, almost coldly, and despite their growing friendship, Jared would have had to be an idiot to think that Chris was anything less than deathly serious. “If you do anything to hurt him- anything at all- then me and you are gonna have some serious problems. Break his heart, and I will break every last bone in your body. Twice.” Chris may have been shorter than him, but the boy was more intimidating that Jared cared to admit.

“Gotcha,” Jared nodded solemnly, sensing the raw emotion in the other boy. “I wouldn’t dream of hurting him, Chris.”

“Good,” Chris intoned approvingly. “He’s been through enough already. Which reminds me…you owe me a name, Padalecki.”

Jared clenched his jaw as he immediately caught on to what Chris was asking him. “Name’s Adam Gilligan,” he revealed unrepentantly. “Lives near Jen’s old districts. I promised him we wouldn’t, though, Chris.”

“I didn’t promise a damn thing,” the long-haired boy scowled defiantly. “That bastard hurt him, Jared! I’m not going to just sit around and let that go unpunished.”

“You bet your ass you are.”

Jensen’s firm voice pulled them from their discussion, Chad looking suspicious and Jensen’s eyes a steely emerald.

“It didn’t take you long to break, Jay,” Jen snarked sarcastically. “And Chris, I swear if you hunt Adam down, I’ll never tell you shit again.”

“Don’t play that card, Freckles,” Chris snapped. “The son of a bitch battered you!”

“Nearly killed you,” Jared added angrily, letting his frustration get the better of him in the face of his mate’s adamancy. “Did kill you! Three times you flat-lined!”

Chris’ breath left him in a whoosh as he paled dramatically. Jared snapped his mouth shut as he realized what he’d allowed to slip; he felt sickened as the green-eyed boy shifted his stricken face downwards.

“What the actual fuck are you talking about?” Chad’s devastatingly calm voice, Jared knew, meant only one thing; the boy was pissed.

“Who did what to Jensen?” he asked again, a steely note in his voice. He fixed icy blue eyes on Jared, who was still trying to catch Jensen’s gaze. “One of you better tell me or I swear to Christ…”

“Abusive ex-boyfriend,” Jensen supplied monotonously. The hint of defeat in his mate’s voice struck Jared harder than anything had.

“I’m sorry, then, man,” Chad set his unfinished plate of food down, not even pausing. “But that means you have no say in the matter, because we’re going to kill the fucker.”

Jared was unsurprised at the protectiveness in his best friend’s voice; Chad wasn’t like this with a lot of people, but once you were in his inner circle, it would take hell in a handbasket to get him to bail on you. Jared still didn’t know what happened that day he wasn’t in school, but something had happened with his best friend and his mate, because Jen had slipped into the inner circle faster than even Jared himself had.

“Adam got his just desserts,” Jensen spoke wearily, dragging his eyes up to meet theirs. “Trust me. All I want is for him to be out of my life for good now. All I want is to keep him in the past and not mix him up in my present and future, which is what y’all are going to be doing by hunting him down. He’s out of my life now, and if you guys respect me, then you’ll leave well enough alone. Please?”

Jared didn’t miss the fact that his boyfriend directed those words at him specifically. He felt the anger inside him evaporate as quickly as it had come, melting at the raw vulnerability in his love’s voice.

He was in front of Jensen in two long strides, gathering his mate carefully into his arms. “I’m sorry, mo chroi,” he whispered into silky, dirty-blonde tresses. Jensen shuddered a breath and leaned into him almost imperceptibly. “I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jensen mumbled against his shoulder, winding his arms almost hesitantly around Jared’s neck. The Alpha leaned down in response, pressing his lips gently against his mate’s.

“Gah, my eyes!” Chris and Chad groaned simultaneously.

Jensen laughed against his lips as Chris’ horrified voice went up a shade of a pitch.

“Fuck, I’m starting to sound like Chad!”

 

~*Jensen*~

“Welcome to the Were world.”

Jensen glanced up from his notes, startled at the sweet, feminine voice. He was studying the notes for his Chemistry experiment, head down since Jared, Chris and Chad were all out sick today. His boyfriend- mate- had texted him last night about another treaty meet, and pleaded with him to bunk as well, but Jensen wasn’t about to let, what he hoped was an isolated incident, dictate his schooling career. He promised to keep a low profile and keep Tommy on speed dial just in case; the man was intimidating for a beta.

Now, Jensen looked up meet the startling brown eyes and pin-straight, chestnut hair of one Sophia Bush.

“Ah, um…” he fumbled for words in his surprise. “Thank you,” he eventually managed. “I’m Jensen Ackles, nice to meet you.”

“Sophia Bush, nice to meet you too,” she replied with an amiable smile. “You’re uh…you’re Chris’ best friend, right?” she asked, biting her bottom lip and averting her eyes for a second as she settled herself in the stool next to Jensen’s.

The green-eyed boy’s eyes widened almost comically. “Fuck my life,” he breathed, before blushing deeply in chagrin. “I’m so sorry for the language, I swear my mama taught me better than that,” he grinned. “It’s just…you like Chris, don’t you?”

Sophia’s eyes shot to him as she took in a sharp intake of breath. “Wha-what makes you say that?”

“You bit your lip and looked away when you said his name,” Jensen explained. “It’s a classic tell when a person is hiding a strong emotion about the person they’re speaking of. Also, Jared being the pack Alpha heir, everyone in school refers to me as Jared’s mate, or Jared’s boyfriend, or even Jared’s fuck-toy,” he rolled his eyes at the last one, “but you? No…you referred to me as Chris’ best friend, which implies that in your mind, Chris is more important than Jared, since Chris is the stronger association to you. Judging from the normal Were hierarchy, it implies that you have a personal interest in Chris, since there’s really only one time another wolf should take priority over a pack Alpha.”

Sophia blinked at him, stunned into silence, and Jensen felt self-conscious all at once. “I’m sorry,” he grinned sheepishly, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Foot-In-Mouth disease.”

The petite girl burst into laughter. “Man, I can see why Chris broke his no-friends rule when he met you,” Sophia giggled. “You’re awesome, Jen-Ster. Mind if I call you that?”

“Go right ahead,” Jensen grinned, chin flicking upwards in amused acknowledgement. “I’m gonna call you Soph, so you might as well have your own nickname too.”

“Awesome,” she giggled again. “First, let one of us know if someone calls you a fuck-toy again," she narrowed her eyes. "There are some fun ways to deal with disrespect. Two, do you wanna be lab partners whenever our respective eye-candies are off trying to save the packlands?”

Jensen laughed at the term that he was definitely going to tease Chris to hell about. “Answer one thing first Soph,” he leaned forward, resting his weight on his propped-up elbows. “Enya or Metallica?”

“Hmph,” she smirked. “I love how you ask me that like Enya is even close to the league of real music.”

Jensen blinked owlishly. “Soph,” he finally nodded his approval. “I think this is gonna be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

###

“So Hollywood really went all out in getting the lore wrong, huh?” Jensen chuckled as he carefully measured out 125ml of hydrochloric acid into his conical flask.

“Yeah,” Sophia scoffed absently from where she was scooping out powdered sulfur. “We can shift whenever we want to, definitely not only on a full moon, although we are our strongest then. Damn this thing reeks,” she added with a grumble.

“Mm, I’d go for skin-eating acid any day of the week,” he grinned impishly, adjusting his safety goggles and reaching for a little brown bottle. “So how does a mating bond manifest in wolf form?” he asked curiously as he filled a dropper with blue indicator.

“I think Beaver would be the best person to answer any of your mating questions,” she answered diplomatically. Jensen almost dropped the entire bottle of solution.

“Beaver’s a Were?” he hissed incredulously. “I’m going to kill Jared, he left out all the important bits!”

“Been doin’ that ever since he was a pup,” a gruff voice came from behind them, making both of them jump.

Jensen winced. “Hey Mr. Beaver.”

“Afternoon, Sir,” Sophia grinned unabashedly. “We were just talking about how you totally ship Jared and Jen-Ster.”

“I what now?” Their teacher looked as bewildered as Jensen felt.

“You ship them!” Sophia explained brightly. “You like them as a couple!”

Jensen would be hard-pressed to say who blustered more at that statement.

“Jensen,” Beaver eventually gave up, grousing at the green-eyed boy, “you come to me sometime this week so we can answer your questions, alright boy?”

“Yes, Sir,” Jensen nodded meekly.

Sophia giggled as the older man stalked away, muttering under his breath something that sounded an awful lot like “idjit high school kids”. “Beaver’s the Padalecki Pack’s medic,” she explained. “He used to help my pack- the Morgan Pack- back when I was a kid. When my Uncle Jack died, and Uncle Jeff took over as pack Alpha, all of that just kind of…stopped.” A sad look passed over the girl’s delicate features.

“I’m sorry,” Jensen murmured softly. For as little a time as he’d known her, he felt badly for the beautiful girl’s pain. She sent him a wan smile, shaking her head.

“That’s okay,” she refuted, just as softly. “I think a part of me wouldn’t have even noticed had it not been for…”

She clammed up instantly, Jensen’s attention fully on her. “Had it not been for who?” he asked, waiting for her answer with bated breath. She seemed to hesitate for a second, glancing furtively from side to side.

“My mate,” she finally whispered. Jensen raised his eyebrows, feigning shock.

“Who?”

“I can’t tell,” she shook her head regretfully. “I don’t want to put him in a difficult position with his pack…I don’t think Gerald Padalecki will ever accept someone into his pack who has Morgan blood running through her veins.”

“How will you know if you don’t try?” Jensen asked, exasperation tinging his tone. They loved each other, but both were trying to protect each other. It was romantic and Shakespearean poetical, but they were in the 21st century for Christ’s sake!

“Trying was what killed Juliet,” she pointed out sadly.

“You forget that we’re in a different time now,” Jensen rolled his eyes. “What’s the bet that in this day and age, the Montagues and the Capulets would have been Facebook friends?”

Sophia laughed shakily. “I can’t risk him,” she maintained firmly. “I don’t even know if he likes me too.”

Jensen wanted to bang his head against the desk. “I’ll bet you’ll want to hear it from his mouth, too,” he muttered inaudibly.

“That’d be nice,” she said dryly, and Jensen cursed her Were-hearing. “But he won’t. He’s stubborn like that.”

“So you want to be the pot or the kettle?” Jensen arched his brow.

“Shut up, Jen-Ster.”

Before he could come back with a witty riposte, his phone buzzed insistently in his pocket. He grinned as he looked at the caller ID.

“What’s happening, Al?” he answered his phone with an apologetic grin at Sophia.

“Jensen.”

The single word turned the blood in his veins to ice.

In the years that he’d known Aldis Hodge, the man had never called him by name unless it was incredibly serious. Jensen sat up straight, already packing his books into his bag. “What happened, Al?”

“Jensen…” the man hesitated. “I’m sorry bro, it’s your dad.”

Jensen stopped his motion, and his breathing. A dull roaring filled his ears and he thought Sophia might have been speaking to him, but after a second, even the image of her went blurry. “What happened, Al?” he repeated roughly, gripping the counter to hold himself up.

“Not what you think, kid,” Aldis reassured him, and like magic, the sound in the room went back up. Sophia’s concerned voice halted mid-sentence when he held out a placatory hand.

“Tell me,” he nearly snapped.

“He’s in trouble, Jensen,” Aldis told him seriously. “Worse than he was ever in before. I’m sorry, JR, but I think you’re going to have to come down here.”

Jensen nodded, even though his friend couldn’t see him. “I’ll be on the next train ride out.”

“We’ll be waiting for you, man,” his friend reported softly. “We’ve still got your back.”

“Thanks, Al” Jensen murmured before flipping his phone shut. “I’m sorry Soph,” he apologized quietly. “But I gotta go.”

“What’s the matter, Jen-Ster?” she asked worriedly. “Do you want me to call Chris?”

“No,” he shook his head. “I’ll text him and Jared on the way. I’m sorry, I have to go.”

He left the classroom without a second glance.

Reaching home in record time, he flung clothes into a duffel bag and got out his emergency stack of cash, stuffing it unceremoniously into the side pocket. He looked at his phone in indecision, wanting to call Jared, but at the same time, not wanting the boy to worry about something that wasn’t his problem. He would just have to make sure he was back in time for Sunday brunch with the Padaleckis and it would be okay.

Decision made, he grabbed his keys, switched off the lights and locked the door. Hoisting his duffel on to his shoulder, he turned around…

…to find Jared leaning against the hood of his truck, looking pissed off.

Well, fan-fucking-tastic.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

The tension was thick enough to choke on it.

To give his father due credit, Gerald Padalecki wasn’t backing down from the shouting match he was having with JD Morgan. Jared was torn between having one of his own with Jake and keeping an eye on Morgan, who he didn’t trust as far as he could throw him.

“I think that human’s attack on my son was provocation enough, Padalecki!” Jeff thundered, and Jared bristled at the disgust in the other alpha’s voice.

That human, is one your son has been harassing since he first came into town,” Jared responded hotly, not missing the shocked look his father sent him; he had never, not once encroached on his father like that, never stepped on his feet during a meet, but damnit, he’d never been this mad before either. No one was allowed to disrespect his mate.

“My son and I do not chase; we obtain,” Morgan sneered. Jared tilted his chin in defiance.

“Seems like both father and son have been having difficulty in that department, then.”

“Watch your mouth, you impudent little pup!” Morgan’s face twisted in rage.

“I’d heed that advice yourself, Jeff,” Gerald rumbled, eyes flashing dangerously. “I will not tolerate disrespect towards my son any more than you will yours. Now I suggest we confer at a later date before we both end up doing something we’ll have to hide.”

With that, the Alpha walked away, shoulders back and walking with pride. Jared followed, along with the rest of the alphas, but before he could shift to run home like he usually did, he was stopped by his father.

“You’ll be riding with me, son,” Gerald’s voice broached no room for argument. “We seem to have something to discuss.”

Jared nodded his compliance, shooting Chad and Chris a reassuring grin before climbing into his father’s Jeep. He waited patiently for his father to bring up Jensen, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“What do you know of the human that Jake nearly attacked, Jared?” he asked in a measured tone. “Might I ask what provoked the highly protective tone and the willingness to potentially incite an altercation at what was supposed to be a peace treaty meeting?”

Jared cringed, feeling like all of five years old in his father’s presence. “I’m sorry, dad,” he apologized softly. “I couldn’t let Jeff pin this all on Jensen, it wasn’t his fault.”

“That may be so, but that doesn’t explain your more than ardent outburst, son,” Gerald pointed out almost gently. “Is this boy a friend of yours? I’ve warned you against being too close with humans.”

Jared cringed, taking a deep breath. He remembered all the warnings; they had played in his mind like a broken record the whole of the first day he spent texting Jensen. But the first time he’d held the boy’s hand? Kissed him? Spent the night with him curled up in his arms? Everything his father had cautioned him about had just sort of faded into the background. He trusted Jensen, believed in their relationship.

And now was the time to prove that.

“He’s more than a friend, dad,” Jared admitted, his voice quiet, but strong with his conviction. “Jensen is my mate.”

Jared hit the dash hard when his father slammed on the brakes. His forearm throbbed where he’d braced it and he cast a wide-eyed look of shock at the man next to him. Gerald Padalecki was shell-shocked, motionless save for the rise and fall of his chest. Jared was just beginning to worry about the grey pallor his skin had taken when the man spoke in a hushed whisper.

“A human mate?” Gerald shook his head as if clearing cobwebs. “We haven’t had one in the pack in decades, Jared. Are you sure about this? Is it not just a particularly potent teenage infatuation?”

A bristle of irritation worked its way under his skin. Why did everyone seem to think that he was just in for a piece of Jensen’s ass? Chad was right; people didn’t just believe in love at first sight anymore; his father couldn’t even believe that he’d found the real thing.

“Don’t patronize me, dad,” he snapped, before he even realized what he was doing. “I know what Jensen is to me, and I won’t have you undermining that because he’s not a Were.”

His father blinked owlishly at him and mortification quickly replaced his anger. He was never usually this disrespectful, least of all to his father! Jared couldn’t fathom what had come over him, but before he could apologize, his father explained it to him.

“When we mate, not even the respect we have for kin or the pack Alpha- in this case, both, for you- can override the dominant protectiveness we feel towards our mate,” he breathed, a look of doubt and worry settling into his usually warm hazel eyes. “This boy really is your mate.”

Jared nodded, even though it hadn’t really been a question. He waited his father out once more, growing anxious when the man started the car and continued driving, a tense silence settling between the pack Alpha and his successor.

When they finally reached the house, his father turned in his seat to look at him. “Son,” his voice was gentle, and Jared felt heartened for it, “if this boy is your mate, then human or no, we will accept him. You’ll have to bring him to meet the family, of course, and the pack…but I do want you to be careful what you believe of him.” He held up a placatory hand before Jared could growl at the implications of his words. “I’m just saying…what was his reaction when you told him about all this, son?”

“He was supportive and understanding,” Jared shot back defiantly. “He was amazing, dad!”

“Precisely, my boy!” Gerald stressed. “Which human would give you such a response? Is it not understandable to be suspicious over his casual acceptance about our existence? How could he possibly just accept something like this?”

“I felt him, dad, I was with him!” Jared argued hotly. “I know my mate!”

“Do you, Jared?” his father asked evenly. “Because sometimes we tend to see only that which we are looking for.”

His retort fell short on his lips. Truthfully, his father was bringing up every concern that he’d had since telling Jensen the truth. Anger gave way to fear and doubt, and both churned unpleasantly at his stomach. Jensen hadn’t lied…had he?

A buzzing in his pocket shocked Jared back from his deep thoughts. His father favored him with another concerned look before leaving the car, going up to the house and giving him some privacy. He flipped the phone open wearily, hoping only for one voice to sound in his ear; the only one who could lift the darkness and the weight from his shoulders.

“Jen?”

No, kid, but it’s about him,” Mr. Beaver’s voice came through the speaker. “I just overheard some parts of a conversation your boy was having with someone on the phone…someone named Al?

A memory flashed through Jared’s mind; when he’d woken up in search of his mate, he’d heard Jensen talking on the phone. He only managed to catch the “G’night, Al” but he had no doubt that it was the same person. Jensen’s vague answer replayed in his mind.

I needed to call an old friend from back home.

Which friend? Had to be close, or else Jensen wouldn’t have been totally comfortable calling the man at ten after 2 in the morning. What could Jen have wanted from him at that hour? Uneasiness injected into his veins as he realized that the phone call took place directly after Jensen had his nightmare about Jared hurting him.

“Did you hear what they talked about?” Jared asked, fighting at the dizzy spin of his head as fear hollowed him out. Suddenly, he wasn’t sure at all about what he was about to hear.

Only a few words,” Beaver’s grim voice reported. “Something like ‘not what you think’ and ‘in trouble’ and ‘think you should come back here’ and ‘we’ll be waiting for you here’. Then he tore out of here like a bat out of hell.

Jared shook his head, though no one was there to see him do it, fighting down the rising panic that was ready to consume him whole. Could he really have been this wrong? Had he been blinded by his own love for Jensen? Was his father right, had he only seen that which he’d looked for?

He hung up on Beaver without a thought, stumbling out of his father’s Jeep and racing towards his beat-up truck. He barely got the driver’s seat door closed before he was tearing out of the driveway, breaking every speed limit in an attempt to get to his mate. He half-heartedly prayed for there to be some kind of misunderstanding, while the dominant part of him tried to think of what he could do to keep the green-eyed boy in his life. He would give up the pack, if he had to. He couldn’t give up being a Were, but he would stop his shifting. He’d have to find out from Beaver if it would affect him physically, but he wasn’t even sure that it would matter if it did affect him. He would do anything to keep Jensen in his life, even if it meant giving up all he’d known his entire life.

He got out of the car carefully, scared that his deepest fears would be confirmed. He almost doubled over in relief when he heard his mate switching off what he presumed to be the lights, and it took all of his willpower not to sprint towards the sound. Instead, he leaned against the truck and allowed his relief to flood him, embracing it, feeling it change slowly and give way to an almost desperate thirst for answers. What was this game Jensen was playing at? Jared shuddered to think what would have happened if he hadn’t spoken back to Morgan and subsequently ended the meet prematurely.

His phone was always switched off during meets.

Trying not think on how close he may or may not have come to losing his mate, he fought back the rising nausea and faced Jensen as he locked the door. Turning around, his mate faltered in his steps, eyes going wide at the sight of him. He heard it when Jensen swallowed hard, felt the stab the sound pounded into his gut. The green-eyed boy was moving with deliberate steps, and it didn’t ease Jared’s anxiety when Jensen didn’t meet his eyes. His patience was wearing thin, and irritation replaced his relief; after all, it was easier to be angry than to face how much he couldn’t live without his Jen.

Jensen stopped in front of him, scuffing the toe of his sneakers against the pavement in a nervous motion. His heart hurt, but the stubborn part of him couldn’t bring himself to show any weakness. If anything, he scowled at his mate.

“Anything you want to be telling me, Jensen?”

And wasn’t that a clipped tone? Way to go, making him feel so safe around you, dumbass.

“Jay, I can explain,” Jensen said weakly. At the same time that pain filled him for the feeble tone of his mate’s voice, anger flooded in as well.

“How can you be so scared?!” he asked, almost scathingly. What more could he possibly do here? Was this the reason human mates were so rare?

Jensen winced, shoulders hunching automatically as if to fend off a blow. Green eyes shot to Jared’s hazel, wide and hurt. “Why wouldn’t I be scared? And more to the point, how’d you find out what happened?”

“Mr. Beaver heard you,” Jared all but spat, pain slicing through him at Jensen’s question; why wouldn’t I be scared?

“Damn wolf hearing,” Jensen muttered, almost distractedly. “Jay, I have every reason in the world to be afraid.” His mate’s reasonable tone had him favoring his anger over his hurt.

“Jensen, just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t make it…”

Understand?” Jensen’s incredulous voice came over his stung tone. “What’s there to understand, Jared? It was a series of stupid mistakes that never should have happened!”

Now it was Jared’s turn to reel backwards with pain. “You think it was a mistake?” he asked, his voice oddly emotionless.

“Of course,” Jensen frowned. “And now I have to go back home before someone gets hurt because of a stupid mistake made out of boredom and loneliness.”

Jared could swear he heard his heart break in that moment. Tears flooded his eyes and Jensen’s frown deepened. “Fine,” he whispered, his voice wobbling and broken. “But next time Jensen, you should think about your stupid mistakes, and think about the people you hurt in order to entertain yourself and take away the boredom.”

He was about to walk away, his heart in pieces, when Jensen grabbed almost desperately at his jacket. He turned his face to see, not the remorse he was expecting, but instead bemused confusion. Jensen blinked owlishly at him.

“Entertain myself?” his mate repeated, sounding mystified. “What the hell are you talking about, Jared?”

A few tears slipped from his eyes, and apparently that was Jensen’s kryptonite, because instead of demanding answers, he wrapped Jared up in warm arms that were far too gentle and loving, a counterpoint to the words he’d spoken about mistakes. Jared swallowed down the almost overwhelming want to let Jensen just make it all better, pushing the boy away.

“If I was just entertainment, a stupid mistake, then why did you let me believe you were okay with my being a Were?” he asked sadly.

If possible, Jensen’s face deepened even more in confusion. The tiniest flare of hope lit up Jared’s insides. Could it be possible? Was this all just a terrible misunderstanding?

“What does my dad’s gambling problems have to do with you being a Were?” Jensen’s perplexed tone strengthened his hope, and he dared to voice his deep fear.

“I thought you were leaving to go home, to get away from…from what I am.”

Comprehension lightened Jensen’s face, quickly replaced by irritation. “I don’t know what Beaver thought he’d heard, but you should know me better, Jared!” Green sparks flew from his fiery eyes. “How could you even think that I would leave you? Jesus, how could you even think that I’d use anyone for entertainment, least of all, you?!”

But the anger from his mate was overshadowed by the crushing relief that burned more tears into his eyes. “You’re not leaving me,” he whispered, feeling almost weak. “You’re not leaving me.”

Jared caught his mate in a massive bear hug, but rather than melting into it like he normally did, Jensen shrugged away, hurt caught in an intricate web of anger in his eyes.
“How could you think I would?” he asked again, the low, even voice worse than the shouting. “You of all people should trust me!”

“Because you’ve shown me so much trust!” Jared snapped, the harsh bellow sounding unfair to his own ears. What on earth was he doing? No, no, no, now is the time to fix and straighten out the misunderstanding, not fight some more!!

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jensen demanded, jaw set angrily.

Don’t answer that, don’t answer that, don’t answer that…he ordered his brain firmly.

Apparently his mouth was slow to the memo.

“I can’t trust you without you trusting me too! And, Jensen, let’s face it, you don’t give me anything to trust! You never talk to me, and I practically have to strong-arm you into anything that has any sort of emotional maturity! It’s like you don’t ever feel anything!”

Jared knew he’d overstepped that precarious boundary when Jensen’s head snapped backwards as though he’d been slapped and the anger in his eyes shattered to reveal deep hurt.

“Is that what you think?” he asked quietly, almost mouthing the words. “That I don’t feel? That I don’t hurt? That I never tell you what made the scars on my soul because I’m emotionally impaired? Then you tell me, Jared; why the fuck did you even bother trying?”

Not waiting for an answer, he turned around, hitched his bag high on his shoulder and walked away.

Jared might have lost his mate after all…just not for the reasons he thought.

 

~*Jensen*~

Angrily swiping at the rapidly falling rivulets of tears streaming from his eyes like an unclosed faucet, Jensen trudged down the street and made it to the T-junction at the end of his road before Jared caught up to him in his rumbling truck.

“Jen, baby, please stop. Please get into the car.”

Jensen crossed his arms even tighter, ignoring how childish he was acting in favor of the hurt still searing in his veins. While part of him knew he was irrationally upset, and that this was his fault for not telling Jared that he was leaving, another, more dominant part of him wanted to foster the anger. The fact that he couldn’t stay mad at Jared had been a source of increasing unease, and now he wanted to nurture the ill-feelings, if only to prove to himself that he was still capable of being strong enough to stand on his own.

While all this had seemed like good reasons at first, they all now filtered from his mind like water through a sieve in the face of Jared’s sweet voice and the slow motion of the truck following him.

“Jensen, please,” Jared pleaded from his position driving. “Let me take you where you need to go. I don’t want you taking the train, and whatever trouble you’re gearing up to face there, I don’t want you to face it alone.”

Clenching his jaw against the urge, Jensen waked stubbornly forward, keeping his jaw locked so he wouldn’t talk. Suddenly, the truck sped up, and Jensen experienced a single moment of utter devastation before the truck hair-pinned and came to a screaming stop a few feet from him. His reprimand for Jared to be more careful and not hurt himself died on Jensen’s lips as the boy stalked determinedly to him.

He went around Jensen, making him turn instinctively. Jensen raised an eyebrow in confusion when Jared took a step forward, automatically taking the same step backwards. Jared kept walking, forcing Jensen to step backwards until his back pressed flush against the truck. The Alpha’s hands came up to frame Jensen’s face, gripping almost bruisingly hard, making sure that he couldn’t avert his gaze. Jensen blinked owlishly at his boyfriend, his anger forgotten in the midst of confusion and his body’s reaction to Jared’s close proximity.

His dilated pupils and the harsh, choppy panting had nothing to do with fear.

“Baby.” Jared’s voice was tender and soft and gentle, a counterpoint to the fierce grip of his hands and enough to make Jensen focus every fiber of his being on the words leaving his mouth. “I love you. You’re the most important thing in the world to me. If nothing else, know that those words are the absolute truth.” He sighed, regret darkening his hazel orbs. “I overreacted when Beaver phoned me and said you were leaving. In the meet today, I may or may not have spoken out of turn when Morgan insulted you, and then I had to explain to my dad why…and I told him about us.” Jensen’s breath left him in a whoosh, the information hitting him like a punch. They’d agreed to hold out on telling the Padalecki’s that Jensen was more than just Jared’s boyfriend, so it surprised him that Jared had reneged on their plan. His overwhelming worry for his boyfriend took precedence over the fear of the repercussions of that decision.

“Oh, Jay,” he whispered, a horrified feeling settling into his stomach as he considered another reason behind his boyfriend’s anguish. “I’m touched you would stick up for me, but at what cost? Did your father…did he…?”

“No,” Jared refuted, and Jensen exhaled shakily in relief. “No, he didn’t kick me out of the pack or anything. He was just worried about the fact that you took it so well. He was suspicious, and thought you were going to run.”

Realization dawned on Jensen, softening him even more. “And so you panicked when you got the phone call.”

“And so I panicked when I got the phone call,” Jared nodded. “I know I should have trusted you, and I’m sorry I didn’t, it’s just that all of this is really new to me, too. Sometimes it scares me how much blind faith I have in you.”

Jensen sighed cavernously, letting go of the last of his anger. “I’m sorry too,” he whispered, turning his cheek towards Jared’s hand. “I’ll try to trust you more and open up more. It’s just so odd to be able to trust someone so fully…I haven’t had that in a long time.”

“I know, baby,” Jared mumbled, pressing his body flush against Jensen’s and dipping his head to press soft kisses over his mate’s face. “But you have me, now, you’re not alone. You’re mine,” he half-growled, “and I don’t ever want you to try to tackle things alone anymore. Mine,” he repeated, nipping lightly at Jensen’s pulse point, eliciting a half-moan, half-chuckle from his green-eyed captive.

After a few moments of basking in the loving caresses, Jensen blurted out: “My dad has a gambling problem, combined with a bit of an alcohol addiction.”

Jared stopped his ministrations, looking at Jensen with nothing but patience and love reflected in his endless chocolatey eyes.

Jensen took a deep breath. “It started when Jody died,” he pressed on. “He’d get himself lost in the bottom of a whiskey bottle and I’d get random calls in the middle of the night telling me to come fetch him. More times than I can count, since I was 8 years old, I was dragging him out of bars and wrestling him to bed, staying up with him to make sure he never choked on his own vomit or anything. About 7 years ago, the gambling started too. Poker, pool, darts…anything you could play at a bar, always to get money for his next drink. That’s actually where I learnt how to play pool,” he added, shrugging slightly. “I hustled a lot to pay off his debts…I guess when the stakes are yours and your father’s lives, you tend to sharpen up real quick.”

Jared sucked in a breath and tightened his arms around him, but true to form, he didn’t interrupt.

“It stopped for a while since we’ve been here,” the lie cut razors in his throat, but if he was to keep the abuse a secret, Jensen knew he’d have to be sparing on the details of his half-truth explanation. “Until he left for that weekend for work. I got worried when he didn’t come back as scheduled, and phoned an old friend of mine from home to check if he might have gone back there. This weekend would have been Jody’s birthday, so I thought it would be a good place to check. Aldis- my friend- called earlier today to say that I needed to get home because Eric’s in trouble. I was going to call you on the road,” he concluded, averting his eyes in chagrin. “I didn’t want to make my problem yours and I didn’t want you to judge Eric because of a mistake.”

More like a series of mistakes, Jensen thought bitterly, still wondering why it meant so much to him for Jared to see the abuse as one big mistake instead of hating his father for it. Hating him the way he should be hating him.

“That's why you sounded scared..." the realization dawned in his eyes before he refocused on Jensen. "You’re my mate,” Jared told him softly, speaking against his lips. “Your problems are my problems. I want you with all your drama, baby, just like I hope you’ll still want me when you see my own familial song-and-dance.”

“I’ll always want you,” Jensen whispered, letting himself let go and slumping tiredly into Jared’s strong, waiting arms. He let himself be supported, almost crying with the sheer relief it brought to shift the load on his shoulders to someone else for the first time in 10 years. He felt weakened, but stronger; dazed, but never more clear-headed. As Jared lifted him in his arms, he let go, safe with the knowledge that the love of his life was taking the reins from him for a bit. He was just barely cognizant of the words streaming from Jared’s mouth.

“I got you, baby, I got you…it’s okay, you can let go now. I’m gonna take care of this…gonna take care of you. I can share the weight on your shoulders, mo chroi…let me take care of you. I love you, mo chroi…sleep. I’m here and I’ve got you.”

For the first time in a decade…the beautiful boy with the pain-filled eyes felt safe.

 

~*Jared*~

People always said it was the kindest hearts that felt the most pain.

Jared never really understood what they meant. In his mind, the kindest hearts should have been the ones who have seen kindness in the world and are therefore not jaded by the pain of the past. Wouldn’t a heart that’s been broken be safe-guarded from the world by walls of cruelty and indifference?

Now, looking at his beloved mate, Jared understood.

Jensen had endured nothing but pain in his life. Losing three parents, an alcoholic father with a gambling addiction that he has to look after, an abusive ex-boyfriend, bullies…life had dealt him the crappiest cards ever. Still, he had more compassion and goodness in his little finger than most people possessed in their entire bodies. It never failed to amaze him how Jensen continued to love the world that had hurt him so.

He felt happy to lift the burden that Life had placed on his love’s shoulders and carry it for him for a while. As soon as he had, Jensen had slipped into sleep, and only now did Jared see how truly exhausted his chroi had been by the weight he’d been carrying for the last decade. He made it look effortless, but Jared now saw the inevitable toll it took and he resolved to share the load more often.

That in mind, he’d bundled Jensen up in blankets and tucked him into the passenger seat of his truck, filled up on gas and called his father to explain what happened. He was surprised when his mother took the phone and revealed that she’d been told Jensen was his mate. She even further surprised him when she told him to drive Jensen there and back home, and to make sure that he had whatever he needed. He loved his mother all the more for the understanding in her tone and the unconditional love she had both for Jared, and already for Jensen.

Jared was distracted from his thoughts when his phone buzzed in his pocket. “Yo,” he answered absently, stealing a glance at his sleeping mate.

“Is he with you?” Chris’ frantic voice came over the line. Uh-oh. He knew there was one more call he was supposed to have made…

“Calm down, Chris…” he tried to placate the panicked alpha.

“I WILL NOT CALM DOWN, JARED!” he bellowed, making Jared cringe away from the slim black phone in his hand. “Is he with you, yes or no?”

“Yes,” Jared answered hurriedly, biting his lip in sympathy as Chris’ relieved exhale sounded along with the distinct sound of his head thudding against something hard. “I meant to…”

“Save it Padalecki, I’m too fucking thankful to be mad right now. You and Freckles are going to explain all this to me when I can work up the space to be angry. But I swear the next time a scrawny pipsqueak named Conner-something-from-Art comes around asking why Jensen took off from school like hell hounds were chasing him, and neither of you are available, I’m siccing Mama Padalecki on you both.”

“Who’s Conner?” Jared growled slightly, jealousy biting at his insides. Instinctively, he reached out to encase Jensen’s hand in a possessive grasp. His mate barely reacted, simply snuggling into the seat and pulling the hand closer to his chest, making Jared smile.

“He’s from Art,” Jared could hear the eye-roll in Chris’ voice. “Duh.”

“Chris, don’t be a dick,” Jared complained with a frown.

“Obviously I don’t know much further than that,” Chris snorted. “Kid was practically tripping over himself.”

Jared felt a weird sense of satisfaction at the knowledge. “I’ll tell Jen to call you when he wakes up.”

“Kinky bastard,” Chris snarked before hanging up. Jared closed his phone with a chuckle, turning his attention back to the road. He had another three hours ahead of him and he had no intention of stopping until he got to his mate’s hometown.

He hoped Jensen wouldn’t send him home. He understood that his mate didn’t want him to see the guy he used to be, but Jared was in love with the boy sitting next to him; whoever he might have been in the past didn’t matter anymore. He would always love his mate and would forgive him anything, but he felt like it was important to understand Jensen’s life before him. Else, how would he ever really understand Jensen now? His grandfather always taught him that the past defined the person one becomes in the present. Now was his chance to test the theory. But most important, it was his chance to prove to his love that not everything had to be handled alone. That he could lean on him, and Jared wouldn’t let him fall. That he could trust in their love enough to expose it to both their worlds knowing that neither had the power to tear them apart.

Determination swept over him once more. His love would be enough to pull them through. He would make sure of it.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

The first thing he became aware of was the comforting, familiar rumble buzzing through him.

Jared’s truck, his fuzzy mind provided helpfully. Why was he in Jared’s truck? His tongue darted out between his lips in an attempt to soothe its dryness, head pounding when the chapped skin threatened to split under the pressure. Eyes still closed, he took a deep breath, taking comfort from the smell he uniquely associated with his boyfriend. Slowly, his memory came back to him and he cringed internally at the hard time he’d given Jared.

“Your breathing and heart rate’s been different for a while now…I guess as a Were, I’ll kind of always know when you feign sleep.” The boy’s hesitant voice cut through Jensen’s chagrin. “Are you…are you hiding from me?”

Jensen finally let his eyes slowly open, turning his head to face Jared and feeling remorseful for the worried frown that decorated the Alpha’s face. “Never, Jay,” he answered truthfully. “I think I’m just hiding from the real world issues. If my eyes are closed, and I can just know you’re next to me, I can almost pretend that life outside this truck- that life outside of you and me- doesn’t exist.”

His boyfriend’s hazel eyes softened, reminding Jensen of melted Hershey bars. “I felt the same way that morning we were in your bed,” he confessed in a low voice. “Like I could stand to live in that Jared-and-Jensen bubble forever.”

Jensen nodded thoughtfully, absently taking his boyfriend’s hand and rubbing his thumb across it in soothing circles. Jared made that little purring sound deep in his chest that he didn’t even seem to be conscious of; the one that melted Jensen’s heart like a popsicle on a summer day in Texas.

“We handle things together, though, and we’ll make it through,” he murmured, the statement as much as a realization to him as it was a reassurance to Jared. “There’s nothing we can’t handle if we tackle it together.”

“Damn straight,” Jared grinned, that wide, toothy, puppy-dog grin that stole Jensen’s heart in the first place. Contentment settled over him; the grin had been missing on his boyfriend and mate’s face, and it brought him a certain modicum of comfort to see it there. “Call Chris,” Jared reminded him, shaking his head ruefully. “I don’t wanna poke the Mama Bear again.”

“You’ll be doing just that if he ever finds out you called him a Mama Bear,” Jensen snorted, nonetheless fishing out his cell from his back pocket and hitting speed-dial 2.

Jensen Ross Ackles, what in the name of Mother Luna made you think it was even remotely okay for you to run screaming from school and then disappear without a trace, and without answering your God damned phone?”

Jensen blinked at the sudden scolding that Chris delivered by way of greeting. Jared shoving his fist in his mouth to muffle his laughter pulled Jensen from his stupor. Punching his boyfriend lightly in the gut, satisfied when his choked off wheeze took the place of his laughter, Jensen processed the sentence slowly.

“Okay,” he ordered his response in his mind. “One, how do you know my middle name? Two, who is Mother Luna? And three, I did not scream, I merely ran.”

Chris huffed his irritation. “Mother Luna is the moon Goddess, who we believe protects us when we shift, among other things, and I know your middle name from searching through your student file earlier to try and find another emergency contact.”

“Aren’t those supposed to be private?” Jensen frowned.

“That doesn’t matter,” Chris brushed off smoothly. “You’re avoiding the topic.”

“What topic?” Jensen feigned innocence. “I wasn’t aware there was a topic.”

“The topic was you running off from school.” Jensen could almost hear his friend gritting his teeth.

“And when exactly did this happen?” he asked politely, smothering his smirk.

Today! It happened earlier today!” Chris enunciated in frustration.

What happened earlier today?” Jensen asked, his voice saturated with bewilderment. Evasion techniques were his specialty.

“You ran off from school!”

“What about me running off from school?”

“That was the topic!”

“The topic of what, Chris?”

“The topic of…huh?”

“What?”

“Um…”

“Excuse me?”

“Ackles!”

“Kane!”

“Damnit Jensen!” Chris finally snapped, and Jared finally gave into the gut-busting laughter that rocked his entire frame as he threw his head back. Jensen bit down hard on his lip to keep his voice even.

“You know, Chris, you’re hardly making any sense blustering like that,” he said in a completely reasonable tone. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but we should talk about this when you’re a little more coherent don’t you agree? Good talk, Chris, later buddy!” Jensen hung up without waiting for a reply.

He stuffed his phone in his back pocket, exhaling a giggle born of relief as Jared continued to howl with laughter next to him. He knew he was now even further in his own grave, but Jensen figured he could deal with one problem at a time.

“Oh, man, Chris is going to go ape-shit when we get back home,” Jared chuckled as soon as he’d gotten back control. Jensen bit his lip, uncertainty rearing its ugly head.

“Jay, I’m still not so sure about you coming with me…”

“We handle things together, and we’ll make it through. There’s nothing we can’t handle if we tackle it together,” Jared repeated his words verbatim to him. “We’re a team, Jensen, you know that just as well as I do. What’s the real reasons you keep trying to push me away here? If it’s you not wanting to come out to your dad yet, I get it.” His boyfriend’s chiseled features were alight with sincerity. “I don’t have to meet him just yet.”

“It’s not just that,” Jensen shook his head, rubbing a tired hand over his face. “I don’t want you to meet JR.”

 

~*Jared*~

Jared furrowed his brow in confusion. He searched his memory, trying to dredge up any snippet of revelations from Jensen he’d heard that alluded to someone called JR.

“Jensen, baby, what are you talking about?” he cocked his head to the side in confusion.

“I’m not the same person I used to be, Jay,” Jensen confessed, confusing Jared even more. “I’m different now!”

Sensing that comfort was needed, Jared carefully pulled over to the shoulder of the road before turning in his seat and taking both his mate’s hands in his. “Start at the start, mo chroi,” he soothed. “Who’s JR?”

“I’m JR,” Jensen answered miserably, leaning forward to bury his face in the crook between Jared’s neck and shoulder. “Jensen Ross. JR. J-Ross. Whatever.”

It seemed like starting at the beginning had little to help with Jared’s confusion. “But I know you, baby,” he pointed out, feeling like he was missing a vital piece of a puzzle.

“You know me,” Jensen nodded his confirmation, still not bringing his face up. “But JR is not me. JR is who I had to become to survive back then.”

All at once, Jared’s breath stole from his lungs. He was an utter imbecile. “Baby…”

“You don’t get it, Jay!” Jensen pushed himself up, wide green eyes gazing at him as though Jensen were pleading for understanding even while he resigned himself to never getting it. “You’ve never been in the situations I’ve been in! I thank God for that,” he added, “but you also can’t expect to understand something you’ve never had to fathom.”

Jared stayed quiet. Hard enough as it was to admit, Jensen hit the nail on the head. Jared had grown up with doting parents, in a loving home-stead, with an iron-tight bond between not only himself and his kin, but also himself and his pack. He had been surrounded by love his entire life, and protected from feelings of neglect and pain and fear and isolation. When he was 9, he remembered, Jared had befriended his teacher’s son. The boy had gotten jumped by a gang of drunkards, and human as he was, he didn’t stand a chance. Those nights after, he remembered crawling into his father’s big leather chair- the important one that was in his study that they never got to sit in normally- and burrowing there while his superhero-dad soothed away his night terrors by growling fearsomely at his empty room. He remembered Jeff standing sentry as promised in his doorway, strong and protective before eventually passing out there, and he remembered Megan hopping neatly over his prone form to snuggle under the safety of Jared’s arm. They protected each other.

When Jensen was 9, he’d been pulling his dad from bars, braving the more-than-questionable dives to get him home, and doing God knows what to keep them from going under financially. He’d had no superhero to turn to, no sentry to trust and no loving cuddles that assured him that it was okay to be afraid. He had been alone, no matter where he turned, and it didn’t matter that Jared came from a more primal world; doubtlessly, Jensen came from a more painful one.

So yes. Jared couldn’t fathom what Jensen had been through on any scale. But…

“I can make sure you’re never alone in them again,” he murmured, framing Jensen’s beautiful face with his hands. “I may not able to comprehend, or imagine what you’ve been through, mo chroi. I may not be able to change the past and make sure you had someone to turn to then. But I can make damn certain of it, that you’re never left with no-one to fall back on again. I can see to it that you’re done having to be part of a world where you’re constantly getting hurt.”

The look Jensen gave him was torn, and Jared wondered, achingly desperate, what secrets those green orbs held. Not for the first time, he wondered whether his patience would be to his mate’s detriment, but what other choice was there? Jensen’s friends were as in the dark as he was, his father was probably too trashed to even notice when his son came home with bruises all over…Jared could see no other option that to wait it out.

He leaned forward to capture his mate’s full lips with his, nibbling lightly on his bottom lip until Jensen parted under his ministrations. Licking into Jen’s mouth, Jared reveled in the taste of his chroi, kneading Jensen’s jaw as he leisurely explored the wet, hot cavern of his mouth.

“You’re not going to like the guy I become the moment we get into that town’s borders,” Jensen warned him quietly one more time as they broke away.

“I fell in love with you, Jen,” Jared whispered right back, butting his nose against Jensen’s jaw in affection. “There’s no part of you that I won’t love with my heart and soul, baby. Besides, what matters to me is the person I know you are. My Jen,” he claimed with a smile, nudging Jensen’s temple with his nose again, eliciting a small sigh of contentment from his mate, who immediately leaned back into the contact. “My mate.”

Jensen surged forward at those words, throwing his arms around Jared’s neck and holding on for dear life. Jared returned the embrace fiercely, tucking the trembling boy under his chin and rubbing soothingly at his back, pressing light kisses to his hair and the nape of his neck.

“Promise me you won’t hate me for who I was then,” Jensen mumbled against his neck, sounding for all the world like a frightened child. It multiplied Jared’s protective instincts ten-fold, and he tightened his grip around his mate, making shushing noises and rocking them both gently until Jensen’s tremors subsided.

“I could never hate you, baby,” he murmured ardently. “I love you. I love you so much, more than the moon and the stars.”

Jensen peeked up at him, and Jared was happy to see the small smile on his mate’s face at the words.

“Love you forever and always, Jay,” he returned.

***

It was another half hour on the road before Jared saw it.

From his relaxed slump against the seat, Jensen gradually straightened and his jaw tightened almost imperceptibly. His body was eerily still and his eyes sharpened, roving in calculated circles around them, on the lookout for a threat that Jared didn’t even know existed. Icy calm resonated from his tense posture even as the promise of danger rolled off him in waves.

It was an amazing sight to behold.

Jared’s tongue darted out to moisten his lower lip as his mate reached his hand to the side of his jean-clad leg. Jensen pulled out a small Swiss army knife and absently flicked a little button. Jared’s eyes widened as the gleaming silver blade snapped up with an ominous crack. He watched, motionless, as Jensen inspected the edge, running his thumb lightly along it. Jared frowned and reached out to stop him, unease at the thought of the blade piercing Jensen’s skin. Jensen sent him a tired smile, a shadow of his normally mischievous, sparkling grin.

“Why’re you carrying a knife?” Jared asked quietly. “Expecting trouble?”

“I always expect trouble,” Jensen answered honestly, running a hand through his short, dirty-blonde spikes. Jared raised an eyebrow questioningly. “It’s what’s kept me alive.”

Jared nodded slowly, pushing away his sadness and pity. “Do you carry it everywhere?”

“Not since I left this Godforsaken place,” Jensen assured him, and Jared took comfort from that. “But here? I always carry two knives, a pick, and a duster.”

Jared’s eyebrows reached into his hairline. “Where’s everything else?” he asked in disbelief.

“This knife was in a strap attached to my ankle,” Jensen held up the Swiss. “The lockpick is hidden in a stitched compartment on my jeans belt loop- which was a total bitch to make, trust me.” Jared’s lips quirked upwards in spite of his awe. “The duster is in my pocket,” Jensen continued, “and the other knife is here.” He reached into his shirt, and from a small holster hand-stitched into the shoulder of his shirt, he pulled out a long, slim knife. He expertly flicked his wrist and the blade swung out from the two prongs, and when he flicked it back, it swung gracefully back into it’s place. “It’s called a butterfly knife,” Jensen added, repeating the motion fluidly so that it flicked in, then out. In, then out. In, then out. He made it look effortless, but Jared had no doubt in his mind that he’d slice himself open if he had to try it.

“Can I have one?” he asked with a bright grin, comforted by the relief that made Jensen’s eyes smooth out.

“Most definitely not,” he replied cheerfully, smiling at Jared’s pout. “You’d hurt yourself.”

“Jen-sen,” Jared whined, his pout deepening. “I’m the Alpha of a pack of werewolves and one of the most respected and feared wolves in my pack.”

“That’s all well and good, Jay, but you’re not getting a knife,” Jensen replied serenely, eyes flicking once more over their surroundings.

“But Jen,” Jared wheedled.

“Don’t whine, Jay,” Jensen interrupted him, sending him a small grin that looked more like his own. “It’s unbecoming of the Alpha of a pack of werewolves and one of the most respected and feared wolves in your pack.”

Jared mock scowled, and it was worth it for the laugh it pulled from Jensen. He remained on guard though, and Jared wondered what exactly he was on the lookout for.

“Turn into the bar up ahead, will you?” Jensen requested quietly after a few minutes. “I need to find Aldis before we go to the motel.”

Jared nodded his assent and took in the brick building in front of him. It was in good condition, and from the amount of bikes in front of it, probably a majority biker-joint. A wooden sign hung in front, written on it in old English style print Cold Oaks.

As Jared parked, the door opened and a tall black guy walked out. He was lean, just on the point of being muscular, and his eyes softened with affection when Jensen hopped out of the car. The man grinned widely. “J-Ross!” he whooped, chuckling slightly, coming forward. Jared took a step closer to his boyfriend, unable to gauge whether he should be worried about the guy.

“It’s okay, Jay,” Jensen murmured, stepping around him and walking forward. The man enveloped him in a huge hug, thumping him on the back as Jensen repeated the motion. Jared frowned, possessiveness filling him.

“Been a while, man,” the guy clapped the side of Jensen’s face lightly.

“Has been,” Jensen agreed, coming back to stand next to Jared. “Jay, this is my old friend Aldis Hodge. He owns the bar. Al, this is my boyfriend, Jared.”

Jared smiled at Jensen’s openness, his initial jealousy assuaged. He reached over and shook the man’s hand firmly. “Nice to meet you, Aldis.”

“Naw, man, call me Dodge,” he grinned, returning the handshake. “I swear that name’s gonna catch eventually,” he protested, as Jensen threw his head back in laughter.

Jared smirked sympathetically. “If it helps, man, I’ll be sure to call you Dodge.”

“You.” Aldis pointed imperiously at him. “You, my man, just got yourself a free drink.”

Jared laughed, warming to the guy. “I’m gonna hold you to that.”

“Why don’t you go on in and help yourself?” Aldis suggested. “I gotta catch up with this man,” he made to ruffle Jensen’s hair, and his mate ducked away with a glare. “We’ll be there in a few.”

Jared looked at Jensen to see what his mate wanted. He swallowed his bitter disappointment when Jensen nodded minutely, going into the bar instead of protesting the way he wanted to.

The bar had an almost vintage vibe to it. The tables were round and the booths were cushioned, making it look a little like a diner. The bar was long with smooth granite tops, and a jukebox sat in the corner, nearby to a couple of pool tables. Jared headed towards the bar, spotting a few open chairs towards the end, when a dark haired guy stepped in front of him. He crossed his arms over his biceps, sneering, and Jared fought the urge to snarl. Revealing his Were here would be the single most dumbass move in the book, and he knew it.

“You look like you’re a long way from home, kid,” the man jeered, lips twisted in disdain. His buddies leered at him, and Jared tightened his muscles, wondering how the hell he was supposed to hold off 5 guys without shifting, getting badly hurt, or getting to Jensen, who would undoubtedly come to his side if this came to blows, to protect him.

“Why don’t you just calm down and leave me alone, man?” Jared tried to placate him, showing his palms in a gesture of peace. “I don’t wanna fight.”

“Well I don’t wanna leave you alone, kid,” he mocked, his inflection making Jared bristle with annoyance.

