Word count: 16,753
Warnings: angst, domestic fic, established relationship, military kink, loneliness, closeted characters, tattoo kink, explicit sex. There are references to homophobia, parental death, non-permanent injury, and being taken prisoner during war.
Summary: Jared is a mechanic in a small Texan town with a big secret. Jensen, a Staff Sergeant in the US Marine Corps, is that secret.
Also on AO3
Author's Note: This is a gift for crimsonepitaph for spn_j2_xmas. You gave me so many great likes that I was spoiled for choice. Military!J2 or J2 in uniform did leap out to me for certain reasons, so here we have Marine!Jensen, lots of tattoos, established relationship, quiet moments, a shy and awkward mechanic!Jared, and lots of angst. I hope you enjoy it :D
Author's note 2: This is where I beg forgiveness of anyone who actually knows anything about the US Marine Corps. I learned everything I did from TV, films and lurking on various Marine forums. If I have made glaring errors or inadvertently offended anyone with my ignorance then I apologise.
On Wednesday, Mr. Peterson came by the garage. He took a quick glance at the ledger, complimented Jared on the way he was keeping the place, and then he left, with a solemn shake of Jared’s hand. Jared barely looked up from Dave Phelan's 1997 Oldsmobile Cutlass the entire time. Mr. Peterson didn't like him to stop working while he was doing his inspection. After he left, gunning away in his cherry red 1972 Mustang, Jared breathed a long sigh of relief and made himself a cup of coffee as a reward.
Every day Jared opened the garage, he half expected it to be the day when Mr Peterson would come by to tell him he was finally closing. On a good week, Jared had five or six jobs. On a slow week, he was lucky to work on two cars. One time back in the summer, he didn't see a customer for four days. On the fourth day, with his crossword and logic puzzle book complete, the shop’s single fan only shifting the hot air from one side of the room to the other, he sat at his small rickety desk drinking coffee and sweating, and considered whether he should bother showing up the next day. But the next morning, he still woke at 6am, ate breakfast in his apartment, and went to work.
Jared occasionally thought about getting another job. Mechanic was a good trade, an honest trade, his father used to say. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay was his motto. Jared had never been academically inclined, he'd always done okay at school, being a conscientious and responsible student, but even when he did work hard, he never seemed to get anything better than average grades. Things changed when his father’s friend Bill Atkins offered him a part-time job after school helping out at Peterson’s Auto Repair. Jared soon discovered that he loved engines. They were big, tangible versions of the logic puzzles he liked so much. There was always an answer with an engine. When they were broken, they needed to be fixed, and Jared loved how at home he felt with that one simple truth.
It seemed like the logical next step was to make the job with Bill permanent once Jared graduated high school. Bill was already planning his retirement, and Jared soon became part of his plan. After a year or so of teaching him everything he knew, Bill retired for good, and Jared was left on his own. It was a lot of responsibility for a nineteen year old boy, but Jared’s dad had always said he was wise beyond his years.
He missed having Bill around, he wasn’t the best company, but he was someone to talk to at least, someone other than the radio or his collection of vintage albums. But as the years passed, Jared learned to make do on his own. He’d always been a self-sufficient child, and with older parents who were always busy and no brothers or sisters, Jared had spent most of his childhood on his own.
Loampit Vale was a small town, only 800 residents give or take, and over the years he’d been working at the garage, Jared had gotten a reputation as the “fix-it” guy. Loampit’s cash-strapped residents knew the value of a buck, and so he soon got used to his neighbors and their neighbors bringing their broken appliances to him to take a look at before they gave up on them for good. Jared never charged for doing that work, being only too happy to have something interesting to occupy his time when it was really slow, but he always got something for his trouble – a plate of cinnamon rolls or a pan of brownies, a bottle of home-brew or a fruit basket.
Jared finished Dave Phelan's Oldsmobile by 3pm, and spent the rest of the time until he closed up working on the twin 1930's CB radios he'd picked up in a junkshop in Riverview a couple of weeks ago. Dave came by just after five to collect his car, straight from work at the factory and still wearing the familiar blue Ferguson’s Aerosols coveralls. Dave stayed for a few minutes, chatting as Jared finished his paperwork. Dave was two years older than Jared, and Jared could remember him from the daily school bus rides to Riverview High. Like a lot of kids Jared grew up with, Dave joined Ferguson's Aerosols straight out of school, and was already married with one kid and one on the way. Jared could remember his girlfriend – now wife – Julie Evans. All the boys in his class had had crushes on Julie Evans.
"So what about you?" Dave teased. "Everyone says you got a secret girl down in the city."
Jared blushed and tried to laugh it off, saying that he was looking, but he was probably too picky, that some guys already had the pick of the bunch. Dave looked pleased and tipped him an extra couple of bucks as he left.
