Don’t Let the Sun Go Down, part 3

Categories:  Sundownverse, CW RPS


“Jared.” Jensen winces as he touches the back of his head. When he looks at his fingertips, there’s a smear of blood on his fingers. Quickly he wipes his hand on his jeans, before Jared sees. “I’m okay. I’m fine.”"You’re concussed,” Jared insists.”You don’t know that.”

“Jen…you hit your head. In the same place that fucking kid hit you. You look stoned.” Jared roots around in the pack stiffly, his jaw tight. “You’re fucking well concussed.” He comes up with a bottle of water and starts pouring it over one of the rags torn from his ruined tee-shirt.

“Hey, don’t waste it!” Jensen protests, reaching. Jared jerks it all away, spilling even more water.

“Shut up.” Jared’s voice is flat, bordering on angry. He’s been like this ever since Jensen stepped wrong and went tumbling down the steep incline to the rough ground below. “You don’t…” Jared’s lips flatten and widen, thin lines carve from his nostrils to his mouth. “You’re bleeding.”

Jared gets up onto his knees and shifts around behind Jensen, parting his hair and dabbing with the wet rag.

“No, what were you going to say?” Jensen grits his teeth as Jared hits a particularly tender spot on his skull. “Spit it out, Jay.”

Jared takes a loud breath. “Naw. Whatever. Doesn’t matter.”

“If you have something to say, then fucking say it, man. What?”

“You don’t get to be the only one who cares, Jen.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Jensen tries to twist around but Jared clamps one giant paw to either side of his head and holds him in place.

“It means… Okay, I’m sick. I know that. I know that you worry about me. But I worry too. Jesus. When you went down like that…”

“I’m fine,” Jensen says again.

“You’re concussed,” Jared repeats. “Your brain could be bleeding into your skull for all we know.”

“I didn’t hit myself that hard.” Jensen pulls out of Jared’s grip, ignoring the dizziness that swamps him at the gesture. He puts out one hand to steady himself and doesn’t look Jared in the eyes. “And I can bleed into my skull just as well five miles down the road as I can here.”

“That’s not funny.”

Jensen takes a deep breath, but it doesn’t help. “I’m not being funny,” he growls, hand fisting in the dry, brittle grass. His knuckles are scraped too, raw and red. He doesn’t even want to contemplate infection. “What the fuck do you want me to do about it, Jared?”

“I want you to sit the fuck down for five goddamned minutes and stop trying to pretend you’re okay!” Jared roars, jerking Jensen back by his shoulder. Jensen’s equilibrium is still fragile; it pulls him off balance and he falls back into Jared.

“Hey!” The sound of a new voice calling down to them makes Jensen freeze. He feels Jared stiffen behind him at the same time and reaches back for his friend.

“Jared, get me up,” he says roughly, groping his way up Jared’s forearm, trying to get his leaden feet under him. “Get me up!”

“Hey down there!” A woman, with a walking stick taller than she is, waves at them from the roadway. Her floppy hat shadows her face and hides her age. Four people behind her, all backlit in the same way, but two of them are carrying shotguns and Jensen doesn’t need to see them lit from the front to know that. “Y’all right?”

Jared helps him up and the world swings crazily around him. Jared’s arm tightens, holding him up, pressing him into Jared’s side. “Yeah, we’re fine!” he shouts up anyway.

“Fine?” Jared mutters, turning his head to look at Jensen. “We’re not fine, Jen.”

“We’re fine enough,” Jensen hisses back, but the woman is already carefully picking her way down the slope, leaning carefully on her staff. The other four leap after her like they’re startled, like they didn’t expect her to come down to them.

“Jay, we should go,” Jensen says, pushing back into Jared’s body. He really does feel unsteady on his feet and he wishes he could think clearly through the deep-seated throb in his head.

“Jensen, you’re hurt and we’ve got nowhere to go,” Jared points out, hands on either of Jensen’s arm, support and shackle both. “Besides, look at her. She’s old enough to be your…okay, well, my mom.”

“The two with guns aren’t,” Jensen says. As she gets closer, Jensen can see that the woman in the lead is gray haired and wrinkled, with bright white teeth in nut-brown skin. She looks more like someone’s aunt than someone’s mom.

“Hello!” she says again brightly. “Do you need some help?”

One of her four guardians, a plump woman with curly black hair, jumps down the last few feet of the slope to catch up and grabs the Aunt by the arm. The two with shotguns—teenagers, boy and girl—bring them up to bear on Jared and Jensen. The young woman hisses in the older woman’s ear, too soft for Jensen to hear more than the buzzing annoyance of her tone.

“Naw, we’re all right,” Jensen answers carefully, his eyes flicking from the woman to the guns and then finally back up to the hulking guy who stayed up on the roadway.

Jared’s knee presses into the back of Jensen’s thigh in pointed protest; Jensen ignores it.

“Tyler, Luis! You point those guns somewhere else, right this second!” the Aunt scolds.

“Actually, we could use a hand, if you’re offering,” Jared says at close to the same moment and if he wasn’t so busy hanging onto Jared for dear life, Jensen would’ve kicked him. “My friend’s a little banged up here.”

Jensen lifts his foot and steps on Jared’s toe. Jared’s knee jabs him again in counterargument. The shotgun kids—Tyler and Luis—look uneasy about it, glancing at the younger, curly-haired woman, but they shift the barrels of their shotguns away so they’re pointing towards the ground.

“I’m very sorry,” the Aunt says, tipping her hat back onto her neck. “The children, they mean well.” Thick sprigs of her hair spring up from the main, braided mass, white, silver, iron and black. She rakes them back carelessly and squints. “Dangerous times, no?”

“You said it,” Jensen agrees, cautiously.

“You boys armed?”

“No,” Jared answers before Jensen can decide whether to lie.

“You sick?”

“No,” Jensen answers.

“Allergies,” Jared answers right behind him. Jensen turns his head to glare and Jared gives him the wide-eyed what? look.

“Nothing contagious.” Jensen looks back to the group again.

“I don’t like it,” the curly-haired woman says, her lips pressed thin. Jensen agrees with her.

“You don’t like anything, Emily,” the Aunt chides, never taking her eyes off him and Jared. She tilts her head, dark eyes sparkling. “Think you boys can walk a bit? It’s just a couple miles to Dos Palos.”

“Jared, what the hell are we doing?” Jensen hisses as Jared helps him up the incline. “We don’t even know these people.”"Jen, if they wanted to rob us or kill us, they could have done that already. I’m not comfortable trying to travel with you all fucked up.”Jensen grits his teeth. “For the last time, I’m not all fucked up!”

It probably would have come out better if his boot hadn’t slipped on the brittle-slick grass, forcing Jared to catch him. Jared gives him the yeah, what? bitchface and half-drags Jensen the rest of the way.

Well, God, if you had to make him handsome and annoying at least you also made him strong. Thank you for that. Your son, Jensen.

“You boys look like you’ve come a long way,” the Aunt—who introduced herself at Betty—observes. Behind them, the others fume at him and Jared, at Betty, at the slow pace. Jensen’s walking under his own power, but none too fast, and Jared keeps touching the small of his back with one hand. He won’t let Jensen carry the duffle either. “It’s a bad time to travel.”"Don’t have much of a choice.” Jared ducks his head and Jensen tries to tell if Jared sounds wheezier than he did a few minutes before.”Everybody’s got a choice.”

