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break loose ranch: ring them bells (Jared Padalecki/Jensen Ackles) NC17

Series: Break Loose Ranch; follows busting through them gates, but more specifically follows the third part of riding shotgun to everything that's on my mind and precedes the fourth part.
Pairing: Jared Padalecki/Jensen Ackles
Rating: ADULT.
Warnings: Language. Graphic m/m sex. Intimations of D/s. Christmas out of season.
Word Count: 10612
AN: For destina asked for Break Loose, J2, holiday fic. moonmelody, way2busymom, and poisontaster variously held my hand and swatted me over the head as needed. Thank you!



Wood-smoke hangs in the chill air, but when he comes to the door, Jared's smile is warm. Mulled cider and spice cake, helping grandmother in the kitchen at Christmas kind of warm, and even if he's colt-kneed awkward, rubbing his palm against the seam of his jeans, Jensen can't help but smile back.

"You comin' in, baby?" The words spill off Jared's quirked lips, and, God help him, Jensen's right back there at their first time, breathless with wanting, fingers itching for the hard muscle under the wine-colored t-shirt stretched taut over Jared's broad chest.

He keeps waiting for it to stop. Waiting for the day Jared calling him baby doesn't go straight to his dick. He ducks his head, lowers his lashes, and watches – there, yeah – Jared's cat eyes darken in response. "Been awhile, Jay. Just admiring the view."

"How 'bout you get in here and admire more than the view?" Jared purrs, rich and piquant like the mole Jensen's planning for dinner.

There's a piece of him wants to protest, wants to shout not fair, at being topped before he's even stepped in the door. Small piece. The rest of him's rolling ass up and begging. It's been six weeks and from messy bangs to dusty boots, Jared's everything Jensen never dared believe in and always wanted.

Still, man's gotta have a little pride. "Maybe I'm thinking you should come on out and fetch me."

Quick grin and Jared leans forward, threatening. "Suit yourself, Jen. But if I gotta come out after you, your ass is mine the rest of the night."

It's yours, anyway. Along with my head and heart and anything else you ask for he doesn't say. He wants to, but that one thing, those three words, are his. If he admits it, he's got no brakes. No controls. Nothing to keep this coach from turning into a pumpkin. "That'd be different from usual how exactly?" he says, and his eyes feel bright with the gauntlet he's throwing down.

"Well," Jared drawls, one eyebrow raised. "You might could have a point there. But mama did always say to look to a guest's needs, and since you're just begging for a deep-dicking, I guess I'm being a fair enough host either way."

"Bastard," Jensen mutters, but his heart's beating quick and joyful.

"You forgetting something?"

It takes Jensen a second, but then he breaks and laughs. Only Jared would turn that into a badge of honor. "Yeah, you are a toppy fucking bastard."

"Better." Jared nods, then advances on him, grabbing a flannel from the rack on the wall then pulling the door shut behind him.

Jensen's lungs burn. Lips, too. He's holding his breath, waiting for Jared to come down over him, all heat and power and summer-sky lightning to remind Jensen just how thoroughly he belongs to him. Waiting for it, fearing it and craving it all at once.

But Jared's touch, when it comes, falls soft, kind. The curl of his hand behind Jensen's neck. The circle of his thumb at the nape. The brush of his hard-on against Jensen's belly. "Missed you, baby. Missed you like breathing."

Jensen blinks, heat rising in his cheeks. Fucking Jared. It's just like him to knock him off guard like that. Knock the breath right out of him and leave him clinging to the frayed loops of Jared jeans for balance. And he can't even protest, can't muster a smartass comment, because it's raw and honest and Jared's cat eyes glow with something more than want. Something vulnerable and innocent, and true.

The words he won't say ride his tongue, bittersweet. Won't say, can't say, will say if he opens his mouth, because, goddamn, does his heart beat for this man.

He tips his head up, claims a kiss and puts it there. Puts it all there, in offering tilt of his head, the parting of his lips, the half-moan and hungry roll of his thumb over Jared's abs when Jared takes him up on it.

Jared's a talker. Likes to tell Jensen how it's going to be. Likes to hear his yeses and pleases and will yous in words. Not that Jensen minds. Makes his cheeks flame, sure, but nothing makes him hotter than asking Jared to use him, except for Jared saying he's gonna. Still, being a talker hasn't stopped Jared from developing his nonverbal skills, not one bit.

What he's saying with this kiss, sweet-soft and thorough, hand cupping Jensen's head and wide mouth covering his completely… What he's telling Jensen is nothing short of the whole damned fairy tale. Prince Charming, glass slipper, fairy godmother, happily ever fucking after.

And for once, while Jensen shivers under the knowing sweep of Jared's tongue, he lets himself bask in the golden glow of the Disney version and forgets the vicious birds and bloodshed of the Grimm.

Jared doesn't end the kiss so much as slow it, and finally still it, smile still pressed to Jensen's mouth. Hand still stroking down Jensen's back, thumb still smoothing Jensen's cheekbone. He'd protest being treated like a princess, if it didn't feel so damned good.

Before Jared does pull away, he drags his hand down Jensen's arm, slow, like he can't get enough of touching him. His eyes slip closed, and Jensen's lungs force out a long steady sigh of agreement. Then Jared finds his hand, tangles their fingers together like teenagers on a third date, and breaks into a bright, broad grin.

"What?" Jensen asks reflexively.

"Nothing." His hackles start to rise at the smug triumph in Jared's tone, but then Jared dips his head and sucks a soft, open-mouthed kiss off Jensen's pulse. "I'm glad you missed me, too."

"There was mention…" His gut flutters at the silky suggestion in the grind of the heel of Jared's hand against his own. "Of attending my needs?"

Jared leans back, looks, fucking studies Jensen from beneath tousled fuck me wide bangs. He shakes his head, sends them scattering puppy eager. "Wanna show you something first."

"What?" Jensen asks again, shoulders tightening this time.

"Trust me."

He does. He does, but it's hard not to panic when in Jensen's vocabulary surprise is pretty much synonymous with you're fucked.

#


Growing up in Texas, he's used to luminarias and chili ristras, carved crèches and solemn saints, right alongside jovial Santas, improbable elves and even more improbable pine trees gaudily wrapped in silver, pink, and purple. If someone had asked, he'd have figured Jared for the Santa sort, possibly minus the clashing colors. He's bold and bright as Cinco de Mayo, but he's not garish.

So he's surprised to find the drive to the guest house lined with evenly spaced paper sacks lit up with white Christmas bulbs. Fire-safe but traditional, warm and golden in the dying sun. The steps, the patio rails, the eaves are similarly decked, and the only chili peppers form a wreath on the front door.

They keep walking, out toward the barn on a trail of fairy lights. Hard edges blur and soften, like the fade-out in a Merchant Ivory film, and when Jared turns him back toward his own house, the luminarias gone unnoticed in Jared's presence thrust them into one. A Southwestern adaptation of a European romance – the part where the perfection of the moment outweighs every possible objection and the pair gives in to love.

With Jared around him, broad chest warming his back despite the evening chill, he can believe it. Not even Cinderella had it this good.

"Well?" Jared asks, nuzzling against his throat.

