Bimbo Baggins (cherie_morte) wrote in infatuated_ink,
Bimbo Baggins
cherie_morte
infatuated_ink

Real Person Fic - CW: Shipwreck Between Your Ribs [Part 3/4]

Back to MasterpostBack to Part OneBack to Part Two

PART THREE


“Ever since Danneel left, there’s nothing to eat in this house,” Jensen announces to no one in particular. “I’m probably gonna starve to death. I don’t know for sure. Let’s just wait and see.”

Jared was upstairs in their room the last time Jensen saw him. He was curled awkwardly on the bed, napping in the one sliver of sunlight shining through the window like a smug kitten. So Jensen thinks he’s only complaining to himself until he feels the sudden pressure of a hand on his chest from behind, the whoosh of air as he’s pushed, and then the cold sensation of metal at his back.

Jared pins Jensen to the fridge with one huge arm on either side of his face, and Jensen grins, liking the danger he's in.

“I still see one delicious thing to chew on,” Jared threatens, letting his teeth graze the shell of Jensen’s ear.

"If you bite me, do I get seal rabies?" he asks.

Jared’s laugh kills the mood a little as he lets his head drop, pressing his forehead against the fridge by Jensen’s face. "I gotta say, your fear of seal rabies is way disproportionate to the threat.”

"Nuh uh," says Jensen, squirming like he's trying to get free of Jared's trap. "I googled it. It's totally possible. Oh, or! What if you bite me and I turn into a seal? What if that was your plan all along?"

Jared is laughing breathlessly as he closes the space between them. "I'm supposed to be the one of us that doesn't know when to shut up."

He silences Jensen with a bite to his bottom lip, then quickly changes to a kiss. Jared goes deep fast, like he doesn't doubt that Jensen is his to dig into, and Jensen feels like sunken treasure, like there was this whole inestimable part of him buried out of reach, and finally someone's noticed it, has decided to pull it up to the surface. Every second Jared kisses him Jensen swears he gets that much closer to coming up for air.

It’s already been two weeks since Jensen extended his trip, and already it feels like he and Jared have been doing this forever. Isolated in their own little bubble, almost no contact with the outside world—Jensen thinks, on the surface, he should feel more alone than before. Instead, guiltily, he’s relieved to be free of his friends, his family and co-workers, all the well-meaning people who love and care about him and yet don’t understand how to take him out of his head the way Jared instinctively does.

This won’t last more than a few months. He keeps reminding himself of that, so it won’t sneak up on them like last time. Jensen knows this isn’t real in that sense. Still, he’s clinging to it as long as he can, trying to deny it’s the antidote to a life he didn’t realize was defeating him until Jared dragged him out enough to see it. Because now he knows and now when he pictures going home, it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing he can survive.

His phone starts vibrating in his pocket, and Jensen breaks the kiss just long enough to check the caller ID. It’s Jeff calling from his New York office. Jensen hardly remembers the person he was a month ago, the crippling anxiety a call from his agent would have caused, how he would have interrupted anything to answer.

Now, Jensen rejects the call and tosses the phone on the kitchen island, turning Jared’s face back to his when Jared’s gaze refocuses on the phone skidding across the counter.

“Where were we?” Jensen asks.

Jared grins and picks up where they left off.

_______________________________________________________________


Nothing about this is a good idea.

Swimming in the ocean in general, if one takes a step back to really think about it, is not a great idea. There’s some weird shit in the ocean. Sharks aren’t even the worst of it. There’s jellyfish to sting you, or you could step on a crab and lose a toe, or be stabbed in the heart by a stingray like the crocodile guy. There’s eels and those nightmare fish with the glowy fishing rods growing out of their foreheads and—

Jensen is suddenly splashed by what feels like 500 gallons of ice water.

And there are idiot boyfriends to consider.

He shakes the water out of his hair and says, “You do that one more time and I swear I will end you.”

The seal floating a few feet from Jensen stares at him innocently, which adds the threat of him looking insane for picking a fight with a seal if anyone should happen to pass by.

“Don’t give me that look,” Jensen says. “I know it was you.”

Jared shakes his little seal head and looks so cute that Jensen can hardly stay angry at him.

“I told you I didn’t want to do this,” Jensen lectures. “’Let’s go for a midnight swim, Jensen.’ ‘We’ll have so much fun.’ ‘It’ll be so refreshing,’ you said. ‘It won’t be that cold.’ Wrong, wrong, and wrong.”

He flicks water at Jared. “I hope you’re having a good time, because I’m getting out and taking my frozen ass inside.”

At that, he turns and starts paddling to the shore. He should have known better, really, than to turn his back on Jared.

For his trouble, Jensen gets tackled to the ground, sand in his face, and a giant holding a heavy soaking sealskin resting on top of him.

“But it’s so romantic,” Jared coos in his ear.

“Can’t breathe,” says Jensen.

Jared rolls off of him but stays lying in the surf with the tips of the waves coming up just high enough to kiss his toes. “Look at how the moon shines on the water. Isn’t this just the greatest?”

“No,” Jensen grouses, settling next to him. “And if I get sand in my most sacred places, you’ll be sorry.”

He watches as Jared rises onto his elbows and gives Jensen a smarmy look. “I’d be happy to help you pick it out.”

Jensen makes a disgusted face and Jared laughs, pulling him in for a kiss. “Hey, what if I told you I can stay with you tonight? All night. What would you say to that?”

“I’d say that’s almost worth swimming in the ocean after dark.” Jensen bites his bottom lip and then leans in to kiss Jared’s nose. “Will you really stay?”

“Yeah,” Jared says, sitting up. “I’ll just stash this,” he says, lifting his skin, “and then I’ll hurry right back. Wait up for me.”

Jensen tries not to get too excited, tries not to think about what Jared might have in mind if he’s really going to sleep over. Because what they have—it’s great, it’s more than enough. But it’s been almost two months since the first time Jared kissed him, and so far, that’s as far as it’s gone between them. Jensen wants Jared more than he knew a person could want anything.

“I’m not sure what kind of ideas you’re getting about me,” Jared teases. He slaps Jensen’s ass to urge him back to the house and calls, “but get your pretty little ass back inside. I’ve got some ideas of my own.”

_______________________________________________________________


Two hours later, Jared has returned to him, seal-free. He lets himself into the house, so Jensen doesn’t realize he’s there until the bed dips and a great big hand pushes the book he’d been reading down onto his lap.

“I like the glasses,” Jared says, leaning in for a kiss. “Not digging the clothes as much.”

Jensen tosses the book onto the floor and sits up, pulling his shirt off over his head, all too happy to ditch the clothes. He reaches out for Jared and Jared falls into his arms, lips meeting as their bodies line up together.

“Fuck, Jared,” Jensen whispers.

“I know,” Jared says urgently. “I know.”

