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kasman
Warm heart and cold nose 
1st-Jul-2011 07:54 pm
SHBridge
Master Post: Then let me build a bridge (J2 - future fic)
Verse: Battlements
author: kasman and calamitycrow
beta: beadslut
artist: naisica
rating: R
pairing: J2
word count: 6900.
disclaimer: Not ours *sigh*
cat-in-charge notes: Actually, the cat-in-charge handed this over to me. Um. Ah. Not sure what to say. Hmm. Well, I guess, Jensen gives Jared his last Christmas gift. :) And for the record, this is the 13th story in this ‘verse.





Warm heart and cold nose

~~+~~


The movie continued to play, but Jensen had no clue what he was watching.

He hurt.

There was a burning sensation in his left side that had been there for the past couple of days, thanks to using different muscles for skiing. There was also an incessant cramping in his bad shoulder. But all he was really aware of was the deep, throbbing pain in his spine, right between his shoulder blades. It was the same kind of pain he'd had to deal with before the last surgery, and the fact the pain was back was almost as bad as the pain itself. He kept trying to relax, tell himself it was just the cabin pressure, that the pain wasn't really back—

Jared put down the eBook reader Jensen had given him for Christmas, and frowned over at him. Jensen opened his mouth and Jared's frown deepened. He leaned over, took out the earbuds Jensen was wearing, "No, you're not OK. Neil?" The last was said over the back of his airplane seat. "Jensen's in pain."

A moment later, Neil was kneeling in the aisle and Jensen gritted his teeth, because now the flight attendant had noticed, and paused to gawk.

"Jared, hold this please." Neil passed over two Ziploc bags, full of syringes and who knew what else. "Jensen? Where does it hurt?"

"Back." Jensen tried to ignore the flight attendant who was openly staring at them, "Between my shoulder blades."

Neil reached over, laid a finger on Jensen's right arm, checking for one of the numb areas. He caught Jensen's eye, and his tone was casual, matter-of-fact, "The pain is because of the cabin pressure. Your spine is compromised and can't adjust to the pressure change."

Jensen shook his head, "It—it wasn't like this before."

Neil readied a syringe, swabbed his arm, "Planes fly at different altitudes depending on—"

"Do you mind?" That was Chris, who'd stood up and was glaring at the flight attendant, "Neil's a licensed nurse, he's got it under control."

Generally, Chris's protectiveness drove Jensen nuts, but this time he was grateful, because the attendant backed away, stammering an apology.

"—depending on weather conditions. You might recall that it also took you several days to adjust to the higher altitudes of the mountains," Neil finished, as he injected the drug. His voice turned dry, "I would suggest you focus harder on remembering every detail of your honeymoon—sooner or later, your husband will use these memory lapses against you. How are your side and shoulder, on a scale of 1-10?"

"Three," Jensen lied. He knew it was all in his head, but Neil's calm, unruffled manner was already helping, making the pain more bearable.

"I'll give you a muscle relaxer, too." Neil arched an eyebrow, "Protest and I'll conduct a full exam instead."

Jared curled his fingers around Jensen's right hand, "Come on, Jensen. You need it."

"Yeah, fine." Jensen knew it came out as a growl, but he hated this. Right now, he wanted the damn pain to stop, but he also knew that as soon as the drugs hit, he'd be screwed.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the needle slide in. He glanced back over, saw the look that crossed Jared's face. Damnit. He also needed to pull his head out of his ass--and stop biting Jared's head off for giving a shit. He caught Jared's eye, "Sorry."

"It’s all right." Jared raised his hand, brushed his fingers over Jensen's knuckles, then gave him a sunny smile, complete with dimples, "For better or worse, right?"

Jensen's heart clenched. This past week, he kept catching glimpses of this Jared, the guy he'd originally fallen in love with--easy-going, and generous to a fault. Clearly, they needed to work harder on not letting their crazy schedules get in the way of them.

Jared gave him a quizzical look, "What?"

"I just love you, that's all."

"Well, I'm nervous now." Neil capped the second syringe, dropped it in his shirt pocket, took the bags, "When they have this scene in a movie, it's generally followed by the plane crash-landing."

"Way to kill the mood, Neil." Jared's smile widened, and he let go of Jensen's hand, twisted so he could rub Jensen's shoulder, "Thanks for that."

"You're welcome." Neil said it straight-faced, with a slight incline of the head. He stood, "I'll be in my seat if you need me."

The drugs were already beginning to kick in, pushing back the pain--proof that it really was just the change in air pressure. The pain Jensen had been dealing with before the last surgery had barely been controlled by the drugs, and some days, nothing had seemed to help. Jensen focused on Jared's fingers, as the thick blanket of a narcotic haze settled over him--

"Jensen? Hey, we need to put your seat back up."

Jensen blinked awake at Jared's voice. He felt weird, the drugs making the world a little fuzzy. Fuck. He didn't even remember closing his eyes. Jared hit the button, and Jensen had to will his left arm to move, managing to straighten just enough to let the seat snap back to an upright position.