He adores this about Jared, that his approval actually matters. "It's beautiful, Jay. Really."

"Surprised, baby?"

"Shouldn't be, but yeah, a bit." He turns his head a little, enough to look up at Jared and watch his expression. "Figured you for reindeer and sleigh, the whole deal."

Palming down Jensen's chest, Jared settles his hand just below his ribs. "Mama says the Savior's birth is about hope and joy. Real things, genuine, but quiet and a little bit fragile. Like to get drowned out by good cheer and Technicolor parties, and we ought to save that for Independence day, both of 'em, where you gotta remember past the dying that got us there."

"Starting to think your mama's kinda like the Tooth Fairy." Actually, she's more like Jensen's fairy godmother. Architect of everything he holds dear, but especially Jared.

Jared rubs their noses together. Rubs their noses together - holy hell, how's he supposed to defend against that? But before those words come tumbling out, Jared laughs. "She's real enough. Said the same about you when I wouldn't shut it 'bout Jen this and Jen that over Christmas. She's wanting to get to know you, whenever you're ready."

Meeting the parents, fuck. That stifles the impulse to profess his undying affection right quick. "You sure you want to—ow, damn it, Jay." With two fingers, he rubs the throbbing spot on his neck Jared just bit, looks past him. "I'm just saying, that's a big step."

Jared glares down at him, unrepentant. "She's wanting to get to know you, whenever you're ready," he repeats, easy drawl fading behind a hint of an Alpha growl.

He knows he's supposed to take from that that Jared wouldn't mention it if he had a problem with it. Still, it's... he's not used to it. He shrugs, pushes at a loose rock in the drive with the toe of his boot. "Maybe after the first, okay?"

Just like that, Jared's gentle again, arms tightening around him protectively, and Jensen's so grateful, he just gives into it. "No rush, Jen. Just putting it out there."

"Yeah. Okay." It is, and he's pretty curious about the woman Jared fucking worships. His mom's cool, as moms go, but they're not close. None of his family is. Not like Jared's. He traces the cords of Jared's forearms with his fingertips. "My folks, they don't… I haven't told them."

Nothing changes in Jared, not even a tensed muscle. That's damned impressive, since this is the first time Jensen's talked about them beyond mama says. "You come out to them at all yet?"

"Yeah, sorta." Jensen shrugs. "They know, you know? Kinda hard to keep it from them, with everything that happened. But we don't talk about it."

Jared tips his mouth against the back of Jensen's head. Holds him there, like to say it doesn't matter, and Jared'll take care of him, if they won't.

As nice as that is, he doesn't want Jared getting the wrong idea. "They're okay with it, mostly. It's just… Mom still likes to pretend I'm gonna marry Allie or Alona, or, god forbid, Eliza, and give her a passel of grandbrats. She knows better, but I haven't wanted to rub her face in it..." Before you.

"What'd you tell them, 'bout coming here for New Year's?" Casual drawl and easy stance, but Jensen feels the truth in Jared's stiffening wrist and fingers. Just like what he thinks of Jared's horses and his home, his answer matters.

In all his life, he's never been gladder to tell the God's honest truth. "Told 'em I'd been invited to spend some time with you, and I was looking forward to it." He turns, wanting to see Jared's face, make sure he knows. "Might not be taking out billboard marquees on Hollywood Boulevard, but I won't lie about you."

He swears, if he were a girl, or had bangs like Jared's, Jared would be pushing them off his face to tuck behind his ear right now. Jensen's just trying not to melt like baker's chocolate over a blue flame burner.

"Can't lie about you, Jay," he forces out, a breathless whisper.

Jared nods, then rubs at Jensen's winter scruff, smiling like he wants to say something. He doesn't. Spins him around, instead, and draws him up snug against his groin.

Jensen's just pulling himself together again, remembering how to breathe, when Jared pops the button on Jensen's jeans. "Kinda hard to lie when your dick points to me like the North Pole."

Technically, compasses point to magnetic north, and his dick is pointing away from Jared at the moment. He's not about to argue it. Not when those long, callused fingers are a few degrees from giving him half of what he's been aching six weeks for.

"Dunno, maybe. I'm a damned good actor." Voice thick and husky with his need, he knows he's inviting Jared to prove him wrong. Reassert himself and set things right between them.

"Yeah you are," Jared says, definitive, and Jensen's chest tightens. An opening to top the living hell out of him, but Jared's more interested in shoring him up. He reaches back to thread his fingers through Jared's thick, soft mop; Jared jerks him way too slow but he's leaking anyway. "But your dick sucks."

It's such a ridiculous thing to say, so backwards, that Jensen groans. Or maybe it's the curl of Jared's fingers around his shaft. Hard to say. Hard to think, now that Jared's turned his attention to getting him off.

Jared's mouth latches over his throat, sucking hard, all heat and wet and pleasure-pain until Jensen's moaning with it, dick damned near forgotten in the bright crimson throb. Damned near, but not, since Jared's working him with a vengeance. Slip-slick of fist over wet flesh, callused pads of his palm grazing underneath the shaft and head, again and again in the fairy light until Jensen wants to weep from so much at once.

His fingers dig into Jared's arm where he's holding him up, teeth grit with trying to control this. Then Jared's kiss softens, strokes down his throat. He sighs out, relaxing into Jared's grip, body moving as it will. Until Jared's mouth takes hold again, insistent, bruising, and Jensen jackknifes, hips thrust out and keening.

The hand across his belly presses him down and back. "Easy, baby, relax. Got you."

Easy, yes, he is, for Jared, he's so easy. Everything makes him hotter, slicker, harder. Jared's purr, the pulsing warmth of his dick digging into Jensen's ass, even the scratch of his own zipper against his groin. It's so much, too much, he can't--

"Jen, baby, let me."

The soft growl, hint of command, cuts through the need of six weeks without this, without him, and Jensen shudders. Nods. Closes his eyes and drops his head back against Jared's shoulder.

Jared will let him come. Jared will get him there. All he has to do is breathe and feel. Feel the tight-perfect channel of Jared's strong hand slick up his dick. Feel it twist, thumb-flick behind and over the head. Feel the pull back down to the root and the heel of Jared's hand rub, firm and sweet against his sac.

His abs tighten, pelvis cants into Jared's grip, wanting. Jared sucks soft against his throat, licks wet then blows warm over cool; Jensen hisses at the contrasts and tries to remember to breathe. Breathe, breathe through faster pulls, harder, with Jared slurring thick encouragement – "…been wanting this, baby, been thinking 'bout this, 'bout you. God, Jen, so pretty, do you even know? Miss seeing you like this, coming apart for me, trusting me…" – in his ear, and Jared's big dick – missed it, need it, god, need you to fuck me, Jay, need you -- grinding into him, dragging the leather tag on his jeans down and around, maddening against the top of his ass.

Sweat rolls in his eyes, onto his mouth. He's shuddering now, shaking in Jared's arms and panting with every stroke. He's close, so close, tight everywhere.

"Jen." Jared's panting, moaning; wants this, wants him. "C'mon, baby, please."

It slams through him, sudden. Unlocks his jaw. He sings out, "Oh god, oh god, Jay," both anguished and ecstatic at the fierce pulses emptying him, turning him inside out for Jared.