“Yeah, well…sometimes all your choices are bad ones,” Jensen chimes in, struggling not to put an edge on his voice. Mostly he succeeds. Mostly.

Betty sighs. “True enough. True enough.” For a while, there’s only the tap of her walking stick on the pavement and the raucous caw of birds. Jared’s fingertips press briefly against Jensen’s back. Checking in.

“Why are you doing this?” Jensen asks Betty suddenly, earning a growl of disapproval from Emily behind him. “You don’t know us. We could be out to hurt you, rob you…”

“Son, you can barely walk a straight line,” Betty chuckles, patting him gently on the shoulder. “I doubt you’re going to be robbing anyone tonight. And tomorrow…well. We’ll see. Where you boys heading to?”

“Texas, eventually,” Jensen answers, letting his drawl come out full-color and giving Jared the if you don’t shut up… warning glare.

Betty draws up short, stopping in the middle of the highway and planting her walking stick on the asphalt with a wooden clunk. “Look. Son. I can look at the two of you and see you’ve had a rough time of it.” Jensen’s face ducks like he’s trying to hide the bruises still smudging his jaw. And maybe he is. “But…we’re not going to hurt you. I’m not asking you to trust me, because that’s just…well, foolish. But you can listen to me when I tell you. Not everyone in this world is like…a feral dog that’s forgotten its manners. Some of us still remember how to be human. It hasn’t been that long.”

“Feels like it sometimes,” Jared says and Jensen’s hands twitch towards fists then relax.

Betty sighs again, pulls a bottle of water from the pocket of her enormous, wide pants and takes a long, thirsty gulp. After she wipes her mouth and the lip of the bottle with her sleeve, she offers it to them. Jared takes some. Jensen doesn’t.

“Thank you,” he says anyway and means it.

“Buck was a sight bigger than you,” Emily says, shaking out the flannel shirt. She holds it up between her and Jensen and squints. “But I guess too big is better than too small, yeah?”"Why are you doing this?” Jensen asks again. He doesn’t ask what happened to Buck.New etiquette for a new world, eh?

Through the bedroom’s open door he can see Jared in the kitchen with the girl Tyler and another one of Betty’s strays that he can’t remember by name. The house is full of them, all ages, colors, backgrounds. But even though he’s not used to being around so many people—and he never liked crowds—Jensen finds himself relaxing a little. Just a little.

Tyler says something and Jared flings back his head and laughs. The sound of it booms off the white-painted walls, heartfelt and loud. Jensen keeps his voice pitched soft, just between them.

“Truth?” Emily lets the shirt dangle from one hand and rubs her eyes tiredly with the other. Though her face is round-cheeked, Jensen thinks he can see the signs of weight quickly lost. He doesn’t know how to feel about that. Should he feel better or worse that it wasn’t done for a role or an act? “Because Betty said so.”

Jensen nods and holds his hand out for the shirt. The other clothes they produced for him—jeans, tee-shirt, boxers—lay on the bed; a sight that should be commonplace and now feels like the greatest of Christmas miracles. They’re all used, old and worn with hard wear but they’re clean and whole and Jensen’s grateful.

“Look, I don’t doubt you and your boy are nice folks…” Jensen tries not to read too much into Emily calling Jared his ‘boy’, tries not to bridle and snap. “…but we’re just struggling along our ownselves.”

“And you don’t need us taking up your wash water and food and clothes,” Jensen concludes, scratching the back of his neck. His head still aches but he feels steadier on his feet and he’s not getting dizzy with every few steps.

Emily shakes her head. “It’s not you,” she admits, her lips uncompressing. Even before Jared, she wasn’t his type, but she’s got a pretty mouth, lush and dark, and gorgeous eyes. “It’s just… I love Betty like she was my own mama, but she just… She can’t save everybody. And we can’t take in every stray that comes up the highway.”

“No,” Jensen agrees. He looks down the hallway again, catches Jared looking at him. The side of Jared’s mouth crooks up in a smile and Jensen feels it, like a hand on his chest. “But you just can’t tell some people anything.”

Emily turns and follows his gaze. Jared waves at her, in full cute-puppy mode. She waves back and the lines around her eyes—just starting to etch deep—unpucker. “Ain’t it the truth,” she answers fervently and she’s got a faint smile on her face too when she looks at Jensen again. She flaps a hand at his new clothes. “Come on. I’ll get you a towel and some soap, let you get cleaned up before supper’s on.”

“See?” Jared smells of toothpaste, soap and the honey aroma of the salve Emily made them put on their bruises when he slips into the cool-sheeted bed next to Jensen. “They’re good people, Jen. We’re safe here.”Jensen thinks about arguing the point with Jared—they didn’t know Betty and her followers were ‘good people’ when they met up on the road—but the truth is that he’s exhausted, warm and sleepy with a belly full of more, better food than they’ve had in months. Sucking Jared’s cock is about the extent of his ambition for the night, not starting yet another fight about Jared’s over-trusting nature. “Yeah, Jay. They are.”Jared bends, his shaggy head blotting out the moonlight as his mouth travels lightly from Jensen’s ear, across his cheek and down to Jensen’s lips. At the same time, Jared’s palm spreads low over Jensen’s bare belly, heel pressing into his skin.

Jensen’s breath hisses out of him faintly. He wants this; wanted to have his hands on Jared pretty much all day. So when he feels Jared start to pull back, he reaches up and tangles his fingers in the freshly washed mop of Jared’s hair, producing a faint whiff of White Rain shampoo and a quiet groan. Jensen shifts on the mattress, curving toward Jared, slipping his left arm under and around Jared’s body to tug him closer.

Jared moves against him, a slow body-roll that grinds them together everywhere their skin touches.

“Jen.” Jared pulls away suddenly; Jensen blinks up at him, fingers tightening in Jared’s hair involuntarily to keep him going any further away. “Should we…? Now? I mean…”

“We can be quiet.” Jensen considers. “Okay, I can be quiet.” Jared snorts and punches Jensen’s shoulder in mock offense. Jensen grabs Jared’s wrist and squeezes. They sort of arm wrestle for dominance for a moment until the bed squeaks against the floor and Jared freezes again. “They gave us a room with one bed, Jay. I think they’ve figured out the whole ‘gay for each other’ part.”

“Yeah, guess.” Jared’s hips slip against Jensen’s again, slow and languid and the friction goes straight to Jensen’s cock. “I just…Betty reminds me of my aunt or something.” He ducks his head into the space between Jensen’s shoulder and jaw and flicks his tongue against the skin. “Mmmm. Forgot what you feel like without stubble.”

“Give it a couple hours,” Jensen chuckles. They’d only had a handful of disposable razors between the two of them and they were all worn down to almost uselessness. Jensen’s 5 o’clock shadow is a formidable opponent. He wiggles deeper into the mattress and spreads his legs, tugging and coaxing Jared on top. “C’mon, Jay. Let me suck you.”

Jared groans against Jensen’s neck, pushing his face tighter to the skin to muffle it. His fingers clutch involuntarily and the nails scratch in the hairs on Jensen’s lower belly, not quite tickling. Jensen smoothes his hand from Jared’s thick-muscled shoulder down the deep curving arc of his back before palming and kneading Jared’s strong, lean flank.

“I was…” Jared’s head comes up and Jensen’s eyes have adjusted to the darkness enough that he can make out the liquid gleam of Jared’s eyes as they flicker. “I was thinking…”

“I hope you didn’t hurt yourself.” Jensen grins and squeezes Jared’s thigh.