A few minutes later there was the whine of the engines, and thump-thump-thump of the plane's wheels hitting the tarmac. Jared reached for the blanket and the neck roll, and Jensen let him fuss, already dreading what was coming next. No matter how much he protested, Neil and Jared had both refused to let him get on or off a plane by himself.

They taxied to the gate and one of the airline attendants announced, in a way too cheerful voice, that disabled passengers would disembark first. A couple of minutes later, an employee from the airline boarded with an aisle chair.

This was going to suck.

Jared passed his carry-on bag over the seat to Ty. "You ready?"

Like he had a fucking choice.

It was every bit as bad as he had feared. It took both Neil and Jared to get him out of the damn seat, and into the aisle chair. A few minutes later, he got the fun of repeating the process. The airline had unloaded the rental wheelchair and it was waiting at the foot ramp. Neil pulled out cushions, made sure the wheels were locked, and then he and Jared helped Jensen transfer again.

Jared knelt, checked that Jensen's feet were on the foot rests, "You good?"

Jensen was only too well aware of the airline employee, who was standing there, looking at him like he was Exhibit A or something. "Yeah."

"Uh huh." Jared leaned in, sneaked a quick kiss. Then he pulled back, "Oh boy."

The airline was letting families with kids leave next--and they could hear Jake crying.

Jennifer and Chris emerged from the plane, both looking frazzled as they tried to get five kids and a pile of carry-ons off. Directly on their heels was Ty, who was juggling Jake and the rest of their bags. Just about everybody else had flown back to LA earlier that week, except Chris and Jennifer and her four kids, and Emilio's two girls. One of Emilio's aunts was doing some kind of remodeling, and he'd flown back earlier, right after Christmas, to help.

Neil raised an eyebrow, as he took the bags from Ty, "We either need less stuff, or less kids."

"Don't tempt me," Jennifer muttered, as she dumped her purse and a large bag in Jensen's lap. "Here, make yourself useful. Jasmine needs to go potty."

"I gotta go too!" Brianna piped in.

"Everybody needs to go potty, we have a long ride home." Chris gave Jared a look, a definite How the hell did I get myself into this? "OK, girls, go with Jen. I'll take the boys. Come here, Jake."

"I don't wanna go!!" Jake clutched at Ty's neck, howling louder, and now they were getting glares from other disembarking passengers, because they were taking up most of the ramp.

They started moving, more by necessity than any real organization, shuffling bags and herding kids. Chris took Caleb to the restroom, came out a few minutes later, but it took forever for Jennifer and the girls to emerge from the women's bathroom. By that time, Jared had finally convinced Jake to go to the bathroom with him, so there was yet another wait.

Jensen tilted his head back, catching Neil's eye, "You sure you don't want to rethink the adoption thing?"

That was something else he and Jared were eventually going to have to deal with. Neil and Ty had put in an application to adopt from China back in October. Sometime next fall, he and Jared would have to cope by themselves for a couple of weeks while Ty and Neil were in China.

"No, because I am a happily married man," Neil's voice was dry, "and I would like to stay a happily married man."

Ty had been listening to Gabbi talking about the book she was reading. He raised his eyes, glancing their way, obviously only having caught part of what Neil had just said. "Are you complaining again?"

"Of course not." Neil’s tone dropped to a flat deadpan, without a flicker of emotion, "I am a lucky man and you are the light of my life."

Ty rolled his eyes, and started to retort, but then Jared came out of the bathroom with Jake clinging to him like a monkey, "OK, let's grab the rest of our luggage, so we can go home."

The baggage carousel area at LAX turned out to be insane, and their plane had just started unloading luggage when they got there. Chris and Jared both grabbed a couple of luggage trolleys, Jared still with Jake clinging to him, and started hauling off the bags as they appeared on the carousel. While it wasn't the recommended marking technique, Ty had tied brightly colored matching scarves to the handles, which had managed to stay on for the trip to Idaho and seemed to have survived the trip back intact as well, and made them easy to pick out. They had arranged for the skikart to travel separately by courier - it would be delivered next week sometime, making one less large luggage item to carry.

It seemed to take forever, and Jensen just wanted to be out of there. He didn't know how he'd ever been comfortable in airports; the crowds and the noise were overwhelming, and he could tell some people had recognized them. Nothing he could do about it, but sit there in the fucking chair and keep a smile pasted on his face, because Jared had a career and fans.

Ty's phone rang. He pulled it out, talking with animated gestures and flapping hands, and OK, maybe not everybody was staring just at him. Ty looked like he'd escaped from the Grand Ol' Opry; he was wearing tight white jeans, with a sky-blue sequined western shirt and matching boots--a look which didn't quite work with the makeup and painted nails. It probably didn't help that all six kids had their hair in pigtails, and were wearing whatever they'd picked out themselves, because Jennifer and Ty were on some kick about 'independence.'

