audrarose: (Default)
Title: Not Moving Mountains
Words: 12,182
Pairing: J2
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: This is entirely a work of fiction.
Summary: Written for Sweet Charity and the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] destina, who asked me for "J2 non-AU comfortfic. Of any sort. As long as it's warm and fuzzy in the end. And has lots of touching." :D

Notes: A few more at the end, but HUGE beta thanks to [livejournal.com profile] setissma, [livejournal.com profile] luzdeestrellas and [livejournal.com profile] wendy. Huge. Really.



The trouble, doll, is not moving mountains, but
Digging the ground that you’re on

-- Jakob Dylan, Something Good This Way Comes





"I'm a genius."

The door to Jensen's trailer banged into the wall behind Jared and snow drifted in around his feet. "Listen up, slacker. I figured it out."

"Figured what out?" Jensen didn't even raise his head from the back of the couch, where he was sprawled out like someone had dropped him there and forgotten to pick him up. At least he managed to open his eyes a little and glance listlessly over at Jared.

Jared spread his arms wide. "You're depressed."

"Depressed," Jensen repeated. He still didn't move, but he blinked a few times. "What are you talking about? I'm not depressed -- I'm sick."

"You were sick. Dude, it's been two weeks -- no one's this sick for two weeks."

It had actually been more like two and a half weeks since Jensen had come down with whatever it was that was kicking his ass -- two weeks of rearranging the shooting schedule and learning emergency re-writes that put Dean in the car or the crappy motel rooms or anywhere he didn't have to run and jump and shoot at stuff. Jensen had even asked Sera if Dean could get shot or knifed or electrocuted again, something, just so he could spend some time in a coma and be unconscious for awhile.

"I googled it. You. Your symptoms, you know?" Jared went on. He sat down on the low table across from Jensen and propped his elbows on his knees, so he could tick the items off on his fingers. "Exhaustion, lack of appetite, lethargy... "

Jensen closed his eyes again. "Jared, go away. You're too healthy. You're making my head hurt."

"See? See? 'Lack of interest in your surroundings and the things that used to entertain you'. That's another one! Trust me; it's a classic case. You're depressed."

Jensen opened his eyes and turned his head so that he could look up at Jared. "I don't feel depressed. I mean -- I feel like crap, but I don't feel... hopeless or anything."

"You're totally hopeless." Jared waved a hand. "Any time you stop moving for more than five minutes you fall asleep. Does that sound normal to you?"

"It just sounds like I'm sick," Jensen said. He closed his eyes again and settled deeper into the couch. "Besides, I've never heard of depression giving someone a fever."

"You still have a fever?" That was surprising. Jared reached out and put his hand on Jensen's forehead. Jensen immediately batted it away.

"Can you just go away, now? Please? I just need like, five minutes here. I'll be fine."

"It doesn't make sense," Jared said, thinking it over. "Everything fits... I really thought it was depression."

"Look... I'm going back to the doctor," Jensen said tiredly. "If there's nothing physically wrong with me, I'll... go talk to a shrink or something. Okay?" He trailed off like he was going to fall asleep before he'd finished the words.

Jared stood and headed toward the door, then stopped to look back at him. "Maybe you should call soon," he said. He wasn't sure Jensen was awake to hear it.


**

Jared bumped into Genevieve as he walked out of Jensen's trailer.

"Jared! It's a go; we can set it up this afternoon." She hit him on the chest, laughing under her breath. "Jensen'll never know what hit him. It's perfect!" She paused. "What?"

"I don't know if it's a good idea." Jared glanced back at the closed door behind him and pictured Jensen where he'd left him, one leg falling off the couch, forearm flung over his eyes with all the blue veins showing through the skin over his wrist. "I don't think he'd appreciate it right now."

Genevieve raised her hands and let them drop. "Oh, come on. This might be the best joke idea ever -- thanks to me, of course. You can't bail out now -- we've had this planned."

Jared shook his head and Gen pouted. Jared immediately flashed a smile. "I think we should do it to Kim instead."

**

The final scenes of the last show before break had Sam running a lot. He didn't know why they always ended up shooting chase scenes at dawn when it was colder than hell, and it didn't help that they'd re-written the scene so Dean wasn't going to be in more than a few shots. He had to admit that probably made sense, because after half a bottle of Advil and an hour in the make-up chair with enough foundation to outfit Ringling Brothers, Jensen still only looked about six degrees warmed up from death. Jared was still annoyed.