“Look, just get out of my face, asshole,” Jared snapped, drawing to his full height and glaring at the arrogant guy in front of him. A glint caught his eye and something sharp pressed against his shoulder. He tilted his head, seeing a small dagger in the guy’s hand, blade towards him. He paled, instinctively knowing that it was a silver dagger, and that could cause some real damage. His chest seized and he looked at the smirking guy.

“Not such a big mouth now, are you punk?” he sneered.

“Back off, Ty,” a voice drawled from behind Jared before he could answer. Jensen loped forward casually, only the hardness of his eyes indicating his worry for Jared. Panic gripped the alpha, however, as Jensen’s scar came to mind.

Heedless, Jensen strode forward, and it was then that he caught sight of the blade. His entire body stiffened instantly, and a dark look entered his eyes. Fury radiated off him, and the knife wielding asshat- Ty, Jensen had called him- was ignorant to it.

“JR is back in town?” he crowed, grinning excitedly at Jensen. “You got even prettier since you left, man, it’s been a while!”

Before Jared could growl at that, Jensen’s voice cut through, hard as steel and 10 degrees below freezing. “Not long enough that you forgot how much I hate repeating myself, Hoechlin?” he arched an eyebrow, fire blazing from his green eyes with the promise of pain. “I told you to back. The. Fuck. Off. Like, yesterday. He’s with me.”

“He’s with…” Ty breathed, paling dramatically and snatching his hand away like the knife was burning him. “I didn’t know, man, I swear I didn’t. The ki-…um, he didn’t say nothing, I mean, I’m sorry JR.” Ty looked at Jared again, eyes widened, holding out a hand. “I’m sorry, man, I didn’t know you were with him,” he jerked a thumb at Jensen, ignoring Jared’s slack-jawed look of awe. “You should say stuff like that, dude, nobody wants to piss JR off. But hey, I’m sorry, no hard feelings, yeah?”

“Uh, yeah,” Jared nodded, stupefied. “No hard feelings.”

Jensen rolled his eyes, seeming calmer. “You sure you’re okay, Jay?” he asked, voice soft and warm as always. Jared nodded, and Jensen released a breath in relief, before scowling once more and turning a frigid voice towards the dark haired guy. “Buzz off, Ty, before I remember that I was pissed as all hell at you for that moronic stunt. And spread the word, no one touches Jared, or they’ll have to answer to me.”

Ty nodded frantically, heading off quickly with his now-silent pals. Jared raised his eyebrows in question, and Jensen smiled sheepishly.

“I have a reputation,” he shrugged. “Just stay close from now. Gangs and gang districts are pretty different to what you’re used to.”

“You’re the one who wanted me to leave,” Jared couldn’t help pointing out testily. Jensen bit his lip guiltily.

“I’m sorry about that, Jay,” he apologized regretfully. “Aldis doesn’t like talking in front of people he doesn’t know, and I really needed to know what he knew about my father.”

Jared felt his irritation melt away, feeling bad for snapping at his mate when he obviously didn’t need the extra worry. “No, I’m sorry, baby,” he rubbed the back of his head ruefully. “I’m not priority at the moment, your dad is. What did Aldis tell you?”

“Not here,” Jensen shook his head, speaking almost inaudibly. “Everyone here is like a vulture. They’ll jump at any sign of weakness.”

“Gotta protect your street cred,” Jared grinned, excited now that he got over his shock of his boyfriend being the resident badass. “Man, you had that guy quivering in his boots, Jen!”

“Tyler Hoechlin is all bark,” Jensen rolled his eyes, sparing a fond glance for Jared. “Besides, after what happened with Adam, I was taught how to fight from the best.”

“I know,” Jared enthused. “You took Jake out.”

“You could try not to sound so gleeful about me breaking Abel’s nose, Jay,” Jensen absently reprimanded as he scoped out the bar once more. Jared marveled again at the change in him.

“Oh, but I was,” he smirked. “Gleeful, that is. Jake had it coming for years.”

“No arguments there,” Jensen allowed, hands ghosting over his knives for reassurance. Jared noticed and frowned in concern.

“Why are you so on guard?” he asked quietly, as they sat at the bar. Jensen smiled briefly and raised a hand in greeting at the bartender before turning his attention back to the Alpha.

“I haven’t been here in a while, and I just want to be sure that people still treat me with the same respect they used to,” he shrugged. “If they don’t I want to be prepared to remind them why they really should.”

Jared whistled low under his breath. “Maybe you weren’t the one I should’ve been worried for,” he teased with a smirk.

Jensen grinned wolfishly. “What I’ve been trying to tell you from the start, Jay.”

 

~*Jensen*~

Jensen was edgy.

He knew that no one at the bar was stupid enough to try him, but if, on the off chance, someone did, how could he protect Jared from that? He would never forget the throat crushing terror that seized him when he saw the glint of that silver blade pressed against his boyfriend’s gut. He’d wanted to shove his own knife straight into Tyler’s throat. Not for the first time, he wondered about the logic of bringing Jared with him, because his boyfriend couldn’t shift to save himself, and now, Jensen wasn’t so sure about his own ability to protect him. He vowed at that moment to shield Jared from the more violent area of gang life, but it would help if…

“No. Fucking. Way.”

Jensen’s breath caught in his throat as the disbelieving voice carried across the bar to him. He turned, a smile blooming on his face.

“Hey, Matty,” he half-grinned. “Been a while.”

The responding smile could have been seen in space, Jensen was sure. Matt Bomer had been his mentor and protector when he started out in this life, and of everyone, he was the saddest to leave Matt behind.

His dark-haired mentor crossed the room in a few strides, gathering him in a massive hug. Some of his old gang followed, all of them hugging him and welcoming him home. Warmth filled him, and he relaxed knowing his backup was there. Taking his seat next to Jared, he could feel the other boy’s jealousy, and exasperated affection made his chest warm.

“Jay, this is Matt, one of my oldest buddies here,” he introduced them, before going around the group. “This is Chuck, Spike, Cory, Andy and Horatio. Guys, this is my boyfriend, Jared.” Once again, the tall Alpha seemed to relax at Jensen’s public acknowledgement that they were together, and Jensen smirked inwardly. On the other hand, it looked like Matt had swallowed a lemon. Jensen shrugged it off as a protectiveness he’d never outgrow.

Matt caught him up on what had gone on in his absence while Jared seemed to be bonding with Andy and Spike over football. Jensen stayed on his guard, but after a half hour, he was exhausted. It had been a long and emotionally taxing day, and he was just about ready to crash. He mentally catalogued all the motels close-by that had some semblance of a good standard. He didn’t want Jared to be uncomfortable after he’d driven him so far and stuck with him through all this crap.

“Listen, Al, we’re gonna clear out,” he called to his friend as he jogged towards them. Shrugging his leather jacket on over his plaid overshirt, Jensen sent his boyfriend a half-smile. Jared grinned at him and came to stand next to him. He nodded minutely, silently commending the boy for remembering the no-hugging rule Jensen had implemented in the car.

Badasses didn’t cuddle.

“Later, Dodge,” Jared gave him a mini-salute and Jensen rolled his eyes at the excitement in Aldis’ face.

“No way, JR,” Aldis held up a hand. “No chance you and my man Jared are sleeping in a motel. My mama raised me better than that, you’re bunking at my place.”

“C’mon, Al, we’ll be fine,” Jensen waved him off with a smile.

“I don’t care, man, do you know how many vile things lurk in motel rooms? Too many, J-Ross, that’s how many!” he ranted with a small shudder. “Now,” he turned to an amused Jared. “You with me, aint that right, Jay-Red?”

Jared was grinning like a kid with a new toy. “Sure, man,” he agreed enthusiastically. Jensen looked at him incredulously and he shrugged happily. “I like nicknames.”

Jensen couldn’t help the laugh the bubbled in him, and he couldn’t care less about the shocked looks it generated from his gang. None of them had heard him laugh properly, save for Matt and Aldis.

“Look, Al, you sure about this?” he asked his friend. “We really would be fine getting a motel room.”

“I think you should go to Dodge’s,” Matt piped up suddenly, leveling an even stare at Jared. “In separate rooms.”

Jensen frowned at the words while Jared glared right back. Making a mental note to kick Matty’s ass for being so overprotective, he smiled thinly at Aldis. “Breakfast’s on me, then.”

“Whoop!” Aldis cheered, breaking the tension. “I get a J-Ross-Breakfast-Special! Suck it, bitches!”

He wondered idly whether Aldis knew he’d effectively ensured that the whole gang would turn up at his place the next morning, and promptly decided he didn’t want to be the one to break that news.

###

“So, my badass baby,” Jared cooed, nuzzling his neck as they curled up in bed. Jensen laughed softly, swatting at Jared’s hands lightly as they came to wrap around his waist, spooning him. “You’re the one people are afraid of, huh?”

Jensen traced light trails along the strong forearms cuddling him. “Did it bother you?” he asked uncertainly. It had killed him the way he’d been too preoccupied looking out for threats to read Jared’s reactions, but he figured a safe and pissed off Jared was better than an injured and amicable one.

“Yes, and no,” Jared replied after a long moment of contemplation. “It bothers me that you had to become the guy with the street cred to make sure you were safe, but it doesn’t bother me that you are. If that makes sense.” He pressed a small kiss to the nape of Jensen’s neck. “I hate that you had to be in a gang, but it doesn’t change anything between us since you’re not really that guy.”

“God,” Jensen released a breath he didn’t even know he was holding, “I love you.”

Jared chuckled lightly, nuzzling into the side of his bared throat. Just before he could drift off into a comfortable sleep, his boyfriend’s voice drifted over him. “Baby?”

“Mm?” he tried to rouse slightly.

“What’s the plans for tomorrow?”

“Crash a bar, hustle pool with hulked-out bikers, rescue my dad and do it all without pissing people off.”

“Piece of cake,” Jared deadpanned. Jensen laughed breathlessly, snuggling deeper into his arms.

“I got you, Jay,” he mumbled happily. “It will be.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

It was almost like he had never left.

Jensen’s eyes popped open, immediately awake. Jared’s body was still wrapped around him, and a sliver of fear hit home when he realized he had more to lose than he did before he left this life behind. That in mind, he slipped out from underneath Jared, taking his knife out from under the mattress with him, intent on finding out what had broken his admittedly light sleep.

There.

A slight rustle, nothing more, but enough to have roused him from sleep. Jensen remembered when he had to get used to that, because God knew there was no better opportunity for an ambush than during your target’s sleep. Crouching low, he regulated his breathing until it was soundless, then crept towards the window, his bare feet silent on the tiled floor. A shadow threw across the back wall, and Jensen tightened his grip on the handle of the blade. Pressing himself against the wall, he waited patiently, using all his experience to tamp down the fear he felt for the boy sleeping across the room from him.

A figure clad in black opened the window, and it barely made a squeak. Someone who knew Aldis, then. Knew that you had to press on a spot on the window pane to stop it from making noise as it slid up. A leg and head popped through, and that was all Jensen needed. He pressed the tip of the blade against the intruder’s throat, sliver glinting menacingly in the moonlight.

“Move a muscle and my knife will be getting up close and personal with your voice box,” he stated quietly, his even voice made more dangerous by its softness. The figure chuckled, and Jensen nearly dropped with relief at the familiar sound.

“And here I was thinking you’d probably gotten rusty, or soft. I stand corrected,” Matt smirked. Jensen scowled, dropping his posture and shoving the knife in the waistband of his sweats.

“How about you test me without putting your life in danger next time?” he asked sarcastically.

“Bitch, bitch, bitch, that’s all you’re doing at the moment, JR,” Matt grinned. Jensen thought he was entirely entitled to the sucker punch to the gut.

He went to Jared while Matt spluttered and wheezed in the background. “Jay?” he called out softly. “Wake up. We have company.” He flicked the lamp on and shook his boyfriend’s shoulders lightly, running one hand through his hair soothingly to alleviate any worry Jared might have.

“Jen? You okay, baby?” he asked, sitting up. He rubbed his eyes, looking adorably little, and Jensen suppressed the urge to coo. He pressed a kiss to Jared’s temple and nodded.

“I’m okay. Late night visitor,” he jerked his head to where Matt was still trying to recover from his sucker punch. Jared cocked his head to look, eyes narrowing when they fell on Matt. He sat up, angling his body to cover Jensen some, and Jensen shook his head in amusement at the reaction.

“What do you want?” Jared asked suspiciously.

“Good job protecting him,” Matt commented instead, sneering slightly. “I could have killed him twice before you woke up. Steller.”

“Don’t be a dick, Matty,” Jensen butted in smoothly, before Jared could lose his temper. “You know as well as I do that no one is stupid enough to try to break into Aldis’ place. Except obviously you. And besides, I can take care of myself.”

“I know that. Did he?” Matt asked almost accusingly.

“I know Jensen better than anyone,” Jared answered, winding an arm around him, and Jensen wondered when this discussion had become remotely territorial.

“That’s what you think,” Matt raised an eyebrow smugly. “I don’t suppose you told him about Adam, JR? You know, seeing as how it took you two years to tell us.”

Jensen was suddenly overwhelmingly glad he’d come clean about Adam earlier, seeing as how Matt’s endeavor didn’t protect his privacy. He was also abundantly grateful he’d never told the gang about Eric.

“As a matter of fact, I do know about Adam,” Jared returned evenly. Jensen was pretty sure he was the only one who saw the smugness hidden in his boyfriend’s eyes, but Jensen elbowed him anyway.

“Now, if both of you would consent to having your dick-measuring contest at a later stage, I’d like to know the fucking awesome reason for disturbing my sleep in the middle of the fucking night,” Jensen injected acerbically. Matt’s face flashed guiltily.

“I missed you,” he muttered, his reddened face visible even in the muted light. “Wanted to see you.”

Jensen waited a beat, taking that in. He knew there was something on his old friend, mentor and protector’s mind, and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. “Go back to sleep, Jay,” he whispered, kissing Jared softly. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Jensen…” Jared began to protest, but Jensen leveled him with a pleading stare. “Okay,” he finally relented, pulling Jensen into his body for a long, passionate kiss, just the wrong side of too-dirty-for-public. “Hurry back,” he mumbled, smirking at the dazed look on Jensen’s face.

The green-eyed boy cursed under his breath, pulling away from his boyfriend and going to the door of the bedroom. “Sitting room,” he threw out over his shoulder, and he assumed Matt got the message when he began to follow.

Settling himself on the bean-bag chair in the corner of the room, Jensen waited patiently while Matt tried to decide where to sit. When he finally opted to crash in the second bean-bag chair, next to Jensen, he adjusted himself so he could face his friend.

“What’s up, Matty?” he asked gently. “And don’t say you were worried for my safety. One, Al’s place is safer than a police station. Two, you were one of them who helped train me. I can put anyone in a 30-mile radius on their ass faster than any of you. And three, after all this time, don’t you think I know you better than that?”

Matt smiled softly at him, affection in his eyes. “You know me better than anyone, JR,” he nodded quietly. “But sometimes you don’t see the most obvious of things. Now, tell me how you’ve been holding up? How’s the new place? Anyone hassling you?”

“No one,” Jensen shook his head with a smile. “I kind of like the new place, you know? Made a couple good friends. Don’t have to watch my back every time I leave the house.”

Matt winced. “I’m glad, man.”

“Don’t do that,” Jensen mumbled, seeing the pain on his friend’s face and realizing how his words could have been interpreted. “You know I don’t think that this place was all bad. I had you guys watching out for me, I never forgot that.”

“I know,” Matt soothed. “I don’t feel anything but glad that you got out of here, JR. You deserved so much better than this life.”

“I appreciate that coming from you,” Jensen phrased his words carefully, “but then…why didn’t you bother to phone? I expected it from everyone else, but I thought you’d call.”

“Figured it would be best if you forgot about me,” Matt shrugged.

“You took me under your wing when I first came here,” Jensen stated. “Taught me how to fight. Got other people to help me fight. Helped me learn how to defend myself and take care of myself. Gave me a family. How could I ever forget you?” Jensen paused. “You’re my brother, man.” For some reason, Matt flinched a little at the words, triggering Jensen’s curiosity.

“JR,” Matt spoke slowly, “you know that I care about you a lot, right?”

Jensen nodded, feeling like he should be readying himself for something, he just didn’t know what.

“Just, the way that I care about you…is less brother, and more…”

“Jay-Ross in the house!”

Whatever Matt had planned on saying was drowned out by Aldis crashing through the front door, likely having given the bar to Eli to handle for the rest of the night. The man stopped in his tracks, cocking his head as he aimed a stare at them.

“Am I interrupting something?”

“You’re a douchebag,” Matt groaned, glaring at Aldis, who was smirking in satisfaction. Jensen chuckled at the exchange. He propelled himself up, knowing that whatever Matt had wanted to say would probably remain bottled up inside him until they were alone next. Covering his mouth as he yawned, he made his way to the bedroom, waving absently at his friends. Aldis and Matt’s argument over who was a bigger douchebag faded into the background behind him. He shook his head fondly.

Idiots.

~*Jared*~

 

Jared couldn’t help his sigh of relief when Jensen came back into the room. He sat up, and Jensen grinned at him, coming to cuddle up in his arms. As Jared arranged himself around Jensen, spooning as they were before, he could thank his wolf-hearing for the hushed voices he heard from the living room.

“I was about to…”

“I know, Matt! I know!” That was Aldis’ voice. “I know you were gonna declare your undying love for the kid!” Jared growled low in his chest at that, and Jensen aimed a curious look at him. He kissed his mate’s forehead until it smoothed out with his smile.

“Then why’d you stop me?” Matt was asking. And Jared really wanted that answer too.

“Because it’s JR, man. I love that kid, he’s like a brother to me. Now, with this Jared dude? That’s the first time I seen JR happy since we met him. I aint about to let you ruin this for him because you grew a pair since he left.”

Jared figured it would be easy to decide which of Jensen’s old friends he liked best.

“What are you thinking so hard about?” Jensen mumbled into his shoulder, where he was snuggling his head.

“Everything,” Jared whispered, partly truthfully. He hesitated, the questions on the tip of his tongue, but he was worried to ask for fear of hurting Jensen.

“You’re gonna sprain something if you keep overthinking this,” Jensen commented dryly. “Ask me, Jay. I love you, and I know you don’t want to hurt me, but it’s gonna hurt you to wonder about JR and not have any answers.”

Jared nodded, pressing little kisses to Jensen’s shoulders while he thought about everything he wanted to know. “Matt was your mentor?”

“Yeah,” Jensen nodded, shifting until he was snuggled deeper in Jared’s embrace. “He basically took me in when we moved here, taught me how to live…this life.”

“Why you?” he asked, unable to help the petulance in his tone. Thankfully, Jensen didn’t hear it, or if he did, he chose to tactfully ignore it.

“I asked him the same thing. Matt said it was because of the way I mouthed off to him when we first met. It was at a bar a couple blocks from Cold Oaks,” Jensen answered before he could ask. “I hustled him at pool and he wanted to beat my ass black and blue, so I told him that if doing that would help his non-existent pool skills, then he was welcome to, by all means.” Jensen chuckled. “He said I had more fire than half the guys in his crew, and he wanted to make sure no one took that from me in a moment of anger or resentment.”

Jared nodded slowly, processing the information. “What do you think our chances are of getting away from the people who your dad owes without causing a fight?”

“Yours are 100% because you’re not coming into the bar with me,” Jensen said tartly. Jared growled his displeasure.

“The hell I’m not!” He sat up slightly to look into his mate’s eyes. “I’m not leaving you with them.”

“I can handle them, Jay,” Jensen protested. “What I can’t handle is the thought of you getting hurt for Eric’s...or my own mistakes.”

Jared took a deep breath, trying to find the words that would explain what he felt. “What makes you think that I’m any more okay with the thought of you being remotely hurt? Baby, I may not be as street-smart as you, and I may not be able to kick ass when I’m not in wolf form, but I can still help. In whatever way I can. Don’t ask me to, because I can’t let you go there without me.”

“And I can’t let you take a knife or a bullet for me,” Jensen whispered, anguish permeating his voice. “When I saw Tyler with that blade against you…God, I wanted to kill him. Do you have any idea how terrified I was? It would have been on my head if you had gotten hurt. You don’t belong in this world, Jay.”

Jared raised his hand to caress Jensen’s jaw, trying to sooth away the tension that was rapidly building in his mate. “Would you blame me,” he asked slowly, “if a lone wolf hurt you on my packlands?”

“Never,” Jensen answered promptly, brow furrowing at the change of topic before his face took on the brightness of understanding. He scowled. “Not fair, Jay, that’s not…”

“Not the same?” Jared interrupted, raising an eyebrow. “You don’t belong in the Were world any more than I belong in the gang world. You’re there, because you love me. I’m here, because I love you. It isn’t your fault Tyler pulled a knife on me.”

Jensen was quiet for a moment, absorbing this. “Where the blame lay wouldn’t have mattered if something had happened to you. But I see what you mean.”

“You’ll let me come?” Jared couldn’t help but feel hopeful.

“Not unless one of my friends are there to bodyguard,” Jensen stipulated. “I’m not asking,” he warned, when Jared made to protest. “I put up with you asking everyone and the school faculty to keep an eye on me. I think I’m being more than reasonable.”

Jared winced. “Fair enough,” he admitted. “Okay. Deal.”

“Great. Now,” Jensen yawned, “anything else you want to ask before I cuddle you like a teddy bear and sleep for about 10 hours?”

Jared chuckled quietly. “Just one.” He hesitated, hoping fervently that he wouldn’t upset his mate. “Mo chroi, this…thing, that bullies you back home, the one you refuse to tell me or Chris about, why won’t you fight him the way you fight everyone else?”

“For one, don’t get cantankerous about me being tight-lipped. Not like you and Chris aren’t trying to launch your own covert operation in an attempt to find out anyway.” Jensen replied archly. Jared blushed at being caught out.

“You haven’t left us much choice,” he retorted sullenly. “And if it helps, Chad’s on board too. He knows no details, all he really needed to hear was ‘someone hurt Jensen’ and he was ready for action. Funny, for someone who was so wary of you at the start.”

“Me and Chad had a heart-to-heart,” Jensen shrugged by way of explanation. “My point is that if you go knocking on doors, and people close them, sometimes you shouldn’t try to bulldoze your way through. Some doors are kept closed for a reason.”

“I know you’re trying to protect me, Jen. But from what?”

~*Jensen*~

 

From what, indeed.

And that answer was simpler than it ought to have been. Aside from the pain of knowing and the angst from not being able to help much, he really just wanted to spare Jared’s innocence.

Despite the fact that Jared had come from a world with a history of bloodshed, the alpha himself had not been exposed to the horrors that lay beyond the Were kingdom. He may not have seen it that way, but he had been sheltered, the proof of that lying in the fact that Jared never expected those bruises to have come from Eric. Even Chris, who had seen his parents murdered in cold blood, hadn’t yet put the dots together. Neither boy had ever been exposed to the reality that sometimes the worst evil comes from the ones we love. In theory, they knew it happened, but they had never been in a situation where the people you called family were the ones hurting you.

Maybe it was naïve of him, and Jensen was willing to wear that label if it was, but he didn’t want to create a whole new darkness to Jared’s universe. He didn’t want to be the reason that Jared would be looking over his shoulder, doubtful and untrusting…like Jensen himself was.

Selfish, but not entirely so.

“I’m trying to protect you from my demons,” Jensen answered, half-truthfully.

Maybe Jared could sense that he wasn’t ready for this topic, or maybe he just accepted the answer and was planning his appropriate rebellion against it silently, but whatever it was, it made him stop pushing. Jared gently turned him back around so that his back pressed flush against Jared’s chest, while the Alpha’s hand curled possessively around his waist, the other cushioning Jensen’s head. Jared nuzzled the side of his jaw, nipping playfully and sucking and licking small stripes over random hickeys until finally, Jensen relaxed under the affectionate ministrations.

“So why don’t you fight back?” Jared returned to his original question.

Jensen sighed, wondering the best way to phrase the reasoning he’d used on himself his whole life. “I guess that I want to be different,” he answered eventually, cringing internally at the way it sounded. “I just mean that I don’t want to be the same person my…bully, is,” he stumbled a little on the word and its lie. “If I fight back, doesn’t that make me just the same as the person fighting me?”

“No,” Jared refuted promptly. “You’re fighting back in self-defense.”

Jensen wanted to argue, but his only reasons for not retaliating was that Eric was always drunk, and it wouldn’t be a fair fight if one party was inebriated, and also that he couldn’t bring himself to raise a hand to someone he once loved. He’d grown up having nothing but love and respect and admiration for the man. He couldn’t find it in himself to fight back, not only for the agony it would cause Jody if she were there to see it.

“The person who attacked me was drunk,” he finally settled for a half-truth. “It wouldn’t have been fair if I had fought back.”

“That’s ridiculous, baby,” Jared maintained stubbornly. “If he’s sober enough to hurt you, he’s sober enough to get his ass kicked.”

Jensen turned around in his boyfriend’s arms, bringing his hands up to frame Jared’s face. “I love you for worrying this much about me,” he said instead. “I don’t know what I would do without you. I’d probably still be…this guy, I’d probably still be JR. I haven’t told you this in so many words, but thank you, Jay. For everything. You saved me from being JR the rest of my life, whether you knew it or not.” Jensen pressed his lips against Jared’s, humming contentedly when the boy’s hand drifted down to grope covetously at the curve of his ass. He rolled his hips lazily into Jared’s, cock swelling as he pressed against Jared’s rapidly hardening member. Jared rolled on to his back, pulling Jensen to lie on top of him, and Jensen mumbled against his mouth; “You’re my Jay-Star.”

Jared’s hazel eyes popped open and Jensen saw nothing but love, lust and devotion there. Jared nosed his way down Jensen’s jaw, nuzzling and occasionally nipping along the way, until he got to the hollow of Jensen’s throat. Angling his head up, Jared sucked a deep mark into his skin, making Jensen pant as he finally let the bruised skin go. Reaching down, Jared pushed his sweats down over his cock, doing the same to his own and both of them moaning when hard, hot flesh finally came into contact.

“You have to be quiet baby,” Jared rumbled, his voice low and deep. One big hand spread the pre-come steadily leaking from the head of Jensen’s dick and combined it with Jared’s pre-come, before gripping both their erections and stroking them together, hard and fast. Jensen gasped at the sensation and drove his hips downwards in an attempt for more contact, biting lightly on Jared’s shoulder to stop himself from moaning as loudly as he wanted to.

As Jared stripped their cocks relentlessly, he palmed Jensen’s ass with his other hand, squeezing the mounds of flesh punishingly. Without warning, he slipped a finger in the crease of Jensen’s ass, one hot digit brushing teasingly against his now aching hole.

Jensen arched his back, a keening sound escaping him that Jared quickly swallowed with a kiss. Insistently, Jared pushed his finger slowly into Jensen’s tight channel, fucking his tongue in and out of Jensen’s mouth in a dirty imitation of what they both really wanted to be doing.

“So fucking hot like this, baby,” Jared groaned into his mouth. “So fucking beautiful. Mine, you’re fucking mine…only desperate for me, aren’t you baby? Want my cock, don’t you? Want me to fuck you, show everyone who you belong to?”

Fuck, yes, Jay,” Jensen whimpered, moving one hand to join Jared’s on their cocks. He buckled wildly as Jared worked his finger further in, unable to decide which he liked better; the finger filling his hole or the hand stroking his cock. “More,” he pleaded mindlessly, finding that the probing against his tight walls was by far one of the hottest things he could imagine. “Please, more. Please, Jay, I can take it.”

“Look so fucking pretty when you beg for me,” Jared whispered filthily. “Gonna stretch you, baby, like it’s gonna stretch you when you take my cock up your ass,” he promised lustily, pressing two fingers against Jensen’s hole now. Jensen keened, taking over and working their slippery cocks when Jared moved his hand to pull apart Jensen’s cheeks. Slowly, he pushed further in, and Jensen was never so inclined to be thankful for Jared’s long fingers.

“So full, Jay, you feel so good,” he groaned, rubbing their erections almost painfully in his desperation. “I need to come, Jay, please let me come.”

“Do it, baby, come for me,” Jared growled, rolling his hips faster and his fingers going deeper. “Come for me, now,” he commanded lowly, just as his fingers brushed up against the bundle of nerves that sent white sparking across Jensen’s vision. He gasped at the mind-numbing pleasure and came all over his hand and Jared’s stomach. Jared rutted against him, following not long after as hot come painted both their bodies white. Jensen’s limbs turned to jelly and he flopped on to Jared’s body, heedless of the come cooling on them. Jared seemed to content to stay there for a while as he lazily played with Jensen’s still sensitive hole, making the green-eyed boy moan with stimulation.

After a few minutes, Jared removed his fingers and Jensen whimpered quietly at the loss. Jared turned them over and left for a few minutes, coming back with a wet cloth and gently cleaning Jensen as he lay there, blissed out.

“Love you,” he mumbled by way of thanks. Jared leaned down and kissed him in response.

“Love you, baby,” he butted his nose against Jensen’s temple. “More than the moon and the stars.”

“Forever and always,” Jensen managed to get out, before sleep assaulted him.

His last conscious thought was ‘that was a whole lot more fun than answering that question.’

 

~*Jared*~

 

JR was a phenomenon if Jared had ever seen one.

In a way, seeing this gangster part of Jen was sort of like how it must have been for Jensen seeing Jared’s wolf form. Fundamentally, they were the same, but mind-sets? They couldn’t have been more different.

Jensen was protective of him normally, Jared knew that much, just as much as Jared was protective of Jensen. JR, however, took things to a new level. He was constantly on guard, and was always with Jared, not that he minded that. To an extent, JR didn’t even trust Aldis and Matt with Jared, and that touched the Alpha as well as amused him. The only time Jared protested his mate’s protectiveness was every time the door opened, because Jen immediately placed himself in front of Jared in response, hands resting over where Jared now knew his knife was stashed. It rubbed his inner Alpha up the wrong way not to be the one shielding his mate, but he forced himself to entertain it; he had to, if he had a hope of Jensen letting him stay, and accompany him to the bar to get his dad.

Being that it was a bar that they didn’t frequent, Jensen, Aldis, Matt, Horatio, Spike and Jared were seated around a table, trying to figure out a way in for Jensen that wouldn’t result in him having to prove his worth, and who he was. Jensen made it clear that he wasn’t above making his point, but even he knew it would be an ideal situation for him to appear docile in front of whoever he was going to hustle.

“Which security company does the bar use?” Jensen asked suddenly. His mate had been quiet for several moments, lost in thought, and Jared was intrigued as to what he’d been plotting.

Aldis looked through the leaf of papers on the table in front of them, detailing all they could dredge up about Kenny’s Keg in the past few hours. “Winchester Armed Responses. Family business, opened up a hell of a time ago. Owners are two brothers, taking over from their retired father. One works the business, other is a silent partner and the company lawyer.”

Jensen perked up, a look of disbelief in his eyes. “Winchester? As in, Dean Winchester?”

Jared felt a rush of irrational jealousy. “You know him?” he asked, at the same time that Aldis nodded with an affirming, “Yeah.”

“When I was a kid, there was this criminal targeting kids. Eric was out on business and Dean came to our place worried that the sicko might come after me. I helped him catch the perp,” Jensen explained absently, scanning the page with the information quickly.

Jared’s heart jumped into his throat as the implied words behind that revelation made themselves heard in his mind. “You acted as bait?” he half-yelled. “What in the hell was that guy thinking?!”

“I made the choice,” Jensen stated serenely. “I wasn’t going to let another kid get hurt because I was chicken-shit.”

Jared huffed a frustrated breath, wondering how many Gods he had to thank for making sure his mate got to him in one piece. “How is any security feed gonna help anyway?” he groused.

“I can scout the patrons out,” his mate explained, raising his eyes to meet theirs. “See if I can spot someone who might be willing to help me, or at least someone that could be persuaded.”

“Make the call,” Matt nodded, looking appeased with the plan.

It warmed Jared’s heart when Jensen turned to him, green eyes serious as he laid a palm over his thigh. “You alright with this, Jay?” he asked softly. It amazed Jared that Jensen considered him enough a part of this to include him. He smiled wearily and grasped Jensen’s hand.

“I trust you to know what the best move is,” he answered simply, and Jensen grinned in relief, flipping open his phone.

“Hey Dean, this is JR. I need to ask you a small favor…”

###

As it turned out, Dean Winchester was a lot more connected than they originally planned. After Jensen spoke to him and explained the situation in the baldest way, Dean revealed that he was friends with the owner, a guy named Benny. Dean agreed to give the guy a call and see if he’d be willing to help them, and they arranged to meet Dean at a diner in the CBD to get the verdict.

The guy was attractive, in a rugged sort of way. Age had served him well, and although the man had obviously seen some shit in life, he had the sort of smile reserved for Jensen that made it seem like he had a softer side, untainted by the darkness.

He gave Jensen a hug and shook Jared’s hand, casting a somewhat speculative glance over him before nodding almost absently.

“I’m going to go tell the waitress to add two more coffees,” Jensen announced, dropping his jacket over the back of his chair and walking up to the counter.

“You seem alright, kid,” Dean spoke with quiet conviction, the voice of a soldier that didn’t waste words, so Jared listened carefully. Dean appraised him once more, nodding more pronounced this time. “I look for reasons to fire my gun,” he spoke matter-of-factly. “Don’t become one of them by hurting him.”

“Understood,” Jared tried to restrain his smirk. It seemed that Jensen could turn the worst of badasses into marshmallows.

Suddenly, a female voice, high and with a slight twang, rang out in the diner. “Jensen?” The word spoken as a gasp made all three of them turn, Jensen’s face paling dramatically.
A woman with bright green eyes stared at Jensen, who seemed to have stopped breathing. Jared was at his mate’s side in a second, motionless spell broken at the sight of Jensen’s wide, frightened eyes.

“Aunt Katherine?”

 

~*Jensen*~

****

“Do you have any memories of your parents?”

Jensen turned in Jared’s arms as they sat spooned together on the sofa, the closing credits of The Titanic playing behind him. Looping his arms around his boyfriend’s shoulders, he nodded slowly, flashes of images painting his eyelids every time he shut them.

“Some. I was only 2 when they died, so sometimes I’m not sure if what I’m remembering is a memory, is just something my mind conjured up because I was desperate to remember something.”

Jared nuzzled him, sympathy softening his hazel brown eyes. “Tell me some of them?” he requested gently.

“Well,” Jensen thought hard, “I remember a song. Well, a part of a song. If I close my eyes and concentrate real hard, I could swear I hear a woman singing it. I only know the line ‘For one so small, you seem so strong. My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm.’ I googled it later on, found the original song. I remember a park.” He shook his head slightly, as though that would help him recall the details. “It had a huge tunnel slide that I used to love going down, and these swings so wide that my mom used to sit with me sometimes and we’d swing together. I remember having a lot of toy cars, my dad would always play with them with me, and whenever he was busy with the car, I was outside with him.” Jensen smiled in fond memory. “I had an imaginary friend too, I think. He was older than me, and we had the same hair but different eyes. His name was Josh. I remember my Aunt Katherine coming to visit once and buying Josh a present too. I think my mom must have told them all to encourage my vivid imagination.”

Jared’s puzzled look stopped his trip down memory lane. “Aunt Katherine?” Jared repeated. “Jen, who is this Aunt Katherine?”

“My mom’s sister,” Jensen replied, peering at Jared’s scrunched up face from underneath his lashes. “She lives in the same place Eric, Jody and I used to live, before coming here. She’s there with her husband, Hank.”

“Oh-kay,” Jared dragged the word out. “But baby, if you have biological, immediate family, then how did you end up in foster care?”

Jensen visibly flinched, hiding his head in Jared’s broad chest. “My aunt and uncle had, quote unquote, no time to waste entertaining and looking after a baby.”

Jensen felt the rumble against his cheek as Jared growled low in his chest. “I’m so sorry baby.” His softly murmured words contradicted the fury pulsing through his veins.

“The last memory I have of my Aunt Katherine was her looking at the social worker and saying those words,” Jensen whispered in anguish. “She didn’t even look at me once. Like I wasn’t even worth that much. If I never see her again, it will still be too soon.”

******

The words played in Jensen’s mind as he replayed the memory in his head. Jared tensed next to him, obviously remembering the day as well, and recognizing the name.

His aunt came to him almost carefully, as though she were afraid she was in some kind of dream. Jensen steeled himself, reverting back to JR in an attempt to ward off any pain she could still inflict.

“Jensen, honey,” she whispered again in disbelief as she came closer. Jared placed himself in front of Jensen, and not for the first time, the green-eyed boy was thankful for his boyfriend’s possessiveness and protectiveness. She stopped in her tracks, aiming a wide-eyed, pleading look past Jared, at him. “Can I….God, can I please hug you?” she asked brokenly, tears falling from her eyes.

Jared looked at him over his shoulder, asking clearly whether Jensen wanted him to step aside. Against his better judgement and thanks in large part to the voice of a woman singing You’ll Be In My Heart, he nodded, and was promptly bowled over by the woman. She was hugging him desperately, hiccupping sobs racking her frame as she ran her hands through his hair and down his arms, like she was trying to prove he was real. She cupped his face in her hands, planting kisses on his cheeks and forehead. Jensen stood stock-still, frozen with shock, only her vanilla scent and the affection in her movements penetrating his fog of awareness.

“Oh, my darling little boy,” she was whispering now. “Oh, my sweetheart, my Jensen, oh, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.”

These words more than anything else pulled Jensen from his stupor, and he took her wrists gently in his hands to stop her, a stony mask coming over his face to hide his emotions. “I’d rather you didn’t,” he said in a detached voice, hardening himself against the wave of pain her crumpling face brought.

“I’ve been looking for you for 14 years, Jensen,” she told him desperately. “I made a mistake, honey, please believe me. I’ve spent every day since CS took you from me regretting the choice I made. I was grief-stricken, I had just lost my sister…”

“And I just lost both my parents,” Jensen interrupted hardly. “I was a child that had just lost everything they ever knew. You took that last shred of familiarity away from me, and you didn’t even have the courtesy of looking at me as you did.”

“I saw Donna every time I looked at you,” Aunt Katherine admitted in distress. “To an extent I still do. I thought I couldn’t bear to live with that, but it turned out, I couldn’t bear to live without it. I wanted to come after you, but Hank told me he wasn’t willing to raise someone else’s child, so I stayed away. It was the cause of too much tension though…I couldn’t forgive him for making me choose and we got divorced two years later. That’s when I started trying to track you down but you had already been placed with a couple and your file was confidential.”

Jensen felt irrational guilt at being the reason his Aunt and Uncle split up. “I’m sorry about Hank,” he said stiffly.

“Not as sorry as I am that I listened to him,” she shook her head. “Please, honey, you have to let me make up for the 14 years we’ve lost. Please don’t make me give you up twice.”

Jensen hesitated, the green eyes reminiscent of his mother staring pleadingly at him. “I don’t know if I can do this,” he whispered, his heart clenching. Unconsciously, he reached out for Jared who promptly pulled him snugly into his side. He took comfort from the steady beat of his boyfriend’s heart.

“Why don’t you give me your number Mam?” Jensen heard Jared take over, his voice dispassionately polite. “I don’t appreciate you putting Jensen in a spot like this. He’ll call you to tell you what he decides when he’s had time to think it through,”

Jensen didn’t turn away from Jared or contradict him. On the contrary, he was immensely thankful to his boyfriend for taking over since he obviously couldn’t handle it.

His Aunt Katherine hesitated for a beat before rattling off a series of digits. Jared input the number to his cellphone. And Jensen didn’t look up until he was sure his aunt had left.

“It’s okay, baby, I got you,” Jared held him tightly, speaking in a soothing tone. “It’s alright, baby, shh…”

Jensen was trembling and he forced himself to get a grip. He couldn’t very well get the job done when he was falling apart, ripping at the seams like an amateur.

Jensen drew himself back to his full height, pushing his feelings back behind the curtain. He met Dean’s gaze, and the man looked both saddened and impressed at the set of Jensen’s jaw. He squeezed Jared’s arm once in reassurance, feeling badly for having to shut his boyfriend out as a result. Jared nodded once at him, support, understanding and compassion all in one, and Jensen was sorely mistaken for thinking that he couldn’t love Jared any more.

“Call your friend,” he told Dean in a strangely even voice. “Get me in. I don’t care what he wants in return. I want it done by tonight.”

Dean nodded slowly. “I’ll get it sorted, Jensen.”

###

True to his word, Dean phoned Benny and they arranged for the man to bring Jensen into the bar, proclaiming him under his protection as his nephew. Benny was a stand-up guy, although he seemed rough around the edges at first, and all he asked in return was for Jensen to help him start a club when he went back home. He would co-manage the place until Benny found a full-time guy, and Benny insisted on paying him for it. He needed a paying job in any case, so Jensen readily accepted, and Jared agreed to help him find a location when they went back home.

The only downside to the plan, was that Jared, Matt, Aldis and the others had to wait outside.

They protested immediately, Jared more vehemently than his friends. Even Aldis balked at the thought of Jensen going in alone without backup. The tentative compromise was that they would observe via Dean’s cameras in a van a block away, but even with that, they were all restless.

Except Jensen.

Jensen was just... ready.

His body hummed with adrenaline and he channeled all his confused feelings into tuned anger, electricity sparking through him.

He was JR right now, and JR was fucking lethal.

Jared pulled him to the side before he left. “I love you Jen,” he whispered. “And I love JR too. I love every part of you, so you’re gonna bring all those parts back to me without a single fucking scratch on them. Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” Jensen winked, finding one last reserve in him to comfort his boyfriend. Jared kissed him hard on the lips and Matt and Aldis hugged him tightly. He shrugged his leather jacket on and checked his pockets once more for his knives.

He was ready.

It was go-time.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

Keeping his head low, Jensen tried to appear as meek as possible; a lamb in wolf’s clothing, instead of the other way around. He kept his eyes on the floor, cringed dramatically every time someone so much as leered at him, and most importantly, he walked in Benny’s shadow, as though being behind the man would offer him safety. Inwardly, he was calm, but he kept up his terrified exterior.

Dean, almost as mother-hen worried as everyone else, had insisted they use comms in addition to observing from the van. It had comforted Jared to know that they’d have verbal communication, so Jensen agreed to it. Surprisingly enough, he felt a modicum of comfort from the little bud in his ear; not for his safety, no, but because he was still hard-pressed to trust anyone else with Jared’s well-being. It got under his skin that he had to trust others to make sure Jared didn’t get hurt, but this way, he could hear if his boyfriend needed him.

And scary enough, Jensen would throw this entire rescue operation down the drain in a heartbeat if Jared so much as hinted to needing him.

“Everything okay there?” he couldn’t help asking, muttering low under his breath and trying not to move his lips too much.

“Of course you would be asking the people safely ensconced in a van away from the trouble whether they were okay,” Jared snorted, and Jensen relaxed marginally. “We’re fine, baby, just worried about you.”

“Do you have to call him that?” Jensen heard Matt grumble. Before Jared could answer, a loud clap sounded, and Jensen suppressed his smirk.

“Thanks, Al,” he muttered.

“Anytime, JR,” Aldis chuckled as Matt grumbled in the background about undeserving Gibbs-smacks.

Refocusing on the task at hand, Jensen scanned his eyes over the bar, quickly spotting the pool sharks Eric had gotten involved in. Eric was on the ground in a fetal position, although he didn’t appear harmed yet. Jensen tried his best to remain docile as the biggest guy circled Eric like a predator.

“You want to play again, old man?” he was sneering, and Jensen’s hackles rose. More than anything, Jensen always hated when people went after other people they knew couldn’t fight back. It was more than cowardly, it was downright disgraceful. Aldis called it his ‘Batman complex’ but more often than not, Jensen used to find himself in the thick of action because he couldn’t overlook what was nothing more than an adult case of schoolyard bullying. Maybe it was a convoluted result of years of abuse, but Jensen couldn’t stand bullies, and his temper could usually be sparked by seeing something like that happen.

And today was no exception.

“Benny, you gotta get Eric out of here as soon as the shit hits the fan,” he quickly told his newfound friend. “Please. These guys aren’t going to just let it go, and he needs to be out of the line of fire. Matt and Aldis, you guys come in once Benny has Eric safely out. I can hold them off till then. Dean, I don’t want you to get involved in an official capacity unless it’s absolutely necessary, and you have a whole company to lose so don’t come in until I give the say-so. Jay…please stay in the van.”

Jensen knew it was pointless even before he said it.

“Not a chance, Jen,” he refused fervently. “I’m not going to leave you alone.”

“You’re more trouble than you’re worth, Padalecki,” Matt sneered, and no matter how close they were, not even Matt was immune to the protectiveness Jensen felt over his boyfriend and mate.

“Shut the fuck up, Matt,” he growled, red flashing over his vision. “I don’t give a shit about history, you don’t fucking talk to him like that again.”

“Jensen,” Matt tried to complain.

“He’s with me, Matt.” Jensen’s voice left no room for debate. “You treat him with the respect he deserves, like everyone else, or you and me are going to have a problem.”

“Calm down, baby,” Jared’s voice washed over him, soothing in the way only he could. Judging from the muted whisper, Jared was trying to keep this between them, for which Jensen was grateful. “I’m okay.”

“I’m sorry,” Matt apologized gruffly, and Jensen took in a deep breath.

“You okay, kid?” Dean’s steady voice came over the comm, bringing Jensen back to the game. He nodded once, almost imperceptibly, but Dean caught it nonetheless. “We’ll sort out the Brady Bunch over here, you worry about taking down the sons-of-bitches that have your father.”

“Gotcha,” Jensen exhaled shakily, bringing his mind back to the task at hand. The big, burly guy kicked Eric in the stomach a couple times, and that was his way in.

He stumbled towards them, adopting a terrified expression. “L-l-leave him a-alone,” he stammered out, playing up the part with wide, innocent eyes. “Stop h-hurting him!”

Predictably, the man straightened and leered at his trembling form, raking his eyes over Jensen’s deliberately tight clothing. Jensen shuddered again, and this time, he didn’t have to fake it.

“What do we have here?” The big man came forward, forgetting Eric in favor of Jensen. “Name’s Big Mike, sweet thing. Who are you?”

“T..T…Ted,” Jensen stammered, curling in on himself and taking a step back, keeping his eyes on the ground. “Ted Newgent. I’m…m’Benny’s nephew.”

Jensen heard the muted laughter in his earpiece and he tried to suppress his own chuckle. Big Mike helped with that when he stepped forward again, intent clear on his face.

“Well, Teddy-Boy, me and my friends over here, we have a debt to settle with Mister Kripke here,” he announced. “Unless you have twenty grand on your person and you’d like to settle his account for him?”

Jensen cursed inwardly, and heard the profanities filtering through his earpiece.

“He’d never deal on twenty, Jensen,” Matt intoned into his ear, all business now, his mentor just like Jensen remembered him. “You need to get out of there, kid. Sharp-ish.”

“I…I…” Jensen stumbled, buying time as he thought through his options, unwilling to call quits on their plan. These guys were mean, and he had no doubt in his mind that if he left it for one more night, that they would kill Eric. They weren’t like the usual circle Eric dealt in, and unfortunately, that meant that Jensen couldn’t play it the same way he normally would.

“Let him g-go,” Jensen adopted a falsely brave expression and made his hand tremble for effect. He deserved a fucking Grammy for this. “W-w-what if I…I could w-win back h-his m-m-money?”

“What the fuck are you doing, Jensen?” Matt hissed in his ear. “Get the fuck out of there!”

Big Mike clamped his hand over Jensen’s shoulder and the boy jumped at the contact, trying to stay in character and find a way to stop Matt from storming the place. “You wanna try to win back his debt?” he sneered. “What are you offering if you lose, sweetness?”

Jensen took a deep breath. “Myself.”

The reaction was instantaneous. Several voices broke out over his ear, Jared the loudest of them, at the same time that Big Mike and his crew began cat-calling and whistling. Jensen took the opportunity while the gang was making a riot to hiss into his earpiece.

“No one interfere!” he growled. “Y’all have to trust me. I got this.”

“No fucking way,” Matt shouted at the same time that Jared growled, “Not a chance in hell.”

Great, now they chose to fucking agree on something.

“Dean, make sure they stay away,” he ordered, knowing that the older man had promised him earlier to listen to his shots instead of Matt’s and Jared’s. “Matt, send out a Pineapple alert.”

“Pineapple?” Matt shrieked horrified. “Think it’ll get to that? I’m coming in.”

“Listen to me Matt!” Jensen snapped, sensing that the gang was cooling off. “Pineapple to be safe. And stay away.”

“Who you talking to sweet cheeks?” Big Mike taunted. Jensen flinched for good measure.

“Do we h-have a d-deal?” he asked, getting tired of having to stammer and play weak in front of the asshole in front of him.

“Let’s play a set of darts, see how you handle yourself, sweetness,” he heckled. “Then we’ll talk about it.”

“Darts?” Jared’s voice went up an octave. “That wasn’t the deal, you were supposed to play pool!”

“Have you ever played darts before?” Matt asked worriedly. “Jensen? Jensen!”

Tired of the continuous break from his concentration, Jensen studiously ignored the voices in his ear, feeling absently empathetic to schizophrenic patients. Instead of entertaining the questions being rapidly fired at him, he trusted Dean to keep his team away and converged his attention to the task at hand.

Keeping the slight tremble in his hands, he threw his darts, getting some score, but eventually being pounded by the larger man. As Jared’s distressed pleas for him to leave filled his ear, Jensen made a mental note to apologize profusely to his boyfriend.

“Well, jailbait,” Mike sneered. “Beat me in a game of Killer and you got yourself a deal.”

Jensen bit his lip, eyes widening. “Please…l-let’s play p-pool,” he pleaded, glancing desperately at Eric, then at the pool table. “Give me a chance!”

“Game of Killer,” Mike insisted stonily. “You win, I let Kripke go. I win, I get to pound that sweet little ass like a jackhammer. Take it or leave it.”

Jensen took a shaky breath, hunching over himself. “F-f-fine,” he whispered finally, feeing hurt by the roars of indignation that filled his ear. He straightened and gripped Big Mike’s hand, officially sealing the deal by street standards.

Fucking finally.

Jensen shed his terrified persona, smoothing his face into a cool mask. Grabbing his darts, he smiled a deadly predator’s smile at his newest target. “Why don’t you start?”

Big Mike eyed him suspiciously, but he threw his set, opening with a bull’s eye and hitting a double 12 and a triple 3 to start. Jensen nodded, partly impressed.

“I prefer to knock 'em out from the top,” he said conversationally. Readjusting his stance, he threw a perfect straight of triple 20’s.

“He hit one-hundred-eighty,” one of the goons’ jaws dropped in his astonishment. “That’s like…”

“Awesome?” Jensen snorted. “I fucking know, right?”

Not needing to hustle this time around, Jensen threw expertly, dominating the game before closing with three cherries. “Grew up in bars, man,” Jensen shrugged innocently, as if to say ‘what can you do?’ while keeping an eye on the growing fury in the man’s expression. “There isn’t a game here that I wouldn’t have run circles around your ass in, if that’s any consolation.”

“You’re a fucking hustler,” he snarled menacingly, and Jensen noted with relief that Benny was helping Eric up and taking him out back.

“And we had a deal,” Jensen answered calmly. “Let it go. I don’t want trouble.”

“Shouldn’t have messed with me then, you little bitch,” Big Mike scowled, advancing on him. Jensen heard the door open behind him, and he knew who it was without looking.

 

~*Jared*~

 

Without a doubt, this was the most nerve-wrecking day of Jared’s life. When Jared had seen the man take a step towards his mate, he decided that was all he could take, and he shoved Dean out of the way and ran to the bar like his life depended on it.

Which, in a way, it did.

