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Twenty-One Days Masterpost

Fic title: Twenty-One Days
Author name:ju4jen
Artist: missynz
Genre:RPS
Pairing:Jensen/Jared, Jared/OMC
Rating:NC17
Word count:36,000 approx
Warnings: Thoughts of infidelity but both boys are honourable



Summary: Jared, unable to cope under the unbearable expectations of his father, managed to foul up his first year at UT so badly he ended up being arrested for possession, and thrown out of college for lewd behavior. He is sent to an old friend of his father who lives on the Isles of Scilly - an archipelago of very small islands some 28 miles of the coast of Cornwall, Britain. Here he finds empathy and peace, a love of the sea and a passion for boats. Fourteen years later, Jensen arrives on the islands, a photographer with a commission for the island’s tourism board. A simple love story - boy meets boy, falls in love - but Jared can't bear the thought of leaving the Scillies, and Jensen has just found his own niche in the world, which he hopes will take him all over the world - and that makes them incompatible in one very basic and important way..

The Isles of Scilly are real islands off the coast of South West Britain. I spent a lot of summers when I was young walking round the islands or sailing in the boats. This is as much of a love affair with the islands as it is a love affair with the idea of J2. Look up the islands in Google Images. It's a little bit of the tropics in Britain.

Thanks to my artist missynz for her fabulous artwork (go looksee, people), and to the amazing and marvellous Wendy without whom we wouldn't get this wonderful event!

Also to Julie and Carol who are my cheerleading team (and alpha and beta readers). Love you both.


Days 1 to 3     Days 4 to 6     Days 7 to 9   Days 10 to 15     Days 16 to 20   Last Day & Epilogue

Art Masterpost:  Here

A03: Here

Twenty-One Days: the last day and epilogue

Day One Hundred and Twenty-three : Where we catch up with our hero some months after the events of our tale.
Jared stopped off at the Co-op to pick up bread and bacon.  He chatted to Maureen at the till and then was caught by Mr. Gibson who wanted an ear in which to complain about the latest antics of the Porth Hellick twins, then a brief chat with Pascoe, in town on one of his brief shopping trips.  Jared listened sympathetically to them both, nodded when expected, and carefully extracted himself when time started pressing.  He walked back up the road to Town Beach, where he found Uncle Peter struggling with the ropes for the Ariana, gave him a hand and then threw his bag of provisions into his own row boat.

He had a charter for The Yellow Rose.  Uncle Peter had scoffed a little, because winter was beginning to set in, and he was about to beach the Ariana for the winter, whereas Jared was still heading out into choppy waters for a rich man who fancied himself a fisherman.  It was a cold day, and Jared knew he wasn’t going to enjoy himself.  He had almost decided to cancel the booking, but the lure of a couple of hundred quid this late in the year was proving too enticing.  He continued to debate with himself as he rowed out into the harbour, then carried on arguing as he prepped The Yellow Rose.  By the time the engine first turned over, he’d argued his internal sloth into submission, and was scanning his eyes across the quay looking for the portly figure of Mr. Brewster.

The day proved to be as dull as he predicted, but Mr. Brewster was a happy customer with a haul to be proud of.  Jared was somewhat surprised that the man could catch anything but the fish seemed to be leaping onto his hook.  Jared sat back, and watched as the man cried out his delight every time a wriggling, silver fish was hooked up out of the ocean and tossed into the blue bucket by Brewster’s feet.

With nothing to do, Jared had to make an effort not to think on his life.  He hadn’t regretted his decision to stay – not really.  He’d finally found his place, found himself and knew that the islands were home for him.  But he missed Jensen, and Jensen’s absence was like an open wound which he steadfastly tried to ignore but still festered and pained him.  He understood that Jensen had his dreams and priorities and bitterly grieved that there didn’t seem to be a way to for them to be together.

He had tried to cut Jensen out of his life completely but Jensen didn’t let him get away with that. A couple of postcards had dropped onto Jared’s door mat. There weren’t any words, just a J and Jared’s address written in Jensen’s scrawl.  Each card caused a renewal of the anguish he had felt at the airport.  He spent hours, rubbing his fingers across the ink before shaking it off and getting on with his life.  Somewhere in amongst all the angst, he started to think about how they might have made it work. Everything had happened so fast and there had been no time to stop and consider if there were ways for both of them to live out their dreams.  But, it was too late for that, even if the postcards suggested that Jared was in Jensen’s thoughts too.

Jensen was doing exactly what he wanted to do, what he always said he was going to do, and Jared was sure that their three weeks together were long forgotten or just a pleasant interlude that had barely interrupted Jensen’s life by now.  Everything had changed for Jared, however.  He couldn’t ever imagine feeling what he felt about Jensen about anyone else.  He certainly hadn’t felt the need to find release with anyone else, despite how horny his fantasies of Jensen (super sharp definition in his imagination) made him. In fact the thought of even touching another man was abhorrent to him.  He wondered if Jensen had found someone else. There was no reason why he shouldn’t have, and, after all, it was Jensen.  The whole world would surely want to get close to him.  There was no way he was living a celibate life like Jared and that thought caused Jared further pain too.

So he did his best not to think about it.  Tried not to think of him at all.  Not even when the next postcard that arrived had a New Zealand stamp on it.

He, of course, failed in every aspect.

Uncle Peter had been great, and he had spent a couple of weeks staying up at the bungalow with him.  Auntie Sue had mothered him, and spoiled him.  And Uncle Peter had provided silent support as they tinkered about in the boat shed, and kept him busy with additionally scheduled trips on the Ariana as well as working on the gig.  He had also encouraged Jared to expand his business with the The Yellow Rose and it was chartered more and more through the busy summer season.  The weather, after such a fine start, had turned grey and cold, but the tourists didn’t seem to mind, and Jared did find himself distracted for brief moments of time.  But as the numbers of tourists began to lessen, and winter started to set in, Jared knew that he would have very little to keep him busy and keep his own depressing thoughts at bay.

Mr. Brewster, grinning all over his face at his successful day, was finally beaten by the cold, so Jared pointed the bow towards St Marys.  This would probably be his last trip out this year.  He ought to get the Rose out of the water and clean her up, prepare her for next year’s season.  He had a couple of casual jobs for the dark months – mostly trading on his carpentry skills, but helping Uncle Peter with maintenance of the Ariana and taking care of the Yellow Rose should help take his mind off his woes too.

The sky was looking stormy and dark as he rounded the end of the quay, and he immediately felt the absence of the keen wind as he potted along in the shelter of the high quayside.  He tied up and helped Brewster onto the steps with his bag of fish, shaking hands once the man was sure and steady on the land.  The he turned back to his boat to start the clear up.

“I see I’ve been replaced,” came a very familiar rich, deep voice.

Jared dropped the ropes he’d been winding and whirled round to see Jensen standing on the steps.  He was smirking at his own joke but at seeing Jared’s eyes on him, the smile was dropped, his face becoming serious almost instantly.

Jared opened his mouth but no sound came out.

He started to move but found himself rooted to the spot.

Jensen watched him, with perhaps a faintly rueful expression, definitely wary now in the face of Jared’s stillness.

“Jared?”

“Yeah?  What are… what… why are you… J…Jen?” Jared spluttered, heart so feeling so huge in his chest.
Jensen looked a little sheepish and scratched the back of his neck.

“Wanted to see you,” he said, a little shyly.

Jared was aware that he standing gaping like a fish gasping for breath in the air but he didn’t seem to be able to get his brain to function.  Jensen was the last person he expected to be waiting for him on the quayside, but also the one thing he wanted more than anything in the world.  He was just having trouble processing.

“’Cos I missed you,” Jensen continued earnestly.

“Um…” was all the response Jared could make.

“Look, Jay,” Jensen began.  “I thought I knew what I wanted – I mean - I do know what I want but it doesn’t have any value if I don’t have you.  Thought I could just throw myself into the work, thought the photography would make everything be okay but I miss you, man.  So here I am.  I want, I need us to find some way of working this out.  That’s if that’s what you still want. I’m not going to try to persuade you to leave, and I can’t give up the photography but there has to be a way.  Right?  Jay?”

The reflections from the town’s electric lights were beginning to ripple in the darkening water.  The cold was condensing Jared’s breath but he was frozen to the spot, trying to make sense of what was happening.  He heard Jensen’s words, but the mere physical presence of Jensen was causing the synapses in his brain to misfire.

“So what do you say?   You and me?  I’ve been so fucking miserable without you. Come on, please.  Just say that we can give it go.  I love you so much and that has to mean something, doesn’t it?  And you love me, right?  You told me you love me, so everything will be okay – we’ll talk it through, make plans, work out it.”

Jensen was sounding desperate now, the pleading finally starting to break through Jared’s shock.

“I know you said it was just easier to make a clean break but I don’t want to live without you, and, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  So here I am.  If I need to make some changes in my life then so what?  It’s not the first time I’ve turned my life around. And you… you could… perhaps you could sometimes come with me, not always but sometimes… you do want this, don’t you?  Jay?”

There was a long pause between them.  Jared’s understanding slowly clearing until he felt the cold cut through even his jacket, and eyes become aware of how dark the afternoon was getting, and how terrified Jensen was now looking, his eyes wide, and dark in the low light.

“Okay, I’m sorry.  I should have guessed that you would have moved on by now.  I shouldn’t have come.  I’m sorry,” Jensen turned and started making his way back up the steps, shoulders hunched, head down.

“No! Wait!” Jared practically roared after him leaping out of the boat to follow him.   He spun Jensen round by his shoulders.

“You… this… is the last thing I ever expected.  But yes, Jensen.  Yes. I’ve been thinking about it.  I’m sure we can make it work,” and he kissed Jensen, slotting them together so they fit in each other’s space perfectly.  Jensen groaned as he deepened the kiss.

“We’ll make it work,” Jared murmured wrapping his arms tightly round Jensen, with no intention whatsoever of letting go.

EPILOGUE
It took three years until Jared and Jensen finally found a balance between what they wanted and needed.

Three years of more angst than Jared ever wanted to feel again, but also three years of the greatest joy and love.

Jared’s roots grew ever deeper into the salty earth of the islands.  He built up his business with The Yellow Rose, and helped out with the Ariana whenever he could.  When Uncle Peter retired two years later, he took over the Ariana.  He would never be rich but he didn’t care about money.  He loved the sea, loved the islands and he loved Jensen.

And that was something he had had to hold on to – this amazing, wonderful togetherness – because it wasn’t easy those first years.
Jensen found it harder to compromise with his dreams than he thought – photography was in his blood, and soul – and he chafed at being stuck on the islands.  Sure, during the winter Jared would travel with him on his commissions, but Jared hated being away from the islands for too long, and definitely not during the summer when his Uncle, and then his own business, needed him most.  There were long weeks when Jensen was absent, working in some far off corner of the world when Jared couldn’t accompany him.  Jared hated those weeks.  He missed Jensen like he would miss breathing, and Jensen wasn’t any happier.  They skyped and phoned but their unhappiness at being apart tended to cause arguments.  Jared was also aware that he was watched by the islanders every time that Jensen was gone – every young man he spoke to was sized up as Jared’s next conquest.  It made Jared uncomfortable in his own skin, even though there hadn’t been a single temptation.  Jensen was exactly what he needed, and if he couldn’t have Jensen, which he couldn’t for weeks at a time sometimes, then he didn’t want anyone.

Ultimately, though, Jared proved more important than photography.  Jensen started to turn down some commissions.  He opened a small gallery in Hugh Town and began to make a comfortable living selling prints of his stunning photographs to the tourists.  He still took up commissions and still spent some time away from the islands but not quite as much as in the first year.  If it was summer, then Jared would miss him something dreadful.  If it was winter, then Jared travelled with him. But Jensen, already having started to fall in love with Scilly during that first visit as well as with Jared, began to feel the same connection to the islands that Jared did – he loved the clear light, the colours and some of his wanderlust began to fade.

When Jensen eventually also took up painting, the longing of being the most celebrated photographer lessened, and he settled more. He still enjoyed the excitement of capturing those quick moments but he found the long lazy pace of creating his paintings just as exhilarating.   He was delighted when he won Landscape Photographer of the Year but found greater satisfaction when his first painting sold.  His paintings were like his photographs – a microcosm of the wider view but were infused with the sense of colour that he felt he couldn’t capture through a camera.  Still, he was sought after as a photographer, more so because he gained a reputation for being picky with his jobs. He still defined himself as such, but he was also part of JaredandJensen and that gave his life far more purpose than anything else.  Jared waited patiently for him, enjoying how the Scillies worked their magic on the man he loved, until Jensen, for all his absences, was as much a part of the islands as Jared himself.

The islanders forgave him for taking their important commission and then stealing one of their own, but it was difficult to resent a man who lived his life with such energy and life and joy as Jensen did. It was difficult to do anything but smile at two people so obviously devoted to each other.

After three years the ups and downs calmed, and the two of them finally settled into a comfortable routine and pattern, and then they were just happy and content.  Jensen encouraged Jared to seek out the world a little more, gave him a wider view of life than he might perhaps have had, and Jared proved to be Jensen’s anchor, providing someone to come back to.

Eventually, their travels led them back to Texas. They spent some time in Dallas with the Ackles and paid an awkward visit with Jensen’s grandfather.  Jensen’s grandfather was getting frail but still managed to make Jensen unspeakably angry.  But arguing with his grandson seem to instil more energy into the old man, and Jared was amused at the proud light behind the old man’s eyes every time he looked at Jensen.

Then, Jensen persuaded Jared to visit his family.

It proved to be nothing in the end.  His father had ignored Jensen entirely, and had glared as Jared told him of their lives – the boats, the gallery, their little cottage in Porth Loo overlooking the harbour.  He thanked his father for sending him to the Isles of Scilly and then they had left.  Jared smiling all the way to the airport.  He knew he was never going to see his father again, and it didn’t bother him.

The helicopter had been delayed for a couple of hours because of the mist, but finally he stepped onto the tarmac of St Mary’s airport. Uncle Peter was waving furiously, meeting them as he always did when they had both been away.  Jared took a big breath of clean, sea air.  Jensen smiled at him and grabbed his hand.

“Come on, Jay.  Let’s go home.”


Back to the Masterpost.

Please comment - trying to learn how to write better and I like feedback to help me improve.

Twenty-One Days: Days 16 to 20

Day Sixteen: A confrontation with the police officer – it isn’t pretty 
Jared felt full and content.  His cheeks were warmed by the residual heat of the day and by a few shots chased with beers and his body was satisfyingly aching.  Jensen looked in a similar state, although the sun had reddened his nose, and his eyelids were heavy over his glassy, tired eyes.

Another early morning call had changed their plans again; Uncle Peter cursing Ricky Mumford’s unreliability, and apologizing profusely for disturbing Jared. Unfortunately, with paying customers on board, Uncle Peter needed two crew members for insurance purposes.  Truth is, neither of them really minded.  Jared certainly would never begrudge Uncle Peter any of his time, and Jensen was happy to go wherever Jared was going.  Uncle Peter could take the Ariana back on his own providing there were no passengers so Jared was able to spend the whole day with Jensen anyway.

Tresco would feature heavily in the next promotional campaign so Jensen was due to pay a repeat visit.  After a pretty heavy night, and knowing there would be a fair amount of wandering tourists, they had to keep things light anyway.  Jared took up his now familiar job of personal assistant, holding things for Jensen, and sometimes holding Jensen when he decided to hang precariously off cliffs for that perfect angle. Sometimes they stopped to make out a little, but both of them were feeling a little fragile, and a little careful with each other.  They talked, they joked, they mildly groped each other when the mood took them – but they stayed away from discussions about the looming future.

On their return, and under the ever-smirking grin of Uncle Peter, they made plans to have dinner at Tregarthens.  The hotel didn’t have the character of Star Castle but the dining room was supposed to be good. Jared didn’t know as he had never eaten there, but since the Duchy were paying…

They kept their conversation very much in the present, had a good meal, and a great deal to drink and left the hotel in total amity.  There was a hot debate as to which house they would return to – Steval Cottage on the Garrison was the nearest but was a rental place and Jared wanted the comforts of his own home.  There was never any argument that they would spend the night together though.  Jared eventually won, on the promise of pancakes in the morning, and they walked down the short hill back into the main thoroughfare, hand in hand, quiet but happy.

Of course, they would have to meet Julian, making his final patrol around the small town.  Jared thought, at first, that they could just walk by, and have nothing said.  But as they approached each other, Julian’s narrowed eyes promised something altogether less easy.

Jensen had looked up at Jared, when he felt his partner stiffening, frowning when he noticed Jared’s tight jaw, and embarrassed look.

“Jared,” Julian greeted them, ignoring Jensen for the moment.

“Julian,” Jared acknowledged in return.  He couldn’t help how abrupt he sounded, but he anticipated that the whole meeting would be awkward.

“I’d heard you and the American were all over each other,” Julian said with a smile that held no promise of kindness.  Jensen was puffing up in umbrage and started forward.  Jared grabbed his arm.  Even on Scilly assaulting a police officer was unacceptable – and illegal.

“No-one is surprised – someone new and pretty arrives and Jared Padalecki is all over him!  Don’t worry – uh, Jason, isn’t it? – he’ll  be getting over you real quick once you’ve gone.  There’ll be several like you this summer, so I’ve been told.  You’re fucking the island’s resident slut.”

Jensen tugged hard, but no matter what Julian said, Jared wasn’t going to let it get to him.  He already knew what the islanders said about him.  They usually didn’t say it with such maliciousness (usually there was an element of pride, which was just all screwed up) but then, they hadn’t recently been unceremoniously dumped either.  Jared felt he could take the hit this once.  Jensen wasn’t so circumspect, and Jared had to physically stand between the two of them or the altercation, for sure, would have ended with Julian with a bloody nose and Jensen locked up in the one police cell on the islands.

“Thanks, Julian,” Jared tried to say pleasantly over Jensen’s threatening curses.  “I’m sure Jensen will pay due attention to your warning.”

“Fucking bastard,” Jensen exclaimed at the same time, but Jared was already pulling him away, leaving the police officer staring with anger and hatred after them.

“So much for him being happy to wait around for you,” Jensen said through gritted teeth as they walked past Town Beach and the Lifeboat house, before starting up the slope to the old school buildings.

“Yeah, well.  I made it abundantly clear that he’d be waiting for ever,” Jared answered.  “Forget it, Jensen.  He’s not worth it and I guess he does have reason to be angry.”

Jensen huffed, then stopped abruptly, glaring at Jared for a moment.  He finally took a deep breath in, then let it out slowly.  Jared could see the anger fading away with the breath.

They carried walking on past the tiny industrial estate and then cut across the boat yard.  The moon was shining on the waves at Porth Mellon.

“They really call you a slut?”  Jensen asked eventually.

“No, not in so many words,” Jared grinned at him, keen to lessen the air of seriousness.  “But, I am a great source for gossip.  I like sex, Jensen, which you might have realised by now, and until recently, I haven’t found anyone I wanted to be committed to.”

“Until recently?” Jensen asked.  Jared laughed.

“Yeah, until recently,” he answered.

Jensen’s grin was blinding in the moonlight.  “You’d better be talking about me.”

“God, no,” Jared teased. “I’m talking about the three hundred other boyfriends I’ve been seeing over the last two weeks.”

“Bastard!”  Jensen declared.

And Jared immediately saw how it could be if Jensen stayed on Scilly and didn’t have to leave in four days’ time.  Their relationship was intense but kept light with jokes and laughing.  Jensen was good for him – stopped him brooding too much.  He liked the idea –actually, he loved the idea.  He could see Jensen fitting into his life.

However, he knew that Jensen couldn’t see that, and that he needed to leave. It caused a wave of grief which Jared furiously dampened.

One day at a time.

Live in the present.

There was still time.

Maybe Jensen would stay.  Maybe Jared would leave with him.

Probably Jared would leave with him because every little new thing he found out about Jensen, was just making him more enamoured every day.  He wasn’t going to be able to say goodbye if and when the time came.

Day Seventeen:  Stormy weather
Plans changed again.  A storm arrived in the night, and looked to stay the whole day.  The gales were blowing so hard causing momentously large waves that battered the shore line causing all the boat trips to be cancelled and the airport to be closed down.
The sound of the howling wind woke Jared very early and he drew a dining room chair up to his front window so he could sit and watch the sea engulf the entire quay across the bay to the harbour. He’d been sitting there for an half an hour when Jensen finally staggered down the stairs. He took one look at Jared and had gone straight upstairs again, only to return with the duvet from the bed.  He dumped the bedlinen on top of Jared and then grabbed his own chair, pulling it in close to Jared’s then proceeded to wrap the duvet around the both of them.

“It looks amazing,” he said.

Jared nodded.  He cleared his throat, still groggy with sleep.

“I think it’s a good thing that nature reminds us that we are not all powerful, sometimes,” he croaked.  Jensen snuggled in even closer. The early morning air was chilly, but the rain and the waves made it seem colder somehow.  He wrapped an arm around Jensen and tugged him in closer.  Jensen’s body heat warmed him and Jensen’s scent overwhelmed him, a mix of day old sweat, their combined releases from last night and sheer ‘Jensenness’, which should have sounded gross but just gave Jared comfort.  Jared didn’t need anything else at that moment.

“I guess we aren’t going out on the boat today,” Jensen said after a few moments, his words tickling the base of Jared’s throat.

“Not a chance,” Jared answered smiling, one hand brushing gently up Jensen’s arm, and across his smooth shoulder to settle at the back of his neck, and to twist in the short hair he found there.  “What shall we do instead?”

He felt Jensen’s answering grin against his collar bone; Jensen’s lips were tracking slowly across Jared’s skin wherever he could reach.  The soft touches were creating sparks of electricity that were firing along every nerve under his skin. Despite the night before, Jared’s dick started to perk up in attention.

“I’d like to go out later – could get some fabulous shots today,” Jensen muttered, his kisses working down Jared’s chest as he slipped off his chair onto the floor.  Jared couldn’t help the breathy moan that escaped, as Jensen’s tongue flickered around his nipple.  “Not that the Duchy will want to use any of them – not exactly the kind of weather they’ll want to advertise.”  Jensen’s words tickled at his stomach, and Jared’s hand tightened in Jensen’s hair, pushing him further down.

“We’ll go out later,” Jared said, the duvet finally falling to the floor.  Jensen looked up, the light in his eyes swirling with the darkness of lust.

“Mmmmm,” he hummed as he traced the length of Jared’s penis with his lips, soft and gentle.  Jared threw his head up, watching the waves as the water was thrown high into the sky, then cried out with the wind, as Jensen’s mouth engulfed him.  It would be quite a while later before they finally left the house to go and dance in the storm.

***

Even Jensen held back from getting too close to the cliff’s edge this time, but when twenty, thirty foot waves were smashing against the massive rocks, washing over the headland and battering the lighthouse, even the most foolhardy could be circumspect.  The sky was glowering dark, and throwing a deluge of rain at the islands.  The sea was a furious grey, heaving and surging.  It was scary and exhilarating.

It had taken only a few seconds for them both to get drenched.  They didn’t care though, trudging across the sodden land and climbing up against a wind that fought them all the way, to get to the top of Penninis Head.  They took the farm path that took them straight along the middle of the headland, because the narrow paths that clung to the edges of the jumbled rocks of the cliffs were far too dangerous.

Jensen may be more risk averse than usual but his enjoyment was evident in the wide grins he kept turning on Jared.  During one squally break in the rain, he had snapped the heavy black clouds threatening the islands, but had given up fearing for the safety of his camera.  He stood against the wind, the salty spray and the wild rain, as if he were offering himself up to the Gods of Chaos.  Jared was so enchanted with him, so overwhelmed with the power and energy in the storm and in Jensen that he suddenly found himself crowding Jensen up against one of the huge menhirs, ignoring the pain of chafing wet denim to bring them both to climax.

Jared couldn’t help his huge belly laugh at the ridiculousness of their situation – soaked to the skin, the fury of this year’s biggest storm raging all around them, their boxers sticky with their semen, still idly rubbing against each other.  They were crazy, but full of the magic and power of the earth.

Jared saw with utter clarity that there was nowhere else on earth he wanted to be, and there was no-one else on earth he wanted to share the moment with, and looking at Jensen’s face, still dazed with their sexual high, he knew that Jensen felt exactly the same way.

Day Eighteen:  Proving that Jensen knows Jared better than he knows himself.
Although the real viciousness of the storm had calmed, there was still strong winds and wet weather the following day.  The Boatman’s Association had already decided to cancel all trips again, except one – Tresco was the shortest and safest of the boat trips – so the Ariana was to stay moored up.  Jared had looked at the weather forecast and had decided it wasn’t safe enough to take the Yellow Rose out either.

They both had chores to do and Jensen decided to take the opportunity to put together his final file for the Duchy – if the weather improved tomorrow then there might still be a possibility of getting more shots, but he’d be able to slot them in if they proved worthy of presenting. The Duchy were already happy with the pictures Jensen had shown them anyway, so he wasn’t going to sweat it.  They parted for some of the day to get things done, and for Jensen to finally return to his rental cottage on the Garrison to get a change of clothes – Jared’s were proving a little big on him, although Jared really, really liked Jensen wearing his old hoodie.

They met up and had lunch at Old Town Café, then just went walking for the rest of the day.  They got wet, but it was worth it to see the waves crashing into the bay at Porth Hellick.  It was easy to see how Sir Cloudsley Shovell had been ship wrecked on the rocks there.  They watched as the Penrose twins, more often known as the Porth Hellick Twins, played chicken with the waves on the rocks.  Jared yelled at them for a while for being stupid but the kids were thirteen and renowned in all of the islands for being utterly devoid of commonsense.  He wasn’t surprised when they didn’t listen.  He pulled Jensen into the small farmyard to report them to their father.  Mikey Penrose was fiercesome, and Jared and Jensen left him practically roaring at his sons even though the beach was some two hundred yards from the farm.  Jared was glad that he wasn’t on of Penrose’s sons.

The two of them returned to Hugh Town through the farmland in the centre of the island.  The wind was less furious along the lanes, and they found it easier to talk.  Jensen invited Jared up to Steval Cottage, and for dinner at the Castle. Jared agreed simply because he couldn’t bear to waste any time being apart from the photographer.

As the afternoon drew in, the clouds began to break, and the rain stopped.  By the time they were climbing The Garrison and passing Star Castle, there was a thin watery sun trying to cheer the dripping islands.  Instead of heading straight into the cottage, Jared persuaded Jensen to carry on to follow the ramparts that surround the headland.  The view changed as they circled around the Garrison, first the dark mounds of St Agnes and Gugh, then the massive rocks at the end of Penninis Head, followed eventually by the town nestled right on the water’s edge.  The sun continued to brighten, and, forgetting dinner, Jared grabbed Jensen by the hand and pulled him along the path back into town and then towards his cottage.

They didn’t go as far as that though.  Jared turned right before the path dropped down to the boatyard, and followed a small path as it curled and climbed around a modern bungalow, sitting on a low hill.  Behind the property, were the massive footings of a ruin.

“Harry’s Walls,” Jared declared standing on the three feet thick wall.  “My most favourite place on the islands.” The walls overlooked Porth Mellon Beach.  To the right was the hill where Jared’s cottage stood; to the left, the lights of Hugh Town – but most impressive was the twin hills of Samson directly ahead, with the fiery orange ball of the sun slowly sinking between them.  The sky was painted with pinks, and purples and tangerines, the remaining clouds still glowering but tinged with the brightest gold.  It was beautiful.
Jensen scrambled to get his camera out while Jared breathed in the still slightly damp air.

“So what did this use to be?”  Jensen asked finally, as he raised his lens to the sunset.

“One of the old castles.  The first one was built over at Old Town, then they built this one, but after a while they realised that The Garrison was really a far more defensible location.  The best view is here though, particularly in the summer - the setting sun lines up just right with Samson.”

“It’s pretty spectacular,” Jensen called over to where Jared was grinning.  The camera clicked several times, but Jensen wasn’t taking photographs of the view.  He had Jared in his sights.  Jared started to preen until Jensen told him off.

“Just be natural, man,” Jensen scolded.

“Thought you were a landscape photographer,” Jared responded, mock surly.

“Don’t know – could be a new thing for me, portraits.”

Jared let Jensen do his thing, while he watched the sun sink heavily beyond the horizon.  The salty tang in the slightly chilly air was refreshing.  He breathed in deep, then closed his eyes, allowing the calm and peace of the islands to embrace him.  On these ruined walls, he felt he was at the centre of the Scillies.  The islands were ranged about him, a small ring of rocks that sheltered the small community.  He had grown up here, metaphorically, and had learned that life was not all about money, or power, but was about helping your neighbour, appreciating the small, good things.  He loved knowing every inch of the place, where to go when he needed peace, where to go when he wanted excitement and exhilaration.  He loved the way the sea changed from day to day, hour to hour, and the way it pervaded every aspect of his life.

It took a while to realise that Jensen had stilled too, the camera’s shutter falling silent.  He opened his eyes, to find Jensen staring at him, sadness prevalent but also with a little awe.  Jared smiled shyly, feeling uncomfortable.