Jensen ran his scenes only twice before Kim called it done, sending him back to collapse on his fainting couch. Jared sweated it out through five more takes of crashing through the woods and getting attacked by branches that seemed like they were reaching out to scratch him. He had snow down his back and leaves in his hair, and by the time he made it to Jensen's trailer, his feet were completely numb.

"Well that's it, we're all off the clock until January," he said. "You know, next time, I'm going to fake being sick so I get to lounge around while everyone else works their asses off --" He cut off when he realized Jensen was on the phone.

Jensen didn't turn at Jared's entrance, just said, "Yeah, I had a message the results from my blood work are ready?"

Jared's neck prickled, and it wasn't from the snow melting beneath his collar. He pulled off his hat and gloves and tapped them against the railing to get the caked ice off, never once taking his eyes off Jensen.

"Really?" Jensen said, his voice quiet. "Are you sure?"

Jared froze in mid swipe. He crumpled his gloves in his hands, feeling the snow sting against his fingers.

"What does that mean, exactly?" Jensen asked. He sat on the couch and rubbed his eyes. "Okay. Okay, thanks. I'll wait for him to call." He flipped his phone shut, and set it purposefully on the table.

Jared went numb to his fingertips, felt a wave of something that was part nausea and part head-rush. If Jensen was sick --.

If Jensen was really sick --.

He couldn't finish that thought. He couldn't take it past the possibility of something horrible, the things his mom used to discuss in hushed tones, like saying the word out loud would draw attention from fate or God or the universe. He'd never thought that made sense until now.

"Jesus, Jen -- what is it? What's wrong?" he asked, voice barely above a whisper.

Jensen looked over at him, infinitely weary with eyes like bruises, his face like wax. He took a shaky breath.

"I have mono."

**

"Mono-nucleosis," Jared read off his laptop screen. "Primary symptoms include high fever, sore throat, extreme exhaustion and lack of appetite -- man, I can't believe I didn't figure this one out before!"

Jensen had moved his base of operations from the couch in his trailer to the couch in Jared's living room, but his general posture hadn't changed. "See if I pay your bill. Quack." He wearily put his forearm over his face, like the non-existent sunlight was blinding him.

"Symptoms can last from two weeks to up to, wow... twelve, but a typical case is four. Looks like the only thing you can do about it is rest..." Jared scrolled down the page. "Though, okay, you should know this. Sometimes it can effect your spleen and then you need to go to the hospital." He looked at Jensen appraisingly. "How do you feel? Any spleen pain?"

"The pain is definitely not in my spleen."

"Hmm. It says 96% of adults are exposed to the virus before they're 20 -- except apparently for you, Princess --" Jensen flipped him off without taking his arm off his face, "and the primary method of transmission is bodily fluids like tears or saliva. From sharing drinking glasses... or kissing. Huh."

Kissing. Jared glanced over at Jensen, at the line of his jaw and and the curve of his mouth, hanging slightly slack as he breathed. "So who were you kissing?"

"What?" Jensen asked, sounding completely out of it. "Who was I kissing... Does it matter?"

"Well, no. But. You know. I'm trying to identify Patient Zero. You had to catch this from somewhere." And that definitely hadn't been an answer. The door bell rang.

"Think about it," Jared said as he stood, heading for the foyer. "Did you pick up random water bottles? Or used kleenexes? Did you lick anything at the gym?"

He ignored Jensen's gagging noises and opened the door to Kim and his suitcase.

"I'm on my way to the airport," Kim said. Behind him, a cab pulled away from the curb. 

"And you need a ride?" Jared asked.

Kim just gave him a look and dropped his suitcase on the foyer floor. "I have the car meeting me here in fifteen. Just wanted to stop here first and check in on the patient. How is he?"

"Tragic."

"Fuck you," Jensen said weakly, voice carrying to them from the living room.

"Kinda crabby, too. Do you want a beer?"

Kim looked grim. "I'm flying. I'll take a scotch on the rocks."

"Okay." Jared figured that somewhere in all the random shit he kept in the bar he'd come across something scotch-like, but his confidence wasn't high. He looked over the bottles on the back wall. "Dude, I'm not sure I have that," he called.

"You do. I gave it to you as a house-warming present," Kim called back.