Jared knew the others had followed him, and he burst into the bar in time to see Big Mike crowd Jensen backwards, evil intent clear on his face.

“Pineapple,” his mate stated in a loud, clear voice.

What?

All at once, the people in various parts of the bar stood, all of them having made their way in unnoticed during the game. As a unit, they came and stood next to Jensen, Matt and the gang joining the crowd wordlessly. Burying his confusion, Jared took his place next to Jensen, glaring menacingly at the man who wanted to hurt his precious mate.

Who the fuck are you?” Mike asked, looking disbelievingly at the people standing with Jensen.

His mate smiled, a feral grin that held none of his normal warmth. “Name’s JR, bitch. Don’t fucking forget it.”

Head held high, he turned around and motioned at the people to leave. They started to, and that was when Jared caught the flash of silver in the corner of his eye.

He flinched, but there was no contact. Jensen held the gleaming blade in one hand, his eyes narrowed in a way that was more menacing than some of the wolves Jared had seen in his life. In the next second, Jensen was across the chasm of space and Big Mike, despite their size difference, was pressed up against the wall with the very same blade he threw at Jared pressing into his throat. His eyes were as terrified as they were incredulous, and his chest heaved with his near-hyperventilating gasps.

Nobody dared to move or even breathe. Jensen was trembling with barely restrained rage, and for the first time, Jared got to see the person Jensen was afraid to be. Contrary to his mate, Jared understood the bloodlust, because he had the same feeling when someone tried to hurt Jensen.

The mating bond.

A pained whimper brought him back to the present, in time to see Jensen press the blade down harder until beads of blood marred the otherwise flawless silver.

“I know you know who I am,” Jensen articulated coldly. “So why the fuck are you testing me?”

“I…I’m sorry, I didn’t think!” It seemed it was Big Mike’s turn to fumble.

“Damn straight you didn’t.”

Jared walked slowly to his infuriated mate, calm and comforting. “It’s okay, baby,” he soothed. “I’m okay. Let him go, and let’s go home.”

The bar was deathly still while Jensen contemplated Jared’s words. “Don’t you find it ironic,” he asked Mike almost conversationally, and fuck, that was scarier than his scary voice, “that you were about to hurt and incapacitate the only person on the face of this entire fucking earth who I’d have listened to about sparing your miserable excuse for a life?” He twisted deliberately and the blade drew another droplet of crimson. “Apologize, and then thank him for saving your life.”

“Thank you, and I’m sorry,” Big Mike spat sullenly. Jensen let go of him slowly, then without looking, flicked his wrist so that he threw the knife clear across the room and dead center on the bull’s eye on the dartboard.

“Don’t even think about him again,” he warned lethally, “or you’ll find out that every story about me has truth to it.”

Jensen was careful to make sure Jared was shielded at every angle, and he rolled his eyes at the protective gesture, making a mental note to tease him about it later. He conceded to being herded out, knowing that it would give Jensen some semblance of comfort and trusting his mate’s unfathomable reflexes and feared standing among the bar’s patrons.

Once they were safely outside, Jared turned and took his mate into his arms, finally feeling relaxed and relishing in the closeness. It felt as though he’d had a vital part of himself returned, and he nuzzled Jensen’s neck, taking in his scent and trying to find the courage to let him go.

Jensen didn’t seem all too eager to let that happen, much to Jared’s relief. He wound his arms around Jared’s neck, stroking his hair, seemingly convincing himself that Jared was okay. He remembered Jensen’s muted confession about seeing Tyler with a knife trained on him, and he could only imagine what his little mate was feeling now that the target had nearly been met.

“It’s okay, mo chroi,” he breathed, pressing his lips against Jensen’s jugular. Jensen nodded shakily and pulled back, his face drained and drawn with fatigue. “What’s pineapple?” he asked, trying to side-track his mate.

It worked, sort of. Jensen snorted. “Pineapple is a code word for when someone needs backup. When I asked Matt to set it up, I was asking him to send out a warning to the people I’d helped before, anyone who felt like they would have my back in a fight. They could get in unnoticed because they were only there for back-up if I said pineapple.”

Jared’s eyes widened at the sheer amount of people willing to stand behind his mate. Matt, likely reading the expression on his face, added almost smugly. “Half the people I sent the message out to were too far out, but they promised to send word out that JR was considered in their inner circle.”

Jared whistled low under his breath. “Don’t fuck with JR Ackles.”

“Damn straight,” Jensen managed a small smile. “You guys go home,” he instructed. “I have to get Eric to a motel to sleep things off.”

“Jen…” Jared hesitated, not wanting his mate to face the task of sobering his father up alone, like he had to all those years prior. Jensen shook his head with a tight smile.

“I need to do this alone,” he requested, and Jared reluctantly understood. Jensen wasn’t ready to share his family burdens yet, and Jared wasn’t going to push him on it. He saw the emotional toll taxing his mate ever since they entered the town’s borders, and he had been pushed at every turn since; Jared didn’t want to make things any more difficult.

Besides, he had a visit of his own to make.

###

“Be right there!”

Jared waited patiently as the tumble of locks were heard. Jensen’s aunt’s surprised face came into view, and hope lit her eyes as she craned her neck trying to look over Jared’s shoulder.

“Hello, dearie,” she smiled. “Is Jensen with you?”

Jared was glad of the hope in the woman’s voice. It went a long way to his wondering whether it was wise to let her near his mate. “No,” he shook his head politely. “No, Mam, he isn’t. It’s just me.”

“I can’t help but wonder,” her shoulders slumped sadly, “whether that’s indicative of Jensen’s decision?”

“Jensen hasn’t made a decision yet,” Jared answered truthfully. Katherine nodded thoughtfully.

“Are you here to tell me to stay away from him?” Her voice held no accusation; it was simple curiosity, as though she were asking whether Jared was there selling cookies.

“I don’t make Jensen’s decisions for him,” he stated firmly. “I would never disrespect him like that, or treat him that callously.”

She smiled warmly. “You’ve earned my trust then, young man,” she gestured for him to come inside. “I approve of you for Jensen.”

Jared bristled at the implication that the woman had any right to have a say in his chroi’s life. He declined the offer by crossing his arms and responding coolly; “I didn’t come here to ask for your approval either, Mam. Due respect, you no longer have a say.”

Katherine visibly flinched. “You’re here because you don’t appreciate me trying to become a part of Jensen’s life.”

“Yes, and no,” Jared replied, even though it wasn’t a question. “I think you already know that I am not particularly fond of you. My feelings will not influence Jensen, but I think you need to know that I do not trust you with him.”

“I am his aunt!” she protested, tears forming in her eyes. “I would never hurt him!”

“You hurt him irreparably when you rejected a terrified and lost two-year-old!” Jared shot back, his temper flaring slightly as he thought of the reasons why she had no right to ask anything of his Jensen. “I don’t know why you chose now to become a part of his life, but I just wanted to let you know that you will have a lot more to answer to if you ever hurt him again.”

“It is not my intention to hurt my nephew any more than I already have,” Katherine spoke softly. Jared nodded, taking in a calming breath.

“Then don’t. Jensen is mine. I will not allow him to be hurt by anyone, blood or nay. I just came to tell you that. If he decides to see you, then you need to make up for 16 years and then some.”

“I understand,” she nodded. “I’m glad my nephew has you to protect him.”

Jared inclined his head in acknowledgement. “I’d prefer if you didn’t tell him we spoke,” Jared added.

“I understand,” she repeated.

Jared, in spite of his distrust and dislike for the woman that hurt his mate, politely shook her hand and left. Nothing good could come from disrespecting his mate’s bloodline- and he refused to acknowledge the woman as family yet- and besides, his momma would slap him upside the head if he were anything less than a perfect gentleman.

“Wait till you hear what she did, Momma,” he muttered under his breath. “You might make an exception.”

 

~*Jensen*~

 

Jared left with far too little a fight.

If there were anyone in the world Jensen could read, it was Jared, and his boyfriend had agreed far too readily to leave him alone. No. He was planning something.

Whatever it was stirred his curiosity, but didn’t alarm him. He trusted Jared with his life and knew instinctively that whatever Jared was doing, he’d tell Jensen eventually, if he needed to know. In any event, right now? Jensen had bigger things to be worried about.

He made his way to the back, spotting Eric easily where he was hunched over in a chair. He reeked of alcohol and blood and sweat, and Jensen grimaced as he approached him.

“Eric?” he called softly, so as not to startle him. He felt a pang in his heart as he realized how long it had been since he’d called the man ‘dad’. “Eric, come on, time to get up.”

Eric stirred, raising his arms weakly to defend his face in his disorientation. Jensen sighed in pity. It was amazing that he could still feel compassion for the very same man that caused the same reaction in him.

“I aint gonna hurt you,” he said gruffly, gripping one of Eric’s arms and hauling him gently to his feet, supporting his leaden weight by throwing the arm over his shoulder. “Just gotta get you to a motel, you can sleep this off and head home tomorrow.”

“Mikey…” Eric mumbled. “Money…”

“It’s sorted,” Jensen said shortly. “Let’s go.”

Eric mumbled incomprehensibly under his breath as Jensen called a cab. It was no easy task to maneuver his drunken foster father into the vehicle, but then, Jensen had years of practice to fall back on. He ignored Eric’s mindless chattering as they drove, just like he ignored the sympathetic looks he was garnering from the cabbie.

“How much?” he asked, when they stopped in front of a motel.

“Your father, kid?” the guy- Jason, the sign in front showed- asked, eyes crinkled in concern.

Jensen nodded quietly by way of an answer. “How much?”

Jason shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Kid.”

“I can’t…” Jensen started to protest.

“You been doing this a long time?” Jason asked, flicking his head in Eric’s direction. Jensen hesitated, before nodding his head once more in embarrassment. “Then you’re a good kid,” Jason proclaimed gently. “And you deserve a break.”

Jensen met the cab driver’s eyes, hoping the gratitude showed in his eyes. He’d never been given much of a break in anything in his life, but a simple act of hospitality and generosity went a long way to reminding him why he never gave up on people and humanity. “Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure, kid,” Jason smiled warmly. “I had to do the same dance with my old man plenty times before. Someone gave me a break back then too. I hope you find a way to happier times, like I did.”

“I’m very glad you did,” Jensen smiled genuinely. “All the best, man.”

“You too, kid. To you too.”

Jensen carefully steered his father into the motel, paid for a room for three nights, just in case, and set Eric on the bed.

“Jensen!” Eric suddenly sat up, and a thrum of fear settled into Jensen’s chest. “I have a son,” Eric mumbled. “His name is Jensen.”

With a start, he realized that Eric didn’t recognize him. He nodded, entertaining Eric. “That’s great. Lie down and sleep it off. I’m leaving Advil and water on the bedside.”

“I hurt Jensen,” Eric whimpered. Jensen stopped in his tracks, unable to do anything more than listen to the words spilling from Eric’s mouth, unfiltered and unrestrained. “I hurt my son, because every time I see him, I remember that I failed to protect him from my weakness.”

Jensen could hardly take a breath in. “W-what weakness?” he forced the words out from numb lips.

“I can’t protect him from me,” Eric sighed mournfully. “I’m nothing without her, I can’t live this life without her. Jensen is good. He’s a good boy. He takes care of me like she used to. I wish he would leave me to die, I wish he didn’t waste his goodness on me. Jensen…my boy…”

Hot tears cascaded down his cheeks and he wiped impatiently at them. After all these years, and all these bruises, now? Why the fuck now? “Why haven’t you ever apologized to him, then?” he demanded, infuriated with himself and with Eric.

“Because he would forgive me,” Eric said simply, turning around and burying his face in the pillow. “My little boy would forgive me, because he has her heart. It never mattered that he wasn’t…ours, because he was…ours. We made him ours. She would hate me so much…why doesn’t Jensen hate me? Why won’t he leave me alone?”

“I…” Jensen hesitated. “Jensen would never want you to get hurt. He still remembers the father you used to be.”

“I don’t want to hurt my boy anymore,” Eric slurred, eyes closing.

“Then don’t,” Jensen whispered, breath hitching.

“L’ve you…J’nsn,” Eric garbled before dropping off with a light snore.

Jensen covered him with a blanket, locked up and slid the key underneath the door. And then was the only time that he allowed himself to properly break down.

He leaned back against the hard wooden door, sliding down slowly until his ass touched the concrete. Curling his arms around himself, he buried his face in between his knees and openly sobbed for all that he’d lost, and all that he might have had if Eric was a little stronger, or a little more open with him. He sobbed for Jody, the woman who taught him how to love with his whole heart, the woman who was his mother for all intents and purposes. Eric had been right about one thing; she had made him hers. She had made him their son with the love she’d had for him. Even when he wasn’t theirs in the technical sense of the term, she expounded all the love in her heart and made him theirs in the ways that counted.

Stumbling blindly, he broke into a clumsy run, not needing to see through his bleary eyes to know exactly where he was going. He barely felt the 5-mile run, a testament to the running he tried to do regularly to burn off his stress and worry.

He knew the graveyard like the back of his hand; could have found Jody’s headstone blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his back. Dropping to his knees at the cold, concrete slab, he let his frame-wracking sobs take over.

“I’m sorry, Mom, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry,” he mumbled over and over, pain constricting his chest until he thought he couldn’t breathe. Deep in the recesses of his mind, a soft voice came over his memories, like a radio finally being tuned to the correct frequency.

Come on, stop your crying, it will be alright…
Just take my hand. Hold it tight.
I will protect you from all around me.
I will be here, don’t you cry!

“Mom.” Jensen sighed, listening as the song replayed itself in his mind, Jody’s soft, sweet voice, light and lilting with love and laughter seeping through the pain, reaching the part of him, the 8-year-old Jensen, that he thought died with her in that car crash.

For one so small, you seem so strong.
My arms will hold you; keep you safe and warm.
I will protect from deep inside me.
I will be here, don’t you cry.

Coz’ you’ll be in my heart.
No matter what they say.
From this day on, now and forever more.
I’ll be there, always…

…Always.

Just look over your shoulder,” Jensen whispered the last lyric that he remembered. The one she would sing while she tapped his nose with her finger and smiled like she’d won the lottery. “I’ll be there, always.”

He nodded shakily, remembering what he’d buried all those years ago. What he’d forgotten to remember. That she would always be there with him, if he were just so inclined to look. And it had taken Eric getting drunk and remembering who he used to be, for Jensen to remember just who he used to be as well.

It was an indication of how long he’d been there when the sky began to lighten. There was still no sun, but the dawn of Sunday morning was beginning to creep in. He let out a raggedy breath, caressing one hand over the cold tombstone.

“I miss you, Mom. Happy birthday.”

 

~*Jared*~

 

His heart hurt like a thousand elephants were stampeding over it at the sound of his mate’s mournful sobs. When Jensen had failed to return last night, one hour, two hours, four hours late, Jared had wanted to scour the town in search of his missing mate. Aldis had been the one to realize the date, and directed Jared to the local cemetery. He didn’t stick around to hear Aldis convincing Matt to let him go alone; just assumed it had worked when he got there and no one had followed him. Relying on his sense of smell, and the cries he could hear from his mate, it hadn’t been long before Jared found him.

He was hunched over her gravesite, heart-wrenching sobs ripping from his chest in a way that made Jared suspect that Jensen had never really given himself time to grieve. He heard Jensen’s mumbled apologies, his confession of how much he missed her, heard the tune Jensen had been absently humming under his breath. It had taken every iota of willpower not to go to his mate and cuddle his close, kiss him, caress him, do anything to take the pain away. But who was he to deny Jensen this time? More than anything, the stunning, green-eyed love of his life needed to take time out to wash away all the pain he’d been carrying in his heart since his foster mother had passed away, and while it hurt Jared, and went against his instincts to allow Jensen to be alone, he’d had to do it.

When the sky started to lighten and Jensen murmured a heartfelt wish, Jared couldn’t stand being away any longer. Walking towards his mate, he held out a hand cautiously.

Jensen looked up, red-rimmed eyes wide and just as gorgeous as ever. Smiling weakly, he took the proffered arm and Jared hauled him up, cuddling him immediately against his chest. Jensen put up no struggle, merely collapsing against him, emotionally spent. He stood there quietly soothing, one hand gripping Jensen’s waist while the other caressed his hair and the nape of his neck.

Eventually it was Jensen who broke the silence. “She would have loved you.”

Jared smiled, looking down at where Jensen’s head was tucked underneath his chin. “Yeah?”

Jensen nodded, peaking up from underneath long lashes. “Yeah.” He cleared his throat, his voice still thick from the crying. “You would have liked her, too. She was really funny. And clever. And she had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.”

“Yeah?” Jared nuzzled the edge of Jensen’s jaw. “She sounds like someone else I know.”

Jensen hummed nostalgically. “She taught me how to love, and said that was what made me her son. Not blood, or DNA, or genetics. Just love.”

Jared waited a beat. “You’re right,” he conceded, cradling Jensen’s face and thumbing away the tears. “I would have liked her, too.”

Jensen wound his arms around his neck quietly, burying his face in the crook between Jared’s neck and shoulder. Jared gently maneuvered them so that he could lean down and hook an arm underneath Jensen’s knees. Today, his mate didn’t protest as Jared cuddled him to his chest, but actually huddled further into the embrace as Jared lovingly carried him to his waiting truck. As Jared set him on the seat, he saw Jensen take a deep breath in, running an absent-minded hand over the seats as he took comfort from the familiar feel and smell surrounding him.

Jared quickly crossed to the driver’s side and pulled Jensen flush against his side as he drove, unwilling to let his mate go another second with a loving, caring touch. Before they could reach Aldis’ house, Jensen was asleep, one hand resting over Jared’s heart, where he’d allowed the steady thumpthump to lull him to sleep. Smiling beatifically, Jared ghosted his lips over Jensen’s forehead.

“Dream sweet, baby.”

 

~*Jensen*~

 

It was eight-thirty when Jensen woke. Jared was spooning him and he was dressed in Jared’s old t-shirt with his boxer shorts, his earlier get-up folded neatly and set atop his duffel bag. He reasoned that his boyfriend must have carried him in and changed him, and Jensen had slept through it all.

He had been more exhausted than he’d initially thought.

He slipped stealthily out of bed, grabbing his jeans and slipping them over his bare legs, leaving Jared’s t-shirt on. He stole out of the room, following the smell of coffee to the kitchen, when an abnormally somber Aldis was sitting at the table.

His friend was looking out of the window, absently sipping out his mug as his mind raced with whatever thoughts were occupying it.

“What’s up, buttercup?” Jensen asked teasingly. Aldis jumped half a foot in the air at the sound of his voice, and Jensen chuckled under his breath.

“Fucking Christ on a unicycle, JR,” Aldis hissed, holding his chest with one hand and setting his coffee cup in the sink with the other, mopping at the coffee stains on his shirt where it had sloshed over. “Make some noise, would ya?”

“Sorry, Al,” Jensen snorted, pouring some of the steaming hot liquid into a cup for himself. “What’s on your mind?”

“How are you feeling, kid?” Aldis asked, avoiding the question. A seed of trepidation spiraled in his chest as Jensen narrowed his eyes at his long-time friend.

“I’m peachy,” he replied snarkily. “Tell me what’s going on in that big head of yours, man.”

Aldis sighed heavily, running a frustrated hand through his hair. “You don’t have to worry about it, JR. It isn’t your issue.”

“If it involves you guys, it is,” Jensen insisted softly. “You guys had my back yesterday, and for all the years I was here.”

Aldis nodded slowly, biting his lip worriedly. “There’s something you should know, JR,” he said softly. “About Matt.”

Jensen settled himself into the chair opposite his friend’s. “Tell me.”

“JR, man,” he seemed to be struggling for words. “Matt…he took it really hard when you left. Was happy for you, but it damn near killed him.”

Jensen flinched, sorrow squeezing his heart. “I never wanted to hurt him,” Jensen whispered, feeling sick to his stomach. Aldis made a frustrated sound under his breath.

“Fuck, kid, I know,” he pressed his palm to his forehead. “I’m saying this all wrong, I never meant to make you feel bad.”

“I know, Al,” Jensen comforted, trying to push away his feelings. “Just talk. I won’t break, I’m not fragile.”

Aldis nodded again. “Just…he likes to pretend he aint hurting, but it killed him before, and it’s gonna kill him now.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t like seeing him hurt, man. I’ve known Matt since we were kids. He’s too…” Aldis struggled for the words.

“He loves me too much to tell me not to come back,” Jensen supplied, his heart sinking. Aldis’ eyes widened, and he hastened to clarify. “He loves me like a little brother, right? He doesn’t want to hurt me by telling me that I hurt him every time I come, and then leave again.”

Aldis’ eyes shuttered abruptly and Jensen felt oddly like he was missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Regardless, the older man nodded. “Yeah, JR. Got it in one.”

Jensen looked into the coffee mug, studying the swirls of black like there was going to be a test on it later. On the one hand, a deep sense of loss hit him for the friends and brothers he just now realized he had in his old gang.

But on the other hand, he’d do anything not to hurt Matt.

“Jared and I will leave before noon,” he decided softly. Aldis began to protest, but Jensen waved him down with a melancholic smile. “I know, Al,” he reassured his friend. “But I can’t hurt him any more than I already have.”

Aldis crossed around the table and gathered him in a tight hug. “I’m sorry, JR,” he apologized wretchedly.

“Don’t be, Al,” Jensen thumped his friend’s back twice. “We’re family. Always will be.”

 

~*Jared*~

 

Jensen’s decision to leave was abrupt, but not totally unexpected. He’d gotten up early enough to hear the tail-end of his mate’s discussion with Aldis, and although he appreciated that the man didn’t correct Jensen’s misconception that Matt loved him like a brother, he was also loathe for the additional sorrow on his chroi’s face.

Jared snuggled his mate close to his body and let Jensen silently cry at what he was leaving behind.

Before they could leave, Matt came sprinting to the car, out of breath and apparently having run all the way. To both their surprise, he asked to speak to Jared alone.

“Since the day he told me I have no skill in pool, I've loved him. I...I love him,” were the words out of his mouth. Jared struggled to contain his instinctive jealous rage.

“I know.”

Matt nodded slowly. “Make him happy,” he requested lowly. “Love him more than anything. See to it that he laughs more, and doesn’t ever cry for too long. Treat him as you would a God, because that’s more or less what he is.” He raised his chin a fraction in defiance. “And I swear to you, if you ever hurt him, I’ll kill you myself, or die trying.”

Jealous or not, Jared owed Matt a slight due. He shook the man’s hand, showing his begrudging respect with an acknowledging nod of his head. “Thank you for taking care of him when I couldn’t.”

Matt didn’t respond, and Jared didn’t expect him to. Instead, he went to Jensen, who was watching him with tears glistening sharply in his emerald green eyes.

Jensen hugged him tightly, and Jared didn’t stop him, because from the look in his mate’s eyes, it was a goodbye. Sorrow touched Jared’s chest through their mating bond, and he tried to send out feelings of warmth to his better half.

“Goodbye, Matty,” Jensen spoke roughly.

If Matt saw it for the final goodbye that it was, he didn’t say a word.

 

~*Chris*~

 

Chris flicked irritably at an invisible fleck on his kitchen counter. The entire weekend had been a nightmare, starting with the scare of Jensen running off on Friday and culminating in him sitting at the counter on Sunday afternoon, having gotten no sleep the entire weekend, because he was worried sick about his little brother.

He knew that Jensen was with Jared, and he knew that in reality, there was no safer place in the world for his best friend, but that did nothing to ease the anxiety that had been thrumming through his veins since that goofy kid from Jensen’s art class had come asking him whether Jensen was okay or not. He longed to see his best friend with his own eyes, see for himself that the stubborn ass was unharmed.

Well, like they say; ask, and thou shalt receive.

The deep rumble of Jared’s truck was unmistakable, and Chris jogged out to meet it. Righteous indignation radiated off him, and he worked up a head of steam to let off at Jensen the minute his hard-headed best friend stepped off the truck and into his line of sight.

The first thing Chris saw on Jensen’s face was the bone-deep weariness.

His shoulders were slumped and his eyes, red-rimmed, and it seemed like every step took him more energy that he had to spare. His smile was feeble and the first word that popped into Chris’ mind was the one word he never thought he’d ever associate with his little brother.

Fragile.

Acting instinctively, he drained the entire force of his fury with a sigh. Jogging to Jensen’s side, he hugged him tightly, briefly, then wound an arm around his waist and easily carried the weight when his best friend slumped into him.

Walking him slowly into the house, Chris murmured soothingly under his breath. “Come on, I gotcha little brother. I gotcha. You're okay. You're home now.”

Jensen turned his head fleetingly into Chris’ shoulder, and protectiveness flared deep inside him. He set his best friend down on the couch and sat on the coffee table in front of him. Jensen drew his legs up and tucked them underneath his chin, looking small and world-weary. Even then, he worked up a smile, and Chris had to admire the strength of the boy in front of him.

Jared came over and kissed Jensen slowly, gently. Chris busied himself getting Jensen a glass of Coke, not wanting to intrude on the intimate moment.

“I’ll see you later, baby, okay?” he heard as Jared murmured softly. “Just call me if you need me, mo chroi.”

“I love you.”

“More than the moon and the stars.”

“Forever and always.”

Chris walked in just as Jared kissed Jensen one more time. The Alpha nodded at him, and Chris heard the unspoken order to look after his mate. He snorted derisively inwardly. He didn’t need an order to take care of his family.

Handing Jensen the drink, he made himself comfortable on the opposite end of the couch. “You gonna tell me what happened before or after I kick your ass for scaring the hell out of me?” he asked teasingly.

Jensen chuckled lightly, and the sound was like a soothing balm to a burn. “Before,” he opted. “It’s a long story, so maybe you might forget.”

Chris smiled, relieved to have Jensen back and calmer than he’d been in three days.

“Go on, tell me.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

Taking a small sip of his Coke, Jensen tried to figure out where to start his story. His mind was fuddled with exhaustion and weariness. Jared had wanted to take him straight home to sleep, but in truth, Jensen had missed Chris and needed to talk to his best friend a little while in an effort to gain some perspective. Jared hadn’t argued, and though he’d seemed curious, he hadn’t asked, for which Jensen was tremendously grateful. He wasn’t sure himself why home seemed like Chris’ place more than his own.

He knew he’d made the right decision, though, when he’d gotten here. Chris had seemed ready to rip him a new one, but one look at him, and his best friend knew intuitively that it wasn’t the right time. Instead, he’d just helped Jensen in, and God, Jensen hadn’t even realized that he was so sapped out of energy. It had been liberating to let go; here, he could trust that Jared was safe, and effectively, he could let his guard down, let Jared and Chris take over the load. He’d forgotten how strenuous it was, how hard it was on him, to be JR, and even more so now that he’d had Jared to look out for.

Chris was right; now, he was home. And sure, a whole new set of problems awaited them here, but he could deal. He had a home worth fighting for.

A family worth fighting for.

He looked at Chris, still sitting patiently across from him. The long haired boy was calm, seeming content to wait until Jensen had his head straight.

“It’s good to be home,” Jensen mumbled unthinkingly. Chris grinned, stretching his leg out half-heartedly to tap Jensen’s shin.

“Good to have you home,” he replied, in a rare display of affection.

Jensen sighed cavernously. He had a long story to tell, and Chris would wait all night to hear it. “My foster father…he’s kind of an addict…”

###

“..I left him in a motel to sleep it off, and Jared and I came home,” Jensen concluded. Even though he’d left gaps in his story- Eric’s confession and his abuse, Jody’s graveside, his chat with Aldis- Jensen still found himself ever more drained, having had to relive the weekend in stark detail. Chris had nearly come off the couch when he recounted going head-to-head with Big Mike, and had simply chuckled to himself when Jensen relayed Matt’s nighttime visit. Now, his friend was silent, sharp blue eyes assessing him so astutely, that Jensen felt worried he was inadvertently giving things away.

“How the fuck are you still standing, Freckles?”

The softly spoken question served to drain all the tension from his body like a sponge soaking up water. He let his head fall back on to the couch, the sympathy in his best friend’s eyes too much for his frayed emotions to deal with. “I don’t fucking know, man,” he confessed in a rough whisper. “I’ll let you know when I can catch my breath.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about your dad, Jensen?” Chris asked quietly. Try as he might, Kane couldn’t totally hide the hurt that was radiating off his posture, and if using his full name wasn’t enough of an indication, Jensen could read his stormy eyes like a book, anyway.

He sighed, pulling his long-sleeved shirt over his palms and gripping the material in a nervous gesture. He half-shrugged, careful not to meet Chris’ eyes. “I guess I didn’t want you to judge him based on the mistakes he’s made,” Jensen repeated what he told Jared, except after Eric’s little confession, he felt like he maybe meant it a little more. “You don’t know the man I used to know when I was a kid. What he is now…it’s a product of circumstance.”

“It’s also a consequence of decision, Freckles,” Chris objected gently. “He’s a grown ass man. You understand that he needs to take responsibility like one, don’t you?”

Jensen scowled. “Don’t treat me like a kid with a victim complex,” he snapped, knowing that Chris was least deserving of his tone. The long-haired boy took it in stride, fixing him with a gentle, yet shrewd look.

“You are a victim, Freckles, whether you want to admit it or not,” he maintained softly, while still being firm. “But that’s not the point here. The point is that…” Chris half-sighed, half-chuckled. “I’m not really sure I have a point anymore. I just hate that I wasn’t there.”

Jensen felt remorse settle into his belly. “I’m sorry, Chris,” he aimed heartfelt green eyes at his best friend. “I never meant to leave you out, I just didn’t want you to get hurt on my behalf.”

Chris wrinkled his nose. “Put the puppy-dog eyes away,” he complained with a small smile. “I forgave you already.”

Jensen felt a smile crack over his face, the first he’d smiled in a while. “You’re too easy, Kane,” he teased, running a hand through his disheveled hair.

“Whatever,” Chris griped, pink coloring his cheeks. “And for the record, getting hurt on your behalf? Not your choice. Mine. And next time, you’re calling me.”

“Okay,” Jensen nodded solemnly. “I will.”

“Good.”

Jensen took out his phone, ignoring his friend’s confused look in favor of dialing. “Hello,” Jensen spoke politely, sounding very formal. “Is this Mrs. Padalecki?”

Chris’ eyes widened. “What the hell?” he whispered softly, bemused.

“Speaking,” the woman responded, slight confusion coloring her tone.

“This is Jensen, Mam,” the green-eyed boy continued, in a charmingly respectful voice. “I’m so sorry to be so rude as to do this over the phone, but I apologize for not making it to brunch today. I don’t know if Jared told you, but I had a slight family crisis.”

Chris grinned mockingly at him and Jensen flipped him off, making the other boy chuckle.

“Jensen!” Mrs Padalecki exclaimed happily. “So good to finally hear from you, sweetie! I understand completely, Jared mentioned what happened when he came home. Thank you for calling me, though, honey, that’s very well-mannered of you.”

Jensen flushed. “My momma raised me polite, Mam,” he grinned into the phone. “Thank you so much for inviting me. I look forward to meeting you some time, Mam.”

“Why not tonight?” the woman suggested, sounding excited. “Come and have dinner with us!”

“Ah…” Jensen flinched, cursing inwardly, even as his voice took on its most charming tenor. “I’d love that, Mam.”

“Excellent! We’ll see you at 5, hon, I’ll tell Jared to fetch you.” The woman’s tone broached no argument, and Jensen agreed weakly.

“What was that about?” Chris asked as Jensen flipped his phone shut and shoved it in his back pocket.

“I’m going for dinner to the Padaleckis.” Jensen swallowed, rubbing his hand over his face. Chris fell about laughing, clutching at this stomach and ignoring the glares Jensen was aiming at him.

“How’d you manage to get roped into that?” he cackled, wiping away a tear from his eyes.

“My momma raised me polite,” he repeated, his voice surly. “I couldn’t say no.” Sighing, Jensen tried to look into his last reserves to find the strength to get through another emotionally grueling event.

Chris noticed the weariness and promptly sobered. “You’ll be able to handle it, Freckles?” he asked worriedly. “You’re taking on your family and your old life, and the Padaleckis, all in one weekend?”

“What the hell choice do I have?” Jensen sighed. “I know Jared really wanted me to meet his parents, and he’s done so much for me this weekend. I’d do anything for him.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t expect you to do it all now,” Chris spoke reasonably. “He knows what you’ve been through these past few days.”

Jensen shook his head. “Just because he doesn’t expect something from me, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it to him.”

Chris blew out a breath through his teeth and nodded slowly. “I guess I hear you…but do you really think you’ll be up to it?”

“I have to be, so I will be.”

###

Jensen ran his hand through his hair for the umpteenth and third time. His dirty blond spikes looked none the worse for wear at his brutal treatment, and it was something in itself to be thankful for, considering how much Jensen had been mussing it.

He bounced his leg up and down in impatience, trying to calm his frayed nerves. He wondered again, what had possessed him to accept the invitation, and glared at the sky from underneath his long lashes when he remembered. “Hope you’re happy, Mom,” he muttered, “you and your manners are what got me into this mess in the first place.”

Jensen could have sworn he heard the echo of Jody’s laughter in the breeze that caressed his exposed arms.

He took a minute to marvel at the ease with which he’d spoken. After visiting Jody for the first time in years, and actually talking to her for the first time since the accident, Jensen found it slightly easier to think about her. He felt her in every move he made, in a way he hadnt allowed himself to since he’d lost her. He was far from healed, he knew, but he no longer shied away from her either. It was almost…liberating.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Jensen jumped slightly as big, warms hands wove around his waist and Jared propped his chin on Jensen’s shoulder. His boyfriend kissed the sensitive spot behind his ear and he melted against him, feeling protected as he was cushioned against Jared’s muscular chest. Jensen rested his head lightly against Jared’s downturned mop of hair as his boyfriend playfully nibbled at the juncture between his neck and shoulder.

“What a way to get snuck up on,” he commented absently, relishing in the electricity elicited from his boyfriend’s touch. Jared chuckled against him, the vibrations adding a delicious new sensation.

“It’s good to know I can sneak up on you,” he commented. “It means you’re Jen again, and not JR, which in turn means that I can go back to being the protector.”

“You couldn’t handle two days being the protected one, huh?” Jensen smiled in amusement.

“I’m an Alpha, baby.” Jensen didn’t need to look down to know Jared was sporting a pout. “Not in my nature to let my mate protect me.” He sighed dramatically. “I don’t think I could do it again, Jen.”

“Hopefully you won’t have to,” Jensen pressed his lips against Jared’s hair. “But you should know that I won’t stop trying to protect you if it’s in my power.”

Jared straightened and turned him around in his arms, before leaning down to nuzzle his throat. “I know, sweetheart. But you’re doing that thing where you avoid the original question again. What were you thinking about so hard that I managed to sneak up on you?”

Sighing, Jensen began to play with the hair at the bottom of Jared’s neck, finding a way to phrase his worries. “I was thinking about Jody…and I was worrying about meeting your family.”

Jared licked the underside of his jaw, making Jensen giggle slightly. “Whenever you want to visit your mom, tell me okay? I’ll drive you.”

“Thanks, Jay.” Jensen kissed the hollow at his boyfriend’s throat. Jared nodded.

“As for my family,” he continued, “I’m so sorry about my mom. She’s just been so excited to meet you…but you just say the word, sweetheart, and I’ll tell them to hold off until you’re ready. You’ve had such an emotional weekend…I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed or obligated here, Jen.” Jared fixed him with a serious look, love and concern radiating in his hazel eyes. “They won’t mind if you want to postpone, and you know that you’re the only one I’m worried about here.”

Jensen nodded slowly. “I know, Jay…but I need to do this. I wish I could explain why…I just feel like its something I need to prove to myself I can handle. Does that make any sense?”

“It does,” Jared tilted his head to the side. “But I don’t understand why you need to prove anything. You’re the strongest, bravest, kindest, most amazing person I’ve ever met.”

Tears stung Jensen’s eyes and he swiped impatiently at them, huffing out a laugh. “I think you’re biased.”

“Naw,” Jared grinned, nuzzling him again. “I think I see you more clearly than them all.”

“You do,” Jensen readily agreed. “Let’s just hope your family thinks the same things you do.”

“They’re gonna love you, baby,” Jared assured him with a smile as he led Jensen to his truck. “Mom’s been flitting around the house like a headless chicken since you called, muttering about what a nice boy you were and how she needed to get things perfect. When I told her to calm down, she slapped me upside the head and told me to come get you. And Megan began getting ready about two hours ago.”

Jensen huffed a laugh. “Will your brother be there?”

“No,” Jared shook his head and made his way quickly around the car. Opening the door, he hopped in as he explained. “Jeff is back home with his wife and their pups. He said he’d meet you when he came next. It’s just gonna be us, my parents, and Megan.”

“Is it a bad thing that I’m relieved about that?” Jensen asked guiltily as Jared pulled away from the driveway.

“It’s no worse than me wishing Megan wasn’t gonna be there,” Jared grinned ruefully. “Just take all the childhood stories with a pinch of salt.”

Jensen chuckled. “Well, at least there’s that to look forward to.”

By the time they pulled up in front of the house, Jensen was sure that Jared could hear the rapid thumping of his heartbeat. Anxiety and anticipation churned in a twisting concoction in his belly, and Jared reached over to pull Jensen’s body into his, peppering kisses over his clammy face.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” he told Jensen, punctuating each word with a kiss. “I’m right here. I love you. We’re doing this together.” He pulled back to meet sincere hazel eyes. “It’s me and you against the world, baby,” Jared murmured, heartfelt.

Gradually, the tension left the smaller boy’s shoulders, and a small smile graced his features. “Me and you, Jay.”

###

~*Jared*~

 

In his peripheral vision, Jared noticed his mother waiting impatiently at the door, but he decided that his mate came first at that moment. He was wrecked with nerves and he needed him, and that surpassed everything else. Pulling Jensen into his arms, he rubbed soothingly at his back and nuzzled the nape of his neck until the boy relaxed against him.

“Are you sure you’re up for this?” he asked uncertainly. Since his mother had told him she’d invited Jensen for dinner, it had been worrying him that Jensen was taking on an entire army in a weekend.

“I have you there,” Jensen answered softly, but surely. “I can handle anything.”

Jared responded the only way he knew how; fusing their lips together in a kiss that would hopefully convey his love and devotion. Cradling Jensen’s face in his hands, he gently nipped at his mate’s bottom lip, and soothed over it with his tongue, seeking entrance. Jensen’s lips parted for him with a faint sigh, and Jared licked into his mouth, using his tongue to trace every crevice in the cavern of his mate’s mouth. He sucked gently on Jensen’s tongue, eliciting a sharp gasp, and growled when Jensen’s hands flew up to tangle into his locks.

Before he could lose his senses and forget that his mother was standing right there, Jared pulled away, but not before butting his nose lovingly against his mate’s jaw.

“I love you, sweetheart,” he reminded Jensen in a low voice, “but right now, I can’t take my time as much as I’d like to. My mom is dying to meet you, and if I keep you here much longer, she might actually beat me around the head with her wooden spoon.”

Jensen huffed out a begrudging laugh, straightening and steeling himself. “Let’s go,” he flicked his head weakly at the entrance of the house.

Jared vowed to stay close until his mate relaxed some.

He went around the car and wrapped his arm around Jensen’s waist as they were walking. His mate tensed for a second, before melting into the hold and reaching around his stomach to grip Jared’s fingers. The Alpha could practically feel his mother fawning at the display.

“Jen, this is my mom, Sherry Padalecki. Mom,” he grinned, looking between his beautiful Beta-Mother and the love of his life. “I’d like you to meet Jensen, my mate.”

Jensen blushed ever so lightly, but pushed back his shoulders and stood tall, aiming a devastating smile at the woman in front of him. “It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Mam,” he held out his hand, his low-pitched voice even charming Jared. “Thank you for having me over.”

Sherry Padalecki was practically bursting with excitement and she disregarded the hand offered to her in favor of pulling the boy in front of her into a warm hug. “Thank you for coming, honey!” she gushed. Pulling away from the smaller boy, she reached up to smack her son upside the head. “Jared Tristan Padalecki, why did you wait this long to bring him over?”

“Momma,” Jared complained, rubbing at the sore spot as Jensen snorted quietly. “I had to get to know my mate before you guys got to know him.”

All that earned him was another slap. “Don’t talk back to your momma, Jared Tristan,” Sherry scolded him again, and this time Jensen laughed outright. Jared complained under his breath, but in truth, it was worth it to hear Jensen’s laugh. He could feel his mom’s love for his mate radiating off her, and he loved her all the more for her open-armed welcome.

Jensen was relaxing next to him, and Jared marveled at the influence of a mother’s touch. He definitely needed to thank his mom profusely for being exactly who she was, and all at once, the nerves he hadnt even known he’d had, disappeared.

What could possibly go wrong?

Famous last words.

###

~*Jensen*~

 

Sherry led them into the house, talking to Jensen non-stop. “I swear, Jensen, I feel as though I know you already! You’re all Jared talks about these days.” Jensen grinned at the knowledge, another knot of tension melting away.

“Mom!” Jared intercepted again, cheeks flushing. “There are a thousand other things we could be talking about right now. Where’s Meg?”

“She’s upstairs,” Sherry answered, waving her hand in the direction of the staircase before narrowing her eyes and looking speculatively at Jensen. The green-eyed boy squirmed slightly at the scrutiny, but remembering the lessons he’d learnt over the years, he forced himself not to cower away.

“Jensen, honey, you’re too skinny,” she decided finally, and Jensen was so ridiculously relieved that she hadn’t found something not to like, that he huffed out a small laugh. “Jared you need to feed your mate,” she scolded lightly, winking at him.

Before his boyfriend could defend himself, they were sidetracked by movement coming from the stairs. A young girl, who looked to be around her early teens, was bounding towards them, a bright grin on her face. It was easy to see the resemblance between Jared and the smaller girl, but when her light brown eyes sparkled with the force of her smile, there was no doubt left in the world.

She stopped in front of them, smiling shyly at Jensen and half hiding behind her brother. Jensen’s heart warmed, and he forgot his own nervousness in an attempt to soothe hers; he’d always had a big soft spot for kids.

“You must be Megan,” he smiled at her, before his boyfriend could introduce them. At the beginnings of her questioning look, he answered before she could ask. “You have the same smile as Jared, just cuter.” He winked at his boyfriend in silent apology, but despite his words, the grin stretching over Jared’s face was enough to take his breath away and then some.

Megan giggled, face coloring slightly as she reached out a hand. “It’s awesome to meet you,” she said shyly, shaking his hand and coming to stand next to Jared. “You’re way out of my brother’s league,” she blurted without thinking, blushing even more furiously when Jensen laughed.

“No, I think that’s the other way around,” he admitted, smiling at her amicably. Jared was beaming, despite the obvious barb towards him, and as he wound a hand around his sister’s shoulders, it was obvious that they were pretty close.

“I’ll tell you a secret, Meg,” he stage-whispered. “Jensen hasn’t figured out that you’re right yet, so let’s trap him here before he does.”

It was Jensen’s turn to flush scarlet as Megan giggled again. “You’re such a weirdo,” she told her brother affectionately. “Come and help me with my Chem homework before dinner?” she looked beseechingly up at Jared. “It’s just the one problem I can’t figure out.”

“Aw, I suck at Chem, Megs, you know that,” Jared whined. “Phone Jeff, he should be able to…”

“Why don’t I help?” Jensen offered. “I love Chemistry.”

“Oh, no, honey,” Sherry protested. “We couldn’t ask you to do that!”

“Mom’s right, you’re a guest,” Megan shook her head bashfully. “I’ll just call my other brother…”

“Nonsense,” Jensen waved away her remonstrations. “It’d be a pleasure to help.”

“Jensen’s a Chem genius,” Jared chimed in proudly. “If anyone could help, it’d be him.”

“I wouldn’t say genius,” Jensen mumbled with a pleased smile. “But I would really love to help. Why don’t you show me your work?”

Sherry placed her hand in between his shoulder blades, smiling dubiously at him. “Are you sure it’s no bother, honey?”

“One hundred percent, Mam,” he nodded reassuringly, smiling brightly at her. Chemistry was something he could work with, something definitive, and certain. If anything else, it would help his own nerves, since this entire situation was so out of his control.

Megan’s face lit up with a grin, and she led Jared and Jensen back up the stairs to her room. “It’s stupid Avagadro,” she complained, forgetting her initial nervousness in favor of her annoyance towards the work. “I get the molar concept, but the last question wants me to calculate the empirical and the molecular formula of a compound…and that’s when I get lost. What’s the difference anyway?”

Jensen gathered his thoughts, trying to find a way to break it down for her. “Think of it in terms of a tiered cake,” he suggested thoughtfully. “Let’s say it was a chocolate, vanilla and red velvet layered cake. And say that the person who baked the cake, baked 9 layers, alternating each flavor.”

He paused, and after ascertaining that the kid was still with him, he continued. “So, if someone asks you what the cake was like, what would you say?”

Megan frowned. “I would say that it was a chocolate, vanilla and red velvet cake.”

“I would say that it was tasty,” Jared grinned, and Jensen huffed a laugh, unable to glare at the interruption. Megan, sharing no such amusement, stuck her tongue out at her brother and threw a pencil at him.

“That’s great, Megan,” Jensen praised, while Jared mumbled under his breath about abusive little sisters. “It’s what I would say too. But why wouldn’t either of us say that it was a 9-layered cake, with 3 layers of chocolate, 3 layers of vanilla and 3 layers of red velvet?”

“It’s easier to just say that there were three flavors, it simplifies the answer,” Megan shrugged. Jensen beamed at her use of words.

“Excellent,” he praised again, grinning. “I like that you used the word ‘simplify’, because that’s your answer right there. The empirical formula of a compound, is the simplified version of the answer, while the molecular formula, is it’s true formula. So let’s say you were given a molecular formula of C6-H12. What would your empirical formula be?”

Megan’s face dawned with understanding and she grinned brightly. “C-H2?” she asked excitedly.

“Got it in one, kid,” Jensen grinned, holding his hand up for a high-five. Megan giggled and slapped her palm against his. “So, now that you know the difference, it should be easy enough to show you the different formulas for calculating them, since the formula almost comes from the definition itself…”

###

In about half an hour, Jensen had made certain that Megan could understand, and answer any questions he threw her way, and she was positively on a high from finally understanding the complex work. She bounded down the stairs, eager to tell her mother about it.

“Hey.” Jared snared his arms around Jensen’s waist once more, pulling him against his broad chest. Jensen sighed happily, going willingly. “Thank you.”

“Mm…what for?” he asked distractedly, as Jared started pressing little kisses across his neck and collar bone.

“For teaching my sister,” he answered, his breath hot against Jensen’s sensitive skin. “For being so nice about it. For being so good with her.”

“She’s your sister, Jay,” Jensen nudged his boyfriend’s temple with his nose, the gesture unconsciously picked up from all the times Jared did it to him. “And she’s a great kid. I’m glad I could help.”

“You’re amazing, you know that?” Jared asked, pressing teasing little kisses on each corner of Jensen’s mouth, and then on the tip of his nose. Before he could press in closer and steal a kiss, Jared tensed around him.

Jensen leaned back, peering up into Jared’s diverted eyes. “What?”

“My dad’s here,” he answered, pulling back with a small smile. “Come on, you should meet him. We’ll continue this,” he gestured between them, eyes darkening almost imperceptibly, “a little later.”

Jensen shivered at the promises he saw in those slanted hazel orbs. “I’ll hold you to that.”

They made their way downstairs…and that was when the shit hit the fan.

Jared’s father stood in the middle of the living room, looking formidable. Though he aimed a smile at them, it seemed forced, and Jensen was hit with a tingling in the arch of his foot; something that had always happened to him whenever he sensed trouble. He felt his shoulders tense the longer the man looked at them, and if it were a cartoon, he’d be whipping wooden boards from the air and building a wall around himself where they stood.

“Jensen, this is my dad, Gerald Padalecki. Dad, this is my mate, Jensen,” Jared introduced them with a blinding grin, seeming unaware of the tension in both Jensen, and his father.
Hearing Jared introduce him as his mate always sent a bolt of pleasure shooting down Jensen’s spine, and while tonight was no exception, it paled in comparison to the anxiety when he saw the narrow, veiled look of displeasure tightening Gerald Padalecki’s eyes. It was a look that he could easily catch, no matter how subtle, because years on the streets had honed him to look out for it.

It wasn’t a look he’d ever encountered outside of the JR part of himself. Not even with Jake.

He swallowed hard, and found himself chanelling the old parts of himself as he held out a hand to shake. He catalogued the man’s movements, trying to determine whether he meant any harm. “Nice to meet you sir,” he nodded politely, sharp green eyes analyzing the older alpha critically.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Jensen,” Gerald rumbled, taking his hand and squeezing it just this side of too tight. Jensen steeled himself and refused to look, or pull away.

Gerald flicked his head towards the kitchen. “Why don’t you go see if your mother is finished with dinner, son?” he suggested smoothly. “I’d like to get to know your mate a little better.”

If Jared noticed the way his father sneered the word ‘mate’, he didn’t react to it. He smiled brightly at Jensen, still blissfully unaware of Jensen’s hesitation. It was so unusual, since Jared was usually hyper-alert of his emotions, but with all the stress of the weekend, maybe the Alpha had dismissed the emotions as Jensen’s own nerves. He swooped down to press a small kiss to Jensen’s temple before leaving, and Gerald’s lips tightened into a thin line as he led the way to his study, expecting Jensen to fall into step behind him.

Though he put up a cool front, Jensen was uneasy about the whole deal. Something about the other Alpha seemed…well, not threatening, per se, but not welcoming either.

Gerald settled himself in a big leather recliner, gesturing for Jensen to take a seat opposite him. Much as he wanted to be defiant and opt to stand, he also didn’t want to brush Jared’s father up the wrong way…even though it seemed that somehow, without even trying, he inadvertently had. Jensen took a deep breath and sat stiffly in the other chair.

“So, you go to the same school as my son does, Jensen?” Gerald asked, still maintaining his cold detachment. Jensen bristled, the irritation overriding his anxiety for a brief moment.

“Due respect, Sir,” he nodded coolly, “you called me aside for a reason. I see no reason to beat around the bush when you have a clear goal to achieve from all this.”

Something like impression flashed through the older man’s eyes, before it was once more blank. “You’re a human mate, Jensen, or so my son seems to think.”

“You think he’s wrong.”

“I do,” Gerald nodded, even though Jensen wasn’t really asking as much as he was observing. “I think Jared is confusing hormonal teenage lust for a mate-ship, because he has been looking for his mate his entire life. My wife is my mate,” he continued, “so I understand the sanctity of the bond. I would hate for my son to miss out on that because he made a juvenile mistake.”

As much as Jensen felt like he was going to end up on the receiving end of a bad blow, he couldn’t hold back the anger that flooded him as the Alpha insulted his Jared. “You talk about him like he’s some kind of child,” he glared at the man, talking through clenched teeth. “Don’t, sir. Your son is one of the most level-headed guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, so don’t insult him by even insinuating that he’s anything near the region of juvenile.”

Once more, the man looked to be impressed for a fleeting moment, before his mask came back down. He nodded thoughtfully.

“Very well. Then let me be frank,” he leaned forward. “As a human mate, if you even are that much, you are weak. Our pack is in a position right now where we cannot afford any chinks in our armor, and a pack Alpha with a vulnerable mate is the epitome of that. I know Jared thinks he loves you, but you don’t belong here, and you don’t belong with my son.”

Jensen absorbed each word like a blow to the gut. He felt nauseous, and even though he wanted to deny it, he couldn’t help wondering whether he was making Jared weaker. He knew Jared, and he knew their bond; he had no doubt that if mates existed, they were each other’s. But the man in front of him was a pack Alpha, someone who knew the inner workings of his pack better than Jensen could ever hope to, and if he said that Jensen would be a ‘chink in their armor’, then what was there to gain by ignoring him, or disputing it?

