"Blizzard," Jared is saying, flipping on the t.v. so Jensen can see the weather report for himself. "I already checked with the airport. Planes are grounded. All flights canceled. This entire city is just shut down, man. It's a nightmare."
"How long?" Jensen asks, clearing his throat and trying to sit up, which isn't easy with how groggy he feels and a cup of hot coffee in his hand.
"They think it'll pass by later today," Jared answers. "Or just turn to rain. But they've got to get the roads cleared. Seattle never deals well with snow. They don't have the equipment."
"What about Portland?" Jensen suggests. "Is it snowing there?"
Jared shakes his head.
"Just here, of course."
"So we drive to Portland, catch our flights from there," Jensen suggests, running his free hand through his hair. "I'm hitting the shower. You get us a car rental."
And just like that, they're moving in sync again.
It feels so natural, like the way they work when they're on set, and Jensen takes a minute as he's soaping himself up in the shower to be grateful for Jared's sudden cordiality. It makes their current situation about a million times easier. If they deal with this together, the whole thing becomes manageable, not such a monumental pain in the ass.
More of a slightly-less-than-monumental pain in the ass.
And Jared not arguing or blowing him off when Jensen asks him to do something -- that's so new it feels strange, but also a huge relief. Because there was a time, long ago, that Jared really looked up to Jensen, really admired him and wanted his approval all the time. Jensen doesn't even want to think about how much he misses that. How much he liked playing Jared's big brother. How natural it felt, not like acting at all.
And if Jensen finds himself jerking off in the warm water because thinking about Jared as he washes himself has made him hard as a rock, well -- that's just a necessary part of helping himself relax and prepare for the stress of the day to come -- since he won't have time for his usual yoga and tai-chi exercises if he's stuck in a car with Jared.
Being stuck in a car with Jared somehow doesn't sound as bad as he expected it would, and he comes hard thinking about how Jared smells in closed-in spaces, something he's intimately familiar with after almost ten years on this show.
When they pick up the car it's not the four-wheel drive vehicle they would have preferred -- every car rental company in Seattle is out of those right now, apparently. So they find themselves crammed into a late-model Chevy Impala, of all things. It's billed as a family sedan, but the leg-room is nowhere near enough for two tall men, and Jared insists on driving because he's damned if he's going to fold his long legs into the passenger seat leg-well and just sit there.
Jensen doesn't mind giving Jared control. He figures it'll be a chance for him to get a little more shut-eye. Plus Jared has had more experience driving in snow than Jensen has, since he did a lot of skiing in Colorado growing up.
It's a slow drive getting out of the city, and Jared curses a lot and slams the flat of his hand against the steering wheel so much Jensen gives up on sleeping for the first hour or so.
But then they're on I-5 and at least they seem to be moving, albeit at a snail's pace, and Jensen finds he can nod off to the soothing sound of the windshield wipers slapping the glass, the tires sloshing through slushy snow as they move slowly but steadily southward down the interstate.
Jared's cursing has been going on awhile, Jensen realizes as he starts awake after what must be at least another hour or so because he's stiff and his mouth is dry from hanging open.
"Fuck! Goddamn it! Fuck!"
Jared's hand slams against the steering wheel for emphasis.
Jensen takes a deep breath, closes his mouth and salivates deliberately before pushing himself away from the window he was leaning on and sits up, blinking and rubbing his eyes.
Outside the car everything is white.
The snow has blanketed the trees on either side of the road as well as the road in front and behind them.
The road is completely empty of cars.
This is not I-5, Jensen realizes. They're on some kind of two-lane mountain road, as far as Jensen can tell, and they are totally alone.
"Where are we?" he asks, tamping down the panic rising in his chest.
"My phone said I could take this short-cut," Jared explains with a gesture at the road. "I-5 was so jammed and I was afraid we were gonna get stuck so I took this side-road and -- "
The car is still moving, tires crunching on packed snow, but nobody has plowed this road, and the snow is getting steadily deeper, and --
"Turn back," Jensen says, glancing over his shoulder at the way they came. "We can turn back."
"It's been just like this for the past hour," Jared shakes his head. "Except now the snow is getting really deep and I think if we turn around we'll just get stuck. My phone says it's only five miles on this road -- "
Jensen pulls out his phone, holds it up, and --
"You getting any signal?" he asks, because Jensen is not.
Jared says nothing, so Jensen turns to him, stares at the familiar profile.
Jared is staring resolutely at the road, jaw clenched, hands clutching the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles are white.