Ty hung up, put the phone back in his shirt pocket, and his hands on his hips, "Emilio and Beth are just now getting here, the traffic is absolutely horrible."

"It's LA right after Christmas, what did you expect?" Chris came up, pushing an overloaded luggage trolley, with Jared right behind him. He glanced over at Jensen, "And just so you know, I'm sending you the chiropractor bill."

The nice thing about having so much crap was that it made it easy to get through the crowds, they just followed in Chris and Jared's wake. They got to the doors and there was another stop while kids were corralled, and an attempt was made to ensure everybody had coats and hats and gloves.

Neil pulled Jensen's stocking cap on, and Jensen braced himself for the indignity of having to get help with something as fucking simple as a coat. Neil, however, unzipped one of the bags, pulled out Jared's ski jacket, then held it out backwards, and helped Jensen thread his arms though it. He tucked the open edges behind Jensen's back, turned down the collar.

Jensen was glad for the extra warmth, because outside it was cold and drizzling. Gabbi and Jasmine spotted their dad, ran squealing and chattering into his arms. Brianna and Traci immediately latched onto Stephanie, while Beth cajoled Jake into clinging to her instead, and Caleb tried to help Chris, Neil, and Jared with the bags, while Ty tried to keep him on the sidewalk.

Jensen watched it all, frustrated, stuck on the sidelines as usual. It was actually Jared who parked the luggage trolley and came over first. He slowed, "Hey, you OK?"

"Sure." Jensen nodded, biting back the words he wanted to say.

"Guess it's tough having to sit on the sidelines," Jared finally said after a long pause, gave Jensen's shoulder a squeeze.

Jensen gave Jared a look - sometimes his husband could be a little too perceptive for comfort. He sighed, "Yeah, and kinda... exposed."

"Come on, then." Jared leaned forward and unsnapped the brakes on the wheelchair. "At least if you're in the car, you won't be so exposed."

Neil walked over, sliding in on the other side of the SUV while Jared angled the wheelchair, locked the wheels again, "Ready?"

"Yeah." Jensen tried his best to relax, let Jared do most of the work. Once he was in the car, Neil reached over, removed the coat, handed it over to Jared, and latched the seat belt.

Oh fuck, but Jensen had missed having a seat that had a heater. He sank back into the warm leather, caught Neil eying him, "What?"

Neil glanced at his watch, then back up. "You haven't used an expletive in at least 35 minutes. I am trying to gauge if I should be concerned."

Jared snorted, "You're not helping, Neil. I'll be back in a second."

He shut the door at the same time that Ty opened the front door on the passenger side and got in. He glanced back, "How you doing, sweetheart?"

Neil's tone turned even dryer, "Apparently the honeymoon glow hasn't worn off, because there is a notable lack of swearing back here."

"Don't listen to him, baby." Ty's gaze slid to his husband, his expression one of amused tolerance, "We all know Neil is not the romantic type."

Neil arched an eyebrow, but before he could protest, Jared came back with Emilio's girls. There were a few of minutes of shuffling, with Neil getting out so Jared could sit next to Jensen, and Jasmine and Gabbi crawling into the far back seat. Jared slid over, slouched down so Jensen could settle against him, and wrapped his hand around Jensen's right hand.

The seat was warm and so was Jared, and Jensen stifled a yawn, unable to resist. "Maybe Jared should give you tips, Neil."

Ty gave one of his high-pitched laughs and Jared looked from Jensen to Ty, "Did I miss something?"

"After nearly nine years of marriage," Neil rummaged in a bag, pulled out a neck roll, "I have been informed that I am not romantic enough. Here."

Emilio gave a bark of laughter, "Considering the way you proposed? Ty should've run for the next county."

Ty giggled and Jensen grinned and Jared swung his gaze from Neil back to Jensen.

"He proposed at the bowling alley of the student union." Jensen filled him in, and a slow grin spread over Jared's face.

"Seriously? OK, that's lame."

"First, I was working there and second, I got down on one knee." Neil's tone was bland, but Jensen could tell he was fighting a smile at the teasing, "Also, I will point out that I have never given Ty a rock as a gift."

"He's got a point, boss." Emilio threw out, as he pulled out into traffic.

"Hey! I like the rock," Jensen huffed, tipping his head back, smiling up at Jared.

They had also managed to time their arrival to be stuck in the post-Christmas LA evening peak hour. The freeway and La Cienega had both crawled to an almost complete stop, so that what should have been a 40-50 minute trip was more than 90. According to the traffic report, that drifted back softly from the radio, the alternate routes weren't any better. Jensen only half-listened, let the warmth and Jared's comfortable shoulder and the rumble of the car lull him into a half-doze.