Jared locked up the garage after Dave had gone, replaying the conversation in his mind and cringing at his own awkward answers to Dave's questions. Although he’d grown up in a small town all, he’d never been comfortable with the way everyone was always up in everybody else’s business. Sometimes he thought that it would nice to be anonymous, to not have everyone know his parents or what his nickname had been in school. Sometimes he even went so far as to look over the employment ads in the city paper, but he never plucked up the courage to actually apply for any of the vacancies. He earned enough to have his own place and to put a little by every week, and with his dad only gone two years, he couldn’t abandon his mom completely. Not yet at least. Perhaps if Mr. Peterson ever closed the shop, then he’d be forced to do something. But for now it was easier to stay where he was.
It was chicken pot pie Wednesday at the diner, so he stopped there to eat dinner, sitting at the counter and reading the Riverview and Five Acres Gazette. Greta was on shift, and she came over to talk after Jared finished eating. Jared liked Greta, she was a friend of his mom’s, and she’d known him his entire life. Unlike most people round town, she knew better than to quiz him about his personal life. She was a movie buff and she talked in great detail about the new George Clooney movie she'd seen at the cinema in Riverview two nights ago, and whether it was real Oscar contender material. He left his usual tip for her, taking home a couple of his favorite lemon squares for breakfast. He nodded goodbye to the diner's only other patron, Willy Preston, whose wife died three years ago, and who ate at the diner every night.
He showered, and changed, and climbed into bed with his laptop. His heart was racing as his computer slowly booted up. He had a good feeling about today, he could feel it deep down in his gut. He'd had it ever since he woke up that morning. After five long weeks of silence, today would be the day he’d hear from Jensen.
He had to type his password twice; his hands were shaking so violently. The second time he forced himself to take his time, pressing each key slowly and deliberately so as not to mistype. If he ended up locked out of his account, he didn't know what he would do. Go crazy probably, as he wasn't sure how he was supposed to unlock it.
His inbox seemed to take forever to load, and when it did, Jared had to press the refresh key twice, his chest heavy and sick with dread and disbelief.
There was no message from Jensen.
Five years ago...
The first time Jared saw Jensen Ackles he thought he was a mirage. It was a quiet day in the shop. No jobs and only Mrs. Hatfield due tomorrow for the regular service of her old Ford Escort. The fan turned slowly in the corner, and Jared was listening to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run on the turntable he'd salvaged and repaired a few months earlier. His new favorite book, Challenging Math and Logic Puzzles was open in front of him, and he was sucking on the end of his pencil as he read through the problem again.
I ask people at random if they have two children and also if one is a boy born on a Tuesday. After a long search I finally find someone who answers yes. What is the probability that this person has two boys? Assume an equal chance of giving birth to either sex and an equal chance to giving birth on any day.
He scribbled a chart on the back of an invoice, first child and then second child on the axis. So let's assume that everyone has two children, but they could be both girls, both boys, or boy/girl, or girl/boy...
On the stereo, the needle skipped over the last couple of bars of Downbound Train and into the opening lines of I'm On Fire. At that moment Jared looked up from his puzzle and saw a figure silhouetted in the doorway. Slowly the figure stepped into the room, resolving itself into a guy. He was wearing military uniform, or at least he had been, the uniform shirt hanging open to reveal a white undershirt and dogtags, which winked and reflected the sunlight as he turned, looking around the shop.
Years later this was how Jared always liked to think of Jensen, the handsome guy in uniform, standing in the doorway with sunshine blazing behind him, limning his hair gold and making his skin gleam. And in the background, setting the scene: Bruce's low voice singing of a bad desire.
"Hey! Anyone here?" the guy called out.
"Yes, um, hello," Jared said, standing up.
"Shit!" the guy exclaimed, spinning to look at him. "Shit, I didn't realize you were here. I thought this place was closed."
"It's only three," said Jared.
The guy shook his head, his lips twitching into an awkward kind of smile. "Dude, no. I mean, I thought you closed years back. I was surprised to see the door open. Sorry for just…” he gestured awkwardly. “Walking in here and scaring you like that.”
“It’s okay,” said Jared.
“You got anything to drink, man? Fucking piece of shit truck broke down three miles back, and I've been walking all this way. Phone's busted too. Just my luck, right?"
“Sure,” said Jared. He bent to retrieve one of the bottles of water from the cooler under his desk, and held it out to the guy. "It's just tap water, but it's cold."
"Like I'm gonna complain about that. Thanks," the guy said, taking the bottle from him with a snap of a grin. He tilted his head back to chug the water, and Jared stared at the line of his throat and the sheen of sweat on the tendons of his neck. He felt a blossom of heat pump through his body, making gooseflesh rise. On the record player, Bruce's voice and the song faded away, and the needle bumped against the middle of the record, hissing and skipping.