His fingers flutter frantic signals over Jared's hand around his dick, over his arm holding him up. Yes, no, more. No more, no more. You're here. It's you.

Still quaking, he turns his head, tucks his damp face into Jared's throat. "Missed you."

Jared lays his cheek against his face, nuzzles. Strains to kiss behind his ear. "Then stay this time." He's offering, not asking, but Jared's not actor enough to hide the ache of longing in it.

Before Jensen can protest that he's not ready, before he can even straighten, Jared nudges him forward. First one arm, then the other, he stretches Jensen out, curls his fingers around the sanded-smooth knotty pine of Rio's paddock gate, squeezes them tight.

There are words, he's trying to form them, but Jared yanks his jeans down over his hips and between the cool night fingering his dick and Jared thumbing into his crack, they scatter like bread crumbs.

Metal scrapes against metal, Jared's zipper, then the heavy whisper of battered denim over skin. Jensen moans, low and soft. He's not above begging; he wants this so much.

Jared splays his palm over his lower back, steadying. "Where's the lube, baby?"

Not, do you have any? Not, did you bring? Quiet, confident, knowing – because, whether he's saying it or not, Jensen is his, and he always carries slick for Jared. For them, so they can have each other wherever and whenever inspiration strikes, because Jared, fucking Prince Charming, won't take him without – not unless he's got time to lick him wide and wet.

"Jacket…pocket," he pants out, and Jared doesn't ask which. Right, always right. Jared's right-handed and so is he. Make things easy, easy for Jared.

Rustle of flannel over leather, Jared leans over his back, rubs his hard – so hard, oh god, so hard -- cock right up against his hole. Jensen whimpers and thinks he might die before Jared gets there.

But Jared knows and Jared's fast. Slops a messy fistful of K-Y over his dick and smears Jensen's crack. The bottle falls to the dirt by Jensen's right foot. He focuses, tries to make out the lettering in the luminarias-light. Inhales up the long straight back of the K and exhales in the valley, then forgets again. Moans a half-breath when Jared's finger spears him.

When he flattens out, wanting Jared deep and now, Jared stops his hip on the meat of his palm. Curls his hand around and holds him still. His thumb works the groove at the base of Jensen's spine, but he doesn't want soothing. Fingers clenched, Jensen shoves at the gate until it rattles with his frustration, and a rough sound, part whine, part snarl, slips past his lips. "Fuck me."

"M'gonna. Promise. God, gon'fuck you so good, Jen baby," Jared slurs, hot, and a second finger rubs and stretches at his hole.

Tomorrow maybe, he'd trust, and shiver and beg, but he can't. Not now. Not after six weeks of nothing but his hand and his fingers and hearing Jared's whispered love you as he hangs up last thing before bed. So when Jared starts in with, "Just gotta--" Jensen snaps. Throws his hips back and takes that second finger in single push.

It burns. Pulls and stretches and burns. His eyes tear, but it's worth it to hear Jared groan, "Oh, ohgoddamn," feel him hump his lube-wet cock against Jensen's thigh for friction.

"Damn it, Jen," Jared growls, dominant and flat pissed, but after a shaky exhale, slow-screws his fingers in deeper. "S'been six weeks for me, too. Just trying to take care with you."

Heat spreading over his cheeks, Jensen drops his head, bares the back of his neck in automatic apology. "I know. It's just…" It's just… James's fucking head games, and Jensen's in love with Jared. Terrified, off-the-rails in love with Jared. "Please, Jay, please. Just want you. Just want you so bad."

"Jen…" Whatever Jared wants to say – there's something, he's got that tone – he puts it away. Instead, he pulls his fingers free with a soft, "Yeah, baby, me too," then rubs his dick over Jen's empty hole. "Gotta take it slow, let me work you open. Promise me."

He plants his feet wide to put his ass on offer. "Promise me I'll feel it tomorrow when you're done being careful, and you've got a deal."

"Try next week, baby." No mistaking the threat-promise in Jared's voice, or in the way his cock head spreads still-protesting muscle.

"De-ee-uh--"

First push, and—holy Christ. Holy Christ. He forgot -- oh god it hurts -- forgot how fucking big Jared is. Jensen bites his lip to keep from crying out. Jared'll stop if he does, always does, and Jensen doesn't want that. Doesn't -- no, jesusfuck, doesn't -- want to end the slow press of stiff cock boring into him, opening him up to Jared.

Jared groans. Shaking fingers bruise Jensen's hips, dig in deeper than his dick. Hang on--frozen between yanking Jensen's ass back and shoving him away.

Another push; he's halfway in, and Jensen's panting again. Behind him, Jared tenses, grunts like he got sucker-punched in the gut. He lifts his head, strains around an ass half-full of dick to look back over his shoulder at Jared.

His eyes are wild-wide and dark in the luminarias-glow. Sweat gleams on his face and the corded muscles of his forearms. Tight, strained, Jared grits out, "Need you. Too much."

Jared. Fucking Prince Charming. He's gonna bust something trying to go easy. Acting casual for all he's worth, Jensen drawls, "No such thing," then drops his head between his arms again. "Bring it on."

Seems Jared believes him, because he takes Jensen's ass on a single thrust. Leaves them both gasping. Jensen on tippy-toes, spread so wide around Jared's dick if he shivers, he's gonna tear down the middle. Jared damned near-sobbing, incoherent, "God, baby, god, missed you, needed you, Jen Jen Jen."

It ought to be weird, hanging onto the fence, listening to that with Jared's dick worked so far up his ass he's swallowing around the head. It really ought to be embarrassing, his jeans around his ankles, come-sticky cock bobbing in the breeze.

It's not. It's gone quiet inside his head. No wonders, worries, or what ifs. Nothing but Jared's warmth against his bare thighs, the heavy ache in his ass, and want spiraling tight in his groin.

Jared's thumb stops bruising him, stiffly circles the point of his hip instead. Together they're a clockwork tableau, every heartbeat winding them one tick closer to almost-lifelike motion.

"Jen, you good?" Jared whispers, angsty-edged with need.

"Real good." He's been thinking about this since he turned off the ranch road onto the highway last time. Craving it since the first time, days later, he wrapped his fist around his shaft and wanted Jared's. "Just move."

Three seconds, ten, Jensen hangs suspended between beats and breaths. Jared pulses once, deep, a cog slipping. Growls low in warning, then flexes up into him.

Jensen smiles around a gasp. "Harder."

Boy wants to take that as a challenge, slams into him once, twice, three times, groin spanking Jensen's ass, cock head banging his prostate bright and sweet. "Careful what you wish for," Jared manages, shot-raw.

Jared's wound so tight, teetering at the edge of abandon, clinging to good top for all he's worth. Jensen knows; it's how he fell so hard. "Not wishing, Jay. Begging." He needs it. Jared needs it. "Use me."

Jared shudders. "God, baby." He spreads his hand across Jensen's lower back, steadying him even now. "Jen." His fingers clutch, nails scratch; Jared's slipping, slipping—

Exploding into Jensen with all the power of that huge body, collisions so hard Jensen's teeth rattle and his seat bones bruise. Jensen grunts, scrambles – oh fuck, fuck, Jay, Jay -- hangs onto the gate and takes it.

