Jensen barely has time to collect a small pack with water and a little dried food. He hasn’t slept much since the night before last, so he’s mostly running on adrenaline as he says farewell to Morgan, Chris, and Steve.
“Make us proud, Jenny,” Chris says as he gives Jensen a quick hug.
Steve squeezes his shoulder and nods, too overcome with emotion to speak.
Once the gate closes behind Jensen and Jared, they start off at a jog toward the western horizon.
“We should put as much distance as we can between us and the fort by nightfall,” Jared says, and Jensen nods.
The land is flat and hard, soil no longer rich and covered with prairie grasses as it once was. In less than two hours Jensen’s knees start to ache from the impact. He slows down on instinct, then stops altogether as his belly cramps up and his heart pounds. Bending over with his hands on his knees, he gulps lungfuls of warm air in an effort to clear his head. When he opens his eyes, Jared’s standing not two feet away, looking as cool and rested as he did when they left the fort.
“I hate you,” Jensen gasps.
Jared’s perfect lips tilt up in a smirk. “That’s not what you said last night,” he reminds Jensen, who grins despite himself.
The sun beats down, and it’s already hot, but Jensen’s suddenly flushed with another kind of heat, one he is unable to resist when it comes to Jared.
Damn him, anyway.
He takes a sip from his canteen, shakes his head. “I don’t see how we’ll ever get where we need to go and back in a month,” he says. “We’ve been running for two hours and we’re only a few miles from home. How are we going to make it all the way to the North Country? Isn’t it a thousand miles?”
Jared studies him for a moment, then shakes his head. “You have no faith, Jensen Ackles.” He turns away and lifts his hand to his mouth, issuing a piercing whistle that makes Jensen’s ears ring.
“Ow! What the hell?”
But when Jared does it again something extraordinary happens. At first, Jensen thinks he’s seeing things. Movement on the western horizon grows into a wall of tumbling waves, moving toward them. He feels the ground shake beneath his feet.
“What the hell, Jared?” He turns his gaze away from the horizon to stare at his lover, whose face breaks into a dimpled grin of pleasure so intense it seems to block out the sun.
“You’ll see,” Jared promises.
Jensen looks back at the horizon, and now he can make out shapes. A herd of wild horses is headed for them as if they’ve been summoned. As if Jared’s whistle had called them.
“Stand your ground,” Jared advises as the herd draws near without showing any signs of slowing down.
Jensen fights the urge to run, or at least throw himself and Jared out of the way of the stampede, but he does as Jared commands. He’s beginning to see just how out of his element he is, so far outside the gates of his home. Yet Jared seems to be exactly where he belongs. It’s disturbing.
At the last minute, the horses slow and break formation to circle the two men, kicking up so much dust around them that Jensen starts to cough. Despite his earlier sense of hundreds, up close Jensen counts only twelve horses of various colors and sizes.
“Whoa, now.” Jared’s voice over the dust and pounding hooves is strangely soothing, calming. Jensen feels himself relax as the horses slow to a trot around them, whinnying and snorting. Jensen is watched by large, intelligent eyes, as if the horses are checking him out. Now that they’re so close he could reach out and touch one, but he lets Jared be the first.
A large roan mare stops circling to pace in front of Jared, tossing her head and making deep, guttural sounds in her throat. Jared speaks low and soft to her, keeps his hand out until she puts her nose into his palm. At first she huffs and jerks away, but after two or three retreats she finally stills, leaves her muzzle in his hand, nostrils flaring only a little. She tolerates him as he moves his hand up under her chin.
“That’s it,” Jared murmurs as he slides his hand up her neck and shifts in close, letting her get comfortable with his nearness as he brings up his other hand to stroke her muzzle. “That’s it, girl. Whoa now.”
Jensen glances around. The other horses have quieted as well, pacing and jostling each other. A muzzle butts against his shoulder and he turns to find a large dark horse blinking at him, her long lashes drooping coquettishly. She head-butts him again and Jared laughs.
