How does it feel to have all your wishes come true?
To lose your life in one elusive dream …..beyond sight…beyond touch… and to have it wait for you one fine morning…just within reach?
Dreams are intangible….
But Jared’s aren’t.
He wakes up to its sleeping face with the first rays of the morning sun….long eyelashes brushing the golden cheek …lips moist and slightly parted… ….and he is left breathless with fear.
He wants to caress the golden hair…but his hands pauses midway. Last night was hectic and Jensen deserves to unwind… Jared’s pretty sure Jensen hasn’t had much sleep while he was away.
Just like Jared.
It’s something that he has learned to live with.
When Jensen’s into something…he gives it his entirety. He would go to any extent to expose the truth…to paint the real picture and go beyond the conventional narrative…. lend a voice to those without one.
It’s his one true calling….that bounds him with the rest of humanity and makes him who he is.
And that means hardship. It has showered him with immense fame and accolades in the world of news media.
But it has come with a price.
The price of his personal safety and family.
The price of his comfort.
The price of Jared’s sleepless nights.
Every job assigned to Jensen tugs on the fine thread that binds them together.
It’s always like this.
When Jensen jumps head first into the horrific world of flesh trade and helps the FBI in unearthing a massive trafficking ring that runs across South-East Asia and USA by pulling off a daring journalistic coup….
Jared is left grasping with the sordid torture tales that float about that pre-dawn world thanks to the internet and hoping beyond hope that maybe….maybe they let his husband live this time.
But it was never supposed to go this way.
The Jared he once knew dreamed of being the one Jensen always returned to.
The Jared today….staring at Jensen’s sleeping face knows the truth too well.
Saying good bye is so fucking hard.
And waiting indefinitely is even harder.
The sight that presents itself before him in the rays of the golden sun induces a sleepy smile. Jensen and Sammy are huddled together under the blanket. Last night, Jensen had lifted their slumbering baby from his crib and placed him in the middle of their bed.
One quick peck on their sleep warm cheeks and he is off to start the day. His eyes falls on his reflection in the bedroom mirror and he sighs.
Since when did he turn into this horrible dream crusher who’s hell bent on stealing every colour from Jensen’s life?
His dreams and his freedom?
Sometimes in the darkest hour of the night, Jared meets his worst nightmare.
Jensen seeing Jared in the true light….as the monster he really is.
The one that wishes to clip his soaring wings and chain him to the bed.
Jared keeps that one locked in his inner dungeon.
It’s not some place he ventures often. Its emaciated dark corners are spattered with the remains of his niggling self-doubts and self-worth issues. His anxieties and inner concerns. It’s his most un-Jared like place ever. And he’s so damn happy that Jensen doesn’t know it even exists.
“Jensen…I think that’s quite enough!” Jared peered over his husband’s shoulders to peek down at the bright red cauldron boiling away on the oven.
The head ‘chef’ was gonna dump yet another spoonful of crushed red chillies in the lamb stew…but his husband’s words made him pause midway.
“I don’t think so Jay. It’s supposed to knock your socks off.” The green eyed man turns around to face Jared who hasn’t left his side ever since his emphatic morning declaration that he is gonna cook a full course Middle-Eastern meal for the family.
“Dadadada!” The baby gives them a bright gummy smile from his position in the high chair, prompting a hearty laughter from Jensen.
“By the looks of it…you have succeeded.” Jared winced internally at the sheer amount of red chillies in it.
You see, Jensen Ackles and cooking don’t mix. He burns water. Ever since college days, his idea of cooking has been pizzas and take-outs.
The only recipe he knows somehow by the grace of God is tomato-rice soup.
Jared had been subjected to it many a times during his pregnancy days when he was too incapacitated to do anything out of sheer fatigue. This sudden interest in cooking had kinda thrown him of and he was about to say no.
Jensen in the kitchen is synonymous with a mini tornado and Jared was always left with the duty of cleaning the mess.
But one look at his husband’s hopeful green eyes and he understood.
It was Jensen’s attempt at regaining normalcy…of winding down from the battle he had been waging for the last three months.
Because as much as Jared wants to think that he’s the lone fighter in the war, he knows the truth better than anyone else.
It’s Jensen’s fight as much as his.
All these tiny gestures he constantly comes up with are his way to clear his mind…..to prevent himself from wandering constantly down that pain filled road…and to fill the impossible void in Jared’s soul.
