Usually when Jared curses like that, and especially since he doesn’t really do it that often, I just gotta laugh. And that is generally followed up with me biting down and trying my best not to stare at his perfect, perfect face.
Not this time though, for two reasons. One – Jared’s been out of my sight for the past three and a half minutes. He was walking just ahead of me, on this too-damn-long hiking trail in the ass-crack of the Canadian Rockies. I could hear his gargantuan trudging but not actually see him. And two – this wasn’t a – fuck I dropped my cellphone in the toilet (again) fuck. Or a - fuck I forgot Sandy’s birthday (again) fuck either. This was… this was different.
At first I’m wondering if it’s another one of his pranks, you know, to get me freaked and go charging through the bushes like a freaking gladiator just to have him jump me from behind, or laugh at me ‘cause… well, let’s face it. I do fall for his tricks every time, every damn time Ackles.
And yet, something feels different about this one.
“Jare’? What is it?”
I get no response. And that's when I lose all control of the mental decision making process as absolute panic boils up my throat.
I fight my way through the vegetation like maybe Jared did, and barely manage to hold myself back in time. Just about missing the twelve feet free fall to the bottom of a rift in the ground, the one that Jared didn’t.
Jared looks up, his face is twisted into a painful grimace as he holds one elbow with his other hand and his right leg is stretched out funny. His white tee shirt is muddied and so are his red Adidas shorts, also torn up in places. He must have scrambled to get a hold on the branches and stuff as he, shit, fell. He sees me and lets out a huge sigh of relief.
“Jen!! I couldn’t see man…”
Damn it. I have to fight real hard to keep my expression blank. Wouldn’t help to let Jared know how truly freaked I am myself right now.
“Are you alright?”
“Uhh. Yeah. I think so.”
“Anything bleeding? Broken?” God I hope not.
He shakes his head but groans a little. “No. Think I sprained my ankle though.”
He glances down at his right foot and moves it timidly. It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. Soon as his eyes are off me, I let the mask slide - hey, I’m an actor after all. I have to consciously think about these things. A part of me (the vain one) is wondering what my face currently looks like right now. I am relieved, because it could have been so much worse, but I’m also scared ‘cause it could still get worse. I am also physically resisting the urge to fling myself right down the stupid hole in the ground that’s keeping Jared so far apart from me.
I pull out the cellphone, which I know isn’t working but I check anyway.
“No signal. I’m thinking it’d be a while before the camp guys come looking for us.”
Jared shrugs with some effort. “I guess I can put some weight on it…”
“No no, don’t move, we’ll wait. How do you know it’s not broken?”
Jared has the gall to roll his eyes at me. “I know the symptoms dude. I’ve had eleven fractures remember?”
Oh yeah, heard all eleven stories, from momma Padalecki herself.
“Doesn’t look like you learnt anything from your vast experience man.”
“Screw you,” Jared shoots back. And he pouts, dear God, and looks up straight at me as he does it.
Strands of hair are pasted to his face over half an eye, and there are leaves and twigs and stuff in it. A weird visual hits me right then, of me holding Jared between my legs from behind and… ahem… brushing his hair?
Of course. In Ackles we trust to get horny in the middle of a goddamn crisis.
“Alright here’s what we’ll do," I say, forcing my head back into the real world. "I will go back down and get help. And you stay here and wait for…”
“What? You’re gonna leave me here? Alone?”
Sweet mother of… damn those big green eyes.
“You got a better idea?”
He is quick to react to that, like super-quick. “Help me up. I don’t think it’s so bad, I can make it…”
He struggles to stand up straight on both his feet, and of course fails. Jared is clearly in pain, and exhausted to his bones. I’m so proud that he’s being such a champ about it, as much as he can (with the exception of using the puppy eyes of doom, of course).
At least he’s not bleeding to death, still has the use of two arms and one leg and has enough breath in his lungs to complain…
“It’s gonna get dark soon and I’m not too crazy about bugs and reptiles and stuff you know that man, and I think I see something crawling down here and… ewww everything here’s so slimy…”
“Alright alright, but you better not drag me down in there with ya, Sasquatch.”
