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Jensen hates sitting around doing nothing. He’s not programmed to relax, it’s just not in his DNA. He also hates waiting, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. Waiting for the call. His co-workers don’t seem to have his problem. He watches them slumped in front of the TV watching some 80’s action flick. It’s not like they don’t get enough action at work, they have to watch it for fun too?

He sits at a table in the small kitchen area they have and slowly drinks his mug of coffee. He’s been drinking it for so long it’s lukewarm, but Jensen barely cares, its caffeine, and that’s all that matters.

The worst part about waiting is what he’s waiting for. They get about eight bomb threats a night in the city. It seems like a lot, but Jensen knows it could be more. And hey, most of the calls are hoaxes anyway. They gear up, get to the scene, and find a suitcase full of holiday clothes or drugs. Jensen’s not worried about the calls they get about bomb threats. It’s when they get no warning, those are the calls he hates.

A bomb maker would tell you a bomb was designed to explode. It’s Jensen’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. It has its risks, but Jensen can’t picture himself doing anything else. 

Jensen’s prepared when the phone call comes. He’s always prepared. Jensen’s out of his chair, coffee instantly forgotten as he pulls on his jacket and grabs his gear. He makes it down to the truck before his team. They don’t need to ask for directions, they just follow the sounds of sirens. Jensen pulls the truck to a stop next to a fire truck and turns off the engine.

He climbs out of the truck and lands on the ground with a thud. He reaches into the truck and pulls out his bag before walking towards the devastation. It’s an office block, surrounded by ten other office buildings. One side of the building is no longer there. In its’ place is rubble, fire and dead bodies. Storey after storey has collapsed onto each other like a broken accordion. Smoke billows out of the top, rising above the buildings and drifting away. There are people scattered everywhere, people with injuries, those still capable holding gauze to bloody cuts, dirtied and shocked. Paramedics and fire fighters rush around, overwhelmed by the amount of people that need their help. There is so much going on that Jensen can’t take it all in. This is always the worst part of his job. Being there after a bomb has gone off is like a cop turning up after a crime’s been committed. You wonder what the outcome would’ve been if you’d been able to get there earlier. If there’d been a warning, would Jensen have been able to save all these people?

He flashes his badge to a cop and is led past the barriers holding back the curious crowds.

“Are you Lieutenant Ackles?” Jensen stops mid stride and pivots. He finds himself facing a tall man in a fire-fighter’s uniform and white helmet.

Jensen nods, “You the fire chief?”

The man holds out his hand, “Reaves, Nathan Reaves.”

Jensen takes the offered hand and shakes it briefly. “What’s the situation?” He asks. He always gets straight down to business. In his line of work there isn’t time for dawdling.

“Approximately two hours ago a blast took out the side of the building. We arrived shortly afterwards, got out any remaining survivors, and starting working on rescuing those still trapped.”

“Go on.”

“Our first assumption was a gas leak, there was maintenance work going on in the building’s basement yesterday. About half an hour ago we found a man trapped under a pile of rubble and metal. We took an x-ray of the damage to try and get a better look at what was going on. We didn’t want to try and dig the guy out until we knew it wasn’t going to collapse on the poor guy,” Reaves is handed an envelope and he hands it to Jensen. “This is what we found.”

Jensen frowns as he slides the x-ray film out of the envelope and holds it up to the light. He sees bones in the shape of two legs and feet, and large metal rebar’s criss-crossing the film, the same bars trapping the man. Underneath it all, Jensen can see a small bundle of wires and shapes that he’s more than familiar with.

“Is it?” Reaves asks.

Jensen nods “Yeah, it is.”

**********

“Why hasn’t it exploded yet?” Jensen finds himself being asked, as he heads into the rubble towards the trapped man.

“Who knows,” Jensen replies, as he glances back at the chief “Could be any number of reasons. It could be a dud, it could be a fake. Maybe it has a pressure switch, and only thing keeping it from exploding is the guy lying on top of it” Jensen shrugs. He ducks under a concrete slab and into the darkness. His eyes slowly adjust to the lack of light and he moves forwards, stepping over bits of rubble and body parts. He’s never gotten used to so much death, though he would worry if he did. He still remembers his first explosion, the smell of blood in the air. He remembers running from the scene and throwing up in a bush.

The air is filled with dust and the smell of burnt flesh, and Jensen coughs. He is handed a mask and he puts it on quickly. He’s led further into the building, and he can’t help but wonder about how safe the building’s structure is. Ominous groaning sounds tell Jensen it could be a lot safer. He’s never been afraid of much, and like most guys in the bomb disposal unit, he’s not afraid to take risks. He too has felt that adrenaline high after diffusing a bomb. The high that makes you feel like you could do anything, survive anything. It’s a powerful thing. He maybe be a risk taker, but he doesn’t have a death wish. How can you be expected to diffuse a bomb if you don’t care if you live or die? It’s the need to live that drives Jensen forward.

The man leading him inside the building stops and points into the far corner. Jensen nods and walks forward. In the darkness, he can see a man in a navy uniform crouching on the floor, a bag by his side. The man hears Jensen’s footsteps and looks over.

“Hey,” The man greets.

