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Title: Reflections from the Precipice
Author: paleogymnast
Fandom: J2 RPS
Characters: Jared/Jensen; with Sandy McCoy and the Padalecki and Ackles families
Genre: Slash, Angst, h/c, with a big side of Schmoop
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: language; discussion of illness
Word Count: 5,979
Disclaimer: This isn’t real; never happened. Written for fun, not profit. All characters belong to themselves and no harm is intended.
A/N 1: This can be read as a stand-alone fic, but if you’d like to read more, this is set in my reallymet!verse between Five Conversations and “All That’s Left are the Words.”
A/N 2: Great big thanks to the marvelous and talented calamitycrow for the awesome beta, suggestions, and cheerleading! All remaining mistakes are my own.
Summary: Jensen’s been sick, Jared’s been thinking, and Sandy has a proposal that might change all their lives. This is the story of how Jared and Jensen got engaged.

January 2008:

Jared sat on the plush, blue couch in the living room of their house in Vancouver with Jensen’s head cradled on his lap, his fingers carding gently through Jensen’s too long hair, breathing slowly, relaxing inch-by-inch with each rise and fall of Jensen’s chest. He was facing the glass French doors that led to the cedar deck and backyard beyond. The dogs were still playing out there in the winter afternoon twilight, Sadie’s tail wagging in excitement as she barked and darted away from Harley’s goofy, lumbering body, their enthusiastic play keeping them warm. But Jared’s attention was wholly consumed by Jensen’s sleeping form.

Jensen still looked too thin, dark circles under his eyes, his skin pale with the vestiges of sickness. Jared let his fingertips trail down the side of Jensen’s face, caressing the stubble, just relishing the feeling of Jensen home-here-alive, his body at the normal temperature without any hint of fever. Jared marveled at how starkly Jensen’s eyelashes and freckles stood out against his skin, milky pale with a hint of blush in the cheeks, and a smattering of freckles.

Jensen shifted fractionally in his sleep, his breath making a faint puffing noise as he settled.
Jared dropped his hand to rest gently against Jensen’s chest, fingers circling gently around the almost-healed spot where Jensen’s dialysis catheter had been. He’d been off of dialysis for almost two weeks now. God, Jared hoped Jensen wouldn’t need a catheter again… or any of the other options associated with long-term dialysis, or a kidney transplant, or—anything else.

Jared stilled, taking a deep breath, and forced himself to halt that train of thought. Jensen was ok. He was really ok. Jared might have to tell himself that every single day over and over again until he believed it, but having Jensen with him at home, free from medical monitors and machines helped.

Jensen had recovered sixty percent function in his left kidney, which was really, really good considering the state Jensen had been in when he arrived at the hospital back in December, and well above the threshold requiring dialysis. But… Jensen’s right kidney was pretty much toast, unfortunately, and he hadn’t regained any function in it.

Jensen’s luck being what it was, the infection that had almost taken his life had developed in his right kidney before it spread like wildfire, and of course it was Jensen’s right kidney that had taken the brunt of the damage from his suicide attempt years before, and was already significantly damaged. But…

Jared slammed the breaks on that train of thought. He’d lose himself if he kept dwelling on the what-ifs and almosts and if-onlys. What really mattered was Jensen was ok. He was getting stronger every day, starting to gain back the weight he’d lost in the hospital—and heh, that was one way to loose weight over the holidays, just not one Jared ever wanted to see anyone experience ever again for as long as he lived. There would be more medications now, a stricter diet, and a much narrower margin for error—or rather, future illness or injury—but Jensen was free of the thrice weekly and then biweekly, interminably long dialysis sessions, free of the catheter, free of scheduling his life around his treatments. Or at least those treatments.

Things were different now between him and Jensen. Facing death and loss and change would do that to you. But Jared and Jensen had been lucky; their relationship was stronger than ever. Jensen’s illness had forced their lives into perspective, made them sort out their priorities. Jared wasn’t sure if he’d realized it before, or maybe if it was something that had come out of the experience, but he knew now that Jensen meant more to him than anything. More than his career. More than heterosexual privilege as Allie called it. And he knew now without a doubt that he meant more to Jensen than staying in the closet. More than his career. More than anything else.