He scowls. “Sure, just give me a minute to lose forty pounds.”
I start losing my backpack and jacket, look around for some kind of rope, which again, obviously I do not find.
“I wouldn’t be sassing me off at this very moment you know, Padalecki.”
The boy never did like letting me have the last word. “And I wouldn’t be picking on me at this moment either, Ackles.”
“Hey. You want out or not?”
Jared takes a minute to snort. Then folds his arms and looks up, lower lip jutting out. “You wouldn’t.”
There is so much confidence, such an arrogant faith in his voice that I really don’t have the heart to tease him any more, or even suggest leaving him down there another minute. I simply shake my head instead and go down flat on the ground besides the rift.
Takes a while, a whole lot of effort and pain on both ends, but I manage to pull him out in one piece. We lie flat on our backs side by side, looking up at the evening sky. Struggling to catch our breaths.
“Thanks man,” he whispers softly.
My throat’s dry as freakin' Nevada. I swallow hard, not like it helps, then turn toward him.
Our eyes meet, and as always, there is something in there… in his eyes that are constantly trying to tell me something. It’s encrypted and I know I’m supposed to understand it, but I… I don’t.
“Think you can walk back?”
Jared isn’t even trying to pretend anymore. His face melts back into the grimace from earlier but he nods anyway.
“Hurts. But it’s okay.”
Man. I really don’t like to see him in pain. I sit up.
“You know it’d only take like an hour at most if I start now and go get some help?”
He bites his lip and sits up as well, and then just as abruptly he’s standing up. Determined to prove the swollen ankle was just a figment of our collective imaginations.
It’s my turn to roll my eyes. “Oh for crying out loud Jay!"
“I’m fine! Let’s just go.”
His words are minced, clearly in as much anger as pain. And I'm not even sure why.
“Jay come on be reasonable, you’re hurt…”
But he’s not listening, and he’s not looking at me either. And he seems really really pissed now but also just that little bit… scared?
“Look w-whatever man. You go ahead, I don’t wanna slow you down. I’ll, uhh, make it back on my own.”
“What did you say?”
Jared is barely able to stand, hissing and cursing (a lot) with every little movement. And then he’s waging a losing war with his backpack that I have to wrench out of his hands to make him stop.
“Looks like you hit your head worse than I thought, boy.”
That's when he looks at me, at last, all his Cancerian hyper-emotions shimmering brightly in his beautiful eyes.
“Don’t boy me you freaking selfish bast… What are you doing? Hey? Hey? HEY!!!”
Okay, so I didn’t wanna argue anymore. And I get it, I do.
My six feet four, twenty something buddy is in fact nothing more than a plus-sized kid who’s hurting, and doesn’t wanna be left alone and that’s perfectly alright by me. Except, he can’t walk either.
So there is only one thing left to do.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”
“Not leaving you alone you big baby. Stop kicking.”
“Put me down Ackles!! What, you wanna throw out your back too?”
“Just hold on to our stuff alright? One thing to do for ya, Jarhead… do not screw it up.”
“You can’t carry me all the way back to camp dude, I’m too… uh…”
I smile, casually adjusting my grip around his waist and legs as he squirms some more. At least he isn’t punching me in the back or kicking his legs anymore.
“Do you trust me?”
His voice is a loud, incredulous squeak. “What?”
“Do you trust me?”
There’s a second’s silence, one that speaks volumes, and makes me only tighten my arms around my friend further.
He scoffs. “Great. Just great. Thinks he’s Sinbad now.”
I roll my eyes. “Aladdin, doofus.”
“Whatever. Just put me down alright?”
I guess Jared is feeling a little embarrassed… okay a lot embarrassed, hanging over my shoulder and all. And I know it’s probably cruel to be ribbing him any more about it but hey, I’m the one lugging the big oaf across this too-damn-long trail. Don’t you think I deserve some remuneration?