He was startled awake when the car stopped. He opened his eyes, saw his familiar gate opening and then Emilio was pulling into the drive and into the garage. Jensen hadn't realized just how much he had missed being home until then. And what sucked was he couldn't do anything about it--thanks to the damn drugs he no choice but to wait in the car while Neil fetched his wheelchair, charging in its usual place in the kitchen. Ty headed straight for the kitchen to prepare a light supper while Jared dealt with releasing Jensen's seat belt and getting him into position to make the transfer from the car to the wheelchair, and Emilio started unloading the luggage.

"Hey, stop fussing, will you," Jensen finally said. He put out his left hand clumsily, to touch Jared's arm, coordination still fucked up from the drugs Neil had given him on the plane.

Jared looked at him, smiled. "I know, I just..."

"Worry about me?"

Jared sighed, "Yeah, mother hen, I know." He put his hand on Jensen's, squeezed, looked around as he heard Neil steering the wheelchair into the garage. "Think you can stand?" Jared asked, a grin quirking his lips.

"Oh no, you're not gettin' your hands on me that easily," Jensen responded. "No manhandling."

Jared gave a mock-pout. "Awww, spoilsport."

Jensen started to slowly move, only to be halted by Neil.

"Just a minute." He walked around the back of the car and Jensen heard the zips opening on one of their remaining bags. Neil came back with the seat cushions for the chair, patted them into position. "Now you're good."

With Jared and Neil each taking an elbow, he got to his feet. Jensen knew his frustration had to do with fatigue and medication, but he hated how unsteady he felt as he took the two steps required to get to his wheelchair, and let himself be lowered and settled into place. In a weird way, it was a relief. He might need the chair, but this one was his, and far more comfortable than either the rented manual chair or any of the rides the airline had provided. It also felt good to be independent and mobile, and if he couldn't be on his own two feet, well, it wasn't all bad.

Now that he could go into the house, he chose to wait for Jared to re-zip the bag and haul it out of the back of the car. Which was the only reason he caught Jared's frown at his exercise equipment, still piled in a corner waiting to be reassembled. That was something else they were going to have to take care of.

The moment passed and Jared turned, his expression brightened into a grin, "Come on, dude, let's get inside."

Jensen preceded Jared through the doorway, gave a preemptive, "Neil, bathroom, now," as he passed through the kitchen and headed straight for the bedroom. He was anxious to be rid of the catheter he'd been forced to used for the plane trip. And truthfully? Idaho had been fun, but he was really damn glad to be home.

Jared just shrugged at Ty who was already mixing something in a big blue bowl, then followed them both through the house, still dragging the bag behind him.

~~+~~


Jared crouched down over the bag, ran the zipper open, listening to Jensen and Neil's quiet voices in the bathroom. He squirmed his hand into a corner, and did a fist pump when he found the small black satchel he had packed so carefully. He took the bag, with its scented candles, massage oil and a lighter to the night stand. Neil and Jensen were still talking, so he sat on the corner of the bed to wait, curling one leg under the other. Neil came out first, nodded at Jared and kept going. Jensen came out a moment later, stopped in front of Jared and smiled.

"Better?" Jared asked.

"Yeah."

Jared reached out, put his hand over the forearm of Jensen's good arm, gave a squeeze. "Good." Jared waited a beat, smiling back, and then they both started speaking at the same time, "So, I was..."

They both stopped, and Jensen said graciously, "You first."

Jared drew in a breath and started again. "So, I was thinking, I'm kinda tired and I know you are. What do you think if we hit the shower, have something to eat in bed, and then I can pull out my license to touch and give you a massage and... It is date night, after all," he let his smile widen, "and... you know..." He tilted his head, looked at Jensen expectantly.

"Sounds like you got a plan," Jensen grinned.

"So, I'll just go and..." He started to rise, paused when Jensen spoke.

"No need. I'm way ahead of you."

"Well, look at you being all decisive," Jared teased.

"Besides, we gotta be up bright and early in the morning."

"We do? I thought we were still on vacation. And it's Saturday tomorrow." Jared looked at Jensen, caught the glint in his eyes, and tried to figure out what he was up to. It had to be about this mysterious Christmas gift. "So... what's this we're supposed to be doing?"

"You'll like it."

Which told him nothing. Jared rocked back on his heels, "Uh huh, that tells me a lot."

Jensen's grin turned smug, "Let it go, Jared, I'm not saying."

"Uh huh. And we all know what you're like with secrets," he sighed, "won't stop me from trying, though."

"Yeah, I know. C'mon, let's go get clean."

~~+~~


Jared closed the Velcro on the back of Jensen's shirt, then leaned forward and snuffed out the scented candles, wrinkling his nose at the burned carbon smell that filled the air for a moment. He removed the pillow that was supporting Jensen's head and gently rolled him onto his back.

"Sorry," Jensen said, blinking up at him, only half awake.

"For what?" Jared was confused, Jensen hadn't done anything to require an apology. He placed both of Jensen's hands on his chest, used the pillows he'd been using to support him for the massage to raise his legs.

"I-I know you like to..." Jensen hesitated. "To... snuggle?"

