Warnings/Spoilers: post-apocalypse AU, bottom!Jensen, powers!boys
Summary: Jared’s life is pretty ordinary, if a bit lonely, until the day he slides down a snowy mountainside and falls into a cave. Or is it a tomb?
Fic Links: LJ | AO3
A/N: Many, many thanks to bluefire986 for the wonderful art that inspired this fic! Thanks also to my indomitable beta, jdl71, and to the mods of this year’s j2_reversebang. You are all my heroes!
Jared shoves his hair out of his eyes with one hand while reaching for the tree branch with the other.
“Shit! Fuck!” He curses as his leg slips out from under him and he loses his hold on the tree, sliding further down the snow-covered slope. When he looks up, back the way he came when he first slid off the path into this steep, snowy ravine, he can’t see the top anymore. It’s straight up, the snow’s waist deep, and the sky’s looking grey and threatening. Even if he can climb out of here, the storm that’s coming will cover the trail, making it harder to find his way home.
How the hell did this happen?
Okay, maybe he knows how it happened. No one ever said Jared was the most graceful person on the planet. Big and clumsy might be more accurate. When he set out this morning to gather firewood, he did not intend to get himself stuck in a ditch, but here he is, out of reach of the nearest tree or other handhold, without any way out.
Or at least, no way up. Bracing his legs against the deeply-buried ground, Jared glances down, further into the ravine. There are trees and rock outcroppings about six feet below, and as Jared balances carefully against gravity’s pull, he sees what looks like the mouth of a cave. Maybe he could slide down far enough to cut off a branch from one of those trees to use as a walking stick, to lever himself back up to the path.
As he’s considering it, Jared’s feet slip out from under him and he slides helplessly further down the slope. He flails wildly as he slides past the trees below until he hits an outcropping of rock, stopping just shy of plunging over the edge of a cliff into empty space. He barely has time to thank his lucky stars before the ground gives way and he’s falling again, this time straight down, instead of at the angle of the snowy slope. He has just long enough to register the fact that he’s falling into a dark hole instead of over the cliff before he hits bottom — a hard, flat surface.
The silence and the dark are almost as disorienting as the ringing in Jared’s ears that tells him he’s about to have an episode.
“Aw, fuck,” he mutters as he gets his arms out from under his body, pushing himself over with his legs as fire explodes from the tips of his fingers.
The light from the flames illuminates the cave he’s in. It’s too big to be natural, the walls and floor too smooth. The only light comes from the hole in the ceiling some twenty feet overhead, the hole Jared fell through. Just before the fire goes out, Jared glimpses an arched passageway in the far wall.
In the dark, he can hear his own breathing and the wind howling outside as the storm picks up, but otherwise it’s quiet and cold in here. He takes brief stock of his situation: he’s achy and bruised from the fall, his hands sore and stinging from grabbing at tree branches as he slid down the slope, but nothing’s broken. He pulls a solid stick of firewood from his pack, momentarily grateful that his backpack made the fall with him. Then he lights the torch with a single touch.
“Okay, now what?”
The walls are smooth and made of some dark stone that Jared doesn’t recognize. This cavern was built into the side of a cliff. Jared remembers seeing a cave mouth before he fell, but it clearly wasn’t this one.
Holding his light out ahead of him, he edges his way toward the cavern’s only visible egress. The passageway leads to a narrow corridor. Jared follows it as it twists and turns deeper under the mountain, driven by curiosity as much as by the need to escape. It makes him nervous to go so deep, conscious of the weight of the hillside over his head, and he’s just about to turn back, find another way out of the original cavern, when the corridor opens into another room.
This space is even smaller than the first, but it’s not the size of the room or its lack of visible exits that catches Jared’s attention. A body lies on a stone table in the middle of the room, still and silent as the rest of the cavern. As Jared draws near, he can see it’s the body of a man, perfectly preserved in this cold place which Jared now realizes must be a tomb. The man is dressed in old-fashioned clothing that leaves only his hands and his face uncovered, the rest of his body is clad in cotton and denim and a pair of sturdy hiking boots made of real leather. A wool jacket covers his broad shoulders.
It’s the costume of a lowlander, someone who lives where the weather’s always mild so that domesticated animals could graze and grow and give up their pelts for human clothing. Jared has lived in the highlands for so long he can’t imagine such a life, having only heard about it in stories told around fires by the oldest men and women in the local village. The lowlands are so far away as to be nothing more than legend, if they still exist at all. The village elders have long referred to the current era as an “Ice Age,” in which only highlanders have survived.
