The Long and Winding Road (amypond45) wrote,
The Long and Winding Road

Some Kind of Solitude - PART THREE

They wake up to a raging dust storm. It roars and whistles, blackening the air outside so they can’t tell the time of day. It might be evening already, it’s so gloomy and dark outside. They can taste the dust, gritty and dead-tasting in their mouths. There’s no question of going anywhere until it stops, so they pick through their meager supplies for something to eat. Jared kills a snake and skins it while Jensen builds a fire out of the dead branches and other debris that have blown into the cave over the years.

They’ve finished their meal and are filling their canteens again when disaster strikes.

Later, Jensen can’t remember much about the moment the snake bites him except the pain. It’s like being shot through by one of his arrows, only it’s on fire. He remembers Jared being there, a giant mountain of energy. Jared kills the snake, treats the wound with knife and fire and his own mouth maybe, although Jensen’s not too sure about that last part. The pain is excruciating; it makes him sob and grunt while Jared curses and moves quickly. He thinks Jared’s hauling him up, trying to get him to stand, but the pain is too great and he passes out before he can take a step.

When he wakes again, he’s lying on a bed in a strange room, although there’s something oddly familiar about it as well. It’s cool and the bed is soft, the low ceiling made of rough-hewn wood. He’s dressed in a simple sleeveless tunic and nothing else, but he can see his clothing stacked neatly on a stool in the corner, his bow and quiver leaning on the wall beside it.

As he starts to sit up, his leg throbs, and he remembers the bite, remembers Jared half-carrying, half-dragging him out of the cave. He’s not sure about much after that, but he has a vague memory of Jared carrying him, cradling him in his arms like a baby. He was in so much pain he couldn’t really help himself, but he’s amazed at the memory anyway. He’s not a small man.

The door opens before he can sit all the way up.

“You’re awake!”

A young woman enters, carrying a tray with something in a bowl that smells incredible. She has a devilish grin, flashing eyes, and long red hair, most of it swept back in several braids that fall down her back.

“Jared said you’d wake up about this time.” She sets down the tray on a table next to the bed, then sticks her hand out in greeting. “I’m Danneel, but my friends call me Danni.”

“Jensen,” Jensen says as he takes her slender hand in his. She’s slender all over, built like a bird with something fierce and tough about her at the same time. Jensen’s completely charmed.

“Oh, I know,” Danni says. “You’re famous. Jared used to talk about you all the time.”

Jensen frowns, uncomprehending. “I don’t – I’m sorry, where am I?”

“You’re in Amazonia, duh,” Danni rolls her eyes.

“How did I get here?”

“Your big hunky boyfriend carried you.” Danni confirms Jensen’s suspicion, and it makes him flush with embarrassment. “Two days from Central Oasis, and he carried you every step of the way. We don’t call him Mountain Lion Man for nothing. Now here. Eat something.”

“Where’s – where is he? Where’s Jared?”

“He’s sleeping, duh,” Danni rolls her eyes again, puts a hand on her hip and gestures toward the bed. “He brought you all the way in here, healed your ass, undressed and bathed you, then sat next to you until you started breathing normally again. He wouldn’t rest until he knew you were okay, but now he’s totally crashed. He’ll probably sleep for hours. He would’ve crashed right here but I told him no way. Told him I’d take care of you when you woke up so he could sleep, so here we are.”

Jensen stares from her frank, open beauty to the food on the table and shakes his head. “Thank you. Did Jared tell you why we’ve come?”

“Eat first,” Danni insists. “You need to recover your strength. Jared already told us why you’re here, and believe me, any friend of Jared’s is a friend of ours. That man’s a fuckin’ miracle worker. He probably didn’t tell you this, because he’s so goddamn modest, but he saved our lives a few years ago. We were all dying from some stupid virus, and he cured us. He’s got serious skill as a healer. Any community would be lucky to have him. But of course he’s a Wanderer. He won’t stay anywhere long.”

While she talks Jensen sips the soup, which tastes just as amazing as it smells. He can feel how weak he is, his body recently wracked with fever, his leg still throbbing with pain.

“Maybe now he’s got you, he’ll settle down,” Danni goes on thoughtfully. “It sure would be useful to have him around. We don’t have enough men as it is.”

Jensen frowns. “How large is your community?” He’d assumed Amazonia was at least the size of the community at the fort.

“We’ve got over a thousand women and children,” Danni acknowledges. “But only fifty-two men.”