"Jay?" Jensen prods, struggling to keep the hysteria out of his voice.
Jared's jaw works angrily for a moment, then he gives a tiny shake of his head.
"Jared -- " Jensen lets a breath out, stares ahead for a minute to gather his wits, resisting the urge to start screaming. "You need to turn around right now, man. We're lost and we don't have a phone and there's nobody on this road. This -- "
He gulps down his panic, tries again.
"This isn't good," he finishes lamely.
"It was only five miles," Jared mutters, sounding bewildered and freaked-out at the same time, like somebody played a huge practical joke on him and he's just now getting to the punch line. "I just kept thinking one more mile, one more mile, we'll be there -- we'll get back to the main road -- "
"Jared," Jensen keeps saying his co-star's name as a way to steady himself as much as to get Jared's attention. "How many miles have we gone on this road?"
"Five miles," Jared's shaking his head, not answering. "It said five miles."
Jared clamps his mouth shut, shakes his head again, glances at Jensen before staring back at the road.
"Thirty-seven miles," he answers softly, letting out a long sigh. His shoulders sag and he seems to deflate into himself, hunching over the wheel in defeat.
"Shit," Jensen breathes.
Which is when the car stops moving.
Jared tries gunning the engine, rocks the car back and forth, shifting from reverse to first.
Nothing. There is something like three feet of snow in the road all around them, and the wind is blowing drifts around the car and it's snowing heavily.
"Okay," Jensen says when the it's clear the car isn't going anywhere. "So we wait for the plow."
He flips on the radio, searching for a station, but they're apparently out of range of all radio signals as well as cell-phone towers, which makes no sense. They might as well be on the moon.
"Did you ever pass another car on this road?" Jensen finally asks.
He has to turn and look at Jared again to get him to answer, and even then all he gets is Jared shaking his head again.
"Any houses? Any signs of life at all?"
Again with the head-shaking, and Jensen closes his eyes against the urge to blame, to start chastising and cursing and tearing into Jared for his stupidity and stubbornness in the face of his obvious mistake.
But he doesn't, because doing so will only make things worse, and Jensen doesn't need Jared breaking down or yelling at him right now.
Or starting to cry, for God's sake.
"Okay," Jensen tries when he's regained his zen and feels a little calmer. "This isn't supposed to last more than a few hours, right? So we stay here, run the heater off and on to keep warm, drink melted snow if we really need to, although we need to try to warm it before we drink it so we don't lower our body temperatures. We can put more clothes on. Layers are good."
"Huddle together for warmth as a last resort," Jared adds, and Jensen looks sharply at him but there's no sarcasm in Jared's expression. In fact, he looks so lost and young it makes Jensen's chest ache.
"Right," he agrees, giving Jared a little reassuring smile. "As a last resort."
They sit silently for a few minutes, watching the snow, which isn't showing any signs of letting up. If anything, it seems to be getting heavier, and Jensen begins to wonder if it might eventually bury the car completely.
The thought of being buried in snow is messing with Jensen's natural claustrophobia and he has to close his eyes and take deep breaths to fight it down. When he opens them again Jared is staring at him.
"We can walk out," Jared says, as if he's reading Jensen's mind. "It's only one o'clock in the afternoon. If we start now, head back toward the main road, we should be there in about six or seven hours."
Jensen raises his eyebrows.
"Really? We can walk five or six miles an hour? In heavy snow?" Jensen shakes his head doubtfully. "I don't know about you, pal, but that's my comfortable jogging rate on a smooth surface with no hills. Not sure I could pull off a jog in this stuff. Or keep it up for six hours straight."
Jared bites his bottom lip, nods.
"Right," he says. "I wasn't thinking about how the snow would slow us down."
"And freeze our butts off," Jensen adds helpfully. "We're not exactly dressed for this weather."
"Damn it!" Jared slams his hand against the steering wheel again. "What the hell was I thinking?"
"Well, I don't know," Jensen offers slowly, not wanting to piss Jared off, given their extremely tight proximity. "But like you said, you thought you were taking a short-cut. Accidents happen."
Jared stares at the snow silently for a moment, then turns to Jensen, frowning.
"You're not mad," he notes speculatively. "If our positions were reversed, I would be furious with you."
Jensen shrugs noncommittally.
"Getting mad doesn't help the situation," he notes easily. "And if our positions were reversed, I never would've taken that short-cut."