Jared stands over the man’s body and gazes down into his face, frozen in time from an era so far in the past no one now living can even remember it. The face is clean-shaven, with high cheekbones and full lips and thick, dark eyelashes that fan like lace across the man’s pale cheeks. His hair is cut short around his shapely ears, and Jared can detect a small cleft in his chin. A smattering of freckles covers the man’s nose and cheeks, faded from lack of sunlight.
Without thinking, Jared reaches out his free hand and touches the man’s cheek, then quickly snatches his hand back again. The skin is cold but surprisingly soft. He wishes he were brave enough to touch the man’s lips, see if they’re soft, too. The man looks so peaceful, as if he’s only sleeping, and Jared presses his fingers to the pulse point below the man’s ear just to be sure. The skin is cold but surprisingly soft there, too, and Jared’s sure he can be forgiven for letting his touch linger just a moment too long. There’s no one to see how perversely fascinated he is with a beautiful corpse. No one will ever know what he did here, if he ever gets out alive.
The thought of dying in this cave, his body growing cold, lying on the floor for eternity next to this strange man, gives him a morbid thrill for all of a split second. Then he realizes he’d probably end up eating the corpse in a last ditch effort to keep from starving, and that thought fills him with revulsion.
Only, now he needs to kiss those perfectly-preserved lips, see if they feel as soft against his lips as he thinks they will.
Kissing a corpse isn’t creepy at all.
Before he can stop himself, Jared bends down and presses his lips to the man’s mouth, keeping his fingers pressed to the the body’s nonexistent pulse at the same time.
It’s like kissing a pliant statue, Jared decides, or a doll. There’s no response, obviously, but there’s some give, as if the man’s lips could part and let Jared kiss him deeply without much effort.
Jared pulls away, shocked at himself. It’s a dead body, you freak. Have some respect!. But when he removes his fingers from the man’s neck, they drag almost reluctantly across his skin, over his collarbone and down his chest. Jared lays his hand flat against the man’s chest, under his jacket and over the area where his heart would be beating if he were alive.
“How can you be this fresh when you’ve obviously been down here for so long?” The words whisper from Jared’s lips in the dim light as his torch flickers and goes out, plunging the cavern into complete darkness. He starts to reach for another piece of firewood, reluctantly removing his hand from the body’s chest, when he hears a sound.
“Shit!” Jared mutters as he quickly lights the wood with his bare hands, then drops it in shock because he could have sworn he saw the body’s chest rise and fall. “What the hell?”
Jared retrieves his makeshift torch and raises it over the body, and this time he sees the man’s hand clench, just a little. The soft lips are slightly parted, not tightly closed as they were before Jared...
“I’m seeing things,” Jared mutters, forcing himself to reach out to lay his fingers against the body’s pulse point again.
This time the skin feels warm, and there’s a flutter under Jared’s fingers. He presses a little harder and feels a definite pulse, although it’s slow and unsteady, sluggish.
“What the hell!” Jared mutters again as he presses his hand over the man’s heart. This time he can feel the thud of a heartbeat. The body’s growing warm under his hand, and when the eyelids flutter and open Jared almost drops his torch again.
Pools of deep, mossy green gaze up at him. The man blinks, dampening his long, dark eyelashes, and Jared gasps softly.
“Oh my god! You’re alive!” He jumps back, pulling his hand away from the man’s chest. Well, that explains why the corpse felt too fresh, why the skin hadn’t hardened and cracked with time.
The man blinks again, his lips parting and his adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. A pink, wet tongue flicks out, licks his lips, and Jared blushes, remembering the kiss, wondering if the man can taste him.
“Look, I’m sorry,” he babbles. “I thought you were dead. If I’d known you were only sleeping, I never would’ve have...I mean, I know that sounds creepy. I don’t usually go around kissing corpses, I swear! It’s not something I do, really! Ever! Oh, fuck.”
The man’s eyes drop to Jared’s hand, still raised from his initial surprise. The man’s hand clenches, and Jared grabs it reflexively, noting the warmth of the skin, the pulse in the man’s wrist. When his fingers close around Jared’s his throat muscles and mouth start working again, but no sound comes out. Jared can feel the man tugging on his hand, pulling it toward his throat, and he thinks he understands.
“You want me to touch your neck again,” Jared murmurs, and the man nods almost imperceptibly, eyes locking with Jared’s again. “Okay, this isn’t weird at all.”
When Jared slides his hand over the man’s neck, curling his fingers into the soft hair at the back of his skull, he can feel the man’s pulse against his palm, stronger now. The man closes his eyes and breathes deep, then clears his throat.
“Jensen,” he half whispers between dry lips, his voice hoarse from disuse.