But it wasn’t just their relationship. Jared felt like everything had changed—shifted—between Jared-and-Jensen as a couple and everyone else.

~~~

It had struck Jared during the holidays. They’d spent Christmas and New Year’s with both their families at the Ackles’ home in Richardson, while Jensen was recovering. Sure, Mama Ackles had accepted Jared from the start, welcomed him to her family like another son, thanked him for taking care of Jensen, for being there when Jensen needed him, for loving Jensen—issues and illness and hang ups and all. And, of course, their families had spent time together in the past. Their parents were all very accepting of his and Jensen’s relationship from the start, so they’d done the whole meet-the-parents thing—even included all their siblings—not long after they’d gotten together. They’d discovered there were so many similarities between the two families, the Padaleckis and Ackles had a lot in common and got along with ease. So, they had continued to get together as a big extended family on a variety of occasions ever since.

But the holidays were the first time Jared realized how much he and Jensen, as a couple, were a part of their families. Maybe it was Jared’s own ‘internalized homophobia,’—or one of those other activist-sounding catch phrases that Chris and Allie got all riled up over—but Jared realized he’d been thinking of him and Jensen as somehow less than their parents or their brothers and sisters-in-law as couples. And maybe a little part of him had assumed everyone else felt the same way. It wasn’t conscious, but more of a lurking insecurity hiding in the back of his mind. After all, they weren’t married and they were more-or-less in the closet, so didn’t that mean they were second class, second rate?

Only then, all of the sudden, here they were with Jensen sick and Jared worrying himself to tears and exhaustion, fighting with ignorant hospital staff and stubborn doctors, and later trying to make sure all the details of Jensen’s treatments were taken care of and scheduled so that they could spend time with their families… get support and regroup. Somewhere in there, probably because he was forced to articulate just what he and Jensen meant to each other—to defend himself, to defend them—Jared realized how wrong that doubting voice had been.

And then, it dawned on him. How intertwined they were with their families. Donna and Alan treated him like one of their children, worried as much about how Jared was holding up as how Jensen was recovering. Meanwhile, his Mom and Dad had been as distressed over Jensen’s illness as if it were Jared lying in the hospital hooked up to too many monitors and machines, or stuck in the dialysis chair day after day.

His dad and Jensen’s mom had taken him aside on Christmas Eve. They’d arrived the day before, once Jensen was finally cleared to travel. Jensen had only been out of the hospital for two days, still on antibiotics, but finally not by IV. Jensen was scheduled to go for his first dialysis session at the local outpatient center, and Jared was planning to go along to keep Jensen company, keep them both occupied, having not left Jensen’s side since Jensen had gotten sick except when forced away.

“Come on, Jared,” his father had said. “Your mom and Jeff and Alan are going with Jensen today. They’ll all be sure he has plenty of company and actually stays put through the whole treatment.” Jerry had spoken firmly but understandingly, his voice gentle, as he had placed a hand on Jared’s shoulder and led him towards the den.

“But Jensen needs me,” Jared had protested, feeling desperate, afraid to let his partner out of his sight. “He’ll feel let down if I’m not there with him.”

“No he won’t sweetie, now sit down before you fall down,” Donna had gently scolded, taking over for Jerry, guiding Jared down into one of the overstuffed recliners. “Jensen would feel let down if you didn’t take care of yourself. He knows how much you care. You got him this far.” Donna’s voice had wobbled, and she’d patted Jared’s cheek affectionately with one hand while she wiped her eyes with the other. “Now you just sit down and rest, take some time to let go of the worry before you collapse. You can’t take care of Jensen if you’re in the hospital yourself.”

Jared distinctly remembered trying to protest, opening his mouth to speak, but then looking down and realizing his hands were shaking, his whole body trembling as the exhaustion of the last two and a half weeks caught up to him with a vengeance. He had fought the urge to collapse back into the chair, but found himself unable to stop the tears that fell.

The next thing he’d known his father was crouched down next to him, patting him on the back and telling him it was ok, that he understood, and that Jared was brave and strong, and he doubted he’d be holding it together so well if something similar had happened to Sherry.

Jared had started thinking that day, their family watched over Jensen and made sure Jared rested, slept, ate, showered—did all the things he hadn’t had room in his life to do. It had clicked. Jared had finally understood that their parents didn’t just accept or tolerate them; their parents welcomed them as another couple, their equals, committed to each other through better and worse… and when Jared had wiped his tears and looked up at his father, he saw a raw admiration and awe there he’d never expected to see. That’s when he understood that his family recognized what he and Jensen were—a part of each other, inexorably intertwined. He wasn’t sure if his and Jensen’s relationship with their families had actually changed, or if it was just his perspective had changed, but either way, Jared had a new understanding of where they fit in their family dynamic. Their families understood how much of their happiness was vested in each other, dependent on the other’s well being.

The revelation made Jared start thinking even harder about what he could do to protect that, to make that real. He contemplated dusting off those old conversations, the ones about civil unions and relationship recognition and making things official—those long talks where it felt like he and Jensen had completely agreed, yet still spun their wheels as they got mired in the career concerns and family concerns and social inequities, unable to come to any sort of resolution.

~~~

But it wasn’t just their relationship with their families that had new meaning.

Jared’s relationship with Chris was different now too. Chris had always been nice, encouraging of his relationship with Jensen. But Chris himself had always been guarded, reserved, as if he was standing back waiting for the other shoe to drop. Jared hadn’t quite understood it before he and Jensen got together, but by then he’d realized that the distance, the solemnity wasn’t because Chris thought Jared was going to leave.

If Jared was going to bail on Jensen, it would have happened that first year filming “Supernatural,” when Jensen had broken down and landed in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. Jared had saved Jensen then, and at the same time he’d earned Chris’s trust—the trust of Jensen’s best friend, a man who himself had brought Jensen back from the brink of death.