“But Jared told us you’d be able to help us,” Jensen says. “We’ve got a siege situation with Raiders, and we need reinforcements to rescue our community.”

Danni smirks. “All of us are trained warriors, Jensen. We’d be fools not to know how to protect ourselves. Every child over the age of twelve knows how to handle a blade.”

Jensen shakes his head. “I don’t understand,” he says. “How can your community survive with so few men?”

“Our community was founded by women several generations ago,” Danni explains. “Our founders believed that men had caused all the destruction, the Holocaust, the Purge, everything, and in the future there should be fewer of them. In the early days, men were useful only as breeders. Our founders lured Natives and other Wanderers so we could breed with them, then killed them so they couldn’t reveal our location.”

Jensen’s eyes widen and he suddenly realizes how vulnerable he is, unarmed and wounded. He wonders briefly if he should throw the hot soup in Danni’s face and make a run for it.

Danni seems to understand his sudden panic. “Don’t worry, Jensen,” she hastens to reassure him. “We don’t need to operate that way anymore. Enough men find us when they want to, or wander in by mistake and choose to stay. Our resident males are all here of their own volition, and they’re all sworn to secrecy. We don’t have to force anyone anymore, nor kill them afterwards.”

“Well, that’s a relief, I gotta say,” Jensen admits. “So – the men who live here – “

“They’re a protected minority, essentially,” Danni nods. “We can’t allow them to go out on rescue missions because we can’t afford to lose them. I suspect it’s the opposite where you come from.”

“Not exactly,” Jensen says. “Our women fight to protect the fort, just as our men do. Only the women who are caring for young children are exempt from the most dangerous work.”

“And pregnancy is strongly encouraged, since your numbers are so low,” Danni suggests with a arch of one perfect eyebrow.

Jensen shakes his head. “I wouldn’t say it’s public policy, exactly,” he says. “But bachelors like me tend to be few and far between.”

“Lone wolves are a threat to the stability of the community,” Danni nods sagely, like she’s quoting something, and Jensen can almost hear Captain Morgan’s voice in his head saying much the same thing.

“Yeah, that’s the idea, I guess,” Jensen agrees. “They tolerate me, but I get a lot of questions about when am I going to settle down. Also, I tend to get picked for the dangerous missions.”

Danni nods. “That’s because you’re expendable,” she says. “Your contribution to the community isn’t as highly valued as a man who gets married, has kids, becomes a law-abiding citizen. That man is helping to build a civilization.”

Jensen shakes his head. “But the community needs both,” he protests. “We need people who are willing to put their necks out, who don’t have as much to lose. All of our explorers, scouts, our top fighters are all single and unattached. Well, mostly. It’s hard to be both.”

“We do it,” Danni shrugs. “We don’t pair off in monogamous relationships because we don’t have to. The family unit isn’t just father, mother, children. It’s aunts and sisters and cousins and mothers and grandmothers. Our entire community is one big family, and no one is expendable.”

“What about love?” Jensen can’t help asking, since he’s pretty sure he’s feeling it for Jared, now that they’ve survived their journey.

“Love,” Danni scoffs. “You mean lust. It’s temporary. What you probably think of as romantic love doesn’t exist here. Pairing off leads to jealousy, secrecy, delusions of power. It’s selfish and strongly discouraged. Our loyalties are always to the group first. No single individual can achieve greater importance than any other, either personally or politically.”

“Huh.” Jensen tries not to show the distaste he feels, and Danni smiles. She’s beautiful, Jensen can see that, and although he can feel sexually attracted to her, he’s not sure he likes her very much.

“You’re welcome to join us, Jensen,” she says, soft and seductive. “You’d be a valuable addition to our community, with your bone-structure and athletic build. We could use a man like you.”

The thought of becoming a voluntary breeder, of having sex with multiple women just for the purpose of conceiving children, makes Jensen’s stomach roil. Being used for his genetic material isn’t something Jensen would ever sign up for willingly.

He’s grateful it’s not a hundred years ago, when he would have been a prisoner if he’d accidentally stumbled on this place.

Jared brought him here, so he knows he’s safe, but the place is definitely giving him the creeps already. He feels anxious to start his return journey.

“Nah, I’m good,” he tells Danni. “I just need to get home, save my people. Thanks, though. That’s real thoughtful of you.”

Danni smiles broadly, more genuinely, a blush rising in her cheeks as her eyes sparkle. “Too bad,” she says, swinging her hips a little. “There’s a sweetness about you. I get the feeling you and I could have had some real fun together. Maybe we still can, before you leave...”