“Jensen,” Jared repeats, almost whispering too. It’s a beautiful word, and he can’t help saying it with reverence. “Is that your name?”
The man opens his eyes and looks up at Jared with a slight nod. Jared shivers as Jensen’s throat muscles contract and expand under Jared’s hand.
“Jared. I’m Jared. Hi. Uh, hi.” Jared shrugs, nods at his torch. “We’re gonna lose the light in a minute.”
Jensen’s eyes drop to his own hand, curled around the edge of the table, and he gives it a quick squeeze. Suddenly the room floods with light, a dim glow that seems to radiate from the bottom edges of the walls where they meet the floor.
“Okay, then,” Jared murmurs as his torch dies. He starts to pull his hand away from Jensen’s neck but the man lays his hand over Jared’s, keeping it there.
“Stay,” Jensen croaks, and Jared nods quickly.
“Sure. Yeah, of course. Not going anywhere. Glad to help.”
Jensen closes his eyes again, holding Jared’s hand against his throat, and Jared watches helplessly. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, but Jensen seems to take strength from Jared’s touch, and Jared’s not about to take that away from him. He can practically feel Jensen’s pulse growing stronger, his skin growing warmer.
He wonders briefly if Jensen is some kind of vampire. He’s heard stories about creatures who can slow down their respiratory systems, hold themselves in a kind of stasis for years until they’re discovered by some unsuspecting animal or human. Then the vampire takes the energy force it needs to rejuvenate, usually draining the victim in the process.
Vampires drink blood. Literal life force. That’s not happening here.
Weirdly enough, Jared isn’t sure he’d care if it did. He feels an overwhelming curiosity about Jensen, a need to help him in any way he can.
Vampires can read minds. Maybe Jensen’s controlling Jared’s thoughts, manipulating him into giving Jensen what he needs.
Again, Jared’s not sure he’d mind if Jensen was controlling him somehow. He feels a connection to the strange man, if he is a man. He feels as if he was meant to be here, to find Jensen, to save him. It doesn’t make sense, and Jared knows better than to believe in inhuman creatures that have magical powers.
Except, Jared is one.
Jensen opens his eyes again, and Jared realizes he’s been staring. He lowers his eyes quickly, a hot flush rising in his cheeks. He starts to pull his hand back, but Jensen holds on, grabs his other hand as well, making him drop the spent torch.
“Don’t go, Jared,” he says hoarsely. “Stay.”
“Yeah, okay,” Jared agrees. “I’ll stay. I just think you need help. We need to find you some help, okay?”
“You,” Jensen says. “You help.”
Jared nods, grinning despite himself. “Yeah, that’s a little obvious. But you need a doctor. Don’t you need a doctor?”
Jensen shakes his head, smiling a little, and Jared thinks he could get used to the way the skin around Jensen’s eyes crinkles, the way his cheeks dimple when he smiles.
“Just you,” Jensen says.
“Yeah, but we gotta get you out of here,” Jared says. “It’s cold as hell in here, and there’s a storm coming...”
“It’s warm now,” Jensen says, and Jared suddenly realizes he’s right. The air isn’t freezing anymore. Jared can no longer see his breath.
“Okay, I don’t know how you’re doing that...”
“It’s you, Jared,” Jensen says, and Jared feels vaguely reprimanded, as if he should have known better.
“Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But he does. Sort of. “Oh, you mean my fire thing.” Jared blushes again, embarrassed. Everyone in the village pretends Jared’s strange ability doesn’t exist except when they need it, and Jared’s learned to hide it, to repress the talent he was born with because it marks him as a freak. Different. Frightening.
Jensen nods. His clear green eyes are intent, focused. He seems to see into Jared’s soul, and Jared shivers again, feeling an odd compulsion that makes him want to believe something miraculous has happened. Jensen is some kind of miracle.
“You’re like me,” Jensen says, and Jared realizes with a shock that it’s true. Jensen’s not a vampire. He’s a man with a special ability, like Jared. Another freak of nature. The connection Jared feels is a kind of genetic sign post, designed to trigger a sense of recognition when he finds another species member.
Jared’s never known anyone like him before. He didn’t think there was anyone else.
Jensen frowns. “You didn’t know.” He looks around the room, grabs Jared’s biceps. “Help me up.”
Jared does the best he can to support Jensen as he struggles to rise, but it’s not easy. Jensen’s legs aren’t working at all yet, and his arms are weak. Jared pulls him to sitting, lets Jensen wrap his arms around Jared and press their chests together for a few moments as Jensen absorbs more of Jared’s strength and warmth.