Jensen pulls down his mask, “Lieutenant Ackles,” Jensen introduces himself. “Jensen,” He adds. Sometimes the personal touch helps.

“Tom, Tom Welling, paramedic,” The man replies.

“How’s he doing?” Jensen asks

“He has a name,” A third voice answers.

Jensen crouches beside Welling to get a good look at the trapped man. Even lying down and half covered in rubble, Jensen can see the guy is tall and well built. The twenty something is covered in dirt, drying blood and sweat.  His shaggy hair is mussed up and tangled, his eyes tired and dark. His clothes are torn and covered in dust, and his legs are invisible under the concrete and metal pinning him down. He has an IV line attached to his hand, and a bag of fluid is being held up in the air by Tom. For someone trapped and injured inside a building, he looks pretty calm.

The man lifts a shaky hand in Jensen’s direction. “Jared, Jared Padalecki.”

“Jared please,” Tom chides, “I need you to keep as still as possible.”

Jared rolls his eyes and drops his hand to the floor.

“Padalecki,” Jensen repeats.“ That’s quite a mouthful.”

“At least I’m not called Jensen,” Jared retorts.

Jensen chuckles. “So what’s his injury count?” He directs his question at Tom.

“He’s doing pretty well, considering,” Tom replies. “He has a head injury, but it’s not too serious. He also has a couple of cracked ribs. I’m more worried about the possibility of internal bleeding, not to mention the state his legs are in.”

“I’m just glad they’re still attached,” Jared jokes.

“He can’t feel anything below his waist, and right now I don’t know whether it’s a good thing he’s not in more pain, or a very bad thing. We won’t be able to tell the extent of the damage until he’s out of here. Are you here to get him out?”

Jensen doesn’t speak straight away. He doesn’t know how to answer the question. Neither Tom nor Jared seem to know the situation, and the last thing he needs is for Jared to panic and move, causing the device to explode. “Something like that,” He manages a moment later. “Can I talk to you for a sec?” He asks Tom. He stretches up and stands and his back clicks at the movement. Tom does the same and follows Jensen out of Jared’s earshot.

Tom frowns “What’s up?” He asks quietly.

“There’s a situation with Jared,” Jensen begins. He takes a breath and glances over at Jared for a second before continuing. “There’s an unexploded bomb trapped underneath him”

“Jesus,” Tom replies. He runs a hand through his jet black hair.

“It’s okay if you wanna get outta dodge.”

“I want to, you don’t know how much, but I can’t leave Jared.”

“Okay, but I need you to do everything I say. If I say run, you run. Got it?”

 Tom nods. “What about Jared? He needs to know.”

Jensen sighs. “Not yet okay? Not until I know what we’re dealing with.”

“Fine,” Tom replies curtly, and returns to Jared’s side. Jensen watches Tom tend to Jared for a moment, before turning and making his back through the building until he was breathing fresh air again. His eyes hurt from the bright sun, and he shuts his eyes until he’s used to the light.

He sees his team co-ordinating with the fire fighters, and he quickly moves to join them. He digs his hands deep into his pockets.

“What’s the situation boss?” Christian Kane, his second in command, asks.

“Not good,” Jensen replies “There’s no access to the device, and we have a man trapped with the bomb, I’m going to need more x-rays, as many angles as we can get, and I’m gonna need a better look at the bomb.”

Chris nods and leaves. Jensen turns to his other team member, Steve Carlson. “Organise an evacuation. I don’t know the size of this device yet, but I’m not taking any chances. It could take out the rest of the building and the surrounding buildings.”

“Yes Lieutenant.”

“I want all non essential personnel as far away as possible.” He adds, before turning back to face the devastation. He spots a small drinks table someone’s set up, and he grabs two cold bottles of water before heading back inside the building.

“Here.” He hands the bottles to Tom as he enters the small room where Jared is trapped. The room is lit by a single lamp, which casts stark shadows on every broken surface. Exposed wires hang from the ceiling, and somewhere a cracked pipe is leaking, because Jensen can hear a steady dripping sound. There are shards of glass on the floor that crunch under his feet as he moves through the room.

“Thanks.” Tom takes the bottles. He uncaps one and takes a couple of gulps. He puts it down and picks up the second bottle. “Here Jared, take a sip.” He cups the back of Jared’s head and lifts it up, before pressing the bottle rim to Jared’s lips. He tips the bottle slightly and Jared takes a couple of small sips, the water soothing his cracked lips and dry throat. “Better?”

Jared smiles weakly, “Yeah.” He answers.

Tom turns to Jensen “I need to go get some supplies from the back of the ambulance. Think you can keep him talking while I’m gone?”

“Sure.” Tom stands and Jensen takes his place on the floor.

“So, Jensen.... when am I getting out of here?” Jared asks, stopping occasionally to breathe.

“Soon.” Jensen answers.

“Shouldn’t there.... be guys in here with tools?”

Jensen doesn’t want to lie. He doesn’t mind withholding information from someone, but he’s never down-right lied to them. It’s obvious to Jensen that Jared knows something is up. 

“Okay Jared,” Jensen begins. “I’m going to explain what’s going on, but I need you to stay very calm, okay?”

“I- ,”Jared frowns.

“You need to stay calm.” Jared nods jerkily. “The reason why there’s been no attempt to get you out is because there’s an unexploded device trapped underneath you.”