He shoves the sheets he’d been sitting under out of the way and grins at Jared, who is big, tan, perfect next to him, already in his boxers because wearing clothes doesn’t come naturally to him. When he moves toward Jared again, pushing him down into the mattress, Jared makes a satisfied, breathy sound and pulls him impossibly closer.

Jensen ducks his lips, bringing Jared’s forearm up to his mouth and pressing a line of kisses along the long slice of open skin.

Jared’s breathing gets unmistakably tense, so Jensen looks up to catch his eyes, make sure this is okay. He gets an encouraging smile and Jared speaks softly, “It’s supposed to feel wrong being touched there. By a human.”

He rubs his face along the skin and asks, “Does it?”

“No,” Jared whispers. “It’s nice when you do it.”

Jensen can’t help his grin at that. He presses one last kiss to the broken skin and then turns to meet Jared’s mouth instead.

They kiss for a long time.

The kiss for a frustratingly long time.

Jensen pulls back. “Jared, can we—?”

Jared shakes his head but holds Jensen firmly in place when Jensen tries to pull away. He’s hard as a rock in his boxers, as hard as Jensen is. Every indication since the first moment they set eyes on each other says that Jared wants him, but every indication so far has been wrong.

“You’re desperate for me, aren’t you?” Jared asks.

“Well, I wouldn’t have worded it quite like that, but,” Jensen grinds down, lets his erection press into Jared’s thigh. “Yeah, a little.”

“I want to satisfy you,” Jared says. “So much.”

“But you won’t.” Jensen closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to steady himself. He doesn’t want to pressure Jared. He just wants Jared to burn like he is. “Why not me? You’ve fucked so many people and you won’t even let me touch—”

As usual, Jared catches Jensen’s hand when it strays too far, trying to get a grip on Jared’s cock. He pulls it up and presses his lips to Jensen’s fingers.

“They weren’t special,” Jared says, rubbing his face against Jensen’s palm. “You’re special.”

“Then why don’t you want me?”

He watches Jared sit up against the headboard and give Jensen a troubled look. “Is that really what you think?”

“I don’t know what to think,” Jensen admits. “This seems like it should be pretty straightforward to me.”

“None of this is as simple as…” Jared frowns and looks away. “I wish I could explain. I wish I could make you understand how much I want you.” He covers his ears with his hands and digs his fingers into his hair. “Jensen, it’s driving me insane. Listening to your song, when you’re always so near, when it just keeps getting louder. Knowing how much you want me and…and I wasn’t made for denial. I’m physically in pain from how much my body needs yours. My blood is on fire every time I look at you.”

“I’m right here,” Jensen says, forcing Jared’s hands down and making him meet his eyes. “Jared, I’m right here.”

“I can’t,” he says, tone bordering on hysterical. “I can’t. You don’t understand.”

“So help me understand.” Jensen wraps an arm around his leg and rests his head on his knee, watching Jared. “You could at least explain it.”

Jared swallows hard and he doesn’t have to speak, doesn’t have to shake his head. The ‘no’ is clear in his expression. So is the fear that Jensen will keep pushing.

He can’t stand the thought of Jared being afraid of him. “You’ve told me so much. You can trust me with whatever else you still haven’t. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.”

For a long moment, everything is quiet. Finally, Jared reaches out for him, his hand moving slowly to cup Jensen’s face. “We can’t fuck. And you can’t touch me. You have to promise you’ll stop trying. We will, eventually, I promise. Just give me a little while longer.”

“Of course.” Jensen leans in and kisses Jared, rests his forehead on Jared’s when he says, “I’m sorry I made you feel like I wouldn’t wait.”

“You don’t have to,” Jared says, like he’s just made up his mind. “I think…”

He turns until he’s pushing Jensen into the mattress, and then he’s kissing his way down Jensen’s body, muttering more to himself than to Jensen, “I can make you feel good. I think I can make you—”

He takes Jensen into his mouth and Jensen loses the ability even to moan. Jared sucks cock with hundreds of years of practice and his whole damn heart.

_______________________________________________________________


Jensen wakes up the next morning loose-limbed and it’s not until he realizes that the heavy weight around his middle is Jared’s arm that he remembers why. Jared’s lips on him, the way Jensen’s entire being had shaken loose with the force of his orgasm—it all feels like a dream now, too much to be real.

But Jared is still here. For the last two months, Jensen has wanted nothing more than to fall asleep in Jared’s arms and wake up with him still there in the morning. Now the sun is shining into his eyes, and Jared is still here.

He moves Jared’s arm so that he can sit up, giddy to take in the luxury of this morning. Jared rouses slowly, eyes fluttering open at having his arm disturbed, a small smile curling his lips.

He says, “G’mornin’.”

Jensen drinks in Jared's broad shoulders and chest, the deep cuts of muscle on his hips, and he sighs. Instead of returning Jared’s greeting he says, "Fuck, you're so beautiful."

"I know," is Jared's response, and Jensen's eyes jump up to his face, expecting to see a cocky smile at the turn of his lips, a playful sparkle in his eyes.

Instead, Jared is staring at the ceiling, looking weirdly distant, disconnected from what he's saying. "I've always been beautiful to humans. That's all I've ever been." His gaze shifts, directly to Jensen's, as if he could feel exactly where Jensen's eyes were on him. "I never minded before. It didn't matter what humans thought about me." He turns his attention back to the ceiling, resigned, and his voice drops. "I want to be more than that to you. But I don't know how. I don't know how to be anything but beautiful."

It occurs to Jensen that for all the good Jared’s done him, he doesn’t seem to know how to say anything to Jared without hurting him.

Then Jared blinks a few times and shakes his head, and the melancholy all scatters away as easy as if he’d shaken off raindrops. “Hey, I’m hungry.”

Jensen grins, because in this, at least, he knows how to make Jared happy. All he has to say is, “I bought bacon.”

_______________________________________________________________


“I’m bored,” Jared announces.

“I know,” Jensen tells him, calmly, trying his best to ignore the 200 pounds of nervous energy unsettling the room behind him. “I’ve heard.”

“Estoy aburrido,” Jared replies. “As the blessed creators of tacos would say. Oh, we should go get tacos.”

“We just had lunch two hours ago, Jared,” Jensen reminds him as he sifts through a stack of notes. God, his handwriting is atrocious.

“But that was two hours ago,” Jared says. Jensen hears rather than sees him flop down on the bed behind him dramatically. He tries to check his smile at that and is glad Jared can’t see his face, because he fails. “Jensen. Tá mé dubh dóite.”

“Of course you speak Irish,” Jensen says, holding one of his papers up to the light, trying to figure out if he wrote an L or an I in the third sentence from the top. “Aren’t selkies Irish?”

“Ik verveel me,” Jared replies. “That one’s Dutch. Guess what it means.”