It had been an honor to have that trust from Chris. But even then, Jared hadn’t understood.
Jared had known Jensen was sick. Sure. He’d seen the scars, emotional and physical both; he’d quieted Jensen through flashbacks to the bashing; he’d called and made appointments with Jensen’s doctors; he’d reminded Jensen time and time again to take his meds, watch his diet, take good care of himself. And Jensen had accepted it, treasured it even, always in awe that Jared was there for him, that Jared didn’t blame him or see him as less of a person.

But knowing Jensen was sick, even having seen him in the hospital that time with the alcohol poisoning, was nothing close to the realization of what that could mean. Jensen’s kidney problems were always a footnote in the back of Jared’s mind. He could almost see it like an entry in some doctor’s medical chart; blocky, black letters relaying cold truth: Jensen Ackles suffered acute kidney failure; partial loss of kidney function; see medications and diet.

It was something that had happened a long time ago that really didn’t intrude on their lives more than a handful of pills and checkups. Jensen’s struggle with depression, the PTSD from his bashing, even his doctors’ concerns about liver damage (thanks to Jensen’s rather excessive self-medication in his younger adulthood) had bigger impacts on their day-to-day existence. And even those seemed easy to deal with. Yeah, there was the occasional panic attack or debilitating flashback, and the handful of occasions where Jensen’s nightmares had ended with him or Jared bearing a few new bruises, but nothing particularly earth-shattering.

And then wham, out of no where, Jensen’s kidneys were his Achilles heel… the ancient vulnerability that just might spell his eternal doom, rising up out of no where and casting a looming shadow over their lives, their future, everything; shattering Jared’s illusion, or something equally melodramatic. Only, at the time, there was nothing but fear and terror and loneliness. Loss had been so tangible. For over a week, it had felt like Jensen’s life could be snatched away from them both at any moment, and Jared was powerless to stop it.

He’d felt panicked, then guilty. After all, he loved Jensen, but it was Jensen’s life, not his, but Jared realized as much as he wanted Jensen for himself, he’d give it all up if it meant Jensen could live.

That’s when he understood.

Jared was pretty sure he carried that same haunted look that Chris did. They had a shared understanding now. Both knew the value of Jensen’s life, and how fragile it was, how miraculous and precarious, and just plain lucky they were that Jensen was alive. Jared had been in awe of Jensen’s resilience before, he’d treasured the opportunity to know Jensen realizing how close he had come to not ever having the chance, but now…

Even six weeks out from that paradigm shift, part of Jared still wasn’t convinced Jensen was really there to stay. All life was fleeting, sure, but Jensen’s was life was lived just that much closer to the precipice. It would only take the tiniest push to send him careening over the edge… and that would undoubtedly take Jared with him.

And that was realization more profound than any other. Jared’s identity was so completely tangled up in Jensen that without Jensen he didn’t know who he was or what he’d do. Jensen had long ago come to terms with his own mortality. Jared knew that Jensen sometimes felt betrayed by his own body, but at the same time, he knew Jensen was… at peace. Even when the worst was happening Jensen was there inside his own body, and while it wasn’t always pleasant, and by all accounts, was sometimes quite frightening, he could handle it, because it was his reality, his life.

But Jared… Jared was stuck looking in from the outside, never able to fully understand what it was like for Jensen. Wanting… needing… but knowing that he had no control. And yet, he was so completely in love that he just had to hang on for the ride. That was what he and Chris had in common. That was the understanding they now shared.

~~~

Jared drifted back to himself, squeezing Jensen’s body closer to his. He felt guilty when Jensen murmured, showing signs of waking, but Jared needed the tactile reassurance. Jensen settled again, and Jared let out another explosive sigh, expelling some of his mental demons with it.
Instead, he was thinking about Sandy’s offer. Could they, should they, accept? It seemed so wild and crazy, and yet, it might just be exactly what they needed to cement that connection between them in as permanent a way as possible.

Sandy had come to him—well to both of them—just over two weeks ago. It was just after New Year’s, and they’d still been in Texas. Jensen was in between dialysis sessions. They were keeping their fingers crossed that the next session would be the last (it was, well for now at least). She asked them if they’d come to the park with her, and since Jensen’s doctors were adamant he start slowly ramping up his activity again, it had seemed like a great idea. Jared hadn’t anticipated Sandy would offer or suggest anything life-altering at the park. Then again, Jared’s life had been doing nothing but throwing curveballs lately, so he probably should have known better.

~~~

Earlier that month:

Jared looked over at Jensen worriedly, not caring that being seen with his arm snaked around Jensen’s—and not Sandy’s—waist would be a good way to out them. Jared needed to feel that Jensen was still there. He pulled Jensen closer, relishing in the solidity of his partner.

Jensen was doing better, he sure looked stronger, but the pallor of illness still clung to him. His movements were slow and somewhat tentative, and his body felt frighteningly angular and bony against Jared’s side. The size difference between them amplified to the point of being overwhelming; Jared felt like he could completely envelop Jensen with a hug.