“Okay, okay, I got you,” Jared mutters as Jensen breathes against his shoulder, taking deep, shuddering gasps of air as his lungs and other organs come back to life. Jared feels his heart pounding against Jared’s chest. He rubs his hands over Jensen’s back, kneading the muscles, smoothing the stiffness out of them.
“How long have I been here?” Jensen raises his head and Jared instinctively wraps his hand around the back of Jensen’s neck for support. “I need to see.”
“Yeah, well, since I fell through a hole in the roof to get in here...I’m pretty sure there’s no way out. I thought this place was some kind of tomb.”
Jensen smirks. “Yeah, I know you did. Lucky for me, you’re into corpses.”
“I am not!” Jared protests. “I could tell you were alive! I mean, not at first, but you were too well-preserved...”
“I get it.” Jensen rolls his eyes. “You think I’m pretty.”
“I –– “ Jared blushes and ducks his head.
“It’s okay. You’re not so bad yourself,” Jensen says, and Jared looks up, catches the twinkle in Jensen’s eyes, and can’t stop himself.
“Really? You really think I’m okay?” He blurts. “You’re not just saying that?”
“Geez, kid, you’re a piece of work, you know that?” Jensen rolls his eyes. “Come on, help me off this thing.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Jared warns as Jensen shoves against him, struggling to stand on his own two feet. Jared’s right there to catch him before he collapses onto the floor, holding Jensen tightly against him. He props Jensen against the table a little so that Jared doesn’t have to support his full weight, leaving the guy at least a little dignity.
“You’re not going anywhere on those legs yet.” Jared states the obvious. “And even if you could, there’s no way out, remember? I don’t see the point.”
Jensen gives a little shake of his head, annoyance creasing his brow.
“Get me over there,” he orders, nodding toward the far wall. It looks as smooth and impenetrable as the rest of the cavern, so Jared’s confusion is understandable. Nevertheless, he does as Jensen asks, scooping an arm under the man’s shoulders and all but dragging him across the room.
It’d be easier to carry him, but Jared doesn’t want to embarrass the guy. He’s got real dignity, and Jared admires that. It suits him. Jared has a feeling Jensen is very, very old.
When they reach the wall, Jensen lays his hands against it. Jared does his best to hold him up as Jensen slides his hands over the flat, featureless surface, clearly searching for something. Then he stops.
“Here it is,” he says, more to himself than to Jared. He gives a little push and the stone gives way, sliding out and off to the side as a passageway appears beyond. A breath of cold air rushes in, and a dim light that can only be daylight illuminates the passageway.
“Okay, then,” Jared mumbles, not even surprised after all the strange things he’s seen today. He shoves up under Jensen’s shoulder, letting Jensen lean on him as they stumble forward. When they reach the source of the daylight Jared realizes it’s the cave mouth Jared saw from above as he tried to make his way down the hill, before he fell into the cavern. They stand at the entrance long enough to see that the cave is cut out of the cliff face far above the ground and a long way below the path. There’s no obvious way up or down. The storm is already raging outside, so they back up out of the wind after a moment. Jared can feel Jensen trembling.
“When I went in, it was summer,” he says, breathing hard, eyes wide. “There was a stone staircase up the side of the mountain. No snow.”
Jared shakes his head. “This is highland territory,” he says. “It’s always snowing. Never summer.”
Jensen looks up at him, licks his lips, and Jared can’t help watching him do it.
“Let’s go back inside,” Jensen suggests, and Jared nods. They struggle back down the short passageway, into the relative warmth of the room with the table. Jensen swipes his hand along the doorframe, and the door slides into place again, sealing them in.
“So you climbed the side of the cliff to put yourself to sleep in here?” Jared asks. “Why?” He feels trapped, claustrophobic. He needs conversation to keep from panicking.
Jensen shakes his head, pulls away from Jared to support himself against the table instead. “Thought it was the right thing to do,” he says gruffly. “Thought I was causing it. Making it worse.”
“Making what worse?” Jared asks, trying not to feel bereft now that Jensen isn’t pressed against him anymore. He’s bewildered by Jensen’s anger.
“Climate change,” Jensen growls. “I thought it was my fault. The winters were getting longer, harsher. Figured if I locked myself up, went dormant, it would stop.”
Jared frowns. “How can you think that? That’s just — that’s crazy. No one can change the weather. It just happens. How could you think you were responsible for making it snow?”
“Because it’s what I do!” Jensen barks. “It’s what I am!”
Jared stares, unable to decide whether to be appalled or turned on. Maybe both. Yes, definitely both.