Jared swallows hard, suppressing the urge to panic. “A bomb?”

“Yeah,” Jensen nods and licks his lips. “A bomb,” He repeats. “I’m with the bomb disposal unit.”

“So disarm it, get me out of here, and dispose of it.”

“I can’t.”

Jared begins to shake, “Why? Why can’t you? Please?”

“Jared, please.” Jensen places a firm hand on Jared’s shoulder. “Breathe for me, okay? Come on Jared, take a deep breath.” Jensen watches as Jared sucks in air, wincing as he aggravates his ribs. He holds it for a second, before letting it out again.

“And again.” Jared does as he’s told. He keeps breathing until the shaking has stopped.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Jensen starts when Jared has calmed down. “We don’t know the status of the device. If it’s a dud, broken, then we can get you out safely,” Jensen explains. “The fact that it hasn’t exploded yet means the possibility of it never exploding is higher......but it could be on a pressure switch, which means that it’s you, and the rubble on top of you, stopping it from exploding. Therefore, if we try and remove you –“ Jensen doesn’t need to finish the sentence, Jared gets the idea.

“But the longer I’m trapped....the more chance it’ll either explode anyway....or I die long before then....internal bleeding.”

“Yeah,” Jensen replies, almost inaudibly. “It sucks Jared, it really does.”

“Tell me something Jensen.”

Jensen looks up and meets Jared’s deep hazel eyes, ignoring the fear he sees in them. “What?”

“What are my chances of making it out of this alive?”

“I-“ Jensen doesn’t know how to answer. “I can’t tell you Jared, I just don’t have the answers,” He replies honestly. He feels like he can’t breathe, and Jensen doesn’t know whether that’s because of the lack of ventilation in the hot room, or the situation he finds himself in.

 

************

 

He glances at the watch on his wrist for the fifth time in ten minutes. He doesn’t know where Tom’s disappeared to, and he has no words of comfort for Jared. How can he tell the younger man he’ll be fine when Jensen doesn’t think he will? He settles for a hand on Jared’s upturned wrist. It’s a warmth that the cold dead building can’t offer.

“So,” Jared begins with a lick of his lips and a slow blink. “You enjoy what you do?”

Jensen frowns, “Huh?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not good with silence,” He explains. “Tell me something.”

Jensen tilts his head to one side, “Tell you something?”

“About yourself, anything.”

Jensen shifts slightly. He’s been sitting in the same position for a while, and his feet are starting to tingle. He shrugs, “I’m not sure there’s much to tell. This is what I do.”

“But -” Jared coughs, a racking couch that makes Jensen wince. “But it’s not who you are.” He finishes, once he has his breath back.

“I have a dog.” Jensen offers.

Jared smiles lazily, “Yeah? I like dogs”

“He steals my socks, and barks every time the phone rings,” Jensen grins.

“What’s he called?”

“Harley.”

“Like the bike?”

“Like the bike,” Jensen confirms with a nod.

“I’ve always wanted....wanted a dog, it’s just never been the right time.” Jared’s eyes fall away to a distant spot behind Jensen. “It’s too late now I guess.”

“Don’t talk like that.”

“What’s the point Jensen?”

“Hey!” Jensen says a little too loudly. “Look at me!” Jared ignores his request, and Jensen repeats it forcefully until Jared looks him in the eyes.

“I know it might seem like you have no hope, but you have to be positive. You have to fight Jared, okay? No one can save you if you give up” I can’t save you.

Jared’s face crumples, “It’s so hard.”

“Hey!” Jensen needs to distract Jared quickly. He knows where Jared’s mind is heading, and he can’t let him go there. “It’s your turn, tell me something about you”

“I don’t –“ Jared starts with a shaky breath.

“Come on Jared, I want to know all about you.”

“I don’t think we have time for everything.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Jensen smiles softly, and it’s enough to get a smile in return.

“Well, what do you want to know?”

“Tell me.....” Jensen looks around the room, as though the devastation holds all the answers. “Tell me what you do for a living.”

“I’m a chef,” Jared answers with a smile.

“You like it?”

“The hours are awful, and most of them are spent in a hot kitchen with three other stressed out chefs, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

“You work here?” Jensen asks, realising that no-one ever told him what the building was used for, or why it was bombed in the first place. He normally leaves that kind of stuff to the cops and the FBI. They call on him occasionally to look over the wreckage for clues about the bomb, the direction of the blast, the type of bomb, and so on, but today he’s been so wrapped up in Jared that he’d never bothered to ask.

“No...no. My restaurant’s down the street.” Jared pauses, “My friend.... he works in this building.”

“What’s his name?” Jensen asks softly.

“Chad, his name’s Chad Murray.” Jared bites his lip and sighs, “You think he made it out?”

“I don’t know.” Jensen hates those three words now. He hates that all he can offer Jared is vague answers and the unknown. “I can check if you want?”

“You think it’s better to know, to have answers, or not?”

“I guess it depends” Jensen answers honestly. He sees Jared licking his dry lips. “You want some more water?” He offers, and Jared nods. He slips his hand under the back of Jared’s head and lifts his head, just enough to take a sip from the water bottle in his other hand. Jared sips the water greedily until Jensen pulls the bottle away. He lowers Jared’s head gently until it’s lying back down on the ground. He smiles down at Jared, before tenderly brushing a strand of hair away from Jared’s sweat drenched forehead. 