“She likes you,” he teases.
“Jared, how did you – how do these horses come to you like that?” Jensen’s almost afraid to ask.
Jared shrugs. He caresses his horse’s muzzle and neck, reaches up to scratch behind her ear. He’s covering her in his smell, Jensen realizes, helping her to get to know him.
“Animals respond to me,” he says simply. “Their minds are simpler than people’s, but their feelings are just as strong.”
“You read their minds,” Jensen clarifies, and Jared shrugs.
“Whatever you want to call it,” he says. “I can sometimes get them to come to me when I call, to help out when I needed them. These beauties are descended from domestic stock. They’re more comfortable around humans than most animals.”
Jensen finds himself nuzzled shamelessly by the big horse beside him, so he puts his hand up as he’s seen Jared do. The mare buries her soft muzzle in his palm, snuffling noisily, then takes another step so her head rests over his shoulder. Jensen strokes her dusty neck, then curves his arm up around her neck as he strokes her face, charmed at having this large, powerful animal give him so much attention.
“I feel like I should have something to feed her,” Jensen muses, and Jared laughs.
“They love sweet things,” he said. “Apples, carrots, grapes. You give her a peach and she’ll love you forever.”
Jared lays his big hand on the neck of Jensen’s horse and speaks softly to her. “You gonna let Jensen ride you? Huh?” He looks up at Jensen. “You need to give her a name. Use it when you talk to her. Once you do, she’s yours.” He turns to his own horse. “Isn’t that right, Angel?” The mare tosses her tawny head up and down, as if she’s nodding. Or laughing at him.
Jensen considers for a moment. “Well, if peaches are the way to her heart, then that’s what I’ll call her.” He reaches up the horse’s long neck to her ear, rubbing along behind it as he’d seen Jared do. “You gonna be my peaches and honey, Baby girl?” he crooned softly. “Huh? Gonna let me ride you?”
“You should stop talking to her like that,” Jared says, his voice tight. When Jensen glances up at him, his eyes are dark. “Makin’ me jealous.”
Jensen flushes hot and adjusts his pants and the quiver on his back. “Okay, let’s do this thing,” he mutters. “What’s the plan?”
“The plan is, we ride these horses as long as they’ll let us,” Jared replies.
“And how do we get them to take us where we want to go?”
“We don’t,” Jared shrugs. “But it beats walking, and they’ll always go to water. They know how to find it on instinct.” He rubs Angel’s neck. “You need help?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Jensen assures him, slipping out from under Baby’s neck so he can reach up to grab her mane. He runs his other hand along her back, over her flank. She quivers under his touch and he realizes how tall she is, how much of a jump it will take. He can feel Jared watching him with amusement, so he braces himself. “Whoa, girl. That’s it. Here I go.”
The moment he jumps, Baby sidles away from him. He makes it, but just barely. As he scrambles to position himself she keeps moving, tossing her head and side-stepping, stamping her feet.
She doesn’t buck, though, and he knows he’s got it when he’s able to swing his leg over her back and cling with his thighs, one hand still tangled in her mane, the other arm wrapped around her neck.
He knows how awkward he looks, how ungainly and sloppy his mount, lying flat on his stomach against the horse’s back. He’s clinging for dear life, but he’s made it. “Whoa, girl, that’s it,” he croons into Baby’s ear as he loosens his hold on her neck enough to stroke her. She quiets almost immediately, settling under his weight like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
He looks up at Jared, finds the Native staring with more than a little pride in his gaze.
“Not bad,” he comments. “For your first time,” he adds with a little smirk. “She really likes you.”
Jensen watches as Jared swings himself smoothly onto Angel’s back. She sidles and turns as she adjusts to Jared’s weight, tossing her red-gold mane before settling. The two horses rub muzzles, as if making a pact with each other over their human cargo, and Jensen grins like a fool. Baby’s backbone is a little uncomfortable, and he can already feel the soreness in his thighs that will make it hard to walk later, but overall he feels good.
