Genre: Jared/Jensen AU
Word Count: 2,000
Notes: Written as a gift for the lovely sonofabiscuit77 for spnspringfling, whose prompts included growing older together in space, and at the pool. Many thanks to our wonderful mods for hosting another awesome year, and a thousand thank you's to cassiopeia7 for the superfast beta and for all the help with those pesky technicalities. Originally posted here.
Summary: Jared had been sold into service to save his life, and in turn he would come to save the life of someone else, a boy about his age who wore glasses and had freckles on his nose, who had always been quiet and had never been very good at making friends.
Some people had emptied their bank accounts, after the news went out and the panic set in. There were riots, candlelight vigils and suicide pacts, churches filled beyond capacity with folks who had never before set foot on hallowed ground. No one had known how to prepare for the end of the world, but perhaps Jared’s father had come the closest, when he’d pressed a heavy canister into his young son’s arms and said don’t forget in a voice too soft to be heard above the manic crowd.
Jensen has listened the story of it more times than he can count, has watched Jared’s faraway expression and the particular turn of his mouth that comes with each encore. He knows how it ends.
Jared had been sold into service to save his life, and in turn he would come to save the life of someone else, a boy about his age who wore glasses and had freckles on his nose, who had always been quiet and had never been very good at making friends.
The canister holds a place of honor on a shelf in their cabin, surrounded by a dozen river rocks Jensen has acquired over the years, all rounded and smooth. Today Jared has taken it down and is buried wrist-deep in its contents. Rich soil, so dark brown it almost looks black.
He doesn’t glance around when Jensen enters through the sliding door, stays silent when Jensen presses his chest to the curve Jared’s back and hooks his chin over his shoulder. His rigid posture relaxes a little. He withdraws his hand, carefully brushing it off and replacing the lid on the canister, but a small amount of dirt remains lodged under his fingernails, and Jensen’s always liked the look of that.
Now Jared turns, steers Jensen by the hips and pulls him in and up, kisses the corner of his mouth and grins. “You feel light today,” he says.
Jensen’s obliged to grin back. Jared has that effect. “The gravity stabilizers need to be recalibrated. I’ll work on it tomorrow.”
“No,” Jared says, dodging another kiss. “The last time you did it, we woke up on the ceiling. I’ll work on it today.”
The BioHab has been designed to be surprisingly self-sufficient. Water and oxygen are reclaimed and recycled. They have enough dry-pack food onboard to last them into the next lifetime. A three hundred square meter greenhouse, complete with simulated sunlight and plants growing in a grainy white substrate, means that the small population isn’t in danger of catching scurvy any time soon. Science has made it possible to sustain life off-planet, even if it can’t teach them to make it livable. They need each other for that.
“I miss real coffee,” Jared says, mouth puckering around a sip, steam rising lazy from the cup in his hand. He presses the small of his back to the edge of the sterile stainless steel counter in the galley and stares into his mug.
“You never even had real coffee, unless you started drinking it when you were, like, four. How can you know?” Jensen wipes up a spill Jared left behind. Jared’s careless in all the ways that don’t matter, careful in all the ways that do.
They were young when it happened, and their memories of solid ground are vague, candy-coated. Twizzlers and tricycles. They never had the chance to get lost in the woods, ride a roller coaster, climb a tree or sit in the back yard and try and dig a hole to China. The pyramids, the Coliseum and Notre Dame are all pretty pictures on a computer screen.
With a shrug, Jared says, “I kinda think I’d like it.”
“I kinda think I like you,” Jensen shoots back. He wanders toward the door and clicks the lock, then sinks to his knees in front of Jared and folds his fingers into Jared’s waistband, because Jared’s in a mood and Jensen’s in a different mood, and this is the best and most enjoyable way to get them to meet in the middle.
“It’s about time you figured that out,” Jared teases as he pries his thumb between Jensen’s lips, “You always have been a little slow.”
“Are we past tense?” Jared asks one day. His arms are folded on the ledge of a starboard porthole and the sun is coming up, or at least coming into view. They’re on the widest sweep of their elliptical orbit, the path that takes them closest to the northern hemisphere of Earth. It might be Jensen’s imagination, or it might be that he’s trying too hard, but the oceans look more blue than last time they were here, the land masses less grey.
It’s July down there, so it’s July up here too, and tomorrow Jensen will adjust the climate controls, notch the temperatures up a fraction and make it feel like summer. It might be trivial, sure, and an unnecessary use of the BioHab’s resources, but Jared loves summertime, so Jensen loves it too.
“I don’t know what that means,” Jensen lies. He wants Jared explain it, to make him talk so that he’ll get it out, so that he can hear the sound of Jared’s voice. After all this time, Jensen still hasn’t gotten enough of it.
“How much do you remember?” Jared asks. “About the end.” His inflection lends weight to the last word, makes it unmistakable and vastly important, like god or home or love.