“No, actually, I think I’m in a monogamous relationship at the moment,” Jensen says hastily. Before he’d met Jared, Danni was just the kind of girl he liked: self-possessed, confident, flirtatious and funny, smart.

Now he finds her terrifying.

“Your loss,” she shrugs, flipping her hair casually. “But if you change your mind, or you decide you want a little on the side...”

“Really, I’m good,” Jensen assures her. “I just – thank you. Really, but that’s okay. Can I see Jared now?”

Luckily, Jensen’s saved from any more uncomfortable conversation by Jared’s arrival. Jensen’s so relieved he almost falls out of bed, and it’s a good thing he put the soup bowl down before the door opened or it would’ve gone flying.

Jared’s look of relief mirrors his own, and for a moment the rest of the world falls away as they gaze at each other as if for the first time. Jensen’s struck again by how vivid and real Jared appears. He remembers more dreams now, other times he dreamed about Jared when they were younger. It fills Jensen with a sense of familiarity, of reclaiming his own childhood after the loss of his family. Jared’s mere presence is grounding in the midst of so much that’s strange and new.

The next moment Jared crosses the room and scoops Jensen into his arms, pulling him in as tightly as he can.

“I thought I lost you,” Jared babbles against Jensen’s ear, pressing his cheek against Jensen’s as if he can’t get close enough, as if he would crawl under Jensen’s skin if he could.

Jensen understands because he feels the same way. “It’s okay, Jay,” he murmurs back. “You saved me. I’m okay.”

He’s vaguely aware of Danni clearing her throat, shuffling awkwardly and muttering, “I’ll just go then, I guess. You two obviously need a little time...Yeah, okay. Bye.”

As soon as the door closes, Jared shucks his clothes and climbs onto the bed, pulling Jensen into his arms. He kisses Jensen’s cheek, his neck, his temple. Tender, breathless kisses that convey intense emotions that Jensen feels too, even if he’s not as expressive as Jared. Jared loves him, wants him, needs him, would die for him, walked across a desert in the burning sun for him.

How did Jensen get so lucky?

When their mouths meet, Jensen tastes Jared’s tears, realizes he’s crying, too. How could anyone not want this? How could anyone think this doesn’t exist? This love that searches the world to find its match, that dreams and envisions itself into being, that walks into burning buildings and crosses mountains and barren landscapes and waits for years? Why has he been wasting time trying to figure out whether he really loves Jared when he knows in his very soul that he does? How could it take almost dying to make him see the truth?

Because Jensen’s a stupid, stubborn asshole, that’s how.

Jared’s big hands are everywhere, frantic and possessive. They rub their bodies together, desperate and needy, erections trapped between their bellies as Jared slides one hand up under Jensen’s tunic, the other hand on the back of Jensen’s neck. He ruts against Jensen’s hip, careful to keep his weight off Jensen’s wounded leg. But it really doesn’t hurt anymore anyway, not compared with the raging need he feels, the desire to possess and ravage Jared to within an inch of his life.

They come simultaneously, moaning into each other’s mouths, riding the wave of pleasure as it crests, then sliding down the other side into a relaxed, sleepy afterglow. Jensen barely registers it when Jared gets up to clean them up, then crawls back into bed with him, pulling him close against his chest as they fall into deep, restful slumber.

When they awaken, Danni brings them food and water, tells them Amazonia’s Council will see them when they’re dressed and ready. Jensen feels her eyes on him as he climbs out of the bed and limps to the chair for his clothes. Jared’s already up, dressed (chest gloriously still bare, praise be) and pulling his boots on.

“Too bad you two can’t have babies together,” Danni comments. They both glance up at her, then at each other. “I mean, damn. They’d be really, really pretty babies.” She shakes her head and leaves, shutting the door behind her.

“She likes you,” Jared comments. “A lot.”

“Yeah, well, I’m taken,” Jensen says, pulling his trousers on. He has to bend over to do it, and he can feel Jared watching him. When he turns around, Jared’s cheeks are flushed pink.

“You sure are,” he says softly, eyes glistening.

Jensen pulls his vest on, takes a deep breath. “So, you’re really sure about this?” he asks. “These people will help us? Give us what we need?”

“I’m sure of it,” Jared nods.

“Good, because I am itching to get out of here,” Jensen says. “This place gives me the creeps.”