“Dude, you’re the one who wanted to go hiking on our first free weekend in weeks.”
“Jensen listen, this won’t work, alright. Just let me go. I can walk okay?”
“It’s working fine alright. See a fireman’s carry is supposed to balance the weight evenly on both sides ‘cause the apex is at your stomach so effectively…”
“Shut up shut up shut up!”
I laugh, thinking that shutting up might actually be a good idea since that way I’d be conserving energy and might be able to walk a longer distance. Truth be told, I don’t really know how long I can keep this up. Jared isn’t exactly lightweight by any stretch of my overly optimistic imagination. But there’s one thing about me that nobody knows but my momma and me – Jensen Ackles can be a goddamn stubborn sonofabitch when he wants to.
“Okay, alright big guy." Jared is clearly shifting to a different tactic now. "You win! You’ve proven that you’re stronger and all, the steroids sure are working."
Steroids? Excuse me!
"Okay I’m sorry, I was kidding! You’ve made your point dude, now come on.”
I just smirk softly and keep walking, need to pay special attention to the rocky terrain because no way am I tripping up and risking further injury to Jared. Or me for that matter.
“Jensen, quit fooling around. My head’s spinning like crazy man, all the blood in my body is rushing to my brain and…”
I have to snigger at that. He’ll say anything right now, anything. “You’re such a bitchy little whiner, Padalecki.”
He gasps and laughs and scoffs all at the same time… it’s brilliant really. I’ve got to try it on camera sometime.
“Fuck you Ackles! I don’t need no favors from you. PUT ME DOWN!!!”
I wince ‘cause the decibel levels keep going up and up and I’m sure we’re creating a racket large enough to send all the little animals scurrying for the hills. It ain’t exactly a party for me either. I must think of something to calm him down, anything…
"Ackles!! I'm not kidding man. Put me the fuck down right this minute or I'll..."
I raise my left hand but pause. Damn it, this is something I’ve wanted to do for so long but I was hoping for better, more… consensual circumstances. Ack, what the hell.
I let the hand fly.
“Stop your bitching, Jared.”
“Did you just… spank me?”
A snort escapes before I can bite my tongue, and Jared goes rigid like stone in my grasp.
“Okay if you don’t shut up now…”
“You totally smacked by ass!!”
“Did you like it?”
“Good! If you don’t want me to do it again, shut it right now!”
A soft whimper, and then he really does fall silent. Two minutes, maybe three. Okay so I feel a little guilty, and I’m wondering how much he hates me right now. I adjust my hold again, heaving him up further and by this point I’m sweating profusely.
“How’s the foot?”
“You can talk, just don’t yell my ears off okay…”
Jared scoffs, but doesn’t reply.
“Is it worse?”
Jared doesn’t react again. He keeps straightening his short tee shirt upwards with one hand but obviously it just keeps sliding back down, probably bunching up in the middle of his back. Another visual of bare white skin floods my mind, and I’m shaking my head like a wet dog.
I really do feel sorry for him (and me). But let’s face it – there was no way he could walk a whole mile back to camp without screwing up his foot more. One of the perks of working a horror show? You get blessed with a hyperactive imagination (as if Jared didn’t have one already). Naturally he was scared at the prospect of being left alone in the middle of nowhere, with the freaking hyena-types howling in the background.
And to be honest, so was I.
About ten minutes later, I reach the riverside and realize we both could use a break. We have maybe another fifteen minutes to go until base camp. I can feel Jared shift, maybe trying to get a look over my shoulder, wondering where we were going. I reach the water’s edge and stop beside a large river-smoothed rock.
“I’m gonna put you down alright?”
“Nooooo. Really? Whyyyy?”
I’m beat. Too tired to find the sarcasm amusing, and it takes all I have to resist smacking his wisecracking ass again. I lower him slowly to the rock, mindful of his injuries.