“I can’t imagine,” Jensen mutters, giving up on that page of notes altogether and reaching for another one.

“Мне скучно.” He hears the creak of the bed as Jared sits up, then another creak as Jared begins to bounce on the edge of the mattress. “Je m'ennuie.”

“And what’s that?” Jensen asks absentmindedly. “Italian?”

“No, ‘che noia’ is Italian,” Jared informs him. “You weren’t even close.”

“I’m going to regret this,” Jensen announces to the room at large as he turns his swivel chair to face Jared. “But I’ll bite. You’ve never spoken to a single human being except for me. So how on Earth do you speak Spanish, Irish, Dutch, whatever that other one was—?”

“It was Russian,” Jared tells him flatly.

“Okay, Russian, French, and Italian?”

"The same way I speak Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Swahili, Greek, Latin, Hindi, and over 400 other languages, of course!” Jared grins when that only makes Jensen rolls his eyes, because he’s finally gotten exactly what he wanted: Jensen’s attention.

“I’m not going to beg,” Jensen informs him. “You have me for ten, nine, eight, seven...”

Jared crosses the room and takes a seat on his lap, kissing him and murmuring, “Твои очки меня заводят.”

“I don’t know what that means, but I’m going to assume it’s Portuguese for ‘I’m bored.’”

“No, my darling. That was Russian again. I said that your glasses turn me on.” He smiles as he removes Jensen’s glasses and puts them on his own face. “‘Estou aborrecido’ is Portuguese for ‘I’m bored.’”

“How helpful,” Jensen says, wrapping his arms around Jared’s hips. “I must put that into my lecture.”

“No, no, enough with the lecture,” Jared says. “Can’t you work on it—?”

“Tomorrow?” Jensen offers. “That’s what you said yesterday.”

Jared frowns and turns his face away. “Yeah, well…”

Jensen licks his lips. He knows that this is about more than Jared wanting attention, that the reason he’s in this mess to begin with is that he’s been as eager as Jared to pretend the summer will never end. Now he has two weeks until the semester starts and his syllabus isn’t planned, his lectures aren’t prepared, and he’d much rather keep giving Jared every minute of his time than focus on the cold reality of September looming on the horizon.

He pulls the glasses off Jared but folds them up and places them on the desk instead of back on his own face, signaling that he’ll take a short break from work. “Tell me how you speak a million languages, then.”

“Oh, there’s not much to tell. It’s easy to learn your human languages,” Jared explains as he leads Jensen to the mattress. “They’re very simple systems of expression. Bats, for example, are much more sophisticated. Once you’ve heard a person’s song, the language is only the surface of how much there is to take in.”

“That’s actually really interesting,” Jensen admits.

“Mmmhmm,” Jared agrees. “Теперь я тебе отсосу.”

“And what’s that mean?”

Instead of answering, Jared goes down on him. Jensen figures that one out for himself.

_______________________________________________________________


It seems like the most wasteful thing they could do with only one night left together is to spend it not talking to each other. Not looking at each other. Not enjoying each other.

Of course, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

For over an hour, they’ve been lying in bed together, bodies over the covers, close but parallel lines.

Jensen tries to think of something big enough to say. Imagines a place to touch Jared that could leave a lasting impression. Can’t let himself love another moment of Jared’s company, because tomorrow…

“Tomorrow,” Jared says, as if he’d read Jensen’s mind.

“Yes.”

Jared nods but keeps his eyes up on the ceiling, just like Jensen is doing. The silence descends again. It’s not a comfortable one, like so many they’ve shared this summer. It’s the kind that makes a person deaf.

Jensen envies Jared his song. He’d welcome any noise to drown out his thoughts.

“I can’t extend any further,” he says, as if Jared had asked.

“I know.”

“I have to make a living,” he adds. “The semester starts on Mon—”

“I get it.” Jared sighs. “We should be fucking. Might as well fuck you if you’re leaving tomorrow. Has to be tonight. All I’ve thought about for months and now the night comes, and I’m too miserable to even…” Jared laughs, the last thing in the world Jensen expects. It’s enough to make Jensen turn to look at him. “Do you want to know what the really stupid thing is?”

“I have a feeling I don’t,” Jensen says honestly. “Tell me.”

“It’s the first fucking note,” Jared replies.

Jensen gives him a confused look and Jared finally cuts a glance over at him. “It’s the first note of every song. You know as soon as you hear it that it’s not supposed to last. I knew before I opened my idiot mouth to tell you my name that I wouldn’t get to keep you. I knew. I should have just stayed away. Genevieve told me to. She said this would happen.”

His voice is tight when he replies, “I’m glad you didn’t listen.”

“I’d give anything not to feel this way,” Jared admits. “Half of me even thinks I’d give up knowing you, but…” He scrubs his hands over his face. “That’s not true, either. I would have done it differently if I could bear that.”

“Maybe I can come back,” Jensen offers. “I’ll find a new job, something on the water. We can—”

“That won’t work.” Jared runs his fingers over his arm, over the slit where his seal skin and his human skin connect. “You don’t know how wrong this is for me. Spending so much time in one body, sneaking off at night to catch a few hours in the other. Trying to ignore the agony of not fucking you. It’s not healthy for a selkie to live like this. It’s…too confusing. I can’t keep it up.”

“I can’t just leave you,” Jensen tells him. "I don't want to leave you."

Jared turns onto his side and searches Jensen’s face. “Take me with you."

“What? Jared, that’s crazy. I would have to—”

“I’ll give it to you,” he insists. “All you have to do is hide it from me. I’ll go back for it if I know where it is. I won’t be able to help it. But if you hide it…” Jared licks his lips and nods, like this is a brilliant plan. “You could fuck me. As many times as you want. And I could go with you. Anywhere. Jensen, please. I’ll bring it here and you just have to hide it.”

“Isn’t it bad for you?” Jensen asks. “Isn’t it torture to have your skin taken?”

“No. Maybe. Who cares?” Jared’s eyes are shiny, brimming with tears. “This is torture. The thought of losing you is torture. Living by your side and not satisfying this need in my bones for you is torture. I can handle losing my skin. I can’t handle losing you.”

“It doesn’t seem right,” Jensen says, though rejecting this, when Jared is offering everything he’s, in his darkest moments, already dreamed of taking, requires every ounce of self-control he has.

"Please. I love you," Jared says. “I love you too much.”

Jensen swallows hard, turning so that he isn't looking at Jared, so that all he sees is the generic beach landscape hanging on the wall, which doesn't have wide, sad eyes and doesn't make him want to surrender to emotions he's too scared to even speak out loud.

"That's ridiculous," he says, as if he can't feel his own heart eroding in his chest, trying to find a way to stay with Jared's. He has to talk Jared out of this, and he can’t find a way without being cruel. "It's only been a few months. We hardly know each other."

"I loved you before I ever saw you," Jared says, tracing a pattern on Jensen's chest.