Gerald continued, uncaring of Jensen’s turmoil. “You’re not suited to be part of this life, and if you love Jared, you wont continue to drag him down with you. As it stands, you’ve already nearly caused a pack war with your very presence in his life, but you’ve also begun impacting the peace treaty we’ve been negotiating that’s been standing for decades! You’ve a menace to the very lifestyle we lead, and I cannot allow you to destroy my heir, and my son.”

Jensen felt all the blood drain from his face, and his breathing became choppy. What if…if he was right?

His nightmare played on loop in his mind:

Jared falling.

Blood staining the floor around him.

Face pale.

Eric shouting.

“You kill everyone you love! You’re nothing but a curse!”

Jensen jolted back to reality as those words impressed themselves in his brain, mixing with Gerald Padalecki’s words.

“…I’ll pay you,” the man was still speaking. “Name your price to stay away from my son, I know you need the money.”

Drudging up the very last vestiges of his reserves, Jensen stood up, numb and broken in a way he hadn’t been in a long time. The image of his boyfriend- his mate- in his mind, he found the strength to do this one last thing.

“You don’t need to do anything, Sir.” He spoke hollowly, pushing the words past frozen lips. “I’d fight for Jared with every bone in my body, but I would never put him in danger. If I would keep him safe by walking away, then so be it.”

The older alpha was rooted in place, shock splashed across his features. Jensen ignored it, and flipped open his phone, pressing speed dial.

“Freckles?”

“Chris, I…” his throat closed up, and he struggled to get the words out. It felt like every one of them were little knives, ripping through his throat. “I need…can you come get me please?”

“I’ll be there in two minutes, little brother,” Chris answered immediately, sounding grim. In the background, he could hear the rattle of keys, and the slamming of a door. “Just hang on, I’m coming, okay?”

“Okay,” Jensen whispered. “Okay.”

He swallowed down his shattered emotions, needing to at least attempt to leave without tipping Jared off. Ignoring the still shell-shocked man in front of him, he left quietly, back still straight, head held high. He followed the sounds of joyful laughter, easily picking out Jared’s sunny chuckle, even as it was like a dagger to the heart.

He pasted on a smile that felt more fake than a seven-dollar bill, and woodenly addressed Mrs. Padalecki.

“I’m so sorry, Mam, but something has come up and I don’t think I can stay for dinner. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Oh, no!” Sherry frowned, concern swamping her face. “Is everything okay?” She looked dubious, and more than a little upset, and Jensen wondered whether there was any point in trying to excuse himself and seem normal while doing it.

But it was the look of alarm on Jared’s face, the sheer panic he saw there, that told him that he hadnt succeeded in his intent.

Jared was in front of him in an instant, disregarding the presence of his family as he cupped Jensen’s face in his big palms. “What’s wrong, baby, what happened?” he murmured urgently. “Tell me, please…”

“I’m okay,” Jensen protested in a choked off voice, trying valiantly to maintain his emotionless mask. He pulled away from Jared’s grasp, and the look of hurt in his mate’s face was almost too much to take.

But he had to protect Jared.

“I need to…I have to leave now,” he whispered, his chest constricting painfully.

“Let me take you home, Jen,” Jared tried again. “We can talk on the way, baby…”

“Chris is coming to get me,” Jensen cut him off, and right on time, headlights lit up through the windows. “I’m so sorry, Jay. Goodbye.” He pressed a kiss to the hands he was still holding before he ran.

He didn’t look back.

###

~*Jared*~

 

Jared used to think that he’d experienced the worst of panic and fear. The look in his mate’s eyes? The way he ran away? The way he said goodbye?

Never before, not once, had Jared ever experienced that level of terror.

Because this problem? It couldn’t be fixed by shielding his mate with his body, or wolfing out and ripping someone’s throat out. Whatever had just happened, the despair, the fear, the sheer pain, the brokenness he felt over their mating bond…that wasn’t something physically inflicted. And Jared needed to fix it, he needed to get his Jensen back into his arms, where he belonged, but fuck, how do you fix something if you didn’t know how it broke?

The answer was in front of him, and nothing could have stood in his way once he saw the flash of guilt in his father’s eyes.

“What did you DO?!” he growled viciously, body trembling violently as he fought the shift. His inner Alpha-Were was beyond recognizing his father, consumed with the instinct to take out the threat to his precious mate, before tracking him down. He got up into his father’s personal space, barely cognizant of the yelps and fearful reprimands of his sister and mother. “What did you do to him, what did you say?!”

His father growled warningly at him, but he wasn’t in a position to stand down. His instincts preceded all rational thought at this point, and all that mattered was the truth. He was just barely keeping himself from doing anything he might one day regret.

“Jared, please,” his mother was saying, but his father cut her off.

“I merely pointed out to the human that he was too weak to stand by you, Jared,” he said impassively. “He accepted the truth that he would kill you if he remained at your side, and he agreed to leave.”

Both his mother and his sister gasped at the revelation, but Jared was too dazed to react for a few seconds.

Jensen had run off trying to protect him.

Protect him, by staying away from him.

If Jensen thought Jared’s safety was at risk, then he wouldn’t do the job half-assed, either.

He heard his mate's voice in his mind: You should know that I won’t stop trying to protect you if it’s in my power.

He would leave. Disappear, so Jared could never find him.

He was going to lose Jensen.

“I’m so sorry, Jay. Goodbye.”

“NO!” he roared, doubling over in agony. He needed to get to Jensen.

He needed to get to Jensen.

He needed to get to Jensen.

The thought consumed him, and he sprinted upstairs, ignoring it as his mother started yelling at his father. He grabbed the duffel of clothes he hadn’t bothered to unpack, glad now, for his laziness, and flew back down the stairs, grabbing his keys off the hallway table.

Wrenching the door open, he ran to his truck, but before he could open his door, his father was there.

“Jared, listen to me…”

“No!” he growled ferociously. “I have nothing to say to you! I swear to God, if I lose him because of you…you’re going to lose your second heir, too, and this one won’t be coming around to visit.”

“You are behaving like a child!” Gerald thundered. “This is why he couldn’t possibly be your mate, you’re too…”

“Jensen is my mate!” Jared snapped icily. “I don’t care what you think, I’m not a child, and I know Jensen is mine just as well as I know who I am. Now get out of my way, before I make you.”

His father’s eyes widened, and Jared took advantage of his momentary shock to throw his duffel into the truck and hop in. He threw the car into gear and peeled out of the driveway, the action becoming far too familiar to him.

The road to Jensen’s place passed by in a blur, but it still didn’t feel like fast enough when he finally reached the face-brick house. He stumbled out of the car and threw open Jensen’s front door desperately, only to be met with a wall of Chris, and subsequently shoved against the wall.

“How the hell could you let this happen?” the long-haired alpha growled. “If Jensen was really…”

And it was just the start of that sentence that was the last straw for Jared.

He flipped them around easily, the strength of the pack Alpha outweighing everything, and shoved Chris none-too-gently face-first into the wall. “Don’t you dare!” he snarled. “If one more fucking person even insinuates that Jensen is not my mate, there will be blood.”

“I was going to say that if Jensen was really smart, he’d let me kick your ass for not being there for him,” Chris grumbled, sounding a little less homicidal and a little more controlled.

“Jared!”

Jensen’s voice was really the only thing that could cut through the red haze in front of him at that moment. Jared looked up to the top of the stairs to see his mate’s disheveled features, eyes bloodshot and puffy from crying, voice raw and uneven, cheeks flushed from scrubbing at them.

He’d never looked more beautiful.

He let Chris go and took the stairs two at a time to get to Jensen. He threw his arms around his mate and pulled him unforgivingly tight into his body, taking a huge, shuddering breath as he did.

God, he could finally breathe again.

###

~*Jensen*~

 

It was like he could finally breathe again.

Which was ironic, considering that Jared was crushing him so tightly, he couldn’t really breathe very well, but it sure as hell was better than the devastated, shattered feeling that he’d had leaving the Padalecki’s house half an hour earlier.

Jared’s gasping, muted tears brought him back to his body, and he gestured to Chris to leave. His best friend nodded once, and Jensen sank down to sit on the top step, taking Jared with him. His own tears ran rampantly down his cheeks, and he rocked them both back and forth in an attempt to comfort.

“I’m here, Jay, I’ve got you…I’ve got you.”

“Don’t you do that to me again, don’t you leave me,” Jared demanded roughly, pulling back and boring his eyes intensely into Jensen’s. “I don’t care what everyone else says,” he overrode Jensen before he could try to refute Jared’s plea.

“You can’t say that, Jay,” Jensen spoke gently, even as the thoughts made his heart break. “You’re Pack Alpha. You have so many wolves depending on you. I can’t be the reason that they end up dead…or worse, that you end up dead.”

“You don’t get it, baby,” Jared shook his head. “You. Are. My. Mate. Nothing in the world means as much to me as you do. I would give up the pack, my title, my family, for you. I would give it all up in a heartbeat if it was a choice between them and you. My father was stupid enough to underestimate my mating bond with you, or he wouldn’t have pulled a stunt like he did today, because he knows as well as I do that once a wolf finds his mate, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep them. You’re my family, now, Jen,” he said steadily, bringing tears to Jensen’s eyes. “There’s nothing in the world I would choose over you. Without you, I’d be better off dead.”

There was little else he could do besides crawling into Jared’s lap and kissing him for all that he was worth.

Jared kissed him back with equal fervor, hands quickly finding their way underneath his shirt and into his jeans as Jared cupped his ass and ran his fingers over his taut back. Jensen keened, rocking downwards into Jared’s quickly-hardening crotch. Jared growled, and the sound made the hair at the back of his neck stand on end. Without warning, Jared stood, taking Jensen with him, and walked to his room, not once taking his lips off Jensen’s.

Instead of throwing him on to the bed like he normally did, Jared went with him this time, almost like he couldn’t stand to be separated from him for that short time.

Covering Jensen with his big body, Jared began trailing kisses down his neck, sucking at his pulse point unforgivingly until Jensen was sure there would be a vivid mark there. With the flick of his wrist, Jared ripped open his shirt, and at that point, Jensen was too turned on to care. His boyfriend teased him relentlessly, suckling at his tender nipples and laving over the hard nubs with his tongue, leaving biting hickies all over his torso, before finally swiping his tongue half a centimeter below the waistband of Jensen’s tented jeans.

Jensen almost came off the bed, mewling desperately as Jared ripped his jeans and his boxer shorts off in one fluid motion. He looked at his boyfriend and mate from underneath desire-lidded eyes, noting that somewhere along the line, Jared had lost his shirt and jeans too.

Jared kissed him again, but there was less of an edge this time. it was soft, sweet, and it calmed his raging desire for a moment, before turning it into a raging inferno once more.

Jared looked at him, hazel eyes blown almost black with want.

“I want you, Jen,” he growled roughly. “I need you, baby, I need to have you. Can I? Please?”

There was really only one answer to that.

Fuck yes.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

“Fuck yes.”

Jared growled at the ready submission. His mate was utterly beautiful, spread out under him, naked and writhing, panting and flushed with desire, green eyes blown black with unadulterated lust, even as they managed to shine with a love paralleled only by the light of a thousand suns.

Jared must have saved a God in his past life to have deserved the angelic piece of perfection that was his Jensen.

His cock strained against his boxers, but he ignored it as best he could, not wanting to ruin the sanctity of the moment by taking Jensen hard and rough. There would be time for that later. Right now? Jared had come closer to losing his love than any other time, and not by anyone else’s hand, but by a weapon more powerful than that; words. His father had manipulated his mate in the only way he could, and Jared was not blind to the miracle that Jensen hadn’t left before he got to him. Now was the time to treasure, to cherish, to revel. Now was the time…to take his time.

He lowered his weight on to his forearms, which were bracketing Jensen’s flushed body, lining their bodies up without pressing too hard on to his sweet, little mate. Jensen moaned, a broken sound at the back of his throat that made Jared’s head spin and his cock twitch demandingly. Leaning down, he caught cherry, plump lips into a long and sensual kiss that spoke of passion and desire and love and devotion. He explored the hot, wet cavern of Jensen’s mouth, swallowing his mumbled pleas and groans.

Finally, when breathing became a problem, Jared sat up and straddled Jensen’s legs, being sure to line their cocks up. He ground down slowly, and there was something distinctly sensational about feeling his mate’s hot length dragging over the material of his boxers and seeping into his own flesh. Jensen seemed to agree, if the drawn-out moan was anything to go by.

Smirking, Jared leaned down and without preamble, took one dusky pink nipple into his mouth. He sucked and nibbled relentlessly while his fingers tweaked and twisted Jensen’s other nipple, humming around the hard nub when Jensen whimpered at the sensations and wound his hands in Jared’s hair. After a few minutes of enjoying the salty-sweet tang that was pure Jensen, Jared switched over, laving the other nub with the same attention, getting it to a hard peak before flicking his tongue teasingly over it and straightening, grinding down on to Jensen with the same motion.

“Tease,” Jensen half-whimpered, half-groaned. “Fucking touch me already, Jay, please…”

“I’m gonna touch, Jen,” Jared promised in a dark voice, roughened with lust. “I’m gonna touch,” he punctuated the words with a flick to each of Jensen’s sensitive nipples, “I’m gonna play,” he leaned down to lick Jensen’s pulse point, “and I’m gonna claim.” He wrapped a large hand around Jensen’s hot dick, pumping twice and holding his mate’s hips down with the other hand as Jensen bucked wildly with a muted yell. “I’m gonna claim you, baby, because you’re mine,” Jared growled. “Gonna mark you up and make you mine, show everyone that you’re mine.”

“Only yours,” Jensen garbled nonsensically, head thrown back and back arching into Jared’s talented hands. “Only ever yours, Jay.”

“Yes.” Jared hissed, swooping back down to latch on to Jensen’s exposed throat, sucking hard and unforgivingly until blood flooded to the surface. His mark. His claim.

“Need you, Jay,” Jensen moaned. “Need you inside me. Fucking now, Jay.”

“I got you, baby,” Jared assured his beautiful mate. “Gonna fuck you into the matress, Jen, gonna fill you up so good…you want that, baby?”

“God, Jay, yes,” Jensen keened, strong fingers reaching up to grip Jared’s shoulders, holding him in place as Jensen surged his hips upwards, brushing their groins together. Jared threw his head back and groaned at the sensations, hastily pulling off his own boxers too; he needed to feel skin-on-skin.

Jensen opened up eagerly for him, and he hummed in satisfaction as he slotted himself between his mate’s legs. They both groaned loudly at the first touch of their hot lengths, Jensen’s breath coming out in sharp bursts over Jared’s face. He leaned down to kiss possessively at Jensen’s throat, desire roaring through his body and leaving him flushed and yearning.

He drifted his head down and latched on to Jensen’s left nipple once more, distracting Jensen as he moved his long fingers down past Jensen’s heavy balls to travel the length of his ass. He probed teasingly at Jensen’s tight opening, humming around the nipple he was suckling when Jensen arched his back in pleasure.

He circled Jensen’s rim slowly, wanting to push in and feel his mate’s most intimate entrance, but not willing to hurt his precious Jensen either. He pulled away, grinning wolfishly at the whimper of protest this was met with.

“Don’t want to hurt you, baby boy,” Jared rumbled, rocking his hips into Jensen as he spoke and reveling in the breathy gasp that tore from his boyfriend’s throat. “Need to…”

“Bedside drawer,” Jensen gasped out. Jared reached over and growled low in his chest when he pulled out the lube that was already a quarter the way through.

“Who, Jen?” he demanded, jealousy roaring through him, painting his vision with crimson.

Jensen rolled his eyes, not seeming the least bit intimidated by Jared’s outburst. “No one,” he drawled lowly. “You’ll be my first. I used the lube by myself.”

“Fuck!” Jared growled at the pictures this presented in his mind; Jensen’s head thrown back in ecstasy, body arched as he pushed his fingers into himself…”Did you think of me when you did it?” Jared demanded, gripping Jensen’s cock and stripping it quickly, making Jensen buck off the bed. “Do you imagine it was my fingers in your tight little hole? Did you want it to be my cock? Did you scream my name when you came?”

“Yes!” Jensen hissed, gripping Jared’s shoulders hard enough to bruise, but damn if that didn’t just turn him on even more. “I wanted you, Jay, just like that. I want you inside me, I want to feel you. No glove; I trust you.”

Jesus, fuck, baby,” Jared growled again, stroking Jensen’s cock once more before pulling away to coat a finger with lube. He rubbed the slickened digit teasingly over Jen’s twitching hole, grinning when his mate hissed slightly at the cold gel. Slowly, he pushed the finger in, moving inch by inch until he was in knuckle-deep. Jensen’s was keening above him, and Jared leaned down to nip and bite and suck at the tender flesh of Jensen’s inner thighs, in an attempt to take his mind off the stretch. “Easy, baby,” he soothed roughly. “Easy, Jen. I gotcha…just relax baby, just let me in…”

Jensen’s choppy breathing didn’t abate, but he did as Jared asked, relaxing around the finger inside him and moaning deliciously when Jared began to drag his finger in and out. He leaned back only for a second, to coat two fingers with lube now, and as he slid both fingers in, the passage was a lot smoother as Jensen forced himself to relax against the stretch. Jared ducked down and tongued insistently at the juncture between his fingers, even nibbling at Jensen’s stretched rim for a little bit while Jensen babbled incoherently at the onslaught of sensation. As much as Jared could happily continue to rim his pretty mate for hours on end, his cock had other ideas.

Scissoring his fingers, he began to work his beautiful, writhing boyfriend open, whispering a continuous litany of praises; streams of ‘so good for me’ and ‘fucking gorgeous’ and ‘that’s it, baby boy, take me’. It seemed every word only fuelled his mate’s urgency, and Jared leaned down as he wriggled three fingers in, to whisper against Jensen’s ear.

“So fucking good for me, baby,” he growled low, making sure his lips brushed against the sensitive skin of Jensen’s ear. “So fucking responsive. You’re all mine, aren’t you baby boy? You’re my pretty little mate, my pretty baby.”

“Fucking…Jay…” Jensen cried, his voice wrecked as he screwed his eyes shut, trying to rock into Jared’s pumping fingers. “Fuck me already, Jay, I need to feel you.”

“I gotcha, Jen,” he soothed once more, curling his fingers experimentally, trying to find the bundle of nerves that would get his mate seeing stars.

Jensen bucked with a choked off cry and Jared grinned in triumph as he found it. Rubbing his fingers insistently over his sweet spot, Jared whispered filthily into Jensen’s ear. “Feel that, baby? Like that?”

Jensen was too far gone to answer, shoving himself desperately down on to Jared’s fingers. He keened and surged forward to bite down on the tendons in Jared’s shoulder, and that combined with the sight of his stunning mate so utterly debauched was Jared final undoing.

“Can’t hold off, baby, need to be inside you,” he rumbled.

“Come on, Jay,” Jensen whined. “Come on, fuck me, fill me up, Jay. Please.”

So came the begging, and so went the final shred of Jared’s control.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

If Jensen would have known that begging would have gotten him to where he wanted to be faster, he would have been fucking pleading the minute Jared ripped off his clothes.

His boyfriend growled, lifting him with his hands under his thighs until his cock was pressed up against Jensen’s entrance.

Fuck, but Jared was fucking huge.

Jensen thought he ought to feel a little apprehensive at the thought that the first cock in his ass was going to be as fucking proportional as the man pushing it in, but instead, all he felt was hunger and desire and raging lust. He knew Jared would never hurt him, and he trusted that.

Rocking his hips back an inch, he stared up at Jared’s beautiful face. His normally sparkling eyes were black with desire, even as stubborn, leftover tears clung to his lashes. Jensen’s heart hurt at the sight, and he reached up to cradle Jared’s face with his palm, thumbing away the offending moisture. Jared’s whole face softened, and from the burning urgency now emerged a more fervent, but quieter desire to mate.

Slowly, Jared pushed forward, whispering words of love and comfort as Jensen unconsciously tensed at the burning intrusion. “Come on, baby,” Jared almost cooed, “I got ya…trust me…there you go, you’re so fucking good for me, baby boy.”

Focusing on Jared’s whiskey drawl, Jensen made himself relax, and it wasn’t until Jared tenderly kissed both his eyelids that he realized he’d closed his eyes.

“Open up, baby boy, let me see those beautiful green eyes.”

Jensen took a deep breath and did as Jared asked, tears building and throat twisting at the look of sheer, unadulterated love on his boyfriend’s face. Jared shushed him, pressing loving kisses over his throat and face as he did. “Don’t cry, baby, I love you so much…I won’t move until you’re ready, Jen, I promise.”

Jensen took in a shuddering breath, infernal desire blazing hot from deep within him as he adjusted to the feel of Jared inside him. He rocked experimentally, and the burning and stretching sensation gradually dulled in the face of the mind-numbing pleasure.

Jared groaned deeply above him. “Look so fucking good on my cock, baby, you fit so perfectly around me. Fucking made for me, Jen…take me so good…”

“Move, Jay,” Jensen gasped out, feeling like he would go mad with desire if Jared didn’t fuck him right the fuck now. “Fuck me.”

Jared pulled out slowly, before pushing all the way back in, gradually building up a faster pace as he moved, Jensen moaning and writhing underneath him. “So big,” Jensen keened, at the same time that Jared moaned,

“So tight.”

Jared was more or less pounding him into the mattress by now, any facsimile of restraint lost in their passion. A breathy, punched out "Ah, ah, ah," fell from Jensen’s lips as he hung on to Jared, letting his boyfriend take him, claim him. Jared shifted to the right suddenly, and slammed back in, hitting his prostate dead-on, making Jensen scream in pleasure.

“More, Jay,” he begged. “Please, Jay, harder, please, faster, Jay…”

“Mine!” Jared growled roughly, continuing to jackhammer into him even as he leaned down and caught the side of Jensen’s throat in a punishing bite, not enough to draw blood, just enough to mark.

Jared reached between them with his hands, one big, hot, rough palm beginning to jack his cock in time with Jared’s thrusts. The dual sensation of Jared’s hand on him, and his cock slamming into his prostate, and Jensen was sure he wasn’t going to last long.

“Jay, I need…” he pleaded, not even sure anymore what he was asking for. “I need, please…I…”

Apparently, Jared knew.

“That’s it baby boy,” Jared growled, “that’s it, let go…come on…let go, baby, come…come for me.”

Damn if he could refuse that command.

With a muted scream, Jensen threw back his head and came hard. White sparked across his vision as his cock pulsed, shooting thick ropes of come between their sweaty bodies. Jared stroked him through his orgasm and continued to fuck him, muttering lowly; “So good, baby boy, you moan so pretty for me…fuck, Jen, so fucking hot, so pretty…”

Jensen lifted his ass slightly, mustering up the energy to try to get Jared there. Something began to catch on his sensitive rim, making him whimper slightly.

“Shh, baby, just my knot,” Jared soothed, in time with his pounding. “Gonna knot you up so good, baby boy, gonna be tied together for hours filling you all the way up with my come.”

“Fuck!” Jensen swore as his spent cock twitched with renewed interest at the idea. How the fuck did that turn him on?

Jared reached for his over-sensitive cock again, stripping it relentlessly. “Ngh,” Jensen whimpered, even as his cock began, impossibly, to harden once more. “Fuck, Jared…”

“Come on, baby, you can do it,” Jared murmured, slowing for one torturous moment to roll his hips teasingly, brushing over every inch of him and pushing the massive knot further into him. “Let me get you there.”

When Jared’s impossibly huge knot finally sank into him, Jensen let out a strangled moan, as it kept rubbing at the perfect angle against his prostate. He was on the edge, he knew, and he wanted Jared to get there with him.

Looking at his boyfriend from underneath lowered lashes, Jensen reached a hand between them and pressed his finger against his tautly stretched rim, so that each of Jared’s thrusts scraped his finger against Jared’s knot. Dropping his voice an octave, he murmured, “I want you to come inside me, Jay…Alpha.”

As he suspected, calling Jared that had his boyfriend done for.

With a broken growl, Jared surged down and sucked the skin just below Jensen’s pec into his mouth, to muffle his scream as he came hard, painting his insides with hot, sticky come. Jensen’s release pulsed through him at the feel of Jared’s knot locking them together, and his mouth opened in a silent ‘o’ of ecstasy.

Jared collapsed on top of him, still keeping most of his weight on his forearms as he caught his breath. Jensen hung on to him for dear life, calming his own frantically beating heart as he pressed his palms over Jared’s chest, just above his heart.

The rapid thumping underneath his palms was as perfect as the feel of Jared pulsing into him.

“We’re…”

“…Mated,” Jared whispered reverentially, catching his lips in a tender kiss. “Finally,” he spoke against Jensen’s lips. “Finally, you’re mine in every way, mo chroi, and I’m yours.”

Jensen shuddered, rocking his hips with a pleased groan. “I…like the sound of that,” he finally responded, breathlessly. Jared nodded, pressing chaste kisses all over the vivid marks he’d sucked into Jensen’s throat.

“Me too, baby,” he murmured. Jared placed his hand over Jensen’s heart, mirroring the green-eyed boy’s own position. “Even our hearts’ beats have synced up, Jen.”

Jensen nodded shakily, a single tear snaking down his cheek as their world became suspended in that moment of utter perfection.

His boyfriend shifted them around so he was spooning Jensen, bodies still locked together by Jared’s knot. He nestled into the familiar comfort of strong arms, feeling fatigue catching up on him.

“Sleep, baby,” he heard Jared murmur against his ear. “We can talk in the morning.”

Jensen slept.

###

Something was burning.

That was the first coherent thought that filtered through Jensen’s foggy mind as he stirred to consciousness. He sat up, wincing at the dull throb in his ass, and noting the glaring absence of his boyfriend. Every inch of his body was achy in the best way, but Jensen decided that basking in the feelings would have to come underneath whatever was burning, on his list of priorities. Grabbing his sweats from the floor, he yanked them on, clenching his teeth against his body’s vehement protests, and ran down the stairs. Skidding to a stop at the kitchen, Jensen took in the sight of his shirtless boyfriend, in the middle of the room, looking slack-jawed at the charring mess on the stove and in the toaster, seeming frozen and unable to decide which problem to react to first.

If the pan wasn’t about to erupt into bright, orange flames, Jensen might have taken a moment to laugh.

Instead, he grabbed a dish cloth and quickly snatched up the burning frying pan, wrinkling his nose at the blackened mass that seemed to be eggs that was clinging to the cast iron. Quickly, he opened the back door and deposited the pan on the porch, before darting back and flipping the switch on the toaster that forced it to short circuit. Gingerly, he fished out the unidentifiable lumps of used-to-be-bread and dumped them with the ruined eggs before throwing open all the windows and both the doors to try and get rid of the smoke.

Jared was still in the same position, and Jensen worried about smoke inhalation. It was barely a light cloud of smoke, but did the smoke effect Jared more severely because of his heightened senses?

Gently, he pulled his boyfriend’s arm and sat him down on the couch in the living room, away from the destruction zone. He leant down between Jared’s legs and cupped his face, gently slapping.

“Jay?” he called in a soothing, low voice. “You okay?” His boyfriend blinked and Jensen sighed in relief.

Jared’s mouth twisted into a pout. “I was trying to make you breakfast.”

And his voice was so small, and his pout, so childlike, that Jensen just had to dissolve into laughter.

Jared didn’t see it that way. “Don’t laugh at me!” he groused, huffing. “I was trying to be a good boyfriend.”

“I’m…sor…sorry,” Jensen gasped out between giggles, taking Jared’s hands in his own to stop him from stomping off. “I’m sorry, Jay,” he said finally, getting his laughter under control. He grinned fondly at the boy in front of him, lifting a hand to instinctively push Jared’s hair back away from his eyes. “You’re just so adorable.”

Jared considered this for a moment, but apparently, the apology was enough, because a rueful smile to the place of his frown. “You made it look easier than it actually was.”

Jensen smother his laughter. “I’ve been doing the kitchen and cooking thing since I was 9, Jay,” he reminded him softly, smiling. “You should be more careful. What if the smoke had hurt you, or if it burst into flames?”

Jared shrugged, aiming puppy-dog eyes at him. “I wanted to do something for you.”

Jensen went from laughing to fighting back tears in the blink of an eyes. He nodded jerkily, leaning forward to press his lips to Jared’s temple. “I know, babe.”

Jared reached down and lifted Jensen on to his lap, where the green-eyed boy happily curled up. “We have to talk about last night, baby.”

“I know,” Jensen repeated with a sigh. “Let’s take this back up to bed.”

Jared grinned suddenly, a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. Without warning, he lifted Jensen and threw him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Jensen huffed in surprise, before struggling pointlessly. “Let me down, you overgrown puppy,” he laughed. “I’m having a sense of déjà vu here.” Jared slapped his ass suddenly, soundly. Jensen yelped and squirmed, turning beet red. “What the actual fuck, Jay?!”

His boyfriend smirked. “Had to make it different to last time.”

“Jerk.”

Once again, instead of throwing him, Jared flopped on to the bed with him. Cuddling up close to him, Jensen wrapped his arms around Jared’s neck as Jared wound his around his waist. “Baby, can you tell me what happened with my dad?”

Jensen bit his lip, not wanting to hurt Jared by relaying the details of the conversation. “He asked me to leave you alone,” Jensen answered simply. “Said I was too weak and that I was putting you in danger.”

But it seemed even the watered down version had his boyfriend on edge. “He thinks you’re not my mate.”

“Yes.” Jensen saw no point in denying that much. “He thinks you’re just lusting after my fine ass,” Jensen grinned, trying to diffuse his boyfriend’s tension. It had the opposite effect.

“So does the rest of the fucking world,” Jared growled, his grip on Jensen’s hips tightening marginally. Jensen tried again.

“They don’t know,” he dead-panned, “that you’re really just lusting after my lasagna.”

Jared burst into surprised laughter, tension draining from him with every chuckle. Jensen grinned in relief, hating to see his mate that upset. Jared pressed their lips together in a lingering kiss, and Jensen tried to map out every ridge to remember. “You’re amazing, baby,” Jared smiled softly.

Jensen continued to rub absently at the knots in Jared’s neck, unconsciously soothing before he spoke. “Jay…you have to be totally honest with me and with yourself right now…having me as a human mate…will that put you and the pack in danger?”

One his mate’s giant hands lifted to cup his face, thumb rubbing gently against the lower line of his jaw. He leaned forward to drop an open-mouthed kiss against Jensen’s jaw bone before answering. “No, mo chroi.” Jensen’s heart stuttered with relief. “You at my side will make us no more vulnerable than you not at my side. Hell, with you by my side, I’d say we have an even better standing. You make me stronger, Jen,” he nuzzled Jensen’s throat. “You make me smarter. Quicker. Better.”

Damn the smoke downstairs for making his eyes tear up.

“You make me better too, Jay,” he admitted roughly.

“So don’t you ever leave me the way you did yesterday,” Jared pleaded in a tiny voice. “Don’t you do that to me again. I love you so fucking much for thinking about me and my pack like that, for wanting to protect us…but I can’t lose you, Jensen. That’s something I know I can’t survive, and I wouldn’t want to. You can’t ever think that I could just go back to the way things were without you…you’ve given my life meaning now, Jen. It’s like I was spending my whole life in shades of black and white, and then you came along, and it was just the massive burst of technicolor. And I can’t ever go back to the dullness again.”

Jensen was blatantly crying now, and he hid his face in Jared’s chest to regain some control. When finally he could move back, Jared butted his nose against Jensen’s, prompting a response. He looked up at the warm and loving hazel eyes boring down on him, and he nodded slowly. He hadn’t seen it like that before, so caught up was he in the awful possibility of Jared getting hurt.

“You’re my technicolor too, Jay,” he mumbled shyly. “No more running. I promise. We stay and talk things out. Together.”

“Agreed,” Jared whispered, leaning down and beginning to nibble on his ear lobe.

“Jay…”

“We forgot a very important part of all this, baby,” Jared growled, the change in voice making Jensen’s cock twitch.

“What?”

“The morning sex.”

###

“I wanna take you somewhere.”

Jensen laughed breathlessly, snuggling back into his boyfriend with a contented hum. “We’re still knotted,” he pointed out, rocking his hips teasingly and moaning with Jared as the movement made Jared’s knot slightly harder. “And we have to go to school. We’ve already missed our first class. Probably gonna miss the next two as well.”

“Let’s skip school,” Jared wheedled. “We’ll spend the whole day cuddling.”

“I thought you wanted to take me somewhere?” Jensen shot back with a grin.

Jared nodded, without missing a beat. “We can cuddle where I wanna take you.”

Jensen laughed. In truth, the idea seemed oddly appealing…no people to worry about, no one trying to break them up or tear them apart, no looking over their shoulders…

Jared buried his face in Jensen’s neck, nibbling on the bright purple marks that decorated his pale skin. “Forget the worlds with me, baby,” he purred huskily. “Let’s take this stitch in time and make it ours. Just ours. Something no one else will be able to touch or take away from us.”

Well, when you put it that way…

What’s one day of school?

 

~*Jared*~

 

“What made you stay?”

Jensen glanced at him, taking his eyes away from the scenery outside the window. He squeezed their entwined hands, shooting Jared a curious look.

“You were going to skip town last night,” Jared clarified quietly. “I know you, Jen. What made you stay?” The question had been in his head since last night, and for some reason, he needed to know.

Jensen huffed a tiny laugh, shaking his head. “Believe it or not, Chris told me not to.”

“Chris?!” Jared wasn’t proud of the several octaves his voice had jumped.

Jen nodded, humming in confirmation. “He convinced me saying that he knew about mating than I did, and that it would break you if I left.”

“It would have.” That was something Jared didn’t even need to question.

Jensen tugged at his arm and he looked down at his mate to meet beseeching green orbs. “You cant let it, Jay. If, God forbid, something happens…”

“Nothing will happen!”

“…then you need to keep going,” Jensen overrode his vehement interruption, speaking passionately. “Your life…it’s defined by so much more than just me. Your family, your pack…you need to keep going. The world isn’t…right, without you.”

“And you don’t think I feel the same about you?” Jared demanded. Jensen took the harsh tone in stride, not even blinking.

“I know you do,” his mate’s voice was far too calm. “But there’s too much waiting for you in life, for you to stop living.”

Jared sighed, his chest constricting. What could he possibly do to explain to Jensen something that he wasn’t even sure he understood?

“What do you think would happen to the moon if the sun fell out of orbit?” he asked quietly. Jensen arched his eyebrow curiously.

“Theoretically? Nothing would exist at all if the sun fell out of orbit. The moon would be pointless.”

Jared waited a beat, until Jensen cottoned on to what he was saying.

His mate didn’t disappoint. “Jared, I’m not…”

“You are,” he interrupted firmly. At the sound of his quiet, steady voice, Jensen stopped; the unyielding, low timbre had a greater effect on his mate than the shouting did. “I wish there was a way to describe how I feel about you. How much I love you. But there isn’t, there isn’t any metaphor that would encompass all that love. Even the sun and the moon doesn’t do it justice. But just so you have an inkling, that’s what you are to me. And I know that’s what I am to you, too. That’s the mating bond. It’s the inherent connection between us as soul-mates, whose counterpoint in found in one another.” He shook his head as the unspeakable possibility reared its head, made him want to gag and scream. “If something were to…” he swallowed hard, trying to fight back his growing nausea at the idea, “then I wouldn’t have the will to keep on. I’m not trying to scare you, it’s just a matter of fact. I’d be pointless.”

Jensen pulled their intertwined hands to press little kisses all over his knuckles. When he felt the first droplet of moisture hit the back of his hand, he immediately pulled over. Gathering Jensen in his arms, he pulled his mate to settle him on his lap, as he’d done so many times before. Jensen straddled him, burying his face in Jared’s neck and allowing him to quietly soothe.

Jared took comfort in the joint rhythm of their beating hearts. It was the same as every other time he’d held Jensen like this, but at the same time, it was wholly different. They were mated now, Jared thrilled in the distinct difference. They belonged to each other, mind, body, heart and soul. Mother Luna herself, Jared decided, wouldn’t be able to spare anyone who tried to separate them now.

Looking out the window, he saw the almost hidden dirt path he’d needed to take just a few feet away. Jensen pulled back, following his gaze.

His mate cleared his throat. “Is that where you wanted to take me?” he asked softly.

“Mm…” Jared nodded, closing his eyes as Jensen began to absently card his hand through Jared’s hair. “Are you up to a walk, baby?”

Jensen hummed his assent, and Jared opened his door, gently lifting Jensen out before hopping out himself. Linking their hands together, he pulled his mate flush against his side and began to lope quietly to the entrance.

To Jensen’s credit, he didn’t once ask where Jared was taking him, seeming content to simply soak in the scenery and the feel of being pressed together. Only when the big cottage finally came into view, did Jensen interrupt the silence.

“Jay, where are we?” he wrinkled his nose. “I don’t think we have the right kind of relationship to be stumbling over a house made of candy in the middle of the woods.”

Jared chuckled fondly, producing a small wrought-iron key from his jeans pocket. “We’re home,” he said simply.

Jensen stopped in his tracks, looking up at Jared in bafflement and a fair amount of concern. “What are you talking about, Jay?”

“My grandparents…the Pack Alpha before my dad and his mate…they stayed here. Pops left the place to me when they passed away,” Jared explained. “He said I should bring my mate here when I find him or her. So I did.”

Jensen’s breath caught, and he drank in the sight of the house with renewed appreciation. Jared was surprised to see the blue orchids along the edge of the cottage still alive and tame, adding to Jensen’s perception of it being a house straight out of a fairytale.

The cottage looked none the worse for wear, considering that it hadn’t been used in over a decade. The cornflower blue paint on the door was pealing a little, and the windows were layered with a sheet of dust, and the chains on the tree swing was completely rusted out, but other than that, it was just like Jared remembered it.

Ever since that first day in chemistry, when Jensen had fallen straight into the protective bracket of his arms, Jared had known that he wanted to bring him here. After everything they’d been through, the thought had taken residence at the back of his mind, but this morning, mated and bonded together in the most intimate way…there was nothing else he could think about.

“It needs some TLC,” he murmured. “And I know we have college to go before we move in to settle, but I wanted you to know…when I think about the future, about our future? This is what I see. You and me, here, together. The details don’t matter. As long as we’re together.”

He held out the small key to Jensen, and his mate didn’t even seem to hesitate before locking their eyes together and accepting. Jared let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, realizing at that moment that Jensen could easily have freaked out at the gesture of commitment.

Likely sensing his thoughts, Jensen grabbed both his hands and pulled him to one of the trees surrounding the cottage. At the base, the tree’s trunk had a deep groove, almost as though it had accommodated a place to sit. Jensen settled himself comfortably in the nook, pulling Jared down with him.

Jared stretched over the grass with his head in Jensen’s lap, closing his eyes as Jensen played with his hair once more. The weight of the moment dissolved into calm serenity, and Jared felt every fear and doubt that plagued his mind drift away, with every brush of Jensen’s fingers against his scalp.

“What’s your favorite memory of this place?”

Jensen’s voice drifted over him and Jared didn’t open his eyes as he answered promptly. “My Pops had an old ’67 Chevy,” Jared reminisced. “An Impala. When I was a cub, if I was afraid or if I couldn’t sleep, he’d take me out and sit with me in the front, turn on the engine and just let it idle. The purr of the engine always lulled me to sleep, and he’d stay out there for hours with me until I was asleep, then I’d always wake up in the morning in my own bed.”

“Your Grandfather had a ’67 Impala?” Jensen’s voice was saturated with wonder. “That car is a thing of sheer beauty.”

“It’s out back,” Jared mumbled. “It doesn’t run anymore though.” He chuckled ruefully. “I remember crying the entire day when it finally broke down.”

Jensen aww'ed quietly, continuing to pet him fondly. Jared opened his eyes slowly, peering up at his mate. “What’s your favorite childhood memory?”

Jensen pondered the question for a moment before smiling. “When I was seven, Jody told me that I was adopted and that night, I had a nightmare about the car crash. I was just starting to wonder about my real parents and whether Jody and Eric would leave me eventually, because I wasn’t theirs, and all that amalgamated and I woke up screaming and crying.”

Jared arched his eyebrow. “How is that…”

“Let me finish,” Jensen chided with a grin. “Jody came to my room and cuddled me and rocked me till I fell asleep, and when I woke up in the morning, she was still there, in my little racecar bed. She told me she’d never leave me alone, and when I started to cry again, she just hugged me close and started singing to me.” Jared smiled at the image of a little Jensen, all floppy hair and big green eyes, in a racecar bed and snuggled close in the loving embrace only moms seemed to have. “Eric brought me breakfast in bed,” his mate chuckled. “Chocolate-chip pancakes and chocolate milk. Then they both took the day off work, let me skip a day of school, and we all just stayed in our PJ’s and watched movies and played games…it was the single best day I’d ever had.” Jensen cut his gaze to Jared. “Until I met you.”

Jared smiled and reached up to loop his arms around Jensen’s neck and pull him into a kiss. He was relishing in the sparks igniting every nerve ending in his body…

…until his wolfy senses tingled at the warning of someone approaching.

In an instant, Jared had shifted into his lupine form, a massive hazel brown wolf taking up a protective stance in front of his mate. His muscles coiled, he sniffed the air and growled at the smell of what was distinctly wolf, but definitely not pack.

Stand down, Alpha, a female voice wolf-spoke to him. I’m here to see Jensen, not hurt him.

The words had the opposite effect, and Jared snarled as the wolf came closer, ignoring Jensen’s frantic questions in favor of blocking his mate with every inch of his body.

A sand-colored wolf stepped cautiously into their clearing, and he recognized her as Sophia Bush. Jared tensed even further, wondering if this was some sort of ambush and dreading their chances if that were the case.

What do you want with my mate, Sophia? He mind-spoke dangerously, a low snarl ripping through his teeth.

“Soph?” Jensen’s surprised voice shocked Jared. “What are you doing here?” Jared looked up at his mate in bemusement. “Don’t worry Jay,” Jensen assured him. “Soph is a friend.”

You can hear her? Jared thought, heart pounding at the startling possibility.

“Of course not,” Jensen snorted, shocking him even more. “I can hear you. You know that.”

A light breeze could have knocked Jared on his ass just then, so he was relieved Sophia wasn’t a threat. You can hear me?! He cautiously mind-spoke, yipping in delight when Jensen nodded. That’s awesome!

“I thought you knew,” Jensen laughed. “You spoke to me all those other times.”

Jared rolled his eyes inwardly. I didn’t think you could hear me. How is this even possible?

“Seriously, Jay?” Jensen blinked. “You’re asking me?” If Jared could have, he’d have blushed.

Right. Sorry. I forgot.

“You’re a nut case,” Jensen chuckled fondly. “Hey Soph, you mind shifting?” he called out. “I can only understand Jared in his wolf form.”

Oh yeah. The Bush she-wolf.

She flitted into the cover of the trees and emerged a second later in shorts and a sports bra. Jared stayed stubbornly in wolf form, but relented to let her pass to hug Jensen.

“I tracked you,” she explained ruefully. “I was worried when you left on Friday and then you didn’t turn up at school today.”

“It was a rough weekend,” Jensen winced. “But thanks for checking on me.”

“Don’t mention it, Jen-Ster,” she winked. “Now that I’ve seen you’re more than okay,” she waggled her eyebrows playfully and Jared huffed out a chuckle, warming up to the girl. “I’m gonna leave.”

“You know,” Jensen smiled slyly, “I’m helping an old friend up North start an eighteen and under club over here and Chris is bailing me out by performing on the opening night. It’s two weeks from now. You wanna join us?”

Jared smirked at his mate’s attempt at an innocent tone. Chris was gonna go ape-shit when he heard about this, since the Alpha was sure his packmate had agreed to no such thing.

“Sure,” Sophia squeaked, blushing. “I’ll see you then.” She shifted and scurried away, and Jared turned his attention back to Jensen.

Chris is gonna kill you.

“I know,” Jensen wrinkled his nose with a smile. “Which is why you’re coming with me to tell him.”

Don’t worry, baby, Jared let his tongue loll out playfully. I’ll protect you from your marshmallow centered big brother.

“That’s another thing,” Jensen huffed as he settled back in his place. “Why am I the little one? Technically, I’m 24 days older than Chris.”

Jared mentally calculated and took note of his mate’s birthday. Take it up with Chris.

“You were less annoying when you thought I couldn’t hear you,” Jensen sniffed, teasing good-naturedly. “Make use of your furry form and come here,” he held out his hands. “I’m cold.”

Jared beamed, cuddling close and damn near purring when Jensen buried his hands in his fur. He tenderly licked a stripe up Jensen’s throat, butting against his mate’s jaw with his muzzle as Jensen laughed.

You really don’t mind my wolf, Jared yipped happily, his Alpha humming in pleasure as Jensen shifted impossibly closer. He rested his head over Jensen’s lap as his mate curled into his body.

“I really, really don’t,” Jensen murmured. After a few minutes of petting, Jensen spoke softly. “You know this isn’t going to last forever Jay. This peace? Your dad isn’t going to stop, and neither will Jake or Sandy. And knowing our luck, Adam might try to get me back. Cas told me in his last visit that Adam was asking after me.”

Jared growled at the confession. Jen’s friend had visited a few weeks ago…and with the way things were going, Jensen was right to assume that the hits would keep on coming.

I’ll protect you baby, he promised vehemently, chest burning with protective rage. I’m never gonna let him hurt you again.

“I know,” Jensen soothed quietly. “Just promise me that, whatever happens, you’ll remember to protect yourself, too. Nothing would hurt me worse than seeing you hurt.”

Jared nuzzled his mate’s abdomen, pushing his shirt up. I promise, baby. We’re going to be okay.

“Just as long as we’re together, right, Jay?” Jared licked lovingly across the exposed stretch Jensen’s stomach.

Just as long as we’re together, baby. Neither wolf- nor human-world stands a chance.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

Huh, Jensen thought hazily, of all the things trying to take me out, I’d have never put money on this.

“I’m going to fucking kill you, freckles!”

Jensen flinched inwardly at the shout and quickly ducked behind Jared, punching the column of his boyfriend’s spine when he chuckled lowly.

“Chris, just listen,” he tried to placate, holding out his hand in a peaceful gesture. Inwardly, he quickly calculated his chances of getting to Jared’s truck before Chris caught up with him, and he was forced to conclude that they weren’t very good.

After lazing the rest of the day at Jared’s grandfather’s- their- cabin, Jensen had asked Jared to swing by Chris’ place. He wanted to get telling his best friend about Sophia over and done with, and he knew too that the blue-eyed boy would have been anxious the entire day without knowing where he was.

Now, he wondered whether it would have been better to call. Thank you kindly, Hindsight.

“Listen to what?” Chris seethed, coming to a stop in front of Jared and glaring at him. “How you blatantly disregarded everything I told you, or how you’re roping me into something I never agreed to, that will likely send the girl I love running in the opposite direction?”

Jensen’s chest squeezed painfully at the anger in his brother’s tone. “Don’t be so dramatic,” he replied softly, his arms coming to cross over his chest in a defensive move he hadn’t even thought about. “You’re an awesome singer, and you know the band, and you both want to spend time together, y’all are just too stubborn to set it up yourselves.”

“So you thought you’d just play puppet master and pull the strings, is that it?” Chris bit off, and this time, Jensen visibly winced. It was an unfair blow, especially after Chris’ own stunt with the J.A.W Initiative, but what hurt the most was how Chris seemed to think he was being blasé and callous about this, when the truth was the furthest thing from it.

The newfound strength of their mating bond showed itself when Jared growled testily at Chris, his stance becoming protective and vaguely threatening around Jensen as he sensed the deep hurt in his mate.

“Watch yourself, Kane,” he warned lowly, jaw clenched.

Ignoring Jared, Chris kept steely blue eyes on him. “She’s my mate, and I told you I didn’t want to hurt her,” he snapped. “I don’t expect you to understand and appreciate mating, being that you’re just a human, but at least respect it.”

The funny thing about words are that once they’re out there, they’re there forever, and nothing you do can take them back.

Chris’ face drained of all its color as he realized what he’d said, and Jensen jerked backwards, as though he’d been shot. Insurmountable pain crushed his chest, and while he could usually brush off Chris’ words the few times they were in anger, this time, after what happened with Jared’s father, it hit a little too close to home.

He took a shaky step back, unable to mask the raw pain that he knew was ravaging his features. Jensen managed to retain the state of mind enough to hold Jared’s arm, knowing that if he let go, the Alpha was likely to instinctively attack the source of his pain. He swallowed hard, squeezing Jared’s bicep as his mate began to tremble with restrained anger, stubbornly avoiding looking at Chris.

“Jensen…” Chris breathed, distraught.

“Take me home, please,” he managed to push the words past his frozen lips, tugging Jared’s arm and fighting the urge to run. He couldn’t face Chris, not with the words so raw and fresh between them, without the threat of crumbling apart. “Please, Jay.”

Chris took a step towards him, regret and pain evident in his face, but for everything between them, this wasn’t something he could forget easily. “Jensen, I’m…”

“Back off, Christian,” Jared bit off sharply, his hazel eyes flashing fire. He swiftly turned around, bundling Jensen in the protective bracket of his arms before gently ushering him to the truck, murmuring nonsensically under his breath. The gentleness with which he treated Jensen was a harsh counterpoint to his attitude towards Chris. “I got you, baby. I’m here, I gotcha.”

Jensen huddled into himself in the truck, staunchly refusing to look at the spot he knew his best friend was frozen in, remorse and guilt plain as day in his azure eyes. Damn it, but after all his understanding, Jensen just couldn’t let go this time. This time, it had gone too far, and this time, forgiveness would have to wait until the wound wasn’t gaping and gushing.

###

“Josh!”

Jensen bolted upright, the name leaving his lips in a breathy gasp as his heart pounded rapidly in his chest. He panted, eyes wild, trying to ascertain where he was and how he got there.

Slowly, the warmth at his back permeated his awareness and slow, soothing strokes of a big hand convinced him that if anything else, Jared was with him. Just the knowledge of that, and Jensen calmed down. Leaning back to snuggle into his boyfriend, he waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when the murky shapes in front of him began to take form, and look more like a wardrobe and dresser and desk, than random black splotches.

He was in his bedroom.

“What happened?” he mumbled fuzzily, unconsciously burrowing closer into the comforting arms around him.

“You fell asleep in the truck, and I didn’t have the heart to wake you,” Jared answered, his voice sounding strange. Picking up easily on the change and feeling some of his mate’s anxiety and anger as a phantom ache in his chest, Jensen turned in Jared’s arms, allowing his hands to find Jared’s face and gently cradle it.

“What’s the matter?”

Jared huffed a slight growl. “Who’s Josh?” he demanded, jealousy making him tighten his grip on Jensen marginally.

Jensen laughed, for the first time since facing Chris. Tenderly, he pressed a kiss to the corner of Jared’s mouth. “Nothing like what you think,” he assured his boyfriend, chuckling when Jared immediately relaxed fractionally. “This is going to sound crazy,” Jensen wrinkled his nose, “but Josh was my imaginary friend when I was a kid.”

“You have dreams about your imaginary friend?” Jared asked, disbelief coloring his tone.

Jensen sighed. “I told you it was gonna sound crazy,” he muttered. “I don’t know what to tell you, Jay. I’ve been dreaming of him since as far back as I can remember. Gun to my head, I’d say they started when I was around 3?” Jensen took a moment to gather his thoughts before continuing. “It’s always the same dream. He’s always around 7 years old, and we’re always in some kind of maze. And I’m terrified because I can’t find him, and somewhere in the back of mind, I know that’s not right, because I know Josh would never leave me.” He shook his head ruefully. “I always wake up calling out for him, because that’s what I do in the dream, I scream for him, over and over. The only thing I’m sure of, in my dream, is that Josh protects me, and he loves me, almost like a brother.”