“What do you like to cook?” Jensen asks softly.

Jared grins, “Puddings, pastries....cakes......tarts.....chocolate,” He lists.

Jensen chuckles, “Why aren’t you two hundred pounds then?”

“Good genes,” Jared replies. “And a good exercise regime.”

“You must have women throwing themselves at you,” Jensen comments.

“Women? No.” Jared shakes his head.

“You know you’ll have to cook for me when we get you out of here?”

Jared blinks, as a grin slowly forms on his face. “It’s a date.”

“You should know, I like my steak rare.”

“Me too.”

“Texas?” Jensen guesses.

“Yeah? How did......how did you know?”

“I’m a Dallas boy,” Jensen explains.

“San Antonio,” Jared replies.

Jensen feels himself relaxing in Jared’s company. There may be a bomb in the room, and the building could collapse at any minute, but Jensen rests his back against a piece of broken concrete and smiles.

“You have family?” He asks, “Anyone you want me to call?”

Jared shakes his head, “I don’t want them to worry.”

“Okay,” Jensen nods.

“You have family?”

Jensen nods, “I have a brother and a sister, they’re still down in Texas.”

“What do they...think of your choice of....profession?” Jared manages to say, even though Jensen can see he’s having more trouble breathing.

“They worry,” Jensen replies with a shrug. He can hear the rattle in Jared’s breathing, and he frowns. “Are you okay?”

Jared’s head lolls to the left. “I’m tired,” He mumbles, closing his eyes.

“Well, you can’t go to sleep on me, okay?” Jensen places a hand on Jared’s chest and shakes it. Jared’s eyes snap open as he cries out at the sudden pressure on his ribs. Jensen grits his teeth. He knows he’s hurt Jared, but it was the only way to keep him awake.

“It hurts.”

“I’m sorry,” Jensen chokes out. “I’ll go get Tom.”

“Please.” Jared reaches out for Jensen, gripping weakly at Jensen’s wrist. “Don’t leave me alone...please, I don’t want to be alone.” Jensen can hear the tremble of fear in Jared’s voice,  can see the same fear lit up in his eyes. He doesn’t want to leave Jared, but at the same time, he can see he needs help. He feels just as trapped as Jared. Though he can leave, Jared can’t.

“I’m sorry,” He chokes out. The guilt is as overwhelming as the heat as he jumps to his feet and makes for the exit. He hunches his shoulders and ignores Jared’s pained calls.

As soon as he’s out in the open, he’s bent over, his hands resting on his knees as he sucks in a couple of deep breaths. He’s an idiot, a complete jackass for leaving Jared. He looks up and spots Tom tending to another victim. He’s suddenly filled with anger. Tom had said he’d be right back. Instead, he’d left Jensen in that situation. He storms over to Tom, grips two handfuls of his jacket and rips him away from what he’s doing.

Tom spins around and stares at Jensen in shock “What the hell?”

“You need to get back in there, Jared needs you.” Jensen’s chest heaves. “Just...”Jensen stops to calm himself down “He’s in pain okay? He needs help.”

Tom nods, “Okay.” He brushes past Jensen and makes his way back into the building without another word.

Jensen turns and slams both palms into the side of the ambulance. “Dammit Ackles!” He shouts. His outburst gains a few odd looks in his direction, but he doesn’t care.  He’s heard of people getting emotionally attached in situations like this, but he’s never felt it until now. 

He hears someone clear their throat behind him and he turns slowly to face his second. Christian hands over another envelope without saying a word. Jensen takes it, and pulls out the two x-rays.

“You have any luck with the bomb?”

“Yeah,” Jensen nods. “It didn’t go off.”

 “We managed to get into the room next door, and the room below was still intact, but everything above is rubble.” Chris tells him.

Jensen examines the films and sighs. They don’t give any more information on the bomb then they already have, and there’s still no way to tell if it’s safe to move Jared. He hands the films back and swears.

 “Lieutenant?” Jensen looks up to meet Christian’s piercing gaze. “You want me to take over in there?”

Part of Jensen wants to say yes, wants to be selfish and get the hell out of there, but he knows he can’t. He can’t abandon Jared like that. “No.”

Christian nods, “What are you going to do?”

I don’t know “I....” He doesn’t have an answer. He’s never struggled so much on the job before, and he hates it. He hates the indecisiveness in him, he hates that he’s second guessing his second guesses.

“Boss?” Christian begins, tentatively, “It’s just any other day.”

Jensen nods, but he doesn’t believe him. What would he do if it was just any other day? Keep Jared where he is until he’s sure the bomb won’t go off, and hope it doesn’t explode in the meantime, or pull Jared out and make a run for it? It’s in that moment that he knows what he should do.

He heads back into the building and quickly makes his way to where Tom is sitting beside Jared. Jared sees him enter and smiles. “You came back.”

“I did.” Jensen nods, “How’re you feeling?”

“I gave him something for the pain.” Tom answers for Jared. “He might be a little loopy.”