“I can’t ask you to leave,” Jensen said carefully.

Jared breathing stuttered, smile rapidly fading.

“I think you know that this is where you belong,” Jensen continued.  “I want you to come with me but I wouldn’t be doing you any favours at all if I tried pushing.  You’d end up missing this so much, and then…”  He left the rest of the sentence hanging.  The sun lent a gilt edge to the shadows crossing his face, making him seem as though he had stepped out of a painting by one of the old masters.  Jared was overcome by the longing that he had for this incredible man, but felt a sharp stab of fear at Jensen’s words.  He was right.  Jared didn’t want to leave.  He was hit by the sudden epiphany, and knew that whatever was at the root of his dissatisfaction with his life, it wasn’t being domiciled on the islands.

But looking at Jensen, the pieces of the jigsaw began to fit together. It hadn’t ever been about leaving Scilly – just needing someone to share it with.  Not easy in a small community of six thousand, with large waves of transitory visitors during a few months of the year, and being gay.   He’d finally settled enough into his own skin, to want to settle.   Spending these few days with Jensen and the aborted attempt at a relationship with Julian had shown him that he couldn’t settle for anything less than love.  The Scillies and love – and he was pretty sure, sitting on the old stones of a ruined castle, in the fiery light of the sunset, that love meant Jensen.

“No,” he said finally and quietly.  “I can’t leave.”

“I knew that,” Jensen answered grimly. “I knew that right from the beginning.”  He shrugged, but swapped his attention back to the sunset.

“This is my life here – the boats, my family,” Jared began to explain.

“I know.  I thought it wouldn’t matter, that three weeks were nothing.  I thought there was no way I could fall… not in three weeks.  And now I know that I was wrong, that I… well, I began to hope, maybe, that you would… that I could persuade you, but I was fooling myself, because this is where you should be.”

“Could you stay?” Jared asked but already knew the answer.

“It’s taken me years to finally be doing what I want and need to be doing for myself, Jay.  I can’t give that up.  Not for three weeks,” Jensen’s voice was laced with his sadness.

The silence lingered for a long time.  Jared felt his heartache, a tight squeeze in his chest, a hard lump in his throat, moisture in his eyes.

“Guess this was just a holiday romance then?” he muttered, trying not to sound too bitter.

“Guess so,” Jensen agreed.

***

As they climbed back down to the coastal path, after the dark had blanketed the Scillies, Jared knew, for both their sakes that he should walk away.  But he had never been known for his wise choices, and he took Jensen’s hand and led him back to his own cottage over the way.

Their kisses were sweet, and full of yearning; their hands lingering over skin and hair with delicate touches.  They stripped slowly, teasing with every new stretch of nakedness. Mouths as butterfly wings barely touching, they breathed in each other’s scent, to lose themselves utterly. Each touch, each brush of warmth, each shiver of pleasure drawn out and haunting.  It seemed like hours before Jared pressed his cock deep into Jensen’s body eliciting a cry that seemed more like grief than delight, but Jensen wound himself tightly around, tying Jared to him with his limbs, fingers bruising as they clutched desperately, not wanting to let go.  They rocked together, spinning out the sense of oneness, until nothing outside of the cottage, the bed, meant anything to either of them; it was just their two syncopated heart beats, their shared heat, their mingled breaths, the friction and burn, the fireworks of bliss, and the feathering of their touches that impressed upon their consciousness.

They came together, joint explosions of utter euphoria riding a tide of overwhelming anguish, that kept Jared deep inside, and Jensen still locked round him, breathing heavily and tears falling from both their eyes for a long time after.

They had very little of it left.

Day Nineteen: In which Jared and Jensen do very little
The commission, the Ariana and The Yellow Rose were all forgotten.

Jared and Jensen spent their last full day together cocooned in Jared’s cottage.  They spent long hours making love, drawing out the time with deep, slow strokes.  In the in-between times, they wrapped themselves around each other, buried in the bed and talked – not of leaving, or of love – but of their childhoods, and their first kisses, and their favourite foods, anything and everything as long as it wasn’t about leaving.

It made it easy to forget that Jensen was going to be boarding a helicopter in less than twenty-four hours, easier to forget that there would be two broken hearts in the morning.

Day Twenty: Jensen’s time is up
Sometime around four in the morning, the sex turned desperate.  Jensen left scratches down Jared’s back, Jared left bruises on Jensen’s thighs.  Jensen’s thrusts into the depths of Jared’s body turned hard and unforgiving, the gentle kisses turned into bites.  It was thrilling to have Jensen pound into him, and bring him to such a release that they both almost blacked out, but Jared couldn’t get the idea that they were punishing each other out of his head and, discomforted, he left Jensen, wide eyed and stupefied, in bed, to go and fetch a glass of water from downstairs.  The future was beginning to intrude on them, and Jared suddenly felt claustrophobic.
He choked down his tears and then poured himself his drink.

“It isn’t anyone’s fault,” Jensen said miserably, standing in the doorway to the small kitchen.  He looked thoroughly fucked, dark bruises, red scratches, swollen lips, but magnificent like a Greek god.  He was gorgeous, and Jared could feel another surge of arousal as his eyes skimmed with satisfaction the signs of the pleasure that Jared had given him.  But Jensen’s eyes were dark with melancholy, and desolate with understanding.  No-one had ever understood Jared quite a well as Jensen did even though they had hardly known each other, and Jensen’s dejection must be equally written on Jared’s expression and stance.

“It’s the wrong time,” Jared whispered, unable to get any more sound out of his voice.

“We’re the wrong people,” Jensen answered, the doubt in his face showing he believed that even less than Jared did.  But it was ridiculous to expect love to conquer all.  One or other of them would have to make compromises to their dreams, to their lives, and would end up resenting the other.  Jared knew he would prefer to make the cut now before any expectation, than suffer the agony of parting after getting a taste of what life could be like.

“Shall we keep in touch?” Jensen asked.

Jared floundered.  Jensen was pleading for there to be some connection between them still.

“I don’t think so,” Jared replied.  There was no way he could cope with that - better to cut all ties.

Jensen’s face registered the hit.  “Oh.  Okay,” he said wretchedly.

They didn’t touch each other again for a while.  Jared made breakfast whilst Jensen showered.  They ate in silence.  They walked back into Hugh Town and up onto the Garrison without a word, carefully not allowing a single touch.  Jared watched Jensen pack, then helped him load his luggage into the taxi.  Every single minute, he wanted to run away, and hide and not be here but he seemed totally incapable of leaving Jensen, not for one moment.

When the time came he climbed into the back seat with Jensen, as they set out on the short journey to the airport.

As they passed town beach, Jensen grabbed his hand.  Jared didn’t let go.

It took all of five minutes for Jensen to be checked in then they had twenty minutes to wait.  There was a small buzz from the few people in the airport, so Jensen tugged Jared outside to the small patio by the café.  The wind was still brisk and chilly, so it was empty of travellers.

“I’ll sort out the new photos on the plane to Papua New Guinea,” Jensen said, just trying to fill in the space between them.
Jared was far too full of emotion to make a commonplace answer.

“Look, Jay,” Jensen began.

“No – don’t say anything else,” Jared interrupted.

“It was fun,” Jensen continued.  And Jared had to agree.  It had been fun, right up until he realised that they weren’t going to be together forever.  He tried smiling.  Jensen responded with a wan smile himself.

“I love you,” Jensen said determinedly.  “I need you to know that.”

“Just not enough,” Jared answered in a broken voice, Jensen’s words finally breaking him down.

“I’m sorry.  I can’t just give up on my dreams, and you can’t be anywhere else but here.  I don’t think this has anything to do with how much love I have for you, or how much you love me.”

Jared nodded.  He did understand, he did.  He could go with Jensen, but he had made the decision to stay, in the same way and for the same reasons as Jensen had made the decision to go.

“I can ring, skype?” Jensen tried again.

“I think it would be easier if you didn’t,” Jared said breathing hard.  “This is going to be hard enough as it is, without constant reminders of what we are missing.”

It was Jensen’s turn to now nod. Then the announcement for Jensen’s boarding came over the tanoy.  Jared’s blood ran cold, and he started to back away, terrified.

Jensen reached out for him frantically and pulled him back in, hugging him fiercely.  They didn’t say anything just clung to each other; Jensen dry eyed but shaking with the intensity of his emotion, and Jared barely holding back the sobs.

Then Jensen was gone, replaced by a chill from the absence of his warmth.  Jared didn’t follow to watch him board the helicopter.  He stayed exactly where Jensen had left him, until he heard the throbbing hum of the helicopter blades turn into a scream as the helicopter climbed into the air and he stayed as the sound faded away.  He stood exactly where he was, not allowing his eyes to track the dark shape through the sky until it disappeared.  He didn’t notice the worry in a high pitched voice asking him if he was all right.  He stood exactly where he was, holding tight to the memory of Jensen’s heat pressed against him until a brown, wrinkled hand caught him by the arm.

“Hey, boy,” came Uncle Peter’s gruff, but quiet tones.

Jared looked up into the kind eyes of the man who had been more than a father to him.

“Maisie got worried about you. Thought you might need family,” Uncle Peter explained, nodding his head towards the plump concerned face of the Café’s manager.

Jared smiled through his tears.  Only here on Scilly.

“Maisie’s offered a cup of tea but I thought you’d prefer to go home.  Auntie’s bound to have the kettle on.  Besides, I’ve drunk Maisie’s tea – I wouldn’t pay for it.”  Jared laughed a little in amongst his sobs but allowed his Uncle to wrap an arm around him and coax him towards the exit, and to Uncle Peter’s banged up wreck of a car.

“I love him,” Jared suddenly said.

“I know, boy.”

“Have I done the right thing?”

“Only time will tell,” Uncle Peter answered wisely, and drove Jared back to the bungalow where his Auntie was waiting.



Back to the Masterpost          Next

Twenty-one Days: Days 10 to 15

Day Ten: In which things get heated
Jared stood in the ruined doorway and looked down the hill towards the view of Bryher and Tresco.  The wind was still blowing hard but it had managed to hassle the rain clouds away and the sky was now a clear blue, deepening the azure of the sea, and brightening the white of the beaches.  The temperature was cool, with the strength of the gale, but the sun was doing its best to provide some kind of heat.  Jared breathed in deep, enjoying the peace.  Except for Jensen, there wasn’t a single other person on the island.

He watched as Jensen climbed up the hill. He’d left Jensen down on the beach earlier, practically rolling in the sand as he took photographs of the water.  There were still white heads on the waves and Jensen had eulogised for several moments about contrasts in colours. Samson wasn’t the most interesting island in the archipelago – it was just a couple of hills covered with bracken, except for the ruins of a previous farmstead, but the view across the water towards the other islands was extraordinary and the long white beaches at low tide were divine with the clearest of water.   Jared had felt unsettled in his skin all morning, and the sight of Jensen, lying on the sand had merely upped the levels of his discomposure.  He’d left Jensen on the beach and had walked around the island hoping to stride his disquiet into submission.

Jared was still musing over his decision to break things off with Julian – not doubting it but wondering what it meant for him and his future.  Jensen hadn’t questioned Jared’s quietude, and kept his distance, perhaps sensing Jared’s need for space.  Jared wouldn’t have been surprised.  Jensen seemed to understand Jared very well for all the briefness of their acquaintance.  Jared smiled briefly and felt a wave of heat wash over him as he continued to watch Jensen make his way up the narrow paths. The bracken was so high now that he could only see Jensen’s red ball cap, bobbing above the shoulder-high flora.

He was laying out lunch on the picnic blanket when Jensen finally burst into the clearing.

“I’m starving!”  Jensen declared, as he flopped down beside Jared.  He was red cheeked, and glowing with a fine layer of sweat.  Jared paid undue attention to retrieving the sandwiches from the cool bag for fear of being caught mesmerised and staring.
Jensen kept up an inconsequential stream of conversation as they ate.  He made no comment at Jared’s unusual silence, but cast him warm smiles, and seemed relaxed and happy.  Jared wasn’t unhappy either, just full of a tangle of thoughts and feelings.
In the shelter of the broken stone wall, the sun was became warm, and Jensen finally quietened as they both drifted into a post-lunch languor.  Jensen laid back on the grass and closed his eyes, whilst Jared propped himself on an elbow to look down at him.

“You know it’s creepy to watch someone while they are sleeping,” Jensen muttered after a while.

“You weren’t asleep,” Jared responded.

Jensen opened one eye and turned to look at Jared.  There was a thin green line of glitter as Jensen squinted up at the other man, and a small smile playing about his lips.

“What’s going on in that enormous head of yours?” Jensen asked.

“Nothing much,” Jared shrugged.

“Okay,” Jensen answered but he didn’t sound convinced. He shut his eye and turned his face to the sun again.

Jared carried on watching him – the way his chest rose and fell with each breath, the idle way in which his fingers scratched at his stomach, the curve of his soft, pink lips.  He watched enthralled as Jensen’s tee-shirt was hitched up exposing a slither of pale skin.  Jared gulped.

“I am so gone for you,” he found himself saying.

Jensen opened both of his eyes this time, and twisted his head.  His eyes were now boring intently into Jared’s, all traces of his previous amusement gone.

Making an immediate decision, Jared moved over until he had invaded Jensen’s personal space, his elbow holding him above the other man, but aligning their lips.  He bowed his head until he could feel Jensen’s breath on his own face, noticing how Jensen’s breathing stuttered.  He could feel Jensen’s warmth along his entire length.  He breathed unevenly himself and then touched his lips to Jensen’s. It was barely a brush of skin, but proved to be akin to the lighting of a fuse.  Being surrounded by Jensen’s heat, his smell, and then that faintest hint of taste, made Jared groan from the depth of his soul, and he, impossibly, moved in closer, as if to utterly subsume his very self into this man who had so enchanted him.  He found Jensen less eager though, despite the evidence of a length of hardness pressing into Jared’s thigh, and was forced away by Jensen’s hands on his shoulder.

“Is this what you really want?”  Jensen asked, breathlessly.  There was a light shining out of his eyes which Jared swore was hope, but his tone was uncertain.

“You know this is what I want,” Jared answered, with only the barest tremor in his voice, his whole body shaking with want and frustration at the interruption.

“Is this wise, though?”  Jensen sounded even more tentative – his obvious arousal now fighting against his reason.

“Does it matter?”

Jensen answered that by grabbing Jared’s hair and pulling his head down so he could kiss him again.  Jared lost himself in the feel of Jensen’s lips, soft yet determined in their actions, and the taste of him, and the sweep of his tongue.  He knew he must be making the most obscene noises, groans escaping from the depth of him, desperate and needy as he pressed himself closer and closer, a hand straying under Jensen’s tee, to find the smooth skin of his back.

“Oh God, at last!” Jensen moaned, as he threw his head back, giving Jared access to the length of his neck.   The burst of salty Jensen sweat exploding across his tongue was the last coherent thought Jared had for quite a while.

***

The joy of being on an uninhabited island, without a soul to disturb the seclusion, is the chance to be able to do whatever the gods allow.  Jared returned to the Yellow Rose sore and slightly shocked and exultant.   Sore because, of course, they hadn’t had the right supplies, and Jensen’s spit wasn’t the same as lube, although the memory of Jensen’s tongue opening him up, made Jared feel all squirmy inside, and his cock twitch in continued interest.  Shocked because generally he didn’t bottom, and Jensen manhandling him onto his back with obvious intent had been at first alarming, and then wildly electrifying.  Exultant because he had orgasmed so hard that it was surprising that they hadn’t heard his cries over on Bryher.

Then he’d come again as they had rutted up against each other, in the rolling sea, where they had gone to clean up after round one.  The chill of the water, contrasted with the heat of their bodies had been exhilarating. 

He had at first refused to allow sand to get anywhere it shouldn’t, so had initially pushed Jensen away after the photographer had rolled over on top of him as they were drying off afterwards.  But Jensen’s wide pleading eyes, darkened with ideas that could only mean good things for Jared, persuaded him to give it go.  So he had sand in places that were very uncomfortable but since the sand was mixed with the milky cream of Jensen’s cum, he wasn’t going to complain.

He should also feel way more concerned that he had just been fucked by Jensen three times without protection. That was a conversation he would have to have at some later stage but he was so blissed out that he couldn’t raise the effort to care very much.
So Jensen didn’t get any more photographs done that afternoon.  They made their way back to the Yellow Rose, Jensen leering at Jared’s awkward gait all the way.

“Smug git,” Jared shot at him, causing Jensen to grin even more widely.

He grunted in discomfort as he clambered over the side, then refused to give Jensen a hand.  He started the engines up, but before he could do anything else, he felt two hands worm their way around his middle, one caressing upwards sweeping against his chest and nipples, the other wriggling down under his waistband of his jeans.  He and his cock were instantly interested, but Jared had no idea how they could still could be.

“Jesus, haven’t you…?” Jared started to say but his voice turned into a yelp as there was a twin attack on his right nipple and the slit of cock.

“Want you,” Jensen whispered.  “Want you in me this time.”

Jared didn’t even have to think.  He was yanking at the button on his jeans, before turning to kiss Jensen fiercely.
It was entirely possible that Jensen was going to kill him.

He didn’t mind in the slightest.

***

They finally made it back to St Mary’s long after the sun had set.  The journey passed in silence and total satisfaction, both finally having exhausted each other.

“Come back to mine,” Jared offered. “I’ll cook, if you don’t mind a quick call in to the Co-op.”

The smile Jensen gave him in response was wide, and open, and happy.

And the sudden realisation that he was utterly in love hit Jared square in his heart and soul.

Day Eleven: Relating to an unravelling between our two protagonists and an offer for the future
Jared put the phone back on the nightstand and then slipped out of bed, hoping not to disturb Jensen who had managed to sleep through the call, and went to look out of his window.  It was going to be another good day, the sky was clear, and the waves on Porth Mellon had calmed.

“What time is it?”  Jensen’s muffled voice came from the depths of the duvet.  Jared hadn’t been as quiet as he hoped.  He looked back at the bed.  Jensen was sticking his head out from the covers, his hair was standing up in every direction and his eyes still full of sleep. He was deliciously beautiful

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you,” Jared said making his way back to the bed.  “It’s about half seven.”

“Pretty sure I didn’t charter the Yellow Rose this morning, so there’s no reason for you to be out of bed.  Get back in here, Jare!” Jensen ordered as he snuggled back into the pillows.  Jared felt overwhelmed with the sheer strength of his emotions and a wave of longing but sense prevailed.

“Can’t.  Uncle Peter just called.  Needs me to crew the Ariana today.  Mumford’s gotten sick.  Hungover, more likely. But still.  Uncle’s been pretty understanding.  What do you want for breakfast?”

Jensen grunted in response, causing Jared to chuckle.  He got up and showered leaving temptation behind, then painfully made his way down the narrow stairs.  He put the coffee on first, thought for a bit and then started on pancakes.  He’d almost done, when Jensen thumped down the stairs too, wearing his jeans and nothing else.  Jared had to remind himself of his obligations because, suddenly, all he could think of was eating his pancakes off Jensen’s smooth pale chest, snacking on the rosy nipples, before swallowing down the main course.  He was amazed he could still think of sex after yesterday and the night that had followed, but Jensen was a walking dream, and Jared couldn’t get enough.

Jensen gave his smug smirk again, as if he knew what Jared was thinking.  Although, that was probably less to do with his strange psychic skills when it came to Jared and more to do with the small mountain being pushed out from Jared’s sweats.

“What time do you need to go?”  Jensen asked.

“In about an hour,” Jared answered, then giggled when they both started mentally calculating just what could be achieved in the time they had left.

***

Jared wasn’t at all surprised to see Jensen boarding the Ariana a little while later.  They had, finally, walked together into Hugh Town and then separated - Jared to ready the Ariana and Jensen to grab a change of clothes before heading out for another day of photography.  Jensen hadn’t mentioned his plans and Jared hadn’t asked, but they both had known that Jensen would be on the quayside waiting for the Ariana and Jared.

Uncle Peter had rolled his eyes, and shaken his head.  Jared glared at him, but kept a professional distance from Jensen for the entire trip to St Agnes.  Kept his distance but didn’t stop watching, and Jensen spent the trip looking straight back at Jared.
“I can take the boat back myself,” Uncle Peter grunted. “If you want to spend the day here.” The boat had emptied and the crowds were washing up the quay like a wave sweeping up the beach.

“You sure?”

“Just be back at the quay ‘fore anyone else turns up,” his Uncle smiled.  Jared thanked him and jumped up onto the quay.  He could see Jensen up ahead, adjusting his camera bag. He wasn’t exactly loitering but the crowds were surging past him, as if he were sort of hoping… waiting.

Jared called out to him, and Jensen turned.  Jared heard Uncle Peter laugh and waved him off, before catching the photographer up.

“The sand bar’ll be uncovered in about an hour,” Jared called out breathlessly. “We can go across to Gugh.”

Jensen’s answering smile was fucking amazing – solve the world’s problems amazing.

***

They spent the hour watching the tide draw back from the sand bar that linked St. Agnes and Gugh, sitting on the sand, talking about nothing in particular. The waves were still meeting across the sand, when Jared jumped up and grabbed Jensen’s hand to haul him up after him.  Jensen pulled back, hesitant in the face of the eddying water, but Jared kept tugging and they were soon ankle deep in the salty foam. Jensen laughed as two tides pulled at him in opposite directions, but they weren’t strong enough to draw him into the water.  He followed a confident Jared across the hundred metres to the small island opposite.

They clambered over the rocky end, pausing frequently for Jensen to take his photographs – he was particularly enamoured of the view across to the lighthouse on St Agnes – and then spent a happy few moments poking around in the old prehistoric tomb that clung limpet-like to the side of the cliff.  On the other side of the island, facing towards The Garrison across the water on St Marys, was the Old Man of Gugh, a tall leaning standing stone. They mucked about taking photographs of each other pretending to hold it up, laughing ridiculously like they were two young pre-adolescent boys.

They were on their way back to the bar, crossing the low, grassy centre of the island, when Jensen suddenly stopped.

“Got another job,” he said abruptly, once Jared had realised that Jensen was no longer right on his heels and had turned to see what the other man was doing.  “There was a message on my phone.  National Geographic – they want me to go to Papua New Guinea with some research team.”  He was smiling, pleased with himself.

“Oh,” Jared said.  “That’s good.” He suddenly felt as though he was falling -hard, and down a dark, endless hole in the ground, stomach like a stone and horror overwhelming him. He could hear the despair in his voice and was certain that Jensen also heard it.  All the happiness in Jensen’s expression fell away.

“Uh, yeah, it’s good,” Jensen replied but he no longer sounded sure.

“When are you going?” Jared asked fearfully, terrified that Jensen was going to say he had to cut short the Scillies’ commission.

“Not till…” Jensen began and Jared finally couldn’t take looking at him.  He turned back to the path, striding out his steps as long as his legs could take him.  He knew that Jensen would be leaving.  But knowing something and really understanding what it meant were two totally different ball games.  He stopped just as suddenly as he started, barely able to breathe.

“I’ll have a few days back home,” Jensen had caught up, eyes wide, a tentative hand reaching out to touch Jared’s shoulder. “I’m not leaving here any earlier than had already been planned.”

Jared didn’t find that reassuring.  Jensen was here for a commission.  He would be leaving when he was done – in nine days time, in fact.  This was only ever going to be temporary.  But Jared, staring down at Jensen’s beautiful troubled face, really wanted more.  He wanted to hold onto Jensen and never let go.

“I can’t do this,” he said quietly but with determination.  “I thought it would be all right.  But, see, I am feeling stuff I never thought I would feel, and thinking of you leaving is making all those feelings painful.  And I don’t want to be hurting like that. If we keep going the way we are going, it’s just going to get worse, and it’s better if we just don’t do this…”

“I was never going to stay, Jay.  Nothing has changed,” Jensen explained quietly, frowning in his confusion.

“I know, but I think I just ignored it. Oh, God!  I’m sorry.”

Jensen swallowed hard then said, “You could come with me.”

Jared stared at him.

Could he?

He thought about his cottage, Uncle Peter, The Yellow Rose. He thought about how he had been contemplating leaving the islands anyway. How he had wondered whether there might be something more for him back in the real world.

“I hardly know you.  You hardly know me,” he answered.

Jensen shrugged, looking nonchalant, but there was an intensity in his eyes that belied his attitude.  He was being cautious, afraid of startling a nervous Jared.

“No,” Jared finally concluded.

Jensen’s shoulders slumped.  He looked at the ground, biting his bottom lip.  When he looked back up, his face was carefully neutral, but Jared could see the traces of a stronger emotion residual in the tightness around his lips and eyes.  Part of him rejoiced that Jensen seemed to be sharing in the pain as well, but the larger part just felt shitty.

“I’m sorry,” Jared reiterated, and ran.

Day Twelve: In which Jared doesn’t seem to be able to lose Jensen.
Jared couldn’t believe it when Jensen boarded the Ariana the following morning for the trip to Bryher.  He gritted his teeth, hardened his heart, and treated Jensen just as he would any other customer.  Jensen looked tired, and bruised but, apart from the sheer bloody mindedness of deciding to sit for twenty minutes in Jared’s boat, after everything that had happened, he seemed to accept Jared’s feigned disinterest with apathy.

Jared caught Uncle Peter looking between them both several times with an assessing glance, twisting his mouth into a wry grimace.  Jared tried to ignore him too.

He tried to get out of making the return journey to pick up the tourists later that afternoon.  Uncle Peter wasn’t having any of it.
He felt even more uncomfortable on the way back, and Jensen’s brow was low and glowering.

After having dinner with his Uncle, and Auntie Sue, Jared returned to his cottage just as the moon was rising over the horizon.  His cottage provided no comfort now that Jensen had been there.  All Jared could see was the ghost of the man at his table, in his shower, in his bed.

He had never felt so fucking miserable in his life.

Day Thirteen: In which Jared continues to try hard to enjoy his work but fails miserably
When Jensen stepped into the Ariana the next day too, Jared knew that he was doing it deliberately and allowed his anger to simmer for the entire three hour trip round the Western Isles and the Bishop Rock Lighthouse.  He couldn’t believe that the man could be so petty.

To be fair, Jensen never once looked at Jared - His camera seemingly glued to his face.  Jared did his best not to look at Jensen either but found his eyes frequently turning towards the photographer and then lingering.  One of his jobs on these nature trips was to be on the look-out for the various types of wildlife that inhabited the ocean around the Scillies, but the Bishop Rock trip also involved long periods of time of just motoring across empty sea, and then he had nothing to do.  That wasn’t conducive to ignoring Jensen.  So he became increasingly frustrated and irritated, snapping sharply at his Uncle and then at a small boy who was running around the boat when he should have been sitting down.

By the time, the Ariana chugged back into the harbour on St Marys, Jared had worked himself up into the blackest mood ever, which erupted when Jensen held back as the rest of the tourists clambered out onto the quay.

“Jared…” Jensen began as the last person finally stepped out of the boat.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jared hissed back.  “Are you trying to make me feel even worse?”

Jensen’s face frowned in anger in response.

“I’ve only got seven days left,” he spat out.  “I really wanted to spend them with you. You’re not the only one in this, you know!”
Jared felt his anger drain at Jensen’s obvious distress but knew he couldn’t relent.  He was so close to just giving in.

“Please, this is ridiculous.  I feel fucking awful, Jay.”

Jared tightened his jaw, and turned away.  If he listened to Jensen then he would be lost.  He hardened his heart.

“Jay, please…”

He didn’t turn and he didn’t say anything until he heard Jensen finally disembarking.

He remained silent when Uncle Peter finally cleared his throat.

“That has to be the worst thing you’ve ever done, boy,” he said.

Jared absolutely agreed with him but didn’t, couldn’t work out how else to deal with the raging emotions overwhelming him.

Day Fourteen: In which Jared has a heart to heart with his surrogate father and then with Jensen
The early morning found Jared opening the back door to Uncle Peter and Auntie Sue’s small bungalow and calling out a ‘hello’.  He had woken up before light, and, unable to settle despite this being a day off, he had got out of bed, and pottered around doing chores. Then he had put on his walking boots and headed off round the coast path, just as the sun was beginning to warm the grey light.  He tramped trying hard not to think too much, but inevitably his mind was drawn back to Jensen – Jensen’s laugh, the smile in his eyes, his easy confidence, his quiet thoughts and opinions, the way the light caught his eyes, the scatter of spice across his pale skin, the bewildered pain in the face of Jared’s anger and confusion and unhappiness.

It wasn’t surprising that he found himself at his Uncle’s door within an hour.  The bungalow was up at Telegraph – the highest point on St Mary’s and a good hour’s walk from Jared’s own cottage at Porth Loo.  Aunt Sue bustled into the kitchen, wrapped in her tatty red dressing gown with a big smile and hug for her adopted son, and soon had breakfast sizzling on the hob.  Uncle Peter gave Jared one quick look of surprise and then sat down with them to polish off the bacon and eggs alongside his wife and Jared without a word.