“Bitch,” Jared replies without heat. “No. I was just thinking…today was a really good day—”

“Barring my concussion.”

“Jen.” Jared’s fingers brush over Jensen’s mouth, stilling him. Patiently, he repeats, “It was a good day.”

“Mmph.” Fine, Jensen concedes. He spreads his hip wider, lifts his foot to drag the toes down the back of Jared’s calf, loving the way Jared’s breath hisses and catches.

“I was just th-thinking. Maybe it’s time? Maybe we…?”

“Hmmmm?” Jensen smiles against the light press of Jared’s hand over his mouth.

Jared curses and grabs Jensen’s roaming hands, pinning them flat to the mattress before his mouth comes down on Jensen’s, hard, hungry. Jensen never really got off on being manhandled, but he likes when Jared does it—not that he’s going to tell Jared any such thing.

“Let me fuck you,” Jared gasps when they finally come apart, panting into each other’s space. “I wanna fuck you, Jen. Can we?”

Jensen startles a little. He doesn’t mean to, but he wasn’t expecting this. Not yet and not after Jared’s previous hesitance to even fuck around where Betty might hear. “I…” Get it under control, Ackles. “Fucking’s a hell of a lot louder than just me sucking you off, Jay.”

“So I’ll learn to be quiet.” Jared’s tongue laps the corner of Jensen’s mouth in a sloppy half-kiss, followed by his lips pressing to the same place.


All at once, Jared pulls back and sits up on the mattress. He doesn’t go far, his hip is still pressed against Jensen’s. As Jensen props himself up on his elbows, Jared reaches between his legs and takes hold of Jensen’s cock, stroking and playing with the hardened flesh, rolling the heel of his hand over Jensen’s balls. “Jensen.” He can hear it when Jared swallows, loud in the stillness. “Look man, I don’t know what—who—there was before me, but I get that you’re skittish.”

“I’m not skittish,” Jensen protests, completely unconvincing.

Jared tilts his head and Jensen doesn’t have to guess his expression.

“Not wanting to fuck up a good thing is not the same as being skittish.” There’s more conviction in his tone this time, which is not easy, considering the slide of Jared’s fingers up and down the length of his cock. He finds his hips rocking up gently into Jared’s rhythm and tension starting to build in his thighs and sac.

“Jen… I’m not going to lie to you. There are times when I look down at myself and I’ve got your cock in my hand or my mouth and I just…” Jared shakes his head, long hair whispering across his skin. “It’s new. It’s different.” He squeezes, twists his wrist on the upstroke and Jensen’s eyes cross. “But it’s not scary. I’m not… I was thinking about this for a long time before I got the nerve to say anything to you. I’m not going to freak out. I’m not going to turn on you. I’m not…whoever it is that made you scared.”

Jensen’s hands clench. “I’m not scared.” A lie, complete and total, but better than the alternative.

Jared leans closer, until his lips are right there without actually touching Jensen’s. “Well, all right, then.”

Jared wasn’t really sure that Jensen would say yes in spite of everything, in spite of whatever magic he can muster with his hand stroking Jensen’s dick. It took him a while to get that Jensen wasn’t taking things slow just because he’s out of practice.Something about him and Jensen had clicked from the get-go, but that doesn’t mean that he understands what goes on in Jensen’s head all the time. Jensen can be….pretty closed off.But after a while, even Jared couldn’t fail to notice the tiny wire of tension that would hum through Jensen every time Jared brought up fucking. Or the way that, every time, Jensen would distract him with his mouth, or his hands, or once—oh, wow, once—with one thick finger around and then up Jared’s ass…

Just the thought of that, now, with Jensen hard and reluctant-willing under him, makes his blood hiss fast and hot through his veins, makes Jared bend his head and latch onto Jensen’s throat and suck-bite hard in this deepening, helpless want that threatens to overwhelm him.

Mine. My Jen.

Jensen cries out, claps his hand over his mouth and changes it to a grunt but Jared doesn’t really care anymore. Doesn’t care if Betty, Emily, Tyler, Luis or any of the rest of their mismatched family hears, knows. Doesn’t care if anyone does.

His fingers are slick, slippery, the lube warmed by the rising heat of his skin. Jared reaches between Jensen’s legs and rubs across his opening, feeling it pucker and shiver against his fingertips. He feels Jensen open and try to hold him.

Jared groans and sucks harder, though he knows it’s got to be hurting Jensen now. He knows there’ll be a bruise tomorrow and through the next week, purple-dark and obvious. Jensen doesn’t protest though, just pants fast and frantic, throat working against Jared’s lips; Jensen just wiggles down a little, trying to take Jared’s finger inside him and it’s good, it’s so good.

Jared lets his finger slip through the muscle and feels a shudder ripple up from Jensen’s toes, feels his body flinch away and then surge back. Salt prickles under Jared’s tongue and finally—finally—he lets go of Jensen’s throat long enough to lap at the pinheads of sweat beading up through Jen’s skin.

Jared only pumps his finger a couple times—long enough to reacquaint himself with Jensen’s prostate—before he slips out and returns with two. Jensen arches and whines and Jared is struck again by how different his voice is than when he acts like Dean, when he puts on his public face.

Jensen’s cock presses against Jared’s belly, hot, trapped, distracting, teasing friction with every push of his body into Jensen’s and Jared’s mouth waters with the desire to taste Jensen, to take that thick, swollen head into his mouth and suck.

In the next second, he realizes he can; that he and Jensen can do anything to each other, with each other, for each other. Jared’s own cock, taut with blood, demanding, lurches with the simple brilliance of it. Thrusting his fingers deeper, stroking, Jared shifts down on the bed until he’s almost hanging off the foot and takes Jensen between his lips.

For a moment, he only lips the head, dragging his bottom lip hard against the underside and feeling Jensen shudder again, this time in waves that don’t stop. Jensen’s hand plunges into Jared’s hair like it’s magnetized, gripping his skull with hard, unforgiving fingers. Jared dips his tongue into the slit, tasting bitterness like milkweed before he opens his lips and mouth, taking as much of Jensen as he can. It’s not much—or not as much as he’d like—though he keeps trying.

When Jensen arches up again, Jared feels his throat start to close around the head of his cock. He tries to breathe, tries to take it anyway, but Jensen’s tugging on his hair, choke-whispering, “Jay…Jay, please.”

Jared comes off of Jensen with a wet, sucking noise. The moment he’s not actively concentrating on not choking himself, he’s aware of his own cock again, heavy and burning-full between his legs, so rigid he thinks he could drill a hole through the wall. He thrusts his fingers piston-hard into Jensen again, his pinky brushing inquisitively against the puckered skin.

Jensen grabs his wrist. Jensen’s fingers are shaking, his whole body’s shaking. “No more,” Jensen says briefly, sounding choked. “You. I want you, Jay.”

It’s Jared’s turn to bite down on a bone-deep groan, his fingers pinching at the base of his dick to keep himself in check. They rearrange again, the bed creaking and Jared has his cock in hand, guiding himself, the sticky head kissing against Jensen’s ass when he thinks— “Shit. Jen. Condoms. We’re not…”

Jensen bends, awkward and puffing, to put his fingers over Jared’s mouth. “Shhhh. It’s okay. I trust you, Jay. Do it.”