Jared glares knives and daggers at me soon as he’s able to, shifting to make himself comfortable on the rock. I fall to the ground before him, fighting to catch my breath and yet can’t help but grin back at the expression on Jared’s face. It’s part blushing grimace, part angry scowl that he probably thinks equates to a lethal combination. One that could make me drop dead where I stand, er… sit.
Yeah, I’m laughing. Him, not so much.
“I hate you.”
“I love you.”
It sort of slips out by itself really. So I follow it up promptly with a careless chuckle, before Jared realizes how much I really mean it. Force myself to look away and get up, then open up my backpack and pull out the first-aid kit. I just remembered there is a blue sprain bandage in there that, thank God, I’ve never bothered to throw out.
I shift closer and kneel before Jared, then pull up his injured foot to rest it on my own thigh. He tries to resist at first but gives it up when he sees the bandage in my hand.
“Well aren’t we the regular Boy Scout? Ow!!! Careful, damn it!”
“Think I preferred it when you were sulking.”
“You’re totally enjoying this aren’t ya?”
I keep wrapping the foot ignoring him. But he bends low enough so he can yell right into my goddamn face.
Think I flinch first, and then I snap.
“Exactly which part do you think I’m enjoying here, Padalecki? You getting hurt and scaring the hell out of me? Or you being in so much pain your face is whiter than a fucking sheet?”
Holy Crap. That didn’t come out right, hell that shouldn’t have come out period. Jared is so taken aback he's stuttering already, must think fast, must think fast.
“Oh wait. You’re right! I do enjoy carrying overgrown, overfed, accident-prone abominable snowmen around on my only free weekend in weeks!”
Giving what I desperately hope is a not so unpleasant smirk, I go back to avoiding eye contact. Until I hear a quiet whisper above me.
Man. This totally blows. “For what?”
“For… getting us in this mess.”
I really wish I could smack him upside his thick head. Always missing the point, this boy.
“You didn’t get hurt on purpose, dumb-ass.”
This time Jared looks away, but I have a feeling he isn’t done yet.
“I’m just…” he sighs, searching for the right words, maybe, and giving up. “I’m not used to this…”
I put a hand on Jared’s knee, almost unconsciously. Almost.
“Not used to what, Jay?”
He looks at me and looks away, nervous. “Being taken care of.”
“I mean, like with all my friends and… girlfriends… I’m the one who’s, you know, doing the carrying.”
And I can't help but laugh at that.
“I mean, metaphorically speaking of course!”
I just laugh harder.
He pulls out the adorable puppy dog face again.
“You think this is funny? Dude I didn’t think anyone except my dad and brother could ever… do what you did, and I’m sure it’s all very amazing for you but so fucking disturbing for me!”
I have tears in my eyes now 'cause I’m laughing so hard. Jared pushes my hand away and pouts like a six year old.
“You really are enjoying this. You’re totally reveling in my humiliation!”
Oh sweet God, this would be so damn funny if it wasn't so adorably cute, and hot. I shake my head and go back to tying the ends of the sprain bandage together.
“Sorry I just put a dent in your sense of manhood, Mr. Cassidy. And I hate to break it to ya but you better get used to it.”
“What do you mean?”
I don’t know what possesses me to do it. I raise myself until I’m at eye level with Jared, looking straight into his sea green eyes. And I go for it. Because it needs to be said.
It’s now or never… ever.
“I’m gonna take care of you, Jared. Always. Whether you like it or not.”
I watch Jared... watch his face go rigid, the breaths pausing mid-inhale… waiting an excruciating twenty seconds, maybe more, before his Adam’s apple bobs. Once. Just once. I wonder if I’m the one who hurt my head, instead of Jared.
Well, shit. I just said it, didn't I?
“Come on. We should head back before it gets dark.”
I stand up, careful not to break eye contact because as God is my witness, I meant it. I meant every word, and I’m not going to back down, even if I’m freaking out on the inside.
“I’m gonna put you over both my shoulders this time, alright?”