Jensen was getting tired, though, Jared could tell. He could see sweat beading on Jensen’s brow, the sight tensing of his jaw, the tiny furrow in his brow… Jensen would be stubborn and keep on pushing himself until he was completely exhausted. Which would be bad—it could push Jensen’s recovery back weeks, or open him up to another opportunistic infection, one he might not survive— Jared pushed the thought away. It wouldn’t do either of them any good if Jared started panicking over worst-case scenarios.

Jared glanced over at Sandy who was walking with them, strolling up the right side of the paved path, keeping pace. She looked pensive, contemplative, and a little nervous, which seemed odd. Maybe she was just concerned for Jensen?

Jared turned his attention back to the path in front of them, trying to take in his surroundings. He felt the cool breeze against his face, the warm winter sun shining down on them; heard the rustling of leaves, the distant murmur of the city, and the gentle lapping of waves and ripples crashing onto the pebbled beach of the nearby pond.

Spying a bench up ahead, he decided it would be a good time for a rest. He knew Jensen needed it, and Sandy seemed like there was something she needed to get off her chest. Maybe she’d be more comfortable saying it if they were sitting down. Besides, being January in Texas, everyone thought it was cold, as they weren’t accustomed to the frigid, snowy, bitter climate of Vancouver in winter, so the park was almost deserted.

“Hey babe, you wanna take a break? We can sit on the bench up there,” Jared said to Jensen, leaning a little closer to him and pointing at the wrought iron park bench up ahead. “We can take a little break, watch the pond?” Jared knew that if he tried to force the issue, Jensen would stubbornly push back, and insist on walking farther, longer without a break. But if Jensen had a choice

Jensen snorted, leaning back against him. “You’re just worried I’m over doing it,” he scolded. He batted his long eyelashes at Jared flirtatiously, but underneath the playfulness, Jared could see the crinkles of exhaustion around his eyes and the dark circles underneath.

Jared opened his mouth, about to protest, when Jensen snickered, cutting him off.

“Don’t deny it,” Jensen said, his voice filled with warm affection, not annoyance.

Ok, maybe that was obvious, Jared scolded himself.

“Isn’t he, Sandy?” Jensen finished.

“Huh? Oh, yes, definitely,” Sandy murmured hastily, blushing.

Jensen shook his head, chuckling lightly against Jared’s shoulder. “Come on,” he sighed inclining his head towards the bench. “I know I need a break,” he admitted, leaning into Jared.

As the slowed, reaching the bench, Jared shot a perplexedd glance at Sandy, while gently steering Jensen over to take a seat. “What’s up Sandy? You sound like you’re off in your own little world.” Jared’s voice was calm, curious; free of judgment. As he made sure Jensen was comfortably seated and warm enough—Jensen was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, and one of Jared’s hoodies, and a jacket, but Jared was still worried he’d get cold—he turned his gaze to Sandy, who, rather than sitting, was pacing nervously in front of the bench. Her hands clasped in front of her, fingers clenching and unclenching, twisting together and pulling apart.

“Is it that obvious?” she asked, but it was clearly rhetorical. She made an uneasy noise somewhere between a laugh and a snort.

“Sit down, Sandy, you’re making me nervous.” It was Jensen who said it aloud, patting the bench next to him and scooting closer to Jared..

Jared nodded; he wasn’t sure he was worried, but Sandy’s preoccupied behavior certainly was odd.
“I,” she started, seemed to reconsider, looking down at her hands.

Jared and Jensen both waited silently; they both knew Sandy well enough to realize prodding her wouldn’t get them to answers any faster—she’d just get into an argument about pushiness.

Sandy looked up, smiling, her fingers clasped almost gracefully in front of her. “I have an offer to make you guys,” she spoke softly but clearly, meeting first Jared’s gaze, then Jensen’s, making sure they understood how serious she was.

Jared felt Jensen sit up straighter, and Jared felt the need to pull his partner protectively close, snaking his left arm further around Jensen’s waist, and pulling him sideways so his back was braced against Jensen’s chest, his right hand grasping Jensen’s, and resting over Jensen’s hip. Jared sensed whatever Sandy was about to say would somehow alter their carefully structured world.

“But just, don’t say anything ‘til I’m done, because I don’t want you guys freaking out.” She smiled. “Just let me explain, Ok?”

“Sure, San,” said Jared.

“Ok,” Jensen chorused at the same time.

“I, I think we should get engaged, Jay.”

Well, shit, that wasn’t what he’d expected to hear. Jared sucked in a surprised gulp of air.

“Wha—” Jensen gasped, squeezing Jared’s hand tighter.

“Wait, just, let me finish,” Sandy protested, holding up her hands in the universal gesture for stop. “This is what I meant about not freaking out.”

Jared snuck a confused look at Jensen who was staring back with equal befuddlement, his eyes seeming to say ‘is this making any sense to you?’

“I think we,” she pointed back and forth between herself and Jared, “should get engaged, officially, you know, like tell the press, the fans. And I think that, because it would be a good distraction, you know, cover—”

“Cover for what?” Jared found himself blurting, despite his intent to hear Sandy out.