Jared’s mouth feels so dry and his cock so wet at that. He can’t argue, can’t even speak; he only shifts on his knees and bears down and in, feeling Jensen part grudgingly around him. Jared’s fingers close in the sheet; he slither-slides forward another inch and presses in again, deeper. Jensen’s hand comes up and clamps over Jared’s forearm, his breath stuttering.

Jared turns his head to kiss Jensen’s tilted up knee and murmurs, “Let me in, baby. S’just me.”

Jensen moans and then his other hand closes around his own cock, jerking hard and furious. At the same time, something in Jensen seems to go quiet, still and limp, accepting Jared into a tight, enclosing heat that’s nothing at all like fucking girls.

Jared slides home, slow and deep, all the way to the root and then pulls out just as slow, feeling Jensen quiver and adjust around his cock, gripping and releasing. Jared’s next thrust is harder, more purposeful; Jensen moves to meet him, hands still flexing rhythmically on Jared’s arm, on his own cock.

Jared wants to kiss Jensen, wants to fuck his mouth with his tongue like he’s fucking Jensen’s ass—steady now, burying himself to the base—but he can’t quite figure it out, his weight braced on his knees and one arm. With his other hand, he pushes Jensen’s knee out, spreading him wider, opening him up and Jensen hitches and moans, head flung back on the pillow.

“Jay, I’m gonna…” Jensen whispers and then squeaks, startled and almost-pained as his dick spurts and spills, hard enough to splash all the way to his neck, his chin. Inside, Jensen’s like a seizure, clamping and shaking, dragging and slurring on Jared’s cock. Jared can’t even thrust anymore, just pushing in and in and in, grinding and rubbing himself in Jensen until his sac tightens and his own orgasm smashes him into pieces and then presses him flat. Jared turns his face into Jensen’s up-tilted thigh again, biting and sucking to keep himself from screaming, from going insane.

Jared laughs when the last of the aftershocks shivers its way out of him, shaky, relieved, replete and happy.

“Get off me,” Jensen says. He’s using Dean’s voice again, trying to sound gruff, but it only makes Jared laugh harder. “What so fucking funny?”

“You.” Jared stretches, finally able to bend and bring Jensen up to his mouth. The kiss is slow, sloppy, lazy. “This. Us. Think we woke anyone?”

Jared eases out slowly, hissing each time Jensen shifts and twitches. He’s always so freaking sensitive after he comes. Jensen makes a noise, almost a gasp, when Jared’s cock head is stretching him wide, right before he slips free completely.

Jared collapses next to Jensen with a groan, his arms and legs stiff and grateful for the change in position. He should probably get up and clean himself off. Now that it’s over, he feels gross again, rank with sweat and sticky-messy with their combined fluids. On the other hand, he’s not sure he can move from this spot, let alone all the way across to the bathroom.

“If we did, I think we gave them a hell of a show,” Jensen answers, making lazy swipes down his chest, his belly.

Jared puts his hand over Jensen’s. “So…you’re okay? It was okay?”

The pillow rustles as Jensen turns his head to look at him.

Jared feels his blush heat his skin. “Dude. Can we pretend that was a lot less girly?”

Jensen laughs, quiet but rich. “Yeah, all right, Jaredina.”


Another chuckle; Jensen rolls toward Jared and holds his face in both hands before kissing him again, suckling and nibbling on Jared’s lower lip, deep, slow delves of his tongue. When Jared is thoroughly into it, pushing languidly against Jensen’s hip, Jensen pulls back. “Bitch.” Even in the dark, Jared can see Jensen’s smirk, the flash of his white teeth. “Or is this the part where I call you ‘daddy’ and coo about your monster cock?”

Jared snorts. He can feel Jensen shaking with silent laughter too and after a few seconds, they both bust up, hanging onto each other and trying real hard to stay quiet.

“You’re such an asshole,” Jared says, when they’re down to the occasional snort and chuckle.

“Well, yeah,” Jensen says, curling up in the curve of Jared’s body and starting to slur as he slips closer to sleep. “S’why you love me.”

It’s like a stone dropping in water, the ripples of Jensen’s kidding words rebounding off the inside of his skin. It feels like realization. It feels like something that was always knocking around in the back of his mind. “Yeah. I do.”

Jensen’s only answer is a faint snore.


“So you boys’ll be going on to where? Texas?” Betty cradles her tea mug in surprisingly youthful hands, only beginning to smudge with liver spots. Even though it’s barely after dawn and he and Jared look like they just rolled out of bed (well, they have), Betty is dressed and her hair neatly braided for the day ahead, though a few strands near her temples look like they might make a break for it sometime soon.”Eventually,” Jensen says again, turning his fork around in his fingers. Betty’s made breakfast for them; a ridiculously large pile of pancakes—which Jared is currently tearing his way through—and a pitcher of slightly sour orange juice. “We were thinking of heading to LA first.”"S’there been any news from down that way?” Jared asks, muffled by his mouthful of pancakes and dribbling crumbs over his chin. “Er. Excuse me,” Jared apologizes promptly, trying to swallow and catch the excess at the same time.

Betty laughs, warm and delighted. “Not much,” she admits. “Hasn’t been too many coming up from that way and none of us go so far as that. My friend LeRoy’s been running…a kind of business out of his old pick-up, doing salvage runs, trying to find stuff, or people or just bringing news back and forth…and hey, there’s a thought.”

“What’s that?”

Betty’s short nails tap on the ceramic of her mug. “Well, if you boys aren’t in too big a hurry, LeRoy’s supposed to be back in a day or two. If you think you can wait that long, I bet he’d give you a ride most or all the way down to LA.”

Jared looks at him and Jensen can almost see the hope spring up in Jared’s eyes, though he does a better job of schooling his face. “That would be great,” Jensen answers, still having a hard time believing in all this kindness after the trip they’ve had. “But we don’t have any money.”

“Pshht.” Betty makes a face and waves her hand at him. “What good would money do us at this point anyhow, ‘cept look pretty hung up on my wall?”

Jensen shakes his head. “No…I mean, we don’t have anything to trade, even. We can’t pay.”

Betty puts her hand over his wrist and it takes a little effort not to pull away. Just a little. “I’m sure me and LeRoy can work something out, if it comes to that.”

“You shouldn’t have to do that,” Jared protests, licking syrup from the corners of his mouth and looking more like the world’s biggest cat than the puppy Jensen normally compares him to. “Jensen and I can find a way. Maybe we can talk to LeRoy, help out with the heavy lifting or something.”

Betty smiles. “Well, why don’t we see when LeRoy gets here? Either way, I’m sure we can do something to get you boys down to LA safe and sound. And it’s the least I can do, after all the pleasure you boys brought me Thursday nights on your little TV show.”

Jensen chokes on his pancakes.

Jensen suspects he was unconsciously expecting LeRoy to be a six foot-nine black man the size of a linebacker, but he turns out to be a grizzled stick of a guy about Jensen’s height and probably a few years older than Jensen’s dad.Jensen doesn’t know what Betty did, said or agreed to, but by the time he and Jared come in from helping Emily, her sister Jade and the mute giant Sayid with doing the house’s laundry by hand, arrangements are already a done deal for LeRoy to give them a ride into LA.”Well,” LeRoy allows, scratching the back of his neck with a sound like sandpaper, “most of the way, anyhow. To the barricades.”

“Barricades?” Jared looks at Jensen and Jensen knows he’s thinking of Canada.