“I’m sorry I ran out of here,” Jensen apologises, his eyes looking anywhere but at Jared.

“S’okay....” Jared slurs.

“I-...I just needed to talk to my team.”

“Yeah?”

Jensen nods decisively.“We’re gonna get you out.”

“It’s safe?”

Jensen runs a hand through his short hair and moves towards Jared. “Tom, can you give us a minute?”

Tom glances at Jared for a second, and Jensen can see the worry in his eyes. He doesn’t want to leave Jared, but he nods a moment later, rises to his feet and goes to stand just outside the door.

“What is it?”

“Jared,” Jensen says, before taking a deep breath “We still don’t know if it’s safe or not.”

Jared frowns.“But...I could die.”

“And you will die if we leave you here.” Jensen counters. He knows the odds, knows Jared’s chances are slim.  “It’s a chance we have to take.”

Jared sighs, “I need something.”

“Anything.”

“I need you to get a pen and paper....I need to write something.”

“I can do that,” Jensen replies, patting Jared gently on the shoulder quickly, before getting up off the floor and making his way to the doorway where Tom is standing. “Can you get me a pen and something to write on?” He asks.

Tom nods, “You need to get him out.”

“I know, we will, he wants to write a message first.”

“You don’t understand, he’s getting worse. I’ve had to give him some pretty serious pain medication, and I think he’s bleeding internally. If you don’t get him out soon, it won’t matter that there’s a bomb, he’ll die anyway.”

Jensen swears, using every curse he’s ever learnt.  “Does he know?” Tom shakes his head. “Okay, get the pen and paper...get the bucket boys with their rescue equipment in here too.” Tom nods silently, turns and leaves.

Jensen watches Jared from afar, sees his shaky breaths, sees his body trembling. He can see that a fever has set in. Tom was right, They needed to get Jared out immediately.

Tom quickly returns, a biro and a spiral notebook in his hand. “Here.”

“The rescue team?” Jensen asks, as he takes the offered items.

“Gearing up as we speak. You have five minutes.”

“Wait here, okay?”

“Okay, but if he starts looking worse, you need to stop and get me”

Jensen turns and re-joins Jared. “Okay Jared, I’m ready” He puts the pen against the paper, poised to write what Jared dictates.

“Okay,” Jared begins, “I want you to tell my parents that I love them…”

Jensen pauses, “Jared…”

“Please Jensen,” Jared almost begs. “You have to let me get this out.....just in case.” Jensen sighs and reluctantly begins to write. “Tell my parents that I love them,” Jared continues. “That I couldn’t’....have asked for better parents.....tell them it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry. I want them to know that I wasn’t in pain...that I wasn’t alone, okay? I want my sister and brother....to know that I love them so much,” A tear slips out from Jared’s eye, and his voice breaks as he continues “...that I’m so proud of them and...and wish them happy lives...and tell my friends....tell my friends that a hot guy looked after me to the very end.” Jared manages to finish.

“You think Tom’s hot, huh?”

Jared laughs through tears, “Don’t...don’t make me laugh...hurts.”

“Sorry,” Jensen apologises.

“I really wanted to ....cook you dinner you know.”

Jensen swallows, trying to get rid of the lump in his throat. “I know.” He forces out. The moment ends when he hears footsteps heading their way. “Are you ready?” He asks, stuffing the notepad into a pocket.

“As I’ll ever be,” Jared replies.

Jensen turns his head and nods as the fire fighters arrive with their equipment. “Okay guys.” Jensen starts, “I need you to go as fast as you can, with the least amount of movement.  We’ll slide a stretcher underneath Jared, then take off as much loose rubble as possible. Once that’s done, I need you to lift the heavier pieces. We’ll pull Jared out when he’s free, and then we’ll all make a run for it, okay?”

The men nod. “You know there’s a chance none of us will make it out of here right?” He adds, although he knows they already know that. Fire-fighters know there’s always a chance that they won’t make it out of a building.  Jensen turns to Tom, “I want you to help with the stretcher and then get out of here.”

“But…” Tom begins to argue.

“No ‘buts’.” He pulls the notepad out of his pocket and presses it into Tom’s empty hand. “I want you ready at the ambulance. Are we clear?”

“Yeah, we’re clear.”

“Good. You got the stretcher?” Tom nods, and retrieves a crude stretcher from just outside the door. The stretcher is made from two metal poles with strong material stretched between them. Jensen just hoped they would be able to get it underneath Jared.

Jensen helps Tom push the poles under Jared’s body. It takes a while, but they finally get it underneath the injured man. Jensen hates every pained sound Jared makes. Tom finishes by placing straps over Jared’s body, and puts a neck brace on Jared for the move. “You’re all set Jared. I’ll be waiting for you outside”

“I’ll see you then.” Jensen watches Tom squeeze Jared’s hand reassuringly before getting to his feet. He looks up at Jensen and nods. Jensen nods back. Tom takes one final look at Jared before he strides out of the room.

“Okay, let’s do this.” One of the fire fighters grabs hold of one of the poles while Jensen takes the other. He tries to keep Jared talking while the other men work at digging him free, but he can see that Jared doesn’t have much left in him. His words are completely slurred now, and he can barely keep his eyes open. He knows that they’re moving as fast as they can, but to Jensen, it feels like forever.  Finally he gets the nod. This is it. This is the moment that they’ve been building up to. Will they all make it out of the building alive, will they all be killed in the explosion, or buried in more rubble?