The guy paused and lowered the bottle. He licked his lips, and Jared felt his pulse skip. Jared thought for one wild second that maybe this was a dream or a hallucination – an attractive stranger dressed in uniform just randomly walking into the shop one afternoon. It did seem like the opening to a porn movie.
"Hey, you okay?" the guy said. He was looking at Jared like he could tell exactly what Jared was thinking.
"Um, yeah, yeah," Jared said.
"Hadn't you better..." the guy jerked his head toward the turntable and raised his eyebrows.
Jared started. "Oh, yeah. Course. Yeah." He went quickly to the record player and raised the lid. His hand was shaking, and he fumbled with the record as he took it off the turntable, cursing himself for not turning the damn thing off before he removed the record. It was so much easier to remove the vinyl when the turntable wasn't still spinning around at 33 rpm.
"Hey..." Jared jumped when he felt the guy behind him, reaching around him to take the record from his hands. He held it expertly by the edges, no fingerprints on the vinyl as he spun it around. Jared stared at his profile; he had freckles on his nose and cheeks and his eyelashes were very long for a guy, casting shadows over the hollow of his cheek. There was a tan line on the back of his neck, exposed as he bowed his head to examine the record, and Jared thought that he probably spent a lot of time outside, doing whatever it was that guys in the military did outside, drills and marching and shooting targets and doing assault courses and digging ditches. The sleeves of his uniform shirt were rolled up, and Jared could make out the tattoo on his bicep, the globe and eagle that made up the emblem of the US Marines. So, this guy was either a Marine or a really big fan of the Marines. Going by the way he was dressed and the fact the dogtags around his neck looked real, he was probably the real deal. So, this really was like the opening to Jared’s favorite porn movie.
The guy cut him a look. "This is in good condition. It's original, right? 1984?"
"I think so," Jared said.
The guy pursed his lips, and Jared stared at the perfect bow of his mouth. He was standing so close, way closer than any guy would normally stand. Close enough for Jared to feel the heat coming off him, to smell his sweat and stare at the line of dust and dirt on his arms and the back of his neck from his long walk through the blazing sun. Jared's stomach flipped over, nerves and heat and the urge to touch. The guy was so close; he could probably brush their arms together if he wanted. It had to mean something that he was standing this close. This was how guys stood next to each other in Favors, the bar Jared sometimes frequented in the city when he was feeling brave enough and horny enough to do something other than jack off to his favorite porn sites. When a guy stood this close to you in Favors it meant he wanted to fuck you.
Unless… maybe this was a Marine thing? This guy was used to living back to back with other guys, bunking down in the same room as other guys, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip... and okay, maybe that was just Jared's overactive imagination, but Jared had seen a lot of Marine-themed porn movies and his brain was already casting this guy as the main feature.
"You got the sleeve?" he asked.
Jared handed it over and watched the guy sleeve the record and slide it back into the cover. He hunkered down, casting an eye over the stacked vinyl by the record player. He tipped his head back to look at Jared, and Jared noticed that this eyes weren't dark like he'd thought, but green like Heineken bottles.
"You have quite a collection here," he said.
"I guess," Jared agreed.
“Cool,” the guy said, replacing Born in the USA carefully next to Rumours. He got back to his feet and looked Jared over, raising his eyebrows. "So, you got time to fix my truck?"
Jared drove him to the place where he'd abandoned his truck. He had a Ford F-150, 86 or 87. It was dark blue and had a couple of patches of rust on the rear and by the driver's side door. The front tires looked new and it had recently been washed. It looked pretty well taken-care of.
On the way there, the guy told Jared his name was Jensen Ackles and he was a Staff Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. He leaned forward and pulled aside his undershirt to expose his left shoulder blade and a tattoo which looked like some sort of insignia, a blue diamond with a number one in the middle, crossed rifles and the words “The Professionals” emblazoned over it. He tapped his shoulder with two fingers. “That’s us.”
“The professionals,” Jared read.
Jensen grinned, teeth flashing in his tanned face, and his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Ooh-rah!”
He explained that he had a week’s leave, visiting the folks in Five Acres. It was the next biggest town in the county after Riverview, and it was Riverview's bitter high school rival. Twice a year the football teams played and both towns closed down for the day. It had been that way for as long as Jared could remember. Jensen said that his CO had called a couple of days earlier to request a favor. Someone had gotten sick so they needed a last minute replacement for some big careers event in the city, talking to high-school kids who were thinking of joining the Corps.
“Normally, I’d be in civvies. This…” he picked up the uniform jacket lying in his lap… “it’s just for special occasions. But you gotta look the part, be the part, right?"
"I guess," said Jared. "So did you get lots of people to sign up?"
Jensen shrugged. "Apparently. But, man, some of those high school girls..." he shook his head, blowing out a breath. “I don't remember them being like that when I was in high school, and I’m sure I’d remember. One of them asked me if I wanted to go round the back with her, she told me she could suck cock like a pro. For fucking real, those were her exact words!” He glanced at Jared, lips curled in amusement.
