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Underneath the Oak Tree

Chapter Text

 

September 14th, 2014
Somerset, Vermont

 

The leaves were already changing, bringing with them the sharp, pungent smell of fall. Green became a color of the past, replaced with bright reds, oranges, yellows… Jensen Ackles leaned against his cane, his calves groaning in protest as he pushed himself up the small hill, the wooden bench coming into view. He felt a small smile perk at his lips, the first genuine smile he'd had in weeks.

“Hey, Jay,” he whispered, his voice raspy with age. His lungs were straining against the cool air, reminding him that summer was already long gone. He ran his fingertips along the bench, the worn wood warming to his touch. “I miss you,” he whispered.

He let the cane fall against the seat, sinking himself down, bones popping and creaking as his position changed. He sighed, relaxing into the back of the bench and let his eyes fall closed. A soft breeze blew around him, leaves that had already fallen dancing around his feet. He inhaled deeply and smiled again. The few rebellious rays of sunshine that had yet to dissipate into night were warming his face and he reached out beside him, forgetting for a moment he was alone.

Because he was now.

“Dad?”

He looked up, smiling sadly as his oldest daughter made her way up the hill. His heart skipped a beat as he saw what she held in her hands and he pushed himself into a standing position to hug her.

“Jenna.” He smiled, kissing the top of her head. “Where are the kids?”

“I left them at home with Mark. I figured it would be best, just us, you know?” she answered and he watched the tears swimming in her eyes. He nodded. “Kaleb, Cameron, and Leigh are on their way.”

He looked over her shoulder, smiling again as he watched his three other children making their way up the hill, shoulders touching as they took comfort in one another. Although their family had always been close, it never failed to tug at something deep inside to see his children together.

“Hey Dad.” Cameron approached him first and he hugged each of his children in turn, squeezing their shoulders hard. He understood them as much as they did him. They were in this together; they always were.

“Ready?” he whispered, meeting each set of watery eyes in turn. “Let’s get Daddy home.” He turned and walked around the backside of the bench, knowing all four of them were following. He looked down at the old, broken stump; weather and time had eaten away at it, leaving the center of it completely destroyed.

Kaleb stepped forward with a shovel, using the wide, pointed blade to bite further into the rotting wood and deepening the hole until he met rich, dark soil underneath. When Kaleb had finished removing the larger pieces of decayed wood, Jensen smiled at him and gratefully accepted his son’s arm to help him to drop to his knees. His joints popped and screamed at him, pain shooting to his hips, but he didn’t care. He needed this, they needed this.

“Here, Dad,” Jenna whispered, handing him the small bundle. It was a small oak sapling that had been carefully guarded in the safety of their childhood home until it grew strong enough to survive on its own. He closed his eyes, willing his entire soul into its roots through the tips of his fingers; his strength, his love, his patience and undying devotion to his family and the ones he loved.

With arthritic, shaking fingers, he carefully untwisted the metal cord around the base of the tree, releasing it and the mesh fabric containing the roots. He slowly loosened them, working his fingers into the soil. He placed it carefully on the broken stump and looked up at his children, who were attentively watching his every move.

“Okay,” he said softly, smiling at them. He exhaled slowly, reaching into his deep coat pocket for the small urn resting there. He pulled it out, and lifted the cool metal to his lips, kissing it softly. “Love you,” he whispered before carefully prying off the top.

Bending low, he held the little urn above the hole in the stump, before cautiously upending it and letting the ashes spill out to mix with the rich, black earth. He resealed the urn carefully, setting it aside, before picking up the sapling again. He worked quietly, adding the sapling to the hole before back-filling the area with the dirt his son had dug out. Jenna moved beside him, using the watering can Cameron had carried to slowly pour water over the earth, mixing new life with death.

A sob above made him look up, a sad smile on his lips as he watched his youngest daughter Leigh turn into Cameron’s shoulder, clinging to her brother’s jacket as if her life depended on it. Perhaps, at this moment, it did. Jensen sat back on his heels, ignoring the pain it gave him, and looked at the tree, their tree, Jared’s tree.

“You have to promise--” he started before Kaleb cut him off.

“Dad, please. Don’t.”

“No. All of you, look at me.” He took in the three sets of green eyes before he met Jenna’s hazel ones, a pang going through his heart. “I need you to promise me that this tree will stay here. It needs to stay in our family, it has to. And when the time comes – Leigh, please.” He smiled sadly at the strangled noise she made and swallowed before pushing on, “When the time comes, this is where I want to be.”

“Dad… we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jenna whispered, dropping to her knees beside him and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “We would never separate you and Daddy.”

He smiled, leaning into her embrace. The five of them stayed there, looking at each other, the small tree, and nothing at the same time until the last bits of light disappeared from the sky.

“Come on,” Cameron said, pulling a flashlight from his pocket and flicking it on.

Jensen allowed his sons to help him get back up into a standing position, Leigh suddenly there with his cane. He smiled at her, grateful.

“I’ll be right there,” he promised softly with a small nod of his head. Jenna hesitated before handing him another small flashlight and reluctantly following her siblings back down the hill to the large farmhouse below. Jensen tried to keep his hand from shaking as he aimed the thin beam towards the little tree.

He made his way carefully around the stump, knowing from years of past experiences where each and every knotted root and hole were, before he came to the front of the bench again. He let his fingers dance over the back, over the sets of initials that were carved there. His flashlight strayed across the ground until it landed on the new addition to this spot, a grey marbled stone, set into the ground.

“I love you, Jay, and I’ll see you soon,” he whispered softly into the night, reading the words that glared back up at him. Now alone, with no expectations upon him, he finally let the tears fall. He stood there, crying silently until there was nothing left. Nothing left, except a promise. I’ll be with you, always.

 

 

 

Jared Tristan
July 19th 1944 – August 3rd 2014
Husband , Father , Son
Always

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

June 14th, 1948
Austin, Texas

 

“But Dad, I don’t want to!” Jensen knew he was pushing his luck and stopped himself from stomping his foot as he met his father’s steely gaze. Alan Ackles was a patient man, to a point, and Jensen was on the verge of crossing that invisible line.

“Jensen. We are not having this discussion again. You know why you and Joshua are needed and it is not up for discussion. Now, make sure you have everything you need packed, because it’s going to be the last time you’re going to see your room for the next three months!”

Jensen bit his tongue, staring hard at his father. It was Josh who broke the tension, reaching forward to twist Jensen’s ear painfully.

“Quit acting like a baby,” Josh teased, jumping out of the way as Jensen jumped to action.

“Enough!” Their father’s sharp voice cut through Josh’s laughter and made Jensen skid to a stop, spinning back around to look at Alan. “Go and pack.”

“Yes, Sir,” Josh and Jensen both replied, leaving the room quickly to clamber up the steps into their shared bedroom, leaving their father with his head in his hands.

“Nice going,” Josh whispered when they were safely behind closed doors. “You made Dad angry.”

Jensen didn’t know what to say to that. Dad was angry a lot lately; angry at his mother for fighting to keep her job, angry at Josh for being so noisy, and angry at Jensen for, well, Jensen didn’t really know why. Jensen had learned quickly not to ask why, and to never, ever mention the war.

Daddy was home, Daddy was safe, they were a family and that was all that mattered.

Except Jensen and Josh were being forced to leave their home for the entire summer. He didn’t want to leave Texas, he wanted to stay so he could play baseball with his friends and go swimming and fishing in the creek. He tried to pretend that the thought of escaping the house and being free from his parents wasn’t exactly such a terrible thought.

“Here.” Josh thrust a duffel bag into his arms and Jensen accepted it, grateful for the small distraction. He untied the drawstring, pulling it wide open before shoving in his entire sock and underwear drawer, then adding in his jeans and shirts on top.

“Do you think we’re going to have to sleep in a barn?” he asked, tying up the bag again and plopping down on top of the bed to watch as Josh folded each article of clothing before placing it carefully in his own bag.

“Seriously, Jense?” Josh gave him a strange look before starting to laugh. “You don’t remember the last time we went to see the farm?” Jensen screwed up his face, trying to think. “No, Jense. Grandma isn’t going to make us sleep in the barn. They have a big old farmhouse with plenty of rooms. I bet you you’ll even get your own bed.”

Jensen’s eyes widened at that. He could spend an entire summer sleeping without Josh kicking him in the middle of the night! This summer was starting to look up already.

“Come on, boys! Get down here.” Jensen jumped as his father’s voice bellowed up the stairs.

“Ready?” Josh said, dragging his bag up over his shoulder and starting towards the door. Jensen sighed and took one last look around the room before following his brother out and down the stairs to where their father and their rusted old pick-up truck were waiting. 

 

 

Jensen was suddenly nervous. He tossed a glance over at Josh who had curled himself up against the window, a book splayed out across his lap, getting lost in the words. Jensen glanced at his bag for a moment, considering pulling out his own novel, but knowing that it would only cause him to get nauseous. He didn’t need Josh making fun of him for that…

He shifted in the seat, peering out the window, and let his father’s last words roll through his mind.

“You boys sure are lucky.” Alan reached up to run a hand through Jensen’s hair, a small but sad smile on his face. “This is one of the first diesel fueled trains around here, no more coal and smoke making you smell like you’re wearing your best smoking jacket instead of traveling clothes.”

They were standing in the MoPac station in Austin, both Josh and Jensen still clinging onto their bags.

Josh smiled up at his Dad, nodding excitedly and pretending he cared; both he and Jensen knew it was all an attempt to get their dad to smile, receive his praise, and provide him joy. Jensen made the mistake of rolling his eyes.

After a quick cuff to the side of the head, Jensen met his father’s deep green eyes, so much like his own but hiding so much pain. “Maybe your grandfather can teach you some manners, boy. Send you back home as a man.” Fumbling in his vest pocket for the train stubs, their father then shoved Josh’s hand full of the tickets and without another word he left them, leading their mother away and back to the pick-up truck.

“God dammit, Jensen!” Josh hissed as he shoved him forward towards the train, sighing as he did so. “You never learn, do you?”

His heart skipped a few beats as he watched the trees roll by them, the train carrying them far away from home. What if he did change? Another skip of his heart. What if he returned to Texas as a new person, a ‘man’ as his father suggested. What if he came back as hard and cold as his father did when he returned from the war? He shivered involuntarily.

 

 

 

 

June 16th, 1948
Boston, Massachusetts


Inside the great train, Jensen’s youthful eyes grew huge as they entered the city limits of Boston. He didn’t know exactly what he had expected, but it certainly wasn’t this.

Thanks in part to the increasing number of Texas oilfields and the earlier industrial needs fostered by the war effort, Austin was well on its way to becoming a city worth something, in Alan Ackles’ words anyways. All Jensen knew was that their home was quickly becoming a large city. Farm lands were being plowed over to make room for more store fronts, office buildings, and manufacturing plants that were pumping out jobs and projects that were seemingly more important than another field of corn.

Jensen had always been certain that Austin was one of the biggest cities in the United States, it sure seemed to be bigger than any city he could remember being in Texas. But here, moving into the center of South Station bustling with men in pressed suits and women in their office or travel attire and the thrum of their movement washing over him, Jensen wasn’t so sure Austin was that big in comparison.

After disembarking from their train, the boys began slowly making their way towards the main doors of the great station to await their grandfather’s arrival at the chosen meeting place. Jensen’s bewildered eyes flitted about, taking in all the foreign sights of the strange city.

From against one station wall, a young boy, no older than Josh, stood tall as he bravely cried out to the passersby in hopes of selling his newspapers to anyone who had a nickel to spare. Stopping to stare at the sight, Jensen was nearly run down in the crush of rushing adults. In a panic he stumbled frantically forward, trying to catch up to Josh. He knew he was supposed to stick close to his older brother, painfully aware that if he was separated from Josh it would be the end.

“Come on,” Josh urged impatiently, reaching back to grab Jensen’s shirtsleeve and tug him forward. “Papa said we would have to meet Grandpa by the harbor.”

Jensen nodded quickly, allowing his brother to drag him along through the throngs of people and out onto the just-as-busy street. The buildings around them were tall, glass windows glistening in the morning sunlight, and Jensen heard himself gasp. There were definitely not buildings this big in Austin-

“Jensen!” He snapped to attention and looked guiltily up at his brother.

Josh had already spun around and was adjusting his bag over his shoulder, knowing Jensen would soon be trailing after him. Jensen wasn't sure how Josh knew where he was going -- as far as he knew, they'd never met their Grandfather in Boston before. He could barely remember the large farm, except for the picture in his mind of a large, white farmhouse surrounded by fields and fields of corn and pasture lands.

Jensen wanted to ask him how he knew where to go. The streets around them seemed to curve and jut off into every direction, and just looking around was starting to make him feel dizzy. But Josh had a determined expression on his face, causing Jensen to push his questions aside and follow along obediently.

Jensen gave a sigh of relief when he saw the ocean in the distance; the water in the harbor area was a deep, grey-green color, the sun reflecting off of the surface and Jensen swore he could see every ripple and every wave.

"Come on," Josh urged, unnecessarily, "we don't want to keep Grandpa waiting."

Jensen rolled his eyes, glad Josh hadn't turned around to speak to him. Instead, he doubled his efforts to keep up with his older brother's longer strides and they soon spilled out onto the large, cobblestoned area edging along the harbor.

The smell of rotting fish and sewage hit him instantly and Jensen wrinkled his nose and took the few steps forward to peer over the wooden fencing to look down at the water. Here, it lost its deep green color and looked dark and brown, thick ropes of seaweed were climbing up, their slime covered leaves reaching for the sun. Jensen turned away from the water at the sound of laughter.

"You know boy, if you keep that sour expression on your face too long it's gonna end up sticking that way!" A tall, white-haired man was standing with a large hand clasped over Josh's shoulder, his green eyes shining as he gazed at Jensen. Jensen didn't recognize him at all, but his eyes and face undoubtedly showed 'Ackles' traits and he could almost see his father staring down at him. "Aren't you going to come and give your granddad a hug?"

Jensen stumbled over his own feet as he pushed himself forward and into the outstretched arms of his grandfather. The man curled his arms around both of the boys, his laughter shaking both of them to their very bones. He smelled of tobacco and sunshine and Jensen found the fears that had started to curl in his gut at seeing the strange man begin to dissipate. At home there had been too little laughter since his father’s return and the older man’s warm laugh stirred up sweet memories of days the boy had thought were long gone.

"Come on, boys." Grandpa Ackles pulled back and ran a hand through Jensen's hair, the act kinder and lacking the condescension he felt when his father did it. "I told your Grandma we would get home in time for supper. Jensen, you look like you've shot up more than a few inches since I saw you last, how old are you now? Six? Seven?"

"Eight," Jensen answered with a proud grin and let himself fall in step with his grandfather as Josh walked on the opposite side.

"Eight! Well, don't I feel old." His laughter was contagious and Jensen found himself giggling as well.

They made their way down the pier, stopping at a large dock where a tall man, around his father's age if Jensen had to guess, was leaning against a post watching them.

"Hold on, boys," their grandfather said softly before pushing forward to speak to the man. They were talking quietly, all nods and smiles, and then he was back, the tall stranger following slowly with his own duffel bag over his shoulder.

"This is Gerry," Grandpa introduced the man, who smiled and held out his hand for them to shake, even to Jensen. "He's going to be heading back to the farm with us to help us out this summer. You boys make sure you listen to what he tells you, just like you would me or your Grandma. I don't want to hear about any disrespect."

"They'll be fine, Albert." Gerry shrugged, winking at Jensen. Jensen smiled back at him.

They fell back in stride, Jensen and Josh now walking side by side a little behind the two men, and headed towards where their grandfather had parked his old Ford pick-up truck. When they reached it, Jensen watched his grandfather slap the side and wipe the rust now on his hand on the thigh of his jeans.

"She's a beaut," he said, opening up the door and letting the boys clamber in after they tossed their bags in the bed of the truck. "It's what's inside that matters, and this old girl’s never ever let me down."

"Hey, I ain't gonna complain!" Gerry laughed as he placed his own bag in the back and took his spot in the passenger seat. "It's not like I even own a vehicle!"

Both of the men laughed at that and Jensen looked at Josh; he thought everyone owned a vehicle... Everyone around them in Austin did, anyways. Josh just shrugged and shoved an elbow into Jensen's side, making him scooch over a bit on the wide bench seat.

Although the Ford was wide and Jensen was small, the ride was tight sitting four abreast. Josh had determined that since he was now twelve, he deserved most of the leg room. Here in the close quarters of the old truck, they were failing at keeping their ‘silent’ fight for more room silent.

"Jesus… Boys!" Their grandfather's voice was loud in the cab, causing Jensen to freeze where he had his fingers ready to pinch the soft spot under Josh's upper arm. "I thought your daddy was joking when he said you two got along as well as oil and water."

Gerry laughed beside Jensen, shaking his head. "I bet my boys will end up being like this soon." He snorted, a funny sound that had Jensen turning to stare at him. Jensen's expression only made Gerry laugh harder and reach down to pull Jensen up onto his lap. "There, that better?" he asked, looking between the two boys. Jensen could feel himself blush but Josh immediately moved into the extra space with a sigh of relief. Defeated, Jensen nodded and turned to look out the window while Gerry continued to chuckle.

 

 

 

 

June 24th, 1948
Somerset, Vermont


Jensen was in heaven.

They had been at the farm for a week and already Jensen wanted to beg his Grandfather to let him stay at the farm all year round, wanted to plead for him not to send him back to Texas at the end of the summer.

His father's voice, cold and disappointed, in the back of his head had him biting his tongue to keep from speaking any of his thoughts out loud. But that didn't stop him from wishing and wanting.

Every morning they were woken up by their grandmother at four am, the sun still hiding in the sheath of darkness. That morning, Jensen hardly needed to rub sleep from his eyes as he bounced out of the bed and slipped thick, wool socks onto his feet to pad into the kitchen where Gerry and his grandfather were already sitting at the table, hands wrapped around mugs of hot coffee.

Grandma would smile at him and then Josh, who always took longer to get out of bed, before bringing them plates full of eggs, bacon, and sausage, thick cuts of fresh baked bread toasted just right and slathered with homemade strawberry preserves, bowls of roasted potatoes and onions, and a large glass of milk. Jensen had never seen so much food in his entire life. Gerry must have felt the same, because even that morning, his eyes were as big as Jensen's post-breakfast stomach.

"Martha, you're trying to fatten me up!" Gerry teased but Grandma just chuckled and poured him more coffee.

After their breakfast, Jensen went with Gerry while Josh went with their grandfather. Grandpa and Josh tended to the pigs, sheep, and horses while Gerry always had something new for them to attend to in the mornings.

"Have you ever milked a cow, Jensen?" Gerry asked, grabbing a large metal pail from the side of the house. He had it swinging at his hip as he smiled down, large hazel eyes shining in the approaching sunrise.

"No!" Jensen gasped, excitement fluttering through his stomach. Yesterday morning Gerry had showed him how to set smoke-pot traps in order to cut down on the amount of bugs invading the corn fields. When Gerry had gotten a lungful of the smoke, he had started coughing and sputtering and swearing that he would convince Albert to try out 'those damned pesticides yet!' Jensen didn't really know what he meant -- he was just shocked and thrilled that Gerry had trusted him enough to light a match and set one of the traps up all by himself.

Last night at supper, when Grandma had talked about the eastern fence needing repairs, Jensen had assumed that's what they would be working on today before the sun came up. So now when Gerry offered to let him help with the milk cows the boy was too thrilled to even speak. He hadn’t actually handled any of the animals yet, short of dodging the chickens that were always scattered across every single path Jensen tried to walk down, and he was excited at the idea of doing so now.

"Well, if you're going to be spending some time on a farm, don't you think you should?" Jensen nodded and raced ahead, leaving Gerry laughing in the dust behind him. When Gerry finally caught up, Jensen was already standing at the wooden door of the big red barn, eyes wide as he stared at the cows still locked in their stalls. Their soft mooing and the scent of manure had already become a thing of comfort to the boy and Jensen turned to Gerry, all smiles.

"What do we do first?" Jensen was excitedly bouncing about on the balls of his feet, causing the cows to moo louder at the disruption of their early morning routine.

"Alright, alright, calm down there, kiddo!" Gerry pulled him off the door and pushed the metal pail into his arms. "Let's start here with Mary Lou." He moved into the barn, stopping at the first stall to swat the large, black and white cow affectionately. "She's usually the most impatient, doesn't like being made to wait."

Jensen nodded, agreeing with Gerry, because really, what did Jensen know? Gerry opened up the stall and got the cow onto a lead, the large animal snorting in protest as she was lead out into the open area of the barn and tied to a hitching post. Gerry then produced a small stool and set it down, motioning for Jensen to sit.

"Now, first and most important rule?" He waited for Jensen to meet his eyes, a serious look on his face. "We don't pull or twist or yank on the teats, got it? You do that and she's got every right to kick you and your milk pail right over. She's a hell of a lot bigger than you and I and we don't want to get kicked." Jensen nodded eagerly, crossing his legs tight under the stool’s splayed legs. "Now, first thing first is we want to warm up her udder," Gerry reached forward to cup the bulging, pink sack under the cow, rubbing in small circles. Jensen watched with rapt attention.

"You always wanna keep an eye where her legs are and her tail; getting stepped on or smacked ain't any fun. Put that pail down there." Gerry pointed and Jensen obliged. "Now, your hands are a lot smaller than mine, so you're gonna just work on one teat at a time." Slowly, and with more patience than Jensen was sure any adult had ever used on him, Gerry explained how to coax the milk from the teats, how to tell when a quadrant of the udder was 'dry', and how to clean and take care of the animal's udder before and after he milked them. It took him almost six tries to get a stream of milk out of his first cow, but when he finally did, the white hot stream splashed noisily into the bottom of the metal pail. Without a thought, the boy let out a jubilant cry of triumph that startled the cow into kicking out and knocking the pail over. Jensen's cheeks burned as Gerry laughed and moved to soothe the cow.

"Don't worry, son…" he consoled Jensen, smiling down from behind the cow's large, wet snout. “Happens to the best of us..." Jensen felt better after that.

  

 

 

 

July 1st, 1948
Somerset, Vermont

 

"Boys!" Josh stopped, mid-splash and stood up straight, water rolling down his chest in thick rivulets. "Boys! Come on! Lunch time!"

"Lunch!" Jensen echoed, gasping as Josh shoved him hard and he splashed back into the cool water of the creek. He sputtered, coughing up water he had swallowed, and raced up the embankment, hot on Josh's heels.

They had gotten the afternoon off -- Albert and Gerry went into town after their morning chores and since the fence had been mended and the crops would be watered later in the afternoon once the threat of the high noon sun was gone, there was nothing left for Jensen and Josh to do. They had hung around the house for a while, helping their grandmother cut up some fresh strawberries and picking apart raspberries from their stem segments so she could make preserves, but soon they were more in her way than they were helpful and she sent them off outside to play like 'proper boys their age'.

The small creek ran by the edge of the property, separating the corn field from the dense forest. Jensen loved sitting on the side of the bank, letting his feet dangle in the cool water while minnows nibbled at his toes before they were chased away by him kicking up a current. His eyes were always trained on the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fox or rabbit or maybe even a deer coming to the bank for a sip.

Josh, however, was never patient enough and after five minutes, complaining constantly about the sun beating down on his back, he had torn off his jeans and cannon balled into the water, drenching everything Jensen was wearing. As far as Jensen was concerned, that was a declaration of war.

He hadn't even realized how much time had passed or how hungry he was until he was racing towards the house. The small dust cloud he and Josh kicked up was clinging to their damp skin and Jensen laughed joyfully as he ran, happy and free. When they came skittering around the corner of the corn field, the stalks now almost taller than Jensen, they slammed to a halt as they saw Gerry and their grandfather shaking hands with some man who had just dropped off the biggest tractor Jensen had ever seen. As they moved towards the men, the stranger climbed into the passenger side of old Ford and the car sped away down the dirt road. As the automobile disappeared the boys giggled when they saw their grandpa dancing a happy little jig.

Josh's eyes were probably just as wide as Jensen's own as they walked up and were greeted with huge smiles from both of the men and then were each swept up gleefully into their grandfather's strong arms.

"Boys! This is going to change everything!" Grandpa declared, grinning and laughing like a kid at Christmas, and suddenly Jensen felt his feet lift off the ground as the old man swung him around in a huge circle. "Let's go show your grandmother." And the next thing he knew they were all racing for the house.

Martha apparently approved, planting a huge kiss on her husband’s lips with tears in her eyes. Jensen didn't think the tractor was worth crying over, but he was happy because his grandparents and Gerry were happy.

"Things are looking up, Martha," he heard his grandpa whisper into his wife’s ear, leaning forward to kiss the side of her face. "We'll get some money back into this farm yet, you just wait and see." She smiled, nodded, and took his hand between her own as tears slipped down her cheeks.

Albert seemed to find her crying was a good thing, another thing that had Jensen looking between them all with confusion. When he saw Josh's face he felt his spirits soar when it seemed his older brother was just as confused by this reaction as he was.

"That's it!" their grandmother exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "We're celebrating. Come on! Go inside and wash up!" She swatted playfully at Josh and Jensen and then turned to do the same to Gerry and Albert, ushering all of the men into the house. While they all washed the dirt and smell of the farm from their skin, she packed up the lunch she had prepared and met them all outside when they were dressed in their Sunday best.

Jensen and Josh clambered into the bed of the truck while the adults crammed into the cab. Jensen couldn't hear anything that was being said over the sound of the wind rushing past his face. Sitting with his back resting against the rear of the truck cab, he closed his eyes, turning his face towards the sun, and smiled. They drove into town and when they finally reached their destination and the truck engine was shut off, the little boy once again opened his eyes. Jensen heard a squeak pass his lips before he could register it. The truck was parked before a movie theater with huge colored movie posters plastered against the brick walls outside the entrance. He turned to Josh in awe, his brother matching his excited gaze.

Only once had they ever been to a movie down in Austin, and it was in preparation for their Dad to leave -- one last family event, just in case Dad didn't come home. Jensen had hated it. Their Dad sat stiffly in his seat, their mother crying softly beside him, and Jensen couldn't concentrate on anything happening on the screen before him. Now, he would get to have this treat in celebration, instead of goodbye, and his heart was soaring.

"Five for The Best Years of Our Lives!" Gerry had stepped up to the widow and was purchasing their tickets with his own money, despite the protests from both of Jensen's grandparents. He shrugged them off and winked down at Jensen, stating he was just happy to 'be a part of the family'. Jensen smiled back at him and wondered why Gerry couldn't be his father instead... Smiling, happy Gerry who held him during thunderstorms and told him stories of the children he had back home in Boston with their mother. Gerry who taught him how to fly fish in the creek and didn't smack him when he got his line tangled in a low-hanging branch. Gerry who slipped him the crust from his slice of apple pie or gave him the first cup of ice cream or butter from the vat on Grandma's dairy days.

Jensen wondered if he should feel guilty. But soon they were ushered into the dark theater and Jensen was sinking into a plush, red chair that was ten sizes too big, and the movie was starting and thinking and talking became a thing of the past.

   

 

 

 

August 28th, 1948
Austin, Texas

 

Jensen was taller, tanner than he had been at the start of the summer. His hair had lightened and he had way more freckles than he cared to admit, but he felt stronger and better than he ever had. Now, he could almost outrun long-legged Josh when they raced to the creek after morning chores. He could climb up onto the barn roof easily if a baseball they'd hit flew up too high. He could help carry in firewood to stack for the winter without having to pause and take a breath as often as Gerry or his grandfather did.

But now he was home. There would be no more creeks or fishing or milking the cows. Dinner would be served promptly at six and there wouldn't be any more nights spent on the front porch listening to Gerry read from Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, or listening to his grandfather sing along as he strummed on his guitar. If they had been very lucky, Grandma had told her own story, weaving a web of a tale that was more intricate than the blankets she was knitting. Now, there was silence.

 

 

"I don't want to go," Jensen heard himself whine and he looked up quickly to meet Gerry's eyes, glad to see he was still smiling and not frowning. "I don't know why I can't just stay on the farm."

"Your parents have probably missed you, Jense," Gerry replied, ruffling Jensen's overgrown mop of hair. "Your momma can't wait to get you home, you read her last letter didn't you?"

Jensen shrugged and leaned against the wall of the barn, glad for the shade that was protecting them from the midday sun.

"Besides, I'll be leaving here with you. Have to get home and see my own boys." Gerry had a smile on his lips and Jensen looked down at his feet.

"Do you think we’ll get to come back next summer?"

"I think your Grandad would appreciate the help." Gerry nodded and sunk down into a crouch, resting his elbows on his knees. "I told him I would be more'n happy to lend a hand next summer too. Probably bring my boys along, if he agrees. I think you would get along with them just fine."

"I think so, too." Jensen finally smiled and reached up to wrap his arms around Gerry's neck, squeezing as he buried his head into the man's shoulder. "Promise you'll come back?"

"Promise." Gerry laughed and Jensen, regretfully, let go. 

 

 

“Jensen, help your mother set the table.” Alan’s voice was gruff and he hadn’t bothered to peel his eyes from the paper spread before him or remove the pipe from between his lips.

“Yes, sir,” Jensen replied, making his way to the kitchen. Donna Ackles was bent over the oven door, checking the roast inside of the oven. Jensen inhaled deeply, smiling when he met his mother’s eyes. “Smells good, Mama.”

“Thank you Jensen. Did you wash your hands?” She moved quickly, batting his hands away from the stack of plates on the counter and gave him a look. He shrugged, looking away from her and moved around to the sink. “Good boy, now go on!” Donna nudged the plates towards him and kissed the top of his head as he went to dry his hands. “Tell your Father and Josh that dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes.”

Jensen set the table quickly and collected his brother and father just in time for Donna to be bringing food to the table. Alan said grace quietly, and soon they were relaxed into comfortable conversation over their meal. Jensen found himself content, cutting up his roast as he listened to his brother talk about the possibility of starting to work at the pharmacy down the street when his father cleared his throat.

Jensen froze and his eyes flashed up at Josh. They all knew what Alan clearing his throat meant; someone was in trouble. Jensen swallowed instinctively and slowly raised his eyes in his father’s direction, relief washing over him when he realized Alan’s steely gaze wasn’t pinned on him.

“Donna,” the older man cleared his throat a second time and Jensen found his relief slowly ebbing away and being replaced, again, by fear. His mother, however, seemed completely unfazed and continued buttering her dinner roll, raising an eyebrow in her husband’s direction. “What was happening at that job of yours today?”

“Oh, it was nothing.” Donna waved her hand, dismissing their father, and Jensen felt his eyes widen.

“Nothing? I’ve never seen Jeffery Dean move so fast in his life. I’m sure whatever it was will be plastered in that rag they call a newspaper by tomorrow morning. I’m also sure it will sound much better coming from you.”

“Oh, Alan,” Donna sighed and placed her roll down, fixing her husband with a stare, “it’s not the best dinner conversation.”

“What else should we talk about?” Alan asked, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “We’re a family; we talk about work and our days. Jensen! Do you have anything you want to talk about?” Jensen shook his head and looked down at his plate, his ears turning pink. “And Josh already shared his day. I think that makes it your turn.”

“Seriously, Alan! You expect Jensen to share anything with you while you’re acting like that?” She laid her hand over Jensen’s arm and it took everything he had not to pull it back and bolt. He was less than grateful at being put on the spot, but thankfully, his mother gave in. “There was just a bit of trouble with one of the men I work with… He had been caught with… another man.” She paused and raised an eyebrow. Across the table Josh coughed.

“You’re joking.” Alan’s voice was cold and Jensen looked up, confused. He didn’t understand what the big deal was about two men being together… He remembered his father had guys he’d been friends with before the war. Jensen had plenty of boy friends that he and Josh hung out with all the time.

“No, I’m not... there had been rumors but nothing more than that. He had really only—"

“You have been working with… with… faggots, Donna?” Alan slammed his hands down so hard on the table that Jensen jumped again and looked across the table at Josh who looked just as surprised at their father’s outburst. “And you’re going to make excuses for them? I did not risk my life securing our freedom for people to throw that away living in sin and being… abominations. We lost good men, real good men.”

“Alan, I never—"

“I don’t want to hear it, Donna! We will not be associated with that kind. And if your so-called employer has no qualms against hiring a bunch of women and queers? You’re not going in tomorrow.”

Silence fell over the table as Alan shoved his chair away from the table and stormed from the room. Jensen didn’t understand what his dad had meant, but recognized the anger well enough. Josh sniffed once, kicked the chair beneath him as he shifted his legs and picked at his food. Jensen just swallowed hard and wondered if he should ask…

“Jensen, eat your potatoes.” Donna’s voice made him jump but the look on her face made him nod and push his questions back. It didn’t matter anyways. Not really. Jensen glanced at his mother again and hoped she would listen to Alan, wondered if he would wake up in the morning to find Donna setting the breakfast table and cooking the way she used to before she’d taken this job. He would love to have his mother’s sweet words and encouraging smiles, instead of the stony silence and glares they’d been greeted with from their father as of late.

Chapter Text

 

 

May 17th, 1951
Boston, Massachusetts

 

Jensen couldn’t sit still on the train seat. His feet were bouncing, shaking his entire body as he waited for the train to pull into the station. It had been three years since he’d been to his grandparents’ farm and in Jensen’s opinion, that was three years too long.

After that first summer, things had continued to down-slide at home. Alan became even more withdrawn and angry than he had before Jensen and Josh had left for Vermont, and Jensen was left feeling guilty at how much he appreciated that the anger wasn’t only directed at him any longer. Alan was angry all the time it seemed and complained about everything– especially the neighbors who had 'way too many parties' and spent their evenings laughing 'much too loudly' and playing catch 'much too often' with their children, whom Alan felt were totally spoiled and mollycoddled.

After her sons had returned, their mother spent those next six months fighting to keep her job. There were many tense arguments heard through their parents’ bedroom walls over the subject of who wore the pants in their family. It continued nearly every night until one silent morning the boys tiptoed downstairs to find their mother still at home at breakfast time. No one had been allowed to ask about it and after that she was always home. Josh had gotten the pharmacy job and now after each day at school, Jensen walked back home by himself while Josh was only too happy to attend to the store and stay out of the house until well after eight pm.

At first Jensen had been jealous and had wanted a job of his own. Then, Donna had become pregnant and as soon as Mackenzie was born, he got his wish of sorts. With Josh out of the house as often as he was and Alan too busy emptying his glass of scotch every afternoon, Jensen and Donna became all Mackenzie had. The summers had been the worst – Josh was never home, leaving at sunrise and returning around sunset. Alan, at least, had gotten a construction job and for the most part was out of the house as well.

Not wanting to leave his mother and tiny sister alone, when the suggestion was made for Jensen to go to the farm that next summer – and then again the one after that—Jensen had declined, saying he didn’t want to miss anything that happened with Mackenzie and that three months was an awfully long time to be away. Donna had gratefully accepted the boy’s decision and the subject was not brought up again until this year.

This year, Jensen craved a break from the household tension and he welcomed the offer to travel to Boston once more. It had taken all of his resolve not to pack his bags immediately after receiving confirmation he would be going -- he still had to wait six weeks after all for school to end.

Kissing Mackenzie goodbye after he finally packed his bag for the trip this year was actually harder than Jensen had imagined it would be. It wasn’t her fault that tensions were so thick they were suffocating every member of the family, and despite the mild resentment he felt towards taking care of her when her own father should’ve stepped up, Jensen loved Mackenzie more than anything in the entire world.

 

“I’m gonna miss you, frog.”

“Ribbit!” Mackenzie giggled and hopped on all fours towards Jensen’s feet before reaching up to him. Jensen bent down and picked the toddler up, giving her a hug.

“I’m gonna’ miss you, Mac. You be a good little froggy for Mama while I’m gone, all right?”

Suddenly she was clinging desperately to her older sibling. “No, Jen… No go… no leave Mac!” she scolded imperiously in her whining two year-old voice as tears trickled from her eyes.

“I’ll be back soon, Mac… I’ll bring you home some yummy corn, how’s that?” Mackenzie’s whimpering grew more muffled and she buried her face into Jensen’s neck, nodding so the hair at the top of her head rubbed against his chin. “And I’ll write to you too, you can have Mama read the letters to you, okay? Mama can help you make some pictures to send to me, too. Mack can draw Jen some pictures, okay?”

“Froggy pictures!” Her bright, green eyes shone through her tears and he laughed as he put her back on the floor.

“Yup… Froggy pictures! I’ll hang up every one, promise.”

 

 

Now, Jensen was alone and for a brief moment when he took his seat on the train, he panicked and wondered if he was making a mistake by leaving. What if his grandparents didn’t pick him up? What if he couldn’t find his way through Boston without Josh’s help? What if something happened to Mackenzie and he wasn’t there? What if, what if, what if?

Josh had clapped him on the shoulder as they said goodbye on the platform and gave him a quick hug, telling him he was going to miss him this summer. Jensen just nodded and watched as his brother slipped back behind the wheel of their father’s pick-up and drove away, leaving him officially alone. He sighed and told himself he was only a year younger than Josh had been that first year they went to the farm. Jensen could do this. It wasn't like he was going to be walking back home. He could just imagine the response he would get from his father...

It took two days of travel and Jensen had barely slept; he’s replayed countless ways this could go wrong, every possible situation including Jensen tripping and falling into the Boston bay and drowning the moment he got into the city to meet his grandfather. As he dragged his bag along with him, his heart skipped happily and a huge grin broke out across his face when he saw Gerry Padalecki leaning against a light post, directly across from the main doors of South Station.

“Gerry!” Jensen barely looked as he booked it across the street and launched himself into Gerry’s outstretched arms.

“Hey, kiddo! We’ve all missed you! I could barely milk all of those cows without your help.” Gerry ruffled his hair and reached down to grab Jensen’s bag and sling it up over his own shoulder. “I hope you don’t mind… got myself a vehicle and I offered to get you on the way through so your Grandpa wouldn’t have to drive down.”

“Nope!” Jensen beamed back at him, all of the nerves he had felt the entire trip bleeding away.

“Well… alright then! I’ve got my boys with me this year, I think you’ll like them.”

“Oh yeah?” Jensen’s eyes widened a bit and he found himself walking faster, now ahead of Gerry. “Are they driving with us? Are they here now?”

“Yeah, Jeffrey and Jared are waiting for us by the car. You’re just about Jeffrey’s age… He’s twelve this year.”

Jensen skipped the rest of the way to the car, eager to meet the boys he’d heard so much about already.

“Boys! Come say hello to Jensen!” Gerry called as they approached. The vehicle was a dark green Mercury, the large headlight globes seemed to be glowing in the sunlight, and Jensen itched to run his hands over it. In their neighborhood he had seen a few Oldsmobiles and Fords, but mostly everyone in Austin stuck with their pick-up trucks or convertibles. Leaning with his foot against the fender, a boy Jensen’s age looked up. “Foot off the damn car, Jeff!” The boy pushed off, rolling his eyes and when he moved, Jensen could see a smaller boy with shaggy hair peeking out at him.

“Hey,” Jensen gave a small wave. The smaller boy timidly ducked his head down to peek at him from beneath the hair that now curtained his face while his older brother rolled his eyes, stepped forward, and held out his hand.

“I’m Jeff. The shy brat behind me? That’s Jared.” Jensen smiled and shook the boy’s hand quickly while Gerry stood behind him and chuckled.

“Come on, boys, let’s get going. We want to get there before dinner, don’t we?”

“Yes, sir!” all three of them answered at once and Jensen climbed into the back seat with Jared while Jeff took the front. Gerry had loaded his bag into the floor well beneath Jared’s feet and the tips of his toes just barely scraped the top of the bag.

Jensen smiled as Jeff instantly launched into a long description of what he’d missed over the last two summers –because apparently even though Jensen and Josh hadn’t been able to go, Gerry had still gone every summer and had started bringing his own boys along to help.

Jared was silent, peering shyly at Jensen from beneath his bangs, and Jensen tried to get him to smile.

“Did you go last year, Jared?” the younger boy shook his head quickly, hair flying in all directions before he turned his body and lifted his face to look out the window avoiding any further interaction. Jensen shrugged, knowing how shy his little sister was whenever they met someone new. He knew it would be okay once they got to know each other better. They had the entire summer ahead of them. Jensen smiled.

 

 

 

 

June 10th, 1951
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Jensen! Jeff! Wait up!” Jeff sighed loudly, throwing his head back with his eyes closed as he skidded to a stop on the dirt path. Jensen froze with him, turning around and giving Jared a sheepish grin, feeling guilty that they had left the younger boy behind again. “I… thought you were… gonna wait!” Jared panted out, gasping for air and bracing his hands on his knees when he finally caught up to them.

“We would’ve if we had wanted you to come with us, Jay.” Jeff rolled his eyes and turned around to his brother. “Sometimes I don’t want to watch out for my baby brother, you know?”

Jared looked hurt and Jensen was immediately on edge.

Jeff and Jared fought constantly. Being almost twelve himself, or at least closer to twelve then Jared was, Jensen knew exactly where Jeff was coming from. When they climbed the trees across from the farm they had to make sure they found a tree Jared’s short little legs could manage to get up on, and if not, they had to push him up and then help him down. When they raced the chickens, they had both gotten scolded by Gerry when they hadn’t noticed how Jared had tripped and scraped up his knee. Jeff had been mad about that one…

But, Jensen also knew what it was like to want to hang out with your older brother and he was awful glad Josh had always wanted to play with him, too. He knew Jeff had a mean side though, but he wasn’t about to say that part out loud. Instead he crossed his arms and shrugged when Jeff looked at him.

“I mean… I guess he could go with us, couldn’t he? If he promises to keep up,” Jensen offered.

Jeff sighed once and then nodded reluctantly.

“Alright, but you have to carry the towels.”

Jared’s eyes lit up and he bundled up Jeff and Jensen’s towels along with his own and jogged after them. When Jeff turned around, Jensen threw Jared a huge, matching smile and Jensen couldn’t help be proud that another crisis had been averted.

His thoughts went back to his third day on the farm when they’d gone to the creek for the first time. They had been wrestling on the bank and Jeff had gotten too rough, ending up giving little Jared a black eye. One thing led to another and before Jensen knew what had happened, the brothers were fighting so badly that Jared had drawn blood when he bit into Jeff’s shoulder. When Jensen went to pull him off, he himself ended up with a black eye. His grandfather had made them sit in different corners of the barn and threatened all of them with spending the entire night out there in the hayloft without any supper if they didn’t figure out how to get along better.

Jensen did not want a repeat performance of that night… Part of him had thought that sleeping in the hayloft would be kind of fun though. They could see the stars from the large window and they could fall asleep to the soft sounds of the horses stomping gently and whinnying quietly and the chirping of the crickets. But then as the sun fell from the horizon, a howling was added to the sounds of the night and Jensen had not been excited about the possibility of trying to go outside to pee and coming face to face with a coyote.

This time, thankfully, by the time they reached the bank of the creek, Jeff had all but forgotten his displeasure at his little brother tagging along. He playfully snatched away the towels, threw them onto the sand, and then pushed a laughing Jared into the water. Jensen kicked off the sneakers he was wearing and followed after them.

The brothers taught Jensen how to play ‘Marco Polo’ and after countless rounds in which Jensen realized Jared was a lot smarter and quicker than either he or Jeff had given him credit for, the three boys found themselves sprawled out on their towels underneath the sun, Jensen sandwiched between Jeff and Jared.

“So where’s your older brother?” Jeff asked, raising his arms to fold them underneath his head. “Dad said last time you were here, it was you and your brother.”

“Yeah, Josh.” Jensen nodded. “He’s working for a pharmacy near our house… he decided he wants to be a pharmacist and spends like, all of his time there when he isn’t home. I don’t know… Dad keeps telling him if he gets a good relationship with Mr. Collins then he might write him a good reference letter or something so Josh can go to school for it. He acts like he knows everything already… I don’t know why he’d even have to go to school.”

“Oh,” Jeff replied, satisfied with Jensen’s answer.

“So… what about you? Why doesn’t your mom come up with your dad?” Jensen tilted his head and shielded his eyes from the sun to look at Jeff’s face.

“She’s with Grandpa,” Jared answered instead and Jensen had to shift to look in the younger boy’s direction. “He doesn’t like to travel… hates to leave the house unless he’s going to church. He used to be a doctor but he had to step down ‘cuz he started talking crazy and looking at people funny. Mama says she hates living with him ‘cuz she thinks some of the things he says aren’t right and he can be really mean, but Mama didn’t really want to travel with Megan anyways so she stayed there.”

“Who’s Megan?” Jensen asked, not knowing what to say about Jared and Jeff’s grandfather. He kind of reminded him of Jensen’s own father.

“Oh, she’s our little sister,” Jeff spoke up. “Mama was pregnant the first year Mr. Ackles hired Dad so she’s going to be three in October.”

“Oh. I have a little sister now too. She just turned two before I came down here.” They fell into a comfortable silence after that, all three boys letting the sun warm and dry their skin until Grandma was hollering for them from the house.

“I’ll race you back,” Jeff called as he leapt to his feet, ripping his towel from the ground and spraying Jensen with the sand.

“We both know you’ll win!” Jensen grumbled and tried to shake off the sand. Beside him Jared carefully picked up his towel and then started off like a shot after his older brother. Jensen couldn’t help but laugh and follow after them.

 

 

 

 

June 26th, 1951
Somerset, Vermont

"Jensen?"

Jensen woke with a start. He had finally fallen asleep despite the thunderstorm that was still raging on outside. With wide eyes he sat up and tried to see what had awakened him. A horrendous flash of lightning lit up the room suddenly and he saw Jared standing beside his bed, a teddy bear clenched tightly against his chest, and his eyes about ready to bug out from his head.

"Jared?" Jensen shifted so he was closer to the edge of the bed, confused. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Je-Jeff kicks an-and the li-ligh-lightning woke me up an-and--" a loud clap of thunder interrupted Jared's stuttering and he let out a shriek and jumped up onto the mattress with Jensen, his bear falling to the floor as he threw his arms around Jensen's middle.

Jensen was shocked by the sudden bear hug and seconds away from pushing the kid out of his bed and telling him to go back to his own room when he felt how hard Jared was shaking. The boy’s entire body was shivering, and over the downpour Jensen swore he could even hear Jared's teeth chattering and his heart thudding within his small chest.

He settled back, pulling Jared flat next to him and folded an arm under his head so Jared could still hug him without either of their arms falling asleep.

"You know what my big brother Josh used to tell me about thunderstorms?" he said softly and carded a hand back through Jared's long hair.

"N-no..." Jared's voice was muffled against his side.

"He told me that Thunder and Lightning were brothers, and although they were very close... they sometimes fought. When they did? Thunder got very loud and would storm around and stomp his feet; so loud that even the smallest ant on the ground could hear it!

"Lightning wasn't as loud, but he liked to tease Thunder by flashing him with light whenever Thunder started to calm down. Because he was trying to make his brother mad, sometimes he could even light up the whole sky!" As if on cue, a huge flash of lightning lit up the room again followed by a loud rumble of thunder.

Jared jumped but kept his eyes pinned on Jensen's face. "They seem really, really angry right now," the younger boy whispered and Jensen nodded.

"They do. And when they fight, they make their friends and their family upset and all of them cry because they know the brothers really love each other even though they fight."

"Is the ra-rain their te-tears?"

"Yup! You're right!" Jensen nodded and smiled at Jared, remembering the stormy night Josh had told him this same story when his own fearful crying had pulled Josh from his slumber in the middle of a night.

"What happens if they don't stop fighting?" Jared asked in a whisper, jumping again at the low rumble of thunder.

"Won't happen," Jensen shook his head, "family is important and no matter what? They always make up. And when they do? The sun always shines extra bright the next day for the brothers."

Jared was quiet and they lay in silence listening to the thunder that was starting to taper off.

"It sounds like they're not fighting so much anymore."

"They're probably getting tired. Why don't you try to go to sleep?"

"Can I stay in here with you, Jensen?"

Jensen smiled and nodded, fixing the covers over them. "Well… you're already here so I guess that's okay."

Jared snuggled against his side, burying his face in against the older boy’s shoulder and was soon fast asleep. Jensen watched him for a few moments and smiled sadly, wondering if Mackenzie had experienced her first real storm yet and wondering if Josh would've told her the story, too. He closed his eyes and let himself drift back to sleep, images of him and Jared jumping from cloud to cloud, each step they took giving off a burst of thunder and their smiles lighting up the sky.

 

 

 

July 4th, 1951
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Come on!” Jeffery was already standing at the edge of the woods, his entire body screaming out his impatience. Jensen rolled his eyes and turned around again, waiting for Jared to catch up.

“Come on, Jared! Your brother’s going to have a fit if we don’t catch up to him!” He laughed when Jared was at his side. The younger boy had been roped into carrying their picnic basket, and despite the struggle it was giving him, Jared had adamantly refused any help in carrying it.

“I know… I know…” Jared huffed and tried to shift the awkward basket higher on his forearm.

“We’re almost there. My grandpa said the clearing was just through these woods…” Jensen turned back around and started after Jeff again, Jared close on his heels. The day had been hot and long and all three boys had been busy helping Gerry and Albert dig a new well for the back fields.

 

 

 

“Boys, this is where the money is!” Albert laughed as walked with the rest of the company in tow. Jensen had never been this far back at the farm. Most of the fields and pens were closer to the house and the creek. As far as he knew, all there was behind the large farmhouse were fields overgrown by wild grass and sweet-smelling honeysuckle as far as the eye could see.

For the past month, however, both Gerry and his grandfather had been far out in the back acreage, driving the big tractor along back and forth through the long grass while Jensen and Jeff were tasked with tending to all the animals’ needs and Jared was kept busy gathering whatever fruits or vegetables Jensen’s grandmother requested that day.

Now, Jensen could hardly believe his eyes as acres and acres of recently tilled soil stretched before him. Jensen looked towards his Grandfather and smiled when he saw the look of pure joy on the older man’s face. He was almost skipping, whistling to the last song he had heard on the radio, his arms swinging at his sides.

In the three years since Jensen had last been at the farm, there had been a few changes. One of those involved some of the livestock. For many years the acres just past the barnyard had always been tilled and planted with the help of his grandfather’s big plow-horses, Molly and Matilda. When he returned this summer however Jensen had been quite surprised to see that the two old mares were now spending their daylight hours quietly munching grass in the small pasture alongside the milk cows. And yet still each morning Grandfather and Gerry said their goodbyes and would go off to “tend the crops” happily disappearing into the early morning gloom.

So Jensen had silently wondered exactly what the men had been up to each day. When he had first arrived, Jensen had listened curiously as they discussed how after the acquisition of the tractor, his grandfather had been able to almost double crop production and had increased his farm’s profitability greatly. Jensen assumed that meant he made more money in the past three years than he had in a long while, and with the way his grandmother and grandfather were constantly sharing happy looks and touches, Jensen was just as thrilled. Now after seeing the results of the two men’s weeks of hard work Jensen truly understood the tired smiles and happiness the new tractor had left in its wake.

In the month since the clearing of the back fields had started, Gerry and Albert were usually hunched over at the dinner table talking about the equipment they would need to dig a well, the type of pump that Gerry believed he could get working, and how adding a new irrigation system to the back fields would give the Ackles’ Farm more crops than they would know what to do with.

As they came to the huge clearing, there was a large, towering machine waiting for them. Jensen felt his eyes widen and he turned to Jeff and Jared to see the same expression on both of their faces.

“What is that?” Jeff was the first to find his words, looking between his father and Albert.

Gerry laughed and said, “That, boys, is the biggest dang drill you’ll ever see on this farm!” Jensen turned to look at the machine again and it must have shown on his face that his questions weren’t anywhere close to being answered. “I’ve got some friends who were in the oil business before the war, so I spent some time last fall talking to them and they told me about this here derrick,” Gerry continued as he pointed to the triangle support around the huge drill. “And with this baby,” he patted the large auger in the center, “we’ll get us a nice, deep well and we’ll just barely have to get our hands dirty digging it.”

Jensen nodded slowly and Jeff turned his head towards his father. “Just tell us what you want us to do, Papa. I’m not even gonna try to understand that thing.”

 

 

 

Although the massive drill ended up doing most of the work, Jeff and Jensen had spent most of the afternoon pushing away the large rocks and rolling them down into the closest field as Albert and Gerry lifted them out of the way of the drill’s path. Jared, being too small to be able to carry or roll most of the rocks, got to help operate the large drill under Gerry’s watchful eye.

The tired muscles in his arms and legs were screaming at Jensen as he trudged up the grassy hill and for a second, he was glad Jared was the one who had to carry the heavy picnic basket containing their late supper. At least he was carrying something today. Jensen stopped again to watch as Jared struggled to make his way over a large, knotted tree root and with a sigh he retraced his steps back to help the smaller boy.

“Let me take that while you climb over,” he offered and reached out his hands for the basket. Jared agreed gratefully and had to almost climb on all fours to get around the large root. When he reached for the basket again, Jensen shook his head. “No, you can carry it on the way back, how’s that?”

“Okay!” Jared smiled and moved quickly to keep pace with Jensen’s wider stride. “Do you think you’re going to be here next summer?”

“I don’t know…” Jensen answered honestly. “I’d like to…”

“Me too.” Jared smiled and flashed Jensen a dimpled smile. “I heard Papa talking to Mr. Ackles about getting some property up here… He just has to talk to my mama first. But what if we did live here too? Wouldn’t that be cool? I think I wanna be a farmer just like Mr. Ackles when I grow up.”

“Oh yeah?” Jensen laughed, throwing Jared a quick glance before returning his attention to the tree roots before them. “Farmer Jared, I think that sounds pretty good.”

“Yup! Except I wouldn’t have any cows…” Jared shook his head quickly.

“No cows? How can you have a farm with no cows?” Jensen stopped and turned to look at him, confused.

“They’re so big!” Jared’s voice had dropped to a whisper, his eyes almost bugging out of his head as he reached for Jensen’s arm. His small fingers were twisted fearfully into the sleeve of Jensen’s over shirt and Jensen almost laughed at his panicked expression. “Like, what if they fall over and you get squished and all you were trying to do was get some milk for breakfast and then your guts go all over the barn floor…” Jared shivered.

“I don’t think cows just fall over, Jay,” Jensen pointed out, shaking his head with a soft laugh. In his mind’s imagination he tried to picture a big falling cow. “Is that why you don’t help me and Jeff milk the cows in the mornings?”

Jared nodded in response. “Yes! But… don’t tell Jeff, okay?”

“Your secret is safe with me. Huh… Jared is afraid of cows…” Jensen chuckled in disbelief at the little boy’s childlike fear of cows. Thinking the older boy was making fun of him, Jared huffed sadly and pushed Jensen’s arm away, taking a few steps to the side to put distance between them. Jensen tried, but failed, to keep his amusement inside. “Jared! I’m sorry… Really I wasn’t laughing at you… I was…”

“Just you wait until I find out what you’re afraid of, Jensen! I bet you I won’t laugh at you! ‘Cuz you’re my friend!” Jared spat out angrily. Jensen stopped laughing immediately, feeling guilty at the sudden hurt reflected in Jared’s voice.

“You’re right… and I’m sorry, Jared.” He caught up with Jared and nudged his shoulder. “I’ll make sure that I take over all cow duties, okay?”

“For the rest of forever,” Jared muttered and Jensen nodded in agreement.

“For the rest of forever, I promise. Now come on, I bet you Jeff has already set up the blanket.” Jared nodded and they made the rest of the trek through the woods in a comfortable silence. It was Jared who reached the edge of the woods first and when he gasped, Jensen quickened his pace.

The moment the trees ended, it opened up into a large grassy, rolling meadow. The area stretched on for what felt like miles, but at the far right was a massive oak tree, its thick branches stretched out towards the fading sun.

“Jensen! Look!” Jared pointed ahead and Jensen’s eyes followed his finger. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands of fireflies dancing through the ends of the grass their tiny lights glimmering like magic. Jensen wondered if once it was full dark, if the meadow would be completely lit up because of them. “They’re beautiful, like fairy lights,” Jared whispered in awe.

“Come on!” Jensen laughed, shifting the basket to his left arm and reaching for Jared’s hand. Jared gripped his hand tightly and allowed himself to be pulled forward and together they ran the rest of the way up the gentle hill to the base of the oak tree.

“Up here!” Jeff called to them as Jensen dropped the picnic basket onto the checkered blanket Jeff had carried. Looking up, they saw Jeff sitting on a large branch, his legs swinging in the air. “You guys have got to come up here!”

“Come on, Jay!” Jensen laughed and ran to the base of the tree, circling it once before he saw the path Jeff must have taken to get up. He waited for Jared and leaned down, locking his hands together for Jared’s foot to give him the boost he needed to get into the lowest branch. “Just don’t fall…” he cautioned and Jared rolled his eyes.

“I know how to climb a tree, Jensen!” Jensen laughed and waited for Jared to get to the next branch, glad to see Jeff’s outstretched arm ready to help his little brother, before he climbed up onto the branch himself. They chose two thick branches and Jensen was quickly seated on one beside Jared while Jeff had his legs stretched out along the second branch with his back against the trunk of the tree.

The upper branches were spread apart, giving them all the view they needed over the top of the meadow and the woods far beyond.

“Do you think we’re gonna see any?” Jared asked, leaning his head against Jensen’s shoulder and swinging his legs in time with Jensen’s.

“I hope so… Grandma said they were talking about it in town when she went to check up on the farm stand…” Jensen nodded, leaning his left shoulder against the tree trunk.

“We just have to wait until dark,” Jeff added from the branch slightly below them. “Can’t see anything if it’s not dark out.”

Jared nodded, accepting the answer and they sat in an anxious silence. When the first sparkles of light exploded against the night sky, Jared gasped, sitting up straight and leaning forward, eyes wide. Jensen reached out to grab him, half afraid that Jared was going to end up launching himself straight out of the tree.

“Jensen! Look!” Jared’s mouth was open in awe, his eyes reflecting the fantastic splashes of colors that were blossoming brightly across the sky far above the tree line. Jensen laughed and looked down to see Jeff looking at his little brother with a wide grin on his face.

“Told you they were the most amazing things you’d ever see, Jay!” Jeff smiled and Jared nodded down at him quickly before snapping back to the fireworks. It was then that it hit Jensen – there hadn’t been fireworks since he himself was even younger than Jared was now… The last time he had seen fireworks was before the war. He’d heard his grandfather talk a bit about it that morning at breakfast, how the towns were finally able to spare money for the explosives and how it had been enough time that hopefully it wouldn’t upset too many veterans. He looked beside him, at the awe and transfixed stare on the younger boy’s face, and knew that this was the first time Jared had ever seen fireworks for the Fourth of July.

He moved his arm around Jared’s shoulder, squeezing gently, and when he looked back up, the fireworks seemed even brighter.

 

 

 

 

August 3rd, 1951
Boston, Massachusetts


Jensen felt sad, sadder than he had at the end of the first summer when he had to leave his grandparents’ farm and return to his own home.

He was pressed into the back seat of Gerry’s big green car, both Jeff and Jared sitting with him this time as the front seat was loaded with all of their bags. Jared was unnaturally quiet—once he had warmed up to Jensen after that first week at the barn, it was rare for the younger boy to be doing anything other than talking, loudly and animatedly. Jensen looked over at Jeff and saw he looked just as miserable as Jensen felt.

“Come on guys, you’ll see each other soon enough. Before you know it, it’ll be summer again!” Gerry said comfortingly as he pulled the car into a parking spot, cutting off the engine. He turned in the driver’s seat, offering all three boys a small smile. “Come on, your mother’s never going to let you come again if you look that miserable. That goes for you too, Jensen!”

“Yes, Gerry.” Jensen nodded and tried to make himself smile. He was excited to see Mackenzie, he had every one of her pictures she’d sent over the summer in the top of his bag, and of course he had missed his mother and Josh… but that was about it. He didn’t miss the house, or sharing a bed with Josh, or his always angry father.

He didn’t miss the arguments that broke out over every meal, the empty bottles of scotch and dirty glasses left all around the living room and kitchen every morning, or the silence that even little Mack was afraid to break.

Gerry shook his head sadly at the three of them and got out of the car, circling to the passenger’s door to pull Jensen’s bag off of the top of the pile. “Come on guys, Jensen’s train is waiting.”

Jared slipped out first, shuffling his feet beside the car while he waited for Jensen to climb out after him. When he was standing on the pavement, Jared threw his arms around his waist and hugged him tightly. “You have to promise you’re going to come next summer, okay?” the little guy pleaded against Jensen’s stomach, tiny vibrations threatening to make Jensen laugh. He probably would have if he wasn’t so upset…

“I’ll do my best, Jay, okay?” he hugged him back and then gave Jeff a hug before turning to Gerry. “Thank you for the ride.”

“You got it, kiddo. Keep in touch, yeah? You don’t need to wait until summertime to talk to us, you hear?” Jensen nodded and hugged him quickly before fishing his train ticket out of the top of his bag.

“Bye.” He waved sadly to the little family before turning around and heading into South Station towards his platform. As he reached the huge main doors he turned around one last time to see Jared still waving forlornly after him. He gave Jared one last wave and a small, quavering smile before disappearing into the building.

He would come back again next year, as far as Jensen’s decision was concerned, it wasn’t even a question.

 

Chapter Text

 

August 15th, 1952
Somerset, Vermont


Jensen sighed as he made his way up the hill to the oak tree – a place that since the summer before had been designated as their spot. The adults never came up this far, didn’t want to make the trek through the woods, and it gave the perfect reprieve from the daily grind of the farm life.

Jensen smiled as he looked down the narrow winding path that now made its way through the woods. It had been Josh’s idea to clear a path to the field, and any free time they managed to find, all four boys could be found dragging away downed branches, moving large rocks that had been in their way, or even cutting down young saplings to clear the pathway.

This summer was the boys most physically challenging one yet on the farm, and then after spending all of their free time doing even more manual labor here on their path, Jensen was more than grateful when Josh had finally decided the path was finished. Now, Jensen had been tasked with fetching them something to eat for dinner and the rest of the boys were waiting at the oak tree.

Jensen couldn’t help but smile as he picked his way along the path. As hard as Josh had made them all work on the little footpath, Jensen was so glad his sibling was here with him once more. Now just like Jared had Jeff, he had his own older brother’s companionship. At the start of the summer, Josh had almost decided not to come with him and had wanted to stay back to work at the pharmacy. Surprisingly, it had been their father who had convinced Josh to get on the train with Jensen at the end of May.

 

 

“Your grandfather is going to need all hands on deck this year, which includes yours. Alan looked across the dinner table, pinning Josh with a hard stare.

“But, Dad… Mr. Collins offered me a full time position over the summer-"

“Family comes first, Joshua, always.” Alan’s voice was hard and Josh closed his mouth immediately, staring down at his plate. “Now, as I was saying, your grandfather is planning on adding a building to the property, some new house or something for that farm hand o’ his…”

“The Padaleckis?” Jensen asked excitedly and he sat up even straighter on his chair.

“What have I said about interrupting, boy?” Alan turned his glare to his youngest son and Jensen nodded quickly, apology ready on his lips. But his eyes couldn’t hide the excitement he still felt. “Yes, I suppose that’s them. Decided to take the family on full-time with all the good business the farm’s been doing the past couple of years. I’ve been told they’re getting a whole new herd of cows coming for the next season. Your grandmother’s gonna be worn to a frazzle trying to keep up with all the dairy coming through, if she tries to do it alone.”

“Yes, sir.” Jensen nodded his head in agreement. “Grandma said she would be teaching me how to make ice cream this summer.”

“What the hell would you need to know how to make ice cream for?” Alan shot him a disgusted look and then looked towards Donna. “What the hell has she been teaching my son?”

“Oh, Alan. You can’t tell me your mother never taught you any of that stuff growing up.” Donna gave Jensen’s arm a quick pat but Jensen had returned his gaze back down at his plate. He could feel his cheeks burning, suddenly ashamed at how excited he had been at the prospect of making ice cream. He was suddenly glad he’d never told his father she had taught him how to make homemade cheese last year…

Beside him Mackenzie leaned over. “It’s okay Jen, I love ice creams!” Jensen smiled back at her and gave her a nod.

“She didn’t teach me how to be a ‘woman’, that’s for sure,” Alan muttered and returned back to his plate of food. “Joshua, has Mr. Collins talked anymore about pharmacology school?” And just like that, the farm conversation was over and Jensen couldn’t have been more relieved.

 

 

Josh had sulked nearly the entire train ride, barely speaking two words to Jensen and keeping his nose buried in the medical book Mr. Collins had loaned him for the summer. Thankfully, the moment they set foot on Boston turf and Josh got a welcoming hug from kindly Gerry, his icy attitude melted away and he was back to being Josh instead of some twisted, younger version of Alan Ackles. As the days passed 16-year-old Josh had gone back to being the happy older brother he had once been.

“Took you long enough, Jensen!” Josh hollered from his place up among the oak tree branches. Being the tallest, he had managed to scramble up higher than either Jensen or Jeff had ever gone and he was sitting on a branch, swinging his feet and smiling down at him with a self-satisfied smirk. “I thought I was going to starve to death out here.”

“The way you eat? I doubt it!” Jensen snapped with a chuckle as he set down the basket. Dropping to his knees, he quickly helped Jared spread out the contents on the grass. Both Jeff and Josh made their way down from the tree and together the four of them ate the pork sandwiches, pickles, and apple pie that Martha had packed for them. The brotherly pairs took turns sipping the cool lemonade that had been sealed up in two canning jars.

They ate their fill and laid back in the grass, side by side as the sun sank down in the sky. When the fireflies appeared and started their light show, Jensen couldn’t help but smile as he let his eyes fall closed. He couldn’t think of a single time in Texas that he had ever felt more at peace than he did right then, never felt more at home.

“So, do you think you guys will be here next summer?” It was Jeff that broke the silence. Jensen opened his eyes to look across Jared’s body, seeing the older boy had sat up and was hugging his knees to his chest while staring thoughtfully at the Ackles' boys.