As soon as the big piece of concrete is winched up, Jensen pulls the stretcher hard, yanking Jared out from under the mess. “Go, go, go, go, go!” He shouts.

 He lifts his side of the stretcher, and he and the other fireman make a run for it. He knows the other men aren’t far behind him, but he can’t worry about them. His priority is Jared. Adrenaline is running through his system like a hit of heroin, and he uses it to push him forward, ignoring the bitter taste in his mouth, and the pounding in his head.

He gasps as they make it out into the light. They run towards Tom and the waiting gurney.  Jensen places Jared onto the gurney,  just as he hears a deafening bang. He knows that sound, he’s heard it often enough. He reacts quickly, placing his body over Jared’s. Using himself to shield Jared from the explosion. He feels the heat on his back, feels the wave of pressure push into him. He remembers tucking his head into the crook of Jared’s neck, and then intense burning pain, before it all goes black.

 

******************

 

He can hear sounds, muffled thumps and scrapes, but he doesn’t know what they are. His mind is still too fuzzy and he can barely remember his name, let alone tell whoever’s making the noise to shut up. He feels numb and panic sets in when he realises he can’t feel his legs. A beeping sound nearby seems to increase in volume as he gets more and more worked up.

Suddenly there’s a pressure on his chest, reassuring not restricting, and he sucks in a couple of breaths to try and calm himself down. Someone is speaking to him but he can’t work out what they’re saying. He wants to open his eyes but they feel like lead weights. His right hand grasps at the cotton between his finger tips as he slowly opens his eyes. A sliver of light fills his vision, and it’s too bright. His eyes close shut immediately.  Someone is speaking to him again; he thinks they’re telling him to go back to sleep, but he’s not sure. He does anyway, too tired to try opening his eyes again.

When he wakes again the blinds have been shut and the light doesn’t stab his brain when he finally cracks open his eyes. He blinks twice before his vision starts to clear. He’s in a hospital, that much is obvious. The walls are a “calming” mint colour, machines are beeping at him, and he has no boxers on beneath the gown he’s wearing.

He looks down to take stock of his injuries. His left arm is resting on his chest in a navy blue sling, but other than that, he seems fine. He shuffles slightly and grits his teeth as a sudden flash of pain runs down his arm and back. He scrunches up his eyes until the pain dissipates. It takes a while, but Jensen finally re-opens his eyes, coming face to face with a bright eyed nurse.

“In pain Mr Ackles?” She asks in a sing-song voice that makes Jensen want to throw something at her.  No one should be that cheerful when faced with someone in a lot of pain. He gives her a well duh! look, and she fiddles with his IV until the last remnants of pain are overtaken by a warmth spreading through his veins. “Your doctor will be with you shortly.”

“I might be asleep shortly.” Jensen replies, although it’s hard to get the words out when his throat feels like sandpaper.

She pours him a cup of water from a pink plastic jug and hands it to him. “Well Doctor Rosenbaum is a busy man, but I’ll see what I can do.” She replies with a shrug.

“Much appreciated.” Jensen replies after taking a sip of the cool water. It soothes his throat, and he doesn’t feel like he’s been asleep for a year anymore. She leaves the room without another word and returns ten minutes later, behind a bald man in a white coat.

“Mr Ackles?” The man asks, as he picks up the clipboard from the end of the bed.

“Doctor Rosenbaum, I presume.” Jensen replies.

“How are you feeling?”

“How am I supposed to be feeling?” Jensen counters.

“Like crap.” The doctor replies with a grin.

“Then I feel like crap,” Jensen answers. “What’s the diagnosis Doc? Will I live?”

“You’ll live,” Rosenbaum confirms. He perches on the edge of Jensen’s bed. “You remember what happened?”

“Barely,” Jensen sighs. “Bomb exploded, right?”

Rosenbaum nods, “Quite an explosion. A piece of metal lodged itself in your shoulder and we had to remove it. You lost a fair amount of blood, but we gave you a transfusion. You also received a nasty blow to the head, and you’ve had some swelling on your brain that’s had us all worried. Luckily, the swelling’s gone down. Name?”

“Huh?”

“Simple test, your full name?”

“Jensen Ross Ackles.”

“Year?”

“Two thousand and eight?”

“And who’s the president?”

“Please tell me I slept through the election?”

The Doctor laughs, “Okay, you’re fine.”

“So, when can I get out of here?”

“Soon.” The doctor replies ambiguously. He puts the clipboard back on the end of the bed.

“Hey Doc?”

Rosenbaum stops in the doorway and looks up at Jensen. “There was a guy, trapped under the rubble...Jared Padalecki.” Jensen lips his cracked lips nervously. Half of him needs to know if Jared made it, and half of him isn’t sure he’s ready to know.  “He okay?”

“I really can’t reveal…”

“Please,” Jensen begs. “I need to know.”

“He made it out of surgery alive. Right now, he’s in the ICU in a critical condition.....he’s not out of the woods yet, but I think he’ll make it.....he’s a fighter.”

“Yes...yes he is.”

