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through the tundra, through the dark

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Cougar moves silently through the dark cabin, methodically checking all the security points. No one’s found him yet, but it would be careless to drop his guard now. As if to prove his point, the infrared detector goes off and someone knocks on the door. It could be Akiak from town. She’s the only one who ever comes to check on him, but this would be late for a visit. He grabs the M9 out of the side table drawer and cautiously opens the door.

There’s a bundled up figure standing in the doorway. Definitely not Akiak. Cougar blinks in surprise.

“Oh good, I found you,” Jensen says, before keeling over in a dead faint.

Cougar stares at Jensen’s prone body for another moment before sighing. He puts the M9 back in the drawer and drags Jensen’s dead weight into the cabin, trying to not jostle him too much. Jensen’s not wearing enough and is almost certainly hypothermic. Cougar lays out a double-wide down sleeping bag next to the wood stove and strips Jensen to his boxers—almost everything else is damp or wet—and notices that he’s lost weight. He also has Cougar’s ring strung onto the chain with his dog tags. Something in Cougar’s chest clenches.

Jensen stirs when Cougar is carefully trying to maneuver him into the sleeping bag. “That totally wasn’t the grand entrance I was going for,” Jensen says groggily, and then notices his own state of undress. “Shouldn’t you at least buy me dinner before you take my clothes off? What kind of cheap date do you take me for?”

“Jensen,” he says in exasperation; his voice is raspy. It’s been days since he’s spoken out loud. Jensen obediently gets the rest of the way into the sleeping bag.

“At least I’ve stopped shivering?” Jensen says. Cougar shakes his head. “Not good?”

“No,” Cougar confirms, and grabs blankets and a wool hat, tucking them gently on and around Jensen. He adds more wood to the wood stove and digs out some hand warmers, activating them and wrapping them in cloth.

“I know you probably think I’m a total idiot, but I didn’t choose the vacation destination. Don’t you stop functioning when it gets below, like, 50 degrees?” Jensen says.

Cougar shrugs. “People wouldn’t think to look here.” He strips down to his underwear and climbs in with Jensen. He tucks the hand warmers under Jensen’s arms and around his neck, and cautiously wraps himself around Jensen.

“Mmm,” Jensen hums contentedly as he turns to bury his face in Cougar’s neck, “I’ll let you get away with it this time, but you’re totally buying me dinner before we do this again. Or at least flowers. Or maybe cake.” Jensen groans. “I could totally go for chocolate cake right now. With chocolate syrup. And a giant hamburger with extra pepper jack cheese. And a massive side of house fries.”

“I have pemmican,” Cougar says, slowly rubbing Jensen’s back.

“I have no idea what that is,” Jensen says, starting to shiver again. Cougar relaxes a fraction.

“Jensen,” he says, voice low, “You could have died.”

“But I didn’t, and you came to the rescue, like my very own silent but deadly knight. And I found you, didn’t I? I think you’re underestimating my survival skills.” Cougar is not reassured.

They lie there for what feels like hours, Cougar slowly rubbing various parts of Jensen’s body—completely innocently, he tells himself—and Jensen gradually getting warmer, his shivering subsiding again. Cougar thinks Jensen’s fallen asleep, but he says suddenly, words running together from exhaustion, “None of us believe you did it, you know. You can come home, we can figure out this clusterfuck together.”

Cougar tenses. Instead of responding, he reaches out to touch his ring; it clinks against Jensen’s dog tags.

“Oh. Yeah. That,” Jensen says, clearing his throat. He’s embarrassed. “Well, I thought you might want it back, and who was I going to trust it with? The Colonel or Pooch? Or, god forbid, Roque?” Cougar’s mouth quirks at that.

“How did you find me?” Cougar asks.

“Mm, you were very clever, that was a nice trick you pulled in Trinidad, and I almost missed it when you left Kuala Lumpur, but nothing compares with my leet skills, Cougs,” Jensen murmurs, “I’ll always find you.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have, this time,” Cougar says just as softly.

“What are you talking about? Of course I should’ve. Don’t be stupid, I’m the stupid one, remember? That’s my job. You’re cramping my style.” He’s rambling, still suffering the effects of the hypothermia, Cougar thinks, but there’s an edge to his voice as well. “We can leave in the morning, right? You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to civilization; I’ve been in this godforsaken place for weeks.”

Cougar shakes his head. “Too dangerous.”

“We can totally take care of—”

“For you,” Cougar interrupts.

Jensen shifts to look at him. “What? Cougar. That’s absurd. What are you trying to say?”

Cougar hesitates. “I like it here.” He does. It’s quiet. It’s easier to hide. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone else getting caught in the crossfire.

Jensen gapes at him, mouth moving soundlessly for a moment. “Cougar, that’s—you can’t just—” He shakes his head, looking resolute. “Then I’m staying with you.”