“Yeah. They’re unmanned and there’s no trouble getting through, far as I can tell, long as you’re on foot. But…well. The Angel, she’s always been kind of weird, you know? Weirder since everything’s done gone to shit.”

“LeRoy,” Betty says mildly.

“Well, it has,” LeRoy says, but his neck blushes red like sunburn. “Anyhow, haven’t felt safe leaving my truck for some punk thug to steal and haven’t felt like braving the weird to find out how things really stand. S’mostly stories.” He takes a loud slurp of the ersatz coffee that Betty made just for him and Jensen’s stomach clenches in longing.

“What kind of stories?”

LeRoy shrugs. “All kinds of crazy shi…” He glances at Betty, who only smiles, amused. “…crazy stuff,” LeRoy amends. “That the military’s taken over. That Schwarzenegger took over with a squad of mercenaries he brought up from Bolivia. That Spielberg and a coalition of Jews are running the place. Nobody knows. But it’s not like it was.”

“What is the government doing?” Jared asks finally and there’s a helpless frustration in his voice that makes Jensen curl his fingers tighter around his own jelly glass of sun tea. “I mean… When we first came across we’d see military patrols, but lately… There’s nothing.”

Betty shrugs. “Don’t know. There were troops up the city for a while, trying to keep the peace, but no one knows what happened to them when it all burned. TV’s been gone for a few months now, even if we had the juice to run it, which we don’t, and what we’ll do when we run out of gas for the genny, I don’t know. Pedro—Luis’s father—has a shortwave set, but there’s been nothing but automated messages for weeks.”

“Same with the phones,” LeRoy agrees. “All the same thing: ‘Everything is under control, keep calm and stay put’.” LeRoy snorts, loud and contemptuous. “Far as I can tell, not a goddamn thing is under control.”

“LeRoy,” Betty chides again, but she doesn’t sound like she means it. Under the table, Jared’s knee touches Jensen’s, Jared chafes his leg up and down for a moment and Jensen presses back.

“That Betty…she’s a good ‘un,” LeRoy says suddenly, pulling Jensen out of the quietness of his mind. “You boys were lucky to come across her.”"Betty’s great,” Jensen agrees and doesn’t have to act to put sincerity in his voice. He fumbles for what else to say, never much good with words unless someone else was putting them in his mouth.”We’re real grateful to her, taking us in like that,” Jared adds, jumping to his rescue same as always. “To everyone. We sure weren’t expecting it.”

“That’s not a bad thing.” LeRoy unscrews the top of the thermos Betty put into his hands when they left and slops a little coffee into the stained cup. “Won’t find too many like her these days. Gotta be on your guard.”

“Oh, we found that out the hard way,” Jared agrees, touching the bruises on his jaw that have yet to entirely fade.

“If we run across trouble, s’a .38 in the glove box.” LeRoy nods towards the dashboard. “And a baseball bat back behind the seat. I’ll take the rifle.”

Jensen shifts in the seat and Jared’s leg presses tighter against his. There hadn’t been room for either of them to ride in the truck bed, all filled up with junky odds and ends and so they’re mashed together in the cab. Jared, with his longer legs, got shotgun and Jensen got stuck sitting bitch. He tries not to read too much into that. “Got a reason to expect trouble?” he asks cautiously, his voice falling into Dean’s lower, gruffer registers without him meaning to. A part of him hates that he does it—can’t stop doing it—but it’s been his coping mechanism for so long, he doesn’t know how else to be.

LeRoy snorts and takes another slurp of his coffee. “Always expecting trouble,” he allows. “Just don’t always find it. Folks are just desperate and there isn’t much desperate folks won’t do. You sure you boys got your mind dead set on LA? ‘Cause I bet Betty’d take you in without too much asking.”

“LA’s home,” Jared says and the tone in his voice makes Jensen push against his thigh harder, half reassurance, half for his own comfort. “Or close enough, anyhow. We’ve got family. Friends.”

LeRoy tops off his coffee again—and Jared’s got to admire the way the truck never wavers, not once, while he does it—and offers the cup to them both. Jensen takes a fast belt. It hits his taste buds like a mini-orgasm, even freeze-dried Folgers doctored up with chicory and acorn powder. Jared doesn’t want any, but Jensen shoves it at him again, knowing that the caffeine will help ease Jared’s swollen lungs. Or, it always did for Jensen’s asthmatic cousin Randy. “Well, I guess you two aren’t the first ones out and about on that particular quest. Won’t be the last. The two of you together?”

There’s no censure in LeRoy’s tone, nothing Jensen hears other than genuine curiosity—and he’s got long years of experience and paranoia behind him to tell. Even so, all that time—of being quiet, silent, on the down low (ashamed)—means he can’t summon his voice to speak, even if he could figure out the right answer, which Jensen’s not sure he knows.

Or at least, that’s what he blames his surprise and gratitude on when Jared reaches out and puts his hand on Jensen’s thigh and says firmly, “Yeah. We are.”

“Jesus,” Jensen breathes and Jared turns to see Jensen cross himself quickly and reflexively, his eyes wide, shocked.Jared doesn’t blame him. He feels a little gut-punched himself.LeRoy dropped them off at the barricades, as promised, and they’d walked into LA on the 101. Somehow, the sight of the highway, deserted and cleared of any vehicles was nearly as terrifying as the day they’d almost been killed. Jared hadn’t kicked around LA as long as Jensen, but you didn’t have to, to know the 101 was never deserted, any hour of day or night. And in his heart, Jared hoped that sight, that final emphasis on how drastically and fundamentally the world has changed, would be the worst LA had to throw at them.

But now this.

Jared’s been to Union Station before. Or, he’s been past it on more than a few occasions, touristing it up with his family or friends from Texas when they came into town. And in one sense, it looks exactly the same as always.

Jared remembers after the Towers fell, the huge boards of notices and pictures and fragile, sad memorials. But that had been on TV; tragic, certainly, but at once removed. It’s different now, right in front of him, in his city. It’s different when it’s Union Station’s white walls stuccoed and wallpapered in fluttering sheaves of multicolored, silent pleas.

If Jensen had been Sandy, Jared would have reached out for her hand. As it is, he just crowds a little closer into Jensen’s shoulder and feels Jensen push back.

LA’s home to almost four million people, but most of the time, that’s only a number in Jared’s head. He feels how many people that is now, seeing all those scraps of paper stapled, taped, glued, gummed onto the walls. The doors are open and through them, Jared can see more notices inside, all down the long sunlit interior, as well as more people than they’ve seen in one place since Canada.

Jared looks at Jensen again, who still looks completely overwhelmed. Jared shoves his own freak-out to the back of his mind, puts his hand on Jensen’s shoulder with a hard, reassuring squeeze and asks, “Where do we start?”

It seems almost inconceivable that Chad is still living in the same hillside bungalow he had before.Must be fucking nice. Jared immediately feels ashamed at begrudging one of his best friends a break. If he and Jensen had been in LA when the end began, they’d probably be doing okay too.Jared watches Jensen out of the corner of his eye while they carefully make their way to an address Jared knows by heart, wondering if this is as strange for him as it is for Jensen. The neighborhoods are familiar, small shops and markets are open—if doing less than brisk business—but Jared still feels like he’s in the Twilight Zone. Few people are actually on the street. Those who are wear surgical masks and gloves (some more elaborate than others and marked with designer logos) and keep a more than healthy distance between themselves and other pedestrians.