"I don't believe in that," Jensen says, and it’s true. He doesn't. He never did. So-called 'love at first sight' has always been a concept that makes him roll his eyes. The idea isn't even romantic to him. "Love isn't special if it just happens. You have to know a person. Jared, I don't know you. I know some things about you, and I like them. I want desperately to know you. I could fall in love with you, but we aren't there yet."

"That may be true for you," Jared tells him. "But I know exactly who you are. I knew the first time I heard your song. I know every part of you and you can't ask me not to love those things. I don't know how."

“The song,” Jensen spits. “I’m so fucking tired of hearing about this song. You don’t know anything about me. You don’t love me. You just love this stupid song.”

Jared smiles and leans over to kiss him, then kisses him again, the pressure of his lips so pretty despite Jensen’s ugly words.

“The song told me who you are. But if you think that was all…it gave me things to discover about you, Jensen, but I still had to learn how they manifested. I knew you were loyal, but not how you try to hide it behind all your insults. The first time I saw you and Danneel get into it with each other, I thought I could watch you two go for days.

“I knew you were afraid to take risks, but I didn’t know how bright your smile would get when someone pushed you to take one anyway. That you would follow the people you care about to the end of the Earth, bitching about how stupid it was the entire way. I knew you were brilliant, but I hadn’t read your book or seen the little scraps of ideas you litter the house with when an idea strikes you. I’ve wasted so much of my summer trying to understand your indecipherable handwriting just so I could read those damn notes.

“I love your song because I love you, Jensen, not the other way around. And I know one more thing about you. I know you don’t really believe for a minute that what I feel for you isn’t real. And that you’re only trying to push me away because what you feel for me is real, too. I even love you for that, you stupid asshole.”

Jensen laughs at the last part and wipes at his eyes, taking a deep breath. “Tell me what happens,” he says. “If we have sex. Tell me why you wouldn’t.”

“I told you in a way, Jensen. When a selkie hears a song, it’s a limited engagement. We go to it, we satisfy the person, we move on. If I get off with you and get back into my sealskin—”

“You’ll never hear me again,” Jensen guesses. At Jared’s nod, he ventures. “But if you love me, if it’s not just the song, who cares? Right?”

“I wish,” says Jared. “I would miss it. It’s a fucking masterpiece, Jensen. I wish you could hear yourself, I wish you knew how deep your beauty goes. But I would give it up if I could.”

“So what, you’ll hear someone else’s song eventually?” Jensen shrugs. “I don’t care about that. It’s one night. You could go to them and then come back to me. I can handle that.”

“Jensen, if I get back in my skin after we fuck, after all these months ignoring the call…it’s not an option. Okay? Just…trust me. That I won’t do. I’d sooner slice through my own throat.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Jensen says, reaching out to touch the delicate skin Jared just threatened. “Please, don’t talk like that.”

“Listen to me. I’ve lived a long, good life. I know how things would be without you, and I know how things could be if you’ll just trust me. I’m making a choice. Take my skin. It’s yours. I’m yours.”

Jensen grabs him then, pulls Jared into his arms, and kisses him with a monstrous need to claim him. “Yes,” he says, and, “I’ll keep you. I want to keep you.”

Jared’s elation seems to match his own, the dark cloud of tomorrow suddenly giving way to a future where they can be together forever, and happy. Jared digs his fingers into Jensen’s sides painfully as he pulls their bodies flush together, and he whispers, “Take every part of me, Jensen.”

He’s got one arm full of Jared and he won’t let go as the other one smacks his nightstand artlessly, until finally he finds the handle without looking, and he fumbles inside for the bottle of lube he used so many times at the start of the summer and never again after he met Jared.

The container gets snatched away so fast that Jensen is still processing that his hand is empty when Jared’s already sliding slicked up fingers into his own body.

“So much for romance,” Jensen jokes. “After making me wait all these weeks.”

“I know for a fact you’ve come plenty of times,” Jared says as he holds himself above Jensen, pushing into himself and then out again. “I haven’t come in months. Had you so close. Could smell you and touch you and taste you and I couldn’t—”

Jared throws his head back and makes a clipped sound of pleasure. Jensen tugs him closer, pushing Jared's boxers down. Wanting to watch, and, as soon as his eyes take in the sight, needing to be a part of it.

He grabs the lube from where Jared tossed it on the mattress and wets one finger, which he gently presses in next to the two Jared has worked himself up to. It’s amazing how receptive Jared is, that there’s no pushback or need to adjust whatsoever. Like Jensen isn’t even intruding, is a part of Jared just like the rest.

“Need you,” Jensen says, and Jared nods, a breathless “Uh huh” falling from his lips.

They both pull their hands back, Jared grabbing Jensen’s wrists and pining them above his head as soon as they’re free.

“Let me,” he says.

Jensen nods, desperately wanting to give whatever Jared wants to take from him. Jared’s slippery hand wraps around his cock like it’s not even there, a ghost’s touch as it slicks him up, and thank god for that, because Jensen doesn’t think he would make it long, knowing how good Jared is with his hands and how desperate he is right now.

He’s thankful that they’d taken most of their clothes off when they’d gotten home from dinner, that it’s only his underwear between them now, and Jared has pushed that down far enough that Jensen shakes it loose from one leg and doesn’t care enough to do more than that.

Then Jared is above him, lining up, placing Jensen’s hands on his hips so Jensen gets hypnotized by the rhythmic sway Jared sets as soon as he sinks down onto Jensen’s dick. It’s not like anything Jensen’s ever felt before, a dance only Jared knows the moves to, and Jensen’s left feeling graceless, clumsy. Like he’s never done this before.

“Fuck,” he cries, throwing his head back. “Fuck, Jared. Oh my god.”

“Shh, my Jensen, don’t do that.” He feels long fingers tracing his throat. “Don’t look away from me.”

Jensen meets Jared’s eyes, drowns in the intensity of his gaze, the galaxy of colors swirling in them, as perfect and impossible to fathom as everything the man they belong to is doing to him.

“Jensen,” Jared whispers, his eyes dropping closed. “I didn’t know it could feel like this. It’s never felt like this.”

Jensen can hardly believe that this is anywhere near as good for Jared as it is for him, but he lets all his defenses drop, hopes his expression can show Jared how much he feels, because the words don’t exist. Not in any language. He laughs to himself, wondering if maybe bats could get the point across, and Jared grins like he’s in on the joke as he drops down to kiss Jensen.

Their lips don’t separate again until Jared’s fingers curl around Jensen’s and he turns his face into Jensen’s neck. “I’m gonna come,” he says. “I need to—”

“Let me touch you,” Jensen begs. He doesn’t doubt that Jared could get off untouched, not after how long he’s waited. But Jensen’s waited, too. He’s spent two months trembling as their bodies rut together, keeping his hands to himself so that Jared wouldn’t get off. He doesn’t just want it to be his dick Jared gets off on. He wants to hold the proof of it in his palm.