Jared was not surprised. Jensen was probably the most attractive guy Jared had ever seen in real life. If he’d given a talk at Jared’s high school, Jared might have considered joining the Marines himself.
Jensen told him that he’d been trying to get back to Five Acres when his truck had given up, smoke coming from the engine and a smell like “burning napalm in the morning”.
“I figure it’s the fan, or something like that,” Jensen added as they drew up to the truck. Jensen jumped down and wandered over to it, swiping a loving hand over the hood and looking at Jared from over his shoulder. “She’s old, you know. Used to belong to my oldest brother, and then my next brother had her. My third brother didn’t want her. He bought some fancy piece of shit 'cause he had a job at that Ford dealership out by Round Rock. You know it? Yeah, that place. It worked out okay for me though, 'cause I got you, didn’t I, baby?” He tapped his knuckles on the side of the truck, making the metal ring.
Jared hooked the Ford up to his tow-truck, and Jensen got back into the cab with him. He kept talking on their way back to Loampit Vale, telling Jared about how he’d joined up.
“Only thing I was good for in school was football and track. I knew I wasn't good enough for a football scholarship and I couldn't deal with college, so yeah, it had to be the military. Besides, I wanted to get away from here. From home and everybody who'd always known me. You know what that's like?"
He looked at Jared, and Jared could feel his gaze like a touch, roaming down his face and neck and shoulders, to his bare arms, and making the hairs on his nape prick. His stomach churned and he swallowed, feeling Jensen's gaze on the bob of his adam's apple.
Jared nodded and wet his lips. "Yeah, I know."
It turned out that it was the fan switch that was busted, which was better and cheaper than it being the fan itself.
"It ain't expensive, and won't take me long to fix. I can do it right now, if you want?”
“Well, I'm going nowhere till it’s fixed,” Jensen said, “so yeah, if that’s okay with you.”
He’d discarded his shirt completely, and Jared could see the tattoos on shoulders and across his back, peaking out from under his white undershirt. He was smoking in the doorway, hip cocked against the doorframe, looking over his shoulder at Jared and looking like every bad boy fantasy Jared had ever had.
Jared stared at him, and then nodded. "It’s okay with me.”
Jensen grinned, a snap of white teeth and an exhale of smoke into the sky. "Okay then."
Jared made him coffee, hunting down the only other mug the garage possessed. He had to rinse out the dust before he made the coffee.
"Bears, huh?" said Jensen, raising his eyebrows and the mug to show off the chipped and faded Bears logo.
"Not mine. It was here before me," said Jared.
"You like the Cowboys?"
Jared shrugged. "I guess. That's what everyone likes, right?”
"I guess it is."
"I'm not much of a football fan," Jared added, worried that Jensen would start the inevitable conversation, and he wouldn't be able to keep up.
"Is that so," said Jensen, and he smiled one of those smiles again.
Jared felt his stomach flip over yet again, and he buried his flushed face in the Ford's engine.
It didn't take long. The F-150 was a popular model, and the fan switch was a common problem, he already had a replacement in stores. He lowered the hood when he was done and glanced across the room. Jensen was sitting by the record player, not going through the albums anymore, but watching him with a thoughtful look on his face. Jared looked back, not taking his eyes off Jensen as he slowly got to his feet and approached.
"You know," said Jensen. He was standing directly in front of Jared now, and Jared noticed that he was the taller. It had kind of registered before, but right now, with Jensen in front of him like this the height difference was more obvious. "I've been watching you and I've come to the conclusion that you are really fuckin' cute." He put his hand on Jared's chest, fingers spreading over the thin cotton t-shirt.
Jared's skin burned under Jensen's hand, the fire spreading through his veins, flickering into every pore, and lighting him up. Slowly, he sucked in a breath and blinked at Jensen. "Uh, thanks."
The corner of Jensen's mouth flickered in amusement, and his fingers scuffed in Jared's shirt, bunching and pulling the fabric. "I'm gonna go down on you. And I hope you're not going to protest 'cause I really, really want your dick in my mouth." That said, he smirked and dropped to his knees.
"Holy shit," Jared whispered under his breath, and he gaped down at Jensen as he made quick work of his fly and took out his cock like he was unwrapping a present.
Jensen tilted his head back to look up at him, and Jared was overwhelmed once against by just how attractive this guy really was. "See, I knew your dick would be spec-tac-u-lar," Jensen said, working his mouth around the vowels like he was savoring them. "Mmm, can't fucking wait to get this in my mouth."