Before long, he realizes both he and Jensen are getting sharp, suspicious glances from passersby because they’re not wearing protective gear. The lesson of the last few months beats at him: Different is bad. Attracting notice is bad. He feels naked and exposed, his throat dry and aching with tension.

Although there are people about, cars on the streets and the more-or-less usual noises of everyday life, LA still feels like a ghost of its former self. The roads aren’t clogged with traffic and there aren’t any buses at all, the signs pulled down, leaving gaping holes in the pavement. Jared guesses no one wants to be that close to another person and no wonder.

Jared picks up the pace and Jensen frowns at him, bouncing to sit the duffle strap more comfortably across his shoulder. “Yo. What’s up, Jay?”

“I just want to get to Chad’s and find out what the fuck’s up here. This is… I don’t know…morbid.” Jared shifts his gaze to an empty playground, void of children, a swing creaking in the slight breeze. Jensen looks behind them, then turns to walk backwards next to Jared.

“I know.” Jensen’s voice is pitched low enough for only Jared. “I keep feeling like someone is following us—or we’re being watched. It’s creeping me the fuck out. But you gotta chill.”

Nothing freaks Jared out, though, quite like the dog that dashes out of nowhere into their path, snarling and flashing yellowed teeth. His automatic reaction is to approach him—he looks so much like Harley it makes Jared’s breath catch.

Jared stoops down, arm held out for the dog to sniff but Jensen’s right there tugging him up and shoving his arm down, taking a step toward the animal. Not for the first time, Jared notices how Jensen keeps putting himself between any and all danger and Jared. It warms something inside him as much as he resents it, being coddled. “Jen—”

“No, he’s mad, Jay. Look at him.” To the agitated canine he swings his duffle out threateningly and yells, “Go on! Get!”

Jared is relieved when the dog backs down, tail between its legs. It slinks back into the alley from which it came and Jared breathes a sigh of relief it wasn’t any worse than that. He keeps looking over his shoulder, though, until they get to Chad’s street.

As they leave the less affluent sections of town behind and head into the hills, Jared’s yanked back into the time before Supernatural was canned. Before he and Jensen were forced to flee the world’s friendliest country.

It’s like time’s stopped. You’d never know there was a thing wrong with the world looking at the neat, professionally trimmed gardens and grounds of the rich and famous. A woman comes jogging toward them in her perfectly coordinated outfit, stylish ponytail bouncing. Even with the gloves and mask—also coordinated with her purple-blue track suit—it could be any other day in Los Angeles. The woman’s eyes widen and she crosses the street hurriedly when she spots them.

Jared knows they look like shit. He’d probably go the other way, too.

Jared sighs and curves a hand around the back of Jensen’s neck, squeezing briefly. Not for any reason. Just because he wants to, to reassure himself that Jensen’s really there and this isn’t some kind of crazy hallucinogenic dream. “Come on, Chad’s place is just around the corner. We better get off the street before they arrest us.” He’s not sure who they are or on what grounds they’d be arrested, but he’s sure they’re out there. Things don’t run this smooth without a they behind the wheel.

Jensen stops when they reach the corner and turn right. He pulls Jared into the shade under a huge magnolia limb that’s hanging over the high fence of an estate.

“What are you going to tell Chad?”

Jared’s momentarily confused. “What do you mean? I’m gonna tell him we got kicked out of Canada and we need a place to stay until we can get it together enough to go home.” Jared knows he’s looking at Jensen as if he’s lost his mind, but he can’t help it.

“What else are we going to tell him?” Jensen’s bouncing on his heels, the way he does when he’s irritated.

“What do you mean?”

Jensen rolls his eyes as if Jared’s being especially dense. “What I mean,” Jensen hisses, “is what are you going to say about us?”

Oh. The light bulb goes off and it’s Jared’s turn to roll his eyes. “Well, I really wasn’t planning on telling him anything, but if the subject came up, I was going to tell him the truth.” Jared thinks maybe Jensen is getting too paranoid, but doesn’t dare voice that.

Jensen tilts his head to the side as if he’s studying their situation from all angles.

“Trust me on this one, ‘k? Chad’s got no wiggle room to be casting judgment and he’s not that kind of guy anyway.”

Jensen snorts and Jared feels that same, vague sense of irritation. “Jen…What’s he going to do, call the queer police on us? Come on, now. Quit worrying about it. Chad’s not that guy.”

Finally, it appears Jared’s earnest belief in Chad is enough and Jensen nods. “Don’t even try to stop me if he starts running at the mouth, though, Jay. You know how I feel about him and if there’d been anyone, anyone, else on that board we knew, we wouldn’t be here.”

Jared opens his mouth to defend his friend, then shuts it, lips pressed firmly into a straight line of restraint. Jensen’s attitude toward Chad isn’t anything new. Jared accepted that his two best friends weren’t going to mesh shortly after Jared’d introduced Chad to his co-star almost three years ago. The stress of their current circumstances sure isn’t going to change that.

He just hopes he’s not going to be put in the position of referee, or worse, have to choose between them. Not that there’s any contest; he just hates to hurt anyone’s feelings. Enough people have been hurt from this thing already and they’re all running low on friends.

Jensen seems to have it in check for the moment, though and pretty soon they’re in front of Chad’s front gate.

Jared’s not sure why he’s hesitant to push the intercom button. Finally, something’s going right and it looks like they can start sorting things out now and get on with their lives.

The decision’s made for him when Jensen reaches across and jams his forefinger into the button, which buzzes harshly, distantly. Jensen just shrugs when Jared gives him a funny look. “What? I’m hungry.”

Jared smiles and cups his hand behind Jensen’s neck again, giving the same squeeze of reassurance. “Yeah, I hope he’s been to the store recently. Chad’s not known for that. It could be ketchup and mustard sandwiches.”

“Even that sound good right now,” Jensen laughs.

Jared’s nervousness shifts to irritation tinged concern when there’s no answer. Of course, there’s every possibility that Chad isn’t home. But something doesn’t feel right and it’s making Jared’s throat itch.

Jared swallows thickly. “Try the gate,” he tells Jensen, who’s leaning against the brick pillar supporting the black wrought iron fencing.

Jensen pushes and quirks an eyebrow at Jared when the gate swings open slowly with a squeak that sounds overloud in the still, sleepy afternoon. Jared shrugs and shoves the gate wider to walk through.

Inside, the lawn—LA sized and barely large enough for Jared to lie down on—is overgrown and drought-stricken. Banana trees have taken over the flowerbeds surrounding the house, climbing and spreading all the way past the first floor windows.

A rustle of dried weeds makes Jared turn in time to see a skinny, malnourished cat pounce on an unfortunate field mouse.

“Do you hear that?” Jensen asks, almost whispering. Jared draws his attention back to their surroundings and shakes his head.

“No, I don’t hear nothing.”

“Exactly.” Jensen looks up into the ungroomed trees, shading his eyes with one hand. “When have you ever been in LA when you didn’t see any birds? And out here in the ‘burbs? With damn near nobody around? They should be freaking taking over.”

Jared’s skin prickles and a shiver runs through him that has nothing to do with the temperature. Jensen’s right, nailing one of the things that’s been bothering him all this time. It’s downright eerie.

They trot up the drive to the glass-fronted door. Jared’s more relieved than he’ll admit when he sees Chad’s Wrangler angled crookedly toward the house in its usual parking spot. “I think he’s home.”