After Jared had helped with the washing up, Uncle Peter suggested that Jared come down to the boat shed, with him.  Jared readily agreed, and the two men walked down to the old wooden shack in companionable silence.  Uncle Peter was building his own gig; a project he had started long before Jared had turned up on the Scillies, and probably would never finish, but the project provided him with relaxation.  When Jared first came to live with the couple, he had spent many hours helping his uncle sand down the hull, but the real purpose of their shared time there was to encourage Jared to talk.  Angry, unhappy, confused and feeling betrayed and unwanted, Jared had needed deconstructing.  Uncle Peter had waited patiently for the young boy to finally off-load his feelings, and it had taken a while, but eventually, the repetitive actions and Uncle Peter’s quiet acceptance had given Jared confidence to open up and share.

Of course, that was exactly what was happening now, and Jared wasn’t unaware of the similarities.  He picked a plane, and hoped that the plank he started to smooth wasn’t an essential and important part of the long row boat, but he felt some of his anxieties begin to fade.  Enough to be able to contemplate discussing them with the man that was closer to him than his father could ever have been.  Uncle Peter just stood, leaning against the old wooden work bench, his face creased and worn, but bright and intent on the younger man.

It took fifteen minutes for Jared finally to stop and look up at Uncle Peter.

“He’s asked me to leave with him,” he said simply.

Uncle Peter hummed a little but didn’t say anything.

“I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if I want to leave, and we hardly know each other,” Jared continued.  “Besides, I’ve probably blown it anyway.  I wasn’t too good to him yesterday.”

“You like him that much?” Uncle Peter answered gruffly.

Jared nodded.  “I really do.”

“After all these years and all those boys…” There was a small but fond smile on Uncle Peter’s face.  “Just waiting for ‘the one’, I guess.”

Jared shrugged.  “How do I know if that is who he is?”

“Can’t help you there, boy,” Uncle Peter answered.  “That’s something only you can answer.”

Jared mused for a while.  “I know that I can’t stop thinking about him. I know the thought of him leaving is painful.  I know that I have never been so happy or so miserable with anyone else.”

“Must be a bit of a change for you,” Uncle Peter gently teased.

“Not sure that I like it – but then, when I am with him, it’s the most amazing thing ever.”

“Sounds like it could be love to me,” Jared stared at his Uncle.  The man was often taciturn, gruff and hardy, but he had a wisdom and softness about him.  And a good thing too – Jared had needed someone with his empathy and kindness, and someone not caught up on what a real man should behave like.  Suddenly Jared was filled with a warmth towards his Uncle, and his heart felt fit to burst.  Tears came unbidden but not unwelcome to his eyes.

“You’ve been thinking on leaving for a while,” Uncle Peter continued.  “Maybe it’s time.  Not that I want ye to leave, mind - your Auntie will be crying for days but, you gotta think about yourself, boy.  And if you’ve gotta be with this man, if he is what is going to make yer happy, then you’ve gotta give it a go. Even if it means leaving to be with him, cos he doesn’t want to stay here.”

Jared swallowed a sob, but allowed his tears to fall.

“You know I love it here, Uncle.  And you, and Auntie… I can’t ever thank you enough… You’re my family now…”

“Don’t start being sappy, boy. This’ll always be your home and it’ll still be here whenever you need to come back,” Uncle Peter’s voice become rougher, until he fell silent.

Jared nodded, then wrapped both his arms round the older man, hugging him tightly, not speaking but allowing his body to say everything he wanted to say.

“You okay?” Uncle Peter finally asked.

“Kinda,” Jared answered.  “There are a few more days left before Jensen leaves.  Maybe I should get to know him better, see whether that makes my mind up for me?”

Uncle Peter looked grim for a moment. “You’d better hope he’s still willing to listen to you then.”

Jared checked the rising hope he was feeling.  Yeah, he had an apology to make first.

***

The steep climb up The Garrison, flattened and opened out after the grey stone of the gatehouse and the bulk of Star Castle.  The track carried on, pitted and stony and hard after so many days of very little rain, past dark, blasted trees, twisted and crouching in the face of the storms that regularly hit the Isles of Scilly, but the view to Jared’s right was sensational. It was early evening now, and the sun was low in the sky casting a golden glow over the gorse-covered slope that ran down to the sea.  The bright yellow flowers shone in the fading light, and the fading heat of the day intensified their strong coconut smell.  The sea itself was calm and quiet, more grey than blue, and the islands scattered around were becoming shadows.  Jared halted a couple of times to just take it all in. It was beautiful, and home, and he was considering leaving it.  It seemed like madness.

Steval Cottage was tucked into one of the bastions built into the sturdy wall that had been built round the entire headland.  It was tucked into the corner, before the path descended to the rocky shore line.  He had never actually been inside, and the gardens and walls had hidden it away.  It was built in one of the most amazing places on Scilly, and had an all- round view of both St Agnes and Gugh, right round the Western Isles to Samson and Tresco. 

Jared entered the small courtyard of the white cottage, and, with his heart jumping and leaping in his throat, moved forward to knock on the door.  Jensen was there before he could even reach for the knocker.  Jared’s hand fell back to his side.  Jensen looked as though he hadn’t slept for a week, dark shadows in his eyes, freckles stark against pale skin.  He was wearing a pair of scruffy sweats, and an old baggy tee-shirt.

Jared expected anger.  Instead he got a quiet, “What are you doing here, Jared?”

“I want to say sorry,” Jared answered.  Jensen stared at him for a long while, as if measuring Jared’s sincerity.  Jared felt itchy in his skin under the gaze.

“For what?” Jensen asked eventually.

“I was a bastard yesterday.  I should have let you talk.  Should have allowed ourselves time to talk…” Jared started to gabble.

“Okay,” Jensen responded slowly. “I forgive you for being douche yesterday. Wasn’t exactly my greatest moment either.  I shouldn’t have… I knew doing those trips was unwise.”

“I don’t understand why you… I guess that’s why we need to talk,” Jared was wary.  Jensen seemed open enough but he couldn’t get a read on Jensen’s expression.  It was if all the doors had been shut, whereas Jensen’s face was usually an open book.  It made him ache to think that he might have caused this change in Jensen.

After a moment’s consideration, Jensen nodded.  “Do you want a drink?”

Jared nodded, and allowed himself to be directed up some stone steps to a small garden.  There was a wooden bench and a small bistro table.  Jensen bustled off to get the drinks, while Jared stared over the stone walls to look at Samson. There were good memories there – him and Jensen.

“What do you want to say?” Jensen asked when he returned with the drinks, two brown bottles of ale.  He was still wary, keeping his distance.

Jared chugged at his bottle quickly.

“This…” he began.  “This…” and he waved his hand between the two of them.  Jensen moved round him and sat carefully on the bench, everything withdrawn and hidden.  Jared had never seen him like this – but wasn’t that part of the problem?  He really didn’t know much about Jensen at all.  Jensen didn’t say anything to relieve his floundering.  Just sat there, face impassive, eyes shuttered.
“I don’t do this,” Jared began again, beginning to pace around the small garden. “I hook up with people, have fun, and move onto the next. I don’t angst about their leaving because they always do, and I belong here.  I’m happy here.  I’ve been thinking it would be nice to settle down, but I hadn’t met anyone.  Julian was kind of an experiment to see if I could do that.  You messed that up.”

Jensen raised a questioning eyebrow, but stayed silent.

“Well, it wasn’t your fault,” conceded Jared. “You’ve got me all turned upside down and inside out.  Showed me that Julian certainly isn’t the one. Trouble is I sort of think you might be, but you were never going to be here for long, and I can’t bear you being just one of those hook-ups either.  I don’t want you to leave, or if you do I want to leave with you when you go, but I don’t want to leave either… I don’t know what I want.  I just know that I’ve been deliriously happy these past days.  Well, not the last couple of days – I’ve been fucking miserable  – but before that.  I’m not sure that I can, you know, leave, but I certainly can’t just walk away from you.”

Jensen’s face had softened a little but he still sat calmly. “What do you want right now?” he asked.

“Uh, I don’t know…” Jared answered.

“No, I mean right here, right now, sitting in this garden. What do you want?”

“I want for us to be talking again.  I want to spend whatever time we have left with you.  I want to get to know you better, explore where this is going.  I…”  Jared’s words finally just died.

“Okay,” Jensen responded.

Jared finally sat down, carefully leaving a gap between them. He was shaking a little, with nerves or fear or desperation. He didn’t know.  It was now up to Jensen, and it was a peculiar and scary feeling.  He hadn’t lacked this much control since his father had sent him across the ocean.

Jensen took a couple of big breaths and then shivered.  The night was beginning to chill, and the breeze coming off the sea and over the garden wall was cold after the heat of the day.

“I never intended this to happen.  I’m just starting out in a career that, hopefully, will take me all over the world.  I wasn’t looking for anything that could interfere with that.  But the lessons I’ve learnt in my life have been all about taking opportunities when I see them.  So I wasn’t expecting this, but I liked you, wanted you, and thought why not?  It was just for fun to start with, but I’ve gotten to know you, and then it was messy with that guy you were seeing, then it returned to being real fun again, but… Somewhere along the line, things got serious when I wasn’t mindful, and when you walked away from me on Gugh, declaring the end, and all that shit, I was surprised how much it fucking hurt, if I’m honest.”

Jensen’s mask began to fall away, he nervously pulled at a hole in his tee-shirt, studiously not looking up at Jared, who sat there breathlessly.

“I didn’t want you to walk away from me.  I realised that you made me real happy, and that, perhaps, my feelings were more engaged than I had considered.  I missed you that night so much, even though we’ve only spent one night together, so I thought… perhaps you misunderstood where I was standing.  I wanted… I needed to tell you how I felt – so that’s why I was on the Ariana the next day.  But you were all cool and professional, which fucking hurt some more.  I shouldn’t have done it, but I thought that I would give it another try – not to give up, because I thought what we had was fucking worth it – but I realised very quickly my mistake because you were beyond just cool, you were giving me the cold shoulder completely, and I was stuck on that boat with you hating on me for hours…”  Jensen got up, visibly angry and upset, his attempt at calm utterly blown.

“I thought you were just punishing me, flaunting yourself in front of me…” Jared explained. “I wasn’t thinking too straight, too messed up with wanting you, and being scared of you leaving, and trying to protect myself, and not knowing what the hell to do because I’ve never done this before – you know, be in any kind of a serious relationship.  I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” Jensen deflated a little.  “I know you are.”

“What do you want,” Jared asked, terrified and hopeful all at the same time.

Jensen stopped his pacing and focussed his attention back on Jared.

“I want you.  Plain and simple.  I want for us to enjoy the remaining days I have here.  I want you to come with me when I leave, I want to show you the rest of the world…”

“I don’t know if I can give you that,” Jared responded quietly.  Jensen nodded and then sat back down beside him, closer now with the length of their thighs touching.

“I know,” Jensen placed a hand over Jared’s then curled his fingers round it. “But I want you to at least give us a chance.  I have five full days, six nights.  That’s a lot of time to get to know each other even better.  You don’t have to decide now if you want to stay or go.  Just decide that this is something worth exploring.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”  Jared answered tightening his grip on Jensen’s hand.  Jensen smiled – there was a touch of sadness about it but it calmed the chaos in Jared’s mind.  “I haven’t blown it? By being such a dick, yesterday?”

This time Jensen laughed.

“No, you haven’t blown it.  I’m kind of impressed with the apology as it happens.”

“I love it on Scilly,” Jared went on.  “I don’t know if I can leave.”

“I’m not sure that you will either.  I think this is a good place for you, and I don’t want to take it away from you, but neither do I want to give up an opportunity for something wonderful for us.  If you stay, then I’ll deal – you have to do what ultimately makes you the happiest,” Jensen mused.  “We don’t have to think about it yet.  Five days, six nights…”

Jared sat as the dark settled over the islands, with his beer, and with Jensen quiet and hopeful next to him.  The two men who meant the most in world to him, had both told him to take his chances, and both of them were prepared to give him up if necessary.  He felt humbled in the light of their regard.

They were both right.  There was something between him and Jensen – something good, and brilliant, and strong.  He would be a fool to walk away from it before he needed to.  He needed to see where the next few days would lead them both.  Maybe he would go with Jensen at the end of the week, maybe he would decide to stay – he didn’t need to think about it now.

He put his bottle carefully on the table.  They were still holding hands, Jensen’s warmth along his side
.
“We could both end up really unhappy,” Jared said.

“We could, or we could end up ecstatically happy and…” Jensen was quick to answer, but was cut off, as Jared leaned in to kiss him.  Jared chased the taste of beer on Jensen’s lips, his free hand framing Jensen’s face.

“Make up sex?” Jared offered, once he had pulled back to get his breath.

“Oh hell, yeah,” Jensen laughed, dragging Jared by the hand to the cottage door.

Jared followed, his body already buzzing and burning with his arousal, but with his concerns still lurking in the back of his brain.  He wished he had Jensen’s confidence, his sheer joie de vivre and ability to live in the present.  He had acknowledged his need for Jensen before he had even arrived that evening but he knew with each passing moment that he was falling more and more hopelessly in love, and that putting off any decisions wasn’t going to make them any easier.

But for now, with Jensen thrumming through his veins, and Jensen’s dark eyes and caressing hands on him, Jared was content to just let things be, their bodies fitting together like missing parts of a jigsaw.

Day Fifteen: Which proves to be the best day so far… ever  
With Ricky Mumford back in action, Uncle Peter gave Jared the rest of the week off.

This meant that Jensen was turning Jared out of bed early, so they could get a good start on the day.  The weather was still holding, and Jensen loved the early morning light. Jared was rather fond of his mornings in bed, particularly when Jensen was also in said bed, but Jensen, ready and impatiently waiting, was a force of nature that Jared couldn’t fight.  Jensen consoled him with an embarrassingly quick blow job in the shower – embarrassing because it wasn’t as though Jared had already had more orgasms than he deserved that night, and, really he should have had more stamina than that.  It was the sight of Jensen, smiley eyed, wet lipped and all creamy skin that was to blame, and he still didn’t have the ability to string more than a couple of grunts together afterwards as  they finished up, got dressed and breakfasted.

The morning air was brisk with the cold, but the clear skies promised another hot day.  Jensen practically bounced the entire way back down into the town and onto Town Beach.  He energetically pulled in the tow rope for the small row boat that Jared used to get out to the Yellow Rose’s mooring, leaving Jared to stand there bemused and not helping.  It wasn’t until Jensen had toppled into the boat and was holding his hands out for their bags that Jared finally realised that he was standing there with a stupid, dopey grin on his face.  Jensen returned the grin with one of his own, eyes sparkling in the growing light.  Jared had never felt happier.

Since between them they had ruined Jensen’s chances of good shots of the Western Isles – something which he had bemoaned the night before, between other more pleasurable pursuits – Jensen had decided he wanted Jared to take him out again.  Jared wasn’t keen on the long six mile haul out to the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, but thought that a day pottering around Annet would keep the photographer happy.

Annet was one of the largest of the uninhabited islands, a thin scrap of land nearly a mile long, just west of St Agnes.  It was home to seabirds and seals and not much else.  Its rocky shore, which made getting on land quite difficult, was a perfect draw for the wildlife. The contrast between the lacklustre Jensen of a couple of days ago with the one that was clambering all over the boat trying to get shots of the puffins and grey seals was startling.  Jared made sure he held on Jensen when he pushed himself so far over the side of the boat that he threatened to fall in, and he passed whichever filter Jensen needed with happy smiles.  If he stole a few kisses and gropes here and there then no-one complained.

“Tell me how you got into photography,” he asked as Jensen was taking a break from the photographic acrobatics to look through the shots he had already taken.

Jensen didn’t look up but Jared could see his lips form a fond curve.

“My grandfather gave me his old camera when I was about eight.  He taught me how to use it, and then he would take me on trips all over Texas so I could practice.  He was a pretty good himself,” Jensen shoved the digital viewfinder in Jared’s face.  The two dolphins they had seen that morning were caught dancing through the gentle waves with a firework of spray behind them.  “He showed me how to really see things, so that I could capture the ephemeral moments – not like all those people who spend their day snapping at everything without ever looking. He taught me to really see first, then take the photograph.”

“You miss him,” Jared stated.

“Yeah, I do.  He always seemed to understand who I really was.  When he died I thought I would never find that again,” Jensen sounded sad but he was glowing. “Took me a little while to realise that all I had to do was understand myself – really look, deeply, in the same way I have to look in order to get that perfect picture.”  He tipped his head to look up at Jared.  “He was inspirational really.  Wouldn’t be here, if I hadn’t ever known him.”

“I thought he was an accountant,” Jared puzzled.

“That was Dad’s Dad. He’s a totally different kettle of fish. Scary, scary man!”  Jensen laughed.  Jared marvelled at the lightness in Jensen’s voice. “He is the typical authoritarian.  Made Dad’s life hell – in fact, he sounds a little like your Dad.  Had all these expectations, and poor Dad wasn’t strong enough to deny him, and then tried to make sure that I fitted into that mould too and make Dad support him in that dastardly role.”

“Is?  He’s still alive?” Jared asked.

“Oh dear God, yes,” Jensen answered. “Having helped drive my poor father into an early grave, he is still raging his way through life - dogmatic and intractable.  I was always a bit of a disappointment to him, but actually I think finally making my stand taught him that I’m not all that weak after all.  Of course, it’s reprehensible that I am gay, but he enjoyed me telling him to fuck off and that I was going to spend the rest of my life doing what I wanted to do, and that he was just going to have to live with the idea of an artistic grandson.  My mother tells me that he mentions me with a great deal of pride these days, not that he would ever tell me… stupid dick. Who knew that he only really needed someone to stand up to him.”

“You still don’t like him?”

“Used to hate his fucking guts, but it doesn’t matter, not now.  He’s already done the all the damage he can, and he can’t touch me anymore.  He’s not worth the energy,”  Jensen put his camera down, and looked directly at Jared.  “You ever think about your father?”

Jared started to deny it but it wasn’t true.  “All the time,” he eventually said.

“Was he always a bastard?” Jensen asked.

“Pretty much.  Mistook it for interest to start with.  Then I realised that he only ever showed interest in the pursuits he thought I should do – like football – came to every match – but he never, ever turned up to the plays I did in Drama Club.”

Jensen winced at that.

“When I was about twelve, he started giving me these lectures – about how bright I was, about how far a Padalecki could go.  It took a while for him to fix on exactly what direction he wanted me to take.  He fancied himself the father of a doctor for a while but, you know, doctors are caring sorts and he got put off that once I started exhibiting ‘gay’ signs.”

“What?”  Jared gave a bitter snort of a laugh at Jensen’s shock.

“Yeah, drama club, art classes, the clothes I wore, the kids I hung out with at school – he could see the inevitable, even before I had an inkling – and then it became a mission to man up Jared.  That’s when he fixed on engineering – very macho – and he was relentless in pursuing it for me.”

“What did he do when he finally found out you were more than just showing the ‘signs’?” Jensen asked.  He had shuffled up closer, and Jared could the tightly coiled tension his story was causing in the photographer.  Jared looked across the boat towards the island.  They had anchored a little way from the rocky shore since Jensen had wanted to sort through what he had already taken, so Annet was a long streak of grey and dark green.

“He was incandescent with rage.  Threw a couple of punches.  Disowned me but just couldn’t let me be; tried forcing me into ‘therapy’, and then continued with nasty voice mails and texts.  I wish he really had disowned me but there was never a week when he didn’t remind me of what a useless piece of shit I was, and if I wanted to continue to be part of the family then I would have to give up my abhorrent behaviour, as if I had any choice.  I guess when I got to Uni I decided that since I was already a failure as a son, I might as well act like a failure. By the time he came to drag me home, UT had already expelled me too, and the Dean gave him a long list of my misdemeanours which my record had collected over the year.  A couple of them included gross misconduct with persons of the same sex.  It was a very uncomfortable meeting, as you can imagine.”

“Jesus, Jay,” Jensen huffed, and reached a hand to cup Jared’s cheek.  Jared leant into it, seeking Jensen’s firm reassurance.  Talking about his father made him feel nauseous, and it felt foolish because he had left his father behind fourteen years ago, and still it had the power to hurt him.  He wished desperately that he could be like Jensen, and be strong enough to face the man and tell him that there was nothing wrong in being who he was and even to tell him to fuck off.

But looking at Jensen he found his inspiration.  Why couldn’t he?  He was proud of who he was now.  He might not be earning the thousands that his father did, but he enjoyed his job, he liked helping people, making them happy.  He was responsible, helpful, had demon DIY skills, and was a skilful pilot – Jesus, he even owned his own business (well, he owned The Yellow Rose).  He was a good man.  He knew that, had known that even when he was shagging everything that could move, and taking any pill anyone offered.  He should be able to face his father and say that it doesn’t matter because Jared knew who he was, and liked who he was, regardless of his father’s feeling on the matter.

Jared was quiet for the rest of the day, but yet again, Jensen sensed his mood and gave him space, and quietened his enthusiasm.  It was comfortable between them.  They worked well as a team, and by the time the sun began to set, Jensen had a set of photographs that he was pleased with, and that Jared took some credit for.

Instead of heading straight back to St Mary’s, Jared veered off and then anchored off shore from Samson.  He pried the camera from Jensen’s hands and then wrapped him in his long arms.  He felt Jensen melt into him, and then bury his head into the curve of his shoulder and neck, his breath hot against his skin.

Jared undressed Jensen slowly, worshipping every length and curve of him with his heart, mind, eyes, lips, hands and soul.  Jensen, starry eyed and lost in sensation, matched every one of Jared’s slow breathes, every quiet moan and sigh and after, he held Jared in reverent care as Jared found his release.

“I love you,” Jared whispered into Jensen’s neck.

“Yes,” Jensen spoke quietly but surely.  “And I love you.”

Despite everything, it was Jared’s favourite day – ever.


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Twenty-One Days: Days 7 to 9

Day Seven: In which Jared and Jensen share some information about themselves
Jensen wanted to take photographs of puffins.  So the following morning saw The Yellow Rose puttering out to the Eastern Isles in search of the sad eyed clown birds.  Jared warned Jensen that they hadn’t seen a single puffin on the last nature trip the Ariana had taken, but the photographer just shrugged and told Jared they could go somewhere else if necessary.

Both Jared and Jensen were quiet on the journey out, but not with the awkward silence of yesterday’s journey.  Jensen prepared his camera, while Jared guided the small boat around the rocky isles looking for the shy birds.  Every now and then, they commented on the sights and sounds, but the quiet was companionable.  It stayed quiet once they had found a small colony of puffins on Nournour.  This time, Jensen stayed in The Yellow Rose whilst Jared tried his best to get the boat in as close as possible.  There was a small beach on the island but the easiest access to the birds was from the sea, so Jared risked the glossy paintwork on the bow to bring The Yellow Rose as close into the rocks as he possibly could.

And then Jared watched.

Jensen worked efficiently, but thoughtfully.  A small frown would appear on his brow in concentration, a small pink slither of tongue would appear between his lips, and Jared would be mesmerised.  Jensen would then glance over and smile, the crinkles around his eyes fanning out, emphasising the sunlight reflecting in his gold-green eyes and Jared would be captivated.  Jensen twisted and contorted his limbs to select the shot that represented his own view of the world - Jared knew from his viewing of Jensen’s pictures that his view was different from any other - and Jared was fascinated.  Jensen was graceful as he moved about the boat and hung over the sides, rare in someone unused to being on the sea, and Jared felt a deep molten warmth in his belly.  It wasn’t just Jensen’s beauty that had Jared enthralled. There was a joy exuding from every cell in Jensen’s body and an energy that could only come from someone who was utterly contented in who he was and in what he was doing.

Far from the angst and guilt of the day before, Jared felt relaxed and chilled.  The sun was shining yet again, and the sea breeze kept the heat pleasant.  The puffins were playful and funny, in their worried bustling; their comic antics keeping both men amused.  Thoughts of Julian were pushed well back in his mind, and Jared just let it all be.  He had debated with himself long and hard the night before, without really coming to any conclusion. However, he realise that he needed to stop being so hard on himself.  He had a boyfriend – well, he had been dating and sleeping with someone for the last five weeks, but although it was the longest relationship he had ever had, it wasn’t exactly indicative of a high level of commitment. As long as he didn’t do anything that threatened his own integrity (he wasn’t that guy anymore), he could live with it.  Maybe this thing with Jensen would turn into something more.  Maybe it would be brief and temporary as Jensen was only going to be on the islands for another two weeks.   But whatever it was, whatever happened, he would do what was right by Julian. There could be no harm in a fleeting flirtation.  He still didn’t know what he wanted to do with his future, whether that was with or without Julian.  And there was still a suspicion that his relationship with Jensen could be something more than ephemeral, but Jared was determined not to think too hard about that – it was too presumptuous.

So Jared just enjoyed being with a man who was kind on the eyes and whose passion for his work was evident in his every move.

Lunch was thick doorstep ham and cheese sandwiches and an apple.  The two men ate whilst watching a group of seals haul themselves up from the sea onto the sun drenched rocks where the puffins had been bobbing to and fro.

“It’s a privilege, isn’t it?”  Jensen uttered as they sipped at the coffee Jared had made on his small hob.  Jared lifted an eyebrow.  “Being here, having this opportunity.  Not many people get to work in an environment like this.”

Jared agreed wholeheartedly.  He was basically sat in his office – a small pleasure launch, rocking gently in the sapphire blue sea, the green, grey and white of the islands spread around him.  But for all that beauty and calm, there were disadvantages to living on the Scillies.

“It’s not all sunshine,” Jared said in response.

Jensen leant back and stretched out his long legs, a tiny strip of white skin showing as his tee-shirt rode up.  Jared tried very hard, but without success, not to notice.

“So what are the problems?” Jensen asked, looking directly and intensely at Jared.  “Can’t see any downsides from here!”

Jared hummed.

“Well, the weather isn’t always this good,” he started.  “Although it’s certainly better than the mainland.”

“I guess living in small community can get a bit tiresome…”  Jensen encouraged Jared to continue. 
       
“S’alright in the summer – lots of tourists, different faces.  In the winter it’s basically just the islanders and a few hardy holiday makers. It can be a bit grim.  And when the weather sets in… well, it can feel a little claustrophobic.  I keep a freezer full in case the Gry Maritha can’t get in, and the planes are stopped.”

“Everybody knows your business?”  Jensen asked, with a smirk.

“Don’t even try keeping secrets here,” Jared chuckled.  “I think one of the reasons why I was made so welcome was because I gave plenty of meat to the gossipers – still do.”

“Really?  What are they saying about you now?”  Jensen asked curiously.

“Well, mostly they are talking about you, and how much time they think you’re spending with me.  I have this reputation… bit of a man whore, you know.  I’m afraid they are weaving you into my story now.”

Jensen frowned.

“But you have a boyfriend?  Isn’t that causing trouble for you?”

Jared grimaced.

“I can’t imagine he’s happy about it, but it’s difficult to tell.  He always seems cool about stuff.  But it’s kind of a new thing – him and me.  He knows my rep, though.”

“How’d you get together?”

“The council decided they needed a third police officer.  He came last autumn.   Not exactly a large gay community here, you know.  I don’t usually date islanders – nowhere to go if things turn to shit.  But he was relentless.  I’m pretty sure he was warned off though. It didn’t stop him.”

“He wore you down,” Jensen grinned, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.

“Kind’a,” Jared shrugged.  “But he’s a good guy, and…”  Jared drifted into silence for a while.  “I don’t know.  Maybe because I’m getting older, but I’m beginning to want more than just a quick fuck.  I know, I know, the good citizens of St Mary’s will die of surprise hearing that, but if I am going to stay then…”

“You think you are going to have to settle, if you want to stay here.  Doesn’t seem fair on the good guy police officer,” Jensen tipped his head to one side as he spoke.  Jared felt uncomfortable under his serious regard.  “Is that some of the reason why you’re thinking of leaving?”

“Maybe, partly.  What the hell do I know?  It’s all a confused mess in here,” Jared tapped his head.

“So why are you scared of commitment?”  Jensen pushed.

“I’m not, or at least I don’t think I am. Just haven’t wanted it.  There’s an endless stream of young beautiful things coming to the islands.  I like sex. It’s a no brainer. Never needed anything more.”

“Until, maybe, now.”

“Getting older, as I said.”

Jensen got up and put his cup in the small sink.  Then he turned to pick up his camera. Jared watched him again.  It seemed like there was never a minute when he wasn’t watching him.

“What about you?”  He suspected that Jensen must be single.  Jared didn’t think that Jensen seemed to be the type of person who would mess around with other men if he had someone at home but, then, he didn’t really know Jensen that well.

“Had a partner – for ten years.  He left along with the regular wages,” Jensen shook his head at Jared’s exclamation.  “It’s okay.  Bit of a shock.  Well, a massive shock really.  Wasn’t the most exciting relationship in the world, but still, wasn’t expecting that.  Better to have found out he was bastard now than at my retirement party.  Been a few hook-ups since. But… well… not really into that too much.  I guess I’m the commitment, settling type.”  He grinned at Jared.

“That won’t be easy if you’re travelling the world for your art,” Jared concluded.

“No, but the photography takes priority at the moment,” Jensen agreed.