"Oh, yeah. Right." Jared located the bottle of Glenlivet and a clean glass, then sloshed alcohol over ice. By the time he got back to the living room Kim was sprawled in a chair across from Jensen's couch, his coat unbuttoned and his hat on the floor. Jensen had deigned to remove his arm from his face and turned over on his side, a fleece blanket pulled up to his shoulders like he wanted to fuse with it.

"I'm going back to LA for a week, but then I'm going to the Caymans," Kim said, as Jared walked into the room. "When are you guys heading out?"

"I'm headed for San Antonio tonight," Jared said, just as Jensen said, "I'm not."

"What?" Jared asked, feeling stupid. "You're not going home?"

Jensen looked up at him apologetically, face flushed and feverish. "I think I'm going to stay here, if that's okay. The whole family's with Dad doing that play in Vermont -- I wasn't going to see them unless I flew out there anyway, and I don't think I can deal with that right now."

"You're going to stay here alone?" Kim asked, looking at Jensen over the rim of his glass.

"There's no one else here... Cliff's already gone," Jared said, doubtfully. There was something very wrong about Jensen sitting here all alone in this house, even if all he wanted to do was sleep.

"Well... maybe you could go somewhere else," he continued, thinking out loud. "Somewhere warm. Weren't you going to spend New Year's in L.A., anyway? Do that. Just go back to your place and crash."

"Yeah, I don't know. I was thinking about it." Jensen closed his eyes. "I can't even imagine getting on a plane." He shifted miserably and pulled the blanket higher over his shoulders. "Don't worry about it. Housekeeping comes once a week. They'll know if I die or something."

Jared looked worriedly at Jensen, who hadn't moved in any significant way since the morning, except to stare into his coffee. Jared had made at least half cream on the off-chance he might ingest some calories.

Kim had his phone out. "I'll call someone to come by. There's probably a service for this, a nurse type thing..."

"No way," Jensen said, actually pulling the blanket over his head this time. "I don't need a babysitter -- I just need to sleep for a couple of years --."

"I can stay for a day or two."

Kim stopped scrolling through entries on his iphone. Jensen pulled the blanket off his head to look at Jared blankly.

"There's nothing going on at home anyway," Jared said, feeling strangely self-conscious. "I think they can live without me for a few more days. Until you figure out what you want to do."

Jensen just looked at him for a minute longer. "Thanks," he said simply, and closed his eyes again. His complete lack of protest was more alarming than anything else, Jared thought.

"Great! Situation solved," Kim said. He tossed off the last of his Glenlivet. "I think that's my car. You guys sit tight, let me know if you need anything, and don't die in the meantime, okay? Okay. See you in January."

Jared walked him to the foyer and stood in the doorway until Kim saluted from the car. After he'd pulled away, Jared shut the door and stared at it blankly.

It was just him and Jensen, then.

**

"Shouldn't this stuff be less powdery?" Jared poked at the orange paste in the pan.

"Did you mix in the milk first?" his mother asked, sounding distracted even over the phone. Jared could hear pots clanking in the background.

"Oh, milk, right. Dammit. Sorry," he added. Jared moved over to the refrigerator.

"You should be eating something healthier than macaroni and cheese," his mom said. "I didn't think you liked it that much anyway."

"It's for Jensen. It's like he's on a hunger strike or something. His throat hurts, I guess... this seemed like something he could eat. You know. Mushy." Or it should be. Jared stirred at the orange blobs swimming in milk and noodles. "I think I screwed this up."

"Give him ice cream," his mother suggested. "Your brother lost thirty pounds when he had mono. Any food is good food." Jared repeated the last sentence silently along with her; he'd heard her say it plenty of times when his cousin had morning sickness.

"He's not pregnant, mom. Though I admit, some of the symptoms matched," Jared conceded.

"And we're all grateful for that. Have you made your plane reservations, honey?"

Jared stirred quietly. It had been two days in the weirdly silent house, just him and the dogs and endless hours of wii and Top Model re-runs while Jensen slept like he'd been drugged, but it hadn't been lonely. In fact, Jared had felt like he could finally take a breath. "Not yet."

"Sandy called yesterday," his mom said, in a different tone of voice. "She wanted to wish us Merry Christmas."

Jared's throat felt dry. "That was nice of her," he managed.

"Is that why you don't want to come home, sweetie?" He imagined he could feel the waves of his mother's sympathy batting at him all the way from Texas.