Takes it all. Every brutal thrust, every crushing thumbprint, every half-inch scrape, every throb and thud and cry. Even the chanted mine mine mine, while he hammers Jensen's ass to the shape of his dick. Jensen takes them, revels in them, revels in Jared undone for him.

Yeah, his dick's hard and his ass aches with the abuse. Yeah, Jared's pounding his prostate. But it's the choked, "Jensen," when Jared finally lets go that gets him there.

He spills into Jared's waiting hand, and he's not even surprised to find it there. It's just damned hard not to think Yes, I love you, too.

#


Jared insists they need to feed the horses before he'll let Jensen cook dinner, and that doesn't make it any easier. It's not watching him push the pitchfork through a bucket of steaming oats and bran, even though Jensen wants to shove the t-shirt over his head and lick the sweat from his back. It's not even the way his fingers grip the carrots he kneels to chop, or the fit of his jeans over his thighs.

Single bulb in the feed room ceiling, but the light loves him. He crouches in a pool of it, floodlit in gold and shadow. In a script, the direction would read: the light seems to come from him.

Even Jensen's metaphors rebel against him. Next thing he'll be singing lines from old musicals. If I were a bell queues up, quickly replaced by and our secret love's no secret. Jensen rubs his face with both hands and rejects the Steve Carlson Band lyrics that aren't much better.

Jared scoops the carrots into the bucket, then sets his hands on his thighs and pushes himself up. There's hay in his bangs, a stain on his t-shirt from Rio rubbing on his chest, another at the bottom and several on his jeans from wiping lube and come; he's perfect, especially the welcoming smile when he sees Jensen's looking at him.

Jensen's stomach flutters, but he's not a romance heroine and his knees are just fine, thank you. "Goddamn you're a pretty mess."

Jared's lips twitch as he crosses toward Jensen. "As I recall, baby, I had some help getting that way."

"Real nice, blaming an innocent colt for debauching you." Sure, he's talking the talk, but then Jared's all up in Jensen's space, and abruptly his 'walk' is suffering from a serious case of girly knees.

"S'not the innocent colt I'm blaming, baby." Jared tugs down Jensen's shirt, straightens it. "It's this wicked sexy one."

That's damned unfair. Fuck, the boy could charm the night into day by smiling at it. "You think I'm giving it up just 'cuz you talk pretty, you got another think coming."

Jared grins so bright it makes Jensen blink. "Ye-ah, prob'ly. Good thing I'm wanting to give you something instead."

Not like he's not interested, because he is. With Jared, he always is. But—

God Himself only knows what Jensen's face shows, because Jared's laughing. "Christmas present, Jen."

Oh. Jared turns him inside out and upside down, and he's not ready for this. He's so not ready for gifts from Jared with cards that say I love you. He jerks his toward the muck-bucket behind them. "What about the bran mash?"

"Needs to soak for a bit, yet."

He tucks his fingers into Jared's waistband. Licks across his mouth. "Sure you don't want me to give it up?"

Jared groans theatrically. "That's cruel, baby, making a man turn down a blow job." Then he grins again and hooks his hand behind Jensen's shoulder to turn him and push him out the door. "C'mon, Jen. Take your present like a man."

Yeah, he's being chicken. But it matters. Gifts don't lie. They say things; his for Jared do. James's said plenty, things he should've listened to. Jared's not James, but what if the gift doesn't match the card? What if Jared only thinks he loves him? What if…? He walks where Jared leads, but he's nauseated and his legs feel leaden.

When his feet drag too much, Jared says, "Jensen?" real soft, and Jensen turns without thinking. Stares up at Jared with his naked face, and Jared finds his hand and brings it to his lips. "M'sorry, baby. I should've known. It'll keep 'til you're ready."

Guilt thins Jared's lush mouth to a frown and puts a crease between his eyebrows; Jensen hates it. This isn't going to get better by waiting. It'll be worse now, worrying about disappointing Jared. "No." Unsteady, he reaches out, tents his fingers over Jared's heart. "I can do this now."

Head tilted, eyes gone brownish and liquid with warm emotion, Jared thumbs his cheekbone. "Helluva way to look at getting a gift, Jen."

Jared's doing it again, giving him that look that makes him want to confess, repent, and beg for salvation. Tell him everything he's afraid of, everything he wants, everything he feels, but he can't. He just can't put that all on Jared, can't give it all up to him.

So he works up a smile, and drawls, "Well," Jared-style. He's not feeling it, and Jared's not buying it. The effort, though, like the present Jared's wanting to give him, that means something. "Chris has kind of a sick sense of humor when it comes to holidays."

Jared shakes his head, then leans in. Kisses Jensen soft and sweet until bravado melts to two fists knotted in Jared's flannel, his forehead on Jared's shoulder, and Jared's hand in his hair.

"Better." He untangles one of Jensen's hands. Gaze locked, warm, to Jensen's, he stretches their arms back behind Jensen and touches the tips of his fingers to something cool and smooth. Not wood, but solid. "For you, baby."

He honestly has no clue what to expect when he turns, but in his wildest imaginings, he couldn't have come up with this. Jensen runs his fingers over and over the stall-plate, traces the letters. Owner: Jensen Ackles.

When he gets the bright idea to look in the stall, it's empty but for clean straw and brand-new green feed and water buckets with red bows on them. His brain's running slow, and he doesn't want to jump to conclusions.

Finally he looks back over his shoulder. "Jay?"

"Narrowed it down to three. Two mustangs and an Arabian. Figured you should have the final choice yourself, you know. See which one suits you. It's kinda personal, and…" Jared trails off, shrugging awkwardly.

Jared's shrugging and Jensen's blinking; lights are on but no one's home. "You bought me a horse for Christmas?"

"Well, not yet. But… yeah, if you want." It strikes him suddenly; Jared's nervous, too. "I mean… if you don't…" He should've noticed before, the tightness around Jared's mouth. Might've, if he weren't so caught up in his own little stage drama. Might not've, since he's probably only seen Jared off-guard once or twice.

Jensen swallows hard. A horse. His own. From Jared. It's been forever since he had one, and, hell yes, he wants one, but… "Jay, are you sure?"

Now it's Jared's turn to blink and look confused. "Sure I want you to have a horse?"

Jensen flattens himself back against the stall wall, forces his breathing even. "It's kinda huge."

"Take it that's some kinda problem?"

"Yes," Jensen answers, sounding particularly vehement. His gaze falls on Jared's hands, loose at his sides, not clenched into fists or reaching for him. "No," he amends, barely audible even to his own ears. He closes his eyes, lets his head fall back against the stall door. "I don't know."

Jared's always been good at knowing when to push and when to let be. He waits, while Jensen tries to sort it out. Tries to figure out what to say and what not. He inhales clean straw, cold dust and warm horse, starts slow. "There's upkeep… Feed, stabling…"

"Costs next to nothing to add another horse to the herd," Jared says quietly.

Jensen nods. "I know, that's not… what if we don't… what if you and I don't…" He can't finish it.