“So your pass at me the other day was desperation due to a long dry spell?”  Jared chuckled.

“Not quite,” Jensen answered swiftly, but he coloured and looked down at the floor briefly before looking back up through his lashes at Jared.

They stared at each other for a few moments.

Breath caught in his throat, Jared felt his chest constrict, his heart swell.  The want, want, want that he had been dampening all morning, started rising from his core.  He shifted uncomfortably, but knew that Jensen had noticed.  There was a very dark gleam in his eyes that signalled his intent and made Jared instantly hard.

But neither of them were that kind of guy.

Jensen took a deep breath and turned back to the islands, and the puffins.

Jared gave himself a mental telling off and then got busy finding little jobs on the Yellow Rose.

***

A few moments later and the tension had died away to something more manageable.  Jensen offered his spare camera to Jared and started giving him hints on good picture taking.  The afternoon, therefore, passed swiftly and in a friendly manner, the cameras offering a workable barrier between them, and allowing them to put the sexual tension on hold.

There was a brief moment of indecision before they parted at the bottom of the climb to The Garrison.  A moment of almost and nearly.  But Jared’s long legs counted out his strides back to his cottage in Porth Loo, and he tried desperately to school his thoughts away from the ‘what ifs’.

There weren’t any plans for the next day.  Jensen had a meeting with his contacts at the council and the Duchy to show them his work so far, so planned to work on St Mary’s, perhaps to walk out to Penninis Head in the afternoon and take some shots from there.  So, knowing he had a free day, and after much searching of his conscience, Jared made a phone call and arranged a lunch date.

Day Eight: The day of two dates
Julian grinned as soon as he saw Jared and made his way through the tables until he stood right by Jared.

“Good table,” he said and then bent to kiss Jared.

“I’ve been here for hours, waiting until it came free,” Jared joked.  The terrace out the back of The Atlantic was small but had an unparalleled view of the harbour on St. Marys and across the bay to Porth Loo.  From there, Jared could see his own little cottage, his Uncle busy on the Ariana out in the harbour, and the broad white stern of the Scillonian.  Even this early in the season, the tables out here were in demand, hence the joke.  He hadn’t waited for long, but had been incredibly lucky to find the corner table free as he strolled in for his date with Julian.

“I can’t drink,” Julian said.  “Doug’s gone off sick, so I’ll have to go back on shift this afternoon.  Got about an hour!  Sorry.”

“That’s a shame,” Jared said.  “Was kind of hoping that I could persuade you to come out on the boat with me this afternoon.”
Julian’s pale face registered disappointment.

“Sorry.  Another time,” came his answer.  “So how have things been?”

“Good,” Jared said.

“You’ve been out early and getting back late,” Julian prompted as he looked over the menu.

“Yeah, Jensen likes the light of early morning and just before sunset.  It’s some photographer thing,” Jared answered trying to appear nonchalant.  The sharp look he received in return suggested that he wasn’t fooling Julian so he did the best thing possible, and tried to change the subject.

He listened attentively to Julian’s stories of missing goats, graffiti on the public toilet doors, and complaints of too much noise from The Bishop and Wolf.  He laughed in all the right places, and Julian seemed to relax.  But something was missing.

Julian, like Jensen, was doing a job he enjoyed.  He liked helping people and preferred the more mundane aspects of police work on the Scillies to the more crime filled towns and cities on the mainland.  But compared to Jensen’s life and energy, there was a flatness and dullness about Julian.  Jared hated himself for comparing the two men – it wasn’t fair on either of them, but it particularly was unfair to Julian, who hadn’t done anything wrong.  Jensen was right about one thing.  Staying with Julian was ‘settling’ or whatever term Jensen used to describe it.  And, maybe it was the root of all of Jared’s dissatisfaction. He was pretty confident he was outgrowing his promiscuity but hadn’t been able to find an alternative within the community of Scilly.  Julian was, perhaps, his only choice.  He liked the man.  He really did.  Perhaps he could learn to love him even.  But Julian didn’t make his pulse race in the way that Jensen did, and Jared was the type to need some excitement in his life even if he had sequestered himself away on one of the quietest places on earth.

He sat through the meal, slowly coming to the conclusion that he had to break things up with Julian.  Perhaps then he could start straightening his muddled thoughts, and finally find some peace.  He was aware that Jensen’s presence might make that difficult for the next couple of weeks, but he couldn’t justify stringing Julian along anymore.

A questioning tone finally drew him back into the present.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“You do know what they are saying about you and that photographer,” Julian asked again, pale eyes searching.  Shit, Julian had obviously run out of the minutiae of crime fighting in Hugh Town.

“I can guess,” Jared answered.

“You are spending hours with him every day, beyond the scrutiny of anyone,” Julian pressed, obviously not wanting to drop the subject this time.

“Yeah, well, they started talking ‘bout me when I first got here and haven’t stopped since.  Not everything is true,” Jared responded.

“Is this?”

“Is what?”  Jared countered.

“You and Jensen,” Julian said firmly.

“I am not fucking Jensen,” Jared said accurately.  He felt anger beginning to rise.  This was a new experience for him.  He’d never had a relationship long enough for someone to accuse him of being unfaithful, and he had worked very hard not to give in to his lust for the photographer.  He felt a little aggrieved.

“Do you want to?”  Julian asked, his face impassive.

“Why are you listening to these petty gossipers,” Jared spoke loudly allowing his irritation to show.  Julian looked uncomfortably about him.  Some attention was now being shown to them.  Jared shut his mouth and stared out at the sea.

“It’s okay if you do.  I know your history, Jared, and I am not stupid.  It took me long enough to get you to agree to go out with me in the first place, so I am pretty aware this isn’t some great love affair of the century for you.  He’s not around for long, if you need to scratch some itch…”

Jared shifted his gaze back to the other man in surprise.

“Are you offering me..?  What?  What are you saying, Julian?” he blustered.

“Look, I like you, Jared.  Really like you.  In fact I think I am in love with you.  But you have spent your whole life like a butterfly fluttering from man to man.  I don’t expect for you to change overnight.  And I’m just saying… I want you to know, if you want Jensen, then that’s fine.  Because at the end of the season – hell, even in a couple of week’s time – he’ll be gone, and I’ll still be here.  Maybe, eventually, you’ll grow to feel the same way about me as I feel about you, but until then, I’ll accept a more open relationship.”  There was a hint of a pleading tone by the end of his speech but Jared couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Do you think so little of yourself that you’re prepared to make an offer like that?”  Jared asked utterly bewildered.  “Do you honestly think I am the kind of person that would do that to you?  I think you are belittling us both in that case.”

Julian was beginning to frown, realising that he had taken a misstep.

“I am not fucking Jensen Ackles,” Jared reiterated.

“But you want to,” Julian didn’t know when to back down.

Jared just stared at him.

“Yes,” he said honestly.  “I want to.  But that doesn’t mean I will.  Just because I’ve slept around in the past doesn’t mean I’m going to be faithless now.  I do understand loyalty, and what it means to be in a relationship even if I haven’t ever done it before.”

Allowing his anger to cool, Jared watched as a shadow of distress passed across Julian’s features.

“I’m sorry,” the policeman offered after a few moments of silence.  “I just… I wanted… I guess I just wanted to find a way of keeping you.  I’ve seen him, and I can see why you’re drawn to him.  I can’t compete against him.  But I will be here after the summer, and he’ll be gone, and…  I just… I suppose I thought…”

“There is no way I would keep you dangling while I chased after every bit of tail that passed my fancy.  No way,” Jared said firmly.

“Where does this leave us, then?”

“Honestly?  I dunno,” Jared said.  He threw some notes on the table, as he rose.  No wonder, Julian had seemed cool with the time he was spending with Jensen if he was thinking along these lines.  Jared just wanted to tell Julian to fuck off, that it was over, but he didn’t want to do it while he was still angry.  He opted to give them both some time.

“Look.  I need some space – do some thinking.  I don’t know what I want at the moment, Julian, and there’s all sorts of shit in my head, only some of which is you and Jensen.  I promise I won’t do anything without talking to you first.  But you need to take some time too – what do you really want?  Do you really want to wait around as second best?  I’ll give you a call.”

“Are you going to him?”  Julian asked, eyes wide.

“No,” Jared stated.  “Not like you think.  But neither am I going to stop working with him.”

Jared left without looking behind him, feeling dry-mouthed and sick to his stomach.

***

He ambled without purpose around the town until he found himself stalking through the allotments heading up towards Penninis Head.  It had been a long time since anyone had questioned his integrity, whatever they thought of his sexual morals, and he felt nauseous thinking anyone could think he was the kind of man who would sleep around behind a boyfriend’s back, particularly since he had worked very hard to resist the temptations that Jensen could offer.  Distressed and unhappy, he wound his way around the bay until he was climbing up to the head.

The wind was stiffer, and colder on the headland.  He walked towards the lighthouse, then beyond it to the cliff edge, hair blowing in the breeze.  The headland wasn’t particularly high but the giant piles of stone made it an impressive place.  The Scillies were still enjoying good weather but Jared had been up here when the pounding Atlantic waves crashed right over the headland. It was exhilarating then.  It was another one of Jared’s favourite places, somewhere he came when he needed to be reminded that there are greater forces in the world than his own petty issues. There were a couple of other places on the islands that gave him different kinds of comfort, but this was the place he needed when he needed taking out of himself. He found his favourite rock and climbed it.  From the top he could see back towards Hugh Town, and forwards to the wide open sea.  Some of his distress faded, but his mind started turning over and over.

He sat for a long time, looking at the view and looking at nothing in particular, trying to make sense of what was in his head.  Perhaps it would be better if he did leave.  He didn’t have to return to Texas if he didn’t want to.  He could go anywhere.

Jared had no idea how long he had been sitting there when, suddenly, a movement caught his eye.  Disengaging from his thoughts he looked down to find Jensen, in a pair of blue jeans and another of his band tee-shirts, camera slung about his neck, smiling back at him.

“I’ve been standing here for ten minutes,” he called up.  “Where’d your mind drift off to, eh, Padalecki?”

Jared had forgotten Jensen’s plans to come up to the Head today, so the sight of him, after such a tumultuous afternoon, caused a sudden wave of emotion.  He swallowed hard and blinked away his tears.

“What’s up?”  Jensen asked instantly sobering.  Jared shook his head, but scrambled down the rock.  Jensen was all concern, hand beginning to reach out as Jared made the short leap to the springy, grassy turf. Jared shook his head again, still unable to speak.

“Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been taking shots of you all this while.”  A small, gentle smile played about Jensen’s lips.  “You looked magnificent up there, like some pagan king surveying his kingdom!”

The absurdity finally brought Jared back to himself.

“I wanna get some shots of the cliffs but from below. You got any time to show me how to get down there without breaking my neck?”

***

They stayed out on the head until the sky started to darken.  Jensen didn’t ask any more questions but Jared was aware of the quick, sharp looks of concern that Jensen threw his way.  Jared guided Jensen around the rocks, carried one of his bags, and on one memorable occasion held his feet as Jensen hung over a rocky ledge.  The man’s dedication to his art was monumental, and quite a bit risky too.

On their way back to Hugh Town, Jensen invited Jared to dinner.

“I’ve booked a table at Star Castle,” he said.  “I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy to accommodate you.”

Jared started to refuse.  It wasn’t cheap to eat at the Castle and Jared wasn’t flushed with funds.

“It’s on me,” Jensen interrupted.  “Or rather, it’s on the Duchy.  No strings.  Just a couple of mates, yeah?”

Mates?  Really?

But Jared found himself agreeing to go anyway.

***

“How did the meeting go?”  Jared asked, trying to cover his embarrassment.  Jensen had met him on the steps to Star Castle Hotel and Restaurant with such a look of approval that Jared had instantly coloured up.  He knew he looked good – he’d bought his suit from Penzance for one of the recent weddings – and its dark grey material fitted him well – but Jensen’s eyes were like fire as they devoured his form.  There was nothing ambiguous in his look, but, gratifyingly, as Jared still hadn’t quite come to terms with his lunch time conversation with Julian, he didn’t touch.  Jared was pretty sure that Jensen wanted to though, and appreciated the effort.  Jensen looked equally as good.  His lighter suit was cut very well and fitted him like a glove.

“It was good.  They liked what I’ve done so far,” Jensen smiled, eyes still tracking across Jared’s broad shoulders.  They walked through the gateway, and up the tunnel weaving their way in past the thick stone walls, to find the front door of the residence.

Star Castle was a Tudor fortification built on the pinnacle of The Garrison. It overlooked Hugh Town and the harbour, and was shaped like an eight pointed star.  The beautifully proportioned house, swallowed by heavy bastions, was now, incongruously, one of the best hotels on the islands. The food was always very good, although Jared rarely had the funds to afford to eat there often.

The head waiter listened politely as Jensen explained Jared’s unexpected presence.  Jared didn’t recognise him which wasn’t surprising because a lot of the hotels had to recruit additional staff in the summer, and most of them came from the Mainland or even further afield.  However, Lisa Mumford, Jamie’s young wife, was also working and her eyes went wide when she saw Jared, then flicked between him and Jensen.  They were taken to their table in the corner of the restaurant accompanied by stares.  Feeling more and more awkward by the minute, Jared started to wonder if he had made a mistake in accepting Jensen’s offer.  It wouldn’t take long for word to get around the community. It was one thing for Jared to be spending time with the photographer during the day – that could be explained away as work – but another to turn up for dinner, dressed in suits.

With the perspicacity that Jared admired, Jensen seemed to pick up on Jared’s uneasiness, and he turned down the flirting and admiring glances. Ordering a bottle of the house red, they washed down the first course with fine wine and made plans for the following days.  Lisa finally stopped trying to listen in on the conversation, when it appeared that the meal was nothing more than a business meeting and then Jared could finally relax.

“Sorry, I didn’t think.”  Jensen finally said as they were waiting for their main course.  “I guess this could cause some trouble for you.”
He looked so dreadfully sincere, that Jared took pity.

“Not your responsibility.  I could have said no,” Jared answered smoothly, the warmth of the wine comforting his somewhat bruised nerves.  “It’s not like this is a date, or anything.”

“No,” Jensen returned unconvinced.  “But it sure looks like it could be!”  He picked at the lapels of his suit as if that explained everything.

“Doesn’t matter anyway,” Jared then continued.  “I can do what I bloody well please and everyone else can go hang themselves.”

With a look of surprise, Jensen leaned back in his chair.

“Are you okay?” he asked, with the same concern he had shown on Penninis Head a few hours earlier.  Jared was about to answer, when his steak, and Jensen’s fish arrived.  He forked a couple of mouthfuls in before finally finding himself answering.  And once he had started he couldn’t stop.  Jensen slowly continued eating but listened attentively as Jared explained about his lunch time date with Julian, about the offer Julian had made to him, about how he felt about that offer.

By the time Jared had finished, Jensen was looking at him very seriously.

“You seem more upset because he assumed you’d be fucking around, than about the possible end of your relationship,” he finally said in answer to Jared’s outpouring.

Jared opened his mouth to speak, but then shut it again.  Jensen was right, as usual.

“I’m not that man, not anymore,” he finally answered.

“It’s been how many years since you left Texas?  And you are still defining yourself by what you were then, or rather defining yourself as not being what you were then, if you catch my drift.  UT, the mistakes you made there were the result of circumstances. You were betrayed by the people you thought should love you the best, and you were naturally angry and confused and hurt.  And you were very young, Jared. Everyone makes mistakes, doesn’t mean that you are any less an honourable man.  Give yourself a break,” Jensen focussed on Jared’s face, his eyes almost dark green in the dim light of the room. “Everyone I have spoken to has good words about you.  How much you help around the community, how much of an asset you are.   So much so that it’s like they’re trying to sell you to me… I’ve seen with my own eyes how happy you make people, how thoughtful and kind you are.  You are a good man. Not because you made mistakes but because this is what you naturally are.  Leave Texas behind you – stop letting it dictate your own sense of self-worth. And don’t let the gossip and some small minded man make you doubt yourself either.  You are a good man.”

“Studied psychology alongside that accountancy degree, did you?”  Jared retorted, but a little gingerly.  Jensen’s words had made him fill so full, so exposed.

Jensen smirked.  “You can tell me to piss off, if you think I am overstepping my boundaries here.  But I hate anything that wipes that gorgeous smile off your face.”

“He was right to be worried,” Jared finally responded. “Julian was right.  I really, really want you.”   Jensen’s eyes darkened further and he pulled his bottom lip behind his teeth.  Jared couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sight, as his heart rate quickened and fire started to course through his veins.  His dick hardened in his pants.

“But you’ve not made a single move to do anything about it,” Jensen explained, his voice catching.  “Which makes you an honourable, good man.”

Swallowing hard, Jared nodded.

“And I am going to be a monstrous douchebag now, and invite you back to my place, because, shit, Jare, I fucking want you too.  But you are going to very politely and regretfully (I hope) turn me down because I am being quite inappropriate considering everything you’ve told me, and I’m not trying to make things more difficult for you, because, hell, that’s not fair, but I think you’re worth fighting for and if I have to fight dirty then I will do it.”

“Fuck, Jensen.  Just lay it all out there, why don’t you?”  Jared was beginning to sweat as his body temperature soared.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see Lisa showing signs of interest again – hardly surprising considering the intensity of the conversation between them.  He turned his attention back to his steak, going cold on the plate.

“I spent years not saying what I really thought,” Jensen answered quietly.  “I have a new motto now – nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“It’s an old motto,” Jared retorted trying to regain some equilibrium.  He ventured his own quick glance back up to Jensen’s face, to find the other man smiling faintly, the heat beginning to fade.

“Not for me,” Jensen raised an eyebrow.

“Thank you,” Jared continued.  “I would very much like to come home with you and indulge in all sorts of enjoyable pursuits but I have this complicated boyfriend situation at the moment and I am very sure that, whilst it might be fucking amazing, it would definitely be a mistake at this time.  So thank you, but no.”

Jensen’s smile became broader, until it formed itself into a grin.  He looked like a five year old.

“See, a good man,” he affirmed.  “Well, if you change your mind…” and he sounded so artlessly like he had a few days ago when they were on St Martins that Jared had to grin back.  “Ah, there’s those beautiful dimples…”

“Fuck off,” Jared spat back but with no real heat and Jensen burst out laughing.  The last of the tension dissipated, and the meal resumed amidst light hearted flirting and banter.

Jared only felt a mild twinge of regret as they parted at the Castle gates later that evening, and then again later as he tugged at his dick in the shower thinking about the darkness in Jensen’s lust shot eyes.

He had said no tonight.  He needed to get things straight with Julian, because he was pretty sure he would find saying no again impossible.

Day Nine:  Jared starts to make things right
“Are you really sure about this?” Jared looked askance at Jensen.

There were clouds rolling quickly across the gradually lightening sky.  They were thick and heavy, but with breaks that allowed Jared to see the pale violet of the sky behind.   It looked as though it might rain at some point but it wasn’t the possible downpour that concerned Jared.  The wind had picked up too, and was driving in from the west, straight across the thousands of miles of open Atlantic.

Jensen was dressed up in all weather gear, with heavy duty bags to protect his cameras, his face peering out under a black beanie. He looked excited and mischievous.

“You scared, Padalecki?” he taunted.

Rolling his eyes, Jared grabbed one of Jensen’s bags, then left him to clamber into the Yellow Rose by himself.  It wasn’t easy, even in the relative shelter of the quay, due to the restless swell of the sea, and Jensen nearly overbalanced.  Jared watched him, amused, as the other man cussed a little.

“It’s not that rough, is it?” Jensen asked, as the boat rocked again.

“I wouldn’t be going out if I thought it might be dangerous.  It’s just a bit choppy, that’s all, and we’ll be in fairly protected waters for most of the way.  Hope you don’t get seasick!”

Jensen grimaced.  “Never spent a lot of time on boats so haven’t a clue. Got a bucket, just in case?”  Jensen grinned, and then grinned wider when Jared smiled back, with the full force of his dimples.

“Try not to fall over board!”  Jared warned.  But the warning was unnecessary.  The journey across to Bryher was definitely choppy, and they both laughed as the boat hit the waves hard, forcing a spray of water to arch over the boat and drench them, but in the shelter of the islands, the tossing of the boat was merely a fun-fair ride.  The Yellow Rose’s engine pushed hard though, roaring over the sound of the waves whacking against the hull.

Bryher lay on the other side of the channel from Tresco, and through the gloom of the dawn, Jared was able to see New Grimsby on the other island.  The quay, that Jared was aiming for, was a strange temporary looking affair, although it had been in existence since before Jared had ever arrived in the Isles – a relic of a philanthropic eighties TV programme.  The tide was just far enough in for Jared to pull the Yellow Rose in, and would be fine for returning home although she would spend a fair amount of the day beached.

Jared looked up at the hills that made up the spine of the island and then up at the stormy sky.

“Best head over to Hell Bay first,” Jared said.  “It’s pretty exposed over there, and the weather looks like its closing in further.”
Jensen squinted up at the mutinous looking clouds.  He raised his eyebrows in question.

Laughing loudly, Jared tugged his companion off the boat. “It’s going to be an adventure,” he said with a smile.

***

And an adventure it was.  Once they had reached the highest rise of the hills, the wind fought with them in earnest, blowing directly into their faces as they struggled to make their way down to the bay.  The far side of Bryher faced the Atlantic and was notorious for being beaten by the sea.  Hell Bay, their destination, wasn’t named after Lucifer’s kingdom for nothing.  At his first sighting, Jensen just gawped.  There were no cliffs to speak off, but the shore was rocky, and the sea simply swarmed over the grey stone, a frothing, seething chaos.  The waves battered the rocks, throwing water high into the air, the air thundering with the sound of it.  Coupled with the strong winds, it was breathtaking – literally.

They spent a long time getting Jensen into suitable places for good shots of the bay.  Jensen proved to be a liability, always wanting to get closer, and not often listening to Jared’s yells of concern.  Jared knew how easy it would be for one wave to sweep Jensen into the sea and toss him around the rocks like a ragdoll.  Jensen seemed to have no comprehension of the dangers, scrambling against the gales to get ever nearer the mountainous waves.  Jared screamed himself hoarse, and on one memorable occasion nearly toppled into the water himself.  He blamed his soaked jeans on Jensen, vociferously and loudly.  Jensen just laughed at Jared’s misfortunes, eyes dancing with exhilaration.

Their return to the sheltered side of the island was shocking with the sudden silence and relative warmth once they were out of the worst of the raging wind.

“That was amazing,” Jensen cried loudly, voice still unused to quiet after the howling of the wind and the roaring of the sea.  Jared looked at him.  His soft spikes of hair were stiff with salt water, his cheeks were reddened from the scouring of the wind, his eyes full of merriment and his smile broad.  Jared thought he had never seen anything more beautiful.

They strolled down the concrete pathway back to the gentler side of the island, and spent some time wandering through narrow pathways between the small square fields until the rain, which had threatened to drown them all day became so heavy that it became untenable.  They decamped to the boat, still beached up to wait for the tide.

The return journey was rougher as the storm gained traction.  Jensen retreated to the cabin when Jared’s face become longer and more serious, as the Yellow Rose struggled to get out of the Tresco channel, engine screaming as she worked hard against the colossal waves.

The adventure ended as they reached the peace of St Mary’s harbour.

It was the best day Jared had had for some time, and even though he had barely thought for one moment except to wonder at the power of nature, and to ensure Jensen didn’t suffer for his impetuosity and curiosity, he arrived back home at least one of his issues resolved.

***

“I’m sorry,” Jared said again.

Julian glared at him, washed out eyes almost popping, and tears beginning to rise.  Jared shifted uncomfortably on the bench desperately willing Julian to finally accept what Jared was saying and just go home.

“But…” Julian began to speak, but Jared had listened over and over to Julian’s arguments.  He raised a hand.

“I’m sorry, but no.  I am not going to change my mind.  This isn’t about Jensen.  It’s about you and me, and you and me will just not work.  You are not what I want, and I think you know that I am not ever going to be right for you.  So please, I’m sorry, but this is ending.”

Jared got up, and was immediately buffeted by the wind.  It had stopped raining, so Jared had asked Julian to meet him at Porthcressa.  The Beach was protected from most of the storm by the mass of The Garrison, and provided a neutral location for what Jared had to do.

Julian tentatively stretched out a hand, as if he meant to stop Jared, but dropped it when Jared took a step back.  Jared shook his head then turned before Julian could start up his persuasions again, striding away from the beach back into town.

He felt like shit as he made his way home, but ultimately he slept more soundly than he had for over week, happy in the knowledge that he had done the right thing.

Back to the Masterpost      Next

Twenty-One Days: Days 4 to 6

Day Four: Jared has a date and a guilty conscience  
The Ariana hadn’t been rota’d for a trip on Wednesday so Jared spent the morning cleaning his tiny cottage, before heading into Hugh Town to do his grocery shopping.

Straddling a sand bar with the sea bearing in from either side, Hugh Town was the thin, scrawny neck that held the rocky head of The Garrison to the rest of St. Marys’ body.  With more bars than shops, it was a village rather than a town, but the smart Georgian frontages, and the web of roads and alleyways gave the illusion of urbanisation even if it only took a five minute walk to find a windswept and wild coastal cliff path in any direction.  The houses and businesses crowded together, back to back, like the Emperor Penguins at the height of an Antarctic winter, huddling to protect themselves from the ravages of the sea.  The Isles of Scilly, although uncommonly warm for an outpost of wet, misty Britain,  were twenty-six miles out into the Atlantic, and received a battering from any storm that passed its way.  No wonder its residents, unless they were particularly hardy, found shelter together on that narrow isthmus, bounded by its two gorgeous beaches.

Jared enjoyed his brief forays into the bright lights of Hugh Town but preferred to live a little further out.  He had a small stone cottage twenty minutes’ walk from the centre of the town, in a small locality called Porth Loo.  Directly in front of his front door was St Mary Sound looking over to the islands of Tresco, Bryher and Samson.  Below him was the tiny ship yard at Porth Mellon where the Ariana would be berthed up during the winter and another really special golden beach.  Passing in front of his door was the way to the coastal footpath.

Today the weather had closed in a little and the bright greens and blues of the previous three days were muted and washed with greys.  Jared headed down the hill, with his empty backpack swinging in his hand.  There were a few walkers up and about already, and, in the far distance, he could see the boats moving towards the quay in preparation for today’s trips.

He met several people he knew.  It wasn’t a surprise.  Having been on the islands for fourteen years, he knew everyone who lived there.  Each trip into Hugh Town, providing it wasn’t just a quick walk through to get to the quay and to work, took a long time.  Everyone wanted to stop and chat.   Much to Jared’s chagrin, because he found the subject a little confusing to deal with, Jensen was a popular topic of conversation.  Of course he was – he wasn’t just any old tourist.  He was working for the Council and the Duchy combined on a commission that should have gone to a local.  Hot topic indeed.  Mrs. Mumford, in the newsagents, told Jared that Jensen was staying up in one of the Duchy lets on The Garrison, but supposed Jared would know that as they seemed to have become very friendly.  It hadn’t gone unnoticed in the small, close-knit community that Jensen had spent quite a bit of time on the Ariana.

Jared smiled faintly and answered with non-committal nonsense.  He didn’t want to get into a Jensen-related discussion.  Head down, he resolved to get his shopping done with the least amount of distraction, and was fortunate that there were very few non-tourist patrons at the Co-op. His luck ran out just as he was starting his journey back up to Porth Loo.

“Jared!” a familiar voice called to him.  Jared swore quietly under his breath and turned to face the island’s newest police officer.
“Julian,” he answered and tried to smile.

“Can’t stop really, bit of an emergency,” Julian called.  “But you’re still on for tonight, right? 8pm?”

Jared cursed because he had forgotten their pre-arranged date.  In fact, and unusually, he hadn’t seen Julian for several days.  He briefly debated with himself, but decided to honour the arrangement.

“Of course, Old Town, yeah?”

“You bet!”  Julian touched his shoulder briefly as he passed and then headed towards the council offices.  Busy man, obviously, Jared snorted.  Really he didn’t understand why they needed a third policeman on the islands.  They weren’t exactly overrun with criminals.

Jared huffed.  Damn it.

***

Julian Winters was just shy of thirty –one, tall in the long rangy bean pole way, and looked like he had never seen daylight.  His skin was pale, his blue eyes were the colour of well-washed denim and his head was haloed with fine pale gold hair.  Everything about him was pale, like someone had tried, with no little amount of success, to erase him.  He was attractive enough in pleasant but unstartling way and was definitely a good bloke; he was good natured, had time for everyone and a kind manner.  He was new to the islands but had found his niche, proving more a popular police officer than his two older colleagues.

And he had pursued Jared relentlessly right from the start. However, despite all his good features, Julian just wasn’t quite Jared’s type. A little too calm, when Jared was attracted to guys that were larger than life and full of energy.  But as he got to know him, Jared discovered a good sense of humour, and an intelligent, open mind.  He had turned down Julian’s requests for a date for over seven months, but with his growing loneliness, and restlessness, Jared had finally given in.  It wasn’t a complete disaster.  They both got along with each other well enough for Jared to have started thinking that maybe this could be something, and the sex was good.  Good enough, that Jared, for once, hadn’t found his eye wandering as the first weeks of the season brought in fresh blood to islands.