Jensen rolls his eyes and slams his hand down on the table. Jared watches in fascination as the surface turns white, suddenly covered with tiny ice crystals that radiate from Jensen’s touch.
“If I concentrate, I can make it snow,” Jensen says. “I can turn a lake into ice. One year I got frustrated and froze all the crops. People starved.”
Jared remembers a forest fire, long ago. He remembers people screaming. He remembers a deep sense of shame.
“I’ve done bad things, too,” he whispers. “I didn’t mean to, but I hurt people. That’s why I live here now. Well, not here, obviously. I have a camp. About a mile up the mountain.”
“Alone?” Jensen’s asks sharply, and Jared feels himself blush.
“Not totally,” he says defensively. “I’ve got Luna, and Pip, and sometimes Missy brings her cubs. There’s always birds and deer around. I feed them, so they come back.”
“Animals,” Jensen states. “No people.”
Jared lowers his eyes, embarrassed. “People are afraid of me.”
“But you’ve lived with them in the past.”
Jared nods. “When I was a baby, some villagers found me in the woods and brought me home. They raised me.”
“Until your ability manifested,” Jensen suggests. “Then they threw you out.”
Jared nods. “We kept it secret for a while, but then some strangers came to the village and I got upset because they started hurting the villagers.”
Jared blushes at the memory. He was trying to help, to protect the people he cared about. But the fire consumed everything. It couldn’t distinguish friend from foe, and Jared couldn’t stop it. When the flames were finally extinguished, the villagers made him leave. He hid on the outskirts of the village, watching over the people he cared about until they grew old and died.
That had been many years ago.
“Your ability is triggered by strong emotion.” Jensen’s voice softens. “No one ever taught you how to train it.”
“I can control it now, mostly,” Jared insists. “The only time it comes out is when I get hurt, like when I fell into your cave.”
Jensen reaches out, grasps Jared’s shoulder, the one he fell on. Jared winces, expecting pain, but Jensen’s touch instantly eases the ache, makes it fade till Jared can barely feel it.
Jared stares into Jensen’s eyes, trying not to melt into a puddle at his feet. “How did you do that?”
Jensen smiles. “Same way you do it for me,” he shrugs. “You and I are alike.”
“We’re not human,” Jared breathes. “We can do things humans can’t do.”
Jensen nods. “That’s right.”
“We live longer than they do.”
Jensen nods again.
“We don’t need to eat or sleep as much as they do,” Jared says.
“That’s right,” Jensen says.
“When we find each other, it’s like nothing else matters except being together,” Jared says.
Jensen ducks his head, smiling broadly, and Jared can see the color blooming in his cheeks, the tips of his ears turning red.
“No, Jared, that’s just us,” Jensen says softly.
Jared reaches for Jensen’s hand, tangles their fingers together. Jensen’s skin is warm now, smooth and pliant beneath Jared’s touch.
“I can’t stop thinking about kissing you,” he says.
Jensen raises his chin, looks up into Jared’s eyes again. “Then don’t,” he says. “You don’t have to just think about it, Jared.”
Jared leans closer, closes his eyes just before he presses his mouth to Jensen’s soft lips. Jensen parts them, welcoming Jared’s kiss, and Jared’s tongue flicks out to taste the upper one on instinct.
A sudden stab of lust and something deeper shoots through Jared’s veins. Before he can react, Jensen’s hands are in his hair, cupping the back of his skull to pull him in. He tilts Jared’s face a little, making their mouths slot perfectly together, and Jared can’t stop. He wants to climb inside Jensen, to chase this overwhelming sense of connection. Jared runs his hands over Jensen’s body, up under his jacket, over the smooth fabric of his t-shirt. He kneads the warm muscles of Jensen’s back as their chests heave, their heartbeats synchronize. Jared slides his hands under Jensen’s ass, yanking their hips together, and Jensen spreads his legs, makes room for Jared between them.
Jensen’s still backed up against the table, and it takes no effort at all for Jared to lift him onto it. Jared crowds in, sliding his hands under Jensen’s thighs, lifting and encouraging him to wrap his legs around Jared’s waist. It feels perfectly normal to push Jensen’s jacket off his shoulders; Jensen removes his hands from Jared’s hair long enough to take it off completely. Jensen’s flannel and undershirt follow, laying bare an almost hairless expanse of pale skin and muscle. Jared can’t keep his hands off, can’t not touch. He wants more. He urges Jensen to lie down so that Jared can kneel on the table between his legs, helping him remove his boots and jeans until Jensen’s completely naked. Somehow Jensen’s managed to push Jared’s clothes off as well, and they take a moment to gaze at each other, the awe and admiration shining from Jensen’s eyes reflecting Jared’s feelings as if they were his own.