So Jared goes with it.
And he will do anything to make Jensen forget….to make himself forget the reality of their situation.
That Jensen may have to pack his bags for yet another assignment any day. Jared has no idea what he’s gonna do if Jensen leaves again this time around. It’s true that he has been on the receiving end of Jensen’s good byes for many years now.
But something has changed this time.
“Hey Jay? Taste?” A spoonful of gravy was thrust in his face shattering his chain of thoughts.
Jared eyed the contents of the spoon with mild consternation. It appeared much too red for his taste and he’s not crazy.
But it’s Jensen. His Jensen. And he is certifiably crazy for this infuriating man… ….who’s about to kill him. He shook his head in fond exasperation and tucked in the spoon with gusto.
“Feeling better Jay?” A soothing voice whispers in his ears as a firm callused hand strokes his forehead.
Jared sighs in contentment and leans back again the firm chest.
“It’s nothing Jen. I get it sometimes.” Jared turned his head to smile at his husband who didn’t seem too convinced.
“Since when Jay? And why am I knowing about this now?” Jensen looks so hurt and indignant that Jared can’t help but smile in wry amusement. He feels oddly thrilled to be at the receiving end of Jensen’s anger. Who knew someone could look so hot when he’s pissed off?
“I swear I’ve taken my meds. I’m feeling just fine Jen.” Jared whispers into Jensen’s chest causing the other man to frown.
“When Jay? I didn’t see you taking anything.” Jensen’s brows knit into an enticing curve. Really….is there anything in this man that’s not beautiful?
Jared turns around to face his husband on the couch. They have been resting there for the better part of the day since lunch.. with Jensen hogging the place of the big spoon like forever.
Green eyes meet hazel ones in the overriding silence of the room as Jared’s hand worm their way under Jensen’s tee shirt.
“Here’s my meds Jen!” He whispers… prompting a shy smile in the freckled face Jared loves more than life itself. Their callused hands snake their ways under their tees ….and they relish under each other’s presence.
They have been snoozing in their ratty old couch ever since lunch. Don’t even ask Jared how it went. One spoon of Jensen’s lamb stew….and it felt like Jared was swallowing hot lava.
His mouth was quite literally burning and Jared actually ate some of his baby’s bland apple sauce to cool it down….a fact that Jensen won’t let him live it down any time soon.
The ‘chef’ on the other hand relished his entire meal. As it turned out, his three month stint in Middle East has given him an iron laden stomach…….and an appetite to match.
As they both lay in each other’s arms , exchanging lazy kisses and barely there touches…..Jared finally feeling like whole again….as if all the lost pieces of his soul are finding their way home.
Only one tiny thought keeps on tormenting him at the back of his mind.
“Jen?” He whispers, voice hoarse with desire as lips begin an enchanting downward journey showering tiny kisses on his neck and shoulder blades.
“Whose call was that?” He asks in a tiny voice. He hates himself for sounding so insecure….so weak.
“Whah?” Jensen seems to be in a haze. He has a hard time in placing Jared’s words.
“The phone call?” Jared pushes again and playfully bites an earlobe for effect.
“Oh yeah….Mark called. Wants to meet over dinner next week.” Jared sighs internally.
Mark Sheppard is the current head and CEO of Jensen’s network. While network heads rarely mingle with on-field correspondents, Mark has taken a special liking for Jensen.
It has nothing to do with his affection for Jared’s husband and everything to do with the steep TRPs, accolades and sheer amount of international sponsors that Jensen’s work bring. But Jensen’s not the only one Mark has special eyes for. The network has a number of award winning journalists under its wings, including the chief of news bureau Jeff Morgan, who’s a legend in his own right. They are undoubtedly the prime assets of the network and Mark has taken great interest in all of them, since the day he joined in the helm. It’s a part of the wider policy of the network to play its cards right in the public battle with other media houses.
The international news section has the largest viewership among all news coverage and it’s this section that lures in maximum sponsors…much more than the amount of sponsors the coverage on domestic news bring.
So….. Jensen has been in the receiving end of such invitations since a long time. For Jared, an invitation from Mark is another name for “Come on!It’s time to set sailin again ! Off ya go!!”
Sweet talking about next assignments and deadlines………..over an array of expensive food and even pricier French wine….with Mark smiling at the head of the table like a benevolent father.