It made Jared remember Christmas last year, how they'd all been together and how perfectly Sandy had fit in with them, like she was part of the family already. Maybe this year everyone would be looking around and missing what wasn't there. And then what -- head to LA for New Year's where the valley was on fire again, all smog and burning sky while Jensen burned up here all by himself?

"I think I'm going to stay up here a little longer," he blurted, before he could lose his nerve. "Jensen's sick as a dog, mom. There's no one else to stay with him." And oh, that was a lie, because with just a few phone calls there were any number of people locally who would check in on him, but.

But.

His mother sighed. "We miss you. But you do what you need to do."

**

"No," Jensen said. He pulled a pillow over his head. "I don't have to be clean to die."

"Maybe not, but this is my house, and you do need to be clean to be deathly ill, I've decided. Besides, housekeeping's here and they want to change your sheets and stuff. No offense, but dude. You're rank."

"Fine," Jensen said, his voice muffled. "Go take a shower for me." He waved a hand vaguely toward the bathroom.

"Come on. They need to do this whole floor. You can use my shower." Jared twitched the blankets down off Jensen's legs, revealing plaid flannel Texas A&M pants and a t-shirt that Jared seriously hoped had been gray to begin with.

Jensen pushed himself up with a groan, and sat there blinking into the light, sheet marks on his face and his hair crushed up into uneven spikes. He squinted at Jared. "You should talk. Looks like you haven't shaved in days."

"By choice. Vacation, remember? Come on. Move your ass."

Jensen staggered into a standing position and Jared stayed close, just in case, because even if Jensen reeked, Jared would still rather not have to hoist him up from the carpet.

"See if I'm nice to you when you're dying," Jensen said miserably, once they finally made it up the stairs and into Jared's bathroom. He leaned against the counter and stared at the shower, which was big enough for four and had at least six showerheads. He raised a hand helplessly. "I don't know what to do with this. You opening a naked water park?"

"I guess that was the idea." Jared reached in and turned on the water, then adjusted the temperature on a digital display next to the steam controls. "Stop complaining and get in. Towels are over there." Jensen started pulling his t-shirt over his head, bending down like he needed gravity to help him. Jared cleared his throat. "And wash your hair," he added. "You look like that time Sadie had mange."

Jensen said something unintelligible through his shirt, the smooth line of his back bent and bare. Jared left the room, in search of clothing that would still fold.

"Ugh! Tepid! Tepid!" Jensen's voice carried into Jared's room.

"You're still burning up," Jared answered. "You want to cook your brain?" He went through a stack of t-shirts and grabbed one randomly, then started looking for pajama pants. "You're going to end up retarded. More retarded."

There was no answer, and Jared looked up. "Jen? Yo." He grabbed a pair of fleece track pants out of the dresser and went over to knock on the bathroom door. "Hey. You still in there?"

"No," Jensen said, and it sounded weaker than usual. "I'm dead now. Go away."

He really did sound awful. Jared debated going in, one hand on the knob. Awkward, but Jensen was sick. Jared just wanted to check on him. He was like a doctor, really.

The first thing he noticed when he stepped into the bathroom was that Jensen had turned up the heat, because the air was thick with steam and smelled like the mango-mandarin body soap that Sandy had thought matched the decor. The second thing he noticed was skin.

The shower glass wasn't frosted because Sandy had some jones about how the clear stuff let the hand-painted tiles show through, which made sense at the time, even though the thought of what else would show through made Jared blush. He could feel his face heating up now. The door wasn't steamed over enough to hide Jensen's body, winter-pale where his fake tan had worn off and all of him bare and sleek and wet. Jared swallowed and quickly looked away, up to where Jensen had summoned enough energy to glare at him through the glass.

"Hey, can I get some privacy?" he asked. "What if I was jerking off in here? Or, or... whatever?"

And oh, man, maybe it was all that skin but suddenly Jared was imagining Jensen doing exactly that: one arm braced against the warm, orange tile while the water streamed over him, his head bent while the other hand... stroked. Pulled slow and steady, long fingers gliding over his hard dick and oh, what the fuck.

Jared barely had enough saliva left to talk. He coughed. "You couldn't make a fist right now if you had to punch your way out of a jello salad."