“How’re you doing?” Jared asks as he sits back on Angel, and Jensen nods.
“This is awesome,” he declares, and Jared returns his grin.
“Yeah, our ancestors were on to something,” Jared agrees, then taps Angel’s sides with his heels. “All right, girl, you take us west, now. Help us find that promised land.”
As if they understand, and Jensen’s not sure they don’t, the horses turn west, back the way they had come, and take off at a gallop. Jensen holds on for dear life at first, the pounding hooves all around him drowning out all other sound, the wind in his hair dominating all other sensation. After a few minutes he finds himself acclimating to the rhythm of the powerful muscles moving under him, and exhilaration replaces his earlier terror. The ground disappears under Baby’s hooves in a cloud of dust, shaking beneath them, and although the sun beats down just as intensely as before, Jensen doesn’t feel it so much.
Riding definitely beats walking.
The horses carry them west for over a week.
The first night, the horses find a brackish stream for them to bed down next to. Jared and Jensen tumble off their horses’ backs and fall asleep almost before they hit the ground, huddled together for warmth. When Jensen wakes, the horses are grazing nearby, and Jared is pressed up against his back, bare arm wrapped around him, breath warm against Jensen’s neck.
It’s still dark, still a couple of hours before dawn. Jensen hugs Jared’s arm and lies still, relishing the peace and warmth of Jared’s broad chest, warmer than any blanket. Despite the desperation of their situation, he feels calm, safe and protected in Jared’s arms. Cared for.
It occurs to him, not for the last time, that they’re free, that they could take off into the wilderness alone together and no one back at the fort would be any the wiser. Part of Jensen wants that, wants to spend the rest of his life on the run, moving from place to place, never settling down for long anywhere. Never being tied down. Never having to be responsible for anyone but himself and Jared.
It’s the Native in him, he realizes. It’s what Jared told him earlier.
He’s never considered it before, but maybe his folks weren’t just hold-outs from that earlier time when families tried to eke out a living on the fringes. Maybe Jensen does come from that strange, exotic genetic heritage of early deserters, those people who left society because they could literally see what was coming before it all fell apart. They were labeled “Natives” because they literally went native, left the world of man to return to the earth, to live in communes or hermitages, separate and alone and filled with prophecies.
Maybe Jensen’s one of them at heart.
He thinks back on his life, on the ways he’s always sought out solitude, on his preference for being alone in everything he does, from hunting to his shifts on the wall to the hidden places he sleeps. Was it because he couldn’t bear too much company? If his brain was hard-wired to read other people’s thoughts and see their futures, maybe he suppressed it by staying away from others, by never getting too close.
Chris always called him a loner, teased him about his penchant for solitude. Penikett helped Jensen see that his bisexuality made him different, gave him his outsider’s edge. Nature made him different, and he’d accepted that. Now that Jared had come into his life, Jensen knew he’d been waiting; part of him always knew Jared would come.
He’d foreseen it.
As soon as Jensen admits that to himself, it’s as if the floodgates open. Memories of other dreams fill his mind, even daydreams that he had pushed down and denied, hadn’t let himself acknowledge because they didn’t make sense.
Jensen sees a group of women, standing tall and proud, staring at him with suspicion in their eyes. He sees Pellegrino, face twisted in fury, bearing down on Jensen with a knife in his hand.
Jensen starts awake. He’s shaking, breathing hard. Jared stirs behind him, rubs his hand over Jensen’s chest.
“Shhh,” Jared whispers into his neck. “It’s just a dream. It’ll pass.”
“I think I just had a vision,” Jensen confesses, and Jared’s hand stops. He presses his lips against Jensen’s neck and Jensen can feel his smile.
“I told you you were one of us,” Jared murmurs.
Jensen turns onto his back, facing Jared, and reaches up to cup his stubbled chin, pulling him in for a long, deep kiss.
