Don’t Let the Sun Go Down, part 1

Categories:  Sundownverse, CW RPS


“We’re very excited to have you here,” Avery—Jensen thinks the guy’s name is Avery—says, all but bouncing on his wing-tipped toes. “In spite of, well, the circumstances.”

That’s how he says it, with that strange fussy emphasis like someone else might say cancer and Jensen could almost laugh. He looks over at Jared, Rosey and Tom to see if they’re buying what this guy’s selling, but Tom’s got on his million-yard stare, Rosey’s ripping the hole in jeans wider with his fingernails and Jared’s sitting there with the polite, attentive interested look he always has. The one that always makes you feel whatever you have to say is the best, most fascinating crap he’s ever heard.

Jensen rubs his eyes tiredly with his fingers and resettles his baseball cap on his head, before slouching a little lower on the uncomfortable motel-quality couch. It’s too fucking early for this shit. Don’t let the sun set on you in Canada, Yankee, he thinks with irritated amusement and almost barks a laugh again.

The ‘circumstances’, as Avery put it, were relatively simple; years of smilingly polite hostility between the U.S. and Canada had flared up around this whole bird flu thing and the not-bird-flu thing and now Jensen, Jared, Mike and Tom—as well as a whole host of other perfectly nice people who just so happen to be American—are out of a job and getting the boot.

On the one hand, Jensen reckons he’ll be glad to see his family, check in on them the way he hasn’t been able to with Supernatural’s crushing shooting schedule. So far none of them have come down sick and his mama didn’t seem particularly worried the last time he talked to her but, knowing his mama, that doesn’t mean much of anything. She could be bleeding out her eyeballs and all she’d probably tell him is, “Oh, honey, I just got a bit of a headache.”

“…not letting us drive ourselves…but a train? Isn’t that a little…archaic?”

“Nazi-ish, was the word I was going to use,” Rosenbaum chimes in and Jensen realizes he’s lost the whole thread of the conversation.

Avery holds up his hands placatingly, a nervous, reed-thin man in a slightly too short suit. “Now, let’s not throw words like that around too freely, gentlemen,” he says, Adam’s apple bobbing. “These are trying times.”

“Oh, come on, Rosey,” Jensen lets his drawl thicken, knowing how Mike hates it when he ‘puts on the Tex-ass’. “You really want to get on a plane, have the pilot come down sick and the whole thing fall out of the sky like a stone? No thanks.”

“Well, I’m sure we weren’t thinking anything that extreme.” Avery lets out a nervous chuckle and doesn’t look at all reassured to have Jensen on his side. “We haven’t had a single documented case of Avian flu here at the facility…”

Tom stirs for the first time. “I heard…”

Jensen’s got to admire the speed with which Avery cuts in, at odds with his nervous-excited demeanor. “You heard wrong. Those were just panic attacks caused by people with these new, virulent allergies being mistaken for flu carriers.”

Virulent, Jensen thinks and wonders who’s been writing Avery’s scripts. Eric should have hired him.

“We’ve all seen it on the news.” Avery shakes his head. “People are scared. People are going to be looking to you.”

“To us?” Mike sounds surprised.

Jensen tunes out again and looks past Avery out the tall observation windows that show the main floor of the depot a little below them. As celebrities, they’d gotten the VIP treatment: personal handling by Avery, the deportation station manager, the assurance of a private car on the train back to the U.S. side, and this little pep talk.

There are more people shuffling through the lines than Jensen expects; more people than he’s seen together and in one place for a few weeks now. Quarantines on certain parts of Vancouver and plain old yellow fear of the bird flu has kept people indoors, to themselves, which is just fine with Jensen. Fewer people out and about the less chance that he or any of his friends are going to catch this thing.

Jensen doesn’t usually trade a lot on what little fame he has; he’s at that stage where goodwill is too important. But he’ll gladly trade every drop of it, every little bit of juice he’s got to keep them out of those uneven, shuffling lines, every single person in them a potential time bomb waiting to go off.

He’s not going to get sick. None of them are going to get sick.

Jensen looks over at Jared, who’s been pretty quiet through this whole thing. It’s not like Jay, who normally has a million and one questions about everything. Jensen wonders if Jared feels it too, this humming sense of tension just under the skin, or whether that’s just Jensen’s twitchiness.

Jared looks just fine, sipping on the can of Coke Avery provided and nodding at all the right places. As if he senses Jensen’s eyes touch him, Jared’s gaze cuts across that of his costar and Jared gives Jensen a small, dimpled smile.

Jensen’s mouth twists in his own crooked grin: Dude, can you believe this?

Jared rolls his eyes a little and his shoulder twitches in an abbreviated shrug. Crazy.

And here’s the other part of it, the part that twists in Jensen’s guts just a bit. Jared is his friend. He might even say his best friend if that didn’t sound hopelessly like twelve year old girls. But he knows how this goes. You work with a guy, see him every day, keep the same hours, hang out all the time at bars and clubs and each other’s houses…and then one of you leaves, or the show ends.

And at first it’s all “Oh, yeah, man, we’ll totally hang out back in L.A., no worries,” but you’re both busy trying to scrape up a new gig and you’ve got all these old friends to catch up with. And then one of you is on location in Turkey or some shit and the other’s right back in Vancouver or wherever and yeah, you’re still friends…except in the same way that everybody’s friends in Hollywood.

And maybe that’s what was always going to happen with him and Jared. Maybe it was inevitable. And with the world falling apart around them, it seems stupid and selfish to worry about what’s going to happen with their friendship. But since the U.S. and Canada mutually shut their borders, Mike, Tom and Jared are pretty much all he’s got. He hasn’t even been able to call home since…

“How are things on the U.S. side?” he asks suddenly, startling himself. He startles everyone else too, because they all stop talking—even Avery—and they all look at him.

Avery is the first to recover though, pushing his glasses nervously up his high, thin nose. “Well, obviously, we don’t know much ourselves.” Avery adjusts his tie, smoothes his plain cream dress shirt. “There’s been no real communication; the phone lines are for emergency use only on both sides…”

“But the people.” Jared shifts forward in a soft protest of wood and upholstery. “Canadians are getting deported back all the time, just like us. Surely they have to have said something. About how it is, what it’s like.”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know,” Avery says and though it could have come out prissy, it comes out kind instead. “I haven’t dealt with any of the returnees, myself. They have to go through quarantine, just as you probably will on your side. My sister, Anissa…” He breaks off, looks embarrassed. “I’ve been waiting for her to come home.”

Jensen’s gaze crosses Jared’s again. Quarantine. Another delay before they can find out what’s happened to their families, if anything.

“I’m sure she’ll be home soon enough,” Jared says, tearing his eyes slowly from Jensen’s before he looks back at Avery. “They’re just being careful.”

Avery nods.

“Hey, what—” Mike begins and Jensen never really gets to hear the end of the question as the depot floor suddenly erupts in noise and confusion, a hundred or so people all suddenly riled up and with no idea where to go.

Jensen pushes up out of his seat, balanced on his one hand as he scans the stampede below. There, where the Canadian agents are logging people through; one of the agents is half-doubled over, her hands over her face completely failing to hide or contain the hemorrhage of gore from underneath her fingers. It stains her shirt and cheap uniform vest all the way to her belly, speckles the thighs of her khakis. Space opens around her like Moses parting the Red Sea as everyone scrambles away from her.

“Shit! Avery hisses unexpectedly and, without bothering to excuse himself, pivots and tears open the door leading to the floor. The office is decently soundproofed; with it open, Jensen can hear the screams more clearly, thinks he can hear the sick girl—Avian flu or allergies?—saying, “…help me. Please, help me…”

Suddenly both cold and sweaty, not to mention queasy, Jensen darts up and closes the door behind Avery. “I think we should get out of here,” he says.

“And go where?” Mike scoffs, crossing his legs and lounging more deeply in the cushions. “Don’t worry, Jenny, I’m sure Avery will take care of it.”

Jensen ignores the hated nickname, seeing the rim of white around Mike’s irises and the faint glister of sweat on his upper lip. Mike’s as spooked as Jensen; he’s just taking it on a different way. Jensen looks out the observation windows again. He can’t even really see Avery in the press of people.