Jared shrugged, stretched out against Jensen's side, propped himself up on one elbow, and pulled the covers over both of them. "'S'OK, there's... compensations." He grinned, and leaned in, invading Jensen's personal space even more. "I was thinkin' we could maybe, dunno, make out?"

"Well, it is 'date night,'" Jensen's answering grin was wide but sleepy, and his eyes were already drifting shut.

Jared didn't need a second invitation to snuggle closer. He ran his lips across Jensen's jaw, laid his head on Jensen's shoulder. And oh wow, being flat felt awesome. He yawned, then let his hand slide down Jensen's chest, across his belly, fingers dipping under the waistband of Jensen's sweats, "Hot and heavy, right?"

He heard Jensen's soft huff of a laugh, "Yeah, that's us."

He moved his hand again, letting it rest on Jensen's stomach, mumbled, "Love you."

Jensen might've replied, but Jared wasn't sure, because the the heavy drag of sleep was already pulling him down.

~~+~~


Jared blinked awake, not sure if he'd heard something or not, caught a second pained grunt, and then he felt the tension in Jensen's body. He started to lift his head up, mumbling, "Shit, sorry," when he realized he was attached to the shoulder of Jensen's t-shirt by a string of drool. Batted at it with this hand.

"'S' all right."

"Muscle spasms?" Jared asked, fumbling for the call button on the wrist monitor.

"Yeah." Jensen's whole body jerked as his left leg spasmed, "Fuck!"

Neil opened the door at that moment, and Jared wondered if the guy was a mind reader or something, because he already had his black kit in his hand. Jensen saw it too, and glared, "No, damnit. No drugs."

"May I point out that it's 1:30. If I give you the minimum dosage, it will wear off by 7:30." Jensen's scowl deepened and Neil raised an eyebrow, "Unless we are doing some Texas version of math that I am unaware of."

"Fine." Jensen growled it out as his left leg jerked again, and Jared sat up, exchanging a look with Neil, because seriously, did Jensen always have to be so damn stubborn?

Neil readied the syringe, "How is the pain, on a scale of 1-10?"

Jensen shook his head, and there was definitely frustration in his voice, "Just fucking burns."

Neil lowered the syringe, "Where? Your leg? Does it feel cold? Or sharp?"

"Yeah, both."

"Jared, could you raise the temperature?" Neil laid the syringe down, peeling off the covers and the sheets and this was one of those times when Jared was glad they had Neil around because this stuff was really confusing. Most of the time it was muscle spasms, but sometimes it was actually Jensen's nerves misfiring. His regular meds were supposed to help, but sometimes they didn't, and sometimes the meds were working OK, it was just something else that was making the nerves misfire.

Last time, it had been a small rock that had worked its way into Jensen's sock, and the only solution was to keep his foot from touching anything for an hour until the nerves calmed down.

Jared got up, hit the thermostat, saw the way Jensen jumped the minute Neil touched his leg. Neil frowned, and Jared anticipated his next request, hit the dimmer, turning the lights up more. He was fully awake now, watching while Neil skimmed hands over Jensen's leg, and the bedclothes, trying to figure out what was going on. He stopped abruptly, "Fuck."

Jared wasn't used to hearing Neil swear. "What is it?"

"This is the wrong pillowcase." Neil's usual composure was back, as quickly as it had slipped. "There's a tag on it, which is rubbing against your ankle. Jensen, Jared is going to support your legs for a minute."

Shit. This was just one of the things that had Jared so worried about Neil and Ty being gone for three weeks in the fall. What if something like his happened and he couldn't figure it out? "Sorry, Jensen."

"Not your fault."

"Yeah, well, I should have checked."

"Not your fault," Jensen repeated more firmly, though his words were still a little sleep-slurred, "You didn't change the sheets."

Jared caught the look Neil exchanged with Jensen, the one that said he'd be getting to the bottom of it. "Jared, can you give me a hand here?"

Jared crossed back to the bed, slipped his arm under Jensen's legs, trying to be careful because Jensen's leg was spasming again. Neil pulled the pillow out, went into the bathroom, came back with a couple of towels, which he rolled up, slid under Jensen's leg so that his ankle wasn't resting against anything. "I think we should wait a half an hour before we try numbing the area." Neil looked at Jared, silently asking if they wanted him to stay or not.

Jared nodded, "Go back to bed, I got it."

"Good night, then." Neil picked up the syringe and the offending pillow, shut the door behind him.

Jared sat down on the edge of the bed, took Jensen's hand. Jensen shifted, trying to get comfortable, as his leg continued to twitch, "Mean it, not your fault."

"Yeah," Jared mumbled, reaching for the remote, raising Jensen's head a little. He was just too tired, and it seemed a bit much that stupid pillow tags were one more thing he had to add to the long list of stuff that he had to constantly think about.

Jensen moved his left hand, hitting the mattress, "Come on, lay back down. Please?"