"The stall-plate comes with screws, and if we don't make it, you and I, we'll unscrew them. And all three of the horses are trailer-broke." He opens his eyes to Jared right in front of him, close enough to touch. "Jen, it's not a bribe, if that's what's got you twisted up."

Bribe? Jared thought he thought… "No. Not that. Just seems like a big investment in…"

"In you, Jen. In us. And, yeah, I'm damned sure I want to make it. I've got a screwdriver in the tack room, but I'm betting I won't have to use it except to screw in the nameplate."

How does he know? How can he be sure? What if…

That's when he recognizes the full ridiculousness of the situation. Five minutes ago, he was jacked up worrying Jared might not actually love him. Now, he's torqued because Jared does and he can't figure how Jared knows, can't figure out how to be sure what he feels is real.

He presses his fingers to his eye sockets, wrings his head on his neck, slow, like I'm an idiot, then lets his lips curve into a genuine, if wry, smile. "If you're sure, then yes. I'd like that, a lot, actually."

"The first time," Jared begins, smoothing a hand up Jensen's arm. "The first time I ever saw you truly happy was helping me with Belle and Star."

Part of him wants to run, hide, hide his face from Jared. The rest wants to bask in his glow, in the warmth of him. He settles for watching a point behind Jared's shoulder and trying to tame the flush that feels like sunburn.

"Want you to be happy, Jen. Want it so bad I can taste it."

Jared. "I…" Love you. So much I forget how to breathe around you. He shakes his head, leans up to chase Jared's mouth. Kisses him.

And keeps kissing him until the words subside, then he rubs his knuckles against Jared's abs. "What's it taste like?"

He's not sure whether he means he's happy now, or he wishes he knew what it was like to be that kind of happy, or both.

#


Maybe he doesn't know what happiness tastes like, but he knows how exactly how it should smell. Like fresh-showered Jared pressing a hey, I'm behind you kiss to Jensen's shoulder in a warm kitchen rich with the scents of onion, garlic, chili, cinnamon and chocolate. It should feel like the welcome recognition of Jared there, thighs, groin and chest molding to him, hands out of the way on his hips while he stirs his quick and dirty mole.

He's seen Steve's smile when Chris does it, head hanging over Steve's shoulder, Alpha eyes penetrable for once, during their women suck periods; all's right in Steve's world then, and they're not even together like he and Jared. The emotional body, probably, like he learned in acting. Certain touches, like hand over heart and solar plexus will trigger a true response if you let them, and Jensen guesses this is one of them.

But with Jared, he's more than content. He's safe -- and hard. Screw Cinderella. Pavlov's dog is more like it. The merest whisper of Jared's fingers over the back of his hand, his shoulder, anywhere on his body, and he's ready to sit up and beg.

"Give you a hand with anything?"

Jared's voice, goddamn, goddamn. Simple fucking question, but Jared makes it sound like sex and velvet and forever. Like the thick, cinnamon-laced Mexican hot chocolate he'll make for Jared to drink while he opens his gifts.

"I'd have to check the recipe, but I don't think come's an ingredient in mole poblano."

Jared nudges him, knee to thigh. His arms roll forward to frame and steady him, and Jensen melts. Fucking melts into Jared and his easy laugh. "Meant with whatever you're fixing that smells almost as good as you."

He's like a young husband, so earnestly romantic it ought to raise Jensen's hackles. Would've, being treated like the little missus, except Steve and Chris, of all people, say being cherished doesn't have a gender, and Jared's done his damnedest to prove it. Doesn't stop him from swatting Jared with his free hand, though. "As good as me drenched in your sweat and come, you mean."

Hot, electric pleasure unspools along his nerves when Jared lowers his head to smell him. Slow, heavy inhale all along his nape. His eyes close and head tilts to the side, Pavlov again, but it feels more like magic, Jared scenting the length of his neck. The kiss he's expecting behind his ear doesn't fall, so he's hyper-sensitive and aware when soft lips brush the hollow of his throat instead.

Jensen bites his lip, gamely holding in the moan, when Jared stands back again. "Nope, just you, Ivory clean."

It seems important, not to surrender everything to Jared, but when he says these stupidly, innocently, ridiculously perfect things, Jensen forgets why he's not just turning in Jared's arms and saying I love you, Jared until it sounds as natural as his own name.

He doesn't know what to say, or if he does, he doesn't know how to say it. Just ducks his head forward and stirs the mole he's been neglecting.

Jared knows by now, always has truth be told, how to interpret Jensen's silences. At least it seems like it, since he doesn't back away or press the compliment, chide or wheedle. He chafes Jensen's forearms until Jensen breathes out, then drawls, "Mama'd box my ears letting you slave over a hot stove and me not lending a hand. Give me something to do."

Jesus bless Jared's mama, and Jared for knowing exactly when to remember her. Jensen's not sure how, but she's become a touchstone for them. A way to pull back from places where the words don't flow without making a fuss.

"When your mama's giving lessons, who's name does she use?" he asks, honestly curious.

"Her daddy. Her mama died when she was just a girl, slip of a girl, she'd say, and her daddy never batted an eyelash at raising two daughters. Just tied on an apron and learned how to be both mama and daddy 'til they were grown."

"He never married again?"

Jared kisses the back of his head. "Nope. If you ask him, he says there'd be no sense to it. He loved my grandmama with his whole heart and there weren't none of it left to give someone other than their girls."

He wants that, wants the fairy tale you and only you forever. Wants it with Jared. Love you, Jared. Jensen shivers, stirs his mole rather more aggressively than it requires. "So, your mama's the Tooth Fairy and your granddaddy's Santa Claus, is what you're saying."

Jared pushes his hand through his hair, grabs the back of his neck. "Jen." His damp bangs stick up every which way, mirroring his desire, so desperate, to make Jensen understand.

"I know." But he doesn't. It's just… Jared will say something disarming, charming, utterly perfect, and Jensen'll shatter, tumble, swoon into his arms, and that's starting to sound like a good thing. Everything. Which is exactly why he says, "Chicken's got to bake a little longer, but you could give me a hand with the table," while snapping the dial on the burner down to low.

Quick glance toward the table, then Jared looks back at him, crosses his arms over his chest and leans a hip against the counter. If Jensen shivered before, the frisson that takes him now is a full-body shudder. "That need stirring or will it sit a spell?" There's no sex in his tone, no command, but Jared's body language is the toppiest he's ever seen it.

Stove's cooling and the mole can stand, but even if it couldn't, he'd let it burn. For Jared, to be his without worries or words or gift-wrapped complications. He shuts the stove off, then turns, resting his weight on both hands on the door handle on the front. "It'll keep."

"C'mere, baby." Jared pushes off the counter, makes it to the middle of the kitchen in one stride, and Jensen goes, doesn't think about not going. Fuck, how could he, with every ounce of Jared's personality channeled into telling him you're mine.

Jesus. He might as well be sixteen in a breeze for as quick as hazel-green eyes smoldering, determined and possessive, get him going. By the time Jared's hands cup his ass and his arms twine around Jared's neck, he's downright eager, dick straining the front of his jeans to get to Jared.

Against the inside of his forearm, Jared's pulse beats a quick-steady tattoo, primal and drugging, but he doesn't press their mouths together. Instead he watches Jensen from up close, knows him, body to body and, it feels like, soul to soul, until Jensen can't, just can't take it anymore. He tilts his head and parts his lips for Jared.