“We should get out of here,” he says again, dead certain.

Jared and Tom get up and come to stand at the window with him. After a moment and with some grumbling, Mike does too, all of them quiet and shuffling uncomfortably for space. None of them are small guys.

“Jesus,” Tom whispers.

No one seems to know where to go or what to do; Jensen sees one woman literally running in circles, her mouth open in a red screaming O that might have been funny in other circumstances. He sees a dude in a Broncos jersey trying to punch his way out indiscriminately, hitting a young mother, a middle aged businessman and a much older guy that looks a little like Kim before Jensen looks away.

“Jared,” he says, tipping his head toward the other door in the narrow room. A small placard says Authorized Personnel Only. “You can pick that lock, right?”

Tom’s smile is nervous, hesitant. “C’mon, Jen…you guys are taking your show too seriously.”

Jensen ignores him. “Jared?”

He knows Jared can do it. Jared took great glee in picking every lock in Jensen’s apartment and his own and their respective trailers. And then, of course, the time Jared picked the locks on Kim’s car so they could fill the whole thing with Styrofoam peanuts. Jared can do this, Jensen just has to convince him it’s necessary.

“Do you think it’s the flu?” Mike asks, still looking out the windows. They’ve been out of work for six weeks and Mike’s hair is growing out, prickly-new. He’s got one hand flat against the glass. “Should we…” He looks at them, gray-faced and wide-pupilled. “Are there masks? Do we need masks?”

“What we need,” Jensen says, not looking away from Jared, “is to get the fuck out of here. I’m serious, now.”

“Jesus,” Tom says again. He’s standing next to Mike, his hand steadying on his costar’s shoulder. “Those are soldiers.”

“Yeah, okay,” Jared says finally and goes over to Avery’s desk and starts rooting around. Jensen goes to help.

They come up with a letter opener that’s probably too thick and a handful of jumbo paperclips. Jared goes to the inner door. Jensen doesn’t follow; Jared will do better without him hovering over his shoulder.

The first gunshot takes them all by surprise. Nobody has any chance to react before there’s a second. And a third.

“Shit.” Tom sounds numb. He tugs Mike away from the window, back toward where Jared is working. Mike backs up without turning, looking fascinated and revolted both. “They’re just.” Tom looks at Jensen and Jensen realizes he’s flattened himself against the inside wall like he can crawl inside of it. For a moment, crazily, he thinks of a Sesame Street book he had when he was a little kid, The Monster at the End of the Book, and he wants to laugh. “They’re just shooting people at random.”

“C’mon,” Jared mutters to himself, tongue peeping out from between his teeth. “C’mon.

Jensen feels like they’re all holding their breaths, watching Jared work and listening to people die. The gunfire is steadier now, short chattering bursts of automatic fire. So is the screaming.

When Jared pops the lock, Jensen feels like he’s on a springboard, grabbing Mike with one hand and Tom with the other, pushing them at that slender gap. They’re both with the program now, though, full-on hustle, as they crowd into the depot’s administrative offices.

The chaos isn’t any better back here. Looking around frantically for another exit, he sees only a few people who look as panicked as Jensen feels.

“Jen!” Jared tugs on Jensen’s jacket sleeve, nodding towards a red EXIT sign. Tom and Mike are nowhere to be seen.


“They went ahead of us, Jen. C’mon!” Jared jerks again and Jensen follows him into a cement stairwell that stinks of furtive cigarettes. Jensen’s nose twitches. Yeah, a cigarette would be a damn fine thing right now.

…if I wasn’t worried about getting shot!

Jared, with his long legs, hits the bottom of the stairwell before Jensen; his hands are on the push bar of the exit door when Jensen stops him. “What, man? We gotta get out of here.”

“What if they’re on the other side?” Jensen asks. “I’m not walking out that door just to get shot, man.”

Jared nods and starts to push the bar more carefully. Jensen tightens his hands over Jared’s again and Jared makes an impatient noise, his jaw squaring and his mouth pressing flat. “Jen. One of us is going to have to go first, you know.”

Panicking. You’re panicking, Jen, he thinks, taking a deep breath and making his hands unlock from his costar’s. He nods and takes a step back. “Yeah. Sorry.”

Jared opens the door quietly, carefully, peeking through the gap. Nothing happens. On the breeze flowing through the gap, Jensen thinks he smells something burning. “No soldiers,” Jared reports back. “Nobody’s looking. Come on.”

The street outside looks like something from a zombie movie. The storefront across the street is on fire, clouds of black smoke roiling up into the sky. There aren’t any people close to the door, but those Jensen sees are running, scared and jerky. He can still hear people screaming. He doesn’t know if he’s imagining it.

It’s been a long little while since Jensen prayed, but he feels the words pressing up against his lips, welling into his triphammering heart. Our Father, who art in Heaven…

“Where did Tommy and Mike go?” Jared rakes his hand through his hair, taking a couple impatient, scared steps right and then left. He looks at Jensen. “Shit, Jen…where are we going to go?”

Jensen doesn’t have any idea. This was supposed to be their ticket home, back to the good old US of A. For a moment, he thinks about his luggage, back inside the depot, pretty much everything he owns in the world. Gone now. It’s all gone.

Jensen looks around. “Come on.” It’s his turn to grab Jared by the sleeve and pull him, away from the depot and its squad of murdering soldiers. “Wherever it is, we need to get off the street.”

This is how things start. Very small.Say, for example, global warming causes a shelf of ice thousands of years old to crack and fall off into the sea. There’s obvious concern about flooding and whether the newly calved icebergs will drift into commercial shipping lanes, but hardly anyone thinks about what kind of germs—what kind of allergens—might have been released.One monograph in an obscure scientific journal. One article buried in the back of the Health section of the Sunday paper.

And that’s it.

At first.

Until people start dying.

Jared’s philosophy on life is that nothing is ever so bad you can’t face it. Usually with a joke. Which generally leads people to think of him as a ginormous goofball. But they’d be wrong. Well. Mostly. Joking is about the farthest thing from his mind right now. How can he possibly put a humorous spin on the disastrous events of the morning?Jensen’s tugging on his jacket sleeve, but Jared’s feet remain firmly planted right outside the depot. He feels frozen to the spot and can’t remember why they’re supposed to be moving.“What about Tom and Mike?” But already his voice lacks conviction. They’d been shooting people. Innocent, healthy people. People like him, that just wanted to go home. It could have been him. It could have been them.

Jared pulls his arm from Jen’s grasp, but he doesn’t really have a plan. Hasn’t thought beyond getting out of the depot. Out of firing range. And when he looks at Jensen, he sees his own panic reflected back.

We can’t both lose it at the same time, he thinks and takes a deep breath.

Okay, they can do this.

“Come on, Jay. It’s not safe out here like this.” Jensen nudges him. Jared follows Jensen’s gaze to a gang of punks, strolling down the middle of the street in their direction. They don’t look that interested in him and Jensen, but that could change fast. Jared’s fists automatically close, but he knows his costar is right.

Within seconds he’s following Jensen, who’s moving south, away from the looters.

“Where we headed?” Jared jogs up next to Jen after about a half hour of silent loping. They’ve taken up point and rear positions without even discussing it, a little more of Sam and Dean that’s crept into them. Damn, he’s going to miss that show.

Jensen cuts him a look that Jared can’t interpret and that sort of scares him more than the flu.

They can hear the deep mechanized rumble of military vehicles from a few streets over. When it gets closer, Jared swerves into an alley, leaning into Jensen at the turn, pushing him ahead. It’s clean. So much cleaner than any alley Jared’s ever seen in the States. The Canadians are so proud of their housekeeping. Now they’re both leaning back against the graffiti-less brick wall and people are dying and Jared’s thinking about how tidy this alley is.

He glances at Jensen. “Jen.”

Jensen opens his eyes, inhales deeply and rolls his head around to look at Jared. “We can’t go home.” His voice is a little hoarse from jogging along in the crisp air of a Vancouver fall.

Jared nods and coughs as his throat starts to tickle from the cold. He lets out one last hack and spits on the clean concrete at his feet “Yeah, I know.” Neither mentions Tom or Mike this time.