Jensen hit the water controls so the shower shut off and grabbed a towel out of the warmer. He opened the door with the towel slung loosely around his hips, two corners bunched in his fist, and managed to look both murderous and pathetic at the same time. "You wanna bet?" he wheezed.

There was water rolling down the muscles of his chest, wetting the edge of the towel. Jared shoved the pile of clothes at him. "I'd take that bet if I didn't think I'd have to give you CPR later. Get dressed."

He turned and left Jensen to... whatever.

**

"Watch it, watch it... that's a mushroom! Oh, yeah. This is so the part where you go down, my friend."

It was two o'clock in the afternoon, but Jensen's room was gray like the clouds outside, daylight filtering in through the rain sliding down the windows. They were on roughly their two-hundredth race in Mario Kart, because it was the only Wii game that Jensen could play without getting out of bed. Or moving.

"No way," Jensen said. "I'm totally passing you; do you see me passing you? That was me. Breathe my Warrio dust, fucker."

"Yeah? What about that? Eat turtle shell."

"Oh, that sucks. You suck."

Jared put some body into it and crossed the finish line, while Jensen let his controller fall to the bed. He was half sitting, propped up on one elbow with most of him curled around a pillow and his head against the headboard, hair damp and weirdly flat since he obviously hadn't bothered to put any goop in it when he got out of the shower.

"Hey, you want another chance to get me?" Jared asked. "Re-match?"

"Maybe later." Jensen shifted uncomfortably, looking restless and bored.

Jared could tell from the flush on his face that the fever was back. He pointed the remote at the TV and flicked it off. "You want some more aspirin?"

"Took some." Jensen closed his eyes and put his head down on the pillow. "This really sucks, too."

"Yeah," Jared agreed. He listened to Jensen breathe into the quiet for a second. The dogs were sacked out at the foot of the bed as the rain tapped against the window. Jared thought about how peaceful it was; how warm and close and dim, and how it would be really great to just put his head down and take a nap himself.

In Jensen's bed.

Jared sat up abruptly. "Hey, there's a Top Model marathon going all week. I think they're on Season 5." Jared turned the television back on and started flipping through channels.

"Is that the one where they kiss in the limo?" Jensen asked, his eyes slit open.

"You know it, baby." Jared reached over and grabbed the carton of vanilla ice cream that was melting on the bedside table. "Here. Eat some of this."

Jensen shook his head slightly, but he sat up a little when Jared continued to shove it at him. Jared carefully did not watch him dig out a chunk and then suck gloomily on the spoon. At all.

"If you tell anyone we spent winter break watching Top Model and eating Haagen Dazs in bed, I'll have to kill you. Slowly." Jensen said.

Jared scoffed. "Who do you think I'm going to tell?"

"Oh, I don't know," Jensen mumbled. "Maybe five hundred people in a hotel conference room who already think we're sleeping together."

Jared crossed his arms and sank lower on the bed, trying to hide his smile. "Shut up and eat your ice cream. Tyra's talking."

Jensen seemed abnormally interested in the label of the ice cream.

Jared glanced over at him. "What?"

"I don't know. You didn't have to do this." The look Jensen turned toward him was exhausted, and his eyes looked bruised. "This mono thing sucks. But it would have sucked more."

Jared didn't know what to say to that. In fact, he was suddenly deeply alarmed that he was going to say something incredibly stupid, something that he'd probably never live down. Thank God Jensen apparently saw it coming and turned back toward the TV.

"Hey, was that Genevieve on the phone earlier?" he asked.

Jared nodded in relief. "Yeah. They're hitting the O'Dooley's tonight, wanted to know if we wanted to go, too. I figured you'd probably want to skip it, what with the dying and all."

Jensen's gaze remained fixed on the television. "You should go."

"Yeah? I was thinking about it," Jared said. Quiet and rest was great and everything, but it might be nice to see if the rest of the world was still out there.

"Do it," Jensen said, facing him. "Go be a real person." The smile he turned on Jared was tired and oddly sweet, and it did something soft to his face. "You can drink a few for me."

"Okay," Jared said, swallowing. "Sure." He turned back to Tyra.

**

It was after one in the morning when Genevieve dropped him off, leaving burnt rubber on the street and probably waking the neighbors again. Jared stood outside the house and took deep breaths of cold night air that was too damp to be crisp, but it still managed to sober him up a little. His head hurt. Not only that, he reeked of smoke and booze and the pot Genevieve had lit up in the parking lot, and the club had been loud enough to leave his ears ringing. It had been good to get out, in a way, but the night had made him restless too, and he was starting to wonder if he was getting too old for this crap.