“Not much,” Jensen tells him. “Enough.” He remembers standing on the top deck surrounded by a lot of people much taller than him. He remembers his mother hiding her face against his father’s chest. Mostly, he remembers how a little boy with a crooked grin bigger than his body had slipped a sticky hand into his and held on tight enough that his knuckles popped and his bones felt like they might break and the tips of his fingers went purple and numb, and how Jensen hadn’t wanted to let go, not ever.
Jensen nudges the back of Jared’s hand with his own and Jared weaves them together, engulfs Jensen’s with his huge palm and long fingers. There have been days when they’ve fought and fucked and fought all over again, claustrophobic days when this floating marvel of mankind’s ingenuity didn’t seem big enough to hold the two of them, let alone a thousand other souls.
There are other days when Jensen wonders what he did to deserve this kinda backward luck, what he did to deserve Jared, the beautiful boy who used to crowd in bed with him at night and distract him with stories when the lights started to seem too bright or space started to feel too big and too empty, who never laughed when Jensen cried but always laughed at Jensen’s jokes, who understood when Jensen didn’t feel like talking for a mystifying seven months when he was nine years old. This beautiful boy who grew into an even more beautiful man, who stood straight-backed and defiant and told the vessel’s council that he might be in the servant class but he would face five years in the brig and he would do it gladly, because Jensen loved him and he dared to love Jensen back.
All of this, all of these decades and all of this, and Jensen hasn’t let go. Neither has Jared. Not ever.
Jared holds a rock in the palm of his hand, light purple-grey and water-worn. Jensen turns it over, thumbs at its cool surface. It’s heavy, fits perfectly in Jensen’s palm, and is worth more than all the money both on the planet and off it. He bounces it once and arranges it in his collection, front and center. It’s the little things that make up the big things.
“Thank you. Who did you have to screw to get it?” Jensen asks with a mock-serious frown.
“Mrs. Hibbings down on C-deck,” Jared replies. “And I’m gonna do it again once she finishes that batch of tomato sauce she’s working on.”
“You know it.”
Jared tears his shirt over his head and lets it fall to the floor. A series of thin lines like half a barcode are tattooed on the inside of his forearm, near the bend of his elbow. A sign of his station, although that antiquated social system didn’t even outlast the generation that created it. Jensen ditches his shirt and scratches at the same spot on his own forearm.
“I think I should get a matching one. Maybe Mrs. Hibbings could hook me up. Give me my very own jailhouse tattoo.”
Jared snorts his response and rolls his eyes.
“Betcha she knows how. That lady’s cagey as hell.”
Jared shakes his head and gives Jensen a smile. It’s slanted, only half there like it’s not planning on sticking around.
“I know we’re the same, Jensen. You don’t have to keep proving it.” He closes in, forces Jensen’s retreat until he’s backed up to the bed, then pushes him onto it and slots in beside him. He shoves his leg between Jensen’s, pulls at Jensen’s thigh until it’s resting over his hip and rubs their feet together.
“When did this happen?” Jared touches Jensen’s temple, dark sandy colored hair threaded through with silver, or maybe it’s the other way around. It’s a distraction, a change in topic and Jensen gives it to him.
“When I wasn’t looking,” Jensen replies, and leans into it when Jared kisses him, soft and slow.
“I’m always looking.”
“I know. Me too.”
The years have whittled away some of Jared’s muscle tone, his shoulders slightly more rounded and slouched than they used to be, his skin a little less smooth. Fine lines frame his mouth, more of them reach across his forehead, and Jensen’s not the only one who’s going grey at the temples. The sight of him still sometimes zaps the air from Jensen’s lungs, though, sets him backward a few steps.
Jared’s resting in a lounge by the pool on A-deck, false sunlight pinking up his skin and sweat darkening his hairline. He’s buried behind a book, but Jensen keeps catching him sneaking peeks around it as Jensen swims laps, almost every time he comes up for breath.
Jensen levers himself out of the pool and walks over to Jared, his feet slapping wetly on the stones.
Squinting up at him, Jared says, “Hey,” quiet and hoarse, and says it again as Jensen straddles his hips. Cool water lands on Jared’s chest in small drops, and his stomach muscles tighten in response. More of it soaks through his shorts but he doesn’t mention it, only hums when Jensen draws his arms up and holds them above his head by his wrists. So easy and trusting, the way Jared just goes with it.
Jensen licks into his mouth, curls his tongue slick and lazy around Jared’s. Without urgency, a slow building simmer. He rolls his hips, shivers when Jared does the same, grinds down a little harder as Jared’s thighs flex and Jared starts to get hard beneath him. He backs off to get a good look at Jared, stare at his parted lips and the familiar starburst pattern in his eyes.
“We could get caught,” Jensen points out, as if all of this isn’t his idea in the first place. “We might be too old for this.”
With his head thrown back, Jared laughs deeply and it’s a full-body experience, one that reverberates into Jensen from all the places they are touching, sinks into his bones and makes his cool skin heat up all over.
“I don’t care,” Jared says on a sigh and tries to sit up, but Jensen keeps him there, silences him with a finger against his mouth.
“We’re present tense,” Jensen tells him. “Remember that. Don’t forget.”