Jared went around the bed, slid over, reached for Jensen's hand. Rubbing it was the only thing he could think to do; Neil was right, waiting for Jensen's nerves to settle down was better than more drugs.

Jensen turned his head, brushing his lips across Jared's cheek, his voice still sleep-rough, "Tell me more about this," he broke off as his leg caused his body to jerk, and his voice tightened, "--this place in Big Bear."

"Typical actor's idea of a rustic cabin." Jared snuggled closer, more than willing to let Jensen try to distract both of them, "It's right on the mountain and the place is huge</i>. 'Specially the master bedroom."

"Dude, who cares about the bedroom." Jensen' voice was still tight, but a bit of teasing crept in, "What's the powder like?"

"Are we going for us? Or for the skiing?" Jared tried to say it in a huff, but he was already smiling, thinking of how much fun they'd had in Idaho. "Cuz if this going to be a repeat of our honeymoon..."

The spasms and twitching stopped, and he could feel Jensen relaxing, even as he grumbled, "Not like you were putting out before."

Jared laughed, snuggling closer as he slowed his thumb, rubbing Jensen's hand more gently. "Better?"

Jensen tried to say 'yes' but it came out as a yawn instead. Jared watched as Jensen drifted off. Another of those things he couldn't quite get used to; Jensen never used to be able to fall asleep so quickly or so heavily. He waited a while, until he was sure Jensen was sleeping, then let go of Jensen's hand, and stretched out, settling his head on Jensen's shoulder.

He tried to think about what Jensen's surprise was going to be, but the moment he let his eyes close, exhaustion immediately tugged him under.

~~+~~


Jensen preceded Jared into the living room then waited for Jared to step alongside. He caught his husband's curious look and the way he frowned at the camera and lights that had been set up. All he'd told Jared was that they were being interviewed, not why or by whom. Jensen rolled to a stop by the couch, waited for Jared to move in front of him. He was only moving slightly better than he had the previous night, and he cursed the urge that had him doing this the day after they had flown in.

"Sofa?" Jared asked.

"Please," Jensen said, trying very hard to ignore the fact that he was doing this in front of an audience--worse, in front of a camera. Jared crouched down and moved the footplates out of the way, guided his feet to the floor, then with a hand under each elbow, helped him to his feet, guided him a couple of awkward, hesitant steps to the couch, and eased him down again. He gave Jared a lopsided grin of thanks, feeling way out of his comfort zone, and waited for Jared to sit beside him.

A woman wearing a B.A.R.C. t-shirt stepped forward as Jared sat down, "Hi, I'm Tanya from B.A.R.C. Is it OK if I call you Jared and Jensen?"

There was a momentary lull as an assistant applied makeup and someone else affixed microphones to their clothing. Jared leaned into him, curiously quiet, grabbed onto Jensen's right hand, started unconsciously running his thumb over the knuckles. Jensen could only 'sort of' feel what Jared was doing, but he caught the movement and put his left hand on top of Jared's in a reassuring gesture. "Hey, it's OK, really. You're gonna like this," he repeated his words from the previous night, then leaned as close as he could to Jared's ear and whispered, "it's, ah, to do with your other Christmas present."

"Oh," Jared's eyes widened. He smiled and said it again, more vehemently, "Oh!" He reached up and touched Jensen's cheek.

"Now, shush," he whispered with a small smile, "coz that loud noise you hear? That's me breaking out of my comfort zone."

"OK."

Jensen straightened up, looked across at Tanya, who'd taken a seat in a chair adjacent to the sofa.

"OK, we ready to go now?" she asked. At Jensen's affirmative nod, she put on her 'TV smile' and started to speak, reading off the Autocue. "Hello, I'm Tanya Ferguson, and today B.A.R.C. is at the home of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, at the special request of David Boreanaz, who is one of our major benefactors. As many of you would know, Jared has been, and still is, involved with the A Dog's Life Rescue campaign for many years. His dogs, Harley and Sadie, were both rescue dogs. A few months ago, he and Jensen were interviewed by Entertainment Weekly. During that interview, Jensen revealed that the reason he retired from acting was that he had suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of an accident on the set of his last movie." Jensen braced himself, guessing what was about to come. "Jensen, can you tell us something about how the injury happened?"

Jensen put on his game face, flicked a glance in Jared's direction as he felt Jared squeeze his hand. "Basically, what happened is that I fell as a result of some improperly set rigging for wirework for one of the stunts in the movie. As a result of the fall, I sustained an injury to my lower back and had to have surgery. Unfortunately, I developed an infection from one of the superbugs, acinetobacter, actually, which kinda did a number on my spinal cord."

"So there was more damage?"

"Yes."

"And this was more severe?"

Jensen nodded. "Yes, more severe."

Tanya thought for a minute. "What level of injury are we talking about here?"

"In the thoracic region, between my shoulder blades, more or less."

"But you can walk."