He didn't say anything else, and just fastened his mouth over the head of Jared's dick. Jared nearly lost it right then, feeling his knees buckle and his thighs shake as he clutched the hood of the truck behind him. Jensen sucked him down messily and sloppily, saliva dripping over his lips and chin, his cheeks pink and eyes watering as he glided his mouth up and down Jared's shaft. He paused, humming something, and Jared felt the vibration of it reverberate through every pore in his body. He scuffed his fingers against the metal behind him, sprawling backward until he was practically draped over the hood.
Jensen paused and glanced up at him, eyes wide and hazy, lashes dark and wet, his mouth stretched obscenely around Jared's cock. Jared stared at him, still not really believing what he was seeing. Jensen smiled at him, or as much as he could with his mouth stuffed with cock. He fingers spread on Jared's thighs, punching into the muscle, and he lowered his head once more. Jared exhaled and fell back, letting the Ford take his weight, and not caring about anything except giving into the amazing pleasure.
When Jared started to come, he put his hand to Jensen's face in warning, but Jensen made a muffled sound and stayed where he was, letting Jared spurt into his mouth. When Jared was done, Jensen shuffled back still on his knees, cheeks bulging with Jared's come. He picked the Bears mug off the ground and spat the mouthful of saliva and spunk into the dregs of his coffee. He licked his bruised, reddened lips and smirked, looking pleased with himself.
"That. Was amazing," he said. "You have a fucking beautiful cock."
Jared looked down at the place where his cock was still hanging out of his pants, sticky, half-limp and not exactly what he would call beautiful. He blushed and fumbled it quickly away. "Uh, thanks. And thanks for---that. It was good."
"Good?" Jensen raised an eyebrow.
"Amazing. It was amazing. You're amazing."
Jensen grinned, and got to his feet. He stepped into the V of Jared's legs where Jared was still sprawled over the hood of his truck. He cupped Jared's face in his hands and leaned in to kiss him.
That was the moment when Jared fell in love with Jensen Ackles.
Jared made an appointment at Angie's Hair and Beauty the next day. He'd been going there ever since he learned that the place was owned and run by Jensen's mom. He'd never told Mrs. Ackles (the Angie in question) that he knew her son, and he'd definitely never even insinuated how he knew her son. He'd also never told Jensen that he was a regular customer at his mom's hairdressing salon.
Angie’s was on the Westside of Five Acres, on a strip that included a pharmacy, a pet store, a coin laundry, a small market and a sandwich deli. It was six blocks from the house where Jensen grew up. Jared drove down Jensen's street on his way to Angie's, slowing down as he drove past Jensen's house. The house was a regular looking two storey, the front yard neat and well-tended, the porch looking like it had been recently painted. Jensen's pick-up truck was in the driveway, the same one he'd repaired all those years ago. Life was still going on here, as if nothing was wrong.
He parked a couple of doors down from the salon and waited with his hands on the wheel, trying to gather his nerves. He caught a glimpse of himself in the driver's mirror and made a face. He needed a haircut, his mom had said that last time he'd seen her. She'd even offered to cut it herself like she used to do when he was a kid. He wasn't going to let that happen, so he had to do this. Of course, he could've gone somewhere else, a barbershop or that budget place in the mall that only charged five dollars. He always felt out of place at Angie's anyway, surrounded by the middle-age ladies in rollers and bacofoil. And this time... well, he'd been putting it off, telling himself that he would wait until he had news from Jensen before he saw his mom again. Dealing with his own worry and fear was enough, having to see it on her face would just make it worse.
Then again, it would also make it real in a way that he was never going to get anywhere else. Sometimes he woke up with a terror that Jensen and their relationship was just a dream, that it was a long elaborately maintained fantasy that he'd kept going for five years because he didn't have anything else. Paranoid and shaking, he would open his laptop and read through all the saved emails from Jensen, clicking through all the photos Jensen had sent or the ones he'd taken of Jensen, just to reassure himself that Jensen was real, and that their relationship was real, and that one day very soon, he would be back.
He pulled the keys out of the ignition and opened the door. He had to see Jensen's mom. He had to know that he wasn't the only one going through this. He had to know that he wasn't the only one who cared about Jensen.
"Jared!" she greeted him as he entered the salon. "How lovely to see you again, honey."
She put her hand on his arm to lead him toward her station at the back of the salon. She was tall for a woman, about five-eight in the leopard print flats she always wore. She had a good figure for a woman that had just turned sixty, and she talked a lot about gym classes and yoga and nutrition, and she always quizzed Jared on what he was eating, and then tutted when he answered. Jared's own mom had little time for things like make-up and clothes and visits to the gym. She thought that women who had their nails done every week were the sort of women who wouldn't clean behind the fridge, but Jared disagreed. He loved seeing what color Angie's nails would be every time he visited. It reminded him of Jensen's stories about helping his mom paint her toenails as they watched TV together, about her painting his toenails when he asked for it, a different color for each toe. My dad hated it, he'd go on about how she would end up turning me into a fairy, doing girly shit like that. If only he knew, huh? And he'd punctuate the story with a wry look of amusement, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he shared a look with Jared. Jared had never seen Jensen's dad in the flesh, only in the photos Jensen kept in his wallet, but he'd seen enough to know that Jensen took after his mom. They had the same color eyes, and when she smiled it was Jensen's smile.