Amazonia is huge. It’s built into the rock face of what must have been the western wall of the desert, a massive outcropping that’s more of a cliff. It provides a perfect view in three directions, up high enough that Jensen can see for miles across the desert they just walked. It’s settled into the foothills of the blue mountains he saw when they started their journey, and Jensen imagines it’s well protected from intruders by virtue of its height and the sheer impossibility of anyone being able to climb up to it unseen. Likewise, there doesn’t seem to be any easy way down from the cliffs above, making it an almost impenetrable fortress, as far as Jensen can see.

“Impressive,” he remarks to Jared as Danni escorts them to the central council chamber.

“They’ve been here for six generations,” Jared agrees. “It’s the most successful community I’ve ever seen.”

Everyone they pass in the busy street glances curiously at them before going on with their business, and although Jensen glimpses a couple of children who might be boys, almost everyone else is female. They all wear the same simple breeches and tunic, hair worn in a variety of styles and lengths, but all tied back or braided like Danni’s hair. No one wears their hair long and flowing like Jared does. No one wears his masculinity as courageously, and it makes Jensen absurdly proud of him.

In the council chamber, Jensen and Jared are guided to seats of honor at the big round table that takes up most of the room. Women take their places in no particular order that Jensen can see, although a couple of older women seem to be paid special deference. There are no men.

“Jared tells us your community is under siege by Raiders,” one of them says without formal introduction.

“Yes, ma’am,” Jensen nods politely. “We humbly request your assistance.”

“We can send three hundred of our best fighters,” the other older woman says. “We will rescue your people, bring them here as our guests until they are prepared to cross the mountains to the Western Sea. Then we can escort you to your new home, if you wish.”

“That’s very generous,” Jensen says, keeping the doubt out of his voice. “We would be most grateful to accept your offer of rescue, and your temporary hospitality. However, I don’t believe the escort will be necessary. Jared will be our guide.”

He’s not sure how Morgan and the others will take the offer, but he’s fairly sure they’ll want to move on as quickly as possible, not spend more than a week or two refueling before starting out again. He can almost hear Morgan’s voice in his head, declining any offer to stay permanently, although Jensen has a feeling these people would like that. Morgan won’t want to lose anyone, and Jensen is fairly certain none of the Amazonians will be allowed to join the Wanderers.

Wanderers. There it is. That’s what Morgan’s community will become, once they leave the fort. It’s a daunting thought, and Jensen’s a little overwhelmed when he thinks about it. Being homeless has always been his greatest fear.

“Very well,” the old woman nods. “We leave in the morning. Meanwhile, I hope you will join us for a banquet in your honor. Jared is quite the hero around here, and any friend of Jared’s is an honored guest of Amazonia.”

“Thank you,” Jensen nods and smiles as politely and formally as he knows how, and Jared puts his arm around his shoulder as they leave the council chamber.

“You’re a natural diplomat,” he whispers, and Jensen feels warm all over.

It’s getting dark outside as they exit into the street, Danni leading them back to their quarters. She raises her hand in greeting to friends, who gaze curiously at Jared and Jensen as they pass, just as they did before.

Jared’s arm is heavy and intimate across Jensen’s shoulders, his head tipped to touch Jensen’s, as he murmurs,“Don’t forget your promise.”

Jensen hasn’t forgotten. It’s all he’s thought about, even when he was too feverish with snake venom to think straight.

“You know, here they think there’s no such thing as love,” Jensen murmurs back. “They think sex is just sex.”

“I love you,” Jared says. “And I want you. I don’t see how you can separate it.”

“Neither do I, Jay,” Jensen admits, because with Jared that’s just the way it is. “Neither do I.”

They tolerate the evening’s banquet and musical presentation since it’s all in their honor. The Amazonian fighters are pumped and excited to hit the road in the morning, and they seem especially grateful to Jensen for giving them an opportunity to do what they’re trained to do.

“We don’t get a lot of Raiders here, anymore,” Captain Genevieve confides after she introduces her commanders. Jensen tries not to act surprised that such a small, petite woman can command such a large army. He’s learned not to be surprised by much about this place. “Our reputation has spread far and wide. They don’t dare to attack anymore.”

Jensen raises an eyebrow skeptically. “Or they’re just dying out,” he suggests. “I got the feeling their raid on our community was last ditch. Desperate. They’re thirsty and starving with fewer and fewer outlying communities or settlers to attack. They seem to be bonding over this attempt to break through our walls, and working together has never been their strong suit. They’re better at tearing themselves apart. I don’t think they’re expecting us to come back with reinforcements.”