“I never thanked you,” he says when they come up for air. Jared’s big hands are everywhere, stroking Jensen’s back, sliding up between their bodies and back down again.
“For what?” Jared sucks on the skin beneath Jensen’s ear, making him moan and arch up.
“For staying with me,” Jensen gasps as Jared bites down on his earlobe then suckles it, none-too-gently. “For not running when you had your visions, back at the fort.”
“Couldn’t leave you,” Jared thrusts against him, rough and needy. “Never leaving you.”
“Okay,” Jensen moans, choking back a sob as Jared’s hand slides down between his legs to grasp his erection through his trousers, squeezing and rubbing until Jensen bucks up for more.
“It’s my turn,” he manages to choke out. “I want to touch you, Jared.” He clings to Jared’s biceps, thrusting up into his hand as Jared worries the skin under his jaw. Jensen’s desperate and needy; he’s never wanted anyone so urgently.
“I’m dirty,” Jared says between kisses. “Sweaty. I smell like a horse.”
“I don’t care,” Jensen says. “Wanna taste you. Want you in my mouth.”
“Your mouth,” Jared repeats as a shudder rolls through his body. He lets go of Jensen’s dick, lets Jensen push him over onto his back so Jensen can straddle him. Jensen sits up and takes his vest off, leans down to kiss Jared’s mouth first, then his chin and jaw. Jensen scoots down so their dicks rub together through their clothes, then works his mouth down Jared’s chest to his stomach. Jared’s skin tastes like sunshine and dust, salty with sweat and tangy with horseflesh. Jared’s hands move over Jensen’s shoulders and into his hair, messaging his scalp as Jensen kisses the cut of Jared’s hip, just visible over the top of his breeches.
When he looks up Jared’s long body for permission, he meets Jared’s dark eyes gazing down at him. His lips are parted and his chest rises and falls faster than normal. Sweat shines on his broad brow. As Jensen starts to tug the breeches down, Jared stops him.
“I’ve never – this is new for me,” Jared says. His breathing is ragged, making his words come out shaky and clipped. Hesitant.
Jensen’s surprise must show on his face, because Jared blushes and closes his eyes.
“You’ve never done this?” Jensen clarifies. “Ever?”
Jared shakes his head, eyes still squeezed shut.
“How – how old are you?”
“Twenty-four,” Jared answers. “By your reckoning, I have twenty-four years.”
Jensen’s never bedded a virgin before. In the close quarters of the fort, couples pair off fairly young. Jensen hasn’t been a virgin since he was fifteen, and although his experience with men has been limited, neither of his past male lovers were virgins either. He finds it hard to imagine someone as desirable as Jared going for so long without anyone to share his bed.
But then, there’s a lot he still doesn’t know about Jared. The young man has been on his own most of his life, that much Jensen knows. Raised by a hermit grandfather to be a hermit. Didn’t sound too social.
“Okay,” Jensen says. “So I’m older than you. I’ll teach you.”
He finds it hard to believe Jared’s never given so much as a hand job before. He did it with so much confidence back at the fort, made Jensen so sure he knew what he was doing.
Jared’s an enigma. A damned sexy enigma.
Jensen might not be falling in love yet, but he’s as fascinated by this man as he’s ever been by anyone.
When he lowers his mouth to Jared’s swollen cock, Jared makes a sound that’s somewhere between a whine and a whimper. Jensen stretches his lips around the head and uses his hand, slicked with spit, to work the rest. There’s just no way Jared’s giant cock is going all the way down Jensen’s throat without dislocating his jaw, which probably isn’t the best idea since they’re in such desperate straits at the moment. If they had more time...
Jared seems happy just the way Jensen’s doing it. He bucks and writhes and moans, clenching his fists in the thin blanket which serves as their only protection from the hard cold ground. When Jensen looks up, Jared’s eyes are still squeezed shut, as if he can’t stand to watch, and Jensen can’t have that. He needs Jared to see him.