“Yes,” Jared replies, frantic as he moves on Jensen. “Yes.”

Jensen takes his dick in hand, thumb circling on the head, tantalizing, until Jared’s whole body has slowed to match his rhythm. Once he knows he has Jared on the hook, he begins to stroke, steady as his wrist fucks Jared, and Jared’s whole body tenses on his, the need for release now as painful in Jensen as it’s been for Jared.

“Let it go, baby,” he says.

Jared’s gasp is silent when it happens, but Jensen feels a hot stream of come as Jared’s body begins to rock in time with his climax. The smile that breaks over Jared’s face as he flushes with his release makes Jensen think of the sunset they’d watched over the flower field, and he decides that the sun needs to step up its game after this.

He reaches out, cupping Jared’s cheek with his filthy hand, dragging Jared down for a kiss, until he licks the come from Jared’s face, and Jared just laughs at all of it, his voice so light and free. Jensen didn't realize that Jared had been holding back the whole time he knew him, not until he saw this easy happiness.

When they fall asleep, Jensen is still holding Jared, the mess of what happened between them bold and unaddressed. He wakes up with Jared still there, but they’ve both been wiped clean. As he sits up, Jensen realizes that’s not the only thing that’s different.

Jared’s skin is curled up on the desk across the room, a happy seal face smiling at him. Jensen slips out of bed as quietly as Jared had gone to fetch it and makes it disappear.

_______________________________________________________________


By the time Jensen is done getting dressed, Jared is no longer asleep. He turns over to face the bathroom and the closet Jensen has just emerged from, a book he’d been reading laid flat on his stomach.

When he sees Jensen, his smile is radiant—way too wide and bright for this time of the morning. Nothing about Jensen in his boring tweed suit is worthy of it.

“Look at you,” Jared says, leaning his face on his hand. “What a nerd.”

Glancing down at the brown fabric self-consciously, Jensen says, “It’s my lucky suit.”

“Lucky for your students, maybe.” He watches Jared bite his bottom lip and duck his head. “You really went all in on the sexy professor look, huh? The glasses, the scruff. Come here. Let me ruffle your hair up. It’ll make you look more absent-minded.”

“We can’t all lounge around naked like Michelangelo is going to swing by to sculpt us any minute,” Jensen says, stepping forward and leaning on the bed for a quick kiss. “Some of us have to actually go to our jobs.”

“That guy was all hands,” Jared says with a wink, and when Jensen gapes at him for a moment, he laughs. “I’m kidding, Jensen. I never modeled for Michelangelo.”

Jensen pulls his face back so he can look Jared over. Somehow, his massive size makes his nakedness seem more salacious, all that exposed skin, tan and toned and tempting. “You could have, though.”

“Of course I could, but Da Vinci paid better.” Jared pauses for a moment, then adds, “Now that guy really was all hands.”

“I can’t even tell if you’re joking or not,” Jensen says.

“And you don’t have time to find out.” Jared tilts his head at the clock. “First day of school starts in forty-five minutes. You’d have to play hooky to learn the great mysteries of my past.”

Jensen whines and leans forward for another quick kiss, cupping Jared’s cheek. “We’ll pick this up when I get home.”

Jared agrees with a gentle hum as he traces the backs of his fingers on Jensen’s rough cheek. “You look so good,” he says. “I never thought…”

“Never thought what?” Jensen prompts when Jared doesn’t finish his sentence.

He watches Jared’s cheeks flush the color of coral as he says, "I didn’t think I’d ever get to see you in your real life, you know? The way you are at home. Part of something regular like this."

Jensen gets that. Yesterday, he’d made himself a cup of coffee and stared for an hour before Jared finally woke up, just sat there drinking in the impossible sight of him swimming in Jensen’s dark blue sheets instead of dark blue ocean.

It felt then, as it feels now, a little like he’d gotten away with something. Stole this beautiful boy and brought him to a life he has no part in. But it’s Jensen’s life, and Jared asked to belong in it. Surely, he’ll fit. He has to fit. Jensen needs him to fit.

He shakes his head, not wanting to go down that road. “What about you? What are you going to do all day?”

“I’ve got a whole semester to get through.” Jared holds up the book he’d laid on his stomach, and Jensen realizes that it’s Play It as It Lays, the first novel on his syllabus. “I want to be able to talk to you about your work.”

He says it shyly, like he’s worried Jensen will think it’s silly, and Jensen gives Jared a flurry of quick kisses before he finally tears himself away. He positions his bag across one shoulder, then walks to the other side of the room, tugging a book off the shelf and tossing it on the foot of the bed.

“You have the new copy I bought to take to class. Read this one instead. I put notes in the margins the first time I read it.”

Jared’s responding smile is only on one side, a single dimple popping out on his cheek, but there’s relief in his eyes, even if it’s mischief in his mouth. He reaches for the worn old book Jensen threw him, says, “As if I could read your fucking handwriting.”

_______________________________________________________________


For once, Jensen gets home and Jared isn’t sprawled on the couch under a pile of books waiting for him.

He sets his bag down by the door, letting out a long breath. It’s only Thursday of week three, and already he’s counting down to the end of the semester—and he hasn’t even had to start grading papers yet.

The solace after each long day, every unproductive, stalling class discussion, has been the greeting waiting for him as soon as he walked past the threshold of his house. An instant inundation of random thoughts and observations Jared had throughout the day, all that nervous energy flying at him, making him forget everything except the cadence of Jared’s voice.

“Jared, I’m home,” he calls.

“In here,” he hears from down the hall, so Jensen heads to the kitchen.

Jared is hunched over the round kitchen table, a stack of papers on either side of him, and Jensen grabs a glass of water before he heads over, standing behind Jared’s chair to try to see what he’s writing.

Over Jared’s shoulder, he notices that the scribbles spread out around Jared aren’t words at all. He picks one sheet up off the pile on Jared’s right, and there’s only one word on it, a name at the top of the page written in big, black letters. The rest of it is notes of music sprinkled across improvised bars that Jared has drawn unevenly on regular printer paper.

“Who’s Ruth?” he asks, and then his eyes move down the rest of the page. “You can write music?”

“Just another language,” Jared mutters as he continues to work on a line. He draws in two last notes and then puts his pen down, turning to Jensen. “Can you read it?”

Jensen knows a little something about singing, can even fiddle with a guitar, but he shakes his head. “Hardly. I’m not trained.”

“I’m writing down the songs I’ve heard. Making a record. I’ve had them all in my head for so long, but…I’m not going to live forever. They should be remembered. These people, their…souls, is that the word you use? It’s almost like their souls go on if people hear their songs, right?”