“Then the battle will be short and brutal,” Genevieve says. “Our fighters are well-trained. The Raiders would do better to avoid us.”

“Maybe they will,” Jensen shrugs. “Maybe they’ll see us coming and high-tail it back to Hell. That would suit me just fine.”

He takes a sip of his wine and catches Jared’s eye over the rim of his cup. Jared’s eyes are dark, almost black, the way they are in Jensen’s dreams. He’s not sure what that means, but it turns him way the hell on. He’s suddenly looking for any excuse to leave the party early.

“You know, Captain, I think Jared and I will turn in early tonight,” he says, turning his most charming smile on Genevieve, who looks slightly startled and glances at Jared apprehensively.

“Is everything all right, Jensen?” she asks, and Jensen smiles his reassurance.

“Everything’s fine,” he says with a glance at Jared. “I think we both just need a little rest before the journey tomorrow.”

“Of course,” Genevieve nods, casting a concerned look on Jared. “He does look tired.”

You have no idea, Jensen purrs to himself as he rises to go.

It takes them almost ten minutes to leave the party. Women and girls drape themselves over both men as they say their goodbyes, overtly offering sex without any attempt to be subtle. It’s overwhelming, and Jensen’s relieved when they’re finally alone.

Relatively. Danni and another woman escort them back to their rooms for their own safety, which is even creepier. Jensen’s starting to wonder if traveling with these Amazons isn’t asking for more trouble than it’s worth.

But of course the lives of all of his friends and fellow fort-dwellers are at stake, so he doesn’t question it very seriously.

Nevertheless, they’re both profoundly relieved when they’re finally back in their own rooms with the door closed firmly behind them. And the moment Jared pushes Jensen back into the wall and takes his face in his hands, Jensen forgets everything else but Jared.

The only light in the room comes from the fireplace, which casts Jared’s skin in golden hues and shadows. As they undress they keep their mouths on each other as much as possible, stroking each newly-exposed area of skin until they’re both warm and glowing. Jensen kisses down Jared’s chest, suckling his nipple, sliding his hands down the soft skin of Jared’s sensitive sides to his slender hips. When he drops to his knees on the rug in front of Jared, the Native gasps. Jensen takes Jared’s cock-head into his mouth, licks the slit as he works the long, thick shaft with one hand, slipping his other hand under Jared’s balls to his hole. Jared gasps as Jensen’s fingers find the puckered skin, and he shifts his legs apart to allow Jensen better access. Jensen plays with Jared’s hole and balls as he sucks his cock, getting him comfortable with the feeling. He still can’t quite believe this is new for Jared, and he feels more than a little pressure to get it right.

“Jensen,” Jared gasps, and Jensen looks up, keeping Jared’s dick in his mouth. Jared stares down at him, eyes blown completely dark, eyelids at half-mast. His lips part and his tongue works the corner of his mouth, as if he’s pretending to suck Jensen’s dick. “I can feel you.”

Of course you can, Jensen thinks as Jared’s eyes close and his big hands cradle Jensen’s head.

Then Jensen feels a warm, wet mouth on his throbbing dick, suckling it.

He jumps, startled enough to let Jared’s dick slip from his mouth. “What the hell was that?”

Jared opens his eyes with a tiny, satisfied smile. “You could feel me,” he says. His eyes are almost completely black. “You could feel what I feel.”

Jensen understands, or thinks he does. It’s a psychic connection, another Native ability he’s heard about. “Yeah,” he admits, swallowing against the tightness in his throat.

“It can intensify the experience,” Jared murmurs, stroking Jensen’s cheek. He runs his thumb along Jensen’s lower lip. “You can feel everything I’m feeling.”

Jensen gazes up at the man in front of him, at his glorious golden skin, his soft, shy smile, and just like that, he gets it. Jared wants him to share his first time. He wants Jensen to know what it’s like to wait so long for something precious and good, something worth waiting for. Jared wants Jensen to know how it feels to be cherished.

Jensen ducks his head, grinning. He’s certain he was seeing into Jared’s head somehow, although there were no words. Jensen was seeing into Jared’s heart.

“Is that really possible?” he whispers. Jared drops to his knees and grabs Jensen’s hands, pressing the palms against his chest. Jensen feels Jared’s heart pounding, feels his hot, smooth skin.

“You heard me,” Jared murmurs, voice choked with emotion. “Jensen, you can hear me.”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Jensen mumbles, overwhelmed. “I don’t know what’s you and what’s me – “

“It’s both of us.” Jared slides his open palm across Jensen’s chest. “We’re bonded. This – this is how it feels.”