Before either can knock, Jared sees a shadow of someone moving inside. “Yeah, here he comes now.” He squints, trying to make out the figure as it draws closer to the door. Yeah, that looks like Chad’s skinny ass.

Jared’s already grinning when the door swings open. Chad comes barreling out of the house in a rush and steps on Jensen’s toe. Jensen jerks and curses.

“What the fuck?” Chad flinches back with a frown, groping at the back of his pants with his one free hand. Recognition clears his face a second later—though not before Jared spots the gun resting low in the small of Chad’s back—and Chad drops the case in his other hand to envelop Jared in a huge bear hug. “Jared, holy shit. Man. Oh, dude, am I glad to see you!”

Jared breaks the embrace and steps back to Jensen’s side, wary of the undercurrent that saturates the air when Jensen and Chad are together. Jensen’s freaked out enough about everything else; he wants Jensen to know he’s with him.

Chad sticks his hand out to Jensen. “Jensen. Man, hey. Good to see you too.” Jared’s kind of impressed; it sounds heartfelt. The two men shake and Jensen smiles. It looks equally sincere and Jared feels his stomach unclench a little. He was, maybe, more tense about this than he was willing to admit.

“Good to see you, Chad. Looks like you’re doing all right.” Jared searches Jensen’s face for any trace of sarcasm, but he sounds genuinely glad of Chad’s good fortune.

“Aw, fuck, man. You wouldn’t believe what’s it like.” Chad sweeps his hand across what used to be his perfectly manicured patio and lawn. “I’m lucky to still have the house, lemme tell you. It’s gotten fucking weird around here.”

Jared laughs and shakes his head. “Yo, you do not even know weird. Wait till we tell you what we’ve been through to get here.” Already Jared feels the tension of the past weeks draining from his shoulders and neck. They made it. They’re really here. And they’re really okay. He can start to imagine a normal—or relatively normal—life again. With Jensen. And Texas doesn’t seem so far away anymore.

“Hey, I’d love to hear all about it, but I gotta make a run.” Chad picks the case back up and clenches the leather handles. “Can you guys come back later? Where you staying?”

Jensen scratches the back of his neck and Jared clears his throat a couple of times, which causes Jensen to jerk a sharp look in his direction. Jared shakes his head, not wanting Jensen to worry. It’s just nerves, he’s sure.

“We’re not exactly staying anywhere. We just hit town this morning and… man, we damn walked here from Vancouver.”

Chad lets the words sink in, his eyes narrowing against the late afternoon sun, then steps back up to the front door and opens it.

“You’re shitting me, right?” he asks as he steps back into the cool, shady interior, motioning them in. Setting the bag back down near the door, he heads to the kitchen, leaving Jared and Jensen to follow. Jared touches his fingers briefly to Jensen’s back and for a second—less than a second—Jensen pushes back into the touch.

“Man, I wish we were,” Jensen chimes in. Both of them drop onto the barstools in front of Chad’s breakfast bar. “We weren’t sure… Couple times we didn’t think we were going to make it, Chad.”

The use of his name, rather than the expected ‘dude’ or ‘man’ makes Chad turn from the open refrigerator where he’s pulling out meat, cheese and bottled water.

“That bad?” Chad looks at Jared for confirmation.

“Yeah. That bad,” Jared answers. Jensen’s knee rubs against his.

Chad pulls a loaf of bread down from the cabinet, knives to slice it and puts all of it on the counter for them to help themselves. He doesn’t have to offer twice. Breakfast at Betty’s was a long time ago.

“Look. I really do have to go do this thing.” Chad waves his arm vaguely. “I’ll be a couple hours, maybe a little more, depending. But, you guys can stay here till I get back and then we’ll figure it out. Hell, you can move in with me if you want. There’s enough room.”

Jared nods, already shoveling a huge hunk of pale yellow cheese in his mouth. Cheddar, and like Heaven. Jensen lays his knife down carefully and assembles a sandwich.

“What’s your wife gonna think about that?” Jensen asks as Jared swallows.

“Hey. Yeah. Chad, where’s Kenzie?” When Chad doesn’t answer immediately, Jared’s eyes widen and his mouth forms a surprised O. “She’s okay, right?”

“Yeah, she’s fine.” Chad holds up a hand. “She’s just down south, staying with her parents in Santa Monica.” He busies himself with his own sandwich while talking. “Things just got a bit too much for her, s’all. LA was…a little scary for a minute, you know? I get down there a few times a week. I…uh…have stuff going on here in the city and need to stay close by.”

Jared nods, accepting his explanation and they all chew in silence for a moment. Then Chad’s gaze lights on Jensen and he frowns.

“Dude, what the hell happened to your neck? Looks like you got attacked by a leech,” Chad snort-laughs before shoving more sandwich into his mouth. “Who the hell you find to fuck, all the way out in the wasteland?”

Jared looks at Jensen, horrified and embarrassed, and watches the blush spread across Jensen’s face. Jared’s pretty sure his matches, his face burning hot. The two of them couldn’t look more guilty.

Chad looks from one of them to the other a few times before his mouth falls open, displaying a disgusting half-chewed hunk of meat and pasty white bread. When he finally shuts his mouth, Jared braces himself.

“No fucking way, dude!” Chad cackles, high-pitched and piercing. “‘Fess up, bitches! Y’all get a bit lonely on the long fucking road from Canadia? Okay. Now. Who’s catching and who’s pitching?” He puts his hand over his heart and looks soulfully at Jared. “Jared. My man. Please tell me you weren’t the one playing bitch.”

“Oh my God, Chad, shut the fuck up.” Jared leans over the bar to shove his friend and Chad leans back against the opposite counter, dissolved into helpless giggles. “You are such a douche.”

Jensen is denying everything and Chad is laughing harder now, holding up his hand in a I’m not buying it, Ackles way.

Jensen’s getting angry red-faced and Jared inhales to tell Chad off for real, but it just goes all wrong down his throat. His breath catches, hitching wildly and then he starts coughing. Jensen immediately turns his full attention to Jared, wrapping both arms around him to keep him from falling off the barstool.

“Fuck! Shit! No, Jay, not now….we don’t have anything. Breathe, baby. Come on. Take it slow. Listen to me. Look at me. You have to relax, Jay. You have to breathe. Slow.” Jensen’s words penetrate through the attack and Jared tries. He tries so hard to stop coughing long enough to draw a steady, shallow breath. But the panic won’t let him and he pleads with Jensen with his eyes. Please don’t let me die.

Chad come around to their side and stands there, first looking confused, then helpless as he watches Jared choking in front of him.

“It’s allergies isn’t it?” he says. Jared can barely hear him over the soothing sound of Jensen’s voice and can’t really manage to even do so much as nod his head, gasping and fighting for every sip of air.

“Yeah,” Jensen answers for him, his voice quiet. “Fuck, we used all our meds and pens and shit, I was praying he wouldn’t have another one till we could restock.”

Jared topples slowly from the bar stool, unable to keep himself upright, unable to do anything but concentrate on getting what tiny bit of air he can through his swollen passageway. Chad’s hands join Jensen’s and they ease him down to the tiled floor, his body half in Jensen’s lap.

“Breathe, baby. Breathe for me. Come on. You can do it….”

“Here. Try this.”

Jared turns his head away when something hard presses against his lips, blocking his mouth. Then Jensen is holding his head still and looking down at him intently.

“Jay, stop it. It’s an inhaler. Stop fighting.”