“Did you ever encounter this Josh when you were awake?” Jared asked bemused.

The green-eyed boy shook his head in frustration. “No. Which never made sense to me since he was supposed to be imaginary.” He blew out his breath in a tired huff. “I haven’t had that dream in over 7 months.”

Mouthing over Jared’s collar bone, he tried to forget everything but being there in his boyfriend and lover’s arms. Arousal swept over him, and he rocked his hips into Jared, gasping when the Alpha growled and promptly slid his hand down to grope covetously at the curve of his ass.

“Jay…” he moaned softly, biting lightly at the inward curve of Jared’s shoulder bone. He wanted to forget every fucking thing except Jared and the feel of his mate inside him. “Want you.”

The muted confession spurred Jared into action, and in one swift motion, he lifted Jensen and turned on to his back, so that Jensen was straddling him. Moaning helplessly at the manhandling, which turned him on more than he cared to admit, Jensen rocked down, pressing their hardening crotches against each other. Jared’s hands found their way underneath his jeans, and long fingers were probing against his still-tender hole.

Jensen relished in the feeling, pushing back against Jared’s fingers and reaching a hand between their bodies to rub the bulge in front of Jared’s jeans. “Jesus, fuck,” Jared groaned, pushing one finger into him, using the other hand to hold him apart. “That’s it, baby boy.”

Emboldened, he flicked the button on Jared’s jeans and slipped his hand underneath the black boxers his boyfriend wore, gently teasing the smooth, hard, hot length in his hands. In the back of his mind, he wondered why he never protested all of Jared’s nicknames for him; God knew he only allowed 'JR' and 'Jen' normally; but for some reason, he found every little endearment made him love Jared even more, turned him on even more, in ways he couldn’t help but question.

Leaning down, he nibbled at Jared’s throat, moaning and pushing back wantonly when Jared slipped a second finger from his other hand alongside the first. He circled his hips, rubbing their cocks together, rough denim against smooth boxers. Jared tightened his hold on Jensen’s ass, holding him flush in place, which Jensen found he wasn’t really opposed to since he kept licking and sucking at Jared’s pulse point. He grinned when he pulled back and saw the blood rush to the surface; he could finally understand Jared’s obsession with marking him up.

He redirected his attention to Jared’s ear as his boyfriend slowly worked him open, sucking seductively at the ear lobe and letting his mouth run about every single dirty thought that had ever crossed his mind. Jared seemed on the edge of losing his control, and the power that flushed through Jensen at being able to have that effect on the big, strong Alpha werewolf, was almost dizzying.

Until it all abruptly ended with the slamming of a door.

Jensen bolted upright, terror chilling the heat that desire had spread through his limbs. There was only one person who had a key to the house besides him.

“Jensen! You here, boy?”

Oh, God.

OhGodOhGodOhGod.

Eric.

“Calm down, baby,” Jared’s voice came over him, penetrating his fog of inactivity. His boyfriend was fixing his shirt and buttoning up their jeans, all the while shooting worried looks at him. “He sounds sober, it’ll be okay.”

He realized belatedly that he’d spoken his foster father’s name out loud. “He’s gonna flip, Jared!” he squeaked, his fear making him uncaring of the tenor his voice had pitched to. “Fuck, Jared, you have to leave, you have to leave right now.”

“No,” Jared’s answer was firm, swift and calm. “I’m not leaving you alone to deal. What if he’s not as sober as he sounds?”

“He’s not gonna hurt me,” Jensen spoke sharply, the lies thick on his tongue. Panic flared inside him at Jared’s words; did he know? Did he have an idea or a suspicion that Eric was less than friendly when he’d had a few rounds of Jack or Jose?

“I know,” Jared nodded, confusion settling in his eyes at the sigh of relief Jensen couldn’t hold back. Jared didn’t know. “That doesn’t mean I want to leave you alone.”

Jensen shot off the bed, grabbing his jacket from the wardrobe and yanking it on, zipping it all the way to hide his hickeys. “Please, Jay, I don’t think…”

“You’re worrying too much,” Jared cut in flippantly. “I’m gonna meet your dad, and everything is gonna be okay.”

Alarmed anger stole Jensen’s breath, making him struggle to take in air. Before he could say something nasty enough to drive Jared away, his bedroom door swung open.

“Boy, what…” Eric stopped dead when he saw Jared standing sheepishly at the foot of the bed, Jensen frozen at his dresser sporting a deer-in-the-headlights look.

God, please let Eric wait to kill me until after Jared leaves. Please don’t let Eric hurt him.

“Jensen?” Eric’s confused voice was directed at him, and Jensen took in a shuddery breath, his heart pounding like a bass drum against his ribs. Moving instinctively, he went to stand next to Jared, angling his body slightly in front of him in a protective gesture that he was glad escaped his boyfriend’s attention.

“Hi, Sir,” Jared’s warm, polite voice almost had Jensen cracking a smile. Ever the charming gentleman, his boyfriend.

“Um…” Jensen hesitated, wondering what to call him. Calling him by his name would have been suspicious, but trying to force the word ‘dad’ out of his mouth would have been like heaving up razors. Eric flinched, seeming aware of his dilemma. “This is Jared,” he finally pushed the words out, blushing profusely. Feeling some of the hesitant anxiety Jared was projecting over their mating bond, Jensen added, “my boyfriend.”

He waited for the outburst, muscles tensed in preparation to do whatever necessary to protect his mate, when…

…Eric smiled.

It was a ghost of the smirk he used to wear, and a poor replacement for the grin he used to sport when he played baseball and football in the yard with Jensen when he was a kid, but it was still an effort. Jensen was frozen in place, shock short-circuiting his brain.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jared,” he nodded, looking weary, a bittersweet edge to his features that Jensen didn’t quite understand.

It was hard not to react to the relief and happiness mellowing Jared out, and Jensen smiled slightly reflexively. He relaxed his shoulders and sent a quick thank you to whoever might have been listening to, and granted his pleas.

“It’s great to meet you too, Sir,” Jared grinned brightly, gently angling past Jensen and thrusting his hand out. Jensen swallowed his relief when Eric shook his boyfriend’s hand, still civil. Had he stepped into twilight zone? Had to be.

“I gotta run,” Jared’s hand went to the back of his neck as he smiled ruefully at Jensen. “My mom will be wondering where I am.”

With a start, Jensen realized that Jared hadnt made a move to contact his family since last night. He groaned inwardly, wondering how much the Padaleckis must hate him now.

“Will you be okay?” he asked tentatively, mindful of Eric’s gaze on him but needing Jared to read the hidden question in his words.

Which, he did. “I’ll be okay,” he nodded affirmatively. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Jen. Good night, Sir.”

Jensen only relaxed his guard with the second slam of the door downstairs. Gulping, he faced Eric, trembling slightly. He would face his beating head-on, he decided, his breath coming out a shade faster. Eric’s hand came up…

…and Jensen jumped violently when it came down with infinite gentleness on his shoulder.

“Easy, Jensen,” Eric mumbled, sounding grief-stricken and sick. “I’m not gonna…I won’t…I…”

What in all hell was going on here?

He blinked owlishly at the man while he seemed to be trying to find the right words. Eric chewed on his bottom lip, and Jensen idly realized that he’d picked up the same habit, before turning his attention back to his foster father.

“I went to your mother’s grave this weekend,” Eric spoke softly. Jensen jerked slightly once more, startled at Eric calling Jody his mom. Something he hadn’t done since Jody died. “There’s flowers growing at her tombstone. That was…was you, wasn’t it?”

Jensen nodded wordlessly. After her funeral, he’d go every few days to the cemetery to tend to the flowers, and after he’d left, the caretaker had promised to maintain their upkeep, seeming touched at the lengths Jensen had gone through over the years to ensure they grew.

“I was probably drunk at home while you were doing it,” Eric bit off bitterly, but this time, Jensen knew the anger was directed inwardly, and not at him. Eric looked at him, a silent plea in his world-weary eyes.

“I’d apologize in a second if I’d’a thought it’d make a lick of difference,” he admitted finally, guilt and self-recrimination thick in his tone. “But I know that won’t cut it. But I do want you to know…I am gonna…I’m gonna try, Jensen. Truly, this time, I will.”

Jensen flashed back to all the apologies that he’d still gotten when he was a kid, and wondered whether he’d stopped believing them at the same time that Eric had stopped offering them. There was one thing different though…in all those apologies before, there’d been promises and excuses. Now? The only thing Eric was promising was to try. There were no lies and embellishments this time, and for some reason, that made all the difference in the world.

He was going to try…not the best reassurance, but so much truer than blind oaths to stop. Honestly? Jensen quite preferred it.

“There’s leftover casserole in the fridge,” he offered hesitantly, unable to respond to everything else just yet. Thankfully, Eric seemed to understand that much and he offered Jensen a small smile, more open than the one he’d given Jared.

“I’ll nuke it,” he nodded, walking away. He stopped for a second at the doorway, hesitating as he laid his palm on the doorjamb. “You know, Jensen, your uncle was gay. My brother?”

“Yeah?” Jensen flinched, a blush burning his face crimson. He couldn’t deny the part of him that thrummed with happiness, though. That part of him that was there since he was a kid, that craved for Eric to acknowledge his blood as Jensen’s own, too. Whether he realized it or not, by referring to Jody and his brother as Jensen’s, he was soothing an ache in the boy that had been festering for years.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I was the first one he came to when he realized because he knew I was the only one in the family who wouldn’t freak out. Who would accept him as he was.” Eric hestitated. “I hope you know that…well, the same thing goes…I could never…I wouldn’t…”

“I know,” Jensen nodded, bailing the man out from finding the words.

“I’m glad that he loves you,” Eric commented softly, a stark honesty in his words. “I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t tell me, but I’m glad he looks at you like…” Eric swallowed hard, before meeting Jensen’s eyes with tears in his own. “Looks at you like I used to look at her,” he finished gruffly.

Jensen’s throat tied up suddenly, and he coughed, trying to get rid of the damning evidence. As Eric turned to leave, he blurted out unthinkingly. “Sobriety looks good on you, sir.”

Eric chuckled faintly, seeing the comment for the unspoken thank you that it was. “Go to sleep, you little smartass,” he shook his head, the first sign of affection coloring his tone in 10 years.

Jensen slept better than he had in a long, long time.

 

~*Jared*~

 

“Is that a wolf?”

Jared looked on from the doorway to the art room, still unnoticed by his mate, who was totally absorbed in his work and all the more beautiful doing it. Jared’s jaw tightened as the scrawny little brunette peaked over his mate’s shoulder, looking at Jensen’s canvas.

“Yup,” Jen nodded, subtly maneuvering the kid out of his personal space, and Jared was glad he did because it’d be a pain to convince his parents that he’d killed the kid for the greater good of the rest of the world. “It’s a wolf in a meadow, with a star above him. It’s going to be the new centerpiece to my portfolio, since the Queen Bitch destroyed my other piece.”

Jared’s anger spiked at the newfound knowledge that his crazy ex-girlfriend had attacked Jensen’s work.

“You didn’t tell me Sandy destroyed your art, baby.”

Jensen’s smile stretched wide over his face as Jared loped towards him, a frown on his face.

“Doesn’t matter,” he grinned reassuringly, turning the sketch to show him. Jared’s eyes widened as he saw the sweeping lines and curves that made up what was undoubtedly his Wolf on the page, in the meadow that was clearly their spot, with the Jay-Star hanging above him. The sketch took his breath away, and he fought the urge to sweep his mate up in a devastating kiss. Not only was it extraordinarily beautiful, but it meant that much more to him that no one except Jen and him would get the full meaning to the painting. “I’m calling it A World of Our Own,” his mate revealed with a secret smile, and Jared warmed at the love he felt pulsating over their mating bond. “Whaddaya think?”

“Why a star, and not a moon?” the kid wondered, scrutinizing his Jensen’s work. “Although it does fit beautifully. You drew the wolf so realistically.”

Jared bristled at the open admiration, hero-worship and blatant puppy-love the boy exhibited. If they were in a cartoon, he thought irritably, there’d be stars in the kid’s eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked mildly, taking a possessive step towards his mate.

“Jay, this is Connor, he’s a friend of mine and a fellow art-nerd,” Jensen grinned absently as he fixed something on the sketch, blissfully unaware of the tension surrounding him. “Con, this is my boyfriend Jared.”

“Oh,” the sparkle in the boy’s eyes faded slightly as he took Jared’s offered hand, shaking it firmly. “Nice to meet you.”

Sure it is, he thought snidely, keeping the comment to himself lest he annoy Jensen with his caveman tendencies, as he called them.

Connor bailed not long after, thankfully enough, claiming he had a class to get to. Frankly, Jared was glad of it, and he pulled Jensen back into his chest as soon as the kid was gone. Leaning down, he trailed kisses up and down the slender column of Jensen’s throat, reveling in the sounds he tore from his responsive mate. It took all his willpower not to dip his hands down the front of Jensen’s jeans, and it seemed his boyfriend shared no such restraint as he rocked his ass back against Jared’s hardening crotch.

“Baby, you gotta stop unless you wanna become an exhibitionist,” Jared growled lowly, slowing Jensen’s motions with his hands on Jensen’s hips. Even as he did, he couldn’t help but press his hard-on flush against the curve of Jensen’s ass, keeping it there as he bit a mark into the arch of Jensen’s shoulder, eliciting a full-body shiver and a sexy, bitten off whine.

“Not playing fair,” Jensen breathed heavily, when he finally regained his senses. Jared chuckled, easing off his mate and gripping him lightly around his stomach as he willed away his erection, entertaining thoughts of Chad in stilettos and a boob-tube.

“So,” he nudged Jensen’s jaw with his nose once he was back in control. “You wanna tell me how long you’re gonna use the art room to hide from Chris? I’m just curious what you’re gonna do when they actually have a class here.”

“I’m not avoiding Chris,” he mate denied, flushing. Jared rolled his eyes.

“Jen, baby,” he spoke gently, “Amelia is just about the ditziest, sleepiest girl in our class, and she even noticed that you haven’t been sitting in your normal place next to him.”

Flinching, Jensen averted his eyes, hurt radiating through their bond and registering as a ghost pain in Jared’s chest. “I can’t do this with him, yet.”

“It’s been three days. He’s distraught, Jen,” Jared pointed out softly. He was the first one who wanted to rip Chris’ lungs out for daring to talk to his mate the way he did, but even he had to admit that the long-haired alpha was in a bad way, punishing himself for his words way more than Jared or Jensen could have. “I’m mad as all hell too, but you know he didn’t mean it. He spoke in anger.”

“I know,” Jensen nodded, sounding guilty. “It’s just…”

“Just what, baby?”

“I trusted him not to hurt me, and he did,” came the pained whisper. “And it isn’t about what he said, it’s about the fact that he also probably sees me as just human, at least some part of him does. I can rally against anyone else, but the minute my own best friend, my own brother, starts to believe that? There’s nothing left to fight against.”

“Don’t say that!” Jared’s fierce growl did nothing to phase his mate. “Don’t you say that.”

“I don’t know that Chris believes in me anymore,” he confessed. “That scares the hell out of me.”

Jared wished there was something he could say, anything he could do to show Jensen exactly how much he meant to the blue-eyed alpha. “Jen, I never pretended to understand this amazing relationship you and Chris have,” he levelled with his mate. “And I can’t find the words that can describe how wrong you are about Chris not believing in you, because let me just tell you, the last time I saw Chris in this rough shape, it was when he lost his entire family on the worst night of his life.”

Jensen sucked in a breath through his teeth, aiming worried eyes at the floor as he gnawed on his lip anxiously.

“I’m not saying that to guilt you,” Jared reached up and freed the swollen lip from Jensen’s gnashing. “I’m just telling you because it seems to me like Chris wouldn’t feel that much, take it that hard, if it was someone he didn’t care about. And Chris tends not to care about people he doesn’t believe in.”

“I know. I...” Jensen huffed, running a hand through his soft spikes. “I know.”

“Just say you’ll think about hashing things out,” Jared suggested, not wanting to push his mate. “I don’t know that I can handle Chris looking like a kicked pup for much longer.”

“That’s sweet,” Jensen smiled faintly at him. Jared snorted indelicately.

“Hardly. Kicked pups have a lashing-out stage if the pain doesn’t abate. And I like my ass too much to be in the line of fire for that.”

Jared relished in the sweet sound of Jensen’s laughter. Damn if it wasn’t becoming a rare commodity these days.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

Slamming his locker in frustration, Jensen cursed a blue streak and hefted his backpack on to his sore shoulders.

For a Friday morning, this one sucked out loud.

He missed the bus and had to walk in the rain, he had to skip English because he had to change into his gym clothes- the only dry clothes he had- and now he missed ten minutes of his free that he was going to use painting, because he still couldn’t open his Goddamn locker!

And…he missed Chris like a fucking limb.

Not because he helped with Jensen’s locker, and not because he’d have fetched Jensen in the morning if he’d have called. No…He missed Chris for all the smartass comments and the way he always stuck so protectively by him. He missed Chris for all the exchanged looks in Chemistry class that spoke a whole conversation between them. He missed Chris for all the brotherly banter he’d never had, and never knew how much he needed. He missed Chris because he missed his brother.

Which really just sucked out loud.

Because Jensen was entitled to feel angry, damn it! He was well within his rights to never speak to Chris again. Yet the possibility hurt him even more than Chris’ words.

Guess that’s what being a brother is about, he deduced with an inward grumble. Forgiving each other’s jackass moves because it’d hurt more to contemplate not having each other at all.

Jensen huffed a small sigh, resolving to find Chris after his free and talk things out with him. A week without talking to each other was long enough…he just hoped that things hadn’t gotten to the stage or irreparable. He yanked at the door to the art room, stopping dead at the sight that met his eyes.

Six canvases were lined up next to each other, the first five with the letters S-O-R-R-Y painted on each of them respectively, and the last canvas holding a crudely drawn crying face. Next to it, Chris stood with his hands in his pockets, scuffing his sneakers against the linoleum floor, the tips of his ears turning pink.

“I was planning on trying something a little more artistic, but then I remembered that I couldn’t draw for shit,” he mumbled.

Jensen laughed, a full-belied laugh that he hadn’t given in a long-ass time. They were going to be just fine.

###

“So you’re gonna be singing with Chris on the opening night?” Jared asked him, brightening.

Jensen hummed and nodded the affirmative. Honestly, offering to sing with him, even though Jensen was a hopeless singer, was the least he could do, given that he’d roped Chris into it in the first place. He sighed heavily. “Don’t dump me when you hear my singing voice,” he teased Jared with a grin, turning his attention back to his list of possible venues to rent out for the club space.

It was a lot harder than he thought it would be, setting things up. Benny had given him carte blanche with a budget, which helped a little, but the kicker was setting up the right atmosphere. He enjoyed a challenge though, and this was a paying challenge, so he wasn’t complaining.

They were going to check out the last location on the list today, and then Jensen had to meet with the band that was agreeing to play for them for four out of the seven nights. He shot off a text to Eric, deciding that if his foster father was going to try, then he would too, and he felt a weight leave his shoulders when he received a reply telling him to stay safe.

He may have stepped into a twilight zone, but damn if Jensen wasn’t going to make the most of it.

Shoving his lists into his backpack, he stood up, dusting off his jeans as he did so. They were sprawled on the football field, and Jared had just finished practice. He shooed his boyfriend to the change rooms, knowing that they wouldn’t be on time to meet with the landlord if Jared didn’t haul ass.

His phone buzzed in his hand, and he answered it without looking at the caller ID. “Yeah?”

“JR, what’s up bro?” Aldis’ warm voice came over the speaker, making Jensen smile nostalgically.

“Hey Al,” he greeted, pausing for a minute to interpret Jared’s enthusiastic hand motions. “Jared says hi,” he added, rolling his eyes at his boyfriend’s crazed attempt at gesturing. Jared grinned at him.

“Tell the White Bread I said hey,” Aldis chuckled, and Jensen relayed the message with a smirk.

“I’m not white bread!” Jared protested, pouting like a puppy. Instinctively, Jensen reached up and pushed his hair behind his ear.

“No, you’re not, babe,” he soothed. “Aldis is just a jerk.”

“And you’re a can of whipped cream, JR,” his friend crowed. “God, if the badasses that tremble at the sound of your name could see you now.

“You know they won’t,” he retorted. “Look, I gotta bounce in a second, man. What’s the word?”

“There was a guy here looking for you, man,” Aldis reported, a hint of worry in his tone.

Jensen’s blood chilled in his veins as he grabbed Jared’s arm, making his boyfriend stop in his tracks. As soon as he registered the look of fear on Jensen’s face, Jared’s smile disappeared, a grim look replacing it.

With his hands barely noticeably trembling, Jensen pressed a few buttons on his phone. “You’re on speaker, Al. The guy who came looking for me…was it…could it have been…”

“It wasn’t Adam,” Aldis assured him immediately, realizing where Jensen’s train of thought had gone. He let out a massive sigh of relief, body going weak as he leaned against Jared. “Naw, the little bastard wouldn’t have dared. I told him I’d shoot him if I ever saw him again. Would serve the little bitch right for daring to cheat on my friend.”

Jensen laughed hollowly. “Who was the guy? Can you tell me what he looked like?” Anyone else but Adam, he could handle.

“I can do you one better,” Aldis offered. “I can tell you his name.”

Jensen waited patiently, taking comfort from Jared’s thumb rubbing circles on his hip.

“His name is Josh,” Aldis told them. “JR… he says he’s your brother.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

Jensen hated halfway diners.

It was a fairly recent development- give or take 43 minutes old- and it was based solely on the fact that she was late.

He bounced his leg up and down, half-finished milkshake forgotten on the table in front of him, trying to dispel his nervous energy. Jared’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he sent him a sympathetic look, hand falling on Jensen’s knee to still his motion.

“You’re gonna drive yourself nuts, baby,” his boyfriend warned him in a low voice, his other hand lifting to gently caress his jaw. Jensen huffed a sigh, rubbing a hand over his face.

“How do you know I haven’t already?” he asked sardonically, squeezing his eyes shut against the onslaught of reality his thoughts brought him. “I may or may not have a real brother that I thought was imaginary for the past 16 years. Sounds pretty nutty to me.”

Jared frowned, grabbing his hand to rub it soothingly between his massive palms. “Stop that, Jen. You were all of two years old, stop beating yourself up over this. If Josh is real- and that’s still an if - then it isn’t your fault you forgot him, or thought you made him up. That’s entirely rational, and frankly, it was his job as the older brother to come looking for you. If anything, you should be pissed off it took him this long.”

“If I remem…if I dreamed it right,” he amended, consternation scrunching his eyebrows, “then Josh was only seven when the accident happened. He was a kid himself, how could he possibly have done anything?”

“Exactly,” Jared grinned toothily. “Now why don’t you afford yourself that same understanding, while I phone your aunt and ask her where she is?”

“Don’t,” Jensen waved a hand, choosing to ignore the regrettably infallible logic his boyfriend presented him with. “I don’t want her to have any idea of the time frame it took us to get here. She might be able to use that to figure out where I live, or at least have a rough idea of the surrounding radius of our proximity to here.”

Jared arched an eyebrow at him. “That’s JR talking,” he observed with concern. “Why don’t you trust her? She is your family, Jen.”

“There’s a massive difference between blood and family, Jay,” Jensen shrugged, not remorseful for all the precautions he was taking. “She’s my blood. You and Chris are my family.” Jensen spared a moment to enjoy Jared’s bright, responding smile, before adding, “Besides, everything just seemed too…” he frowned, casting in his mind for the right word. “Scripted.”

“How do you mean?”

“Meeting after all these years,” Jensen bit his lip. “The way she suddenly wants part of my life. It’s the plot of a really bad lifetime movie. And she lied about trying to find me, I know because she was my listed guardian, and if she were so inclined, she would have had the power of attorney to access my case files. There’s something about her I just don’t trust,” he concluded, swinging his eyes up to meet slanted hazel orbs. “I’d rather she not be near my home until I can put my finger on the bad feeling I have.”

Jared nodded slowly, taking in the information. “Why do you think she lied about trying to find you?”

“I dunno,” Jensen shrugged helplessly. “To earn my trust by starting with my forgiveness? For some reason, she wants to be a part of my life. I just don’t think that reason is sudden, unexpected maternal instincts.”

Jared scrunched his nose up, looking dubious. “I trust your instincts, Jen,” he acknowledged reassuringly, “but I honestly can’t think of any other reasons. I mean, did your parents leave you something that she’d go to such lengths to get?”

“Not really,” Jensen shook his head, thinking back. “They left me a trust that becomes available to me on my twentieth birthday…but she has more than enough money herself, I think.”

“Maybe it’s guilt for leaving her nephew,” Jared suggested. “Letting her sister down.”

Jensen hummed, not convinced, but sensing they were reaching an impasse. “Maybe.”

“Look,” Jared pulled his hand up to press a kiss to the inside of his wrist. “Whatever is going on, we’ll deal with it. Like I said, I trust your instincts, so we’ll just keep our guard up a while.”

Jensen blew out the breath that lodged itself in his throat, wearily grateful for the show of solidarity. Nodding his head, he searched his mind for a topic change before he legitimately drove himself around the bend. “How’s your…” Jensen’s voice cords rebelled around the word ‘dad’. “How’s things at home?” he amended. “I hope you didn’t get into trouble with your folks.” He flinched, feeling self-loathing creep up on him at the animosity he had stirred with his presence. When was he going to stop hurting Jared with his very existence?

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop,” Jared frowned at him, squeezing his hand and pulling him closer. “I can feel you blaming yourself over our mating bond,” he clarified when Jensen glanced at him in shock. “Sunday night was not your fault, baby. The only person to blame is my father,” Jared scowled darkly. “He had no right…”

“He had his right,” Jensen refuted quietly, surprised at his own defense of the man. “As pack alpha, and as your father.”

“I told him that I didn’t want to be pack alpha at the expense of you,” Jared lifted his chin in defiance. “I don’t want to be his son at the expense of you, either.”

“Don’t say that,” Jensen admonished his lover, even as his treacherous heart warmed. “He’s your family, Jared!”

“There’s a massive difference between blood and family, Jen,” Jared parroted back to him, earning himself an exasperated eye-roll. “I love my father so much, God knows I’ve emulated him my entire life…but,” Jared shrugged sadly, “if he can’t accept that you are my mate, and the love of my life, then I can’t accept that he’s my dad. I love the pack too much to make them pick a side... And as much as I love the pack and my family, I love you even more. My decision is easily made, even if it’s difficult to face.”

“I don’t want to make you choose, Jay,” Jensen whispered regretfully, insides clenching at the thought of the strain it could put on their relationship down the road, if he made Jared do that. “Why don’t I talk to your dad?”

“And tell him what?” Jared asked baldly. “The man is as stubborn as the day is long, and he’s convinced he knows best.”

Jensen arched his eyebrow at his boyfriend, a sudden grin quirking his lips. “Sounds like someone else I know,” he shot back cheekily. Jared pouted and swiped Jensen’s milkshake in retaliation, gulping down a sip and smiling sunnily at Jensen’s responding mock scowl.

“Jen,” Jared leveled with him, dragging the knuckle of his index finger across his bottom lip in a gesture of frustration, “my mom and Megan have accepted you- hell, they probably love you more than me- half the pack has already accepted you… even Jeff, who hasn’t even met you yet, has accepted you and our mating. Why can’t my dad?”

Shrugging helplessly, Jensen brought their joined hands up to nuzzle them comfortingly. “I don’t know. I guess he’s just protective, and this is his way of showing it. He doesn’t want you to make a mistake.”

“You’re not a mistake.”

“Your dad seems to think I am,” Jensen stated matter-of-factly, ignoring Jared’s growl. “And I, personally, can’t fault the man for protecting you, unwarranted though it may be.”

“Which is just even more proof of the fact that you’re my mate,” Jared shook his head adamantly. “Honestly, my mom isn’t even defending him.”

“She isn’t?”

“Nope,” Jared popped his lips on the ‘p’. “She isn’t icing him out the way Megan and I am, but she keeps muttering under her breath, threatening to whack him upside the head with her spoon, and she put salt instead of sugar into his morning coffee on Monday, saying that it matched the sour words he spouted off to you.”

Jensen huffed a surprised laugh, shaking his head. “Your mom is a force of nature.”

“She’s something else,” Jared nodded, grinning. “She loves you, you know.”

Jensen’s eyes burned and he pulled his hand away from Jared’s to rub his face, willing away the budding tears. “S’been a long time since I felt that, Jay.”

“What do you remember of your real mom, Jen?” Jared asked curiously, softening his tone as he scooted closer to compensate for losing the contact between their hands.

Jensen mulled the question over for a few minutes, composing himself as much as he was trying to remember. “I remember that she had the awesome laugh ever,” he smiled suddenly, the vague echo of light, carefree laughter ringing in his ears. “She laughed with her heart and body and soul. And I remember her going down a slide with me once, in a park?” He searched his mind for more, looking for something more concrete than the vague impressions and feelings he had left. “I’m not sure whether my mind made this up,” he admitted quietly, “but I remember her voice, as she tucked me in, telling me…”

“…’I’ll love you forever, and for always, whether I’m in your life, or in your memories.’

Jensen started at the melancholic voice that took the words out of his mouth. His Aunt stood behind him; close, but…

“How did you hear that?” he blurted unthinkingly.

Katherine Talley smiled, coming to take a seat opposite the couple. “She would tell you that every night,” the woman revealed with a smile, ignoring Jensen’s question. “I guess she was right about you always remembering her.” She gestured to the waitress for a coffee, before turning to meet Jensen’s speculative eyes. “I’m so glad you contacted me, JR.”

Jensen’s muscles locked down, his walls coming up so fast it was with almost audible sound. “How do you know that name?” he demanded flatly, emotion seeping out of his face as he blanked his eyes. His Aunt flushed deeply, and the vein in her throat jumped.

“I…It’s um…isn’t your second name Ross?” she fumbled, blushing harder. “I just thought…Josh used to call you that, so…”

“Josh?” Jensen paled at the mention of his- brother’s?- name. Immediately, he was filled with anxiety, overriding his hesitations. “Who is…is he…”

“He was your brother,” Katherine answered, puzzled. “You don’t remember?”

Was?” Jensen picked the word out, ignoring the question. “What do you mean, was?”

His aunt’s face twisted. “Honey, Josh…” she hesitated, bringing her index finger up to chew on the nail. “He went missing from the accident site. He was never found, presumed dead or abducted. They stopped looking after a few months.”

The words washed over Jensen, painting him with self-recrimination, and he was hardly aware of moving, his legs acting off their accord, carrying him to the bathroom where he locked himself in a stall and promptly threw up the meager contents of his stomach.

They stopped looking after a few months.

He hadn’t even tried to look. He was a baby, sure, but he didn’t even remember his big brother, the boy who he somehow had no doubt, had been the awesome big brother he always dreamed of having. He hadn’t remembered, hadn’t even…hadn’t tried…hadn’t…

“Jen? Jensen!” Jared sharp, worried voice drifted into Jensen’s awareness. “Baby, open the door.”

Shuddering a breath, Jensen fought tears as he pulled himself gingerly to his feet, flushing the toilet and weakly fumbling with the lock mechanism. He shoved his hand through his hair, panting with the force of his repressed sobs.

His boyfriend gently maneuvered him to the sink and he hunched over, welcoming the cool water in his rancid mouth. He swirled the water around his mouth before spitting it back out, and repeating the process until all he could taste was the metallic water. Jared’s arm remained around his waist through the whole process, and the Alpha didn’t stem his stream of mindless comforts. This time, Jensen didn’t feel deserving of the reassurances.

“Don’t,” he choked harshly, wrenching away from Jared’s grasp. He hated himself even more for hurting his boyfriend, but why was Jared trying to pretend like what he did was okay?

“Jen…”

“I didn’t even remember him, let alone look for him, Jared!” Jensen snapped, tears swimming in his eyes. “He could be hurt, or stuck in some crime ring, or worse, and I’ve left him alone for 16 years because I thought I had a vivid imagination! What kind of a brother am I?”

“The kind who was too little to do anything about an unfortunate circumstance,” Jared answered readily.

“Bullshit,” Jensen snorted derisively. “I’m nothing but a…”

“Don’t. Don’t finish that sentence,” Jared warned quietly, and for the first time, Jensen saw a flash of the Alpha Wolf he was mated to. “You listen to me,” the normally-playful boy intoned seriously, coming forward to rest his palms against Jensen’s hips. “I don’t want to hear you putting yourself down again, and I don’t want to hear you blaming yourself. You were a kid, and it wasn’t your fault that you forgot him. It wasn’t your fault, Jen, it wasn’t. Trust me, baby.” Jared inclined his head, infinitely gentler, and nuzzled Jensen’s neck. “Not your fault. Just bad luck and circumstance.”

Crumbling, Jensen huddled into the comfort of his boyfriend’s arms. “I want to find him, Jay,” he whimpered plaintively, his mind bombarding him with nightmarish scenarios. “I need to find him, I have to find my brother.”

Jared pulled free, replacing his chest against Jensen’s cheek by cradling the green-eyed boy’s face in his big palms. "Are you sure you want to, Jen?” he asked hesitantly, doubts creeping into his expression. “You might not like what you find.”

Abruptly, Jensen jerked away, as if Jared had struck him. “Of course I’m sure,” he answered hardly. “Good or bad, no matter what I find, I’m not letting my brother spend any longer alone than is absolutely necessary.”

Jensen knew his boyfriend was just trying to be pragmatic, but his heart refused to listen to logic.

“You don’t really even know him, Jen,” Jared pointed out, annoyingly calmly. “What if he wants to hurt you?”

“He went looking for me, Jared,” Jensen interrupted, his frayed emotions getting the better of him.

His boyfriend bristled, and Jensen knew that the Alpha’s temper was rearing just as much. “Right, Jensen,” he nodded sarcastically, “because people never look for someone they want to hurt, they just wait for their target to come to them.”

“Why?” Jensen asked challengingly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Why would he? After all these years?”

“You don’t even remember him, Jensen!” Jared flung the words out carelessly, and Jensen winced at the reminder, the self-reproach coming back ten-fold. “You would never have remembered him either,” Jared continued ruthlessly, “so why are you so ready to forget common sense and charge after a shadow?”

Hurt resonated in Jensen at his boyfriend’s cavalier attitude towards him. “Why are you so ready to push me into giving up?” he asked stonily, masking his hurt behind anger. “What are you so afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid,” Jared denied hotly. “But how exactly are you going to handle it if he wants you to leave with him, huh? You’re gonna uproot your entire life out of obligation for someone who you don’t even know?”

“I never got a chance to know him, Jared!” Jensen snapped in frustration, a headache blooming behind his eyes. “And I want that chance now, I don’t care how selfish and bratty you’re going to act about it!”

“So you don’t give a damn what I think?” Jared asked rhetorically, hurt and anger radiating off him. “That’s great, Jensen, then why don’t you just go ahead and do whatever the hell you want?”

Jensen recoiled at the tone and the harsh words, tears springing to his eyes. “Fine,” he choked, wrapping an arm around himself. “If that’s the way you want to do this.”

He pushed past Jared, fighting tears. Patting his pocket, he was relieved to note that he had remembered to bring his wallet.

He left the diner before Jared could come back out, not even telling his aunt, running to the nearest bus station in an effort to get out before Jared tried to persuade him back to the truck. Still overly cautious, he got on and rode until he was two towns over from home, before catching another bus and getting off at Chris’ neighborhood.

Reassured that no one had followed him, Jensen trudged to his best friend’s place, groaning when he saw Jared’s truck parked in the driveway. Much as he didn’t want to talk to his boyfriend just yet, he’d promised Chris he’d come around and give him a report, and he was already so late after his diversionary tactics that he knew the other boy would be worried by now.

Breathing deeply in, Jensen opened the door. “Chris?” he called out, his voice rough from crying and lack of use. The blue-eyed boy appeared in the hallway, a relieved look on his face.

Then, somehow, all hell broke loose.

In a split second, that look of relief faded from Chris’ face, to be replaced with a terrified and furious one. Before Jensen could register much more than the abrupt change, Chris snarled, and dropped to his knees, clothes shredding as he shifted into a massive coppery-brown wolf.

Fear licked at Jensen’s insides, and with grave certainty, he knew that his friend was about to attack him.

 

~*Jared*~

 

Anxiety and remorse battled with frustration and hurt in Jared’s heart as he drove back home. He’d followed Jensen to the station, in time to see the bus pull away, and he figured that his mate would just be more annoyed if he pulled him off the bus and dragged him to the truck.

He hated fighting with Jensen. They were both frustrated, and had taken it out on each other, but Jared could admit that he hadn’t picked the right time to push, just as Jensen could have at least heard his concerns.

He headed straight to Chris’ house, knowing that Jensen had promised to update his best friend, and come hell or high water- or Jared- that was what Jensen was going to do. The other alpha opened the door, narrowing his eyes when he searched around and couldn’t see Jensen.

“What did you do this time?” Chris asked, by way of greeting, waving him into the house.

“Why is it always my fault?” Jared grumbled. Chris shrugged casually.

“I like Jensen better,” he replied matter-of-factly. “And you generally put your foot in your mouth.”

All good points.

“Josh, the not-so-imaginary big brother, is legit,” Jared told the other wolf, sitting down heavily.

“Damnit.” Chris winced. “That must have killed Jensen.”

Jared flashed back to the feeling he had when his mate was locked in that bathroom stall, retching over and above his guilt-ridden tears. Pain clenched his heart. “Yeah,” he nodded, feeling guilty all over again for pushing his mate at the worst possible times. “He took it pretty bad. Then we kind of fought about whether or not this Josh character should be found.”

“Why wouldn’t you want him to find the guy?” Chris asked, genuinely puzzled.

“What if he wants to hurt Jen?” Jared asked, his irritation flaring before his mind settled on his real fear. “What if he wants to take him away?”

“Ah.” Chris’ face softened with understanding. “You’re afraid Jensen will want to leave.”

“You aren’t?” Jared bolted up, beginning to pace the other wolf’s living room. “It’s his family, Chris, the only real blood family he has left. Who’s to say he won’t leave us, out of obligation if nothing else?”

Chris seemed to ponder his answer, looking unperturbed. “He’s Jensen,” he responded finally. “I trust him with my life. He’s said more times than I can count, that we’re his family, because family don’t end with blood. I trust that he’ll never leave us, because family never leaves each other.”

That’s my point.”

“Josh isn’t family yet,” Chris shrugged. “If he becomes family, then we’ll deal with that. But more than anything, Jensen is your mate. You know as well as I do that he’ll never leave you. This thing with Josh…” Chris hesitated, searching for words, “Jensen needs something concrete right now. He thought he lost his entire family…but Josh looking for him means he has something left of where he came from. He needs to have that, needs to find that. It’s like finding where he belongs.”

“He belongs with me,” Jared said hardly, daring him to contradict.

“With all of us,” Chris corrected firmly. “Jensen’s integrated himself into half the pack already. And he did that because he loves you, so once again; why would he leave?” Jared sagged under the scrutiny of the other wolf.

“What if it’s different for a human mate, Chris?” Jared asked uncertainly. “What if he can fall out of love with me?” The possibility haunted Jared in his nightmares, the issue playing on his mind more than he cared to admit.

Chris laughed. “Are you kidding me? Jensen loves you so much that he turned down a scholarship to an art program two weeks ago, because it would have meant a month away from you, and he would have missed your football games.” Jared’s eyes widened at the new found knowledge, feeling simultaneously guilty and touched. “Before you think that,” Chris added warningly, “he doesn’t hold anything against you, especially seeing as how you didn’t even know about it. My point is that he would give up something he loves, because he loves being with you more. He couldn’t fall out of love with you if you both tried.”

Jared felt chagrined at his insecurities as he realized how unfounded they were. Guilt crept up on him, and he rubbed the back of his hair sheepishly. “I’m an idiot, huh?”

“This is why we all blame you first,” Chris deadpanned with a nod. “Wait here. Jensen will come around and you can grovel then.”

Jared grinned in thanks, bringing up Chris’ upcoming gig at the new club. He was surprised to find out that the other alpha was nervous, although it was obvious that he felt better knowing Jensen was going to sing with him.

They chatted amicably, but as time wore on, they both became increasingly nervous. Jensen was later than they expected, and Jared’s mind began to picture the worst case scenarios the longer he was kept in the dark. He cursed his temper for getting them into this situation, and checked his watch every five minutes…

...until the blessed sound of the door opening.

“Chris?” his mate’s voice was thick from tears, and Jared’s heart squeezed in pain. Kane shot him a narrow-eyed look before getting up, Jared following behind.

There was no way for him to have even remotely suspected what was about to happen.

Without any provocation, Jared saw Chris shift, and his heart stopped in his chest when he watched the copper wolf charge his mate. Jensen reared back, and Jared felt the phantom fear through their mating bond, and it was that tightening in his chest, and Jensen’s shout of his name that sprung him from his shocked inaction.

He yanked off his jeans and shirt, and fluidly shifted, running to where Chris now had Jensen pinned, heart racing at the way Chris was snapping his jaws, the intent to harm clear.

“Jared!” the call prompted him to run faster, homicidal Alpha rage coursing through his veins at the pain in his mate’s voice. He threw himself, tackling Chris’ from the side and forcing the other alpha away from his mate. They tumbled a little ways, before Jared sprung back up, quickly putting himself in front of Jensen and growling menacingly, almost daring the other wolf to so much as step closer to his mate. It was only the urge to protect his mate that overrode the instinct to kill any threat to Jensen.

Get yourself together Chris! He snarled viciously, snapping his teeth warningly. Snap out of it! Shift! He infused his voice with the deep timbre of Alpha command, and Chris struggled under its influence.

“Jared, don’t hurt him,” Jensen pleaded from behind him, scrambling to his feet. “Chris...”

Jared dug his heels in when Jensen tried to walk past him, towards the other alpha. Please Jen, don’t, he mindspoke to his mate, urging him. Damnit don’t. He was going to…

“I know,” Jensen’s hand landed on his fur, and almost immediately, his bloodlust calmed. “Jay, please…he’s my best friend and my brother. There has to be a reason for this, I need to help him.”

No. Jared refused to budge. I can’t let him hurt you, I won't. If he shifts, then we can move closer.

Jensen sighed behind him, and while he could feel his mate’s exasperation, he also knew that the green-eyed boy did everything to appease his protectiveness, and despite his words, Jensen was still deeply shaken. As much as he wanted to help his friend, Jared knew that he would listen, and he tried to reflect his love and gratitude over their mating bond.

“Chris,” Jensen tried again, from behind him. “Chris, come on, it’s just me. It’s just Jensen. It’s okay, whatever you think is going on, it’s okay. I’m here, and you’re safe, okay? You’re safe, big brother. Come on, calm down…” Jensen continued his slew of calming words, and miraculously, they worked better on Chris than Jared’s Alpha command. The other wolf calmed down gradually, finally coming back to himself, and watching it, Jared compared it to coming back into your own skin after being possessed. Which wasn’t far off the mark, since Chris had definitely not been himself.

Chris sagged with a whimper, looking lost as he sought out Jensen.

“Please, Jay,” Jensen pleaded behind him, sounding wrecked. “Let me…”

I’m coming with, Jared stipulated, and together, they moved to the copper-colored wolf, hunched in on himself now. Jensen kneeled next to his best friend’s form, running his hands through Chris’ fur soothingly.

“That’s it, Chris, there you go,” he murmured encouragingly. “I’m here, I’ve got you…can you shift for me, Chris? Please, buddy, come on.”

With another small sound of pain, Chris shifted, and Jensen immediately slipped out of his shirt and offered it to his best friend. It surprised them both when Chris recoiled from the item.

“No!” he barked, looking as though he were in intense pain. “That’s the…the smell, Jensen, God...” Chris groaned. “Get it away from me, that smell...it’s making me crazy.”

Jared sniffed the air, confused. He didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary…just leather, an underlying vanilla scent, and then the scent that was purely his mate. Although he was confused, Jensen reacted far quicker than him, balling up his shirt and throwing it far away.

“Is that better?” he asked gently, and Chris relaxed a little.

“Marginally,” he managed to get out. “Jensen…”

“Hold on, Chris,” Jensen mumbled, backing away from them. “Just give me two mintues, okay, buddy?”

Chris nodded jerkily, and Jared wondered whether it was safe for him to shift back as yet. “I won’t hurt him,” Chris pushed the words out, as though he were reading his mind. “You can…can shift back.”

Jared hesitated for a second, the urge to be paranoid with his mate’s safety overwhelming him, but finally, he shifted back to his human form, grabbing his jeans from the lawn where he’d chucked it off and pulling it over his legs. Before he could pick up his t-shirt and offer it to the other boy, Jensen ran out of the house, soaking wet and clad in only one of Chris’ towels, carrying the other boy’s jeans and a fresh shirt in his hands. Jared fought the urge to growl at his mate’s state of undress, and likely sensing his possessiveness, Jensen quickly strode to him, giving Chris the privacy to change and at the same time, taking Jared’s shirt and slipping into it.

Which, you know, more than appeased his possessive Alpha.

The t-shirt, slightly baggy on Jared, drowned his mate, coming to rest halfway up his thigh. He made an odd- but no less sexy- picture, dwarfed in Jared’s shirt and the black towel still wrapped around his waist, but nonetheless, Jared’s Alpha hummed in appreciation.

Dropping to his knees next to his best friend, Jensen moved without preamble, gathering Chris in a hug. Jared was still half-surprised when the alpha melted into his mate, clinging on to him and burying closer, seeking comfort in a way he’d never known the other wolf to do.

Now, Jared may not have been able to read his mate’s mind outside of his wolf form, but he’d learnt first, to read Jensen’s eyes. There was no mistaking the unspoken plea now, and seeing Chris so vulnerable, Jared wasn’t worried that he would attack, so he consented to leaving them alone.

Heading inside Chris’ house to try and find something hot and calming to make for the other boy, the way his mom sometimes did, Jared wondered what the hell just happened.

There was no way this was a freak accident.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

“Shh, hey, it’s okay Chris,” Jensen murmured, holding his best friend tightly to him. “It’s alright, I got you big brother.”

He spared a moment to roll his eyes inwardly, for conforming to the idea that Chris was the bigger brother, but he was quickly distracted by Chris’ still-shaking form.

Jensen hadn’t known what to expect- had reacted instinctively and dropped to his knees next to his best friend- but he was glad when the other boy burrowed into his arms. It reassured him that Chris’ reaction hadn’t been to him, but to whatever he had smelled on Jensen. Maybe something he was allergic to? Filing away his speculations for a better time, Jensen held on tighter, keeping up his litany of reassurances until Chris slumped in his arms, not clinging as fiercely as before.

“I’m sorry, Jensen,” Chris mumbled, sounding devastated. “I’m so sorry, little brother. I can’t believe I tried to…I could have…”

“It wasn’t you,” Jensen whispered soothingly, his hand moving up to cradle the back of Chris’ neck. “Something happened…we’re gonna figure out what, okay, but until we do, don’t go blaming yourself. You hear me?”

Chris nodded tiredly, seeking refuge a few minutes longer in the crook of Jensen’s shoulder.

“It’s okay, Chris,” Jensen mumbled once more, promise in his voice. “We’re gonna work this out, okay? We’ll figure it out.”

###

By the time he’d calmed Chris down, his best friend was exhausted, and getting help from Jared, they carefully moved him to the bedroom, where he was out like a light as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Jared left the room as Jensen took care to cover his friend in a warm blanket and take his jeans off, leaving him in boxers and his shirt. Jensen couldn’t control his mother henning, and he gave into his urge to fluff up the pillows before joining Jared in the living room.

His boyfriend immediately swept him up into a massive hug, and Jensen huddled into it, the fear from earlier pounding into him and making him dizzy with its wave of subsequent relief. If Jared hadn’t been here…if he hadn’t come looking for Jensen after he had a temper tantrum and stormed off…

“I got you, baby, I got you,” Jared murmured soothingly, and Jensen realized he’d begun shaking. “I’ll always be there, Jen, I’ll always protect you, I promise.”

Locking his fingers behind Jared’s back, he nuzzled his face into his boyfriend’s bare chest. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, remorse settling in his heart. “I’m sorry, Jay, I never should have said those things to you. I do care about what you think. Your opinion means the world to me, and I never meant to make you think that. I didn’t mean it.”

“I know, baby,” Jared mumbled, leaning down to cover his neck and shoulder in kisses. “I’m sorry too. I was so inconsiderate, I let my stupid insecurities get in the way of what you needed.”

Realization of Jared’s real fear dawned on him, and his heart warmed. Balancing on the tips of his toes, he kissed Jared languidly, tracing the seam of the taller boy’s lips to deepen it. He pressed closer to Jared’s warm, firm body as he explored his mate’s mouth, drawing blissful sounds from the other boy.

“Never,” he whispered against his lover’s lips when they finally broke for air. “I’ll never leave you, Jay. Finding my brother will not make me forget the family I have. I promise.” He kissed Jared chastely, once, twice, three times. “I would never leave you, Jay. How could I, when we’re already planning our lives together?” he grinned teasingly, heart skipping at the dimples that popped up in Jared’s cheeks. They never failed to make his heart skip a beat. “I don’t have a key to a house to offer you. But even so, the only thing that I’m sure about in my future, is you being in it.”

Jared jerked his head in a nod, keeping their foreheads pressed together. “Me too, Jen. I love you so much…and I’m going to do everything I can to help you find your brother.”

“No,” Jensen shook his head, heart hurting at the decision he was making, but knowing his priorities nonetheless. “I don’t know anything about my brother. There’s nothing I can do about Josh but let him find me. Chris on the other hand…” he swallowed hard. “Whatever just happened? That was no freak thing. We solve that first, we figure that out…then we can try looking for Josh again. Chris is the priority right now, nothing gets to come in the way of this.”

Jared smiled, infinite softness in his eyes. “I love you, Jensen Ackles.” Then, as if he knew all Jensen’s insecurities before even he did, he wrapped Jensen up in his arms, and whispered tenderly. “You belong with me, love. Right here, in my arms. Forever.”

Swallowing, Jensen lost himself in the feel of strong arms, and a love vaster than the oceans and fiercer than a Titan’s rage.

“I love you back, Jay. There’s nowhere else I would ever want to be.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

“What in the name of all things sacred makes people think that an eighteen-and-under club- emphasizing eighteen-and-under, here! – would serve Bud or Jell-O shots?”

Jared grinned as his frustrated mate flopped on to the empty seat next to him. It was the first time that entire day that Jensen had sat down, and Jared wrapped an arm around him in sympathy, feeling the phantom twinge of exhaustion over their bond. He licked quickly at the sensitive spot on the underside of his mate’s jaw.

“Sorry, baby,” he nudged the bone-tired boy playfully with his nose, “but on the plus side, it’s only tonight that you’re gonna have to deal with people on the floor.”

“True.” Jensen nodded briefly, considering his words. “Remind me to thank Benny for asking me to manage the running of the place and not it’s functioning. Honestly, Garth is so much more suited to that,” he flicked his head at the long-haired, overly enthusiastic man who was engaged in what looked to be an intense discussion with a tall girl in glasses. Jensen pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, worrying the already-swollen flesh between his incisors. “Although, I’ve seriously gotta give him a talk about personal boundaries and the grounds on which people can serve sexual harassment charges.”

Jared barked a laugh, not even trying to maintain his empathy when it came to the far-too-bubbly, gangly guy. Jensen shoved weakly at him and the Alpha caught the flailing arm, concern once again sweeping over him as he noted the deeper rings that framed Jensen’s stunning green orbs.