“Cover for, well,” she waved her hands back and forth between Jared and Jensen.

They exchanged a confused look.

Sandy sighed. “Look, I’m not trying to tell you to do anything, ‘cause it’s not my place to dictate your relationship, but…” She bit her lip.

Jared was still clueless, if anything, he felt more perplexed now than he had a moment ago.

“I know you guys have thought about it, talked about it, because you’ve both talked to me about it.” Sandy tried a different tack.

What?
Jared thought, not taking his eyes off of Sandy, but feeling Jensen squirm against him. Sandy had better hurry up; Jensen was getting uncomfortable, and Jared wasn’t going to make Jensen sit out here on a stiff park bench while he started feeling worse and worse.

“Look, you two are great together. You mean the world to each other, and I know you’re committed—for the long haul. And…” Sandy stuttered, “and I don’t want to see you guys deal with that again, people questioning your relationship, having to deal with bullshit while one of you is sick. I mean, I know… even if you do, it won’t solve those problems, but maybe it will give you a little backup, make people think twice before they harass you. But,” she leaned forward. “It’s not just because it’s practical; you love each other, in a way I hope maybe someday I can find with someone to have that with. And—and I think you deserve to stand up in front of everyone to say that.” Sandy looked at them earnestly, clearly a little embarrassed.

Jared sat stunned, silent, trying to figure out what Sandy meant. “Huh,” was all he managed.

“Are… are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Jensen asked, his voice quiet, almost awed.

Jared looked over at his partner, taking in the flush breaking across Jensen’s cheekbones and ears. He reached out with his right hand to check for fever, his stomach dropping with a nervous lurch, heart pounding, until he realized that it was… embarrassment? Jensen was blushing, not fevered. Jared let his hand drop back to rest on Jensen’s, and Jensen squeezed it tight. What does he understand that I don’t? Jared wondered.

“Yes!” Sandy exclaimed, nodding her head vigorously.

Jensen’s jaw dropped in surprise, and he turned to Jared, catching his eye, something that looked a lot like hope mixed with fear in Jensen’s eyes.

Before Jared could open his mouth to ask what the hell was going on, Sandy took pity on him, probably taking his blank expression for what it was, and relieving Jared of his misery. “I think you two should get married, dufus,” she teased, when Jared let out a startled gasp. “If you and I get ‘engaged,’” there were the good ol’ air quotes Sandy was so fond of using, “we can distract the press and the fans and maybe even appease everyone’s agents and publicists. While they’re busy speculating and congratulating us, you and Jensen,” she waved her hand between them again. “Can get hitched. You know you can get married for real in Canada, and maybe get a domestic partnership in California just to be on the safe side—you know they have confidential domestic partnerships,” she added, looking towards Jensen. “I checked.”

“So,” Jared started, gulping. He caught Jensen’s eye again, and saw his own emotions reflected back—hope, fear, nervousness, excitement, hesitance, uncertainty. “You,” he pointed at Sandy, “think that you and I should get engaged, so that Jen and I can get married?” Jared’s voice cracked a little in disbelief at the end.

“Yeah,” answered Sandy.

“Wait, so, once we’re ‘engaged,’” Jared caught himself making air quotes, “what, are we supposed to go through with a sham marriage?” he asked uncertainly.

“Uh, no,” Sandy shook her head. “I was thinking, once you guys are married and settled in, we could um, break off our engagement.” She dropped her hands to her lap, again, twisting sideways further and hitching one knee up onto the bench in front of her, her head bowed down, hair flopping in her face.

“Oh, Sandy,” Jensen said, sounding sad. He reached out and squeezed her shoulder gently, his hand shaking a little as he moved. “Did we… were we taking you for granted?” Jensen asked.

“No,” was her sighed reply. “I just… I love you guys. Both of you,” she looked from Jensen to Jared and smiled. “And Jay, we were really in love.”

Jared nodded. It was true. They had been in love before they’d drifted apart and he’d fallen for Jensen.

“And I’ve been really proud to help you guys out. But you need this,” she insisted. “You guys deserve the opportunity to get married, quietly and in your own space, and this is how I can help you have that. I’ll miss being your beard, Jay,” she chuckled. “But you know, I think maybe I’ve been hiding behind that for too long. It’s time I move on and find someone for me.”

Jared opened his mouth again, the words on his lips, when she cut him off.

“No, it wasn’t you. I know I could have dated whomever whenever I wanted, and if something was serious, I would have come to you guys to work it out. But the thing is; I didn’t. I went on dates, but I haven’t really put myself out there. It’s been too easy basking in the glow of being your girlfriend, Jared. People think I’ve been riding your coattails, and I think maybe that’s true. Maybe I need to forge my own identity for a while, figure out who I am, and what I’m looking for in my career, and in a partner.” Sandy smiled, spreading her hands wide. “If I can help me and help you at the same time, then that’s even better.

“I, I don’t know what to say,” Jared stammered, leaning forward into Jensen and feeling Jensen press back against him.