“Jared, that’s an amazing idea,” he says, looking at all the different sheets, utterly delighted by the thought of Jared finding a way to fill his days like this. He can’t resist teasing, though. “Weird that someone as in touch with music as you is so tone deaf, huh?”

“I know,” Jared agrees in an innocent tone. “Almost like a writer whose handwriting looks like chicken scratch.”

“Touché,” Jensen says, laughing so hard he has to reach for the table to steady himself. Once he’s under control, he grabs another of Jared’s papers and reads another name, ‘Brock’ this time. “Hey, is there one called Jensen?”

Jared takes the sheet out of his hand and lays it back on top of its pile. “Not yet. I had to make sure I could at least do the songs justice before starting that. These,” he gestures to the songs he’s already mapped out, “these are practice runs. Yours is going to be a masterpiece.”

Jensen smiles at that and presses a kiss to his head. Jared pulls out of the embrace, making a guilty face. “It was my night to cook, wasn’t it? Fuck, I’m such a deadbeat, I completely lost track of time. I’ll—”

He tries to rise from the chair and Jensen pushes him back down. “Stay. Keep working. I’ll make something.”

“You worked all day.”

“So did you, apparently.” Jensen smiles and heads for the fridge, opening it to take stock of what his options are. “You know, when I was writing my first collection of short stories in college, I once went three days without having a real meal. I didn’t notice until I put down the last punctuation mark that I’d been living off bags of Doritos.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Jared tells him. “As long as it was the blue flavor.”

Jensen laughs. “My point is: I know what it’s like to get into the creative zone and forget everything else. I love that feeling. There’s nothing like it. I’m so glad you found it here.”

“Maybe you inspire me,” says Jared.

He’s changed his position now, so that his chair is angled more toward the counter and he’s turned around, sitting on it backwards. He looks so earnest that Jensen is a little embarrassed by it, so he deflects.

“I’m making kabobs,” he announces. “Tell me about the songs while I prep.”

So Jared does. He talks about Ruth, the first song he ever heard, a woman who had been the great beauty of her town when she was young, who had never had anything but her beauty, and about the loneliness of her life when she grew older, her husband’s attention turning to younger girls. Jared had been just a boy then, just what she needed to feel youthful and wanted, even if only for a night.

Then Jared tells him about Brock, a young man who’d lived in one of the fishing villages Jared’s harem had made a home by. “Looked a little like you, if I remember correctly,” Jared says as he speaks of the isolation he’d heard in Brock’s song, the confusion of wanting men and not knowing that was something boys could do.

He goes on and on, speaking of some of the other songs he wants to write down, until the food is ready. When Jensen brings him his dish, he catches Jensen’s wrist and looks up to meet Jensen’s eyes. “Yours isn’t going to be a song. It’s going to be a symphony.”

_______________________________________________________________


Autumn is in full swing the first time he catches Jared at the window.

It's been thirty minutes of Jensen going on about his students, from the most promising, Colin and Felicia, to Jake, the jock who'd taken the class for an easy A, or so Jensen had assumed, but who has so far turned in some of the most compelling free writes he's seen since he started teaching.

He’s well into his rant before he realizes there haven't even been token sounds of encouragement and sympathy out of Jared.

By now, Jared should have at least told him how boring he was or made some attempt to distract him from his workday.

Instead, he's been standing preternaturally still as he gazes out at...

Jensen goes to stand by him, to see if there's a funny squirrel or a cat fight to hold his attention, but there's nothing, just a yard full of unraked leaves, typical of Jensen's November landscaping. Jared's not smiling at small mammal's antics or doing much of anything at all. The way he's blindly observing the world is so blank, Jensen would call it dull.

'Dull' is never the word to describe Jared.

He reaches out, touches Jared's cheek, and Jared immediately turns toward the contact. Jensen watches for several long moments as Jared seems to return to himself, the way recognition slowly dawns on him.

"Jensen," he says with a smile, like he's only just realized Jensen is there, even though he greeted Jensen warmly when he'd gotten home.

"Yeah, baby," he says. "Are you okay?"

Jared's eyebrows draw together for a moment, like the question confuses him. Then he looks out the window again and says, "Yes, of course. Just..."

Jensen waits for him to finish. When he realizes there's nothing else coming, he tugs on the thick red knit scarf Jared has wrapped around his neck.

"Hey, you with me?"

"Always," Jared murmurs as he turns his body toward Jensen and angles himself down for a kiss. "I just hate winter, you know? I can feel it coming."

Jensen smiles, happy to take the easy explanation. Eager not to look too close at any cracks in what he and Jared have.

"I'll add that to the list," Jensen says and when Jared's expression is questioning, he grins. "Of things you hate. So far it's mostly been human things. Airplanes. Clothes."

"You have to wear so many clothes in winter," Jared grumbles, looking down at himself, as if this is the most damning argument possible when it comes to picking favorite seasons. "In these bodies."

Jensen thinks of Jared in the California sun, how he'd been easy in shorts and a V neck shirt. His chest aches, and he says, "Why don't we go back to SoCal over the holiday? I bet I can get a deal on the same little beach house."

Jared shakes his head. "I don't think that's a good idea, but thank you for offering it, Jensen."

"How about Texas, then?" Jensen offers, shoring up his courage. It's something he's wanted to do for a while, anyway, but wasn't sure how to ask. "Nice and warm in Dallas, even in December. Comparatively, at least. You could meet my momma."

Jared smiles with approximately one million teeth and pulls Jensen closer, resting his head on top of Jensen's. "I would love that."

"Really?"

"Yeah." Jared takes his hand then and starts pulling him toward the living room, finally his animated self. "I have to show you this program I found," he says excitedly. "It lets you write music on the computer and then it plays it back, so you can at least hear some version of it. Amazing. You humans really outdid yourselves with the internet. More than makes up for airplanes."

Jensen laughs, and Jared goes on at a million words a minute, talking about all the projects he's worked on today. "I want you to hear a few bars of your song. I mean, it's not perfect, it's a very mechanical version, but still..."

Jensen follows, listens to him wax poetic, and is all too glad to leave the absent version of Jared he'd seen staring out the window behind like a ghost.

_______________________________________________________________


Jared has Jensen’s momma charmed within an hour of setting his shoes outside the door and stepping past the threshold. He’s liberal with his ma’ams, as if Texan was just another language he had stored away in his brain. He flirts shamelessly, making Momma blush and slap at him ineffectually. She likes that he eats more than his fill. When she asks questions that probe too deep, like where those dreadful scars on his arms came from, Jared makes up stories about falling off horses, disarms her skepticism that an accident like that would produce matched injuries on both arms with sweet puppy eyes and dimples, and she’s too overwhelmed to notice nothing is really getting answered.

Now she’s gone up to bed, one last “don’t you boys get into any trouble” and a big ol’ wink in Jared’s direction before turning in. Jared is walking slowly around the living room, looking too closely at pictures of Jensen and his brother growing up, toothless and scabby elbowed, and more often than not covered in mud.