Jared’s had lovers, and he’s pretty sure Jensen has, too. But all of Jared’s lovers were human. He was always aware of being careful with them, making sure to keep his power in check.
He’s pretty sure he doesn’t have to worry about that with Jensen. He’s pretty sure Jensen will be able to take him just as he is, that he won’t need to hold back or go easy on him. It’s a good thing, because the drive building inside him when he looks down at Jensen is more intense than anything he’s ever experienced, and Jared’s not sure he’ll be able to hold back.
“Don’t worry,” Jensen says as if he can read Jared’s mind. “You can’t hurt me. We’re the same, remember? Two halves of a whole.”
Jared looks down between Jensen’s legs, and shakes his head. “I can’t,” he says breathlessly. “We don’t have anything to ease the way.”
Jensen slides his hands down over Jared’s ass, scoots down as he urges Jared closer. “Doesn’t matter,” he says, just as breathless. “We’re not human. Just do it.”
Jared’s too impatient, too desperate to argue. The need to push into Jensen, to feel Jensen all around him, isn’t normal; it’s an instinct he can’t control. When it happens, Jared almost blacks out with relief. He’s distantly aware of Jensen sitting up to kiss him, wrapping his arms and legs around Jared until there’s not an inch of skin that isn’t touching. Jensen’s body welcomes Jared’s as if their union was the final step in some necessary dance of nature and magic, as if it was something that had been waiting to happen.
Jared feels his power rise to meet Jensen’s, feels the heat as sparks shoot out from his fingertips. For a split second he fears that Jensen will burst into flames in his arms. Then he feels Jensen’s answering power, a cool pulsing throb that soothes and excites Jared at the same time. He’s so turned on he can’t stop his own response, his fire meeting and consuming Jensen’s ice, creating balance with their bodies. Their souls. When he comes, Jared feels the mountain rumble beneath them.
Afterwards, they lie content in each other’s arms, Jared on his back on his own discarded clothing, Jensen half on top of him. It should be uncomfortable, but the air is warm against their sweat-soaked skin, and Jensen’s soft lips keep planting kisses on Jared’s chest as his hand strokes Jared’s ribs.
Jared’s never been happier.
Later, he starts awake to find Jensen gone. There’s a cool breeze making his skin tingle, bringing a strange scent into the room. The door to the cave mouth is open.
Jared pulls his pants on and shoves his feet into his boots. He flings his cloak over his shoulders and trudges into the passageway beyond the open door.
Jensen stands silhouetted against the daylight at the end of the passageway. The sky beyond is a brilliant blue, and the breeze wafting in ruffles Jensen’s hair. He’s bare-chested, dressed only from the waist down, and Jared understands why when he draws closer. The air from outside isn’t cold anymore, and it smells good. Clean and earthy.
When Jared reaches Jensen’s side, he sees what Jensen sees. The snowy landscape stretches for miles in every direction, as it always has, for as long as Jared can remember. But the sun is brighter than Jared’s ever seen it, the sky completely cloudless, and the snow is sparkling, something Jared’s rarely seen.
“It’s melting,” Jensen says. “Spring is coming. Can’t you smell it?”
Jensen takes a deep breath, and Jared follows his example, tastes an earthy flavor on his tongue. It reminds him of the lowlands he visited long ago, after the villagers died and Jared needed to travel, to get away.
When winter came even there, he returned to the mountains he knew, resigned to watching over the village that had been his home, to keep safe the descendants of the villagers who had raised him.
Jensen slips his hand into Jared’s, squeezes. Jared turns his head, watches Jensen’s profile for a few moments, until Jensen smiles, which makes Jared grin wide. His heart leaps in his chest, his happiness bubbling over into sheer joy.
“You think it’ll melt enough to uncover that staircase you climbed up to get here?”
Jensen lifts an eyebrow, nods. “If it stays this warm, it will,” he says.
“How long do you think it’ll take?”
Jensen shrugs. “No more than a week, I’d say.”
“You think we can hold out in here that long?” Jared knows the answer, but he needs to be sure Jensen’s up for it. Jared’s never gone without food for more than a month or two, and Jensen’s been without for much longer than that.
Jensen smirks, squeezes Jared’s hand again. There’s a mischievous twinkle in his eye when he tips his chin toward his lover. “Somehow, I think we can make it, don’t you?”
Jared’s stomach swoops. He grins bashfully and ducks his head, momentarily blinded by Jensen’s beauty and his blatant invitation.