"Well, yes, yes, I can walk, although it's more complicated than that." Jensen sucked in a couple of breaths. This was going much further than he either wanted or intended. And he had just dropped himself right in it.

Jared cleared his throat, interrupted. "I think what Jensen is trying to say here is that the spinal cord controls more than just movement."

"That's correct." Jensen found himself floundering, too used to the medical jargon to know how to simplify his explanation, "The spinal cord is... is... it's like a...

"A big ol' telephone system, right?" Jared interjected.

"Yeah, a telephone system of sorts--it controls messages from the brain to all parts of the body. So depending on the level of the injury, it can affect things as diverse as sensations of heat, cold, whether or not you sweat, ah..." This was much better-- more general, less personal.

"Breathing, the cardiovascular system..." Jared added.

"Digestive motility--that is, how well your digestive system works--or doesn't, as the case may be." Jensen thought for a moment, feeling more secure in talking about it in this way, falling back on the clinical stuff. He'd had a lot of years to accumulate the knowledge. He deliberately skipped over sexual function---no way was he going there. "Basically any or all internal organs can be affected to some extent, depending on the severity and level of injury. And there's also things like muscle spasms and misfiring nerves. All of this is aside from the paralysis and loss of sensation. So, it really is complex."

"And it can even vary from day to day."

"Right." Jensen said, and now that the floodgates had opened, he was having trouble getting them to close again. "So in my case, yes, I can walk and I have some use of my arms. Generally, I have more function on one side than the other, but there are also other... issues. And it doesn't take much to knock me off my feet--I don't have the coordination I used to have."

Tanya waited a beat, apparently absorbing the information. "It sounds hard."

"It'd be impossible for me to live here without support and assistance. I'm lucky in that I can afford to employ a full-time nurse, who has been with me for over six years now, because otherwise..." He left that thought unfinished. "I also have Jared, and a number of other friends that help out from time to time. Jared has done a therapeutic massage course and has taken over that aspect completely." Jensen looked right into the camera, smiled widely. "I can truthfully say that yes, he does have magic hands. I actually thought about getting him a shingle to put out front of the house for Christmas - J Padalecki, Massage Therapist. Didn't think the neighborhood would appreciate it, though."

Jared gave a throaty laugh, making an "air massage" gesture with one hand, grinning, "Way to make people jealous, Jensen."

"Hey, I still might do that. You may need something to fall back on if this acting gig falls through." Jared grinned wider, although he continued to keep his gaze on Jensen, making sure he was OK with where this interview was going.

"Jared, I believe you're still involved in 'A Dog's Life'. Is that correct?" Tanya turned to him, eyes wide.

"Yes, in fact, they have something coming up fairly soon, in a couple of weeks."

"And Harley and Sadie?"

"Unfortunately, Harley and Sadie both passed when I was still living in New York and I haven't... well, I didn't think it was fair to keep a young dog in a high rise. It was hard enough with Harley and Sadie, and they were older, elderly even, to get them used to living indoors without a yard. And now, well, there's Jensen to consider, and there's like ten kids living here full time, and more during vacations. It's, um, a sort of commune, I guess," Jared shrugged, looked at Jensen for a second, "and one of the kids--he has MS and is blind. So, yeah, I, uh, didn't think it was a good idea."

"Ten kids? That's a lot."

"Well," said Jensen, "there are three residences on the property, so it's not as bad as it sounds. But, yeah, ten, ranging from about three years old to late teens, and we do tend to have a lot of community meals and so on. And the backyard and pool are shared areas. So, yeah, Jared's right. Neither of us thought another dog was a good idea." He glanced up at Jared, smiled, "Until you offered a perfect solution."

Jared's other hand stilled, and Jensen could kind of tell he was gripping his right hand tighter, and oh hell, the whole interview was worth it for the look in Jared's eyes.

Tanya nodded, "When we train our service dogs, we set some very high standards. Many of our dogs are wonderful dogs, but they can't all meet our criteria." The production assistant raised a finger as a signal, and Tanya turned her head, facing the camera, "Here's a spot on one of our dogs, Abbie. Abbie is a chocolate labrador, and this video will show how she almost made it as a service dog."

~~+~~


It was taking all of Jared's will power not to squirm, wishing that Tanya would just hurry up so he could see Abbie.

A dog.

His dog.

It didn't even feel real that this was happening. He must've thought about having another dog at least a million times since Sadie had gone to join Harley, and he shelved the idea every time.

He caught himself shuffling his feet, stopped and squeezed Jensen's hand tighter. When Jensen had said something about another Christmas gift, he'd assumed it had to do with setting up his gym equipment, which was still stored in the garage.

But a dog...

And Jensen, doing this interview, for him.

Jensen caught his eye, gave him a wide, shit-eating grin, and Jared's heart stuttered. He had to force his eyes back to Tanya as she stopped speaking. He watched as she held that position for a couple of seconds, so that the editor could do the cut in, then she turned back to them.