“Oh, come on, at least don’t look at the ones from prom,” Jensen says, coming up to stand behind Jared and slapping the photo frame down as soon as he recognizes what Jared is smiling at.

“Why not?” he asks. “Danneel looks lovely.”

Jensen narrows his eyes. “Leave my poor little closeted teenage self alone.”

Jared laughs, but when he turns to catch Jensen in his arms, his voice has gotten softer, more serious. “Your father left, didn’t he?”

He winces at the observation, the one glaring thing that’s missing from every photo in the room. But Jared doesn’t let him go when he tries to break from the embrace.

“That’s why you got so upset, when you learned about selkie children. We left our sons, just like—”

“We don’t have to do this,” Jensen says. “It was different. I get that it was different.”

“Wasn’t really, was it?” Jared asks. He picks up the picture Jensen had turned down and runs his thumb over Jensen’s face. “I—there haven’t been many women, but there have been women.” He looks up at Jensen. “I heard a song once. Her name was Adrianne. She wanted a child. Not a husband or a father for the child, she just wanted a child. So I put one in her, and I disappeared. I abandoned it.”

“No,” Jensen says. “It’s different. You gave her what she wanted.”

“I thought it was good, I thought I was doing good. But maybe my offspring grew up hating me.” Jared frowns. “We aren’t allowed to talk to humans. Not even our own children. The rules are unambiguous. I believed it was right not to think of them as ours, because that’s what I was always taught. But maybe it was just easier.”

Jensen reflects on all the rules Jared never thought of breaking before, not even for his own children and how he hardly held back before breaking them for Jensen. He takes Jared’s hand and squeezes it and when Jared meets his eyes, he smiles.

“We have a pool,” he says, encouragingly. “We could go for a night swim. Would you like that?”

Jared still looks a little sad, and he gives Jensen a sharp smile as he shakes his head. “Pool isn’t really the same, is it?”

“I guess not,” Jensen admits. He drapes his arms around Jared’s neck and rises to his toes for a kiss. “We could have lots and lots of sex in my childhood bed.”

There’s a hot puff of laughter against his neck and Jared tucks his face there, holding Jensen too tight for a long minute before he pulls back and nods, his emotions back under control.

“Nothing turns me on as much as baseball print sheets,” he jokes, and they head upstairs. They skip the sex in favor of a good cuddle, and Jensen has mostly forgotten about the heavy moment by the time he wakes up, crushed under Jared and so happy he can’t breathe.

_______________________________________________________________


They hit the zoo the next evening, Danneel’s idea, because she wants to see the lights go up. Jensen agrees grudgingly; he’s been to the Dallas Zoo more times than he knows what to do with, but he hasn’t seen his best friend since the summer and if this is how she wants to spend her Christmas Eve, Jensen will suck it up.

Jared is having the time of his life, naming every animal Jensen and projecting Jensen’s behavior onto it. He’s all smiles and painfully dumb jokes, Danneel encouraging him and Jensen pretending to be annoyed. It’s way more fun than Jensen wants to admit he’s having as a grown ass man at the zoo.

At least until they turn the corner on the marine mammals exhibit and Jared stops dead in front of three seals huddled on a rock. Two of them are napping, but one is awake, sitting up, and it looks directly at Jared.

He walks toward the railing like he’s not even aware of it, nearly runs over a little girl with a Santa Claus ice cream pop. Jensen briefly considers following Danneel, who has already run down to the next habitat to wave at the otters, but ultimately decides to go stand next to Jared by the seal enclosure.

By the time he makes his way there, the seal has swum up as close as it can get and is trying to reach its little nose up to meet Jared, who is leaning in way over the rail, surely about to get lectured by security. There are kids standing to the side, pointing and yelling about the seal’s exciting behavior, but Jared doesn’t seem to notice any of it. He doesn’t seem to notice Jensen, either.

He’s talking to the seal, looking sadly around at its surroundings.

“They put you in this little cage and you’re just supposed to be happy.” He’s eyeing the smooth, fake rocks the other seals are still sleeping on. “They took your freedom, didn’t they?”

The seal is no selkie. It doesn’t nod or show the same intelligence Jared did when he was Sam. But it’s clear that even as a simple animal, it understands that it has a connection to Jared, and Jared looks so shaken. Like he’s the one in the cage.

Took your freedom, Jensen thinks, remembering Jared in the fall, staring out the window of his kitchen in Iowa. He stole Jared, wild and majestic as he was, and he landlocked him.

He puts his hand over Jared’s on the railing, and Jared jolts, like he’s just been pulled away from something. He turns to Jensen with an easy smile, as if he doesn’t even remember how thin his voice had been a moment ago, hardly on the right side of tears.

“No more making fun of me for talking to regular seals,” Jensen says with forced lightness.

_______________________________________________________________


The Men of Letters Publishing Agency has its big annual party every February. Jensen, as one of the young rising stars of their fiction department always has to make an appearance, shake hands and dance for his supper, making promising but unspecific statements about when his next manuscript will be finished.

To his credit, Jared’s doing a good job putting up with it. Not rolling his eyes when he has to watch Jensen have the same pretentious conversation with seven different groups of people. Most of his complaining was about Jensen making him get on another plane to New York so short after their trip to Texas, and Jensen’s jaw is going to ache for months from all the blowjobs he’s giving to make up for that.

Jensen watches as Jeff walks off to speak to another client and then looks around, realizing that the party is winding down. For the first time in hours there isn’t a throng of people just waiting to pounce for Jensen’s attention. It can finally just be him and Jared, even if it's only for a few minutes.

"I realize that we should have made up a last name for you sooner, but Padalecki? Seriously?" He quirks his lips up at Jared, who is holding a napkin piled precariously with cocktail shrimp and chewing on the handful he’d already shoved in his mouth. "What, did you just say the first eighteen sounds that popped into your head?"

"That was the name of the ship that led us across the oceans," Jared informs him. "Learned that from staring at its giant wooden ass all those months. Anyway, I didn't see you offering any great ideas."

To Jared’s credit, he had kind of just stood there with his mouth hanging open, going through and rejecting the first bland names that popped into his head.

"Great, so you're Polish now," Jensen says, laughing. "Let's see if I can remember 'Padalecki' for more than an hour."

“I’m very hard to forget,” Jared tells him through a mushy bite of shrimp.

Jensen sends a jealous glance across the party and can’t help asking, “Does Jeff have a song?”

Jared swallows the bite in his mouth, thank god, then asks, “What do you mean? I’ve told you, I only hear your song.”

“You clutched his arm when he first came up to us and gave him this look. I thought maybe you were hearing his song.”