I wait for a reaction that never comes. Jared is staring at me, with those dang-nab-it puppy eyes, wide and unblinking and endearingly confused. My dearest friend and co-star looks like a spooked horse, and I feel guilty for doing this to him. Think I whisper, without intent, afraid to break the fragile silence between us.
“Hey… it’s okay. Trust me Jared, okay? I won’t let you down. I promise.”
I know it’s wrong to assume consent in silence, so I fear for my life reaching out for his wrist. The skin is like velvet over hard muscle, soft with a promise of great strength beneath. I can’t help but get distracted momentarily by the green nerves protruding at the joint.
“No Jen, I’ll… I’ll wait here.”
He startles me. I swallow hard, and look up into his heartbreakingly open face.
“I trust you. I do…”
“You go on, I’ll wait for you.”
And that’s when he smiles. Jared smiles.
“Are you sure?”
“You won’t try walking back on your own will you?”
Jared bites his lip as if to curb a mischievous smile, but shakes his head. Guess it’s a risk I just have to take. The sooner I start off and get help, before sundown, the better it is for my… for Jared.
I take my water bottle and put it in Jared’s backpack, place it right by his side where he can easily reach it. Pick up my own bag and start walking.
I’m ten steps away before Jared decides he needs to talk.
I stop and turn back. “Yeah?”
“How long will you take?”
“About thirty minutes?”
We nod, and I start walking again. Better pick up pace because it is going to get dark soon and…
Halting mid-step already and I almost trip myself up. Turn around to look at the lone figure sitting on the rock some fifteen feet behind me.
“Don’t tell them.”
“Don’t tell them what?”
I can see the classic Padalecki pout even from this distance, accompanied by the equally classic, unconscious fidgeting.
“That… you… uhh… you know?”
Oh, this is going to be a lot of fun, at Jared’s expense.
“Not at all buddy. I wouldn’t tell a soul!”
What's the point in telling people we don't know? I can wait till we get back to Vancouver.
I turn back, sniggering quietly and walk a further twelve feet or so.
Ugh! I’m never gonna get to camp, ever.
“WHAT is it now, Padalecki?”
The hackles start to rise at the hesitation I hear in his voice. I have to take a step back toward him.
“What is it?”
Jared looks away once, then back. “Um…”
Monosyllables. Great. I start to plow back to where he sits because clearly this is what he wants me to do. God, maybe I shouldn’t leave him alone. What if there are predatory animals here the camp counselors don't know of? Maybe it’s just better for me as well to not let Jared out of my sight.
I reach the rock and quickly kneel before him like before. His face is inches away from mine and yet he wouldn’t look at me and now I’m seriously worried.
I never get to finish. Because in the next instant Jared is looking up, an easy, mysterious smile curving up the side of his mouth, and then the said mouth is on mine.
And then time stops.
The soft whispering brings me back, but I wonder if I’m still dreaming because there’s a Jared-shaped blur right there next to me, closer than anyone’s ever been before. Another soft chuckle, and my vision sharpens at last.
A sudden, rough shove lands right in the fucking center of my chest and I am down on my ass.
“Alright! You can go now.”
Judging by the bright wide grin on his face, looks like Jared is finally enjoying himself. Blushing too. I pick myself up and wonder if he would kiss me again if I got close enough.
There is something else not many people know about me - the fact that I'm a man with zero expectations. None whatsoever. I’ve been content in my one-sided, unnaturally intense affection for this friend of mine for four months now. I have not hoped for, or frankly, even required anything in return. Which is why, now I find myself in a situation I’ve never even allowed myself to anticipate.
The look in Jared’s eyes… the beautiful coyness that’s never been directed at me before…
“Jensen? You okay?”
No. Yes. Lord, help me. I think I’m… free falling.
“You limped half a mile downhill on a torn ligament? Are you out of your freaking mind, Padalecki??”