"No, you wouldn't," he agrees. "You never do anything unless you're one-hundred-percent sure it will work first."
Jensen considers this for a moment.
"Are you telling me I don't take risks?" he suggests cautiously. "Cuz last time I checked, pretty much everything about our jobs is doing that."
"Not talking about the job," Jared grouses, looking away so Jensen's staring at his profile again.
"Oh?" Jensen pushes, although he has a prickly feeling that tells him he probably shouldn't. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Jared flushes, his skin reddening as he shifts uncomfortably in his seat, and Jensen's suddenly thinking about what Genevieve told him, then what Sam told him, and suddenly Jensen's feeling a flush rise on his own skin and it's actually getting a little too warm in the car.
"Never mind," he mutters, as much to let Jared off the hook as to change the subject -- whatever the subject was supposed to be that he suddenly feels sure he doesn't want to talk about.
Because hell yes, he did take a risk all those years ago, and look where it got them?
Not not NOT going there.
They spend the next three hours waiting for the snow to stop. Jared gets out of the car a couple of times -- once to piss, once to dig out the back of the car using his duffel bag as a shovel, which doesn't really work very well but gives him something to do. They agree they should take turns doing this, since if the exhaust pipe becomes completely covered they could asphyxiate. Or at least that's what Jensen tells himself so that he has an excuse to get out of the damn car once in awhile. It's bitterly cold, and neither of them brought much in the way of extra clothing -- they always travel light when they do these weekend conventions -- but they each have an extra shirt they put on, and Jared has his beanie, so at least he's got something to cover his head, which he graciously loans to Jensen whenever it's his turn to get out of the car. Neither of them has appropriate footwear, and Jensen's expensive leather boots are soaked through after the first outing, as well as his jeans up to the knee, and he sits shivering and wet for ten minutes while Jared blasts the heat in the car to dry him but it doesn't really work and he feels like a damp dog. Pretty sure he smells like one too, cuz Jared does.
There's no food, of course, and neither of them has eaten since breakfast, so by late afternoon they're fighting off the first pangs of serious hunger and resisting the urge to drink melted snow just to give their bellies something to gnaw on. Luckily they have Jensen's Starbucks cup from that morning's coffee run, and Jared fills it with snow, then lets it sit in the car for an hour and melt, holding it in front of the heat vents until it's just water, without any ice left. They take turns sipping the cold water, and it does help their dehydration a little, but it also makes them hungrier.
Around 4:00 it starts to get dark. It's almost winter, after all, and the days are getting shorter. Which means, the night will be really, really long. The thought of sitting in the car all night is beginning to look inevitable, and not fun.
That's when Jared comes up with the idea that ends up changing everything.
"We could walk back a mile or two, see if we can get cell service," he suggests.
Jensen thinks about this as he watches the thickening, blowing snow, the darkening sky.
"I'll go," he says, hunching his jacket around him and preparing to launch himself out into the blizzard.
"Hell, no!" Jared retorts. "We both go. I can't stay here while you're out there in that."
Jensen turns the full force of his gaze on Jared, who looks a little desperate along with his usual bitchiness.
"One of us should stay in case the plow comes," Jensen points out. "Maybe it'll come from the opposite direction, you know?"
"So I'll go," Jared insists. "I've got a head covering. You'll lose body heat faster. Also I'm bigger. Hotter."
Jensen's bites back the sassy response he would've delivered if the situation weren't so dire.
"How long do you think it'll take before you freeze to death?" Jensen asks. "Outside, I mean. How long do you think it'll take before you just drop from exposure?"
"I dunno," Jared shrugs. "Maybe a couple of hours, maybe more if I can keep moving."
"So you would walk for an hour, then turn around and come back," Jensen clarifies, and Jared nods.
"That's right," he agrees. "Be back in two hours."
Jensen considers this, imagines being alone in the cold car, waiting for Jared to come back, for two whole hours. He knows instinctively that Jared will push himself and it will be longer. Jared won't be able to help himself. He'll get out there and he'll keep going, telling himself that any minute he'll get that signal. If he can just walk for five more minutes --
And what if he doesn't come back? What if the two hours go by and there's no Jared? Then three or four hours --
Jensen's talking himself out of this plan pretty quickly.
Then the car runs out of gas.
Jared tries to start the car for a minute, clearly not facing the obvious -- which Jensen had assumed would be happening at some point but really hadn't wanted to think too much about because without the engine the car's battery would only last another hour at most and then they'd be facing a long night in a freezing car and Jensen had not wanted to think about the inevitability of that because it just didn't help anything.