Between trying to find out what had happened to Chris, getting tonight’s club launch ready, helping Chris practice his sets for his first performance, tutoring Megan in Chem during Jared’s football practice and keeping up with his own work, the pack Alpha knew that his mate was running himself ragged. Jensen had passed ‘burnt-out’ a couple towns back, and Jared resolved to get him to take the day off tomorrow.

“At least Soph will be thanking me by the end of the night.” Jensen’s smirking voice drew Jared from his careful observations. The wolf turned his attention to the front table, where the brunette beta was watching Chris with star-struck eyes.

Not to imply that Kane wasn’t returning the doe-eyed look to a fervent degree.

“They were hopeless trying to stay away from each other,” Jensen concluded resolutely. “I may not be a Were, but I’m enough your mate to know that no amount of will-power would have been enough.”

Unease built up in Jared, and he tried to hide behind a smile. The last thing he wanted to do was spoil Jensen’s evening- the evening he had worked so tirelessly on- by pointing out the problems his father was likely to have with accepting Sophia as pack.

“What’s the matter, Jay?” Shrewd green eyes assessed him, sharp even as they were clouded over in exhaustion.

“Noth-,” he tried to deny immediately, stopping himself short when his tired, irritable boyfriend shot him a baleful glare as if to say, Nice fucking try. Now spill, I’m too tired to kick your ass.

Sighing, Jared drummed his fingers against the wooden table, flushing as he tried to work up the gall to look his mate in the eyes.

“…Jensen Ackles!”

Their attention was diverted by Kane’s delighted voice, and Jared slumped with relief at the interruption. Jensen raised an eyebrow in warning, but Jared only grinned in response, electing to ignore the reality that his mate was not going to let the question go unanswered.

“What?” Jen grumbled loudly, glaring at Chris, too tired to even stand up. A couple people in the crowd chuckled in sympathy.

“I believe,” Chris grinned devilishly, “that you promised to sing with me tonight, little brother.”

The reaction was instantaneous. The crowd cheered, cat calls and whistles and shouts permeating the air, and Jensen’s face whitened dramatically. Kane began to walk towards them, and tiredness aside, Jensen shot up from his chair, taking refuge behind Jared’s chair.

“Aw, come on,” Jensen whined, his fingers digging into Jared’s shoulder, setting off his protective instincts despite the ridiculousness of the situation.

“Don’t wanna hear it, freckles,” Chris crowed, lowering his mike to speak to them. “Get your ass up there, and Jared, don’t you even dare try getting all protective pack Alpha on me.”

Jared peered up at his mate, who seemed to be grasping at straws. “I’ll make you a deal,” he offered suddenly, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You sing to Sophia, exactly what’s in your heart…and I’ll get up there and do the same for Jared.”

Finally, a wager he was interested in.

Jared’s ears twitched as he sat up straighter, fighting the urge to command Kane to take the bet. Jared wasn’t an insecure bastard, not by any standard, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t enjoy being told how his mate felt. Wouldn’t enjoy being reassured that he felt every bit as much as Jared did. And he had been dying to hear Jensen sing, so with those two temptations on the line, it was a lethal combination.

“I vote yes,” the Alpha piped up with a sly grin, chuckling at the betrayed, dirty look his pack-mate shot him.

“Jared’s Alpha, what he says, goes,” Jensen promptly declared, seeming comfortable in his victory.

What the green-eyed boy hadn’t counted on, was Chris’ steely resolve.

Turning on his heel, the hard-headed alpha strode back on to the stage and whispered something to his bandmates. “This one is dedicated to the girl I’ve loved from afar, as far back as I can remember,” he announced boldly into the mike. The bashful smile he sent to a blushing Sophia was an adorable contradiction to his on-stage presence. A fast-paced guitar riff started the song off, and Jared smiled at the country feel of the opening notes. Chris sent Jensen a cheeky grin, before refocusing his attention.

“Girl, I’ve been thinking about us,
And you know I aint good at this stuff!
But these feelings piling up won’t give me no rest.”

Jared barked out a laugh with Jensen; they seemed to have recognized the tune at the same moment, as Blake Shelton’s Honeybee. It was one of Jensen’s favorites, Jared knew, and the track had grown on him since he’d heard it.

The crowd started clapping with the beat, some people dragging partners on to the floor to dance, and Sophia was grinning from ear to ear, hand over heart, tears shimmering in her eyes.

And in that moment, Jared realized why his mate was willing to push their bond despite the consequences.

Seeing two mates find each other like that, was awesome to witness, especially knowing he was lucky enough to have the same feelings every time he looked at Jensen. It was something worthy of protecting…and also something he didn’t have to worry about just yet.

Grabbing Jensen’s hands between his own, he led his now-laughing boyfriend on to the dance floor, pulling him into his chest. Wrapping an arm around his waist and trying to forget how sexy it was that one arm could span his mate’s entire middle, Jared began to move them to the beat in a haphazard dance that had most people giggling and fawning over them fondly. Jared wasn’t surprised by their reaction, since the town was more or less a hub for LGBT supporters, but Jensen seemed shy, hiding his face in Jared’s broad chest.

Nothing to complain about.

“You be my sugar, baby,
And I’ll be your sweet iced tea!
You be my honeysuckle,
And I’ll be your honeybee!

Oh-h-h, I’ll be your honeybee.”

The club burst into applause as Chris trailed off, and Sophia downright ran to him, throwing herself into his arms. It was heart-warming to behold, as was the beaming smile that almost seemed to wipe the exhaustion off his mate’s features.

Over Sophia’s shoulder, Chris’ blue eyes sought out Jensen’s, and it surprised Jared to still feel a modicum of jealousy, even if it was easily dispatched. As soon as the friends’ eyes met, Chris mouthed a silent ‘thank you’, his overwhelming happiness and love etched on his normally-stoic face.

Jared tactfully pretended not to notice the few stray tears that Jensen swiped quickly away.

“I owe you, freckles,” Chris spoke into his microphone, tucking Sophia into the curve of his body as he addressed everyone again. “But…a bet is a bet!”

A force of nervousness so staggering that it almost made him dizzy, came across their mating bond. Instantly, the Alpha had his arms around his boyfriend. “Jen?” he breathed as he pulled Jensen in close. “You okay?”

His trembling bundle didn’t answer. Simply pressed himself closer for a few seconds, crushing his arms around Jared, before wrenching himself away.

“A bet is a bet,” he mumbled, ashen, and Jared felt some measure of relief at the problem being a case of stage-fright.

Jared nuzzled his boyfriend’s neck, ignoring the various responses from the cooing crowd, focused instead on the shivers racking his lithe frame. “You don’t have to, Jen,” he soothed, pushing down his pang of disappointment. “Chris won’t be mad.”

Pride straightened Jensen’s back, although the nerves didn’t stave. “No.” His mate shook his head. “I made the bet, I’ll honor my end.”

Iron determination mingled with the scent of doubts and self-consciousness. Jensen’s stride didn’t falter as he made his way to the stage, and Jared, if nothing else, admired his unrestrained courage.

Taking the mike and shooting Chris a glare, Jensen cleared his throat, waiting for the crowd to die down. “Hi,” he greeted nervously, giving a small half-wave. “I’m Jensen. The uh…the bet Chris is talking about…I was supposed to sing to my boyfriend,” Jared’s Alpha hummed happily when Jensen pointed him out, enjoying the acknowledgment of Jensen as his, “if Chris sang to the girl he loved, Sophia Bush.” Jensen jerked his head at the cuddling couple before bringing his eyes back to Jared.

Emotion filled the green depths. “I don’t speak of what’s in my heart very easily. And I was okay with that before, because frankly, words? They just don’t do justice to the way I feel about Jared. There isn’t enough of them, they aren’t strong enough, they aren’t tangible enough.” Jensen shook his head ruefully, and Jared’s eyes filled with his own tears of happiness. Singing aside, that statement, was more than enough for him. “I don’t think words will ever be able to encompass everything I feel for him, but I’m going to try.”

Taking a deep breath, Jensen covered the microphone and whispered something to the band. They nodded, and promptly, soft notes filled the air, so different to Chris’ song. The melody was sweet and heartfelt, and Jared immediately fell under its spell.

“Every time our eyes meet.
This feeling inside me?
Is almost more than I can take.”

Jared didn’t recognize the words, but then, at that very moment, he wouldn’t have been able to remember his own name.

His mate was amazing.

Jensen’s low, honeysuckle drawl sent shivers down Jared’s spine. It was smooth and sweet, captivating him, and so full of feeling that he had every breathing body in the room gazing at him in awe and reverence. Even Garth had stopped talking long enough to listen to the angelic voice that was streaming from his lover’s perfect lips.
Long eyelashes rested on his cheeks as he sang, eyes closed against the crowd, but Jared felt every word caress him like Jensen’s own hand.

“Baby, when you touch me?
I can feel how much you love me.
And it just blows me away.

I’ve never been this close to anyone, or anything.
I can hear your thoughts…and I can feel your dreams.

I don’t know how you do what you do,
I’m so in love with you.
It just keeps getting better…

I wanna spend the rest of my life
With you by my side.
forever and ever.

Every little thing that you do…
Baby I’m amazed by you.”

Sweet. Amazing. Perfect.

And reciprocated, Jared thought, wiping tears from his eyes. Always reciprocated.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

“Every little thing that you do-o..
Baby I’m amazed…by…you-u-u.”

Jensen let his voice hold the last note, a rough crooning that accompanied the slow rhythm of the song he felt was written for the long-haired Alpha of his dreams.

He finally opened his eyes, and the club was silent. He cringed in embarrassment, eyes searching out Jared, eager to get away from the crowd he’d made a fool of himself in front of. He finally found the hazel eyes that always brought him comfort, only to find them filled with moisture. Jared was…crying?

Abruptly, the silence in the club was broken, as deafening cheers descended over the room. Jensen was dumbstruck at the reaction, rooted to the spot as catcalls, whistles, cheers and even a few sniffles echoed around him. The only reaction he was concerned about, however, was Jared’s.

His lover was making his way through the unruly crowd, and Jensen was inspired into motion, eager to meet Jared halfway. He pushed past his uncertainty, tingling deep in his palms and in the balls of his feet the closer he came to Jared. He barely noticed the rough congratulatory pats to his shoulder and the people briefly pulling him into a two-second hug; all his attention was on his boyfriend, and he felt no qualms showing it, even though he wasn’t big into public displays of affection.

The tall, broad-shouldered Alpha caught him up against his chest, crushing their lips together in a possessive kiss that spoke more about how he felt about Jensen’s performance than any amount of words could have. Warmth filled his insides, making his head spin.

“Fucker! Just had to show me up!” The chuckle came from behind him, and despite the words, Jensen heard nothing but affection from his best friend. “I thought you said you couldn’t sing!”

“I said I didn’t think I was any good,” Jensen corrected as soon as he got his breath back. He snugged into Jared’s side. “I still don’t think so, but apparently, y’all do.”

“So you’re tone-deaf then, Jen-Ster?” Soph grinned at him. “You’re a real success story.” Jensen swallowed his retaliation, knowing all too well the irrational protective steak of alphas over their mates. He focused his energy on his own alpha, who was gazing adoringly down at him.

“Now you know.” He stated simply, softly. Jared beamed at him, bending down to press a tender kiss to the seam of his lips. Before they could go any further, and this was probably for the best because he was quickly becoming lost in sensation, the calls and encouragements of the crowd became too much to ignore. Like a whirlwind of activity, Jensen found himself back on stage with Chris next to him, and they were launching into Chris’ second set for the night, one Jensen knew as well as his partner, since he’d been helping Chris practice all week.

The hours passed easily, and by the time Jensen got off stage, his throat was parched and his head was ringing, but he was grinning madly. He snuggled on to Jared’s lap, gulping down a glass of ice water and taking refuge in the cage of the Alpha’s arms.

“Jen-ster, I owe you a car for getting me together with that specimen of amazingness.” Sophia was glowing as she gazed at Chris, still performing, and a grin stretched over Jensen’s face. He was happy to see his friends find happiness, and even though he knew the Romeo-and-Juliet-esque problems it could incur, he didn’t really care. If there was anything he’d learnt, it was that love this strong, was always worth fighting for.

Jared being the perfect example of that.

Before he could lean over and impulsively kiss the reason for his smile, he heard a voice over the sound of Chris’ singing.

“Jen-SEN! We got a supplier on the phone!”

Sighing in resignation- it seemed his feet were not getting spared this night- he hauled himself up, returning Jared’s sympathetic hand-squeeze with a weary smile. He trudged to the bar set-up they had, a touch he’d implemented to give the place a more realistic feel, and grabbed the phone.

“This is Jensen Ackles,” he answered the phone, making his voice professional in spite of how tired he was. “How can I help you?”

“You’ve been looking for Joshua Ackles.”

The rough, unfamiliar voice sent chills down Jensen’s spine, but it was nothing compared to the barrage of feelings that assaulted him when he registered the words. Immediately, his mind began drawing p horrific scenarios.

“Who is this?” he demanded gruffly, clenching his teeth. Drawing on a strength he wasn’t aware he possessed, he shoved his growing nausea and the roaring in his ears down, trying to focus on the tinny voice coming through the speaker instead.

“Come outside to the back parking lot- alone- if you’re still interested,” the voice commanded, before the harsh sound of a dead line reverberated back into Jensen’s ear.

“Fuck!” he cursed violently, slamming his fist against the counter. A few of the people around shot him looks that varied from concerned to mildly nervous, but he couldn’t focus in on one of them long enough to muster up some reassurance that he was okay, and not at all crazy.

Although, at the present time, he was definitely not okay, and he felt pretty close to the extremity of crazy.

He briefly considered calling out for Jared, knowing that his lover would hear him, but if the situation were dangerous, did he really want the love of his life to be involved? Jared had tried to warn him that there could be danger involved in tracking down his brother, but Jensen hadn’t really considered the very real likelihood until just then.

And he had to ask himself the question: was Jared’s safety worth it to put on the line, if it meant some answers?

His answer was prompt and unwavering; not a million years.

There was nothing worth compromising Jared over, so there was no other choice but to leave him out of this. Unfortunately for Jensen, his insatiable curiosity meant that he had to go looking for answers, especially when it came to this, and that meant, at that moment, going outside to that parking lot.

Without telling Jared.

Some part of him screamed that he was making an illogical and awful decision, but how could he bear to put Jared in harm’s way? Before he could talk himself out of it, Jensen summoned Garth.

“I need you to do me a favor,” he told the gangly man solemnly. Maybe it was the tone of his voice, or something Garth saw in his eyes, but the man stopped his talking for the first time that evening, returning a firm nod in answer instead. A strange sense of gratitude and loyalty fell over Jensen, a healthy measure of respect mixed in there. “If I’m not back in 10 minutes, I need you to go to my boyfriend over there, Jared?” Garth quickly nodded to show his recognition. “I need you to tell him there’s family trouble and that he needs to find me ASAP. Okay? Can you do that for me, Garth?”

“Yeah,” the other man nodded soberly, his Southern twang resonating in the air. “I can do that, boss.”

“Good man,” Jensen murmured absently, clapping him on the shoulder before turning around to steal another glance at his lover.

Jared was laughing at something Sophia had said, and Jensen was glad for a moment, that they were getting along. He hadn’t wanted to the whole gang to come to the opening night for the sole reason that he wanted Jared to bond with Sophia a little, enough so that he could accept the other wolf to some degree, and Jensen was glad to see that his sacrifice hadn’t been in vain. Smiling at the picture, Jensen kept it in his mind as he straightened his back and walked out to the hallway that led to the back entrance.

The parking lot was deserted, a fact not lost to the JR in him. Instinctively, he ghosted his hands over his waistband, starting violently when he felt no tell-tale resistance of his knife.

Right. Not JR tonight. Not packing.

Hiding his awkwardness behind a mask of collectedness, Jensen roved his gaze over the sea of blues, blacks, reds, yellows, whites and silvers, feeling no better when he couldn’t readily point out an attacker.

And that was when it occurred to him, that despite the situation he found himself in, he felt no instinct to run or defend. Unease, maybe, as though he were about to give a speech at the White House, but not afraid, no.

A loud cluttering broke into his thoughts, and Jensen whirled around in time to see a hooded man running around the corner. His shout died in his throat, and he aborted his first thought to run after the guy; he ran like a professional sprinter, and frankly, a person skulking around the back of a club? Probably not the best person to try and befriend.

The briefest glint of something caught his eye and Jensen’s attention was drawn to a silver knife embedded in the ground. A shiver worked its way down his spine; silver? A wolf hunter, maybe? One on the hunt for Jared?

Turning the blade around his fingers, Jensen managed to catch sight of something scrawled on the handle, working hard to observe in the face of his paranoia over his mate.
The letter J woven around an A.

Just exactly the same way he did it on all his paintings and art works.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

“You want me to do what?

Dean’s voice was incredulous, clearly more blatant disbelief than question, and Jensen flinched, knowing the gravity of what he was asking his old friend to do. He nodded, even though the security expert couldn’t see it over the phone, a knot in his chest at the fact that he had to ask his friend to do something this risky.

“It’s the only way to find out,” he pointed out helplessly. “I wouldn’t be asking if I had another option, D.”

Winchester sighed heavily, and Jensen could imagine the way the man was probably running a hand down his face, ghosting over his barely-there beard. “You want me to hack into several classified networks to try and find out where this Josh guy has been over the last decade and some. You do realize that my brother is a hot-shot lawyer, right?”

Jensen grinned briefly. “Sam was, and still probably is, nearly as good a hacker as you, so don’t pull that shit on me.” The green-eyed boy’s smile faded and he bit his lip nervously. “I really hate to ask you, D, but I gotta know. Not for any other reason than the fact that he might be a danger to Jared.”

“How?” Dean asked, concern coming over the line as clear as a bell. “Do you need me to come over there? Keep an eye on you two?”

Jensen paused for a moment, considering the option. It would be nice to have someone to fall back on if he wasn’t able to protect Jared…but bringing Dean on board was too much of a risk. Not only did it increase the chances of Jared finding out what he knew, and how he came to know it (because Jensen was not voluntarily gonna tell him that he went out to a deserted parking lot at night, alone) but he also couldn’t risk Jared’s secret like that and in the same vein, he couldn’t put Dean in a position where he might find out, since knowing the secret could hurt him just as much.

“It’s okay,” he refused the offer, “I can handle it. I just don’t want to go in blind. I might be acting paranoid anyway…which is why I need more information.”

The elder Winchester brother sighed heavily. “Kid, you owe me a beer when you’re around here again.”

“You’re the best, D,” Jensen grinned. “And,” he added quickly, “could we keep this…discreet? I don’t want Jared finding out and worrying.”

“Because why would you talk to the guy you think is in danger?” Dean grumbled sarcastically. “Not like it’s any of his Goddamn business.”

Jensen rolled his eyes at the almost paternal disapproval. “Jared doesn’t need to worry about this. Especially if it’s Josh, then that little problem will be mine to fix.”

“Watch your back, kid,” Dean cautioned, unable to disguise his unease. “I’ll be in touch.”

The line died, and Jensen threw his phone on the ground in front of him, one hand reaching up to massage at the knots developing in his neck and shoulders. Letting his head drop forward, he basked in the sunlight that beat down on him, taking measured breaths.

Finding that knife last night had shaken him more than he cared to admit. He had returned inside, much to Garth’s relief, and by sheer force of will, worked the rest of the night until closing. If Jared had noticed his edginess and tension on the way back home, he’d written it off as exhaustion, and had gently persuaded him to take the day off today. The future Pack Alpha had a treaty meeting again, so Jensen quickly decided that now would be his best, if not only, opportunity to try and nip this problem in the bud before Jared caught on to him.

The idea that a wolf-hunter might be after Jared and the pack- and the possibility that said wolf-hunter might be his brother- took a toll on Jensen’s state of mind. All night, he had tossed and turned, eventually getting out of bed at ten after five, showering, and borrowing Eric’s car to come out to his and Jared’s clearing. The beautiful place had lost some of its glimmer without his lover there, and Jensen had continued hiking further west, eventually finding a smaller meadow about 8 miles out. It was there that he’d settled and begun to plot.

Roping Dean into it had been the logical step forward; he didn’t want the wolves involved with this at all, because if he was wrong, he would be putting his brother on their radar, and if he was right, he would lose all control over the investigation and ergo, wouldn’t be equipped to help protect them, Jared and Chris and Chad and the gang, in particular. Dean was the only person outside of his furry friends who had the means to find the information he needed, so it really was a no-brainer. The only downside to all his planning?

Waiting for answers.

Blowing out a gusty sigh, he stretched his sore muscles. Judging by the sun now high up in the sky, he had been in his own world a few hours. It was at least noon by now, but with everything he had to worry over, his appetite had all but disappeared, which was a good thing since his preoccupied mind had forgotten to pack any food with him. Jared would be on his case if he knew Jensen had skipped breakfast and lunch. His mate really needed to…

Snap.

A twig broke, to his left, and Jensen’s thoughts stopped immediately, eyes snapping to the spot where the noise had come from. A tiny wolf cub was cowering there, and from the grass all over it, Jensen deduced that the little one had been watching him, before tripping over the twig and tumbling unceremoniously into the clearing.

The cub was breathtaking, and Jensen’s heart melted at its innocence and beauty. He was visibly shaking in fear, his tiny body shivering as he curled into himself, only his eyes visible between the paws he’d buried his head in.

Slowly, so as not to scare the little thing, Jensen held out an upturned palm, smiling encouragingly at the pup as he slowly raised his muzzle. Waiting patiently until the young wolf was comfortable, Jensen was rewarded when he bellied slowly across the grass before resting his small muzzle in Jen’s hand.

“You’re a wolf cub, aren’t you?” Jensen commented softly, beginning to lightly stroke the cub’s jaw with his thumb. He hadn’t really expected an answer, so he was delighted when the little one carefully nodded, licking his thumb before settling back into the cradle of Jensen’s palm.

Unable to resist, he scooped the cub into his arms, feeling indefinable warmth burn his insides when the little one nestled into his chest.

“Are you from Jared’s pack?” he asked gently, rocking to and fro as he stroked the cub. “Are you from the Padalecki pack?”

Another approximation of a nod, and another lick.

“Do you know who I am?”

Another nod, another lick.

“Are you out here all alone?”

This time, the cub nipped his palm lightly, an obvious negative, and Jensen laughed at the communication, some of the tension in him draining for the first time since he found that knife. All at once, another two cubs padded hesitantly forward from the spot where their friend had fallen, tails between their legs and ears flattened in what Jensen assumed was apology and nervousness.

“It’s okay, little ones,” he murmured lowly, lovingly. “I’m not mad. You guys aren’t gonna be in trouble, or whatever. What are you doing so far out here? Is this pack lands?”

The cub in his arms licked his palm again, and it seemed his little friend was a lot more comfortable around him now as he got up on his hind legs and rested his paws on Jensen’s chest. He licked playfully at the boy’s cheek, and Jensen laughed at the childlike behavior.

“So you little guys were out exploring, huh?” Jensen chuckled, reaching his free hand out to the other cubs. Satisfied that their friend wasn’t getting eaten or punished in any way, they were a lot faster to trust, and Jensen was quickly surrounded with three playful, energetic wolf cubs. His first friend had already made himself comfortable on Jensen’s shoulder, and since he was the smallest of the three, Jensen decided to let him stay there.

Crunch.

Jensen froze as the muted, barely audible sound of leaves being crushed reached his ears. Different this time, unease crept up on him, alerting him to something far more sinister than three curious cubs. Icy fear stopped the blood in his veins and he stood, casting his eyes around in search of the danger that was spiking his instincts. Suddenly, the two pups were behind him, cowering at his legs, and the pup on his shoulder was snuggling into his neck, as if to hide there, also trembling violently.

Something told Jensen that it wasn’t the cubs’ parents.

Protective instincts surged to the surface, and he set the littlest pup next to his friends, so that he could shield all three of them with his body until he could deem things safe.
He had done that just in time, since in the next moment, a massive black wolf leaped into the clearing, giving a short, predatory bark.

In stark contrast to his interactions with any other wolves, Jensen felt sharp terror resonate deep within him. He knew from the cubs’ whimpers and shivers the wolf wasn’t pack, and therefore wouldn’t hesitate to rip them all to shreds.

And it seemed that that was pretty much the plan.

The wolf stalked slowly forward, almost taunting him, playing with his fear. Jensen kept shielding the cubs with his body, trying to push them with his foot, urging them to run back where they came from. The little ones were frozen with fright, however, and couldn’t do much more than hide behind him. Realizing that, Jensen resolved that whatever might become of him in that moment, he was going to protect those cubs to his dying breath.

The massive wolf was tiring of them now, Jensen’s instincts told him. In one fluid motion, he dropped to the ground and caged all three pups between his chest and the ground, making his torso a sort of shelter that stretched all around the cubs, shielding them entirely from view, and reach. As he dropped, Jensen caught the wolf’s coiling motion in his peripheral vision, so with the little ones safe, he braced himself for the feel of claws and teeth tearing the skin from his back.

He was met instead by the sound of a deep growl, and in an instant, a brown wolf burst through the clearing, tackling the grey wolf to the side. It looked like Jared, and yet…in his heart, Jensen knew it wasn’t. Teeth snapping, the wolves went for each other, clashing magnificently.

Rendered helpless once more, Jensen settled for the only thing he could do; cradled the pups closer still and braced himself, locking his muscles to make it a harder feat to get to the pups.

An agonized howl was cut brutally short, and Jensen knew with cold certainty that the fight was over. Who won, Jensen didn’t dare to check, and after some speculation, he wondered if it would matter, or if the both wolves had the same deadly intent.

He flinched harshly when something cold was suddenly pressed against his forearm.

He tightened his body, still afraid for the cubs, until he realized it was the most delicate touch of a snout. He looked up into the eyes of a black wolf, leaner than the one that had been aiming for their throats, and seemingly more docile as well.

A happy whelp from inside his protective embrace shocked Jensen into letting go, and he was relieved when the pups leaped at the other wolf joyfully, presumably their mother. She nipped their shoulders chidingly, even as she smothered them in licks and affectionate rubs.

Feeling intrusive upon the reunion, Jensen slowly stood, turning around to face the brown wolf that saved their lives. The blood from his muzzle was gone, presumably licked clean, and he regarded Jensen carefully, with clever eyes.

Jensen squirmed, feeling uncomfortably like he was being assessed. He couldn’t hide his relief when the big wolf suddenly lolled his tongue out in the approximation of a grin, seeming to decide that Jensen was okay. Ducking quickly behind the bushes, the guy shifted; by the height, the slanted brown eyes and the floppy hair, several things immediately fell into place for Jensen.

“You must be Jeff Padalecki.”

 

~*Jared*~

 

Treaty meetings were the worst.

It wasn’t only being away from Jensen, it was also the undeniable, but frustratingly ignored, fact that they were getting nowhere very fast.

The bottom line was that Jeffery Dean Morgan didn’t want peace. He wanted retribution.

Jared was careful to keep his rant to himself, but he simply couldn’t understand why his father entertained what was an obvious excuse to scope out the Padalecki pack’s alphas. There was no other reason for JD Morgan to keep entertaining the possibility of peaceful co-existence, but it seemed that his father believed firmly in the other Alpha’s bloodline.

Personally, Jared didn’t.

As he was often reminded, however, he was not Pack Alpha yet. Whatever his father ruled in the pack was law, and while that was something Jared resented as much as he respected, it was also something he couldn’t change.

Which was why he was in a treaty meeting when he should have been looking after Jensen.

Jared was pretty sure his mate had made himself sick with exhaustion. By the end of the night, he was pale and on edge, his heart rate accelerated even away from the club. Jared could almost mistake it for nervousness with the occasional tremors that rocked his body. Thankfully, Jen hadn’t put up much of a fight when he suggested taking the day off; just gave a token refusal for the sake of his pride before caving to Jared’s insistence that he needed a break.

Turning his attention back to the meeting, Jared pawed the ground in frustration. They had reached an impasse hours ago, but neither pack Alpha was willing to give an inch to the other, resulting in a stale mate that they all had to endure in silence. Jared caught Chad’s eye just before he could unthinkingly paw the ground again, stopping himself after seeing the warning look in his friend’s eyes.

Don’t, Jay-Pad, Chad cautioned him, your dad seems to be in a foul enough mood already.

Jared bristled at the reprimand, but nodded, seeing the sense in the other alpha’s concerned rebuke. He was careful to sensor his mindspeak to his friend, and not to the entire Padalecki pack. Gotcha. M’just so frustrated, man. I want to go home, I’m worried about Jensen.

Sick? Chad cocked his head ever so slightly at him in worry. Hurt?

Naw, Jared fought the smile that threatened to come on to his otherwise impassive face. Chad and him had perfected this game; they could have a whole conversation with the pack none the wiser. Just plain exhaustion.

That explains the lack of smiling he’s been doing. What’s Papa Padalecki’s excuse?

Jeff, Jared snorted inwardly at the nickname his father would kill Chad for using. He called this morning to say he was going to be late and couldn’t make it for the meet. The twins weren’t feeling well and he stayed until they were asleep. Dad’s been mad since then.

Personally, the future Alpha couldn’t fathom why his father was in a sour mood over that. As far as he was concerned, his little nephews came first, and he was proud of Jeff for choosing them over this stupid, irrelevant meet.

I wondered why the Not-Entirely-Too-Prodigal Son was MIA, Chad chuckled.

Speak of the devil…

Before Jared could snark something appropriate back, his older brother’s voice filled his ear, and every other pack members’ too, although Jared didn’t know if a pack-wide broadcast was what he intended.

Jared! The alarm in the elder Padalecki’s voice caught his attention. I think your mate’s in trouble. I’m about twenty miles north of the treaty site, intercepting a lone wolf attack. Get here, little brother.

Jared was in motion as soon as the word ‘North’ left his brother’s mouth.

Fear pulsed a jagged rhythm through him, ice cold and damn near incapacitating. He could have been moving through Jell-O for the slow progress he was making, and though he knew he wasn’t superhuman, he readily cursed at the world.

The words ‘in trouble’ and ‘lone wolf attack’ played on his mind like a broken record, and flashes of a horror scene filled his mind, spurring him on to move faster still. He knew Chris and Chad were at his heels, could feel the anguish reflected at a fraction of his own, but he could spare no thought to them. All that mattered, was getting to his mate. Panic driving him, he pushed even harder, his paws barely touching the ground by this point, branches flashing past him at a dizzying speed as he ate the distance up.

There were too many emotions coming over their mating bond for Jared to decipher, as he was roiling in his own cacophony of feelings, but Jared knew with cold certainty that his Jen was in trouble, and it was killing him to know that he wasn’t there to protect him. It took a herculean effort to push past all the feelings of overwhelming guilt and anxiety, but Jared somehow managed the feat.

I think he’s okay.

Jeff’s speculative voice came through to Jared, making him falter in his steps in relief.

You think? Jared growled warningly. What do you mean, you think?

Cool it, bro, Jeff’s annoyingly calm voice triggered Jared’s short fuse.

Don’t tell me to fucking cool it, Jeff!

I gotta shift, Jeff answered absently. I think he’s freaked out enough with me in my wolf form.

Jared growled, snapping his teeth even though his brother wasn’t there to see it. I’m there in five minutes.

The closer he got, the more he could feel his mate’s receding terror. It didn’t diminish completely, likely because he was still surrounded by things unfamiliar to him. Focusing only on his soul’s call to Jared’s own, the Alpha ran hard, but still, it felt like an eternity before he finally burst through the clearing.

The first thing he noticed was Jensen, standing with his arms wrapped protectively around himself, muscles coiled and jeans and shirt streaked with dirt. Then he registered his brother, the smell of the dead wolf Jeff had presumably dragged out of sight and Hayley, an omega in their pack with her three cubs.

Jensen recognized his wolf, and relief drowned his features, relaxing his stance and taking the tension from him. Bounding over to him in wolf form, Jared inspected his mate for injuries, his attention only on his lover.

Jensen, baby, are you okay?

“I’m fine, Jay…I’m okay,” Jensen dropped to his knees and Jared nuzzled him lovingly. The boy’s arms wrapped comfortably around him as Jensen buried his face in Jared’s fur. They stayed like that for a moment, blocking out the rest of the world, Jared constantly licking at Jensen’s exposed neck.

When Chris came forward, Jared instinctively snarled, but the other alpha waited patiently for him to come back to his senses. Kane had shifted at some point, and now he held out a pair of jeans to Jared, even as his attention was solely on his brother, anxiety splashed over his face.

I’m just gonna shift, baby, okay? Jared butted his muzzle against Jensen’s neck, waiting for him to straighten and licking the underside of his jaw as soon as he did.

“Okay, Jay,” Jensen nodded slowly, relaxing when his eyes found Chris. “I’ll stay with Chris.”

Ignoring the customary nip of jealousy as Kane helped Jensen to his feet, Jared darted to the subtle cover of the trees and shifted, pulling on his jeans in a swift motion.

“He recognized your wolf, bro,” Jeff’s voice called out to him as Jared strode back to Jen’s side. The Alpha smiled briefly, remembering his older brother’s presence. The other Padalecki stood unobtrusively to the side and Jared read the hesitation in the eyes that were so like his own. Jeff didn’t want to intrude, but at the same time, he was as much a part of this as Jen was. He nodded minutely, and his brother stepped slowly toward them.

Jensen tensed at the slight motion, and nervously sought sanctuary by stepping close to Jared. Wrapping a protective arm around his mate, Jared pulled him as close as possible into his side, nuzzling him again. Relief made him almost obsessive, an insatiable need for a tangible connection between them burning inside him. It didn’t seem as if the smaller boy minded, though, judging by the way he snuggled impossibly closer.

“I’m here, baby,” he murmured soothingly, ignoring the other wolves observing them, but angling his body slightly in front of his mate to shield him from the scrutiny. “I’m right here, I’ve got you. Not gonna let anyone hurt you.”

Jensen nodded where he was pressed against Jared’s chest, hooking his hands into his shirt. It was an incredible shock to the artist, being that he was still so new to the Were world, and nearly getting attacked by a lone wolf was one of the worst experiences Jared could imagine. Glancing at Chris, Jared saw that Kane was ashen, and it was obvious he was caught in a place between the past and the present. He could only imagine the thoughts that were coursing through the wolf’s mind as he ran towards his brother.

As if he could read Jared and Chris’ mind, Jensen straightened, casting his eyes around him to find Chris and send him a shaky smile. Just the small action triggered a sense of relief in him, and Chris sagged, coming back to himself and stepping closer to them, obviously finding comfort.

“You’re lucky, Jay-rod.” Damn it, he’d forgotten his brother again. Jeff smiled at them. “Your mate is as brave as they come.”

Jensen ducked his face shyly, blushing at the praise.

“The cubs were here with him,” Jeff continued heedlessly, “when the wolf attacked. He bundled them against his chest and covered them with his body to make sure that they didn’t get hurt, even if he did. He didn’t even know the pups, but he protected them.” Jeff huffed admiringly. “It was the bravest damn thing I’ve ever seen, from human or wolf.”

Jared swelled with pride, even as the reality of how bad things could have been sunk into him, making him weak with the force of it. He smothered his mate with kisses, uncaring of his brother standing there.

“You could have been hurt,” he breathed, censoring his anguish so as not to make it seem like he regretted Jensen protecting the little ones. “God, Jen…”

“I had to,” his lover murmured back, pressing his face against Jared’s neck. “They’re just babies, Jay.”

Jared nodded, biting possessively at the nape of his mate’s neck. “I’m proud of you.”

“He’s also smart,” Jeff broke into their moment, chuckling. “He knew who I was.”

“You look like Jared,” Jen contributed, looking shyly at Jeff, a little more confident with Jared there with him. “Your wolf, and your human form.” He cocked his head curiously to the side. “The real question is…how did you know who I was?”

Jeff smirked at him, that smug smile that Jared had come to realize meant that he was about to get embarrassed by big brother. “He’s so amazing, Jeff,” his brother mimicked in a high falsetto that sounded absolutely nothing like him. “He has like, the greenest eyes ever!”

Jensen burst out laughing and Jared growled in displeasure. While the sound might have had his pack quivering, it had absolutely no effect on the elder Padalecki. Stupid big brothers.

“Seriously, though,” Jeff grinned at Jensen, who was still chuckling. “Jared said you were the most gorgeous guy this town’s ever seen. I realized pretty quick who you were, and that my brother wasn’t exaggerating.”

His mate flushed sexily, and Jared kissed his neck territorially, finding out that his brother was no exception to his possessive jealousy. Before Jensen could formulate a response, he was snowballed from the side by an excited pup.

Jared grinned down at the runt, smaller than everyone in the pack, but still the gutsiest, spunkiest cub of the lot. He was surprised when Jensen reached down and lifted the pup into his arms, and he was even more surprised by how at-home the runt seemed to be, especially when he scrambled up Jen’s chest to nestle down in the curve between his neck and shoulder, burrowing there as though that were his place. It seemed his mate had made friends with the little ones, which was strange considering how the pups generally stayed away from the human populace.

“What’s his name, Jay?” Jensen asked distractedly, playing with the pup.

“Lucas,” Hayley answered before he could, smiling at Jensen. “I’m their mom, and the omega who owes you her life, three times over,” she gestured at the other two pups who were jumping excitedly at Jensen’s heels.

“You don’t owe me anything, Ma’am,” Jensen blushed, fastening his eyes to the pups. “They’re awesome little ones, so playful and adventurous and friendly. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Hayley smiled at Jared, and he wondered whether his pride in his mate shone on his face the way it did in his heart. “He is as humble and loving and brave as Jim says,” she told him. “I couldn’t imagine a greater addition to our family.”

“I agree,” Jared pulled his mate, kissing the hollow beneath his ear. “And I think these little ones do too.”

The pups whelped happily, Lucas licking Jensen’s face and smothering him in puppy kisses. Jensen knelt down so as not to leave the other two cubs out, and the sight did something funny to Jared’s chest and stomach. A feeling burnt inside him, unfamiliar but fierce, one he couldn’t really identify.

“What’s their names?” Jensen enquired before he could think further into it. The pups were all over him, clearly enthusiastic about their hero.

“That’s Liam and Layla,” Jared pointed each little one out and they yipped in response, acknowledging, but still wary of him, likely because of the Alpha scent he wore. He made a mental note to bring Jensen and spend more time with the little ones; he needed to bond with the future of his pack, and they also seemed adorable, so that didn’t hurt.

“Why can’t they shift like you guys can?”

“They’re still pups,” Chad was the one to answer this time, coming forward and ruffling Jensen’s hair; a gesture of affection to show that he was glad his pool-brother was okay. “They’ll shift by the time they turn four.” Jensen grinned at Chad in thanks, and the blonde haired alpha bumped his shoulder in response, winking at him.

The lack of sarcasm spoke a lot about how worried Chad had actually been about Jensen. Observing for the first time, Jared noticed that several other alphas had followed him on his mad dash to get to his mate, and he was amazed by the numbers. So many of them had reacted to the call… Then, something Hayley said registered with him.

“Jim mentioned Jensen?” he asked the older omega.

She nodded matter-of-factly. “He adores the boy, and it’s easy to see why. He likes him more than he likes some members of the pack, I reckon. We’ve all been waiting with varying degrees of impatience for you to finally introduce him to us.”

“Jared hogs Jensen all the time,” Chad sniffed teasingly, recovering quickly from his bout of anxiety. “I’ve been trying so hard to kick him of the habit.”

“What is it with you people and getting a laugh at my expense?” the Alpha grumbled as Jensen snickered. His mate kissed his cheek in consolation, grinning fondly at him.

“Don’t worry, Jay,” he whispered conspiratorially. “I don’t actually mind you keeping me to yourself.”

Best mate ever.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

If Jensen thought Jared was protective before, it was nothing compared to how he was when Jensen was on the packlands.

It was similar, he supposed, to how he acted when Jared was in gang territory, hyper vigilant and protective, especially after the scare with the lone wolf. Chris was just as bad if not worse, so between them, Jensen had a perpetual bodyguard.

He had integrated easily into the pack, especially once word traveled about him protecting the little ones. He was welcomed with open arms by everyone except Gerald Padalecki, who wouldn’t even glance his way. It stopped bothering him as much, but he hated the effect it had on Jared. His lover denied it, but Jensen could see the way Jared deflated every time it happened, and frankly he understood the reaction. After idolizing the man his entire life, it had to hurt the future Alpha that his father disapproved of his choice. If it were anyone else, Jensen would have broken up with him for the sole reason that he hated seeing someone he loved being crushed by sadness, but he knew enough of the long-haired, hazel-eyed love of his life, and knew enough about their bond as mates, to say that leaving him would hurt a hundred and one times worse.

He wondered often enough whether talking to the stubborn man would do anything to change his prejudice. He would do it in a heartbeat if it meant easing the tension, but he was afraid to pick at the tenuous string the Padalecki family seemed to be balancing on. It was his own fault that they were at loggerheads to begin with, and he didn’t want to add to his rap sheet by being the one to cause a fall-out.

“It’s not your fault, you know.”

An amicable voice pulled Jensen from his mile-deep thoughts, and he looked up to find Jeff Padalecki grinning down at him. He stood up and dusted off his jeans, cleaning away the dirt that clung to him from where he was relaxing to keep an eye on the scuffling Kendall pups. Luke, Layla and Liam were often found at his heels, or in Luke’s case, on his shoulder, and more often than not, he babysat the pups as well as several others in the pack.

“What isn’t?” he asked quizzically, glancing over at the pups before fixing a smile on Jared’s older brother. He noticed idly that Chris hadn’t left him alone still, even in the presence of the elder Padalecki, and was instead in wolf form, playing with the little ones.

“My father’s jackass behavior,” Jeff answered calmly, sending a soothing smile at him. “He’s out of line. It’s not your fault.”

Jensen grasped at straws, fighting against the instinct to drop his jaw like a fish out of water. “I um…I…thank you,” he finally managed to grasp on to, “for saying that.”

“No, kid, I mean it,” he shook his head. “Don’t pay any heed to him. I’m married to an amazing woman, I have beautiful twins and I’m living a fantastic life in Seattle. And absolutely none of it matters to my father. He hasn’t even met his grandkids, all because my mate was someone from another pack.”

Jensen gaped, righteous indignation rising up on Jeff’s behalf. “That’s not okay!” he spluttered. “Aren’t you mad?”

Jeff nodded slowly, seeming to consider his answer. “I was, for a long time. But then I realized that there were more productive emotions than anger and resentment to hold on to. Like love.”

“I could get on board with that,” Jensen murmured, “if it wasn’t for how hurt Jared gets every time his father looks at me with that disdainful glare of his.”

“My little brother will learn soon enough.” Jeff waved a hand dismissively. “God knows he loves you enough that I bet he doesn’t even feel it after a while.”

“I never want Jared getting used to pain.”

“And that is precisely what makes you different to my father.” Jeff pulled him into a rough, one-armed hug. “I like you, kid,” he grinned fondly down at him. “Take care of my baby brother, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

###

“Lindsay,” he called to the club’s bartender absentmindedly, “don’t forget to bring in more ice. And call Daniel, remind him to buy more cordial and we’ll reimburse him.” The spunky blonde grinned at him, nodding in acknowledgement, and Jensen turned his attention to the task at hand. He was seated at the back booth of the club, balancing the books and relishing in the peace and quiet of the still-closed establishment. It was the only place he could get any work done, since it was the only place he had any sort of isolation, given that Jared was so overprotective.

Chewing unthinkingly at the top of the Penflex ball-point pen he was using, he tallied up the incomes on a calculator.

Later, he would blame the confusing accounting procedures for not registering the new presence right there in front of him.

“I never meant to scare you that night.”

Jensen froze abruptly, his blood running icy. The incident having occurred two weeks ago, Jensen had lowered his guard, and now he cursed his own foolhardiness.
Moving slowly to avoid startling the obviously skittish man, Jensen raised his head, taking in the washed out jeans and the forest green t-shirt first, before registering the sharp jaw and shaved beard, the green eyes and the dark brown hair with hints of blond roots.

All at once, he knew.

“Josh.”

At the address, a breathtaking smile of pure excitement and relief and love blossomed over the virtual stranger’s face. That was enough confirmation for him, and before he could stop himself, Jensen was out of his chair and throwing himself into Josh’s opened arms. His brother embraced him desperately, and Jensen returned it with equal ferocity.

“Oh, God, oh Jensen…” he choked, sobbing into Jensen’s neck. “I’m here, little brother…God, I…I just, I can’t…I can’t believe it, ugh…you got so big!” he laughed thickly. “I can’t believe it’s actually you.”

The other man pulled back to press a long, reverent kiss to Jensen’s forehead, and in that moment, flashbacks painted his eyelids; of sandcastles and hide ‘n seek matches, of toy cars and sleeping in a tree house in a back yard under a blanket of stars…of them.

And Jensen couldn’t fathom how he hadn’t remembered it all.

“I thought I’d lost you…” his brother murmured in anguish. “God, I thought I lost you, I thought I’d never see you again, but you’re here, and you’re okay, and you’re…fuck, you’re with me!” The brothers laughed shakily, and Josh brushed tenderly at the tears Jensen hadn’t even realized were falling down his cheeks. “I thought I was never gonna see you again, little brother,” he repeated, shaking his head as though he were waking up from a terribly long nightmare. Which in a way, Jensen guessed, he was.

“Yeah, well, what took you so long?” he teased good-naturedly, mopping at his face but keeping one hand on his big brother’s shoulder, needing the contact to assure himself he wasn’t dreaming. “You took your sweet-ass time getting here when you could’ve just gone to Aunt Katherine.”

Josh glanced at him in shock. “Aw, Jense…” his face furrowed in a look of sympathy. “I thought someone would have told you, little brother…”

“Told me what?” Jensen felt confusion knitting his own brow.

“Aunt Kath’s been dead for nine years.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jensen*~

 

The air was clogged with a foul stench, gagging him even through the rough handkerchief that was wound roughly around his mouth. The more he wriggled around, the tighter the zip ties around his wrists and legs became, digging unforgivingly into the tender flesh until he felt the tell-tale, warm trickle of blood down his wrists and ankles. His back and neck ached with the strenuous position and his abdomen protested any slight movement that jarred his agonized ribs.

God, Jensen, he thought bitterly to himself. How do you get yourself into these situations?

 

~*Three days ago*~

 

“What the hell do you mean, Aunt Kath’s been dead for nine years?” Jensen nearly hollered, his heart rate stuttering before picking up triple time. Urgency made him latch a hand on to Josh’s shirt, and it was only then that he realized he was shaking. “Who told you that?”

“Calm down, little brother,” Josh grabbed his hand, brow furrowed in concern. “What’s going on, why…”

“Josh!” He felt bad for snapping, especially so soon after he was reunited with his brother, but the feeling of impending doom was hard to ignore, especially knowing how much of his life was exposed to…whoever the hell he’d been meeting with all this time. “Just tell me how you found out. Please.”

Maybe it was something Josh saw in his eyes, or maybe it was just so that Jensen would relieve the death grip he had on the other man’s t-shirt, but whatever it was prompted Josh to be as concise as possible. “When we…” he swallowed convulsively, “…crashed, just before the car hit, I opened the door, and I rolled out…I tried to take you with me, but your seatbelt was stuck and I didn’t realize until you slipped out of my grasp.” Josh’s eyes and voice turned pleading, and Jensen softened enough to squeeze his brother’s shoulder.

“I understand, Josh,” he nodded softly in compassion, “I know you would have saved me in a second if you could have. I don’t blame you.”

As it those were the magic words, the anguish in the older man’s face slowly faded until he was composed enough to continue his story. “Well, I passed out, probably from the fall, and when I woke up, I was in a bedroom. As far as I can gather, I was unconscious at the site of the crash, and my…” he faltered for a second, “…the people who took me in, they thought…they saw Mom and Dad…and then…” tears gathered in the corners of his eyes, “…then they saw you in the back, and you were…you were…”

“Josh…”

“They told me you were dead, little brother,” the older man fought for self-control, his voice breaking on the painful word. “I can’t…”

Jensen felt wretched for the way he was rushing his brother, who was obviously still in pain, but…Jared. It was his safety that Jensen was worried about, and it was his safety Jensen had put at risk every time he conceded and took Jared with him for those meetings. Pushing his own angst aside- because how could he have made a mistake like that, not recognizing his own aunt?- he focused his attention on Josh.

“I’m sorry, big brother,” he whispered, wrapping a supportive arm around him, “I’m sorry…but I need to know.”

Josh nodded, swallowing hard and leaning against him for support. “They took me in, raised me…they always wanted a child. They found out you were alive from the newspaper articles, but they never told me because they knew I’d have wanted to find you. Finally, when I was nineteen, they couldn’t take the guilt and they told me. I’ve been looking for you ever since. I went to Aunt Katherine’s first, but I only found Hank there. He was the one who told me that Aunt Kath had died.” He shook his head. “That’s why it took me four freaking years to track you down. I was close to giving up when a friend of a friend of a friend started talking, and the story worked its way along the chain to me, about a dark blonde haired, green-eyed ghost that went by the name JR…the only guy to ever beat Big Mike in darts, and in a fight.” Josh beamed at him. “That was you, wasn’t it?”

Jen nodded, only half-acknowledging the pride on his brother’s face. “How do you know Big Mike?”

“Only ever heard of the man,” Josh shrugged, before realization and fear promptly came on to his face. “Wait…how do you know him? And why did you have to kick his ass?”

“My foster father owed him money,” Jensen answered without thinking. “I won it back.”

Josh paled dramatically. “You’re not even legal yet!” he spluttered, shaking his head as he fought to understand the implications of the stories he’d heard. “But Jensen, they talk about this JR like he’s been around ages, he has such a big street rep that even I heard of him, and I didn’t even live there.”

Cursing his lack of foresight at the reaction, Jensen gently nodded. “I’ve had to have a lot of street cred, Josh…I became JR in order to accomplish that without losing…me. It’s been…a rough few years.”

“Oh, God, Jense, what have I done…”

Stopping the recrimination in its tracks, Jensen shook his head vehemently. “There was nothing you could have done. And I turned out okay, I promise,” he added with a wink and a reassuring smile.

“Of course you did,” Josh answered immediately, “you’re an Ackles.”

Jensen chuckled lightly, for the first time in his life, feeling a certain glow of belonging; to someone who shared his blood, so it was different to anything he’d ever felt before. Warm. Loving.

“So stop with the blame game melodrama,” he added flippantly, nudging his brother with his elbow. “The past is in the past. One day, we can exchange war stories, but for now, let’s enjoy the fact that we’re here together, huh?”

Jensen felt a twinge of guilt when Josh brightened at his words; not because he didn’t share in the excitement, but because he was willing to bet that Josh felt it a little more than he did. The primary concern in his mind just then was getting answers; not even meeting his long-lost brother could take the urgency of that matter away.

After all, it was his mate’s safety that was on the line, first and foremost.

Josh threw an arm around him, bringing Jensen from his thoughts. “Yeah,” his brother nodded, and it took Jensen half a minute to realize that he was talking about them finally reuniting. “I’m never letting you go again, Jenny boy,” he teased, and Jensen punched him in the sternum, the barest ghost of a memory flickering on the surface; he hadn’t liked that stupid name since childhood, but Josh was a persistent little brat.

“Jen?”

Jared’s voice sounded behind him, before Jensen could retaliate. He turned to find his boyfriend glaring ferociously at Josh, white hot rage almost tangible in the air between them. Josh stepped in front of him protectively, an action that Jensen had never been given the chance to properly appreciate or scoff at.

It was also an action that Jared didn’t particularly approve of.

A low growl sounding in his chest, Jared stepped forward and Jensen knew enough of Jared to tell that the man was beginning to lose what little patience he had. Intercepting them, he placed a hand on Jared’s warm chest, the Alpha instantly relaxing underneath his soothing touch.