Sera is livid and pacing back and forth in Kripke’s trailer. Jared is sitting at the foldable dinner table ducking his head, looking at Jensen and biting his lip to stop his goofy grinning. Jensen is reclining on the sofa with his PS2 in hand, apparently not part of the conversation howsoever.
Eric scratches the thinning hair at the top of his head, walks up to Sera and takes her by the arm.
“Let it go Gamble. It’s not his fault his folks forgot to instill any sense of self-preservation in the kid.”
“Woah hey!!” Jared would have stomped off in a dramatic display of protest, if he could. Settles for some rude gesturing instead.
“It was only like twenty minutes! Then the camp guys came looking for us and found us anyway.”
Jensen smirks a little. Oh yeah. They were found, alright. Making out by the riverside. After that first kiss, Jensen couldn't possibly leave Jared alone. They were just plain lucky the Canuck old-timers didn’t know (or care) who they were.
John lets out a big frustrated sigh.
“We’re gonna have to write this in somehow. Clearly no stand-ups or walk-ons for a couple weeks.”
Jensen butts in, “At least.”
The writers and Jared turn to scowl at the back of Jensen's head. Eric is thinking ahead as it is.
“Sure, yeah, why not. Let’s do a family-oriented episode with this. Sam getting hurt and Dean watching out for his little brother. What do you guys think?”
Sera brightens up. “Perfect! The fangirls are gonna love that one.”
Everyone turns to glare at her this time, even Jensen.
“Please. It’s been twelve episodes. Like you really don’t know what they’re writing about?”
Jared giggles, seriously he does. Jensen suppresses the urge to kick everyone else out of the trailer and suck on his boyfriend's heaven-shaped mouth till he has Jared writhing under him and begging for mercy.
Meanwhile Sera doesn’t wait for anyone else to fumble their way through a largely inappropriate response, and zones in on the actor who plays little brother directly.
“Jared. How much do you weigh? Exactly?”
Beat. Jensen feels his face going red with the effort of holding his laughter back. Jared hadn't wanted anyone to know so they didn't tell anyone. And yet here they are anyway.
“Woah-Ho! No way Gamble. I know what your devious mind is up to but no. NO WAY!”
Sera spreads out her arms. “Why not? It’d be so cool!”
John, the serious writer of the bunch, nods sagely, “I like it.”
But of course Jared is totally mortified. “I don’t!”
"But it could be just the money shot we need!" Sera implores. "Big brother carrying little, okay not so little brother. We could get Rufus Wainwright's version singing 'He ain't heavy' in the background..."
Kripke glares at the mention of an alternative rock singer (sacrilege!) but nods anyway. “No Rufus Wainwright on my show, sweetheart, but okay. Course would it be believable?”
Sera is super-excited. “Jensen could pull it off, with a little help from special effects of course.”
Jared tries to stand, only it hurts too much so he gives it up. “If Jensen was fucking Superman he’d still be on Smallville not your damn show, Eric!”
Kripke practically pouts. “Aw man, that's just low.”
Jensen just laughs, not bothering to contribute in any way to the whirlwind conversation going on around him, all the while thinking his life is so freakin’ awesome. He lets them hash it out, his colleagues and friends, and his hot new boyfriend.
Jensen gets to hold Jared in his arms every night, in the privacy of their bedrooms. He knows he can carry Jared again if ever he broke or sprained a leg again, the chances of which by the way are mighty high seeing how accident-prone the kid is. And Jared may never admit it, or maybe he will some day and it’s still too soon to tell, but Jensen thinks these days his young lover quite enjoys being taken care of for a change. By Jensen. And only Jensen.
And that’s all he needs.
“I am not gonna be thrown over some random stunt guy’s shoulder like a freaking sack of potatoes alright?”
"Random? Steve has been Jensen's stunt double since the pilot. You play Guitar Hero with him!"
"Your point being?"
Jensen chuckles and closes his eyes, letting the comfort of familiar voices wash over his senses.
Free falling? Now comes with a Jensen Ackles certified seal of approval. Highly recommended.
*** END ***