**********

Jensen presses the call button again and again impatiently. The chirpy nurse had told him earlier the doctor would arrive to sign him out, and so far there’s been no sign of him.

“Now, now, Mr Ackles.” Chirpy nurse appears, a smile on her face “Patience is a virtue.”

“I have no virtues,” Jensen throws back. “I just wanna get the hell out of here,” He grinds out through gritted teeth.

She sighs. “I’ll go page him again,” she told him, before turning and skipping off.

The Doctor appears half an hour later, just when Jensen’s on his second round of push the button until someone appears. “Harassing the nurses?”

“Just for entertainment purposes,” Jensen replies.

He chuckles, “So you want me to discharge you?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

“How’s your shoulder feeling today?”

“Not bad,” Jensen answers honestly. “It only hurts when I move or breathe,” He adds.

“And I’m afraid it will do for a couple of months while everything heals. Any headaches?”

Jensen shakes his head, “They went away a couple of days ago.”

“Good.”

“The pink elephants flying around the room are supposed to be there, right?”

Rosenbaum looks at him with a worried expression. Jensen cracks a smile and begins to laugh. The doctor sighs in relief, “Not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.” Jensen watches as the doctor scribbles his signature on a piece of paper.

“There you go, all signed out.” He hands over the piece of paper. “You got someone looking after you?”

Jensen nods, “My team, they’re waiting for me to call.”

“Good, don’t forget to pick up your medication at the pharmacy on the way out, one pill every four hours, come back in if the pain gets unbearable.”

“Yes sir.” Jensen salutes with his uninjured arm. He flings back the covers and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Chris had left him some clothes to wear the other day, and Jensen picks them up and trudges to the bathroom. He struggles with every piece of clothing. Only having one arm and being in a lot of pain really isn’t helping. He takes one final look in the mirror above the sink, and grimaces at the sight of himself. His hair is greasy, his face is pale from the lack of sunlight, and he looks like he’s gone ten rounds with Jack Bauer.

He dumps the evil hospital gown onto the bed before making a speedy getaway. He wants to get as far away from that room, and Little Miss Happy, as possible. He takes the lift down to the ground floor, and heads quickly towards the payphones. He makes a reverse charge call to Chris’ house and waits for him to pick up. He tucks the phone between his good shoulder and his ear.

“Wha?” Chris answers the phone, and Jensen rolls his eyes.

“Wake your ass up and come get me, I’m a free man.”

“Whatever,” Chris replies. “Twenty minutes,” He adds, before hanging up the phone. Jensen places the phone back on the cradle and sighs. What’s he supposed to do for twenty minutes?

Jared, he realises. Should he go and visit him? He knows that there had been something between them at the bomb site, but that could be chalked up to a dangerous situation, adrenaline, and fear. He could end things quickly and cleanly now, rather than risk thinks blowing up (pun intended) later on. Like the guy’d said in Speed, relationships that start under intense circumstances never last.

He finds himself walking up to reception and asking for the number of Jared’s room, even though his minding is screaming at him to walk in the other direction. He takes the elevator back up to the third floor, and steps out into the quiet corridor. The receptionist had told him Jared had been moved from intensive care into his own room the previous night.

His shoes squeak against the linoleum floor as he walks up the corridor, counting the room numbers, until he stops outside room three five one. He takes a second to brace himself. He doesn’t know what condition Jared is in. He could be covered with wires and tubes, and Jensen’s not sure he’s ready to see Jared like that. He slowly reaches for the door handle and turns it. He steps inside the bright room nervously.

He’s surprised to see Jared wide awake, an older woman sitting in a chair beside the bed. Jared looks completely different to Jensen’s memory of him. The blood and dirt has been washed away, probably by some cute, non perky nurse. His hair has been washed and brushed (and Jensen wonders how Jared got someone to do that for him when he couldn’t), and the light is definitely back in Jared’s jade eyes.  He knows what he looks like compared to Jared, and wishes he’d gone home and cleaned up first.

“Jensen!” Jared greets him with a blinding smile.

“Hi,” He replies quietly. “I’ve just been discharged and thought I’d, you know, see how you were doing before I left. I would have brought you some grapes or something but...”

“Jensen, this is my Mom, Sherri” Jared interrupts excitedly “Mom, this is Jensen Ackles He’s the one who saved my life.”

Jensen nods at the woman. “Nice to meet you Ma’am,” He greets politely.

“Please,” She replies, getting up from her chair, “You can call me Sherri.” She wraps her arms around him and hugs him tightly. His eyebrows shoot up into his hairline at the unexpected hug, and he hears Jared chuckle. “Thank you so much, Mr Ackles,” She adds as she pulls away. “I owe you so much.” 

“You don’t owe me anything, and please, called me Jensen.”

“Jensen, please let me repay you somehow.”

“I was just doing my job; seeing Jared is alive is thanks enough.” Jensen replies, glancing up at Jared and meeting his gaze.

“Jensen dear, I’m desperate for a cup of coffee. Would you mind sitting with Jared until I get back?”

“Mom,” Jared whines, “I’m twenty five, I don’t need anyone to sit with me.”

“I don’t mind,” Jensen interjects.

