Genre: Jared/Jensen RPS AU
Word Count: ~3,300 this part
Disclaimer: Nope, not true, nope not mine, yup, still broke.
Summary: When Jared's best friend, Jensen - whom he's had a crush on for years, tells him he is going to get married, he leaves everything behind and runs away to Europe. When Jared returns five years later for his father's funeral, Jensen is there too, and Jared discovers that leaving the past behind isn't as easy as he first thought.
Link to Master Post
The Road to Where You Are- Chapter 1
The ground was rapidly approaching, the city of San Antonio growing larger through the tiny airplane window. To Jared’s eyes it all looked so modern, so artificial. His travels overseas in Europe had significantly changed his outlook over the last several years.Each city he’d visited was imbibed with a sense of history that his native country could never hope to imitate. He had grown accustomed to languages he didn’t understand, ancient cobbled streets, marble arches and architecture unique to each new region he had passed through. The history of the city now sprawled beneath him was hidden beneath steel and concrete, behind glass that was manufactured by machines three states away.
Staring out the window his thoughts formed a jumble of memories, doubts and fear. Throughout all of it there was one constant idea that replayed over and over again; Jensen was somewhere down there. Of that he was certain. Jensen, the best friend he had abandoned. Jensen, who was the one person who knew him best but at the same time didn’t know him at all. Jensen, with a wife and maybe a kid or two at this point, who had tried to leave him in the dust, only Jared had beat him to it
Like so many times in recent years he tried to push those thoughts into the background but now, with home approaching in a downward headlong rush, getting larger and more distinct through the airplane’s window, they just kept coming back.
He was coming home, coming back to face his own past, but damned if he didn’t wish that this day was finding him arriving in some little, out-of-the-way village, maybe somewhere in Spain, where he could completely immerse himself in the history of someone else, and completely lose his own.
Jared was arriving in a city that, years ago, he had never imagined he would leave. Now after five years of wandering he wished that he never had to come back. Or, if he had to come back he wished that he didn’t need to come home to this.
The day before yesterday, Jared had found himself in Rome for the first time, sitting in an over-crowded café in Piazza Navona.Menacing clouds were starting to roll in over the city, strong claps of thunder that could be felt through the worn and scuffed plank floor warned of an afternoon thunderstorm.
He’d dipped into the Internet café for a quick check to his email. Having gotten rid of his phone before ever leaving the U.S., and this was his sole means of connecting with those people back home, or more precisely his sister.
Since his arrival in Europe, he checked his email whenever he could, although admittedly his travels more frequently took him to little-known spots, back country towns away from the hustle and bustle of cities. This time around it had been at least two weeks since he’d checked for any messages from her. Usually these correspondences would consist of little bits of news from folks back home, a photo of a growing cousin, a new car bought, somebody’s graduation, just small things to give him some sort of connection to the life he’d left behind.
His sister. She was the only one who he cared to keep in touch with these days. Of everyone in his family, his sister was the one who was still firmly on his side in her quiet and faithful way. She never asked why he’d left, although Jared was fairly sure that she knew. Unlike the rest of his family, there was never any blame or recrimination from her. Only the fairly regular emails and the occasional deposit into his banking account.
The first time that happened he had written a long missive, full of ‘thanks’ and ‘you don’t have to’s’ and ‘I’ll be fine’s’. She wrote back quickly, saying ‘you’re welcome’ and telling him that it was not the last time it was going to happen, but that this was the last time he was allowed to thank her for it. Family was family no matter how far away they were. The note had ended the same as every single one since then. She had signed off writing, ‘I’ll see you when you get home.’ No demands, no questions, just patience.
Which is why this most recent one had him so scared. Opening his email while sucking down a hot, strong cup of Italian espresso he saw there was a message from his sister sent two days earlier.
Jared, come home. Now. It’s Dad.
Six simple little words, that was all. But these six words had him running out of the café, backpack half-open and slung over an arm, hailing a cab to take him to DaVinci airport and booking a series of connecting flights in a mad dash to make it home as quickly as possible, the pit in his stomach growing as fast as the lightning flashing above him and the shake in his hands becoming more noticeable by the second.
The plane landed with a jolt, dragging Jared out of his thoughts. He gave a silent prayer of thanks for a safe landing and tagged a wish onto the end asking that his sister be the one to pick him up at the airport. He couldn’t deal with anyone else, he wasn’t even absolutely sure he could deal with her.
In a daze, his vision blurry and his back aching, Jared made his way down the corridor, shifting his heavy pack—the bag that he was positive held every stitch of his belongings at this point—and worked his way through the long line at Customs.
“Sir. Sir? Your passport please.” By the expression on the customs agent’s face and the urgency in her voice, Jared knew that this was not her first time asking. Her Texas drawl sounded clipped and impatient. He handed his documents over with a mumbled apology. “Do you have anything to declare?” She asked, all business again.
Only my sheer terror, Jared thought and then said aloud “No ma’am.”