It takes three days for the snow to melt enough for Jared and Jensen to leave the cave. In that time, Jared has already begun to think of it as “their home,” the place where they first met and came together. The place where Jared’s eternal loneliness ended. He’s almost reluctant to leave it, but then he remembers what a place of sadness it was for Jensen, how Jensen went in expecting never to come out.
Now Jensen’s completely recovered, strong enough to climb down the staircase to the valley below to begin their adventure together.
They stop briefly at Jared’s camp, but the animals have enough to eat now. They don’t need him anymore.
The villagers are of two minds about the sudden change in climate. Half of them want to move north, further into the mountains where snow is still visible on the peaks. It’s all they’ve ever known, living a hardscrabble life in the cold and ice.
The other half want to venture down the mountain, follow the rivers and streams to the lowlands. They remember the old stories of an easier life on the grassy plains where hunting grounds were rich and plentiful. They want to try growing food for themselves out of the dark soil.
“We should stay,” a third group protests. “The god will be angry with us if we leave him.”
Jared blushes as he feels Jensen’s eyes on him. The people had called him “god.” They left him offerings of berries and nuts, fur pelts for his clothing and bed. In return, he brought them fresh meat when the weather was harshest, to be sure they never starved.
“I think the god will understand,” says the oldest of the villagers. He’s a direct descendant of the couple who first found Jared in the woods, at least a dozen human lifetimes ago. “He knows this good fortune has befallen us. He is happy for us, because he knows we will prosper now, even without his help. Now he can be free.”
Later, as Jared and Jensen bed down for the night in a cave miles away, Jensen teases Jared about his status as god to the villagers, and Jared blushes again.
“I couldn’t leave them to starve,” he protests. “The one time I went wandering away, they were almost all dead when I got back. I couldn’t let that happen again.”
“Of course you couldn’t,” Jensen says, his tone fond and mocking at the same time. “You were their god.”
Jared shakes his head, warming his hands over the small fire he’s made for them, even though it’s warm enough in the cave without it. Old habits die hard.
“I never gave them that word,” he insists. “I never told them to call me that. I stayed away from them, let them live their lives.”
“Of course you did,” Jensen says.
Jared glances sharply at him. “People didn’t think you were a god? Back in your day, I mean.”
Jensen’s face clouds. Jared watches as he stares into the fire, his beautiful features flickering with firelight. His green eyes seem almost translucent, like glass.
“Humans were afraid of us, when they saw what we could do, what we were. They tried to destroy us. They imprisoned many of us, buried us deep underground. I lost a lot of friends that way.”
Jared takes a deep breath, blinks back the tears smarting the corners of his eyes. “There were a lot of you, back then,” he says. The thought makes him uncomfortable. He doesn’t like the idea of sharing Jensen with anyone.
Jensen nods. “In my time, there were hundreds of us. Thousands. Now, we may be all that’s left.”
“Did you – was there somebody special for you, back then?” He hates himself for asking but he can’t help it. His jealousy won’t let him.
Jensen shakes his head. “No one important,” he says. “No one like you.”
Jared nods. He can’t imagine feeling this bond with anyone else. It’s overwhelming to have it with this one other person. He feels like Jensen’s under his skin all the time, in his head. It’s like Jensen knows him better than he knows himself.
But it’s okay with Jensen. Jared trusts him. He can’t imagine letting anyone else into his mind and heart this way.
“What are we?” Jared asks. “Where do we come from?”
Jensen sucks in a breath, shrugs. “No one really knew, even in my day. We were all human born, but by the time we reached puberty, we were obviously something else. In our time, they called us Ables. I think it was short for ‘ability,’ although some of us thought it came from an older word meaning ‘sacrifice,’ on account of the fact that we used to be left out to die as infants.”
“Why? Why would people leave a baby out to die?” He’s often wondered about his own parentage, why his birth mother abandoned him.
Jensen arches an eyebrow, studies Jared for a moment before answering. “Because our mothers were virgins,” he says finally. “At least, that was the story. They were impregnated by a god.”
Jared feels himself blush. “Well, that can’t be true,” he says, unable to hold Jensen’s intent gaze. When he feels Jensen smile, Jared looks up at him through his hair.
“They ran experiments on us.” Jensen shrugs, looking away again. “They tried to find our limits, the sources of our abilities. They buried us alive when they were done, when they couldn’t find a way to destroy us.”
Jared stares, shocked. “That’s sick.”
“It was a long time ago,” Jensen says. He throws a stick into the fire, watches it catch. “Doesn’t matter.”
Jared takes a deep breath, shakes his head firmly. “It does matter,” he insists. “We should find them. Try to save them. If they’re like you, they could just be dormant, lying underground waiting for us to wake them up...”