“Jared,” he started quickly, before Josh or Jared could go into full-protective mode, “wait. It’s not what you think.” He took a deep breath, looking between them quickly. “It’s Josh, Jay,” he revealed in a low voice, watching as the announcement drained the color from his boyfriend’s face. “I know,” he added consolingly, squeezing Jared’s bicep. “I could scarcely believe it myself at first.”

“You wanna fill me in here, baby brother?” Josh’s slightly testy voice made Jensen flinch, acutely aware of the fact that he was about to come out to his brother- his only blood family left- in the first fifteen minutes of meeting him.

But then Jared’s hand drifted down to grasp his, almost as though he felt the tension in Jensen, and maybe he could, over their mating bond. Regardless of how, Jared knew, and that action of both support and possession reminded Jensen why he loved Jared, and why he would never need anyone but the hazel-eyed boy to survive.

Just like that, Jensen wasn’t so afraid anymore. He felt invincible when he was with Jared.

“Josh,” he lifted his chin in pride, “this is Jared. He’s my boyfriend.”

Josh stared at him for a full minute without moving, and Jensen worried, without breathing it seemed. He blinked owlishly, eyes going from their intertwined hands to Jensen’s face and back again.

“You’re gay?” he asked finally, a note of shock entering his voice and making it higher pitched.

Jared reacted instinctively, moving closer to him protectively, a low growl in his chest. Despair gripped Jensen’s insides and he tried not to let his trepidation show to his brother as he nodded.

“Yeah.”

For a long minute, Josh looked at him hard, searching his eyes for something Jensen couldn’t guess. It felt like his brother was trying to glimpse the color of his soul, and it was only through years of being JR that allowed him to hold the eye-contact without fidgeting like he wanted to.

“You’re happy.” It was less question and more statement, but Jensen nonetheless nodded.

“I am.”

Nodding slowly, Josh looked Jared up and down. “You being gay? Awesome, Jense, good for you. I’m proud of you for being strong enough to be who you are. But couldn’t you have picked a normal guy instead of Sasquatch here?”

Jensen huffed, a weird mixture of relief and humor bubbling in him. Jared too, relaxed, but Josh retained a bit of reservation in his eyes, despite his joke. Jensen filed that information away in his mind, making a note to bring it up another time. He didn’t want to hurt or aggravate Jared with the information; he would sort it out with Josh alone.

Because frankly, it didn’t really matter if his brother didn’t approve. He was ecstatic to have gotten him back, but if the choice was between him and Jared?

Jensen would tell him to enjoy the rest of his life, and go back to his mate.

Finally, an inkling of understanding hit him; when you find your mate, your soul mate, no one else matters as much. The realization took away some of his guilt over the spat Jared had with his father.

“In any event,” Jared brought him back to reality, “it’s good to meet you, man. Jensen’s been looking for you for weeks.”

Josh nodded in acknowledgment, returning the sentiment with sincerity that only Jensen could tell was fake.

“How did you eventually find Jen?” Jared asked, wrapping a possessive arm around his waist.

“Well,” even though Jared asked the question, Josh kept his eyes on Jensen as he answered, “I went to some bar, and the guy tending? I asked him if he knew someone named JR, blonde hair, green eyes, freckles…anyway, he said he didn’t know you, but then he tracked me down just before I left. Must have had a change of heart. He told me you were working here as a favour to a friend.”

“Why didn’t you just ask Jensen’s and your Aunt where he was?” Jared asked quizzically. Before Josh could cotton on, Jensen hastily covered up.

“Jay, Josh just told me…” he raised his eyes to meet Jared’s, hoping the hidden message there would be visible to his boyfriend. “Aunt Kath died a couple years ago. Explains why no one answered the land line phone.”

Instantly, Jared’s face became blank and his body tensed. The arm around him tightened to an iron grip but thankfully, Josh didn’t seem to notice the tension hanging thick in the air.

“Uncle Hank is there, though,” he supplied helpfully. “He should answer the phone, and any questions you have about her.”

Jensen nodded slowly. “Remind me what their number is again?”

 

~Present~

 

Breathing through his nose, he tried valiantly to calm his rapidly beating heart. He knew he was in a bad position; Jared didn’t know where he was, even if he knew what happened, and Chris…no. Chris couldn’t come here, not for him. He wasn’t worth that. Silently, he sent up a prayer that his best friend and big brother wouldn’t try to come looking for him, hoped against hope that Jared was in enough of a mind to tell Chris to stay put.

But if anything was abundantly clear, it was that Jared was the furthest thing from rational when it came to his safety. Trying to find a comfortable position in this God-forsaken situation, Jensen remembered how difficult it was to convince Jared to let him see Hank alone. His boyfriend insisted that he shouldn’t go alone, and now, Jensen wished he’d listened to the paranoia. Instead, he’d convinced Jared to let him go alone, without telling Chris or Josh anything,

Jared had an Alpha meet, and given that he’d pissed his father off by running out of the last meet with several alphas on his tail, Jensen insisted that he play nice and attend. Even in the face of Jared’s pleas for him to wait, Jensen had stood firm, desperate as he was for answers. The whole scenario was bothering him, from his Aunt’s mysterious death, which Josh knew nothing about, right up to whoever had approached him a couple weeks ago. Eventually, Jared had relented, insisting that he used the truck as a condition.

He was convinced that his memory didn’t lie, but there was so much to prove that it did. More than that, there was something elusive dancing along the corners of his mind, something that he knew was important, but he just couldn’t grab hold of it. It taunted his every waking moment, dancing seductively on the brink of consciousness before slinking away once more. Jensen wasn’t by any definition of the word, slow, and maybe it was the close emotional range, or the fatigue, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t focus his thoughts enough to form a coherent picture.

Until he spoke to Hank.

 

~The previous day~

 

Jensen? Is that you, boy?”

Hank looked at him in disbelief, and Jensen was surprised to see tears building up in the older man’s eyes. He stepped forward almost hesitantly, like he was afraid Jensen was going to disappear, and held up a hand, pressing it against Jensen’s cheek.

The green-eyed boy stood perfectly still as the calloused hand, now feeling like paper from old age, gently cupped his cheek, patting it as though trying to verify that he was real.

“Oh, thank God,” he uttered before pulling Jensen into a surprisingly strong hug. Shock made him motionless in the older man’s arms; he thought Hank was the one to refuse him after his parents’ deaths. This man? He was the one Jensen remembered from childhood, affectionate and loving. Cautiously, he patted Hank’s back.

“How are ya doing, Hank?” he asked politely, hating how stiff his voice sounded.

“Better,” Hank answered absently, his attention diverted by examining Jensen’s frame. “Now that I can see you’re in one piece. You need to eat something though, Kid. They not feeding you properly at that damn foster home they sent you to?”

From the bitter way that the man spat the words, something clicked into place for Jensen. “You didn’t want me to grow up in foster care.”

“Of course not!” Hank blustered, motioning for Jensen to follow him as he walked into the living room. “I wanted to keep you with us. With family. It killed me to know that you were going to go to some new place with all these strangers to look after you instead of the people who already knew you and knew how to care for you right.” Hank shook his head sadly. “But your Aunt…she had other ideas.”

Yet another lie the imposter had told. Some of the ice on Jensen’s heart melted, and he aimed a tentative smile at his uncle. “If it helps at all, the people they sent me to…they loved me a lot.”

Hank nodded slowly, wiping away tears. “I guess there’s that,” he allowed gruffly. “How old are you now, Kid?”

“I’m eighteen.”

“That’s right,” Hank whistled, shaking his head. “Been nine years for your aunt, you know.”

Nine years…that number stuck stubbornly in his head, and he felt like it was key to figuring out the puzzle in front of him. Biting his lip, Jensen steeled himself to take the plunge.

“No…no, actually, I don’t know, Hank. That’s kind of why I’m here…I only found out yesterday that she had passed away. I just…I wanted to know what happened.”

Sighing gustily, Hank waved at the couches, indicating to Jensen to take a seat. Settling himself comfortably on the one-seater, Jensen afforded his uncle his full attention.

“We were going camping,” Hank started. “We were going to be there for two nights, then drive back in time to see the Fourth of July fireworks. We did it every year, and always at the same place, but that year…God, I guess it was just a freak accident.”

Jensen waited patiently for Hank to gather his thoughts, leaning in once more when he resumed his story.

“See, Jensen, I always checked out the places we went camping, every year. I made sure that there wasn’t any sightings of dangerous animals, I checked the stats and probabilities of us finding a dangerous animal at that time and confronting it. I could have sworn I had checked it all out…but I guess I didn’t.” He shook his head in self-recrimination that was nearly a decade old. “There were wild dogs. They attacked us…it was the damndest thing, Jense. I could have bet all the money in my back account that wild dogs don’t attack without provocation, but these ones? They just came out of nowhere and went straight for us. We both ran, and it was only once I’d gotten to the Jeep that I realized Kath had slipped on some roots…” Hank shuddered, and Jensen felt a wave of sympathy along with guilt at making him relive the nightmare. “I turned back to see her on the floor. She was so terrified she couldn’t even scream, she was just sobbing and her mouth was open in agony with no sound coming out.” His breathing hitched as tears slipped down his cheeks. “She was dead no matter what I’d have done. So I got into the Jeep. Hightailed it out of there like the coward I am.”

The crazy urge to defend came to Jensen. “You’re not a coward, Hank,” he comforted gently. “It was an awful situation, you did the best you could. And I know you wouldn’t have left her unless she was beyond saving.”

Nodding slowly, Hank shed some of his guilt-ridden disposition. “I just wish she could be here to see how you and Josh grew up.”

Deep emotion curled in Jensen suddenly, making him breathless with grief. How much had been taken away from him…how much had his family, both sets of them, been forced to suffer?

And God, when would it end?

As if sensing the turmoil in his thoughts, Hank reached over and hesitantly wrapped him in a hug. Jensen surrendered himself to the familiar, comforting arms that used to throw him up in the air and catch him sixteen years ago.

“We’ll land on our feet, kid,” Hank reassured him softly. “We always do.”

Nodding against his uncle’s chest, Jensen took in a ragged breath. “I’m sorry it took me this long to come see you.”

“Kid,” Hank laughed, “I honestly didn’t think you’d ever want to come back here again, that was assuming you remembered all of us at all. I’m just sorry I couldn’t come and fetch you. I tried, when your aunt died, but they wouldn’t grant me legal custody, and since Kath’s body was never found, they didn’t want to change custody either.”

“Her body was never found?” Jensen asked, straightening up as another puzzle piece fell into his lap. “Why? Do wild dogs normally drag their prey?” He flinched momentarily, hoping the callous reference to his aunt hadn’t hurt Hank.

“No.” He shook his head. “They’re notoriously picky eaters, in fact, in that they let a lot of the carcass go to waste.” This time it was Hank’s turn to wince.

Jensen, however, was too busy trying to figure out this fit into the bigger picture to be concerned with terminology. He felt like he was on the edge of a precipice, and he just needed one more thing to fall into place…

“Look, Hank,” he finally stood up, realizing that it was unfair to his uncle to be sitting there without talking, lost in his thoughts, “thank you for everything. I guess I just need some time to come to grips with it all,” he lied, “so I’m gonna take off.” Hank’s face fell almost imperceptibly, and Jensen hastened to add, “I promise I’ll be back around. So often you’re gonna get sick of me.”

Hank beamed at him, for the first time looking like the jovial man he remembered from his childhood. “That could never happen, kiddo,” he replied firmly. “Why don’t you give me your number? I’d like to talk to you more often, Kid. I missed enough of your life.”

Something warm lit Jensen’s insides as he rattled his number off and took Hank’s. As he got to the door, he was struck by something he’d always wanted to ask, but never really could to anyone else. Hank, though, could relate to his grief.

“Hey Hank?”

“Yeah, Kid?”

“What do you miss most about her?”

Hank’s eyes misted over and he sent Jensen a tremulous smile. “I’ll call you once I sift through all ten thousand things and manage to choose one of them.”

Jensen nodded, satisfied with the answer.

You could never really say what you missed most, when you missed most everything.

“Thanks, Hank,” he smiled gently. “And I’m sorry for making you relive that day.”

“Are you joking, Kid?” Hank shook his head, pain etched on to his features. “I see those damn dogs and their damn yellow eyes every night I close my eyes. My worst nightmare these days are of amber eyes.”

Hank closed the door, and Jensen was glad he did because he couldn’t keep a poker face at that bit of information.

A friend of his had done a research project in middle school about wild dogs, and he distinctly remembered the girl telling him about the species they got around here, and that they only had hazel eyes.

The only thing he knew that had amber eyes…

…a wolf.

What were the implications of that? He needed to talk to…

His timing as impeccable as ever, Jared phoned him as he walked down the driveway. Shaking his head, Jensen wondered whether Jared just had uncanny feelings, or whether he could read Jensen’s mind better and further than he was letting on.

“I love you,” Jensen told him, by way of answering.

“I love you too.” The smile in Jared’s voice could be heard over the phone. “And I gotta tell you, I could get used to you answering the phone like that.” He paused for a second. “Only when I’m calling, obviously.”

Jensen chuckled, feeling some of his tension slip away at the adorableness that was his lover. “Ever the possessive Alpha.”

“You love it, my beautiful mate,” Jared teased, making him laugh once more. “I just finished up at the stupid meet.”

“Did you behave?” Jensen put on his best stern voice.

“Of course, love,” Jared answered innocently, “when don’t I?”

“Why don’t I believe you?” Jensen asked dubiously, trying to ignore the fuzzy feels he got from Jared’s nicknames.

“Because you’re my mate and you know me better than anyone.”

Jensen smiled gently, softening his voice. “What happened?”

“Just my dad,” Jared sighed, “being his usual charming self. And by charming I mean…”

“Don’t mouth off,” Jensen cut him off, chuckling. “He’s still your father, and Pack Alpha.”

“You’re more respectful than me and my dad combined, baby.”

“That’s why your mom loves me best.”

“I wish I could argue that,” Jared scoffed, making Jensen smile over the phone once more. “But she does, so... you know.” Jensen chuckled, balancing his phone between his shoulder and ear for a second as he dug in his pocket for the keys to the truck. He’d parked a block away, unsure as to the reception he was going to receive and unwilling to put anything on anyone’s radar that could be traced back to Jared.

“It’s a gift and a curse,” Jensen joked as he slid into the driver’s seat.

“I know,” Jared’s amused voice came over the line. “I also know that you’re stalling. What’s the word there, love? Have you seen your uncle? Are you on your way home?”

“Yes to both those last ones,” Jensen answered, swinging easily out of his parking bay. “And get this; my aunt was attacked by wolves.”

“What?” his boyfriend’s disbelief was matched by his own. “Where?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted, flinching in the face of hindsight. “I’ll call and ask him later.”

Before Jared could respond, Jensen heard the tell-tale clicking sound of an incoming call.

Hank.

“Hold that thought, Jay,” he told his boyfriend quickly. “Hank’s calling me. I’ll ask him now.” Switching calls, he greeted his uncle. “Everything okay?” he queried.

“All fine,” Hank confirmed. “You headed home?”

“Yeah,” Jensen put his phone on speaker so that he could drive properly, laying it on the dash. “I’m nearing the edge of town. Hey Hank, where were you and Aunt Kath going camping that weekend?”

“We headed to Sycamore Park. Why?”

Jensen sucked in a breath; Sycamore Park was only about 30 miles from the packlands. Interesting…

“No reason,” he spoke faintly when he remembered his uncle was waiting for an answer. “Just curious, I guess.”

“You always were,” Hank chuckled. “You wanted to know what I missed most about her?”

“Yeah,” Jensen nodded, even though Hank couldn’t see. “Tell me.”

“I miss the way she smelled,” Hank answered wistfully. “That ridiculous vanilla perfume she always wore that drove me crazy because I was allergic to it.”

Jensen was glad he wasn’t holding the phone, because he’d have dropped it if he was.

All at once, the pieces fell together into a neat picture, and Jensen could have kicked himself for not putting it together before.

“Hank I gotta go,” he blurted in a rush, pulling the truck over to the side of the road to avoid crashing in his excitement. Switching the call over to Jared before his uncle could answer, Jensen stumbled out of the truck, slamming the door shut. “I got it!”

“Got what?” Jared’s perplexed and slightly alarmed voice almost made him laugh. “Are you okay?”

Jensen’s mind was running a mile a minute, and before himself, came the concern for Chris. “You have to stay with Chris, make sure he doesn’t leave the house,” he said urgently. “I’ll be home as fast as I can, let me explain it all to him.”

“Explain what?” Jared demanded, alarm entering his tone. “Jensen, you’re freaking me out. What’s going on? Are you okay? I’m coming to get you.”

“I’ll be fine, Jay,” he forced himself to calm down. “I need you to stay with Chris for now. Please.”

“Then tell me what’s going on.”

Jensen blew out a breath, organizing his story in his mind. “You remember when Chris attacked me?” He didn’t wait for an answer, knowing that the moment was embedded in Jared’s memory for a lifetime. “Well, I couldn’t figure out what caused it, right? But I just realized! Aunt Kath was attacked by wolves that weekend, Jay. It was on Sycamore Park? I thought it was strange, because that’s so close to packlands, and I know no one from the pack would do that. Then I figured it out. They didn’t.”

“Who attacked your aunt then?” Jared asked, his voice tight. “And is she dead?”

“Hank thought she’d died that day because he thought she was attacked by wild dogs,” Jensen explained. “They never found her body, Jay. She wasn’t killed. She was turned.

Jared’s breath left him in a whoosh but Jensen didn’t pause, needing to get his story out.

“She became a werewolf that night, but she let everyone think she was dead. This happened nine years ago, Jay…” Jensen waited for the significance of that number to impress itself on his boyfriend. “Nine years ago, around the same time that three lone wolves attacked Chris’ family and killed all of them but him. Jared…what if there was only two lone wolves, that became three when they found two campers that were ripe for the taking?”

“Oh, God…”

“They killed Chris’ family, Jay,” he revealed, his voice hoarse. “These are the wolves Chris has been waiting to kill for nine years.”

“How can you be so sure?” Jared asked weakly.

“Chris attacked me when he said he smelt something,” Jensen explained. “He once told me that he couldn’t stand the scent of vanilla because one of the wolves smelled like vanilla that attacked his family. My aunt only ever wore vanilla perfume.” He cursed himself. “I can’t believe I didn’t put it together sooner. The moment she saw me, she must have smelt Chris on me. She wanted to spend time with me so that she could use me to get to Chris. Maybe use me as bait.”

“Jensen, baby,” Jared’s voice was strung taut with tension, and he could practically taste the anxiety. “Come home. Now, please. If she ever wanted to use you as bait, she might still be after you.”

“I’m on my way home, Jay,” he soothed. “Protect Chris for me okay?” He hesitated a second before feeling the impulsive need to add once more, “I love you, Jay.”

“More than the moon and the stars.”

He smiled at the words they hadn’t spoken in a while. “Forever and always.”

He hung up, feeling an overwhelming agitation; an anxious, ominous feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“So you figured it out, my darling nephew.”

Jensen didn’t even have time to turn and face the sinister voice before he felt something fall hard against the back of his head. The darkness enveloped him before he hit the ground.

 

~Present~

 

He couldn’t believe he’d been this stupid. For so long, he’d drilled it into himself to listen to his instincts. It was what kept him alive for so many years.

Why hadn’t he listened to them this time?

He grimaced as sticky blood coagulated on his wrists and clothing. A light brown haired man had come in at some point, after he’d woken up here gagged and bound, and went to town bruising him up as much as he could. What stuck with Jensen the most was the unadulterated, fierce hatred in the man’s eyes, in his every kick, punch and shove.

This was someone he’d never met before in his entire life. How could someone he’d never met have garnered and harbored such a sheer hate for him? What had he done for him to lose control like that?

At one point, Jensen hadn’t been sure if the man was going to stop while he was still breathing.

He tried, for what felt like ages, to figure the conundrum out, all to no avail. Although he’d retained a semblance of calm and rationale through the thrashing, he was just too tired, his mind hurt and jumbled. He half snorted at the irony of the fact that his previous beatings gave him enough experience not to be freaking out and losing precious energy, salt and water.

The door in front of slammed against the opposite wall as it opened, and there stood his aunt.

She examined him critically, without moving an inch closer. “Seems like Gabe had a good time.” She shrugged nonchalantly. “Serves you right for killing Joe.”

“I didn’t…” Jensen struggled to speak or breathe, from what he estimated was broken ribs, “…kill…anyone.”

“Yes, you did,” she replied calmly, waving away his wheezy denial. “That wolf that attacked you in that clearing?” She rolled her eyes. “I told him not to get over excited, I told him that you would come to us. No, Joe always had to have things his way.” She looked at Jensen’s shocked face with a sick little giggle. “You didn’t actually think he was after those two cubs and that useless little runt, did you?”

“Don’t…talk about…them!” he snapped, paying for his anger with a coughing fit. He spat out a mouthful of blood, before evening his already rough tone. “And Joe…was killed…because…” he took in a painful breath before foraging bravely on, “he tried…to hurt…us…not…my fault.”

Katherine simply shrugged again, almost disinterestedly. “They were lovers, or something. I don’t think Gabe’s gonna listen to your pathetic, broken-up reasoning.” She crouched down to his level, aiming a glare at him that finally contained some real emotion, even if it was hate. Hate that was matched only in Gabe’s eyes. “It worked out well for me,” she told him conversationally. “I wanted to kill you from the start, instead of only that long-haired hippie friend of yours. Gabe only listened to me when I brought back Joe’s body.”

“You seem like…the type…who does…the…evil monologue,” Jensen pushed the words out painfully, wincing when the slight jarring of his body as he breathed stabbed prickles of pain throughout him. “Tell me…how’d you…get past…”

“Your boyfriend?” Jensen nodded, and Katherine sneered smugly. “Easy. It seems Lover-Boy didn’t tell you much about our history,” she preened, as though she were born a wolf rather than turned. “A long time ago, when wolves roamed more freely and humans had more respect for Shamans than they had fear, the wolf packs joined forces with Shamans. Their sole aim was to co-exist peacefully, both with other wolves, and with humans, so the Shamans gave wolves the power to shift at will, as well as concocted a poultice that would allow wolves to roam around without other wolves realizing that they were anything but human.” She lifted her sleeve to show some of the remnants of a congealed, murky grey substance on her arms. “I had to get past your body guard if I wanted to get to you.”

“Why do…you…hate me?” he forced the words out, needing to know.

She sneered at him, her face twisting suddenly from her careful mask into an ugly look of resentment. “You killed my sister!” she spat. “She should have survived, not you!”

Slowly, her heavy breathing evened back out, and once again, she was composed and unruffled. “No matter, though.”

Smiling at him with what Jensen could only describe as insanity, she nodded.

“I’m going to deliver the fate to you that should have been dealt sixteen years ago.”

Icy cold drenched Jensen from head to toe.

God, Jay…please find me.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

“I have a bad feeling, man.”

Chad sobered as Jared made his declaration. Jared could tell that his friend was bursting with curiosity, and he, oddly enough, appreciated the effort he knew it took to reign the 20 questions in.

“Have you spoken to Jensen about this?” he asked.

“Not yet.” Jared worried his bottom lip, a gesture he’d unconsciously picked up from Jensen. “I don’t want to worry him.”

Clucking disapprovingly at him, Chad frowned. “Well how’s he going to be careful unless you warn him to be on his guard?” he asked reasonably. “On his best day, Jen isn’t remotely careful with his safety.”

Jared huffed at the truth in his best friend’s words. His mate was always so focused on getting answers; to protect Jared and the pack more than to protect himself; that he took risks with his safety that left Jared more on edge than he cared to admit. At first, he thought it was all Jensen’s close experiences that had left him with plaguing nightmares, but the longer the vivid dreams woke him up with sweat plastered to his face, calling his mate’s name in a breathless pant, the longer he thought that maybe it was less of a night terror and more of a warning.

A warning that his Jensen was in danger.

Closing his eyes briefly, Jared flashed back to the latest nightmare...

“Jen?”

Jared’s eyes cast desperately around him as terror overtook his body.

“Jensen!”

Spurred on by bone-deep fear, he rushed down the seemingly endless corridor, throwing doors open as he ran, frantically searching for the briefest glimpse of dirty blonde hair, of freckles, of startling green eyes. It felt like he was running through jelly, and worse still was the crushing certainty that something was coming; something foul and dangerous that meant to take his beautiful mate away from him.

“JENSEN!”

“Jared.”

The breathless call stopped him in his tracks. He wasn’t sure, at first, whether he’d heard Jensen or whether his cruel mind was playing equally cruel tricks on him.

“Jared, please…”

With a start, he realized that it was his mate calling out for him, that it wasn’t simply wishful thinking. He ran towards the sound of the voice, stopping in front of a heavy oak door with peeling green paint. Something was etched on to the door, a logo of sorts, one he could vaguely remember.

“Jay…”

His head jerked up, and he chastised himself for wasting time trying to identify the odd symbol. Lady Luck obviously hated him in that moment, because as soon as he tried to turn the door knob, it fell off, hitting the cement floor with a clang. Bracing his shoulder, he rammed himself into the door a few times, persistence fueled by Jensen’s pain-filled cries, until it finally gave way against him and he stumbled into the room, almost falling on his face.

The room was dark and damp, and it reeked of blood, sweat and despair. He choked momentarily on the clogging smell of…

…rotting fish?

Gagging at the stench, Jared held his sleeved hand to his mouth and nose, trying to breathe through his mouth. His eyes darted around the large room, desperately seeking.

He almost rocked back on his heels at the sight he was met with.

Jensen was lying on the ground, breathing harshly, a slight rattle in his chest. More cloying than the fish smell, now, was the smell of his mate’s blood filling his nostrils as it dripped from various cuts and bruises over his body. His hands and legs were bound unforgivingly tight with zip ties and a length of material was unceremoniously shoved in his mouth, and tied behind his head.

“Jensen!”

Dazed green eyes blinked at him with all the focus of a cocaine junkie. The pain in their depths made Jared suck in a deep breath and fight back a monstrous growl.

“It’s too late, Jay.” Jared took a second to wonder how his mate was talking while he was gagged, before the ominous statement caught up to his awareness.

“Baby…”

“Too late,” his mate overrode his confused tone. “Too late.”

Jensen slumped over, eyes rolling to the back of his head, his body rapidly coated in an icy blue sheen.

Jared’s heart stopped.

“NO!”

 

“Jared!”

Snapping back to reality, the Alpha realized that he was gripping his chair in a death hold, claws and canines already halfway extended. Chad looked worriedly at him, grasping his shoulder and pressing down forcefully with his thumb in a gesture Jared knew was meant to ground him. He relished in the slight pain, but knew that he needed more than that to ground him after reliving last night’s dream.

“I’m sorry, man,” he mumbled apologetically to his friend as he got up, grabbing his jacket from where he’d tossed it on Chad’s bed.

“You’d better be going to Jensen,” Chad returned, a hint of friendly warning in his voice. “God knows you won’t be reliving your night terrors when he’s within reach of you.”

Even though his tone was light, Jared knew Chad wasn’t joking, and he felt mildly grateful for his friend’s understanding. “I’ll catch you later, man.”

“Call me, Jay-bear,” Chad called out in a high falsetto, because no, Chad Michael Murray could not end off a conversation without being a little obnoxious.

Jared grinned and flipped his friend off, momentarily distracted by the playful antics. Chad always was great at distracting him, ever since they were cubs. They got into the worst trouble together, to the extent where their mothers often insisted that they have supervision.

Not that it helped, Jared thought to himself with a chuckle.

Replaying some of his childhood escapades helped to ease the tension until he reached the eighteen-and-under club, where he knew his mate would be trying to get some managerial work done. Picking up a foreign scent near Jensen’s own distinctive smell put Jared on guard, and he walked quickly to the entrance, his earlier fears coming quickly to the surface.

White hot jealousy burst through his veins as the sight met his eyes; a stranger with dark blonde hair was hugging Jensen, holding tightly onto Jared’s mate.

“I’m never letting you go again, Jenny-boy,” the stranger promised with a smirk. Uncertainty warred with jealousy in his mind, and he could only manage one word just then.

“Jen?”

He glared heatedly at the strange boy, but whoever he was, he didn’t let the intimidation he felt override him. He stepped in front of Jensen in what the Alpha recognized was a protective gesture, and the very idea that Jensen would ever need protection from him, set off Jared’s short fuse.

He stepped forward menacingly, a low, territorial growl rumbling in his chest. Seeing this, his mate jumped into action, coming between him and the stranger like the martyr he was. Placing his hand directly over Jared’s heart calmed the Alpha instantaneously, the fury seeping away to give space for the all-consuming love he had for Jensen. It was amazing how the green-eyed human could have complete control over his blood-lust, but he chose wisely not to point that out.

“Jared, wait,” he pleaded in a low voice. “It’s not what you think.” Jensen locked eyes with him, and Jared was stopped more by the hint of disbelief in his lover’s eyes.

“It’s Josh, Jay.”

 

~*Chad*~

 

Chad Michael Murray was a pretty patient guy.

He grew up with a total hothead of a best friend, he was always the mediator when his parents and older brother fought, almost all his peers saw him as a joker and didn’t take him seriously, and from being a pool player, he’d make it a habit to read people, however long it took for their personality to leak through the cracks.

So you know. Patience was kind of a pre-requisite to his life.

Which was probably why he was perfectly content watching aforementioned hothead best friend pace a hole into his carpet while muttering inanely under his breath, trying to gather his thoughts before he could rant them out.

Steepling his fingers together, Chad kept himself completely still as he waited, only his bright blue eyes tracking his best friend’s relentless motion.

After ten minutes of the seemingly relentless back-and-forth, Jared finally turned to face him.

“Josh found Jensen.”

His eyes widened in shock as he digested the new piece of information. “What, imaginary-friend-turned-real-big-brother, Josh?” he asked incredulously, inwardly scoffing since, really, what other Josh was there?

“The very same.” Jared huffed, flopping back on to his bed and covering his face with his arms. “I don’t trust him.” The words were muffled by his arm.

Chad rolled his eyes at the display. “Please,” he commented dryly, “continue to speak into your armpits. I take great joy in deciphering your crazed ramblings.”

His best friend lifted his head up briefly to glare at him, pouting like a child, before flopping back down, putting the offending limbs behind his head.

“I don’t trust him,” Jared repeated, sounding much clearer, “but Jensen obviously does.”

Chad thought about that for a moment, grabbing a pencil and turning it around his fingers almost absently. “Well, Jensen has awesome instincts,” he pointed out. “What if you’re biased because you’re jealous?”

“What if Jen’s biased because he’s family?” Jared shot back. “And I’m not jealous.”

Chad grinned. “Maybe jealous was a bad word to use,” he allowed. “But you’re worried that this guy is going to take Jensen away. Right?”

The Alpha nodded silently, a troubled expression Chad hadn’t seen since their kindergarten days taking residence on his face. Jared had been, for a long time, slipping into the infallible Alpha role, so seeing the vulnerability on his face now triggered long-buried instincts.

“Come on, Jay-Pad,” his voice softened. “After everything that’s gone on, don’t you think you almost kind of owe it to Jensen to trust him? I think that Green-Eyes has a handle on this one,” he used the nickname affectionately, “even though it may not seem like it. The truth is, man, is that Jen would choose you over the world 100 times over.”

“I know that,” Jared nodded softly. “But as far as I can tell, both alternatives leaves Jensen hurt.”

Understanding dawned on Chad as the root of Jared’s fear took hold of him.

“Jared,” he sighed sympathetically. “Sometimes we all have a choice to make in life. And then we have to deal with it. You can’t help it if Jen has to make that decision, all you can do is be there for him.” He waited a few moments for the advice to digest in his friend’s mind before adding, “You should talk to him about the brother though. Tell him you don’t trust him. And then tell him about your dreams.”

“I’ll talk to him about Josh,” Jared nodded resolutely, “but there’s no need to worry him by telling him about the dreams. I’ll protect him. They won’t come true.”

Jared shrugged his jacket on and clapped him on the back in thanks as he left. Sighing cavernously, Chad tried to bat down his own impending worry.

So many secrets…

He just hoped like hell Jensen wouldn’t end up paying the price for them.

 

~*Jared*~

 

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick…

Jared tried hard to tune out the incessant taunt. The clock seemed to be personally mocking him the longer he waited in anticipation for Jensen to come back home. Fear churned in his gut and he paced the length of Chris’ living room, where he was waiting on the alpha. After Jensen’s phone call and his subsequent explanation about solving the riddles of the past month or so, Jared had come immediately to keep an eye on Jensen’s best friend, knowing his mate wouldn’t forgive him if he did otherwise. Kane was out on a date, and was due back any minute, and Jared wondered how he was going to explain his presence, and Jensen’s lack thereof, and Jensen’s worry without spilling the secret.

No easy feat.

Clenching and unclenching his fists, he wondered idly why he was feeling so on edge about Jensen’s safety. He had spoken to his mate a mere fifteen minutes ago, and he was on his way back to him right that moment.

So why did it feel like something had already gone terribly wrong?

The Alpha’s mind flashed back to images of long corridors, broken logos and dark, dank rooms.

His nightmares.

He knew Chad wanted him to tell Jen about the dreams he’d been having, but he saw no sense in worrying his mate, especially when he didn’t even know what they meant. Jared had gone to Mr. Beaver, seeking his advice as an elder were, and Jared thought that maybe that was the reason he was so anxious now…

 

~*Two days ago*~

 

“If you’re coming for help with that latest chem assignment, Jared, don’t. You’d be better off asking that mate of yours, it seems sometimes like he knows more than I do.”

Jared grinned in amusement as Beaver’s disgruntled voice rang out before he could even take more than half a step into the lab. The older professor often preferred to spend his time in the lab, as opposed to escaping to the packlands as soon as possible, and Jared often wondered the reason for that. He couldn’t fathom willingly staying cooped up indoors.

Glancing at him from over his horn-rimmed glasses, Beaver quirked an eyebrow in tempered boredom. “Are you just going to hover there,” he asked in a measured, almost curt tone, “or are you going to grace me with your presence?”

Flushing, Jared hastily went back into motion, closing the door behind him and walking to Beaver’s desk, hoisting his bag higher on his shoulder as he moved. He had to smile to himself at the man’s gruff demeanor; he’d known Jim Beaver since he was a pup, and the man was a complete softy at heart, but he tended to hide that behind a very brash exterior. Jared took it in stride, knowing that the man didn’t mean much by it.

“Hey, Sir,” he grinned cheerfully, pretending not to notice the slight quirk of the older man’s lips at his high spirits. “How was your day?”

This time, the healer and alpha set his pen down, leaning back in his chair to openly regard the future pack Alpha. “If you’re asking me about my day, that sure as hell means you want something, boy,” he deduced shrewdly. “You’re forgettin’ that I’ve watched you grow up, kid.”

Sinking down into the chair on the opposite side of the desk, Jared smiled sweetly. “Fair enough. On that note, Sir, what can you tell me about dreams? More specifically, dreams you have about your mate?”

Jared felt a pang of worry resonate through him when Jim’s eyes tightened, a blanket of unease coming down on the older alpha’s face.

“It’s too much to hope that you’ve been having wet dreams about him like a normal teenager, huh?”

Jared grinned wolfishly, trying to dispel the tension in the hopes that Beaver was overreacting. “I have those too, but I aint too sure you wanna hear about ‘em, Sir.”

“Not even on my best day, kid,” he snorted in agreement. Jared waited patiently while the man gathered his thoughts, forcing himself not to fidget or tap his fingers against his knee. “You’ve been having dreams about Jensen,” Jim started, leaning forward to rest his forearms on the edge of the table. “Nightmares?”

Jared nodded the affirmative. “I wake up in a cold sweat, calling out his name,” he admitted in a subdued voice, the terror and the sleepless nights wearing his usual good cheer thin. “And I mean, we can communicate telepathically, and I was just wondering what other extents our…”

“Whoa, hold on, boy.” Jim held up a hand, looking at him with a mixture of awe and disbelief etched on his normally stoic face. “You two can do what?”

“Communicate with mind-speak,” Jared repeated matter-of-factly, “You know, like when we all shift and talk within the pack.”

He didn’t fully comprehend the incredulous look on Beaver’s face, until he actually said the words.

“That’s…that’s not…normal?”

Jim stared at him a few seconds longer before coming back to himself. “No, um…kid,” his voice was more excited than Jared could remember it being in a long time, “this is…you talk telepathically? And can anyone else hear you’ll when you’ll talk like that?”

“No one.”

“Fascinating…”

“I don’t get it, Sir,” Jared huffed impatiently. “I’ll admit that it might be a bit…unorthodox, but…”

“This is more than just unorthodox, kid,” Beaver got up from his seat, coming to lean against the desk in front of Jared. “This is practically unheard of! Mates don’t have a special telepathic connection, above feelings and such. Let me put it to you this way; finding your mate is like finding the other half of your soul. When you do this, it creates an almost chemical reaction inside of us, which is why he or she suddenly smells like a combination of all your favorite smells in the world. It’s why their taste is the most exquisite thing on your palette and it’s why their heart calls out to you in ways you can never mistake. You can feel what they feel and your combined souls is almost like a sixth sense, more powerful than all your others…but it hasn’t ever extended to full-on telepathic communication.” The alpha took off his glasses, cleaning them with the edge of his shirt while he talked. “I’ve been mated with my wife for 30 years,” he told Jared, slipping the glasses back on, “and in all these years, we could only communicate when we were both shifted. Biologically, being that Jensen’s a human…well, theoretically, he shouldn’t be able to communicate with you at all, because he isn’t Were.”

Jared was reeling with the information overload, but he pushed past the sensations with considerable effort. “What, are you telling me that Jensen’s…I don’t know,” he snapped in frustration, “half-Were? Something else not human? What are you trying to tell me here?”

“Calm down, Jared,” Beaver soothed him, being gentler than he’d been in a long time. “I’m not saying anything of the sort. I’m saying the opposite, actually. This is a phenomenon that could only possibly result from a Human-Were mating. Jensen is all human…and you two would make for fascinating studying. It’s been at least a century or two since we’ve had a cross-species mating.”

Jared felt a cacophony of emotions roll through him. He was pacified, but he had to admit…he was also a little…disappointed? He started violently when he identified the wretched emotion. Putting a name to it made it worse, because how could be possibly be disappointed at Jensen being human? He didn’t want his mate to be a Were…did he?

Pushing those confusing and complex thoughts to the back burner, Jared focused on the more immediate concerns. Jensen being Were or not was definitely not something to think about just yet.

“Anyway, Sir,” he shook his head as if it would clear away his confusing thoughts and feelings. “I just wanted to know if it was possible for these dreams I’ve been having to have some kind of…any kind of meaning.”

“You think they might be prophetic.” It was more a statement than a question, but Jared nodded even still.

“I’m concerned that they could be,” he corrected, hunching a little in on himself. “Has it been known to happen before or is this another phenomena that can’t give me any answers?” he griped petulantly.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about human-Were matings, Jared,” Beaver shook his head, crossing his arms in front of him. “We do however, know that mates are prone to getting feelings of dread or warning when their significant others are in trouble. Being that you and Jensen seem to display all the primal and core components of mates, only to an exacerbated extent, it almost stands to reason that you’d be having prophetic nightmares instead of just the normal bad hunch.” Eying him critically, the healer added, “Probably, possibly…but not conclusively.”

Jared took a deep breath in, trying not to lose his patience with the elder pack member for his technical answer. “Evidence aside, what do you think about it, Sir? Do you think that is what’s happening?”

“I think that it’s possible,” Jim nodded slowly. “I think that this is your mind’s way of processing the danger you sense coming towards your mate. But the thing is, Jared, is that we have nothing to hold this against. Any record we have of any cross-species matings before your own…well, they’re tainted.”

“How do you mean?”

“The only record we have of them is from word of mouth,” Beaver explained. “I can’t bring myself to trust that, because packs have been trying to eradicate those matings about as long as they’ve existed. The only couple I've ever known that..." Beaver stopped abruptly, giving Jared a guarded look that made him pause. Shaking his head as if her were mentally berating himself, Jim changed his course. "Anyway, I’m pretty open-minded,” he pushed off the desk and made his way back to his seat, “but I can tell you that not many Weres are. Correct me if I’m wrong, son, but your daddy…he doesn’t approve of Jensen, does he?”

Jared’s silence spoke louder than he ever could have.

“Don’t take it personally,” Jim told him. “Your daddy was raised in the old way of thinking. It’s just a lot for him to come to grips with.”

“What’s so wrong with it?” Jared asked moodily. “Mating…that’s a sacred bond. It’s one of the most important and most precious things that could happen to a Were. Why does it matter if it’s with a human?”

“A long time ago, the Were packs joined force with the Shamans of the world, in order to maintain a peaceful co-existence of all the species on earth. It was foretold by these Shamans that cross-species matings would be the destruction of our species, because the human would always betray Were-kind.”

Jared flushed in anger at the explanation. “Jensen wouldn’t ever…” he started hotly.

“I know,” Beaver interrupted him. “And I think that everything they said about human-Were pairings was said purely out of cynical fear. Even then, no-one could fathom a human being able to feel and comprehend all the intense, age-old feelings that matings bring. To them, it was impossible, and that being said, it was easier to make them believe that humans couldn’t feel that profound bond. Besides,” Jim added, “the average life span of a human is a fraction of our own. There are so many things that can kill a human mate. Illness, accidents, nature…we’re more resilient creatures, and you have to beg the question; if a Were mated with a human, and then only got to spend a small amount of time with that human, what would become of the Were once the human died?”

Jim fixed him with a troubled look.

“What would become of the pack if they lost pack mates because they couldn’t handle the loss of their significant others?”

 

~*Present*~

 

Jared hadn’t slept that night, mulling over the question. On the one hand, it did make his reaction to Jensen being human a little more sensible. Deep in his heart, in that locked away part he didn’t want to face yet, he knew the chances were high that he would outlive his beautiful, amazing mate. He couldn’t- didn’t want to- face that. And he wouldn’t have to if Jensen was a Were.

But Jensen was human, which brought Jared back to Beaver’s question. A question he really didn’t want answered, because he already knew. Knew what would become of him without his Jensen. The answer was buried even further away, with his own demons about losing Jen.

Now, though, all his terrors came rushing to the surface. Impulsively, he whipped out his cell and pressed down on one to call his mate.

“You’ve got Jensen, you know what to do.”

Jared sank to the couch as the familiar voice of his beloved mate rang cheerfully in his ear. Why was he getting voicemail? Had Jensen’s phone died in the last twenty minutes…or…

“Jared, why am I smelling you and not Jensen?”

The Alpha was jerked from his thoughts when Kane’s casual voice wafted over him. Chris was taking off his jacket and walking towards him, and after a few seconds, the other wolf appeared in his line of vision.

“Where’s Freckles?” he asked again, frowning curiously. “And why do you look so wrung out?”

“Chris…” Jared started, hesitantly. His gut was telling him that he needed to get his head out of the sand. That Jensen was in danger, and that the nightmares was exactly as much as Chad worried they were.

I’ll protect him, Jared heard his own words to his best friend ringing in his head. They won’t come true.

“Jared.” Chris’ voice barged through his thoughts once more, more alarmed now as Kane’s face took on an edge of fear. “Where. Is. Jensen?”

Jared swallowed convulsively. “I think he’s in trouble.”

 

~*Jensen*~

 

There was funny crackling noise permeating the air that came from his chest whenever he took a breath.

Jensen was briefly reminded of the time he’d had bronchitis as a kid; Jody had snuggled in bed with him and they’d watched movies the entire day, and Eric had waited on him hand and foot with hot soup and cocoa with marshmallows in them. In retrospect, he could almost conclude that it was worth the pain for all the love he’d felt in that moment.

Here- wherever ‘here’ was- he was surrounded by malignance. After her icy promise, Katherine had left, and Jensen was grateful that her partner hadn’t made a reappearance as yet. He shivered slightly, his body almost numb from the cold concrete, and the slight motion jarred his broken ribs, making him whimper in pain.

He was beginning to worry that his abdomen was more injured than he knew. He’d had plenty broken ribs before, but they had never caused the burning sensation he felt in his lower torso. The skin there was hot to the touch, and a vague throbbing in his shoulder was cause for pause, because he didn’t remember more than a little bruising to that area.

What I wouldn’t give to talk to Jared…

He could only imagine how his mate must have been freaking out. He was supposed to have been home at least four hours ago, and his Alpha had to be going crazy looking for him.

There has to be a way to give him a clue.

As soon as the thought took root in his mind, Jensen refused to let go of it. He cast his eyes around the sparse room, clinging all the while with a tenuous grip on that last shred of hope. There was nothing much note-worthy in his surroundings, nothing that could really contain a clue.

“The key lies in awareness, kid,” he heard Aldis and Matt in his head, a flashback of them training him coming to mind. “Sometimes, it’s not only about what you can see. It’s also about what you can hear, smell, taste, feel.”

“Let’s do it your way then,” he whispered to himself. Closing his eyes, he gave himself over to his senses. There was nothing much in the way of touch…all he could feel was the ice cold concrete, and even that wasn’t going to last long at the rate he was becoming numbed with cold.

Straining his ears, he could faintly make out the sound of cars. Somewhere else in the distance was the unmistakable buzzing sound of a flickering lightbulb and maybe he was imagining it, but Jensen could have sworn that he could hear the tolling of a bell…but for all he knew, it could have been a stretch of his overtaxed mind.

Groaning inwardly, Jensen forced himself to breathe in deeply through his nose. He had been breathing through his mouth purely so he could avoid the rancid stench, but now he made himself breathe in a lungful of the vile odor, fighting his gag reflex on willpower alone. It was of…rotten fish?

Jensen wrinkled his nose, convulsing at the wretched smell. Where the hell was he? Why was he smelling rotten fish? And more to the point, why did it smell so…sharp? While it was a normally pungent smell, it had never been so overpowering that it almost burnt his nostrils to smell it.

Sighing in frustration, Jensen let his head fall back on to the wall he was resting against. None of this made a whole lot of sense. He could, with a stretch, understand his Aunt wanting to kill him- grief oftentimes made people crazy- but why were they also interested in Chris? They’d killed his family, so maybe it was simply a case of finishing what they started…

No. Jensen dismissed the thought as soon as it came. No one went to these kinds of lengths purely to finish a 9-year vendetta. What was it about Chris that they were fixated on?

His instincts told him that the answer to that question was an important one. Kane would undoubtedly be part of the rescue team here, and Jensen had the nastiest feeling that if he didn’t have all the facts before then, that someone would end up getting hurt.

But what were the facts?

“You’re thinking pretty loudly there, nephew.”

Lifting his head, Jensen blamed his lack of awareness on all the mitigating factors surrounding his confinement. Katherine regarded him with a cold stare, the eyes that were so painfully like his mom’s, inconceivably hateful.

“Why’d you do it?” he asked softly, defeat in his tone and posture. “Why’d…you kill them?”

“Your friend’s family?” she asked, a look of disdain twisting her normally pretty features into something awful. “They were roaches,” she scorned. “They deserved to rot for what they were.”

Jensen bit back the burning question, knowing that if he asked what she was talking about, she would shut down completely.

“Don’t talk about them… like that!” he went on the defensive instead, hoping to antagonize her into revealing more. “They were… good people!”

“You would say that! You’re just like them!”

His mind racing, Jensen tried to find what he had in common with the Kanes. He forced back his frustration when he came up empty.

“And I suppose… we’re wrong, and you’re…you’re right?” he bluffed, hoping she wouldn’t catch on to his fishing.

“Of course,” she sneered, thankfully still so full of indignation that she hadn’t realized Jensen had yet to reveal any specifics. “You’re just…unnatural. And they were too.” She shook her head in disgust. “So full of righteous indignation…that woman could have saved her entire family if she’d done as we suggested. She brought this upon them.”

“What could…Mrs. Kane possibly have…have done?” Jensen struggled to get the words out the longer he tried to talk. The pressure on his broken ribs was becoming overwhelming.

Broken ribs notwithstanding, it was the next words out of his Aunt’s mouth that left him reeling.

“She could have turned!” Katherine spat venomously. “She could have turned, but they refused! They were both adamant that she remain human!”

 

~*Jared*~

 

“Damn it!”

The glass of his window shattered as he slammed the truck’s door closed, the sound becoming background noise to his roar of despair. Finding the truck abandoned on the side of the road was enough to cement his previous concerns. Chris and Chad stood a few feet away from him, allowing him his moment of weakness as they undoubtedly tried to come to terms with the fact that Jensen was missing, and Jared was grateful for the illusion of privacy. He knew that they both probably had a ton of questions and both were likely trying just as hard not to lose their shit.

“We need to case the entire area,” Jared ordered in a low voice, as soon as he felt up to talking. “Check for any clues to where he was taken. Chad,” he regarded his best friend solemnly, “check the surrounding area now, Kane and I are gonna see if there’s anything of Jensen’s around here, so we’ll know where he was caught.”

Even having known each other since kindergarten, Jared was no less grateful when Chad caught his silent plea to leave him alone with Chris. The blond haired boy nodded, uncharacteristically silent as he shifted and ran a little ways into the woodsy area on the right of the road.

“Something you need to tell me, Padalecki?” Chris asked gruffly, and Jared took the rough tone in stride, knowing that it was born from fear.

He nodded slowly. “Chris…Jensen found out some things on his trip here,” he told the other alpha softly. “He didn’t want… he wanted to be the one to tell you himself,” Jared rephrased, “but being that I know you’re gonna wanna help look for him, I think you ought to know everything beforehand.”

As the boy nodded jerkily, Jared could see Kane was losing patience the longer they weren’t looking for Jensen, and frankly, he was pretty much the same way.

“Jensen’s aunt was attacked by Weres,” he explained quickly, “and she was turned by them. Jensen was always wary of spending time with her, because he thought she had an ulterior motive, and so he came here to speak with her ex-husband, in the hopes that he’d find out what she might be after. He found out that she was turned by two lone wolves, in Sycamore Park, nine years ago.”

Chris sucked in a breath, his face paling dramatically, leaving no question as to whether he’d caught the significance of those details.

“Those were the…” he stuttered, his face ashen. “The wolves that…that attacked…”

“Yes.” Jared made his voice soft, empathy taking hold of him despite his own pain. “They were using Jensen to get to you. He was smart, covered all his tracks whenever he met them, so they could never get to you. I think they took him now to bait you.”

Jared worried about whether Chris was going to blame his mate; a concern he knew Jensen had had as well. His mate was stricken to find out that his own blood had taken Chris’ family away from him, and Jared wasn’t above taking extreme measures and using his Alpha sway to keep Chris away from Jensen if it so happened that the alpha did blame him.

But the low proclamation from Kane’s mouth quickly dispelled Jared’s fears.

“I’m not going to let them take the last person in my family away from me,” he vowed fervently. “We have to find him Jared.” Chris’ face contorted in sudden pain. “Aw, Freckles,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair. “He must be killing himself over this,” Chris shook his head. “God knows he’d blame himself for The Plague if he could have.”

Jared couldn’t even bring himself to feel slightly amused. “Let’s look around,” he told Chris decisively. “Hopefully, we find…”

His voice cut off abruptly when an old green Ford pulled up across the road from them. The driver jumped out, heading over to them, his gait purposeful and his face blank. Rage ignited in Jared’s veins as he considered the implications of the man’s presence here.

Joshua Ackles.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

Chris’ mom was…was human?

Chris was half human?

And his mom…was HUMAN?!

Jensen tried to shutter the shock that he knew was on his face, in his eyes. In retrospect, it explained so much; why Chris’ family lived so far away from the packlands, why Chris only became part of the pack when his family died, why no one had been around to help them the night they were attacked…

“Even Padalecki saw them for the rejects that they were,” Katherine carried on obliviously. “He exiled them from the packlands, even when he found out that their spawn was half-Were. Abominations,” she sneered, and Jensen’s hackles instantly rose. “But they had some Were blood in them, so we would have let them live. If she had just agreed to change.”