Until Jensen had turned up.

Julian slipped into the cloth covered bench opposite Jared in the cosy, wood panelled bar of Old Town Inn.  They spent a few minutes idly talking about the last few days, then ordered food and another pint.  They ate in more or less silence except for small talk.  Once the last forkful was swallowed Julian cleared his throat.

“Rumour has it you’ve met the photographer,” he said.

“Uh, yeah,” Jared replied.  Julian look expectantly at Jared.  “He’s taking trips to the other islands.  Met him on the boat.”

“Is he nice?”

“I guess,” Jared felt very uncomfortable under Julian’s intense gaze.

“I got an earful from old Mrs. Trevellick the other day… but that’s not surprising. I think she thought Johnno was a shoe-in,” Julian rolled his eyes.  “Pretty sure Johnno didn’t even submit a portfolio – remember how, the night before the deadline, he was boasting that he didn’t need to because everyone knew his work already?”

“I hope his mom doesn’t know that – there’s only so much grief that woman can give him,” the two of them grinned at each other as they contemplated Johnno Trevellick’s rather feisty mother.

“So tell me more?” Julian pressed.

“What?  About Jensen?” Jared asked.  “Why would I know anything? I’ve only seen him on the boat.”  Jared could hear the defensive undertone, and inwardly winced at his lies.

“S’not what I’ve heard,” Julian’s faded gaze became pin-pointed intense.

Jared should have guessed that the local gossip-mongers would have got to work already.  One of the drawbacks of living in a tiny remote community was everyone knowing everyone else’s business and everyone having something to say about it.  Jared was used to being a popular topic of conversation.  His arrival, fourteen years ago, had caused a bit of a stir – a young eighteen year old trouble maker, who was openly gay to boot and all the way from the United States - and the islands hadn’t stopped talking about him since, although these days he was, at least,  discussed with affection.

Someone would have seen and made note of Jared and Jensen’s careful dance around each other at the Turk’s Head, and someone else would have seen their cosy conversation at the Seven Stones, and it wouldn’t have taken long for someone to hear both pieces of gossip and merge them, and from there it was only a matter of time before quiet whispers were dropped into the ear of the Scillies’ newest police officer.

“He’s from home,” Jared answered simply, shrugging a little.  “It’s nice to talk to someone who speaks like I do.”

“I’ve heard he’s hot.”

“Well, yeah.  Pretty hot,” Jared admitted smiling ruefully.

“He settled in all right?  Anyone giving him gip?”  Julian asked, suddenly professional.

“I think people have been pretty friendly, but he knows that he wasn’t a popular choice for this commission.  I think he’s just keeping his head down.  Trying not to rub it in people’s faces,” Jared explained, but feeling a little awkward at the turn the conversation was taking.

“Sounds like he could do with someone to show him round,” Julian concluded and Jared just felt warmth towards his boyfriend.  He had a pretty good idea of just what the gossip-mongers had been saying and to hear Julian ignore the innuendo and just be concerned about Jensen, demonstrated the reason why Julian was such a good guy and why Jared had found himself drawn, almost against himself, into a relationship with him.

Jared quietly agreed and then changed the conversation.

The rest of the evening passed quickly and congenially. The two of them ended the evening by taking a slow walk around Old Town Beach and across to the church.  Jared liked to sit on the bench that stood with its back against the church wall looking across the bay.  It was one of Jared’s favourite views. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, just a scattering of houses across a rocky beach watched over by the dark shadow of the ruined castle and the lights of the airport on the hillside behind. It was tranquil, and calming to just sit there with the spirits of generations of Scillonians resting peacefully behind him in the churchyard.  It was here that he always felt his strongest connection to the islands, where it seemed inconceivable that he could even contemplate leaving, because it was home.

Some of the guilt he had been feeling, his immediate attraction to Jensen, the deeply hidden, lurking question about staying or not, faded until it was just background noise which he was able to fold up and put away deep into his subconscious.  When Julian nudged him from his meditations, he happily took the policeman’s hand and followed him back to the small apartment above the police station.

Day Five: In which Jensen makes Jared a professional proposal that is difficult to refuse and the pleasantries between them following therewith 
The Mermaid Inn stood sentry over the gateway to the Quay; small dark and packed with the detritus of the sea.  It was the pub of choice for the younger boatmen, who piled in after the last trips; whereas the boat owners, like Peter Hicks, gravitated to the Atlantic.  Jared tapped the wooden name board as he climbed the steps into the bar as he always did.

The Ariana had done one of the nature trips that day.  Several hours circling the Eastern Isles, and then heading onto to St Martins, had given Jared a massive thirst so it didn’t take him long to swallow two pints of the local brew.

“There were a couple of basking sharks beyond Norrard,” Jamie Mumford crowed into his beer, just as Jared started on his third.
Jared snorted.  “Unbelievable.  All we saw were seals.  Not even a fucking puffin.  God knows where they’re hiding.”

“Just got to know where to look, man,” Jamie’s younger brother, Ricky, boasted.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jared dismissed the two youngsters.

“Isn’t that the photographer?”  Jamie suddenly said.  Jared tried to turn in a disinterested way but Jamie’s knowing look suggested that he had failed.

“Yep,” Johnno Trevellick answered angrily, standing up straighter, and puffing his chest out.  The photographer was alone, and looked around the small bar uncertainly.  Jamie grinned mischievously at Jared, and nodded at the bristling Johnno. Then he worked his way through the crowd of boatmen, towards Jensen.  Jared couldn’t hear what was said, but very soon Johnno was back with his arm around Jensen, introducing him to the group.

“Hey, guys, this is Jensen.  The photographer commissioned by the Duchy,” Jamie’s loud voice cut across all the other conversations. There was a chorus of greetings, but Jensen looked wary, as if he wasn’t too sure if he was really welcome.  From the look of bitterness on Johnno Trevellick’s face, he was probably right to be cautious.  A flurry of questions were thrown at the visitor, questions that Jensen did his best to answer, but barely managed to complete a sentence until another question called out.  The guys crowded round, pushing Trevellick to the outside of the group, until he was stood with Jared, leaning against the bar.  Jared saw Jensen rub the back of his neck, saw the bemused expression on his face at all the boisterous, and energetic attention.

“Fucking, grockle,” Johnno muttered, and the noise surrounding Jensen increased. Jared snorted into his beer glass, suddenly realising what game Jamie Mumford was playing.

The melee lasted for about ten minutes.   Jared knew that the guys were only having a bit of fun, and Jensen seemed to be keeping up, although he often asked for repeats, not quite understanding the thicker of the Scillonian accents.  There were quick delighted grins thrown in Johnno’s direction until the local photographer huffed in disgust and left without saying goodbye.

Eventually, the beers were drank, and the guys started to leave, one by one, for their families.

Jamie, the last one to go, but not without a lascivious smile and a pat on the back for Jared as he finally said his goodbyes.
 “I just came in to get something to eat,” Jensen stated looking shell-shocked.

“Sorry, once they get a scent of new blood…” Jared started.  “Johnno wanted the commission, and was pretty angry when the Council went for an outsider. The guys were playing more with him than with you, I think.  He can be a douche sometimes – time to get revenge.  The others really are decent guys, just a bit lively.”

Jensen nodded and grabbed a menu.

“What’s good?”  Jensen asked.

“Don’t often eat here,”   Jared admitted.  “But I’m told the burger’s pretty good.”

Jensen placed his order and pulled up a bar stool in the now much quieter pub.

“Didn’t see you around today,” Jared said.  He’d told himself that he had been happy not to see Jensen all day but wasn’t surprised at the rush he felt now that he had finally run into him.  Two days in a row without seeing someone staying on the islands would have been unusual in such a small place, but Jared was still basking in the glow of having done right by his boyfriend.

“Spent the day up at Pelistry Bay,” Jensen explained.  “It’s pretty up there.  Saw a couple of dolphins.”

“What?” Jared exclaimed.  “Did everyone see something spectacular except the boat that was actually doing the nature trip?”

Jensen raised an eyebrow in question, but was interrupted by the arrival of his burger.

“Oh God, this is divine,” he mumbled after the first few chews.  Jared wasn’t happy with the way his body started to respond to the obscene noises Jensen was making as he ate his food.  After last night, Jared had told himself to put Jensen out of his mind, but that was difficult when the guy was right in front of him, making noises that would grace any porn film.  Jensen caught Jared’s stare and his eyes crinkled.  Jared was fascinated by the lines radiating out from the corners of Jensen’s eyes so it took a while for him to realise that Jensen had spoken.

“What?  Sorry?” he stuttered.  Jensen’s gaze became sly as if he knew the wayward trail of Jared’s thoughts.

“Relying on the trips is difficult – there’s only a limited amount of time on the islands to work and some of the best light is early morning or in the evening,”  Jensen repeated.  His mossy green eyes were glinting with a touch of gold as they looked back at Jared.

Jared felt his mouth dry out, and his heart beat start to quicken.

“Um… you could hire a boat,” Jared answered, not taking his eyes off of Jensen’s face.  The pattern of freckles across Jensen’s nose were suddenly the most amazing thing Jared had ever seen.  He wanted to touch them, brush his lips over them and, oh god, he was so screwed.  Last night he had fucked a pretty amazing man, a man who was good and kind and sweet, and now he was lusting after someone he barely knew.  He suddenly felt sick.

Jensen’s expression was now serious.  Perhaps he was sensing Jared’s inner battles.

“I have a boat,” Jared suddenly found himself saying.  “I can take you wherever you want to go.”

“The Ariana is pretty cool but I’m pretty sure she’s a little on the large size for just me,” Jensen answered carefully.

“Not the Ariana.  She’s not mine,” Jared knew he was making a really bad decision, but didn’t seem to be able to stop talking.  “I’ve got my own launch.”

“Don’t you work for…?”

“Uncle Peter can get another hand, if there’s a problem,” Jared swiftly interrupted.  “Ricky Mumford is usually a spare and helps out when I can’t do the day trips.”

“That’d be great,” Jensen said hesitantly, his face was still grave.
 
“If it’ll help you out,” Jared tried to sound insouciant but he was certain he wasn’t fooling Jensen.

“I can claim expenses from the Council,” Jensen continued.  “But only if you are sure?”

Jared wasn’t at all sure.  He felt like he was making the worst mistake of his life.  He hadn’t felt so out of control since his catastrophic year at UT, but he was a runaway train now and there were no brakes to stop him crashing into the looming disaster.

“I’m sure.”

Day Six: A day in the sun, on a deserted Island  
Uncle Peter managed to keep his opinions to himself when Jared requested some leave. He had frowned when Jared had told him why he wanted a few days off, but had, so far, kept his mouth closed.  Jared was thankful for that.   Ricky Mumford was grateful for the additional work, when Jared had called to see if he could cover the trips on the Ariana, so Jared was left with a clear conscience.  At least where his Uncle was concerned.

Jensen hadn’t hung around the Mermaid for long after he’d finished his burger and had made his arrangements with Jared for a trip the following day, disappearing off to wherever he was staying – somewhere on the Garrison if Jared could believe the gossip.  Jared, himself, had concluded the business with a couple of shots, swallowed quickly, and then had started the walk back to his cottage.  He told himself that it didn’t matter; that he could keep it business-like with Jensen, that they could be friends.  But he couldn’t deny that he wanted Jensen in all sorts of ways that he shouldn’t when he had a perfectly decent boyfriend already.  Jared had spent a long time trying to come to terms with a past where he had hurt people pretty badly, and had lived a (mostly) blameless life since.  He might fuck around but his partners always knew what they were getting – no commitment, just fun.  He was honest and up-front about it.

So a churning guilt had turned his feet around and brought him back to the flat above the police station.  Julian was pleased, and a little surprised to see him, but hadn’t shown any concern at Jared’s plans to guide Jensen around the islands.  Jared’s unease had lessened in the congenial surroundings, and he was reassured by his own honesty and openness, even if he hadn’t quite admitted that, yeah, okay, Jensen was proving to be good company and could do with a friend, but that Jared also wanted to fuck him stupid.   His guilt increased again and exponentially, as his imagination replaced Julian’s rather scrawny body with Jensen’s toned and stippled skin, and Julian’s rather thin mew of pleasure as he came with Jensen’s full-throated, rich cry of joy.  It had been a fuck inspired by guilt and it had left him nauseous and hating on himself.

The feelings hadn’t quite dissipated by the morning either.  Julian had been quiet and watchful in the face of Jared’s monosyllabic responses as they both got up to go to work.  Julian’s day would be full of lost children and purses, whilst Jared – well, work, for Jared, was St Helens and Jensen.

Jensen had wanted to go to St Helens at the crack of dawn.  Dawn.  When the light was barely breaking through the dark.  Jared hadn’t got up so early for years but it hadn’t been hard because he had barely slept.  Hugh Town was silent as he padded his way down the hill from the police station to the quay, glad that Uncle Peter couldn’t see him making the nearest thing to a walk of shame since he had first started dating Julian.  Amazing what a difference a day had made.  Yesterday he had made the same journey, with confidence and an ease in his heart, sure that he had put Jensen behind him.

Jensen was already waiting on the quay, his shape silhouetted in the lightening sky.

The Yellow Rose was supposed to be Jared’s future.  He’d been saving up for years so he could start his own boat charter business.  He couldn’t be Uncle Peter’s deck hand forever, even though he’d been promised the Ariana when Uncle Peter retired.  So he’d bought a small launch, with the aim to provide bespoke trips – private nature tours, fishing trips, that sort of thing.  He’d hadn’t had it long, hadn’t had much of chance to build the business. Working for Jensen would be good exposure with the Duchy and the Council and could well get him more business, which would be great.  But that wasn’t the reason he had suggested Jensen taking a private charter with him.  Not at all. And his real reasons nagged and worried at him, souring his mood.

Jensen whistled as he jumped on board, cheerful and unsuspecting in the face of Jared’s unusually dark emotions.  The Yellow Rose was a sweet boat – with a small cabin and kitchen.  Jared had brought top of the range, thinking he could charge a premium for a level of comfort other charters didn’t provide, and Jensen looked about him with unconcealed admiration.

“How much is this going to cost me?” Jensen joked, dumping his bag on the back bench.

“Fifty per hour, Two-fifty a day,” Jared grunted.  He didn’t mean to be rude but he was all wound up at seeing Jensen with his eyes glittering in the half light.

“Seems fair – Duchy’ll pay for it, anyway,” Jensen shot Jared a sharp look and Jared knew that his own tone of voice hadn’t gone unnoticed.  Jared huffed in answer and started the engine, turning his back on the photographer.  Jensen retreated to the back bench, casting another quick, but hard, look in Jared’s direction.

He was obviously perceptive and intelligent, because Jensen stayed quiet and out of the way for the entire thirty minute journey.
St Helens was a small island just off the top end of St. Martins.  Now abandoned, it had once been home to a small leper colony, and the grey stone ruins still stood in testament to a much harsher world.  It was relatively flat, with a carpet of grasses and flowers, fringed by the dark rocks and bright beaches that surrounded it.  It was watched over by the great mound of Round Island, crowned by its lighthouse, on one side, and by Tresco, a dark shadow, on the other side.

There were no quays.  Instead Jared drove the Yellow Rose straight at the beach until a loud scrunch of sand seemed to rip along the hull of the boat.  Using a long plank, Jared created a walk way that sloped steeply from the bow to the sand, then motioned for Jensen.  Jensen looked a little doubtfully at this makeshift way to disembark but grabbed his camera kit, and made his way round the outside of the small cabin.

“My feet are going to get wet,” he laughed as he gazed down at the plank.  Sure enough, there were waves lapping over the bottom end of the plank where it sat slowing sinking into the sand.

“It’s that or throwing you over board and you swimming into shore,” Jared answered back shortly, refusing to respond to Jensen’s joking tone and definitely not looking at him.  “How long do you want?”  Jared then asked abruptly.

Jensen’s face, which had been filled with joy and laughter at the outset of the journey, was now frowning and serious.  He looked as if he was going to take umbrage at Jared’s complete change in personality, but simply answered with a ‘don’t know’.  The whole idea was for Jared to be at his beck and call.  He hadn’t realised that Jared was planning on leaving him.

“I’ll anchor the Yellow Rose just off shore,” Jared relented a little. “Just yell when you’re done.”  Jensen nodded and then, more gracefully than Jared had expected, made his way down the plank and then leapt the last distance onto the beach.  He turned and waved as Jared pulled the plank back up onto the deck, but was already walking up the beach, as Jared thrust the Yellow Rose’s engines into reverse to pull her off the sand and into the small bay.  He had completely disappeared by the time Jared had thrown the anchor over the side.

The sun was just rising above the horizon, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was going to be another beautiful hot day on Scilly.  Jared brewed up some coffee, and fried up some bacon from the pack of provisions he had grabbed from Julian’s pantry.  He felt a little guilty at excluding Jensen from the sheer bliss of the resultant bacon sandwich but with some food and some caffeine settling into his stomach, his usual good humour had started to return.  Jensen certainly hadn’t done anything for him to be angry about.  He might have been coming on a little strong that day on St Martins but he hadn’t pressed the issue since, and he didn’t know about Julian anyway.  Jared was being unfair, and just because he was in a quandary, he shouldn’t take it out on anyone else.  It wasn’t like Jared had done anything wrong either.  Just a few stray thoughts.

Let’s be honest, faced with Jensen, whose thoughts wouldn’t be wandering?

So Jared settled in for his wait, casting a line overboard to see if he could catch some supper and enjoying the increasing heat as the sun rose ever higher in the sky.

He didn’t see Jensen at all for several hours.  He wondered every now and then what it was that could possibly keep Jensen away for so long – it was only a very small island after all – but mostly he emptied his mind of anything and just sat letting the peace and quiet of Scilly sooth his soul.  Yet again the magic of the islands provided succour and he was able to allow his confusing, muddled thinking to lapse into abeyance.

At eleven-thirty, he was roused from his musings by a voice yelling across the sea.  Jensen had returned to the beach.  Jared waved in response, and quickly hauled in his line.  There was a bucket by his feet with several shiny mackerel curled up in the bottom so he was pleased with his haul.  It didn’t take long then for him to beach the Yellow Rose back onto the beach.

“You wanting to go?” he called as he heaved the plank back to the bow.

Jensen shook his head.  “I’m starving!” he shouted back.  “Forgot my lunch!”

Jared inwardly debated for a moment, then smiled.  He’d been mean to Jensen earlier for no reason than his own ill-humour. He could make it up to him now.

“I’ve got food,” Jared called back.  He scrambled into to the cabin and grabbed the carrier with the supplies.  There was already some ketchup in the fridge, so he put that into the bag, then tipped the contents of his bucket in there too.  He finished up with a lighter, and a heavier canvas bag.  He returned to the bow and then tossed both bags at Jensen, still standing on the beach.
“Hang on,” he said.  Knowing that the tide was at its lowest, he dropped anchor, just where the Yellow Rose was already beached, and then made his own way down the plank.  He pulled the plank further up the beach though.

Then he turned and faced Jensen who was looking puzzled at the bags and then back up at him.

“I’m sorry I was an ass this morning,” Jared quickly said.

“Not a morning person, then,” Jensen responded cautiously.

“Well, yeah, I don’t usually mind them… just… not so good today,” Jared offered.  “That’s lunch, by the way.”  He gestured towards the bags.

Jensen raised an eyebrow in surprise.

“It’ll take a little while to get a fire going, but there’s fruit in there to stop you fading away with starvation.”

Jensen laughed then, and settled down to watch Jared build a small fire with the kindling and wood he had in his canvas bag, and continued to watch as he prepared the fish for the grill he also pulled out.

“How on earth can you spend so long on taking photos on such a small island?”  Jared asked, breaking into their companionable silence.  He put the last of the fish on grill over the small, but merry, fire, then sat back himself.

Jensen scoffed.  “How on earth am I able to stop taking photos when everything is as beautiful as this?” he countered.  He was laying back easily on the white sand, resting on one elbow but despite his seeming ease, there was a hint of wariness about him.  “Do you want to see?”

It was difficult to view the photographs from the in-built viewer on Jensen’s camera because of the brightness of the sun, but it was obvious they weren’t like traditional landscape photographs. Each scene was viewed through something else – the door way of the old stone house, the sea through the grasses and the flowers. Jensen used strange angles to show familiar things like a wave from the sea, the spray of water across the rocks from underneath. Jared noticed then the rings of salt drying out on Jensen’s clothes.  He had actually been in the sea.

“These are great,” Jared marvelled, genuinely impressed.  “Different.”

Jensen seemed pleased at the praise.  “I did a search on the internet of photographs people had already taken of the Scillies, and realised that my style would offer something different. I like to see landscapes in terms of microcosms – find the smaller things that sit within them to tell a story of the whole.  I guess the Duchy and the Council liked what they saw in my portfolio.”

“Well, they are way better than Johnno Trevellick’s,” Jared commented and laughed.  “But you said this was your first big commission?”

“Yeah, been taking photographs all my life but it’s only recently that I started doing it professionally.  Took a bit of gamble, gave up my job, and everything.”

“Really?  What did you do?” Jared asked curious.

“I was an accountant for a big law firm,” Jensen answered.  Jared was flabbergasted.  This lean, golden skinned man, with soft spikes of hair stiffening now with the salt water, looked nothing like an accountant.  He couldn’t imagine him in a suit and tie.

“What do you mean? I look really hot in a suit,” Jensen burst out, and Jared realised he had mused out loud.  And on reflection, Jared thought that Jensen probably would indeed look hot in a suit but it seemed an image a million miles away from this Jensen stretched out on the beach beside him, in jeans with a ragged hem, and an old, stretched out Tee.

“It wasn’t what I ever wanted to do,” Jensen carried on. “But my Dad was an accountant, and his dad before him, and there was just so much pressure to do something ‘normal’.  Grandfather always said that photography was for ‘those artistic types’ – you know, with artistic being just another word for wastrels and morally corrupt. Dad just seemed to agree.”  Jared totally understood the pressure a parent could place on their children, but Jensen’s voice bore no bitter inflections.  In fact he was smiling gently at Jared.

“What did your Dad say when you jacked your job in?”  Jared asked.

“He couldn’t say anything.  He died – a couple of years ago now. But I was left grieving and wondering why I was spending my life keeping a man happy when he wasn’t even around anymore, before deciding it was time to do something for myself.”  Jensen’s smile became stronger.  “Mom doesn’t care, she just wants me happy.”

“And are you?”  Jared pushed.

“Yeah!   Best decision I ever made.  Don’t have a penny to my name, but things are beginning to turn round.  I know I’m good, and I know that people like what I do so it’s only a matter of time.”

Jared felt a surge of jealousy.  Jensen seemed so sure of who and what he was.  He wished that he felt like that.  He used to.  When he had decided to spend his savings on The Yellow Rose, he had been utterly sure that the Scillies were the place for him, and he was content in who he was.  Just recently though, he had started to doubt his life, his purpose.

Something of his thoughts must have registered on his face, because Jensen’s smile turned into a frown.

“What’s up with you?” he asked Jared. “You’ve been out of sorts, all day.”

Jared gave a rueful laugh but felt the bite in Jensen’s words.  “To be honest, Jensen, you don’t really know me.  How the hell do you know if I am out of sorts or if this is how I am all the time?”

Jensen tensed up, looking a little hurt.  He sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees, closing in on himself.  Jared felt a little foolish, and a little mean again.

“Sorry,” he said.  “Just got out the wrong side of the bed.”  Just got out of the wrong bed altogether, his mind unhelpfully amended.
“I’m a pretty good judge of character, Jared,” Jensen said carefully, as if he might scare Jared away.  “I’m not sure that you’re that good of an actor to have played the guy with sunshine and roses coming out of your ass as well as you have the last few days if you didn’t at least have something of that in your real character.  But we all have our down moments.”

There was a hint of surliness in Jensen’s voice and Jared immediately regretted putting it there.  Nothing seemed to be right with him today, and he had managed to upset Jensen again.

The fish cooked to an awkward silence and Jared grieved because of it.  His relationship with Jensen seemed to alternate between best friends and monumental fuck up and Jared knew it was his fault.  Jensen was worth knowing and being friends with, he knew that, and he desperately wanted to spend time with the man.  But Jensen was getting under his skin, he knew that too, and it wasn’t just friendship he wanted, and it was confusing as all hell because he had never had a relationship before that had lasted longer than a couple of days, and he so wanted to do what was right by Julian, and right by himself (he wasn’t that douchebag that had left Texas all those years ago, he wasn’t).  But he was managing it all wrong and he kept being mean to Jensen.  This wonderful man who knew who he was, and was content with where he was and certainly didn’t deserve to wear the frown that Jared had put on his face.
He debated whether to just own up and tell Jensen that Jensen had got him all twisted and turned about, and that he had a boyfriend but that he wanted Jensen.  It was tempting. Instead, he decided to tell him the other half of the truth.

“I’m thinking about leaving the Scillies,” he said finally, as he served up the cooked fish on the bread he’d stolen from Julian.  He passed Jensen the ketchup.  But Jensen was gaping at him.

“Really?” Jensen asked, amazement in his voice.

“Might be time,” Jared admitted, dropping the ketchup bottle on the sand beside the other man.

“You?  Leave here?” Jensen shook his head.  “No wonder you’re fucking miserable today if you’re thinking about that.  That’s the last thing you should be contemplating.”

“Why not?”  Jared asked. “It’s not like it’s my home!”

“Bullshit!”  Jensen responded abruptly.  “Never seen anyone more suited to their surroundings then when I first saw you on that boat, and nothing I’ve seen and heard since makes me think any different.  You love it here.  Why the hell d’you want to leave?”

“Not sure that I do, but maybe I should?”  Jared flopped back down to lie flat on the beach, fish forgotten.

“Why?”

Jared couldn’t answer Jensen.  Didn’t know how.  Didn’t know why.

More silence.  Jensen munched through his fish sandwich thoughtfully.  Jared lay there, staring into the blue sky.

“Tell me more about Texas,” Jensen eventually asked.

“Isn’t it about time you got back to your pictures?”  Jared mumbled.

“Pictures can wait.  Wanna get to know you,” Jensen smirked.

Jared turned his head to look at him.

“Why?”

“Because I like you,” Jensen answered.  “I wanna know why someone so at home standing on the bow of a boat, or lighting a fire on the beach is thinking about leaving.  To go where?  Back to Texas?  Jared, you said you like yourself here.”

Jared felt a little overwhelmed.

“You accused me of being safe,” Jared finally said remembering the conversation outside of the Turk’s Head a few days ago.

“Yeah,” Jensen admitted.  “But I’ve seen you a few times since then, and it depends – on why you want to leave, I guess, or why you’d want to stay.”

Jared bit his lips and sat up, to stare out at The Yellow Rose bobbing on the rocking waves.  She had been his dream, and sitting on this beach looking at her, with the islands ranged around her, he seriously wondered why his mind was full of these doubts.

“My Dad is a bastard,” he finally said.  “But all my life, all I have ever wanted to do is make him proud of me.  I studied hard for him, went to Uni for him, was going to do engineering for him but I just couldn’t give up who I was for him.”

“What was that?”

“I couldn’t stop being gay for him.”

“Jesus, Jared,” Jensen responded, his eyes almost gold in the sunlight.

“Came out to him and Mom just before I went off to UT.  It didn’t go well.  I arrived there so angry, so upset, so desperate to prove I was worthy of his regard, but so wanting to spite him and punish him.  Just went crazy, I guess.  Did a lot of stuff I really regret now, but didn’t reach my low point until the first year was nearly done.  Got kicked out of school, then arrested for possession.  Pretty much knew my Dad was done with me then.  Took a little while to come to terms with that, but not as long as you might think.”
“You were here by then,” Jensen said encouragingly.

Jared blew his breath out.  He hadn’t ever had the opportunity to talk about this before, except for a couple of very late nights with Uncle Peter not long after he had arrived in the Scillies.  He had reinvented himself as he had flown across the Atlantic, so determined to be something different than the pathetic loser his father had turned him into.  It had been easy in some ways though – the general acceptance, the gruff but unconditional regard from Peter Hicks and the community, the physical distance from his past, and the clean, fresh air and simplicity of life on the Scillies – and he had discovered that Jared Padalecki wasn’t the depressed fuck-up he thought he was.  He was in fact quite a happy-go-lucky, charmer who was good with people, and who liked to work hard in the outdoors.

“It was a turning point,” Jared said.  “Just letting go of all his, my father’s, expectations, and finding my own expectations for myself and realising that I was –am – actually an alright kind of a guy.”

“So if you discovered all this, why do you want to leave?”

“Not sure that I do.  Not sure what I want.  I guess I just feel that I’ve never really tested myself – I dunno.  Maybe I’m a bit lonely.  Maybe I just want a change of scene after fourteen years.  I’m all at sixes and sevens, man.”

Jensen remained still, quietly pondering Jared’s words.

But Jared laughed suddenly.