Cougar looks at him, impatient.

“No, no, don’t give me any of that silent bullshit. If you’re staying, so am I.”

“It’s not safe.”

“Oh fuck that, Cougar, when have any of us ever cared about being safe? You didn’t have to leave in the first place, we wouldn’t have let them take you.”

I did, Cougar doesn’t say, I had to.

“It’s better if you leave,” he says instead.

“Goddamn it, Cougar, no it’s not. I know you like to pull that one man army crap, but that’s not going to fly this time. No, stop, whatever it is you want to say, I don’t care,” Jensen says, and unexpectedly leans in. Cougar’s confused until Jensen touches his lips to Cougar’s. It’s not a coordinated kiss. Jensen’s movements are still jerky and clumsy from the cold, and his lips are dry and chapped. It shocks Cougar to his very core, leaves him completely unmoored. Jensen deepens the kiss briefly, and Cougar doesn’t know what to do.

Jensen draws back and repeats, “I’m staying with you,” as if nothing happened, as if he hadn’t just—

He finds Cougar’s hand and grips it tightly, says quickly, like he thinks Cougar’s going to interrupt him, “I didn’t think I’d be able to find you. I’ve been looking since you disappeared.” Cougar’s chest tightens. Over a year, then. “I’ll be damned if I froze my ass for no goddamned reason, Cougar. You are not getting rid of me now.”

Cougar’s head is reeling. He closes his eyes. “Jensen—” he tries, but Jensen’s having none of it.

“No, you know what, you do not get to make any more decisions, your decision-making rights are revoked and just fuck you, there were times I thought you were dead—” his voice cracks, “and I think I deserve a break,” and he’s shaking, not from the cold this time.

“Okay,” Cougar says, “okay,” trying to calm Jensen down. He feels completely out of his depth.

“So we’re staying together. Okay? Promise me,” Jensen says, urgent; he still has Cougar’s hand in a death grip.

Cougar nods, once, and Jensen glares at him, barely concealed panic shifting just underneath his skin. “I promise,” Cougar says, and Jensen’s hold loosens; he abruptly looks drained. “If you leave when I’m out, I will find you and, well—it won’t be pretty, is all I’m saying.” Jensen trails off, and is asleep before he draws his next breath.

Cougar tentatively reaches out and takes Jensen’s glasses off, setting them on the floor a safe distance away. He lies awake for a long time after that.

Cougar wakes up before Jensen, in the dark light of the morning. He wonders if he should move Jensen to the bed but decides to let him sleep. He gets up to dig through his emergency stores; he’ll use more of it than he wants to, but Jensen desperately needs to eat.

He moves through the small kitchen as quietly as he can, but after a few minutes Jensen becomes restless, making low pained noises behind clenched teeth, and Cougar kneels helplessly down next to him. He doesn’t know if he should wake him or not, but the decision is taken out of his hands when Jensen jerks and his eyes shoot open. The terror smoothes off his face when he sees Cougar, leaving naked relief that hurts Cougar to look at. “Can you move?” Cougar asks, and Jensen nods. He helps Jensen into the bed, leaving the sleeping bag on the ground for himself.

Jensen doesn’t bring up the kiss. Cougar tells himself he’s relieved, and decides to put it out of his mind. It was the cold. The stress.

Jensen sleeps for most of the next few days, waking only to eat and use the bathroom. Now that he’s found Cougar, his body seems to have caught up with the abuse it suffered during his search. Cougar joins Jensen in bed halfway through the second night, because otherwise Jensen shifts around, uneasy, and starts awake at the slightest noises.

The fifth night after Jensen has found him, the wind whips around outside, whistling through the cracks in the cabin; there’s a heavy blizzard blowing through. Jensen’s in bed watching Cougar as he slowly undresses for the night; it makes Cougar’s skin prickle. He blows out the kerosene lamp and climbs into bed, feeling apprehensive. He can hear Jensen moving around next to him.

Jensen whispers, “Cougar?” almost shyly, and Cougar feels the light brush of Jensen’s hand on his chest. He turns to look at Jensen, and suddenly they’re at each other, desperate.

Jensen buries his hands into Cougar’s hair as he grinds down, kisses Cougar like he needs air. It sends shivers of pleasure through Cougar, but it’s frustrating instead of satisfying—“Wait, Jensen,” he says, and Jensen looks crestfallen before he realizes that Cougar’s just trying to get his boxers off, and there’s a flurry of motion as they get tangled up in each other trying to get naked. Jensen slides on top of Cougar again when they get straightened out, hands wandering all over Cougar’s skin, like he can’t decide where to put them.