“Jay.” Jensen pulls off long enough to get Jared’s attention, then holds his gaze as he takes Jared’s dick into his mouth again.
“Ah, fuck!” Jared gasps, eyes blown as dark as Jensen’s ever seen them. “Jensen!”
It’s all the warning he gets before Jared’s shooting hard and long, losing it as Jensen had known he would. Jensen swallows, licking up every drop before crawling up Jared’s long body to give him a deep, thorough kiss. Jared trembles as he tastes himself, as Jensen tangles his fingers in Jared’s hair, yanking on it as he licks into Jared’s mouth, nips at his lips.
“Jensen,” Jared breathes again when Jensen finally releases him. Jensen sits back on his haunches and pulls his own dick out, stroking himself as he stares down at Jared, all debauched and flushed, lips swollen with Jensen’s kisses, dick spent and limp from Jensen’s blow job. Knowing he did this, that this huge, gorgeous man is in this fucked-out condition because of Jensen, is all it takes to send Jensen over the edge. He closes his eyes and tips his head back as he comes hard all over his hand, feeling a low growl escape his throat.
As he comes to, he gazes down at Jared’s body, marked with a couple of drops of Jensen’s come. It strikes him that he might have gone his whole life without this, always assuming Jared was just a dream.
His gaze roams to Jared’s face, and he feels the strange familiarity that he felt the first time he laid eyes on Jared. It’s been less than forty-eight hours since that moment, but already Jensen feels that he’s known Jared all his life.
It’s still weird, but it’s getting less so. Jensen’s never had a relationship that lasted more than one night, and already he and Jared have been together longer than that. Ordinarily, Jensen feels panicked, feels the need to move on before he gets too attached.
With Jared, it’s different. Everything’s new and exciting, but somehow also comfortable and easy at the same time. Natural.
He tucks his dick away, then leans down to lick himself off Jared’s stomach, sliding his hands up Jared’s sides. The warm, smooth skin feels good, and the way Jared moans and writhes makes Jensen smile.
“Tickles,” Jared confesses, and Jensen can’t resist. He tickles and tickles Jared’s soft skin while Jared writhes and chokes on his own laughter, dimpling deeply, teeth flashing. Jared tries to roll away but Jensen’s on top of him and they roll together, laughing till they’re both breathless and gasping. Jared ends up on top, straddling Jensen, holding one wrist in each of his big hands, and Jensen stops struggling to stare up at Jared, breathing hard. His face hurts from smiling, and with Jared’s weight holding him down, he’s already half hard again.
Jared’s hair falls down around his face. With the moon behind him Jensen can’t read his expression, but he can feel Jared staring at him.
“I could get used to this,” Jensen muses.
“Being held down by me?” Jared asks, breathless. He tightens his grip on Jensen’s wrists.
Jensen grins. “Being out here, in the wilderness,” he says. “With you.”
Jared says nothing, just gazes down at him for another moment. “It’s lonely sometimes,” he says softly.
“Wouldn’t be lonely if we’re together,” Jensen shrugs.
“That’s true.” Jared leans down and presses his lips to Jensen’s, gentle and tender. Jensen can feel his erection, trapped between their bellies. Jared rubs against Jensen’s dick through his trousers and Jensen moans. “I want you to fuck me,” Jared murmurs, kissing along Jensen’s jaw to his ear. “Would you do that, Jensen?”
Jensen’s fully hard now, dizzy with lust, Jared’s words sending shivers through his entire system.
“Yes,” he gasps. “Yes, I’ll do that. But not here. Not right now.”
Jared raises his head, gazes down into Jensen’s face.
“Not because I don’t want to,” Jensen assures him quickly, afraid Jared’s got the wrong idea. “I do. God, I do. But you’ve never done that before, and I want it to be good for you. Wanna take my time with you.” He doesn’t say he’s never done it either. No need to let Jared know that Jensen was fucked by a man twice his age when he was only sixteen.