Jared slams his hand against the steering wheel, against the dash, against the door and window -- and Jensen waits it out, lets Jared just bang out his frustration on the car until he's done, breathing hard, shoving his hair out of his face and finally turning a desperate, half-crazed stare on his co-star.
For a minute Jensen thinks he's going to break down -- say he's sorry, maybe, or start to cry -- but he just stares at Jensen with an expression so lost and bewildered and young that it reminds Jensen of the kid he was when they first met, how he looked up to Jensen then and treated him like a big brother.
Until Jensen betrayed that trust by trying to seduce him.
"We both go," Jensen says now, holding Jared's gaze steadily, willing him to remember how things used to be between them, how Jared always trusted Jensen's judgement and assumed Jensen knew best.
Not that he really did, of course, but Jensen's good at being steady when he needs to be. And right now, in this situation, he needs to be really, really steady.
Even if he's freaking out on the inside.
"We can't just sit here," Jensen tries again. "And I'm not letting you go out there alone. So we both go, we spend an hour trying to find a signal, then we turn around and come back here for the night. Try to stay warm."
Jensen watches Jared's face as he considers their options now that the car has completely died on them, or at least will be completely dead within the hour, even if they ration the heat. Jensen can see the moment Jared agrees to his plan, agrees to let Jensen come with him, even if it means they'll both freeze to death out there, with night coming on fast.
Having something to do, not just sitting still anymore, gives both of them a lift. It's not much of a plan -- walking for an hour at most, they promise themselves, before giving up and coming back to the shelter of the car, where they'll wait out the night huddled together for warmth, and Jensen is enough of a perv to let his mind imagine the scene because they'll probably have to take off some clothing and go skin to skin in the backseat to maximize their body heat and take turns moving around to keep all surfaces covered and keep the blood flowing through their limbs.
Even so, without adequate clothing and blankets -- Jensen can hear his grandfather's voice in his head, reminding him never to drive out into the country anywhere without blankets and flashlights and water and an empty gas can in the trunk and now he's done exactly that and he's let his grandfather down and it hurts almost as much as the idea of freezing to death in the back of a Chevy Impala in the middle of a freak snowstorm somewhere in Washington state.
Jensen can imagine the headline when they're found half-naked and frozen to death in the back of that car, and maybe that's what drives him out into the snow in the first place. He really doesn't want to end that way.
"Let's do it," Jared shivers once they're side-by-side in the blizzard, staring back down the snow-covered road, blinking against the icy snow blowing in their faces.
Jensen has wrapped his extra shirt around his head, pulls it over his face and tucks it in, leaving only his eyes exposed to the freezing wind. He's put his extra socks on his feet, so his hands are bare, but he tucks them into his armpits, under his jacket as they begin trudging down the road.
The snow is knee-high and shifting, so that they sink with every step, and it's agonizingly slow-going and exhausting, but the car disappears behind them after about ten minutes. They stop every five minutes or so to check for cell service, but by the end of the allotted hour Jensen's phone battery is dangerously low. Neither of them wants to turn back at that point, and now it's getting seriously dark, but the snow is bright and they can still see the road ahead of them so they keep going, never stopping to question whether it's the right thing to do. It's too windy to talk anyway, and it's better to stay huddled in their meager clothing, not try to lift their faces out of their jackets long enough to speak.
After another hour has passed Jensen can't feel his feet anymore and he stumbles. Jared's right there, helping him up, big strong hands on his bicep, around his back, hauling him up. Jensen's amazed to find he can still stand on his own, because he's suddenly aware of feeling incredibly tired, overwhelmingly drowsy.
Jared pulls out his phone, checks it as they stand huddled together, breathing each other's air for warmth.
Jared's eyes lift to Jensen's and he shakes his head, then leans in so his lips are close to Jensen's ear.
"We should head back," he yells against the wind.
Jensen wants to answer no, he thinks he'll just lie down in the soft snow right here and take a nap, thank you, but he can't feel his lips anymore. Can't feel his ears. Can't feel his cheeks or fingers or thighs -- in fact his lower entire body all the way to his waist is beyond numb, beyond cold, starting to feel warm and cozy again. But vaguely painful too.
It's weird, freezing to death. Jensen wonders distantly if his mind will register when it really happens, or if he'll be asleep by then. He imagines he's already frost-bitten, and it makes him sad to think of all the attention lavished on his face over the years, since a huge part of his job as a t.v. actor was to have perfect skin and teeth and regular features. All that, so that his nose and ears and lips and cheeks would go black with frostbite.