“I don’t know, man…” Josh answered with a shrug. “I honestly don’t know where I’ll be next summer… I’ve been saving up everything I’ve gotten from Mr. Collins to pay for Pharmacology School and if I get in…”

“No, I understand… I’ll keep you in my prayers, even though you’re not going to need it. You’re a total shoe in. Practically a college boy already the way you ooze textbook crap.” Teasingly, Jeff nudged the older boy fairly hard with his elbow and laughed when Josh’s arms flailed out to keep him from falling over.

“What about you, Jen?” Jared asked and Jensen’s gaze tore away from his older brother to catch Jared’s concerned eyes. “Are you going to come next summer?”

“I sure hope so.” Jensen smiled back at him. “That’s if my grandma even needs any of my help now that you’re living here full time.”

“Please,” Jared rolled his eyes and laid his head back down on the grass, “I think your grandmother would have two of you if she could.”

Jensen laughed and looked back up towards the sky. “No, Jay, I think she likes having all of us.”

 

 

 

April 18th, 1953
Austin, Texas


Jensen couldn’t believe it.

Josh had used the leftover money he had saved from the pharmacy to take Jensen out for his thirteenth birthday (“better late than never” Josh had said when he told him to get ready) and they were finishing up their milkshakes and burgers.

“What do you think of a movie, little brother?” Josh raised an eyebrow, beaming at him from across the booth.

“What movie?” Jensen asked as he finished off his strawberry shake and slid the empty glass back onto the table. “I don’t think we’ve gone to a movie since we went to that one with Gram and Grandpa…”

“I know, so what do you say? Want to go and see House of Wax?”

Jensen could feel his eyes widen as he leaned across the table. “Josh!” he whispered, excitement making his stomach do joyful cartwheels. “Do they… is it… is it playing here?”

Josh just smiled and reached into his jean pocket to pull out two tickets. “Happy Birthday, Jensen.”

“You’re seriously the best brother ever,” Jensen breathed out and reached across the table for the tickets. It had House of Wax printed across the bottom and then his stomach flipped again when he read Color 3D.

This was the first color film to hit the theaters in… well, ever. Jensen wasn’t sure if there had been other color films that just weren’t as popular, but this?! This was all the radio announcers had been talking about in the week since it had premiered. And here he was, sitting in the local diner, with tickets to go and see it.

“What are we waiting for?” He reached for his jacket and was pulling it on, already heading for the door, leaving Josh laughing behind him while he searched for some quarters to leave as a tip.

And now, Jensen was sitting in a packed movie theater, too excited to even think about eating even a bite of Josh’s popcorn, with real color pictures on the screen before him.

It was like… magic. Everything looked so real, like Jensen himself was actually running away from the crazy sculptor. Every scream seemed louder, every silent stretch seemed to resonate inside of his chest, and Jensen could hear his own heartbeat. He imagined this is probably how Jared felt with the fireworks…

He smiled as he thought of what Jared would think if he could’ve been with him now, watching with wide eyes and his mouth hanging open. Jensen couldn’t wait to tell Jared every second of the film when he saw him in next month.

 

 

 

May 16th, 1954
Austin, Texas


“Jensen, sit down.” Jensen stopped short, turning his attention to the kitchen table where Alan was sitting, hands wrapped around a mug of coffee.

“Sir?” Jensen set down his suitcase and let the travel bag he had slip from his shoulder to the floor.

“I’ve lined you up to start working tomorrow at Crowley’s. You’ll be bussing the tables and keeping the bar top clean.”

“But… but, sir, I’m supposed to be leaving for Vermont this afternoon.” Jensen could feel himself shaking and he was glad his voice held steady. Alan looked up from his coffee, an eyebrow raised.

“You’re fourteen now, Jensen. Your brother got a job at thirteen and I expect the same from you. It’s time you start learning how a man makes and manages his money. Your grandfather has plenty of help at that farm and from now on you should be working a real job here during your summers, not playing with sheep and cows.”

Jensen knew better than to argue, knew he should just say,‘Yes sir’ and return his bags to his room. But he couldn’t keep from saying, “Are you saying that farm work isn’t a real job then, Father?”

“Excuse me?” Alan choked on a mouthful of coffee. He released his grip on the mug and directed a hateful glare towards the boy, pushing back against the chair, trying to make himself look bigger and even more imposing from his sitting position. “I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

“I think you did, sir. Grandpa has always made his living doing farm work, lives his life just fine and comfortable. I think I should be able to make my own decisions on where and when I want to work.” Jensen had barely finished his sentence before Alan was out of his chair and Jensen’s back was against the wall.

“You live under my roof, Jensen Ross, and you will do as I say, when I say it. My father may be making a living for himself just fine, but you, son, aren’t making anything at all by running around that farm all day and swimming in the creek. Don’t you dare act like I don’t know what goes on up there... I lived it. And when I was thirteen years old? I went out and got myself a paying job working at the local grocery store and that was even with getting up at four in the morning to take care of those damned cows before my work shift. If this is the attitude you think you’re allowed to use in my house, boy, you’ve got another thing coming. Crowley’s will be expecting you tomorrow at three pm and you will be there if I have to drag you there myself!”

Jensen swallowed hard. Alan’s angry red face was glaring in his peripheral vision from a position only inches away from Jensen’s own. “Now, I think what you were going to say was, ‘Yes sir, let me take my bags back upstairs and thank you for this opportunity'.”

Jensen nodded once before ducking under the arm Alan had pressed against the wall beside his head and grabbed his bag from the floor. He threw one last reproachful glare over his shoulder to see that Alan had already returned to his spot at the kitchen table and was back to sipping his coffee.

“Jensen?” Mackenzie leaned over the banister of the stairs, confusion clouding her bright green eyes and Jensen shook his head at her.

“I’m fine, Kenz. Just… need to be alone.”

Mackenzie nodded slowly and watched as Jensen returned to his room and slowly shut the door behind him.

 

 

 

July 5th, 1955
Austin, Texas


Jensen’s heart was pounding a million miles an hour. He could feel the sweat on his forehead, could feel it dripping down his back. He was a mixture of shocked and… and there was this heat swirling and pooling in the pit of his stomach.

Jensen had long since gotten over the fact that his father had refused for the second year in a row to let him go to his grandfather’s farm and had made a point to be out of the house, only returning for the required meals and the bed to lay his head on, every day he could. Even Mackenzie had made a point of joining him on hikes or trips to the river bank. Today, the barkeep, Robert, had let him off early, claiming he had family business to attend to and Crowley’s would be closed for the day. Jensen should have gone home – should have checked if his mother or Mackenzie had needed anything. But when his co-worker and best friend, Tom, suggested they go straight from the bar to the river? Jensen hadn’t even thought twice.

He was now, though.

 

 

“Jensen?”

He swallowed hard, eyes meeting the deep blue ones of his best friend. They had stopped at Tom’s house on the way to the river, stripping out of their work clothes and aprons to don a couple pairs of Tom’s swimming trunks. Now, Tom was pushing out of the river, confusion on his face as he studied Jensen’s expression, water rolling down his tanned, muscled chest and God, when did Jensen notice that?

“Ye-yeah?” He stumbled over the word, afraid Tom could hear the pounding of his heart, afraid he would be able to see into Jensen’s mind and figure out that Jensen’s thoughts right now were dirty and wrong. So very wrong.

“You look… I don’t know, like you’ve seen a ghost or something.” Tom laughed and stepped forward, patting Jensen’s shoulder and Jensen shivered under his touch. Tom’s hand was large and warm and for a moment, Jensen wondered what it would be like to have it trailing over other parts of his body… “Jense! Look! Rosemary and Catherine just got here.”

Jensen followed Tom’s gaze and saw the two girls walking this way, towels slung over their shoulders and long hair piled up on the tops of their heads. He knew Tom was watching the way their hips moved, the way they swayed and twisted with each step. At sixteen, their breasts were full and moved whenever they breathed or walked. Catherine even had a bathing suit on with no cover-up -– something his parents would never let Mackenzie out of the house wearing no matter what age she was.

Jensen smiled, stared at them, and tried to look as interested as Tom did. When they joined them, Jensen was glad for the distraction. He laughed when Rosemary shook off her outer clothes and took his arm to pull him back into the water. Her hair and suit were now plastered against her face and body, her brown eyes sparkling in the sunlight. They swam lazily in the cool water and Jensen forced himself to count every freckle across Rosemary’s cheeks, count the amount of times she and Catherine leaned together and giggled, counted everything and anything he could think to count… anything to keep him from looking at Tom and his body again.

Jensen attached himself to Rosemary’s side, forced himself to touch her arm and hold her hand, to carry her towel as they walked back to town three hours later. When she pressed thick, pink lips against his own, he even tried to pretend that he wasn’t wishing and hoping they were Tom’s instead.

Later when he returned home, “Was that Rosemary I saw you walking with when you passed the house before, Jensen?” Donna greeted, excitement in her voice as she took Jensen’s wet towel to hang out back.

Jensen nodded quickly, meeting his mother’s eyes for only a brief moment before looking away, shame coloring his face. He wished they had taken a different path to walk the girls back home.

Donna didn’t notice his silence, or else she misinterpreted the look as shy embarrassment, and she pulled Jensen against her chest, still smiling. “I think she’s a very nice girl. You should have her over for dinner sometime… let us get to know her.”

“Okay, Mama,” Jensen whispered, stomach turning over again. “I’m not feeling too well… I think I got too much sun today. I’m going to lay down until supper.”

“Oh, okay, baby.” Donna ran a hand through his hair, disappointment clear on her face. Jensen knew she had been excited he was home before supper. Jensen gave her another smile that he hoped looked sincere and fled up the stairs to the safety of his room.

Since Josh had left for the University of Texas, Jensen had been granted the privilege of his own room, something he was more than grateful for, especially now. He slipped off Tom’s still damp suit, his stomach clenching at the thought that the clothing he wore belonged to Tom, and slipped between the sheets on his bed. Jensen stared at the ceiling, tears swimming in his eyes as he let himself think back to Tom. Tall, wet, and beautiful Tom.

His body reacted and Jensen felt sick. If Tom’s father, Pastor Welling, ever knew the thoughts Jensen had swirling around in his mind about his oldest son… He was wrong, he was sick; he shouldn’t be thinking of his best friend this way, shouldn’t be thinking of another male this way. He should be thinking about pretty little Rosemary and the way she was pressed up against his side. Thinking of another boy was wrong, disgusting, and Pastor Welling would tell him he was going to hell.

Jensen squeezed his eyes shut, trying to force out the images that were flooding his mind. The new ones of Tom from earlier in the day were taking root beside the already sick images that had implanted themselves. If Jensen were to be honest with himself, Tom wasn’t the first one. But dirty thoughts trapped deep in his subconscious, only emerging to play out in his dreams, were very different from picturing and wishing and hoping about a real man. At least in his dreams he could wake up and push those thoughts away, pretend they never happened. In real life, he was damning someone along with himself.

Homosexuals were evil. He had heard his father speak about it; how the sexual perversions of homosexuals were grounds for termination, in every sense of the word. Alan was never shy about the way he felt, didn’t hold back on his disgust and horror when a faggot had the nerve to speak up and voice his opinions over his treatment. The audacity of someone as disgusting as that actually believing he had rights when he was damned in the first place made Alan uncontrollably angry.

He bit back a sob as he imagined what his father would think of him if he knew. He would probably take Jensen out back and take care of the problem himself, promise to purge his body and pray forgiveness for his soul. His mother would want to cure him, to send him away and would blame herself for doing him so wrong.

No, Jensen could never admit it. Not to anyone. He was wrong … he was broken… and he was going to hell for the dirty thoughts racing around in his mind, but he would never bring his family down with him.

Jensen knew it was wrong and somehow he would fix it. Tomorrow he would find Rosemary Sheppard and ask her out right then and there. He would bring her around to the house, show her off on his arm and his parents would be happy and proud of him, his father would tell him to do right by her, and Jensen would be determined to do so.

Because Jensen was determined to be normal, to be good and to do right before the eyes of his family and God.

Chapter Text

 

May 18th, 1958
Boston, Massachusetts

Jensen couldn’t keep the smile off of his face as he approached the beat up old ford and saw his grandfather leaning up against it. He looked old, worn down, but the smile he gave Jensen when their eyes met was nothing short of brilliant.

“Look at you!” Albert called out when Jensen was close enough. Albert pushed away from the vehicle to meet Jensen in a warm hug. “Boy, how tall are you going to get?”

“Taller than you,” Jensen replied with a shy grin before pulling back and squeezing his grandfather’s arm as he did so. “It’s so good to see you, Grandpa.”

“Likewise. Your grandmother’s been scurrying around all week getting things ready for you! Had to remind her you were family and after a day with the pigs you’d be caked in too much dirt to notice if the linens had been pressed or simply washed, hung, and folded.”

“I bet she didn’t like that.” Jensen chuckled and watched as his grandfather reached behind him to take hold of a cane that had been leaning against the passenger door. Jensen smiled sadly as he watched the painful expression cross over his grandfather’s face when he shifted his weight to move further from the door.

“Don’t you start that,” Albert warned, swatting Jensen’s leg with the cane.

“Start what? I didn’t-"

“I saw that look… you have eyes just like your grandmother, can’t hide a damn thing.” Jensen looked up quickly, afraid he’d already managed to anger his grandfather, but relaxed when he saw the old man smile. “Now come on, none of that worrying. I’m fine, I’m gonna continue being fine. Get in the truck.”

Jensen nodded, meeting his grandfather's gaze and watching the older man's gaze flick down to his lip. Jensen cleared his throat, looking away. He knew his cheek was sporting a purple bruise, the cut on his lip scabbing and red. He waited for the older man to ask and was grateful when Albert shook his head and opened the door instead, seemingly holding off the conversation for later.

"Come on now," Albert said as he slid the cane under his seat and climbed into the truck, "I ain't getting any younger."

“Yes, sir,” Jensen laughed happily and tossed his bag over into the bed of the truck before slipping into the cab. He leaned back against the seat, inhaling the familiar smells of tobacco and the farm from the seats, and didn’t bother stopping the laugh that broke free.

He was going home.

 

 

 

 

May 22nd, 1958
Somerset, Vermont

“How’s Grandpa doing? Really?” Jensen slid into the kitchen, plucking a large apple from the big wooden bowl on the counter as he went by, and hopped up onto one of the kitchen stools. Martha looked over her shoulder and eyed her grandson carefully before plopping a cutting board in front of him.

“You’re gonna come in my kitchen chatting, you’re gonna be working.” She smiled at him, handing over a knife and the already peeled apples she’d been preparing over the sink. Jensen shrugged and started coring and slicing the apples thin, waiting for her reply. “He’s… well, you know your grandfather, Jensen. He’s a stubborn old mule!”

Jensen smiled and nodded his head. They heard the front door open and both of them paused, waiting to see if someone else would join them in the kitchen. When the door opened and shut again, Martha continued.

“Doctors said it was a stroke… but your grandfather doesn’t feel inclined to believe it. Says he’s lived off the farm his entire life, healthy as a horse! Plus, he doesn’t have any of the defects that some of the other people who’ve suffered strokes have. Just kind of a weakness in his one leg.” She sighed, handing Jensen the newest apple she’d peeled before grabbing another. “Doesn’t want to listen to me when I tell him he’s not as young as he used to be. Apparently that man thinks he’s going to live forever. No wonder his son has the same belief…”

Jensen paused for a moment and gave his grandmother a strange look. He would’ve never thought to compare his father and his grandfather. Sometimes he couldn’t even believe they were from the same family…

“Oh yes, our son may be a bit harder and more rough around the edges, but that stubbornness he got straight from his daddy.” Martha chuckled as if she’d read Jensen’s mind. Jensen shrugged in response and focused back on his apples. “You know, I think your grandfather might be suggesting to your daddy about you coming to live up here full time and help out. What would you think about that?”

“Me?” Jensen looked up again, surprised. “But… the Padaleckis live here now…”

“You’re right, of course, Jensen.” Martha nodded, dropping the last apple onto the board and turning around for a towel to wipe her hands. “But your grandfather’s looking to strike a deal and get another twenty-five head of Guernseys in here… Wants to expand the dairy side of things, maybe make it so we’re a complete dairy farm. Course, we’d always have the farm stand for the locals and such.”

“Oh, Jared will love that,” Jensen muttered, a small smile playing at his lips.

“You think so?” Martha cocked her head. “I didn’t think that boy was too fond of them. I can’t get him to fetch me a pail of fresh milk even if I beg him.”

Jensen snorted and shook his head.

“Speaking of the Padaleckis, when will they be back?” Jensen finished cutting the last of the apples, sweeping the mound of slices into the bowl. Martha nodded her thanks and took it back to the sink, reaching into the cupboard for cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. She seasoned the apples, added a bit of sugar, and then poured them into the waiting pie shell.

“I think Sherri said they would be back tomorrow evening… I bet you Gerry will be out of sorts that they didn’t wait for you, too. We didn’t know if you’d be coming this early.” Martha hesitated for a second and Jensen knew what they were both thinking. We didn’t know if Alan would let you come at all.

“Yeah, well… I’m eighteen now, plenty old enough to decide what and where I want to be for my summer.” Martha hummed a response and Jensen didn’t feel like pushing the subject. The fight he’d had with his father before he left had been more than enough.

Martha smiled sadly, nodding as she suddenly understood that swollen lip and the bruises he'd sported since he’d arrived a few days before. Jensen knew that despite what she thought, the similarities between them, her son had apparently not inherited his father’s gentle ways.

 

 

“Jensen!” The voice was strident and loud, the tone demanding an instant response.

Mackenzie froze, eyes darting up from the table where they had cards spread out before them to fearfully meet her older brother’s. “What did you do now?” she hissed and Jensen rolled his eyes, tossing his cards down. It wouldn’t be likely he’d be back any time soon to finish them…

“Yes, sir?” Jensen made his way into the living room. Alan was waiting with his arm over the back of the chair, slowly twisting a glass of whiskey in his hand.

“Sit,” Alan ordered, his eyes were cold as they focused on Jensen. Donna was already sitting on the couch, her legs tucked in beneath her and her hands clenched tightly on her lap. Jensen hesitated for a moment before reminding himself to ‘pick his battles’ and he sat down beside his mother. “Donna… why don’t you tell Jensen what you told me?”

For a brief moment Jensen’s eyes darted questioningly to his obviously distressed mother.

Donna inhaled sharply, refusing to look at her son. “Th-that Jensen had given his notice at Crowley’s.”

Jensen sighed, rolling his eyes away from his mother to look at Alan.

“Is this true?” his father demanded.

“Yes,” Jensen answered simply, watching as his father’s fingers turned white around the glass, the ice inside rattling.

“I am assuming you have a perfectly good reason for this?” Alan almost whispered and even though it came out soft, beside him Donna flinched. Jensen gave her a quick look, for a second feeling bad for her.

“Of course I do, I’m not an idiot.” Jensen returned his attention back to his father and fought hard not to laugh at the expression on his face. If he were any redder, Jensen was sure he would’ve exploded like a cherry bomb.

“I didn’t call you in here to play games, boy.”

“No, you called me in here to… what exactly? I made the decision to stop working at Crowley’s –for the summer, by the way—because I have other plans. I talked with the owners and they agreed that it was easy for them to hire summer help from the high school kids and I could come back in the fall and work.”

“And what the hell do you expect to be doing during the summer?” Alan spat, pushing off of the armchair and slamming his glass down on the table beside it. Donna jumped, her leg bumping into Jensen’s as she did so. Alan moved quickly, reaching down to pull Jensen up from the couch, his hands twisted in the front of his son’s shirt. “You sure as hell aren’t going to be sitting around here doing nothing!”

“No, I’m not going to be sitting around here period. I already bought my ticket to Vermont.” Jensen reached up, gripping his father’s wrists and trying to pull them away, his body starting to shake from the anger welling up inside of his chest. Now that he had achieved his father’s height it was so much easier to look the man in the eye and present a challenge to his bullying ways and physical intimidation.

“What is it with you and that damned farm?” Alan yelled and Jensen felt himself laugh, the shocked look on Alan’s face as the man took a step back making him laugh harder.

“What is it with me and that farm? What is it with you and being so against it?” Jensen’s long-simmering anger at his father’s constant disregard and utter disrespect for all his grandparents’ hard work and way of life finally made its way to the surface. He set his feet and clenched his fists. He snarled back, “Too afraid of some real goddamn work, sir? Actually getting up in the early hours of the morning, working so hard your back and your legs and your neck ache to the point where you don’t think you could move another muscle? Actually working for something, building towards something, being a part of a family and a community instead of sitting around on your ass getting drunk and beating your—"

The first punch rocked Jensen back on his heels, nearly landing him backwards onto the couch. His right hand flew forward to grip Alan’s forearm, trying to steady himself. The moment he had raised his voice to the old man, he’d halfway expected it anyways. The second punch however, he hadn’t been expecting…

He felt something warm run down his chin and then the metallic taste of blood was on his tongue.

“Alan!” Donna screamed and Jensen felt himself falling. Alan was instantly on him, straddling his hips and pinning him to the floor.

Suddenly Jensen could hear a chair scraping the floor in the kitchen as Alan raised his fist again. Mackenzie shouldn’t see this… couldn’t see this. Jensen reacted quickly, his own fist catching Alan’s jaw, the sound of his teeth slamming together making Jensen cringe.

Mackenzie gasped and suddenly Donna was there, pulling Alan off, delicate fingers pressing against his face, whispering concern. Jensen hated her at that moment. Too many memories of his mother never standing up for her children against the old man’s unrelenting, anger and constant drunken abuse flashed through the eighteen-year-old’s mind.

Alan roughly shoved her away, angrily jabbing a finger at Jensen, whose head was now cradled in Mackenzie’s lap. “Get out of my house.” Alan’s voice shook, his pupils blown as he stared down at his son. “Get the fuck out of my house, now!”

Jensen scrambled up off the floor and stormed from the room, moving angrily up the stairs to pack the quickest bag he could. He snatched his wallet off the nightstand, hastily gathering the jar of savings from the tips he’d gotten at the bar, his shaving kit and a few sets of clothes, to shove them haphazardly into his duffel before heading back down the stairs. As his foot left the last step he was stunned by the dead silence. Mackenzie and his parents were gone from the living room, nowhere to be seen. Jensen hesitated for only a moment, wondering if he should at least find Mack to tell her goodbye, before he silently stomped out the door.

She would understand.

 


“So, uh…” Jensen cleared his throat, pulling his hand away from his face where his fingers were absentmindedly stroking across the yellowing bruise on his cheek. “When they get back, I probably should head over and meet Mrs. Padalecki face to face, huh?”

“I’ll teach you boys some manners yet.” Martha laughed and gave Jensen a gentle smile. “Off you go then… and if you see your grandfather, tell him I’ve got his lunch ready.”

 

 

 

May 23rd, 1958
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen blinked once against the glare of the setting sun, confused when he saw a tall, lanky boy walking towards him. Over the boy’s shoulder he recognized Gerry, a little thicker around the middle now maybe and with a head full of graying hair instead of brown. Beside the man stood Jeffrey who had gotten even taller than the last time Jensen had seen him and more grown up. But the boy…

Jensen snapped his eyes back to the boy and gasped when he met large, hazel eyes that he most definitely recognized. “Jared?”

“Jensen!” The boy’s face split into a wide smile and he jogged the rest of the way down the driveway, dropping his bag onto the porch to give Jensen a hug. The boy—Jared—was almost as tall as Jensen was!

“You’re… you’re… big!” Jensen stumbled through what he was trying to say and when Jared laughed he realized how stupid he’d sounded. “I mean, like… you’re tall and…”

“Not eight years old anymore?” Jared stepped back and gave Jensen a once over. “It’s been six years, Jensen! Did you think I would stay that old forever? What the hell happened to your eye?”

“Just… nothing,” Jensen shook his head quickly and watched as Jared bent down to pick up the bag he’d dropped, his t-shirt pulling tight against the defined muscles of his shoulders. Jensen shifted, rubbing his own arm self-consciously.

Jared gave him a look as he stood, smirking when he shook his head, and then he was gone, leaving Jensen with a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He bit his lower lip, turning to follow after Jared who was retreating down the path to the Padalecki house, but Gerry stepped forward to take Jared’s place and Jensen was immediately wrapped into another warm, wonderful hug.

“It’s gonna be good to have you here this summer, son.” Gerry clapped him on the back and Jensen smiled, all other thoughts he had slipping easily away.

“Don’t know how you’ve managed without me, really,” Jensen teased and Gerry shoved him playfully before turning around to Jeff.

“Bring that stuff to the house and then get back here, Jeff. I’m sure Martha and your mother have been fretting over making a big supper all day long.”

“And pie,” Jensen added, giving Jeff a smile in greeting.

“You had me at food.” Jeff shrugged his bag higher onto his shoulder and ran off, leaving Gerry to laugh and happily nudge a smiling Jensen back up the porch steps and into the big, old farmhouse.

 

 

 

 

June 29th, 1958
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen was so screwed.

He exhaled slowly, climbing the rest of the way up into the barn loft, his stomach twisting into knots as he went. He didn’t have to look or hell, even listen, to know that Jared was up there. He could see Jared’s long legs swinging over the side of the loft, free floating in the air. He could hear the teen humming and singing along to whatever song happened to be stuck in his head at that time, laughing to himself every few moments when he either forgot the words or they came out wrong. Jensen could’ve been both deaf and blind and he still would have known Jared was there.

Because Jensen was hyper aware of everything about Jared.

He thought about how it had taken him almost three days once Jared, his brother and father had returned from their hiking trip in May for Jensen to recognize the feelings he’d experienced on the porch and during supper that night as he saw Jared for the first time in nearly six years.

Jared had been so excited, talking animatedly with his hands throughout their meal, about how they’d followed the creek on the property to Deerfield River, followed it almost ten miles out to the reservoir where they’d been able to watch the bear and deer that congregated there. He had talked about how Gerry had shown him and Jeff every constellation he could remember, laughing when he’d brutalized the names and Jeff had to correct him. Jared talked, and laughed, and it took everything Jensen had to concentrate on the actual words coming out of Jared’s mouth instead of the way his lips moved when he said them.

At first, during the early weeks when the June sun was brutal and the creek water felt so cool against his sunburnt skin, Jensen had started taking a late afternoon swim. But then after a few days Jared and Jeff had begun to join him, and Jensen found his eyes drifting across the water to watch the water slicking down Jared’s muscular back and… Christ, the kid was fourteen years old and didn’t need some faggot leering at him.

Jensen began to avoid time alone with the younger boy despite the magnetic pull he felt for him. Since he had finally put a label on his lustful glances, Jensen started using every excuse he could muster up to get out of going to the creek and had taken to lounging in the loft instead when he needed to cool down. The heat was still stifling, the smell of horses and hay almost suffocating, but Jensen didn’t have to worry, because at least in the loft he was alone.

Until ten days ago when Jared had finally discovered his hiding spot and was seemingly determined not to let Jensen spend his relaxing moments in peace. Because Jared would follow him, or would meet him there, or would get there first. Jared would hum and whistle and talk, and when the heat became too much and Jensen suggested he go and find Jeff or take a dip, Jared would just shrug and make things even worse by pulling his shirt off, balling it up behind his head so he could lay spread out against the wood.

 

 

 


And Jensen’s mind went wild. He tried not to look. He busied himself talking about farm work, about Mackenzie, about how big a harvest they would get this year. Jensen would talk and then Jared would reply and it was rude not to acknowledge his added comments.

Somehow, Jensen’s eyes always trailed back to Jared’s large, hazel ones. They always shone, even in the dim light of the barn, and Jensen swore if he looked too long that Jared would be able to see straight through him.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Jared was already here and waiting for him. Jensen honestly should have expected it. But images from the dream he’d had the night before suddenly were at the forefront of his mind and he shivered as his stomach rolled.

“Jensen?” Jared’s voice oozed concern as he realized the older boy had been on the steps for a while just staring into space. When Jensen focused his eyes he saw Jared pushing up off the loft floor, easing closer to him.

“I-I’m fine.” He forced himself to smile and moved quickly to take his regular spot, careful not to brush against Jared in even the slightest bit as the other boy resumed his previous position. The fact that Jared was concerned for him when Jensen’s mind played all sorts of dirty, wrong scenarios out about him… well, it just worried Jensen that much more.

Jared resumed his humming, his foot knocking into the edge of the wood and sending little vibrations through it and to Jensen’s body. He felt warmer, Jared’s presence now even more suffocating than the stench of hay and manure. He could leave… could claim he had a stomach ache and push himself back into the house. He could lock himself into his room and no one would question it – Jensen was rarely ever sick, but sometimes the heat got to all of them. But that would require leaving, it would require leaving Jared’s warmth, the sound of his voice… And Jensen wouldn’t leave that if someone paid him.

It’s was why he continued coming back, even knowing he was wrong, knowing he was going to hell for the way he felt and for the images of wrapping himself around Jared that come to him in his dreams at night.

Jensen was screwed already, so one more day sitting up in the loft with Jared beside him wasn’t going to hurt anything at all.

 

 

 

July 19th, 1958
Somerset, Vermont

 

“What do you think about the military?”

Jensen turned his head and looked at Jared, shaking his head slowly to clear his mind.

“Um… what do you mean? What about it?” he asked when Jared didn’t continue.

“I mean, about joining it. You know, fighting for our country, traveling…”

“Jared… going to war isn’t traveling.” Jensen sighed and looked away. “I’ve… never really thought about it.”

“Jeff is thinking about it.” Jared’s voice was soft and Jensen turned to look back at him. Jared had his lower lip caught between his teeth, chewing on it thoughtfully as he stared up at the rafters. Jensen felt his heart thump in his chest at the expression on Jared’s face. “Dad and him… they were talking about it last night after they thought everyone else went to bed.”

“Oh,” Jensen replied. “What did your dad say?”

“That he would be proud of him no matter what he wanted to do.” Jared shrugged and Jensen nodded.

Silence fell between them and Jensen found himself watching Jared’s face. “Jeff said he was surprised that you and Josh hadn’t,” Jared suddenly continued, turning his head to meet Jensen’s eyes. “Because of your dad having been a soldier and all, you know.”

“I don’t want to be anything like my father,” Jensen replied, shaking his head quickly. “I just… I can sort of remember him from before the war, you know? I don’t remember always hating him…” Jensen trailed off, tearing his eyes away from Jared at his confession. Hating his parents, another thing he was going to hell for. Jensen almost laughed. “Josh decided on school instead, a path to support his family. I haven’t decided what I want to do yet. But… not war… not that.”

“Do you think Jeff will come back changed if he does sign up? If he goes?” Jared whispered and Jensen found himself snapping his attention back up to the younger boy instead of staring down at the tips of his boots.

“Jared, I think that your family is pretty much a snapshot of good ol’ American, apple pie life. And I mean, I don’t know about what would or wouldn’t change. But I know that your family? Out of any family? Would be the one that could get through anything. No matter what happened, Jeff would know that.”

Jared nodded slowly before looking back up at the rafters. “At least our troops are home from Korea finally,” Jared whispered after a moment and Jensen nodded in agreement.

 

 

 

August 18th, 1958
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Have you ever thought about what it would be like to kiss someone?”

Jared was in the barn in his regular position beside him, legs dangling over the hayloft ledge and swinging, free in the air. Jensen glanced over at him, his heart twisting as he took in the sight. As per usual, Jared was lying on his back on the wooden floor, had his arms crossed behind his head, a few pieces of golden hay stuck in his hair. He was staring up at the roof, large, hazel eyes dancing in the lantern light, his shirt pulled tight across his chest.

Jensen swallowed hard and tore his gaze away, his heart pounding in his chest as he registered the question. “I’ve kissed someone once… a girl named Rosemary.”

“Oh.” Jared fell silent and Jensen resisted the urge to look at him again. “Have you ever thought of what it would be like to kiss a boy?” Jared’s voice was soft, barely a whisper, but Jensen felt as if Jared had dug deep inside his mind to pull out his worst sinful thought to scream it to the world.

“No. Why would you ask that? Of course not.” Jensen’s voice was short and clipped -a tone he’d taken straight from his father’s personal handbook. Jensen wanted to scream, wanted to run. He was glad, at least, that it was dark and most of their families had already gone to bed. Now, however, he regretted the decision to start joining Jared in the loft after supper instead of only earlier in the day. “Don’t ask such foolish questions, Jared! It’s not right. You don’t want anyone thinking you’re some… some queer.”

“Right,” Jared whispered back and when Jensen looked at him, Jared’s eyes were swimming with unshed tears. Jensen’s heart started pounding faster, his supper suddenly churning uncomfortably in his gut.

“Plus,” he spoke again, making sure his tone was softer this time, hoping his voice was stead, “why would you want to kiss a boy anyways? Too many pretty girls out there.”

“Would you hate me, Jensen?” Jared sat up suddenly, causing Jensen to jump. He looked up and cringed when he saw the expression on Jared’s face, a mix of fear and sadness, shame and… “Would you hate me if I did want to kiss a boy?”

Jensen took a deep breath and held it, counting back slowly from ten before he answered. “No, Jared. I wouldn’t. I could never hate you. But a lot of other people would. You can’t… They don’t…” He swallowed hard and shook his head. Then he whispered, “No. No, I wouldn’t think of you any differently at all.”

Jared nodded and ran his fingers back through his hair, catching an errant piece of the hay and pulling it out. He held it between his fingernails, splitting the strand. When he let it fall and placed his hand back down on the floor, it was closer to Jensen’s arm than it had been before. Jensen felt himself shiver. “Would you… think of me differently… if it was you I wanted to kiss?”

Jensen stopped breathing.

Jared had tucked his plump bottom lip into his mouth and just like that first night, suddenly that was all Jensen could think of. Jared’s perfect pink lips, the wet heat of his mouth. He wondered what Jared would taste like if he pressed his tongue against those lips. His throat felt dry, suddenly thick and choking and there was nothing Jensen could say, nothing he could do, to make the sudden, unbearable ache in his chest go away.

This was wrong, what they were talking about, what Jared was suggesting was wrong. The fact that it coincided with every single one of Jensen’s fantasies and dreams…

A look of hurt crossed Jared’s features, making him look far older than his fourteen years and Jensen wanted to reach out and hold him, to tell him he understood, he really, truly did. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t admit it out loud because that would make it real. And it wasn’t, it couldn’t be. Fear sliced through his body and Jensen pushed away from Jared suddenly and he nearly tumbled out of the loft and to the ground far below in his haste to get away.

“I… I… c-c-can’t…” he heard himself stutter, felt himself shaking his head, and the moment Jared opened his mouth again, Jensen ran.

The light rain that had started when they’d entered the barn had now turned into a full-blown storm; huge, fat drops of rain pelted his back and face, instantly soaking him to the skin. Jensen ran blindly through the yard and past the house. He couldn’t go inside, not like this, not to the concerned and questioning looks his grandparents would give him. They would know, they would know just like Jared apparently did, that he wasn’t right.

He threw open the front gate to the farm road and ran for the woods. He could hear Jared calling from behind him and almost slipped in the mud. He pushed on faster, racing through the path in the trees and up the slope. The woods finally opened onto the clearing and Jensen made a beeline for the solitary oak.

He threw himself against the massive trunk, hands clinging desperately to the rough bark, his arms supporting all the weight his quaking knees could not.

“Jensen!” Jared ran up the grassy hill after him and Jensen wanted to scream at him.

Don’t do this! Don’t, Jared, just stop! Don’t push this, it’s wrong, what you’re suggesting is wrong. I can’t, we can’t… please… please go home…

“Jared,” Jensen croaked out weakly, his chest heaving, rising and falling just as fast as his heart was beating in his chest. This was wrong, this was so wrong. Jared needed to leave, needed to go back home and they could just forget about this and tomorrow would be different; it would be back to normal. Nothing had to change.

Jensen could hear Jared breathing hard behind him suddenly and now felt a large, warm hand on his shoulder. He was instantly hit with the memory of Tom, strong and handsome Tom with dark blue eyes that haunted his dreams until they were replaced by luminescent hazel. He pulled away from it, rolling his body out of the grasp and turned to face Jared, eyes flashing. Didn’t he know? Didn’t he understand?

Jared’s lips were turned up into a small smile, large drops of rain clinging momentarily to his eyelashes before rolling down his face. Jensen was shaking, whether from the chill wind whipping against his rain-soaked clothes and skin or from the body heat rolling off of Jared’s body as he stepped closer, he wasn’t sure.

He should tell Jared to stop, to stop inching closer, to stop smiling as if he knew something. This was disgusting and dangerous and so terribly wrong. Jensen opened his mouth to say just that, but only a pained strangled noise fell from his lips.

Jared shook his head, rain flying from the strands of his hair and landing on Jensen’s face. Jensen licked his lower lip, collecting a few drops that had landed there, and shivered again. When Jared’s hand pressed flat against his chest, he should’ve shoved Jared back, should’ve punched him for touching him that way.

Instead he closed his eyes.

“You can tell me to stop, Jensen,” Jared whispered and Jensen squeezed his eyes tighter, his cheeks hot and wet. When Jared swept his thumb across Jensen’s cheek, the touch sending a shiver down his spine, he realized he was crying. Then, Jared’s lips were against his, warm and soft in a chaste kiss, a simple touch of skin against skin. Jensen froze against him, gasped into Jared’s mouth, and that was all Jared needed.

Jared’s hands were on Jensen’s hips, his body pressing him into the tree, and Jensen couldn’t think to do anything except twist his hands into Jared’s flannel shirt and let himself be kissed. Jared tasted like corn and summertime, his body was hard and warm, his lips soft. Why did something so wrong feel so perfect? Jensen tore himself away from Jared’s mouth, shoving Jared away hard. The other boy stumbled once, his mouth slightly open as he stared back at Jensen in confusion.

“Jensen?”

“No! I’m not a fag, Jared.” Jensen shoved away from him and ran. “I’m not!” he screamed into the storm.

He slipped once in the mud, his left leg completely coated in muck, but he pushed on, not stopping until he reached the tree line. He looked back once and saw Jared still standing at the tree, fingers pressed against his lips and watching forlornly as Jensen ran away.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

August 29th, 1958
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jared’s lips were soft, so soft as they ghosted over Jensen’s, teasing as they trailed across his mouth, against his jaw, down his neck… Jensen closed his eyes and let his head fall back, his hands gripping Jared’s hips tightly as Jared worked his way around the exposed flesh, kissing and nipping as he went.

Jensen hissed as Jared gave a sharp bite, his body responding as he pulled Jared closer and leaned down to catch his lips again. Their mouths moved together, Jensen’s tongue slipping between Jared’s lips to tangle with Jared’s own. He was surrounded by the other boy. Everywhere their bodies touched, his skin was on fire. He could smell and taste and feel Jared.

He pulled back and met lust-blown hazel eyes and opened his mouth to speak when a loud train whistle split through the silence, ripping him from the field and the oak tree he’d been pressed up against and back into the cruel, cold world of reality.

Startled, Jensen gasped and his eyes flew wide open, his heart pounding in his chest as his eyes darted around the train car interior. He was glad he had his duffel across his lap but he still eyed everyone in the vicinity, his cheeks and ears reddened. No one seemed to notice they were sitting next to a filthy-minded, cursed man. A man bound for hell.

Jensen exhaled slowly, leaning his head back into the seat and turned to gaze out the window. The sky was dark and the window bounced his own reflection back at him. He looked pale, his eyes wide with large, darkened circles under them. He hadn’t been able to sleep since that night.


When he ran from Jared, he continued running, past the barn and across the fields, back down to the new well system and sank to the muddy ground when he’d reached it. He could barely see the house in the distance, only a few lights had been left on for him and Jared. He swallowed hard and felt his stomach roll.

He could still feel the heat of Jared pressed against his lips and his stomach rolled in both fear and anticipation. The last flash of hurt that had crossed Jared’s face was burned into his mind and Jensen pulled his knees to his chest, falling backwards against the rough, wet earth. His jeans were soaked through, he could hear his teeth chattering and every drop of rain that had snuck past his sopping wet collar and down onto his skin made him shiver. If he had stayed… if he hadn’t run… he would probably still be wrapped in Jared’s warmth.

Jensen let out an anguished wail and stayed there trembling and shivering through the lingering storm until the power of it diminished and then at long last, the drizzle finally surrendered to the approaching dawn. The reappearing sun quietly started to light the early morning sky. He made his way back to the house, glad his Grandfather hadn’t yet made it out of the bedroom. He quickly showered and dressed and met his grandparents and the Padaleckis in the kitchen for breakfast.

Jared wasn’t there.

“Jared joining us?” Albert asked, pouring himself a cup of coffee and nodding across the table to Gerry. His eyes, however, strayed to Jensen as if Jensen would have the answer. Jensen felt himself blanch and he busied himself making his own coffee, his ears tuned in to anything Gerry had to say.

“No… Feeling sick today. Sherri thinks he’s coming down with something,” Gerry replied and added three sugars to his coffee, stirring the brown liquid with his spoon. “Hopefully he’ll be doing better after he sleeps for a bit. Didn’t come in ‘til pretty late last night…”

Jensen turned away from them completely, his hands trembling against his cup of coffee. He counted to ten, trying to keep his breathing steady. He waited for the questions—they had to have known Jared and Jensen were together. Lately, they always were. And what if… what if they figured it out? What if they knew? Jensen pushed the cup onto the counter, releasing it before he dropped it and stepped back as if it were on fire.

“I’ll be out in the barn,” he stammered and strode quickly across the room, slipping out the door, and was halfway to the barn before the screen door slammed back into place.

What if Jared was sick because of what they had done? Because it was filthy and wrong and now he was being punished? Or what if he had told his parents and they were keeping him away from Jensen for his own safety?

Jensen's stomach twisted painfully again and he stole quickly into the milk house -- a new construction off the main barn to store the new milk surplus -- and grabbed the milking supplies he would need. Although they had received some new equipment along with the herd of Ayrshire that made milking faster, Jensen still preferred the one on one with a cow instead of hooking her up to the 'E-Z Milker'. Both the cows and Jensen thought it looked like a torture device.

He focused on the cows, took the trips he needed to the bulk tank to start cooling the milk down, and tried to ignore the anxiety settling into his gut when no one came to see what he was up to.

He'd gotten through a good half of the herd by the time Jeff finally appeared, dragging the E-Z Milker along with him.

"You're gonna be here all day like that, Jen." He waved at the cow Jensen was working on and Jensen shrugged in response. Jeff snorted and went to fetch the next cow and they worked together in silence-- Jeff milking nearly four times as fast as Jensen was.

The rest of the day went like that: Jensen stayed silent, eyes trailing to the Padalecki's house whenever he crossed near it, and Jeff staying unnaturally quiet, leaving Jensen to his thoughts.

It was at supper that night that Jensen made up his mind.

Jared came to dinner, his eyes were red and he was sniffling. Sherri said it was allergies and Jensen couldn't stop staring. Jared caught his eyes once, a challenge echoed in them, and Jensen pulled his eyes away. Jared sighed and excused himself before his supper was finished.

Jensen hadn't seen him since that night, the five minutes at supper, and Jensen was sure he'd never see him again.

 


"Ticket?" Jensen shifted in his seat, pulling himself from the memory when the conductor appeared at his side. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the ticket, giving a small nod when it was punched and returned.

He stared down at it, half of the word 'Texas' had been punched out, but it didn't stop the nausea from rising.

His mother hadn't believed him when he'd called and told her he was coming back. He could only imagine the look he was going to get from Alan when he showed up on the doorstep.

But he would beg if he had to. Apologize and say he was wrong, admit that Alan was right until he was blue in the face: anything to be able to stay. Because if anything, Jensen didn't have a home anymore, and he would take what he could get.

 

 

 

February 10th, 1959
Austin, Texas

 

"Jensen? Jensen you promised!" Rosemary pressed herself over the bar, the fabric of her skirt riding up just enough to show off a pale pink thigh, and Jensen swallowed hard as he trailed his eyes up her body.

She was pouting, thick pink lips pursed and her eyes as wide as she could make them. Beside her, the man at the bar was also looking, and Jensen slammed his beer down a little too hard, catching the guy’s attention with a sharp glare.

"I know, baby, I know." He threw her a smile when the man turned away and Jensen turned back to her. Her large, hazel eyes were sad when they met his, and he had to force himself not to look away, not to think about them. He looked at her lips instead.

She smiled at that, dimples flashing and Jensen ignored the roll of his stomach when she leaned forward to capture his lips in a quick kiss. When she pulled away he could taste her lipstick that now stained his mouth as well.

"I will be there in five, okay?"

"You better!" She winked at him and spun on her heel, letting herself out of Crowley's like she owned the place. And she kind of did... At least, her father did. Jensen sighed and went back to cleaning the bar. Efficiently he wiped down the counter, restacked the clean glasses, and took the empty glass bottles with him as he left.

“See you tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder as he pressed his chest against the front door. Mark looked up from the cash register and nodded once at him.

“Have her home by ten, Jensen.”

“Of course, Sir.” Jensen waved and turned into the fading sunlight. Rosemary was standing beside his bike, his leather jacket already slung over her shoulders and she flashed him a bright, warm smile that Jensen couldn’t help but return. “Impatient today?”

 

 

 

“Well, Mr. Ackles,” she teased, hands coming up to curl in the front of his shirt to pull him in for a kiss. “My mother left this morning for Dallas to visit my Grandfather, and my father is going to be working late at the bar tonight…” She smirked against his lips and Jensen swallowed hard.

“Well,” he whispered, hands grazing across her hips as he pulled her in. “What are we waiting for?”

 


Jensen parked his motorcycle and held out his arm to help Rosemary off. She gave him a small smile, a peck on the cheek, and the moment they got into the house, she pointed off down the hallway and told him to go and meet her in her room before she disappeared into the bathroom.

Jensen swallowed hard, his heart racing and his palms starting to sweat as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He’d never been in here before. The room was simple, shades of pink and white covered nearly every inch of the room, and when he heard the bathroom door open his heart started and jumped to his throat.

It was okay to be nervous, he told himself. If Mark Sheppard came home and saw Jensen sitting in his daughter’s bedroom, if he knew what it was they had planned, Jensen let out a soft sigh. It was normal to be nervous and it had nothing to do with the fact that there was something that felt so very wrong about this.

When the bedroom door pushed open, he swallowed again, eyes trailing over Rosemary as she sauntered into the room wearing a light pink bathrobe. The material shimmered in the light and he had more of an urge to touch the fabric than he did her skin…

She smiled shyly and shut the door behind her before she closed the distance between them. He sat frozen, eyes trailing up her body until he met her large hazel eyes and she shivered, letting them fall closed.

They shouldn’t be doing this. This was wrong… They weren’t married, they’d barely been a couple long enough to have a proper conversation about this… Rosemary reached down to take his hands in hers and dragged his palms up her body. He pushed away his doubts, clinging to the one thought that would get him through this. This is what he should want. This is what good, Catholic boys wanted.

She was soft under his hands, her breasts filling his entire palms, and when she moaned above him he closed his eyes and focused on getting her to make the breathless sound again. Rosemary was beautiful, smart, and charming, she’d gotten his father and mother both wrapped around her little finger. She had a fire that burned in her, had a quick wit and was everything Jensen should’ve wanted in a woman. She deserved this, deserved to be happy, and Jensen would do his damnedest to make it so.

When she crawled up onto the bed, planting a knee on either side of his hips, he sealed their lips together, throwing everything he had into that one kiss. He was glad that she’d at least removed the lipstick.

He kept his eyes closed, shivered when her fingertips opened his shirt and ran across his exposed chest. He ran his hands up her body, pushing the thin, satin nightgown she’d changed into out of the way. He breathed her in, focusing on her sounds, repeating motions that made her cry out softly.

“Jensen,” she breathed against his neck, her hands working to free them of the rest of his clothing and he sat back and let her, felt his body responding to her touch and was instantly relieved. He hissed when she ran her hand across his hardened length, her skin cool to the heated flesh and making him shiver.

He groaned and let her push him back further onto the mattress, sitting atop his lap as she pulled the nightgown over her head and they were both left completely exposed. She was breathing hard, suddenly nervous, and Jensen reached for her, offering what comfort he could. He kissed her then, sharing the moment with her. It was something new, something that would change him, would change them. No matter what lurked in the deepest corners of his mind, he knew there was no going back from this.

Finding that common ground, Jensen pulled at her hips, his tongue slipping between her lips, tangling with hers. She moaned into his mouth and he drank it in, his fingers digging into her flesh as she ground her heat down against him. She shifted them then, laying back and pulling Jensen with her and he went willingly, guiding her legs upward to wrap around his hips.

He pressed against her slowly, sliding into the soft, wet heat of her body and she gasped, fingernails digging into his shoulders. He rolled his hips gently, working their bodies until small gasps and moans were spilling again from her mouth. He closed his eyes and told himself this was right, this was good, this was perfect. She moaned, loud and breathless and when he met her eyes, it sent a shock straight through him. Large, shining hazel, lust-blown and beautiful... When he came he muffled his sob in the crook of her neck and when she wrapped her arms around him, kissed his face and told him "I know, me too, Jensen." He didn't bother to correct her.

Because this was right, this was good and this was perfect. Everything he should have wanted but never had.

He collapsed beside her and they lay there in silence, the room permeated with the smell of sex. Slowly, Rosemary drifted off to sleep, her breasts rising and falling with each soft breath she took.

It was then that he let himself cry, just once, before he woke her up and made love to her again.

 

 

 

May 18th, 1959
Austin, Texas

 

Mark Sheppard was home that night, leaving Rosemary’s house off limits and Jensen’s house was never an option. Although Alan and Donna adored Rosemary and gave her an open invitation, Rosemary knew, even without asking, that Jensen preferred to be anywhere else.

Jensen found Rosemary’s hand, interlocking their fingers together as they strolled into the movie theater. He liked nights like this—when it was just the two of them, and he was able to really be himself. His only responsibility was keeping Rosemary happy with whatever they chose to do—and Jensen found milkshakes and movies a hell of a lot easier to indulge in than trying to entertain her in the bedroom.

Tonight, however, Rosemary was off. He squeezed her hand and she offered him a small smile, pulling him forward into the safety of the dark theater. Jensen sighed knowing she would tell him eventually. However, with the unknown whatever between them, he couldn’t pay attention to anything playing on the screen. Though she continued to sigh softly, barely touched the popcorn they'd bought, and refused to hold his hand through much of the film, he couldn't blame Rosemary in the slightest for his lack of attention.

Jensen’s eyes were trained on the couple sitting at the very front of the theater. He glanced around him at the other movie-goers, none of them seeming to have noticed the couple in the front. Their heads were pressed in close together and if Jensen shifted, he could see them sharing popcorn, hands brushing and lingering over one another’s. Rosemary noticed his staring, however, and she shook her head slowly as she noticed them too, before turning back to the film. Jensen swallowed hard, his heart pounding in his chest as he waited for something to happen, something to strike the couple down right there in the middle of the theater.

Because they were two men. For the first time in a long time, Jensen allowed himself to think of Jared, to remember the feeling of their lips moving together, and his heart went to his throat. When the first man leaned forward and kissed the other quickly, Jensen swore his heart stopped completely.

Beside him, Rosemary sighed aloud and shook her head disgustedly and he turned to her, eyes wide.

“They should know better,” she chided, and shook her head once more. “The one on the end? He works at the factory, just got drafted. I guess he’s got nothing left to lose now…” And with that, she turned back to the movie, leaving Jensen trapped in his own thoughts.

 


Once they were seated in the old Ford pickup Jensen had borrowed from Alan, he sighed softly and flicked on the radio, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel as Johnny Cash’s deep voice thrummed through the speakers. He glanced over at Rosemary, but she was pressed up as close to the door as she could be, her eyes staring out the window at something Jensen couldn’t see.

He bit his lower lip, shifting the truck into drive and pulling out of the parking lot and onto the road. They drove in silence, Jensen heading straight for Rosemary’s house when she suddenly sat up and pointed with a short, ‘pull over there’. Jensen obliged, pulling off the road and putting the truck into park.

Rosemary didn’t seem to have any interest in saying anything else, however, instead she just stared down at her hands lying still in her lap. Jensen waited until Johnny’s rough crooning became the soft sound of Sinatra before he dared clear his throat.

“Rosemary…” he started and sighed, searching for anything to start their conversation off. Part of him wanted to ask why she was being so distant, ask if she was getting sick of him, and he couldn’t deny the slight anticipation that was mixed in along with the fear. “So… that guy that’s being drafted…” he trailed off, not knowing what exactly it was he was trying to say.

Rosemary nodded slowly. “Yeah, I heard him talking when he was at the bar last week while I was waiting for you.” Her voice was soft and he turned the truck off in order to hear her better. “His... friend was telling him he should get married, get shoved down the list. Now I see why he got so angry at the suggestion.”

“He shouldn’t marry someone just for that reason anyway.” Jensen shrugged and stared forward out the windshield. “At least he can say he’s got something in common with Elvis,” he smirked and turned to Rosemary, hoping he’d gotten her to at least crack a smile.

She turned to him, eyes shining with unshed tears.

“I’m pregnant.”

Jensen felt his eyes widen and he opened his mouth to speak, finding himself at a loss.

She searched his eyes, hazel orbs flicking back and forth, her lower lip trembling. “Oh God, Jensen. I’m pregnant. What are we going to do?”

He nodded slowly. She didn’t need to repeat it, he’d heard her the first time. “I-I don’t…” He shook his head, closing his mouth again.

“I thought, I don’t know. I was kind of late and I-I thought it was stress?”

He didn’t know if she was asking him or telling him, so he nodded again, staring as tears made their way down her cheeks, spilling onto the dress she wore.

“I was just a few weeks! But now…” She closed her eyes tightly and a sob escaped her lips. “What is my father going to say?”

Jensen felt his gut clench. Her father, her family, his family. He ran a hand over his face before reaching for her, pulling her in against his chest.

“We... we can get married,” he said softly, the words surprising him and as soon as they were out of his mouth he wanted to take them back. Rosemary nodded against his chest, fingers clenching at his shirt.

“Oh, Jensen,” she sobbed and he ran his hand through her hair, holding her while she cried. When she finally fell silent, his shirt was soaked with her tears, but he could barely feel it, could barely feel anything at all.

“I should… probably get you home.” He cleared his throat and she nodded, pushing up to kiss his cheek.

“I love you,” she whispered, giving him a watery smile. “Thank you, Jensen.”

Jensen nodded and flipped the key in the ignition. She apparently hadn’t expected a response, and now that her confession was out there weighing on them both, she curled herself against his side, hand against his thigh, and stayed there the entire drive home.

 

 

 

July 20th, 1959
Austin, Texas

 

“Jared?” Jensen moved slowly across the yard, peering down the street, searching for his Grandfather’s pickup or Gerry’s big Mercury, something had to have brought Jared here. And- why was Jared here? “What… what are you doing here?”

Jared shook his head sadly and looked over Jensen’s shoulder. Jensen turned and watched Mackenzie step from the house, carrying her baby doll all wrapped up in her arms and he shook his head. Mackenzie hadn’t played with that in years! And at ten, she was too old for dolls…

She strolled past him, hiding the doll’s face from view and took her spot beside Jared, reaching up to take Jared’s hand and Jensen felt like he was missing something. Mackenzie and Jared had never met; why was Mackenzie holding his hand?

“You’re making a mistake,” Jared said suddenly and Jensen jumped, tearing his eyes from their joined hands to meet Jared’s large, hazel eyes. Instead of the warmth he’d been used to seeing, they were cold, void of any emotion. Mackenzie nodded her head slowly and then released Jared’s hand to slip it into the blanket, cooing something to the doll.

“I… what? Why are you here?” he demanded, looking between the two of them.

“You’re making a mistake,” Jared repeated.

“A very big mistake, Jen,” Mackenzie added, turning her green eyes up to him.

“You’re going to regret it.” Jared shook his head sadly.

“You’re going to ruin her,” Mackenzie whispered, hands stilling and Jensen turned his attention to the bundle, jumping back when he saw it squirm, a high-pitched keening coming from it.

“It’s too late,” Jared said softly, and reached again for Mackenzie’s hand. “You can’t build a relationship off of lies.”

“Lies, lies, lies,” Mackenzie cooed, rocking the screaming bundle in her arm. The soft pink blanket started to darken, strips of the fabric shredding before his eyes, falling to the ground before shriveling into ash. Mackenzie took a step towards him and he stepped back, slamming into something solid. He looked up, Alan staring down at him, hatred in his eyes.

“Lies are what guarantee you damnation, Son.” He reached for Jensen’s arms, gripping his shoulders tight and turning him to face Mackenzie.

Mackenzie was in front of him then and thrusting the screaming bundle into his arms. He looked down in horror to see a small child, its skin twisting and contorting to a blackened mass just as the blanket had. He could feel it squirming, hear it screaming, and when he met its eyes, he recognized the deep, soulful, eyes Jared and Rosemary shared and then those, too, went black.

“You killed it,” Alan whispered, and Mackenzie echoed.

“You killed everything,” Jared’s voice cut through and Jensen screamed.

 


Jensen sat up, his heart thudding rapidly in his chest as he looked around his room. His shirt was soaked with sweat as he fought back the rest of the horrible dream. Jared’s last words screamed through his mind, those hazel eyes darkening, dying. And it was all his fault.

Jensen was supposed to be getting married in two weeks’ time. Two weeks and he would be married to a young woman that he knew in his heart, would do everything in her power to make him happy. A woman, who would make him laugh, would have dinner ready for him when he came home from work, would happily provide him with a family. And every, single day, he would be lying to her.

He felt tears spring to the backs of his eyes and he was angry with himself, angry that he had let things get this far, angry that God, or whoever it was that was supposedly looking down on him, hated every fiber of who Jensen was.

Because everything about Jensen’s life was falling apart.

Jensen dressed quickly, pushing past Mackenzie who gave him a hurt look as he brushed by her with her unanswered inquiry about breakfast, and fled from the house. He walked the three blocks to Rosemary’s house, knocking on the door and forced himself to smile when Mrs. Sheppard answered the door.

“Oh! Jensen, good morning,” she smiled and waved him inside. “Rosie is in her room with the girls. Would you like anything to eat?”

“No, thank you, Ma’am,” Jensen declined and gave her another smile before making his way to Rosemary’s room. Taking one last steadying deep breath, he knocked once on the door before pushing it open and was greeted with the excited squealing of the girls all piled on Rose’s bed, poring over wedding magazines.

“Jensen!” Rosemary gasped, shoving the magazines away and flashing a smile, all dimples and teeth, and Jensen felt his stomach clench.

“Rosemary…” he trailed off and she looked at him carefully, confusion flitting across her face before she waved her friends into the hallway, shutting the door behind them. She led him to her bed and sat beside him, taking his hands in her own.

“Jensen? What’s wrong, darling?” She asked, running her thumb in gentle circles over the back of his hand. She reached up to brush his hair away from his eyes and let her fingers trail across his cheek. He ached to lean into the touch, seeking the comfort he knew she would provide. “Jensen, you’re scaring me,” she whispered, cocking her head to the side. He looked up and met her eyes, and she gave him a small smile, dimples denting her rose-colored cheeks and Jensen had to look away. “Jensen, darling… what is it?”

“Rosemary… I-I can’t do this.” He felt her freeze, her hands becoming rigid against his. “I’m so sorry, Rose… I’m so, so sorry.”

“Jensen, no.” she shook her head, voice hitching on the verge of tears. “Yo-you can’t change your mind. I- Jensen, you… you can’t.”

When he didn’t answer she pulled her hands from his and tore across the room, hugging herself as she stood before the window.

“Rose, please, just listen to me…” She spun towards him then, tears streaming down her face and stormed back over to him, gripping his shoulders and yanking him up onto his quaking legs.

“No, Jensen. I know, okay? I know that you’re scared. I am too, and it’s okay, because I’m going to make you happy. I promise you. And we’re going to have a little girl, or a little boy, and we’ll get a house in the country,” she was rambling, almost pleading, frantically running her hands up and down his arms while choking back small sobs every few seconds. Her hazel eyes were sparkling and he thought it was so cruel to still look so beautiful when your world was literally falling apart. Because Jensen had no choice but to break her heart.

“Rose, please.” He reached for her, holding her hips before him. “You deserve someone so much better than me,” he whispered.

“No, Jensen, you’re perfect.” She shook her head. “Please, Jensen. I know you must be nervous and I know we haven’t been together that long and we’re doing this all backwards—”

“Rosemary, I can’t. I can’t… marry you.”

She felt silent, tears still streaming down her cheeks but she pulled away from him, shaking her head when he moved to reach for her again. “Is… is it someone else?” she whispered and Jensen felt his heart breaking.

“I… Yes,” he answered honestly, the only thing he could give her. The sound of the crack of her hand against his cheek was more forceful than the slap, the stinging was a welcome feeling. He swallowed hard and met her eyes.

“I’m pregnant, Jensen.”

“I know, Rose, I know,” he whispered back and closed his eyes. She sniffed once more before moving to the bedroom door, her hand twisting around the handle. She stood there, the silence washing over them; it made Jensen’s ears ring. His throat felt tight as he watched her shoulders begin to shake, her eyes never leaving the spot they were fixed at on the floor.

He knew that this was his fault and he couldn’t begin to imagine the things that were flying through her head right then. She drew in a shaky breath and Jensen’s eyes were immediately back to her’s.

“I’m pregnant,” she repeated and he nodded once, dumbly. “What am I supposed to say to my father?” Her voice cracked and he felt his heart to the same. He wanted to tell her that he hadn’t wanted any of this -- it had never been his intention to hurt her, to break her heart or rearrange her entire life. He so desperately wanted to be normal; to fall in love with a girl, to start a family, to make his family proud of the man he was coming. There was no way that would be happening now. He almost reached for her then, searching for the words he needed to explain that this really, truly wasn’t about her. That Jensen himself was just that messed up; she would be better off without him.

Instead, a pained expression crossed her face as she watched his hand reach out and she said, “I think you need to leave, Jensen.”

Jensen nodded silently and pushed away from the bed. He hesitated when he was beside her, thought about apologizing again, trying to see if there was anything he could do to make this better, but the expression on her face made him stop. He quietly made his way out of the house, ignoring the girls that were waiting in the kitchen and even Rosemary’s mother. He had no business here anymore.

Chapter Text

 

September 24th, 1960
Austin, Texas

Jenna Marie Ackles was born late on a cloudy November morning, the 18th to be exact. And despite the somber situation that surrounded her birth, the tearful refusal from Rosemary to even touch the child, and the overall response from both the Sheppard and Ackles families… Jenna shone.

Alan was clear the moment Jensen walked into the house carrying the babe that Jensen made his bed and he was to lie in it. Alone. Neither Mackenzie nor Donna was given permission to help with the baby; after all, if Jensen had gone through with his marriage, he would not only have a wife at his side, but a mother for his child. In Alan’s words, Jensen was lucky he was even letting such a useless man still reside under his roof, and Jensen believed him.

He listened and accepted the hateful words Alan spat at him every single day every time he moved to warm up a bottle for his crying daughter or change her diaper or simply comfort her. He understood and agreed when Alan commented on how if he had been more like Josh, who had since gotten his own wife, child, and worked full time at a pharmacy in Oklahoma, he wouldn’t be such a huge disappointment. Jensen felt useless, taking care of an infant had been so much easier it seemed when it had been Jensen and Donna working together to care for Mackenzie.

Although Jensen believed the words Alan spoke, he knew that he was the only one with the power to change things. He was determined that even if he failed himself? He would not fail his little girl.

And Jenna thrived.

“Will you shut that thing up?” Alan demanded as he slammed his way into the kitchen, causing Jensen to jump and Jenna’s finally quieted wailing to start up all over again. Jensen bit his lower lip, fighting back the retort that was on the tip of his tongue as he glared over his shoulder at his father.

“She’s just hungry,” he said finally, turning back away to try to get the nipple of the bottle back into Jenna’s searching mouth.

“Well, wouldn’t it be nicer if you had a couple of tits, Jensen?” Alan snorted, moving around the kitchen table to leer at the pair. “Sometimes I think I have two daughters instead of two sons.” Jensen ignored him, grinding his teeth together and continued to rock Jenna slowly.

“Are you queer, Jensen?” Alan’s sudden question made Jensen look up to him in alarm. “You want to be a woman, Jensen? Maybe we should start getting you dresses and lipstick to wear. Should I be trying to find you a suitable husband?”

“Dad?” Mackenzie slipped into the kitchen, throwing Jensen a sad smile before turning to face Alan who looked less than impressed at being interrupted. “I need your help with something.”

“Can’t you see I’m trying to talk to your sister?” Alan jabbed his finger into Jensen’s back, hard, and Jensen felt his blood start to boil, his anger almost uncontrollable. The old man was lucky Jenna’s small body occupied both of her father’s arms and was finally settling down and starting to eat again.

“Please? I don’t think I can manage, and Mamma wouldn’t know what to do.” Mackenzie’s pleading worked and with a sigh, Alan followed Mackenzie out of the kitchen, leaving an angrily shaking Jensen behind.

There wasn’t much that surprised Jensen anymore about the way his father treated him. He’d disappointed his father from the very start it seemed, sometimes just by his mere existence, though for the life of him, Jensen couldn’t remember exactly what he had ever done to earn this kind of treatment. But even knowing the cause wouldn’t change the fact that Alan hated him.

His father’s latest torments had started out small; a woman’s make-up powder palette appearing on his dresser, a pink apron hanging on the back of his chair in the kitchen, an increasing number of comments and derogatory suggestions about Jensen’s male gender—or lack thereof. Jensen shrugged off all of Mackenzie’s curious looks and buried the feminine items deep in the back of his closet, tried to look indifferent and uncaring as his father’s vicious words washed over him. Jensen wouldn’t admit out loud how much it hurt.

Jensen took it, all of it, and promised Jenna in the middle of the night as he kissed her that he would never make her feel the way his father had made him feel, that she was beautiful and perfect and everything he never knew he’d wanted. Because she was.

Jenna managed to awaken something warm deep inside of him and became an extension of Jensen himself. Her large, almond-shaped eyes were much like his—save for the color. He lost himself in the enchanting swirls of blue, brown and green… When she smiled, she lit up whatever room she was in, her chubby cheeks flashing her darling, deep dimples, and Jensen hoped she’d never lose those. She had his nose, his chin, and regrettably, he thought, his ears. When he fell asleep with her curled up against his chest, he found himself indebted to the small fists knotted into the collar of his shirt, knowing how truly lucky someone like him was to have this.