Yes…Jared was ‘fortunate’ enough to be specially invited to one when Jensen was sent to Kandhar years back and he has a fair idea how they go.
The man himself is one of the friendliest guys one can come across but Jared always feels queasy whenever someone mentions his name.
He can’t help it.
The faint sound of the doorbell wakes the hazel eyed man slumbering on the couch. Jared is about to get up when a firm hand on his chest pushes him back down.
“I’ll get it. Sleep.”
Jared’s almost under the influence of hypnos but hushed voices approaching the drawing room prevent him from going under all the way. They are somewhat garbled….
“Hey Jay? Look who’s here!” The evident smile in Jensen’s voice makes him open his eyes.
It’s Misha. The man in question winks at Jared and makes himself comfortable on the couch.
“Hey Misha!!” Jared smiles. Misha Collins is another renowned journalist who covers the international news for Jensen’s network…specializing on African and Asian affairs. He’s also Jensen’s best friend since college days….quirky and brilliant.
The two have often been tag teamed in some crucial assignments….like the one in Swat Valley.
But why’s he here? Jared feels oddly uncomfortable due to some reason….though Misha has been to their house numerous times.
As he lays back listening to the two friends chat over beer….it becomes clear to him. And he can’t hold it back anymore.
“You’re leavin again….aren’t you?” He feels oddly betrayed and cheated. Everything gets hazy all of a sudden. All he hears over the multitude of voice screaming within his head is Jensen’s….as if he is trying to soothe him.
“Hey…Jay? Hey…hey….come on…it’s okay…come on. Fuck…Jay? No!!”
All he can feel is this excruciating pain emanating from his head. He wants to fight Jensen…he wants to fight everything there is…he wants to… And everything goes black all of a sudden.
A casket neatly placed on an air tray.
It’s marked with the words ‘HUMAN REMAINS’ in bold black letters.
On the casket itself, one can see the name and destination of the person it belongs to.
Jensen Ackles, KBL-JFK, American Airlines 7961 And just below it are two italicized words- EXTREME CARE
It’s all that has remained of Jared’s dreams. His life….his happiness and his love. Jensen is dead.
Ironically he didn’t lose his life while trying to do something risky. Jensen died from an explosion on his way to the Kabul airport when a car bomb in the taxi he had hired exploded.
It’s a regular occurrence there. Terror…loss of lives….and people promptly forgetting it to go on about their daily livelihood.
But this time it has succeeded in robbing Jared of the only thing he has ever truly wished for. Jensen.
Jeff and Josh have repeatedly tried to disarm him.
The rest of the family had sided with them. They kept on saying what’s rational….what’s normal.
“Jeff and Josh will bring him home Jay. Please don’t do this to yourself!”
“The mortuary will handle it baby. Why don’t you have a little rest?”
“Please Jaybird. Sammy needs you, Don’t!”
But Jared had to do it. He has always been the one to receive Jensen. And the last time won’t be any different.
He is left with a heady sensation that leaves him numb. He has often read about something called ‘grieving-process’. He has seen people crying hysterically at the loss of loved ones.
Ironically, now that his life has ended….. Jared is finding it hard to grieve. He is yet to shed a single drop…..
As he goes through the formalities in the airport and signs off necessary papers……he is suddenly assaulted with a silly urge to look back.
There’s someone standing behind him. Someone he loves more than life itself has this childish habit of hugging Jared from the back at the most inopportune moment…and Jared can’t help feeling like he’s about to be engulfed in a bone crushing hug.
Almost unmindful of the reality…the hazel eyed man looks back with a tiny smile in his lips that’s waiting to be turned into a full blown laughter.
And then he sees it.
It’s a casket waiting on a cold steel table.
All of a sudden a realization dawns on him leaving him breathless in the middle of the dreary desert like airport.
Jensen’s never gonna hug him anymore.
He is never gonna come home any more.
Jensen is dead.
And that’s when Jared starts crying for the first time since he heard the news.
He tries to hug the casket unmindful of the concerned glances the kind officials at the customs are giving him. He wants to slither in there and die along with the man inside. He doesn’t want to live anymore.
But his voice refuses to cooperate as does his hands.
All he hears are beeping sounds from all around him.
“Mr Ackles? Can you hear me?” A male voice calmly calls on to Jared.He really doesn’t want to open his eyes.
And that’s when he hears it.
“Hey Jay?” The voice seems familiar. It’s honeyed, rich and warm. So familiar. But that’s impossible.