“Hell, man – this got real angsty real quick.  It’s not like that.  Really it isn’t.  I’m a little out of sorts because I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my life, not because of some big dark painful past.  I don’t even hate my father any more.  He’s not worth it.”

Jensen continued his stare as if he were trying to desperately find the truth in Jared’s voice.  Then he smiled.

“Come and spend the afternoon with me,” he said jumping to his feet, sand scattering everywhere.

“Oh, man. I don’t know if…” Jared began.

“I promise not to seduce you,” Jensen answered, showing again an understanding of Jared that defied Jared’s understanding.
Jensen burst out into a peal of laughter at Jared’s shocked expression.

“Come on – I’m hot, but surely not so hot that you can’t fight the temptation.”

“You’re a fucking asshole,” Jared spluttered.

“And you have a boyfriend,” Jensen stated simply in return.   He picked up his camera and started striding back up the beach.

“Jensen!”  Jared called after him, shocked to the core.  How long had Jensen known?  He got up and brushed the sand off his legs, then started after the photographer.

He called out as he caught up.  “What do you think I should do?”

Jensen stopped and turned.  He thought for a while.

“I can’t answer that for you.”

Jensen carried on up over the sand dunes, and disappeared.  Jared waited and debated – should he chase after him, or return to The Yellow Rose?

***

It took Jared precisely three minutes to decide to follow Jensen anyway.  He wasn’t convinced that he could resist the glorious temptation that was Jensen Ackles but he was unsettled enough after their conversation to need human company.  He spent the afternoon scrambling on rocks, paddling through waves, and trying not to scare puffins as he helped Jensen get more of his fabulous shots.  He only held bits of kit, but they kept up an inconsequential conversation the entire time, and by the time the sun began to set (not without Jensen taking some shots at the changing colours of the sky as the sun sunk to the horizon), the two men were in total accord with each other, Jared’s earlier abrupt grumpiness long forgotten.

There were quite a few pictures of Jared on Jensen’s camera too.  Not that Jared knew that.  Jensen knew how to be sly when he needed to be.

***

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Jensen said as they passed the Mermaid on their return. Jared really wanted to ask Jensen to come back to his place, but didn’t.  Jensen looked as though he really wished Jared would ask, but didn’t press the issue.  Jared watched Jensen turn to head up to the Garrison with real regret but he did feel more at peace with the situation.  He had had a good day. There was no reason he couldn’t have a good day tomorrow.  And maybe the more he discovered about Jensen, the more he’d know what to do about Julian.  He didn’t take the road up to the police station that night, but wound round Town Beach and Porth Mellon back to his own cottage.

Back to the Masterpost     Next

Twenty-one Days: Days 1 to 3

Day One:  In which Jared meets a fellow Texan in the most unexpected place  
Jared quickly scanned the length of the dark, grey quay, and not finding what he was looking for, let his eyes run along the curve of the seaweed strewn beach.  He fought a wave of disappointment, and turned his mind back to his duties.

Throwing the buoy over the side of the boat before hefting the coil of rope in his arms, he paused with one foot on the deck, and the other on the wooden bench that ran around the circumference of the leisure boat, as his Uncle Peter expertly guided the craft in against the stone stairway that clung to the edge of the quay.  The tide was low, so Jared took care not to over jump and make a misstep on the narrow steps.  He clambered up to the nearest cleat, feeling the pull in his muscles as he heaved to tighten the bow line.  They weren’t going to be moored for any more than a few minutes so he felt justified in forgetting the stern line and the boat’s Captain, Peter Hicks, obviously felt the same, the engine dying with a couple of grumpy chugs.

Looking up from his knot, Jared could see the surge of holiday makers heading towards him down the long arm of the quay.  He couldn’t see much beyond them but he glanced around to the beach again, just in case.  Some of the tourists had been waiting for the boat on the beach and were already moving, brushing the white sand off their clothes, and picking up their bags.   There was a couple further away but obviously moving at speed.  Jared smiled – his gruff, surly captain always threatened to leave latecomers behind, but had never actually done so.  Jared watched for a moment as the couple trekked along the lane that ran along the edge of the beach.

It was a beautiful clear day, and the view formed a rainbow of blue sky, with dark green trees framing the ribbon of stone buildings and the white curve of sand before it dipped into the aqua sea.

It was perfect, if only…

Feeling mostly content though, Jared turned on the charm.  He had a killer smile held in parenthesis by deep dimples.  Patiently, he helped the less able down the steps and over the side of the boat, and lifted nervous children over the gap where the water was slapping between the hull and the stone quay.  Everyone was jolly, but moved with less spring and sprite than they had that morning when Jared, Uncle Peter and the Ariana had dropped them off.  There was nothing much to do on the islands except walk, so Jared knew from experience how their muscles must be feeling.  He flirted a little with the two middle-aged sisters, bringing a blush to their cheeks, but also coaxing out broad smiles.  This was what he was good at – bringing out the best in people and adding a little more joy to their day. He loved his job.

The flood of people dropped to a trickle before he could look up again.  The latecomers were now approaching the quay, so he started counting the passengers already crowded into the boat.  Uncle Peter had his head buried in the storage unit under the radio, studiously ignoring his paying customers.  Uncle Peter wasn’t good with people, which made Jared a perfect partner for him.  Having been brought up on Scilly, Uncle Peter knew the waters around the islands better than anyone but he wasn’t interested in making nice.  He let Jared do that.

The late comers arrived breathless and red faced, apologising profusely.  Jared joked with them about only just making it as he steadied their step onto the boat.  The engine fired up.

“Seventy-three,” he called to the captain.

“That’s one down,” Uncle Peter replied in a deep voice, casting Jared a surprised look.

Jared shrugged, “Shall we wait?”

He knew exactly who was missing.

“We don’t mind waiting,” suggested one of the sisters with a little bit of a giggle.  There were a few murmurs of agreement from the other passengers.  It was very pleasant sitting in the lowering sun, with just a gentle breeze taking the edge of the heat.  No-one seemed to be in a hurry to get back to St. Marys.

Jared climbed back up the steps and took a quick look around.  If he’s still not in sight, we’ll have to go without him, he thought with a little regret.  Apart from a few seagulls, there was nothing to see.  He sighed and hoped that the man had made arrangements to stay over even if he hadn’t had the good grace to inform his transportation.  He hoped the guy hadn’t just got lost, or confused about the time.  Jared frowned when he remembered what bags the guy had been carrying; there had been lots of camera equipment but nothing that looked like an overnight bag.

“Jare,” he heard his uncle call out.  “We oughta be makin’ tracks.”  
       
But just as he turned to head back down to the boat, a movement caught his eye.  Sure enough, there was a figure coming past the old store building.

“Here he is,” Jared said, tossing the words over the side of the quay down to his Uncle, but keeping his eyes on the moving figure.
The man was striding with great purpose, but awkwardly handling a couple of bags and his tripod with at least two cameras around his neck.  He looked as if he hadn’t even stopped to pack his stuff away before realising he needed to get back to the quay.  He stopped once to shift things around to make them more comfortable and swore, the words being carried on the breeze to reach Jared, who grinned and starting jogging forward to help him.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” the guy muttered as Jared met him halfway along the stone walkway.

“S’alright,” Jared smiled.  “Can I give you a hand?”  He reached out to take one of the bags that were threatening to overbalance the other man.

“Didn’t realise how long it would take to get back.  Sorry.”

“No matter,” Jared answered easily, and matched his step to the other as they made their way down the quay to the boat.

The other man was only a few inches shy of Jared’s own height so they made good progress, and soon he was scrambling down the steps with a refrain of flustered apologies on repeat whilst Jared untied the rope.  By the time Jared had jumped back over the side, Uncle Peter was piloting the Ariana away from New Grimsby, and back into the Tesco channel.  As he flipped up the buoys to stop the splashes, Jared continued to hear the guy’s frequent contrition as he stumbled to find a seat with enough space for his gear.  Jared almost laughed as he watched him battle against the movement of the boat, and still try to avoid treading on the other passengers.

With practiced ease, Jared hopped over the benches and steadied the man by his elbow before he could fall into the family of four sitting along the port side.

“Thanks,” he got in return, and was rewarded when the guy looked up at Jared through long lashes.  Jared pulled a Padalecki special and gave his best and most shiny grin but too late.  The man was still trying to get himself situated with his bags, and the look had only lasted a fraction of a second.  He didn’t notice.  Which was a shame.  Jared retreated because he still had duties.  Uncle Peter had to get them safely through the rocks around Tresco Flats: Jared had to do the people bit.  They were a team.

However, he kept an eye on the photographer while he did the rounds, collecting the return tickets from everyone else.  He kept up his usual patter of quips and flirtatious greetings, and worked a route around the boat so that he ended back in front of his object of interest as the last stop.

The guy had finally settled but seemed surprised to see Jared standing in front of him again.

“Uh… oh.  You need the ticket?” he asked, and started to scrabble in his pockets.  Jared waited patiently.

“I’m sorry,” the guy repeated.  “I’m not usually this… I’m normally… well, this has been such a terrible… ah!  There it is!”

Jared snorted with laughter as the ticket was waved in front of him.

“No problem,” he said and tried his patented, makes the sun shine, smile again.  This time he had the full attention of the photographer, who stopped trying to explain himself and floundered, mouth opening but no sound coming out.  Jared’s smile broadened impossibly and he took the ticket which had stilled from its flapping in front of his face.

“Thanks,” Jared said and then did an about turn, climbing back over the benches to return to his Uncle.

His uncle, who was shaking his head at Jared.

“He the one you noticed this mornin’?” Uncle Peter said quietly.

Jared smirked.

“D’ye know if he even butters your side of the bread?”

Jared shrugged.

The taciturn boatman turned and surreptitiously glanced to the back of the boat.

“He does looks interested, if you’re wonderin’,” Uncle Peter reported.  Jared swung round and caught a hazel green gaze staring right back.

“He’s hot,” he muttered from the side of his mouth.

“Hmmm…” responded his Uncle Peter.

The twenty minute journey back to St Marys passed rapidly.  Despite the slight breeze, there was no swell, so the crossing was smooth.  Jared looked up to the mound of the Garrison with the angles of Star Castle silhouetted against a fading sky as they approached the lights of Hugh Town and the harbour.  It was getting late, and the early evening was bringing in a chill.

The photographer was the last to disembark once the Ariana had been brought up against St Marys’ quay.  Jared hoped he had waited by design.

“I’m sorry I held you up,” the guy said as Jared helped him onto the quay.  He’d managed to organise his equipment back into the two bags, and jumped onto land with more elegance than he had embarked earlier.

“There’s always one or two,” Jared answered.  “Don’t worry about it.  You the photographer that the council brought in?”

“These islands are crawling with photographers,” the man replied, eyebrows raised in surprise. “How do you know it’s me?”

“Accent,” Jared summarised succinctly.  “It’s caused a bit of a controversy, to be honest, bringing in an American when there are plenty of local photographers.”

“Oh,” the guy uttered, a little glumly.

“No beef on me, man,” Jared continued.  “I don’t care who the council hire, not when they’re as easy on the eye as you.”

The other man smirked but ignored Jared’s blatant flirtation.

“You’re not exactly local either,” he answered.

“No, not exactly,” Jared smiled.  “I’m Jared, resident, but originally from Texas.”

“Small world.  I’m Jensen, visitor, also from Texas.”

The two men were jostled from their spot at the top of the quay steps by the bulk of Uncle Peter.

“You mooring the boat anytime soon?”  Uncle Peter grumpily asked Jared as he passed.

“Sorry,” Jared muttered back, irritation rising.  Turning back to Jensen, Jared shrugged.  “See you around?”

Jensen nodded with a smile, a fan of lines emphasizing the light in his eyes.  “Yeah, see you around, Jared.”

Jared watched with regret as Jensen walked down the quay towards the town.  But he had time.  The talk in the town was that the photographer was going to stay on Scilly for three weeks.  He’d be travelling all over the islands and Jared worked on one of the few boats that could take him.  There were also only so many places to eat and drink.  And, with even the largest island in the archipelago being only a few miles square, he was confident that he’d bump into Jensen again.  And soon.

He looked back up to Star Castle, the sky now reddening behind it, and took a deep breath of clean, fresh air that held more than a hint of saltiness.   The Ariana had to be put to bed and then he could go home.  He whistled cheerfully as he jogged back down the steps, with only a small amount of unease.

Jared had been captivated when he had first seen Jensen that morning.  Jensen’s hair had shone with gold and red tones, his green eyes were bright and clear, the spray of spiced freckles adding interest to a perfectly proportioned face. He was tall, and trim and Jared had watched him with wonder on their journey over to Tresco.  Jared’s fascination had only increased in the face of the photographer’s fluster and discomfort on the return journey.

That was all very well, but after five weeks of dating Julian, Jared probably shouldn’t be thinking about other men.  As the Ariana puttered out to her mooring in the centre of the harbour, Jared decided not to worry about it. What would be, would be.

Day Two: Jared fears (not really) he might have picked up a stalker 
Jared didn’t know if he was pleased or not when he didn’t see Jensen the next day. There wasn’t any sight of him on any of the other pleasure boats, and he certainly wasn’t one of the Ariana’s passengers travelling to Bryher alongside Uncle Peter and Jared that day.  Jared had resolved not to think about it too deeply, but he still found himself drawn to thoughts of green eyes and freckles.

He had had a fair day though; the weather remained good, the water calm, and the tourists cheery.  Between the trips to Bryher, he had walked up to Mount Trodden Farm on the other side of St Marys.  Pascoe had needed some work doing on his barn, and Jared was a handy carpenter.  He’d spent a few hours putting the world to rights with the old man whilst replacing a beam in the roof before returning to Hugh Town for the return trip to Bryher.  Jared was grateful for the twenty that Pascoe pushed into his hand as he left, but hadn’t expected it.  Living in a small community on isolated islands meant helping each other out. He’d done a lot more for less before.

“The old man alright?” Uncle Peter had asked as they walked through the town to get to the quay later that afternoon.  Jared answered positively and related some of the gossip.  Pascoe only ever rarely left his farm but he always knew what was happening on the islands.  As they passed the Mermaid they turned onto the quay itself.  The Boatman’s Association kiosk was locked up but there was a gaggle of boatmen standing around it.

“What’s up?”  Jared called.

“Storne’s gonna broke ‘is leg,” Floyd Duncan answered.  “’e’s supposed to be running the trip to the Turk tonight. Don’ suppose you wanna do a trip later, Hicks?”

“Stupid fucker – how’d he do that?” Uncle Peter asked.

“Dunno.  Didn’t wanna ask,” Duncan replied with a toothy grin.

“What’ya reckon, boy?”  Uncle Peter turned to Jared.

“Nobody else want it?”  Jared questioned, looking around at the others – at least four of the other boats were represented there.

Everyone looked at the ground. Jared rolled his eyes.  “I suppose downing a jar at the Turk would be a fine way to spend the evening.”

Uncle Peter nodded.  “Okay, we’ll do it,” he said and started down the stone quay towards the Ariana.

“You’re a good’un,” Elias Woodcock nodded towards Jared.  “Don’t let the old fucker tell you different.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jared dismissed them all with a hand wave and a grin then made a move to follow his captain.  “You all owe me!”

***

The trip to Bryher to retrieve the holiday makers they had taken out that morning was uneventful, and the Ariana returned just as the rest of the fleet of boats returned from the other islands.  Almost against his will, Jared started searching the crowds of returning tourists for a tall photographer but it seemed like Jensen must have stayed on St. Marys that day.  Jared tried to convince himself that he was glad; it would keep his life simpler if his sightings of Jensen Ackles were kept to a minimum.  He couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed though.

***

After only a couple of hours, Jared was back at the quay.  They had left the Ariana moored up against the first set of steps, and Jared was the first one to get to the boat.  He had already started the checks when Uncle Peter turned up.

“Saw that constable o’ yours,” the older man stated. “Said to tell you hi.”

Jared stared at him.  “He’s not mine,” he retorted.

“Been dating a while,” his uncle pressed.

“What’s that mean?”  Jared could feel his irritation rising.

“Nothing.  Jus’ – it’s not like you to start sumthin up like this, and then there’s that American you’ve been fidgeting for all day.”

“It’s only been a few dates, and I am not fidgeting for anyone,” Jared responded crossly.

“Well, ‘e seems pretty taken,” Uncle Peter grumbled back.

“Who?  Jensen?” Jared shot back.

“No, you stoopid prick – the constable.”

Jared huffed.  “It’s none of your business, old man.”

“Don’ suppose it is.  But shittin’ in your own back yard can get pretty mucky, boy.  Jus’ sayin’.  Don’ give the constable hope if there ain’t none.  I know yer, Jare – you ain’t been one to settle, and you gonna run into the man on a daily basis living on an island like this. Gonna be real uncomfy round here if you break ‘is ‘eart.  Best be stickin’ with the grockles if it’s footloose and fancy free you want.”

Glaring at his Uncle but knowing he was right, Jared felt all his uncertainties return.  Jared enjoyed living on the Scillies; he really did.  He liked the laid back lifestyle, and the quiet, but particularly enjoyed the weekly turnover of visitors, and the variety of bedfellows that afforded him.  It was the one behaviour he had kept a firm grip on from his year of hell at UT in Austin.

He had arrived in Scilly messed up and damaged but the gruff care that Uncle Peter and his wife had given him, and a simple life lived by and on the sea had soothed and mended him and just allowed him to be himself.  He wasn’t the same kid that had found Texas so hard to live in.  Instead, he had found a level of comfort in just being Jared Padalecki and if that meant taking advantage of relaxed happy tourists desperate for a holiday lay, then so be it.

But now after all these years he was feeling a little skewed in his skin.  He couldn’t tell if it was a desire to settle down – his mates had all married and were having families and he recognised a longing for something similar lurking and scuttling in the depths of his soul – or whether it was a restlessness to face the world beyond the islands again.  See if the Jared Padalecki he knew, and was kind of proud of here, could survive in a less precious and protected environment.

Then Julian Winters had been assigned to the island’s tiny police force, transferring from the mainland, and the islands resident gay population practically doubled overnight.  Julian was also good looking, gentle and an all-round kind bloke only a couple of years younger than Jared’s own thirty-two.  Julian had immediately shown interest, persevering until, finally, Jared, chasing down that weird empty feeling he’d been suffering, had given in.  And had surprised himself by enjoying the intimacy that built up when time was spent in each other’s company.  It had been so good, that Jared had begun to feel himself settle.

Well, until a certain beautiful photographer had come along, and suddenly, Jared was full of misgivings again.  Jensen had stirred him up in a way which had never happened before.  Whether someone was interested or not, Jared had never really cared very much, not needing the affirmation nor the attention.  But Jensen - the image of Jensen - lingered in his mind and the kernel of heat that had sprouted deep in his gut at his smile lingered.  They had exchanged only a few sentences but the impression left behind was proving significant. It played with his state of mind, teasing and scratching at it.

“Stop all tha’ cogitatin’, boy,” Uncle Peter finally said, but not unkindly.  Jared knew the man didn’t mean anything malicious; he was just looking out for him.

“Is this the boat going over to St. Agnes?” came a thin voice.  Jared brought himself back into the present and plastered on his best customer service smile.

“Certainly is!  Just wait there and I’ll help you on,” he called back.

***
Of course, after a whole day of no sexy American photographer, Jensen would have to turn up for the evening trip. He smiled sunnily at Jared, showing perfect white teeth, and greeted him brightly with a “Going to the Turk’s Head?”  Jared could barely get two words out in answer but nodded mutely.  Jensen’s smile had faded a little, and he had gone to sit in the far corner away from the cabin.  He had one camera with him.

Jared shook himself severely trying to rid himself of the butterflies that were fluttering in his stomach.  Jensen was so incredibly gorgeous, that Jared’s breath was taken right away.  It physically hurt to look at him in the golden light of the evening, sitting there all rosy and glowing.  He caught Uncle Peter’s knowing glances and resolved to stop being such an idiot.

“You working this evening or taking the trip for pleasure,” Jared finally asked as he did the rounds with the tickets.

“A bit of both,” Jensen answered.  “I’ve heard good things about the Turk’s Head, and if I get a few shots as well, then that’s a bonus.”  He handed over his ticket money, just as a wave splashed over the port bow, throwing water straight into Jensen’s face.
The water was always choppier between St. Marys and St. Agnes where the Turk’s Head did business.  Once or twice a week the Boatman’s Association put on a trip from the largest island in Scilly to the hostelry on the smaller St Agnes.  The tourists loved the evening boat trip, the beer and the pies, and then the night-time return trip; and the Turk’s Head was happy to have the trade. But the rougher tides made for some interesting journeys.

“Yeah, sorry,” Jared laughed.  “Should have warned you about sitting there.”

“No kidding,” Jensen responded wiping the spume from his face.  Jared’s mind suddenly went somewhere inappropriate.  He smiled back at Jensen and offered him another seat before moving on to the other passengers. He watched Jensen slide across the bench from the corner of his eye, feeling a sharp rise in his excitement.

***
The best thing about the Turk’s Head run was that the Ariana could stay docked at the tiny wharf while both Jared and Uncle Peter would follow the crowd of tourists up the couple of hundred yards or so to the small white pub and take advantage of good St. Agnes hospitality.  Neither drank much because they still had to pilot the Ariana back to Hugh Town on St. Marys, but they could have one drink and enjoy the evening.  Uncle Peter always hustled straight back to kitchen where his mate worked, whilst Jared would take his pint and  sit on one of  the benches outside.  He did the same today.  The sun was setting, casting a low but rich golden light over the hill on Gugh. The water was lapping gently on the beach below but, apart from the muted voices of the pub’s clientele, there was very little sound.   It was a beautiful evening, and Jared felt himself relax.

“Anyone sitting here?”  Jensen’s voice suddenly cut into Jared’s quiet.

“No,” Jared answered and slid across the bench making space.

“It’s lovely here,” Jensen continued.  “What’s that island over there?”  He waved his pint glass in the direction of Gugh – only some two hundred yards away.

“That’s not really an island,” Jared responded.  “At low tide there’s a causeway and you can walk across.”

“Cool.  Is it possible to do it tonight?”

“Tide’s too high.  But it’s worth trying to do it in the day time – it’s low tide around noon at the moment.  There’s some interesting old prehistoric tombs on the hillside over there,” explained Jared, sounding too much like a tour guide.  He winced in embarrassment. But Jensen sounded genuinely interested and asked him more questions about Gugh and St. Agnes.  Jared did his best.

“You should ask Uncle Peter really; he was born here and knows everything,” Jared eventually owned.

“So what’s a Texan doing, living on a few isolated rocks off the coast of Britain?”  Jensen asked.  Jared looked at him, noting the curiosity in the gaze he returned.  He opened his mouth to start with his usual bullshit story that had gotten him laid so many times before (you know, the siren call of the sea and the bit about making a difference in a small community) but suddenly found himself speaking the truth.

“Got into quite a bit of trouble at Uni back in the day.  My father packed me off to Scilly as a punishment.”
“What Uni?”

“Texas.”

“Really?  What did you do?”

“Mixture of stuff really – drink, drugs, wild women”

Jensen’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Wild women?”

“No, not really. More like wild men.  That was the real problem.  Dear Daddy wasn’t keen on having a gay son.”  Jared grimaced in remembrance but carried on.  “Uncle Peter isn’t really my uncle but Dad’s friend.  Peter’s a Scillonian born and bred but spent some years travelling before settling back here.  That included a couple of years working on our ranch.  Got really tight with my Dad.  He needed a boat hand, and Dad had a wayward son.  Thought it would make a man of me and all that, and definitely got me out of his hair.”

“You stayed though,” Jensen probed.

Jared waved his half-finished pint at the view.  “Wouldn’t you?”

Jensen leant back on the bench watching Jared carefully.

“Uncle Peter and Auntie couldn’t have kids so they kind of adopted me. Made me welcome.  And I loved working out in the air. I loved the sea. I loved the quiet.  Didn’t feel the need to keep drinking, and didn’t miss the drugs.  The community welcomed me in, maybe for Uncle Peter’s sake at first, but still.  Didn’t care I was gay.  It’s a simple life but I like it.”

“It’s safe,” responded Jensen a little sharply and with a great deal of perspicacity.

“Nothing wrong with that,” Jared answered, his hackles rising but a little uncertainly.  “I like myself here.  Back in Texas – not so much.”

“You ever thought about leaving?”

Jared wrinkled his nose but didn’t answer.   Jared wanted to say no and that he loved the Scillies but that was a decision he was keeping at bay for the moment.

Jensen twisted his lovely face into a grimace in response but didn’t comment on Jared’s silence.  The pair of them continued to sit and finished their drinks without a word.

“Want another one?”  Jensen asked finally as Jared drained the last dregs from his glass.

“Can’t – can’t pilot a boat under the influence.”  There was an awkwardness between them now.  Jared wondered if Jensen disapproved, or despised him in some way for his life choices and it made him feel prickly with the other man.

Jensen started to get up but paused looking down at Jared.  It was getting darker, the lights of the pub were sparkling on the restless waves of the sea, and the islands were now black shadows against the horizon.  Jensen’s features were smudged in the gloom but there was light sparkling in his eyes. It would be so easy to ask Jensen back to his place, and he felt a fierce want to touch and taste, but the moment, if there ever had been a moment, had passed and there was just an uncomfortableness remaining.  He fidgeted under Jensen’s intense regard.

“I like you here too,” Jensen finally admitted.  “Can’t imagine you all wound up, and using.  You seem to be so much a part of this place.  Loose, fresh and full of life.  But, maybe there are other places you could go that could give you just as much.”
Jared was stunned as Jensen briefly touched his face before heading back into the pub.

He made sure he was back at the boat before Jensen returned, and spent the remaining hour before the return trip lying out across the back bench.  He could turn his head and see Jensen back on the bench outside the Turk’s Head in the distance.  He watched steadily, trying to make sense of a maelstrom of feelings.  He hadn’t talked about the real reason why he was living on Scilly for a long while, and somehow he had spilled to this quiet, curious photographer.  He hadn’t felt an attraction like this ever.  But somehow it was just making him even more confused about what he wanted.

As he watched Jensen, he knew Jensen was watching him.  It was thrilling, and frightening and exciting and unsettling all at the same time.

“You alright, boy?” the boat shifted heavily in the water as Uncle Peter stepped down.

“Dunno,” Jared answered honestly.

Uncle Peter sighed and hobbled to the stern, sitting at Jared’s head.

“I think I’m all messed up,” Jared admitted.  “Don’t know what I want.”

“Nothing wrong with that. You thinkin’ ‘bout leavin’ the islands, boy?”  Uncle Peter answered getting to the crux of the matter and missing by a mile all at the same time. And just like he did when Jared first came to islands, miserable and distraught, he ran his hand through Jared’s hair.

Jared closed his eyes and leant slightly into the comfort offered.  God, he felt all out of joint.

Day Three:  Jared uses his not inconsiderable charms to lure Jensen back onto his boat
Jared was manning the kiosk the following morning.  Each of the boats had to take their turn, and Uncle Peter always refused.  It wasn’t a job that Jared particularly enjoyed, as he seemed to spend most of the hour telling people the same thing over and over again, but he had to take his turn, so he put up and shut up.

“So where’s good today?” came a deep, rich voice.  The day was already promising to be hot, and Jensen had foregone his usual black jacket for a long-sleeved tee.  It might get hot but it wasn’t going to get Texas hot. Still - he looked quite delicious in less layers.  In fact he looked very fine, with a crooked, shy smile and eyes squinting in the sunny morning light.  “I was thinking about a return trip to St. Agnes.”

“Yeah, that would be good,” Jared started, an inflection in his voice that he knew wouldn’t be difficult to miss.
“But?” Jensen asked quietly picking up Jared’s cue.

“Uh, but?  Um… well, whilst St. Agnes has it’s undeniable charms, St Martins is gorgeous in this weather – really white, sheltered beaches, lots of flowers, great little hostelry with fine beer…”  Jared became aware of the waiting queue behind Jensen and shut his mouth. Better be business like.

“Sounds good.  One ticket to St. Martins then,” Jensen requested.

“Excellent choice.  That’ll £8.40 please.  First set of steps – you’ll want the Ariana,” Jared handed over the ticket and Jensen’s change but studiously didn’t look up into Jensen’s eyes.  He felt his guts slip when Jensen laughed though
.
“Really?”  The man had seen right through him.

“Really.  St. Martins on a day like today.  You won’t regret it.”  Jared found his courage and looked up. Then he winked, pleased when a faint blush bloomed across Jensen’s face.

***
“You sold me this ticket – why do you need to see it again?”  Jensen grumbled, hands trying every pocket.

“I sell many tickets – don’t always remember who I sold ‘em too,” Jared answered.  Jensen snorted in response, but the sound transformed into a whimper of annoyance as his searching fingers failed to produce the small slip Jared had handed to him only twenty minutes ago at the boatman’s kiosk.

“Jeez, cowboy.  Every time.  Why don’t you always put your tickets in the same place? So much easier to find,” Jared was outright laughing at the photographer now.  Jensen glared back crossly.

“Give me a break – it’s here somewhere.”