So Jensen made it work for his little Jenna’s sake. He lovingly made sure that Jenna was kept quiet, had been grateful that even during the first few months she’d mostly slept. He had trained himself to be so attuned to her every breath that even her softest sounds were enough to wake him from even the deepest sleep before any screaming could set in, keeping his tiny daughter as well fed and as happy as she could be.

But there was a huge, gaping hole of longing that was slowly dragging Jensen down. He missed his family—but most of all his mother, Donna, who although in the past two years since he’d returned home had gotten into a routine with her son and somehow found a common ground, was kept at an unreachable distance due to Alan’s interference. His father had managed to make the entire household such a miserable place to be that it was rare for any family member to be outside of their designated living area except for mealtimes and no one from outside ever came to visit. Those four walls were starting to make Jensen’s skin crawl, closing in and slowly suffocating him.

He’d tried taking his child for walks around town, but it seemed like everyone had formed their own opinions on the matter of Jensen being a single parent –by choice—and Jensen was certain that had a great deal to do with the fact that Crowley’s was the only bar worth going to in the town. Rudely, people started discussing quite loudly whether he was a ‘brownie’ or not as he passed within earshot. At least Jenna was too young to understand the slurs. But when he finally came across a man who had grabbed his crotch and made an obscene gesture, Jensen had made the decision it was best to retreat to the safety and solitude of his and Jenna’s room.

It was on that fateful morning, however, that Jensen finally realized he couldn’t continue to live like this – not for his own happiness, but for his sweet little, innocent Jenna.

“What are you doing?” Jensen stopped short, eyes wide as he pushed open the bedroom door. He’d put Jenna down for a nap and had quickly gone to shower and shave, knowing she would still be asleep by the time he’d finished. There was always a chance she would be laying on the bed, cooing to herself while she waited for him to return, but what he hadn’t expected was to see Alan standing at the end of the bed with Jenna in his arms.

“She’s my granddaughter, ain’t she?” Alan threw him a challenging glare before looking down at Jenna who was shifting uncomfortably in her blanket. “She’s under my roof. I can look at her.” Jensen stayed silent and threw his damp towel onto the bed. He stepped closer, hands itching at his side to yank Jenna out of Alan’s arms. When she started to cry, Jensen felt his heart lodge in his throat, and Alan scowled.

“She’s probably hungry.” Jensen cleared his throat after a moment when Alan made no move to comfort the crying child or hand her back. His father stood unmoving until Jensen made the mistake of reaching for her. Alan reacted quickly, yanking Jenna up and away from Jensen’s outstretched hands. She let out a wail and Jensen watched in horror as his father shook the child. He could see Alan’s fingers dug roughly into her tiny ribs, hard and cruel and in no way meant to be against a child’s skin.

“Shut it up!” he yelled and Jenna bawled even louder.

“Give me my child!” Jensen slammed his left arm across Alan’s chest, blocking his arms from moving and tore Jenna loose with his free hand. He instantly curled her protectively against his chest and turned to face Alan, anger soaring through him. He hissed, “What the hell is wrong with you?!”

“You should probably feed it,” Alan snorted and it was then that Jensen smelled the whisky rolling off of him – not that he was surprised in the least. Jensen shook his head at him, disgusted. Alan reached out suddenly, pinching Jensen’s chest hard, and he slapped his hand away as he moved back. “Don’t know how you’re gonna feed her with those.” Alan laughed to himself and then staggered out of the room, muttering curses under his breath.

Jensen moved to the door, slamming it shut and sliding down against it until he was sitting on the floor.

Jenna was still sobbing quietly and he gently unwrapped her from the constricting blanket, inspecting every inch of her skin, trying to soothe her as he went. There were large, purplish bruises already forming on her stomach and chest and Jensen didn’t bother to hold back the tears as he held her against his chest and they wept together.

When they had both finally calmed down, Jensen knew that something had to change. Slowly, he pushed himself up off the floor and carried Jenna with him as he moved downstairs – she was sleeping again, curled into his chest, but Jensen didn’t think he would ever put her down in this house again.

As he entered the living room he looked towards the wide dining room doorway and into the kitchen beyond to make sure he had some privacy. He knew his mother and Mack had said something about going to the grocery store and he was pretty sure the old man was upstairs sleeping off the booze. Assured he and Jenna were alone, he lifted the heavy black receiver from the phone cradle. His fingers were fumbling as he dialed the number and he sighed softly as he pressed the phone against his ear.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Grandma… it’s… it’s Jensen.” Jensen felt his voice shaking, just as his hands were, and for a moment he wanted to laugh at how nervous he was over simply calling his grandparents.

“Jensen? Oh, Albert! Jensen is on the phone!” He smiled when he heard her muffled shout and could picture her trying to cover her yell by pressing the phone against her chest. “Oh Jensen, how are you? We haven’t heard from you in—”

“Way too long, and I apologize for that.” Jensen felt his cheeks flush as he the shame rolled through his stomach.

“That’s alright, I know things have been busy for you. I’m glad you called, we were talking about you just the other day. How have you been?”

“I…” Jensen exhaled slowly, suddenly overwhelmed with the amount of emotions tearing at him right then. Hearing his grandmother’s voice sent a shock through his body, his tongue suddenly thick and swollen against the roof of his mouth. He missed her, missed the farm. But maybe his father was right… maybe he was weak, a failure, a disgrace. He shouldn’t subject his grandparents to putting up with him and his problems. He was sure as hell that they had enough of their own.

“Jensen?” Martha said softly and Jensen let his eyes fall closed and he leaned into the sweet sound of her voice, so soft and feminine, full of concern and love. “Jensen… You know you’re always welcome to come back.”

Jensen’s words caught in his throat at that and he wasn’t sure if he made a sound or not. It didn’t matter, Martha knew.

“We’ll prepare your room, okay? It’s been a few months since I’ve talked to Donna or your father. Do you still have your little babe with you?”

“Yes, her-her name is Jenna.” Jensen swallowed hard and could almost hear the smile from his grandmother through the phone line.

“That’s a beautiful name, sweetheart. I can’t wait to meet her, Jensen.” She sounded so sincere and it broke Jensen’s heart—this was everything his little girl deserved, and he knew his grandmother wasn’t one for simplicity and he felt himself tearing up at thinking about what they would find when they got there.

“I can probably bring some of Jenna’s stuff with me on the train but-”

“Don’t you worry, honey! It’s my job to take care of my grandchildren. Both of you. You just call me and your grandfather back with your train travel details and I’ll make sure we get out there to pick you and that precious child up.”

“Thank you, Gram,” Jensen whispered and Martha was quick to cut him off.

“No, Jensen, you don’t need to thank me. Your grandfather is getting on in years and it’s about time you learn the rest of the inner workings of this farm and have a nice place for that little girl of yours to grow up.”

Jensen just nodded his head.

He knew what this last move would mean. He’d pack what he could and leave the rest behind. This would be the very last time he would ever be in Texas. He licked his lower lip slowly before answering. “Yeah, I agree. I’ll be home soon.”

 

 

September 24th, 1960
Somerset, Vermont

 

Martha hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment before letting out a deep sigh. She turned slowly and returned to the kitchen where Sherri Padalecki was still hard at work preparing their dinner for that night.

“Who was that?” Sherri looked up from her spot by the sink where she was peeling potatoes.

“Jensen.” Sherri stopped and turned to face Martha, giving her a sad look.

“How is he doing?” she asked softly and Martha gave a rueful shake of her head. Both women knew how Jensen must be faring back in Texas. “Is he coming back?”

“Yeah, he is. I’ll have to clean that upstairs room out and see about turning that old sewing room into a nursery for little Jenna.” Martha reached for her paring knife and started at the potatoes.

“I can’t believe we’re going to have a little one around here again.” Sherri beamed, nudging Martha’s arm. Martha laughed back and nodded.

“I know. It’s been far too long since I’ve held a babe that small.” A companionable silence fell between them for a few moments and then Martha spoke quietly, “I just hope that drunken son of mine hasn’t beaten the light out of that boy. I hope he’ll let us help him.”

“He will, Martha,” Sherri reassured the older woman, rinsing her hands quickly under the running water before turning Martha to face her. “That boy has a light shining inside of him that won’t be so easily extinguished. Just give him a few weeks back here with the boys, and Albert, Gerry, and Jared will have him back to normal.”

“I hope so, Sherri,” Martha murmured, leaning into Sherri’s hug. “I really hope so.”

 

 

 

September 27th, 1960
Boston, Massachusetts

 

Jensen shifted Jenna up higher in his arms, talking to her softly as he made his way off of the train. He’d managed to pack a small duffel bag—mostly of Jenna’s clothing, bottles and diapers—and he could easily carry both of them as he shouldered his way through the crowd and out onto the waiting street.

 

 

He ignored the curious looks they got, people’s eyes searching behind him for his wife, the questioning looks about why he and not Jenna’s mother was carrying her, and just continued to focus ahead. He was determined not to let his nerves get the best of him. He was going home; there was nothing to worry about, nothing at all anymore.

He smiled when he recognized the old, worn pickup truck and found himself picking up his pace, eager to see his Grandfather’s face. He smiled when he saw the door open and then, when the tall man stepped out, Jensen froze.

He looked good. His skin was a golden brown from summer sun’s onslaught, his hair longer, almost falling into his eyes. He was taller, too, though... though maybe not quite as tall as Jensen. But it was his eyes, the eyes that Jensen was reminded of every time he looked at Jenna and the eyes he saw in his dreams, were better than he remembered. He looked up slowly, a small smile on his lips as Jared’s eyes met Jensen’s.

“Hey,” Jared said softly, his voice had lost all of its boyish soft tone and Jensen shivered. He hadn’t seen Jared in over two years, and where time had been tricky for Jensen? It had been good to Jared. The sixteen-year-old had filled out, was starting to lose his long-limbed, gangly look and Jensen found himself staring at him, unable to move. It was Jenna squirming in his arms that brought their attention back to the moment and Jensen was able to shake his head and focus.

“Hey,” he replied, finally, clearing his throat as he took a step forward. “Thanks for coming to get us.”

“Yeah, no problem.” Jared smiled back, his eyes trained on Jenna. “You, uh... You had a kid.”

“This is Jenna.” Jensen nodded back, rocking Jenna a bit in his arms. Jared leaned down and lifted her tiny hand with one finger.

“Hello, Jenna, nice to meet you.” Jenna cooed and smiled and Jensen released a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. There was an awkward pause before both men jumped into action—Jared grabbing Jensen’s bag and making a show of setting it in the back and Jensen adjusting Jenna’s blanket before getting both of them settled in the passenger seat of the truck. When they started driving, Jensen was more than grateful for the distraction the radio provided.

They drove in silence, Jenna and Jensen drifting in and out of sleep. As they passed the large, wooden sign that welcomed them to Vermont, Jared started nervously tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, drawing Jensen’s attention to him.

“Everything okay?” Jensen asked after a moment and Jared froze, gripping the steering wheel tightly.

“Yeah, of course,” Jared offered quickly, eyes darting over to Jensen, down to Jenna and then back to the road. “Just- you had a baby.” Jared laughed nervously. “I guess I know why you ran now.”

Jensen felt guilt instantly twist in his stomach and he closed his eyes for a moment, rolling his response over in his mind before he spoke.

“That-that isn’t why I ran, Jared,” he sighed, biting on his lower lip. “And yes, I did have Jenna, and she’s... God, Jared she’s everything to me. But-”

“Who was she?” Jared asked softly.

“Rosemary,” Jensen mumbled. “Her name was Rosemary.” Jared snorted then and Jensen shot him a look, surprised Jared had remembered and recognized her name. “I broke her heart.”

“Oh...” Jared trailed off and Jensen couldn’t stop himself from staring at him, focusing on his profile, the determination in his gaze as Jared forced himself to stay looking forward at the road. Jensen half wanted to beg Jared to elaborate. What the hell did ‘oh’ mean? That Jared could relate and felt bad for Rosemary, that Jensen was a heart-breaker and had broken his heart too? Or, oh, good, you’re not tied down to the woman you left back home and that means that maybe... Jensen’s heart skipped a beat as the thought flitted across his mind and he tore his eyes away.

“Yeah,” he responded and turned towards the passenger window. “It’s just me and Jenna now.” The words hung between them, but for once ever since they’d been driving, the silence wasn’t filled with tension and awkwardness. It was more comfortable. And for Jensen? That was all he could ask for.

 

 

 

October 3rd, 1960
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen had fallen back into the swing of things far easier than he would’ve imagined. He was welcomed with open arms, and thankfully, so was Jenna. It was strange watching the people on the farm crowd around his daughter, wanting to hold her, taking turns feeding her—even Gerry and his Grandfather wanted all of the tiny girl’s attention. It was such a contrast to what Jensen’s past eleven months with his baby girl had been like that he was more than thrown for a loop. He felt nervous, anxious to see when the next shoe would drop.

They’d gotten into a routine and it seemed as if Jenna was excited to be up and about so early. Jensen would wake up early and give Jenna her breakfast, wrapping her up tight in her pink blanket, before carrying her out to the barn with him. Since Jared was still afraid of the cows, Jensen was more than happy to take over the milking. He would talk to the cows and to Jenna while he worked, singing songs to them and laughing whenever Jenna let out a giggle.

It was their quiet time and Jensen loved their mornings together. This morning, however, Jenna didn’t want any part of it.

She woke up cranky, squirming and whining throughout the half of the cereal and bottle Jensen managed to get down her throat. She fought the blanket and when he fought back with it, she started screaming. He sighed and lifted her up, throwing the blanket over her shoulders instead. The barn wasn’t much better.

She screamed and cried and Jensen spent so much time focusing on his daughter, that the cows were starting to get uncomfortable and impatient.

“Jensen?” Jensen froze where he was bent over Jenna trying to soothe her and looked up to see Sherri stepping into the barn, a small smile on her face.

“Oh, good morning.” Jensen gave her a smile back and lifted Jenna up against his chest. “We didn’t wake you, did we?”

“Oh, no,” Sherri reassured him and moved closer. She leaned over Jenna and ran a hand down her cheek, the child wailing in protest. Jensen winced and apologized quickly.

“I’m sorry! We’re just... having a really bad day today. I can’t get her to calm down, no matter what I try to do.”

Sherri smiled knowingly, and held out her arms. “Can I?”

Jensen hesitated for a moment. Even after the past week he’d spent on the farm, he still wasn’t sure if he would ever get used to someone wanting to hold his baby girl, someone wanting to love her and get to know her. He nodded once and relinquished his hold on her, watching as Sherri’s arms immediately came around the child and she hushed and rocked Jenna quickly. “Just started this morning?”

“Yeah.” Jensen gave a small smile, his heart aching as he listened to Jenna wail louder. Her little cheeks were bright pink and wet with her tears. Helpless, he felt completely helpless.

“Has she pooped?” Sherri glanced up at Jensen who nodded. That information had her looking back down at Jenna. She ran her hand over the baby’s cheek gently and then chuckled to herself.

“What are you-?” Jensen stopped mid-sentence and watched in confusion as Sherri gently pushed her index finger between Jenna’s lips. The child’s eyes widened and she stopped screaming as she tried to figure out what was going on. Sherri rubbed her fingertip along Jenna’s gums and after a few, short, and slightly pitiful cries, Jenna was silent.

“She’s teething, poor little thing. Doesn’t feel so good, does it, baby girl?” Sherri smiled as she bounced Jenna lightly, humming to her as she continued rubbing her gums. “We will have to see if Grammy can get you something cool to chew on, what do you think?”

“Teething?” Jensen repeated and gave a short laugh. “Teething. Seriously...” He felt his cheeks flame up.

He could remember when Mackenzie started teething and wanted to kick himself for not recognizing his own daughter was in that same pain. What a great father he was shaping up to be.

“Hey, hey, I can hear you thinking from over here!” Sherri ducked her head, getting into Jensen’s line of sight. “That’s what you have family for, to help you pick up on the little things.” She smiled and Jensen glanced up to meet her eyes. “For anything, Jensen, I mean that. We’re here to help you in whatever you need, especially if it involves this little beauty.”

“Thank you, Mrs. P,” Jensen whispered, finding it suddenly hard to speak. Sherri pulled her finger from Jenna’s mouth and the child stayed quiet, curling into her chest.

“No need for that, Jensen,” Sherri shook her head and with one quick move, grabbed him and pulled him in for a one-armed hug. “You’re family and this is what we do.” She gave him another quick squeeze before turning around to leave the barn, talking to Jenna as she went. “Let’s let Daddy get some work done, okay? You can come inside and help Aunt Sherri and Grandma make some applesauce... how’s that sound?”

Jensen looked after them and pushed back the small sliver of fear he felt as he watched Sherri walk away with his Jenna. She would be okay, they both would be, and for the first time that morning, Jensen smiled.

 

 

 

November 24th, 1960
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen made his way to the barn, whistling as he walked. The ground beneath his boots was still frozen, the morning sun not having made its way up high enough to thaw it out. The air was crisp and cold against the back of his throat and Jensen was glad that Sherri and his Grandmother had all but refused to let Jenna out of their sight today. They had decided to celebrate Jenna’s first birthday today along with Thanksgiving, and his one year old daughter was more than delighted to sit in the kitchen while Martha and Sherri bustled back and forth and shoved small bites of frosting and pie filling into her mouth claiming Jensen was too strict on the amount of sweets he gave her and rectifying that was ‘their job’.

Jensen felt good, truly happy, and he couldn’t remember feeling this way since... the last time he’d been on the farm. He milked the cows quickly but took his time filling and labeling the containers before putting them into storage. The sooner he went inside, the sooner his grandmother would be putting him to work either peeling or cleaning something. He smiled at the thought.

The farm life still shocked him with how unlike any home setting Jensen had ever been a part of. They all worked as a team, no matter what the task was, and as much as he didn’t mind helping out his grandmother, he also didn’t mind stalling for a bit. Jensen made his way to the loft, his stomach fluttering when he realized he hadn’t been up there since the night Jared kissed him.

Jensen sighed to himself and made his way up the ladder, freezing at the top when Jared’s wide, hazel eyes met his.

“Jared?” Jared swallowed hard and gave a nervous laugh. “I didn’t even know you were up here.”

“I... come up here sometimes.” Jared shrugged, immediately looking down at his feet. Jensen moved beside him and sat down, throwing his legs over the edge of the loft. He could see down to the milking station and suddenly realization dawned. When he looked over at Jared he could see the tops of his ears and the back of his neck were bright red, the rest of his face hidden between his knees.

Jensen exhaled slowly and leaned back on his hands, gazing at Jared from his side vision. He cleared his throat once before speaking. “I-I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for that summer and running away, you know?”

Jared looked up at that, eyeing Jensen carefully. “Okay,” he said slowly, waiting for Jensen to continue.

“Well… I just…” Jensen shrugged, not knowing what he was trying to say. Jared had grown up and Jensen would be fooling himself if he said he wasn’t attracted to Jared. Because he was. The past week, he couldn’t stop himself from staring at the younger man. He was grateful that Jared and his relationship hadn’t been as awkward as he’d feared, but it was still changed. “I’m just glad things are okay between us. I missed having you around.”

Jared nodded once and turned his head away, staring back down at the bottom of the barn. Jensen was confused, wondering where the sudden coolness came from. Then, Jared shook his head.

“Jensen… I like you still.” Jared’s tone was steady, but the position of his shoulders told Jensen he was anything but calm. “Even after you left, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. And…” Jared sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

“Jared. You know that it’s wrong…”

“No, Jensen,” Jared snapped, turning his full attention around, his eyes wild as they met Jensen’s own. “How is it wrong? How is caring and loving someone ever wrong? It doesn’t make any sense.” Jared gave a short laugh. “We’re taught as children to respect and care and love the people around us. That’s all Sunday school preaches about. So please, tell me, how the way I feel about you is wrong?”

“You know what I mean, Jared, you know what people say. Being… being a fag isn’t good. It’s a sin!” Jensen fought to explain.

“A sin? You mean like having a child out of wedlock?”

Jensen’s eyes snapped up and he knew when Jared looked ashamed that the hurt he felt at the words was displayed perfectly on his face.

“Jensen,” Jared sighed and shifted his position, “I’m just saying that a lot of people have different opinions on things that are good and righteous, wrong and evil, and I highly doubt that just loving another person grants you a spot in hell.”

“If people knew… if they saw,” Jensen whispered, his heart starting to thunder harder in his chest.

“It has nothing to do with anyone other than you and me, Jensen. Why does anyone else have to know?” Jensen’s eyes snapped up and he met Jared’s, could feel the sweat breaking out across his brow. “If I kissed you right now, like I did that night, why would anyone other than you and me have to know?”

Jensen swallowed hard, his eyes flicking down to Jared’s lips and then back up again. He didn’t have an answer, he couldn’t think past the blood pounding in his ears or the shaking of his hands. He waited, frozen, for Jared to make a move.

“I’m going to kiss you, Jensen. Because I really, really want to.” Jared’s voice was low, causing Jensen’s stomach to flip. “If you don’t want it, you have to say so. You have to tell me right now—”

Jensen surged forward, pressing their lips together and swallowing the surprised noise that escaped Jared’s mouth. Jared hesitated for a moment, waiting to see if Jensen would pull back, if he was going to run again, but when Jensen leaned in further, Jared moved. He wrapped his left arm around Jensen’s neck, pulling him closer while his other hand found Jensen’s hip.

Jensen’s entire body was singing and he pushed back the overwhelming feeling of panic and focused on the warm, wet heat of Jared’s mouth and the comfort of his touch. He relaxed into the kiss, melting into Jared.

They stayed like that, kissing lazily in the loft of the barn until they were being called in for dinner.

Chapter Text

 

May 22nd, 1961
Somerset, Vermont


“Jared,” Jensen groaned against Jared’s lips, hands knotted in Jared’s coat as he tried to push him back. “Jared, stop… I think someone’s coming.” Jared kissed him softly in response, pushing Jensen further back into the corner of the barn.

“Then be quiet.” Jared smirked and Jensen felt his heartbeat racing even faster. It must have shown on his face that panic was starting to set in because Jared chuckled and kissed his cheek before stepping away and straightening up his clothes. He left Jensen pressed up against the barn wall, breathing hard and heart racing while he went out to investigate the source of the sound.

“Ah! There you are!” Gerry’s voice rang out and Jensen sighed softly, almost glad that they had been interrupted. “Have you seen Jensen? Martha is looking for him.”

“Oh, yeah, I think he was finishing getting the hay for the stalls. I’ll go fetch him.”

Jensen heard Gerry thanking Jared and Jensen could almost picture the older man fondly clapping his son on the shoulder or slapping him on the back before he exited the barn.

“What do you think she wants?” Jensen mused when Jared returned, instantly opening his arms for Jared to step back into them.

Their relationship was… different, unlike the other one Jensen had been in or even had ever thought of being in. Even though they slept in different houses, they were always together. Day in and day out, they spent as much time as they wanted together, working or not. If their families saw them together, no one asked questions – it was accepted. They were close friends after all, practically family anyways.

Jensen found himself splitting his time between Jared and Jenna, and even when they shared his time, both his eighteen-month-old and his… boyfriend? Lover? Jensen wasn’t sure on the title, exactly, but both enjoyed it.

Jenna adored Jared, more than anyone else on the farm. Sometimes Jensen wondered if the child would rather be rocked or held by Jared then her own father. It warmed something deep inside of him though, he couldn’t argue that fact. Sometimes he almost let himself get lost while watching Jared singing softly to Jenna, or telling her a story while he fed her, believing that this love they shared could really, truly be something.

Jensen felt his stomach twist at the thought, and the realization, that it really didn’t matter what either one of them wanted. Reality was cruel and was never far away with its reminders. Although the subject of their close relationship was never brought up between their families, customers to the farm stand or in the town were not shy about expressing their opinions.

Jared brushed him off every time he repeated a comment made or an incident that happened. “You only see the negative things, Jensen. Seriously, don’t listen to everything.” And perhaps Jared was right, but the negative, snide remarks that were thrown at him when he carried Jenna through town or to the market without Sherri or his grandmother there, still sent him reeling. He could only imagine what they would say if they saw him pressed up against Jared in the shadowed, safety of the barn.

The feeling of safety, even on the farm, was one that Jensen wasn’t all that sure of either. Although no one talked about the situation, Jared was getting more comfortable with the idea of the two of them together. He would steal kisses in the middle of the field, during milking, before or after suppertime. Each and every time, Jensen’s heart caught in his throat. What if they were caught? What would Gerry say? Or his grandparents? He couldn’t bear the thought of being made to leave. Jenna needed this farm, needed this family, and so did Jensen.

When he tried to tell Jared to tone things down, Jared would act hurt, and Jensen would quickly try to retract his concerns and kiss Jared’s bad mood away – of course that was after he had pulled him aside, out of the sight of anyone who might stumble across them.

It was dangerous what they were doing and Jensen knew that deep down Jared understood that as well. Part of that, however, made it more exciting. Jensen felt his spirit come alive at the mere thought of seeing Jared in the mornings. The warmth that flooded his body with every thought that trailed over Jared—his body, his mind, his voice, his eyes—was something Jensen never, ever wanted to be rid of. It was similar and yet, so very different, than the warmth he felt when he thought of Jenna.

And that terrified him.

Jared suddenly wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him closer got Jensen’s attention back to the present and he looked up to see Jared smiling fondly at him. “Did you hear me?” he asked, and Jensen shook his head, embarrassed.

“No, I was—”

“Probably over-thinking things, as usual.” Jared laughed and leaned down to kiss Jensen lightly.

“I said, I’m sure she just wants to talk to you about farm things, nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah, probably,” Jensen agreed and squeezed Jared quickly before slipping away from him. “What are you doing now?”

“Dad and Albert finished tilling the fields today so we’re free until the cows need milking again.”

“And are you going to help me with the cows, Mr. Padalecki?” Jensen teased, looking over his shoulder to see the look Jared threw him.

“Oh, most definitely. I’ll be holding Jenna and keeping her happy at a distance while you milk the cows.” Jared grinned playfully.

Jensen laughed and rolled his eyes. “One day I am going to get you to milk a cow and you’ll realize they’re not even half as scary as you’re making them out to be.”

“I’m sure,” Jared nodded, giving a small laugh. “Go… don’t make your grandmother wait.” Jensen nodded and glanced at his watch. “Lunch later?” he asked and when Jared nodded, he smiled back.



The moment Jensen walked into the house, he knew that something was wrong. Sherri was standing in the doorway of the kitchen and offered him a gentle smile, but nothing more. Jensen swallowed hard, suddenly nervous as he made his way through the dining room and into the living room where his grandmother was waiting, sitting silent and staring out the big bank of windows at the freshly tilled fields.

“Grandma?” he asked as he came up behind her. He had to shove his hands deep into his pockets to keep them from shaking as he moved around to the front of the chair. “You wanted to see me?”

Martha nodded once and when she lifted her deep, green eyes to meet Jensen’s he saw that she’d been crying. He dropped down to his knees and reached for her thin, cool hands to hold in his own.

“It’s your grandfather,” she started, giving him a watery smile. She took one of her hands back and patted Jensen’s cheek gently. “When he was out in the fields today with Gerry, something went wrong.”

“What do you mean something went wrong?” Jensen asked, confused and a bit afraid at the same time. “Did something happen to the tractor? Does he need my help with it or…” he trailed off and met his Grandmother’s eyes with a sad sigh. He knew that wasn’t what she meant, but he couldn’t help but hope.

“I came to pick you up, honey, along with some paperwork he wanted.” She patted Jensen’s arm and he nodded numbly. “Sherri said she didn’t mind looking after Jenna, the hospital isn’t a good place to bring that little girl.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jensen nodded slowly. “Is… I mean, is he...”

“He’s going to be just fine, sweetheart,” Martha reassured him quickly. “But he’s probably going to have to stay there for a few days before he’s back up and running—”

“Don’t worry, Gram, I’ll take care of everything. I know what needs to be done.”

“I never doubted that for a second, Jensen,” Martha replied and with a wave of her hand shooed him off toward the kitchen. “I’ll meet you by the truck, okay?” Jensen nodded his agreement. He thanked Sherri with a fond hug before slipping out of the house. When he reached the old truck he slid into the driver’s seat to wait for Martha to come back out.

“Everything okay?” Jared was suddenly at the driver side of the door, watching Jensen carefully. “Where are you guys going?”

“My grandfather is in the hospital,” Jensen replied softly and Jared reached through the open window to take his hand, to give it a supportive squeeze.

“I’m sorry, Jensen. I’m sure everything is going to be okay though, right?”

Jensen nodded once and looked around the yard quickly—Gerry had gone off, probably to finish in the fields, and with Martha and Sherri still in the house, they were in the clear. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Jared’s for a moment, smiling when Jared kissed him back just as quickly before pulling away.

“I hope so,” he shrugged and Jared squeezed his hand once more before releasing it at the sound of the screen door opening.

“It will be okay,” Jared confirmed and then tipped his hat towards Martha when she approached the truck.

“Why don’t you go see if your father needs anymore help out in the fields? I’m not sure how far he and Albert got…” she suggested as she slipped into the passenger seat.

“Yes, Ma’am!” Jared replied and gave them both a smile, flashing his dimples at them, before running in the opposite direction towards the back fields. Jensen watched him go and only when he was out of sight did he turn his attention back to starting the truck. Martha cleared her throat once and Jensen gave her a quick look, wondering if she’d noticed his longer than normal stare after Jared.

If she did, she didn’t say anything. And Jensen was more than grateful for that.

 

Albert looked bad.

Although both the nurse in the room and his grandmother told him how well his grandfather was doing, Jensen couldn’t stop the tightness in his chest when he looked over his grandfather lying in the hospital bed.

His usual jeans and flannel shirt had been replaced with a pale, thin hospital gown and his usually sun-kissed skin looked pale and washed out under the bright hospital lights. Even though Albert was well into his sixties, Jensen never thought of him as being that old. His grandfather was strong, always moving and doing no matter where he was on the farm and usually, his body showed that hearty vitality. Now however, he looked small and frail and Jensen couldn’t wrap his head around that.

He swallowed hard and forced himself forward to the side of the bed and reached down to take his grandfather’s hand in his own. With a sigh of relief, Jensen was glad that his skin felt warm and full of life. He sank down into one of the visitors’ chairs and gave Albert a smile, hoping none of his concerns were showing through on his facial expression.

“Hey, Grandpa,” he nodded once and Albert turned his head to look at Jensen with a smile.

“Ah, you’re here. Good!” Albert squeezed Jensen’s hand and then released it, moving to push himself up higher in the bed. Jensen was immediately at attention, moving to help Albert change position, and he was quickly shooed away. “No, no! No fussing! I’m perfectly… capable!” His grandfather shot his help down quickly, only grunting once as he shifted, and Jensen couldn’t help the smile that broke out across his face.

This was the Grandfather he knew.

“Albert!” Martha was instantly at Jensen’s side and he shrunk back at the tone of his grandmother’s voice. It was rare for her to raise her voice, and even more so for it to be directed at Albert himself. “You know what they said about pushing yourself too hard!”

Albert rolled his eyes and winked at Jensen when Martha smacked his leg through the covers.

“What happened?” Jensen asked when his grandmother was finally finished fussing about her husband, straightening out the sheets and moving his pillows around.

“Oh, nothing really,” Albert started only to close his mouth again as he received another sharp glare from his wife.

“Your grandfather was supposed to watch the things he ate after his stroke but he decided to ignore the advice of anyone that’s smarter than him!” She quickly took over the explanation and then turned her attention from Albert to Jensen. “This morning, your grandfather and Gerry came back to the house after you boys all set out to work, talking about pain in his chest and feeling light-headed and dizzy. Stubborn man insisted he’d be fine if he could just have some more coffee—thought maybe he just wasn’t awake enough. Gerry brought him to the hospital anyways.”

“Another stroke?” Jensen asked, looking between his grandparents. Albert shook his head once and they both turned to look up at Martha.

“No, he had a heart attack.”

Jensen’s eyes widened, “A heart attack?”

Mild,” Albert enunciated the word, as if that would make Jensen feel any better about it. “They just poked at me a bit, gave me some beta blocker thing to fix my ticker, and it will be good as new. They just want to do a couple more tests over the next few days.”

Jensen’s eyes widened even further. “When? All this happened just today?” He turned to his grandmother in alarm who nodded slowly. When he turned back to his grandfather he couldn’t keep the look of shock off of his face. All things considered, maybe he didn’t look quite as bad as Jensen had originally thought.

“So, the doc recommends 'observation'... I’m going to be out of commission for a few days—”

“Weeks! Months even if I have any say in it!” Martha cut in and Jensen smiled softly.

“So, that brings me to why I asked for you, my boy,” Albert finished and reached out his hand for the papers Martha had brought from the farm. His arm was trembling as he held it out and Jensen fought the urge to reach for it to steady it. “I had these drawn up a few months ago actually…” Albert scanned over the papers as Martha pushed the wooden, rolling table over closer so that it rested just above Albert’s lap.

Jensen looked on, curiously. Obviously his grandfather hadn’t planned on having a heart attack—the man always said he was ‘healthy as a horse’, so Jensen was at a complete loss as to what he would have that he actually had planned ahead for. Except for deciding ahead on the crops to be planted and the animals to be bought and sold on the farm, Albert was always one for winging it and seeing how things turned out.

When the papers were pushed in front of Jensen, his eyes quickly scanned the title on the first page and the initial information in the top two paragraphs. As the written words began to make sense Jensen froze, eyes wide as he looked up to meet his grandparents’ hopeful faces.

“You’re joking. Right?” he muttered disbelievingly, looking between the two of them who were staring back at him expectantly. “No, you have got to be joking.”

“Jensen, who the hell else is there?” Albert said as he tossed the pen over to rest on top of the small stack of papers. “Now, there’s not much of a savings account left anymore. Your grandmother and I emptied a lot of it to finish off the mortgage and to buy that last herd and the milking equipment, but there’s enough to get you started.”

“I can’t- I can’t accept this,” Jensen whispered, dropping his shaking hands into his lap. His heart was beating a million miles a minute and he suddenly felt light-headed as he stared at the deed transfer before him. His name was clearly printed, along with his grandparents, and the property value had more zero’s in it then Jensen had ever thought he would see in his entire life.

Part of him wanted to call up Alan and rub that into his face—that no matter what the old man believed or said, his parents had been more than successful as lowly farmers, far more successful than their citified son, and the proof was right before him. On the other hand, Jensen just wanted to vomit out of feeling overwhelmed by what his grandparents were offering him.

“Of course you can.” Martha stepped around the bed and put her warm, supportive hand on Jensen’s shoulder. “We’re not going to be around forever, Jensen. And I can’t picture letting our farm out of the family. It’s our life, our home, our sweat and blood, and you have been the one to share that with us the most.”

“But… what about Gerry?” Jensen offered, looking between them again. “And Josh is older than me…”

“Jensen, I already told Gerry what we were planning on doing and he said he’d be more than happy to work under you, if you’ll still have him,” Albert stated and gave Jensen a short nod.

Jensen stared back at him in shock. “Well of course! I mean… what else would I do? Gerry’s put so much more than I have into the farm and his family is there. They’re part of our family,” Jensen stammered, shaking his head at the absurdity of imagining the farm without the Padalecki family there, without Jared.

“And that’s exactly why he has no problem working under you, Jensen,” Martha said with a smile. “Because you understand how important his family is to the farm and to us. Joshua chose a career and his life, and honestly? We never even considered Josh for getting the farm. Although he enjoyed his summers here, it was different for Josh.”

Jensen nodded slowly, eyes scanning over the papers before him again.

“We just hope you don’t kick me and the old lady out of your farm house,” Albert laughed with a questioning look.

Jensen gasped and shook his head quickly. “No, of course not! That’s your home and it will continue being your home, it’s only mine on this piece of paper.”

Martha leaned forward and kissed the top of Jensen’s head. “We can get a lawyer if you’d like him to explain everything to you,” she offered. But Jensen shook his head. He trusted them, more than anyone else in the world. They were his family. They were more his parents than Donna and Alan had ever been. With a shaking hand, Jensen reached forward for the pen and slowly started flipping through the pages.

He initialed and signed wherever it was indicated and when he was finished, he simply laid the pen down and sat there feeling numb. Albert smiled and nodded to Martha who took up the papers and sealed them into an envelope she’d brought with them. Jensen owned the farm. Jensen owned the farm.

“We are so very proud of you, Jensen.” Albert’s voice was soft and it melted the icy shock that had paralyzed Jensen’s body. He felt his cheeks flame up at the praise. He’d never expected to hear those words at any point in his life. His stomach twisted and he smiled at his grandparents.

“Thank you, really. I won’t let you down. I swear, I won’t let you down,” Jensen promised softly and reached for his Grandfather’s hand. Albert squeezed his hand once and smiled fondly back at him, Martha leaned forward and kissed his forehead, and Jensen had never felt more like he belonged than he did right now.

 


“Do you really believe he’s ready for all this, Al?” Martha asked, taking the empty seat Jensen had vacated. They’d convinced the younger man to head back to the farm and he did so with a promise to return around suppertime to pick Martha up and take her home for the evening. “Do you think we’re pushing him too fast?”

“He’s ready for this, Martha,” Albert argued, reaching for his wife’s hand. “I know he is.”

“He just came back to us, Albert. He has a little girl that’s he’s just starting to figure out. If we pile too much on him...” She closed her eyes and with a sigh shook her head. “I don’t want him to turn into Alan.”

“He won’t, Martha,” her husband replied quickly. “Alan was miserable on that farm from the moment he could think for himself. Martha, look at what the past few months have done to boy! He even looks healthier, happier!”

“And you think that’s just because of the farm?” Martha looked up and raised an eyebrow at her husband whose cheeks flushed slightly. He gave her a warning look and she nodded once; it wasn’t something they’d ever discussed, not something that they needed to. But that didn’t mean they didn’t see and know everything that was going on behind the fence posts on their farm.

“Martha, I’m scared. More than I’ve ever been of anything.” Albert’s voice was soft and a bit unsure for the first time ever and it broke her heart. She squeezed his hand a little tighter, nodding with him. She was too. “We both know this,” he waved his free hand over his body, “this? Isn’t good like it once was. I’m getting old, Martha. We both are. And Jensen? Jensen is a good kid who has a good head on his shoulders and a good support system behind him. He still has us, we’re not going anywhere. And he knows that! We’ll be on that farm until the day we die, doing everything in our power to help him.

“He has us, he has Gerry and Sherri. And, well, he has Jared, too. We will help him be successful, we will continue teaching him what he needs to know to thrive, and he’s going to do it. I believe in him, don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” Martha sighed. “But you and I both know this life isn’t always easy. And things are good for us now, but what about if there’s another depression? Another war? What then?”

“We’ll help him, Martha. He’s strong. He’s come out on top in everything life has thrown at him so far, why should the farm be any different?”

“I’m scared for him, honey. The life that he’s choosing-”

“Martha.” Once again her husband cut her off with a quick shake of his head. “I trust him and his judgement, whether I understand it or not.” Martha nodded once and they fell into silence, lost in their own thoughts.

When Jensen returned to pick his grandmother up, Albert hugged his grandson a while longer than normal and Martha rode beside him in silence back to the farm. If Jensen noticed her abnormally quiet behavior, he didn’t question it, and when Jared met them at the front gates of the farm, Martha gave him a wide smile and patted his arm before inviting them to follow her inside for dinner.

 

 

 

October 22nd, 1962
Somerset, Vermont


Jared leaned back against Jensen’s chest and Jensen let his arms fall around Jared’s shoulders, holding him there. After Jensen had given Jenna lunch and put her down for a nap, they had snuck away for their own lunch break and made their way out to the oak tree. Just like when they were kids, no one ever bothered to follow them out and they felt somewhat secure with the promise of a little privacy.

“We’ll be next, you know,” Jared broke the silence and Jensen couldn’t bite back the sigh. It had been nearly a month since James Meredith, the first black man to attend a segregated University in Mississippi, had made headlines. Since then, Jared had been incessant about how it was a step forward for not only civil rights between the races, but also for people like them.

Jensen, however, didn’t necessarily agree. One man being able to go to school and surviving for a month did not give him the same type of excitement and hope that it gave the younger man. They themselves were white, were just like the people that would crucify them for being homosexuals. As far as Jensen was concerned, it was a completely different world for them.

“Jared…”

Jared smirked and turned around, capturing Jensen’s lips with his own.

“I know, I know. You don’t want to hear it.” Jared rolled his eyes and in response, Jensen bit his lower lip, eliciting a gasp.

“Has your dad talked to you any more about school?” Jensen asked, leaning back against the base of the tree again, waiting for Jared to settle against him before finding his hands to hold them against Jared’s stomach.

“A bit…” Jared trailed off and Jensen leaned forward, resting his chin on Jared’s shoulder.

“And? Are you thinking about it?” Jensen asked. Now that Jared was eighteen, Jensen honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he left to get an education, just like Jeff had. Jeff was now living somewhere in New Hampshire, working as a lawyer there, and Sherri and Gerry were not shy about expressing how proud they were of their eldest son.

“No.” Jared shook his head, the decisive tone of his voice saying the conversation was not up for discussion.

Jensen laughed softly and shoved at his back. “No?”

Jared shook his head again in response. Jensen kissed the side of his throat gently, urging Jared silently to continue.

“I… I was thinking I would, you know.” Jared shrugged and Jensen felt the tension in his shoulders.

“Jared?”

“I figured I would stay here, with you,” Jared said finally and Jensen felt his heart stop. He and Jared usually steered clear of the topic of the future of their relationship. It was too painful to remember the reality of the world around them and it didn’t do well to dwell on things that they both knew would never happen. The one time Jared had mentioned it, a future, Jensen had shut him down pretty quickly.

 


“How long do you think we can go on like this Jared, really?” Jensen sighed, closing his eyes against the pained expression on Jared’s face. Part of him feared that maybe this would be it, this would be the end for them.

“Jensen, I know it seems impossible right now but—"

“No, Jared. It is impossible now and it always will be. What we’re doing now? Yeah, it’s fun, and I’m enjoying spending time with you, but in the end?” Jensen shook his head. “You and I will both end up married to girls and with kids and-”

“I’m in love with you, Jensen.” Jared pulled back, meeting Jensen’s eyes straight on. “I am in love with you. That? To me? That means something, and in the end? I think I’ll still be in love with you.” Jensen closed his eyes and after a moment, Jared slipped from his side and left him sitting in the loft alone.

When he heard the barn door slam shut behind Jared, Jensen leaned back against the bales of hay and sighed. “I love you too, Jared.”

 


“I think we should head back,” Jensen replied instead, releasing his hold on Jared and pushing himself up and away from the tree trunk. Jared looked hurt again, but hid it quickly with a small smile.

“Yeah, I’m sure Jenna’s probably awake now anyways. Speaking of, I made her something the other day.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out a small wooden duck he’d carved. Jensen smiled as he fingered the toy, turning it on all sides to look at it.

“You’re getting really good at this,” he offered, and Jared nodded before slipping it back into his pocket. They walked together in silence back to the farm house, Jared’s arm brushing Jensen’s every few feet, but once they cleared the woods he fell back. Jensen sighed to himself and knew how much it was hurting Jared to do so, how much it had hurt him the first time he asked Jared ‘who wanted to go first’.

When they reached the house, they were surprised to see everyone inside. More surprising, everyone was sitting in the living room, crowded around the television.

“What’s going on?” Jared asked, slipping past Jensen and joining his mother on the couch.

“President Kennedy has just confirmed there are Soviet missiles in Cuba,” Gerry responded, and Jensen’s eyes flew to the TV where the President was still speaking. He sank to the floor beside his grandfather’s chair and together they all watched the rest of the presidential address.

By the end, it was Jared who broke the silence. “We’re going to end up back in another war, another draft,” he sighed, and Jensen felt himself go cold.

No one else in the room spoke up, but he knew they were all thinking the same thing. Being of draft age worried Jensen, and he glanced over to his grandmother who had Jenna curled up on her lap. Jenna looked peaceful, relaxed in her great-grandmother’s arms. She was happy here, they both were, and the fact that there was something in this world that could pull him away from her? Could change their life in an instant? Jensen swallowed hard and shifted his position so he could reach his daughter and ran his fingers through the soft curls of her hair.

Chapter Text

 

October 20th, 1962
Somerset, Vermont


Jensen made his way through the woods, singing to Jenna who would chime in every once in a while with a couple of words she could remember. Jensen laughed along with her, humming and encouraging her to do the words; she stumbled over half of them, but to Jensen’s ears there wasn’t any better music out there.

When they reached the clearing, Jensen looked up to see that Jared was already sitting at the base of the oak, a large blanket spread out underneath him. As they got closer it looked like he’d snagged some maple candy from the kitchen before he set out. Jenna was going to love him for that.

He smiled when Jared looked up and met his eyes and was about to open his mouth to yell out a greeting when Jenna beat him to it.

“Papa!” she cried out, her arms outstretched and fingers wiggling for Jared. Both of the men froze, Jared midway from pushing off of the ground as Jenna squirmed harder in Jensen’s arms. “Papa! Daddy, it’s Papa!”

“That’s Jared, Jenna,” Jensen corrected and slowly set Jenna on the ground. She stumbled once in the long grass before she bolted forward to where Jared was still frozen.

“No, Papa!” Jenna argued and giggled when Jared finally reached for her and lifted her up into a hug. His eyes were wide and he looked over the top of her head to Jensen, unsure of what to do. Though he had no idea where Jenna picked it up, he was shocked at the jolt it gave his heart.

“Ignore it?” he mouthed to Jared, giving him a small shrug. Although it may have been endearing to hear, it wasn’t fair to any of them involved. And if his grandparents or the Padaleckis heard Jenna calling Jared that? Jared nodded once, eyes still wide as if he’d been caught red-handed, and Jensen turned his attention to his daughter.

The three-year-old was sitting between Jared’s legs, snacking on one of the maple candies she’d taken from the bag Jared had, and was recounting a tale about her morning in the kitchen with Grandma and Aunt Sherri. Jensen bit his lower lip—maybe letting Jenna call Gerry and Sherri Aunt and Uncle had stemmed the ‘Papa’ name for Jared… Though, Jensen highly doubted Jenna truly understood the way a family tree worked.

They stayed in the comforting shade of the big oak tree, Jenna telling them a halting, fanciful story about a flying horse that picked up lost children and brought them to live at a magical farm, until it was time to head back to their afternoon chores. Jensen still had to round up the cows and get them fed and prepared for milking that evening, and Jared offered to help Jenna search for the perfect pumpkin to carve into a jack-o'-lantern.

“Jared would probably love to help you carry it if you choose a really, really big one.” Jensen smiled down at her, swinging her small hand in his as they walked. Jenna gave him a strange look but didn’t correct him on the name

“Okay!” she agreed and beamed up at Jared, dropping her dad’s hand so that Jared would carry her instead.

“You’re almost getting too big for this,” Jared grumbled, but he was smiling, both dimples showing when he had her secured in his arms. Jenna laughed and immediately started playing with Jared’s hair, talking to him about how her daddy wouldn’t grow his longer, even though she’d asked him nicely and with a cherry-on-top.

Jensen shook his head and watched them continue down the path, separating from him when they reached the barn. Jared looked so carefree, so different than Jensen himself had felt at eighteen, as he walked with Jenna, bouncing her lightly in his arms, and it made something inside of Jensen ache so badly.

 

 

 

July 19th, 1963
Somerset, Vermont

“Jared, stop.” Jensen sighed against Jared’s lips and pushed at his chest. They were in the barn, in their loft, and what was supposed to be a quick kiss between their chores was quickly getting heated. It had been happening a lot more lately, Jared pushing the boundaries that Jensen had very clearly set when they started out on this journey. And really, Jensen didn’t want to stop, he had never wanted anything less. But they were in the open, they could get caught.

“Make up your mind!” Jared suddenly hissed, ripping his hands away from Jensen when he reached for him again. His eyes flashed and Jensen felt fear and guilt swirl through his gut at the sudden reaction. It was rare for Jared to be anything less than happy and excited, but to see him angry… it sent a strange warmth pooling in Jensen’s stomach and he had to take a step back from him. Jared’s eyes followed him, still angry, still sharp, and Jensen closed his eyes, shaking his head.

He wanted to tell Jared that he knew, that he understood how hard this was, that he wanted this just as badly. But it was dangerous! What they were doing was so very, very dangerous. He met Jared’s eyes, pleading with his own, trying to get him to see. Jared laughed, the sound cold and harsh as tears filled his eyes. “Sometimes I wish I’d never met you at all, Jensen.”

“Jared, please don’t say that.” Jensen felt his heart clench, as if it was preparing itself against being ripped from his chest, digging in its roots. He felt instantly cold, a chill going down his spine as he started back at Jared whose impassive expression made Jensen want to vomit.

“No, I’m serious. You can hide all you want, I’m not ashamed of who I am, Jensen. I can’t do this anymore! The sneaking around and hiding. It’s been two years, Jensen. The people who truly matter? They won’t care!” Jared shook his head, swallowing hard before he spat, “I’ll tell everyone! I’ll scream it to the goddamn world, and you’ll be the one who’s still alone.”

Jensen gasped sharply, the sound so raw and desperate it made them both flinch.

Jensen didn’t know what to say to that. Jared was wrong. People would care, their entire lives would change and nothing would ever be the same. This farm, everything that their families had built over the years could be gone in the blink of an eye. Jenna. Jenna could be taken from him and there would be nothing in the world he could do. His stomach flipped at the very thought of it and he felt himself begin to tremble.

Jared laughed once more and then started down the ladder of the loft, shaking his head as he went. He glanced up at Jensen when he was at the bottom and opened his mouth like he was going to add something. Jensen wanted him to, desperately. He wanted Jared to realize how foolish he was being, wanted Jared to climb back up the ladder and come back into his arms. Instead, Jared stalked away shaking his head ruefully, before he ripped the barn door open and fled into the night, leaving Jensen alone.

Jensen waited there in the loft for what felt like hours—and maybe it was. By the time he went back inside, his grandparents were all ready for bed; Martha had curlers in her hair, Albert was in his bathrobe, and they were sitting around the kitchen table with their mugs of warm milk listening to the radio. It had been turned down low so all Jensen could hear was the soft murmuring.

“Jensen?” Martha looked up and gave her grandson a small smile. “Jared get home okay?”

Jensen sighed. He sank down into a free chair and laid his arms across the table. “I don’t know,” he shrugged after a moment. “We were arguing about… some of the work I asked him to do today. He was pretty mad. I don’t know where he would go if he didn’t go home, though.”

Martha and Albert exchanged looks across the table and Albert nodded once before pushing out of his chair.

“I’ll be right back,” he said and left the kitchen. Jensen heard the creak of the screen door opening and he looked at his grandmother in confusion.

“Where is he going?” Martha shrugged and looked down at her hands, obviously wanting to wait for Albert to return before explaining. Jensen’s heart skipped a beat when he thought of what his grandfather was doing. Did he think Jensen couldn’t handle a simple argument? Although he appreciated and respected his grandparents’ opinions, if Albert was going to get Jared? He shuddered at the thought of what might come out of Jared’s angry mouth.

When Albert came back he looked pale. Jensen shot up straighter in his seat, suddenly worried at the expression on his grandfather’s face.

“He’s not home,” Albert said, his attention focused completed on his wife. “Sherri said she hadn’t heard him come in, checked his room and he’s not there.”

“Oh, Albert! Do you think-?” Martha’s voice was strained and Jensen looked between them completely confused at why they were so worried that he and Jared had had an argument.

“He’s probably just blowing off steam. He’ll be where he needs to be in the morning, why are you so worried?” Albert shook his head but it was Martha, her eyes swimming with unshed tears that had Jensen feeling like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over his head. “What?” he whispered, “What am I missing?”

“Jensen, there was an attack in town…” Albert started and Martha tore her eyes away and looked down at her hands which were now clenched into a tight knot on the tabletop.

“Okay,” Jensen said slowly, “what kind of attack?”

“A homosexual man was attacked.”

Jensen’s eyes widened and his heart stopped completely. He felt the knot forming in his throat and his eyes darted back and forth between his grandparents.

“But, Jared—” he started, not knowing what he could possibly say to that. His mind was going a million miles per hour. Had Jared really gone to town and screamed of his sexuality? Jared wouldn’t be that stupid. But if he had? Jensen swallowed hard, focusing on his grandfather’s face.

“Jensen, we’ve known for a while now about Jared.”

“And about you,” Martha added softly, one gnarled hand reaching towards him to squeeze his arm gently.

“Why do you- why do you think it’s Jared?” Jensen whispered, pushing back the rise of bile in his throat and fighting back the urge to flee. They knew, they knew about him and Jared. How did they know? What did they know?

“They described the man on the radio, and from what they described…” Albert replied slowly and Jensen was on his feet.

“Okay. Okay, well then I-I’ll have to go to the hospital! I have to get him.”

“Jensen, no,” Martha whispered and a tear streaked down her cheek. Jensen watched as it rolled down her face, paused at a wrinkle on her cheek before dropping down onto the hardwood table.

“Son, the poor man… the man was beaten to death.”

“Jensen?” His grandmother was at his side, touching his face, her eyes wide and alarmed. Vaguely, Jensen realized the chair he’d just vacated was now on the floor, but he hadn’t heard the crash, hadn’t remembered causing it to fall. “Jensen!”

He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t move. He felt as if he had swallowed a rock and was going to choke to death on it, or maybe it was his heart…

Now, all he could picture was Jared lying bloodied in a ditch, dirt and blood marring his beautiful face. Jared, choking on his own blood, gasping for breath as pain wracked his body. Jared left to die. He heard a sob, felt something rip out of his throat, but couldn’t register the two as being one in the same. His grandmother slapped him and he gasped, sucking in a deep breath, tears streaming down his face.

“Where? Where was it?” he demanded, eyes widening as he took in his grandfather’s expression; pity and a strange sort of understanding. But he couldn’t know, he couldn’t know what Jensen was feeling. “Where is he?”

“I-I don’t know,” came the reply and Jensen tore out of his grandmother’s arms and burst from the house, the cool night air sending a chill up his spine. Nausea rolled through his stomach. He tore past Jared’s house, eyes darting up to Jared’s bedroom window where, normally, his light would still be on and he would be reading until the early hours of the morning.

The room was dark, just like the rest of the house, and Jensen cried out in frustration. He ran through the barn, calling Jared’s name, not caring if he woke up the Padaleckis in his frantic search. He was met with an odd silence, not even the crickets out in the fields were singing their songs.

“The tree,” Jensen whispered to himself and spun in the yard. He raced down the driveway, flinging himself through the front gate and across the road to where the path through the woods was. He tore through it, tripping over the underbrush in the darkness. When he reached the tree, he felt like his heart had officially been ripped from his chest.

He fell to his knees, heaving as giant sobs ripped through his chest. It couldn’t be true. Jared couldn’t be dead. He screamed in frustration, punching his fist into the tree. He punched it again, and again, welcoming the sharp sting of pain in his fingers.

He should have told Jared. He should have told him that he loved him, too. God forgive him, he was in love with Jared. And Jared would never know; Jared was killed because of it. Jensen leaned forward, gripping the gnarled root of the tree beneath his knees.

Jensen should have pushed Jared away sooner. He should have made Jared go to school, refused to keep him on as hired help, anything to get him to leave. Jensen felt empty, cold, and everything hurt. It was his fault. He killed Jared, he killed him by loving him, by not loving him enough to make him go.

Because then Jared would still be alive. Beautiful, strong and smart Jared. Everything Jensen could only ever hope to be. Jared had been near perfect, so full of life, always smiling and ready to lend a helping hand – no matter who you were. He had a positive spin to add to everything, always lifted Jensen’s spirits when he was down. He had a fire that burned within him that helped ignite something inside of Jensen and he knew that in the short time they’d been close, Jared had already made him a better person.

And Jenna! What was he supposed to tell Jenna? She thought the world of Jared. Already, Jensen saw so much of Jared reflected in his daughter, more than just their similar looks. Although they’d since discouraged her calling Jared ‘Papa’, Jensen couldn’t deny that it was probably the most accurate name she could have given him. Jared cared as much for Jenna as Jensen himself did. The thought of telling Jenna that Jared would never be coming back had vomit rising to his throat.

Maybe he should’ve let Jenna and Jared have that—now Jared would never have kids, would never make it out of his teenage years. Jared would never be able to live up to all the potential Jensen knew he possessed. And because of what? Because someone disapproved of whom Jared loved? It made Jensen sick, that someone with such a beautiful soul could be treated as such. Jensen knew in his heart there was no way someone like Jared would ever be damned, no matter whom or what he decided to love. God could never be that cruel.

“Jensen?”

Jensen choked on a sob, his head flying up as he watched a tall figure approaching him. Jensen stared dumbly until all of Jared’s features were illuminated by the moonlight.

“Jensen, what-"

“Jared!” Jensen threw himself forward then, pushing off the ground and into Jared’s arms in one swift movement. Jared’s body was hard, firm and warm. “You’re alive! Oh God, you’re alive,” he was sobbing against Jared’s chest, clinging to his body as if Jared were the only thing keeping him grounded here on Earth. And maybe he was.

In response, Jared wrapped his arms around him, rocking their bodies together. He shushed him softly, the same way he soothed Jenna when she scraped her knee or became frightened. At first, it only made Jensen cry harder. Jared kissed the side of Jensen’s face, his hands rubbing soothing circles down Jensen’s back until the older man finally calmed down.

Jensen collapsed back onto the ground, sucking in a shaky breath as he pulled Jared down beside him. Jared leaned back against the tree, watching Jensen carefully. Slowly, Jared reached up and wiped the remaining tears from Jensen’s face.

“Are you okay?” he whispered, and Jensen shook his head, leaning into his touch. Instead of answering, Jensen turned and sealed their lips together. Jared made a surprised sound in his throat but quickly regained his composure and kissed Jensen back, just as deeply.

Part of Jensen briefly wondered if Jared was still mad from their fight. The rest of him decided it didn’t matter; none of it mattered because Jared was here, Jared was alive. He pushed against Jared and Jared allowed himself to be pushed back until he was lying flat on the ground. Jared shifted once, adjusting his body so that whatever was digging into him –rocks, roots, twisted up grass—wasn’t digging in so painfully and then Jensen was on him.

Jensen found Jared’s lips again. He licked Jared’s lower lip, sucking it into his mouth gently and Jared responded with a soft moan that sent a shock through Jensen’s body. He slotted their legs together; ground his hips down against Jared’s thigh. He let his hands trail up between their bodies, pushing Jared’s shirt up and out of the way. His hands were cold and Jared shivered under his touch.

Jensen kissed him harder, fingers digging into Jared’s skin as he mapped out every inch of him he could reach. As his hands trailed back down, fingers dancing across the hemline of Jared’s jeans, Jared moaned into Jensen’s mouth again. There was nothing else in the world like that sound and Jensen would do everything in his power to hear it again. He flicked the top button of Jared’s jeans, slipped his hand beneath the fabric, and then his fingers were brushing against Jared’s length. Jared’s eyes widened in shock and Jensen realized how in his desperate need to be against Jared, they’d never actually gone this far.

Although Jared had tried, more than once, Jensen had always pushed him away, drawn back before things advanced too far, before things could get to the point where there would be no turning back. Jensen looked up and met Jared’s wide eyes, full of fear, anticipation, and so full of that beautiful hope that Jared never seemed to lack. Jensen pulled back, ignoring the look of disappointment on Jared’s face, and cupped his cheeks with both of his hands.

“I thought you were dead,” he whispered and Jared’s disappointment was replaced with confusion. He opened his mouth to ask, but Jensen pressed a finger against his lips. “I was so afraid I had lost you, before I ever had the chance to tell you. And it may be wrong, Hell, Jared, it is wrong. But so help me, I love you, Jared Padalecki. I love you more than anything.” Jared made a strangled sound in his throat and Jensen leaned forward, crushing their lips together.

“I should’ve told you,” he whispered, kissing Jared softly, “I’m scared, I’m absolutely terrified of this, but what scares me more is losing you.”

“Jensen,” Jared whispered, tears shining in his eyes. "I don’t understand.” He stopped and shook his head, pressing his head up into the crook of Jensen’s neck. He laughed softly, his breath warm against Jensen’s skin. “I love you, too.”

Jensen wrapped his arms around Jared’s shoulders, holding them together. Jared smiled against Jensen’s skin and pressed a soft kiss just beneath his ear. Jared’s hands were tentative as they traveled up Jensen’s back, and Jensen realized that Jared was giving him this, giving him all of the control. Jensen felt his heart surge, and he returned his attention to showering Jared with as many kisses as possible.

Jared hummed under his hands, his skin shivering and heating with every touch. Jensen had never felt so alive as he did right then. He leaned down, pressing his lips against the pulse point in Jared’s neck, kissing the spot, feeling the soft flutter against his lips. Jensen couldn’t feel where he ended and Jared began, their bodies morphing into one.

Slowly, they undressed one another; shirts and t-shirts becoming the blanket beneath them. Jensen’s stomach was in knots the entire time, but it was something so completely different than the way he’d felt with Rosemary. He was nervous, afraid he would do something wrong and end up hurting Jared, but even with the anticipation fluttering in his stomach, this felt right.

 

 

Jensen wasn’t sure what to think about that; he’d analyze it later if he truly had to. Right then, he was surrounded by everything Jared. His heat, his mouth, his body and soul, and as Jared pushed on Jensen’s shoulders, rolling them over, Jensen had never wanted anything more.

They kissed slowly, hands exploring every inch of one another. Now with Jared finally pressed against him, both of them naked as they day they were born, Jensen felt his himself freeze. Jared pulled back slightly and met his eyes, matching Jensen’s nervous smile.

“I-I don’t know what to do now,” Jensen said with a soft laugh, feeling his cheeks flush a deep red. Jared nodded once and kissed Jensen softly.

“We don’t have to do anything,” he whispered back. “I’m just happy to be with you. Just to feel you.”

Jensen swallowed hard, the next words escaping his lips surprising them both. “I want you to, Jared. I want you to make love to me.” He felt Jared’s body roll against him, knew that Jared was on board with the idea.

“Okay,” Jared whispered, his voice strained. Jensen smiled at him, pushing back the knot of nerves forming in his stomach, and leaned up to kiss Jared again.

“I don’t know-” Jensen felt himself blush again and he looked down. He’d only been with one woman before and he was sure Jared had never been with anyone. When his dreams had traveled this far, things were always ready, easy, and Jensen knew that reality was way more complicated. “I’ve never, I mean-”

“I’ve... practiced before,” Jared cleared his throat and bit his lower lip. “On myself. A few times.” Jensen stared at him, surprised at the warmth that spread through his body at the thought of Jared touching himself. Slowly, Jared reached into his pocket for a small glass jar. “I always kind of hoped…” Jared’s voice was shaking, his cheeks flushed bright red. He cleared his throat once and shrugged. “The vet left this behind the last time he was here for the cows. I’ve seen them use it a few times when they help with the births.” If possible, Jared blushed harder and he shook his head quickly. “I’ve used it before too, on myself I mean.” Jensen nodded again, stomach twisting when he realized what the jar Jared held was going to be used for.

“Okay,” Jensen whispered after a moment, and Jared glanced back up, meeting his eyes. “I trust you.” Jared gave him a small smile and Jensen ran his hands up his arms, the muscles in Jared’s arms and shoulders contracting under his touch. The next kiss he gave Jared was soft, unhurried, and Jared seemed to melt against him.

Slowly, almost too slowly, Jared trailed his hands down Jensen’s chest, freezing when they got to Jensen’s hips. They locked eyes and Jensen nodded once, letting his legs fall open and inviting Jared in. Using just the tips of his fingers, Jared slid across Jensen’s lower stomach and through the soft curls of hair. When Jared’s fingers finally came into contact with the Jensen’s swollen length, he gasped and couldn’t stop his hips from arching into Jared’s touch.

Encouraged, Jared wrapped his long fingers around Jensen, squeezing him gently. Unlike Rosemary, whose hands were soft, cool and small, Jared’s hands were rough, warm, and were able to cover almost all of Jensen’s length completely. He gasped and Jared leaned forward, capturing the sound with his mouth.

Jared caressed Jensen slowly, his tongue tangling with Jensen’s own, sliding at the same pace of his hand. Jared shifted to his side, most of his weight on his knees, and with his free hand he pressed the jar against his knee, twisting the cap off before dipping his fingers into the lubricant. Jensen eyed it carefully, watching as Jared slid down between his thighs. Jensen stiffened slightly, and Jared paused, giving Jensen a small smile.

“Relax, Jensen,” he whispered, kissing his cheek softly. “I’ll stop if you want me to.”

“No.” Jensen shook his head and exhaled slowly. “No, don’t stop.”

Jared nodded once against his neck, kissing him softly, his fingers slipping between Jensen’s cheeks, pressing softly against his entrance. He forced himself to relax, to focus on Jared’s other hand working at his erection, his lips pressing and whispering against his ear. When Jared finally pushed a slick fingertip in, Jensen winced and felt his entire body jolt.

“You have to relax, Jense.” Jared’s voice was soft. His hands stilled and he kissed every inch of Jensen’s face until, slowly, Jensen felt himself relax again. His heart was pounding in his chest, his body fighting against the intrusion; he almost told Jared to stop, that this was the reason this was wrong. When he opened his eyes, Jared was staring down at him with so much love and concern that the words became stuck in his throat. Slowly, Jensen nodded.

Jared gave him a smile and resumed kissing down the side of Jensen’s neck. This time, his hands were still and he continued moving down Jensen’s body, kissing and biting, licking across Jensen’s chest. He shivered and felt himself hardening again against Jared’s chest.

Just as Jared’s slick finger started pressing against his entrance again and Jensen started to tense, Jared slipped down completely and suddenly his mouth was surrounding the head of Jensen’s dick. It was hot and wet and Jensen completely forgot about anything other than the sensation of Jared’s tongue against his swollen flesh.

Jensen closed his eyes and focused on Jared, the way he was making his entire body thrum to life. Jensen’s heart was beating, his breath was coming in short gasps, his lower body was full and floating and on fire, all at the same time. He gasped as Jared twisted two fingers slowly inside of him, the feeling just barely on the side of uncomfortable, until he did something that sent a shock through him. Jared froze, eyes wide as he stared down at Jensen. Jensen’s entire body felt strung like a coil, and it took him a moment before he nodded and Jared returned to the task at hand.