Two army-green Hummers roll by the end of the alley. Jared flattens himself against the wall reaches his arm out across Jensen’s chest. It’s not until Jen’s Dude, what the fuck? look that he realizes and pulls it back, tucking the offending limb tight to his side.

The Humvees pass. The street’s quiet again, back to the eerie silence of impending doom. They actually have a few minutes to stop and think. It’s rather jarring to realize they actually need a plan.

Jensen slides down to sit cross-legged on the ground and pulls Jared down with him. “Jay, we gotta figure out what to do next. We need a plan of action, man.” That they’re still on the same wavelength – still think eerily alike about the things that matter – reassures Jared.

“I know! Did you see Red Dawn?” Jared frowns. “What?”

He can’t read Jensen’s look and a few seconds later it dawns on him how that must have sounded. “Well, it’s sort of like that isn’t it?” Jared bows his head, picks up a pebble from the ground and tosses it down the alley. “I mean, Jen,” he hates hearing the fear in his voice, “it’s like it’s you and me—us—against them now.”

He’s almost wary when he feels Jensen’s hand on his shoulder, moving up to his neck trying to force him to look up.

“Hey.” Jensen’s voice is soft and a little sad.

Jared really doesn’t want to see that look on Jensen’s face again and resists. “I didn’t mean it like that,” he says, because now he feels like he needs to explain. “I just…”

“Naw, I get it.” Jensen squeezes a little. “Jay, it’s okay. We’re going to get home and it’s going to be okay.” Jared can’t help but lean into Jensen’s warm hand and thanks God for having his best friend with him when the world went to shit all those weeks ago.

“Come on, I know where we can go.” Jensen levers himself up and pulls Jared with him.

They’re cautiously heading back out to the street when Jensen sort of bumps Jared, making them both sway for balance. “Let’s go Swayze some shit.”

Jared can’t help but laugh at Jensen’s weird-ass sense of humor and swings his arm around his friend, pulling him close. “We can do this, right, dude?” he asks.

“Damn straight.”

Jensen takes up point again while Jared falls back a few paces. He knows he’ll follow Jensen till the end now – then wishes that didn’t seem like such a possibility all of a sudden.

Walking onto the completely empty lot is eerier than the city streets. Jared can’t recall ever having been here when there wasn’t at least a security guard at the gate. There was some attempt to lock and board everything up, but Jared can tell it was hastily done. After the first wave of allergies, the Avian flu hit so fast.There’s paper blowing across the concrete. One of the shed doors has come unlatched and bangs too loudly. It seems wrong to disturb the stillness.Jared feels like he’s on the House of Wax set and the monster is about to jump out at them, which is totally insane, of course, but makes him very cautious when he follows Jensen inside the building. A little paranoia is probably not a bad thing.

“Tell me again why we didn’t go back to our apartments?” Jared realizes he’s whispering and clears his throat – continues in a normal voice. “We could at least get…” What was there really left to get? They’d both packed everything they really cared about, knowing they’d be home soon – really home, with their families.

Jared bites his lip.

Jensen isn’t really paying attention anyway. Jared catches up with him as he unlocks a door at the end of the hallway. What the hell made Jensen keep his keys to the set?

“The Infirmary?” Jared reads the hand-lettered sign taped to the wall next to the door.

Jensen just smiles knowingly. “I know for a fact they didn’t clean the building out before closing down last week. There’s gotta be more shit in here than either one of us has at home. Grab something. Shit, grab everything.”

Jared glances quickly around the large room that served as a M.A.S.H. unit during shooting. It wasn’t really close to being a hospital, but the doctor they’d kept staffed could treat minor injuries, including suturing and broken bones. Someone, cast or crew, always seemed to be doing something stupid, resulting in the need to visit the infirmary.

He finds garbage bags under the sink and snaps one open. Jensen is already pulling down bottles and reading labels and Jared doesn’t say anything about the dangling overhead cabinet doors, barely hanging on one hinge now. Instead, he gets busy checking the drawers, which miraculously aren’t locked.

In less than fifteen minutes, they’re loaded with bandages, tape, a variety of ointments and several types of antibiotics, cold meds and pain relievers. Jared throws in some scissors and a set of ugly looking instruments at the last minute.

“Next stop, wardrobe.”

Jared’s starting to get into the swing of things and jogs ahead of Jensen to the room they’d both started their morning in for the last two years. “I’ll grab Sam and Dean’s bags,” he calls over his shoulder as he veers off to props.

When he meets up with Jensen a few minutes later, his co-star has jeans, jackets and a couple of tee-shirts for each of them pulled out of the closet. They don’t normally dress like Sam and Dean, who have the fashion sense of Jared’s cousins down in Brownsville, but at least the clothes fit and will do till they can get home.

Jared isn’t allowing any thoughts otherwise. They’ll be home soon and he and Jensen will stay close. Shit, their families only live four hours from each other, which is nothing. And when all this flu and allergy crap is cleared up, they’ll go back to LA and maybe even get a show again.

They make a good team.

“That it?” Jared hefts the duffle onto his right shoulder and holds the door open for Jensen. But instead of following him out, Jen is headed through the door that leads outside to the parking lot. “What the fuck…” Jared mutters before following him out.

Jensen stops at the shed and pulls a string of keys off the pegboard nailed to the wall and Jared frowns more in confusion.

“You’ve got to be kidding, Jen. We’re not taking one of the Impalas are we?”

“No, dumbass.” Jensen gives him a sly grin. Jared watches him slip the key in the trunk of the one that’s outfitted with Dean’s arsenal and pop the lid.

Most of the props are plastic or rubber and strictly meant for show, but the last show they’d shot called for Sam to pull a silver knife out of one of the slots in the lid of the box and that’s what Jensen’s going for.

Jared steps up and rattles around through the rest of the gear, but finds nothing else of use. What he wouldn’t do for his 22/410 that hung on the wall at his grandpa’s house in Texas.

That thought raises another and he turns to Jensen. “You ever camped out?” Jared had been camping out under the stars since he was old enough to spend summers at his grandparents’ ranch, but he was willing to bet that same ranch that Jensen’s upbringing hadn’t been quite so – rural.

There’s the slightest hesitation before Jensen zips his duffle closed and answers, “Of course, I have. What? I’m from Texas aren’t I?” He isn’t quite fast enough to miss the fist to his arm that Jared throws.

“You are such a big fat liar!” Jared looks around the lot, still as quiet as a tomb (and isn’t that a lovely thought?), and gets serious again.

“So.” He scuffs his boot toe against the Impala’s tire and stuffs his hands in his pockets. “What now?”

Jensen pulls a map out of his back pocket – must have picked it up inside – and unfolds it on the car’s hood. “Let’s figure out the best way to get the hell out of this Godforsaken place. We’re going home.”

While they’re looking over the routes, heads tucked together, Jared begins to wheeze, then coughs until Jensen’s whacking him on the back and offering a bottle of water he’s pulled out of his bag.

With half the bottle downed in one pull, Jared smiles weakly and tries to catch his breath. “I think a bug flew down my throat.” He clears his throat again and finishes off the bottle before turning his attention back to the map.

“You’re just out of shape,” Jensen shoots back, but Jared feels Jensen’s eyes on him and refuses to look up, concentrating instead on searching out the road south that’ll have the least amount of traffic, and thus, checkpoints.

After a minute, Jensen’s finger traces their route before his hand flattens across the wrinkled paper. Jared takes a deep breath and lays his own hand, long fingers practically covering the whole map, across Jensen’s. Two thousand miles. Two thousand miles between them and L.A. Another fifteen hundred to Dallas or San Antone.

“Let’s book. I’ve got a taste for Texas BBQ.” Jared keeps his voice light, determined not to think about birds with flu or freaky allergy-inducing glaciers.

Jensen seems willing to go along and tosses Jared the keys to one of the pickups used by the crew.

“This’ll get us out of Vancouver, at least.” They both know there’ll be no gassing up once they leave the inner city, but Jared’s content to take it one step at a time for now. Jared’s stomach clenches up right about the same time he turns the engine and shifts into gear.

He realizes they have no frigging clue what’s waiting for them outside the city limits. He clings to the hope born of his inherent optimism. Jared can do most anything he puts his mind to. The odds are only increased with Jen, his best friend, by his side. He has to believe that.