Sometimes he liked to fantasize about the moment when Jensen would finally pluck up the courage to tell his parents, to introduce Jared to them as his boyfriend. In his mind, it was always a warm summer's day and Jensen's family would be cooking barbecue in their back yard. Jensen would tug him through the house and out onto the back porch. All of Jensen's brothers and his sister and all their partners and kids would be there, Jensen's dad manning the grill, and Angie buttering rolls at the picnic table. Something low and soft playing on the radio, something by Bruce Springsteen maybe, just like the first time he ever saw Jensen. Jensen would be dressed in uniform, handsome and gorgeous, and he'd turn to Jared to grin at him, before he'd call out to get everyone's attention. All the chatter and laughter and even Bruce's voice would die away, and they'd all look up to stare at them. Jensen would take Jared's hand and pull him closer. "This is Jared," he would say, "my boyfriend." They'd be quiet at first, stunned probably, because none of them knew Jensen's secret, none of them knew that their hero Marine son was gay. Angie would be the one to break the silence, she'd be the one to step onto the porch and pull Jared into a welcoming hug. "I always knew there was something about you," she would say, or something like that, and Jensen would look confused and say, "Wait, you two know each other?" and they would all share a laugh. He hadn't decided yet what would happen after that, but it always ended with Jensen's dad setting up his camera to take a picture, balancing it on the porch fence and putting on the timer so he could run into the frame. All the Ackles family together, including Jared, Jensen's arm around him.
Jared took a seat in front of the mirror and she stood behind him, her hands on his shoulders as she met his gaze in the mirror. "So, sweetie, just a trim today?" She pushed her hands into his hair, working her fingers through the strands.
"Maybe a little more off?" he said, turning his head to look at her over his shoulder.
She nodded thoughtfully. "Okay. If you're sure?"
"Yeah, I mean, I know it's been a while," he said, making an apologetic face.
She laughed, and there it was: the Jensen smile. He felt his gut clench and he wanted to hold her hand as she patted his shoulder again. He felt an overwhelming urge to grab her wrist and thank her because his heart was full with Jensen, and even if he never heard from him again, then he still wanted her to know who he was, and he wanted to thank her for being the person who had brought Jensen into the world.
She drew away and turned to pick up a towel. "Come on, let's get you shampooed," she said.
He swallowed the lump in his throat and got to his feet to follow her to the basins.
Three years ago…
"Something like this," Jared said. He flashed the drawing in front of Jensen's face.
Jensen looked up from where his head was pillowed on Jared's thigh and squinted at the pencil design. "What is it?"
"It's a shield."
Jensen tipped his head back to meet his gaze. "Looks like a cloud."
Jared hit him in the arm with the notebook. "Shut up."
Jensen snickered, and Jared tossed the drawing aside. "You should just say if you think it's a stupid idea.”
"No, no, Jare, come on," Jensen said. He rolled over and sat up.
Jared watched him, taking in the way his soft grey t-shirt clung to the muscles in his chest and biceps, the silver glint of the dog-tags around his neck tucked into the shirt, the black ink of his tattoos spilling out from under the short sleeves. He looked over his shoulder at Jared, and Jared stared at his profile. He was so desirable, he could have anyone. Jared still never really understood what he was doing with him.
"You know I like the idea," he said. He put his hand on Jared's arm.
"Do you?" He hated the uncertain tone to his voice.
Jensen nodded. "Yeah, a whole lot." He slid his hand up Jared's arm, and cupped the side of his neck. "I kinda like the idea of messing you up. You're so fucking perfect right now, but putting some ink on you..." Jensen trailed off and the corner of his mouth twitched. "I like that a whole fucking lot."
Jared flushed, feeling his cock fatten in his shorts. He squirmed, watching Jensen's gaze travel down his body to rest on his crotch, then slowly rise again until their eyes locked. He pulled his hand away from Jared, and bunched his fingers in the hem of his own shirt. He tugged it up and over his head, mussing his hair. He tossed it to the floor and turned back to Jared. Jared stared his fill, gaze roaming greedily over the hard cut of Jensen’s torso, the perfect musculature of his abs and chest.
“You like what you see, you should take a picture,” Jensen said.
Jared swallowed, and kept looking, the desire swooping through his blood making him feel bold. “Yeah, I like what I see. C’mere.” He jerked his head at Jensen, beckoning him with both hands.