Sherri pats his good shoulder. “Thank you dear, I’ll be back as soon as I can!” She calls, as she heads out of the door.

“She seems nice.” Jensen remarks from his spot by the door.

“You can come closer, you know.”

Jensen looks down at the polished floor for a second, before taking two controlled steps forward. “So,” He begins, clearing this throat.“You doing okay?”

“I could be worse,” Jared replies with a sigh. “Both my legs are broken in a few places, I’m gonna need quite a bit of physio. I had major surgery to repair the internal injuries, they removed my spleen, pumped me full of drugs, and hey presto”

“They said you were in the ICU.”

“Yeah, I developed an infection.”

“Well, I'm glad you’re feeling a lot better.”

“I’m hoping they’ll let me out soon, although being stuck in a wheelchair isn’t something I’m looking forward to.”

“It’s better than the alternative,” Jensen replies quietly.

“Yeah,” Jared agrees.

“D’you know what happened to Tom?” Jensen enquires.

“He made it out with barely a scratch, the lucky guy,” Jared answers. “He came by to see me this morning. Handed me this” Jared reaches under the bed covers and pulls out a piece of scrap paper. It’s covered in dirt and ripped, but Jensen recognises it. “Take it.”

Jensen takes hold of the paper and stares at his own writing. “Why?” He asks.

“Why what?”

“Why do you want me to have this?” He asks, tearing his eyes away from the paper and looking up at Jared.

“Well, I have no use for it,” Jared grins. “Turn it over,” He orders.

Jensen frowns and turns the piece of paper over to look at the other side. He laughs at the sight of seven numbers and an area code. “We have a dinner plans, remember?”

Jensen laughs. “I remember.”

“Good.” Jared shuffles further into his bed and pulls the covers up to his chest. Jensen finds himself grinning stupidly at Jared, who’s returning the favour, showing off the whitest teeth Jensen has ever seen.

Jensen almost jumps when Sherri re-enters the room. She talks a mile a minute, not realising what she’s interrupted.

“Well I should…”Jensen nods towards the door.  “My friends will be waiting for me.”

“Well, come back and visit soon Jensen,” Sherri says. “And we must take you out to dinner when Jared’s out of the hospital.”

“Dinner sounds perfect.” Jensen replies in Jared’s general direction.  “It was nice to meet you Sherri....bye Jared.”

“Bye Jensen.”

Jensen takes one final glance at Jared as he exits the room. He quickly makes his way back downstairs and outside into the parking lot.  It’s only when he’s out side in the cool air that he realises his cheeks are burning, and a shiver runs down his back.

“Yo!” Jensen would recognise that call anywhere, and he looks around until he spots a green Ford pickup. He starts towards the car with a smile on his face.

A bomb maker would tell you a bomb was designed to explode. It’s Jensen’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. But sometimes....sometimes it doesn’t matter what he does to stop it, the bomb fulfils it’s destiny. An explosion of heat, and power, and unpredictability. But that’s not always a bad thing, Jensen thinks, as he stuffs Jared’s phone number into his pocket.

 

**************

 

 

“Come on, Jensen!”

“I’m working as fast as I can!”

“We don’t have much time.”

Jensen grits his teeth as he stares at the two wires in his hands. Telling him they’re running out of time is not helping. He takes a deep breath and slots one wire into the opening, before pushing the second wire into the second opening.

“I think that’s it.”

“You think?”

Jensen crawls out from the small space and stands “I think I can manage a few wires,” He says. He sees his boyfriend’s disbelieving look, and rolls his eyes “Just turn the damn thing on, will you?”

Jared grins at him and presses the power button on the remote. The new TV blares into life and Jensen covers his ears. “Turn it down!” He shouts.

Jared bites his lip in concentration, as he finds the volume button and presses it until the sound is at an acceptable level. “Better?”

Jensen nods, and moves towards the couch, where Jared is curled up next to a snoring Harley.  He drops beside Jared and rests his left hand on Jared’s thigh.  He grins at the tray of snacks and drinks Jared’s made, and leans forward to get a beer. He sighs happily, as he leans back and takes a gulp of the cool amber liquid.

It’s been ten months since the explosion, and Jensen’s never been happier. Jared had busted out of hospital two weeks after he had, and proceeded to cook him the promised dinner. Jensen had laughed the entire evening, as Jared had attempted to cook a three course meal while still in a wheelchair. It had ended well though, and now Jensen couldn’t imagine his life without Jared.

They’d had their share of arguments about Jensen’s choice of profession, but it hadn’t been long before Jensen was taking a less dangerous job, teaching the next generation how to diffuse bombs. He also did a few gigs at schools, teaching kids what to do if they saw a suspicious package. The unit called on him occasionally, but not often enough to have Jared worrying.

He rubs his hand up and down Jared’s thigh as Jared flicks through the channels. The gesture is comforting, and not meant as anything sexual.  Jared finally settles on the sports channel, managing to get it on before the game starts.

“You working tonight?” Jensen asks.

Jared shakes his head. “Got anything planned?” He asks, glancing at the man beside him.

Jensen grins at the TV. “I might have,” He replies. Jared chuckles and flings an arm over Jensen’s shoulders, bringing him in closer. He presses a kiss to the side of Jensen’s head, before turning back to the TV.