“Maybe.” Jensen doesn’t sound hopeful.
“We should look for them,” Jared repeats. “We could save them.”
“Like you saved me?” Jensen smirks.
Jared blushes, partly because Jensen’s expression makes him want to tackle him and kiss the smirk off his face, partly because he feels mocked.
“I’m not kissing any more corpses,” Jared grumbles.
Jensen laughs. “You could give this one a blow job,” he suggests lewdly. “That always helps.”
“You’re an idiot.” Jared grins.
Jensen laughs delightedly, shoving Jared’s formerly-injured shoulder, making him fall sideways.
Jared immediately retaliates by tackling Jensen, pinning him to the ground with one hand, unbuttoning his jeans with the other. When Jared shoved his hand inside, he gets a good grip on Jensen’s thick cock, turns his mocking smile into a gasp as Jensen surrenders.
“You make me crazy,” Jared tells him later, after they’re both sated and relaxed again. “Do I do that to you?”
“You know you do,” Jensen says fondly, sliding his fingers through Jared’s hair, tucking it behind his ear. His fingers trace the shell to Jared’s earlobe, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger.
“I feel like we were always supposed to find each other,” Jared goes on. He knows he’s babbling, but he doesn’t care. Jensen understands, and Jared needs to say it. “Whatever led me to fall into your cave that day, it was supposed to happen.”
“You think we ended the ice age with our orgasms?” Jensen smirks, eyes twinkling.
“Yeah,” Jared nods. “Yeah, I do. Our union restored balance to the world. Or something.”
Jensen cups his cheek, leans in to kiss him. “Now who’s the idiot?” He winks, and Jared blushes again.
In the months and years that follow, Jared and Jensen travel the world. Jared feels a keen desire to find more of their kind, to prove to Jensen that they’re not the only ones.
Jensen seems content with the idea of never finding another member of their species. Jared figures it’s because Jensen had enough company in the old days, and it wasn’t a good thing. He’s satisfied with only Jared as his lifelong companion.
And Jared’s flattered. Really, he is. And grateful to have found Jensen in the first place. He’s still a little jealous of Jensen’s past relationships, but that’s not the reason he wants to find more Ables. He’s just curious.
They find an old underground lab, just where Jensen says it will be. It’s been sealed for centuries, and when Jensen activates the airlock there’s no smell at all. They don’t find any bodies, but they do find old clothing. When Jared tries on a suit made out of some kind of stretchy synthetic material, Jensen rolls his eyes.
“Superhero,” he scoffs. Jared looks at himself in the reflective surface of one of the walls, flexes his muscles experimentally. The suit clings to every muscle, every line of his body, accenting the bulges in his arms and legs, his narrow waist. It looks like it should be uncomfortable, but it isn’t. It fits him perfectly.
“This was an old command center,” Jensen tells Jared. He refuses to put on one of the superhero costumes. He likes his own clothing too much. “They used to send us out on missions from here. We thought we were saving the world.”
From his grim tone, Jared imagines Jensen didn’t like his old bosses much. Jensen doesn’t seem to miss anything about his old life. He plays with the equipment in the lab, captures their images, makes Jared pose with a scowling expression on his face and his arms alight.
“Just in case anyone ever finds this place,” Jensen says mischievously. “This should mess them up.”
Jared looks at the images. He and Jensen look dangerous, threatening.
“Uh — won’t that make people fear us? I mean, even more than they already do?”
Jensen pauses, frowns a little. “Well, I guess that’s the idea, isn’t it? Don’t mess with us. We’re superheroes.”
Jared decides he likes that label better than gods, so he lets it go.
They travel further south, eventually reaching the sea. They encounter small groups of humans, all living primitively. The lowlands aren’t as populated as Jared remembers. The formerly fertile fields are swampy and overgrown.
“Humans will start growing crops and livestock again before you know it,” Jensen assures him. “They like to settle and expand. It’s in their natures.”
Jared nods. He suspects that’s true. He suspects that the tiny hamlets and villages will soon begin prospering, as humans dig themselves out of their wintery holes and start farming and trading. He remembers the lowlands that way from his early wandering.
“They’ll build cities, eventually bring the old technologies back,” Jensen goes on. “It’ll all repeat itself one day.”
Jared frowns. He wonders how old Jensen is, how much he’s seen in his long life. He slips his hand into his lover’s, squeezes in reassurance.
“We’ll watch over it together,” he says confidently, feels Jensen’s smile like a cool salve on his overheated skin.
“Yeah, we will.”
And they do.