He watches Jared ball up the now-empty napkin and toss it to the garbage as he throws his head back laughing. “Jensen, I don’t know if you realized, but Jeff is just insanely hot.”

Jensen snorts at that, assures Jared that he had noticed, and the rest of the night is much more enjoyable, easier for Jensen to find only the people he genuinely likes once the crowd has thinned so that Jared can be a little more included.

Still, Jared seems reserved on the way home, and he heads to the hotel bathroom as soon as they’re inside. Jensen undresses for bed, reads for a bit before he starts to wonder what’s taking so long.

When he knocks on the bathroom door, Jared barely gives him a noise of acknowledgement to tell him to come in. He finds Jared with his arms braced on the counter, having a staring contest with himself in the mirror.

“Meet a hot guy in here?” Jensen jokes.

Jared doesn’t take his eyes away from his reflection. “Am I?”

“What? Hot?” Jensen leers. “Why don’t you come to bed and let me show you what I think?”

When he turns, expression slightly horrified, Jensen realizes he’s making light of the wrong moment. He has no idea what upset Jared, but that he’s upset is clear.

“All I was tonight was something pretty on your arm,” Jared says. “That’s fine. Someone like me...what else do I have to offer someone like you?”

“Is that really what you think, Jared?” Jensen asks, stepping into the bathroom. “Have I really not made it clear how much I love everything about you?”

“I don’t know,” Jared admits, and he looks truly lost. “I don’t know if I think that.” He runs his hands through his hair, clearly distressed by something. “I don’t think I’m thinking very clearly at all.”

Jensen frowns. “Jared, are you alright?”

Jared shakes his head and lifts his face to meet Jensen’s gaze. “I’m aging.”

Perplexed, Jensen says, “Don’t be dramatic. You don’t look any different to me.”

“To you,” Jared replies with a scoff. “I’ve seen the same face for hundreds of years, and today it’s different. Selkies only age outside of our seal skin. I’ve been out of mine so long that I’ve—” He turns back to the mirror and stares at himself. “Eventually, you’ll see it, too.”

“I don’t care,” Jensen says, and then he thinks about it a moment and changes his mind. “No, you know what? I love it. Jared, I love that we’re going to age together. That I’ve gotten to keep you long enough that you’re changing with me. You’re always going to be beautiful, but that’s never been all you are to me. It’s not even the most important thing.”

Jared has a hesitant smile on his lips, like he wants to believe it. “Do you mean that? I wasn’t sure I’d live long enough to start to age. I just don’t want to let you down. If you want me for a body I can’t—”

Jensen shuts him up with a kiss, then drops to his knees and makes Jared feel how much he wants him.

_______________________________________________________________


For spring break, they go back to Texas again. First they stop in Dallas, spend a few days helping Jensen’s mama with a few things she can’t do on her own. Jared wrestles Oscar and Icarus in the backyard while Danneel sits by the pool and complains that they don’t come to see her enough. It’s nice, but it’s not the real reason Jensen packed his poor boy onto a plane again.

He drives Jared to the coast for the last chunk of days he has off, giddy at the thought of finally returning Jared to the sea—not a pool or a spring or a lake, all those replacements that haven’t been enough. The honest-to-god Gulf of Mexico.

Jensen runs for the water ahead of Jared and turns once he’s waist deep, hoping to see the relief and excitement he expects when Jared is back in an ocean instead of marooned on dry land.

But as soon as Jared’s toes touch the salt water, he recoils as if it’s lava instead.

“I can’t go in there,” he says apologetically, taking a few steps back onto the sand. “I don’t want to go in there.”

Jensen feels his heart start to break, a budding acceptance of something he’s been trying hard not to face. He can’t truly understand what Jared means when he says it’s not the same, which means he can't fix it.

_______________________________________________________________


Jared’s body is hot, fucking tight around him, and Jensen is close. He reaches out, traces the elegant line of Jared’s spine and moves down to press a kiss to Jared’s enormous back.

On all fours under him, Jared is bracing himself on the bed, shaking with the force of Jensen’s thrusts. Jensen realizes only when he whispers into Jared’s ear and Jared doesn’t answer that he’s been oddly quiet the whole time they’ve been doing this.

He wishes he could see Jared’s face, but this is how Jared wanted to fuck. It’s how he’s wanted to do it a lot lately. Jensen wraps an arm around Jared and reaches for his cock. He mutters, “Want you to finish before me.”

Jared tries to stop him, says “I’ll do it!” and bats Jensen’s hand away, but not before Jensen has already gotten a grip and felt what Jared is apparently trying to hide.

It’s damn on the verge of agony to pull out this close to climaxing, but he does it and flips Jared over, anger growing in him as he puts it together. Jared has been finishing himself off every time they’re in this position, or so he’d been saying whenever Jensen tried to do it for him. Jensen has a sudden, sick surety that he understands why.

“You’re not hard,” he says, accusing.

“You are,” Jared replies, his voice coquettish as he tries to pull Jensen into him again.

Jensen puts an arm out, willing himself to resist, feeling ill that he had been too horny to care enough to notice sooner. This isn’t Jared sad from time to time, longing for the ocean. If this has been every fuck Jared’s been initiating, it’s a consistent pattern, and it spells out a state of mind that is much, much more unstable than he’d allowed himself to believe Jared was in. His stomach lurches at the thought of what else he might have missed.

"You have to tell me if you don't want this. I can't be doing this if you don't want it," Jensen lectures. “Fuck, Jared. You asked for this tonight. Why would you do that?”

“Don’t be upset,” Jared says. “I’m not upset. I want you to get pleasure from me. Even when I…”

“Can’t,” Jensen fills in for him.

Jared shrugs. “It’s not you, Jensen. It’s not that I don’t want you.”

“What the hell is it, then?” he asks, pushing out of bed to get his boxers, uncomfortable having this conversation naked and still so hard it’s taking everything just to think clearly.

“I’m a body,” says Jared. “You can still enjoy my body.”

“No,” Jensen replies sharply. “How many times do I have to tell you that isn’t what this is?”

“You misunderstand me,” Jared tells him, irritatingly cool, even if his voice sounds a little withdrawn. He’s been withdrawn from everything lately. “I know you love the person I was. I know you care about that person. When I can be that person for you, it’s the best feeling in the world.” He shakes his head, resigned. “I’m not here. I’m not present. I’m just an empty body. But you can still love that body. If I can give that to you, I want to. I'm supposed to please you. I exist to please you. That's what I want to do, Jensen."

Jensen blinks at him a few times, his mouth hanging open as the wrongness of everything Jared just said sinks into his bones and settles there. He’ll never be able to unhear it, to unsee the contradicting mix of desperation to please and a complete lack of engagement in Jared’s many-colored eyes.

“This isn’t right,” he says as the realization solidifies into an abysmal truth in his mind.

“I’m not right,” Jared confirms.

ON TO PART FOUR
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