Jared hummed around him, the sound sending vibrations through Jensen’s stomach, and he heard himself gasp out loud. When Jared withdrew his fingers, Jensen was surprised at the feeling of loss he felt, and he looked down to see Jared slipping two of his fingers back into the jar, coating them once more before he was back and slipping them inside of Jensen.

Jensen wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be feeling. He’d never actually imagined he would get to this point, with anyone, never mind with Jared. He was drowning in Jared, filled completely to the brim with the love he felt for the younger man. He reached for Jared then, grabbing his arms to pull him up to seal their lips together again. He pushed everything he was feeling through the kiss, hoping that Jared understood.

Jared moaned against his lips and dragged his hands up Jensen’s body, fingers digging into the muscles of his stomach. “You can still tell me to—"

“Please,” Jensen responded, cutting Jared off with a soft bite to his lower lip. Jared nodded and Jensen allowed him to guide his legs around Jared’s hips, angling his own up to give Jared access. Jared’s hazel eyes never left Jensen’s, kept complete contact as he scooped out a good amount of the lubricant and reached down to stroke himself. Jensen nodded once and Jared slid his hand down the back of Jensen’s thigh, pulling his legs open wider, and suddenly he was there, pushing in, filling Jensen completely.

Jensen groaned, forcing himself to keep his eyes open and joined with Jared’s. It was a slow, dragging pain as Jared pushed deep inside, and yet Jensen didn’t… hate it. The fact that it was uncomfortable made him think back to his first time with Rosemary and her initial discomfort; it was almost comical that he was comparing himself to a girl, knowing how much Alan would get a kick out of it were he privy to the inside of Jensen’s mind.

Jared exhaled, his entire body shaking on his arms which were bracketed on either side of Jensen’s head. His eyes fluttered closed and he cursed, and Jensen felt him twitch deep inside of him. The feeling was different than anything Jensen had ever felt, but it brought him closer to Jared. Jared was inside of him, connected with him in the most intimate way, and for the life of him Jensen couldn’t understand why that was so wrong.

“Jensen,” Jared whispered his name, swallowing hard as shifted his hips and followed with him, tightening his legs around Jared’s back. “I love you, so much.”

Jensen reached for him, running his hand through Jared’s long hair and pulling him down, kissing him deeply. Jared made a strangled sound against his lips and then started to move. He rolled his hips slowly, the burning between Jensen’s legs slowly morphing into something that was edging near pleasant.

When Jared’s kisses became sloppier and he was panting into Jensen’s mouth, he knew Jared was close to his climax. Jensen shifted his hips up, and when Jared gasped, Jensen knew he’d gotten the angle of his hips right. Jared suddenly froze above him, a strangled cry leaving his lips, and Jensen rocked up against him, wrapping his arms around Jared’s back as he spilled his release.

Jared collapsed against him and Jensen immediately found his lips, kissing him softly. Jared lay half on top of him, his breathing coming in heavy pants. When Jared had caught his breath, he brought Jensen to completion with a few quick strokes.

They lay there underneath the oak tree until they couldn’t ignore the chill of the night air anymore.

“Jensen?” Jared asked as he pushed himself into a sitting position, pulling Jensen up with him. “Why-why were you out here?”

“Jared, I thought-” Jensen exhaled slowly, his entire body shaking as he remembered the way he’d torn from the house, believing that Jared was gone. “A man was killed tonight, in town, for being gay. And my grandparents, they thought-” Jensen’s eyes widened. “They think you’re dead. What if they’re telling your parents? Oh my God! Get dressed. Jared, we have to go!”

“But—” Jared allowed himself to be yanked to his feet, and Jensen quickly picked up their clothes, throwing his own on and giving Jared just enough time to get his back on before he was yanking him back down the path.

When they reached the farmhouse, Jared’s parents were sitting on the porch with Jensen’s grandparents and all four of them looked up as they heard the two sets of quick boot steps approaching. Sherri let out a scream and she flew off of the porch, immediately wrapping herself around Jared and pulling him tightly against her chest. Somehow, even though she stood almost a foot shorter than her nineteen year old son, Jared seemed dwarfed as he let himself sink into her embrace.

“I’m okay, Mama,” Jared mumbled against her hair, and then all that could be heard was the soft sound of the crickets and Sherri’s soft sobbing. Jensen looked up and saw his grandparents smiling, relief easily seen on their faces.

“Where was he?” Albert asked when Jensen joined them on the porch, switching spots with Gerry who now had his arms around his family.

“He found me,” Jensen replied with a shrug, smiling softly as he looked over at Jared with his parents.

“We’re so glad he’s okay,” Martha whispered back, patting Jensen’s cheek softly. “I’ll be making a special breakfast in the morning.”

“Thank you, guys,” Jensen murmured softly, feeling his cheeks flush and he forced himself to look down at the wooden planks beneath his feet.

Albert shifted once beside him, just as uncomfortable as Jensen before he cleared his throat. “I’m not going to pretend that I understand it, because I don’t. But I understand you, Jensen, the person you are and the person you’re becoming. And I’ll stand beside you no matter what you choose, or who you choose.”

Jensen looked up quickly and saw his grandfather had wrapped his arm around his grandmother’s shoulders and she was leaning against him, looking up at him with an expression Jensen himself had seen on Jared’s face. He nodded once, giving them a small smile, and then they turned around and slipped quietly back into the house.

“Well, I think it’s about time we all get some sleep,” Gerry said once they broke away from Jared. Jensen nodded once, eyes catching Jared’s and the two of them stood frozen. Gerry glanced between them, clearing his throat once before he took Sherri’s arm. “I’ll see you boys for breakfast.”

“Yes, sir,” they both replied in unison and Sherri glanced at them, a strange expression on her face. Jared looked down and waited until they were across the yard and out of sight before he approached Jensen again.

“Stay with me?” Jensen asked, swallowing hard, his stomach fluttering as he waited for Jared’s reply. Jared hesitated for a moment, studying Jensen’s face before he nodded and smiled. “Always, Jensen.”

Chapter Text

 

October 1st, 1964
Boston, Massachusetts

 

Jensen’s life felt surreal, like he was watching it on a movie screen instead of living it every day. Even now, Jensen wasn’t sure how everything had just seemed to… work out.

It had been well over a year since the night they’d been afraid that Jared had been killed and everything that Jensen had come to know in his life had been turned upside down. Jared stayed that night, wrapped in his arms, Jensen holding onto him as if his life depended on it, and then never went back home.

Slowly, Jared’s things started appearing in the house –- his work boots, a set or two of clothes, his books. Jensen was never sure what new thing he would find when it was time for them to sleep. He wasn’t sure when Jared even found the time to get the things he brought inside of the house without Jensen noticing, but he appreciated Jared not mentioning it.

Jensen, and the rest of their families, let it happen. It wasn’t something that they talked about, unless of course you were Jenna who liked to point out that she was happy her ‘Papa’ was now in the house all of the time where he should be. Not mentioning it was good because Jensen didn’t have to think about it, only accept it.

But today he was picking up Mackenzie from the train and he couldn’t ignore the fear that was choking him, snaking its thick, black tendrils up from the depths of his gut to claw at his throat. His grandparents had shocked him by accepting his relationship with Jared--Martha and Albert had accepted his increased presence within the house without question. But the rest of Jensen’s family?

He barely mentioned Jared when he talked to Josh unless Josh asked about the Padaleckis and whenever he spoke to Mackenzie, they usually talked about her—her schooling, the boy she had feelings for, the newest dogma their father was obsessing over.

Jared had suggested making the trip with him, giving them a few hours away as just the two of them, and Jensen could still see the expression on Jared’s face when Jensen cut him off with a resounding ‘No way’. Jared had slipped out of the house before Jensen had even finished showering, and he hadn’t gotten a chance to apologize for hurting his feelings or for explaining why he was so set against it. When he’d first told the families over dinner that Mackenzie was coming to stay with them for a while, there had had been a quiet exchange between his grandparents and he immediately knew what that look meant.

They were understanding, supportive at least, but that meant nothing for the rest of his immediate family members.

How was he supposed to hide his relationship with Jared from his younger sister while Jared was living in the same house? He had started to mention how they were going to have to hide their true relationship from Mackenzie, and Jared had quite suddenly gotten quiet, distant, and refused to talk about it any longer.

So now Jensen was sitting in the pick-up truck, his heart racing with more nerves than excitement about seeing his sister. He slipped out of the truck and stood near the front, waiting for Mackenzie to appear on the street. When he saw her blonde hair bobbing into view, he found himself smiling and opening his arms for her to bound into.

“Oh, Jensen!” she exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed him tightly. “You look so good!”

“So do you! You’ve grown up!” He found himself laughing as he wrapped his arms around her waist, lifting her feet off the ground as he spun her around. “It’s been way too long.”

“I know, I missed you so much,” she replied, as she squeezed him once more before stepping back. “How’s my niece doing?”

“Good, really good. I can’t wait for you to see her.” Mackenzie smiled, eyes lighting up and something warmed inside of Jensen when he realized that Mackenzie could see her, hold her and play with her without the looming presence of their father. It hit him then that his sister hadn’t actually held Jenna before, not once had she been allowed to with their father in the house. “She is going to love you.”

“I really, really hope so,” Mackenzie whispered back and slid into the truck's passenger seat while Jensen loaded her two bags into the back. Jensen gave his sister another big smile, focusing on the excitement his daughter would feel at being able to meet her aunt for the first time, and not on the nerves that had returned to circulate through his stomach at introducing her to Jared.

“Are you sure you’re not too tired?” Jensen asked, worried as he glanced over at Jenna who had her little arms wrapped tightly around her aunt’s neck.

“I’m sure,” Mackenzie laughed, turning her head to look at Jenna. “We’re just going to hang out, right Jenna?” Jenna nodded happily and Mackenzie turned back to her brother with a raised eyebrow. “Our grandmother and Mrs. Padalecki are making dinner so I told them I wouldn’t mind playing with Jenna. If I wanted to rest, I would be doing so. Now go!”

Jensen sighed, shaking his head at his sister’s stubbornness. The moment they’d arrived back at the farm, their grandmother had had a lunch spread set up and Jenna had attached herself to Mackenzie’s side immediately. She'd had a million questions -- How did Mackenzie get her hair to be so curly, would her hair ever be that long, how long had it been since Mackenzie had seen her daddy, how many times had she come to the farm—and Mackenzie had answered every question with a laugh or a smile, barely touching her lunch because Jenna had kept her so busy talking.

When Jensen had tried to get Jenna away and distract her, Mackenzie had immediately shot him down and shooed him out of the dining room, just as she was doing now.

“I want to get to know my niece, Jensen! Don’t worry, she isn’t bothering me one bit.”

Jensen had given in and let Mackenzie balance her lunch and his daughter in whatever way she saw fit. Martha had just rolled her eyes at him, patted his cheek and told him that he worried way too much.

Four hours later, Jenna still hadn’t relinquished her hold on Mackenzie. The fifteen-year-old shrugged off Jensen’s worried glances and disappeared with Jenna out into the farmyard so she could be shown where all the animals lived.

“Well, don’t hesitate to tell her to go and play elsewhere if you do want to lie down. You’ve just traveled for two days,” Jensen said in parting, getting an eye roll from his sister, before he kissed Jenna’s head and disappeared into the barn to do the nightly milking for the cows.

“Your daddy worries too much,” Mackenzie laughed when he’d disappeared and pulled Jenna up onto her lap. Jenna had a picture book clutched in her hand and once she was settled, started flipping through the pages. “Does he always worry so much?”

“Yes!” Jenna answered, nodding her head very seriously. “Papa tells him that all of the time, too.”

“Oh does he?” Mackenzie nodded thoughtfully. “Does Papa help your Daddy with the cows?”

Jenna screwed up her face and shook her head. “No… Papa is afraid of the cows.”

Mackenzie paused, cocking her head to look down at Jenna who had stopped on a picture of Beauty and the Beast.

“What do you mean? Papa can’t be afraid of the cows… He’s had the cows for a very long time you know. Built this farm when my daddy was even younger than you!”

Jenna turned around on Mackenzie’s lap, her small face screwed up in confusion. “Grampy Al owned the farm before my daddy did… not Papa. Daddy always makes fun of him for being afraid of cows ‘cause he lives on a cow farm.”

“Jenna…” Mackenzie asked slowly, “who’s Papa?”

“My papa is Jared,” Jenna said, matter-of-factly, and in Mackenzie’s silence, she turned back to the picture book she had in her hands. “Can you read me this story? It’s my favorite but Daddy and Papa don’t do the voices right.”

“Oh, um,” Mackenzie stumbled for a moment, trying to wrap her head around the information Jenna had just given her, but quickly recovered. “Sure, I can do that…” She cleared her throat and leaned back with Jenna into the cushions of the couch and started to read.

“Alright, bed time!” Jensen clapped his hands together, looking over at Jenna who was wrapped up in a bathrobe Martha had made her, hair still damp from her bath.

“But Daddy!” Jenna whined, and Jensen was quick to give her an admonishing look.

“Nope, it’s already way past your bedtime. Aunt Mack will be here in the morning when you get up and you’ll have plenty of time to spend with her.”

With a small pout, Jenna nodded and slipped off of her aunt’s lap. She made her way across the room and reached for Jared’s hand, making Jensen freeze as he moved to push off the couch.

“Oh,” Jared’s voice was surprised, and he looked between Jenna and Jensen quickly, “am I reading to you tonight?”

“Yes, please!” Jenna answered, and Jared responded by picking her up. Jensen felt his heart rate increase and he watched the two of them leave the room, grateful he hadn’t heard Jenna call Jared ‘Papa’.

When he looked back over at his sister, Mackenzie’s green eyes had followed Jared and Jenna’s retreat and were still fixed on the doorway they’d disappeared through. Jensen’s heart skipped a beat.

“Mackenzie?” he asked softly, clearing his throat. She jumped slightly and turned to face him, a brilliant smile on her lips.

“Jenna is a darling.” She sighed happily and leaned back into the couch. “And I understand why you wanted to come back here all those years...” Her voice was suddenly soft, almost sad sounding, and Jensen reached across the couch for her hand.

“I’m really glad you decided to come, even if the situation wasn’t the best...” They fell into silence then, both lost in their own thoughts. When Mackenzie had called at the end of the summer, scared and sobbing, Jensen did the only thing he could think of and cleared a room for her. They hadn’t talked about it in detail—Mackenzie only saying that their father’s drinking had gotten worse and unbearable for her—and Jensen only hoped that his imagination was worse than her reality had been.

“I am too,” Mackenzie whispered after a second, leaning towards Jensen to rest her head on his shoulder. “Did you tell Josh I was here?”

“Yeah, I think he’s planning on coming for Christmas with the family if he can get away from work.” Mackenzie nodded her head and Jensen leaned down to rest his cheek against her hair. He closed his eyes and smiled, glad to be able to be with his sister again.

“I really like Jared,” she broke the silence once more, and Jensen felt himself stiffen. Mackenzie continued, his reaction seemingly unnoticed, “and he’s really good with Jenna. I’m glad she has him.”

“Yeah,” Jensen squeezed out, glad his voice sounded mostly normal, “he, ah... Everyone on the farm is really taken with her.”

“Well, I’m really glad she’s got such a great family.” Mackenzie lifted her head, giving him a small smile before pressing her lips against his cheek softly. “I am glad you’re happy too,” she whispered before pushing away from him. “I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.”

“Yeah, okay. Night Mac.” Jensen nodded after her and sat frozen on the couch until Jared returned to fetch him. Jared pulled him up and Jensen gave him a small smile, allowing himself to be lead up the stairs. When they reached the top, Jensen’s eyes flicked over to Mackenzie’s closed door, and he stared at it until they were safely behind their own bedroom door. He clicked the lock, something he never did, and turned towards their bed.

If Jared noticed, he didn’t say anything.

 

 

 

December 25th, 1964
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen exhaled slowly, watching his steamy breath as it puffed around him in the cold air. It had snowed again last night, a fine dusting covering the barn and the yard, the white crystals sparkling dully in the predawn light. Jensen smiled to himself as he let himself into the barn, rubbing his gloved hands together before he went to fetch the first cow.

Jared had gotten up with him, too. The two of them were determined to get most of the chores done early, before the rest of the two households woke up. Jared was tending to the rest of the animals, and once Jensen was finished with the milking, they would both be able to wake up Jenna and have her see what Saint Nick had brought her.

He smiled as he pictured the wooden toboggan that Jared had spent the past month making in the hay loft and knew that the fresh snow from last night made perfect sledding conditions. Jared came to find him after all his chores had been completed, though he stayed at the barn’s doorway, eyes trailing nervously over the cow Jensen was working on.

“Almost done.” He chuckled at the expression on Jared’s face and turned back to finish what he was doing. Jared made a soft noise, content to lean against the door frame and wait for Jensen to finish, even with the chill hanging in the air.

Jensen put the cows back in their pen, checked their food and water levels, and returned to the main part of the barn to see Jared putting the last of the milk into the storage tank except for the small metal container Jensen had set aside for Martha. Jensen smiled and closed the distance between them, pressing his lips against Jared’s and soaking in his warmth.

“Merry Christmas, Jensen,” Jared breathed against his lips before kissing him again. Jensen smiled and wrapped his arms around Jared, pulling him close. Both of them knew this might be the only moment they could have alone together until it was time to retire for bed that night.

“Love you,” Jensen whispered back, pulling back to kiss Jared’s cheek one last time before releasing him. “Let’s go wake Jenna up.”

“Alright,” Jared agreed and pushed open the barn door, leading them out into an onslaught of frigid wind. When they reached the house, Gerry, Sherri, and Megan were already making their way over towards the main house where Martha had begun preparing breakfast.

Mackenzie met them at the stairs with an excited Jenna bouncing in her arms. Josh stood behind her with his wife, Ella, holding their two-year-old son, Christopher, in her arms. Jensen and Jared nodded good morning to them all and Jenna nearly burst from excitement.

“Merry Christmas, Daddy!” Jenna exclaimed, reaching out her arms for Jensen’s neck the moment he was within reach. “Can I see what Santa brought me?”

“Merry Christmas, baby girl,” Jensen kissed her on the nose once before setting her down on the floor, “and yes! Let’s go have a look!”

Jenna bounded out of the kitchen, the Ackles’ siblings hot on her heels. Ella, Martha, and Sherri followed along with trays filled with mugs of hot coffee and all of the fixings. Jared came in behind them with his father and Albert, and everyone took seats around the Christmas tree. Jared sat beside Megan on the floor, his sister leaning into him, and Jensen smiled when Mackenzie mimicked the move and rested her head against his shoulder. Jenna was sitting on his lap, bouncing with just barely contained anticipation as she looked over the gifts adorning the skirt at the bottom of the tree.

Albert and Gerry took turns passing out the presents and even though this was now his third Christmas at the farm, it never ceased to amaze Jensen how comfortable and relaxed it was. Christmas back in Texas had never been like this. Josh had been the one to pass out the presents, and Jensen couldn’t remember the last time his father had made it into the living room to participate in even the smallest way.

Jenna was glowing by the time they’d finished, smiling at all of her gifts spread out before her. She’d gotten a new doll, complete with enough dresses to rival her own wardrobe, and she had it positioned beside a stuffed dog at the front of her new sled.

She was happily munching on a candy cane, her mouth stained bright red, as Mackenzie finished opening up her new Polaroid camera from their grandparents.

“Alright, I want pictures!” Mackenzie called out, loading the film box into the camera and pushing to her feet. She first took a picture of the Padalecki family, then Albert and Martha, next Josh and his family, and then turned to Jensen and Jenna. Jensen climbed up onto the couch and Jared shifted to move out of the picture. “Jenna, why don’t you sit between your daddy and your papa?” Mackenzie said, and the whole room froze.

“Okay!” Jenna agreed, oblivious, and quickly reached for Jared, beaming as she sat with one half of her body on each of their legs. Mackenzie reminded them to smile before snapping the picture.

 

Jensen thought his heart was going to beat right out of his chest.

Martha cleared her throat and stood, kissing Mackenzie’s cheek before asking Sherri and Ella to help her get the rest of breakfast set on the table. Jensen felt Jared slowly move away and slip from the room with his father, leaving just the remaining Ackles family in the living room.

“Jenna?” Jensen asked after a moment, giving his daughter a smile. “Why don’t you see if you can help Grammy set out the nice silverware?”

“Okay, Daddy!” Jenna placed her doll carefully on the sled, leaning down to give her a kiss before leaving the room, humming along to the Christmas song playing in her head. The room was silent and Jensen could feel both of his siblings’ eyes on him.

“How?” he asked after a moment, kicking at a discarded piece of wrapping paper with his socked foot.

“Jensen,” Mackenzie sighed and threw herself onto the couch beside him, looping their arms together, “Jenna told me the first day I was here.”

Jensen turned to her then, eyes wide. All this time he’d been worried... worried he would give something away if he looked at Jared for too long, worried about Jenna relying too much on the younger man for things that only her parent should be doing and Mackenzie figuring it out. Worrying that Jared would soon get fed up with being put on the back burner and almost hidden the moment they walked out of their bedroom –making sure to go to bed later than Mackenzie and get up before her— and Mack had already known.

Josh however, had not. “Wait... what?” he asked from the floor, shooting looks between his siblings and then over his shoulder to where their grandfather sat quietly watching them all. “I don’t understand. You can’t possibly mean...”

Mackenzie rolled her eyes and raised an eyebrow as she looked at Josh. Jensen knew the look on her face, had spent enough years with Mackenzie to know her looks and quirks, while Josh had spent most of her childhood working or away. He stared right back at her until it dawned on him what she meant and his eyes widened.

“Josh...” Jensen said slowly, watching as an array of emotions played out over his brother’s face.

“How long?” Josh demanded and Jensen flinched visibly at the tone in his brother’s voice. Josh’s verdant eyes snapped up, pinning Jensen to the spot and he felt Mackenzie stiffen at his side.

“Josh... it’s Christmas," she whispered, but Josh’s gaze was unwavering.

“I... does it matter?” Jensen answered, giving a small shrug. Josh blinked once, shaking his head slowly.

“I don’t- you have a child...” Josh trailed off, and a look of disgust crossed his face before he could hide it.

“And so do you, what does that have to do with anything?” Mackenzie fired at him and Jensen closed his eyes, not wanting to see the expression on Josh’s face as he turned to Mackenzie.

“I’m married and certainly not a fa-"

“Enough.” Albert’s voice was soft, but the tone was sharp and it silenced the room, save for the pounding of Jensen’s heart forcing blood through his veins. Josh tore his eyes away from Mackenzie and glared at their grandfather. “I will not have that horrible word used in my house,” he told Josh sternly, fixing him with just as hard of a stare. With a soft but commanding tone, Albert finished, “Who your brother chooses to love, and who chooses to love him and that little girl does not affect anyone in this room, other than Jensen himself and his little one. Your brother is the same man he was this morning and you seemed just fine with him then.”

“I don’t have a problem,” Josh replied, shrugging his shoulders, but Jensen didn’t need to see his brother’s face to know he was lying. His heart squeezed and he kept silent, watching as Josh pushed up from the floor. “I’m going to see if Ella needs me to take Christopher.”

When he had left, Mackenzie reached for Jensen’s hand. “I’m sorry... I didn’t think. I just wanted you to know that I knew and that I didn’t care.”

“It’s not your fault, Mac,” Jensen answered, hoping the smile he gave her was enough for her to drop it. She nodded once, leaning back against his shoulder and giving a small sigh.

“He’ll come around. Josh loves you,” she said, and Jensen couldn’t do anything except nod. He looked up and met Albert’s kind eyes and his fond, small smile. But deep in his heart Jensen knew that Mackenzie was wrong.

 

 

 

 

March 29th, 1965
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen paced the front porch, eyes trained towards the driveway.

“Jensen? Come on, come inside." Jared sighed from the screen door, watching as Jensen turned around again.

“She said she would be home by ten. It’s almost ten thirty!” Jensen looked at his watch quickly and then shot Jared a look. The younger man was smirking at him and Jensen scowled before turning away.

“Oh, I just can’t wait for Jenna to go out on a date,” Jared chuckled, and Jensen froze.

“You’re not even funny.” He shook his head, the look on his face only causing Jared to laugh harder. Jared slipped out of the door completely and moved behind Jensen, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him back against his chest.

“You’re over-reacting,” he whispered against Jensen’s ear before kissing it, smiling as a shiver went through Jensen’s body.

“I am not. It’s snowing out. They could get in an accident or—"

“They could be having fun...” Jared interjected, squeezing once before releasing him. “Jense, she’s been seeing this guy for over two months now.”

“And he never brings her home on time!” Jensen turned around, exasperated. “I mean, if the guy doesn’t even know how to tell time, then I really don’t know what she sees in him.”

“His bright blue eyes? The way he laughs? The leather jacket that is just—" Jared stopped mid-sentence and laughed when Jensen caught his eye. “Oh, come on, don’t give me that look.”

“You’re checking out my little sister’s boyfriend.” Jensen shook his head.

“He’s got nothing on you,” Jared whispered, pulling Jensen back in.

“Not going to cut it.” Jensen shook his head but let himself lean back into Jared’s arms. They stood, watching the snow slowly falling to the ground, until headlights appeared coming from down the road. Jensen straightened and pushed Jared back. “Come on!” He shoved past Jared and into the house, holding the door open for a laughing Jared.

“Mackenzie probably already knows that you’ve been waiting for her,” Jared laughed, trailing after Jensen into the living room. Jensen ignored him and reached for a book, opening it to the middle as he quickly curled up on the couch and pretended to read. Jared sank down beside him, propping his feet up onto the edge of the coffee table.

Jensen stared at the unread page, waiting for the sound of Lee Seymour’s Mustang doors –because of course, the guy had a Mustang—signaling that Mackenzie would be on her way inside. Jared’s elbow to his side had Jensen looking up to see Mackenzie pulling her boyfriend along with her into the house.

Jensen put the book down, eyes flicking between the two of them, suddenly nervous. Although they’d met the young man a few times, Martha having insisted that Mackenzie invite him over for dinner, he’d never before come inside after dropping Mackenzie off after one of their dates.

Instantly, Jensen remembered being dragged inside to the Sheppard house with Rosemary to announce their pregnancy to her parents and his heart stopped. He tensed and felt Jared shoot him a look, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from his little sister who was shifting nervously in the doorway. Lee cleared his throat and Jensen slid his eyes over and up to his face.

“Jensen... Mr. Ackles, Sir...” Jensen heard Jared stifle a laugh at the name and he fought the urge to glare at him. Instead, he pushed off of the couch and crossed the room to stand before Lee and Mackenzie, his arms crossed, and what he hoped was an imposing look on his face.

“Jensen,” Mackenzie sighed, knowing exactly what her older brother was doing. He ignored her, eyes trained on Lee’s face—the sweat that was breaking out over the boy’s upper lip, the way his eyes kept darting nervously to Jensen’s.

“I... I want to ask you for Mackenzie’s hand... in marriage, I mean…” Jensen felt his eyes widen and heard the sharp intake of breath from Jared behind him. Lee pressed on quickly, barely giving Jensen a second to register his words. “Mackenzie and I haven’t been together long, I know that, but I have fallen madly in love with this girl. She’s stolen my heart.”

Jensen glanced over at Mackenzie who was smiling broadly, staring at Lee’s face while he talked.

“I’ve just joined the military,” the boy continued and Jensen’s eyes snapped back to his. “I’m now part of the 76th Infantry Division in the Army Reserves. I’ll be starting my training soon and then I plan on going to law school. I want the same things Mackenzie does… a family to call my own, a wife and kids to provide for and love. And I can give her all that and more when I finish law school.

“You’re her older brother, sir... but Mackenzie has told me enough to know that your blessing and acceptance would mean the world to her, much more than it would coming from your father. You’re the most important man in her life. So, I am asking you for your blessing.”

Jensen stared at Lee, standing almost at attention as he stared back at Jensen, hopeful eyes nearly pleading, waiting in the awkward silence. Beside him Mackenzie was glaring. Jensen was at a loss for what words to say.

He glanced at Mackenzie and met her eyes. “I love him, Jen.”

What he wanted to ask her was, why? Why would she choose someone who willingly signs their life away to the Army? Someone who will get deployed and come back cold, calloused and uncaring like their father. They were barely old enough to know what they wanted—Mackenzie had just turned sixteen, the boy beside her just out of high school, and they’d already talked about children and marriage? Jensen swallowed the lump in his throat and felt Jared stir from behind him, fighting back the urge to lean into the warmth of his body.

Mackenzie looked so beautiful, hopeful as she waited for her brother’s response. Jensen knew that no matter what he said, even if he threw Lee out right now, it wouldn’t change the way Mackenzie felt about the man, only the way she would feel about Jensen. How could he explain to her the fear he had about Mackenzie ending up like their mother without having her scoff and roll her eyes? She was young, and in love, and nothing Jensen could say would change that. Life and its reality would be the one to change it.

Jensen promised himself right then and there that he would be the one to pick up the pieces—any of them—and make sure that Mackenzie always had a safe place to call home. Out loud he promised them something else. “I will give you my blessing, because I want Mackenzie happy more than anything. But, I will ensure that happiness, no matter what the cost.”

A moment of confusion passed over Lee’s face before he smiled and reached for Jensen’s hand, giving him a firm handshake before Mackenzie squealed and wrapped her arms around Jensen’s neck. Jensen gave her a hug back and then excused himself, taking the stairs two at a time to his room. Jared followed nearly fifteen minutes later, and the moment the door was closed, Jensen was on him.

“Jensen,” Jared started as Jensen worked at the buttons of his clothes, freeing him of them before shoving him back onto their bed. Jared bounced once against the mattress, gasping out loud, before Jensen was over him.

“Shut up,” Jensen whispered, claiming Jared’s mouth with his own, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Jared nodded once and Jensen reached for the light on the nightstand, plunging the room into darkness.

They moved together, touching and kissing in the dark. Jared’s hands pressed and pulled against him, rolling them over until he could slip down Jensen’s body, his mouth and teeth leaving a trail as he went. Jensen let his eyes fall closed, his hands knotting into Jared’s hair and he realized that he and Jared would never have that. Jensen would never be able to ask his father, or Gerry, for Jared’s hand in marriage—they were never going to be married.

As Jared slipped between his legs, filling him completely and his name on Jared’s lips, Jensen’s last thought, before he pushed everything else besides Jared away, was that at least hidden in the dark, they could have this, they could have each other. Mackenzie deserved to shine in the light.  

Chapter Text

 

 

June 18th, 1965
Somerset, Vermont

Mackenzie looked beautiful.

Her long, blonde hair was piled high upon her head, a few stray curls slipping free to frame her face. She wore simple make-up, accentuating her eyes and high cheekbones. The beautiful, hand-made dress she wore was a pristine white, made of French lace and silk, crafted lovingly by Sherri and Martha who’d made sure the dress was just as stunning as Mackenzie herself.

 

 

 



Jensen smiled, forcing himself to stay focused on his little sister’s smile and the way her eyes glistened in the church’s candlelight and not at the looming presence at his side.

Alan stood stiff beside him, hands clasped at his front, watching his youngest child with half-lidded eyes. Jensen could smell the alcohol wafting off of him, knew if he reached over he would be able to feel the silver flask tucked carefully away in the pocket of his suit jacket.

Even though he should have expected it, Jensen was still shocked the morning he came back from the barn with his grandfather, Gerry, and Jared to see his parents getting out of a car with their bags, ready to spend the week before the wedding at the farm and possibly the week after. Alan had clasped Jensen’s shoulder in greeting, pulling his youngest son against his chest, and completely ignored his own father and the Padaleckis. Then he had steered Jensen inside the house and into the living room to pour them a drink.

It was funny – it had been five years since Jensen had seen, or even spoken to, his father, and in a matter of moments, Jensen felt like he was back to being the same beat-down twenty-year-old who had left Austin, not knowing who he was or what the hell he was doing. Within minutes, Alan had him back to that, a knot in his throat as he numbly nodded his head along with whatever it was his father was talking about.

Donna had taken to Gerry and Jared quickly after the introductions, then allowed herself to be shown around the farmhouse and welcomed by Sherri and Martha. When Jenna came bounding down the stairs, hazel eyes sparkling in excitement from hearing the unfamiliar voices, she threw herself into her dad’s arms and let herself be lifted from the ground. Martha stepped forward, giving a small smile as she introduced Alan and Donna as Jenna’s grandparents, her daddy’s parents. A moment of confusion passed Jenna’s face as she took in the newcomers, and Jensen’s heart stopped and he tensed when Alan stopped mid sentence.

“Hi, Jenna,” Donna said softly, giving the child a tentative smile. Jenna took only a second more before she outstretched her arms and moved from Jensen’s arms into Donna’s. Jensen watched as his mother’s face broke into a huge smile and she hugged her back; Alan watched for a moment before turning back and carrying on the one-sided conversation. When Jensen met Jared’s eyes, he exhaled slowly and Jared gave him a knowing smile before pulling Donna, with Jenna, out of the hallway and into the dining room where they would be ‘more comfortable talking’.

The week had passed by surprisingly well, even after Josh and his family had arrived mid-week, but that didn’t stop Jensen from feeling on edge the entire time. Nor did it stop him from asking Jared, in not so many words, to stay at his own parents’ house in his old room until Jensen’s family left. Jared had simply said he understood and didn’t argue, only shrugged and said he’d figured as much.

Jensen wondered if he was the only one unable to sleep at night.

Somehow, Jensen had managed to keep Jenna busy by giving her the responsibility of egg collecting in the mornings before breakfast and by the time she was finished, Mackenzie would be downstairs finalizing wedding plans with the rest of the women as they all cooked and Jenna allowed herself to get swallowed up into the storm. Jensen didn’t have to worry about her around Alan, and he didn’t have to worry about her accidentally letting it slip out that she called Jared ‘Papa’.

Josh, it seemed, had no desire to associate with either Alan or Jensen, preferring to spend his time out in the fields with their grandfather or walking with his own son around the farmyard. Being ignored by his brother hurt somewhat, but deep down Jensen had to admit it was also a bit of a relief.

Now as they stood in the church, Jensen still felt ill-at-ease. All week long he had waited for some sort of attack either by Alan or Josh. His usual chores and duties at the farm had been a great buffer since he’d only really seen them at mealtimes. Thankfully there were too many others present then for them to act up. He only hoped that today a sense of propriety would keep them both on a short leash for Mackenzie’s special day.

Alan shifted beside him, clearing his throat and Jensen let his eyes dart over, meeting the cool, verdant ones staring back at him. “Sister is all grown up now,” Alan whispered and Jensen nodded slowly, wondering what exactly it was Alan was getting at. “Two out of three ain’t that bad.”

Jensen forced himself not to react and turned his attention back to the priest who was currently addressing the families and guests, bringing everyone together for this beautiful occasion. Alan fell silent too, seemingly listening, but Jensen knew better than to feel grateful.

“At least you have a kid... Did that part right, even if it was half-assed,” Alan hissed after a moment and Jensen cleared his throat softly, searching the crowd for Jared. He hadn’t seen much of him in the week since his parents had shown up, Alan monopolizing any of Jensen’s free time while drinking and talking over the radio with Albert. The Padaleckis wisely chose to spend most of their leisure time at their own house.

Farm days meant hard work and the nights were usually full of peace and comfort. Jensen ached for a normal night of sitting on the porch with Gerry playing guitar, Sherri and Megan singing along, and Albert smoking his old pipe. This past week had been odd, and Jensen took any excuse he could find to go to bed as soon as he had Jenna down for the night, even if that meant spending the following three hours tossing and turning, uncomfortable in the too cold and too big bed.

Now as Jensen waited for more insults to be dished out, Josh shifted uncomfortably and Jensen was glad when Alan’s eyes raked over to his eldest son before settling back on the ceremony and falling silent.

“I want to take a picture with my Papa!” The ceremony was finished, Lee and Mackenzie being trailed by their family down the aisle and out into the beautiful summer sun. The air was warm, humid, but there was a light breeze blowing across the church’s courtyard. Jenna’s words had been completely innocent, and yet it had Jensen’s stomach trying to force its way from his body. Thankfully, Lee was quick on the game and he burst forward.

“Good idea! But I think we should have the whole ‘farm family’ in there, what do you think darling?” He placed his hand on the small of Mackenzie’s back, raising an eyebrow as he met her eyes.

“Oh, yes… yes! I think that would be wonderful. What do you think, Jensen?” She turned, beaming at him, but Jensen could read the fear in her too-wide eyes. He nodded once, not trusting himself to speak, and allowed the photographer to push him and Jenna along with his grandparents and the Padaleckis forward. They crowded together, using the church as their backdrop, and smiled as the flashbulbs flared and the cameras clicked away.

“Okay, let’s take some with the actual bride now,” Jensen cleared his throat and was grateful when the rest of their families, Lee’s included, allowed themselves to be shuffled around for various pictures without any more conversation between them.

Finally, Jensen’s role in the picture taking was over and he was able to slip away from the group and down the driveway. He exhaled slowly, leaning against his grandfather’s pickup truck, and felt himself relax as soon as he sensed Jared’s presence beside him.

“This will be us one day.” Jared’s voice was soft, and Jensen knew that no one else could hear him, but it didn’t stop him from looking around them in alarm before settling his gaze on Jared’s sad face. So much for feeling relaxed. “It will be.”

“Jay...” Jensen whispered back, shaking his head. “Please… Don’t...”

“Jensen.” Jared sighed softly, brushing their knuckles together, the contact sending a shiver up Jensen’s spine before Jared pulled his hand back and crossed his arms over his chest. He tossed his head, hair falling out of his eyes. “I just know it.”

“It’s never going to happen, Jared,” Jensen whispered back and looked up to meet the hurt expression in Jared’s eyes. “Jared… Baby, please, you know that I would—”

“I have yet to be wrong,” Jared cut him off and gave him a small smile. Jensen felt the corner of his own lips twitch and Jared nodded once before turning around and leaving him standing there alone.

Jensen watched him go. Jared found Mackenzie quickly and swept her into his arms, both of them laughing. The soft summer breeze blew across the courtyard, lifting Jared’s hair from his face. His eyes seemed to reflect the sunlight and from here, Jensen couldn’t tell if they were more blue or more brown today. He looked happy, carefree, and beautiful.

Jensen never wanted anything more than he did in that moment than to be able to call Jared his husband.

A hand clasped his shoulder, causing him to jump, and the sour smell of alcohol hit him before the sound of his father’s voice met his ears. “Ready to go, son?” Alan asked, squeezing his fingers into the muscles of Jensen’s shoulder. “Told your grandfather it would just be us heading back. Setting up the party and all. They’ll go with the Padalecki car.”

Jensen cleared his throat and nodded once, his stomach twisting. He hadn’t heard Alan approaching… He studied his father’s face carefully before allowing himself to be steered toward the truck.

The moment Jensen got behind the wheel and started the truck, Alan had already withdrawn his flask and was sucking it down greedily, the overwhelming stench of the cheap booze washing over Jensen’s senses and elevating his sense of dread. He bit his lower lip hard and the sharp pain was a welcomed distraction as he pulled away from the church and started on their ride home.

Alan flicked on the radio, tapping his fingers against his knee to the song playing. Jensen glanced over, seeing Alan chewing on his own bottom lip in between sips of his flask and it made bile rise to Jensen’s throat.

“So…” Alan broke his silence, twisting the cap onto his flask before making a show of tucking it away. “Seems like you’ve done a nice job with things… farm’s up and running and all...”

Jensen glanced at him, waiting. When Alan looked at him expectantly, a wave of fear settled in Jensen’s stomach. He nodded once, mumbled his thanks, and Alan tipped his head and turned towards the window. The silence was stifling, choking, and Jensen forced himself to take a deep breath. Maybe…

“Too bad, really,” Alan added, finally, and Jensen chuckled nervously.

“What’s too bad?” Jensen sighed, preparing himself for whatever verbal attack his father was going to make. In his mind he’d already framed his father’s probable insults. He didn’t have a wife, only one kid while Alan had two by the time he was Jensen’s age. How he’s ‘only a dairy farmer’ and there are plenty of those in Wisconsin, no one needed them in New England. Maybe the farm wasn’t big enough, Jensen had too much staff with the Padalecki family, he was too young, too inexperienced to handle God only knows what. He raised an eyebrow and turned his head, meeting his father’s steely gaze.

“It’s too bad it’s run by a faggot.”

Jensen gasped aloud at the sudden, direct slur, he knew Alan heard the sharp intake of breath as well. He gripped the steering wheel hard, knuckles turning white and he snapped his head forward, not wanting to see the look of triumph on Alan’s face. They drove the rest of the way in silence, though it was nothing even close to being comfortable. Every time Alan shifted in the seat, Jensen tensed further, his stomach flipped. By the time he pulled into the gates of the farm, he was sweating, hands shaking. He stopped the truck in its usual spot by the barn and waited—sure that Alan was going to say so much more.

Part of Jensen wanted to ask him how, how he knew? As much as Josh wasn’t… comfortable about the revelation in the past and had made a point of avoiding both Jared and Jensen during his stay at the farm this week, Jensen still couldn’t believe that Josh would’ve told their father. Mackenzie wouldn’t have, he couldn’t see the Padaleckis or his grandparents either which only meant… Perhaps he had overheard Jared near the church.

The sound of the truck door opening had Jensen flinching but Alan had only let himself out and was making his way towards the house. Jensen exhaled slowly and turned his gaze towards the road, silently praying that the rest of them got there quickly. With a sigh, Jensen opened his door and climbed out, immediately finding himself back against the truck, Alan’s hands fisted in his shirt, pinning him in place.

“Dirty little faggot!” Alan hissed viciously, small droplets of spit splattering onto Jensen’s face. His heart was beating wildly in his chest, his arms pinned between Alan’s crushing body weight and the side of the truck, and he swallowed hard, meeting Alan’s cold hateful glare. “I let you live under my roof, fed you and clothed you. I know for Goddamn sure I taught you better than this.”

“If I remember correctly, Father, the only thing you taught me was how to find the bottom of a bottle,” Jensen dared to whisper back. Then his shoulder blades were banging painfully hard into the frame as Alan viciously jerked him forward and slammed him back again.

“A dirty cocksucker like you has no right to say anything to me. I always knew there was something wrong with you.” Jensen stared at his father’s face, the look of disgust and hatred displayed so perfectly there. “And now you’re trying to bring down my parents? It wasn’t enough shaming me and your family? You have to bring them and the farm they worked so hard for down as well?”

“No!” Jensen protested, shaking his head but Alan’s hand was lightning quick and grabbed Jensen’s face, thumb and forefinger pinching painfully into his jaw. He forced Jensen’s face over towards the direction of the farm before snapping his head back towards him and pressing his forearm against Jensen’s throat.

“It wasn’t enough that you damned yourself with your filthy thoughts and actions? You had to bring that depravity into my parents’ house? You had to turn that innocent boy and warp his mind? Do his parents know what you do to him, Jensen? Do his parents know you’re dragging their son into the depths of hell with you?”

Jensen stayed silent. He could feel his blood pounding through his veins beneath Alan’s arm shoved roughly against his neck. The stench of alcohol was nauseating, the pressure against his chest and throat suffocating, but nothing compared to the distress he felt when he heard the sound of another car pulling up.

Jared was out of the car in an instant, Jensen’s name on his lips as he tore towards them, Gerry and Albert hot on his heels. Something flashed in Alan’s eyes and he pressed harder against Jensen’s throat with his arm.

“Oh, I see,” he whispered against Jensen’s ear and Jensen’s eyes flicked over Alan’s shoulder to meet Jared’s wide, scared eyes. He shook his head gently, watching as Jared skidded to a stop just feet from where Alan and Jensen were. “Is he the reason you’re going to hell? Is he the reason you’re corrupt and useless?” Alan flicked his eyes over to Jared before settling back on Jensen’s. “Do you let him fuck you, Jensen? Do you put out for him like a good girl?”

“Alan!” Donna’s voice was loud and shrill as it cut across the yard, but Alan stayed unmoving.

“I asked you a question, Jenny,” Alan hissed.

“Alan, let go of the boy!” Albert’s strident voice was suddenly beside them but Jensen couldn’t tear his eyes away from his father’s—cold and unyielding, full of hate.

“He’s not a ‘boy’, he’s not even a man,” Alan snarled, moving to slam Jensen back against the truck.

Jared was there instantly, grabbing Alan’s shoulder to pull him back, which was the wrong move. Gasping Jensen tried to suck in air as the pressure on his neck was suddenly released but then found himself unable to breathe as he watched Alan’s elbow connect with Jared’s face.

“Fuck!” Jared grunted, dropping completely out of Jensen’s line of sight. Jensen scrambled forward, reaching for Alan who was immediately moving toward Jared’s falling form, fist raised high in the air.

“Alan!”

“Dad!”

“Jensen! Don’t!”

People around them were yelling, but all Jensen could see was a dazed Jared sitting on the ground, blood pouring through his fingers, and Alan ready to strike him again. He moved quickly, without thinking, and spun Alan around, his fist connecting hard with flesh and bone knocking Alan to the ground. Jensen knelt over him, but quickly Alan’s fingers grabbed Jensen’s wrists, gripping them tightly.

“I will not have some filthy faggot touching me!” Alan yelled bitterly, breathing hard, his chest rising and falling erratically between Jensen’s knees. His nails were digging deeply into Jensen’s skin, and Jensen knew it must hurt, though he was too enraged and distracted to feel it.

Beside him, Jared was looking at him over his trembling, bloodied fingers and Sherri and Megan knelt behind him, watching with wide eyes. Jensen glanced around in time to see his grandmother retreating into the house with a small figure in her arms and he was glad Jenna was no longer a witness. Mackenzie was openly sobbing beside their mother who was staring back at Jensen, her eyes wide in terror. Josh had shifted, blocking his family’s view of the scene before him. The look on his older brother’s face almost matched the disgust Jensen had seen on Alan’s – only this time, he wasn’t sure if it was only aimed at him.

He looked back down and stared at his father’s face, his left cheekbone and eye already swollen and turning a dark red from when Jensen had hit him. Shame rolled through him—they were causing a scene when this day was supposed to be about Mackenzie. He’d struck his father, had him now pinned to the ground. Swallowing hard to try to tamp his anger down further, the young farmer loosed a weary sigh.

Slowly, Jensen slid off of him, yanking his hands free of his father’s grip as he pushed to his feet.

Behind him, Gerry clasped his shoulder, squeezing gently before pushing him back further to where his grandfather stood, glaring disapprovingly at his drunken and angry son. As his grandson moved to stand beside him, Albert laid a gentle, but supportive, hand on the back of the young man’s neck.

“I don’t fucking believe this!” Alan seethed as he struggled up off the ground. Jensen warily watched Alan’s distance from Jared, but stayed still. “You all knew?! You all knew what kind of abomination you had living under your roof? You allowed this to happen?” Alan was fuming, spinning his arms out wide as he looked around the group. “You let two… fudge packers play house? This farm is ruined, you’ve all let it be ruined by not condemning these two… two...”

“You need to calm down!” Gerry’s voice was low and calm sounding, as he stepped forward, arms outstretched. By the look in his eyes, however, Jensen could tell Gerry was anything but.

“And you think I’d listen to you? A queer lover?” Alan spat at Gerry’s feet.

“What I am…? Is a far better father than you could ever dream to be,” Gerry replied, still calm and Jensen saw the moment the words really registered in Alan’s alcohol-hazed mind, the moment he saw red.

“Gerry!” Sherri screamed this time, beating Jensen to the punch before he could even open his mouth to call out a warning. But Gerry was too quick for the attack. He dodged Alan’s drunken blow and returned the favor, the crack of a meaty fist hitting flesh seemed to echo in Jensen’s brain. Alan continued to advance until Gerry hit him once again and Alan fell back onto the dirt, lip split and bloodied.

 

 

 

“This may not be ‘my farm’, but this sure as hell is my home and these are my sons that you’re insulting.” Gerry stood over Alan, chest heaving as he stared down at the man, curled up on the ground. “What these boys are? What they are is fine young men, who have done nothing but work their asses off to make this farm and the families that live on it successful in every way they could. These boys have found something that you seem to be severely lacking. Now, I don’t claim to understand it, I don’t claim to know how they feel. But I can understand and respect the courage it takes to go through life knowing you can never be your true self.

“Your son, Mr. Ackles, has been raising a beautiful little girl all on his own. He’s managed to successfully take over this property and give his grandparents the respect and consideration they deserve in property decisions. He’s turning a profit, expanding business, and living his life. Any father would be damned proud of this boy right here.

“I know, from a father’s perspective that if this kind of life is what makes my son happy? He couldn’t have picked a better damn partner if he tried. Now… Mrs. Ackles? I suggest you head inside and collect your and your husband’s things. Unless, of course, you’re planning on supporting your child…?” Gerry never shifted his eyes from Alan’s face, though Alan’s bloodshot, green eyes shot up and pinned on Donna immediately.

Jensen was shaking, anger and adrenaline surging through him.

Slowly, Donna tore her eyes away from her husband and found Jensen.

He swallowed hard as their eyes locked. The look on his mother’s face was one he never thought he would see again. She looked… sad, almost hurt at the situation. For a brief moment, Jensen felt hope fluttering in his chest as he stared at his mother. He let his hand fall to his side and jumped as a large hand brushed against his, immediately twisting their fingers together. He didn’t need to look to know that Jared was now at his side.

Donna’s eyes trailed down to their joined hands and the look she had immediately disappeared. She nodded in resignation once, then pushed away from the fencing. As she walked past the small group, she refused to meet Jensen’s eyes as she passed. Jensen heard a soft sob and he jumped when Jared squeezed his hand, making him realize that the sob had come from him.

Alan shifted on the ground, pushing himself to a sitting position. He shook his head, glaring between Jared and Jensen, disgust clear on his face, but he stayed silent. Jensen stared back at him, time seemingly stood still and nothing moved except for Alan’s flickering eyes and Jared’s thumb rubbing small, soothing circles on the back of his lover’s hand.

It seemed like hours they stood there silently frozen, out in the yard with cars pulling up for the promised wedding reception. Luckily, Martha was quick on the draw, and she began directing people to go inside the house, taking their hats and coats, if needed. Mackenzie had quietly slipped away, taking Josh’s wife and son with her. Jensen was surprised when he realized that Josh was still there.

Donna reappeared with their suitcases and took her place by Alan’s side, eyes downcast and staring at the ground. Alan stood up the rest of the way, spitting once in Jensen’s direction before spinning away, ripping at Donna’s arm as he went.

“Josh!” he barked and Josh cleared his throat. Jensen looked up and met his eyes.

“I… I’m… just going to take them to the train...” Jensen nodded, watching as Josh started after their parents. “I… I’ll be back.”

“Come on,” Jared said softly, tugging on Jensen’s hand. He turned then, breath catching in his throat as he finally looked at Jared’s face. His nose was still bleeding, blood trickling down over his lips in thin rivulets, the area around his nose already bruising a deep, purplish color.

The Padaleckis and Albert stood behind them, pushing them forward towards the Padalecki house. Once the door was shut, Megan went to the kitchen, returning with a metal bowl full of ice and a towel. She twisted the towel around some of the ice to make a pack while Sherri washed the blood from Jared’s face.

The rest of them watched silently.

“It’s broken…” Sherri said after a moment, fingers gently grazing over Jared’s nose.

“Does it make me look like a bad boy?” Jared asked, giving his mother a huge grin, but for those present the blood painted over his mouth and teeth quickly swallowed up any humor his comment had intended. He cleared his throat and fell silent again, letting his mother work and accepting the ice gratefully from his younger sister.

“Are you okay?” Gerry asked after a moment and Jensen was shocked when all eyes turned instead to him, waiting for his answer.

“Oh… I…” he stumbled, touching his neck briefly before nodding. “Yeah, he didn’t hit me…”

“That’s not what I meant,” Gerry replied softly and Jensen looked over to meet his sad smile. “Are you okay?”

Jensen swallowed hard against the sudden lump in his throat. Officially, he’d lost both of his parents today. Who knew what the rest of the extended family would say once they realized what had been going on just before they’d arrived at the farm. Even if Mackenzie, Martha, and Ella were able to deflect the questions and comments here at the party, Jensen knew better than to think Alan wouldn’t be telling everyone they knew.

Josh had said he was coming back, but Jensen knew that their brotherly relationship had already been damaged during the Christmas visit and today certainly wouldn’t be what repaired it—Jensen didn’t think anything ever could. He had a daughter who was inside the main house and probably upset at seeing her papa being hit and her dad punching her grandfather. He had a sister whose very special day he’d managed to ruin. He didn’t know why any of them bothered with him… Alan was right in some ways—Jensen was nothing good.

Gerry stayed looking at him, his eyes holding nothing but concern and it made Jensen’s head hurt. Gerry had called him his son, had stuck up for him as well as his relationship with Jared. When Jared’s family brought him to the house, they’d brought Jensen too. He looked around the room, all of them looking back at him, no anger or blame or fear in their eyes.

Jensen had lost his parents today, maybe even a brother, some aunts and uncles. But what Jensen finally realized was that what he’d gained was so much more.

“Yeah,” he whispered, nodding his head. “I’m going to be just fine.”  

Chapter Text

 

July 25th, 1965
Somerset, Vermont


Jensen exhaled slowly, raising his arm to wipe the sweat from his forehead and then lifting his hand to shield his eyes against the sun. Today was hot, the sun brutal as it beat down on them. Even sitting atop the tractor going at a nice clip across the field, Jensen felt like his entire body was melting. He sighed, cutting the engine and leaning back against the hot, black leather seat, forcing himself to ignore the burn on his bare skin as he looked out over the fields he’d just plowed. He bit the inside of his cheek and leaned forward, resting his head against the steering wheel.

“You okay?” Jared’s voice made him jump, and he looked down to see Jared looking up at him with concern. He had a bandanna tied around his head, keeping his hair back from his face, and his shirt was soaked through with sweat.

“Yeah,” Jensen nodded, slipping off of the tractor and accepting the bandanna Jared pulled out of his back pocket for him. He wiped down his face and then reached up to grab his t-shirt, pulling it over his head before giving Jared a quick kiss.

“You looked like you were lost in thought up there…”

“I just…” Jensen stopped and shrugged, looking past the front of the tractor to the field he’d just spent the last two hours plowing and getting ready to plant the next cycle of late summer crops.

“Thinking about what your grandfather said last night?” Jared said slowly and Jensen turned to him, a small smile on his lips.

“That’s why I keep you around,” Jensen answered, patting Jared’s arm before walking back towards the barn.

“I know you, Jense,” Jared whispered, moving after him and grabbing his arm to stop him. “Talk to me… please?”

“I don’t know what there is to say… The numbers kind of speak for themselves, don’t they?” Jensen refused to look at Jared and focused his eyes on the ground instead. “We’re losing money, people are more than happy to head to the local grocery store instead of their local farm stand. It’s costing more to ship the milk we’re producing than it takes to…” he stopped again and shook his head. “Don’t think my grandparents thought I would have sunk the place in under five years…”

“Don’t talk like that,” Jared’s voice was sharp and Jensen found himself fighting back the urge to roll his eyes. Jared just… didn’t understand. “Jensen, it’s just a small bump in the road, a bad year… But we have people who come out to the farm specifically for the fruits and produce we have grown right here. Loyal customers who want your produce and not something shipped in, banged up and halfway past ripe by the time they get it in their hands.”

“Loyal customers who are only loyal because they grew up with my grandparents and already struggling to make ends meet, never mind the fact that I can’t accept their food stamps and—” Jensen clamped his mouth shut again, finally looking up to meet Jared’s eyes. “I don’t know what to do, Jay. I can’t fuck this up… I can’t lose this farm.”

“Jensen, you’re not going to,” Jared shook his head, reaching for Jensen’s hand and taking it in his own. “I hardly think a few bad months is reason to start panicking…”

“My father still hasn’t made a move,” Jensen whispered and he saw the understanding cross over Jared’s face.

“That’s what you’re worried about?” Jared asked, shaking his head. He pulled on Jensen’s hand, pulling him against his chest before wrapping his arms around his back. “Jensen, he’s all the way in Texas…”

“You don’t know him!” Jensen argued, shaking his head. He returned the hug quickly before pushing away, glancing over Jared’s shoulder to the front of the farm and the driveway. “We’re down in profits this season, perfect time for my father to come in and start something.”

“Like what, Jensen?” Jared scoffed and Jensen threw him a glance before continuing onto the barn. “What the hell do you think he’s going to do from across the country? Tell everyone in Texas that his son is a fag? Who cares, Jensen! Who cares what he says or what he does! He’s not a part of your life anymore!”

“Just… never mind, Jared.”

“Don’t do that, Jensen,” Jared snapped, reaching for Jensen’s arm again. Jensen twisted out of his reach and spun back to him, suddenly angry that Jared wasn't getting it.

“He grew up here, Jared. He still has friends here! He could very easily tell anyone he went to school with or grew up with that ‘yes, a faggot runs this farm’. And do you know what that would do? I could lose this farm, Jared. I could fail at the one job I’ve ever been given and I can’t… I…” he shook his head, kicking angrily at the ground with the toe of his boot and sending a small rock flying through the air. “They could take Jenna from me.”

“You’re her father, her biological father, Jensen. No one is going to take her from you!”

“You don’t know that, Jared. You don’t know. You think that just because we’ve been lucky, it will stay that way?” he asked, shaking his head. “For the most part, our families have been accepting, have understood or at least decided to look the other way to the fact that we’re in a relationship. And I’m glad, I’m glad that I get to do this with you. But, they’re the minority, Jared. And I’m ready for our luck to run out.”

“Your sister is here,” Jared said and Jensen turned to him, confused. Jared simply shook his head, and pointed towards the driveway where Lee and Mackenzie were getting out of their car. “We’ll talk more about this later.”

Jensen sighed and watched as Jared stalked off, heading to the barn after throwing a quick wave to Mackenzie and Lee. Jensen sighed, rubbing a hand over his face before heading towards the driveway to meet his visitors. He had a smile at the ready but quickly pulled it back when he saw the grim expression on their faces.

“Mack?” Jensen called, walking faster until he was at his sister’s side and pulling her hands into his own. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

“Lee is being deployed,” she whispered, voice breaking as thick tears slipped down her cheeks. “He’s being deployed, Jensen.”

Jensen felt his stomach clench and he looked up to meet Lee’s eyes. Lee nodded once before looking away and down at his feet.

“But…” Jensen felt like he was grasping at straws. Mackenzie sobbed once and threw herself into his arms, clutching the back of his shirt as she sobbed into his shoulder, seemingly not caring that his shoulder was slick with sweat. “Marriage deferment?”

“That’s only for consignment…” Lee sighed, shaking his head. “I’m already in the Reserves. We found out yesterday that our platoon was being shipped out. I’ll be getting my orders tomorrow, most likely.”

Jensen felt Mackenzie’s grip tighten and he stared at Lee, not knowing how to respond. There was nothing for him to say. They’d all heard the newscasts saying the number of Reservists and National Guard soldiers being deployed would be increased, as well as the number of air strikes against North Vietnam, but Jensen didn’t think it would happen so quickly. And he never thought that it would actually affect him personally.

“My sergeant is thinking we’ll be doing support missions in the South… so…” Lee trailed off, his eyes raking over Mackenzie’s body and he sighed again.

“Let’s head inside,” Jensen suggested after the silence became tangible. He could almost taste it, sour on his tongue, and he steered Mackenzie towards the house without waiting for a response. Once Mackenzie had calmed down, she left Jensen and Lee alone in the living room to search for Jenna.

“This wasn’t my intention,” Lee said after a moment and Jensen released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding before turning to look at him. “Three years left on my contract… I didn’t think I’d end up going.” He laughed, the sound was mirthless, short and clipped.

Jensen didn’t know what to say. He nodded once, and folded his hands in his lap, sinking back further into the couch. Lee cleared his throat but seemed to get the message and stayed silent as well. From the kitchen, they could hear Jenna babbling excitedly to her aunt about something funny the chickens did that morning and the song that her papa had made up to put her to bed last night.

They sat in silence in the living room until Jared and Albert came to join them, and then they talked about the weather, the crops, and Mackenzie. Anything and everything except for the Army and Lee’s upcoming deployment.

Dinner was served and eaten quickly, Jensen barely tasting anything that had been put in front of him before he excused himself and slipped back outside to tend to the animals for the night. When he was finished, Mackenzie and Lee’s car was still in the driveway and Jensen felt dread forming in the pit of his stomach at the thought of going back inside, getting Jenna ready for bed, and being made to talk about the dreaded deployment again.

“Jensen!” Jared called his name and he turned, grateful for the distraction. “Come on,” Jared held out his hand and Jensen took it, twisting their fingers together and letting Jared pull them across the road and onto the wooded path. A sense of calm flooded Jensen the moment they approached the oak tree and Jensen turned, sliding his hands over Jared’s cheeks to curl around the back of his head and pull him in for a kiss.

They sat against the tree, kissing softly until the sun had fully retreated behind the tree line. Finally, Jared spoke as he wrapped his arms around Jensen’s stomach and pulled him back against his chest, tucking his chin against Jensen’s shoulder so they were cheek to cheek.

“He’s not going to come back like your father, Jensen.” Jensen inhaled sharply, stiffening in Jared’s arms. “Mackenzie is worried for her husband going to Vietnam, but you’re worried for Mackenzie.”

“She deserves better than that,” Jensen replied and Jared nodded, kissing his cheek softly.

“He’s not your father. This is Lee and he loves Mackenzie as much as I love you. That’s not going to change.”

Jensen closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Their conversations usually steered far from Jensen’s family, save for Mackenzie herself, though it never failed to surprise him just how perceptive Jared really was, how quickly he was to hit the nail on the head –every single time when he did speak of the family dynamics.

“Trust me,” Jared whispered against his neck and Jensen nodded, letting himself sink back into the warmth and security that Jared never failed to provide. Jared tightened his hold, humming softly until the chill of the night was too much to ignore.

 

 

 

November 21st, 1965
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Jared?” Jensen called out, feet crunching in the frozen grass as he made his way to the barn. He’d finished the morning chores already and eaten breakfast with Jenna quickly before the sun even had a chance to completely rise. Jared hadn’t appeared at breakfast, in fact, Jensen hadn’t seen him since he’d gotten out of bed that morning.

“I’m in here.”

Jensen made his way through the main part of the barn to the back corner where they’d created a sort of work space. He almost laughed – for someone who was still terrified of the cows, even at twenty-one, the fact that Jared had adopted this space as his own?

Jared was bent over a large block of wood, slowly dragging his pencil along it. Jensen came up beside him, leaning around his arm to look at the pattern he was designing.

“It’s a crib for Mackenzie…” Jared said as he finished the last swirl on the end and laid the pencil down. To the left of Jared stood a half made crib, and it already looked beautiful.

“She’s going to love it, Jay.” Jensen smiled, squeezing Jared’s hip and then leaning up to meet his lips for a kiss. “You didn’t have to do this…”

“Yeah, I know.” Jared smiled back, but it was sad and didn’t meet his eyes. Jensen watched him for a moment before reaching for his hands and turning him around.

“What is it?”

“Nothing… just busy…” Jared shook his head, trying to pull away.

“Jared…” Jensen stopped him, reaching up with one hand to cup his cheek, forcing Jared to meet his eyes. “You have months to build this crib… so what has you out here in the cold, skipping breakfast and alone?”

“Nothing… I just want to get this done, show Mackenzie…” Jensen nodded once, squeezing Jared’s hands. He waited, knowing that the other man was seconds away from cracking. He could see it in the way Jared’s eyes flicked away from his, never stopping long enough to actually meet his gaze and the way his tongue was flicking over his lower lip repeatedly. “I just…” Jared sighed, ripping back one of his hands to run it back through his hair. “I’m never going to have this, you know? Megan and Mom were talking last night while they were cleaning up for dinner about how Megan would be the next to get married, to have babies and…” He stopped again and shook his head, turning away to brace himself on the workbench, head dropping down between his extended arms.

“No one ever mentions it, but they all know… Jeff got married, he has two kids already, and next is Megan because I’m never going to have that. I’m never going to get married or have kids of my own… And I can see how that hurts my mom… Almost every time I mention Jenna or we start talking about Jeff’s kids, she gets this sad look and doesn’t want to talk any more. Because she knows, we all know, that I’m never…”

“Jared,” Jensen reached for him again, wrapping his arms around his waist and pushing himself up against Jared’s back. Jared stayed leaning on one arm, his second arm coming up and around to meet Jensen’s hand. Jensen held him, his face flush between Jared’s quaking shoulders.

They didn’t speak, they didn’t need to. Jensen just held onto Jared until his breathing calmed and his grip loosened around Jensen’s arm. Slowly, Jared relaxed and Jensen turned him around, pressing him back against the workbench.

“You have Jenna,” he said softly, watching the emotions flicker through Jared’s eyes as he stared down at him. “You’re her father, just as much as I am… I know that she’s not yours yours but—"

Jared cut him off, sealing his lips over Jensen’s, both hands tugging his face forward.

“I love you,” Jared breathed against his mouth and Jensen smiled, kissing him softly.

“I love you, too.”

 

 

 

 

March 3rd, 1966
Dover, Vermont

“Fuck,” Jensen swore, hitting the steering wheel with the flat of his palm.

“Jensen, calm down.” Jared tossed him a look before turning his attention back to the road. They were sitting in Gerry’s Mercury, heading across Somerset to Mount Snow and into the next town. Jensen had been prepared, he swore he’d had everything ready that he was going to need, and he was planning on heading to the next town over to be with Mackenzie at the beginning of next week. Because he wanted to avoid this, the traffic of people crowding around for one of the last good ski weekends of the season before the snow started to melt.

Mackenzie’s child, apparently, had other plans. Jensen had almost dropped the phone when he answered it, Mackenzie calmly telling him that she was in labor and if he could please come and pick her up to bring her to the hospital, that would be great. Not for the first time, Jensen cursed Mackenzie’s stubborn decision to stay in the house Lee purchased for them at the base of the mountain. Although she was close to her in-laws – both of them responsible for running the ski lodge—they were both busy, and therefore, not available for Mackenzie when she needed them.