Jared takes him, but it's half-kisses, slow. Soft brush of lip over lip, shared breath, lingering, and Jensen thinks he'll die, burst with the bittersweetness of too much-not enough. His fingers slip through Jared's hair, cool over the flushed-heat of his palms; the tips stroke the pearl-smooth curve of the nape of his neck.

Jared's palms slide down his thighs, pull them forward and urge him up. He hates this, being lifted, wrapped around Jared's waist. Loves it, too, their bodies aligned, locked together, Jared his only ground. He blushes, lowers his gaze to Jared's throat and follows with his mouth.

He's arrested mid-lick by Jared stepping forward and lifts his head again. Jared carries him, Jesus, carries him like a high school girlfriend on prom night. No point protesting, since they both know he'll give it up. Still… "Jay?"

"Setting the table, baby," Jared purrs, then settles Jensen's ass right at the end; there's enough of an ache to remind him how hard he just got fucked, but he doesn't wince, doesn't twitch, doesn't flinch, because he wants it again.

Once Jensen's seated, secure, Jared stands back, grasps the hem of his shirt two-handed. Slow, like he's stripping for Jensen, he pulls his faded navy Henley over his head. He's gorgeous. Fucking unbelievably gorgeous, his would-be Prince Charming.

His fingers itch for taut, toned skin, and when he lets them glide over the bulge of Jared's bicep, Jared just smiles. Pleased. "Love when you reach for me, Jen. Love how you want me."

Like good strong coffee brewing, or rich chocolate once you've smelled it, that's how he wants Jared. Always. Since Jared steadied Chad's barstool with his foot while Chad showed his ass. "Pheromones," Jensen says, half-smiling as he lifts off his own shirt and tosses it aside.

Jeans undone, slipping low to bare the unmarked skin over his hipbones – no one else has been sucking Jared off, no one else holding on while he takes his pleasure in their mouth -- Jared pauses, cocks his head. He screws up his face, and now he's adorable, boyish and bemused. "S'what you said to Chad the night we met."

Of course he remembers. Jared would, though he's got it wrong. "Said it to you."

"Chad said Chris had sex hormones, and you corrected him." Certain, Jared drops his jeans, then leans over to grip the seams of Jensen's and help them off.

Tipping forward, Jensen steals a kiss off a mouth that's a fairy tale all its own, then presses down on the hardwood tabletop. Lifts up, and confesses to the top of Jared's head. "Yeah, but I wouldn't have bothered, except for you."

"Could kiss that dipshit for givin' you the opening." Voice warm now, a teasing drawl, Jared fishes the travel lube from Jensen's right front pocket before laying his jeans over the back of the chair. While he opens it, slicks it over his cock, he looks at Jensen like he did at the bar their first night, eyes wide with possibility, pupils soft-blown with wanting. The awareness is different, the recognition, the proprietary gleam when he rubs his palm up Jensen's thigh.

It leaves him flushed, exposed in ways that speed his heart and dry his mouth. Even more so when Jared spreads his knees apart, thumbing the crease, gentle and intent. "Could turn ass up for you." Jared likes that, him chest down against a flat surface, arms stretched overhead and palms flat. He likes it, too, being face down, supported, and drilled deep.

"Tempting offer. Those are some damned pretty visuals, your ass stretched wide around my dick, and your back a canvas for my marks." His lube-free hand cups the back of Jensen's head, expression softening to match, and Jensen's shivering again. "But I've got my heart set on some prettier ones."

Shivering and biting his tongue, because, christjesus, Jared. Fucking Jared with his sweet words and kind hands, his relentless goodness. Jensen hates him right now, hates that if Jensen could bring himself to ask, Jared would let him hide his face even though he wants to see it. Hates that he won't ask, because he belongs to Jared and thrives on his smiles.

Most of all, he hates that Jared knows all of this, and soothes him, fingers feathering through the back of Jensen's hair while he waits for Jensen to realize what Jared already knows. Which is that Jensen wants to be awkward and vulnerable, flushed face bared to Jared's gaze. Wants Jared's smile when Jensen comes and the squinch of Jared's eyes when Jared does that open him utterly to Jared.

Jared reads him perfectly, slipping his fingers beneath Jensen's sac just as the awareness hits. "Lie back for me, baby."

The golden-brown scent of baking chicken and the piquant spice of cooling mole drift over him as he complies, as grounding in their way as Jared's long fingers pushing into him before his back presses full to the table. He reaches down, wraps his hand around Jared's bracing wrist.

Thank you, he thinks, puts it in his eyes, and Jared frees his arm and twines their fingers together instead. Jensen lets his head fall back and stops trying to control his breathing beyond remembering to do it. Jared's slick fingers stretch bruised tissues, probe so carefully for tears and abrasions. His gaze consumes Jensen; even with his eyes closed, he can feel it taking him in, noting every tiny shift and hitch of breath.

For all that it's as thorough an examination as he's ever had, it's anything but clinical. Anything but, with both him and Jared exhaling in heated huffs of breath. Him making soft, needy sounds with each brush of his prostate, and Jared slurring lover's praises. By the time Jared wipes his fingers on the sunflower yellow placemat, Jensen's spilled a musky mess of precome over his abs.

Jared swipes through it, then licks it off his hand so intently Jensen can't tear his eyes away. "Damn," he whispers, hoarse. "Damn, Jay… view's nice from here, too."

That just makes Jared laugh. Not cruel, never cruel, but husky with pleasure, and happiness. Jensen can recognize it, even if he's not sure what it tastes like. Though from the way Jared's licking at his own mouth, and the swirl of his tongue against Jensen's ankle when Jared raises it to his shoulder, Jensen's starting to get an idea.

Then he's got no ideas, no thoughts, not even fragments of thoughts, just a long, low moan, back arching off the table as Jared pushes into him. This time he glides right in, seats himself deep while Jensen scrabbles at the hardwood, trying to hold on.

"So pretty, Jen. You should see yourself."

The picture forms in his mind, his ass stretched around Jared's dick, his calf against Jared's chest, his dick thudding and skidding over his belly. It pulls another moan from him, imagining how he must look to Jared, completely at his mercy.

And Jared is merciful, sort of. If taking him in a fresh-lubed hand while rocking up into him, priming his prostate, is mercy. Jensen thrusts up into the slick-slide of Jared's fist. Flexes down to take his dick. His hips roll, a half-beat behind the steady, even pull of Jared jerking him off and the rhythmic slap slap slap of Jared's sac like waves lapping the side of a boat.

Jared's tongue flirts with his calf, unfurling a streamer of ticklish pleasure up his leg. Jensen grunts, "fuck," when it connects with his groin, and chases that sensation, too.

Somehow Jared follows his writhing, plants a string of kisses up his shin, then sucks and licks into the stupidly sensitive hollow of his kneecap.

"Bastard."

"Now, baby," Jared chides, far too composed for Jensen's taste when he's coming apart, made an accomplice in his own undoing. "Is that any way to talk to the man who…" loves you resounds in Jared's pause, echoes in Jensen's head, but he doesn't say it. Never does, when Jensen might feel pressured to reciprocate. "To one of Santa's Elves?" Jared finishes with a flourish, a harder thrust, sweeter twist of his hand.