They don’t get very far with the truck.

The streets are an obstacle course of abandoned vehicles and other, stranger things (a couch, a rowboat on a hitch, a ceramic life-sized cow, it’s side gouged open and gaping), some of which had been set on fire. Jared drives slow, careful and white-knuckled and Jensen tries not to passenger seat drive, squinting through the dusty windshield until his head throbs and pulses dully right behind his eyes. Jared keeps squirting wiper fluid, but it doesn’t help much, smearing greasily.

In a few neighborhoods, people tried to erect makeshift barricades of furniture, cement blocks, plywood and whatever else had come to hand. The fat tracks of a tank or more Humvees indicate that some of them have clearly been driven over or through. They don’t see many bodies, just wreckage. Jensen doesn’t know if that’s good or bad.

“I just didn’t know it was like this,” Jared says suddenly and Jensen jumps like he’s just been goosed, foot mashing down on an imaginary brake pedal. He looks over at his costar, but Jared’s still focused on the street—or sidewalk, depending on how badly the road’s blocked—his eyebrows tugged down over his nose. “I mean, I knew it was bad, but…” Jared shakes his head. “Nothing like this. This is like a war zone, man.”

Jensen knows what Jared means. The bottom had been dropping out of things for a while, the economy tanking as more and more people got sick, or fear of the flu kept businesses from opening their doors. People were scared—of course they were—but it wasn’t like this. Just that morning, they’d been bitching about the warm cola Avery had offered and the long train ride ahead of them. Now…

“It’s like Lord of the Flies,” Jensen agrees. He looks back at the shops they’ve just passed and leans over to point out Jared’s side of the window. “Hey, pull over there.”

Jared looks and then nods when he spots the Safeway Jensen indicated. “Good plan.”

“One of us should stay with the truck.” Jensen opens the glove box and pulls out one of the replica guns he ganked from the Impala’s arsenal. He offers it butt-first to Jared. “It’s not much, but it might scare them off, if someone wants to start something.” Jensen shrugs.

“We need to think about getting our hands on something real.” Jared frowns down at the ‘toy’ gun before tucking in the front of his pants. At that moment, he looks very much like Sam Winchester when he’s fretting over something.

“Yeah,” though the thought of using a gun on a human being turns him a little sick inside. From the look on Jared’s face, he feels the same, though Jensen doesn’t really have to look at Jared to know that. “Yeah, we should look for that next.”

“You gonna be okay on your own?” Jared nods towards the storefront. The plastic windows have been shattered and the inside is dark, ominous. Jensen’s just glad it’s not on fire.

“Dude,” Jensen scoffs, digging out the knife he brought from the set and a flashlight, “I’m from Texas.”

Jared grins and they lock hands briefly. “Damn straight.”

“If anybody’s gonna be afraid, it should be the damn Canadians, eh?”



They laugh and Jensen starts to turn away, his boot crunching in spilled cereal and broken glass. Then, troubled, he turns back. “Jay… If they really want the truck, just let them have it. It’s not worth dying over.”

Jared opens his mouth to say something, a slight hitch of breath. Then he stops. “Yeah,” he says finally, unwillingly. “Yeah, I know.”

Jensen thinks of another half-dozen things he could say—that he’d probably like to say—but they all come down to mother-henning a full-grown man who doesn’t need it and won’t thank him for it, so he raps sharply on the car door and pivots away for good this time.

Jensen scuffs through the garbage of the parking lot, half-angry with himself and resisting the urge to turn back and check on Jared again. He promised himself he wouldn’t do this.

Jensen knows he’s got a habit of getting inappropriately attached to the people in his life. But after the whole Dark Angel fiasco—and what a clusterfuck that had been—he’d decided that if he couldn’t stop himself from feeling these stupid crushes, at least he can stop himself from acting on them.

Jared really tests his resolve on that one, though; six-foot five of dorky, intelligent, enthusiastic, built temptation right there in his face, damn near twenty-four/seven. What little praying Jensen’s done in the last two years has revolved around Jared in one way or another, whether it was Dear Lord, please make him stop giggling long enough to get through just one solid take of this scene before I strangle him with my bare hands. Your Son in Christ, Jensen or If you don’t stop him from leaning on me like that I’m going to embarrass myself by falling down on my knees and begging him to let me suck him off, so please give me just a little a break, Lord, and knock some sense into his drunk ass. Yours in Christ, Jensen. Or, at its worst, Please, God, give me the strength to stop wishing Sandy an ugly death by piranha or plague or something because she seems like a nice girl and it’s not her fault that I think I can fuck her man better than she can. Your faithful son, Jensen.

Jensen sighs and kicks out some of the jagged plastic from the store’s warped window frame more thoroughly before stepping over and into the Safeway proper. He twists on the flashlight—one of the good ones, that the crew used—and plays the light around.

The store’s been looted, as he expects; the shelves are mostly empty and the floor is littered in spilled, scuffled-over food. Jensen smells mildew. He smells rot. He doesn’t hear anybody or anything other than a slow drip of something liquid somewhere in the back. He fights against the impulse to call out, “Anybody here?” Jensen’s watched his horror movies—hell, he’s been in one—that never ends well. Better he mind his own beeswax and hope everyone else minds theirs.

The carts are gone. All the registers have been stripped of their bundles of plastic and paper bag and he didn’t think to empty out and bring one of the bags from the car. Stepping quietly, Jensen heads towards the back of the store.

The storeroom is less completely looted than the store proper though it’s obvious the scavengers have been back here too. Jensen picks up the largest and least damaged box he thinks he can carry and starts filling it with canned goods, boxes of things that won’t spoil. It’s both darker and quieter back here and he feels his skin crawling, super-conscious of the huff of his breath and the fainter skitter of what he hopes are only rats. The storeroom is huge but the walls feel close and looming anyway.

Need to get back to Jared anyway.

He lucks out and finds both a case of powdered milk and one of bottled water. It’s hard to manage and he ends up dragging the box with the two cases stacked on top through the store. Jensen’s never going to tell Jared about it, but the minute he’s in sight of the windows, he stops a moment to straighten up, turn around and make sure Jared and the truck are still there.

Jared’s idling against the truck’s front wheel, keeping an eye out on the street with a frown on his face. The wind’s playing through his hair and he keeps having to push it back out of his eyes.

Jensen huffs a little laugh and resumes dragging his booty to the window. Lord, I know you’ve got your hands full right now and all and my problem is a very small one…but if I have to be stuck at the end of the world with him, could you make him just a little less attractive? I’m trying real hard here and he don’t make it any easier. Your son in Christ, Jensen.

Jared comes to help as Jensen lifts his prizes over the high sill of the broken out window. “Everything cool?” Jensen’s voice sounds a little rough as Jared picks up the milk and the water.

“Saw a tank few blocks up that way.” Jared nods. “And there was a family…looked like they were hauling ass too. I asked them if they wanted to ride with us….what?” He meets Jensen’s exasperated look squarely. “Dude, they had like…six kids. The youngest was still in arms.”

Jensen pushes the box of food deeper into the bed of the pickup and sighs, scrubbing his fingers through his hair briskly. “Nothing,” he says, not sure what he would’ve done in the same situation. There were times it was easier to be a selfish son-of-a-bitch, a lesson Jared probably wasn’t ever going to learn. “What happened?”

Jared looks embarrassed and scratches the back of his neck. “I think I scared them. They just ran off, without even a word.”

“Just as well.” Jensen looks his costar over, sees that the faint lines at the corners of Jared’s eyes are bunched and his bounce just a little bit manic. Jared’s probably got a whopper of a headache. He knows he does. “You want me to drive a while?”

“Yeah.” Jared tosses him the keys so promptly Jensen knows he was right. “Thanks.”

They climb in and pull out and in about ten minutes Jared’s conked out, head back and mouth open, snoring like he’s trying to win a prize. Jensen looks over at him and resists the urge to ruffle his fingers through Jared’s shaggy mane.

Okay. I know I was fooling myself on the less attractive thing, Lord. And if I had to be stuck with anybody, I could have a lot worse company. Thank you for keeping us safe and healthy and together. Please watch over us; I think we’ll need it. Your son, Jensen.