At least Jensen knows firsthand what Jared is asking.
“Okay.” Jared releases Jensen’s wrists, sucks in a shaky breath. “Okay.” He cups Jensen’s face carefully, like it’s something fragile and precious. “After we get to Amazonia then.”
“Amazonia?” Jensen’s confused. Jared never gave a name to the place they’re headed.
Jared nods, swiping a thumb over Jensen’s bottom lip, making him tremble with need. “You’ll see,” he says. “They’ll like you. They’ll be happy to give you what you want.” He leans down, grinding his dick against Jensen’s as he kisses him. “You’ll see.”
Jensen’s so far gone, so shivery with lust and something else he doesn’t understand, all he can do is moan in response.
He’s never wanted someone so powerfully, and he’s starting to think he never will.
The rest of the week passes in a blur. During the day the two men ride, and at night they sleep and have incredible, mind-blowing sex. It’s like a kind of sex honeymoon. Jensen’s never been so sated and desperate for someone at the same time. It’s not like him to pine for a person who’s right there next to him all the time, but he does. He can’t get enough.
On the fifth day they reach a river. They strip and bathe and wash their clothes, whooping wildly as they splash and play in the cold water. It’s clean, and the horses drink from it, so they fill their nearly-empty canteens and drink their fill, collapsing on the bank naked afterwards. Jared twines their fingers together, brings Jensen’s hand to his mouth and proceeds to lick the water off first his fingers, then his wrist, moving up to the sensitive skin inside his elbow and sucking there. By the time Jared rolls on top of Jensen they’re both panting and hard. Jared straddles Jensen’s hips, reaching back behind him to grab Jensen’s erection, sliding it between his buttcheeks until the head hits his rim.
“Want you,” Jared moans as he rubs his hole against Jensen’s dick. “Want you so bad, Jensen.”
“I know, sweetheart,” Jensen gasps, reaching up to cup Jared’s strong jaw, getting a handful of his long wet hair so he can pull him down for a kiss. “Soon.”
Jared kisses him, hard and hungry, then slides his body down between Jensen’s legs, kissing and sucking as he goes. He takes time with Jensen’s cock, then his balls, and Jensen’s a quivering, incoherent mess by the time Jared licks his perineum. When Jared pushes his legs back, Jensen grabs behind his knees and lets him go to town. No one ever did this for him before, and Jensen decides it makes him a kind of virgin, like Jared. It gives them something to share.
When Jared pushes his tongue into Jensen’s hole he lets out a sound that doesn’t sound quite human, and for a wild moment Jensen wonders if someone else has joined them.
Then Jared starts suckling, mewling and jerking himself furiously, and Jensen loses it, comes all over himself like a goddamn teenager.
It’s hands down the hottest sex he’s ever had.
At the end of the week, they reach the desert.
The horses snort and paw the earth, refusing to go further, and Jensen doesn’t blame them. Stretching before them, as far as the eye can see, is dead land. Not just scrub-brush and cactus, but really, truly dead. Sand as far the eye can see.
Well, that’s not strictly true. There’s a distant line of mountains, so far it’s blurred by the heated air between it and them.
“Is it – “ Jensen squints, trying to decide if he’s actually seeing what he thinks he sees, or if his new vision sight is imagining the whole thing. “Are the mountains real?”
“Oh yeah,” Jared nods, not even squinting, the bastard. Jared seems to know where they are, and that just pisses Jensen off. He’s supposed to be the leader of this expedition. “They’re real. We just have to get there.”
“Okay,” Jensen nods. “Let’s go.”
“It’s a five-day walk,” Jared says. “No water. The horses can’t go.”
“Oh,” Jensen says.
“We travel at night, sleep under rocks during the day.”
It doesn’t sound fun.