“Je..Jensen?” He feels familiar fingers card through his hairs. A pair of lips are leaving tiny kisses on his forehead. Still in the throes of a dreamlike reality….Jared finally opens his eyes.
What he sees leaves him torn.
He’s in lying on a bed in what essentially seems like a hospital room. It looks so scary with the machines beeping all around him. But the scariest sight in the colorless room is what he sees on his bedside.
A pair of red rimmed green eyes….and a face that seems to have aged ten years.
“How do you feel now Mr. Ackles?” The same unfamiliar voice that called on to Jared broke his reverie. Jared faintly nods, not taking his eyes off Jensen. The simple act seems to drain him of his energy.
Why is he so tired?
“You know how lucky you are? Another day and that aneurysm could have done a real damage….. How long have you been having these headaches your husband was talking about?” The doctor pushes on all the while scribbling in his chart at the foot of Jared’s bed.
“For..for some time.” He whispers and the doctor shakes his head.
He should be happy…that it was but a dream. But the sight of Jensen breaks him down.
The dream…the sheer reality of it...are still wrecking a havoc in his heart….and he starts crying for earnest making Jensen rush to his comfort.
What Jensen does is so like him.
He has always been the one who snubbed his nose at the authorities. And he does it again.
In a total disregard of hospital policies and breaking at least fifty rules….Jensen proceeds to lie beside his husband and soothe him with his touch.
“Shhhh! It’s okay Jay. I’m here. Why are you cryin huh?” Jensen places a kiss on one of his eyelids and Jared starts tearing again. Why does it all seem so unreal? Thankfully the doctor takes everything in his stride and disregards this little rebellion on Jensen’s part.
“What’s the last thing you remember Mr. Ackles?” He pushes again.
“Misha…Misha came for a visit….was talking to Jensen.” Jared replies. His mind is still wandering down the moonlit path of his dreams…and its making him sleepy again.
The answer makes the doctor frown and he looks at Jensen for an affirmation. But the blond man just shakes head in bewilderment.
“Hey Jay?” Sleepy hazel eyes open again.
“Misha’s in Syria baby. He didn’t come today. ” Jensen’s voice breaks as he hides his face in Jared’s hair.
“We..we were …on the couch…and you had a panic attack. I couldn’t calm you down.” Jensen wipes off his tears in his sleeves. But it proves futile. New tears start filling the place of the old ones soon enough.
“Then..then you started convulsing…and …and blacked out. You have been out for three days Jay. Fuck…you almost killed me.” Tiny sobs fill the eerie silence of the room in the midst of all the beeping machines.
“Do…do you remember any of it?” Jensen’s stroking his hair again and Jared knows he’ll fall asleep soon enough. Jared just shakes his head.
All that he heard leaves him stunned.
“Hallucination is quite common in such cases .Don’t worry Mr Ackles. He’s out of the danger zone. It’s just plenty of sleep and fluids for now.” He intones.
Jared just sighs.
He has no idea when his life ceased being real….when it breached the threshold of unreality to evolve into a horrific nightmare….. ….letting all his inner demons out.
But one tiny thought makes him spring right up the bed making all the machines around him beep alarmingly.
Nothing…not even Jensen can calm him down….let alone the doctor and the incoming nurses. His head feels like it’s about to break in two….
A tiny face.
“Sammy? Sammy? Jen? Sammy?” He screams on like a madman…like a record stuck in an eternal loop.
His baby. His little baby. One who doesn’t even sleep without Jared by his side let alone stay with others for three whole days.
Last time Jared saw him…he was playing on the living room floor. Oh God.
“ Hey…Hey….calm down. He’s with the babysitter. Samantha’s there as well. Shhhh…calm down!” And Jensen’s there again with the soothing voice that always sets Jared at rest. He finally falls asleep with Jensen’s hands on his chest.
The next time he wakes up….it’s almost dark outside. The drawn curtains betray the dusky sky beyond. He opens his eyes to eerie sounds of machines beeping away with abandon and the prickling sensation of IV in his left hand. He feels like someone’s staring.
“Jensen?” He croaks….still reeling under the drug induced drowsiness.
The sight is disconcerting.
Jensen’s staring. The look on his face is so guarded and closed off …it scares Jared to no end. He lightly touches the other’s elbow…and whatever reverie Jensen was in shatters.