They make a pact.Agree to do what they have to–whatever they have to–to get back to the states, regardless of the implications, legal or moral. Jared thinks on that. It’s heavy shit.Hell, this is all heavy shit.

He knows he’s young – too young to know much about war, too privileged to know hardship beyond a lack of sleep after a normal week on set. He also knows he can’t dwell on that too much or it’ll just overwhelm him. And he’s no use if he lets this bury him.

Jared knows he’s committed to this – to Jensen – and let there be no mistake, he is committed to him. And he knows Jensen’s with him to the end, as well, and he’s rather surprised at how much easier that knowledge makes facing this whole shitload of wrong that’s going on around them. He takes a moment to thank God he’d had the foresight to ship the dogs ahead with some of the crew going back early, before the quarantine. Jared knows, without a doubt, he’d be a fucking mess if he had to worry about Harley and Sadie on top of everything else.

He’s jostled from his musings when Jensen pulls into an alley behind a strip mall. It’s a about a mile before they reach one of the police checkpoints leading out of Vancouver and Jensen says they need to restructure their packs.

Clothes become the luxury when they pour the duffle and backpack out in the bed of the truck and sort through everything. They repack the bags with the food and supplies instead. Jared’s able to get a dozen or so bottles of water in the backpack, along with three cans of beans and the med supplies. Jensen puts the rest of the water, a couple boxes of powdered milk, and couple cans of food in the duffle, and then wads all the clothes that’ll fit in what little room’s left, which amounts to hardly more than a couple T-shirts. A towel is stuffed in as an afterthought. They wear Sam and Dean’s jackets over their lighter weight hoodies and a couple layers of shirts, though not so much that they can’t move easy.

“It takes too long to get to LA and I’m going commando,” Jensen says and Jared looks up to see him make a face at the slim pickings. He throws back his head and laughs and tosses a red oilrag in Jensen’s direction.

“Here you can use this for a diaper. Wouldn’t want you chafing anything important.” He snickers and zips up the front compartment of the backpack. They both freeze as loud voices, angry and high-pitched, reach the alley from the streets. The thick, acrid smell of burning debris reminds Jared of trash day at the junkyard back home. Nothing happens, though, and after a few moments, they relax and swing out of the truckbed to climb back in the cab.

There’s only the one roadblock left to maneuver and chances are good they’ll get through. Jared figures Canada was trying to get rid of them this morning. Him and Jensen? They’re just helping the process. They’ve heard the horror stories, though, as whole families and groups of people traveling together pass by the truck, headed for some kind of relative safety. People getting split up. Family members–or whole families–disappearing into ‘quarantine’, never to be seen again. Flu infectees going crazy and infecting everyone around them.

They’re about to pull out when a young couple runs past. Jensen stands on the brake. The couple never stops, but they’re not so fast that Jared doesn’t notice the blood staining the shawl the man’s bundled around his wife, shielding her from eyes that will take her away from him to an unknown fate.

The bags share what little foot room Jared has and they each have a knife stuck in their belts. Jared thinks about how different their lives were less than twelve hours ago. Laughing, cracking wise. How ridiculous Mike would have sounded joking about them all “being on the lam” from the RCMP. The RCMP, for Christ’s sake! God, he hopes Mike and Tom made it out. He’d feel so much better if they’d been able to stay all together, and not just because there’s safety in numbers.

“This is so fucked,” he breathes, massaging the hammering pulse in his temples and Jensen nods.

“I know.” Jensen’s hands are white-knuckled at ten and two o’clock on the wheel. “Jay, we’re getting out of here, one way or the other, authorities or no.” A car alarm goes off in the distance, blaring a tempo in time with Jared’s pounding headache.

Jared looks skeptical.

“Look, the whole world’s crazy. You saw what happened this morning in the depot. I don’t know about you, but I’m not taking any chances… on…on not being able to go home.”

Jared finally nodded. “Yeah. Okay…we get the chance, we take it.”

Their decision becomes prophesy. When they see a group of adolescent boys get stopped and separated from the rest of the people waiting to pass inspection, they take their shot.

“Go! Now!” Jared shouts, but Jensen’s foot’s already on the accelerator and the truck’s bouncing and careening across ruts and through blockade barriers before anyone even realizes they’re not still sitting in the queue. They fly by a Saturn station wagon full of children in the back, the woman in the driver’s seat wrapped in a scarf up to her nose. Jared recalls the burning makeshift barricades they’d passed in front of homes on the way out of town. The city is expelling its own.

A few seconds later the horns honking and voices yelling after them tells Jared their escape has been noticed. He knows this is sheer stupidity and they’re just asking for trouble or worse, but he sure as fuck isn’t staying here, cut off from everyone he knows and loves, in a country where he’s not wanted. He’s a Texas boy and he wants to see the sun go down over the Alamo at least one last time before it all goes to shit.

“Hold on!” Jensen yells and yanks the wheel to the left, causing Jared to fall over into him.

Jared grabs the passenger door handle, pulls himself back up and braces with the other hand on the dash. Craning his neck out the open window, he sees two trucks just now starting up and whistles in relief. When he turns back around, he sees that Jensen’s taking them along a wide concrete canal that’s dried up. Debris litters the edges of the bed and when Jensen drives through a small pool of standing water, Jared smells the thick reek of stagnancy.

“How’re we getting out of this?” He’s still holding on to the door frame and the dash since neither has buckled their seat belts.

“There.” Jared follows Jensen’s pointed finger and sees a maintenance exit that leads into an oversized culvert below the overpass ahead. “They’ll think we went into the culvert, but we’re gonna go up the embankment instead. We don’t have more than a minute to find cover, Jay. Soon as we stop, grab the pack and head up that bank to right. I saw a park up there.”

All Jared does is nod and try to catch his breath. His chest is tight, panicky; he closes his eyes for a few brief seconds and concentrates on breathing in deep and letting it out slow, gearing up. When he opens his eyes, Jensen’s pulling the truck into the tunnel and there’s no time for anything but action.

Jared swings out the door, banging it into the concrete side of the culvert. It bounces back to slam shut, but he’s already up in the truckbed, hefting the backpack onto his shoulders. Jensen slings the duffel strap over his head and they both head for the weedy bank of the canal, scrambling and slipping on mud and grass, cutting themselves on twigs and brambles. It feels like it takes forever to climb what can’t be more than twenty feet. Jared knows that’s not true as they reach the top just as the siren sounds get close enough to tell the truck’s been spotted.

Jensen pushes Jared to the ground with a hand between his shoulder blades and they both lay still, just over the edge of the embankment and out of sight from anyone below. Jared searches out Jensen’s eyes from under the hair half covering his face. The wink Jensen casts him does more to calm him down than all the breathing exercises in the world. He reads Jen’s message, loud and clear. Long as we’re together, we can do anything. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.

When the small gang of cops head into the culvert to check out the truck, Jared eases over the side and nods at Jensen’s silent query. They carefully pick up the bags and head for the small copse of trees in the northwest corner of the park. The trees are barely more shrubbery, but they allow some small amount of cover while they scramble over the fence that surrounds the park and borders the highway they’ve just left.

“We gotta get off this road, dude.” Jared looks toward the barricade, barely visible a mile back.

“No shit.” Jensen readjusts the strap of the duffle.

Jared misses the easy-going chatter between them. Jensen probably hasn’t said a dozen words since they left the truck and Jared isn’t sure if that means he’s scared or just focused. He sure knows which one he is. A bump to his right shoulder makes him look back over and Jensen’s nodding to the south. “There.”

Jared glances to his left and sees the sign. The number one centered on a black Canadian maple leaf. He knows where they are. “Southeast then, right?”

Without answering Jensen leads them across the highway and back down to lower ground where they won’t be easily spotted from the road. Traffic’s nonexistent right now, but Jared knows the Canadian military and police will be patrolling, probably looking for them. Hopefully they won’t have the manpower to go after two stray Americans, but he can’t afford to assume anything anymore.

After a couple of miles, Jensen pulls out the map again and points a finger at the tiny print just north of the US border. “Abbottsford. We’ll stay away from people till we get close to there. Hopefully the small towns weren’t hit as bad and we can finagle some food and rest.”