“That’s a lot to offer,” said Jensen, his voice full of astonishment.

“If we… if we did this, does that mean we wouldn’t see you anymore, I mean, after we break up?” Jared asked, his voice catching. He could feel the burning behind his eyes. With everything that had happened over the last month his emotions were all over the place, and apparently the prospect of yet another change was enough to bring him to tears… almost.

“Well,” Sandy hedged. “It would probably make sense to see each other less, or then the press would really be interested.” She cocked her head to the side. “We could probably all use some time to adjust, like after you and I broke up for real.”

Jared nodded. It made sense. A little over three years ago, when Sandy had broken up with him with the instructions that Jared needed to figure out his feelings about Jensen, there had been a several-month stretch there where they hadn’t seen each other or really talked. It had given them both the space they needed, so when they resumed their relationship, as friends, and entered into their current arrangement, it had been a lot easier. It was something new and distinct, rather than something old and muddled.

Jensen sniffed and leaned his head back on Jared’s shoulder, seeing support—it was the kind of intimate move that even six months ago, Jensen never would have dared in public. Maybe Sandy really did have a point.

“Don’t disappear on us, ok?” Jensen pleaded. “You’re a good friend…”

“Oh, stop it,” Sandy said, swatting half-heartedly at Jensen, bringing her hands to her eyes to dab at the tears that had formed there. “I’m not saying I’d never talk to you guys again. Just think about it like this. If Jared and I don’t have to play the happy couple for the press, we’re free to do things that we like to do as friends. Like all three of us playing video games. Or hanging out in groups with our other friends and the dogs. Going hiking. Talking on the phone. Just normal friend stuff, without all the pressure. Besides,” she added. “I’m not going to just ditch you. You should take your time; think about this. Figure out what’s right for you. I’m not desperate to bail. If you guys decide not to get married, I’ll stick around; keep being Jared’s beard, at least for a little longer.” She smiled again. “Just… the offer’s out there. I wanted you to know it’s an option. Take care of yourselves first. I’ll be just fine either way.”