Jensen grinned, and crawled up Jared’s body. He straddled him, dog tags swinging, brushing Jared’s chest. Jared grabbed them in one fist and tugged, bringing Jensen's head down until their lips met. They kissed, hot and messy, and Jensen pulled away, sighing, “You. Are so fucking hot. You got no idea.”
Jared shivered, and pushed his hand into Jensen's hair. Jensen ducked away from him and leaned down to kiss Jared’s bottom lip, sucking it into his mouth and letting it go with a soft, slurpy pop. He kissed Jared’s chin, nosing under his jaw to kiss his throat and lathe his tongue over his adam’s apple. Slowly, he kissed a trail down Jared’s chest.
Jensen looked up, and his eyes looked very big and very green from that angle. He put his hand over Jared's heart, his palm hot against Jared's skin.
"Here," he said.
"Yeah," Jared said. He put his hand on Jensen's chest, on the exact same spot. "And here."
"Matching tattoos. God help me if the guys ever found out..."
"They won't," Jared reassured him, though it caught in his throat, the idea that Jensen would be ashamed if anybody found out. Then again, it wasn't like Jared was telling anyone else. But perhaps one day he might. Tattoos lasted forever after all.
They drove to the city to get it done. It was a sixty mile trip and Jensen insisted on taking his truck. He’d been to the tattoo place before, he knew the owner, and from what Jared could figure out from Jensen’s cryptic comments, he knew him pretty damn well – as in they’d been lovers at some point. Or maybe not lovers, seeing as Jensen hated that word, maybe fuck-buddies or casual sexual acquaintances. Whatever, the fact was that a guy who used to have regular sex with Jensen was going to give Jared his first tattoo.
“He didn’t do every one,” Jensen told him as he drove, the hand holding his smoking cigarette resting on the edge of the open window. “This one,” he reached across his body to tap the state flag high up on his right shoulder, “I got in Okinawa.
“Okinawa,” Jared repeated. “That’s in Japan, right?”
Jensen shot him a look, the sun catching the edge of his aviators. “Yeah. That’s right. Been there twice.”
“Did you like it?”
Jensen shrugged. “Yeah, guess so. Better than some places I’ve been. Best part was the trip out to Iwo Jima. We had a special map so we could trace exactly where the battle had gone, like, Red Beach 1 to start, and then on to Mount Suribachi, and the spot where they raised the flag. This guy who was a vet back then was with us, he wasn’t at Suribachi, but he’d been there, on the island. He’d seen some fucking scary things, and he was hardcore, Jare. He was about eighty years old, but he was one tough sonofabitch. I mean, we like to think we’re tough, you know, and fuck yeah, we are, but those guys, back then…” he broke off, pulling on his cigarette and exhaling. “They were something else. It really makes you think, you know, about the places we’ve been before. It’s, like, you can go to so many places in the world and know that the Corps was there before you. I like that.”
“Like what other places?” Jared said, rolling his head to look at Jensen’s profile. Jensen didn’t talk about what he did that often. They had such little time together, and what time they did have was so intense, so snatched, so focused on learning each other’s bodies again, on the feel and taste and smell of each other, that they never had time just to hang out and talk.
Jensen paused, dragged on his cigarette and draped his hand outside the window, tapping his ring against the metal. “Uh, Germany, England, Hawaii, Sicily, Iraq of course. Uh… Spain, Egypt, Japan, Afghanistan."
“Oh. So you really do get to see the world then? It is like in the ads.”
“Yeah, man. Join the Navy, see the world. Join the Marines, clean it up.” He shot Jared a look, tongue pushed into the side of his mouth, looking pleased with himself.
“Ooh-rah,” said Jared.
Jensen threw back his head, booming it out. “Oooooh-rahhh!”
Jared laughed and leaned over to squeeze his thigh. Jensen tossed his finished cigarette out of the window and dropped his hand to cover Jared’s, sliding his fingers into the grooves of Jared’s knuckles.
Jared looked down at their entwined fingers and thought of all the places Jensen had reeled off. It probably wasn’t all of them either, not if you counted layovers or stopovers or a couple of days here and there waiting for transport. Jensen had been all over the world and he hadn’t left Texas.
“You sure about this?” Jensen said when he pulled up in the tattoo parlor parking lot.
The place didn’t look very reassuring, dumpsters and graffiti and a couple of cars that looked even older than Jensen’s Ford. Jared looked down at his hands, his palms felt clammy, and he could feel the sweat prickling at the small of his back. His spread his palms over his knees and took a deep breath. “Does it really hurt? Like, as much as people say it does?” he asked.
“Yeah, it hurts,” said Jensen. He kept watching Jared, assessing and expectant, like he was half-expecting Jared to say he didn't want to go through with it after all.
"Okay," said Jared, meeting his eye. "Well, let's get it over and done with."
Jensen's mouth quirked, and he opened the driver's side door. "Okay then."