Jared hears him, but his gaze settles further south on the map. Washington. The United States. Home.

“Then, let’s go.” Jared can’t help but wince a bit when he shifts the padded straps of the backpack. He rolls his head, trying to work out the kinks he assumes are the result of lugging fifty pounds on his back. His whole body is starting to feel like he’s been on the wrong end of a very large stick, so he digs a couple more capsules out of his pocket and dry swallows them. So far the Advil isn’t touching it.

“Don’t wuss out on me, now, Jay.” Jared jerks his head around, ready to tell Jensen to fuck off, but Jensen’s grinning and Jared can’t help but shake his head and flip him the bird.

“You waiting on me, you’re wasting time, man.”

Fifty miles. In Jared’s truck, that’s nothing. Less than an hour to the States. It feels like it might as well be a thousand right now.

“They put up a fucking fence, Jen!” Jared can’t believe – just totally blows his mind that they are having to crawl under a barbed-wire fence in the fucking dark to escape from Canada. He has to stop a second to process that, which earns him a kick from Jensen.”Go! I’m laying here, balls down, in a freaking bog!” Jensen’s harsh whisper is like a gunshot in Jared’s ear making him scuttle like a crab for a few more feet until he can’t feel the pressure of the fencing on his legs – twists around quickly to hold it up for Jensen’s last shove through.America.

They both lie still, panting. Jared’s scared to move a muscle now that they’re supposedly ‘free’, like they could be yanked back through any moment. So, when Jensen rolls over with a grunt and pulls himself to stand, Jared just about shits his pants.

“Come on, Jen. Somebody might see us.”

Jensen obviously thinks he’s lost his mind, but returns to Jared’s side and sits on the wet ground beating at the mud on his pants and probably just smearing it into the denim. “Shit! I can’t believe this.”

While Jensen grumbles about being wet, Jared clears his throat again, as quietly as he can. The tickle is coming back and he wishes for the hundreth time there’d been some cough drops in the infirmary. He’s sure crawling around in the cold wet muck of Canada hasn’t helped the cold he’s obviously catching. Jared’s positive he hasn’t been warm since coming to this country.

Jensen’s hand on his arm alerts Jared and he clamps a cold-reddened hand over his mouth firmly, quelling the overpowering urge to clear his throat again. They’re both quiet, listening to the stillness of the night that Jared has just realized sounds way too still. He looks at Jensen, knowing it’s too dark for Jensen to make out his face but that he’ll still know the question Jared’s asking with his eyes.

Jensen shrugs—a rustle of cloth—leans in until his lips brush Jared’s hair and whispers into his ear. “Thought I heard something.”

Jared nods and waits some more. He’s about to chalk it up to both of them being jumpy as hell when he hears a sound that definitely doesn’t belong in the US-Canadian wilderness. The distant rumble of a revved motor.

Jared doesn’t think it’s military, doesn’t sound deep enough, aggressive enough, but Jensen’s already tugging on his elbow. Jared scrambles to get up himself and they both almost go back down in a tangle of legs. “We got to get away from the fence,” Jensen hisses and Jared follows his dark silhouette across the clearing that’s been made for fence construction and into the thicket. He’s not feeling nearly as safe as he thought he would just being back in the US of A.

Sliding onto the ground next to Jensen, Jared ignores the sharp pain in his thigh that tells him he landed on something harder than mud. He clears his throat again, earning a shove to the shoulder beside him. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

The engine is definitely getting louder and there are other sounds now, as well. Voices – really loud, angry voices. The faint gleam of headlights through the trees. Jared jumps when a shot rings through the night and doesn’t realize he’s leaning into Jensen until they’re pressed together in the huddle from shoulder to legs.

“What the fuck!” Jensen whisper-croaks and Jared looks over to see his eyes wide and mouth agape.

“Sounds like someone’s in trouble. Should we…?” Jared doesn’t get to finish before Jensen’s wrapped an arm around the back of his head, clamping a muddy hand over Jared’s mouth.


The engine sounds have stopped, but the loud voices, all male it sounds like, are getting closer. Whatever’s going on, Jared’s positive it can’t be good.

The scene that plays out over the next ten minutes proves his fears well-founded.


The first movement Jared detects comes from his right, almost exactly where they’d come out of the woods before fence-crawling the line. It’s a guy. Jared can’t tell his age, but he moves like he’s young, young as them. He’s barefoot and wearing hospital scrubs or pajamas. Then, a moment later it’s pretty clear he’s come from some type of medical facility when Jared spots the white tape on the tops of his hands, practically glowing in the moon and headlights.

“Oh, God….please don’t hurt me…”

Jared doesn’t get a chance to think about what it means when the woods erupt with the splashing and squish-suck of boots running across the ground. Six men—all armed—circle the first man, now screaming – and begging – for them not to kill him.

“Please…don’t do this.”

Jared realizes he’s holding his breath and lets it out slowly, quietly. Jensen’s hand relaxes and falls from his mouth, but remains dangling over his shoulder. He must know how scared Jared is because he begins to slowly rub tight circles into the muscles between Jared’s shoulder blades, then lays his hand flat in the middle of his back, protectively.

The gang on the Canada side jeers at their prey and closes the distance, moving in for the kill when the lone man kneels on the ground, his pleas growing into hysterics. Jared wishes he could cover his ears and block out the sound.

“God, you have to believe me, Please! It’s not the flu. I don’t have the flu! It’s just allergies. I’ve had them all my life and they were just running tests so I could get cleared. Please,” he trailed off, openly crying, hands clasped in front of him as he begged them not to kill him. “I have…a wife and kids…a new baby…” His words choke off with each gulping sob. The small crowd of men actually quiets and Jared’s eyes are burning with his efforts to stop the cough he feels burbling up his throat.

In retrospect, Jared figures the first crack of a baseball bat across human skull is the fatal hit, making the rest of the attack bloodlust, pure and simple; the culmination of too much adrenaline feeding the frenzy of the hunt.

Jared lies on the freezing ground with Jensen’s arm looped protectively around him, staring in fascinated horror while the dead man’s body rolls over, arms flailing out with blow after blow, kick after kick, until he’s just a blood soaked, muddy pile of skin and bones and cloth.

The mob wastes no time with the body – just gather their chains, bats and guns and vanish back into the woods. They leave the crumpled figure to be scavenged by animals far more humane than they.

The rain starts up again, but Jared doesn’t feel anything. He feels numb. He can’t believe he just watched a man being beaten to death for being sick. It feels so much worse than the scene at the depot with the military. Maybe because he’s positive these were just ordinary men last month, living their lives, doing their jobs, with families of their own.

Or maybe because they sat there, in the mud and cold, and did nothing. Could do nothing. Jared always thought he was different than that, better than that. And maybe he was too.

Until the apocalypse came.

When he finally looks over at Jensen, he’s pretty sure his own horror is reflected back in the tears mingling with rainwater that’s leaving streaks down Jensen’s mud-stained face.

“Fuck.” The word is uttered softly. Reverently.

“Fuck.” Jared parrots and lays his head on crossed arms, finally giving in to the overpowering urge to just cry. Something he’s wanted to do since leaving Vancouver.

When the sobs turn into racking, guttural coughs, Jared feels Jensen’s arm tighten in support and he simply turns his head until his face is pressed against the sopping wet material of Jensen’s shirt.

“You’re getting sick,” Jensen says. Jared doesn’t detect judgment or fear in his voice, so he just nods against Jensen’s chest.

“Just a cold. Felt it coming on back at the set. I hate this weather.”

Jared pulls out of Jensen’s hold, takes a deep, shuddering breath and coughs once more, hand over his mouth.

“Jay.” Jared glances up reluctantly, knowing what he’ll see in Jensen’s eyes.

“No!” he answers the look too loudly. “No.” Softer now. “It’s just a cold.”

Jared spits out a large wad of phlegm and stands on shaky legs. “Come on. We got a long way to go.”