Jensen almost called them himself and demanded one of them take Mackenzie to the hospital so she didn’t have to wait the twenty minutes it would take him to get there but Jared stopped him, reminding him that Mackenzie would be more than a little upset if he interrupted their work day when she was perfectly fine.

Finally, Jensen drove up the gravel driveway, cursing as he stepped out and his foot hit a slick patch. Wasn’t anyone sanding or salting the driveway? Mackenzie could have slipped! Mackenzie met them at the door with a smile, but her skin was clammy and pale. Jensen panicked.

“Shit,” he whispered, reaching for Mackenzie’s arm and leading her down the steps. He walked slowly, pointing out patches on the ground that looked slippery until she snapped at him.

“Jensen! You’re worse than Lee would ever be! Just let me get into the goddamn car!” Jensen bit his lip, swallowing back his reply and let Mackenzie lead instead. Jared had shifted into the driver’s seat and was laughing behind his hand. Jensen glared at him and climbed into the backseat with Mackenzie.

“Okay, do you know where you’re going?” Jensen asked, leaning forward.

“Jensen, if you’re going to be a backseat driver, I’m going to make you drive,” Jared warned him, backing the car back onto the street.

“I can’t… what if Mackenzie needs me?”

Beside him, Mackenzie snorted and then gave a small groan, successfully snapping Jensen’s attention back to her and not on Jared or the road. Jensen hadn’t been there when Jenna was born, had only gotten the call after everything was done, and part of him was glad. Every few minutes, Mackenzie would have a flash of pain cross over her face and she would clench her teeth and tightly squeeze Jensen’s hand before settling back into the seat and trying to calm her breathing.

“Do you think we’ll get to the hospital in time?” he asked, voice breaking as Mackenzie squeezed his hand again. He was surprised when she let out a full bellied laugh.

“Oh, Jensen… this is just the beginning,” she assured him with an amused smile.

He stared at her and sat in silence, save for the reassuring word or two he muttered to his sister, until they got to the hospital.

Jared parked the Mercury and went into the building first to get a wheelchair, meeting Jensen and Mackenzie in the foyer, a nurse at his side. She immediately took over Jensen’s spot, talking to Mackenzie about timing her contractions and the level of her pain. Jensen and Jared followed after her but were stopped just before they got to the room.

“We have a waiting room just down this hall, you’ll see it on the left,” the nurse smiled at them and Jensen looked alarmed between Jared and his sister.

“But… she’s going to be alone?” he asked, reaching for Mackenzie’s shoulder.

“Are you the father?” the nurse looked between them.

Mackenzie shook her head slowly. “No, he’s deployed right now.”

Mackenzie received a soft pat to her cheek and then the nurse’s attention was back on Jensen. “I’m sorry, sir… We will let you know as soon as labor is completed.”

She gave him a brilliant smile and wheeled Mackenzie into the next room, shutting the door behind them. Jared touched Jensen’s arm, lightly enough to get his attention, before he started off down the hall to where the waiting area was. Jensen sighed, hesitated a moment more, before he followed after Jared.

 

 

 

March 4th, 1966
Dover, Vermont

 

Kaleb Ross came into the world screaming, a healthy baby boy and Mackenzie never looked more beautiful. Somehow, Mackenzie convinced them to let both Jared and Jensen into the room, claiming that they were her only support system as of right now. She may have insinuated that they were both her brothers—but Jensen wasn’t going to complain.

He held Kaleb in his arms, watching as the infant slept, and felt his heart already melting. He thought back to what it was like to hold Jenna when she was this small, so fragile and innocent. As clichéd as it sounded, Jensen could picture it so clearly in his mind, as if were only yesterday and instead of six and half years ago.

Jared’s arms shook when Mackenzie slipped Kaleb into them, and she smiled as she ran a hand through Jared’s hair, telling him that it was going to be okay and she trusted him not to drop her child.

Jensen saw the moment Jared’s own heart melted, and something inside of him broke when he realized that Jared would never really have anything more than this moment, of holding other people’s children close to his heart but never feeling that surge of emotion, both dread and joy, that the child in his arms was his.

Jared looked up at him, his eyes swimming, and he smiled, flashing his dimples. “He’s perfect, Mac,” he whispered, rocking Kaleb gently in his arms. He turned from Jensen and met Mackenzie’s own wet, green eyes. “Just perfect…”

By the time they left that night, promising that Albert and Martha would be coming to visit the next day and that Jensen would be there to collect Mackenzie and Kaleb when they were all set to go home, Jared was vibrating with energy.

“God, he was so tiny, Jensen!” he burst out the moment they were back on the road, holding his arms out before him, hands cupped as if he were actually still holding Kaleb in them.

“Yeah, he was,” Jensen said softly, trying to gauge Jared’s reaction. He wasn’t sure if Jared was seconds away from breaking down about not having this for himself or if he was just—

“I’m so happy, Jensen,” he beamed, reaching over and squeezing Jensen’s leg. “I’m so happy for Mackenzie and Lee, so happy they get to have this. Can you imagine what Jenna is going to be like when she finally gets to meet her new cousin?” He laughed again, the sound making Jensen smile and release the tension he was feeling. He looked over at Jared who was smiling out the window.

It never failed to astound him just how amazing Jared himself was. Over the past few months, Jared had made it clear that he wanted kids, had even gone so far as poking around –using Megan’s help occasionally—about the adoption process. Not that anyone would ever allow a single man to adopt, much less a gay couple to do so. But right now, Jensen could tell there wasn’t a single trace of jealousy or animosity in Jared. He was truly happy for Mackenzie, he looked at her as he would his own sister, and her son was already a part of Jared’s family.

“I love you,” Jensen whispered and Jared turned his head to give him a small smile before he leaned over and kissed the side of Jensen’s neck softly.

 

 

 

 

May 4th, 1967
Austin, Texas

 

Jensen shifted uncomfortably, the Texan sun near unbearable as it beat down on him in his fitted, black suit.

He should be home, working the fields, getting them ready to sow the corn and the first round of summer vegetables. Mackenzie stood beside him, her hand small inside of his, Kaleb held up on her opposite hip. Jensen went through the list of things he’d left Jared in charge of.

He knew that both Jared and Gerry, and of course his grandfather, knew what they were doing on the farm. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t been living there year in and year out, helping Albert and then Jensen keep the farm running.

Jared had done maintenance last week on the tractor to make sure the old girl was up and running and ready to go. Gerry and Albert had spent the last month repairing the parts of the fence that had been damaged in last winter’s ice storms. Jensen had finalized an agreement with the local grocery store to section off an area to sell Ackles’ Farm produce and dairy, and things were looking up, things were good. Jensen squeezed Mackenzie’s hand once, running over the list again in his mind.

Plow the fields. Sow the corn. Plant turnips and carrots and cabbages. Start the green beans and peas in the barn to be transplanted closer to June. Fit the tractor with a ‘roll-guard’.

He let himself think about the Fischer Farm, the only other farm as big as the Ackles’ Farm in Southern Vermont, and how they’d decided to sell off all their livestock and equipment, keeping only their horses and land. Jensen had acquired a good amount from them and was secretly grateful they’d folded first. He ran over the list again. Plow the fields. Sow the corn. Plant turnips and carr—

Mackenzie squeezed his hand hard and he looked up, breathing catching in his throat. He tried to focus on the words being said, the sound of the priest a dull buzzing in his head, like a bee had gotten caught and was spinning around and around in his skull. A soft sob broke from his sister’s lips, the sound squeezing his heart, and he wished more than anything that Jared was there with him. Jared always knew what to say to make things better… would have Mackenzie and Jensen both laughing, or at least smiling.

He exhaled slowly, trying to focus back on his list. Turnips and carrots and cabbages…

Alan was suddenly beside him, his body stiff and eyes cold. Jensen felt himself freeze, his heart beating wildly in his chest, and he stared forward, eyes unmoving as he watched the coffin lower into the ground.

He waited, waited for Alan to start something, to say something about his lifestyle while they were surrounded by their family and friends. He focused on that… the fear churning in his stomach at his father’s steely gaze and the acrid scent of gin and vomit that surrounded the man in a thick haze.

When Alan left, he breathed easier, and focused back on his list.

Cabbages… and carrots… green beans and peas and… He closed his eyes.

Mackenzie slipped her hand from his, leaning over to kiss his cheek before she left him standing alone in the grass. When he opened his eyes he saw that Josh was waiting for him, hands shoved deep in his pockets and watching Jensen carefully. Everyone else was gone.

Slowly, Jensen walked forward, taking his spot beside his brother and they stood shoulder to shoulder, looking down at the marble headstone before them.

Jensen wanted to focus on his list. He wanted to worry about the possibility of it not getting completed because he wasn’t there. He wanted to focus on the fear and anger he held for his father. He wanted to focus on anything except for what was staring back at him, etched in stone.

Josh cleared his throat once and Jensen looked over at him.

“I didn’t know,” Josh whispered, voice breaking, and Jensen only nodded. He hadn’t either, neither had Mackenzie. No one had known until after the fact, when they were being told about the service and the funeral and given less than a week to make plans to get down to Texas. Josh’s voice was thick, and though he didn’t look at Jensen, Jensen was aware that Josh’s full attention was on him. “I can’t… I don’t want this to… This can’t be us, Jense. I don’t want to find out like this, after the fact, if something’s happened to you. I… I may hate what you are…” he whispered, shaking his head, and Jensen’s eyes burned. “I do… I hate it because it’s not…

“You’re putting yourself at risk, you’re choosing the hard path, Jensen. And I hate that I can’t fix it for you or make it easier. I hate that you chose this… but… but… I don’t hate you. I know I haven’t been… Mackenzie’s given me more than one earful about how I’ve been treating you about all this…” He stopped again and waved at the grave before them. “I didn’t know, Jensen. I didn’t know that my own mother was sick and dying… I can’t have that happen to you, too.

“I miss my brother... I miss having someone to talk to, someone that has my back and I don’t need to watch myself around. You were my best friend, Jensen…” The anguish in his older brother’s voice made Jensen’s heart ache. “And after you told me what you were… and at Mackenzie’s wedding… I just can’t understand why you would choose that… that kind of life for your daughter… for yourself, you know? Why you would choose to… I don’t know…” Josh’s voice broke off unevenly as he choked back a quiet sob.

“Josh,” Jensen reached for Josh’s arm, gripping his bicep tightly. “I can’t change who I am, or who I love. I’m sorry… but I just can’t. I just wish you could understand.” His red-ringed eyes pleaded with his brother, wishing he knew the words to make Josh see Jared as he did.

 

 

“I know, Jense… I’ll try…” Josh whispered hesitantly, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t… know what to say here, Jensen. I just want you to be happy… and I want you to be my brother again... That’s what I really want... I don’t want to be told that… that some god-awful thing happened to you and end up standing at your funeral and not knowing who the hell you were anymore.”

“I’m not pushing you away, Josh. This… this was Dad being spiteful… angry at all of us for just…” Jensen stopped, shaking his head. “Nothing like that is going to happen to us, okay? We are family… you, me, and Mackenzie. We are family and we’ll have each other’s backs, okay? Always.”

Josh turned to him, glancing up to meet his younger brother’s eyes and nodded slowly. “I’m sorry, Jensen.”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Jensen replied, squeezing Josh’s arm once more before letting it drop. They stood together in silence, looking at everything but one another or Donna’s fresh grave before them. Their mother was gone, and Jensen had a multitude of emotions running through him that had continued to circle about him ever since he’d gotten the phone call to come to Texas.

He leaned into Josh carefully, tentatively laying his head against his older brother’s shoulder like he used to when they were kids, and when Josh made no attempt to pull away he focused on that. Focused on the fact, that even if it was only for right now, he had his big brother back.

Chapter Text

 

January 1st, 1968
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen woke up slowly, blinking the sleep from his eyes as he tried to focus on what had woken him up. He listened carefully for any sound from Jenna’s room, worried his baby girl had had a nightmare. Outside was just as quiet as the house. Jensen felt a shiver trail up his body and he looked down, seeing Jared trailing his fingers lightly across his stomach and chest. Jensen smiled.

“Hey,” he breathed out, relaxing against Jared’s touch and meeting his lips in a soft kiss. “Couldn’t sleep?”

“I wanted to be the first,” Jared said against his lips, fingers pressing harder into Jensen’s side and pulling him closer now that Jensen was awake, “to wish you Happy New Year.”

Jensen chuckled, kissing Jared softly, fighting back the looming presence of sleep as he focused on Jared’s hands playing out over his body. Jared shifted, his knee slipping between Jensen’s, large hands moving around Jensen’s back and nearly lifting him completely off the bed to move him closer into the center of the mattress. Jensen’s heart skipped, heat pooling in his stomach, just like every time Jared took control and manhandled him.

“Jared,” he whispered, fully awake now as Jared pressed down against him, lips and teeth working their way from Jensen’s mouth down his jaw and then to the side of his throat. Jared’s hands ran down Jensen’s sides and over his thighs, digging into the muscle and Jensen let his legs fall open more, inviting Jared in.

"Wanted to be the first thing you thought of this year... The first touch, sound, kiss, and memory," he whispered against Jensen's skin, breath wet and hot against Jensen's chest.

"Closet romantic," Jensen teased, and then moaned as Jared's teeth and tongue brought one of his nipples into a tight bud.

Jensen closed his eyes and focused on the way Jared worked his body. His partner’s mouth worked its magic against his skin, his slicked fingers twisting inside, every warm breath across his flesh setting his very blood on fire. When Jared finally pushed in, bringing them together as one, there were no words to describe the emotions and thoughts that were rolling around in Jensen's head. He found Jared's lips, his fingernails digging into Jared's shoulders as they rocked together.

Every moan and gasp that slipped from his lips, Jared swallowed greedily and pumped his hips faster, gripped Jensen's thighs tighter. Jensen was like a spring, coiled so tightly it almost hurt. Just one more touch of Jared's hand brushing across Jensen's swollen flesh trapped between their sweat-slicked bodies, and Jensen was done.

He came with a soft shout, his entire body clenching tightly around Jared, pulling him in and holding him there. Jared groaned Jensen's name, his head falling to Jensen's shoulder as he clung to Jensen's body and spilled his own release deep inside. Together, they lay panting and spent, still wrapped around each other and holding on tightly.

Finally, Jared shifted his weight so he was lying pressed up against Jensen’s side, his arm and leg still holding Jensen close.

“I love you, so much,” Jared whispered against his shoulder, pressing his lips against Jensen’s skin. Even though it was dark, Jensen could feel the weight of Jared’s gaze on him, and he turned his head, finding Jared’s lips easily. He could feel Jared smiling against his mouth, felt as Jared drew away to get a towel to clean them up, and opened his arms for Jared to crawl back into. Jared settled quickly, his head resting against Jensen’s chest, and soon his breath had evened out and he was back to sleep.

Jensen smiled, his heart heavy in his chest as he let his fingers trail down Jared’s arm slowly. Years later and he still couldn’t believe that he had this… had Jared. He swallowed hard, surprising himself at the well of emotions that hit him suddenly, and he had to force himself to calm down.

It hadn’t been easy – Jared had put up with more than his fair share of crap from Jensen. Between his hot and cold moods, questioning their relationship on more than one occasion, and the threat that always seemed to hover over them, not once had Jared ever broken his resolve of the fact that he loved Jensen.

Even after that first night, when he’d thought he had lost Jared forever and felt like his entire world was breaking apart, he’d spent countless nights and mornings milking alone, wondering what the hell it was that he was doing, asking himself why he was doing this to himself and to Jenna. He’d even thought about trying to force Jared away, not that he would ever admit that out loud, and he was glad he’d never gotten past the fleeting thought stage.

Jensen had managed a few feeble attempts to distance Jared, more times than he’d ever pulled him close, and Jared had taken it. He’d spent countless nights, sitting at the base of the oak tree, wondering aloud to Jared if he should have just married Rosemary and given Jenna a mother, had a ‘real’ family. He questioned Jared on his own knowledge about being gay, pushed him to see if it was true, knowing the other man had never actually been with a woman before. Jared had taken everything Jensen had thrown at him and smiled and loved him all the more in spite of it.

Jensen had no idea how he deserved it or why Jared stayed… but as his heart beat faster against his rib cage, he was mighty glad that he had. He couldn’t imagine this farm, his life, Jenna’s life without Jared in it.

Jensen shifted his body, pulling Jared closer to his chest. The taller man groaned in his sleep, his leg slipping so that it fell between Jensen’s knees instead of over his hip, but he stayed fast asleep. Even though he’d tried to talk himself out of it, Jensen loved Jared with everything he had.

He tightened his grip on Jared, kissing his forehead and letting his eyes fall closed again. “I love you, Jared,” he whispered into the night and let sleep overtake him once more.

 

 

 

 

July 20th, 1968
Dover, Vermont

 

“Papa?” Jenna came around the corner, carrying a stuffed rabbit that Martha had made, tied up with a large, blue ribbon.

Jared looked up from where he was leaning over the barnyard water pump and pushed his wet hair back from his face. “You ready to go?” he asked, wiping the rest of the dirt from his face with his bandanna before shoving it into his back pocket. “Did your daddy come back yet?”

“Yeah, he’s getting a basket from Grammy to bring to Aunt Mackenzie’s.” Jenna nodded and reached out for Jared’s hand. He looked down at the eight-year-old’s hand dwarfed within his own and shook his head. Although her hand was so much smaller, he couldn’t believe how much Jenna had grown over the summer.

“Well, let me go inside and change out of these clothes and then we’ll head over, okay?” Jenna nodded her agreement and skipped along beside Jared as they walked back to the house from the barn. Jared left Jenna on the porch, smiling as he watched her settle herself onto the porch swing, setting the stuffed rabbit beside her.

She’d just recently decided that she was too old for some of her toys and they’d carefully sorted out the shelves in her room so that she could give her outgrown toys and books to her cousins. Jensen had nearly had a heart attack that night, stressing out about how big his little girl was getting. Jared had laughed and told him not to worry, that both he and Jeff had gone through the same thing when Megan was born, and in no way did it mean Jenna was suddenly done playing or being a kid.

“She’s eight, Jense… not eighteen.”

“Oh God,” Jensen moaned, letting his head fall into his hands, “She’s practically halfway there…”

Jared chuckled and shook his head, reaching over to squeeze Jensen’s knee. Jensen smiled, despite the disturbing thought of his little girl not being so little anymore, and allowed himself to focus on the heat radiating from Jared’s large hand against his leg.

“Did she even get rid of the duck?” he asked after a moment and the look Jared gave him back was answer enough. He closed his eyes and groaned, causing Jared to chuckle again and move his hand from Jensen’s leg to rest his entire arm over Jensen’s shoulders and pull him in closer.

“She got rid of the stuffed duck, yes… but she still has all of the wooden toys your grandfather and I made for her. Plus, she kept the cat… I think it’s still shoved underneath her pillow.”

Jensen looked up at that, a small smile on his lips. “She did?” Jared nodded his confirmation and Jensen suddenly felt lighter. The cat was the first stuffed animal he had ever gotten for her when they’d arrived at the farm. The thought of walking into her room and not seeing it…

“I’m building another chest, actually. I think she’s kept some toys to go in there so when Mackenzie and the kids are here, they’ve got toys to play with.”

“You’re building a chest and a bunk bed?” Jensen raised an eyebrow and Jared nodded, then shrugged his shoulders.

“Have to keep busy, otherwise I get myself in trouble.”

“That’s for sure,” Jensen agreed, and Jared shoved him hard, almost knocking him off of the step they were sitting on, before grabbing him and pulling him in for a kiss.

 

Jenna sat between them, holding the basket and the stuffed rabbit on her lap. Jensen had flicked on the radio and Johnny Cash was crooning to them, Jensen humming along and tapping his fingers against the steering wheel as he drove.

“Do you think the new baby will like me?” Jenna asked suddenly. Her feet, which she had been kicking in time with the music, were suddenly still and she looked between her two dads. “I mean, will he play with me like Kaleb does?”

“Well, I think he’s a bit small yet to be playing like you do with Kaleb,” Jensen glanced down at her, a smile on his lips. “Don’t you remember when Kaleb was first born and how small he was?”

Jenna shrugged and twisted the ear of the stuffed rabbit between her fingers.

“Jenna… why don’t you think your new cousin is going to want to play with you?” Jared leaned forward, catching Jenna’s eyes with his own. She shrugged again and leaned into her papa’s side.

“At school, Tommy Jones was saying how girls are icky and that boys shouldn’t want to play with girls… I was hoping Auntie Mack was going to have a little girl so I could have someone to play with.”

“Well, I think Tommy Jones is missing out if he doesn’t want to play with you,” Jared answered, squeezing her shoulder. “Tommy Jones probably just has a crush.”

The look Jensen threw him then was dangerous. “I think boys are the ones with cooties…” Jensen mumbled quickly and Jenna looked at him with her eyes wide.

“There really are such things as cooties?”

“No,” Jared interrupted Jensen as he opened his mouth to answer, “Daddy is just kidding.” Jenna looked between them before settling her gaze back up at Jared. “I think your cousins are going to want to play with you whenever you are there, Jenna. They’re going to think you’re the best big cousin ever, and it’s not going to matter if you’re a boy or a girl.”

“Okay, Papa.” Jenna seemed placated with the answer and went back to kicking her feet in time with the music.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, mostly, Jenna and Jared singing along together to the radio and Jensen smiling every time he glanced towards his little family. They arrived at Mackenzie’s and Jenna was immediately scrambling across Jared’s lap and bursting from the truck, running towards the house.

“Hey guys!” Mackenzie opened the door for them, a smile on her face and a newborn in her arms. She laughed as Jenna wrapped herself around Mackenzie’s legs and Lee appeared behind them, taking the baby from his wife’s arms so she was able to hug Jared and Jensen when they came up to the door.

“Hey, Sis,” Jensen whispered against Mackenzie’s hair, kissing her cheek before moving back to switch spots with Jared. Jensen slipped into the house, knuckles brushing against the back of Jared’s hand once they were inside with the door closed.

“Where’s Kaleb?” Jenna asked, tugging on the apron Mackenzie was wearing.

“Oh! He’s in the living room coloring, I think,” Mackenzie smiled down at her and ruffled the top of her hair. “Why don’t you go and play with him while I finish up lunch and get your daddies something to drink?”

“Okay!” Jenna smiled and happily skipped off to the living room, calling Kaleb’s name as she went.

“Coffee?” Mackenzie drew their attention back to her and both men nodded, following her through the house. Lee was leaning up against the counter and smiled at them when they entered.

“Hey,” he greeted and shook both Jensen and Jared’s hands. “This is Cameron.”

Jared was the first to hold the newborn, his long arms looking almost awkward as they slipped around the small bundle and cradled the newborn against his chest. Jensen’s breath caught in his throat when Jared turned towards him, looking up to meet his eyes with a smile on his face before he returned his attention back to Cameron.

“He’s beautiful, Mac,” Jensen said softly, accepting the mug of coffee from his sister and raising it to his lips, making sure he could still watch Jared and his new nephew over the rim. He felt something inside of him clench as he watched Jared talking softly to the boy, rocking him gently, and Lee leaning over Jared’s shoulder and laughing along with him.

“He’s a natural,” Mackenzie said softly, causing Jensen to jump. “Can I steal you for a minute? I need to talk to you about something.”

“Course… everything alright?” Jensen asked, placing his mug down and giving Jared a small nod to keep an eye on Jenna. He followed Mackenzie up the stairs and into the large master bedroom. Jensen watched as she went to the large closet, pulling the large oak doors open before disappearing inside.

“I just had it…” He could hear her talking to herself as she shuffled things around and he had to bite back a laugh. Motherhood and maturity had done nothing to curb his sister’s lack of organizational skills. He moved towards the large queen-sized bed and leaned against the foot-board, cocking his head to the side to watch Mackenzie pushing around a few boxes from her kneeling position on the floor.

“What are you looking for?” he finally asked with a laugh when she stood up, a frustrated sigh leaving her lips.

“I… just sit,” she answered instead, still distracted as she turned towards one of the large oak nightstands. “Oh! Here!”

Jensen rolled his eyes and took a seat at the end of the bed, watching as Mackenzie sunk down beside him, a stapled stack of papers folded in her hands.

“Mackenzie…” Jensen asked, looking from the papers into his sister’s bright green eyes, suddenly nervous about what she was going to say.

“Okay,” she said as she set the papers on her lap and reached for Jensen’s hands, taking them in her own and squeezing them reassuringly. “So, Lee and I had this conversation after our wedding, but then there was the deployment and I was busy trying to figure out what the heck I was doing being a mom and we never really got around to it."

“What are you talking about?”

“What happened at our wedding solidified something for me, something I already knew.” She squeezed Jensen’s hands again, a sad look crossing her face. “Alan is not a man that I want around my children, Jensen. He was never a good father, for either one of us, and although I can’t change that… I can control the future for my children.”

“Mac…” Jensen shook his head, confused. “Of course you can! I highly doubt he’s planning on making a return appearance after what happened. At least, not physically, so I—”

“I know,” Mackenzie cut him off and gave him a soft smile. “Lee’s parents are so very different from our parents… I feel very blessed to have such great in-laws. But they’re still not…” Mackenzie stopped and bit her lower lip, sighing softly.

“Mac… I have no idea what you’re talking about here.”

“Lee doesn’t have any siblings, and his parents are nice, respectable people but they’re not ‘raising children’ kind of people. Lee had a good life growing up, but the majority of that was spent with the hotel staff on the mountain and the kids and families that came to ski here. You and Jared are the godparents to our children for one specific reason… Lee and I both know that no matter what happens – to us or our children—that you will love them unconditionally, always.”

“Of course we would,” Jensen nodded his head, squeezing Mackenzie’s hands, “they’re our nephews.”

“Lee’s unit has been talking… playing with the idea that they’ll be deployed again and Lee says they’re just talking but… but it’s always a possibility.” Jensen nodded slowly, waiting for his sister to continue. “So… we talked to our lawyer and had these drawn up…”

Mackenzie grabbed the papers again, unfolding them and flattening them on her lap before she handed them over to Jensen.

“Mackenzie!” Jensen’s eyes widened as he scanned the first page, then turned towards her quickly. “You’re way too young to be thinking of—”

“Oh come off of it, Jensen. Like you don’t have a written will?” She cocked an eyebrow and smirked back at him.

“Yeah, well, I own a business and a lot of property, Mackenzie!” Mackenzie gave him a look and he sighed, letting his eyes fall back on the paper. “So… why are you showing me this?” he asked after a moment. “Do you need me to put it in the firebox at the farmhouse?”

“No, Jensen… this is going to be your copy. If something happens to Lee and I… I do not want my kids going to Alan, Jensen. I can’t have that for them. I want them to go to you and Jared, I want them to grow up on the farm and with people who love them if Lee and I can’t.”

“Mackenzie,” Jensen dropped the papers to the bed and opened his arms for his sister to fall into, “nothing is going to happen to you…”

“I know, Jensen… I know… but if something does, I need to know. I need to know they’ll be okay…” Mackenzie’s voice broke and a jolt went through Jensen when he realized she was now crying against his chest and he tightened his arms in response.

“Mac… come on… Of course! Of course, we would take care of them, no questions asked…”

“I don’t want there to be any question from anyone else, Jense. You and Jared, that’s who we want if it comes to that. Just you and Jared... nobody else.”

“Okay,” he whispered, rocking her gently until she finally calmed down. When she pulled back, she folded the papers again and shoved them into his hands.

“Promise me.”

“I promise,” Jensen returned, giving her a smile. Mackenzie let out a shaky breath and wiped her eyes with the back of her hands before giving a small laugh.

“God, I must be a mess,” she laughed, shaking her head.

“Well… maybe just a bit over emotional.” Jensen smirked at her and she smacked his arm, laughing again.

“Shut up. I just had a baby. At least this was something worth crying over… last night I cried because the green beans I made were just… perfect. You know?” Jensen looked at her again and shook his head.

“I’m just going to agree with you,” Jensen laughed and Mackenzie responded by playfully shoving him off the end of the bed.

“I take it back. You’re awful. Only Jared can get my kids.”

“Nothing is going to happen,” Jensen said softly, returning to Mackenzie’s side and pulling her up into a hug.

“Well… Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.”

Jensen nodded his agreement and then cocked his head towards the door. “Ready for lunch? Or do you need my shoulder to cry on again? The sandwiches might be too perfect.”

“I hate you.” Mackenzie rolled her eyes and left the room, leaving Jensen chuckling as he followed her down the stairs.

 

 

 

December 1, 1969
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen felt like he was going to be sick.

Like the rug beneath his feet had just been yanked free and he was falling with nothing below him to soften the impact.

Like his very reality had always been a joke and somewhere, someone was laughing at him.

“Jensen…” Jared’s voice was low, shaking, but Jensen couldn’t look at him. He didn’t want to see the look in his eyes, he didn’t want to see the look in any of their eyes. The silence around them was suffocating and Jensen let out a short, dry laugh as the relief that Jenna was upstairs and fast asleep washed over him.

“I have to be up early,” he said as he pushed himself up from his chair and quickly moved around his grandparents’ and the Padaleckis’ legs, ignoring both Megan and Mackenzie reaching for him as he twisted away from their outstretched hands. He didn’t need to look to know that Jared was still sitting at the base of the chair, his arm still thrown up on the arm rest and watching as Jensen walked away. Jensen checked on Jenna, kissing her forehead and smiling as the child shifted in her sleep, completely unaware of anything else outside of her dreams.

“Jensen,” Jared’s whisper made him tense and he exhaled softly before finally turning around and drawing his gaze up to lock onto Jared’s eyes. “Please, come here.”

Jensen shook his head but moved forward anyway. He allowed Jared to lead him towards their room and shut the door behind them. Then Jared stripped them both and pulled Jensen into bed, drawing the covers over them and wrapping his warm arms around Jensen’s lightly quaking body.

“This doesn’t mean anything…” Jared whispered and Jensen scoffed, laughing bitterly, eyes burning and Jared tightened his arms.

“We both know we’re not going to be that lucky, Jared.”

“There are going to be… hundreds, maybe even thousands of men who will have to report, Jensen. They’re not going to take all of us, they’re not going to take me.”

“You really think that, Jared?” Jensen turned over, eyes darting over Jared’s face. He was glad it was dark in the room that Jared hadn’t decided to have this conversation with the lights on. “You honestly think that they’re not going to choose a healthy, single, middle-class man?” Jensen had just barely been able to contain his emotions all day, dreading what he knew in his gut was going to happen. Jared had tried to placate him, told him he was overreacting and worrying for nothing.

He hadn’t even been surprised when the number had been called, the collective gasp that rocked the room before it fell into silence –save for the remaining numbers being called out—had hit him harder than the number had. He met Jared’s eyes head on and watched as Jared tore his eyes away, felt his shoulders starting to shake.

“Can we just not?” Jared asked softly, fingers digging almost desperately into Jensen’s hips as Jared clung to him. “Can we not worry about something that hasn’t happened yet? Can we just…” Jensen knew that Jared was scared—the younger man hadn’t actually believed that he would have been called. “It’s a lottery Jensen, of 366 dates! They’re not going to pick mine… I never win at anything!” Joking or not, Jared hadn’t honestly believed he was going to be called to enter the Army.

Jared was shaking beneath him, all of the fears Jensen had projected over the past few weeks about the damn lottery and the war probably running circles in his mind and Jensen did the only thing he could think of to soothe him. Jensen nodded, shifting them so he was leaning over Jared’s body and found his lips quickly, sealing them together.

They kissed hard, needy and quick. Jared clung to Jensen as if his life depended on it and Jensen let him, rocking their bodies together as he captured Jared’s body beneath his own. Jared gasped and moaned against Jensen’s lips as Jensen’s hands rolled over his body, pressing his fingers hard into the muscular planes of Jared’s body. His hips rocked hard against Jared’s, formed the connection, the delicious friction they both needed.

It was rare for it to be like this, quick, hard and fast. Jared usually took his time, opening Jensen, touching every inch of Jensen’s body, letting Jensen respond to each touch with his own as they made love. But tonight that wasn’t what they needed.

Jared’s fingers dug into Jensen’s shoulders, his heels hooking over the backs of Jensen’s calves as he ground himself up against Jensen. Jared came with a soft cry, spilling his release between their sweat-slicked bodies, and Jensen followed just a few heartbeats behind.

“I love you,” Jared whispered, voice still wrecked – though from his recent orgasm or the emotions that had been coursing through him, Jensen wasn’t sure. “I love you so much.”

“I know,” Jensen whispered back before he got off the bed. He cleaned them up quickly, then crawled back under the covers.

“Jense?” Jared reached for him and after a moment’s hesitation, Jensen allowed himself to sink into Jared’s arms again and buried his face into the crook of Jared’s neck, focusing on calming the pounding in his heart. He waited, listening carefully as Jared’s breathing slowed until he was asleep. Then, Jensen let out a hard breath, squeezing his eyes tightly shut to fight back against the tears that were threatening to fall.

Jensen already knew.

If Jared left? If he actually was drafted and then was deployed? Jared wouldn’t be coming back. Jensen knew firsthand what happened to men when they left, even Lee had changed, despite Mackenzie telling him he was overreacting and reading into things that weren’t there.

He tightened his arms around Jared’s waist and focused on the here and the now. It was all they had left.

Chapter Text

 

February 10th, 1970
Devens, Massachusetts

It was cold. It wasn’t like Jared wasn’t used to the cold, but he was used to moving around in it – working, keeping blood pumping through his veins. Standing in the near knee deep snow, shuffling his weight back and forth, was not keeping him even the least bit warm. He sighed, rubbing his gloved hands together once more as he looked around the field before him.

Fireguard was one of the worst things he had to do so far. He could handle the PT, working on the farm had definitely helped him be in shape for what the Army had in mind for him, and he could handle the yelling and the verbal beat downs that the drill sergeant doled out every second of the day, but the unyielding cold and nights standing for two hours keeping watch over nothing? Yeah, Jared could do without that.

It was during this time that he was truly alone. He had a partner, somewhere on the other side of the barracks, and they would be skinned alive if they even thought about falling asleep. So Jared was left with his thoughts, all of them of Jensen and of Jenna.

He didn’t think it was possible to miss someone so much.

Even the two years Jensen had been away from the farm after running from Jared that night they’d first kissed, Jared hadn’t even begun to comprehend the presence that was Jensen in his life. He had no idea then, only imagined, what it felt like to fall asleep in Jensen’s arms, to sit with him at the base of the oak tree and listen to him singing, to curl against him and Jenna for a picnic or an afternoon nap. Standing there alone, Jared was assaulted with memories of every touch, every whisper, every promise and word and look that there had ever been in their relationship – things he’d never have remembered in a million years. And it caused every part of him to ache.

They’d decided against writing letters – Jensen had been upset enough when Jared’s orders came, giving them less than two months before he had to ship out to basic training, that they hadn’t actually had a conversation about what came afterwards. Basic training was nine weeks and Jared had shrugged it off like it was nothing, like two months and some change of not being able to talk to Jensen or hear his voice was going to be a piece of cake—they’d both be busy, it was nothing like the two years they’d been apart, it was nothing like what was coming…

Jared had written more than one letter anyways, whenever he had a spare moment and a scrap of paper. But Jensen’s fear of their true relationship being discovered had seemed to bleed into him and every time someone got too close to looking over his shoulder or poked questions at who he was writing to, asking about his woman and his life, Jared would crumple the paper and shove it deep into the pocket of his ACUs to flush later on.

When they weren’t being reamed out by the drill sergeants, the guys all talked about their girls waiting for them back home. One time someone had mentioned a family member that had been gay, and the response that came from that? Jared shivered and when they asked, he lied. He told them it was just his parents and sister back home, and for the first time he understood what Jensen was afraid of.

These guys were going to be responsible for having his back, and Jared couldn’t be honest with them about the two most important people in his life. If he mentioned Jenna, he’d have to talk about Jensen. It didn’t feel right claiming Jenna as just his. He ached to tell them all. They all should know what a wonderful man Jared had at home waiting for him. Jensen was strong and beautiful, worked hard every day of his life, and anyone would be proud to have him. Jared was the lucky one, and he wished he could tell everyone.

“Padalecki.” A voice startled him and he jumped, spinning around to see his relief man walking towards him.

“Murray.” Jared gave him a small nod and smile. Out of all the guys – Chad Murray was the one that Jared itched to tell the most. Not only had Jared seen Chad roll his eyes when the other guys were going on about ‘faggots’ and ‘fudge packers’, he was the only one so far that Jared could see himself having made friends with outside of the Army. Jared entertained the idea that Chad was gay, too, for all of three seconds before he started talking about how he had his choice of three girls waiting back home, though his heart belonged to only one.

Chad reached into his front pocket, pulling out a pack of smokes, and Jared took one gratefully.

“Quiet?” Chad asked as he lit the end of his cigarette and then Jared’s. Jared nodded once, taking a long drag before blowing the smoke out slowly to mix with the frozen cloud of his breath.

“Same old, same old.” Jared shrugged and Chad blew out a hard breath. Jared gave him a side glance and shook his head. “Guess I should go and get some sleep…”

“Yeah,” Chad agreed, taking the spot Jared was leaning up against when Jared moved away from the wall, “Thanks for keeping my spot warm.”

“Only for you, Murray.” Jared laughed and Chad winked at him before taking another drag of his cigarette. Jared finished his quickly, the few quick hits of nicotine making his head spin, before he dropped the butt to the ground and stubbed it out with the toe of his boot.

Chad muttered something under his breath as Jared made his way back into the barracks, shaking his head as he went. He relieved himself quickly, not wanting to get caught out of bed now that his fireguard shift was over, and then slipped the jacket of his ACUs off and slid into his sleeping bag on his bunk. He sighed, closing his eyes and trying to make himself sleep. He needed the few hours and he knew the moment he opened his eyes again, they would be getting ready for first formation.

That didn’t stop his mind from running in circles around thoughts of Jensen, Jenna, and home.

 

 

 

 

March 16th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Jared’s coming home.” Mackenzie’s voice made Jensen jump and he turned his head to meet his sister’s eyes, trying to give her a small smile. She had Cameron on her hip and was rocking him gently as she neared the barn. “Are you excited?”

She looked happy and Jensen was surprised to see her here. He ignored her question in favor of asking one of his own, “Where’s Lee? I didn’t expect to see you this week.”

“I had him all to myself last week,” she laughed, the sound was breathless and free and he wondered just how much of that she was forcing right now. He knew how that felt… Right after Jared had been drafted, Lee had been given papers and it would only be a week now until he shipped out.

“Mac?” Jensen slipped his work gloves off and laid the bag of feed he was bringing out of the barn back to the ground.

“I’m okay,” Mackenzie whispered, her voice cracking as tears filled her eyes. Jensen was immediately at her side, wrapping his arms around his sister and his nephew and pulling them in close. “I just… needed some space. I can’t talk about it anymore, you know?”

Jensen nodded, kissing the top of her head. “We don’t have to talk about it.”

“Okay, good.” Mackenzie pushed away from him and used her free hand to wipe at her eyes. “Let’s talk about you then. Jenna is inside telling Gram all of the things she’s going to show Jared when he gets back. She’s been drawing him pictures every day, did you know that?”

Jensen nodded and gave a small smile. “Yeah, I told her we couldn’t write him letters, but that shouldn’t stop her from doing so and giving them to him when he got back home.”

“I think it was a great idea to let her do that,” Mackenzie agreed, reaching over to squeeze his hand. “You’re going to have to think of something to do when he’s over there though, Jense… You’re both going to go crazy without writing to one another.”

Jensen sighed, turning away from his sister and letting his eyes fall closed. He felt her press closer, knew she was fighting with making another comment. Jensen didn’t know what to say to her. For the past three months, he’d felt like he was seconds away from imploding. There were so many thoughts and fears running through his head that he didn’t think he’d gotten a good night sleep since the night before the lottery.

When Mackenzie touched his arm, he jumped and found himself turning towards her, surprised to find his eyes swimming in tears.

“Jensen…” she whispered and he looked away from her, reaching down for the bag of feed.

“How, Mackenzie… How were you so sure Lee was going to come back okay, that he’s going to come back okay this time?” His voice was a whisper and he focused on the bag in his hands instead of watching Mackenzie’s face. He left the barn, heading towards the chicken coop and Mackenzie followed after him.

“Jensen, not everyone is like Dad…”

“That’s not what I asked, Mac.”

She was silent, following after him, her footsteps crunching on the snow behind him. He let himself into the coop and spread the seed around, stepping past the chickens that came out of the hen house to flock towards the feed. When the bag was empty, he made a show of folding it over precisely four times before shoving it under his arm and turning to see Mackenzie watching him with a dejected look on her face.

She opened the gate for him and stopped him halfway back to the house by slipping her free arm around his waist and hugging his back tightly.

“I knew that Lee was going to come back, because he had something to come back to,” Mackenzie whispered into his jacket, fingers digging into his hip as if she was grounding herself just as much as him. “I gave him love, marriage, and now kids. I gave him a home, a life. And every single day I wake up terrified that he’s going to forget all that… just like Dad did. Because Mom gave Dad all of that too, and look how he was.

“I told Lee this and he shook his head and told me that every day I help remind him by just being me. That he’s seen guys who lost hope and sight of what they left behind and he makes a point to never let go of that. Last time, I wrote him a letter. Promises, really, of what our life would be like when he got back and I told him he wasn’t allowed to read it until he truly needed the reminder and the encouragement.

“That letter was needed so many times it was more tattered than my picture, Jense, and he has it tucked in his nightstand even now. I wrote him another one for this tour, too,” she whispered, finally releasing him only to step forward directly into his path. She reached up cupping his cheek and making his eyes meet hers. “We’re in a partnership, I will use every chance I get to remind him of what he has to live for and come home to, and he will do his job by remembering it. I’m not saying it’s easy… Hell, we both know that it’s not. Lee won’t talk about his last tour, and that’s fine because he talks to the guys, and he came home.

“What can I give Jared?” Jensen asked softly, leaning into his sister’s touch.

“Everything, Jensen, just like you already have.” She gave a small laugh and shook her head, leaning up on her tip-toes to kiss his cheek. “You’re blind, big brother, if you don’t realize how much that man has fallen for you and for Jenna. You’ve given him everything I’ve given Lee… a family, love, life.”

Jensen was quiet for a moment before he nodded. “Thanks, Mac.”

“There’s one more thing you need to do,” Mackenzie said as she started walking back towards the house.

“What’s that?” Jensen asked, moving after her and stopping only to dispose of the empty feed bag when they passed the barn.

“Put a smile on your face! Your man is coming home, Jensen.”

Jensen nodded and flashed her a huge grin. When she was satisfied and turned around, Jensen found it was easy to keep the smile there.

 

 

 

 

May 12th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen walked beside Jared, swinging their hands together gently as they walked up the path to the trees. He was fighting back the flutter of nerves in his stomach and the need to glance over at Jared to make sure he was still with him.

Jared had been home for a month now, and it was almost scary how easily he’d slipped back into everyday life with them at the farm. Jensen wasn’t sure what exactly he had expected, but it hadn’t been this. For the first week or so, Jared acted a bit strangely, sure, but was quick to laugh it off and was just the same as always.

Jensen knew in reality, it wouldn’t be the same once Jared came back from a tour, but he couldn’t tell his heart not to cling to that hope.

“You’re thinking too hard,” Jared mused, squeezing Jensen’s hand as they broke out of the woods and into the clearing. Jensen sighed, tugging Jared forward until they reached the oak tree. Jared chuckled and slid down the trunk, letting his legs fall open so Jensen could settle himself between them and lean against Jared’s chest.

“I am not ready for this,” Jensen said softly as he relaxed against Jared, closing his eyes and breathing in the Spring air and soaking up the warmth from Jared’s body and the sunshine that was beating down on them through the branches and leaves.

“I know, Jensen…” Jared whispered back, wrapping his arms around Jensen’s body and kissing the top of his head. “Jenna brought it up to me last night when I was putting her to bed.” Jensen cocked his head to the side, letting Jared know he was listening and waited for him to continue. “She said she knew I was going away again, just like I had over the winter, and she asked me if I could just stay home and be with her instead. I told her that the Army needed me to fight for them and that I didn’t have a choice. She gave me this…”

Jared reached between them and from his shirt pocket pulled out a little plastic soldier – one she must have gotten from her cousins—with a pink ribbon tied around its little green body. He held it out flat on his palm for Jensen to take. Jensen took it and twisted it between his fingers, a smile on his face. “What did she say when she gave it to you?”

 



Jared took it back and held it flat in his palm before he leaned forward to kiss the side of Jensen’s neck.

“She said that I was the soldier and the ribbon was you and her, tied around my heart no matter where I went.”

Jensen turned, meeting Jared’s eyes and Jared nodded once.

“Yeah, I sat stunned for a second before I pulled her into my arms. I don’t know where she comes up with half the things she does… but she’s a hell of lot smarter than I ever was at ten. I kind of let her get away with staying up for reading another chapter, as long as she was quiet so you didn’t yell at us both!”

Jensen closed the distance between them, kissing Jared with everything he had, and after a moment of confusion, Jared was kissing him back, the soldier curled safely in his hand.

“What was that for?” he asked when Jensen finally pulled back. “Not that I’m complaining…”

“I need you to come home,” Jensen blurted out, pushing up onto his knees and turning so that he was facing Jared, their eyes at the same level. He felt the panic he’d been fighting so hard to push back rising as he searched Jared’s eyes. “I need you to come home, safe and just… just like you are right now. Please, Jared, I need you to, for Jenna as much as for me.”

“Jensen—" Jared started, reaching for Jensen’s face, but Jensen shook him off quickly and grabbed his hands to hold with his own between them.

“Jared… I don’t know what I would do if you didn’t, okay? We need you, I need you. I know I haven’t been the best partner for you, not always… I know I’ve been stubborn and scared at times, and I know that’s stopped me from letting you know how I truly feel, and I’m so sorry for that. But I love you, Jared, I love you so much it terrifies me and the thought of you not coming home? Or coming home as someone completely different? I… I couldn’t survive that.”

“Jensen… I don’t know what’s going to happen over there,” Jared twisted his hands free and reached for Jensen again, this time making contact as he slid his palms across Jensen’s cheeks so his fingers were buried in the soft hair at the back of his head, “but what I do know is that I will do anything and everything it takes to come home to you and Jenna. You two are stuck with me, no matter what happens. There is nothing on this Earth that would stop me from coming home to you… nothing.”

Jared pulled them together, kissing Jensen softly, his lips working slowly over Jensen’s until he finally relaxed and opened for the kiss. Jared kissed him slowly, hands moving down his shoulders and arms until they came to Jensen’s back and he was able to pull him even closer. The angle was uncomfortable, Jensen’s legs twisted beneath him and a tree root digging painfully into the back of his thigh, but he didn’t care. Finally, Jared pulled back and rested their foreheads together, panting softly as he tried to catch his breath.

“Jensen, I intend to spend the rest of my life with you and Jenna,” he whispered, and Jensen felt his heart jump at the words. “I know you’re afraid that I’m going to come back like your dad did, you can’t argue that with me, but I know for a fact that I won’t. I know I won’t because I have something your dad never had… you at my side.”

“Jared,” Jensen breathed out his name, a million thoughts swirling around his head fighting to be the first to be said aloud. Jensen pulled back enough to meet Jared’s eyes and he said the first thing that came into his mind. “Marry me, Jared.”

Jensen felt a jolt go through Jared and his large, hazel eyes widened, staring down Jensen as if he were in shock. Jared’s lips parted slightly, but no words came out. Jensen was quick to continue, part of him afraid of what Jared would say when he found his voice, the other terrified of the silence.

“Yes… marry me, Jared. I want you to marry me. I want you to know that no matter what, I am yours. I want you to be my husband, Jenna’s father.”

“Jensen… we can’t,” Jared whispered, shaking his head slowly as he reached for Jensen’s hands. “I want to! God, of course I want to be your husband. But we can’t… We’re not allowed to-"

“Why not?” Jensen whispered back, shifting closer. “Why not, Jared? I’m asking you to marry me, just for us. Not for the state or for the law. I want you to be my husband, Jared, and as far as I’m concerned… why is that anyone else’s damned business besides ours?” It’s God’s business, flitted quickly across Jensen’s mind, but he pushed it away quickly and focused his attention completed on Jared. Not surprisingly, Jared knew where Jensen’s mind had gone, he always did.

“If this was wrong in His eyes, Jensen? I’m sure something bad would have happened to us by now.” Jared leaned forward to kiss Jensen softly again and Jensen allowed himself to relax into the kiss. When they broke apart, Jared ran the back of his hand down Jensen’s cheek. “Jensen Ackles, I would love nothing more than to marry you.”

 

 

 

May 29th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen shifted, hot and uncomfortable in his suit. His stomach was a knotted bundle of nerves, for more than one reason, and he ached to be beside Jared. They only had two more days until Jared was being shipped out, would be leaving them for Vietnam, and Jensen was terrified in more ways than he knew how to verbalize.

Jared’s parents and Jensen’s grandparents, plus Mackenzie and Megan, were more than supportive about their decision and were instantly on board to actually plan a ‘wedding’ in the few weeks they had left. Jensen hadn’t believed that any of it was necessary – he had just intended to speak his simple vows with Jared and maybe Jenna, and they would know. That was all that mattered to him. But when Jared’s eyes lit up as his mother and sister started talking about making a cake and bringing in flowers and decorating the farmhouse… Jensen had decided to bite back his negative response and just let it happen.

They’d kept Jared away last night and that was the first time Jared seemed upset over the more traditional way their families were insisting this wedding take place. Hiding a chuckle, Jensen had heard him grumbling and protesting about not being a bride that needed to be kept away from her husband on the eve of the wedding.

Martha had chided them, told them it was just one night and then they would have the rest of their lives together, and Jensen wanted to scream in the lonely silence that blanketed their room. No one wanted to say it, no one wanted to admit that they knew how many Vietnam-bound soldiers didn’t have the rest of their lives, so instead he nodded and took Jenna to her room to get ready for bed.

Now, Jensen was standing beneath their oak tree, dressed in his Sunday’s best, his arms aching from how quickly he tried to plow through this morning’s chores, many times lifting nearly twice the amounts of food supplies he normally would to get all of the animals fed and watered.

Beside him, Gerry gave Jensen a blinding smile, reaching forward to squeeze Jensen’s arm fondly.

“I’ve always thought of you like my son, Jensen,” he murmured, his eyes glimmering with unshed tears. “You have made my Jared happier than I ever thought possible. I’m so proud of you both. And today… I’m honored to call you my son and officially welcome you into the family.”

Jensen swallowed the knot in his throat and nodded back, not trusting himself to speak. Understanding, Gerry clapped his shoulder happily before clasping his hands in front of him. Together, they looked to the tree line just in time to see Jenna skipping forward in her new yellow sundress, carrying a wicker basket full of wildflowers.

“It’s amazing how quickly they grow up,” Albert whispered from his other side and Jensen nodded, smiling at his daughter. Behind them, Mackenzie was walking with four-year old Kaleb, and Megan was carrying Cameron in her arms. The four of them came to stand beside Albert and Jensen, spreading out to the side.

Martha and Sherri were on either side of Jared, both women wearing brightly colored sundresses as well, both of them being escorted by Jared. And Jared…? Jensen inhaled sharply, staring as he moved forward, his tall frame unusually graceful as he made his way across the meadow towards the base of the tree. Jared wore a suit as well, and Jensen found himself grinning when he realized the tie was one of his own. But it was Jared’s smile, huge and carefree, showing off his dimples and perfect teeth that made Jensen’s heart come to a stop.

Martha had trimmed Jared’s hair again for his tour, and although Jensen missed the longer locks, it didn’t make him any less beautiful. When Jared was finally before him, reaching for Jensen’s hand, Jensen felt the world around them stop and all he could do was stare at Jared’s beautiful face.

“This isn’t your traditional wedding in any sense,” Gerry started and Jensen allowed himself to be pulled back and forced himself to focus on the words he was saying. “But that just makes this moment even more extraordinary. We have all witnessed the love story that has been Jared and Jensen’s, seen the struggles and hurdles they’ve already overcome, and found themselves on the other side thriving. Life itself, is never easy, but it’s bearable when you have the support and companionship of someone you love.

“Today, two families come together to support and show their admiration and love for these two men we’ve watched grow up, and I personally could not be more proud to have been a part of their lives. Jared and Jensen, I speak for all of us when I say that you will continue to have our undying love, care, support and respect.”

“Thank you, Dad,” Jared whispered and Jensen squeezed Jared’s hands between his own.

“You’re welcome, boys. Now, I believe you both wrote your own vows?”

Jared nodded once and cleared his throat, dropping Jensen’s hands to reach into his pocket for a piece of paper. He held it before him, hands trembling and his voice shaking, and Jensen smiled as he watched the way Jared’s lips moved as he spoke.

“Jensen… from the start, you have been my best friend, mentor, confidant, and my greatest challenge. Today, you are all of those as well as the love of my life and you make me happier than I ever could have imagined and I feel more loved than I thought possible. Because of you, I’m a better person and the love I feel from you is reflected in the way I live my life every day. I am so blessed to be a part of your life, a part of Jenna’s, and grateful that it has become our life together.

“I promise to love you, respect you, dream with you, and give you everything I have to give as your partner, friend, and lover until the day I die. Always.”

Jensen smiled as Jared folded up the paper and held it in his palm as he took Jensen’s hand again, his eyes shining in the sunlight. Jensen nodded once and then cleared his own throat.

“Jared… You know me better than anyone else in this world and somehow, still, you manage to love me. You are my best friend, you are the only man I love, and there isn’t one part of me that doesn’t wake up every morning in awe that I am the one you’ve chosen. I always thought life was cruel and harsh, but you help me see it in a much different light.

“I see these vows, not as promises, but as privileges. I get to laugh with you, cry with you, care for you, and share my life with you. I get to walk beside you and build a life with you. Never once did I believe you were the lucky one. You saved me and I will spend every day of my life working towards being someone worthy of your love.”

Jared smiled and closed the space between them, holding the back of Jensen’s head as he pulled him in and sealed their lips together. Jensen heard Gerry mutter, “I didn’t tell them to kiss yet” and then the soft smack of Sherri hitting his arm, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

“I love you,” Jared whispered against Jensen’s lips.

“And I love you,” Jensen replied, hugging Jared close. “Always.”

“Always.”

Chapter Text

 

June 30th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen smiled softly, lifting Jenna off of the couch and carrying her in his arms to her bedroom. She had fallen asleep, curled up at his side, as they listened to the evening radio. Every day she surprised him with how grown up she was and it was the moments like this that Jensen loved the most.

It had been a month since Jared had left, and Jensen felt it. He felt it every day, no matter what he was doing, and sometimes part of him wondered how he was going to get through the next year. Mackenzie had closed up the cabin and come to live in the main farmhouse with her boys until Lee came home, and Jensen was glad for her company.

The late afternoons where he used to usually rest with Jared in the shade of their oak tree, Jensen now spent using the woodworking skills Jared had taught him, building a wooden bunk bed set and some extra dressers for the kids. He figured even once Mackenzie moved back to the cabin, there would still be many nights the boys would stay at the farm and they would be grateful to have a bed to call their own.

Plus, Mackenzie had just broken the news to them that she was once again pregnant. Jensen was happy for her, truly, but something deep inside ached. He wished he and Jared could have kids of their own—although as far as anyone was concerned, Jared was just as much Jenna’s father as Jensen himself. Jensen sadly felt that Jared deserved to experience those first moments of a child’s life just like Jensen had had with Jenna.

“Daddy?” Jensen opened his eyes and turned his head to look at his daughter in the dim light that had managed to creep in from the hallway.

“Yes, little one?” Jensen asked as he turned, reaching up to brush a lock of hair from Jenna’s face.

“Is… is Papa going to come home?” Jenna whispered, her voice cracking and large hazel eyes searching his, her lower lip trembling slightly.

“Oh Jenna… why would you ask that? Of course he’s going to come home.”

“I heard the radio talking about some soldiers that weren’t going to come home… And Grandpa Gerry was talking about some people with signs and stuff when they went to the market yesterday.”

“He’s going to come home, baby,” Jensen assured her, wrapping his arms around her tightly and pulling her against his chest. He held her close, kissing the top of her head as the tears finally spilled over.

“He has to, Daddy… Why can’t he come home now? Can’t we just tell the Army that we need him here?” Jensen’s heart broke as he listened to Jenna’s pleas and he shut his eyes, clinging to her just as much as she was to him.

“He’ll be home again before we know it. Right when we start to miss him so much we don’t think we can stand it anymore? He’ll be pulling right up the driveway. Just like Papa told you, he’s got a job to do.” Jensen’s hands moved in soothing circles over her back, whispering into her ear.

“He’s got a job here! I already miss him so much, Daddy. I don’t think I can miss him anymore…”

“How about we go to the tree tomorrow, huh? We can write Papa a letter, too. I’m sure he would love to hear from you. What do you think?” Jenna sniffed and nodded, rubbing her nose against her dad’s chest before she pulled back and looked up at him with tearful eyes.

“Can I tell him Auntie Mack is having another baby?”

“Yeah, you can tell him,” Jensen nodded, kissing her forehead, “And you can tell him that you learned to use the milking machine, and that Grandpa Gerry let you help him plow some of the back field.”

“Will it make him too sad and make him miss home too much, Daddy?”

“I think he’s going to miss home no matter what, Jenna. But reading about how well you’re doing and how much fun you’re having? That’s really going to make him smile.” Jenna nodded and Jensen gave her another kiss on the top of her head before tucking the comforter in around her. “Now try to get some sleep. We’ve got to get up early.”

Jensen lay down beside her still cradling her body to his chest, his arm started to fall asleep along with his daughter, but he didn’t feel like moving. Jenna’s breath was warm against his cheek and he smiled as he let his own eyes fall closed. He would get up soon, knew he had to in the end, but for right now the thought of crawling into his cold and empty bed made his stomach twist.

“He’ll be home soon,” Jensen whispered into the darkness. Maybe if he said it out loud enough, he’d start to believe it.

 

 

 

July 1th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

 

Dear Papa, How are you? I hope you are doing well. Things at the farm are the same as always, except everyone here misses you. Grandpa Gerry taught me how to plow the field with the tractor the other day! That was a lot of fun. Sitting on the tractor, I’m taller than you! I even learned how to milk the cows with the machine, so when you get home you won’t have to do it. Grandma is teaching me how to make my own ice cream tonight too. I told her I don’t want to make strawberry ice cream until you come home. I miss you a lot and I hope you are safe and not missing us too much. Jenny said that I could write to you whenever I feel lonely or miss you, and I want you to know that you can do the same thing. She also says you will be home sooner than we know. I hope so. I’ve been sneaking some really good pieces of wood out of the woodpile and putting them in the loft so we can carve them when you come back home. Don’t worry, they’re not close to the open window so I hope they’ll be fine and dry. I’m sending you hugs and kisses! (Grammy Sherri told me to, that’s why the paper is wrinkled). Love, Jenna xoxoxoxoxoxox

Jensen smiled as he smoothed out his daughter’s letter to Jared, sneaking his changes in carefully so she didn’t see what he was doing. Before Jared had left, they’d decided on coding the letters so that Jared wouldn’t have to worry about anyone reading them or intercepting them. As far as anyone needed to know, he had gotten married and gained a step-daughter through the marriage that he’d known for her entire life.

He took a second page of paper from the notebook he’d brought to the tree and laid it out flat on the cover. Jenna was busy nearby, humming to herself as she dug around the tree roots for worms. Gerry had promised to take her fishing that afternoon once all of the chores were done. He’s taken her hunting for night crawlers the night before but she was determined to find more worms on her own.

Smiling, Jensen put his pen to the page and began to write.

 

 

 

Jared, I hope this letter finds you well and the days are passing faster for you than they are for me. Things have been slow around here without you. Today is the first time I’ve come to our tree and all I can think of is that last night out here under the stars. I continue to tell myself that you will be home before I know it, that this time will fly by and once you’re here, we’ll have the rest of our lives. But I wouldn’t mind if that happened sooner rather than later. Things here are well. We’ve plowed and planted. I signed a deal with a cereal company in New Hampshire so most of the fields have been made into corn fields. It’s easier dealing with one crop, but looking out across them is not as interesting. My grandparents had been talking about cutting back on selling at the farm stand every weekend anyway. This solves that issue pretty easily. Mackenzie is pregnant again and this time she’s hoping for a little girl. Jenna wanted to tell you the news but she must have forgotten. Lee is going to have a new child when he comes home and you will have a new niece or nephew! Now you’re probably already planning on what toys you should carve for them. I think the best gift of all would be to come home safe. I love you and I miss you more than anything. I sleep on your side of the bed hoping it will make me feel closer to you at night, but I would much rather have you be here instead. One day at a time. I’m already counting down. I love you. Always, Jen

After folding up the two letters, Jensen stuck them in the pocket of his shirt and leaned back against the tree. He turned his head and smiled softly as he looked at the initials Jared had carved into the tree the night of their wedding. Slowly, he ran his fingertips over them, letting the scarred, misshapen bark bite into the pads of his fingertips.

“Alright,” he stretched after a moment and leaned forward to look at his daughter from around the tree trunk, “you think you’ve got enough worms to catch us some dinner?”

“I’m going to catch the biggest fish in the entire river!” Jenna nodded happily, holding out the old coffee can for Jensen to look into. Inside were at least four worms trying to burrow their way into the few clumps of dirt she’d thrown in there.

“You better,” Jensen said as he pushed himself up from the ground. Jenna rattled the can around once, watching the worms squirm in their panic to recover themselves and then started off back towards the farm house with her father. “I’m starving, so I could eat at least one big fish.”

“You have to share, Daddy,” Jenna chided and Jensen simply laughed.

 

 

 

August 15th, 1970
Tân An, Vietnam

 

Jared sunk down against a fallen tree, stretching his legs out before him and adjusting his gun so it was beside him and easily within reach—just in case. He sighed softly, rolling his shoulders and groaning at the movement. It had been a few weeks and Jared wasn’t sure if he would ever feel dry or comfortable again. Everything here was always damp, humid, sticky…

He glanced up at the men around him – his men—in various stages of ‘rest’. They’d been on the move most of the day, under Jared’s command, and Jared still wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Being one of the oldest in the group and having excelled in various parts of training both in Basic and AIT, as well as in pre-deployment training, Jared soon found himself declared Squad Leader- Sergeant Padalecki of Bravo Team. Jared thought the commander of the 196th was insane.

They’d left the relative safety of the airbase in Chû Chi under the direction of the commander, but now Jared was the one in charge. Their mission was supposedly simple: gain information on the Cong’s movements in Hó Bò Woods. Four years prior, the Viet Cong had been building a base with a bunker and tunnel systems that would provide the communist group plenty of space to store weapons and men as well as the ability to move around undetected. When US soldiers attacked the base, they lost fifty men, half of which were injured and sent home, and now they were being asked to confirm the rumors that the Cong had returned.

Not one of the men under him were excited about the prospect of trying to gain intelligence. They were supposed to be Army Training Support, not on the front lines, and although none of them spoke it aloud, he was sure that they weren’t feeling confident about having their first mission be under the command of a sergeant who was as green as they were.

After nearly sixteen hours of plowing through thick grass and dense jungle growth, Jared made the decision to ask for refuge at a small village known to be full of American sympathizers. But even in among the peaceful huts, none of his men were foolish enough to let their guard down, however nice it was to feel appreciated and wanted by the villagers.

From his spot on the ground, Jared made a quick mental note as to where his men were. Dionne, Smith, and Johnson were huddled near the small fire, Young, Kent, and Hemming were playing with a ball fashioned from a sock stuffed full of leaves and dried grass, and Murray was sitting beside him, right at Jared’s back.

“Do you think this was a good idea?” Jared asked softly, clearing his throat once. Through it all, Chad had been the one person who was supportive and agreed that Jared would make a good Squad Leader.

“Man, you need to stop doubting yourself.” Chad nudged him with his elbow. “It was either here or out in the woods, you know that. We were about to fucking drop. At least we have some sort of coverage here, though I ain’t ever gonna let myself really relax until I’m back on American soil.”

Jared nodded absently, looking around the small village again. Everything around them was green. Even the huts around them were varying shades of green – depending on how long ago the roofs and walls were made or patched. Even though the ground beneath him was more mud than solid earth, Jared was glad that he wasn’t still pushing his way through miles of the thick grasses which grew almost as tall as his hips.

“You should get some sleep,” Chad said after a few moments. “I’ll keep an eye out and then you can cover my ass.”

“I’m not tired.” Jared shook his head and looked over his shoulder. “You go first.”

“Have you slept at all?” Chad asked but Jared only met his eyes once, raised an eyebrow, and turned back around. Chad sighed and rummaged around for something in his pocket, his elbow hitting Jared once as he wrangled whatever he was searching for free. Jared looked back at him again and Chad was holding out a pack of smokes. “Want one?”

“Why not.” Jared took one, let Chad light it for him, and watched the smoke curl from the end and tried to replicate the gentle swirl when he exhaled. They sat in silence once more, both lost in their own thoughts.

Jared tried not to think about home too much. The letters he received when he was at the base made his heart ache. He wanted to be there more than anything, he wanted to listen to Jenna laugh, eat dinner with his family, fall asleep in Jensen’s arms. Hell, he’d even consent to working with the cows if it meant it could get him home any faster. One of the first few weeks Jared had been here, after a few soldiers had come back bloodied and dying, the nightmares had started...

He was all alone, carrying enough equipment for all of the guys in his squad and searching for them in the woods. He tried to be quiet, stayed low to the ground, but every few steps his foot would get stuck in the mud and he’d have to fight and pull his way out. He needed to find his men, they were all hiding, calling out his name and it was his job to get them and give them their gear so they would be safe. Then their voices changed.

First, it was his parents calling to him… then he heard Megan and Jeff and Mackenzie. Then he saw Jensen and Jenna, running towards him, out in the open... in danger…exposed. He shook his head and waved his arms, trying to silently warn them… to get them to duck down and to wait for him, he had weapons to protect them with, and then the whole jungle came alive with the sounds of gunfire and Jared was forced awake by the sound of everyone he loved screaming and bleeding and dying in his head.