Jensen realized with bitterness that she had also explained one of the main reasons Gerald Padalecki disliked him so. Prejudice, likely combined with the fear that a similar fate to the Kane’s awaited Jared.

Jensen was momentarily struck with fear; did it? Was it possible that there were still werewolves that despised the idea of cross-species relationships to the extent where they would kill for it?

Was he putting Jared in danger by being with him?

“You can imagine my surprise,” Katherine smirked, bringing his mind back to the present, “when I realized the Padalecki heir was your mate. It gives me the perfect reason for killing you.”

“Killing me…I get that…” Jensen wheezed, his need for answers driving him past his pain. “But why do you…want to kill…my friend?”

He steadfastly refused to speak Chris’ name in front of them, feeling oddly like the action would taint his brother.

“We’re simply dedicated to the cause,” Katherine simpered, saccharine sweet. “Cross-species matings were abolished from the start, and that is the way it should be.”

Feeling desperate, Jensen allowed his mind to go to the place he’d been trying to lock away since the moment he found out the truth about Jared. “And if…if I wanted to…change?”

Katherine smiled, but it was the smile of a woman so full of malice that the very air around her seemed to darken with it.

“Well,” she leaned forward and patted his cheek in a move so maternal that Jensen jerked backwards, choosing the pain over having the motion twisted with her malevolence. “They’ll never know that you were willing to change, honey.” She tutted, mock pitifully. “By the time they see you again, you’ll be dead.”

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

“You better have a damned good excuse for being here.”

Before he could register the repercussions of what he was doing, Jared had Josh by the throat, pinning him with enough force against his own car that he couldn’t move an inch. Josh’s hands flew instinctively to his throat, clawing at Jared’s iron, unyielding grip, gasping even though he wasn’t physically choking.

Yet.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, man?” he spluttered, terror in his eyes. Jared scoffed inwardly, the part of him that was trying to forget his mate was in trouble, taking the time to recognize how much braver Jensen was than his brother.

“Why are you here?” he asked stonily, not relinquishing his grip. He could feel Chad and Chris’ unease from behind him, rolling off the other wolves in waves, but he couldn’t care for it. No stone would be left unturned in trying to find his mate, especially not when he was already so suspicious about the brother.

Josh glared at him as he struggled, his eyes like daggers. “I don’t have to explain myself to you,” he spat belligerently. Jared felt his eyes flash with anger and he was pleased to see the fear return to the older boy’s eyes.

“I would answer him,” Chad piped up. “If only for the fact that he’s kind of the one with the upper hand here. Ya know. Just saying.”

Josh threw another glare at Chad and Jared tightened his grip ever so slightly, encouraging him to keep his focus on the Alpha. Josh’s eyes widened and he began his struggles anew.

“Fine!” he gasped finally, pounding at Jared’s forearm as though it had any effect. “Fine, okay, fine! I was here because one of Jensen’s old buddies promised to give me the dirt on you.” Jared was treated to a vicious glower. “I needed to know why I had such a bad feeling about you, and how I could persuade Jensen that knowing you was going to land him in hot water.”

Jared raised an eyebrow at him, loosening his hold a little bit. “You came here to try to find a way to break us up?” he confirmed blandly, his tension leaving him as rapidly as it came. This was absolutely of no help to him.

“Yes,” Josh tilted his head in defiance. “You better be ready to hit the road, Jack.” Jared didn’t even have the energy to deal with Jensen’s brother, not if the man was going to be next to no help.

“Sure, sure,” he nodded dismissively, letting the other man go and trying not to take too much pleasure in him scrambling quickly backwards in a decidedly unmanly way.

“Wait, hold on.” Josh picked himself up, his face calculating as he sized up Jared. The Alpha Were stared back unflinchingly. “If you’re here, going apeshit on me, and my brother isn’t here to stop you…” Josh trailed off, an unfamiliar, almost vulnerable look finding its way into his eyes. “Where...where’s my brother?” His voice grew stronger, even through the terror that presented itself. “Where’s Jensen?”

Jared was caught between a rock and Jensen Ackles. He knew that if he told Josh his brother was missing, that Jensen would be mad at him for involving the elder Ackles in something possibly- probably- dangerous. If he didn’t, however, he could be limiting himself in the way of contacts. If Josh had some means to find his mate, he would never know about it. What had first seemed like a difficult decision quickly became abundantly clear to the distraught, hazel-eyed wolf; it was worth risking his mate’s wrath if it meant finding him before…

Cutting that thought off at the knees, he met Joshua Ackles’ questioning glare. “Your brother is missing.”

“Missing?” The other Ackles’ voice went up several octaves. “What do you mean, he’s missing? Since when? Have you contacted the police? Has he been kidnapped or did he run away? How long has it been since someone’s seen him? Spoken to him?” The rapid-fire questions made Jared blink momentarily, but he fast composed himself.

“He hasn’t been missing very long,” Jared shook his head, trying to steel his heart against the emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. He needed to be clear-headed. “I spoke to him just a few hours ago. We can’t contact the police yet; you can’t file a missing persons report unless the person’s been gone longer than 48 hours.”

Jared made a mental note to be thankful for all the crime shows he’d watched.

If Josh realized he’d made no reference to his question of whether Jen was abducted or went willingly, the elder man showed no outward reaction. Instead, he began pacing back and forth, fear splashed across his features.

“What was he doing here, do you know?” Josh asked, seeming to forget how much he hated Jared in favor of his worry over his brother.

“He came to see your uncle,” Chris answered for him, and Josh’s attention snapped between them. “He came looking for some answers, and he was on his way home when Jared heard from him last. He was supposed to be back home hours ago, and when he wasn’t, we came here.” Chris gestured behind himself. “Found Jared’s truck abandoned.”

Josh took this in, leaning against the hood of his car. He ran his hand distractedly through his hair- a gesture uncannily resembling of his younger brother- and sighed gustily.

“We’ll split up and look for him?” Josh phrased it as a question, unwittingly deferring to Jared. The Alpha nodded.

“We’ll take a direction each,” he decided. “Meet back here in 2 hours. Any evidence of what might have happened, we’ll take pictures of, and we’ll puzzle it out when we meet back here.”

He almost felt he was back on the football field, a quarterback giving his team their play. He stopped himself from the usual “Ready, break!” by biting on the inside of his cheek.

As they all turned to leave, Josh stopped them. “You guys…” the man looked troubled. “Do y’all have silver knives?”

If their reactions were anything to go by, Chad and Chris were just as alarmed and on guard as he was.

What business did Joshua Ackles have, knowing anything about silver knives?

“Why?” he dared to ask, working hard to maintain a cool exterior. It didn’t look like the green-around-the-gills man knew their secret…but he obviously knew a secret. “What’s special about a silver knife?”

Josh flushed scarlet. “Nothing special,” he denied, attempting to adopt an aloof tone. “I just…there’s this…a friend of mine,” he finally settled on those words. “A friend of mine, he told me that I should carry one around with me. That it would keep me safe from any…creatures in the woods.”

Jared’s blood ran cold, and his packmates fixed their eyes on him, even as alphas, looking for their pack leader to take the reins. Jared forced an impassive look on to his face, trying hard not to react to the knowledge that their secret was in danger.

“There are no creatures in the woods,” he spoke steadily, almost laughing at the look Josh gave him that was part worried and part conflicted. It would seem that the elder Ackles actually wanted to warn him.

“All the same, Jensen would kill me if we got him back and your ugly mug was ruined,” Josh snarked, and really, that was what it came down to. Josh would do anything for his brother just the same way Jared would do anything for his mate and lover.

A level of respect and understanding thawed some of his resentment. “We’ll be careful,” he nodded, “and the three of us have knives with us,” he lied smoothly. “Jensen got us into the habit, said it was better to be safe than sorry. After his time over here, that was more or less his maxim.”

Josh didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t push the matter either. Nodding once, he set off North, not waiting for them to go their directions.

“He knows.” Chad fixed wide blue eyes on him, and he could feel the concern rolling off his best friend in waves. “How the fuck does he know, Jay?! You don’t think…Jensen wouldn’t…”

“Not in a million years,” Chris defended in a steely voice, before Jared could get the words out. Chad instantly looked chagrined, blushing lightly.

“I know,” he nodded, rubbing at the nape of his neck. “I’m sorry. Didn’t think.”

“None of us are thinking straight right now,” Jared allowed, trying to ease the tension. “Pointing fingers isn’t going to help until we find Jensen. He’ll be able to get the truth from his brother.”

“You know what this means though, right?” Chris asked solemnly. The long-haired alpha’s eyes glinted with unease. Jared nodded worriedly.

“We have a traitor.”

 

~*Jensen*~

 

“Hey, baby, did you know that the first church bells were introduced in AD 400 by Paulinus of Nola? By the 11th century, it was practically commonplace.”

Jensen looked up at his boyfriend in amusement from where he was sitting, sketching the scenery of the beautiful packlands. The Alpha was sprawled on the ground next to him, eyes watching the clouds in the sky, content in their moment of peace.

It was the first time Jared had relaxed since the lone wolf had attacked him.

Deciding that he needed to spend some quality time with the love of his life, Jensen closed his sketchbook with a firm snap, shifting his body until he sprawled out next to Jared, tucked into the Alpha’s body. Jared smiled at him, for the first time tearing his eyes away from the skies.

“Is that so?” Jensen shook his head solemnly. “I don’t know how I could have lived all this time without knowing how church bells came about.” Jared pouted, and Jensen didn’t fight the grin that spread over his face.

“Just thought I’d share a random fact,” Jared sniffed. “You don’t have to poke fun.”

Smiling partly in fondness, partly in remorse, Jensen settled his arms around his lover’s torso. “I’m sorry, Jay.” He aimed wide eyes at his boyfriend, knowing the man couldn’t stay mad at him for too long. “Tell me more?”

Predictably, Jared’s frown was replaced by a happy little smile that Jensen was no more immune to than Jared was to Jensen’s eyes.

“In Christianity, the Anglican, Lutheran and Catholic churches rang the bells three times a day,” he explained. “Once at 6am, once at noon, and once at 6pm, to call the townspeople’s attention to the fact that it was time to recite the Lord’s prayer.”

Jensen quirked his eyebrow. “They teach you that stuff in Sunday school?” he asked dubiously.

“No,” Jared chuckled. “I like history. I love reading up all these random facts. I find the past…fascinating. Don’t you?”

Jensen pondered that for a moment before shaking his head. “I’ve spent a long time running away from the past,” he said frankly. “I never really sought it out.” Settling himself more comfortably, he allowed his eyes to drift to the clouds above them, wondering what his boyfriend saw when he looked there. “Tell me another of your crazy facts.”

“Hmm.” Jared took a moment to think about which one he liked best. “There was a guy who had the hiccups for 68 years,” he grinned brightly. “He fell and damaged the part of his brain that inhibits the hiccups response, so he had hiccups for 68 years straight.”

“Shit!” Jensen cringed in sympathy. “I used to think hiccups were fun, when I was a kid. Guess that guy would respectfully disagree.”

“Damn straight.”

They cuddled for a moment in silence, each boy as much lost in their thoughts as they were connected to one another.

“When I was a kid, I used to think the clouds followed me whenever I ran,” Jared grinned suddenly down at him. “I was almost always in my cub form, and when I wasn’t getting up to no good with Chad, I was trying to win a race between the clouds and myself. I convinced myself I won, a couple times.”

Jensen returned the smile, affection in his endless green orbs. “That’s freaking adorable,” he chuckled. Getting up suddenly, he dusted his jeans off. “Bet ya can’t beat me!”

Jared was up and after him before Jensen could get further than ten steps away.

###

He wished so hard that he was back in that moment.

If he tried hard enough, Jensen could almost remember the smell of the woods that day; piney, earthy, wholesome. He could hear the rustling of the leaves in the crisp springtime breeze. Feel the late afternoon sun warming his back, though not as much as his Alpha’s voice warmed his heart.

If he tried hard enough, Jensen could almost believe he was back there, instead of facing his imminent death in a place too dark to identify, without the love of his life.

And that really was the crux of it. Jensen had been ready for Death since he was 8 years old…but now? With Jared in his life? With Jared, and Chris, and Chad, and the pack, and Eric, and his brother and his friends? He had more to live for than ever.

It would figure that Fate would wait until he had the most to lose, before pulling the rug from under his feet.

Overwhelmed with a volatile combination of frustration and desperation, Jensen began to thrash against his bonds, not stopping when it tore his skin open, or when his body began to scream from its self-inflicted abuse. He didn’t stop when he realized he was gulping in great, gasping sobs, and he didn’t stop when shivers seemed to rack his very insides.

He only stopped when blackness floated into his awareness. Laying in a fetal position, his overheated skin pressed against the damp, cold concrete, he let himself slip away.

Maybe his subconscious would take pity on him, and take him back to that day.

 

~*Jared*~

 

“Who would betray us like that?” Chad asked, his normally playful brother gone, replaced with an agitated, worried friend.

They had just sent Josh home with the promise that they’d meet back up in the morning to look again, having come up empty searching for Jensen. The wolves were at a loss; Chad was turning things over verbally, his anxiety almost palpable in the tension-thickened air. Chris was quiet, sheer desperation pouring off him in waves. And Jared?

Jared was simply lost.

He was an alpha. A Pack Alpha. A natural born leader, fearless and quick thinking, tactical and powerful and strong. He wasn’t supposed to be lost. He wasn’t supposed to be afraid, and uncertain. He was supposed to have the answers.

And yet.

It was like Jensen had taken with him, the parts of Jared that made him the best Alpha heir he’d ever been. Here was the tangible proof that Jared was better when his mate was at his side; he was stronger, more self-assured, more dominant, more Alpha.

And he finally had an answer to Beaver’s question.

“Jared!”

The Alpha’s attention was redirected to his best friend. Chad was glaring at him, having apparently been speaking to him for the past few minutes. Whatever his second-in-command had seen in his eyes, though, softened his expression. Clear blue eyes locked on Jared’s hazel.

“Get out of that place, Jay. We’re going to find him. You cant help him when you’re catatonic.”

Nodding slowly, Jared forced himself to at least try to push past his crushing terror. The sun hung low in the sky, and he allowed his eyes to track the sky while he thought.

“We’ll stay at a motel for the night,” he finally ordered the other two wolves, settling back into his role as their leader, even though it felt tonight like more of a burden than a privilege. “I’ll meet you guys there; I need to speak to someone first. Just in case, by some twist of Fate, it was humans who took him.”

“You don’t know anyone here,” Chad pointed out, a counterpoint to Chris nodding knowingly.

“I know some people,” Jared told his friend solemnly. “All of whom would do anything for…for him.” Jared avoided speaking his mate’s name, knowing that the tears wouldn’t stop if he did.

It was time to revisit JR’s world.

###

Everyone at the bar greeted him like an old friend, even though most of them knew him as only “the guy that was with JR”. Again, Jared had to marvel at the pull his mate had; enough to make Jared feel at home at a biker bar, when the green-eyed boy wasn’t even there. As opposed to their first meeting, Tyler Hoechlin even offered to buy him a drink, insisting that a round was on him next time Jared and Jensen were in town.

“J-Ross has that effect on people.”

Jared turned at the sound of Aldis’ voice, managing to muster up an extremely fake smile for the man, which he saw right through.

“What’s the matter kid?” Then Aldis realized which part of the duo was noticeably absent. “Where’s JR?”

Jared didn’t answer for a moment.

“Where’s JR, kid?” Aldis repeated, alarm making him straighten. Suddenly, the lean man pulled Jared outside by the elbow. The Alpha moved willingly, remembering Jensen’s insistence that the bar’s patrons jumped at any sign of weakness.

“He’s been taken, Dodge,” Jared pushed the words out as soon as they were outside. “A few hours ago, as he was leaving his uncle’s place. I think it may have been his aunt, she blames him for his parent’s car accident.”

The other man was silent as he digested the overload of information, his palms shaking slightly where he brought them up to scrub at his face.

“Where was the last place he was at?” Aldis asked finally, a dangerous glint entering his eyes. “I’ll call up the boys, we’ll check around.” The tall man regarded him for a moment, head cocked. “Do you have any idea of who might have taken him?”

Jared swallowed hard against the lie. “No.”

Thankfully, being able to read people was more Jensen’s thing, because Aldis accepted the answer with a tired nod. Concern tightened the older man’s eyes, and rage tightened his fists. “I’ll make a couple calls,” he told Jared, clapping him on the shoulder. “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I’ll call you if I hear anything.”

“I’ll do the same.”

They exchanged numbers quickly, and it seemed that Jensen’s absence weighed heavily on both of their socializing skills, because not long after, Jared was headed back to their motel. Thoughts of his mate assaulted him as he drove, letting the tears fall for the first time that night. He wasn’t sure where to even begin looking for his lover, and he raised his eyes heavenward as he prayed for some kind of guidance, some way forward. His mind drifted to his beautiful mate and he pulled over, parking in an empty lot, unable to drive with the tears that were now completely clouding his vision. Finally, he surrendered himself to the flashback.

“You’re religious, Jay?”

Jared glanced down at his mate. Curious green eyes searched his face and he grinned, overwhelmed with happiness at having the beautiful boy in his arms.

“My momma raised us all to be,” he nodded the affirmative, turning to face Jensen and running his hand lightly over the curve of his back. “What about you?”

“Not for a while,” Jensen cringed. “I’m not an atheist either, I just sort of…I don’t know, I guess I’ve just had a hard time believing.”

Jared thought about that for a moment. Given Jensen’s history and what the boy had endured, it was more than reasonable for him to have some doubts. Pressing feathery kisses over his freckled skin, Jared strove to comfort.

“I’ll believe enough for the both of us,” he decided, “until you believe again. Okay?”

Jensen smiled winningly at him, and the Alpha’s heart skipped a beat in his chest.

“This is why I love you, Jared Padalecki.”

The words echoed tauntingly in his mind, a harsh and cruel reminder that someone out there had the power to make certain he never that honeysuckle voice and those sweet words again. There would be no greater hell than to lose his mate, and his traitorous mind kept coming back to the very real threat that loomed above his head.

The shrill ringing of his cellphone interrupted his thoughts. He scrambled, hoping against hope that Jensen had somehow managed to get out, or somehow managed to contact him from wherever he was.

“Jen…”

“No kid,” Beaver’s voice interrupted him before he could even get his mate’s full name out. Jared slumped in his seat, tears burning the back of his eyelids.

“What?” he asked dully.

“Chad called to let us know what was going on,” Jim told him, getting straight to the point. “Your daddy’s chomping at the bit, there’s that treaty meet that…”

“I don’t give a damn,” Jared retorted sharply. “And you should know better than to think I would. Now if that’s all you called to tell me…”

“Don’t mouth off with me, boy,” Beaver warned, though there was a distinct note of warmth in his gruff tone. “I know you don’t care, and frankly, I don’t think the rest of the pack does either. We had to talk a lot of them out of coming out there to help you, until we could speak to you about it. Your boy’s made quite an impression on them.”

Swiping impatiently at the tears rolling down his cheeks, Jared huffed a flat laugh that held next to no real mirth. “He has that effect on people,” he repeated Aldis’ words. “Send a few of them that can be spared…the sooner we can cover ground, the faster we’ll find him.”

The words went unsaid: And we will find him.

“You got it, kid,” Jim replied gently. “I’ve been thinking…tell me again about that nightmare you had.”

“You think it’ll help me find him?” he asked shrewdly, sitting up in his seat, eager to grab hold of any shred of hope available to him. “The nightmares?”

“I think that they may have some significance, yes,” Jared could almost picture Jim’s nodding, “but I also think that it may be the key to finding him.”

“How so?”

“Well, your relationship with him has already proven to have all the qualities of a traditional mating, albeit exacerbated. In my experience, Were mates have the ability to sense when their significant others are in danger, and they also have a stronger mental connection during this time. With the kinds of emotions running rampant between you and Jensen, I have reason to believe that you might be able to connect to him telepathically, over a wider search radius.”

Jared’s breath caught in his throat. “I need to shift,” he mumbled, getting out of the truck. “That’s the only time when we…”

“Jared, wait,” Beaver stopped him. “Tell me about the nightmare first.”

“We were in some dark, abandoned, rundown place that smelled like rotting fish, and I was running down a corridor until I found him in one of the rooms,” he summarized quickly. “Maybe an old factory that produced something in the line of fish?”

“Abandoned factories,” Jim snorted. “You’d think they’d at least try not to make it like a bad remake of an already awful horror movie.”

Jared couldn’t bring himself to joke around as though everything was normal and thankfully, the older wolf seemed to realize as much without him having to say so. A comfortable silence fell over them as Jared was treated to the distant sound of Jim’s fingers falling over a keyboard, each click-clacking stroke bringing him closer to finding his mate.

“Okay,” Jim eventually spoke again. “There are four factories that went out of business around that area, kid, but…” the Chemistry professor’s voice broke with a sigh. “None of them have anything to do with fish. There’s two herbicide companies, an auto-spares manufacturer and a toffee factory.”

Jared bit back his frustration, locking his car and running into the small area of seclusion that the trees offered. “Widen your search span or something,” he instructed the older wolf before he really registered it. “They could have run or taken a vehicle. Call me back when you have an update, I’m going to try to connect with Jen.”

There was a beat before Beaver responded. “You’re gonna make a damn fine Alpha, kid,” he offered gently, before hanging up. Jared warmed fractionally at the faith his pack had in him; and he knew for a fact that he wouldn’t be as imposing and confident in his abilities if not for Jensen’s unyielding faith in him.

Faith that he had to justify by getting his mate back.

He shifted flawlessly, his mind reaching out for Jensen before his paws even touched the rich, earthy soil. Padding a few feet in every which direction, Jared inwardly urged his mate to answer to his calls.

There was a brief flavor of something…it was definitely his mate, but he couldn’t connect with him. Jared kept pushing, knowing that this likely meant that the green-eyed boy was either too far out, or asleep. Or unconscious, his unhelpful mind provided.

After a few more minutes, Jared gave it a rest, resolving to try again in a half hour. Shifting back to human form, he called Beaver back, informing the older alpha about the recent developments and smarting slightly over the fact that he couldn’t do that with his own father.

No sooner had he hung up before his phone was ringing again, this time with his brother on the other end.

“Jeff?”

“How ya holding up, kiddo?” his brother forewent the pleasantries, deep concern in his voice. For a second, Jared felt like he was a pup again, and he ached for his brother to chase away the nightmares in that way that only a big brother could. He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat that hadn't seemed to have left since Jensen was taken.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, Jeff,” he confessed in a small voice, sounding a lot like the lost pup he felt like. “I don’t…”

“Shh, little brother,” Jeff instantly soothed, his deep and calm voice taking Jared back to his childhood. “It’s gonna be okay. We’re gonna find him, I promise. I told Val what was going on, and I’ve already left home, I’ll be there in an hour. I’m gonna help you figure this out, okay?”

Overwhelming gratitude fell over him, tugging at his already frayed emotions. “Thanks,” he whispered softly, knowing that his older brother would hear what he couldn’t say; that he loved him for the support, and that he couldn’t face this alone, and that he was thankful to have Jeff as his family.

“It’s going to be okay,” the elder Padalecki promised simply, proving that he heard every last unspoken word. “I promise.”

Jared nodded, accepting the promise, because what else could he possibly do? Leaving his truck parked where it was, he walked around aimlessly, desperately trying to think of any type of solace he could seek from the turmoil churning his insides.

You’re religious, Jay?

I’ll believe enough for the both of us, until you believe again. Okay?

His own words echoed in his mind and with a start, he realized that his absently moving feet had brought him to the front steps of a catholic church they had passed earlier.

I’ll believe enough for the both of us.

Walking up the steps, he slipped into the opulent church, too distraught to even appreciate it’s magnificent beauty. Kneeling down at the front of the chapel, eyes fixed on the flickering candle he had lit, Jared prayed for guidance, for direction.

Please…keep him safe for me. Don’t let me lose him, not now, not like this, not…not ever. Please…please, please, please. He’s mine, he’s my soul-mate, You can’t have him yet. I don’t want to imagine facing a future without him. Please give us a chance.

He crossed himself, letting his tears fall; honestly, he was surprised that he could still cry, for all the sobbing he’d already done. Wasn’t there some kind of limit on that? If there was, the Alpha was sure he would have passed it by now.

Crossing the street into the woodsy area off the main road, Jared shifted once more. Jen? He called out, desperation tinging his tone. Baby, please, please…can you hear me? Jensen?

He shut his eyes, pressing his muzzle to the ground with a pitiful whimper, full of anger and desperation. All of a sudden, it felt like his mind was being wrapped in cotton wool, and he found himself- his human self- back in the corridor in his dream.

How did he fall asleep?

Confusion struck momentary fear into him, and he walked slowly down the abandoned hallway, moving to the door he knew Jensen to be behind. Turning the knob slowly, he opened the door…

…to find his mate.

“Jay?” Jensen’s disbelieving voice was the most beautiful sound he’d heard all day, and he found he didn’t really care how he had managed to fall asleep; this dream was well worth it.

In four big strides, he was in front of his mate, scooping him up into his arms and showering him with kisses. He was grateful that he could touch in whatever odd dream world he’d created.

“Jay?” his mate asked again, pulling back slightly. “What are you…how did you…how’d you get into my dream?”

Jared was still for a moment, his eyes widening as he caught on to the implications of what his mate was saying. “This is…this is your dream, baby?”

Jensen nodded, looking confused. “Yeah. I know it is, because I’m not…” he cut off abruptly, averting his eyes. Reaching over, Jared tilted his lover’s face to meet his.

“You’re not, what?” Jensen sighed in resignation.

“I’m not hurt, here.”

“Oh, love…”

Jared buried his face in Jensen’s neck, those four simple words flooring him. Part of him, a decidedly masochistic part, wanted to demand that his mate detail all of his injuries, while another more dominant part of him simply wanted to hold and touch and comfort and caress, and apologize until his throat was raw.

Like he could read his mind, which wasn’t unlikely at this stage, Jensen carded his hands through Jared’s locks, soothing him. “It’s okay, babe, everything’s okay here. Shh…”

“I’m so sorry, love,” he clutched tighter at his boyfriend. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there, I’m sorry I can’t find you now…”

“Jay, it’s okay.” Jensen pulled back to aim earnest green eyes at him. “I’m so glad I get to see you now. Can you enter my dreams because we’re mates too?”

Jared shook his head, uncaring of the semantics now. “I don’t know what this is, baby,” he admitted. “I’ll tell Beaver about it, he might be able to shed some light.”

“Jay.” Jen shook his head, seeming to remember something. “I need to tell you something…about where I am? I can smell rotting fish wherever I am, but I don’t think I’m near a harbor or anything because I don’t smell or hear water.”

“I know.” Jared nodded, cringing guiltily. “I had a nightmare about this…I didn’t know it was prophetic baby,” his voice turned pleading. “I thought that I could…if I’d had any idea…I’m…”

Jensen shut him up with a chaste but loving kiss. “Hush, Jay.” He wiped away the tears rolling from Jared’s eyes. “You weren’t to know, and in my experience, you can’t escape Fate.”

Jared nodded, slowly steeling himself. He cupped the other boy’s neck, caressing the curve of his jaw. “Jen, do you remember anything about where they took you? I’m close enough to connect, which means you haven’t left town.”

“It has to be some sort of factory,” Jensen reasoned, looking around. “I can hear lights flickering too, so I’d wager it’s a factory that…”

“…came out of business,” Jared finished with a nod. “Tried that route already.” Desperation tinged his tone. “All we got was two old herbicide companies, a toffee factory and…”

“That’s it…” Jensen mouthed, barely audible as his green eyes opened wide with realization. “That’s it!” he exclaimed excitedly. “I’m an idiot! I’m at one of the herbicide factories!”

“But which one?” Jared asked, a burst of hope renewing him, too excited to ask how Jensen had figured it out. His mate bit his lip, racking his brain.

“I don’t know,” he whispered in anguish. “I didn’t hear anything else, except…” his voice trailed off, and he looked to Jared suddenly, the excitement returning. “Jay, do you remember that time you were telling me all about your weird facts? You mentioned that some churches rang their bells at certain intervals?”

“Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches, yeah,” Jared nodded, and like a freight train, the epiphany hit him. “You heard that 6pm bell ring, didn’t you?” he asked elatedly.

Jensen nodded animatedly. “I think so! I dismissed it before, but I think there’s a church nearby where I am.”

Jared scooped his lover up into his arms once more, spinning him around with a laugh. Overwhelming relief showered through him and he thanked whatever power may have listened to his prayers, for giving him this.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

It’s a cruel twist of Fate that I might have managed to give Jared my location, only for him to come in time to find my body.

The thought ran unbidden through Jensen’s mind, and he shivered in residual fear. There was still a great chance that Jared wouldn’t get to him in time, and while part of him wanted to stay hopeful, he felt the need to protect Jared in the same vein, not wanting his lover to have to see his dead body.

“Jay?” it was difficult to see the sheer delight on his Alpha’s face, knowing there was a chance there would be devastation soon. “Just…just let Chris come into my room first, okay?”

Hurt flashed on the taller boy’s face, combined with a healthy dose of suspicion. “Why?” he asked simply.

Jensen winced. He couldn’t bear to face death knowing that Jared remained insecure about his feelings, so he picked the lesser of the two evils. Framing the wolf’s face with his palms, Jensen kept his voice low and sweet. “Jay…babe, we have to face the possibility that…that they’ll do something to me before you get there.” Jared started to protest, pain ravaging his hazel orbs, but Jensen overrode him. There was no way he could get this out again. He had to blurt everything out now. “She’s hell-bent on revenge. She might not want to wait much longer before she…before she finishes this.” He couldn’t actually say the words; even thinking them felt painful. “If she does…I don’t want you to see that, Jay. Please, promise me.”

“No.” Desolation radiated off the Alpha Were. “No, I can’t, I won’t.”

“Jay…” Unable to hold back his own tears, Jensen buried his face in Jared’s chest. “I’ll hold on,” he promised. “I’ll stall and I’ll fight, I promise I’ll do my best…but don’t do you dare give up if something happens to me.” Ardent green eyes sought out despairing hazel ones. “Promise me.” He shook his boyfriend lightly. “Promise me that you’ll become the Pack Alpha, and you’ll find a Beta, and you’ll see me again only in 80-odd years. Promise me, Jared.”

Before anything could happen, before Jared could protest and Jensen could plead, the foundation around them rocked dangerously.

“What…” Jensen’s bewildered tone became a short gasp when he fell backwards, out of Jared’s arms. “I’m waking up,” he comprehended as pain began to return to his dream-body.

Jared opened his mouth to answer, but before he could, everything went dark.

And with a breathy gasp, Jensen returned to awareness. Coughing violently, he realized that he’d woken because the other wolf- Gabe, Jensen remembered Katherine calling him- had sucker-punched his already aching ribs.

“It’s time, boy,” he stated, his tone and the implications in his words sending chills down Jensen’s spine.

He tried to reason with the man in front of him. “You don’t have… to do this,” he pushed the words out. “I didn’t kill…your mate.” It was ironic that even as he pleaded for the man before him to see sense, he knew that it wasn’t going to happen. He knew that if the positions were reversed, he’d tear limb from limb anyone who was remotely involved or related to Jared’s death.

“You’re the reason he’s gone!” Gabe snarled, proving his own suspicion. “A mate for a mate,” he breathed heavily. “The Padalecki heir is going to go through his entire life knowing that he failed to save his mate, the same way I must go through my life.” All Jensen could see in the man’s eyes was malice, and he shuddered at the evidence of what losing a mate could do.

Would Jared become something like this if he lost him? Would he become cold to the world, merciless and unforgiving and ruthless? Would he teach his heirs the same hateful ideals?

Would he lose that sparkle in his eyes, the kindness and gentleness in his soul that made him the man he was?

Invariably.

Fight, a voice inside him urged, sounding suspiciously like a voice he remembered from his childhood, but couldn’t really place. Fight, son. If not for you, then for him.

“Do what…you feel you must,” Jensen wheezed. He knew that goading the man was the only possible stalling technique he had left. “But face me…like a man. The way…that Joe faced us.” He forced a smirk on to his face. “Are you as brave…as your mate used to be?”

With a roar, Gabe punched the wall just above his face, and it was with considerable effort that Jensen kept his smug exterior.

“This town will be painted with your blood,” Gabe vowed dangerously, “before I deliver your head on a stick to your precious mate.”

“Fantastic,” Jensen deadpanned, turning to sarcasm in his intense fear.

Fun fucking times.

###

Chapter Text

~*Jared*~

 

Several things happened at once. With an almost audible snap, Jared returned to reality, and at the same moment that he begun to feel the earth against his muzzle once more, he was suddenly tackled from the side.

Rolling with the heavy form on top of him, Jared snapped his teeth, trying to gather his bearings. As soon as he was pinned down, a familiar paw against his belly, he stopped struggling.

Jeff?

What in the hell happened to you?! His brother growled at him, nipping his ear like he was a disobedient pup. Do you really think we have the time to waste with you disappearing, Jared? We have our hands full with Jensen, without you pulling a temper tantrum and worrying us even more!

Rebellious of the unwarranted dressing-down he was getting, Jared bucked his brother off him, years of wrestling with the older wolf having taught him a trick or two. In a quick move, he had their positions reversed, pinning his brother down with a matching ear nip, albeit slightly harder than his brother had done to him.

I connected with Jen, he informed the elder Padalecki irritably. You should know better than to think I would put my mate’s safety in jeopardy by breaking down.

His brother looked chagrined, and Jared watched as the fear chipped away from Jeff’s eyes. The Alpha heir relaxed his grip, jumping to the side to allow his brother to get back up, realizing that despite their snapping, Jeff was concerned for Jared’s safety too. He butted his muzzle against Jeff’s apologetically.

I’m okay, he reassured his older brother. How long was I AWOL?

Two hours, according to Chad. Jeff answered his unspoken apology by licking the spot on Jared’s ear where he’d nipped him earlier, in a way that Jared recognized as something Jeff did to his pups. He smothered a smile at the fatherly side of his brother. They’ve been anxious.

I’ll apologize later, the Alpha quickly remembered the urgency they needed to be moving with. We don’t have a lot of time. I know where Jensen is. Jared didn’t need to communicate with Jeff to see the clear question in the other alpha’s eyes. I’ll explain the how, later, he promised. But he doesn’t have a lot of time. Jared ran the risk of exposure by howling loudly, the sound guaranteed to reach the ears of his packmates. He just hoped Jensen’s captors didn’t hear it too.

Within a few minutes, Chad and Chris arrived, each rebuking him for his disappearing act. Before he could explain why, he was surprised to find six other wolves crowding them. Jared immediately recognized Tom and Misha, the only two betas, as well as Daniel, the father of the Jensen’s favorite triplet pups. It took him an extra minute, but he quickly identified the other three alphas, Jack, Ben and Pascal, as the fathers of other pups Jen had gotten close to, and babysat.

Jared, Daniel nodded at him. We’re here to help. Do you want us to split up and search, see if we can track Jensen?

No, Daniel, Jared responded, pawing the loose soil underneath his paws. I have Jensen’s location, the only issue now is conducting a retrieval mission.

Ben stepped forward, his head bowed slightly in a show of respect to the pack Alpha; the Alpha Jared realized he’d started sounding like. It made him start slightly, since he’d only ever seen that gesture directed at his father, and Beaver’s voice ran through his head. You’re gonna make a damn fine Alpha, kid.

Jared was brought back to the present as Ben straightened. Like he’d seen his father do many times, Jared dipped his head fractionally in acknowledgement and mutual respect.

We’d be honored to help, Jared, Ben assured him.

I’d understand if anyone were hesitant, Jared made himself speak gently. You are all fathers and sons and brothers. I don’t expect you to risk your lives for my mate, I cant ask you to…

You’re not asking, Jack interrupted him. Yet here we stand.

Daniel stepped forward this time. Jensen is our family too, Jared. He became my family the moment he saved my pups that day in the field. He’s integrated himself into my family with every second he spent looking after Lukas, Liam and Layla since.

Same here, Jack echoed.

And here, Ben and Pascal chimed in unison.

From his side, Chad butted his muzzle against Jared’s side. He’s been my family since he schooled me in pool that day, the sandy wolf huffed an approximation of a laugh. And since the day he told me he believed in me, in the way only you ever seemed to before.

He was my family since the day he told me he loved my baby brother, Jeff nodded at him. He’s my brother-in-law, Jare.

And he’s my brother, Chris was the last one to speak. From everyone, Jared knew that Chris was the one who was feeling Jensen’s abduction the most, next to him. Jared nodded once at the other alpha; he didn’t need the words, because he knew without a shadow of doubt that he’d have to paralyze Chris if he had any hope of the alpha not accompanying him to find Jensen.

Everyone else though? He had no idea how much Jensen had integrated himself into so many families, into so many hearts. He didn’t think his mate even knew how many lives he’d touched.

He has that effect on people.

Jared huffed, a small tendril of warmth curling in his frozen chest. He had the most amazing mate in the world.

And it was time to rescue him.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

The sound of his ragged breathing filled the otherwise empty room. Clutching his abdomen against the pain that seemed to thud in time with his heartbeat, Jensen staggered to his feet, meeting his attacker head-on.

“You keep getting up,” Gabe taunted him, a sneer twisting the features that might have looked handsome a long time ago. Before grief had taken over, and anger, and hatred. “You’d think after so many times you’d learn to stay down.”

Despite the bruises marring his skin and the blood pouring from a cut above his left eye, despite the fatigue of his broken body and the heat radiating from his extensive injuries, Jensen lifted his chin fractionally, the picture of unyielding defiance.

“Someone…once told me that I… was the strongest and bravest person…he had ever known,” Jensen forced the words out of his mouth, wheezing painfully. The picture of his lover, of Jared, sprung to the forefront of his mind; he saw the bright smile, mischievous eyes and ever-adorable dimples. He saw the floppy hair that more often than not refused to abide by the laws of gravity, and the tall and muscular body that made him feel safer than safe and hotter than hot. He even saw that faint scar on the curve of a shoulder that spoke of a lifetime of childhood memories with Chad as a best friend. It reminded him of what he had to fight for. What he had to lose. “I’m fighting…for him,” he said, with the quiet conviction of a warrior. Through the blood that painted his face, his eyes glowed, bright green and fierce, with a spirit that only true love can cultivate. “I fight…for him…because he’s…my heart and soul. I have no fear…anymore…because he’s with me. I can look…Death in the face…and fear nothing…when I have him.”

“Look around you, pretty boy.” The man cracked his knuckles. “Your precious mate ain’t here. You’re all alone.”

“You’re nought for two.” Jensen shook his head painfully. “He’s the…purest…and best part…of me. And I’m never…alone. Not as…as long as I have…his love.”

Jensen watched as realization dawned on Gabe’s face. The wolf dropped his stance, straightening, an iron mask coming over his features.

“Then the only way to end this is to take away his love,” Gabe stated monotonously. “But not from you. Nothing would hurt you more than to be the reason for your mate’s pain.” Picking up the knife he had come in with fifteen minutes earlier, Gabe advanced on Jensen, deadly intent clear as day on his face. Finality made his eyes clear, and Jensen shivered.

But he didn’t retreat.

He didn’t close his eyes.

He faced Death without any fear, just as he said he would. All he felt was sorrow and pain, and overwhelming love for the man who had taught him what it meant to live, love and dream.

I love you, Jared Tristan Padalecki, forever and always. I’m so sorry.

 

~*Jared*~

 

His senses tingling, Jared directed his pack quickly. Jensen had spoken like they hadn’t a lot of time…and Jared knew from experience that his mate’s innate ability to read people wasn’t something to be taken lightly. If Jensen was worried…it was because he had reason to be.

“Chad, Chris, Jeff, Misha, you’re with me,” Jared instructed. “We’re going to find Jensen and take out whoever is guarding him. Tom, Daniel, Ben, Jack and Pascal, you’re going to find and take out Jensen’s aunt.” After a beat, he added, “I don’t want bloodshed tonight. Not here, not now. Subdue them, and then Jensen needs to have a say in how we handle this.”

Everyone nodded in compliance, and Jared liked to think that it wasn’t only because of his Alpha timbre. In Jeff’s eyes, shone a rare mix of intense pride and respect. Jared shifted forms easily, landing on his paws, and they all followed suit.

As soon as he was in lupine form, Jared smelt Jensen’s scent. As heavenly a scent as it was, Jared’s stomach recoiled at how much blood was saturated in the normally piney, earthy aroma. Knowing his directives would be followed, the Alpha didn’t hesitate to move towards the smell, tracking his mate effortlessly. He rammed through a door and tumbled into a long corridor.

“Someone…once told me that I… was the strongest and bravest person…he had ever known.”

Jared started as the faint sound reached his sensitive ears, an echo of the words he had spoken to Jensen before that disastrous dinner with his family. He started to move quickly but silently down the passage, following the sound of his mate’s voice. Though it was pained, he basked in it, letting it drown out the sound of his pack brothers’ padding paws.

“I’m fighting…for him,” Jensen was saying, warming Jared’s icy chest. “I fight…for him…because he’s…my heart and soul. I have no fear…anymore…because he’s with me. I can look…Death in the face…and fear nothing…when I have him.”

Jared could hardly describe the feelings that were coursing through him in that moment, so potent were they. He was so incredibly proud of his lover, and so honored that Jensen thought of him in a way he’d only ever dreamt of being seen as.

“Look around you pretty boy. Your precious mate aint here. You’re all alone.”

That’s where you’re wrong, you son of a bitch, Jared thought, wanting to growl at the very sound of the man who had caused his lover hurt. He turned a corner sharply, his pace picking up the closer he got to Jensen.

“You’re nought for two.” Jared was indescribably happy that his mate disputed that comment, knew in his heart of hearts that Jared would never leave him like that. “He’s the…purest…and best part…of me. And I’m never…alone. Not as…as long as I have…his love.”

The Alpha pushed back a whimper, Jensen’s raw and unfiltered words hitting his nerve endings in the way his only ever could. He felt reverence for his mate, ached to worship and cherish and treasure him.

“Then the only way to end this is to take away his love,” the unknown wolf decided, and Jared heard the sickening finality in his tone. He pushed harder, downright running now, the voices getting closer and closer and yet somehow still feeling so out of reach. He wasn’t listening to their words anymore, but one thing he couldn’t block out, was the voice that suddenly manifested in his head.

I love you, Jared Tristan Padalecki, forever and always. I’m so sorry.

Ice spread over Jared’s body and he focused on that voice, on that love, on that scent of his precious, significant other. Finally- finally- he reached the door that he knew held his Jensen, and he barely felt it when he crashed through it.

He was met with a picture he knew would be forever imprinted on his mind, until the end of days.

The wolf was in his human form, and Jared saw various injuries littering his frame; pride burst through him when he recognized Jensen’s handiwork. His mate had fought back. What gave Jared pause, however, was the man’s stance…where he was poised to plunge a knife deep into Jensen’s chest. His mate was bruised and battered; his face and body were covered in blood and there were more injuries on his body than there was not. But even hurt to hell and flirting with death, Jensen’s face was a picture of love and serenity.

Snapping his jaws, a vicious snarl ripped through Jared’s teeth. In a motion quicker than he could have anticipated, the man had Jensen’s body in front of his, knife to his throat.

“Don’t come any closer,” he warned, a maniacal glint in his eyes. Jared growled dangerously, crouching low, and when Chris and Chad flanked him and Misha and Jeff took up the rear, he knew their positions mirrored his.

“Give…it up…” Jensen wheezed, and the Alpha cringed at the sound. Irrefutable proof of Jensen having internal injuries. “They’re…stronger than you…Gabe.”

The man- Gabe- shook his head vehemently. “No!” he screamed. “You’re all going to pay for taking my Joe away from me! You’re gonna pay!”

“Joe attacked me…first,” Jensen rasped, and Jared realized quickly that the lone wolf who had attacked Jensen was actually part of the trio. “Ever wondered…what made him do…something that impulsive?”

The atmosphere in the already tense room dropped a couple degrees as Gabe sliced across Jensen’s throat, a barely-there scratch but enough to draw blood. Jensen sucked in a breath through his teeth and Jared growled warningly, feeling desperation and potent rage incite his veins.

“Stop baiting me,” Gabe hissed, “and tell me what you know.”

His mate was struggling on his feet, his injuries impeding him, and Jared took advantage of Gabe’s distraction to start inching gradually closer. He locked eyes with Jensen and dipped his head, so slightly that he knew only Jensen would catch on to it, and the acknowledgement showed in stunning emerald orbs.

“Why don’t you…ask Katherine?” he wheezed, shifting ever so slightly to the left. To anyone else, it would have looked like he was trying to find a more comfortable position, or like he was moving away from the knife, but Jared saw it as the action it was; one that removed Jared almost fully from Gabe’s line of sight, and one that allowed him a larger freedom of movement without tipping the knife-wielding madman off.

Good job, baby, you’re amazing. It’s my turn now. Trust me.

Jared saw the warmth in Jensen’s eyes, and this time, he didn’t need telepathy to see the total trust Jensen had in him. Exacerbated mental connection aside, he could read those orbs like a book.

“She tried to stop him,” Gabe retorted, but it wasn’t difficult to pinpoint the uneasiness in his tone. “She told me herself that she tried to keep him from making a move without me.”

“Haven’t you ever…wondered…why she had…more of a vendetta…against…against me than…the wolf y’all were…targeting?”

As Jensen spoke, Jared continued inching forward slowly. He knew where his mate was taking this, and he hoped to God that Gabe would bite.

“Didn’t you wonder…why Joe attacked…me that day?” Jensen continued. “Killing me was…never the plan…was it? You were…going to use me as…as bait, to get…get him here.”

“Why would Katherine want you dead?” Gabe demanded. “She was fighting the same cause as us! She knew that we were going to offer you the opportunity to change! She knew that killing you would be our last resort!”

Confusion struck Jared momentarily, but he trusted his mate to explain it to him when they got out of this. Instead of getting side-tracked, he kept moving forward, mind-speaking to his pack at the same time about not getting distracted by Gabe and Jensen’s back and forth.

“No,” Jensen refuted. “She knew that…killing me would…be easiest when…she had y’all to…to help.” He took in a painful, rattling breath, which was cut short with a gasp of pain. “She’s the…reason…he’s dead,” his mate forced the words out. “Not me.”

“No!” Gabe roared, and Jared took advantage of the man’s diverted attention.

Duck, baby! He warned his mate before leaping in one large bound. Like a well-oiled machine, Jensen worked with him, dropping to the floor mere seconds before Jared rammed into Gabe.

Then, all hell broke loose.

Gabe shifted as they both fell. As he got back to his feet, Jared made sure to position himself in front of his mate. Behind him, Jensen’s hand touched his fur briefly, and the contact calmed him marginally.

He bared his teeth at the charcoal black wolf. Gabe mirrored the motion, his eyes darting between all of them, no doubt wondering whether he had any chance of escaping five bloodthirsty wolves who all loved the man he’d spent the past 17 hours torturing.

Unfortunately, the man was more kamikaze than any of them had anticipated.

With a harsh bark, the other wolf leaped…but not at Jared.

He rammed himself against an old, rusty machine. A minute too late, Jared realized that it was a crane-like mechanism…and it still had a load.

With a droning creak, the already ruined crane arm snapped, hurtling down. The long arm would crush Gabe on its way down, but it was also in direct line with Jensen.

As it fell, Jared was in motion, and a split second before it could crush Jensen, he managed to push his mate away by slamming into him with his body.

He wasn’t so naïve to think he could scurry out of the way in time.

The last thing he remembered was the crushing pain of iron breaking his body.

And then, it was dark.

 

~*Jensen*~

 

“NO!”

Jensen watched in horror as the iron load fell on to Jared. Without even being fully aware of what he was doing, he crawled to where his fallen lover was.

Jeff was quicker than he was. With frantic motions that mirrored the feelings in Jensen’s chest, he shifted, and began tugging at the heavy arm, trying to heave it off Jared’s crumpled form. A split second later, Chad and Misha joined him, while Chris ran to him, grim-faced.

“Jensen, we need to…”

“No!” Jensen growled. He knew Chris meant well, but he needed to get to his mate, see that he was okay. “No, I have to make sure Jared…I have to…I need…he’s…”

“It’s over, Jensen,” Chris told him, his features twisted with grief and compassion. “He’s…”

“Shut the fuck up, Kane!” Jensen knew that his friend didn’t deserve his tone, but he didn’t really care at that moment. “He’s okay, he just…he needs to get out from under there.”

With strength that Jensen didn’t know he possessed, he pushed Chris out of the way and stumbled back to where Jared had finally been freed from the wreck.

The look of desolation on Jeff’s face made his heartbeat stutter.

His legs gave out and he crawled the last few inches between him and his mate. Jared had shifted in his unconsciousness, and with shaky hands, Jensen pressed two fingers to his lover’s throat.

He sobbed when he felt the faint pulse underneath the pads of his fingers.

“Call an ambulance!” he barked gruffly at them, furious that they were just standing there as though Jared was…as if he had…

“Jensen…”

“Call them!” he snarled dangerously, not even aware of who was trying to talk.

“Not even a wolf can heal from that, Jensen.” It was Jeff’s broken voice, ringing with finality, that crashed through Jensen’s urgency. “It’s over, he…”

Unable to complete his sentence, the elder Padalecki broke down into sobs, falling to his knees.

“No,” Jensen mouthed, the agony tearing through his very soul. “No, he’s not…” He pressed his forehead against Jared’s, hands ghosting over his bloodied and broken body. “Jared, wake up,” he pleaded desperately. “Babe, come on, you have to…to wake up…”

There was no response.

The anguish built up inside Jensen, and it felt like it was burning him from the inside out. His breathing became sharp and choppy, more gasping than anything else, and he registered Chris and Chad’s grief-filled voices, telling him to breathe.

He shut his eyes against their voices, and harsh white burst into his awareness. The burning became more real, and he screamed against the torment, flashes of his mate, his lover, his life, painting the back of his eyelids. They came so fast he could hardly decipher them, but he felt the essence of the love of his life. When he was sure that he was finally going to spontaneously combust from the fire in his veins, everything suddenly turned white.

“Jensen, open your eyes.”

Hesitantly, he complied, looking around him as he did. He was no longer in the herbicide factory, and he quickly realized that Jared’s damaged body still lay in front of him. Another sob tore through him and he crumpled, laying over Jared as his body was wracked with cries.

“Jensen, you need to focus.”

“Who are you?!” Jensen screamed, half-crazed, out of his mind with guilt and pain. “What do you want with us? Show yourself!”

A figure stepped into his line of sight. Jensen swiped roughly at his eyes, clearing the tears that were blurring his vision. He moved quickly in front of Jared, shielding his mate’s body with his own. Part of him knew how pointless it was, but he was going to die before he let anyone touch his Jared.

“Jensen, focus.” The man’s voice was authoritative, commanding, and Jensen imagined he must have had people falling to their feet obeying him, but he wasn’t one of them.

“Tell me who you are!” he demanded belligerently. He no longer had any care for caution; his mate…his lover…there was nothing to fight for if he had no Jared.

“That is not of import,” the man replied smoothly, but his vivid green eyes betrayed the grudging respect that he had for Jensen, for daring to rebel. “But if you wish to save your mate’s life, then you must focus.”

That caught his attention.

“What are you talking about?” he pressed, reaching out blindly for Jared’s hand. Even just that tiny bit of contact gave him strength.

“You can still save him,” the man told him. “I didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve convinced me.”

“How?”

“The way you shield his body, though he can no longer feel pain,” the man stared pointedly at the defensive stance Jensen had taken up. “That is a love more powerful than I have seen in long years, young one.”

“We’re mates.”

“I know,” the man nodded. “But hear me when I say that your love is stronger than any mate