They camp under an outcropping of rock, eat the last of the rabbit Jensen caught this morning, ration their water. It’s over a day’s ride back to the closest water source, but they knew this was coming so they’ve already been rationing.
“There’s no other way, right?” Jensen asks, although he already knows the answer. “No way around?”
“Not without going weeks out of our way,” Jared confirms.
They can’t afford that.
They don’t have sex in order to preserve their strength. After more than a week on the road, Jensen’s jittery and overwhelmed just being near Jared. He watches him when he sleeps, when he rides, when he’s focused on starting a fire to cook their food. Being this focused on another human being is new to him, and he’s not sure how to feel about it.
“We could just take off, you know,” he says to Jared as they lie in the shade of the rocks after eating their fill. “No one would ever know.”
Jared nods, watching the sunset while Jensen watches Jared, at the way the colors shadow and play across his high cheekbones and strong jaw.
“You’d know,” Jared says with conviction, and Jensen drags his eyes away from Jared’s face to look at the sunset.
It’s really glorious, but Jensen liked the other view better. He sighs, then starts a little when Jared leans in and kisses his cheek.
“It’s one of the things I love most about you,” Jared confides. Jensen frowns, turns to look at Jared, but Jared’s staring out at the horizon again, where the sky is pink and purple and orange. “You have so much goodness in you. You really care about all those people.”
“Don’t care much for Pellegrino,” Jensen admits, and Jared makes a face.
“You’re loyal,” Jared says. “You put their needs before your own. I’ve never had to do that.”
Jensen shrugs. “They took me in,” he says. “Raised me to be one of them. I don’t think of myself as separate from them.”
“You just offered to run away with me,” Jared reminds him with a grin.
“I did, didn’t I?” Jensen grins back, gazing into Jared’s multi-colored eyes as the light fades. “What an idiot.”
Jared’s gaze drops to Jensen’s mouth, then he leans in and Jensen closes his eyes. They kiss slowly, tenderly. Jared seems determined to show Jensen how precious he is, how much he cherishes Jensen, and Jensen’s okay with that.
Although it’s a little terrifying, being this important to another human being. It’s not something he’s used to.
But with Jared, it feels normal, as if it had always been this way, if only Jensen hadn’t been too stubborn to believe in his own dreams.
When they drift off together, safe in each other’s arms, it occurs to Jensen that Jared’s already dreamed all of this. He knows how it’s supposed to go.
That thought doesn’t freak him out as much as he thinks it should, and that doesn’t even bother him.
He’s in deep, he knows it, and he doesn’t really mind one bit.
When they wake up, the moon is high in the night sky. The horses are gone.
They gather their packs. Jensen shoulders his quiver, clutches his bow like a lifeline. They’ll make it, Jared has assured him of that, but Jensen’s still apprehensive. Starting out onto that dead, sandy surface feels like stepping out onto the moon. There’s no guarantee they’ll make it, just Jared’s promise that he knows the way. Jensen has to trust him.
Jensen’s never been good at trusting people.
After all the riding, Jensen’s whole body aches. He’s a little out of shape, and the walking hurts more than it should. At a certain point the sand gives way to the flat, hard surface of a former lake bed, tufts of sagebrush and tumbleweed scattered here and there. Jensen’s thighs are sore, and by the time the sun comes up behind them his legs throb. Before the sun is halfway up the sky they find the overhang of rock that Jared promised would shield them from the heat of the day. Jensen all but collapses in its relatively cool shade.
When Jared offers to rub his back and legs Jensen moans with relief. He flops onto his stomach and surrenders to Jared’s big, capable hands like an overgrown baby. It’s well over an hour later when he wakes. Jared’s stretched out next to him, sound asleep. Jensen reaches a hand out, tucking a stray lock of hair behind Jared’s ear, let’s his fingers trace Jared’s cupid’s-bow lips. He’s been dreaming, something about the two of them lying together on a bed in a dark room, somewhere Jensen’s never been before. It’s a good dream, but it’s also something more.