“Sorry – it’s against the boatman’s code. No ticket, no ride,” Jared insisted.  Uncle Peter harrumphed behind him.  Jensen had chosen to sit closer to the cabin today so their every interaction was being overheard by the surly old man.

Jensen sighed deeply and continued his trawl through the pockets on his bags.

“Here it is,” he finally cried out in triumph.  Jared sat down heavily beside the photographer ignoring the ticket.

“Nah, man.  I know you.  Don’t need to see the ticket,” Jared answered.  Jensen thumped his arm, hard.

Uncle Peter laughed out loud.

***

Jared managed to persuade Uncle Peter that a visit to his friends at Church Town Farm was long overdue and so the Ariana docked at Lower Town quay an early two hours before pick up time.  Uncle Peter grumbled about the distance and the climb to the flower farm, but, in truth, he was as fit as any sixty-year old man, and the walk wouldn’t do him any harm.  Besides his friends would drive him back down at the due time.

Jared headed straight to the Seven Stones; a single story stone building, with a wide terrace in front, about which were scattered picnic tables, glaring white in the bright sunlight.  There were one or two groups of tourists that Jared recognised from the trip over, but it was mostly quiet.  He ordered a jug of beer and asked for two glasses.  He then sat on the table furthest from the drive under the shade of a tree and waited.

Jensen arrived not long after. He was red from the sun, with his freckles more prominent than ever, but he looked carefree and happy.  The long sleeved tee had disappeared and he was wearing a plain grey vest.  Jared’s eyes feasted as he admired the smooth skin over muscled shoulders.  Jensen looked like he worked out, and Jared practically salivated as he watched the man make his way between the tables.

“Good day?”  Jared asked lightly as he poured the amber beer into Jensen’s glass, trying desperately to get his thoughts into a decent frame of mind.

“Great day,” Jensen confirmed with a smile.  “Thanks for the tip.  Got some amazing shots of the Daymark from the other side.  It’s like a different island over there – the wind was quite fresh and the waves were dancing a little more.  It’s positively tropical on this side in comparison.”

“You’re enjoying your commission then?”

“Well, it’s only been a few days and I’m told the weather is uncommonly good for the time of year, but yeah!  Took a bit of a risk – but it’s a good job.”

“Have you ever been to the Scillies before?”  Jared asked.

“No, never,” Jensen laughed quietly.  “Never heard of them.  And the fucking journey to get here…”

“You didn’t sail on the Scillonian?” Jared’s voice rose in horror.

Jensen ruckled his nose in disgust.  “Never again.  Two and half hours of torment.  Wasn’t until I got here that I realised there was another option.  Strangely, no-one told me about the helicopter.”

“Probably trying to sabotage you.  You being here is not popular, man; you gotta know,” Jared was only speaking a half truth.
Jensen smirked but ruefully.

“Couldn’t afford to not take it, though,” he muttered into his beer glass.

“Don’t they need promotional pictures in the great US?” Jared gently pushed.

“Yeah, but I’m kind of late to the game, you know.  Only just went full-time.  Heard about this job, and was totally surprised when I got the commission.  First big campaign.  Don’t care if I get rotten vegetables thrown at me, I am not letting go,” Jensen answered honestly.  “Besides, this is really a beautiful place. It’s no great hardship to take pictures here and, so far, despite the controversy, most people have been kind and welcoming.”

Jared looked out across the fields and gardens that fanned out down the hillside from where the Seven Stones sat nestled into the landscape.  Beyond the green was the sea, a deep turquoise under the arc of the blue sky, and, scattered across the horizon, the dark shadows of the rest of the archipelago.  The Isles of Scilly were certainly very beautiful.

“Is this a date?”  Jensen suddenly asked.  Jared tore his eyes from the admittedly gorgeous view to stare at his even more gorgeous companion.

“Um…” he answered.

“I wondered, when you asked me, whether it might be a date or just a ‘mates’ thing…”  Jensen looked very adorable as he blustered his way through his query.  Jared desperately wanted to agree that it was indeed a date, but the ever present, lurking figure of Julian Winters crawled through his mind.

“Well, I just thought… you know… that we could just hang,” Jared stuttered uncomfortably.

“Oh,” Jensen said sounding a little crestfallen. “I was hoping it was a date.”

Jared wanted to get up and do a little dance of joy, but bearing in mind that he had a boyfriend, he decided it was inappropriate.  Two months ago, he would had taken Jensen’s interest and allowed it to lead him straight to the bedroom.  Now things were… complicated.

All of a sudden his love life was getting tangled in a knot after years of keeping it simple. Julian was fast becoming the representative for settling down - the becoming-a-permanent-resident, safe, comfortable option.  Jared was pretty sure that he wanted at least some of that, if not the complete package, but Julian?

Jensen, on the other hand – well, Jensen represented something altogether different.  Jensen potentially was excitement, passion, fascination.  He was a rare example of an open, honest man, friendly and seemingly content with his life.  He was also as sexy as fuck, and the most beautiful man Jared had ever had the honour to lay eyes on. God, did he want that, but the downside?  Jensen was temporary.  Less-than-three-weeks temporary.

It was for the best that he and Jensen just stay as friends.  The thought didn’t make him feel any more satisfied though.

***

“If you ever change your mind,” Jensen prompted, as they walked companionably back down to the wharf.  They’d had a pleasant couple of hours in conversation, arguing over basketball and football.  There hadn’t been any more talk of dates, and Jensen had seemed to get over his disappointment.

“Yeah,” Jared admitted. “I’ll bear that in mind.”

***

“See you around, Padalecki,” Jensen waved as he clambered off the Ariana thirty minutes later.
Jared allowed himself just a few moments to stare longingly at Jensen’s disappearing back and wondered if he had made a really bad decision.

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Walk Away Epilogue



EPILOGUE

It’s difficult to leave characters you’ve spent so much time with, which is why so many writers include an epilogue.  They want to keep telling you about the lives they created.  I’m no different.  I want to carry on telling you about the epic love story of Jared and Jensen, although it is difficult to top a public declaration of love on national TV, as Jensen is often fond of telling Jared when he fails abysmally at romantic gestures, but deciding when to stop is not easy.  They’ve walked out of a coffee shop (there’s a happy symmetry in that), with lots of potential for future happiness.  That should be enough.  It’s an indulgence to continue (and very possibly a way to make up a number of words when I fell short of the 20,000 necessary for the SPN J2 Bigbang).  So do feel free to stop here and not let me get away with it.

But for those who need to know, did Jared and Jensen live happily ever after?

Well, mostly…

To begin with everything is rosy.

Jensen finds Texas a little too hot for his bred-in Boston flesh but he enjoys the frequency of occasions when Jared has to remove his shirt because Jared is sweating like a pig.  He also misses his kids.  He turns out to be a great father, and feels their absence keenly.  That situation resolves itself a couple of years after he moves when Danneel remarries a diplomat.  Jensen makes a fine argument as to why his children need stability rather than being trekked around the world, and ends up with full custody.  Jared proves to be an able if slightly anarchic step parent, or will be just as soon as Texas passes the Equal Marriage law.  Jared’s working hard at that one – he has a vested interest – so surely it’s only a matter of time.

Jared gets a little frustrated at Jensen’s refusal to get involved in anything that remotely seems like Politics (capital P).  He argues competently against Jensen’s objections but he’s never won a debate against the man yet, and never will. However Jensen is finding his niche in education, and there is an increasingly long line of young people who find it difficult to resist Jensen, and who suddenly find themselves with ideas and ambitions they previously thought unattainable.  Jared is very, very proud of that, although he knows first hand how difficult it is to resist Jensen so he does have some sympathy.  They still argue a lot about politics (little p).  Jensen is indeed a liberal but with a heavy side of conservatism.  Jared’s just all liberal. There are some serious areas of contention between them.   Texans find Jared difficult but don’t seem to be able to stop voting for him.  Jensen knows how they feel.

Aspen remains their bolt hole.  They take the kids there once a year, and Jensen imparts all the knowledge he gained from Grandpa Shaffer.  They are growing up to be quite outdoorsy types. Jared and Jensen go on their own quite a lot too.  They don’t do much besides fucking.  That trip, when they first got back together after Bostongate, they did a hell of a lot of talking too, and crying, but that was cathartic and healing.

After that there are difficult times.

It becomes clear to Jensen that Jared’s political ambitions, although noble and altruistic, are indeed ambitious.  Jared loves everything about the political arena, particularly when he finally gets the Equal Marriage law passed.  Jensen, not so much.  They start to fight. Jared feels unsupported.  Jensen feels misunderstood.  It’s not as though he resents Jared’s feelings, he’s just concerned.  He doesn’t have faith in the political system and he associates the career with pain and the selling of souls.  But he’s big enough to realise that it’s his problem and he has enough faith in Jared to realise that Jared works the system, not the other way around.  His one true love is incorruptible.  There are negotiations, and concessions made on both sides.  Jensen agrees to be a visible presence at Jared’s side, and an advisor but only on a part time basis.  He still continues to teach and will always do so until he’s of retirement age.  Jared learns a valuable lesson in empathy and how important it is to listen to your significant other and gains a husband.  There’s some more talking and crying in the house in Aspen, followed by a lot of fucking and peace is restored.

And then there’s Washington.

Jared is a force of nature, so, of course, he ends up in the White House as the first gay President.  Jensen refuses to be ‘First Man’ at first which causes World War III, but it turns out there are teaching jobs in needy, broken neighbourhoods in Washington too.  It’s not easy, when the class is bolstered by the attendance of the bodyguards, but as the Special Forces are now also getting educated, Jensen can’t complain.  They make their peace with each other, and both of them admit to being very smug that it wasn’t another Ackles that got into the Whitehouse but the Padalecki-Ackles.  Jared made sure to point that out to Alan Ackles, now practically retired, but still standing tall with pride despite his age, the first day he met him lobbying in the Senate House.  Once Jared introduced the new Tolerance In the Curriculum legislation, Jensen had a bit of a turn around.  He may have given up on politics but politics certainly hadn’t given up on him.

And when things get too much, there was always the house in Aspen.  There wasn’t much that couldn’t be fixed by fucking, even if, due to old age, it wasn’t quite as furious or desperate as it once was.
They spent a lot of their formative lives walking away from each other.  They spend the rest of their lives walking side by side, hand in hand.  I think that makes for a happy ending.



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Comments welcome.

Walk Away Part 5



2015 April to November Boston

Jared arrived back from Aspen and found Jensen, who had returned to the city four days earlier, on his door step.  He didn’t say anything as Jensen followed him into his apartment, and continued to say nothing as Jensen dropped to his knees, opened his pants and sucked his brains out of his dick.

He continued not to say anything, several days later, when Jensen waylaid him in the State House’s bathroom, and proceeded to bend himself over the sink unit, as Jared thrust deeply into his ass.

In fact Jared didn’t say anything at all each and every time Jensen turned up and got him so hot and bothered he could barely think straight.  He didn’t even say anything when Jensen turned up, exhausted, straight from the hospital.  Jared stayed silent while Jensen spilled his fears and hopes for his new born daughter, made love to him once, long and slow, and then fucked him desperately and furiously, expecting it to be the last.

He was always expecting it to be the last time, but Jensen would eventually turn up, and Jared stayed his words because he was too afraid of changing the status quo.  He hadn’t forgotten Jensen’s own words back in Aspen – no promises, nothing else to offer.  He lived only for the present, refusing to think about Jensen when he wasn’t there, but inhaling every word, touch and look when he was.

He didn’t say anything until he finally couldn’t help it.

“What are we doing?” he asked, combing his fingers through Jensen’s short spikes. He was hot, sweaty, and sticky, euphoric even, but he hadn’t seen Jensen in nearly two weeks. Or rather he had seen a lot of Jensen over the two weeks.  He’d seen the crisply dressed, confident politician and Chair of the committee Jared had just been seconded to. He’d seen Jensen look at him as if they hadn’t been swapping bodily fluids on a regular basis, and heard him speak as if his voice had never darkened with lust.  He watched his hands gather papers as if they had never closed round his cock and wrung a blinding orgasm out of him, until all his careful not thinking and not talking were driven away by a litany of Jensen, want, Jensen, need, Jensen, Jensen, Jensen.  The question simply leapt out of his mouth without conscious thought.

Jensen froze, hand stilled against Jared’s hip.  Jared watched for the signs of Jensen shutting down on him, but they didn’t come.

“It was going to just be in Aspen.  Just a few days of having something I wanted.  And then walking away.  But I couldn’t.  I don’t want to.  I still want this, I still want you,” he answered.

“For how long?”  Jared asked.

“Don’t ask me that.  I can’t answer that,” Jensen whispered, but Jared felt the smile on his face against his chest.  Jensen tickled his fingers across Jared’s stomach instead then reached down to cup one of his balls.  Jared arched into the touch, cock stiffening again. He didn’t say anything but he started to hope.



NOW – November 2020  Eve of the election

Jared sat for a very long time on that bench at the end of Long Wharf.  He sat until the sun came up, and the first early bird runners thumped past.  Then he got out his phone, and had a very difficult and long call with Jeff.

He sighed as he finished the call and started walking back to his apartment.  There were one or two members of the press waiting outside already but he ignored them.  He greeted the doorman as cheerfully as he could, then rode the elevator up to the twelfth floor.  He stalked along the corridor until he reached his own door way.  Matt had already arrived, smartly suited and ready to greet the day.  He was already on the phone, and he looked a mixture of unhappy, confused and angry.  Jared guessed that Jeff had already called.

He went straight to the bathroom and showered.  He ignored the newly pressed suit laid out on his bed, and found his old blue jeans and sweater instead.  He threw on his leather jacket, picked up his wallet and keys, and then left the apartment without saying a word.



2015 New Year’s Eve  Boston

It came to a head exactly nine years after Jensen and Jared had met in the “Bean there Done That” coffee shop.

They had gotten careless and a picture of them had been taken back in November. The photographer had practically danced his way back to Ackles Snr.

Jensen had been distracted, and his father had, rightly as it happened, assumed that some ‘boy’ was the cause.  Fearing the end of his political dreams, Alan Ackles had instructed a PI to find out what was going on.  It took some time for him to process the evidence the photographer brought to him, but he wasn’t going to let the small matter of Jensen’s perversions get in the way of getting a second Ackles into the Whitehouse.   He threatened Jensen, he bullied Jensen, he cajoled Jensen.  Jensen was utterly terrified of how easily he could have been caught – next time it might not be someone working for his father, next time it might be the press and then both his and Jared’s careers would be forfeit.

This he explained to Jared, face blank, eyes dead, when he told him he could no longer see him.  He reassured Jared that Jensen’s companion in the photograph was unidentifiable and that even if the worst happened, Jared would be all right.   Jared said nothing, but walked back through the Common to the State House.

This time, he didn’t find Jensen back on his door step the next day nor the next, nor the following week or even month.

On New Year’s Eve, the small kernel of hope he had been nursing died, and he drunk dialled Jensen’s phone.

They met at the end of Long Wharf, the sound of merriment in the surrounding bars loud but allowing them a measure of privacy.

“I told you no promises.  I can’t give you anything more,” Jensen had said, voice infuriatingly lacking in emotion.

“You can,” Jared had begged.  “You are stronger than you think you are.”  A sentiment he had echoed five years later as they both stood in exactly the same place.

Jensen had shaken his head in disbelief.

“I love you,” Jared had said, and had been malicious in his delight when he saw Jensen’s smooth veneer crack just a little bit.

“Doesn’t matter,” Jensen had answered, a catch in his voice.

“I’ve given you everything you wanted.  I never sought you out. I did everything I could to hide how I felt. I have lied to keep you secret. I have gone against everything I believe in to make sure you weren’t outed.   I love you.  I fucking love you and you tell me it doesn’t matter?  You fucking liar, Ackles.  You cowardly filthy, fucking liar.  You love me too, I know you do.  You fucking, unbelievable coward.” Jared refused to cry but felt the tears coming anyway.

Jensen tightened his jaw, still trying to maintain his mask of indifference.

“You don’t understand, Jay,” he had said in answer.

“So tell me!  Explain to me why being President of the United States is more important than me, Jensen.  Tell me!”  Jared had screamed at him, but the shutters came down and Jared knew he had lost.

“Don’t you ever come around again, Jen.  Not ever.  This is not something you get back.  This is over.  Completely and utterly over.  Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Jensen had whispered to Jared’s back as he walked away.



NOW  November 2020  Election day
Transcript  CNN morning news with Emma Christian  11.26.20

“And in a shocking development in the fiercely fought Massachusetts State elections, Jared Padalecki, member of the Every One Party, announced he was standing down from today’s election.   No formal announcement has been made, but speculation is rife after the Traditional Values Party released photographs of Mr. Padalecki leaving a nightclub in downtown Boston several nights ago.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan, leader of the Every One Party gave a short statement earlier regretting Padalecki’s decision, but refusing to answer any questions.   An official statement will be issued shortly. The Padalecki Represents Every One campaign team, were also unavailable for comment, and it is understood that Mr. Padalecki has already left the city.

The situation has shocked Padalecki’s colleagues.  Mr. Padalecki has had a solid, and creative career in Boston politics since he graduated with a doctorate in law from Harvard.  Considered to be one of the ‘honest’ ones, he has worked tirelessly for a number of different causes over the year but is best known as a champion of minority rights, including those of the LGBT community.

The decision to stand down leaves Jensen Ackles of the Traditional Values Party as the clear front runner.”



Transcript:  Voice Message left on Padalecki, J cell phone   Number unknown   11.26.20    09:53
“ What the fucking hell are you doing?”



Press Statement from Padalecki Represents Every One Boston campaign    11.26.20   09:45

It is with the greatest regret that I must announce my withdrawal from the election for personal reasons.
As a young boy growing up in poverty, facing hardship and intolerance, I never expected to find somewhere that I could call my home. But I did, and Boston was that place for me.  I have been proud to serve the city of Boston for over ten years, and I was honoured, and still feel honoured, that many people felt I could represent the communities that live in this great city at a national level.   I want to thank you for that belief in me, and apologise for disappointing you.  However, there are times when personal issues take on an importance that cannot be ignored, and I would be doing Boston a grave disservice by proceeding with this election, when my heart and mind are distracted.

Jared Padalecki.



Alan Ackles was speechless when his wife announced that Jared Padalecki was at the door.

A tall, shaggy haired man, looking grim and tired was ushered into the study.  Alan moved to greet him, but Jared stared at the proffered hand, and then ignored it.

“I won’t share pleasantries with you, Ackles.  I wouldn’t want to disgust you,” Jared said bitingly.

Alan spluttered a little, and felt his hackles rise.

“I take it you’ve already heard the news,” Jared continued.  “I know that you know about Jensen and me.  I am doing this for him, and me, I guess.   You’ve made his life insupportable over the years when all he ever wanted to do is please you.  I’ve helped make him miserable too, and we are going to break him completely unless something gives.  And it’s going to be me – one less thing to have to face in the morning, one less voice trying to tell him what to do.”

Alan remained standing, stunned.

“But, I’m not entirely selfless.  I can’t give him up and then stay here in the city so I am leaving.  That should please you.”

“So what the hell are you doing here?”  Alan finally found his voice.

“Ah yes, the main purpose of my visit.  A little warning for you, Ackles.  You have pictures of me and Jensen.  Don’t deny it.  Jensen told me that whilst he was clearly recognisable in them, his companion was unidentifiable.  I believed him at the time, but then I was too fucking miserable to think clearly.  He’d just broken my heart. It didn’t take long for me to realise what really happened though.  You threatened to expose both of us, didn’t you?  And Jensen gave me up to protect my career, not his.  Well, you can’t hold that over him now – I no longer have a career that needs protecting."

“You’re crazy,” Alan said through gritted teeth.

“Really?” Jared smiled, and it looked like a snarl.  “Perhaps.  But do you want to know what else I know?  I’m sure you’re aware that Mark Shepherd has been heading up my campaign.  He’s a dirty little critter, who delights in digging in everyone else’s shit.  Guess what he discovered when he was mucking around looking for dirt on Jensen?   Jensen, obviously, isn’t the only one that can’t keep it in his pants!”  Jared dumped an envelope onto Alan Ackles desk. “I’m sure you can guess exactly what these might be.  I vetoed their use – I didn’t want to play those games, but, hey, I’ve removed myself off the board, and I don’t give a shit anymore.”

Jared glared at Ackles as he swallowed painfully.

“What do you want?” Alan Ackles asked finally, all confidence draining away.

“Nothing!”  Jared said.  “Except, leave Jensen alone.  Let him run his campaigns the way he wants.  Let him make the political decisions he wants to make.  I think you’ll find he’ll be magnificent at it.  And those pictures of us?  If they ever get out, then I will release these ones in retaliation. Do you understand?  I will bring you and your precious party to its knees if I have to!”

“Nice doing business with you, Ackles,” Jared concluded, and was gone in an instant, door banging noisily behind him.

Neither of them noticed Jensen, standing in the shadows of the hallway.



Jensen won by a landslide, of course.

Kane was a complete unknown despite the flurry of activity around him in the last few days of the election, and Jensen was an Ackles, one of Boston’s own.

Danneel, carrying two year old Nathan, smiled broader than she had ever smiled before.  She was on her way to Washington.  Donna Ackles, holding five year old Sarah’s hand, waved and tried not to worry about her husband’s unusual distraction, keeping up her appearance as a proud mother of a brilliant son.

The family walked through the crowds of their campaign staff, volunteers and sponsors, shaking hands, and exchanging congratulations, words barely comprehensible under the loud, pumping music but the sentiment understood all the same.

And Jensen?

He was the brightest of them all.  He looked like a movie-star, green eyes blazing, strong jaw clean-shaven, hair styled and glossy.  He was wearing an expensive, finely tailored grey suit that outlined his athletic build.  He looked confident and happy, teeth flashing as he smiled broadly at colleagues and old family friends alike.  When Nathan started to cry, scared by the riot of noise, he easily swung him from Danneel’s arms into his own, and his soft words and fond looks soon soothed his young son.  A lot of the women in the crowd and a significant number of men (who would absolutely deny it) swooned at such a sight and all thought, for sure, a legend equal to that of JFK was born.

Jared watched the celebrations from the small TV screen in the hotel.  He hadn’t gone out of state – not yet anyway. He simply moved out to Rockport - tiny, sleepy-in-the-winter Rockport - taking the train to long, lonely walks on empty wind-swept beaches.  At least that was the plan for tomorrow.  Today or what was left of it, had been turned over to wallowing.  He watched Jensen, poking at his pain, and loving him so hard it hurt.  He knew that Jensen could never have carried off the celebrations if Jared were still in Boston. He knew that Jensen would be able to think clearly now, and it showed in his poise this evening.

The family were joined by an obviously rattled Alan Ackles.  Jared laughed in triumph and then wondered if he would ever have to use the photographs of Alan and a ‘mystery woman’.  He hoped not.  It wasn’t in his nature to be mean, but he would do anything for Jensen.

The cheering became more enthusiastic as Jensen approached the microphone.  Jared intended to hear Jensen’s speech and then turn off the TV and turn his back on Jensen – walk away from Jensen one final time.

The hall quietened.

Jensen was standing straighter than he ever had;  power and popularity suited him.  He would make a brilliant President, and even Jared, a die-hard liberal, would be voting for him.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, friends.  Thank you so much for being here.  My family and I have appreciated your support and hard work over these last months, weeks and days and without you, I could not be standing here.”

Jensen spoke strongly. Jared approved and his heart started to feel too full.

“A very, very special person once told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be.  I was six and had roundly announced that I wanted to be an astronaut. Everyone laughed at me, as perhaps they should, and I cried.  Josh, my big brother, didn’t laugh though, and he whispered to me as he handed over a stolen chocolate biscuit, that if I wanted to travel in space then nothing would stop me.  When I was nine, I decided I wanted to be a doctor…”

There was a round of affectionate laughter.  Everyone knew where this speech was going – didn’t everyone dream of The White House when they were growing up.  But Jared, in his small hotel room, suddenly stilled.

“It’s true, though, that we sometimes doubt who we are, and we question why we say things and the decisions we make. Somewhere between being six and now I’ve lost my grip on Josh’s assertion, and forgotten who I am, and what I wanted to be and do with my life.  Watching my children grow up, I wonder who should I be for them?  How can I be the best father for them?  And I find myself lacking.”

Jared stopped breathing.  He could see Danneel’s fake smile beginning to fall, Donna Ackles’ face registering confusion, the resignation in the slump of Alan Ackles’ shoulders.

“I never wanted to be a politician.  I don’t want to aim for the White House.  I don’t even believe in the majority of policies my party puts forward.  I am not a happily married man, although I do love my children beyond anything.

“The truest, most admirable man in the world believes I can make a stand, and have the strength to do the right thing, and that right thing is to be who I want to be.  I think Josh would approve even though he might hang his head in his hands as I utterly destroy my political career.”

There wasn’t a sound in the hall, not even the sound of a pin dropping.

“I want to be doctor or a teacher (I haven’t quite decided yet). I want my children to be proud of me.  I want to support equal rights for Every One.  I want to be able to say that the Bible isn’t always right. I want to be open about my sexuality.  I want to be able to walk down the street holding hands with the man I love.”

There was an audible gasp from the audience and Danneel’s face was puckering as she started to cry.  Jared still couldn’t draw breath.

“There’s a brave, wonderful man out there who is prepared to give up everything for me.  I want to be the man who is worthy of such a sacrifice.  I hope he can forgive me.

 "I apologise to you all.  I cannot accept the mandate for congress.”  With that, Jensen Ackles walked away from politics and never returned. Well, not for a long while anyway.



They tried to deny him access to his children, but forgot that Jensen Ackles was Valedictorian of his year in law school.  They didn’t have a hope in keeping his children from him.  He got joint custody and he made Danneel make it work.

He went back to school, finally deciding on education, as he felt too old to start all over in medicine.  That was a shame because Jensen Ackles would have made a great doctor.  Almost as good as he was a teacher.  For a while he worked in a high school in south Boston with kids from the wrong sides of the tracks, and he helped them make something of themselves.

He volunteered at a shelter for the homeless three times a week. He took on pro-bono legal work.  He didn’t want to waste his first degrees.

He tied up his personal wealth into trust funds for the children, living on his own wages in a small apartment.  He didn’t need much for his lifestyle.

He refused to speak to his parents for a long time.  Eventually he relented and visited his mother once a week.  The visits were brief and  he never saw his father.  He never told his mother about the photographs either.  He didn’t want to stir things again.

He didn’t date.  He didn’t go out to the clubs to hook up either.  He had loved and lost, and had no interest in replacements.

He became a good man, and he was content.



Twenty-two months after Bostongate, as he laughingly liked to refer to it, Jensen met Matt Cohen in Boston’s Public Library on Copley Square.  They had never been formally introduced but had met several times during the campaign. Jensen’s heart lurched when he saw him, but he calmed when he realised he was alone.  Turned out Matt was visiting his family, having lived out of state for a few months.

“Jared called me up, persuaded me to come down to Texas to help him run for DA in San Antonio.  Not quite in the same league as a national election but, I don’t know, there’s something about Padalecki.  It was no brainer really,” Matt cheerfully rattled on.

“Jared’s in Texas?”  Jensen asked carefully.

“Yeah, went back to his home state after the debacle up here,” Matt answered. “He’s doing good down there, started practising again, got voted in as a local councillor real quick once they realised his worth, and now there’s a DA position going.  I’ve got a feeling he’s not going to be stopping there.  There’s something about politics that really suits him, you know...”  Matt stopped suddenly and blushed. “I’m sorry… stupid big mouth…”

“No, it’s alright,”  Jensen laughed.  “I don’t miss it at all. But you’re right.  Politics suit Jared.   It was nice meeting with you again,” and they parted on easy, friendly terms.



Twenty-four months after Bostongate, Jensen came home to find Jared sitting on the door step of his apartment block. Jensen didn’t miss the irony – he had always gone to Jared, had always been the one waiting on the door step before because Jared had opened up his life and home to him, and he wasn’t able to do the same for Jared.

Only in Aspen.

Heart in his mouth, he looked Jared over before he approached any closer.  Jared was still beautiful, perhaps there was some grey at his temples but his hair still fell over his face in waves, and his legs still stretched for miles.  He was reading a book, lost in its words and didn’t notice Jensen until Jensen was standing over him.

“What are you reading?” Jensen asked curiously.

“Uh… Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Jared answered after jumping with surprise at Jensen’s words.

“A classic!”  Jensen said.

“I’m embarrassed to say that I have never read it before,” Jared smiled.  “Want a coffee?”

Jensen followed Jared into the nearest coffee shop.  It was always going to be a coffee shop.

“I brought the book while I was waiting. I got here this morning, and your neighbour said you wouldn’t be home until after work.”

“Have you been sitting on my door step all day?” Jensen asked looking at how far Jared had got through the book.

“I had a break for lunch, but… uh… yeah,”  Jared explained.

“That’s a long time to wait,” Jensen said softly, not really meaning Jared’s door stop marathon.

“Fifteen years,” Jared answered, knowing instantly what Jensen was getting at.