Their bare cocks brush and Jensen’s hips jerk. “Do you have anything?” he gasps, and Cougar thinks frantically. He has lube in the bedside table, but—

“No condoms,” he says, and Jensen groans in frustration. Cougar bites his neck and says, “Don’t care. Just do it.”

“Are you sure?” Jensen asks, visibly torn.

Cougar grabs the lube and hands it to Jensen, shifting to move onto his stomach, but Jensen stops him and says, “Can we—like this?” keeping him on his back, and Cougar’s breath hitches. He shouldn’t, it’s too— But the thought of it also ignites a deep well of need inside him, and he nods, helpless.

Jensen’s shaking against him as he slowly pushes one slick finger inside. It’s an uncomfortable burn at first—it’s been a while since Cougar’s been with anyone. They lie there for what feels like ages while Cougar adjusts, and then when the discomfort eases, Cougar squeezes Jensen’s forearm.

Jensen removes his finger and coats his hand in lube again. Two this time, and he goes deeper and brushes against Cougar’s prostate and Cougar arches, gripping Jensen’s arm tighter.

“Jesus Christ,” Jensen says, more breath than voice. Cougar wants it now, but he knows Jensen won’t, not until he thinks Cougar’s ready, so he grits his teeth as Jensen pushes three fingers into him, tries not to shake apart. Jensen rubs against his prostate over and over, and Cougar barely holds down the noises that are sitting at the back of his throat.

“Jensen,” he almost snarls, and Jensen, looking dazed, says, “Yeah, okay,” voice completely wrecked. He positions himself, nudges one of Cougar’s legs around his hip while he hooks his right arm under the other, and enters in one achingly slow, gradual thrust that takes an eternity. Cougar feels split open, can’t focus on anything but the feel of Jensen surrounding him entirely, inside and out.

Jensen pulls out and thrusts in again—only slightly faster this time, but it makes Cougar exhale in something that’s closer to a moan than he’d like. He digs his fingers into Jensen’s back in impatience, and Jensen grunts and says, “Just, Christ, give me a minute—” Cougar clenches around him and Jensen breathes out a sharp, “Ohfuck,” and his hips snap against Cougar’s. Yes. “Stop, I’m trying not to come—” cutting himself off with a groan as Cougar clenches again. Jensen thrusts harder this time. Cougar does it one more time and Jensen’s resolve breaks, “Fuck, okay, fine,” and he shifts position slightly, getting more leverage with his knees, and slams back into Cougar, again, again. Cougar tilts his head back, dizzy, body awash in pleasure.

“Cougar,” Jensen sighs against his mouth, and Cougar opens his eyes reflexively. Jensen is looking at him, and Cougar has to close his eyes again against the—the intensity of it—what was he thinking, this was a terrible—a terrible—

His ring and Jensen’s dog tags are cool against the hollow of his throat and Jensen can’t stop touching him, his voice low, reverent, saying, “Forever, Cougar, you have no idea how long, I—I thought about you every day, all the time,” and Cougar can’t breathe through the orgasm that slams into him, the shocks of pleasure completely overwhelming. He’s drowning in it. Through the haze he feels Jensen’s rhythm falter, feels him gasping against his neck, the hint of a whine in his breath. “Oh holy mother of fuck,” he pants, and he’s coming; Cougar can feel Jensen’s whole body tense like it was his own, can feel Jensen’s pulsing inside of him. Cougar’s chest feels like it’s been cracked wide open; he can’t hold it in, he can’t, he can’t. He’s clinging onto Jensen like his life depends on it, and he knows he’s holding on too tightly, but he can’t make himself let go.

He realizes that Jensen’s mumbling something into his skin, “It’s okay, Cougar, it’s okay,” but it’s not, he’s—he can’t stop shaking.

Jensen disentangles himself and Cougar makes an involuntary noise, soft but still audible—it’s ripped from his throat completely without his permission. “Hey, shh, I’m just going to get something for the mess, okay?” Jensen says, rubbing his sides, before getting up and padding to the bathroom.

Jensen comes back after a few minutes with a damp washcloth and slowly, silently wipes Cougar off, pressing kisses into his skin where he’s just cleaned him, and Cougar shuts his eyes and waits for the world to stop spinning.

They sleep in late; Cougar can feel the sun shining on his face before he opens his eyes. Jensen’s curled up against him. Cougar feels lighter than he has in months. Years, maybe.

He catches hold of his ring, still on Jensen’s chain, and rolls it around in his fingers, brushing against the skull face with his thumb. “Want it back?” Jensen murmurs, and Cougar shakes his head.

“We can leave tomorrow,” Cougar says, and Jensen looks up at him, says, “Yeah?” The sun reflecting off the recent layer of snow is bright enough to hurt his eyes. It doesn’t compare with the smile Jensen gives him. It doesn’t compare at all.