“Ok,” Jared and Jensen both agreed.

~~~

January 2008:

Over the past two weeks Jared had spent pretty much every moment that wasn’t spent worrying about Jensen’s health thinking about Sandy’s offer. He and Jensen had talked, but they’d yet to make up their minds.

But the more he thought about it, Jared wasn’t sure why they were waiting. He knew now, there was nothing he wanted more—well besides wishing for health and long life for Jensen—than to marry Jensen. To get up in front of their family and friends and declare his undying devotion to the man who was the other half of his soul.

“Y’r’ thinkin’ too loud,” Jensen mumbled groggily, his eyelids blinking slowly open, hazel-green eyes meeting Jared’s.

“Sorry,” Jared sighed, his hand still stroking down the side of Jensen’s face. He hadn’t meant to wake him up.

“What’re you thinkin’ ‘bout?” Jensen yawned, wiggling slightly on Jared’s lap, shifting into what was probably a more comfortable position, tipped slightly onto his left side, face smiling with eyes wide, looking up at Jared expectantly.

“I was thinking about Sandy’s offer,” Jared paused.

Jensen’s eyes widened. Jensen’s path to wakefulness was swift, but he remained calm, silent, just kept on looking at Jared expectantly. Jared could practically see the cobwebs and fuzziness of sleep melting away, as Jensen’s eyes cleared, squinted, and focused.

“I think…” he let out a long sight, “I think we should take her up on it.”

“You do?” Jensen asked, his tone neutral.

“Yeah, I do,” Jared nodded. “I’m madly in love with you, Jensen Ackles, and I want us to spend the rest of our lives together, taking care of each other. And I know I don’t need a marriage certificate to do that, but I want it to be official. I want that—that recognition, protection. And I don’t have any plans of coming out right now, but I’m starting to realize that if that ever happens, even if someone outs us, no matter what happens with our careers, it’s worth it. We’re worth it. Nothing,” he bent down and pressed his lips to Jensen’s forehead. “Nothing is more important than you,” Jared finished in a whisper.

“Ok,” Jensen smiled; it was a puff of air against Jared’s cheek, Jensen’s voice so quiet, Jared wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly.

“Ok?” Jared asked, uncertainly.

Jensen’s face broke into a wide grin, his eyes lighting up. He looked healthier, more alive than Jared had seen him in months. “Yes! I do. I want to marry you, and I think Sandy’s got a good plan.” He giggled, then his face sobered. He spoke, his voice solemn, “I love you, Jared. And—whether I get sick again, or not, I don’t want there to be any doubt who you are, what you mean to me.”

“Me too,” Jared echoed. Leaning down again, wrapping his arms around Jensen, and helping to shift him so that their lips could meet in a kiss. Tongues tangling, first needy, then slowly, languorously, they relished simply being together.

“So, I was thinking,” Jensen said, when they’d finally come up for air. “Maybe when I get back from this press tour to Australia, we could get married, have a ceremony here, in our back yard?”

Jared looked up, eyes traveling to the French doors and out to the world beyond, taking in the broad expanse of deck and grass, where his dogs were still happily at play. He imagined it filled with the people who mattered most to him and Jensen. Played out a picture in his mind’s eye. Jensen in a tux… an exchange of rings. Vows. Music provided by their friends. It was everything he could hope for.

He looked back down at Jensen, meeting his eyes with a smile. “I think that sounds like a great idea.”

And it was.

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
cmc1964
Dec. 15th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
"The two against the world"! And Sandy is a real friend!
Fantastic Job! THX *hugs*
paleogymnast
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:11 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you very much for reading, and for your lovely comment. I'm glad you enjoyed!! :)
strgazr04
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
n'awwww!!!! you totally have to write the wedding now. this was so so sweet. i need to catch up on this verse. i know i read the first bit but all the stuff about jensen's kidneys i'm lost on and i dunno if i'm confusing another fic about chris saving jensen. :(
paleogymnast
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:13 am (UTC)
Ahh, sorry for the confusion. That health crisis (the one that happened about a month before this fic takes place) and the wedding are two stories I have in my queue to write, but haven't written yet.

Of course there instances of Chris and Jared saving Jensen and the Story of How We Realy Met, and those situations were the precursor to this... if that makes any sense.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting!! :)
darthnikki
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:13 am (UTC)
Sandy was kinda awesome in that wasn't she?? this was so cool, it had tears in my eyes at points, thinking of Jensen so ill and Jared so scared :( but it also made me have a weird little smile on my face in the hopes that one day (being the closet romantic that I am) that I can have that for me. That someone will love me as much as they love each other :) great little piece dude loved it xxx
paleogymnast
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:20 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for reading! *hands out tissues*

Yes, Sandy was kind of awesome!! When I originally started on this 'verse, Sandy and Jard were still together, and it was my goal to write a story where Jared and Jensen could get together without Sandy being either evil or getting cheated on. I have to say, I really like the result. :)

I'm glad you found this fic so moving. I just can't resist a little angst and hurt/comfort. And yeah, I wish we could all have what Jared and Jensen have in this story.

Glad you loved it!! :) Thanks again!! :)

sillie82
Dec. 15th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
N'awwwwww! Boys! Very cute. <3
paleogymnast
Dec. 15th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you for reading!! :) I'm glad you enjoyed it. And thank you once again, for the wonderful art you provided for this 'verse!! :)
heather03nmg
Dec. 15th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
Aw, this is one of my favorite verses and I was so excited when I saw you had added more. I love your characters and how you've managed to get the boys together without making Sandy a monster. It's all very sweet and heart warming.
I'd love to read more about the Jensen's health crisis as I'm curious to hear more from Jared. We know so much about Jensen's feelings from The How We Really Met verse and now we're getting to learn more about Jared's.
It's a beautiful verse and I could read it forever.
paleogymnast
Dec. 15th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and for your beautiful and most flattering comment!! :)

I am really gladthat you're still enjoying this 'verse. I definitely plan to write a fic about Jensen's helth crisis at some point. This fic just wanted to get written first.

Thank you again for reading! :)
(no subject) - heather03nmg - Sep. 18th, 2010 11:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paleogymnast - Sep. 18th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
ymmy12
Dec. 15th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
wonderful addition to the verse
would love the hospital fic--sounds painful what the boys and family went through
paleogymnast
Dec. 16th, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
I am absolutely planning to write the hospital fic! Glad to know you're interested in it, and really glad you enjoyed this fic! :)

Thank you for reading and commenting!! :)
(Deleted comment)
paleogymnast