“You thought I was dead.” It’s not a question.
It’s a demon locked inside that dungeon of his. There’s no way for Jensen to find it out. It was just a dream.
“You thought I was dead Jay.” Jensen presses again….this time gently turning Jared’s stubborn face to his side.
“Don’t..don’t know what you are talkin about.” Jared closes his eyes again. Jensen’s words are disarming. They seem to dismantle all the carefully constructed barriers Jared has worked so hard for all these years. He knows how to cope. He knows how to put on a smiling face every new morning and hide all his turmoil behind it.
But what he doesn’t know is to deal, when his inner dungeon falls apart from a sudden blow….letting all his demons out.
Jensen’s implacable. His green eyes are unnaturally bright….setting Jared at an unease in his presence for the first time of his life.
“Go home Jen. Aren’t you tired? Sammy?” Diversion makes an easy way out of awkwardness of the situation.
Before he can say more a finger silently shushes him…and Jensen shakes his head. Bloody brilliant.
“Everything’s been taken care of. I went to see Sammy when you were sleepin. Lil cranky…but doin fine so far…….And I am not leaving.” Jared closes his eyes at the mention of his son. His poor baby.
“I am not leaving Jay!” Jensen repeats.
Jared is sure there’s more….and he’s not gonna like it.
“You almost died Jay…thought that I was dead…lying in a casket….and you gave up.” Jensen buries his face in Jared’s pillow….three day old stubble tickling Jared’s ears. When he looks up again…his eyes are awash with tears.
“I am never leaving you again….”Jensen shakes his head helplessly. “I can’t.”
Weren’t these the precise words Jared has thirsted to hear all these years? Yet strangely they piss him off.
He feels intensely angry at everyone in general….
At his body that betrayed him and foiled his plans. At Jensen who has suddenly taken it upon himself to take Jared’s decisions for him. He feels mortified at being exposed in such a way.
It’s his treacherous body that has left him weak in Jensen’s eyes. It’s true that he always wanted Jensen to stop leaving. But in his dreams…Jensen always wishes to stay back because he wants to.
The reality throws itself at Jared’s face and he’s reeling under it. Jensen is left without any options… and a person without any options does things under compulsion.
Jared hates it.
He stays silent as Jensen gets on the bed and lies down on his pillow mindful of all the wires.
As the two weary men relish the closeness and the warmth of the moment….Jared still finds peace elusive.
He places a sloppy kiss on his husband’s forehead and closes his eyes.
He knows they still have a long way to go…. and a prolonged battle to fight.
Because he’ll rather be dead than forcing Jensen away from his life…..his dreams. If he does…his inner conflicts will kill him before the aneurysm succeeds. He is not gonna let Jensen give up his dreams.
They have a lot to talk about….and he has stalled it long enough.
But for now Jensen’s smell is engulfing his senses….his very being.
He can’t wait to be home and hold his baby again…to fight silly with Jensen and match his snark for snark…..to hold him and never let him go… …to live his dream for as long as life lets him.
He’s still internally quaking from his nightmares….and their reality has left him disoriented.
But that’s the story for another day. Now is the time to sleep.
He burrows his face deep in Jensen’s chest and finally let’s himself rest.
As soon as Jared’s breath evens out….Jensen opens his eyes.
He has no intention to sleep at this hour.
All he wants to do is to hold Jared close.
He hasn’t slept a wink ever since Jared seized in his arms and blacked out. Three days to be exact.
But he’s pretty sure Jared has been sleepless ever since Jensen’s been in his life…..
It’s the first time he has been in Jared’s nightmare. It’s the first time he has seen the world in Jared’s eyes…of himself lying in a casket and a lifeless Jared crying over it.
Now that he has realized the truth… Jensen regrets it. He wishes he had sorted out his priorities sooner….had held Jared in a bone crushing hug and told him that he comes first…that there’s nothing else he wants more.
But it’s too late now.
Everything he does now will be held as compulsion….as something he is forced into doing due to the situation they are in.
Yes…he knows his Jay even more than Jay does himself.
He holds the sleeping man impossibly closer and closes his eyes again.
He has always been theoretically aware of the fact that life is short.
But until three days ago…he had no idea how short it could be. How it can be snatched from your hands at a moment’s notice…..taking away all your peace of mind….dreams of a golden future…..and warmth.
He’s no longer sure of anything.
Except his love for Jared.