He didn’t need to think of them here. The memory of them didn’t deserve to be dragged into this and to be touched by this nightmarish war.

But on days like this, when Jared was filled with self-doubt, he needed a little reassurance. Tomorrow they would finish their mission, and although he refused to let the rest of his squad even entertain the idea, Jared wondered if it would be his last day here. There were so many things he wanted to do, and dying, bloody and damp in the middle of a rice paddy wasn’t on that list. But most of all, he didn’t want to be the reason that one of his men didn’t make it.

Jared wiped his hands off on his pants, making sure they were dry and as clean as they could be before he reached into the inner pocket of his ACUs and pulled out a battered letter. He’d read it so many times, he should have it memorized by now. He refused to let Jensen give him any pictures –of him or of Jenna—and he was glad he stuck by that. He didn’t need a reminder of what they looked like.

He carefully opened it up and smoothed it out as best as he could.

 

 

 

Jared, Mack came up with this idea of writing you something before you even left, a way for you to know that you have something to come home to, something worth coming home for. You know how horrible I am about telling you how I really feel, but I am going to try my best. Tomorrow, we are getting married, and I couldn’t be any luckier. You have changed me, Jared. You’ve made me better, and I could never thank you enough for accepting me as I am and being so patient with me. That is my first promise to you: I will be patient and love you through all of this - both while you’re gone and when you come home, as well as every day of the rest of my life. My father came home a changed man, a horrible, unhappy man. And that has always been a fear of mine that I might become like him. Now, I have to admit, that my greatest fear is you will become like him. The rational part of me knows it’s foolish, that you and he couldn’t be more different, but it still scares me to think about it. I don’t want to ever live like that again. This is my second promise: I will tell you my fears, my worries, and talk to you so that no matter what, we can work together. I already miss you in our bed. I already miss listening to you sing while you work on your wood carvings and furniture pieces. I already miss you reading to Jenna and trying to braid her hair and talking over the newscast at night. And that’s my third promise: I promise to miss you and think about you every single day, no matter how much it makes my heart ache for you to not be here. That way, you’ll always be with me. You make me so proud to call you my husband. You have always been hardworking, strong, and intelligent. The men who are going to serve with you are lucky to have you at their back, I know because I’ve always had you at mine. Be safe, do what you need to do, and come home to us, to me. I love you, Jen

 

Slowly, Jared folded up the letter again, blinking back the tears that were forming in his eyes and slid the paper back into place.

“Needed some encouragement from Jen?” Chad whispered and Jared nodded once. “I’ve got your back too.”

“I know,” Jared whispered and gave Chad a small smile. He leaned back, letting his head rest against Chad’s shoulder and felt the other man lean into him as well. He supposed if he was going to die, at least he was in good company.

 

 

 

August 17th, 1970 
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen didn’t know how to react.

Rain was pouring down from the sky in torrents, the roadway outside full of rushing water. He wished he was outside standing in it. The cool rain water could wash away everything else. Behind him, Mackenzie let out a soft, anguished sob and Jensen closed his eyes.

He should go to her, he knew that. He should wrap his arms around his sister and pull her tight into his chest, soothe her quaking shoulders and tell her he was sorry, so fucking sorry and that everything was going to be okay.

But he couldn’t.

“I need…” Jensen stopped. it wasn’t about what he needed, not right now, but he couldn’t be there. The living room was suffocating, and since Jenna had long since gone to sleep and Mackenzie could be comforted temporarily by their grandparents’ arms, he needed to get out.

Jensen ran from the room and shoved his feet into his boots. His grandfather was murmuring softly to the women, probably excusing himself to see if Jensen was okay, so Jensen ran. Running had gotten him somewhere once and he needed Jared more than ever right now.

He tore across the driveway, jeans and shirt soaked within minutes, the late summer rain cool against his skin. His mind kept replaying the look on the Army officer’s face when he came to the door. Who comes house-calling at night? Don’t they know people were busy eating dinner and getting children ready for bed and maybe even sleeping already?

“Ma’am, are you Mrs. Lee Seymour?”

Jensen closed his eyes and ran faster, his heart pounding against his ribs and his lungs burning.

“We’re so sorry to inform you…”

Mackenzie had never looked so pale so suddenly. Jensen hadn’t known what the hell was going on…

“There was a skirmish and Sergeant Seymour fought valiantly…”

Then Mackenzie screaming… Mackenzie falling to her knees and refusing anyone’s touch. Mackenzie’s quiet, anguished screaming hadn’t woken up any of the children. They slept through it all.

“No! No, you’re wrong, please don’t do this, you’re wrong, you’re wrong!” she had begged…pleaded… screamed.

A bolt of lightning lit up the sky and Jensen flinched at the thunderous crash that followed before pressing onward. It had been storming all night, the sky just as angry and weeping just as hard as they all were. A good soldier had died, Mackenzie’s husband was gone forever. Her little boys and her unborn child had lost their father.

Mackenzie had reached for him while she was still crumpled on the floor, but Jensen couldn’t… Like a coward he had dashed out the door into the mournful, raging night.

He just couldn’t console his sister because part of him was relieved, so grateful it wasn’t Jared.

He had felt the world stop for an instant and then it was a moment of relief over the name the officer had spoken. Then at the anguished look on his little sister’s face he had felt such horrible guilt for that tiny rush of joy. And what kind of person did that make him? Glad that the officer at the door was telling them his sister’s husband was killed and not his own? Jensen stomach twisted and he paused for just a second to calm the roll of nausea.

As he broke out onto the field, another blinding bolt of lightning lit up the sky but this time it struck so close it shook the ground beneath him and a wide-eyed Jensen staggered to a jolting stop then, hunched over and emptied the contents of his stomach onto his boots. When his vision cleared after the enormous, sizzling white flash, he was able to see the damage the bolt had caused.

“No!” he screamed, his voice drowned out by the rain and the thunder.

It was stupid, foolish to put so much stock into something inanimate, but this tree was theirs. It represented their life, their love. It had been with them from their very first day together. It had been their silent companion for all these years, through times both good and bad… Had been their shelter so many times, their comfort. And it in the blink of an eye it was suddenly gone. Jensen moved closer, blinking back the tears and the rain in his eyes. The trunk, where the lightning had sliced through, was still smoldering. More than half of the tree’s lush, thick branches lay crumpled in the field, the broken, jagged part of the stump badly charred. Jensen reached out and pressed his trembling palm flat against it and let his tears fall. It felt like Jared was gone, too.

“Jensen!” Albert screamed across the field, but Jensen ignored him, he couldn’t move. This was payback. God was finally punishing him for his sins, for his thought of relief that it had been Lee’s name spoken. Jared was gone, Jensen knew it.

“Jensen! Christ, boy! Get back inside!”

“He’s gone,” Jensen whispered, then repeated it louder, “He’s gone, he’s gone!”

“Jensen, stop it!” Albert grabbed his shoulders and spun him around, eyes searching those of his grandson. “You’re going to get yourself sick standing out here.”

“I don’t care! He’s gone!” he sobbed. “God’s punishing me!”

Albert shook him hard then, Jensen’s head snapping forward once and he met his Grandfather’s eyes in shock. With a stern look, the older man took control. “You cut that out right now, do you hear me? Jared is not gone, don’t you dare give up on that boy now. Even if he was gone, you would still have us! You have a little girl that needs you, and right now you have a sister who is worried about you when she should be focusing on herself and her little ones!

“You ran out of there like a bat out of hell, Jensen. I can’t begin to fathom what you and your sister are going through with your men over there in that damned war… I can’t begin to understand what Mackenzie is going through right now with her loss. But I do know that she needs her brother right now, someone that has even just an inkling of understanding for her pain, and you owe her that! That girl has been by your side and loved you through everything, and you damn well owe her the same.

“God willing, Jared is safe, as safe as he can be. That boy will come home to you, Jensen, but only if you stick with him. Bad things happen to good people, we’ve always known that, but I’ve seen that boy try to move mountains for you. Right now, this is about Mackenzie and her kids, your family, and for tonight, Jared is safe.”

“Our tree…”

“I know, Jensen. I know. But the tree is not Jared,” the old man insisted.

Jensen nodded once and hugged his grandfather back tightly, letting himself be comforted for a moment before he pulled back and straightened his shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered as he cleared his throat and together they made their way back to the house.

“Don’t tell that to me, just show me. Go be there for your sister.”

“Yes, sir…I will.”

Chapter Text

 

October 11th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

“Mackenzie,” Jensen sighed, reaching up to wipe his arm across his forehead and turning around to give his sister a stern look. Mackenzie straightened up, placing her right hand flat on her swollen belly and gave him a sheepish smile. “I’m going to make you go inside,” he warned, shaking his head as her eyes widened.

“Jensen! I can’t stand it any longer. I don’t want to talk about it anymore, okay? I would much rather be out here with you.”

Jensen closed his eyes for a moment and nodded, stepping backwards to lean against the wheel of the combine. He’d been out in the field all morning, finishing up harvesting the last cornfield so the cattle had feed over the winter, and Mackenzie had been determined to follow after him, despite her swollen ankles. He’d watched her nearly trip over the flattened stalks and he’d spent more of his time worrying about where she was in the field than paying attention to the corn stalks ahead of him.

He looked at her then and found himself –not for the first time— impressed at everything that made up his sister. She had her hair plaited to the side, knew she’d gotten up with the rising of the sun to help their grandmother with breakfast for the family, and gotten the boys ready for a trip with Gerry and Albert into the city for supplies.

The only sign that told him she was still grieving, albeit internally, were the wide, dark shadows decorating the pale skin beneath her bright, green eyes. Silently, Jensen held out his hand and a smile flashed her gratitude before she gripped his hand and let herself be pulled to his side.

She tucked herself close to him, her pregnant belly pressed against his flat stomach as her head fell to rest upon his chest. He held her tightly, rubbing his hand slowly up and down her back and found himself releasing a relieved breath when her shoulders finally dropped in surrender and she began to tremble as her sobs were swallowed by his thick shirts.

They stayed like that, linked together, until Mackenzie had no more tears to cry and Jensen could feel the wet patch from her tears making his shirt stick against the skin of his chest. He squeezed her shoulders in silent reassurance and reached into his back pocket, handing over a handkerchief without a word.

“Now, I don’t want you on the ground anymore, okay? So if you’re going to be out here with me…” he trailed off and pushed away from the machine, motioning up to the steps with one hand invitingly before giving her a pointed look.

“Thank you, Jensen,” Mackenzie whispered, folding the damp handkerchief carefully between her fingers before tucking it into her own pocket. Jensen knew she wasn’t thanking him for the hankie, knew she was thanking him for his companionship and, most importantly, his understanding silence.

“I’ve got your back, Mack,” Jensen whispered in return, pushing against the small of her back to lead her to the tractor. She reached for the hand grip and after a second of swaying on the first step, she climbed into the cab and slid to the side, giving Jensen the room he needed to climb up and take control of the combine.

“I’m glad I have you, Jensen.” Mackenzie’s voice was soft, barely heard over the motor and the sound of the blades and they sat side by side in silence as Jensen finished the field.

 

 

 

December 14th, 1970
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen rocked slowly, his arm curled around the bundle in his arms as he tipped the bottle once more and watched as the infant sucked the nipple into her mouth, drinking greedily. Jensen stared into her face, the sounds of her sucking filling the emptiness of the room.

He wondered if she would look like Mackenzie or if she would favor Lee. Right now, her eyes were bright blue and she was just as bald as her brothers had been when they were born. He pushed his toes against the floor, making the chair rock them both as she finished off the bottle. When the last of the milk was gone he leaned forward to place the empty bottle onto the floor and lifted the baby up against his shoulder.

“Shhh…” he whispered, rocking and patting her back gently. She fidgeted against him, legs squirming inside her sleep sack, and he let his eyes fall closed and focused all of his attention on her.

Her tiny body shook with her burp, and Jensen stilled his hand on her back, rubbing small circles there instead. Slowly, he lowered her from his shoulder and looked back down at her face. She looked so small, innocent and peaceful, one tiny hand had come free from the blanket she was wrapped in and was curled into a fist against her face.

She had no idea.

Jensen felt his heart swell with the emotions that were finally breaking through. She had no idea how harsh this life already was for her. She had no idea what she was missing, no idea how the last twelve longest days of his life had also been the first twelve days of her own nightmare. She had no idea… and that was the cruelest thing of all.

 

“Mr. Ackles?” Jensen shot to his feet, his entire body trembling in fear as he approached the doctor.

“Mackenzie? The baby?” he asked, nearly tripping over his own feet as he stumbled forward. The man gave him a small smile and reached for his arm, squeezing it gently.

“Let’s go sit down.”

Dread washed through Jensen and he felt all of the blood drain from his face. It felt like the doctor had dumped a bucket of ice water over his head and there was very little in the world that could get Jensen to move his feet. He pulled his arm back from the doctor’s grasp and felt himself shaking his head.

“How is Mackenzie? How is the baby?” he repeated.

“Jensen?” His grandfather stepped up behind him, placing a warm, steadying hand on his shoulder and it was much more comforting than the doctor’s had been. But still, it wasn’t enough. He needed to see his sister. They’d been sitting in the kitchen, preparing sandwiches for the kids for lunch when Mackenzie’s water broke. They had been expecting it, but that didn’t stop Jensen from taking a second to stare at his sister, unsure of what to do next until she was shoving him back and telling him to get the bag and she would meet him at the truck.

It had taken him fifteen minutes to check for the bag, ask their grandparents to watch the kids, recheck the bag, tell Gerry he would have to take over the feeding that evening, find the keys and then check for the bag just one more time before he joined Mackenzie at the truck.

Just fifteen minutes and his sister, who had spent the morning excited and talking to her boys about how their baby brother or sister would be here any day now, was sobbing hysterically, doubled over with her arms wrapped around her stomach.

“Mackenzie?” Jensen ripped the door open and froze as he looked down at his sister’s hand, slick and red. “Mackenzie!”

“Jensen!” Mackenzie sobbed, clenching her fists. “Hospital, Jensen! Now!”

Jensen tossed the bag into the back of the truck before scrambling inside and slamming the door shut. He started the engine and roared out of the driveway. Mackenzie cried the entire way, whispering frantically to her stomach, and Jensen fought back the bile rising to his throat as he pushed the gas pedal as far as it could go to the floor.

Peeling into the hospital emergency lane, the brakes screeched as they came to a rushed stop. Frantic, Jensen gratefully saw nurses hurriedly pushing a gurney to meet them.

“We’ll take care of her.”

“Sir, you need to let go of her so we can take care of her. Please, sir. She’s in good hands.”

He paced frantically near the emergency desk, worriedly watching as they moved Mack out of his line of sight. He could hear the excited babbling of the medical personnel but was unable to understand the meaning of it all.

The minutes dragged into hours interrupted only by a litany of empty words and platitudes.

“Mr. Ackles? We’ve taken your sister into surgery… The baby is in distress and we haven’t been able to find the source of the bleeding…”

“Mr. Ackles, may we call anyone for you?”

“Mr. Ackles, may we get you some coffee or anything to drink?”

“Mr. Ackles, we’ll let you know as soon as we know anything more...”

“Mr. Ackles? Let’s go sit down...”

 

Jensen clung to the baby in his arms, a sob ripping through his chest, tearing him wide open.

“We couldn’t stop the bleeding…”

Just like in the hospital, the tears were beyond his control. They rolled hot down his cheeks, wetting his chest and the baby’s blanket, slipping between the contours of his lips and filling his mouth with the taste of salt.

“We did everything we could…”

But it wasn’t enough. Everything they could wasn’t near damn enough. Everything they could left Jensen feeling empty, drowning in this new life that had been tossed onto his lap.

“It is a condition called placenta previa and essentially what that means is the placenta in your sister’s womb was covering the entrance to the cervix…”

It didn’t matter then what it meant, just like it didn’t matter now. Jensen didn’t care what had taken his sister from him, only that something had. Something had ripped his beautiful baby sister’s life from her chest and left behind her cold and lifeless body.

Mackenzie was gone and Jensen knew that the medical terminology for what happened didn’t matter, because medicine and science had nothing to do with what happened to her. It was entirely Jensen’s fault. Another sob ripped from Jensen’s throat and he leaned forward in the chair, stilling it’s movements as a wave of nausea rolled through his stomach.

“You are listed as the next of kin for Kaleb Michael Seymour, Cameron Roy Seymour, and the newborn…”

Jensen’s own thoughts assaulted him. He remembered everything. The relief he had felt when he’d escaped Austin and his parents, despite the fact he’d left Mackenzie behind when he fled to the farm. The anger and pride he’d felt when his family had backed him against his father’s assault after the wedding, even though it was supposed to be Mackenzie’s day to shine. The jealousy he’d felt when Mackenzie had told him she was once again pregnant, and Jensen knew that he and Jared would never have that joy for their own. The elation he’d felt when the officer that had come to the door had spoken Lee’s name and not Jared’s.

Jensen was selfish. And he was certain it had been his selfishness and his thoughts that had somehow driven his sister’s life from her body. Wasn’t it only months before that he had been envious of Mackenzie and Lee’s newfound joy at adding to their family? And now he had three more children for him and Jared to take care of, three children who his selfishness had hurt and destroyed by ripping their parents away in the blink of an eye. It was more than Jensen deserved, and he was guilty, selfish, disgusting.

The mournful sound that escaped him was nothing close to resembling a sound a human should make, and it masked the sound of the door pushing open. Suddenly, his grandmother was at his feet, kneeling on the carpet. Her tear-filled eyes were shining in the candlelight as she whispered, just barely audible, “Oh, Jensen…”

She reached forward, stroking his cheek and he shivered, feeling sick that someone was offering him comfort when he was the cause of all of this. Then, she reached for the baby.

“No!” Jensen yelled, ripping back away from her and clinging to the child more tightly. The baby let out a sharp cry, and guilt immediately flooded Jensen and he began to cry harder, meeting his grandmother’s eyes in the dark room. “You can’t take her, you can’t.”

It was selfish, again, but Jensen refused to give up his grip on the child, the only connection he had left to Mackenzie. He cried for her, the child who would never get to know the beauty of her mother’s spirit or smile, he cried for Kaleb and Cameron who had known it and now had to live with the pain of it being ripped out of their young lives. He cried for Jenna and their grandparents, for Jared and for Lee’s family. He even cried for his own parents and for Josh.

When Martha’s arms wrapped around his body and she rocked him, Jensen let her. He allowed himself to lean into her warmth and let his cries disappear into her shoulder. And in her arms, Jensen cried for himself.

 

 

 

December 25th, 1970
Tân An, Vietnam

Jared exhaled slowly, sinking down beside Chad in their battered tent and handing him a roughly wrapped package. “Merry Christmas, man.” Jared smiled, pressing it into Chad’s hands and then a similar roughly wrapped package was pushed into his.

“You too.” Chad nodded and ripped the paper off his gift, laughing when a new pack of cigarettes fell out onto his lap. “Jay-man!”

“I’ve been saving the cigs from my MREs for almost a month now, you better appreciate it.” Jared laughed, bumping shoulders with his friend before turning his attention to his gift. He pulled away the old shoe-string Chad had tied the package with and handed it back, laughing as Chad bent down to return it to his boot. There were two large chocolate bars inside and Jared instantly felt his heart swell as he looked up and met Chad’s eyes.

“You and your fucking sweet tooth,” Chad mumbled, but the edges of his ears turned pink.

“Thank you,” Jared said softly, ripping the corner of one bar open and breaking the chocolate in half. He handed Chad his portion and bit into the piece in his hand. Together, they ate the chocolate in silence, listening to the men outside of their tent milling about and talking around the small campfire Jared had allowed them to build tonight.

Chad silently handed him a cigarette once the chocolate bar was gone and Jared leaned forward, letting the tip catch under the match Chad was holding out.

“You think they’re all thinking about us tonight?” Chad asked after a moment, breaking the silence as he leaned down so he was sprawled across his cot, one arm tucked under his head. Jared tossed a look over his shoulder, watching as Chad sucked in a deep drag of his cigarette and released the smoke slowly. “I mean, do you think they miss us more today than like, yesterday?”

“I don’t know,” Jared shrugged, laying down on his side so he could face his friend, letting the end of the cigarette dangle from his lips as he adjusted his gun at his hip. “I hope not… I know it’s not true, but I wish they wouldn’t miss us at all, you know?” Jared gave a small laugh and shook his head, heat suddenly building behind his eyes. “Missing someone this much sucks,” he whispered and Chad nodded slowly, eyes trained on a spot on the canvas roof.

“At least you have someone waiting back home.”

“You’ll find someone, Murray,” Jared replied, waiting for Chad to look over and meet his eyes. He gave him a small nod. “You will. Once you get home, you’ll be a handsome war veteran and you won’t be able to keep all the girls off of you.”

Chad smiled at that, flicking his cigarette ash into the Mason jar they had on the foot locker between their cots. Then, he cleared his throat and looked back up to the roof. “He’s really lucky, you know.”

Jared blinked, confused as he studied Chad’s face, waiting for him to continue. Chad’s eyes however, were purposefully not looking anywhere near Jared and instead of the warmth and calm the rush of nicotine had given him, cold spread throughout his body as realization dawned.

“He who?” he whispered and Chad licked his lower lip, biting on it for a moment before leaning his head over and meeting Jared’s eyes.

“Jen.”

Jared felt his stomach knot up and he tore his eyes away, flipping onto his back, hands clutching at the sides of his cot. He could feel his heart thumping erratically in his throat, a hot and heavy pulse that made his head spin. The shifting of the cot beside him had him jumping, eyes flying over to watch as Chad sat up again and leaned forward.

“Jared…” Jared swallowed hard, waited. “I won’t tell anyone. I wouldn’t do that to you. And I mean it, he’s lucky and from what you’ve said, so are you. Just… thought you should know, that I’ve got your back, buddy. I always will.”

Jared let out a shaky breath, and nodded once, heart still beating wildly in his chest. Chad knows, Chad knows about Jensen. Chad has the power to destroy everything. Jared pushed himself up into a sitting position, sitting directly across from Chad now and nodded again.

“Thank you,” Jared whispered and Chad clapped his hands together, causing Jared to jump once, and reached for the cigarettes again.

“Think we can get through these all before New Year's?” Chad tossed the pack over and Jared smiled, snatching it out of the air. He slipped one out, surprised at how light he suddenly felt; Chad had the power, true, but Jared knew that he was sincere, hadn’t doubted a word that had come out of his friend’s mouth, and for once had someone he could be himself with that wasn’t family or Jensen himself.

“I would be impressed if there were any left by the morning,” Jared replied, tossing the pack back and leaning forward for the match.

“Eh, you only live once,” Chad shrugged, smiling as he tucked the cig between his lips.

“Thank you,” Jared said again, softly, and he wasn’t even sure if Chad had heard him. They resumed their silence, smoking and relaxing before it was their turn to take over guard duty.

 

 

 

January 10th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen walked back towards the house, kicking off the snow that was caked onto his boots in an methodical, practiced way as he stepped up onto the porch. Every morning was the same; wake up, kiss Jenna’s head, Kaleb’s, Cameron’s. Eat the eggs, bacon, and toast his grandmother put before him, drain a cup of hot black coffee. Then he would gather the baby from her crib, get her dressed and hand her off to either Sherri or Martha before grabbing his coat and his boots and heading outside to milk the cows.

Letters from Jared had been few and far between, whatever mission he was out on was not allowing him the time he needed to write, or not providing him with a place to mail any letters, and the one or two he’d gotten had only managed to make Jensen feel cold, guilty.

Entering the small back hall he slipped out of his boots and hung up his jacket, knowing that there would be a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen, his mug already full and waiting, and he would be expected to go over the reports with his grandfather and Gerry before making a plan for the rest of the day. Jensen hesitated at the door, the chill from the winter air outside feeling more comforting than the heat that came rolling out the open kitchen door. Sighing, Jensen stepped inside and pulled the back door shut behind him, sealing himself inside.

It was quiet and Jensen felt a small twinge of curiosity as he moved forward into the kitchen. He checked his watch. He’d finished the milking early, but not that early, and he’d seen both Gerry and Albert head back into the house before him.

“I don’t know what to do.” Jensen froze as he heard his grandmother’s quiet voice coming from the kitchen. “He barely eats, he barely talks, not even Jenna has gotten through to him…”

“He needs time, Martha,” Albert replied, voice rough and tired. Jensen felt his heartbeat pick up as he realized he was the subject of their conversation.

“Albert… How much time does he need? I understand, I do, we are all heartbroken about Mackenzie and all of us are missing Jared. But Albert, he has four children in his care now, one of which he hasn’t even named yet.”

Jensen squeezed his eyes shut, taking a deep breath before stomping forward in his stocking feet to let them know he was on his way into the kitchen. They stopped talking, both of his grandparents turning to look at him.

“Cows are done,” he murmured, reaching for the mug of coffee and pulling it towards him. Martha nodded at him, giving him a sad, small smile and Albert came around the island, clapping his hand over Jensen’s tense shoulder.

“Alright, why don’t you go and see the kids? Relax for a bit while I get the records out. Gerry went into town for a while anyways with Sherri.”

Jensen nodded, taking his coffee mug and knew that his grandfather was just getting him out of the kitchen so he could finish his conversation with his wife. Jensen didn’t care, was glad to accept the way out as long as it meant he wasn’t going to be pulled into the conversation himself, and he took the stairs two at a time until he reached the landing before Jenna’s bedroom.

The door was cracked and he stepped forward, peering through the gap to see all four of the kids sitting on the floor. Jenna was leaning back against the foot board of her bed with her legs splayed wide in a ‘v’, a bundle of blankets containing the baby nestled between them. She was slowly stroking and tickling the baby’s feet, smiling when the baby cooed happily and kicked her tiny legs. Kaleb and Cameron were sitting on either side of Jenna, staring down at their baby sister with sad looks on their faces.

Just as Jensen was about to push open the door, his daughter spoke, “It won’t be long now.” Jensen stopped, hand just inches away from the frame. “My papa is going to be home really soon. Pretty much as soon as the snow melts, Grammy said. And when Papa is home? He’ll make everything better.”

Cameron sniffled, pressing his cheeks against his knees which were drawn up to his chest and shrugged his shoulders.

“How do you know?” Kaleb asked, reaching out and pressing a finger into his sister’s tiny hand. “How do you know that everything’s going to be better?”

“Because my papa will make it so,” Jenna replied, looking up to meet Kaleb’s eyes and then Cameron’s. “Papa will come and make Daddy happy again, and then he’ll make sure we’re all happy too.”

“Will he be mad that we’re here?” Cameron’s voice was muffled against his legs and Jensen felt his heart squeeze at the question.

“No, of course not. Papa always said he has enough love for everyone and he’s going to love that you guys are here! Leigh Ann too!”

“Do you think he’ll let us keep her name?”

Jenna shrugged her shoulders and leaned forward, kissing the baby’s feet. “It’s her name, isn’t it?”

Jensen exhaled sharply, guilt and shame suddenly flooding him and Jenna’s eyes snapped up, meeting his through the crack in the door. Jensen stared back at her, frozen to the spot, and Jenna muttered something softly to her three cousins before disentangling herself from the bundle and carefully stepping around them to meet her dad at the door.

She stepped into the hallway and pulled the door shut behind her and Jensen was on her instantly, slipping down to his knees and shoving his half drunk coffee cup away from them so he was at her eye level and able to wrap his arms around his eleven year-old daughter, pulling her tightly against his chest. Jenna let out a shocked gasp and Jensen shook his head, holding her tighter.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, honey,” he whispered against her ear, running his fingers through the back of her hair. It took Jenna a moment, but then she sighed softly, her arms coming back around his neck and hugging him tightly.

“Daddy, you don’t have to be sorry,” Jenna whispered, running her hands over his back and Jensen felt the tears spring to his eyes, couldn’t fight back the few that slipped free. “We miss her, too. We understand, okay? I love you.”

“Jenna… God, Jenna. No, I’ve been so…” he stopped, choking on a sob and clung to her even more tightly. “I haven’t been much of a father lately, and I’m so damned sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Papa will be home soon, Daddy. Then everything will go back to normal.”

Jensen didn’t have the heart to disagree, didn’t want to tell her that Papa might not come back normal at all, didn’t want to tell her that he wasn’t sure if he would be the same again, either. As he clung to her, his daughter’s warmth soaking into him, her soft reassurances against his ear, he promised himself, that at the very least, he damn well was going to try.

 

 

 

 

March 3rd, 1971
Tân An, Vietnam

The ringing in Jared’s ear was almost as distressing as the nausea rolling in his stomach. He could smell burning flesh, the wet earth and jungle that surrounded them, all overwhelming. He swallowed hard, his throat thick and dry as he let his eyes trail over the village before him.

Months ago, it had been their salvation, a respite from the jungle and sleeping underneath the stars. The American sympathizers were kind, willing to share what little comfort and food they had with a gentle smile and a spot by their fires, and Jared knew that it ultimately caused their demise.

He could feel the three men at his back, their boots squelching in the mud as they approached him and Jared realized he’d fallen to his knees, the damn ground soaking in through his uniform pants and sending a chill up his spine.

“Sergeant…” one of them said softly --Dionne-- and Jared tilted his head, the only indication that he had heard him, “should… should we set up a perimeter?”

“No,” Jared replied, shaking his head as he let his eyes trail over the still smoldering huts, “look for survivors.”

He knew there wouldn’t be any but he couldn’t just walk away, he had to know and he had to see each and every face that stared lifelessly back up at him. Together, the four of them picked their way through the wreckage, careful of puddles and glowing embers. When they reached the back of the clearing, Jared stopped short.

Though there had been a few dead bodies, men mostly, scattered here and there on the pathways between the huts or crumpled in smoking doorways, the rest were here, piled in a giant mass of limbs and clothing, mud and fire. Behind him he heard the retching, heard his three men step back, afraid to get any closer to the smell or the sight of what lay ahead. Jared didn’t care.

Jared pushed himself forward, breathing shallowly through his mouth and trying not to breathe in through his nose. There was so much blood, and he could smell the thick, sweet, copper scent of it even through the flames and blistered flesh. Jared wondered if he would always be able to smell the blood, always be able to feel it on him.

For a moment his vision swam and it all rushed back to him. Slammed hard into his chest and heart with the horrible smell the terrifying memories…..

Jared could feel it now, thick and drying on his hands as he pressed hard against Chad’s chest, the heat of the fresh blood squirting back at him despite all of his pressure.

“Don’t you dare, don’t you dare fucking die on me, Murray!”

Jared pressed harder, the sounds of men screaming ringing in his ears, but his eyes couldn’t leave Chad’s face --pale, spots of blood splattered on his throat and cheek, one spot clinging to his eyelashes.

“Get home to him, Jared,” Chad choked, body seizing beneath Jared’s hands. “Get home to that man of yours, promise me that.”

“Fuck you, Chad. Fuck you!”

Chad laughed. More blood. Another shot fired. And Jared was frozen, waiting for help, for anyone to come and help him stop this from happening. There was so much blood…

“Did you call?”

“‘Course I called… shut up and save your energy.”

When EVAC came, Chad had done just that, hadn’t spoken another word, and no fresh blood had leaked out between Jared’s fingers. He had felt the guys at his back, knew what that had probably meant, but he wasn’t moving, wasn’t letting go of Chad’s chest until someone else, someone who knew better than he, was there to take over.

“You’re gonna be just fine,” Jared whispered.

His hands stuck to the skin of Chad’s chest, to his uniform, as Jared pulled away and relinquished control to the medic and Chad barely flinched. His eyes opened though and he met Jared’s own.

Jared swallowed hard, forced himself to open his eyes and look at the mass of smoldering bodies in front of him now. He’d told all of them they were going to be fine, too. He’d told the rest of his men they would all be getting home.

He had lied.

Chad’s pale face swam in his vision again and he knew, in his heart, that the chances of ever seeing his friend again were slim to none. He’d lost Young and Kent to heavy gunfire. Hemming was shipped with Murray to Germany for medical treatment. And every single one of them, the three men at his back still following him blindly and the village slaughtered before him, were all his fault. He’d caused this all. He’d chosen to stop here, pushed his men forward into Hó Bò Woods, gotten the one person in this fucked up place that he could trust killed.

Jared finally tore his gaze away, his eyes now tracking across the wet ground until they locked on a child’s body he recognized. He blinked, the face flashing from the small girl of the Vietnamese village to the smiling face of Jenna safe back home.

Clutched tightly in the dead child’s small hand was a simple, carved wooden duck. And Jared’s stomach finally betrayed him and he leaned forward, vomiting violently, hands digging into the warm mud.

He had lied. It was all his fault. All his fault.

 

Chapter Text

 

April 15th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone. Susanne, the plans they made put an end to you… I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song, I just can’t remember who to send it to. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again.”

Martha’s breath caught as she moved towards the front door, pausing just before the large window that overlooked the porch. It was finally a warm day, rare but welcome from the usual chilly April rain, and the morning had been spent throwing open all of the windows to rid the house of the remaining stale winter air.

“Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus? You’ve got to help me make a stand. You’ve just got to see me through another day. My body’s aching and my time is at hand and I won’t make it any other way. Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend… but I’ve always thought that I’d see you again.”

Tears were instant, stinging at the back of her eyes as she watched her grandson rocking in the porch swing, Leigh Ann curled protectively in his arms. His voice was soft, but for once wasn’t filled with pain.

“Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun. Lord knows when the cold wind blows, it’ll turn your head around. Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come. Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end, I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. But I always thought that I’d see you, baby, one more time again, now.

“And we will… right, little one?” Jensen cleared his throat, shifting Leigh Ann’s now sleeping form higher up in his arms. “Just a few more months now and you’ll get to meet your Uncle Jared. He’s going to think you’re the most beautiful baby girl he’s ever seen, I just know it.”

She stood there, listening as Jensen hummed the remaining lines of the song before slipping away from the door, unwilling to risk disturbing them and breaking the spell that seemed to be cast over her grandson. She smiled to herself as she moved back into the kitchen, opening up the refrigerator and pulling out some ham left over from dinner last night. As she was slicing up a fresh loaf of bread to start making sandwiches, Albert came into the kitchen, slipping his hat from his head to hang on the hook, his eyes wide as he met his wife’s over the island.

“Jensen-”

“I know,” Martha replied, smiling and reaching for her husband’s hand, tears once again swimming in her eyes. “I know, I know.” Albert closed the distance between them, wrapping his arms around Martha’s smaller frame and pulling her tight against his chest.

“Everything is going to be okay.”

 

 

 

April 23rd, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Jenna!” Jensen called out, pushing open the barn doors and pausing a second for a response before moving on. He’d gotten Leigh Ann put down for a nap and he hadn’t seen the rest of the kids since breakfast that morning. “Cameron! Kaleb?”

“Jensen!” Gerry caught his attention and he turned, seeing the older man sitting on the front porch with a pipe between his lips. “I think they went down to the creek.”

Jensen waved his thanks and made his way to the creek bed, already hoping that he wouldn’t find the three of them testing out the temperature of the water. It may have been warm lately, Gerry and Jensen starting to work their way through the initial plowing of the field, but the water would be nowhere near warm enough to swim in until at least mid-June.

As he neared the creek, he could hear the babbling of the water over the rocks and the soft laughter of his daughter ringing clear and bright. He found himself smiling, walking faster to get over the crest of the hill to see what they were doing. When he saw them, he inhaled sharply, frozen to the spot.

Jenna was laying in the grass, her arms thrown out wide and her two cousins mirroring her on either side, the three of them staring up at the clouds above them. He couldn’t hear them talking, only heard every time they laughed, but he was hit instantly with the memory of his first summer with Jared so many years ago. He remembered lying between the two Padalecki brothers, listening them talk about their new baby sister and wondering himself what it would be like to have another sibling. Since Josh had gotten his pharmacy job…

He swallowed hard, sinking down into the grass, and watched as the three cousins pointed out different clouds above them, Jenna reaching for both of their hands and holding them tightly as they shared their stories. Somehow Jensen knew that the three of them --Leigh Ann, too-- were going to be okay. Finally taking a shaky breath, Jensen pushed back up to his feet and walked down to the kids, all three of them looking up as they were cast in his shadow.

“Daddy?” Jenna cocked her head to the side, giving him a small smile. “Grandma told us we could come down to the creek as long as we didn’t go into the water.”

“And we didn’t, Uncle Jensen!” Kaleb added, suddenly bending his legs up and hiding his feet from view.

Jensen smiled, knowing that if he were to look, the toes of all of their sneakers would be wet. “It’s a nice day,” he said instead and moved to Cameron’s side, lying down in the grass with them. They were all quiet for a moment, the kids probably wondering what Jensen was doing lounging with them, and he felt guilty that they had to second-guess his actions. He cleared his throat, blinking away the burning in his eyes as he stared at the passing clouds. Suddenly, he pointed to one, causing little Cameron beside him to jump.

“That one looks like a pirate ship, doesn’t it?”

The kids all leaned their heads to the side, trying to see where Jensen’s finger was pointed. "I see it! I see it!" Kaleb shouted, pointing up to it as well. "And there! Do you see the giant squid?!"

"Oh no, it looks like it's going to attack the ship!" The two boys gasped but Jenna was quick to respond.

 

 



"Don't worry! My princess bunny will save it." Jensen tried to follow her finger to see this 'princess bunny'. He lifted his head and looked across the three of them, the boys with wide eyes as they imagined the great squid and bunny battle playing out in the sky before them and Jenna with so much confidence that Jensen couldn't fathom questioning it.

"You have to hand it to Princess Bunny, she packs a mean punch."

"She kicks, Daddy." Jenna rolled her eyes but met his smile with one of her own. "Don't you see her large hind legs?"

"Oh… my mistake." Jensen smiled and for the next half-hour they picked out different shapes in the clouds, each one becoming more obscure than the last until Jensen’s own stomach could be heard growling. Jenna giggled, pushing up from the ground and picking up Cameron. The almost three-year-old looked awkward in her arms, just starting to be too big for her to cart around, but she hiked him up higher and the four of them headed back to the farmhouse.

“I’ll make us some sandwiches. Jenna, why don’t you set the table with the boys?” Jenna nodded her agreement and took Kaleb’s hand, leading the boys into the kitchen for the plates. Jensen was just kicking off his work boots by the door when Martha came around the corner. The expression on her face made Jensen freeze, fingers tangled in the laces of his boots.

“What is it? What happened?” He straightened immediately, heart beating wildly in his chest. “Is Leigh Ann okay? Did something happen to Jared?”

“Jensen…” Martha shook her head, breathing out softly, “your… father is on the phone.”

Jensen swallowed hard, the good mood he’d been surrounded with over the past month quickly abated, dread washing over him as he remembered his father’s last words. His father had made it up to Vermont, staying in the Seymour’s lodge at the bottom of the mountain, and although he had kept their distance from Jensen and Jenna, as well as Albert and Martha, Alan couldn’t help but sneer parting words at his youngest son.

 

“Don’t get too comfortable, Jensen.”

Jensen exhaled slowly, passing Jenna’s hand off to his grandmother and watching as they moved towards the old pickup truck before turning around to face his father. Josh was standing with Ella, her hand pressed against his chest to hold him back, both of them watching carefully, waiting.

“Nice to see you too, Alan,” Jensen replied, sighing as he met his father’s angry, bloodshot eyes. If Jensen didn’t know any better, he would’ve thought that it was distress, heartbreak over his daughter’s death, but he knew that without Donna around to make sure the man was at least eating, Alan had probably consumed nothing more than an abundance of alcohol, essentially pickling himself. Jensen wondered if he was still working, how he’d gotten the money to make the trip, if he even truly cared to know…

“I mean it, boy. Don’t get too comfortable. You may have twisted Mackenzie’s fragile female mind, gotten Lee to believe you weren’t unbalanced, but I will not sit idly by and watch some faggot raise my grandchildren.” Alan’s hands shook as he held out the papers from his jacket pocket, papers Jensen knew were copies of Mackenzie and Lee’s last will and testament. He swallowed hard, feeling his own hands start to shake as the impact of Alan’s words sunk in.

“It’s not going to happen,” Jensen whispered, voice low. “There’s no way in hell I will allow those kids to go anywhere near you.”

“Well, we’ll just see about that,” Alan hissed back, the smell of whiskey permeating the space between them. “I’m sure any court I go to will find that a couple of fags aren’t ‘capable’ parents. Not to mention, seems like you’re a single faggot right now, hmmm, Jensen? Maybe I can even get Jenna out of it.”

“Over my dead body.”

Jensen hadn’t realized he’d stepped forward, fist clenched and arm raised, until Josh was between them, a heavy, comforting hand on Jensen’s shoulder but tight enough to hold him back. Alan’s eyes widened as he took in his eldest son’s stance, a deliberate supportive presence at Jensen’s side.

“Jensen is the best chance those kids have… we all know that.”

“Oh, you’re suddenly a ‘queer’ supporter? I thought I raised you better than that, Joshua!”

“I don’t know about that,” Josh replied, stiffening beside Jensen. “I do know that family means something and Jensen is the family that has always been there for me. I would trust Jensen with Christopher and Lynn over you, and I know that’s exactly why Mackenzie chose Jensen as godparent to her children, as well as Jared.”

Alan’s entire body was shaking now, voice stuck in his throat as he gaped at his two sons. Jensen felt his throat thicken as he allowed his brother to pull him back and lead him away leaving their father standing there. Alone.

As they reached the car, Alan’s voice rang out over the now silent cemetery, just as cold as the snow and ice on the ground, “This isn’t over yet, Jensen!”

 

“Ca-can you keep the kids in the kitchen?” He hated that his voice shook, hated that even the thought of his father coming in and ripping away the last link he had to Mackenzie, the most important reasons he had for living, had his heart racing and his stomach dropping. Josh had assured him, repeatedly over the two days he and his family were in Vermont, that the thought of a judge granting Alan Ackles custody of any children was comical. But only the radio silence had given Jensen any comfort. And now…

“Of course. If you need me or your grandfather…”

Jensen nodded, letting his grandmother pull him into a hug, her arms a comforting, warm weight around his shoulders, and then he slipped past her, heading into the hallway where the phone was waiting. Jensen lifted the phone, clearing his throat to let Alan know he was there, and he held his breath as he waited.

“Took long enough,” Alan grunted, the sound of his voice sending a shiver down Jensen’s spine.

“What do you want?” Jensen asked, forcing his voice to keep steady. He could feel his pulse, a strong thrum in his throat and he focused on counting the beats, focused on keeping himself grounded. God, he wished Jared was here…

“Just a courtesy call to let you know that you’ll be seeing me soon. I was wondering if Jenna would like her own room, or if she would like to share one with the babe?” Jensen swallowed hard, his hand clutching the phone, the receiver shaking against the shell of his ear.

“Yo-you are not taking any of the kids, do you hear me?”

Alan laughed then, causing bile to churn in Jensen’s stomach, his heartbeat racing faster. “Oh, boy, I think that I am. I take it you haven’t gotten word from my lawyer yet? Shame really, though no matter how long you have to prepare, no judge is going to let a pair of fairies and some convoluted patchwork of a family take care of those kids.”

“I suppose an abusive, inebriated son of a bitch is better suited?” Jensen hissed, his lips pressed against the mouthpiece, his fingers tightening further as if he could reach through the phone and wrap them around his father’s throat.

“I don’t know where I went wrong with you Jensen, I gave you everything. I raised you so much better than--”

“The only thing you taught me, Father, was how not to parent. You tried to teach me how to pickle myself into an early grave, how to lose my entire family, how to abuse and mistreat my spouse and children and--”

“How dare you speak to me like this!” Alan roared, his voice sharp, ringing through the phone. Jensen laughed, a short clipped sound as he realized that he wasn’t scared, not of Alan, not anymore. Now? Now, he was mad.

“I owe you nothing, Alan. If it weren’t for Gram and Gramps? I would be disgusted to be named an Ackles, to even be associated with you. You’re poison, Dad. And you will never get those kids, do you hear me? Each and every one of them are mine, they are my children and I will protect them until the last goddamn breath I breathe!” Jensen yelled the last lines down into the mouthpiece, slammed the handset down hard enough to knock the phone off its place on the wall, and stood there staring down as the receiver rocked on the floor.

“Daddy?” a soft voice seemed louder than it should be in the hallway and Jensen turned to see Jenna at the end, her back towards the kitchen and Martha standing behind her, a hand pressed to her mouth. “Daddy?” Jenna asked again, her voice breaking and Jensen moved quickly, falling to his knees before her and drawing his daughter into his arms.

“Shhh, it’s okay. It’s okay, sweet girl,” he whispered, rocking Jenna who was clinging to his neck, arms and legs wrapped around him like she hadn’t done since she was eight. Hiding behind Martha’s legs, the boys stood with wide eyes and Jensen opened up an arm, and immediately the two boys were falling against him and Jenna’s back.

“We don’t wanna go away…” Kaleb mouthed against Jensen’s jacket and Jensen tightened his hold around them all.

“None of you will be going anywhere, do you hear me? I promise.” Jensen looked up, Martha’s eyes shining with tears but showing the same determination that he himself felt, and he knew that this would not be a battle easily won… but they would do it. Alan had already had his chance at a family and he destroyed that. He would not destroy Jensen’s family.

 

 

 

 

May 18th, 1971
Landstuhl, Germany

 

Jared let his eyes fall closed, leaning his head back against the back of the chair he was sitting in. He was tired. He turned his head, looking at Dionne who was staring straight ahead, his neck hanging at an awkward angle and it took a moment to realize that he was asleep, sitting up. He snorted, turning his attention back to his lap.

They’d been up for thirty six hours now, had trekked their way through the jungle to their extraction point, gunshots and the smell of fire and the sound of screams bleeding out into the night, followed them as they moved. They were old memories, anything but distant as they echoed in all of their minds.

They’d gone in as eight. Dionne, Smith, Johnson. Young, Kent and Hemming. Murray... Now they were heading home as four, only half of their squad, half of their family, because that’s what each of them had become. He could picture them all even better than he could Jensen. God, Jensen…

Jared swallowed hard, his stomach twisting and he suddenly felt nauseous. He hadn’t heard from Jensen in months… mail had been held, unable to get to their location, and he missed his husband more than anything in the entire world. He missed lying beside him, legs and arms tangled in the heated mess of their bed. He missed spending the evenings on the porch, listening to Jensen strum on his guitar, his voice warm and deep, coursing its way through Jared’s veins, through his whole body until all he could hear, feel, was Jensen.

But… Jared exhaled slowly, wrapping his arms over his stomach and fighting the urge to draw a knee up to his chest. What if… what if Jensen changed his mind? What if he decided while Jared was gone that a life with Jared wasn’t one that he wanted? What if, once he knew the things that had tainted Jared’s mind and body, he decided he didn’t--

“Sergeant Padalecki!” Jared’s eyes snapped alertly upward, just as he shot up to his feet.

“Yes, Sergeant!” Jared answered, stepping away from his chair. His three men shifted behind him. The Master Sergeant waved Jared forward, turning and disappearing back through the door he’d come through, and Jared was quick to follow after him. The man was holding open a door to an office, pointing towards a phone.

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Jared nodded to him, taking a seat and picking up the receiver. “Good evening, sir.”

“Sergeant Padalecki,” Commander Morrison’s voice came over the line, a slight crackle in the background, and Jared leaned forward, covering his other ear with his free hand, “I trust you and your platoon are well?”

Jared’s thoughts quickly went to Chad and Hemming, hopefully somewhere in this hospital, and then to Young and Kent. He cleared his throat. “Yes, sir. Eager to be heading home, Sir.”

“I’d imagine Sergeant.” A pause, more crackling. “We are waiting for a second platoon to get to Landstuhl, then I’ll give word to get you boys home. We’ll have the 196th all back stateside by the end of the month.”

“Yes, sir,” Jared replied, a small smile on his lips.

“Because I like you so much, Padalecki, I’m giving you a heads-up to get your boys ready. Expect an award ceremony when you get back. You and your boys have performed exemplary work, bringing down three enemy squads. Nixon himself would be tickled pink,” the commander chuckled and Jared found himself sighing.

“Sir…” He paused, letting his eyes fall closed.

“Well, spit it out, Sergeant.”

“Sir… my men are… We have yet to hear news about Murray and Hemming and my men and I are all anxious to know…” Jared felt his heartbeat pick up, the silence on the other line felt like a vice around his throat, slowly cutting off the air flow to his lungs. He suddenly felt like it was a struggle to breathe, the silence on the other end making him sick.

“Hemming has been discharged, already back home with his family. As for Murray...“ Jared could hear papers shuffling on the other line and he held his breath. “Murray is still at Landstuhl. He hasn’t been taken off the ventilator.”

“Thank you, sir. My men will be pleased to hear that Hemming is home.” They continued their conversation a few minutes longer. Jared listened to Morrison praise him and his squad once again before he hung up and sank back into the chair. Silently he replayed the phone call in his mind, feeling somewhat dazed as he considered the upcoming events. After a few moments he pushed off the seat, legs shaking as he moved to the door and back out into the waiting room where the rest of his men were anxiously waiting for him.

 

 

 

 

May 20th, 1971
Landstuhl, Germany

 

Jared swallowed hard, adjusting his army fatigue jacket and making sure that the buttons were straight, no creases or wrinkles were in the fabric. He was being foolish, he knew that, but it didn’t stop him from checking his reflection in the glass pane of the door. One more check added one more minute, one more minute added one more false hope that this would be over, just a nightmare, that he wouldn’t be walking into a room where the only other person--other than Jensen-- who truly knew him lay wounded, lay dying.

Jared laid his palm flat against the heavy wood door and pushed, holding his breath as the door made a groan of protest before swinging slowly open. The soft, steady beeping of the monitors hooked up to Chad’s body was the first sound he heard, then the whoosh, whoosh of the ventilator. He stared at the bed in the center of the room, stark white sheets hardly a contrast to the chalky tone of Chad’s skin. With each whoosh, the blankets rose and fell, the machine forcing Chad’s lungs into action. Jared closed his eyes, tried to picture the red flushed cheeks of Chad laughing out in the jungle, his legs kicked over Jared’s lap as he smoked a cigarette and won more smokes from the guys with each hand of poker.

“Excuse me please, Sergeant.” A nurse slipped into the room behind him, nudging Jared’s arm to move. He stood to the side, an arm’s length away from Chad, and watched as she picked up the chart hanging from the foot of the bed, made a few notes, and then moved to the various machines and adjusted their knobs.

Jared watched her, her moves swift but carefully efficient, the tenderness she used on a man whom she’s probably never heard speak twisted something deep inside of Jared. When she moved to leave, he stopped her. “Miss… Please…” He prayed for his voice to stay strong. “How…? When will he…?”

She smiled gently and Jared wished he’d never stopped her, wish he’d never seen the sadness clouding her eyes or the pity on her face. “He’s very sick, Sergeant. We are doing everything we can… but Sergeant Murray has a serious pneumococcal infection.”

“What does that mean?” Jared asked, watching as a multitude of responses played out over her face. Finally, she settled for another small smile and stepped forward, placing her hand gently on his arm.

“Are you a praying man, Sergeant Padalecki?”

“Not really, ma’am, no,” he answered honestly. “Only when times are real hard.”

“Well, I’ve been praying every night for Sergeant Murray,” she said softly, giving his arm a squeeze. “I’m sure if he has a few more people praying for him, somehow… he’ll pull through.” Jared nodded, let himself lean into the comfort of her touch for a moment, and then he was left alone with the warm body of his best friend and the sounds of the machines keeping him alive.

With a few steps Jared was at the bedside, sinking down to sit on the edge of the bed. He reached out seeking Chad’s upturned palm, wrapped his hand gently around it before giving it a squeeze. He knew what Chad would say if he could see Jared reaching for his hand, knew he would joke that Jared already had a good man back home and he couldn’t be selfish, couldn’t have two.

“You son of a bitch,” Jared whispered, blinking back the stinging of tears in his eyes, “You better pull through this Murray, do you hear me? You better wake up and get your fucking ass home, you got that?” Jared squeezed his hand again, the beeping the only response he received. He stared down at Chad’s face, eyelashes still against his cheeks and it seemed unnatural, unreal. “You son of a bitch...”

Jared closed his eyes and let his head fall forward. For a few more minutes he sat quietly then he began to speak to his unconscious friend, regaling him with descriptions of the gorgeous nurses working here and about how anxious they were to meet the real Chad. He reminded him that there were thousands of girls back home that would love to welcome a war hero. He continued to talk about all the good things waiting for them back home until his voice grew hoarse and whisper quiet. Then he just sat, offering the strength of his silent presence.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, sharing the stillness with Chad, his prayer like a silent chant for Chad to just wake up, to open his goddamn eyes, to move. The nurse was back, her hand light on Jared’s shoulder but commanding as she pushed him to his feet, giving him a sad smile as she steered him towards the door.

“We need to freshen him up a bit. And you look like you need some sleep. You can come back and visit with him tomorrow, Sergeant.”

Jared nodded, looking back through the glass window at Chad’s still form and exhaled slowly. He didn’t tell her that he wasn’t sleeping, couldn’t sleep without seeing all of their faces in his dreams, bloodied and burning under the onslaught of gunfire or that Chad was always at the forefront, the first bloodied form he saw. He didn’t tell her that tomorrow they would be leaving, that once again he’d failed Chad, didn’t tell her that he blamed himself for Chad lying in the hospital bed unmoving and silent. He didn’t tell her anything, just nodded once more and slipped down the hallway, the silence of the hospital halls threatening to break him.

As if he weren’t already broken.

 

 

 

 

June 16th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen couldn’t sit still.

Inside of the house he could hear Jenna chatting excitedly to her cousins, telling them everything she had planned for her Papa and how much fun they would have now that he was finally home.

Home. Jared was coming home.

Jensen shifted his position on the porch swing, bouncing Leigh Ann slightly in his arms. The six month old was happily playing with her foot and he met her crystal-bright green eyes with a smile. It both pained him and delighted him that her eyes had finally turned from blue to green. Along with the near white curls of blonde hair atop her head, she was going to look just like Mackenzie. She started babbling, releasing her foot and clasping her tiny hands in front of her body and Jensen couldn’t help but laugh.

“I know, little one… I’m excited too. I think you’re really going to like him.” Leigh Ann giggled again and Jensen rocked them both. He looked around the farm and wondered if it would look any different to Jared… At the end of last summer they’d painted the barn and Gerry had helped him replace the porch since the wood had begun rotting underneath. He briefly wondered if Jared would be upset that they did those things without him, but shook the thought away. He’d written to Jared about the things they were doing, probably bored his husband to death with the trivial duties of everyday life. They’d gotten a newer, more updated tractor, Jenna had dug her own plot in the side yard for a little garden of her own, and there were more kids’ toys strewn about the front yard than ever before.

Jensen just hoped that Jared would walk up to the farmhouse and think it still looked like home.

Inside he heard a pot slam down and he jumped along with Leigh Ann in his arms. Jenna called out, asking her Grammy if she was okay, and Jensen relaxed as soon as he heard Martha’s response. Part of him wondered if he should head inside and offer to help Sherri and his grandmother out -- they’d been working hard all morning preparing enough food for the entire army, never mind just their family. But as Leigh Ann started squirming, upset that his attention had been drawn elsewhere, he determined that he was most helpful just sitting out here, out of the way.

Waiting. Anxiously. For the bus to come and bring Jared home.

Jensen had missed the phone call yesterday morning as he was doing his milking rounds and part of him was jealous that Sherri had gotten to hear Jared’s voice first. She’d come out to the barn, tears in her eyes, and thrown her arms around Jensen, telling him that tomorrow Jared would be coming home. The Commander of the 196th had decided that they would be driving everyone home, not wanting the families to try and get through the protesters that had united outside of Fort Devens or risk the safety of the soldiers trying to get out.

Jensen wanted to scream every time he saw the news, the picketers and protesters, angry and blaming men who had no choice in the matter. Jared sure as hell hadn’t… Jensen had his own thoughts about the war, about the men that were putting their lives on the line either voluntarily or drafted, and he had to force himself to bite his tongue every time he was in the town and caught wind of someone speaking ill about the returned soldiers and the war. He was glad that Jared already had a home, a job, a life, and felt his heart ache for the boys returning who didn’t.

It felt like hours that Jensen had been sitting there rocking Leigh Ann, stopping once to feed her some pureed chicken and peas. Jenna and the boys had joined him after their own lunch and all three of the kids were lounging on the porch, Jenna’s feet dangling over the edge and the boys drawing in the thin layer of dirt on the wood. Jenna heard it first.

“Papa,” she gasped, her voice barely audible. Jensen almost asked her what she said, and then he heard it too. The rumbling of a bus engine, the revving as it climbed its way up the hill, and then he saw it. He pushed out of the chair, his heart pounding loud in his ears, his stomach twisting, his skin suddenly feeling too tight and too hot. He was going to vomit. He was going to cry. He felt himself shaking and Leigh Ann was gently extracted from his arms, taken by Martha or Sherri or…

God, Jared was here. Jared was home.

The bus stopped, its brakes squealing in protest. And then Jensen was stumbling down from the porch, Jenna’s hand clutched in his own and he could tell she was forcing herself not to run. They waited, a few feet from the roadway, standing in the dirt driveway and staring up at the huge shining door, hearts pounding in unison, Jenna swallowing thickly and twisting her shoe into the dirt. The door popped open and then Jared was there, moving clumsily down the steps as his duffel caught along the way.

He was thin, skin darker than it had ever been on the farm, his hair still short and cropped close under the brim of his hat. Jensen gasped, staring, and then Jared smiled, flashing all of his teeth and his dimples and Jensen melted. The bus driver slammed the door shut and the big bus rumbled on down the road just as Jenna broke free with a screech, launching herself across the last few feet of the driveway and into Jared’s waiting arms.

“Papa! Papa!” Jenna was sobbing and Jared lifted her up, burying his face in her hair, breathing her in, holding her close as he rocked her back and forth. “Papa, I missed you so, so, so much.”

Jared peeked out over her shoulder and Jensen realized he’d moved, he was standing beside them. Jared smiled, shifted Jenna to his side and reached for Jensen’s hand. “I missed you too, both of you. God...”

Jensen tried to speak, the sound stuck in his throat, but it didn’t matter because then he was in Jared’s arms, his skin on fire from where Jared was touching him. Jenna and Jensen were both pressed tight against him and he was whispering to them how much he missed them, how much he loved them, how glad he was to be home.

It seemed like forever, but not nearly long enough, and then Jared released them, reaching down for his duffel bag. Jenna was still clinging to him and he held the duffel bag beneath her, reaching down to thread his fingers through Jensen’s as he led them forward so he could greet the rest of the family.

Sherri was crying, clung to Jared almost as long as Jensen had. The boys were shy but quick to tell Jared about everything they’d done so far this summer, inviting him to help them build their tree fort down by the creek, asking him to go fishing with them. Gerry and Albert were warm in their greeting, telling Jared they were so glad to have him back, that things weren’t the same without him. Martha took his bag and told him to go wash up so she could begin to fatten him up again.

Now that Jared had said his hellos, he gave Jensen a small, sad smile and Jensen was immediately on guard, watching as his husband silently took in things around the house as he was led into the dining room and pushed into a chair. Martha served their lunch, piling Jared’s plate high with food, pouring him a glass of Albert’s best Scotch, and Jensen watched as his husband did more staring and picking at his food, taking a few moments to answer when a question was thrown his way. Every few minutes though, he would look up, meet Jensen’s eyes and smile in the same way that had always melted Jensen’s heart.

“Uncle Jared, did you get to kill any bad guys?” Kaleb asked, childlike excitement in his eyes. The room fell silent.

“Kaleb,” Jensen cleared his throat after a moment, waiting for the boy's green eyes to move towards his, “we don’t ask questions like that. It’s not polite, okay? In fact, let’s not talk about that at all. Why don’t you tell Uncle Jared about the baby frogs down by the cattle pond.”

Kaleb shrugged it off and launched into an exuberant story about the tadpoles he’d seen, but the room was changed, a blanket saturated in awkwardness and gloom nearly suffocating as it slowly pressed down on them all. Just as Cameron joined in to tell about the frogs, Jared pushed back from the table, stopping conversation again.

“I’m… I’m sorry. I’m just so tired. Thank you for dinner, Martha. I think I… I need to go and lay down for a bit.” Jared’s movements were jerky as he walked away from the table, reaching down for his duffel bag and they all listened to his boots as they clumped their way up the stairs and crossed into the bedroom. Jensen’s eyes flicked over to Albert’s, his grandfather staring at Jared’s empty seat with sadness in his eyes.

“It will just take some time, Son,” Gerry said from beside him, his hand warm on Jensen’s shoulder. Jensen nodded, then pushed back as well.

“I’m just going to make sure that… he’s got a clean towel, in case he wants to shower.” No one replied as he made his way up the stairs, footsteps much quieter than the heavy, combat boots Jared had been wearing. When he reached the closed bedroom door he hesitated, staring at the knob. He knew he could push it open, it was his bedroom as well, but he was suddenly terrified at what he would find if he did so.

He remembered how his dad had been, quiet and pensive, a short fuse that led him quite readily to violence. Jensen was suddenly six years old again as he lifted his hand and knocked lightly on the door. He heard a thump and then footsteps and he froze hand still on the doorknob as Jared ripped the door open. They stood there, staring at each other, Jared taking huge, gasping breaths as he looked down at Jensen.

“Jared…” Jensen whispered and then Jared fell against him, arms wrapped tightly around Jensen’s body, lips crushed hot and hard against Jensen’s mouth, fingers digging almost painfully into his shoulder blades. He gasped, Jared swallowing the sound as he pulled Jensen forward, nearly slamming the door shut behind them and then pushing Jensen back against it. “Fuck, Jared…”

“I missed you, I missed you so much,” Jared whispered, his voice cracking. “I don’t deserve you, I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve any of this...”

“Jared, what are you talking about?” Jensen asked, reaching for Jared’s arms. “Of course you do!”

But then the other man moved away, stepping back quickly until his knees hit the edge of the mattress and he collapsed onto it, leaning down low over his knees and dropping his head into his hands.

“Jared?”

Jared was silent, his shoulders and his head shaking slowly in his hands. “I’m so tainted, Jensen… I don’t belong here anymore,” he finally whispered, lifting his head but continuing to stare down at his hands. His hands were trembling and Jensen slowly moved forward, kneeling before Jared and looking up into the wild, tortured eyes of the man he loved. Jared was falling apart before him and Jensen was terrified, terrified that this was the beginning, this was how it happened. He wondered if his father had started this way.

Jensen was surprised when his own hands were steady as he lifted them and placed them in Jared’s. Jared hissed, pained that Jensen was touching him, touching his hands, but he didn’t pull away.

“Jared, look at me. Don’t say that. This is your home… of course you belong here.” Slowly, Jared’s eyes drew up, glassy and unfocused, his fingers twitching beneath Jensen’s palms. “Breathe, Jared. Please, baby.”

Jared let out a shuddering breath, his shoulders and body nearly collapsing with the exhale and Jensen moved, collecting Jared in his arms once again, sliding up onto the bed so he was on his knees and could draw Jared against his chest. He held onto Jared, holding him as he trembled in Jensen’s arms until finally he was still, the only movement was his breath, hot against Jensen’s throat and the rise and fall of his chest.

“Come on,” Jensen urged Jared to his feet, Jared letting himself be moved. He stood, almost too straight, and Jensen wondered how long it would take for Jared to learn to relax again, to let his shoulders be comfortable instead of ramrod. He carefully undid all the buttons on Jared’s uniform shirt, pushing the fabric down off of Jared’s shoulders and leaning forward to place a gentle kiss to Jared’s lips. Then he gently slid the sleeves down his long arms and off each of his wrists, kissing Jared’s fingers before folding the shirt carefully over the foot board. He unbuttoned Jared’s pants, unzipping them as he leaned forward and kissed Jared’s throat, tugging the pants far too easily down Jared’s thighs as Jensen sank to his knees. He untied both of his boots, slipping them off before freeing Jared of the pants. He folded those too, putting them with the shirt, lining up the boots under them.

“Arms...”

Jared complied, lifting his arms over his head and letting Jensen pull his undershirt off, fingers skimming against Jared’s heated skin. He tossed the shirt into the corner of the room and then moved for Jared’s boxers, Jared using his shoulders as he lifted each of his legs. He kissed Jared’s chest, now bare and he shivered against the chill of the room. Jensen moved to their dresser, coming back with one of his oldest t-shirts, the fabric thin and worn and comfortable. Jared held it between his fingers rubbing it softly, a soft gasp leaving his lips before he was tugging it on and accepting the fresh pair of underwear from Jensen’s outstretched hand.

“Come on, Jay,” Jensen whispered, taking Jared’s hand and tugging him back over to the bed. He pulled the covers back, Jared watching him silently, and only when Jensen stripped to his boxers and climbed into the bed did Jared follow. Jensen sighed softly, pulling Jared back so they were facing each other, Jared’s breath almost too hot against his face, their legs tangled and Jensen’s arms around Jared’s shoulders.

“Jared,” Jensen whispered, waiting until Jared’s eyes met his. He smiled softly, reaching to cup Jared’s face, brushing a thumb over his cheek. “You’re home, you’re safe.” Jared shivered, his eyes falling closed as he leaned into Jensen’s touch, his hands tightening on Jensen’s waist. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Jared whispered back, swallowing thickly. Jensen ran his hand back through Jared’s hair, closing the distance between them to kiss Jared once more before holding onto him tighter. He let Jared’s steady breathing and the heat from his body lull him to sleep, his last conscious thought was that being in Jared’s arm, it was he that was truly home.

Chapter Text

 

June 17th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen opened his eyes, blinking a few times in the darkened room and held his breath as he tried to focus on what had awakened him. The room was pitch black, silent, and it took him a few minutes to realize that the bed was shaking.

“Jared?” he whispered, reaching out to find cold sheets and no warm body beside him. His heart started pounding rapidly in his chest and he threw his covers back, sitting up straight. “Jared?!”

“I’m here.” Jared’s voice was soft, barely audible, but it soothed the fear bubbling through Jensen’s veins.

It took another moment for the disorientation to clear and for Jensen to see the dark outline of his husband’s body on edge of the bed.