Tanya's camera smile nearly slipped into a grin, "And now--here's Anisha, one of our trainers, with Abbie."

Jared's eyes flew towards the door. He totally ignored the trainer, focusing solely on Abbie. She was absolutely gorgeous--a big chocolate lab with huge brown eyes and a dark pink nose. Abbie cocked her head, obviously puzzled at the number of people, then let her tongue loll out, as her whole back end started waggling.

He leaned forward, offering a closed fist to Abbie to sniff. She sniffed and wriggled closer, leaning into his legs as he started rubbing her chest. "Hey, baby girl. You're beautiful."

Abbie must've agreed, because she leaned more into his hand, giving him a full on doggie grin and Jared grinned back.

"Merry Christmas, Jared." Jensen's voice drew him back.

"I'm supposed to give you this." The trainer, a stocky black woman in her thirties, handed Jared a rather garish purple and pink collar--with sequins--and a heart-shaped nametag dangling from the loop.

Jensen noticed his look, and smiled, "It's from Beth and Dennis--their kids picked it out. And there's more ah, stuff in the den."

Of course. Everybody had probably bought Abbie something. Jared took the collar, and Abbie nuzzled his hand, trying to get him to rub her some more. He glanced at the cameras and--screw it, it was already out there that he and Jensen were in a relationship. He put the collar down, reached out, cupping Jensen's chin with his hand, and kissed him.

~~Finis~~


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Comments 
1st-Jul-2011 11:08 am (UTC)
Aw, so much love for this!
1st-Jul-2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, you were fast! Happy you liked it. :D
1st-Jul-2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was just adorable! I love this 'verse.
1st-Jul-2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah, so do I, or rather, so does my muse. Glad you liked it. :)
1st-Jul-2011 01:26 pm (UTC)
Aww, my boys and their dog! Loved this as always. I think Abbie lucked out and will worship her daddies. And the boys deserve some unconditional, slobbery love. :)
1st-Jul-2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you, glad you liked it. And yeah, I think Abbie's fallen on all four of her feet with these guys. :)
1st-Jul-2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Awnnnnnnnnnnnnn.. I love this verse!!

And I loved how Jensen seems to be taking his limitations easier ..

Jared did well to Jensen ... Jensen did well to Jared! They love each other, are a couple, and now a lovely couple with a dog!

I'd say it's lacking only their kids, but it already has enough kids in that house! LOL!

Congrats for your job, it's really great!!

Brazilian hugs!!
1st-Jul-2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Polly. Yes, they are both growing and learning in this relationship. Glad you liked it. :)
1st-Jul-2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Well i love this whole verse and I'm sure this installment was great but I'm stuck on... YOU GAVE JARED A DOG !! YIPPEE!!
1st-Jul-2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we did. :D Apparently the way to make Jesseofthenorth happy is to give them a dog, ;). Glad you liked it. :)
1st-Jul-2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
Ahhh a new dog for Jared from his Jensen! Love this verse....and your ideas for it!
Great job! *hugs*
1st-Jul-2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Glad you liked it. :)
1st-Jul-2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
Oh man. You never fail to amaze. Seriously, thanks. I smiled and this has been such a bad week for me. I thank you so very much!!!!
1st-Jul-2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Always happy to cheer up someone who needs it. You're welcome, and glad you liked it. :)
1st-Jul-2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
*MELTS* That was perfect. :)
1st-Jul-2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Wow. I think you liked it. :) Thank you.
2nd-Jul-2011 02:12 am (UTC)
Oh - all bad stuff from the week are just melting away - this was so lovely and thie verse is so awesome. They are each other's rock to hold onto, best friends, and souce of healing love.
2nd-Jul-2011 03:11 am (UTC)
I absolutely agree with you. So glad you enjoyed it.
12th-Jul-2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Reading this 'verse makes me so happy =D

Absolutely amazing... I'm hoping to read more in the summer ;) hope you're willing to write more as well =)) ♥
12th-Jul-2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
I'm sure there will be more. My muse has gotten a death grip on this 'verse and won't let go. Pleased that it makes you happy!
13th-Jul-2011 03:38 am (UTC)
Haha I thank your muse then =P

Can't get enough of this fic ♥
4th-Sep-2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
I love this. I was having an off day so I started rereading and found this and can't believe I missed it. It was perfection.
7th-Sep-2011 06:30 am (UTC)
I'm so hopelessly behind on this 'verse, but oh man, do I love this installment! So sweet and realistic and beautifully-written.
8th-Sep-2011 08:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for that, Roque. There's plenty of words for you to catch up when you have time. Glad you liked it. :)
8th-Oct-2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
How did i miss this? And you know I'm a sucker for anything dog-related..I actually cried!
And was only on here to wish you Happy birthday but you gave me the present!
Ax
9th-Oct-2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Why thank you, Annie. And glad you enjoyed it. :)
20th-Oct-2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww the best EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Really can't tell you enough how much I loved it <333
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