They drive when they can. Neither one of them knows how to hotwire a car, but it’s not like they need to; plenty of cars are abandoned with their keys still dangling from the ignition or with spares hidden under floor mats, in magnetic boxes in the undercarriage.They drive whatever it is until they’re out of gas or the road’s impassable. Even on the small two-lane highways they follow meanderingly south, that happens a lot. More makeshift barricades, lots of abandoned cars, baking in the autumn sun doors flung open and their contents spilling out like stuffing from a toy. It’s like something from the show, like that ep, “Croatoan,” like they’re the last people left in the world.Jensen knows they really aren’t, though it doesn’t stop freaking him the fuck out. They see other people here and there, mostly close to the towns. No one’s really traveling. No one really dares. If they were in a situation less dire, at home, with their families, Jensen reckons they’d be just the same.

A couple times, they see military patrols. Jensen’s not proud of the fact that he’s a lot more scared of his own than the Canadians, but there it is. It’s a kind of perverse pride, if you look at it right.

But anytime they hear the rumble of their motors, he and Jared either stop the car and duck down low or hide wherever they can off the road. In Washington, they detour wide around the Fort Lewis Military Reservation, just to be careful.

Other folks just avoid them, and Jensen’s just as glad.

They have to do just about as much scavenging as traveling; a trip that could be managed in hours stretches into days. Jensen mentally lists all the things they still need, starting that first night when he and Jared had to huddle together under a single musty blanket at an abandoned ranger’s station. Food runs out, water runs out—so quickly—and they have to stop and search, through stores and homes, robbing the dead to stay alive.

The sound of Jared sneezing on the sleepy, mostly empty street is like a gunshot. Jensen freezes and feels Jared do the same next to him. Then, recovering his senses, Jensen grabs Jared by his sleeve and tugs him sideways, towards one of the looted shop fronts, watching their back worriedly the whole way. No one seems to be around. No one seems to have noticed.He shoves Jared into the shadowy quasi-safety of a burnt out dry-cleaners. Jared’s shaking some, like he’s pent-up with something and Jensen’s willing to bet it’s another sneeze. Inside the store, Jared sags a little against one of the walls and puts both hands tightly over his face to muffle it as he sneezes and then coughs. Still paranoid, his heart still doing the crazy mambo in his chest, Jensen steps forward and puts his hands over Jared’s, trying to muffle it further. He doesn’t think either one of them has forgotten the lynching at the border.When the fit’s over, Jared’s gasping, a noticeable wheeze in the sound. Jensen angles Jared’s face into the light and sees how red and watery his eyes are; feeling his neck, he feels how fast-hard Jared’s heart is beating, but also that his lymph nodes are swollen.

No, he thinks, feeling like he’s going to hurl in about half a second. No, no, no… Not. Will not. Cannot.

Jensen swallows thickly around what feels like a brick in his throat. “We need to find somewhere to hole up,” he says and Jared nods, still too winded to answer in words. “Fuck.” He keeps the word quiet, without any of the vicious, helpless anger he feels, but Jared flinches anyway. Jensen’s hands ball up with the urge to hit something.

“Come on,” he says instead, grabbing Jared’s sleeve again and tugging his costar towards the back of the building where the rear façade has completely burnt away.

Jared digs his feet in a little, using that extra thirty-five pounds and few inches of height to his advantage. Jensen stops and turns to look at Jared, impatient. “What?”

“I’m sorry, man.” Jared’s voice is hoarse like he’s spent the whole night clubbing and bar-crawling instead of doing the Two-Man-March on the way to L.A.

Jensen shakes his head, feeling more pissed by the second. He has to remind himself it’s not Jared he’s angry with. “Dude, we can do this later. We need to get off the street before someone sees you.”

Jared doubles half-way, one hand groping out to catch himself on the melted lump of the counter and the other going to cover his mouth as he starts coughing again. Jensen doesn’t even think about it, just shoves Jared back into the wall, bracing Jay’s weight with his, his fingers again coming up to mask the sound of the racking coughs. Jensen feels like he can barely hear anything for the tidal beat of his heart in his ears but he stares into Jared’s eyes, seeing the pain and helpless gut-deep fear.

“Shhh,” he says rapidly, mindlessly, babbling. “Shhh, I’m right here, man. You’re okay, you’re okay, just gotta calm down, you just gotta calm the fuck down and it’ll be okay, Jay, man, I swear, I promise, just…shhhh, shhhh….”

Jared’s limp when the spasm passes, held up pretty much by Jensen. He’s on a slippery slope, but Jensen pulls Jared’s head down so their foreheads nestle together, rubbing the sweaty nape of Jared’s neck soothingly with one hand. “It’s okay, man,” he says again. “It’s all right. Get you some sleep and you’ll be right as rain.”

“No.” Jared straightens up. Even though they’re still pressed against each other like the start of pretty much every wet dream Jensen’s had on the subject, he can feel Jared withdrawing into himself, putting distance between them. “Jen—you gotta go on without me.”

Jensen snorts. “Yeah. Not happening, man.”

“Jen… Jensen. I’m sick.”

“Yeah? So? You think I’m going to just leave you here in Bumblefuck, Nowhere because you caught a cold? You think I’m feeling so hot myself?”

“Jen.” Jared brings his hand up and puts it flat on Jensen’s chest, pushing him back. It’s Jensen’s turn to lock his knees and drop his weight, immovable. “You know how this works. I’m sick. I’ve been trying to….fuck, I don’t know. But it’s been like this since Vancouver. You have to leave me. I…” Jared ducks his head so Jensen can’t see his face through his even-longer hair. “What if it’s flu?”

“It’s not.” Jensen wraps his fingers in Jared’s jacket sleeve, still refusing to be budged.


It’s not, okay?” Jared’s giving him the full-on puppy eyes and Jensen doesn’t know if he’s ever seen his friend look so miserable or brittle. “We just…” He flaps his free arm helplessly. “It’s not flu. Now come on. Help me find someplace to hide us. Just…just for a little while.”

Jared’s shoulders slump. He nods tiredly, white-faced under his fading tan, and accepts the supporting arm Jensen holds out to him. Jensen lets out his breath, feeling some cinched band of pressure release in his chest.

“This is stupid, you know,” Jared mutters as they totter unsteadily to the rear of the store and blink out into the whitish sunshine.

It is. Jensen knows that. Fifty percent fatal in infected persons, he thinks. And then, a second later, It’s not flu. It’s not. It can’t be. He tightens his arm around Jared’s ribs. “Yeah, well, we always said I was the pretty one.”

The house is weather-beaten and old, paint peeling from the warped, silvery wood underneath. The green-shingled roof gapes black in places where the tiles have torn away. Jensen bets that the kids in the neighborhood—if there’d been any kids in the neighborhood—would’ve called the house haunted, or a witch’s house or any of the stupid things kids think about houses like this all across the country. In any case, there’s no red plague X across the door or governmental quarantine seal and no sign that anyone’s living here now.Jensen’s not as good at locks as Jared; he just steers them around the back and breaks out one of the windowpanes on the back door then reaches through to unlock it from the inside. Jared’s getting worse, the wheeze in his lungs clearer and louder as he struggles to breathe. His eyes look like he’s been smoking some of Chris’s best weed and he’s snuffling every few minutes.Jensen catalogues symptoms without thinking too deeply about them. Allergies. He’s got the allergies. Helping Jared through the kitchen and into the rest of the house, Jensen’s not sure if that’s better or not. Before the Avian Flu blew up and started raging across the world like a wildfire, the allergens from that damned glacier were killing plenty of people on their own.

Most of whatever furniture there’d been once upon a time is gone, but there’s a horrible gold velour couch in the room with the fireplace. It’s covered in dust but otherwise it doesn’t look too sketchy and Jensen guides Jared down onto it, divesting him of his pack.

“I don’t want…” Jared pants and fights for the breath to talk. “…want anyone to get sick.”

“You won’t.” Jensen opens Jared’s bag and paws around for the Musinex and Benedryl, hoping they’ll help with the congestion.

Including you,” Jared says pointedly. His hands grip the cushion’s edges tightly in effort to stay upright.

Jensen also pulls one of their rapidly dwindling bottles of water—refilled or replaced wherever they could—and settles back on his heels, bottle and drugs held loosely in his hand. “Look. Jared. I know you’re freaked out right now, and I guess I would be too, but you gotta listen to me. I’m not going anywhere. You’re not sick—not that sick and I’m not leaving you. Try and get that through your thick skull, willya?”