The house was dark and absolutely silent, and the dogs didn't greet him when he came in the door, which meant they were crashed out in Jensen's room again. Jared stood in the living room and debated. If he left them where they were, they'd be begging to be let out at the crack of dawn, and though Jensen sometimes staggered his way to the back door to do it, he just as often simply opened his bedroom door and let them go bug Jared instead. In the state Jared was currently in, by morning that might kill him.

When he opened Jensen's door and whistled softly, he realized the dogs weren't asleep; in fact, they were milling restlessly around the room and Sadie let out a whine. Jared figured they must be desperate, and he was a little pissed Jensen hadn't taken them out earlier, but it was weird that they didn't rush past him to get to the door.

"It's okay, girl," he said to Sadie, and bent over to rub her head. Jared looked over at Jensen to see if he was awake, and immediately stood up.

Jensen was shaking. Even in the dark, Jared could see the tremors go through his body and run down his back, hard enough to make the bed move.

"Jen?" Jared asked in alarm. He flipped on the lamp and moved around to the other side of the bed. When he reached out to touch Jensen's shoulder, he could feel the heat radiating off him, even through the blanket Jensen was clutching around himself like a shroud.

"Don't -- don't freak," Jensen said. "It's just. It's just the chills. Fucking freezing in here."

"No, it's about eighty," Jared said. He touched Jensen's face to check for fever and then whipped his hand back in alarm. "Hey, you're on fire. This. This isn't good. You've got to go to the hospital --." He patted his pockets blindly, searching for his keys and wondered if he was sober enough to make the drive.

"No," Jensen said, and his teeth were actually chattering. He didn't even open his eyes. "I don't need to go anywhere. I told you, it's just the chills. I took some Advil; they'll go away. They always do."

"You've had a fever this bad before?" Jared demanded. Worry made him angry, made him feel thick and helpless and that just made him even more pissed off. "Why the fuck didn't you say something? You're supposed to be getting better."

"I am," Jensen said through gritted teeth, and shivered hard. "It's just so fucking cold."

"Godammit, Jen," Jared said, and let out a harsh breath. He shoved his coat off onto the floor, toed off his shoes and got into the bed before he could think about it. He reached out and just grabbed Jensen, blankets and all, and pulled him in, taking the shivering into his own body. He muffled all the frustrated, frightened words he wanted to say with his mouth against Jensen's hair and held on tight.


**

"Did you spend the night on the floor at O'Dooley's? You smell like a brewery."

Jensen's voice was thready but he was only shivering intermittently now, so Jared let go of him enough to move away a little bit and put his head on the other pillow. He didn't want to let go completely, though, so they were close enough that Jared felt the air stir when Jensen spoke. He figured the half a pack of cigarettes he'd smoked that night made the situation not exactly fun for Jensen, but possibly that was less important when you were about to have a seizure.

"We didn't stay at O'Dooley's," Jared said, keeping his voice low, like there was someone in the house he was afraid to wake up, even though every last thing about this situation reminded him that they were alone. "Some of the guys wanted to go to Bar None and dance."

Jensen grinned and closed his eyes. "Sorry I missed it. Your moves are hilarious."

"Yeah, I didn't have any problem finding company tonight, believe me," Jared said. He shoved at Jensen's shoulder, but far more carefully than usual.

At that, Jensen opened his eyes, still fever-bright and huge-looking in the dim light. The lines of his face were stark with all the weight he'd lost, polished down to something fine and brilliant, and his expression was intent. Jared went still.

"Do you miss her?" Jensen asked, finally, his voice hoarse.

The question caught Jared off balance. To be honest, Jared felt a little like everything had skewed off balance months ago, while he hadn't been paying attention, and maybe he'd stopped waiting for it to tilt back. He lifted a shoulder uncomfortably. "Yeah. Sometimes I do."

Jensen reached out and fisted his hand in the front of Jared's shirt, rested it there with his knuckles warm against Jared's chest. Jared wondered if Jensen could feel how hard his heart was pounding.

"I'm sorry. I don't think I said it before, when it happened," Jensen said. He shifted restlessly against the pillow. "But I'm sorry it didn't work out the way you wanted it to."