It’s another vision, Jensen realizes. He’s dreaming something that hasn’t happened yet, but will. It makes him wonder about the other dreams he’s had over the years. He’s certain now that he dreamed about Jared before he met him, although the only dream he ever remembered was the one where Jared’s saving him from the fire, the one that’s impossible since Jared’s four years younger than Jensen. But if Jared’s right, then Jensen’s psychic abilities have always been there, hovering just below the surface of his consciousness. Maybe Jensen’s having visions now because Jared’s presence has triggered them. Maybe being with Jared allows his latent abilities to emerge in the relative safety of their combined solitude. Maybe he couldn’t remember his dreams in the past because his brain wasn’t able to deal with them yet. Maybe it was his brain’s way of protecting him from something he couldn’t understand and wasn’t ready to believe.
Lying on the desert floor, out of the midday sun, miles from anything or anyone, it’s almost possible to believe Jared isn’t real – that Jensen has been dreaming these past few days. He’ll wake up back at the fort, before Jared arrived, and his life will go on as it has done for years, without Jared.
That thought makes Jensen’s chest hurt so much he lets out a whimper and Jared’s eyes flutter open.
“You okay?” he croaks sleepily. He reaches out his long arm, stroking Jensen’s cheek with the backs of his fingers, and smiles. “You watching me sleep?’
“What? No! Of course not,” Jensen scoffs, making a face that makes Jared grin broadly.
“We’re gonna be fine,” Jared assures him. “We’re gonna make it.”
“No, I know that,” Jensen says, as if a moment before he wasn’t doubting everything, including his own sanity. “Of course we are.”
Jared nods, serious again as he gazes into Jensen’s eyes. “I love you,” he says simply, as if that’s the reason everything will be okay.
Which it sort of is.
They eat dried meat and some of the dried berries and nuts Jared gathered before they started their desert trek. They sip water and sit side-by-side to watch the sunset. It would be romantic if it wasn’t so serious. Jared promises they’ll have another full moon without clouds tonight, and Jensen nods sagely and pretends he already knew that, hiding how impressed he is with Jared’s knowledge and understanding of the natural world, how sure he is of the immediate future.
Jared probably dreams the future all the time. It’s normal for him.
When they start walking again, Jared never hesitates. He seems to have a map in his head. He navigates by the moon and stars, as far as Jensen can tell, but he also seems to know exactly where their next shelter will be, long before they get close enough for Jensen to see it. He seems to know exactly when they’ll get there, so that they can stay out of the sun and the hottest part of the day.
Jensen tries hard not to be impressed, but it isn’t easy. Jared’s kind of amazing.
The third day passes the same way, although Jared picks up the pace a little. At a certain point he turns them south, which bothers Jensen, since it’s off the direct western path they’ve been on since they started.
When they reach a rock formation with green plants scattered along the edges, Jensen understands.
“There’s an underground stream,” Jared explains. “We can refuel here. Just watch out for snakes.”
There are caves, cool and protected from the sun and the dust storm that’s loomed on the horizon since sunrise. Jared combs their sleeping area for snakes while Jensen pulls out food. He refills their canteens with the cold water that bubbles up from deep under the rock face. They wash and shave, and Jensen feels almost human again. The night schedule is a lot like his night watch back at the fort, and he’s already used to it, used to sleeping through the heat of the day and getting up at sunset to walk by the light of the moon. It still feels unreal and dream-like, but he’s getting used to that feeling, too.
When they bed down together, Jensen reaches for Jared. They don’t speak as they kiss, long and lingering. Jensen runs his fingers through Jared’s hair and Jared touches him everywhere with his long fingers, his big gentle hands. They come simultaneously with their mouths pressed together, swallowing each other’s moans.
Afterwards, Jensen cleans them up while Jared dozes, then Jensen lies down to watch Jared sleep until he can’t keep his own eyes open a moment longer.
He’s never been happier.