"Yes." It's harsh, bitten-off. Has to be, or else -- oh, god, god, he loves Jared so much – has to stop his tongue, or he'll say it. He can't, wants to, won't, needs to. Circles his hips around the center point of Jared's cock worked heart-deep. "No." Jensen stretches, reaches, grabs for Jared's wrist again, and whispers, "No."

Jared smiles, beatific, and runs his hand down Jensen's leg to squeeze his thigh. "I love you, too."

His climax takes him sharp and sweet. Unexpected and imperfect, and everything he needs. His come jets messy gobs and dabs and arabesques on his chest and Jared's, and Jared follows gently after. Spills into Jensen's clenching, grasping body on a softly sighed, "So much, Jensen."

There's salt on his lips and the tang of copper, when Jared draws him up, still twitching out the last of his release. But in the bittersweet tangle of tongues and limbs and cat-eyed smiles, he thinks he's maybe learned how happiness tastes.

#


The quiet lasts through a dinner of mole-braised chicken, remarkably neither burned to a crisp nor so dry pizza seems like a good option. A quiet filled with warm smiles and easy touches, sitting so close he might as well be in Jared's lap, and kisses given and taken on inspiration or whim.

It's like being with Chris and Steve, except the half-naked, come-sticky glow. More than once, he finds his hand on his own chest or Jared's, until it makes him think of E.T.'s heartlight. He laughs, and Jared kisses him without asking for an explanation.

Which is good, because he's not sure how he'd explain the conglomeration of Disney, Grimm, and Merchant Ivory that got him to Spielberg. And, really, when Jared stands to clear the table, filling Jensen up with a lingering look and Jensen hooks his fingers through his belt loop just because, it's more Like Water for Chocolate anyhow.

His metaphors align now, tidier, and even if he's still having trouble with happy endings, he's doing all right with in this moment. Doing just fine, with watching the muscles in Jared's back flex and roll while he empties the sink and the cinnamon-laced steam from the Mexican cocoa he's fixing bathes Jensen's face.

The last dish settles into the dishwasher just as the hot chocolate rises to the rim of the second mug, and Jensen's finally ready. For gifts and no distraction from their truths. So when Jared asks, "What d'you wanna do now, baby?" he doesn't answer "suck your brain through your dick" but "Christmas."

And, yeah, he's nervous, a little shaky, but it's not like before. He's pretty calm, considering the hell's this, Jenny? and a black leather jacket too shiny and long. He doesn't even panic when Jared asks him to close his eyes and leaves the room to fetch something he sticks behind the couch when he returns.

Doesn't try to peek over the low-backed leather sectional, either, but turns to face Jared, one knee up on the cushions and still-steaming cocoa in both hands. "Open the little one on top, first." He nods to the rustic coffee table, then hides his nerves in an oversized mug of a family tradition as old as he is.

Jared reaches for the small, bowless box, then stops – he loves him, christjesus, Jensen loves him – to study Jensen from under sweetly distressed bangs.

"I'm okay, Jay." And he is. Really. "Go on."

Quick smile, and maybe Jared's a little nervous himself. Jensen shifts to press his shin to Jared's, sips his cocoa as though he hasn't moved at all.

He's not surprised that Jared fingers the box, turns it over in his hands to find the taped seams. Jared's not methodical, folding back the paper or smoothing it for reuse, but he doesn't tear the wrapping away in haste to get at the gift either. That's his Jared, careful without being cautious. As big as Jared is, he probably grew up watching out for hurting people with gangly legs and pointy elbows.

Jared lifts the cardboard lid and rakes his teeth over his lip when he pulls out the keys. The image of a young Jared, as much nervous colt as he is herd stallion now, summons a burst of affection that gets Jensen through saying, "For my apartment in L.A. and Chris and Steve's place in Nashville."

As gifts go, it's not much of one, except for what it means, and Jared, prince that he is, gets it right away. Not just welcome, or even invitation, but the power of surprise, trust and the promise of fidelity – not that he's so much as noticed anyone else since the first, unlooked for kiss.

"Jen…" Jared's got that look again, but for the first time, it doesn't make Jensen's chest seize.

His heart speeds but he's still breathing all right, and the only thing he needs to confess Jared already knows. Jensen lifts one shoulder, shrugs. "Seemed like it was time."

Then Jared, fucking perfect Jared, pockets them, and the cocoa tastes richer and spicier on his tongue. "You now."

Jensen shakes his head. "Please, Jay?" They go one at a time in his family, everyone enjoying the revelations together. The moments as important as the contents of stockings and boxes and bags; the meanings more so. He'll adjust that with Jared, knows Jared will need to love him between with gifts of his own, but the first two go together.

"'Course, baby." Jared rubs Jensen's shinbone with two fingers, more cherishing than soothing. "Which next?"

Stomach fluttering, Jensen leans over, touches the larger box. Lets his eyelashes edge his cheekbones, and breathes.

Jared watches him, looks at him, when he trades his cocoa for the rectangular box that Jensen knows is heavier than it seems it should be. The contents slide and clunk appealingly, and for an instant, Jensen thinks Jared will lift it and shake it, just to listen. It wouldn't be wrong if he did, but Jensen's glad he doesn't.

Again Jared finds the tape – it's easier with this matte paper than the metallic green and red of the other that hid the shine, and again he slips his finger beneath the seam and pulls.

"Don't you worry about paper-cuts?" He has to ask, because Jared's so blithe.

"Depends on who wrapped it." Jared's lips twitch like he's holding in a secret.

"And with me?"

Jared rests the box on his thigh, leans over it to catch Jensen's hand and chafe the tips of his fingers. "You'd slice your own fingers to ribbons to fold the edges over perfect." When he lifts his hand to kiss into Jensen's palm, Jensen feels…known.

Because he would, always, needs to. Needs to make it easy, control the things that could go wrong. Even if he's starting to believe Jared wouldn't blame him. He swallows around a sudden tightness in his throat, lets his hand drift down to settle on Jared's knee. Then finds a smirk to salve his pride, and says, "You know what they say about assumptions, Jay. How'd you know I wrapped it?"

At that, Jared smiles, broad and pleased. "Because it was for me."

Jensen gives, he just fucking gives. Smiles back, soaking up Jared's joy. "Yeah, okay."

"So I can open this now?" Jared lifts the edge of the gift-wrap and waits 'til Jensen flicks him in the kneecap.

It's weird to be so light and easy, when in the barn he'd felt the world might end. Makes him a little edgy, like he might be tempting fate. Which couldn't be more perverse, he knows, but the hell's this, Jenny?'s ringing in his ears again. Maybe Jared's not James to be cruel, still, he might not get it. That other shoe could fall at any time.

But Jared's lips curve, wondering and quiet, when he lifts the windbells from the tissue. He strokes the multi-color patina on the bronze striker, and Jensen feels it like a caress. Shivers, when Jared traces the stylized horse above the bell. "These what I think they are, baby?"