Jared gasps and tries. Chad shoves the plastic piece between his blue lips, between his teeth and Jared hears the hiss of spray. The chemical-ozone odor of albuterol fills his mouth. He lets it flow around inside before swallowing, trying to get it down his throat. Chad presses the inhaler down again and another dose is administered before it’s pulled from his mouth.

Jared’s able to suck in enough air now to allow the inhaler’s load to do its job. Two minutes later he’s laying curled on Jensen’s lap and the floor, gratefully gulping deep, fresh breaths of air. He feels the itch of drying tears on his skin and reaches up to scrub at his face.

Jensen’s still there, one hand under Jared’s head and the other pressed lightly to Jared’s chest. “Y’okay now?” Jared shudders at the fear he reads in Jensen’s voice and expression.

He nods, clears the last of the mist from his throat and tries to sit up. “Yeah,” Jared croaks. Coughs and tries again. “Yeah. Thanks.” He looks from Jensen to Chad, who kneels on the hard ceramic tile beside him.

“You had inhalers?” Jared asks with something like wonder. For some reason Chad looks nervous or embarrassed or something Jared can’t quite put his finger to.

“Someone left it here. I figured I’d better keep it, you know…with the shit and all that’s going on. It’s pretty fucking valuable.”

Jared knows Chad well enough to know he’s lying, but the times have changed and he realizes that maybe he shouldn’t be asking so many questions. “Yeah, tell me about it,” he says instead, heartfelt.

“Thanks, man.” Jensen’s gratitude is mirrored in his eyes and he holds his hand out, a peace offering of sorts.

“No problem,” Chad tries to brush it off, but Jensen takes Chad’s hand with a firm shake. Chad looks embarrassed as he stands and busies himself picking up the food and putting it back in the refrigerator.

“Look, I’m kinda late already. Gotta run out. But you guys make yourself at home. Take a shower, relax, take a nap. Whatever. I might… I might be able to help you when I get back.”

Jared sits up, shifts to lean back against the kitchen wall. Jensen follows Chad to the door, trying to find out what he means but there’s no pressing Chad when he’s being secretive or busy or both. Jensen comes back in the kitchen shaking his head.

“Why do I think that boy is up to something illegal or immoral or both?”

Jared smiles and hefts his considerable self up from the floor and chugs half a bottle of water down before capping it and putting it back in the fridge. “Uh, because we know Chad?” he jokes. “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a real shower with warm water. Come on, bathroom’s this way.”

It’s dark when Jared hears the grumble of Chad’s Jeep and rouses himself. They fell asleep almost as soon as they hit the sheets, exhausted from the day’s travels and Jared’s health crisis in the kitchen. Jared feels dry-mouthed and thick, like he’s slept way longer than the few hours he knows it’s been.He places his lips next to Jensen’s ear and whisper-licks, “Chad’s back.”Jensen groans and rolls over, then stretches and groans louder. “Oh fuck, that was good. About another forty hours and I’ll be caught up.”

Jared heartily concurs as long as those forty hours are made up of the same stuff of the last three. Sex and sleep. Making love with Jensen in a real bed, with soft, clean sheets was pure bliss and he pretty much just wanted to stay right where they were, wallowing in it.

“Yo! Dudes! You better not be fucking in my bed,” comes the loud voice from the front of the house.

Jensen chuckles, hoarse and gravelly from sleep and Jared can’t resist leaning over for another thorough kiss. Jensen makes a surprised noise, but is more than willing to go along with the agenda before he pulls back to shout: “Keep your pants on, Murray, we only fucked in your shower.”

Chad groans. “Aw, man. I didn’t need to know that.”

Jared smirks at Jensen before throwing the covers back. “You’re a real bitch, aren’t you?” The words hold nothing but good humor, but Jensen swats him across the ass anyway. Jared shakes it in Jensen’s general direction then drags his jeans back on.

They find Chad in the kitchen, which seems to be the de facto gathering room. Jared thinks he looks really tired. A second later, he amends his opinion. Not just tired. Chad looks exhausted and tense, a lot like he did when the really ugly shit was going down with Sophia, just before the divorce.

“Everything okay?” Jared asks, already making himself at home by opening the refrigerator for round two of dinner.

“Yeah, sure. Why wouldn’t they be?” Chad’s tone is breezy and when Jared turns around to look at him, Chad still looks edgy but with his normal arrogant tilt.

Jared gives Chad a look: Defensive much?, but lets it drop.

“So, what were you going to tell us that’s gonna help with…” Jared trails off, unexplainably reluctant to name his malady.

“Can you help us get Jared some more meds?” Jensen takes over, settling himself on the stool next to Chad.

If Chad looked tense a moment before, Jared would say he looks downright apprehensive now.

Chad chews on his thumb and spits a bit of nail out on the kitchen floor. Jared grimaces. Gross.

“Okay, look. Here’s the thing. I know some people…” Chad seems to be finding the pattern on the marble countertop more interesting than life and Jared gets impatient.

“Dude, spit it out. What’s the deal? I know it’s not going to be cheap, if that’s what you’re worried about….”

Chad cuts him off. “No, no, I mean, well, yeah, it’s not cheap. I guess. . .” He shrugs and Jared gets the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Seeming to finally make up his mind to tell them, Chad takes a deep breath. “There’s this place, run by these people. High rollers, you know? They’re really the go-to guys in LA right now. And you can get all the stuff you need from them. Shit, you can get pretty much anything you need. But…” Chad licks his lips. “There’s a price. And it’s not cheap.”

“Could you be any more fucking vague?” Jensen asks, exasperated. “What people? What place? What do we have to do to get Jared his stuff?”

“I don’t know,” Chad admits, shrugging. “It really depends. On how they think you’d be useful. What good you can be to them.”

“Huh?” Jensen’s eyes narrow like he can read Chad’s mind and get his answers.

“So…what? Is this like the Godfather? They do us a favor and then at some point, they come back to us wanting something done?” Jared jokes, trying to diffuse the tension between the other two. “Am I going to have to make someone sleep with the fishes?”

“I don’t know,” Chad says, sounding miserable as he hunches his shoulders, hands stuffed in his pockets. “It just depends.”

Jared just stands there, dumbfounded and absolutely certain he did not just hear what he thought he heard.

“I’m not killing anyone,” Jensen says immediately. “I’m not…I can’t do that.” Jensen looks at him and Jared sees the darkness in Jensen’s bright eyes. “I’m sorry, Jay. Not even… I can’t do that.”

“No,” Jared agrees, shaking his head. “Course not. Jesus, Chad, who are we talking about anyway? Where is this place?”

Chad shrugs again. “The guys who can get you what you need,” he says plainly. “Look…I know it’s not the best situation, but in case you hadn’t noticed, things are kind of fucked up now. And simple shit like aspirin’ll damn near cost you and an arm and a leg, let alone Sudafed or inhalers like that one or epipens. Mostly you can’t even get your hands on this shit without going to these people. And most folks can’t even get that far. You have to know somebody. I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is.”

Jared sighs. “All right. Let’s go see them.” He sees Jensen open his mouth to object. “Jen.” Jared holds out his hand. “We don’t have to agree to anything. It’s just to see.”

“I just…” Jensen’s mouth pinches. “Yeah. Okay. What the fuck? We need the medicine, right? I just don’t like it.”

“Yeah.” Jared snorts. “Well, for the record, I don’t either. But like you said. What the fuck?”

continued in part 4

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