What an asshole he must be to be thinking about his looks at a time like this.
He's aware of turning around, heading back the way they came, back to the relative protection of that shitty car -- feeling defeat in every step, even if he can't feel his feet.
Ha. Making puns is good. Jokes at a time like this are good.
They've walked forever, all night it feels like, and he's vaguely aware that Jared is holding him up, Jared's arm is around his back, Jared's hand is still on his bicep and he wishes he could feel it because he always wants to feel Jared's hands on him, he always loves it when Jared touches him. Jensen's so sleepy he can't hold his head up anymore, so he lets it fall onto Jared's shoulder, leaves it there and closes his eyes.
Jared doesn't seem to notice for awhile, but finally he stops, shakes Jensen a little, calls his name directly into his ear.
And Jensen tries to open his eyes, he really does, but there are icicles on his eyelashes and raising his eyelids feels like the hardest thing he's ever had to do. He does it though, for Jared, so he can look up into Jared's wind-chapped face, Jared's own eyelashes dusted with snow, his soft hazel eyes with the worried lines around the corners.
"Stay awake!" Jared yells at him over the wind. "Come on, man, don't pass out on me. I can't carry you in this!"
"It's okay," Jensen tries to say, but his mouth is frozen and he's not sure if any sound comes out. "I'll just lie down here and wait. You can come back for me later."
He's sinking down into the soft snow and it feels warm, like the softest blankets, and Jensen is so sleepy all he can think about is lying down and resting here where the snow is so deep and almost warm --
Jensen can hear Jared yelling his name, and he can sort of feel Jared pulling on him, trying to get him to stand up, but it's just no use. Jared needs to just leave him here, he thinks. Why can't he just leave him here? Just for a little while?
"Jensen! Come on!" Jared is kneeling down in the snow next to him, yelling right into his ear. "There's a house! I can see a house! Come on, man. It's right over here -- just a few steps away! You can lie down there! Come on, Jen, just a little further, man. Please! Please don't do this to me!"
Jensen tries to smile at him, reassure him that he's okay, it's all okay. He's fairly sure that Jared is exaggerating. Things aren't that dire. Jared can go, and Jensen can stay, and it will all be better in the morning after Jensen has had a good night's sleep.
But he knows he's dying too, cuz he can feel the pain every once in awhile, and also he knows he's cold, it just likes to trick him into feeling he's warm, and his grandfather's voice is there saying "Jensen Ross, I did not work so hard for this family so that you can lie down in the snow and go to sleep on the job. No sir, I did not."
And Jensen is trying. He knows he owes it to his pioneer ancestors who worked so hard to make a hard-scrabble living out of the Texas dust and dirt and Remember-the-Alamo history, goddamn it.
But it feels so good to lie in the soft snow, and all Jensen wants is a little rest --
That's when Jared gets belligerent.
"Jensen Ross Ackles, you get up right this minute, you hear me? You get your lame ass up right now!"
Jensen tries to turn his head so he can look at Jared for the last time -- he's so beautiful and Jensen doesn't want to forget how beautiful Jared is -- he wishes he could have told him so. Jared knows he's good-looking, of course, but to Jensen he's just perfect. He will carry this image of that beautiful perfect person with whom he had the good fortune of being cast to his grave.
Because Jensen always knew it was some kind of strange fate that brought him and Jared together. There was something magical at work. Something --
Okay, he said it.
Or thought it, at least. And now, thinking it makes it real, isn't that what they said in the show? If enough people believed something was real, it could be literally brought into existence?
And Jensen was there, in that world. He and Sam Winchester were together, even if it was only a lonely substitute for the person they both wished to be with -- their worlds collided, man. That was what happened. Sam and Jensen were a thing, if only for a week or so. Sam Winchester was real.
"Sam -- "
Jensen opens his eyes -- just a crack -- and finds Sam there, looking down, all naked and hard muscles and scars and soft hazel eyes boring into his --
"Don't you die on me, Jensen," Sam says sternly, frowning at him with that intense gaze that is uniquely Sam's. "Don't you dare die on me, man."
Jensen smiles, just a little, because it's beyond wonderful to see Sam. Jensen has been missing him, these past couple of weeks.
"You were right," he says softly. "I never stopped loving him.
"You were right."
CHAPTER FOUR - BACK TO MASTERPOST