Jared nodded, his throat tight, and felt the balance tip a little more. "Hey, it's okay," he said, because it seemed like Jensen needed it. "Look at me, I'm good. I'm over it." He reached out awkwardly and rested his hand on Jensen's shoulder, and then sort of forgot to take it back.

He only realized after Jensen fell asleep that he'd told him the truth.

**



Jared listened to his sister singing on his parent's answering machine. It was some Jessica Simpson song she'd done when she was fifteen and had wanted to try out for American Idol. His parents had never erased it, no matter how often she threatened to run away if they didn't, so he hummed along and waited for the beep.

"Okay, hey, it's Jared," he said. "I guess you guys are out. I don't know how to say this, but... look. Jensen's better, but he's still pretty sick and I think... I think I better stay here with him. For Christmas." He winced at his own base cowardice at doing this over the phone, but was still stupidly grateful no one picked up.

"It would totally suck for him to be alone at Christmas, right? I know you wouldn't want that, Mom...So you guys have a good holiday." He swallowed painfully, suddenly so lonely for home he could feel it in his throat, and wondered if he was making a mistake. Then he remembered Jensen's face in the darkness, the unguarded expression that he'd never seen on Jensen before, and knew there was no way he was getting on a plane. "I miss you guys," he said. "I'll call you tomorrow."


**

Jensen's parents were totally cool and sent barbecue from Bubba Cooper's to arrive on Christmas Eve. Jared spent the evening working his way through pulled pork and ribs while Jensen stared at it all like it was going to eat him instead, but he managed to choke down some coleslaw while Jared was watching. An hour later, he went to bed with ice cream and Jared enjoyed the quiet while he cleaned up the kitchen.

It was the weirdest Christmas Eve he'd spent in awhile. Definitely the quietest, but it wasn't until he was standing alone in the living room staring at the tiny pre-lit Christmas tree he'd found at the Superstore earlier that week that he felt lonely. He wondered if his family had left for midnight mass yet, wondered if Kim had ever made it to the Caymans or if Sandy was with her friends in Vegas like she'd planned. He wondered if Jensen was feeling as lonely as he was.

At least Jensen was here. Which meant he wasn't exactly alone after all. He stared at the darkened hallway leading to Jensen's room for only a few seconds before making a decision.

Jared looked in Jensen's open door and saw the dogs crashed on the floor for once, the whole room warm and dim and inviting. Jensen was sleeping soundly and looking better than he had in days. The thing about Jensen sleeping all the time was that it gave Jared the chance to just look at him, something he'd never known he'd wanted to do up until now. The curve of his back and the way the blankets fell over his hips left something hollow in Jared's chest.

Even though it made him feel weird and even more off balance than ever, he moved to the other side of the bed and got under the covers anyway. By the time he'd finished shifting around into a comfortable position, Jensen was awake.

"Hey," Jared said.

Jensen stared at him. "Really?"

"Do you mind? I just thought... what if you get sick again?"

Jensen closed his eyes and laughed.

Jared stiffened. "Hey, if it's a problem --"

"No, no problem at all." Jensen raised a hand wearily, then let it drop. "It's just that I have the plague. So obviously, now is when you decide to get in bed with me."

"Oh," Jared said. "Merry Christmas?"

Jensen punched his pillow into the right shape and crushed his cheek into it. "My life is weird."

"I keep telling you."


**

Jared rolled over into warmth. Not the fever-blaze he expected, just the solid soul-warming heat of another body. Of course, Jensen fit beneath him perfectly, like Jared had known he would.

"Jensen... finally, God..." he breathed. He let himself sink against Jensen's body and settle between his legs so he could brush their faces together.

"Why'd you wait so long?" Jensen asked, his eyes still sleepy and with that beautiful fucking mouth of his curved into a smile. Jared wanted to answer, he really did, but the roll of Jensen's hips up into his as Jared bent down to kiss him was too much like a promise of something far more, and God, Jared wanted what Jensen was offering. He wanted it desperately, in a bright, blinding moment of clarity where for one instant, everything made perfect sense.

Then Jared woke up.

He stared at the ceiling overhead and then over at Jensen, who was snoring at least a foot away from him with his mouth open and his hair a mess and most likely morning breath that could drop a gorilla. Jared still wanted to drag him over and just kiss him.

Jared turned back to look at the ceiling again. "Oh, hell."

part two

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