Silence fell over them, but Jensen could still feel the mattress beneath him shaking slightly, and see the line of Jared’s shoulders trembling. Slowly, Jensen slid forward and wrapped an arm around Jared’s waist, pressing his body against Jared’s back.

Jared tensed once, a small gasp leaving his lips, and Jensen almost pulled back; then Jared relaxed, melting into Jensen’s touch.

They stayed there together, Jensen’s fingers slipping beneath Jared’s shirt and rubbing gently over his stomach and hip, fingers digging in every time Jared started shaking again. The younger man seemed to be falling apart, but the question lodged itself in Jensen’s throat, refusing to come out. Instead, he wrapped himself tighter around Jared and held on.

Finally, Jared let out a shaky breath and his hand found Jensen’s through his shirt. “Thank you,” he whispered, fingers squeezing.

“Come here, Jay,” Jensen answered back, sliding back to his side of the bed and pulling Jared along with him. They maneuvered awkwardly, not used to sharing the same bed space any more.

“Can… can you turn on the light?” Jared asked, his voice strained.

Jensen nodded, rolled to the side and reached with his free hand, his other still clung to by Jared’s, for the small lamp on the nightstand. The yellow glow from the light was harsh in comparison to the dark grey the room had been, but as soon as Jensen turned back to wrap himself around Jared’s body, he was grateful for its warmth.

“Jay…”

Jared looked exhausted, dark black circles dulling the usual vibrancy of his hazel eyes and Jensen ached at the expression on his husband’s face. There were tear tracks on his cheeks and Jensen reached forward, rubbing his thumb gently over them before he leaned forward and pressed his lips to his skin.

“Jensen, don’t.” Jared’s voice broke, his fingers tightening around Jensen’s, but his protest went ignored.

Jensen kissed every inch of Jared’s face, tasting the remaining salt on his cheeks, feeling the heat of Jared’s skin and the fluttering of his lashes against his lips, all reminders that Jared was here. Jared was safe and alive.

Then, Jensen found his lips, pressing them together softly. When he pulled back, Jared was shaking again, his eyes shining with unshed tears. He was quick to pull his gaze away, refusing to meet Jensen’s eyes. Jensen watched the internal struggle of whatever Jared was thinking or playing over in his mind flickering across his face, and Jensen’s heart broke. With a soft sigh, Jensen shifted his position, molding himself against Jared’s side and holding him impossibly closer.

“I love you,” Jensen said, repeating it once more until Jared turned his head and met his eyes. “I do. I love you, Jared. And I am so glad you’re here. You’re home.”

Jared’s eyes squeezed shut, a tear slipping down his cheek and Jensen leaned forward to kiss it away. “You’re safe, Jared.”

“No, I’m not,” Jared whispered back, turning his head to bury it into Jensen’s neck, his own arms coming around Jensen’s back and clinging to him. Jared’s fingers dug in, almost too painful, but Jensen relished the touch.

“Yes, Jared. You are safe. You’re home. You’re with your family, with me.”

Jared mumbled something against Jensen’s skin, his breath hot and wet against the edge of Jensen’s shirt.

“I didn’t catch that, Jay.”

“I am not safe,” Jared said louder, swallowing hard. “It’s all still there, in my head. I can see it, Jensen. I can see them all. They…” Jared made a pained noise, cutting off as he tried to push back from Jensen’s body.

“Jared, wait.” Jensen held on tighter, waiting until Jared relented and fell lax in his arms again. “Look at me,” Jensen demanded and then waited for Jared to shift his head enough to meet his eyes. Jensen looked down at his husband, immediately wishing he could take away all the doubt, all the pain, everything that was torturing the man he loved. But he couldn’t.

He could remember his mother, always patient, telling the boys not to ask too many questions, to encourage their father to talk about sports and work, anything other than the war that continued to rage on in his mind. As Jensen watched the same expressions he’d seen as a young child, in his father’s face, pass over his husband’s, he knew that he had a choice to make. He could tell Jared he was fine, urge Jared to live in the life they’d created together and leave the horrors of Vietnam back thousands of miles away. He could do what his mother did, work with what he had, try to love the man at his side as his inner demons destroyed him. Or…

“I am here for you,” Jensen gave Jared a small smile, reaching up to cup his cheek and make sure Jared’s eyes were on his. “I’m here for you, if you want to talk about what happened over there-"

“No! I-"

“And I am here for you if you don’t.” Jensen pressed forward, letting his thumb rub over Jared’s cheekbone, silencing him again. “I am here for you, if you just want someone at your side while you’re lost in your thoughts. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is that you’ve gone through, Jared. I’ve heard enough from the news reports to understand some of the horrors but… I know that doesn’t compare to what you’ve lived. But I am here for you, no matter how it is that you need me or what you need from me. I will help you, however you need me, because I love you, Jared Padalecki.”

“I don’t deserve you, Jensen.” Jared shook his head. “If you knew… the things I did… you wouldn’t love me anymore.”

“I love you even more than I did the day you left this farm and I’ve loved you every day you’ve been gone. I will never judge you for anything. You have seen me at my worst and loved me all the same. Nothing will ever change the way I feel about you. Nothing.”

They fell silent again, Jensen’s words washing over them. Then Jared broke the silence, his voice tired and tight. “I’m just… so exhausted, Jensen. I am sick of seeing their faces, seeing Chad… I feel so guilty, so dirty and they keep reminding me every time I close my eyes. I don’t want to close my eyes anymore, Jensen.”

“What can I do to help you, Jay?” Jensen asked after a moment, resting his hand on Jared’s chest, right over his heart. He felt Jared’s breath against his neck once more, felt as his breathing began to steady out, and Jensen almost thought he’d finally fallen back to sleep. Then, Jared moved and suddenly Jensen was flat on his back with Jared’s body pressing him down.

“I want you to make me forget, Jensen. Make me forget about everything in my head, everything…except for you.”

Jensen opened his mouth to reply just as Jared surged forward to claim his mouth. Jared’s lips were insistent against Jensen’s, his tongue hot against Jensen’s lower lip as he sought entrance, and Jensen couldn’t think of a reason not to give it to him.

Jared crashed against him like a tidal wave, the weariness and uncertainty that had plagued his husband from the moment he’d stepped off of the bus yesterday afternoon was suddenly swept away. For a moment Jensen wondered if he should stop him, should stop him from pushing away all of his problems, from drowning himself in another person, if only for a little while.

But Jensen’s body craved Jared, too. Every inch of him sang out for his touch, and if that meant allowing Jared to use him to bury the horrors of his mind? Then he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

Jared was relentless as he attacked Jensen’s mouth, all tongue and teeth. He reached between them to tear back Jensen’s clothes. His goal was to feel skin, and Jensen sighed happily into Jared’s mouth, arching his hips to allow Jared to slide his boxers down. He ached for the press of Jared’s fingers.

Jared loomed over him, his weight against Jensen’s body pressing him down into the mattress, a comfort that Jensen had missed more than anything. His body was warm and solid and Jensen needed to feel all of him. “Yours too,” he whispered, reaching for the bottom of Jared’s shirt and tugging on it. Jared shifted forward, kissing Jensen deeper, harder, before he pulled back with a gasp and ripped his shirt from Jensen’s grasp and then over his head. Jensen’s own shirt was half rucked up, shoved up his chest in Jared’s haste to have his own body touch Jensen’s skin, and he took the moment Jared was distracted with his boxers to rip it the rest of the way off.

When they were both naked, Jensen reached for Jared, expecting the younger man to come forward once more. But Jared stayed kneeling still, leaning back on his heels and breathing hard as he stared down at Jensen laid out before him. His eyes widened, gaze raking down Jensen’s body and in that moment, Jensen felt completely exposed. He wondered what it was that Jared saw now, how much the year had actually changed him. Self-consciously, he raised a hand, moving to give himself some sort of cover while reaching for Jared with the other to get his attention back on kissing. Jared’s hand caught his wrist, stilling his movement.

“You haven’t changed at all,” Jared said softly, releasing his hand after a moment and returning it to his side. “How can you be real?” Jared let out a short, sharp laugh, an expression crossing his face that caused Jensen to shiver, though not from arousal. He resisted the urge to try to cover himself again, forcing himself to be still and patient while Jared made his way back to him, back to this moment. Jared’s eyes were swimming once more with unshed tears, his hands shaking at his sides, and Jensen watched as he pushed back whatever had come over him and jumped into action again.

He leaned over Jensen’s body, reaching for the nightstand and the small jar of lubricant they kept in there. “You’re still so perfect, Jensen.” Jared returned to his original position, eyes now clear and focused as they trailed over Jensen’s body again. “You’re exactly the same: perfect and pure.”

Jensen laughed softly, shaking his head and received a small smile in response. He let his legs fall open, inviting Jared in, but Jared shook his head. “No, I want to watch you.”

Jensen swallowed hard, a nervous anticipation swirling through his gut as he accepted the jar from Jared’s hand. He ached to be inside of the other man’s head, wished he knew what the hell he was actually thinking, because Jared’s eyes gave nothing away as he stared down. With a shaking hand, he dipped his fingers into the jar, before returning the glass container to the nightstand and then reached between his legs.

He felt hot, both embarrassed and aroused as he slipped a finger inside of himself with a gasp. Jared’s eyes widened, expression fixed but warm. There was just a slip of his tongue as it ran over his bottom lip and it gave Jensen the urge he needed to press further inside of himself.

It wasn’t rare for one of them to be an active participant, to put on a show for the other when they had the time. He’d had Jared’s hands, mouth, and eyes over every dip, swell, and edge of his body more times now than he could count, and yet this was entirely new. Jensen felt open, exposed and so very much naked.

The air between them was tangible, thick with arousal and just a slight hint of fear. As Jensen stretched himself further, a third finger pressing into his body and the only sound coming from Jared being small gasps of air, Jensen wasn’t sure who was more afraid.

There was something in Jared's expression that made Jensen want to stop and wrap his arms around his husband, cling to him for all he was worth, and chase away whatever was plaguing his mind. He ached to ask, to push, to find the small fissures and make Jared crack so he could get to the center and begin to rebuild him, piece by piece. Jensen and the kids could fill in each crack and hole with love and patience until Jared was happy and whole once more.

But what if he made it worse? What if he broke Jared beyond repair and no manner of love or sheer will would make him whole again? A small, broken sound escaped Jared's throat as if he, too, shared Jensen’s thoughts.

“Jared, please,” Jensen whispered, withdrawing his fingers and reaching for Jared again. There was only a moment of hesitation and it made Jensen hold his breath before Jared nodded, jerky and unsure.

Jared moved slowly, pushing further up onto his knees and crawling over Jensen’s body as he laid back flat against the mattress. Jared reached up and adjusted the pillow, his hands coming to rest on either side of Jensen’s head.

“Can I touch you?” Jensen asked softly and Jared nodded, letting his eyes fall closed, a slight tremor running through him.

His skin was warm where Jensen touched, a fine sheen of sweat covering his too-thin body. Jensen let his hands trail down his husband’s sides, around his back, and tried to pull him closer. Jared shivered again but allowed Jensen to pull him in, a soft sob breaking free from his mouth as their bodies came flush together.

Jensen gasped as Jared found his lips, consuming him with his mouth. They shifted, moved as one, Jensen’s legs coming up to frame Jared’s hips as Jared pushed into Jensen’s body. There was a pause, both of them still as they breathed in the other’s air, before something snapped.

“Jen,” Jared whispered, fingers clenching the sheets and pulling it taut behind Jensen’s shoulders. Jensen tightened his hold around Jared, his calves pressing against the back of his husband’s thighs as his arms squeezed his shoulders, both pulling Jared closer.

For a moment, everything in the world was good again. Jared’s body was warm, his heart beat strong where his chest pressed against Jensen’s, his breath a reminder against Jensen’s skin that he was here and so very much alive. Every inch of Jensen sang out, rejoiced in the fact that this was real, and it wasn’t long before he gasped out Jared’s name, urging his husband to move faster, bring them to that edge together.

Jared wrapped his hand around Jensen’s length, twisting once -- twice -- and then Jensen came with a cry of his name, his entire body wrapping impossibly tighter around Jared’s.

As his breathing slowed, he ran his arms down Jared’s back, smiling into his hair at the shiver it elicited. But Jared didn’t stop shaking.

Jensen waited a moment, ran his hands soothingly over the planes of Jared’s back, and then heard a sound that broke his heart. It took a moment for him to realize that Jared was still hard between his legs and that he was crying, broken words whispered into the column of Jensen’s neck.

“Jared. Baby. What?” Jensen tried to separate them, to get to Jared’s face so he could look him in the eyes, but Jared only clung to him tighter.

“I’m broken, so broken,” finally came through and Jensen let out a shaky breath, as his hands resumed running over Jared’s shoulders and back.

“Baby, you’re not broken,” Jensen whispered back, kissing the top of his head, behind his ear, wherever he could reach as if that would and could make everything in Jared’s head disappear. A long time ago, Jared’s kisses had healed what was damaged inside of Jensen, and if there was even a chance…

“I am, Jensen. I am.” Jared’s nails dug into Jensen’s back where he clung to him, tears hot as they rolled down Jensen’s throat. “I can’t-”

The rest of his words were muffled again and Jensen shushed him softly. It felt like hours laying there with Jared falling apart in his arms until finally, his crying stopped and his breathing evened out. When he was sure Jared was asleep, Jensen slowly withdrew from him, carefully sliding Jared onto his back on his own side of the bed before getting up and padding across the room to the bathroom.

Methodically, Jensen cleaned himself up, resolutely ignoring the tremor of his hands. He flicked the bathroom light off and moved to the bed again, wiping Jared clean and tossing the washcloth into the hamper. He hesitated, scooping up their clothes from the end of the bed and the floor before sighing and folding them, placing them at the foot of the bed.

He climbed back in beside Jared, lifting his husband’s arm and slipping beneath it. He realized the light was still on.

One look at Jared’s finally peaceful face and Jensen simply closed his eyes.

 

 

 

 

June 23rd, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

“How is he?”

Jensen looked up as Albert entered the kitchen. The old man’s attention was nowhere near where Jensen was standing, making up a travel thermos of coffee, but Jen knew the subject of his grandfather’s inquiry.

Jared. He was the elephant in the room, so to speak. Everyone had questions, everyone was worried, and until now -- no one was talking about it. Jared would enter a room and be met with uncomfortable silence and forced conversation. Only little Leigh Ann was herself, and it was only because she didn’t know any better.

Jensen sighed, placing the cream beside an empty mug and rolling his shoulders. He opened his mouth to respond, He’s fine, he’s great! He’s safe and he’s home and he’s here and--

“I don’t know, Grandpa,” Jensen whispered, “He’s… I don’t know.”

Albert was silent as he crossed around the island, standing next to Jensen and placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. The older man’s hand trembled slightly against Jensen’s skin, another sign that he wasn’t as young as he used to be, and Jensen reached up to cover it, hold it tight.

“It’s going to be okay.”

Jensen let his eyes shut and blew out a slow breath. His grandfather’s voice held so much conviction, as if there couldn’t possibly be another option, and Jensen wanted so desperately to believe him. They stood sharing the comfortable silence before Gerry entered the house, stomping his boots off at the door, and joined them.

“Back field’s all set,” he said as he reached for the coffee pot, pouring two mugs and pushing one over to Albert. “I’m gonna head down to the stables next, see what I can do about the main door. Seemed loose yesterday.”

“I’ll head out with you,” Albert nodded to him and squeezed Jensen’s shoulder once more before pulling his hand back. “Been awhile since I’ve been out there anyways.”

Jensen nodded absently and returned to fixing the thermos with too much cream and sugar to be acceptable for anyone other than Jared. He turned and leaned against the counter to watch Albert walk out of the kitchen with Gerry, the cane which had been making the rounds room to room now a staple at his grandfather’s side.

Things were changing. Jensen supposed they had been, nothing that was happening around them -- other than Jared being home -- was new, but now Jensen noticed those creeping shifts in what had once been normal days. It had been months since Albert had done any work in the fields, the sun too hot too quick, his back too sore, and Gerry had more than doubled his efforts in picking up the extra work while Jared was gone. Martha was slowing down, too. Most of the cooking for their large family was now shared evenly between her and Sherri. Their family evenings were starting to be cut short as the older couple retired to bed before the sun was even out of the sky.

Inevitable, perhaps, but his grandparents finally starting to show their ages was not something Jensen was prepared to accept.

Jensen watched the two men disappear from view before he turned back to the thermos on the counter. He stirred the coffee and just as he was sealing the lid, Leigh Ann let out a high-pitched wail. Jensen waited a beat, wondering if Sherri and Martha were inside with the other kids, before he moved through the house toward the stairs. He took them two at a time and pushed open the nursery door, stopping short as he tried to register what he was seeing.

Jared was in the nursery, standing ramrod straight beside the crib. He jumped at the slight squeak the hinge made as the door opened and turned his head to stare at Jensen, his eyes wide and mouth slightly open.

Jensen glanced between his husband and Leigh Ann, screaming in the crib, her tiny arms reaching up and flailing about. Slowly, Jensen approached them, Jared jumping back and giving Jensen the room he needed to lean in and pick the child up.

“Shhh,” Jensen cooed, bouncing Leigh Ann slightly as he lifted her into his arms, “You’re okay, baby girl. Did you have a good nap?”

Her unhappy cries turned into whimpers and Jensen continued bouncing her as he walked to the corner of the room where the changing table stood. He laid her down gently, reaching into the top drawers to pull out a package of baby wipes and a fresh diaper. He set to work cleaning her up, lifting her legs to slide the new diaper underneath her bottom. As he pinned her up, he leaned down to blow a raspberry on her exposed stomach, causing her to laugh.

“You’re good with her,” Jared whispered and Jensen looked up to see Jared leaning against the wall, watching Jensen’s hands as he finished dressing her.

Jensen lifted Leigh Ann, bouncing her gently again as he turned to face Jared. “What were you doing in here?”

Jared shrugged, looking away. “It was quiet in here,” he answered softly, “and she’s so innocent and perfect. She has-” Jared stopped suddenly, shaking his head. “She started crying and I didn’t know what to do.”

Jensen stared at him for a moment before giving him a small smile and stepping forwards. “Generally, you just pick her up,” he answered, offering the baby to Jared.

Jared’s eyes flew wide and he stepped back quickly, slamming into the wall with a thud. He winced and started shaking his head. “No, no… I’m good.”

“Jared,” Jensen shook his head but pulled Leigh Ann back against his chest, “you loved holding the boys when they were smaller…”

“That was before.” Jared slipped sideways, moving away from the wall and to the door. Jensen hesitated for just a moment before he reached out and grabbed Jared’s arm. Jared hissed and pulled his arm away, a pained expression crossing his face as he looked back. Jensen couldn’t figure out for the life of him what that pained expression meant.

“Before what, Jared? You’re still-- I don’t--” Jensen sighed, and ran the hand he’d reached for Jared with back through his hair. He closed his eyes for a moment, squeezing them shut, and sighed loudly. “Jared, what’s wrong? Please, I can’t help you unless I know-”

“You can’t help me anyways, Jensen,” Jared interrupted and Jensen shook his head.

“You’re right. I can’t,” he spat out, “because over the last year I had too much shit going on here to figure out how to become a mind reader!”

Silence filled the room after his outburst, save a small hiccup from Leigh Ann, and Jensen was immediately ashamed. He looked up and saw Jared was looking at him, but he wasn’t looking at him. He had no idea how to get through to his husband, no idea how to make the next few weeks in transitioning Jared back to the farm life any easier.

Jensen shifted the baby in his arms, and blew out a slow breath. “I’m sorry, Jared. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I just-"

“It’s their blood, Jensen,” Jared interrupted, his voice breaking and Jensen snapped his mouth shut, held his breath waiting for Jared to continue. “It’s always there, on my skin.” Jared watched as Jared lifted his hands, his eyes intensely focused on his shaking palms. He moved backwards, further into the room again, and deflated as soon as his shoulders hit the wall. His hands, however, stayed raised before his face, eyes darting back and forth before they found Jensen’s face peeking between his splayed fingers.

“No matter how many times I wash them, no matter how hard I scrub, it’s still there. I see Chad’s blood seeping through my fingers and I can - I can feel it as it dries.” Jared blew out a shaky breath, finally moving his hands to clench them into fists as he slid down the wall, stopping only when his butt hit the floor and there was nowhere else for him to go.

“I can’t touch them, Jensen. I can’t touch you, Jenna, the kids… I can’t taint you with the death on my hands.”

Jensen stood for a moment, torn. His heart was pounding, a nervous energy swirling through his stomach at Jared finally opening up to him, but he knew Leigh Ann would only stay quiet and patient for just so long before her stomach won out. He looked down at her, met her large, green eyes, and was confident that for the moment she was content.

Slowly, he moved towards Jared and awkwardly sat down beside him, careful not to touch his husband and break the fragile ledge he was standing upon. He stretched out his slightly bent legs and laid Leigh Ann on his elevated thighs, bouncing her gently to keep her entertained before turning his head to find Jared watching him carefully.

“Give me one of your hands,” Jensen said softly, holding his left hand out, palm up. As expected, Jared shook his head, shoulders tensing. Jensen stayed silent and waited. A moment passed, then another, when he heard Jared’s breath hitch, watched his fingers twitching as he lifted his right hand. Jensen urged, “Please,” and finally, Jared’s hand was laid in his.

Jensen kept his grip loose on Jared’s hand, movements slow and controlled as he used his right hand to trace the contours of his knuckles, the ridges of his palm. In the dim light coming through the shades on the window, he could see scars, some shiny white and old from the farm, others in various shades of red and pink, new to his husband’s skin. Jared’s callouses that had always been a staple on both of their farm roughened hands, were now from holding a gun, and Jensen knew he would never truly understand what his husband was going through, would never know every thought that plagued him or be able to comprehend exactly what Jared saw overseas, because he would never be in that position. He ran his fingers over Jared’s, pressing the palms of their hands flat together, and looked up to meet Jared’s eyes.

“I see you, Jared. I see your skin, a little more scarred, but your hands are just as strong. I didn’t—I didn’t know about Chad, and I’m so sorry that something happened to him… but I am telling you, Jared, it’s not your fault.”

“It was, Jensen, it was my fault,” Jared whispered, his eyes shimmering with tears as they stared at their hands.

“You see their blood because you blame yourself, Jared,” Jensen continued, sliding his fingers between his husband’s and locking them together. He pulled Jared’s hand towards him, ignoring the pained “don’t”, and pressed his lips against Jared’s knuckles.

“These hands have seen Hell, but they’ve also seen love and compassion. They’ve seen life.” Jensen closed his eyes for a moment, feeling Jared’s fingers twitch where they were pressed against his chin, but he didn’t pull away. “These kids need you, Jared. They need your touch, they need your love, but they need only what you can give. No one is asking you to be someone you’re not, or to do something that you can’t.”

“She’s so innocent, Jensen. She’s so pure and I can’t-”

Jensen opened his eyes to see Jared now looking at Leigh Ann and he nodded.

“That’s okay,” he said softly, laying his free hand over her stomach and smiling when she reached for his finger. “She will be here when you’re ready.”

“Will you?” Jared asked and Jensen squeezed his hand, turning his head to look at Jared head on.

“Always, Jared.”

Chapter Text

 

July 1st, 1971
Somerset Vermont

Jensen blinked into the darkness, letting his eyes adjust to the pale moonlight coming through the window. Beside him, the bed was empty and the sheets cool, but that was something he’d gotten used to over the past week.

He held his breath, listening. Something had awoken him and he wasn’t sure what-

The creaking of floor boards outside of the bedroom door sounded again and he sat up. He waited a moment, but the door never opened, the footsteps continued creaking further down the hallway.

He shoved the covers away and found his slippers half under the bed. He grabbed his robe and dragged it on quickly as he reached for the doorknob.

Jared had taken to leaving their bed in the middle of each night. And each day before sunrise Jensen would find him in the kitchen with bleary, tired eyes and half a pot of coffee left. Jen had finally stopped trying to help Jared with ways to sleep, finding it only agitated and stressed the man out more.

Now Jensen looked down the long hallway, the soft glow from the downstairs kitchen bleeding up the stairs and providing enough light to see by. He glanced at each closed bedroom door until he saw the nursery was open a crack.

Surely, Jared wouldn’t have let anyone into the house. But that didn’t stop the spike of panic that rolled through his gut. Jensen flipped the hallway light on and moved quickly, shoving the door open and just barely stopping it from slamming into the wall.

Jenna gasped, spinning around from her spot in the center of the room, the quilt from her bed clutched between her fingers. Jensen shook his head, confused, but snapped his mouth shut when Jenna shook her head quickly and slammed a finger to her lips, telling him to shush.

Satisfied he understood, Jenna nodded and turned from him again, footsteps soft as she went further into the room. Jensen tracked her movements, confused when she bypassed the crib and went to the far wall. She looked over her shoulder at him once more, her raised eyebrow making her look far older than her eleven years, then together they looked down at the sleeping form beside her feet.

Jared was laying, curled up on the floor, back pressed into the wall, but his head was tilted toward Leigh Ann’s crib. Above his head, an arm's reach away sat an abandoned cup of coffee. Jensen wondered how often Jared came in here, how many times he’d come for comfort in the youngest’s presence without Jensen even knowing, before finally settling himself on a kitchen chair to wait for morning.

Jenna crouched down slowly, covering her papa with the quilt and tucking it in as carefully as she could, retreating the moment Jared twitched in his sleep. It broke Jensen’s heart thinking of how Jenna knew to be out of arm’s reach if Jared happened to wake up suddenly.

He waited as Jenna tucked the soft fabric around Jared’s feet and surveyed her work for a moment before scooping up the coffee cup and coming to Jensen’s side. Silently, she reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze before tugging him back out of the room.

“I’m going to put this in the sink,” she whispered once the door was shut, holding up the coffee cup in explanation. “Need anything from downstairs, Daddy?”

Jensen shook his head, frozen in the hallway. Jenna nodded and released his hand, moving just as quietly as she had before to the stairs and descending them. He must have zoned out, standing there in the hallway, or Jenna had been extremely quick in making her way back from the kitchen.

She pressed a glass of water into his hand and reached for his shoulder to pull him down as she pushed up on tiptoes so she could press a kiss to his cheek. “Go back to bed, Daddy,” she whispered against his skin. “Papa will be okay. He’ll meet you downstairs for breakfast.”

“How…” Jensen trailed off and shook his head.

Jenna dropped back down flat on her feet.

“Papa likes that it’s quiet in there,” Jenna answered, shrugging her shoulders. “He’s afraid of Leigh Ann, I think, but not in a bad way… Grandma Sherri said he’s afraid because she represents hope. I think he’s just afraid he’s going to drop her or hurt her…”

“I think Papa is afraid of a lot of things right now, baby girl,” Jensen whispered back, tightening his grip on the glass.

Jenna just nodded and gave him a small smile.

“It’s okay… we’ll show him there’s nothing to be afraid of. I just hope he gets some sleep…”

“Speaking of,” Jensen cleared his throat, feet finally deciding to cooperate. “It’s the middle of the night. Back to bed.”

“Yes, Daddy.” Jenna headed for her bedroom, turning back to smile at him as she reached for the knob. “Love you.”

“I love you, too, Jenna.”

Jensen hesitated in the hallway as soon as the door was shut. His bed was probably still warm, and he ached to crawl back into it for the last hours before the alarm went off at four. He looked down at the glass in his hand and smiled. He didn’t know how he got so lucky, if the combination of grandparents and parents or just the amount of love in Jenna’s life, but he was damn lucky he had such an amazing daughter, had such amazing kids, in general.

He thought of Jared lying there, finally peacefully asleep after God only knew how many sleepless nights, and made his way back to their bedroom. He picked up Jared’s pillow and carried it back to the nursery, easing the door open and slipping through, letting as little light into the room as possible.

Jensen looked over and immediately locked eyes with Jared, who had pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders and was blinking up at him from the floor.

“Hi,” Jensen whispered, moving slowly over to him and holding out the pillow. “You’re going to have an awful crick in your neck.”

Jared smiled softly and lifted up, squinting against the light around the door. Jensen moved closer and crouched down, holding out the pillow and glass of water. “Jenna already got you a blanket.”

Jared nodded and took the pillow, sliding it underneath his head before reaching for the glass. “Thanks,” he whispered and took a small sip before handing it back. Jensen leaned over, placing the glass down where the coffee cup had been.

He smiled down at Jared and then leaned forward, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “Try to get some more sleep.”

As Jensen pulled back, Jared reached forward, fingers closing around Jensen’s wrist. “Stay?”

Jensen nodded, sliding to his knees and maneuvering underneath the blanket with Jared’s help. Jared shifted around him, molding against his back and holding him close, the heat from his body sending a shiver through Jensen’s own.

Jensen hissed as his hipbone dug into the floorboards and he accidentally elbowed Jared in the stomach as he tried to position himself more comfortably. “Never mind a crick in your neck… we’re going to be just as stiff as these old wooden boards come sun-up.”

“Shush,” Jared replied and squeezed him tighter, lips finding the back of Jensen’s neck.

Suddenly, the floor was a whole hell of a lot more comfortable.

 

 

 

 

July 4th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

“You okay?”

Jared looked up, his eyes red-rimmed, but he smiled regardless and gave a small nod. Jensen lowered himself onto the grass beside him, his knees extending as he ran his hands down his thighs. Although Jared’s touches had been increasing, he still jumped when he felt a touch to the back of his hand.

Jared moved slowly, his fingers just barely brushing Jensen’s skin. They were both holding their breath, and then Jared chuckled nervously and laced their fingers together.

Jensen exhaled, feeling a wave of relief like a storm had suddenly passed. He squeezed his fingers around Jared’s, suddenly overwhelmed. Jared had rarely initiated touch since the first night he’d been home… Jensen’s throat felt thick, his eyes burned.

“When did this happen?” Jared broke the silence, his voice cutting through the sound of Jensen’s own pulse in his ears. He glanced at his husband, for a moment confused. Then he followed his gaze to their tree, cracked and broken laying in pieces on the ground in front of them.

“Oh,” he whispered, licking his lower lip. “It thunder-stormed something fierce the night we found out about Lee,” Jensen glanced to the side, watching Jared’s face for his reaction. His jaw was set, as he stared at the stump, but he remained silent. Jensen took a deep breath and continued, “It was struck, obviously, but it didn’t feel right clearing it away, you know?”

Jared nodded and silence fell between them once more.

Looking at the shattered old oak still hurt nearly as much as it had the first day he saw it. It was a reminder of what was gone, what had broken that day. He focused on Jared’s hand against his, the weight and heat from his skin a reassurance that not everything was gone.

“You can still see our initials.”

Jensen turned his head and met Jared’s eyes, his husband now facing him head on. “I checked… they’re still intact, right there.”

“I know,” Jensen replied. “Jenna and I still had picnics out here with the boys… It let us feel closer to you.”

Jared swallowed hard, his thumb tracing small circles on the back of Jensen’s hand, sending warmth to every part of Jensen’s body.

“I’m sorry.”

“Jay-”

“No, Jensen,” Jared cut him off, gave a small squeeze before returning to rub soothing circles. “My homecoming was not what you all expected, what you all deserved. Jenna expected her Papa, you a husband, and I disappointed you both from the start.”

Jensen sighed softly and took a moment before he replied. “Your homecoming was not what we expected, but every day since you left me….left us, I had a different idea of what that day would be like. At the start, it was me and one child, now we have four. I imagined you coming back whole… or wounded… excited… or quiet. Sometimes I even imagined running up to you on Main Street in the middle of a parade and jumping into your arms.” He gave a small laugh, shaking his head and met Jared’s eyes once more. “Jared, I had a hundred different ideas of what you coming home would be like, all of them different except for one thing.”

“What was that?” Jared whispered and it broke Jensen’s heart to hear him sound so sad, so afraid of what Jensen was going to say.

“In every single one of those scenes… you came home,” Jensen answered. “All any of us ever wanted was for you just to come home to us, and you did.”

Jared started shaking, just a small tremor in his shoulders. “I came home broken, Jensen, I didn’t…” he cut himself off, clenched his jaw and turned his head. Jensen waited just a beat before giving his hand a small tug. Jared followed, turning his body and collapsing against Jensen, both of them falling into the grass. Jared’s arms closed around Jensen’s waist, his head buried into his husband’s shoulder, and Jensen held him tight.

“When I came back to the farm, I was broken, too. You saved me, Jared, you helped me heal.”

They lay together in the grass, the crickets returning to their songs once their movement stopped, the sun beating down on them. Jensen was almost sure Jared had fallen asleep right there, his face pressed into the crook of Jensen’s neck, until a puff of air blew across his skin and Jared started talking.

“I don’t know if you were broken, Jensen, not really. You were hurt… lost… but still, you were so full of life. I remember picking you up that day. I had begged my dad to let me go, told them that they were needed at the farm much more than I was and that I would be happy to drive to Boston to get you. Despite - it didn’t matter how we’d left things, I hadn’t stopped thinking about you, not once, and I selfishly wanted to be the first to lay eyes on you again.

“You were everything and nothing like I remembered you to be, if that makes any sense… You were harder, in some ways, but just as handsome, just as sharp. The way you looked at Jenna,” Jared let out a soft laugh, shaking his head gently, “I was almost jealous. Though, I’ll never admit that out loud again. You had this air about you, like you’d seen it all now, you knew what your purpose was, and it lay sleeping in your arms.”

“Well, I don’t know how you saw all that… because I was scared shitless,” Jensen answered back and Jared pushed himself upward so he could look down upon him.

“Oh, I saw that, too. But that fear had you determined. You came back for a reason and you would be damned if you wouldn’t succeed at making Jenna’s life the best it could be. You’ve always had this… drive in you, Jensen. That’s why people are drawn to you. You’re the light in a room full of darkness.”

Jensen opened his mouth, but didn’t know what to say. The heaviness of Jared’s gaze had him flushing and unable to return the look. In the distance, the faint sounds of the kids playing in the creek could be heard over the insects in the field, over Jared’s steady breathing.

“I… I’m scared now,” Jared continued, but his voice was colder and he dropped back down, hiding his face once more. “I’m scared shitless because every time I close my eyes I see them, Jensen. I hear them, I feel the heat of the jungle on my skin, I can smell-” He stopped, shaking his head. “It followed me here and as much as it tortures me every waking second, I don’t want it to touch or torture you, or the kids, the people I care about.”

Jensen nodded slowly, trying to come up with the right thing to say to make his husband feel better. He had no idea where Jared’s head was half the time, but he was well aware of the nightmares that plagued him - sleeping or not.

“I don’t know… how to help,” Jensen sighed, squeezing Jared’s hand in his own. “I want to, I so badly wish I could take all of this away and have everything go back to how it was before. But I don’t know how.”

“I don’t either,” Jared replied and they fell into silence once more.

They lay there in the grass, watching the clouds roll past and sharing in one another’s warmth. If it weren’t for the heaviness of Jared’s breaths, the twitching of fingers against Jensen’s, he would’ve sworn this was like before.

“I have to tend to the cows,” Jensen whispered finally, breaking the silence. “But… this was nice.”

Jared squeezed his hand once, and then sat up, tugging Jensen to sit up with him.

“I missed you,” he whispered softly and Jensen smiled, slowly leaning forward to press their lips together. “Thank you for sitting with me.”

“I’m always here for you, Jay,” Jensen replied, reaching up to smooth his hand over Jared’s military short hair. “I’ll be glad when this grows back out again.”

Jared laughed and repeated the motion, fingers barely able to catch on the short strands. He nodded and released Jensen before leaning back on his hands and looking back up to the sky. “I’m going to stay out here for a little bit longer. I’ll be down in a few to help you at the barn.”

Jensen nodded and pushed off the ground, letting his fingertips trail over Jared’s shoulders as he moved behind him and headed back to the farm. At the edge of the tree line he turned and saw Jared with his face turned up to the sun and a smile on his face. Jensen smiled at him, warmth flooding his chest, before he made his way back to the cows.

 

“What are we doing tonight?”

Jensen looked up, stopping the spray of water, and looked over at Jared who had paused in bottling some of the fresh milk for their local customers. The confusion was evident on his face, because Jared laughed softly and continued.

“It’s the Fourth, Jen. Are we doing anything?”

Jensen stared at him for a moment, and then cleared his throat. “I think Gram is taking the kids into town with Sherri. They’re going to get sparklers and corn dogs down there at the fireworks, I believe.”

Jared nodded and turned an empty glass bottle in his hands. “I guess with the tree down, it doesn’t make sense to do them in our own field.”

“Yes,” Jensen said carefully, “I also wasn’t sure if having a bunch of firecrackers or poppers up here with all the kids would be… wise.”

Jared was silent for a moment, then shrugged and turned back to his task. Jensen waited, held his breath, but Jared refused to turn around and the conversation was apparently over. He waited another moment, just in case, before starting up the spray again and sweeping it across the floor.

“Did you guys talk about it?” Jared asked after a few minutes, voice loud enough to be heard over the spray and Jensen raised an eyebrow as he stopped it once more and turned to his husband. “I mean, did you all talk about me and how I wouldn’t be able to handle a few fireworks?”

Jensen blew out a breath and walked across the barn floor, draping the hose over a low wall before turning back and crossing his arms.

“No, we didn’t talk about it, Jared. We don’t talk about you, if that’s what you’re implying. I’m honestly exhausted, the kids haven’t gotten off of the farm in weeks, and I think it would be good for all of them to go into town and do something fun. I’m more interested in being able to sit on the porch with my guitar and a beer and just relax with you for a few hours of kid-free time.”

“I could’ve handled it,” Jared said in return, turning his back again and Jensen bit back a sigh.

“I know, baby,” he answered instead, coming to stand behind Jared. He pressed up against his back, brushing his lips over Jared’s neck. “Next time I’ll ask you what you want to do, okay?”

Jared nodded and Jensen squeezed his hip once before moving away and retrieving the hose once more. They finished cleaning the barn and storing the milk in silence, but as they left the barn to head in for supper, Jared found Jensen’s hand.

 

July 14th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen stood on the porch, staring across the front yard as the sun started setting over the tree line. His heart was still beating rapidly in his chest, fists clenched at his sides.

He heard the screen door creak open, and then slam shut as heavy footsteps moved across the wood to stop beside him. The wind shifted and he breathed out slowly, cocking his head to the side to acknowledge him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, turning his head to catch Jared’s slow nod. “I didn’t think.”

They stood side by side in silence, guilt invading the fear that had settled in the pit of Jensen’s stomach as soon as his Grandmother had told him who was on the phone. In retrospect, slamming the receiver down hard enough to knock the entire unit from the table with a loud bang, while Jared’s back was turned, wasn’t the smartest thing he’d done that day. Hell, answering the phone call in the first place hadn’t been all that smart either.

He had seen Jared collapse with a fearful cry, crumpling to the ground, arms thrown over his head and eyes wild as he swung his gaze around, looking for a weapon that wasn’t there.

Jensen had stared, breathing hard, his vision beginning to spin as his panic started to rise. He couldn’t deal with it, couldn’t deal with Jared’s freak out when he could barely handle his own, and without a word had fled the house.

“Mom was in the kitchen,” Jared supplied, clearing his throat. “She, ah, helped me come back and the phone seems to be working fine.”

Jensen nodded and crossed his arms over his chest, suddenly cold. He waited, knew it was coming, and still felt like the air was sucked from his chest when Jared asked, “What did he want?”

Jensen closed his eyes.

 

“Go wash up for dinner,” Jensen laughed as he held open the door for the kids, Jenna slipping the moment her mud-slicked shoes hit the hardwood floor. “Wait! Wait, back outside! Shoes off first,” Jensen corrected and watched all three of them retreat back to the porch.

“We didn’t mean to get all muddy, Daddy,” Jenna explained as she plopped down and started untying her shoes, mud coming off in clumps as she worked her laces free.

“Yeah, Uncle Jen! Honest, we didn’t know the river would be so muddy…” Kaleb added as he kicked his shoes to the side and stood, dirt falling from his clothes as he shook his legs and then bolted inside.

Jensen smiled fondly as he crouched down to help Cameron get his shoes off, the two-year old smirking and scratching at the mud caked to his thighs.

“Oh, I’m sure you didn’t. Leave all of your outer clothes in the bathroom, please! I don’t want to see any mud in your room or the hallway!”

“Okay, Daddy!” Jenna said as she yanked Cameron to his feet and darted after Kaleb to the stairs.

“We’re gonna have to sweep the whole upstairs.” Jensen looked up and smiled at Martha, standing at the screen door, but stiffened when he saw her expression. “Phone’s for you.”

He’d been getting a lot of phone calls lately, trying to sign a new deal with a cereal company out of Massachusetts for grain they could grow in the back two fields, but the look on her face told Jensen this wasn’t a corporate phone call.

Suddenly, it felt like Jensen was the one coated in mud, his feet refusing to move forward even after Martha pushed open the screen door and stepped out, placing a comforting hand on his arm.“It’s to the side of the receiver. I’ll go find Jared and Sherri will keep the kids upstairs, okay?”

Jensen nodded, but it took him a few moments to get his feet moving. As he reached for the screen door, he wondered what would happen if he didn’t answer the phone – would he just give up, hang up? Would he realize that Jensen had nothing, would never have anything else, to say to him ever again?

His heart was already pounding, anger boiling low in his stomach, as he picked up the receiver. Alan was already yelling on the other end.

“—can’t have no-no faggot takin’ care of those – of my – grandkids! Won’ even let me see them! I could do – fuck!” There was a crash and the tell-tale sign of sloshing.

Jensen sighed, “Would you like to have this conversation when you’re sober?” he offered dryly.

If Alan accepted that suggestion, they would never have the conversation at all. There had never been a bottle further than five feet from the man any waking moment, and that had even been the truth when Jensen was still a teenager, when Alan had had responsibilities and a wife to pretend he was taking care of.

“Fuck – Jensen? Jensen?”

“Alan,” Jensen answered, waited.

“How – fuck – took you long enough!” Alan slurred back, with more sloshing as he guzzled from whatever bottle he was drinking that day. “Been on hold for at least an hour!”

“While I highly doubt it was that long, I was out working in the field. I don’t sit in the house all day waiting for the phone to ring.”

Alan snorted, an ugly sound ripping through the receiver, and Jensen reached up, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Is there a reason for this call?”

“Deviancy!” Alan spat out. “You’re suffering from par-para- shit.” There was a rustling of papers, the sound of a bottle hitting a hard surface, and Jensen could tell Alan was reading when he spoke again. “Paraphilia, the sexual deviation from psycho-sexual non-normative relations to the Ope-Oedi-Oedipal complex. It’s a perversion of one’s attraction, sexual urges and behaviors, to the suffering and humiliation of one’s partner, non-consenting people, and children.”

“What are you even talking about?” Jensen asked, sinking down into the chair before the phone, resting one of his elbows on the old desk. He pressed his fingertips into his temple.

“You’re sick, Jensen,” Alan rustled more papers, “you’re suffering from a mental disorder and it’s only a matter of time before your twisted perversion goes from that other sick poofer to those kids.”

“What?” Jensen slammed his hand flat on the table, fingers gripping the phone tightly.

He heard the screen door opening behind him, glanced up to see Martha leading a concerned looking Jared over, but he shook his head, making them both pause.

In his ear, Alan was continuing on his tirade.“It’s most likely because your mother loved you too much. She always pampered you, allowed you to become too attached to her and Mackenzie with her feminine touch. It wasn’t right, you helping out with the babe as if you were a daughter instead of a son. Men don’t change diapers and help make breakfast, Jensen, and I should’ve had a harder hand on it when you were a child!”

“You were seeking out my attention, and where I failed, your mother picked up the slack and pushed you in all of the wrong directions. It’s a… a…, hold on, it says it here -- ‘sadistic jealousy of your brother and father who are successful in their roles as men that converted into sexual deviation of loving and needing love from men’.”

“You’re insane!” Jensen hissed. “Did you honestly just call me up to harass me over what you feel I do wrong in my life? You may not have anything better to do, but I surely do-”

“No, I called to tell you that maybe, once you’re all fixed, you might be able to get your kid back. Though the other ones aren’t yours, so I don-”

“Excuse me?” Jensen whispered, pressing his hand down upon the desk and pushing to his feet. He towered over the phone, as if he could somehow tower over Alan, trying to curb the shaking now making its way up from his feet. “So you called to threaten me?”

“My lawyer warned me you would not take to this all that kindly.”

“Lawyer? Your lawyer? You actually got a goddamned - what did you do?” He held his breath, glanced over to see Jared leaning against the doorway, head cocked to listen but giving him privacy as he faced the kitchen - and inevitably, his Grandmother who was standing off to the side.

“I filed for custody, Jensen! I don’t know how you’re surprised. I told you back in April that I was going to make sure those kids weren’t brainwashed by living in your convoluted excuse for a family. I never anticipated learning that your ailment might actually be cured, however, so I will have Jenna and the babe share a room. Might motivate you to get-”

“You are not taking my children!” Jensen hollered into the phone, anger rolling through his stomach as Alan laughed on the other end before starting to drunkenly hiccup.

“I am, Jensen. I have the papers all ready, all I have to do is file them. I just want to come up there and see your face while I do it.”

“You son of a bitch.”

“I’ll see you in a few days, son.” Alan sloshed more whiskey down his throat, and Jensen could see him toasting the empty room in triumph.

“Over my dead body!” Jensen hissed and slammed the receiver down hard.

 

“Jen?”

Jensen opened his eyes and met Jared’s, the other man having moved before him, leaning against the railing of the porch. He swallowed and reached forward, twisting his hands in the fabric and Jared’s shirt and collapsing against his chest. “He’s going to take them, Jared. He’s going to take all of them,” Jensen whispered, feeling the sting behind his eyes and pulled himself closer.

Jared’s arms closed around his shoulders, holding him tightly and swaying them gently. “We won’t let them,” Jared whispered against his ear, his voice soft and breath warm down the side of Jensen’s throat.

“We won’t have a choice, Jared,” Jensen answered, shaking his head. “He’s right.”

“No, Jensen, he’s not! There’s nothing wrong with you, with us!”

“I know that, Jay, I know. But the rest of the world… they agree with him, they think we’re wrong and we’re sick and… and we’re going to lose our kids.”

Jared was quiet; the increase in the thudding rhythm of his heart, the only sign Jensen’s words had impacted him. Jensen just clung to him tighter, let his tears fall. It didn’t matter that the kids were happy, not really. It didn’t matter that they were loved, cared for, or safe. Jensen wasn’t a ‘fit’ father in the eyes of the law; he wasn’t right in the head.

It was one thing to turn a cheek and ignore the whispers of stories coming through the crowds of people at the farmstand or in town and pretend that people like him, people like Jared, weren’t being mistreated or discriminated against. But the reality of it was chilling through Jensen’s very bones. From the open window, they could hear Jenna belting out ‘Old MacDonald’, Kaleb and Cameron singing back various animal noises, Leigh Ann giggling at her siblings’ antics.

And soon, the house would be silent.

“We can…” Jared started, trailed off, and Jensen squeezed his eyes shut.

There was nothing they could do.

 

Chapter Text

 

July 31st, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen felt numb.

Two weeks had passed where he was the one poised to snap, the family treating him as a fragile thing, ready to crumble. Every tire crunching over the gravel driveway, every ring of the telephone, every child screaming - playful or not - had Jensen’s heart lodging in his throat, nearly choking him.

The progress he and Jared had made together had halted, Jensen too terrified to be close to his husband outside of the privacy of their locked bedroom. While it helped Jared’s relationship with his own parents and the elder Ackles, Jensen wanted to scream with every single look of pity thrown his way. His grandmother’s looks were the worst; she could see him, always had. But for this… Martha didn’t know. She didn’t know what true fear felt like, how could she? No one had ever questioned if she was fit to raise her children because she was normal. Good in the eyes of God. Trusted by the rest of society to raise competent, successful children into adults. All Jensen could do was corrupt.

Jared tried, so did Sherri, but no amount of reassurance that Jensen was a good dad could erase Alan’s words from his mind. He tried to hide his fear from the kids, tried not to show how scared he was that this was it, the last bath time, the last bedtime story, game of tag, or family dinner.

They were too smart for their own good.

Leigh Ann was more fussy, the boys more demanding for both Jared and Jensen’s time, and Jenna was quiet, clinging to Jensen’s side no matter what he was doing around the farm. He felt like he was waiting with bated breath every time she opened her mouth, ready for the questions to come.

With his poor attitude, he wasn’t much fun to be around. And eventually, his family started to give up and everyone kept their distance from Jensen. He wasn’t sure if that’s what he truly preferred - empty reassurances or the silence.

The sun was hot, further causing his discomfort as Jensen took some of his frustration out on a new mailbox post, the old one finally succumbing to rot. Sweat rolled down his back and collected at the base of his spine, leaving his skin sticky and uncomfortable, as he dug a new hole for the post. Every time a car drove by, his heart stopped until they were past, leaving behind a friendly wave and panic clutching his throat.

Until one didn’t.

The Ford was creeping slowly down the road and already, icy tendrils of panic twisted their way through Jensen’s stomach. The driver was looking for something, the man’s head ducked beneath the sun visor, eyes searching behind thick, black shades. Jensen was frozen, helpless, as the blond haired man nodded towards him and began to turn down the driveway.

He didn’t hesitate, didn’t roll down the window to ask Jensen if he was in the right place. The Ackles’ Family Farm sign was large and prominent enough that it was clear this was the place he was looking for.

Jensen dropped the shovel, just barely stopping himself from tripping onto his face as it slammed into his shin, and ran.

The driveway was thankfully curved, with enough dips in the dirt that the man had to go slow. Jensen whipped through the cornfield towards the house in a straight shot, stopping himself twice more from tripping. He had to get to the house, he had to - had to - he didn’t know what. To say goodbye? To grab the shotgun?

If he was going to lose everything, he might as well take as many people out as he could, right? God, that thought alone was why his father was probably right and he couldn’t take care of the kids…

With a half choked sob, he burst forth from the cornfield and slammed into Jared, who had pushed himself up from the steps. Jenna gasped beside them, her eyes wide with fear, mirroring Jensen’s own expression.

“Jen? Baby, what -”

“Jay, inside, get the kids inside!” Jensen gasped out, hands flat against his chest as he shoved him back up the steps. “Hurry, he can’t - I can’t - Jenna! GO!”

Jared’s eyes were wide now, looking over the top of Jensen’s head as he stumbled over the top step and saw the truck coming to destroy them. But Jared wasn’t moving! He was just staring, his mouth open, his heart beating wildly against Jensen’s hand. Jenna slammed the front door and Jensen heard the lock, but Jared was frozen to the spot.

“Jared! Move!”

The sound of the engine idling made tears spring to his eyes and he stared at Jared’s face. Why wasn’t he moving? Why wasn’t he helping? When did Jared give up?

Jared’s hands were gentle, an attempt at soothing him as he ran them down Jensen’s arms, then pushed him gently to the side. Jared stepped around him and started down the stairs. His steps were slow but deliberate, as if every part of his body were weighed down.

Jensen didn’t know why Jared wanted to greet this man. They knew what he was here for, what he was going to say, and the fact Jared was just standing there making it easy for the man to ruin everything made something cold slide its way down Jensen’s throat.

Warring emotions were making Jensen’s head spin. He was angry at Jared for giving in, angry at his father for doing this to them, terrified of what would happen next, what would happen to Jensen if his kids were gone. He could already feel the loneliness of the empty house, one that he knew he and Jared wouldn’t be able to fill.

It was hard to breathe as he watched Jared stop, his hands shaking at his sides. Then Jared fell to his knees in the gravel.

“Jay?” Jensen called out, confusion at his husband’s collapse putting a halt on his racing thoughts.

A few feet ahead of Jared, the man stepped out of the Ford, closing the door with a final, loud snap, before he took a shaky step forward. He had no paperwork in his hands, he didn’t look angry or determined - he looked… happy?

“You can’t take them,” Jensen said sharply, his voice making both Jared and the man before them flinch.

“I’m not here to take anyone,” the man answered, his voice cracking. He glanced at Jensen once, before his eyes fell back to Jared’s. Something was wrong…

Jensen turned his head back to the house, seeing Jenna’s small face peeking out from between the curtains, his grandmother’s and Sherri’s beside her. They both looked just as confused as Jensen felt. If the man wasn’t here to take the kids, then who was he?

“You’re not real,” Jared’s voice was a whisper, and Jensen looked at him before studying the man once more. He was around Jared’s age, his blond hair grown out a little longer than Jared’s had managed to get. He held himself in the same stilted, terrified, confident manner that Jared did, and though his smile was easy and carefree, his eyes…

“I’m real, Padalecki. Just about as pig headed and stubborn as you.”

The man smiled again and took a step forward, cocking his head to the side as he looked down at Jared still kneeling in the dirt. “Now, I don’t know much about much, but probably shouldn’t be kneeling in front of me while your husband’s watching.”

Jensen jerked as if he’d been slapped. How did this man, this stranger know about him and Jared? And why was Jared laughing?

“Fuck,” Jared said as he pushed up from the ground, grabbing the man’s arms as if to see he was real before wrapping him in a tight hug. The laughter and the joy on Jared’s face, despite the tears on his cheeks, was something Jensen hadn’t seen since before he’d left. It caused something weird to sit in the center of his chest as he watched them.

“How? And when? I didn’t know… I would’ve come and-”

“And what, Jay-man? I was still half a world away and you had a family to come home to.” The man clapped Jared’s shoulders and then pulled back, his eyes shining. “Your family who seems pretty freaked out for a normal, friendly drop in.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Jared said quickly, spinning around and reaching for Jensen’s arm, tugging him forward. “Jensen, this is… shit, this is Chad.

Jensen blinked, meeting Jared’s eyes and finding nothing but truth and disbelief behind them. Then he looked towards Chad, the other man holding out his hand for Jensen to shake.

“I’ve heard so much about you,” Chad said as their hands slid together, his handshake firm and comforting. “God, this may sound weird, is this weird? But your letters to Jared, I feel like I got to know you, too. I think I looked forward to them almost more than he did.”

“You’re such a quack, Murray,” Jared laughed but he was radiating.

Jensen stayed still for another moment before he released the breath he’d been holding, then pulled Chad in for a hug. Chad went with it, relaxing into the embrace and hugging him back just as hard while Jared raised a brow, his eyes asking if Jensen was feeling okay.

“Thank you,” Jensen said sincerely, clapping Chad’s shoulder before pulling back and jerking his head to lead him inside. “I know that you’re a big part of why Jared is here with us today, and nothing I can do or say can ever repay you for that.”

Chad gave a tight nod, his eyes shining as he clicked his tongue and followed after Jensen up the porch steps. Jared moved in line behind them, quiet until they were all standing in front of the front door.

“Chad,” Jared broke the silence, and Jensen turned to see his husband reaching for the other man’s arm to pull him around. “I visited you every day when I was in Germany. The night before I was able to come back home… the nurse said that it wasn’t looking good, that I should say goodbye.”

Chad nodded, reaching up and placing his hand over Jared’s and giving it a squeeze. “They said it was touch and go for a while.”

“It wasn’t touch and go,” Jared shook his head, “she said it was just a go. It was your lungs first, then your wound got infected. You weren’t going to make it. She said you weren’t…”

“Well, I’m not sure if you knew this, but I’m one stubborn son of a bitch,” Chad answered, smiling as Jared rolled his eyes. “I don’t know how it happened, Jay-man, but I… I pulled through. The nurses said over and over again that they didn’t know how. Was pretty weak once I woke up, had to spend a month or so in Germany before I was strong enough to travel back here.”

“How long have you been stateside?” Jensen asked, the screen door screeching its protest as he pulled it open. He rapped his knuckles lightly against the door for Jenna to come and unlock it.

“A few weeks, they had to clear me medically before releasing me home. Only…” Chad trailed off and shrugged. Jenna yanked the door open, looking at the newcomer with wide eyes. Jensen ran his hand over her hair, pulling her back to let Chad and Jared into the house. Chad gave her a smile and then looked around the sitting room, flinching when the screen door shut with a snap. “Didn’t really have any home to go back to.”

Jensen glanced over at Jared who looked crestfallen, reaching for his friend again. “Your mom?”

Chad simply shook his head, looking down at his boots. “New York isn’t all it's cracked up to be. Wasn’t much left around there, so I figured I hadn’t spent enough time looking at your ugly mug.”

“Yeah, well, you’re like a parasite, Murray. Can’t get rid of you, huh?”

Jensen rolled his eyes at them, finding himself starting to relax. “You’re more than welcome, Chad. Come on, we’ll introduce you to the rest of the family.”

The rest of the night moved smoothly, the boys nearly falling over themselves to learn everything they could about their papa’s friend, eyes wide when they learned he was a soldier, too.

They’d thankfully learned their lesson and hadn't asked anymore questions about killing people, but had come up with a million others that Chad took in stride.

The Padaleckis were taken with him just as quickly, Sherri moving to their house to clean up Jared’s old room right after dinner. They stayed up far past the sunset, Chad tuning up one of Jensen’s older guitars and playing alongside Jensen on the front porch.

Jared was humming one of the old country songs Chad had taught them as he stripped out of his undershirt and jeans, sliding beneath the sheets beside Jensen.

Jensen rolled on his side, a soft smile on his face as he reached for Jared, his husband leaning into the touch. It made Jensen’s breath catch and he pushed forward, meeting Jared halfway in a kiss.

“What was that for?” Jared asked, smiling against his mouth as he kissed him again.

“Just missed you,” Jensen answered, giving Jared a soft smile as he pulled back to meet his eyes. “It was nice to see you laughing.”

Jared was quiet for a moment, then reached between them to grab Jensen’s hand in his own. “I’m sorry, Jen. I’ve been-”

Jensen silenced him with another kiss, pushing against Jared’s shoulders until he was flat on his back. Jensen laid his head against Jared’s chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart.

“Always,” Jensen whispered as Jared wrapped an arm around his shoulders, holding him tight.

“Always, Jensen.”

As Jared drifted to sleep, his breathing slow and his arms twitching, Jensen realized this was the first night that Jared had fallen asleep so quickly, so peacefully. He wondered how Chad was, if he was comfortable in Jared’s old twin bed or if he was tossing and turning alone in a new place, plagued by the same terrors the sleeping man beside him was.

He couldn’t imagine what Jared would be going through if he didn’t have them - a loving husband, his kids, his parents and the Ackles…

He shifted as Jared’s arm fell away, fixing the comforter around him before turning to face the window and get comfortable.

He had meant what he said earlier that afternoon, Chad was more than welcome to stay. But now, Jensen wondered if they - if Jared - needed him here just as much. He gave a small laugh at what Alan would say if he could see Jensen now… Not only was he ruining the children by being in love with a man, but now he was welcoming another soldier who was potentially shell shocked.

The anxiety was back, a heavy, cold weight in the pit of his stomach. But what was he supposed to do? He exhaled slowly. When Alan or his lawyer came to the farm, Chad being there or not wasn’t going to change anything. Hell, with his grandfather not being able to work the farm anymore and Gerry getting on in age, the idea of hiring a farm hand wasn’t that far fetched.

He tried to ignore the back of his mind adding that if someone did come to take the kids, Jensen himself would probably end up arrested for fighting them. Jared would at least have a second set of hands to keep the farm up and running if Chad was here…

Behind him, Jared grumbled in his sleep, turning to the side and molding himself against Jensen’s back. He was sleep-warm and hummed something unintelligible, but his arm coming around Jensen’s stomach was enough to calm his racing thoughts.

He blew out a breath again and let himself relax against Jared’s chest, focusing instead on the comforting weight of Jared’s arm, the heat of his breath, and the sound of the crickets singing their song outside. Tomorrow was another day to worry, another day to try to come up with a way to save his family; tonight, they were safe and they were together. That was good enough.

 

 

 

 

August 2nd, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jenna clicked her tongue, swinging her legs back and forth from her spot up on the wooden fence. The wood was split in places, poking into the back of her thighs, but the risk of splinters was easy to ignore while she was perched above her papa’s friend.

“So,” Chad asked, leaning back on his work boots and looking up, raising a hand to block the sun from his eyes, “how old are you?”

“Eleven,” Jenna answered, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m gonna be twelve in November.” She pursed her lips, thinking. Then she asked, “Can we trust you?”

They’d been playing this game for the better half of the hour, Jenna hopping down and back up on whatever section of fence Chad was busy painting. She’d asked about Chad’s favorite color, his favorite band - even getting him to sing her a song - and what his favorite type of pajamas were. In turn, Chad asked her about her favorite school subject, the games she played with her brothers, where the best place in town was to eat. Jenna nearly kicked him for that one. Grandma’s kitchen, duh.

Chad looked confused for a moment, then smiled sadly, dropping his hand to push up off the ground so he could be at Jenna’s level. He leaned against the fence beside her, turning his body so she could watch his face.

Jenna held her breath, waiting. She didn’t think either her Papa or her Dad would let someone into the house that was dangerous. And Papa had been so happy the last two days, almost like before he’d gone away. But she’d also heard some of the hushed grown-up conversations from the kitchen late at night, saw the forced smiles as she was handed a glass of milk and sent back up to bed.

“Your Papa is one of the best friends I ever had,” Chad started, wiping the sweat from his eyes as he nodded. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without him, and that’s the honest to God truth. You know what your papa is?”

Jenna narrowed her eyes, shaking her head slowly.

“He’s a hero. And he’s one of the best damn men I know. Your papa is smart and he’s funny and he has so much love to give. And I know that Jared wouldn’t be the whole man he is without your dad, too. I know that the fact your papa loves your dad so much means they’re two of the most amazing men.”

“Some people don’t think so,” Jenna answered, crossing her arms over her chest. “Some people think that cause they’re both men, they shouldn’t be together. That the fact they’re married means they’re going to hell.”

Chad scoffed, shaking his head. “You know who says things like that? Who condemns good, honest people to hell?” He waited a moment, then leaned forward. “People who are truly sinning. They point fingers, make up rules, all so that God can stop looking at them. But God knows all, and I’m telling you, when the time comes? Neither one of your dads are going downstairs.”

“Then why can’t they just tell those people to eat rocks?”

“Hate is loud, kid. It’s real loud,” Chad answered simply and Jenna found herself nodding, thinking. The people in town that looked at her dads wrong weren’t the best people - they weren’t the families that came to the roadside shop, buying tomatoes with smiles and handshakes, asking how Papa was doing. They weren’t the ones slipping Jenna, Kaleb, and Cameron lollies, telling them not to tell their dad with a wink.

“Why isn’t love, louder?” Jenna asked, meeting Chad’s eyes. “Shouldn’t it be the loudest? When papa is happy, and Daddy, too, it's pretty loud around here.”

Chad chuckled and reached for Jenna’s hair, tugging on one of her pigtails. “You’re pretty smart, kid.”

“I know,” Jenna replied, smacking his hand away and reaching up to tug on one of his blonde locks. “But that’s not an answer.”

“I don’t have one,” Chad said with a shrug, smiling sadly. “It should be, and maybe one day it will. But for now…” Chad shook his head and looked away, back out across the farm. Daddy was on the small tractor, moving it on the outside of the peas while Papa picked what was left of the crop, pulling out the ground stakes as they moved along. Even though they were across the farm, Jenna could see they were laughing, Papa throwing a handful of pea pods across the rows while her dad ducked out of the way.

“It’s not today,” Jenna said finally, turning her head until Chad looked back at her. “So my question is still the same. Can we trust you?”

“Yes,” Chad answered, meeting her eyes full on. “I wouldn’t do anything to betray either one of your dads, Jenna. And whatever I can do to protect them from the hate that’s out there? I’ll do.”

Jenna clicked her tongue and started kicking her feet again, looking down at the paint bucket. The top wasn’t shiny anymore, tacky from the heat, and she smiled as she said, “I think you missed a spot.”

“Brat,” Chad laughed and pushed away from the fence, reaching down to pull the film free of the bucket and stir the paint. He started up his painting again, then asked, “So, if you had to pick, would you be invisible, or would you fly?”

 

 

 

 

August 8th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Murray! I need your help!”

Jensen rolled his eyes as Jared hollered across the yard, though Chad was standing just outside of the chicken coop.

“If you wake Leigh Ann from her nap…”

“Don’t worry,” Jared answered, leaning over to kiss Jensen’s cheek and darting off the porch before Jensen could push him away. “She’s out like a light.”

Jensen hated the way he still flinched, watching as Jared met Chad halfway and then slung his hand over Chad’s shoulder. He tore his eyes away from them and looked out towards the road, empty though heavy with the promise of the end. He wondered what was taking his father so long… he was sure Alan would’ve been able to find a lawyer easy enough, all it would take is some money which Jensen knew his father had. The idea that Alan himself would be turning up the driveway made something twist in his gut and he looked back towards Jared and Chad walking towards the barn.

While Jensen always had been the more cautious of the two of them, he’d never shied away from the occasional affection Jared bestowed upon him. And he could see the pain in his husband’s eyes, despite Jared’s best efforts to hide it, every time he pulled away. Jared had even stopped trying to sit next to him on the front steps after dinner, choosing instead to sit on the steps with the boys, leaving his usual chair for Chad.

He was being a horrible husband, a distracted father. Jensen sighed, reaching up to tug at his hair as he sank down into a chair. Waiting, as always, was the worst part.

The screen door squeaking made him look up and he smiled in greeting as his grandmother made her way out onto the deck, her steps as careful as the placement of her cane. He stood and held his hand out, helping her into the chair he’d been sitting in and moving to the one beside it.

“I can hear you thinking all the way from the kitchen,” she said as she laid the cane against the side of the chair, folding her hands into her lap. “It’s very distracting.”

“You always say that,” Jensen muttered, looking out across the yard once more. “Just… waiting.”

“You’re going to spend your entire life waiting at this point,” Martha replied with a sigh. “If your father chooses to go through with his threat, we will all know soon enough. Did you call Jeff like I told you to?”

Jensen nodded, glancing over at her. “He said that while they could serve me the papers, it was highly unlikely they would take the kids. They’re obviously not in distress, they’re being taken care of, and between you and Grandpa and the Padaleckis, there’s enough ‘safe’ influence that they would wait for things to go to court.” Jensen paused and sighed, shaking his head. “He also said that I could make a good case against my father, if the judge was sympathetic to me and not prejudiced against my ‘sexual deviancy’. As my blood relative, and Mackenzie’s, Josh could also be appointed guardian over the kids.”