Any other second thoughts completely vanished when Jensen introduced Jared to Ritchie – his ex whatever – as “Jared, my boyfriend.”
“Oh, so this is the infamous Jared,” said Ritchie, holding out his hand and grinning with a mouthful of very white teeth. “It’s nice to meet you at long last.” He was skinny with unnaturally black hair, an eyebrow piercing, and of course a hell of a lot of tattoos.
“Nice to meet you,” said Jared, blushing as he took Jamie’s hand.
Ritchie exchanged a look with Jensen. “Fuck, you are one lucky bastard. He is fucking adorable. Did you see the size of these hands.” He raised Jared’s hand in his own and whistled.
“Uh, thanks?" Jared said, "I'm right here you know." He pulled his hand out of Ritchie's grasp.
Ritchie chuckled and winked at Jared. "So you are. And look at him..." he nodded at Jensen... "All ready to take me out for touching you. So fucking cute."
Jensen rolled his eyes, and drew the piece of paper where Jared had sketched the tattoo design out of the back pocket of his jeans. After a lot of debate, they’d gone for a shield design with intersecting lines that really didn’t mean anything, but that they both thought looked cool and met Jensen’s criteria of no butterflies, no Chinese symbols, no dolphins, no hearts and no actual words. (Apparently, the battalion nickname didn’t count). Jared didn’t really care about the design. What was most important for him was that they were actually going through with this, as a couple. For the rest of their lives they’d live with these matching symbols right over their hearts. That had to mean something.
"This is what we want," Jensen said, handing it over to Ritchie.
“Okay, okay, yeah. I can see this,” said Ritchie, glancing from the paper to the two of them. “So, who wants to go first?”
“I will,” said Jared, a lot more decisively than he felt.
“Okay then, this way.”
It hurt. Jensen hadn’t been wrong about that. It really fucking hurt. Jared lay back in the chair and squeezed Jensen’s hand hard enough to feel the bones move. “I can’t believe you’ve done this so many times,” he said.
Jensen pushed Jared’s sweaty hair off his forehead. “Yeah, well, I am a badass. You should remember that."
Jared snorted, and Ritchie raised his head, shooting him a warning look. “Keep still.”
“Sorry,” Jared said.
Ritchie looked over his shoulder at Jensen. “And you, stop distracting him.”
Jensen rolled his eyes, but he didn’t move away. He pulled up a stool and plumped down next to Jared. “Okay, but I'm staying here."
Jared unbuttoned his shirt in the car on the way back to peek at the new tattoo. It was covered in white gauze, the skin around it red and sore. It no longer felt like his skin was on fire, the salve Ritchie had applied had helped with that, but it still tingled uncomfortably.
"Don't touch it," Jensen said. He was chewing gum, aviators back on, fiddling with the radio as he drove.
"Okay, mom," Jared said, buttoning his shirt and making a face at Jensen.
Jensen shot him a look. “You’ll thank me later,” he said, hand pausing on the radio dial.
“Hey, stop, stop there,” Jared said, recognizing the song.
"Really? This?" Jensen’s expression was dubious, and Jared knew that if he could see under the shades then both eyebrows would be raised.
"Yeah, c’mon. Karen Carpenter, man. It’s awesome.”
Jensen huffed a breath, but he moved his hand back to the steering wheel. Jared grinned, pleased, and started to sing along as loudly and obnoxiously as he could.
“I think I’ve just fallen out of love with you,” Jensen said during the instrumental, his voice as dry as dust.
“Oh, c’mon, man. You know it. Don’t make out like you don’t.”
“Jared, I am not singing along to the Carpenters. Anyway, the Sonic Youth version is better.”
"You are so very, very wrong.” He reached to turn up the volume for the chorus, “Don’t you remember you told me you loved me, baby; Said you’d be coming back this way again, oh baby…”
The song died away and Jared sighed, turning down the volume as an ad came on. "We used to sing that in school,” he said. “I remember I had this teacher, Mrs. Ferris who was kinda a hippy – or at least by Loampit standards, ‘cause you know, I don’t think real hippies are Carpenters fans. Every Friday afternoon, she’d bring in her guitar and we’d sit around the floor, like, cross-legged, and sing this song, and Close to You, and We’ve Only Just Begun, and all those songs. Sometimes other stuff, like John Denver or Neil Diamond. It was great, my favorite part of the week.”
“We never used to do anything like that,” Jensen said. “Friday afternoon was always sports at my school.”
Jared wrinkled his nose. “Sports. I hated sports.”
“I loved sports,” said Jensen.
Jared sighed and patted Jensen’s thigh, leaving his hand in place. “Of course you did. You were such a jock. We would’ve hated each other at school.”
Jensen turned his head to look at him. “Lucky we didn’t meet back then, huh?”
“Yeah, lucky,” Jared said, holding Jensen’s gaze and smiling softly.
On to Chapter 2