Soft voice, warm. No accusation, no condescension, no disdain for this girly interior decorating bullshit, because Jared remembers. So clear from his question and his manner, he remembers Jensen missing the clunking and tinkling of bronze bells on the midnight breeze. Remembers him missing the natural music in Jared's sun-bright home the next morning, and talking about the sets of bells on his patio and front stoop, the collection on Chris and Steve's back deck and how they got there.

Jensen catches the corner of his lip with his teeth, then nods. "Soleri windbells." Music to grace a new home, or bless a new beginning; charitable donation to pay it forward. His family's tradition.

"Knew they'd be beautiful." Jared curls his fingers tight around the sharp-edged strikers, almost too tight, and whispers husky-fierce, eyes all for Jensen, "Just didn't know I'd love them so much."

He'd imagined Jared's response, thousands of times, talking himself into the gift, then out of it again, then finally back into it. In his wildest half-permitted dreams, it'd never been this perfect. Never felt so right. It lights him up inside, and he's too busy basking in the glow to worry or wonder or what if.

Spying the donation receipt, Jared arches an eyebrow, cocksure and amused. "Wild Horse Rescue?"

Jensen ducks his head, lowers his lashes and grins up from beneath them the way that always sets Jared to reaching for him. "Seemed fitting."

"Ye-ah," Jared drawls, and, unfailingly, stretches to thumb across Jensen's bottom lip. "Be seeing about fitting later." Before the flutter-flash of arousal's even over, Jared smiles, mischief-bright, and reaches behind the couch. "Got something for you."

That smile, goddamn, he loves it. He's not even nervous about the gift, much, mostly just wants it. It's from Jared. "Any chance it comes in naked?" Jensen teases, flirting, because he can. It's Jared.

Closing his eyes, Jared pauses mid-lift, hums like he did over the cocoa. "Helluva pretty thought, putting together my two favorite things like that. You, naked, and you, singing."

It's not wrapped, and he's glad. Means he there's no time to panic about what Jared means. And he can see right away the guitar Jared lays in his lap is the right one. The one he'd want, if he played all the time, and… Suddenly he's shaking. Breathless.

The box of windbells clunks against the table, immediately set aside, then Jared has his hands on him, knee and shin, says easy, now steady and calm, "Music to grace a new home, or bless a new beginning," Jared ducks his own head to look into Jensen's eyes. "Right, baby?"

Jared's giving it to him. Jared's giving him music, not taking it away… His mother's words, but Jensen hears the promise. Not taking it away. Never taking it away.

He…doesn't… he has no words, doesn't know what to say, or at least how to say it. How does he thank Jared for promising what he'd never dare to ask?

"Play for me, Jen." Jared's touch is soft, his tone quiet. Jensen can refuse, but this is not a request.

That suits Jensen fine. Words he maybe doesn't have, but he can do this, is doing it. He's already fingering the strings, making tiny adjustments to the tuning – third string, flat; second, just slightly sharp --- new lover delicate, while he works out what to sing. It's a gift for Jared; the right song matters.

Not Steve Carlson Band or Kane. Steve and Chris are his boys, but he doesn't want them here with him now. Just Jared.

Broussard comes to mind, Where You Are and Hope for Me Yet, but Jensen rejects them as quickly. Too big. They have presences of their own, words and music packed with Broussard's stories. Not his and Jared's.

There's a tune, five notes together, starting to be a song. Snatches of lyrics: a cowboy prince charming with a silver tongue, every mama's favorite son. He's not sure how they fit, or if they do. It's Jared's song, and it's not done, but stealing a glance at Jared now, it maybe got one little bit closer.

Jared's quiet, fingertips resting first-kiss light on the inside of Jensen's bent knee. Watching Jensen with the rapt, intimate attention Jensen's always associated with sunsets, starry nights, bonfires. No fidgeting, no throat-clearing, no uncomfortable staring, either at him or away.

This is what Jared wants to be doing right now, sitting here, listening to him fuss and tune and fiddle. Being with him. Just being with him, and Jensen's never felt more like singing in his life.

And now he knows exactly what to sing. The imperfectly perfect song an old friend wrote years ago for his soon-to-be wife. A riff off Elton John's Your Song but simpler and achingly genuine, about being with her, singing to her, looking for the right song. They're settled down now, still together with a couple of kids, and as in love as anyone Jensen's ever known.

Which makes her song as perfect as anything he didn't write for Jared could be.

Jensen runs it once through in his head to remind himself of the words. It's been at least a year since the last time he played it, but the song's still there, indelible. Like Jared. He reaches over to curl his fingers around Jared's, squeezes a quick for you, then resettles the guitar on his thighs.

Jensen strums the opening chords; he's not ready to speak, but he can sing. Can trust the song to hold his raw emotion, his hopes and fears and dreams. The melody wraps around him, carries him down into the simple honest phrasings. And for five whole minutes, there are no worries, no wondering and no what ifs. Nothing but the music and the warmth of Jared's presence.
.
Then the last chord fades away, and Jensen lifts his head to look at Jared. Meets his gaze, waits, and breathes.

"Damn, baby." Jared leans in – across the guitar, doesn't take it away -- to kiss him slow and deep and sweet. "Been wanting to hear that. Knew you felt it, but it sounds so good."

Yeah, their song's not written; the coach could crash, the other slipper fall. But what if comes in cinnamon-chocolate, too, wrapped up in fairy lights. So Jensen cuts the cables, looses the brakes.

Whispers, "I love you, Jared," confession-soft, and lets himself believe.

# # #




This story took over a month to write from start to finish. There are 17 files of it on my computer. There were 4 separate beginnings. It took an entire day to decide on "the song" (which is J. Manns's "Your Song") and the last fifteen or so paragraphs took 3 days to write.

I wish I could say, having finished it, that AHA I've figured out precisely why. I can't. Jensen's voice is very different from Jared's, despite the Break Loose feel to it. His metaphors are sharper-edged, his internal monologue wildly variant depending on his emotions. He's incoherent when he's getting fucked, inarticulate when he's afraid, exacting when he knows what he wants, and sappy when he's in love. Since I've written only the one overview piece in his voice, this story required a lot of double-take. Not to mention that Jensen's hellishly confused.

Finding the narrative threads was harder, too. Unlike Jared whose motivations are so unsubtle as to be utterly transparent, Jensen doesn't come into most situations wanting something specific. It's more often about what he doesn't want: to get hurt, to do the wrong thing. And when he does want something, it tends to be emotional and therefore difficult to plot a course to getting there.

All of which to say, while I really love this story, it was a painful birth. moonmelody and way2busymom originally helped me plot it back in November, by text message and on the road between Phoenix and LA. moonmelody supplied the Mexican hot chocolate suggestion that gives the piece its dominant flavors. way2busymom opined the kitchen made for steamy sex, and moonmelody concurred that there was something insanely hot about making love – really – on the dining room table instead of in bed.

Though the connection to Wild Horse Rescue is fictional, Soleri bells are real.

My thanks to way2busymom, as ever, for her handholding, midwifing, beta-ing, and loving. And to poisontaster, for understanding.

My apologies for finishing what's ostensibly a Christmas story the week before Valentine's Day. I hope, destina, that it's everything you hoped for, even so.
Tags: blr, jared padalecki, jensen ackles
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