Martha nodded, silent for another moment. “If the judge is not sympathetic?” Her voice was quiet and Jensen shivered at the thought, letting his eyes fall closed.

“Alan would not be the first choice for a parental guardian. He’s single, older, and a known alcoholic. Where Mackenzie is not here anymore, the boys and Leigh Ann would be given to Josh. If he denies being able to take care of them… they would go into foster care. As for Jenna…” Jensen sighed and leaned back against the chair, his head thunking against the side of the house. “I wrote Rosemary a letter.”

“What?” Martha asked, pushing forward in the chair so quickly the cane was knocked over. The sound of it slamming against the deck made Jensen jump, but he avoided her gaze. “Jensen, what on earth?”

“The Collins are well off, and Rosemary is older now. She is Jenna’s mother, whether she wanted to take responsibility for that or not back then. Last I heard from Josh, she was married and has two other children now with her husband.” Jensen opened his eyes and looked down at his boots, scuffing his heel against the deck and watching as dirt fell free. “She would be better off with Rosemary.”

“It may take me a minute to get out of this chair, Jensen Ross, but don’t think for once you’re too old for me to tan your hide,” Martha’s voice was firm and angry and Jensen turned his head to look at her. “You are the best thing that’s happened to any of those kids. You’re their dad, Jensen. That title doesn’t come freely, you know that better than most. And if you honestly believe for one second that any of those kids would be better off without you and Jared? Then I have half a mind to take them away from you right now.”

Jensen swallowed hard, shame choking him, but his grandmother wasn’t finished.

“How dare you think such an awful thing. You have been nothing but strong for those kids, from the moment Jenna was placed in your arms and you were told she was all yours, and the moment those boys lost their parents and their entire world was turned upside down. Don’t you dare stop being strong for them now.”

“Yes ma’am,” Jensen whispered and Martha shook her head.

“You don’t need to yes ma’am me, Jensen. You need to say it to yourself. Pull yourself out of this funk, stand up for yourself and your kids, believe in yourself as much as they do! I get that this is scary, I get that your father is doing an awful, awful thing and I honestly don’t know what is going to happen.” She shifted in the chair, reaching for Jensen’s hand and squeezing tightly. “But all of us have your back, Jensen. You are the best thing that’s happened to those kids, to this farm and our family. We will not let that go easily.”

Jensen laid his hand over hers, blinking back the burning in his eyes as he stared down at her fingers between his. “I don’t know what I am going to do if I lose them, Grandma,” he whispered. “It would destroy me…”

“Jensen, you’re going to lose them if you give up before it’s even started.”

Jensen closed his eyes, a tear slipping down his cheek as he held onto her hand tighter. The chair creaked as she pulled herself up, tugging at his arm until Jensen was standing before her. She wrapped her arms around him, a head and a half shorter than him but he felt small and safe in her arms.

“We haven’t given up hope, Jensen. So don’t you give up either.”

Jensen nodded, burying his head into her hair and breathing in deep. She ran her hands over his back in soothing circles, letting him compose himself before he stepped back. She reached up and cupped his cheek before turning back to the chair.

Jensen bent down to pick her cane off the floor, handing it to her just as the screen door opened again. He looked up to see Sherri leaning out, her eyes finding Jensen.

“Jensen, honey, your brother’s on the phone for you.”

“Thanks, Sherri, I’ll be right there.” Jensen made sure his grandmother was okay sitting on the porch and stepped around her legs, nodding his thanks at Sherri as he ducked past her into the house. He paused before picking up the phone, shaking himself and focusing on the here and now. His grandmother was right, he owed it to the kids, to Jared, and himself to fight.

“Hey, Josh?” Jensen said as he picked up the phone, sinking down into the chair by the receiver.

“Jensen.” Josh’s voice was soft, strained, and Jensen pulled the phone back for a moment to look at it as if something were blocking the sound.

“Josh? What happened?” Jensen asked, pushing the phone harder against his ear and reaching up with his free hand to press against his other ear.

“It’s Dad. I… I need you to come to Texas.”

Chapter Text

August 14th, 1971
Austin, Texas

Jensen blew out a slow, deep breath, his fingers shaking as he let them brush over the worn down faux fur of the frog in his hands. If he closed his eyes, he could hear Mack’s childish giggle and “Ribbit! Ribbit!”. He squeezed the old frog tight and let his head drop forward.

He hadn’t known what to expect, not truly. As soon as the words left Josh’s mouth, Jensen expected to feel relief. Alan’s reign of terror was over, his father wouldn’t hurt anyone else again. He expected to feel guilty at that relief, because what kind of person did that make him, glad his father was dead?

But he’d felt neither of those things.

“Are you sure?”

“Jensen, I am sitting at the morgue to identify his body! I’m pretty goddamn sure.”

And that was that. Jensen said okay, told his brother to give him a few days to get down there, and then he left to tend the cows.

He had felt strange at dinner, his grandparents laughing over Jenna and Kaleb’s wild recounting of their fishing trip at the creek. How was he supposed to tell them their only son was gone? His grandmother, of course, knew something was off almost immediately and pulled him aside as Chad and Jared were tasked with clearing the table.

“We need Grandpa, too,” Jensen sighed, squeezing her arm as he helped her sit in the arm chair, then went back to the dining room to collect Albert. With both of them sitting down in the living room, Jensen sank on to the end of the couch and looked over at them.

“Jensen, you’re killing us here,” Albert said finally, crossing his arms over his chest. “Whatever it is, it will be easier to deal with once you actually say it out loud, son.”

Jensen nodded, but still, the words were stuck in his throat. He thought of Jenna… of Kaleb and Cameron and Leigh Ann… of someone just casually telling them that - He closed his eyes and shook his head, then slid off the couch and moved to his knees in front of his grandparents, reaching for each of their hands.

It didn’t matter what his relationships with his father was, his memories and feelings weren’t the same as theirs with their son.

“Grandma, Grandpa… Josh called me today with some bad news,” he started softly, looking up between both of them. “It’s… it's about Alan.”

“Oh, no,” Martha gasped, her free hand coming up to cover her mouth. The hand in Jensen’s was shaking and he held on tighter, nodding his head.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, and found that he was sincere. Albert closed his eyes, his shoulders stiffening and Jensen was nearly rocked back on his heels at recognizing the compartmentalizing as something his father used to do. His eyes began to burn and he realized that he was sad, sad for everything he once had and everything he could’ve had, everything Alan had once had the potential to be.

“I’m going to go down to Texas to help Josh with the house and.... and handle all of the arrangements,” Jensen said after a moment, looking between his grandparents.

“He would’ve wanted to be with your mother,” Martha answered firmly, nodding her head as she met Jensen’s eyes. Her eyes were swimming with unshed tears, but she smiled softly. “I hope he’s found himself some peace, now.”

“Me too, Grandma, me too.”

The cicadas were loud, their song a comforting part of the thick summer heat. Jensen shifted on his spot on the porch and stared down at the stuffed animal, unsure where he was supposed to go from here.

He’d barely made it a few feet inside the house before he’d turned back around, retreating to the safety of the outside. The yard was unkept, of course, overgrown and wild, the grass almost up to Jensen’s hips and the walkway hidden by debris. Alan’s truck was a permanent fixture in the driveway, the tires flat and rims sunken into the pavement, dirt and weeds taking over. Jensen wondered if he’d walked the quarter mile to the store or had things delivered…

Even so, the outside looked a hell of a lot better than the inside.

Jensen ran a hand back through his hair, sighing as he wiped the sweat free from his brow. He knew his father had a problem, they all did. It wasn’t surprising that it had gotten worse when his mother died. But…

Nearly every surface was covered in bottles, from cheap beer to whiskey, some broken and some whole. Whatever attempt Alan had made at picking up and using a trash bag had always ended with a half filled bag being dumped in a corner to spill out back onto the floor. The actual garbage can and refrigerator were overwhelming with the amount of rotting food and take out containers, rivaling the dishes piling up in the sink.

There were spots of blood on the floor, leading away from the broken glasses, what the brothers could only assume was where Alan had stepped on broken shards. The only pathway through the house was where the police and coroner had come to take out the body - the front door to the living room recliner.

The state of the house that his father had been living in made tears burn the back of Jensen’s eyes. Alan had done and said awful things, but was the man who had taught him how to fish, to play catch, to light a fire - deserving of an ending so bad?

“Josh?”

Jensen wiped at his eyes quickly and looked up, blinking in the sun to look at the older gentleman picking his way carefully through the walkway, looking at him through coke bottle glasses.

“No… Jensen? Is that… Jensen?”

“I… yes?” Jensen answered, laying the frog gently beside him before pushing up and brushing off the seat of his pants. “I’m sorry, it’s… Mr. Collins?”

The older man nodded his head and smiled, taking his time to get through the grass. Jensen moved forward, meeting him halfway and holding out his hand in greeting. The older man’s smile was genuine and he wrapped his free hand over their joined hands, giving a tight squeeze.

“It’s so good to see you, despite the circumstances,” Mr. Collins said with a genuine smile. “It's been a long time since you’ve been around here, young man.”

“It has,” Jensen agreed, smiling sadly. Though he’d been here for his mother’s funeral, he hadn’t stayed to see much of anyone. “Can I do something for you, sir?”

The man shook his head, his sharp blue eyes glancing over Jensen’s shoulder before locking back onto Jensen’s face. “I knew your father wasn’t doing well. He ordered groceries from the store, and I made sure to come out here at least twice a week with the delivery and a home cooked meal. He was a sad man, Jensen.”

Jensen’s throat was thick as he nodded, looking down at the cracked pavement between their feet.

“And forgive me, but Lord… that man did it to himself. It didn’t matter how many times I prayed for him, or Vicki prayed for him… The Lord couldn’t forgive him until Alan forgave himself, and your father was too stubborn to do so.”

Jensen looked up again and watched Mr. Collins carefully, squinting slightly against the sun.

“Men make mistakes, the one constant we have. We breathe, we eat, we fault - and if we’re lucky, we learn from them and we grow.” Mr. Collins smiled sadly, squeezing Jensen’s hand again before releasing it and adjusting his posture.

“I’m not sure my father learned from his mistakes,” Jensen said softly.

“Perhaps not,” Mr. Collins agreed, “but yet… we forgive him for it, anyway.”

Jensen opened his mouth to argue, but realized he had forgiven Alan. At least, he wasn’t angry anymore. He would never forget the things his father did, the challenges he caused their entire family to face, the hardships or the pain - but he found himself remembering the good times, though few, and pulling those forth to drown out the better part of his adult life.

Alan was gone, and the only memory of him that deserved to stay, the only one that Jensen needed to have, were the ones that mattered.

“Thank you for coming by to check in on him,” Jensen said after a moment, looking over his shoulder as the front door opened to see Josh stepping out onto the deck. “I am glad he had someone looking out for him, and I’m sure he didn’t thank you.”

Mr. Collins just shrugged, smiling once more. “I know that this house isn’t fit for much,” he looked sad, his gaze moving towards Josh before coming back again. “You boys are welcome in our house. We have a few empty bedrooms and the grandkids aren’t coming down this week.”

“We couldn’t impose,” Jensen started but a quick look made him snap his mouth shut.

“Vicki and I insist. You boys will be dead on your feet by the week’s end.”

“We appreciate it,” Josh answered for them, coming up behind Jensen. “Thank you, Mr. Collins.”

Mr. Collins nodded once more, then started back down the driveway, a quick wave of goodbye in parting and a prompt, “Dinner is at six!”

Jensen watched him until he disappeared down the street, heading back to the corner store. Then he turned to Josh. “I guess we should start.”

Josh swallowed hard and nodded, but neither one of them moved. The prospect of starting to clean the inside of the house and salvage what was important, seemed like an overwhelming task. Finally, it was Jensen who sighed and clapped his brother’s shoulder, pushing him forward.

He picked up a shopping bag of thick trash bags and headed first towards the kitchen, Josh trailing silently behind them. They worked side by side, silence thick and heavy, their thoughts a swirling mess. Jensen wasn’t quite sure how he was supposed to feel, but with every bottle he tossed into the trash, every moldy container, every piece of trash… he wondered if he should’ve done something differently.

The sound of a smashing bottle made him jump and he turned to see Josh standing at the end of the island, his face bright red and tears burning his eyes. He was staring hard at the ground where he’d just thrown a bottle, the shattered pieces still shivering with the impact.

Then, he turned his angry gaze on Jensen.

“Stop it,” he hissed, suddenly swiping another arm out, causing a second bottle to go rocketing across the kitchen and shattering against the fridge. “Stop it!”

“Josh-”

“I can see it on your face, Jensen! I can see it!” A tear finally fell, sliding down Josh’s cheek. “You didn’t do this, we didn’t do this! Dad was a rat bastard who chose this over us! He-he-” Josh let out a wheezing breath, tightening his fists again and Jensen dropped the trash bag he was holding on the ground.

“He chose this over his family.” More tears slipped free and Josh was openly crying, squeezing his eyes shut tight. “I don’t get it, I don’t- he didn’t - fuck.”

Jensen stepped carefully over the broken glass and approached Josh carefully, holding his arms out slowly until he wrapped them firmly around his brother’s body. Then he pulled, knocking Josh off balance and drawing him in against his chest, holding onto him tight.

Josh clung onto him, a sob escaping as he buried his head in Jensen’s neck. Jensen found his own eyes burning and he didn’t try to stop it. They stood together, crying for the family they could’ve had, for the father they’d lost years ago.

When Josh finally pulled back, they both looked away from one another, wiping their eyes. Then Jensen cleared his throat. “You know, we learned a lot from him.”

Josh’s eyes snapped to Jensen then, the look incredulous.

“We did. We learned how to be the dads we wanted him to be. I… I don’t know if I would’ve been the dad I am without the dad we had,” Jensen said honestly, shrugging his shoulders. “He inspired a lot of my parenting.”

Josh snorted a laugh at that, but didn’t disagree. He sniffed and looked around before sighing. “We really should make a dent in this before we go to the Collins’.”

Jensen nodded and then gave a sad smile. “You know, Mackenzie would’ve slapped us both by now. You know what the first thing she would’ve done when she got here would’ve been?”

“Other than open all of the windows?” Josh replied with a short laugh, making Jensen smirk.

“I’ll be right back.”

He carefully picked through the downstairs, heading towards the living room. He wrapped his arms around the base of the record player, lifting it up and blowing a puff of air at the top, causing a cascade of dust to billow up into the air. When he turned around, Josh was standing there already, a record in his hands and a knowing smile on his face. Jensen chuckled and together they went back to the kitchen, setting up the music and letting the upbeat sounds of Elvis start to ebb away some of the sadness.

 

August 16th, 1971
Austin, Texas

The sun was hot, the temperatures soaring high above 95, and Jensen was cursing himself for volunteering to clean up the yard. Josh had left fifteen minutes ago, offering to get a new can of oil and gasoline, plus sandwiches and lemonades for lunch, giving Jensen a much needed rest.

It was too bad that the shade did nothing to stop the sweltering heat of the sun.

He peeled his shirt off, using it to wipe the sweat from his face and his neck, leaning back against the side of the house. He exhaled, closed his eyes, and then heard the sound of a stroller. It squeaked along the sidewalk and then stopped, and Jensen furrowed his brow. It sounded like it stopped right in front of -

When he opened his eyes, it was to the last person he expected to see.

Rosemary somehow looked the same. She was beautiful, her hair artfully pinned to the top of her head, her summer dress loose and twisting around her legs. She cocked her head as she looked across the yard at Jensen, but he couldn't determine what her expression meant. Then, she smiled and started up the driveway.

Jensen felt his eyes widen and he scrambled to his feet, struggling with his shirt to pull it back on and getting stuck in the sleeve. Rosemary’s gentle laugh made him pause and he looked at her, embarrassed, and fought to right himself.

“Uh, hi,” he said and swallowed, glancing over her and down at the stroller. “Uh…”

“Hello, Jensen. It’s nice to see you.”

Jensen just stared. He thought of the last time he saw her, the tears dried on her cheeks, the anger in her eyes as she handed off the best thing in his life. He straightened his shoulders, forcing himself not to be nervous and met her gaze head on.

“You look well.” He was glad his voice was steady and she nodded, reaching forward to squeeze his arm.

“So do you,” she replied. Then her eyes darted down to his left hand. “Married, I see?”

Jensen nodded, resisting the urge to shove his hand behind his back. He nodded instead to the ring on her finger. “You too.”

She smiled again. “Ten years,” she answered, shifting her weight so her hip was against the stroller, “and four kids later.” She gave a light laugh and Jensen smiled at her.

“That sounds familiar.” He winced the moment he said it and waited for the question.

“Oh?” she said, cocking her head once more. “I thought…” She stopped and shook her head. “I’m glad you’re happy.”

Jensen knew he could leave it at that, but somehow, he felt he owed her an explanation. He reached into the back of his jeans and pulled out his wallet, flipping open to the photographs in the center.

“This is Jared,” he said, holding out the military photo, watching Rosemary’s face as she leaned over to look, “my husband.”

She smiled then and Jensen didn’t pause to figure out what that meant. “This is Jenna,” he lowered his voice as he flicked to the next photo, looking up at Rosemary’s face. Now, Jensen saw the resemblance and he watched as Rosemary saw it too.

“Oh, Jensen,” she whispered, her fingertips gentle as they brushed over the photograph. “She… she’s so beautiful.”

Jensen nodded and looked down at the picture, smiling. “She’s a pretty amazing girl, so smart and driven. She… she wants to be a doctor.”

Rosemary looked up, her eyes shining as she smiled. “You’ve done good, Jensen,” she said and Jensen found himself choking back tears at the sincerity in her voice. “Now that I’m a parent… I just…” She shook her head. “I wasn’t ready then, and I wasn’t fair to you, simply because I was hurt. But, I don’t regret it and this?” She pointed at Jenna, then reached up and cupped Jensen’s face. “This is why. You’ve raised an amazing young woman, Jensen. You should be so proud.”

Jensen swallowed hard and nodded his head, then licked his lip and looked back down at the picture. “I… my sister Mackenzie and her husband… we lost them too young, so we have their kids, too.” He flipped to a family photo of all the kids, and Rosemary gave another joyful laugh as she looked at them.

“Your family is beautiful, Jensen.”

With very little encouragement, Rosemary talked about her own kids and a little about her husband, though she turned the tables on him and surprised him by wanting to know about Jared. The conversation was surprisingly easy and only broken by the sound of her youngest son fussing in the stroller, not pleased that his walk had been interrupted for so long.

“It was really, really good to see you, Jensen,” Rosemary said and reached for him, giving him a tight squeeze. Jensen found himself hugging back, nodding his head in agreement. It was a strange closure he hadn’t realized he needed, and he felt lighter as he waved at her back as she left, cooing softly to the babe.

Jensen sat back down against the wall of the house and found the wallet back in his hands, his own fingers tracing the pictures of his kids softly. God, he missed them, he missed Jared. They only had a few days left before the funeral before he would be back in Vermont and life would be returning back to normal, but if the last two days showed him anything, it was how much he missed having Josh around.

When Josh’s truck came creeping up the street, Jensen found himself smiling, leaping up to greet his brother and take the bag of sandwiches from him. The tension Josh had worked up at coming back to the house seemed to bleed away at the sight of his brother and he gave back an easy smile, following Jensen into the shade for a short, picnic lunch.

Jensen made a promise to himself then that he would have Josh and his family around more often, push to have them up in the summers, get to know his niece and nephew and sister-in-law better. They were the only family each other had left.

 

August 22nd, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

Jensen stretched, his back popping in protest from being in the same position on the grass for too long, and he wrinkled his nose at the sound. Beside him, Jared snorted a laugh, poking him in the ribs. “Old man,” he muttered and Jensen shoved him into the grass.

Jared’s laughter was free and beautiful, a sound that had become more and more readily given over the last few weeks. Jensen loved it.

He rolled his eyes at the tongue Jared stuck out at him and pushed up from the ground, walking towards the edge of the clearing to get some more firewood. When he walked back to their small campsite, he couldn’t help but smile.

Chad had gone into town while Jensen was in Texas and purchased two large canvas tents, working with the boys (though how much help Kaleb and Cameron were, Jensen wasn’t actually sure) to create their camp. Martha had collected a myriad of old quilts and blankets for them and Jenna had meticulously set up a bed space for each of them inside of the tents. Jared was leaning back against the downed oak tree, Chad at his side telling some spooky story. He leaned forward, his hands waving animatedly, and three of the kids (Leigh Ann had stayed back at the house with the Padaleckis for the night) were leaning forward as well, shocked expressions on their faces.

Jensen loved it. He laid a few of the thicker branches on their fire and moved back around to sit beside Jared, leaning into his husband’s side. Jared lifted his arm up to wrap around Jensen’s shoulders and Jensen took a moment to appreciate the fact that they could be like this out here, without Chad batting an eye, the kids uncaring and not paying attention to either one of their dads.

Jensen leaned his head on Jared’s shoulder, letting his eyes fall closed as he listened to Chad go on about Big Foot, gasping and wondering aloud if the creature would travel this far north.

“But… there’s no such thing as Big Foot, right Uncle Chad?” Jenna asked, her voice slightly higher than normal and Jensen found himself smiling.

“Well,” Chad answered, an air of nonchalance about him, “I’ve never seen him. Have you?”

Jensen opened his eyes to see all three of the kids shaking their heads furiously.

“Then I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Besides, Big Foot is so big, he has a muted sense of smell. He can’t track much of anything, other than marshmallows of course.”

Beside him, Jared snorted, and Jensen rolled his eyes as he watched Cameron drop the bag of marshmallows he was digging through.

“Mellows?” Kaleb repeated, glancing down at the baag with a few bright white treats spilling out of the open top. “Those mellows?”

Chad made a face, pretending to scramble back from the kids as he moved behind Jared and Jensen, peeking out over Jensen’s left shoulder. “Oh no,” Chad mock whispered, shaking his head. “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

“What?” Jenna exclaimed, scooping up the bag and twisting down the top. “What if we don’t eat any more? Will we be safe then?”

Chad pretended to look around the clearing, then said in his most serious voice, “I think the only way we can be saved… is if we toast and eat them all.”

“Chad!” Jared scolded, but it was too late. The kids took the permission for what it was and all three made their own noises of excitement as they scrambled around to find the marshmallow sticks they’d picked out earlier. Chad chuckled, winking at Jensen before reaching up to ruffle Jared’s growing hair.

“What?” he said as he climbed back over, settling on Jared’s side. “Just wait, they’re gonna get stuffed and then we can convince them to bring us some. We don’t have to do any work.”

“You’re impossible,” Jared snorted, elbowing Chad’s side, but Jensen watched as Jared accepted no less than six toasted treats from the kids, licking the sticky sugar off his fingers. They managed to get through half the bag before Kaleb passed out in the dirt, Jensen pushing up from his spot and stretching again before tucking him into bed. Jenna and Cameron weren’t far behind, falling asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.

Chad took his spot beside the boys in one of the tents, calling a soft goodnight as he settled in his bed, and Jensen chuckled as Jared flopped down beside Jenna, groaning as his knee smashed into a rock.

“I think camping was more comfortable when we were their age,” Jared muttered into the blankets, then turned his head and found Jensen’s eyes in the moonlight. Jensen rolled his eyes and smiled, getting underneath the covers much more carefully and having to shift around until the earth beneath him was smooth.

As soon as they were settled, the sounds of crickets started up again, singing their song over the last cracks of their fire, the sound of the kids breathing. Jared reached beneath the covers and found Jensen’s hand, twisting their fingers together.

He thought of when he was a boy, maybe four, the only time he remembered camping out. Jensen and Josh had taken an old sleeping bag and put it out under the stars in the backyard. Alan had found them outside after dinner, sitting over a pile of sticks that Josh had placed paper cut-outs of flames in, and Jensen remembered thinking they would be in trouble. Alan however smiled and went inside, coming back with a jug of coffee and hot cocoa and a package of cookies.

He stayed with them as the sun went down, laying back in the grass. They were just able to see the night sky through the stretch of trees that separated their back yard from the next and Alan pointed up, showing them how to find the North Star. He showed them the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper. Then they all made up their own, a starlit horse, a truck, a soldier.

Alan laughed with them and drank his coffee, creating ridiculous names for the constellations Josh and Jensen made up. Then he rubbed Jensen’s back as he rolled over in the sleeping bag, until he fell asleep. Jensen woke up in his own bed the next morning, not knowing how he got there, but his pajama knees were grass stained and the memory was at the forefront of his mind.

“They’re gonna remember this for the rest of their lives,” Jensen whispered to the night. Jared squeezed his hand, but Jensen wasn’t sure if he actually heard him or if it was a reflex in his sleep. He smiled and let his eyes close.

Chapter Text

 

October 31st, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

Jensen clicked his tongue, eyes darting over the driveway where Albert was slowly moving around the truck, his cane getting stuck on the rocks, and worrying he’d have to run out and pick his grandfather off the ground. He flicked his eyes back towards the edge of the woods to the clearing where Jared and Chad had spent the better half of the afternoon.

He was trying not to be jealous, but for most of the evenings over the last few weeks, Chad and Jared had been in hushed conversations, disappearing into the barn or the clearing, and Jared pleading with Jensen not to follow them. He knew nothing untoward was going on between them but that didn’t mean he was okay with not being involved.

 

Tonight, both had promised they would be back before dinner to help get the kids ready to go into town. He looked back over to his grandfather, who had apparently approved the truck for their trick-or-treating adventure, and was heading back to the house.

“You goin’ like that?” Albert asked as he stopped at the bottom of the steps. “Not much of a costume.”

Jensen looked down at his jeans and flannel shirt, his boots caked with mud that he’d have to remember to kick off before his grandmother got a hold of him.

“What do you mean?” Jensen asked, looking back up with a smirk. “I’m a good ol’ dairy farmer, can’t you tell?”

Albert snorted at that and started up the stairs, glaring at Jensen once when he moved to help him. “I got it, boy!” he said as he made it to the last step. “You and your grandmother hovering is what’s gonna get me down faster than these damn feet of mine.”

“Mmhmm,” Jensen answered, pulling open the door and holding it for Albert to pass through, “and I’m sure you’re telling me you didn’t want to help your granddad or that you don’t hover around Grandma just as much?”

“Boys are heading back, you make sure the three of you wash up for dinner,” Albert diverted, though he smacked Jensen’s boot with the end of his cane. “I’ll call the kids downstairs.”

Jensen nodded and let the screen fall shut behind him, looking over his shoulder to see Jared and Chad coming up the driveway. Chad had a chainsaw with him and was laughing, shoving Jared’s shoulder before he broke off and jogged over towards the barn. Jared looked up and saw Jensen watching, a wide smile breaking out over his face as he ran up the steps.

“Hey,” he greeted, breathless, and leaned in to press his lips against Jensen’s. His skin was cool from the fall air, a light sweat over his skin, and Jensen rolled his eyes as he kissed him back.

“You’re filthy,” he said in response, reaching up to push back the sweaty hair from Jared’s face. “If you’re going to shower, you have to be quick. Sun’s almost down.”

As it was, the kids were ready much faster than the adults, Jared and Chad still pulling on their boots and their hair still wet from their showers as Martha shoved wrapped sandwiches and a large bag of homemade chips into their hands.

“Pillowcases?” Jensen asked, blocking the door and checking each kid as they held up their case. “Gloves? Hats?”

“Dad! Princesses don’t wear hats!” Jenna complained, but at her father’s look, she reached into her pillowcase and pulled out the knitted cap.

“She’s not going to make it to twelve,” Jensen muttered to Jared as he handed the keys over to Chad. Jared just laughed and kissed him softly before ushering their group out the door.

Kaleb, at five, had wanted nothing more than to be Batman, his mask slightly too big and the plastic biting into the bridge of his nose. Cameron, now three, was Scooby Doo and all three of the adults had to convince him that Scooby could walk and he wouldn’t dare crawl to the doors to trick-or-treat, especially if he wanted to continue on. Jenna was a Barbie Princess, the blonde wig Jensen bought made her look more like a bleached Elvis, but none of them wisely told her that.

Chad drove the truck through the neighborhood, Jared and Jensen sitting in the back with all the kids. Jared’s job was corralling them to each house and making sure they didn’t eat any of the candy until it could be gone through. Jensen held onto Leigh Ann, dressed up as a cute little pumpkin, and supervised Jared to make sure he didn’t eat all of the candy.

Jensen stretched his legs out in the space and shifted Leigh Ann in his lap, resting one of his arms over the side of the truck to watch Jared running after the kids as they ran for the first house. He smiled as he heard them all call out, “Trick-or-Treat”, the boys competing with Jenna to see who could be the loudest. He gripped the truck as Chad released the break and they rolled forward, following the slow trek down the street as the family went to the next house.

As they came out from beneath the streetlight, the left side of the street ended, darkening into a park. Jared and the kids were to the right of the vehicle, but something caught Jensen’s attention in the dark.

“Stop,” Jensen said as he knocked on the window, nodding at Chad when he caught his eyes in the rearview mirror. The breaks squeaked as Chad came to a stop and he reached over his shoulder to open up the little window.

“You okay?” he asked and Jensen nodded slowly, looking back into the park. He’d thought he’d heard…

Jensen’s eyes widened as he heard a muffled scream and saw a flash of white as a woman came around one of the trees, her fists up and beating on something he couldn’t see. He used his legs to pull himself to the end of the truck and jumped down onto the pavement, passing Leigh Ann off to Chad as the other man opened the front door.

“Hey!” he yelled as he entered the park, the woman in white gasping and spinning around to him. “Are you okay?”

“No!” she yelled back and as Jensen came closer, he saw she had been punching the back of a man who had a second woman pressed up against the tree. The man hissed in pain as the woman pinned wiggled free enough to scratch him. He swore when he realized he was caught and he grabbed the woman tight, shoving her to the side so she crashed into Jensen, nearly knocking him off his feet.

“Bastard!” the woman in white screamed after him before spinning around to help the second woman up, her hands moving over her face and arms. “G, are you okay? Shit, did he hurt you?”

Jensen squinted off into the darkness, but the man was long gone, covered by the trees and the night. When he turned back, the woman who’d been shoved into him was busy fixing her bright red costume, wiping a spot of blood from the corner of her mouth.

“Thank you,” she said softly, clearing her throat. “I… just thanks.”

“Yeah,” Jensen replied, nodding his head. “Do you guys… need a ride?” The woman in white glared back at him, reaching down for a discarded headband and handing it back to her friend. “We have a few more streets to go but there’s room in the truck and-”

“Jensen?” Chad yelled from the edge of the park, causing the three of them to turn around. He was bouncing Leigh Ann slightly in his arms and Jensen gave a little wave to him.

“I’m good!” He called out, not wanting Chad to bring the baby into the park. “Be right there!” He turned back to the women and gave a little head cock, walking slightly behind them back onto the street. By the time they reached the truck, the kids and Jared were on their way back.

“Daddy!” Jenna called out, nearly tripping over her dress as she beamed straight for him. “They gave out whole candy bars!”

“No way!” Jensen said, accepting the bag and looking in. “Looks like you got plenty of candy for me… but where’s yours?”

“You’re funny, Daddy,” Jenna replied, yanking the bag back before pulling at the back of the truck. Jared chuckled and helped her up before turning to look at Jensen and the girls.

Jensen turned back around and gave a small shrug. “We can drop you off somewhere?” he offered again, watching the girls exchange glances. Under the light, he saw the woman in white had a pair of fluffy white wings strapped to her back, a thin golden chain around her forehead as a halo. He could appreciate her beauty and thought she truly did look like an angel. She looked over all the kids and then sighed, nodding her head.

“Fine, you can drop us off at the square.” She crossed her arms tightly over her chest. “But no funny business.”

“Course not,” Jensen agreed, holding up his hands for a moment before sweeping a hand to the truck. “Come on up. Boys, want to ride in the cab with Chad?”

The boys were excited to ride in the front of the truck - probably because Chad would let them listen to whatever music they wanted to - and immediately ran around to the side. Jared helped both of the girls up into the back of the truck, following after Jensen before shutting the end and taking his spot beside him.

As Chad started driving again, Jensen looked over the young women who were sitting, pressed up against one another. There was something in the way they were comfortable around each other, despite being scared and with a bunch of strangers, that made Jensen take the chance.

He looked up and met the angel’s eyes and then deliberately reached for Jared’s hand, twisting their fingers together. He felt Jared stiffen beside him, his husband’s head whipping over to stare at him in confusion. Jenna chatted along happily to Leigh-Ann about how she would be in for such a treat when she was older.

“I’m Jensen,” Jensen said, looking between the two of them, “and this is my husband, Jared, and our kids. Chad’s the one driving, he’s just a friend, but he’s a good man.”

The girls exchanged glances and then the angel nodded. The woman wearing the red dress with devil’s horns on the headband now back in her hair leaned forward and laid her hand over the other’s leg. “I’m Genevieve - Gen. If you call me Genevieve I’ll think I’m in trouble.” Her laugh was meladacious and Jensen watched her squeeze the other woman’s leg. “This is Danneel, my angel.”

“Please,” Danneel replied, rolling her eyes, but the look of fondness was one Jensen recognized.

“Thank you, for coming to help us in the park,” Gen continued, relaxing into Danneel’s side.

“Of course,” Jensen answered, then quickly filled Jared in on what had happened. The truck coasted onto the next street and stopped again, and Jensen gave Jared’s hand a final squeeze before watching him slide out of the truck with Jenna.

Through the next two streets, Jensen found himself talking nearly non-stop to Danneel and Gen, the girls sharing just as much about their lives as Jensen did. When Leigh-Ann became fussy, he watched Danneel practically melt and it was an easy decision to hand her over for Danneel to sing to.

By the time they reached the square, Jenna was laying over Jared’s legs, her head cushioned in Gen’s lap, and Leigh-Ann was fast asleep in Danneel’s arms. The boys were still chatting Chad’s ears off in the front.

After Danneel and Gen hugged them goodbye, Danneel handing off her number to Jensen and telling him they were definitely all going out dancing, Jensen found himself smiling the rest of the drive to the farm.

“It feels nice,” he said softly, carrying Leigh-Ann up the stairs, Jared following behind him with Cameron.

“What does?” Jared asked as they stopped outside of the boy’s door.

“Having friends,” Jensen answered back, leaning over and kissing Jared before heading to put Leigh-Ann into bed.

 

 

November 25th, 1971
Somerset, Vermont

 

“Oh the weather outside is frightful!” Chad bellowed out and Jenna soon followed up with, “But the fire inside is delightful!”

Jensen fought back the smile and turned to look at the pair instead. “I thought you two were setting the table?”

“We are, Daddy! But we’re entertaining, too!” Jenna answered, waving the forks in her hand like a white flag. “See?”

“Yeah, Jense, we’re entertaining!” Chad quipped, winking at the look he was thrown. “Come on, get into the spirit!”

“I’m in the spirit of stuffing my face full of food. Christmas isn’t for another month,” Jared said as he came around the corner from being shooed out of the kitchen. “Martha’s asking for you,” he said to Jensen and went to join Jenna and Chad at the table.

With the three of them doing the place setting, Jensen forced himself to turn away and not take control of how everything was set, heading to find his grandmother. The air was heavy with the scent of roasting turkey, onions roasting, and fresh cornbread stuffing. Martha had a pot of potatoes she was dumping out into the colander in the sink and she smiled as Jensen walked in.

“Mash these for me?” she asked, and Jensen nodded, taking the pot from her hands and switching spots with her. Though Albert was usually the masher and carver in the family, he was getting weaker and weaker with each passing day. It wasn’t something they talked about, but they all saw it. His grandfather was currently in the living room watching the Macy’s Day Parade with the boys and Gerry.

Jensen felt both proud and sad to be offered the role.

As he started his task, he looked over to watch his grandmother. She was bent down over the oven, pulling foil off the biggest turkey he’d ever seen. He took a moment to inhale and laughed when she stood up, her glasses completely fogged up.

“Not sure how you’re going to cook like that,” he mused and she laughed back, closing the oven before pulling her glasses off to clean them.

“Boy, I could do this blind.” He didn’t argue that; she probably could. With the steam escaped and her glasses clear, she leaned back down to baste the turkey and nodded to herself. “About fifteen minutes, I think. Then we can take her out.”

“Okay,” Jensen agreed with her, reaching across the counter for the butter she’d left out. He dropped it into the potatoes and leaned back when she appeared with a jar of cream. “You’re a mind reader, I swear.”

She just laughed and squeezed his arm before heading back over to the fridge. He looked at her again. Her movements had slowed down, but not as much as his grandfather’s. Sometimes it was hard to believe they were both in their 70s now. Sometimes Martha moved like she wasn’t a day over fifty…

“Stop staring at me and finish those potatoes,” she said as she poked him with a fork, pulling him out of his musings. “I’ll be dead before you finish mashing those at this rate.”

“That’s really not funny,” Jensen muttered back and turned back to the pot. Behind him, Martha sighed, but they were saved any further conversation by the clicking of shoes coming into the room.

Jensen looked up to see Sherry carrying Leigh-Ann, fresh from her nap. “Oh Jensen, I can help here!” she said as soon as she saw him helping with the food.

“No, it’s okay Sherry. Why don’t you join the boys for the parade? I’m sure Leigh-Ann would much rather hang out with her grammy than with me.”

Sherry smiled at him and looked to Martha to make sure she wasn’t needed before she took the offer and left the room, bouncing the little girl on her hip as she went.

“Not so bad being stuck in here with me, huh?” Martha asked, bumping her hip with his.

Jensen just laughed and shook his head. “No, not so bad, I suppose. Plus, I get to taste everything first.”

 

 

The table was nearly bowled over with the amount of food covering it, leaving just barely enough room for the ten place settings and a high chair. Jenna, Kaleb, Cameron, and Jeff’s two kids Ashley and Michael, were sitting at the kitchen island, though they’d deemed it the ‘real adult table’ since they were sitting higher than the rest.

Jensen stood at the end of the table, carving knife in hand, and looked over the table. There were bowls of mashed potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potato casserole, plates of cornbread and dinner rolls, fancy dishes of butter and gravy… Green bean casserole was waiting by Jared along with a bowl of stuffing and fresh cranberry sauce, roasted brussel sprouts and sweet buttered corn. He smiled at his family and then looked down at the turkey, starting to slice.

As plates were filled, Chad stood up to pour everyone a glass of champagne, pouring the kids each a glass of sparkling cider in their plastic goblets. They each went around and said what they were grateful for, and then everyone dug in.

Jared was a solid, comforting warmth at his side, their thighs pressed together underneath the table. Jeff and his wife were lost in conversation with Gerry and Albert while Chad was completely enthralled in conversation with Megan.

Jensen nudged Jared’s side, nodding towards the two of them and watched as Jared pieced together what he was seeing. His eyes widened and he turned to Jensen, his mouth slightly open. Jensen shook his head and smiled as he took a bite of potato.

Chad and Megan would probably not go anywhere, but Chad’s quirky, loud personality was a compliment to Megan’s. She could do worse.

When the table was cleared and bellies were full, Jensen headed for the living room to turn on the football game, Nebraska versus Oklahoma. Both teams were going into the game undefeated and Albert had convinced Martha to make sure dinner would be ready before the game started so they could all watch.

Jensen sat in front of the couch, Jenna curled up into his side playing with one of her barbies with Ashley across from her. Jared, Gerry, and Jeff sat on the couch, Jared’s legs open slightly for Jensen to lean into. Jared’s hand was warm and comforting, playing with the curls at the base of Jensen’s neck.

Halfway through the game, Chad served everyone up slices of pie. There was pecan, apple, pumpkin, chocolate cream… and Jensen made a point of taking a small slice of each. The kids were beginning to get restless, the game was much less interesting to them, so Megan gathered them all up and took them outside. From the door, she announced it had started to snow, and the screeching from all of the kids solidified that fact.

The game itself had the rest of them on the edge of their seats. Though neither team was Jensen’s, it was riveting and by the final touchdown, all of them were on their feet and screaming as Nebraska beat Oklahoma, 35 to 31.

Hearing the noise, Megan and the kids came back inside, all of them pink cheeked and runny nosed, and Martha laughed as she took Megan to make up some hot chocolate.

Jared’s hand on Jensen’s arm stopped him from following after the rest of the group for a second round of dessert.

“I want to show you something,” Jared said softly, giving Jensen’s arm a squeeze. “Put on your jacket.”

At the doorway, Chad had hesitated, looking back at them with a small smile on his face. “You good, Jaybird?” he asked and Jared nodded at him, matching smiles. “Bundle up, it’s cold out there.”

Jensen looked between them but held his tongue, instead focusing on getting his jacket and scarf on and lacing up his boots. Jared got similarly dressed beside him, and then the pair of them were heading out into the setting sun and increasing cold.

Snow was still falling, covering the farm with a beautiful white blanket. The snow itself wasn’t deep yet, just under an inch, but Jensen was grateful he’d chosen his work boots. He looked up at Jared who was waiting at the bottom of the porch, his hand extended, and Jensen took it without hesitation. Together, they walked across the farm in companionable silence, Jared’s fingers laced through his, his palm warm.

“Are you finally going to show me what you and Chad have been working on?” Jensen asked as they started towards the clearing. Jared just smiled and tugged him along.

The air was crisp and Jensen breathed it in. There was always something so refreshing, so clean, about snow falling. The cold would get to him eventually, but for right now, he was content in the heat that he got from Jared, the sound of their feet crunching through the path. It had been a while since he’d been out here… Despite making better memories of the clearing, seeing the fallen tree still made his heart ache.

Just when they were about to breach the edge of the woods, Jared stopped them and stood in front of Jensen, placing his gloved hands on each one of his shoulders. “Do you trust me?”

Jensen snorted at that. Jared’s smile was all he needed to know the answer was accepted. Jared reached up and pulled his scarf off, lifting it up to place around Jensen’s head, covering his eyes. Jensen inhaled the scent of Jared, all woodsmoke and pine and spice. It sent a shiver down his spine that had nothing to do with the cold, and as if Jared could sense it, his husband ran his hands slowly down Jensen’s spine before leading him forward by his hips.

He could tell they were heading to the center of the clearing, moving in a straight line to where their oak tree had been. Why they were heading there, he didn’t know. Maybe… Jared and Chad had planted another oak? But there was no reason that would’ve taken weeks… Maybe they built a playground for the kids? But, there was already one on the other side of the barn, a swingset and jungle gym.

When Jared stopped their progression, Jensen held his breath, his eyes squeezed tight beneath the scarf. Jared removed it slowly and then Jensen felt him step back. He exhaled and then opened his eyes.

The snow had covered the entire field, the longer grass just barely poking up through. He was standing just beside the stump of the fallen tree, but there was nothing but snow where the heavy trunk had been. He turned slightly and his breath caught in his throat.

To the left of the stump was a beautiful bench, solid and made from oak. Jared crunched his way around Jensen, brushing the snow away from the bench before turning back around and stepping to the side. Shaking, Jensen walked forward and pulled his hand out of his glove. He reached for the back, fingers trailing over the smoothed wood, and brushing over the initials he and Jared had carved there.

“Jared,” he whispered and found his voice stuck in his throat. Jared was immediately at his side, pressed against him, arm holding him tight.

“Time changes everything, Jensen. Weather, war, children, life… but the one thing I am sure about, the one constant I know, is that you and me? We’re forever. And it doesn’t matter how we change, what we look like a year from now or thirty, I will love you with every piece of my being.”

“Shit,” Jensen whispered, reaching for the lapels of Jared’s jacket and yanking him forward. He crushed their mouths together, tasting the cinnamon and sugar left on Jared’s tongue as they nearly fell over into the snow.

Jared’s laughter was contagious and beautiful and Jensen soon found himself laughing against his husband’s mouth, holding onto him tight as Jared sat down on the bench, bringing Jensen with him.

“I am a little sad I can’t still push you up against the tree, though,” Jared murmured and Jensen smiled back, lifting up slightly and swinging his leg over Jared’s thighs, settling on his lap. “Not complaining about this.”

“Shut up and kiss me,” Jensen replied, leaning back down and sealing their lips together once more. They kissed slow, fighting away the cold by wrapping up in one another. Jensen shifted his hips forward and Jared broke off the kiss with a groan, his forehead dropping to Jensen’s chest.

“Remember our first time?” Jensen whispered, biting the finger of the glove that he was still wearing and pulling his hand free. “Right here, under our tree?” He trailed his hands down Jared’s jacket, pulling the zipper open as he went. Then he spread his palm over Jared’s chest, pushing him to settle further down on the bench, Jared shifting his legs open slightly to keep them from toppling to the ground.

“I don’t think making love in the snow would have the same effect,” Jared whispered back, his breath catching on the air in a puff of white. He hissed as Jensen’s fingers found the hem of his shirt, cold hands now trailing over his skin.

“Are you going to touch me back, or is this going to be a one man show?” Jensen asked instead, leaning forward to taste the side of Jared’s throat, smiling against his skin as his husband’s breath hitched.

“Touching, definitely touching,” Jared replied as he scrambled behind Jensen’s back to get his own gloves off.

Jared’s fingers against his skin were like fire, leaving a trail of ruin in their wake. Jensen’s entire body was humming in response, his hips rolling into Jared’s, the breath of cold air whipping at the exposed skin of his back like a soothing balm, trying to keep the inferno at bay.

Jensen nearly ripped Jared’s button free of his jeans in his haste, Jared taking his time, fingers teasing at the hem of Jensen’s trousers until they finally, finally found purchase. Like it always was, touching Jared in the most intimate way felt like coming home.

“I love you,” Jensen whispered as Jared’s large hand wrapped around his aching cock, his fist moving in time with Jensen’s own movements.

“I love you, too,” Jared answered back, and the rest of their words were lost in the movement of their hands, the swipe of their tongues, the warmth of their breaths.

When Jared came with a muffled shout into Jensen’s scarf, Jensen swore this was what heaven must be like, because there was nothing more beautiful than the glassy, sated look on his husband’s face, the high flush on his cheeks, or his kiss swollen lips.

Jensen came soon after, the rolling tide meeting a crescendo that Jared caught and captured and kept safe.

They stayed sitting pressed close together in the falling snow until the cold was too much and their ears and noses were cherry colored red. Together, they walked in hand and hand back home.

Chapter Text

 

February 14th, 1972
West Dover, Vermont

 

 

“Jensen! Come on!” Danneel was laughing, yanking at his sleeve, and dragging him towards the ski lifts. He rolled his eyes but found himself laughing, allowing her to pull him across the snow.

It was only their second full day, but Jensen couldn’t help but ask himself why he’d never taken a vacation before.

Genevieve had won a long romantic weekend at the Mount Snow Lodge and it didn’t take the girls much pushing to convince Jared and Jensen to join them. Chad had nearly shoved them out the door, promising he’d look after the farm, the kids, and the elder Ackles. It had truly been his grandmother though, her silent raised eyebrow telling him he’d better go on this vacation or he’d regret it.

And she was right.

The girls had been around since Halloween, coming to the farm for movie nights - and Danneel had completely enthralled Jenna who now claimed she wanted to be Dani when she grew up - or convincing the boys, including Chad and occasionally Megan, to join them for a night out dancing.

They were like fire and water and yet, exactly the same in so many ways. Jensen found himself drawn to Danneel, for the first time finding himself close to someone other than his family or Jared. He hadn’t had a friend since… well, since Tom. And that was a lifetime ago. Jared seemed to find the same friendship in Gen, and it was amusing to watch them try to outdo each other - be it in drinking, eating, burping, or how long it took to get ready in the morning.

“Stop it,” Danneel said, nudging Jensen’s arm as the lift started to bring them up the mountain side.

“Stop what?” Jensen asked, turning his head to see her through his rented ski gear. Even with the thick, pink tinted glasses, he could see her roll her eyes.

“Stop thinking! Unless of course you’re thinking of all the ways you’re going to debauch your husband later tonight. If that’s the case, then please, carry on.”

She smiled wide, showing all her teeth, and Jensen found himself smiling back just as wide. “Oh, so you’re saying you want all the sordid details?” he asked, something warm and happy twisting inside of him. He’d never talked about his and Jared’s relationship so candidly, and it felt good.

“Oh no, me and penises do not mix!” Danneel answered, shaking her head quickly, her amber hair falling out from beneath her ski cap. He laughed at the look on her face and accepted the glasses and hat from her to hold while she fixed up her hair.

Even with it being a romantic weekend, no one batted an eye at the two couples spending time together. They did double dates for meals, took up a single table by the fire to play cards or have drinks at night. Sure, people thought the couples were Danneel and him, Gen and Jared, but that was fine by him. Somehow, Danneel had even sweet talked her way into getting them a joined room, the two suites connected by a double door that they kept open during the day and locked at night.

Even out in public, with couples and families all around them, he didn’t have to worry about enjoying time with Jared.

They’d been out on the slopes for the better half of the morning, and Jensen knew Jared could spend the rest of the afternoon out on the mountain, too. He and Gen had that in common, though Danneel didn’t have to try hard to get Jensen inside for a warm cup of coffee.

“We’re going to have to melt their boots out of their skis,” Jensen commented, following Danneel’s gaze down the mountain where a blur of bright pink and purple and solid deep green went curving beneath them.

“Nothing a warm bubble bath can’t fix,” Danneel answered back, turning her head to give him a wink. “I already ordered champagne and bubble mix for both of our rooms. You’re welcome.”

“A bubble bath?” Jensen asked, leaning back into the lift, his skis swinging beneath him. “I don’t know if I’ve had a bubble bath… since I was a kid.”

“What?” Danneel asked, smacking his arm. “You’re telling me you’ve never soaked Jared down, got him like melted butter, and then spread him out on a bed and had your way with him?”

Jensen felt his cheeks flush and he looked down at the mountain, shaking his head. “I mean, we’ve always had Jenna… and then Kaleb and Cameron, little Leigh-Ann-”

“Jensen, if you don’t take a bite out of that man later tonight? I’m going to be disappointed.”

Jensen looked back up at her and she immediately gave him a lewd wink before she was tugging them out of the lift and onto the powder. He laughed back at her, but couldn’t stop his mind from racing through all the things he could do to Jared, wanted to do with him. They had a few more days left of their vacation, no kids, no interruptions…

He jumped as a ball of snow smashed against his chest, a fine spray of cold just barely getting through the top of his scarf against his skin. Danneel was laughing again, the sound loud and carefree as she turned to start down the mountain. Jensen adjusted his scarf higher on his cheeks and then set off after her, though his thoughts were still mostly on Jared.

As the sun began to set, the two couples made their way into the warmth of the lodge, the scent of pine, peppermint, and coffee a welcome distraction from their cold fingers and toes. Gen immediately dumped half her gear into Danneel’s arms, then went off to get them all hot chocolate and coffee.

Jared led them all to the fireplace, people moving out of his way - despite him being like an overgrown, excited puppy, Jensen realized that people found him intimidating, which was laughable. Not that he didn’t think his husband couldn’t take care of himself, but Jared wouldn't hurt a fly!

“Thanks, Gen,” Jared said, taking a large cup of hot cocoa, as he sank into one of the far cushions, Jensen between him and Gen, with Danneel taking up the other end. “So what do we want to do for dinner tonight? Do we want to head to that Italian place at the base?”

Jensen felt Danneel’s eyes on him and he resolutely stared into the fireplace, taking a pointed sip of his coffee even though it was still too hot. He waited a minute, Danneel probably elbowing Gen to keep her quiet, and then he cleared his throat. “No, I think we should do some room service tonight.”

“That sounds like an excellent idea,” Danneel said quickly and Jensen just barely bit back his smile. “What do you think, babe? Finger foods?”

“Only if I can eat dessert off you,” Gen answered back, deadpan, before dissolving into giggles. “Well, I’m suddenly starving. I think we’re going to go and order. We’ll see you boys in the morning?”

Jared’s brows were furrowed slightly, but he nodded and pressed his thigh against Jensen’s as he settled back into the seat. When the girls disappeared from sight, he turned his head to look at Jensen.

“That was… weird?”

Jensen just snorted into his coffee, shaking his head. “Girls,” he answered simply, smiling when Jared accepted that as an answer. They warmed up by the fire until families started trickling in from outside, the noise in the foyer getting louder as kids started asking for dinner and couples started pairing off with their glasses of wine.

“Want to head upstairs?” Jensen asked softly and Jared nodded, standing after Jensen and following him to the elevator. They shared a ride with a younger couple and it made Jensen keep his hands to himself. He was dying to lean into Jared, to slide their hands together, and for the first time that weekend, he hated that there were other people at the resort.

Jared had no qualms about it, though, and striked up a conversation with the woman about her gear, wishing them a Happy Valentine’s day as the elevator opened. Jensen opened the door to their room and then remembered his conversation on the lift with Danneel.

“Jay?” he asked as they started slipping off all of their winter gear. “You still cold?”

“A little,” Jared answered with a nod, nearly tripping as he got stuck in his snow pants. Jensen laughed and reached for his arm, steadying him as he freed himself. He looked out into the room and saw the champagne in ice and a bottle of bubble bath mix sitting on the side table. He smiled as he walked over to it, picking up the champagne and handing it to Jared.

“Open this?” he asked, then reached for the bath stuff. “I’m going to get the water going.”

Jared’s eyes widened when he saw what Jensen had in his hands, a smile breaking out over his face. It made something warm and pleasant settle in Jensen’s belly and with renewed confidence that Jared was definitely into the bubble bath idea, he headed straight towards the bathroom.

The bathroom was moderately sized, but the tub made up for it - oversized and deep. He turned on the taps and adjusted the temp, then leaned forward to plug the drain. He added in a healthy dollop of bubble bath mixture and inhaled the soft scent of warm vanilla and cedar. Behind him, he heard the door creak and he turned his head to see Jared leaning against the frame, two flutes of champagne in his hands.

Jensen smiled and stood, slowly walking towards his husband. The air around them was charged already and Jensen’s skin tingled with it. He reached for the glass, wrapping his fingers around Jared’s, but instead of taking it he leaned in, pressing their mouths together.

Jared hummed gently against his lips, his eyes fluttering closed and Jensen was hit once more with how in love with this man he was.

Jensen took both flutes and placed them on the counter, then reached for the belt loops on Jared’s jeans, hauling him forward. Jared was pliant, letting out little gasps and groans as Jensen took his time to undress him, his fingertips running up and down Jared’s skin.

When Jared was naked, half hard from the attention, Jensen leaned in again and kissed him soundly, then pushed him towards the tub.

Jared went willingly, stepping in through the bubbles and sinking down into the warm water with a groan. Jensen smiled and turned off the tap, then grabbed their champagne, handing Jared both the flutes to hold while he stripped out of his own clothes.

Jared went to sit up but Jensen shook his head, kneeling down beside the tub instead so that he was facing Jared. Leaning against the side of the tub, he accepted his glass back and Jared smiled. “To you,” he said softly, “the man who’s changed my life for the better.”

“To us,” Jensen corrected, clinking their glasses together, “because I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for you.”

“I love you,” Jared said back and Jensen repeated the words before they both took a sip. As Jared settled back into the bubbles, Jensen let his arm fall into the side of the tub, his fingers trailing lightly over Jared’s thigh beneath the water.

“Feels nice,” Jared whispered and Jensen found himself smiling. The room itself was warm, and he shifted to get more comfortable on the floor, content to watch the way Jared’s skin was slick from the bubbles, shiny in the lamplight. He looked beautiful like this, relaxed and content. His eyes were closed, sweat just starting to collect on his throat and the steam from the bath starting to curl his hair.

After seeing Jared like this, he wasn’t sure he’d ever be content just watching him take a shower ever again.

“Sing to me?” Jared asked after a moment, breaking the silence. He opened one eye, watching Jensen’s reaction, and then closed it again with a smile. Jensen nodded and stilled the movement of his fingers as he thought. Then, as he started to sing, he let his touch wander once more.

“Sometimes when I’m down and and all alone, just like a child without a home…” Jensen started singing, slowing down the tempo slightly than Sonny and Cher, “The love you give me keeps me hangin’ on, ooh honey, all I ever need is you.”

Jared reached over, his hand finding Jensen’s beneath the bubbles and holding on tight. He gave a single squeeze and Jensen continued.

“You’re my first love, you’re my last. You’re my future, you’re my past. And lovin’ you is all I ask. Ooh honey-”

“All I ever need is you,” Jared joined him softly and Jensen smiled. They sang the next verse together, Jared opening his eyes to tilt his head to the side and meet Jensen’s gaze. Then, Jensen finished the song with, “Some men search for silver, some for gold… but I have found my treasure in your soul. My honey, all I ever need is you.”

Jared waited a moment, then suddenly leaned forward, yanking open the drain.

“All done?” Jensen asked with a laugh and Jared simply nodded, standing up from the tub and then reaching down for Jensen’s hand. Jensen watched as the leftover bubbles made their way down Jared’s body, his eyes following the same path.

“Yes, because if I don’t get you into bed, like, now? I’m going to be very unhappy.”

Jensen laughed and leaned in, kissing Jared before turning to find a towel. Jared stepped onto the bathmat, his arms coming around Jensen’s shoulders and pulling them flush. Jensen gasped at the heat from Jared’s skin, the hot line of his cock pressing against the cleft of Jensen’s ass. Droplets of water from Jared’s skin rolled down Jensen’s back and thighs, cooling in the air and making him shiver. Jared’s mouth was immediately on the back of Jensen’s neck, leaving open mouthed kisses as he pushed them forward, back into the room.

“I wasn’t done pampering you,” Jensen complained as they reached the bed. Jared left one final lingering kiss on his shoulder before pulling away and flopping himself down on the bed, not caring that he was wet.

“I’m all yours, baby,” Jared said with a smile, spreading out like the most perfect buffet Jensen could imagine.

Jensen chuckled and shook his head, crawling up the bed and leaning down to capture Jared’s mouth with his own. Jared was like putty beneath him, his muscles relaxed from the bath, causing him to melt down into the mattress. Jensen was almost pulled in with him, but he had an idea and that anticipation alone kept him from laying himself over Jared’s body.

“Roll over,” Jensen said and Jared stilled for a moment, searching his eyes before he complied, completely trusting of whatever Jensen wanted to do. Jensen crawled over the back of his thighs and Jared groaned as Jensen’s hardness settled against his ass. Jensen could feel the slight tremor though Jared’s shoulders, the anticipation just bubbling beneath the surface, and as he rolled his hips back into Jensen, it was giving him complete permission.

Jensen smiled down at him, his hands coming to Jared’s sides and stilling his hips. He knew what Jared wanted, what he’d been hinting at over the past couple of years. After a moment of hesitation, Jensen’s fingertips gripped Jared’s hips harder and he leaned down, pressing further into him to whisper, “Behave.” Jensen moved his hands over the solid planes of Jared’s back, all the way up to his shoulders. “I’m going to give you a massage first.”

He emphasized the last word, giving Jared what he was asking for, and Jared groaned again, immediately relaxing beneath him and moving his arms beneath his head and the pillow. Jensen took his time, working his fingers deep into Jared’s muscles, his cock twitching against Jared with each groan he elicited. He was convinced half of them were for his own benefit, could see the smirk Jared gave each time it happened.

As Jensen moved down Jared’s body, he slid down between his legs, kissing Jared’s pinkened skin from where he’d worked it over. He let his teeth and tongue do the talking, kissed the dimples of Jared’s spine, sunk his teeth into each of Jared’s cheeks.

Over the decade they’d been together, Jensen had found himself worried less and less about what God would think of him, finding himself angry at the idea that any part of this - his relationship with the most beautiful man in the world, the love he could see between Genevieve and Danneel - was sinful. There just wasn’t a world in which Jensen believed this was wrong anymore.

If doubt ever started to creep in, Jared would be there to soothe it away. Patient and kind and loving, even on the days Jensen deserved it the least. And hell if Jensen wouldn’t spend the rest of his life showing Jared how important that was, how important he was.

Jensen spread Jared’s legs slowly, Jared shifting so he was laying more on his left hip, his right leg sliding up higher on the bed and exposing him to Jensen. Jensen pressed in close, kissing the crease of Jared’s thigh, reveling in the sound Jared made.

With gentle, purposeful fingers, he traced the contours of Jared’s balls, pressing his thumb against his perineum and leaning forward to kiss his skin again.

“Is this my happy ending?” Jared breathed out, his voice pitched low and thick with arousal. Jensen slid his hands up to cup Jared’s ass, spreading his cheeks slightly before he blew a cold burst of air against his hole. Jared made a choked sound, any teasing remark he had left suddenly swallowed, and Jensen couldn’t help but smirk.

Jared was practically holding his breath, his head buried in the pillow, toes digging into the mattress behind him. And Jensen, he could never truly deny Jared anything. He let his eyes move up Jared’s body again, feasting on the sight before him, and was suddenly hit with the overwhelming urge to devour him.

Jensen leaned forward, pressing his tongue against Jared’s hole, dragging it up through the crack of his ass. Jared gasped, his head flying up at the sensation, and Jensen froze, still perched over his hips.

“Was that okay?” he asked and Jared turned his head slightly, looking over his shoulder with wide eyes.

“I… think so? Do it again?”

Jensen nodded and leaned back down, moving his tongue slowly over Jared’s skin. He felt Jared shiver, a deep groan leaving his throat as he collapsed back against the mattress, canting his hips back just as Jensen was about to ask again.

He took better hold of Jared’s cheeks, pulling him further apart, and resumed his exploration. It was both the dirtiest and most intimate thing Jensen had ever done, and he found himself lost in the sensation of Jared’s puckered flesh fluttering against his tongue, the clean-warm-musky taste of him, and the sound that fell from Jared’s mouth.

With each pass of his tongue, Jensen got bolder, wanting to go deeper. He slid the tip of his tongue against Jared’s entrance and pushed, and Jared rewarded him with a high pitched whine that went straight through Jensen’s body.

“More,” Jared gasped, and Jensen pushed his tongue further, Jared’s body responding and loosening around him. He slid a finger inside with his tongue, then licked around Jared’s rim as he slowly stretched him open. When he had three fingers twisting inside of Jared’s body, Jared rocking back against him, he leaned down to leave open mouthed kisses on the back of Jared’s thighs.

“Jensen, I swear-” Jared breathed out and Jensen chuckled against his skin. Slowly, he withdrew his fingers, groaning at the way Jared’s body tried to pull him back in.

“Don’t move,” Jensen ordered, watching Jared shiver in place, his fingers clenching the bedsheet beside his head. He held fast, however, only his eyes moving as they watched Jensen round the side of the bed and pull open the bedside drawer. He removed the small jar of Vaseline and made his way slowly back to the end of the bed.

When he was finally out of Jared’s sight, Jared gave a frustrated sigh and Jensen took pity on him, reaching down to touch his calf. He slid his hand up the back of Jared’s leg as he climbed back between his knees, leaning into him as he opened the jar.

He made quick work of making sure Jared was lubricated, then himself, before he closed the jar and dropped it to the mattress beside him. Then he slid his hands around Jared’s hips, pulling slightly. Jared responded perfectly, canting his hips up at just the right angle, a soft sigh of contentment crossing his lips.

Jensen almost teased him, almost asked if he was ready, but every part of him was screaming with need. The need to be as one with Jared, in every way they knew how.

Jensen stretched himself over Jared’s body, sliding a hand between them to guide himself into Jared’s waiting body. He wasn’t sure which one of them groaned, all he knew was that this is what heaven must feel like.

Jared was warm and tight, surrounding him completely. Though he was the one sliding inside of Jared’s body, he’d never felt so full. He slid his arm up, easily finding Jared’s hand, and Jared held on just as tight. Every moment with Jared was always perfect, but there was something locking into place, something that completed them, that Jensen hadn’t even known was missing.

Jensen moved in and out of Jared’s body slowly, focused more on drawing the soft sounds from him, the press of their bodies together, the way each time Jensen was flush against Jared’s body, Jared’s hand tightened around his own.

“I love you,” Jensen whispered, pressing his lips to the side of Jared’s throat. “So much.”

“Jensen, I-” Jared let out a soft moan, pushing back into Jensen, “touch me, please.”

Jensen shifted them slightly, releasing Jared’s hand to slip beneath his body instead. He wrapped his hand around Jared’s thick, heavy cock, Jared groaning at the contact and sliding his hand down with him, wrapping over Jensen’s around himself.

They moved together, each push and pull bringing them both closer to the edge. “Jensen!” Jared gasped before spilling over their joined hands, his body suddenly taut, the pressure around Jensen’s own hardness making his eyes roll back into his head.

He worked Jared through his orgasm, his own hips losing their rhythm as he chased his own release. When he came, it was with Jared’s name on his lips, and he swore he could fly.

Jensen rolled to the side slightly, pulling Jared with him, not ready for them to separate. He curled himself around Jared’s back, pressing his forehead into the center of Jared’s shoulders as he tried to catch his breath. Jared hummed softly, reaching back for Jensen’s arm and wrapping it around his chest, holding on just as tight.

“I love you, too,” Jared said after a moment, his thumb tracing soft circled into Jensen’s arm. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Jensen asked, letting his eyes fall closed. “For making love to you?”

“No,” Jared chuckled, nudging him gently with his elbow, “for taking us on this vacation… for being my husband. For being an amazing father and partner. For just… for being you.”

Jensen smiled against Jared’s skin and then cleared his throat, squeezing gently so Jared knew he was joking. “God, you’re such a sap. No chick-flick moments.”

“Shut up,” Jared snorted, twisting in Jensen’s arms. He met Jensen’s gaze, his eyes shining in the room’s light, then leaned up for a kiss. “Since you’re being so romantic, I demand dinner in bed.”

“Oh yeah?” Jensen asked, kissing him again. “What if I’m all romantic-ed out?”

“Hmmm…” Jared said, twisting his mouth like he was thinking. “Guess I’ll have to go find myself another attractive husband on the mountain then.”

“Chicken or steak?”

Jared laughed and snuggled against his chest. “Steak. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Go get in the shower, I’ll order room service,” Jensen said, reluctantly pulling away. Jared gave a small pout, then his entire face lit up.

“Are you going to join me after?”

“Of course, baby,” Jensen answered, letting himself watch Jared saunter off, completely naked and glowing, before he reached for the room’s phone.