Jensen lifts his eyes to Jared’s, sees that they’re blown all black, without even the irises showing. It’s like his dream, terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

Jared gasps, and Jensen knows his eyes are the same. Or maybe they’re not, it’s just the way they look to each other. Maybe they’re both dreaming.

“If we join now, we can never be parted,” Jared says.

It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. Jensen feels a panic attack coming on and he need to run –

Warm, soothing thoughts flood his mind, his body. Jensen begins to relax, takes slow, deep breaths to avert his impending hyperventilation. He lifts his eyes to Jared, seeking reassurance. Jared’s eyes are normal again, his expression full of sympathy. Empathy.

“Okay,” he nods. “Okay.”

His hands are trembling as they roam over Jared’s warm skin, pulling him in for a kiss. Something deep inside him is pushing its way forward, some ancient biological function he doesn’t understand. It’s the thing that makes him dream, that gave him Jared, that made Jared and Jensen come together.

He spreads Jared out on the rug in front of the fire. It’s easier there. Beds are too small to contain them, too small to contain this thing they’re creating between them. With their union seas will rise, heavens will open and rain pour forth. They are like the long-forgotten human gods of ancient civilizations, giving birth to new worlds.

As Jensen mouths his way across Jared’s torso his mind is filled with images of rivers and lakes, of mountains capped with snow. As he spreads Jared’s legs and kneels up between them, he sees their people, past and future, riding the wild horses on rich, grassy plains. When he pushes into Jared’s body he can feel it, can hear oceans crash against rocky beaches, can see stars lighting skies where no smoke masks their clarity.

As Jared rocks against him, moaning his pleasure aloud, Jensen feels it deep inside. Being joined with Jared is like making a pledge, a vow to create something new from the ashes of the world that came before. When Jensen spills deep inside Jared’s body he feels his seed expanding, filling dead spaces an making them fertile again.

Jensen rolls to the side, pulling Jared with him, sleepy and warm. Jared’s eyes are closed, his face relaxed in sleep, but he smiles when he feels Jensen watching him, feels Jensen’s fingers brushing the hair back from his face.

“Hmmm,” he hums contentedly. “That was – “

“Yeah,” Jensen sighs.

They doze in each other’s arms, and later when Jensen wakes up Jared’s curled around him, breathing deep against the back of his neck. They’re not attached anymore, but Jensen feels Jared all around him, inside him emotionally and mentally, if not physically. Jared’s a part of him now.

He’s pretty sure that’s the way it should be. The way it was always meant to be.

That night, Jensen dreams. In the dream, he and Jared get up the next morning. They spend the day preparing for their return journey. With the Amazons accompanying them, they travel through the desert at night, just as they did to get here. When they reach the other side of the desert, Jared and Jensen summon their horses and ride on ahead to the fort, to herald the Amazonians’ arrival.

The dream changes. Shortly before they reach the fort, they’re attacked by Pellegrino and a group of Raiders. The fight is short and dirty because they knew it would happen and they’re prepared. Jared’s knife and Jensen’s arrows are dipped in snake venom. Danni and Genevieve swoop in at the last moment to ambush the ambushers, and it’s all over.

The dream changes again. Jensen and Jared and the Amazons rescue Morgan’s community and bring them back to Amazonia, and Jared leads them on through the mountains, all the way to the sea. It takes several months before they arrive at their new home, many years before they manage to build and settle enough to reclaim the sense of security and community that they lost with their old home. But Jensen knows that day will come. Jensen knows that one day they’ll all feel as comfortable in the new place as they did in the fort.

He also knows that he and Jared won’t be there to see it. As the dream changes again, Jensen sees a different future for himself and Jared. He sees them scour the country, looking for survivors and communities like theirs, offering to bring them across the desert, too. He sees them meet up with other Natives, bonding with them briefly to dream of other futures.

But mostly Jensen dreams of he and Jared on their own, just the two of them, alone but never lonely because they have each other. They explore the world together, saving people, helping the world to heal itself. Jensen was never a believer in destiny before, but with Jared anything seems possible.


Jensen wakes sometime later, as the sun is just beginning to rise. The light filters into the room and plays across Jared’s tan skin, making it glow. As he watches, Jared’s eyes open and he smiles, his cheeks dimpling deeply.

“Did you see it?” he asks, and Jensen nods.

And so it begins.



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