After clearing Customs he walked toward the security gate, scanning the crowd of people, looking for any familiar faces. He was starting to doubt whether she’d gotten the hasty message he’d sent out from Heathrow late last night with the details of his arrival, when his eyes finally fixed on her, standing tall at the back of the group, head swaying as she strained to find him.
Meg looked worn out, her skin pale, her eyes a puffy red, but to Jared she looked beautiful. More slender than when last he saw her, her haircut a little more conservative. She’d grown up some over the years. Their eyes locked and Jared quickened his pace to meet her as she started a reckless rush toward him, dodging people who blocked her way.
When they were still two feet apart, she leapt into his arms nearly knocking them both over, holding on to him so tight that he nearly saw stars.
Jared buried his face in her hair, breathing deeply. She smelled like soap and shampoo, like love and devotion and caring and home. His arms tightened around her when he felt her shoulders start to shake. She pressed her face harder against his chest, trying to hide.
It was that simple, small act that tipped Jared over the edge, bringing his tears to the surface. Ever since they were younger, Meg had always done that; it was an action as familiar as anything else in Jared’s life. Jared remembered his sister hiding her face against him, hysterical over a silly skinned knee, but not wanting any of the other kids to see her cry. She may have grown up a little and he may have changed a lot, but she was still his baby sister, always would be.
For long minutes they stood there together, ignoring the world around them, lost in the sort of comfort that only brothers and sisters can provide.
“Thank you, Jared.” Meg said, her voice watery and coming out muffled against his chest.
“For what?” He replied, still holding her tight, tucking her head protectively under his chin, his hands rubbing her shoulders soothingly.
“For coming home. I don’t know if I could do this without you. I’m still not too sure I can do this even with you.” She continued, finally pulling back and wiping her nose on her sleeve.
“What happened? Dad’s…” Jared found that he did not yet have the strength to say it aloud.
“Heart attack” she said, sniffling and nodding. Her voice took on the emotionless quality of a set of words repeated over and over again. “It happened an hour before I wrote to you. It was quick,” she took a deep, hitching breath, “and probably painful. The doctors think that he was gone before he even hit the ground.”
Jared just absorbed the information. The guilt that had been building in the background since he first got his sister’s message slammed into the forefront with the force of a locomotive. “How’s Mom?” he asked.
“She’s pissed. At you…at me…at me for getting a hold of you…but mostly at Dad.”
“It’s understandable.” Jared said with a shrug, dropping his eyes to the ground. “Well, not that she’s pissed at you, Meg. But the rest of it…” his voice trailed off.
“Well, she’ll just have to get over being mad at you,” she stated hotly and Jared could hear the remnants of an argument that had been going on for years between his sister and the rest of the family. “You could have been in Egypt or Nepal or wherever, or you could have been standing right next to the man and it would not have made a difference. She needs to remember that.” Meg poked a finger into the center of Jared’s chest and went on, “And so do you, big brother.” She started to turn toward the exit, grabbing his hand to drag him behind her.
Before she had taken more than two steps he halted, pulling her back gently. “I think it’s my turn to thank you.”
“Why?” She asked, eyeing him curiously.
“For being the best sister an aimless, no-good drifter like me could ever hope to have.”
And while the sad smile she aimed at him didn’t warm his heart completely - nothing could do that - it did make his heart go from freezing to at least lukewarm in no time flat.
The ride home from the airport was filled with conversation about funeral arrangements, the memorial service, obituaries, flowers, food for the gathering after the service; all the things that people needed to do to feel useful at times such as these.
But Jared was only partially paying attention. His body was on autopilot, the changes of tone and pauses in his sister’s speech telling him the appropriate times to nod or to mutter in agreement.
Watching the scenery unfold around him, visual memories of time spent growing up in this town just kept floating by. He felt like if he squinted, maybe turned his head to just the right angle ghosts of summers past would be visible. Every change in the landscape reminded him of a pair of warm, green eyes, a generous smile. Jared could almost hear a husky and well-known laugh, almost feel a strong arm draped easily around his shoulders.
Jared mentally picked out many of the landmarks from his younger days. Take a right turn off the road here and it would lead to the place where he and Jensen went four wheeling only days after Jensen had gotten his new pick-up truck. The sheer terror of that experience overshadowed by Jared’s exhilaration at seeing Jensen so happy that day. A little ways further down that road was where they’d built that bonfire that one time during their senior year of high school, out on that rancher’s back forty. Everyone had a great time that night, at least until the cops got called. The car bounced across a small bridge, spanning a tiny streambed that was now dry.
Jared remembered how, under that bridge, at age sixteen he and Jensen had gotten well and truly drunk for the first time on a disgusting combination of stuff stolen from both of their parents’ liquor cabinets. And so what if Jared had laid a drunken kiss on Jensen that night and maybe Jensen had kissed him back…just a little. Later they would laugh self-consciously and blame it on the noxious combination of whiskey, vodka and rum with a Mountain Dew chaser. But at the time Jared had believed that it was the absolute best night of his life.