“Jared! This is the end of the fucking discussion, man! All right? Just…quit it and shut up and let me think, okay?” He shoves the blister packs and water at Jared, feeling a little bad for shouting but not enough to apologize.

Jared snuffles wetly and looks mulish, his jaw hard and set, but he takes the stuff from Jensen and starts downing pills.

Jensen sighs. His shoulders ache like his brother’s been pounding on them—a favorite pastime in the Ackles’ household—and he lets himself think longingly of Denyse, his favorite masseuse and Dr. Cho, his chiropractor. He realizes he doesn’t know what happened to either one of them. Denyse was Canadian, but Dr. Cho was an American like them.

“We can hang out here for a while,” Jensen says finally. “I doubt anyone’s going to come looking for us. Three days. That’s how long incubation’s supposed to take, right?” He looks at Jared who nods slowly, head down and hand braced on his knee as he wheezes. “Okay. So, if you’re not sick in…say four days, just to be sure, then it’s not the flu and we’re good to go.

“And…if it is?”

Jensen rakes a hand through his hair. It’s getting almost as long as Jared’s and it’s driving him nuts. If they’re stuck here for four days, he wonders if he can scrounge up some scissors. “Jay, I can only deal with one crisis at a time. Let’s worry about tonight, okay? I got my work cut out for me making sure we’ll get through that long.”

“I can help.” Jared bunches like he’s going to push up off the couch. Jensen leans forward and shoves him right back into the cushions.

“You can’t help yourself,” Jensen snaps, just about ready to club Jared unconscious. “Now lie the fuck down, shut the fuck up and let me get on with it.” He takes a breath. “Please.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jared sounds halfway between resigned and relieved. “Just…for a little while.”

“Okay,” Jensen agrees, though he means nothing of the sort. He realizes he’s still holding Jared down, hands lingering. Slowly, reluctantly he settles back again. “Okay.”

Jensen spends most of the first day pillaging supplies, coming back every hour or so to check on Jared, afraid to leave him for too long. He forces himself to concentrate on each thing, tightly, tautly, unable to think too much or too far ahead. Not Jay. Not Jared. No. Panic hovers in the back of his mind like his own personal demon, impervious to both rock salt and denial.He first covers all the windows in cardboard and cloth, then builds up a fire in the fireplace and bundles his friend under as many blankets as he can find while Jared shivers and fights for every breath in his lungs. In one of the plague houses, marked with gouts of blood-red paint in a giant, sloppy X, he finds an entire family dead in their respective beds and two albuterol inhalers that make it—and the loss of his meager lunch—worth it. Jared won’t eat, but he drinks the water and tea Jensen bullies him into. Jensen tries to convince himself Jared’s wheezing is better after a couple blasts from the inhaler, but he doesn’t know. Not really.The second day, Jared’s worse, burning with fever and begging Jensen to leave him, to go, in a cracked, shaking voice. Jensen leaves long enough to find a florist. The interior of the shop makes him gag with the thick reek of rotting plants, but he finds what he was looking for and takes a double handful of dried eucalyptus back to the house and puts it in a pan of water close enough to the fire that the smell of boiling eucalyptus fills the small space they’ve taken as their own.

“Jensen?” Jared says, mid-afternoon on that second day, his eyes small and bright in the too-long tangle of his hair. “I’m scared, man.”

The tips of his fingers are hanging from under the blanket and at the admission, Jensen does what he otherwise wouldn’t, wrapping his hand around Jared’s. “Me too,” Jensen says. “But we’re gonna be fine.”

Jared doesn’t say anything and when Jensen looks, Jared’s sleeping.

“Jensen?”Jensen opened his eyes, unaware until the low sound of Jared’s voice that he’d been more than halfway to sleep. “Yeah?” His back aches. He sits up and stretches his crossed legs out, extends his arms up over his head.”I was thinkin’…” Jared’s sleepy or zoned out too and was thickens on his tongue to become whuz. He trails off, though, and even tired as he is, Jensen has to smile.

He looks over. “Yeah, Jay? What were you thinking?”

“‘Bout you.”

Jensen takes a breath, can’t find the words to fill it up and lets it out again. Fuck, he’s tired. He tries again. “What’re you talking about, man? Think about me how?”

Jared flails around under the mound of blankets and eventually humps over onto his side, eyes bright beneath the sweated out tangle of his hair. “I know you like guys, dude.”

Another moment that Jensen doesn’t know what the hell to do with, staring at Jared. His cynicism is fast on the uptake, though and he thinks, Great. Here we go. Is this the ‘don’t rape me while I’m sleeping’ or ‘just don’t touch me at all, you perv’? “Aw, Jay, you’re delirious.”

He can’t believe it; end of the fucking world and Jared’s going to kick up dust just because Jensen likes dick?

“Naw, I knew. Back on the show, I knew.”

All his acting skills can’t soothe the bitterness from his voice as he demands roughly, “Yeah? What exactly do you think you know, Jay? Who told you I was gay?”


“Jeff?” Jensen grunts in surprise and an even deeper hurt. “That fucker. Here I was busting my ass to be so damn discreet and he’s outing me to everyone? The fuck?”

“No…” Jared shakes his head, starts to push up from his nest of blankets. “I saw you—the two of you. Saw him kiss you.”

“Oh.” Jensen feels his face heat up and not just with the memory of the kiss. He fiddles with the stiff, dirty hem of his jeans. “Yeah. Okay, yeah. I like dudes sometimes. So what?”

“So nothin’.” Jared’s eyes glitter fever-bright as he pushes his hair back off his forehead. In the back of his mind, Jensen starts counting seconds, betting himself how soon it’ll flop back down again. “I just… I just been thinkin’ ’bout it.”

“Yeah? What were you thinking?” Jensen picks up his stick and pokes at the fire some more, feeling mulish and freaked out and really damned uncomfortable. The thought that Jared might want to split up over this…except, if Jared’s known this long…?

“Thinking about you,” Jared says softly, a good while after Jensen’s forgotten he’s waiting for an answer. “What it would feel like, kissing you. Touching you. Fucking you.”

Jensen would say his brain doesn’t have a thought in it when Jared says that, but apparently, his mouth doesn’t need the endorsement of his brain when he comes back, “Oh, so you just assume I’m the bottom?”

Jared gives him a look, clear and still as glacial waters.

Jensen scrubs a hand across the back of his neck and normal brain function resumes…if normal brain function can be assumed to be a billion different thoughts, all running on their own hamster wheels frantically. “Okay…well… Shut up. You’re delirious, remember?”

“I’m not delirious,” Jared says steadily and it’s the most lucid he’s sounded all day. His face is beet red, though, bleeding down into his neck. “I just… If I don’t die, you think…? You think maybe we…?”

Jensen takes a breath. Lets it out. Was his chest this tight a minute ago? “Which one? Kiss or fuck?”

“Either?” And now Jared’s eyes are gleaming with something other than fever. “Both?”

“Yeah, Jared.” Jensen sighs and his fingers are shaking a little when he puts the stick back down. “If you don’t die, I think maybe we.”

“M’a good kisser,” Jared says, sliding forward to reach for Jensen’s face. Jensen ducks aside and grabs Jared’s fingers with his own. “All the fan boards say so.” He leers. “Sexass.”

“Dumbass is more like it,” Jensen says, but it makes him laugh which he knows was Jared’s intention. He rubs his thumb over the back of Jared’s hand, a little amazed. He’ll let go soon. In a minute. “Can’t believe the amount of time you wasted reading that shit.”

Jared squeezes and draws Jensen’s eyes back up to him. “Don’t got time to waste anymore, Jen.”

Jensen wants to say something flip, but Jared’s looking at him like that and holding his hand and Jensen doesn’t know. He just doesn’t know. There’s no reason for them not to do this anymore. They’re not costars anymore. They don’t work together. And, given what’s going on in the world, no one’s going to know and no one’s going to care if he and Jared sleep together. He just… He’s been so careful and for so long.

But Jared’s right.

“Yeah,” Jensen says and Jared’s hand turns in his, palm to palm and pooling heat between them. “Yeah, okay.”

continued in part 2

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