Dec. 16th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC)
Yay!! *twirls you around* *feeds kitty catnip* I did! And I wouldn't have gotten it posted without you! Thank you thank you for all your help and feedback and encouragement (and the comment, of course)!! :)
engel82
Dec. 16th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
:P Play by play of me reading (because ha! I told you I would even if I couldn't beta in due time <3 )

1st, I love how you described where they are, the smallest noises and movement around them. It makes me feel as if I am right there with them and I can feel Jared's anxiety as Jensen is so peaceful against him. I love how he tries to stop his bad thoughts without be able the 1st time and I can feel how he really forces himself to stop thinking about all of what went wrong.

And I feel so much for Jared's fear of being "second class" in his own family, as if they weren't really a couple, as if their family would just see them as friends and happily ignore what is really between them. I'm so glad that their family are great enough to just become one.

The moment between Jared and his dad, when he breaks into tears because he's been worring about Jensen so hard he basically forgot about himself brought tears to me eyes. *hugs Jared*

totally random note, but I just realised that if it was my story, which it isnt and don't worry it is not AT ALL what I would have wanted you to do, I probably would have ended up killing Jensen and making Jared and Chris deal with it together. WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO KILL PEOPLE! Sorry, back to our regular commentary.

I totally love Chris and Jared relationship. If you ever do another conversation type of timestamp, you should have one with them, and explore their friendship. (yes! Do another convo timestamp with conversation with people that arent couples in your fic!! Like Allie and Mike before Allie came out to him, and Sandy & Jensen. It's so much more fun to enable other people's bunnies than mine...)

Awww I love that Jensen totally knows what Jared is doing (taking a break at the pond), and it's too awesome that THEY BOTH TALKED TO HER ABOUT IT!! Oh boys!! ♥ And Sandy is awesome!! I really love how you portrayed her :) Which makes me wonder, since I know you love playing in that verse, if you have any intention of throwing in Genevieve later as a momumental mistake?

his undying devotion to the man who was the other half of his soul. So much love for that line!! (and in that line!!)

Oh damn you, this “I love you, Jared. And—whether I get sick again, or not, I don’t want there to be any doubt who you are, what you mean to me.” totally made me cry again!!

This was gorgeous!! I really hope you keep playing in that verse and write more of them!! ♥

Edited because 1) wrong icon, and 2) OMG I just wrote you a novel of a comment!! :P

Edited at 2009-12-16 03:44 am (UTC)
paleogymnast
Dec. 16th, 2009 04:24 am (UTC)
Aww, Engel, thanks for the comment. Damn, that rivals the length of some ofmy more epic comments (at least you didn't have to post it in multiple parts... I'm pretty sure I've convinced some readers I'm crazy by doing that).

I love the play-by-play.

See this, or rather the illness that came before the story starts, has been planned since before I ever posted The Story of How We Really Met. So, for that reason, and since I've written fics in the futue from this point, I couldn't very well kill Jensen. Nor do I really have any desire to do that, but that's just me. :) (You might be a little fond of killing people.)
;)

I will definitely take your suggestion about more conversation fics under advisement. I really like the idea of exploring more of those relationships too. *sigh* What am I gonna do with all the rabid plot bunnies?

Oh, and as for Geniveve, she is indeed a later beard in their relationship. I just haven't worked her into any stories yet. Nor do I really necessarily plan to, because in this 'verse she's not really involved in the boys' lives beyond being a castmate and occasional arm candy for the red carpet.


*hands out tissues* I hope it's a good thing that I made you cry. I was really worried this story sucked, so I'm glad to hear that it moved you. :)

*hugs* Thank you again for your awesome comment!! :) (And for reading, of course!) :D

I'm very, very glad
(no subject) - engel82 - Dec. 16th, 2009 04:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paleogymnast - Dec. 16th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC) - Expand
wataru_kisugi
Dec. 16th, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
This is absolutely wonderful!! I guess this is what you say 'perfect' to read and enjoy.

Love it!!
paleogymnast
Dec. 16th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
Wow! Oh thank you!! *blushes* Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm thrilled to know you think this is 'perfect.' *blushes more*
lycaness
Dec. 21st, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
Aw, I think I just melted. They have been through such a hard time, and with Jensen getting sick I'm so happy to see them as strong as they are together, that their love hasn't faltered at all, only got more intense.
Love Sandy, what an amazing friend. I'm so happy for them, I like to think they get their happy ever after and that Jensen's health remains strong.
I love you for writing more to this, what a treat. :)
*hugs you tight*
paleogymnast
Dec. 23rd, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
Oh thank you Lyca!! :D I'm really glad you enjoyed this!! :D And I think they do get more-or-less happily ever ater, or at least as close to that as anyone gets. I'm really glad you like Sandy in this!! :D

Thanks again for reading!! :D *hugs*
princesslanie
Dec. 23rd, 2009 04:55 am (UTC)
aw so glad you added more to this vers. hope to see more.
paleogymnast
Dec. 23rd, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading. I definitely have more planned for this 'verse. :D Glad to know you enjoyed it!! :D
lovelessending
Jan. 22nd, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Awww, even though Sandy offered, it's still such, i don't know, just remember how much her and Jared had been to each other, it's sad (for her, because really, jared and jensen are much better hahaha).

and i love how you wrote in the family accepting them, and just, you know being in love~~~ hahaha thank you! :D
paleogymnast
Jan. 22nd, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you for reading and for your lovely comment. I'm glad you liked it! Yeah, Sandy was really sweet with Jared, but he and Jensen just are better for each other... at least in my universe. :D
azabeth1
May. 12th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC)
This was too beautiful for words. So heartfelt and well written you made me want to cry <3
paleogymnast
May. 13th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
*hugs*

*passes tissues*

I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed this. I do have more planned in the 'verse, so thank you for your enthusiasm and interest!! :D
(Deleted comment)
paleogymnast
Jul. 27th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
I've definitely thought about wrting it and very well may write it at some point; I just have a lot of writing commitments to fulfill first. I'm really glad you like this 'verse and this part of it. It is one of my favorite 'verses to write in!

If you like hurt/sick Dean/Jensen, you kight really like Timeo Angelos et Dona Ferentis (Fear Angels Bringing Gifts) which is a stand-alone fic and The Fulcrum of the Force, the second part of the Hunters of the Dark Side 'verse. Both are sick dean centric. oh, also Lament in Winter, which is also hurt!Dean-centric.

Thanks for reading!
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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