Now, over a decade later Jared knew for certain that it had been the best night of his life. Without a doubt.
They came to a stop at an intersection. Take a left turn here and that road eventually led to another road and that one led to another and that one eventually to Jensen’s house. Jared wondered if he still lived there, a lot could change in a few years. He experienced a pull in that direction, an awareness that the past he’d left behind was waiting right there for him. He had tried to leave everything behind but was becoming increasingly aware that everything had just waited here for him to return.
Before Jared could ask his sister to make that left, just to see, she turned right and entered into his family’s neighborhood.
Within minutes, he, his mother and his sister were standing in the doorway of the old Padalecki homestead.
“Well, you look atrocious.” His mother said, her face set in a stern expression, hands placed stubbornly on her hips.
“Thanks, mama, it’s good to see you too.” Jared said, defenses going up. He had known for years that this moment was not going to be any fun. None at all, but he never thought it was going to be compounded by the circumstances at hand.
“Mom,” Meg said, a clear warning in her voice.
Not heeding her daughter’s warning, she continued, “Well, he does.”
Jared had no choice but to silently agree with her, rubbing at two months worth of scruff on his chin, and trying to brush his too-long hair out of his eyes. Haircuts and razors had not been high on his list of priorities in the last few years.
He decided to clear the air from the start, sort of like it was best just to rip a bandage off as quickly as possible. It always was going to be painful for a second but then hopefully everything would be better.
“Listen Mama,” Jared began, “I know that you are not going to understand what happened to me, just like I know that you think I have been really irresponsible and selfish over the past few years, but there is no use in beating me up about this. God, I have spent the last five years beating myself up enough. The important thing is that I am here for you guys now and we’ll get through this together. And I also want you to know that I am so sorry about Dad, about all of it.”
Jared watched as the standoffish, cold expression fell from his mother’s face like a mask to be replaced with relief and more than a little bit of sadness. Heaving a big sigh, she grabbed him, held him so tight that he could barely breathe. After several long moments she moved back to stare at him, holding him at arm’s length.
“You are a bag of bones, baby. Let’s get you fed.” She said, turning to the kitchen.
Jared slung his backpack onto the floor in the entranceway, following his mother toward the kitchen. Walking down the hall Meg and Jared exchanged sidelong glances, small smiles forming on their faces. He was thankful that a mother’s abiding love could be so very strong.
Feeling full after a heaped plate of his mother’s home cooking, and now more than a little bit exhausted, Jared made his way toward his childhood bedroom on the second floor, intent on a shower and at least twelve solid hours of sleep. He opened the door and for the millionth time that day thought that he was the luckiest brother in the world.
His old bed from his apartment was placed in one corner and he tossed his worn but trusted backpack, his only constant companion throughout so much on top of the freshly-laundered sheets. He opened the closet doors to reveal stacked cardboard boxes, all labeled in his sister’s neat blocky print. Jared-Living Room-CD’s…Jared-Bedroom-Books…Jared-Kitc
Scattered about the room on the bedside tables, the dresser, and the desk was more evidence of her handiwork. Bits and pieces, knickknacks and books from his apartment had been placed here and there with care. Meg had tried to rebuild a small, more condensed replica of his old place in this room. And then she had waited, just biding her time until he came home.
He opened the dresser drawers, relieved to find clean clothes folded neatly. Grabbing a fresh t-shirt and pajama bottoms he made his way into the adjacent bathroom.
For long moments Jared stared at his reflection in the mirror. His face was tan, his jaw covered in two months worth of growth, his messy hair highlighted from years spent in the sun. There was a far-away cast to his eyes that he’d never noticed before. Jared thought he looked a little like a homeless person, a vagabond. He figured that he more or less was.
It had been ages since he’d really felt clean, even longer since he was at all concerned with his appearance. Now there was an almost imperceptible change in his attitude causing him to grab the scissors to trim his beard before shaving it. It was time to get cleaned up. He just wasn’t ready to admit who he was getting cleaned up for.
After getting out of a long and indulgently hot shower Jared moved back to his room, stretching out full-length on his bed, comforted by the familiar protest of mattress springs. By all rights he should have fallen asleep immediately but he couldn’t.
There was still this feeling of disconnection that Jared could not quite shake. Maybe it was a sort of shock or maybe it was something else. It felt like he was moving through a space that was no longer his despite of all of his sister’s efforts to make him feel at home. Jared doubted whether this place had ever been his or even if his old apartment ever was. His real home had always been somewhere else.
He was definitely out of sync, his forward trajectory was so suddenly halted and inertia was still fighting to drive him forward.
He sat up suddenly and reached for his backpack sitting beside the bed. Rummaging through a series of pockets, Jared’s fingers finally found what they were searching for. He pulled out the open-ended ticket for his return flight overseas and stared at it for quite some time before placing it in the drawer in the bedside table. After a moment’s consideration he got up, placed it in the bottom drawer of the dresser, stashing it between two pairs of shorts.
No one needed to know about that. Not quite yet.