“I…uh… wanted to give you some time.  Let you sort your head out, that sort of thing.  It’s not that I didn’t want to come straight back to the city after that speech.  God I wanted to, but I thought you might need some time,” Jared continued.

“Yeah, thanks.  I did,” Jensen responded. “Not two whole fucking years, though.”

Jared’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Oh!”

“Yeah, oh! Or did you not understand the very public declaration of love I made as I totally wrecked my family and political pretentions for you,” Jensen grinned at Jared’s chagrin.  “I tried finding you, but you’d disappeared off the radar.  I only found out a few weeks ago that you were in Texas from meeting up with Matt.”

“You seeing anyone?”  Jared asked.  Jensen snorted with derision.

“No, I am very single, thank you very much.  I had the quickest divorce in history.  She couldn’t wait to rid of me fast enough.  You?”

“No, I mean, yes, I’m single. No, I’m not seeing anyone,” Jared stumbled over every word.  “There hasn’t been any one: never anyone, since you, Jen.”

Jensen flushed, but looked pleased.

“Have you forgiven me?”  Jensen asked next.

“Depends,” Jared negotiated.  “Are you coming back to Texas with me?”

“Probably.  I guess they need high school literacy and history teachers in San Antonio too,” Jensen mused.

“Then you’re forgiven.  And I could do with some help on my debating skills… care to help me?”

“You don’t need to have good debating skills – just smile, bring out the dimples, and look honest and earnest.  You’ll win every time.”

They smiled at each other.

“You knew, didn’t you?  About me knowing about the pictures…”  Jared asked.

“I overheard your conversation with my Dad, Jay.  I was in the hallway.”

“Shit!”

“Yeah, no kidding.  I heard it all - even the threats, and the wildly inappropriate declaration of love.” Jensen grunted  in satisfaction at Jared’s shocked face.

“I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to follow through…” Jared admitted, instigating a peal of laughter from Jensen.  There was something so wonderfully light about him now, like he was back in Aspen.  He looked radiant.  Jared didn’t care that he was staring in utter wonderment like a sap, he let every feeling show on his face.  Jensen licked his lips, and blushed adorably, but his eyes had darkened with desire, and Jared’s fluffy emotions immediately became dirty and darker.

“You were fucking amazing, Jen.  That speech… I have never been so proud of you.”  Jared paused.  “Nor so gobsmacked, but still…”

“Are you due back in San An soon?”  Jensen asked steering the conversation away from difficult, painful things.  There would be time for that later.

“Not for a few days – didn’t know how easy it was going to be meeting up with you.  Turns out you’re plenty easy.”

“Always was,” Jensen laughed.  “Thirty minutes, remember?   I kept Grandpa Shaffer’s house.  Gave everything else back, but kept his house. It was never an Ackles thing anyway.  Wanna come and hang out?”

"Oh God, yeah,"  Jared answered earnestly, and they left the coffee shop, walking side by side, hand in hand.

EPILOGUE


Walk Away Part 4



NOW  November 2020 Boston
Return of dirty tricks campaign  USA Today editorial 11.24.20
… and the fight over Massachusetts got dirtier than ever this morning with the respected Rev. Jonathon White coming out to support Traditional Values Candidate Jensen Ackles by attacking Every One opponent, Jared Padalecki.  Ackles, the son of the great Trad.Val. patriarch Alan Ackles, and already considered a possible candidate for the presidency in 2028, has already linked Padalecki to the crime syndicates in Texas, through his late father who died in prison serving a fifteen year sentence for money laundering, fraud and GBH.  In yesterday’s Boston Herald, however, the Rev. White fulminated on Padalecki’s choice of lifestyle.  Whilst he was careful not to use Padalecki’s homosexuality against him (something the candidate has never denied) he did highlight Padalecki’s continued status as a single man in a state where gay marriage is still legal, and  the rumors that Padalecki indulges in promiscuous behaviour, following the release of compromising photographs of Padalecki taken when he was frequenting the infamous “Blue Room” nightclub a few nights ago…



Jensen threw up for the second time in a week when he realised what his father had done.

The argument that followed was monumental.

At some point he realised that Alan had acted because of concerns that Danneel had expressed to his father about a possible relationship between Jensen and Padalecki.

Jensen walked out of the brownstone and wasn’t seen again that day.

Or the next.

Ackles Snr cancelled all the appearances for that day, claiming that Nathan Ackles, Jensen’s two year old son, had fallen sick, and that his father didn’t want to leave his son’s side.







2015 April Aspen

When Katie returned to Boston, Jensen showed no inclination to return with her. Jared found him on the doorstep of Jeff’s cabin the following morning, dressed casually in sports gear.

“I’m heading up into the mountains for a hike.  Wanna come?”  Jensen asked with a wide smile.  Jared cursed inwardly because his fascination for Jensen was getting out of hand, but he didn’t seem to be able to turn him down.

So he found himself striding out breathlessly across mountain meadows following an unreasonably fit Jensen.  Jared thought he took care of himself but the climb had exhausted him.  Jensen hadn’t been very talkative at first, but proved to be an interesting companion when he started to point out interesting plants and features in the landscape.

“Didn’t know you were a geologist?”  Jared gently teased after Jensen had explained some weird rock formation to him.

Jensen flushed, dropping his head a little.

“No, don’t get embarrassed,” Jared laughed, captivated by how the delicate pink in Jensen’s cheeks made him even more beautiful.  “It’s cool that you know this stuff.”

“I used to come out here with Grandpa Shaffer,” Jensen admitted.  “He taught me.”

“Sounds like he was a fantastic Grandfather,” Jared prompted.

“Yeah, well, he was,” Jensen said and then clammed up.  Clamming up was becoming a pattern of behaviour for Jensen that Jared was beginning to recognise.  He’d open up and relax, chatter away about something until something personal came up and then he would shut down.  Jared liked the talkative, laid back Jensen and wasn’t ashamed to use every devious and charming skill he had to keep Jensen open and happy.  It wasn’t easy.

After a picnic, Jared lay back in the grass and stared at the sky.  He was full and content, and nearly dropping off to sleep when Jensen spoke.

“My grandfather wasn’t like anyone else in the family,” Jensen said quietly.  Jared rolled over onto his side and looked at Jensen who was sat up, arms wrapped round his knees, staring down into the valley.  “He didn’t have any ambitions.  He lived quietly here in Aspen working as a guide and ski-instructor.”

“Wow,” Jared marvelled at the information. “I thought your whole family were born running for the presidency!”

“Nearly,” Jensen answered with a small laugh.  “Grandpa Shaffer was the odd one out.  Married the wrong woman, of course.  My grandmother was desperately ambitious – her father had been Aspen’s Mayor…”

“Ah, that sounds more like it,” Jared interrupted.

“Shut up!  You want to hear about my Grandfather or not?”  Jensen softened his words with a smile.

“I absolutely do – keep talking, Ackles,” Jared responded.

“Unfortunately for my Grandmother, my Grandfather was also devastatingly handsome, and for a while she was infatuated with him. Lasted long enough for a quick marriage and the conception of my mother, but not much longer.  When she realised that he had no wish to further her agenda by using his face and charm, she basically cut him off.  Ran all the way to Boston with my Mother and left him here to carry on with his quiet life.  I only got to know him when I was sent here for several months when Dad was running the Republican campaign of 1996 and… well… when other things got in the way of my parents well-ordered lives…”  Jensen’s voice started to trail off and Jared jumped in quickly to stop Jensen from shutting down completely.

“You enjoyed being here?” he asked.

“I loved it.  We went camping, hiking, fishing.  And he talked to me, listened to me and was interested in me.  I think he had been so sad at losing his daughter, and family, that he was overjoyed to be able to share his life with his grandson.  I tried so hard to persuade my parents to let me stay with him but they wanted me back.  I guess they felt he was a terrible influence, which he was in a way, and then he had an accident not long after I left – he fell when climbing, died instantly – and they didn’t have to worry about his influence again.”

Jensen’s voice was sorrowful, but he physically shook himself and turned towards Jared.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to get all maudlin on you.”

“I like hearing about your Grandfather.  Is he where you get your good looks from?”  Jared teased carefully.  Jensen huffed a little but not because he was annoyed.

“Yeah, Grandmother always said I did – she wasn’t very happy about it.  Josh always said that was why she never really liked me. Not that I could have done anything about it.”

Jared chuckled a little and then rolled back over onto his back.  There were a few wispy clouds crossing the pale blue sky and he watched them lazily as he thought about Jensen’s story.

“Who’s Josh?” he suddenly asked.

Jensen’s shutters came down immediately.

“No-one,” he answered coldly, and got up quickly to his feet.  “We’d better be getting back.”

Jared was distressed at the change.  He stuttered an apology, not knowing what he had done or said.

“Doesn’t matter,” Jensen brushed the apology aside carelessly, but seemed to calm a little.

They packed the picnic things up quickly and without saying a word.  Jared felt very uncomfortable, but as they heaved their packs onto their backs, Jensen relented a little.

“We’ll go back down the old cattle path, and I’ll show you where we used camp,” he suggested.

Jared nodded uncertainly and followed Jensen as he started to stride down the slope.



Both the following days found Jensen at Jared’s door early with a plan for another activity.  They had fun kayaking down the river and mountain biking through the forest.  Each day, Jensen had packed a picnic and they spent a couple of hours relaxing and talking over their lunch.  Jensen didn’t volunteer any more personal information, and Jared soon learnt to keep any discussion of personal politics short and light in nature. At no point did he raise their own past history either – the fuck in the back room and Jensen’s rejected offer four years later.  But still they found plenty to discuss as they argued, without rancour, about solutions to the world’s ills, and discussed music, movies, and books.  Jared was actually surprised at how much they had in common, despite the light-hearted discussions, and he still maintained, although he said nothing, that Jensen was really a liberal at heart.

On the second day, and sore from the miles of biking (where did Jensen get his stamina from?), Jared heaved himself out of Jensen’s silver SUV after Jensen had parked across the drive to Jeff’s cabin.  He muttered a farewell but was interrupted by Jensen.

“You want to have some supper?”  Jensen asked shyly.

Jared locked eyes with Jensen.

“Give me an hour and come up to the villa.  I’m only gonna cook up some pasta but I’m not a bad chef,” Jensen’s voice was carefully light, but his eyes were suggesting something else.

“You cook?”  Jared asked.

“Who else has been preparing the picnics you’ve been eating?” Jensen questioned back, still holding Jared’s gaze.

“I’m impressed.”  Suddenly a thought occurred to Jared and he tipped his head in question.  “Is it just supper or is this a euphemism for something else?”

 A wave of heat rolled down Jared’s body as Jensen’s eyes darkened.

“Is there anything else you want apart from supper?”  Jensen’s voice dropped into a sultry huskiness, eyes intent on Jared.

“What else is on offer?” Jared countered a little breathlessly.

“Are we going to keep answering each other with questions all evening?” Jensen suddenly asked in exasperation.

Jared grinned, his full dimpled, blinding grin.  Jensen gulped hard and Jared felt a swell of smugness.

“I don’t know.  Are we?” Jared responded.

“One hour, Padalecki,” and Jensen revved the engine hard.  Jared was still grinning when he slammed the door shut, mouthing one hour through the tinted glass.



Jared was expecting the Ackles’ villa to be a massive mansion so he was very surprised to find a simple two storey property behind the high walls and security cameras.  It was small, and simply furnished.

“I had to tear down the fencing and put up walls after some photographers broke in and took pictures of my little sister sunbathing last year,”  Jensen explained, “but otherwise the house is nearly as my Grandfather left it.”

“This was his house?” Jared gasped.

“No, I lied.  It belonged to the King of Siam!  What’s with all the questions, Padalecki?”  Jensen sounded abrupt but he looked amused.  “Yes, it was his house and now it’s mine – Gramps left it to me!  Come on through.”

The house had two rooms downstairs on either side of the hallway and staircase.  Jensen took Jared through to a large open kitchen/dining room with a rustic dining table and chairs and a plain simple kitchen.  There was a pan of something that smelled so delicious bubbling on the oven that Jared’s stomach rumbled.  Jensen nodded to a chair then pottered about the kitchen for a few moments before placing a large bowl of pasta and red sauce in front of him. They ate without talking, just a few compliments to the chef and some moans of delight at the deliciousness of the food to break up the silence.

“You weren’t kidding about being able to cook, were you, Ackles?”  Jared said admiringly, as they finished.  Jensen blushed and looked pleased at the compliment.

Then he cleared the table, tidying the kitchen clutter, before sitting back down next to Jared.

“I want you to just listen to me for a few moments,” Jensen said.

Jared didn’t reply, suddenly and unaccountably nervous.

“You know the score.  I’m married – hell, in a couple of months I’ll be a father.  I know that you don’t agree with how I am living my life, but my wife knows me, knows that I am gay and knows that sometimes I need… uh… I need… something more than she can give me.  She is happy with that providing I am discrete.  I’m not looking for anything significant.  I can’t.  You know my opinion on that and how I want to run my life.

"But I want you.  Want you more than I have ever wanted anyone else in my life, and have done ever since we first met.  Seeing you every day in that fucking place has been driving me wild with frustration, remembering...  Plus you’ve seen me at my worst, you know that my public persona is a lie and that I am a hopeless hypocrite in so many ways, and yet you are still here, and I think we are friends.  I hope we are friends.  I trust you.  And I know that they are all good reasons for you to walk away now, because you are everything I am not.  But I want you to stay, and I want you to fuck me again but I need to be honest with you.  I can’t offer you anything more than I can give you now, and I cannot make any promises.”

Jared’s mouth was dry.  He wasn’t any kind of a saint.  He’d never had a relationship that lasted more than a couple of months.  Didn’t need to.  He enjoyed his own company and when he needed to talk, he had good friends to call on.  He was good looking and charming enough to get willing bodies for when he hungered for sex.  Why would he want anything else?

But Jensen was different. Had always been different.  What should have been a meaningless coupling, had left a scar,   a deep longing for something that Jared couldn’t have described until these last few days.  Perhaps his lack of desire for commitment from others was directly related to this sense that he and Jensen were unfinished business, as though something had started to bind them together in that coffee shop eight years ago and had neither unravelled through time and distance nor finished completing the knot.  Each encounter since, although sometimes baffling and painful as Jensen spilled out his misery, or arousing and awe-inspiring as those times Jared watched Jensen work, had merely complicated the tie.

After these last few days, Jared was beginning to recognise his feelings now as love, knew he was falling in love, and knew it was only going to cause him pain.  He knew that he should do exactly what Jensen thought he should do – walk away.  But Jared couldn’t.  He knew it was a terrible, awful idea to tangle himself even further in Jensen’s already overly complicated life, but he didn’t think he was strong enough to say no.

“Jay?”  Jensen’s voice was small, nervous, barely more than a whisper.

“Okay,” Jared said, voice rough, heart full, cock raging hard against the zipper of his pants.



It was as if they were back in that coffee shop. The coffees had been drunk, the flirting and innuendo had faded to nothing.  Jared had known he should let Jensen go, but instead he had risen to lock the front door, and turn the sign to closed.  He had held out his hand to Jensen, who had taken it willingly and followed him without a word into the storeroom.  Jared had pushed him hard against the brick wall, mouth devouring Jensen’s with the ferocity of a starving man.

This time it was Jensen who held out his hand, and Jared who followed up the stairs, but it was still Jared who tackled Jensen to the wall impatiently and seized his mouth with a growl of possessiveness.  It was Jared again who tore Jensen’s clothes off with no regard, just as he had ripped Jensen’s jeans down to his ankles then.  It was Jared who shoved his fingers into Jensen’s mouth to get them wet enough to force them into Jensen’s ass for a perfunctory opening up before thrusting his cock into Jensen’s heat with one hard push. Jensen had cried out then too, overcome with the pleasure in the pain and unable to be aware of anything other than how full, how hard, how amazing, and please, God, please, Jared, harder, deeper.  As then, Jensen gave up everything, and just allowed himself to feel, and came harder than he had ever done before, thick ropes of white decorating Jared’s dark blue button up,  as Jared, crying out,  pumped his own release deep inside Jensen.

This time though, Jensen didn’t stumble away, embarrassed, cum oozing out of his hole and down his leg, with a bitter sweet ache that reminded him of Jared every time he sat for the next several days (the ghost of which haunted his dreams and fantasies for the next eight years).  And Jared hadn’t been left hollowed out and empty, sitting at the back booth until the light started to break through the darkness, feeling as though something vital had been ripped away from his soul.

This time, Jared pulled out carefully and kissed Jensen again.  Gently this time, tasting him, as he slowed his breathing down, and calmed the frantic want in his head.  This time, his hands were given time to explore, to worship.  He steered a nearly insensate Jensen to the bed, pushing him carefully onto the covers.  He stood back to remove his own clothes, but allowed his eyes to wander avidly over Jensen’s pale gold skin, and sprinkling of spice colored freckles.  He tracked the cut of his hips, the dark blond trail of hair, to Jensen’s softening cock, a smudge of cum still clinging to the tip, and back up to a well-defined stomach muscles and  a strong chest and then on to the most beautiful face he had ever seen and eyes liquid and luminous looking back at Jared with desire, and need, and want…

This time, Jared took his time to learn the ways Jensen’s body could be made to sing, the way Jensen arched as his fingers tracked through his own fluid leaking from Jensen’s hole, the way Jensen shivered when Jared’s lips brushed over his nipples, the way Jensen’s face scrunched with pain as Jared entered him again, and the way the pain transformed into ecstasy and bliss as Jared pumped the entire length of his cock slowly and deliberately, stringing out  both their pleasures, holding back their orgasms until neither of them could think, or speak, or sense.

As they climaxed again, Jared tasted salt and realised that he was silently crying. Jensen lay looking up at him in wonder, as he brushed a tear from Jared’s cheek.  He didn’t say a word, but drew Jared close and wrapped him in his arm, and eventually they both slept, Jared’s cock softening but still lodged inside Jensen.



NOW November 2020 Boston   Eve of the election

There wasn’t a soul on Long Wharf.  The boats clinkered and rocked, lights dancing on the water, watched over by the bulk of the darkened Aquarium but there wasn’t a person in sight.

Jared walked to the far end of the wharf and stared out over water towards the black shadows of the islands in the harbor. His hands were deep in the pockets of his coat, but not because it was cold.  The night was surprisingly warm still after a day of sunshine.  No, his hands were shaking for another reason and he didn’t trust them not to give away the depth of emotion he was feeling.

He sensed rather than heard Jensen approaching, but didn’t turn round.  He didn’t trust any part of himself not to betray him.  Thirteen years.  It had taken Jensen thirteen years to finally ask for help and Jared didn’t know what to do with that, not really.  Falling down on his knees and begging Jensen to come back to him, to love him, wasn’t an solution.

The two of them stood for many minutes without a sound, without even acknowledging each other’s presence.  Finally, when Jared could bear it no longer he took a long look at Jensen.

Jensen looked awful.  Even in the orange glow of the street lamps, Jared could see how pale and how drawn Jensen was, how dark and hollow his eyes looked, how hunched up and in pain he seemed, and he could see the shivers that shook his frame.    Jensen was greatly agitated.

“Danni knows about you, about us,” Jensen finally spoke out.   “Rev. White is my father’s response to being informed.” Jared knew without doubt that Ackles Snr already knew about him, and so did Jensen. But he let the lie go.

“I don’t care about that,” Jared huffed in total frustration.  “Although it explains why Beaver called me to ask if I knew where you were.  Jesus that really must have made him sick.  Where the hell were you, Jen?   Two days.  Two days, you’ve been missing.”

Jensen shook his head, “I don’t know… walking.”

“Have you eaten? Slept?”  Jared asked, concern mounting as Jensen shook his head again.

“Fucking hell, Jensen.  Have you got any idea what panic you’ve caused by running off?”  Jensen snorted in disbelief.  Jared felt a brief surge of anger before becoming overwhelmed with sadness.

“People care about you,” he said trying to keep his voice calm.  Jared didn’t need to see to know that this time Jensen rolled his eyes.

“Fuck you!” Jared responded as this time the anger overcame any other emotion.  “I care!  I’ve been fucking sick with worry.  You haven’t got a fucking clue, Jensen, have…” but he let the words die as Jensen started crumpling to the ground.

“Jesus, fuck, Jensen,” Jared  leapt towards Jensen catching him before he sank completely into to the sidewalk.  Jensen was shaking, his whole body wracked with sobs.  “Fucking, fucking, fucking hell.”  Jared continued to curse as he wrapped his whole body around Jensen, cradling him, and protecting him as they both sat on the chilly ground.  They sat there a long while, Jensen clinging desperately as he cried bitter, angry and grief-stricken tears into Jared’s coat.

Eventually,  the sobs ceased and Jared, bones clicking and muscles pulling from long exposure to the chilly tarmac was able to move them both to a bench. He tried to persuade Jensen to go home with him, but Jensen got distressed, and Jared had to back down. So, the bench it was.  He kept a firm hold on Jensen though, pulling him into his warmth.

“Did you tell anyone you’d heard from me?”  Jensen finally asked.

“Do I need to?”

“No, I just want… I’ve got some things I need to tell you.  I need to try to make you understand and then I’ll be going back,” Jensen still wouldn’t, couldn’t, look Jared in the eye, and at these words, he turned his head further away still.

Jared fought hard not to respond, but a growl of frustration escaped nonetheless.

“I know you don’t think I should,” Jensen said, “But I am not as strong as you.”

Jared wisely held his tongue, but now Jensen was calmer, he untangled their embrace and moved further away.  Jensen whimpered a little and made a move to follow Jared.  He stopped before Jared had to say anything.  Jared knew that his disapproval, his anger, must be written all over his face.  What was Jensen doing?  Asking for help on the one hand, and deciding to return to his family with the other?

“What is it you want to tell me?”  Jared asked, although he just wanted to run at this point.  He couldn’t do this anymore.  He had spent too long wrapped up in the pain of loving Jensen.  Every time he gained a little hope, Jensen seemed to snatch it away from him.

When Jensen didn’t say anything for a few moments, Jared felt his patience wear thin and started to get up.

“No, please stay.  Just for a little while,” Jensen begged.  Jared sat back down.  He had always found it hard to refuse Jensen but he was beginning to hate himself for it.

“I knew I wasn’t like the rest of my family, even when I was very small.  They all had this drive, this ambition, this competitive spirit.  Even as children, Josh and Mackenzie would be ruthless when playing board games as if winning was massively important.  I didn’t get it.  Still don’t,” Jensen spoke clearly, with only a small tremor in his voice.  “I didn’t care if I won or lost, but I was clever enough to often win which used to make Josh so mad, that I would deliberately lose just to keep the peace, to keep him happy.”

“Who’s Josh?”  Jared asked fearfully for the second time in his life.  It wasn’t so hard to guess now, but he wanted Jensen to work for his understanding.

“Josh?  Josh is, was my brother, my older brother,”  Jensen answered simply this time, not shutting down as he had before.  “He was the favourite one. He was the typical Ackles in many ways, looked just like Dad and he wanted to be president one day just like Grandpa Ackles.  My parents’ pride and joy.   Everyone’s pride and joy.  Mine too… I adored him, looked up to him.  My big brother.  And he looked out for me too.  Didn’t understand me but cared for me anyway.

"Trouble is, he wasn’t terribly smart – he was typical jock.  I was way more intelligent, and Dad resented me for it.  All these brains but absolutely no drive to use them to perpetuate the Ackles’ political ambitions.  I had grown up seeing political power used for personal gain – it was all about the winning, the competition for them, and I wanted none of it.  I wanted to be a doctor, to use my brains for something helpful for others.  That’s fucked up right? Most parents are proud if a child wants to be a doctor. Josh used to protect me quite a lot from my father’s disappointment.  Despite his own ambitions, he recognised mine.

"I don’t know if Josh could have become president – it’s not like we haven’t had a dumb as shit president before, and I daresay, the full weight of the mighty Ackles clan would have shored him up.”

“What happened?”

“He died,” Jensen fell silent for a while.   There was catch in his voice when he continued.  “Stupid, dumb asshole got behind the wheel of a car when fucked out of his face and drove into a tree.  He was sixteen years old.”

“Was that when you were sent to Aspen?”  Jared questioned.

Jensen looked up in surprise, as if he had forgotten that Jared knew that about him.

“Yes.  Neither of my parents could stand to look at me after.  The wrong son died, you see, and they were left with the dud.  Plus they had a campaign to fight and Dad was in charge.  Nothing like a political scrap to put the loss of a son in perspective.”  Jensen was very bitter.   “They packed me off to a grandfather I had never seen before, not even giving me a chance to grieve for my brother, and promptly forgot I was there for a few months.”

“But not forever…”

“I wish,” Jensen snorted. “They needed someone to carry on the Ackles political ambitions.  I was certainly capable, and now I had lost my big brother.  I... just… I don’t know… I just wanted to make him proud… make Josh proud of me… and there were all these people, my family, all grieving too, who were looking at me as if I were the saviour of the world.  From being largely ignored or being the one that disappointed, suddenly I had all this attention on me.  I think it twisted something in me, and no matter how many times I tried to kick against it, somehow I kept being drawn back in – the guilt of letting them down was too much, the desire to do something for Josh overwhelming.”

“That wasn’t healthy, Jen,” Jared croaked, moved beyond tears.

“Don’t I know it?”  Jensen declared hotly.  “It’s cost me every scrap of happiness I have ever had in this life.

 “Every time I turned round, there were just more reasons to play the game – First, Danni and then the children, until I started to really become the thing they wanted me to be.  I got good at it, and that was some satisfaction, and I daresay if I had been allowed to do my own thing, perhaps I might even have enjoyed it. As it was, I was an Ackles, and that meant family values and a strong Christian moral code. No argument.

“But things changed, and I actually contemplated doing my own thing for once, giving up the politics and finding something else.  I was so close, Jay.  I found something, someone, I wanted to fight for, a reason to make a stand.”  Jared had no doubt that Jensen was talking about him and was blown away by the revelation.  He had had no idea.

“Then my father took it all away.   He found out I was gay, got evidence, and now he has his leverage, his hold over me. He holds careers, my children’s futures,  in his hands.”

“What do you mean hold?”  Jared stated unhappily, but noted Jensen had said careers, not ‘my career’.  “Because you’re gay?”

Jensen bit his lip.  There was something Jensen wasn’t telling him.  Jared willed him, begged him silently, to open up. To really tell the whole truth.

“It’s not just that… I can’t explain, Jay.  You don’t understand.”

“You keep saying that,” Jared butted in, “but how can I understand if you keep your secrets?”

Jensen looked about ready to cry again, so Jared relented.

“I’m just one more person with expectations of you, aren’t you?”  It wasn’t an easy admission for Jared to make, but he faced the stark truth of it anyway.

Jensen laughed ruefully.

“This is not your fault, Jay.  This is because I am too much of a coward to stand up for myself.  I’d be standing miserably on the end of this wharf whether I met you or not.  The only difference would be that I would have been standing here on my own.  You are the only person alive in the world today that gives a damn about me, the real me, and I wish I could be the person you deserve me to be.  But I can’t.  I’m sorry.  I love you with every atom in my body but I am not strong enough to fight for you.”

Liar, thought Jared.  You’ve been fighting all this time, you’ve just chosen the wrong battles, tried to do it on your own...

“Don’t go back,”  Jared pleaded.

“I’m sorry,” Jensen answered sadly.  “I have to.”

Jensen was always the better one in an argument. Jared knew he had lost as Jensen walked away back up the road towards the Old State House.  How could he argue with Jensen’s own lack of self-worth?  How could he argue with Jensen holding all the cards?  Except, Jensen didn’t know that Jared knew exactly what cards Jensen was holding.  And he didn’t know what Jared was capable of, what Jared would be capable of doing for the man he loved.

Jared let Jensen walk away from him, this time, but it didn’t stop him thinking.



Danneel’s face was pinched and white when Jensen arrived back at the house.  She didn’t say anything to him as he walked past her to climb the stairs to his room, but he heard her on the phone, telling someone, probably his father, of his return.

He showered, and changed into sweats and a T-shirt, then collapsed into his big armchair that looked out over the street.  Eventually Danneel crept in.

“Do you need anything to eat?” she asked subdued and quiet.

“No, thank you,” he answered wearily.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, as though it was shameful to admit a mistake.  “I shouldn’t have told him my concerns.”

Jensen looked at her, his face smooth and impassive.

“Doesn’t matter,” he answered.

“I am right, though,” she continued.  “There is something going on between you and Padalecki, isn’t there?”

“Not any more… not for a long time,” Jensen said honestly, feeling the pain in the truth.

“I just… I just needed… this family, our family… it’s important, Jensen.  I just didn’t want things to get screwed up.  I’m sorry.”

Jensen turned to look out of the window.

“Just leave it, Danni.  It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Were you with him?  These last couple of days.  Was that where you were?”

Danneel knew enough about her husband to recognise she was pushing too hard.

“It doesn’t matter.  Get some sleep.  We’ve got an election to win tomorrow.  Everything else isn’t important,” Jensen said with a sharp edge in his voice.

She nodded, her fears calming as he reassured her.  He had come back.  Everything would be all right.  She left him in the gloom, still looking out of the window.



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