“Hi, where’s everybody?”
“It’s just us.”
That moment, that day, that tumbling down a rabbit hole, was a sensation Jensen would never forget, for as long as he lived.
That boy with the shy smile and the dimples had made him feel like he had been hypnotized. That sweet voice which sounded so achingly young and honeyed. And that hair! The fringe that made him look almost edible, the soft long curls that he wanted to tuck behind his ears.
Jensen wondered what forces in this world and the next had made this happen. He had been to auditions almost a hundred times so far and this was the first time ever that there had been only two of them.
Only two. For two roles. In the lead.
It was almost as if some power wanted to keep the coast clear so that when these two soulmates met there would be no distraction. No doubt.
It would be an inevitable as the rain falling into the sea and as glorious as the sun rising in the east.
And it had worked.
In the blink of an eye Jensen found himself head over heels in love with this slip of a boy. He was only 22. God….. he was so young and so....so pure!
Jensen would have laughed if anyone else had used that word and teased them within an inch of their life. But this boy was so pure. That was the only word he could think of.
He wasn’t sure how he managed to audition and get the role but he knew that no matter what happened, he was not going to be able to stay away from him.
His tongue seemed to trip over itself as he tried to say something to that effect but Jared was obviously on the same wavelength. As they had been for the past 14 years now. Effortlessly. Seamlessly. Permanently.
“Uh……if this doesn’t work out we should go out anyway? Get a beer or something?” Jared was saying, with that shy megawatt smile. It was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds, every single time he did that, and Jensen’s heart tripped and fluttered.
“Yes of course.” He had replied gruffly, trying to play it cool. He was older. He was more experienced. This was not his first rodeo.
Fuck. He needed to sound less like a puddle and more like a grown man.
As it turned out they did need to go out and get a beer after all—but to celebrate! Both of them had been selected--- and not due to a lack of choice, but because they had done a brilliant job with the audition.
Jensen heard the executives congratulate him and saw Jared smile and it felt almost like some cosmic jigsaw puzzle had fallen into place. This felt right. This felt perfect.
This felt…..as though it was meant to be.
Later, in an interview, before they had become more careful and studied in their responses, Jared had said freely that when they met it did not feel like they were getting to know each other as strangers. It felt like they were continuing an ongoing relationship.
If Jensen was not a born sceptic he would have been tempted to say that it felt as though they had known each other in many lifetimes and their dance of connection was merely continuing over yet another one.
Now, 14 years later, he wondered. What other explanation could there possibly be?
This seamless fitting into each other’s lives, the wordless completing of each other’s thoughts unspoken, the pull--- the sheer magnetic pull of their bodies whenever they were anywhere close in orbit.
And when were they not close?
What had seemed almost like a punishment at first with 9 months of shooting in Vancouver, living away from family, had become a blessing, a miracle that just kept on giving. 16 hours in each other’s company for the shoots and then after a few brief months of living separately, even going back to the same house after work.
The rest of the world could fall away for all that it mattered.
Of course it had not been declarations of eternal love from the first day. That had taken some time. Jensen had no doubts at all but he worried. He worried that Jared was only 22. The boy had barely had any serious relationships so far.
What if he was not ready for a long term (permanent!) relationship?
What if he rejected Jensen, or worse, got uncomfortable around him? The few former relationship he had spoken about fleetingly were all women.
And yet…and yet…there was a glimpse in his eyes of the same hunger that Jensen felt. In fact he often wondered how everyone around him didn’t notice him looking at Jared as though he wanted to consume him. He wondered often how come he did not combust spontaneously.
He wondered now how he had managed to wait for almost 4 months before he made a move. A tentative move undoubtedly but Jared was so young! He was like a puppy. He was overflowing with love and kindness for everyone. Jensen felt his vulnerability shining out of him as he opened his heart to literally everyone.
He wondered if the feelings he was reading in his eyes were simply the bias of his own desires reflected back.
Was he over-interpreting? Should he wait for him to make the first move?
This entire seething mass of desire, uncertainty and turmoil, the fragile emotions slowly taking root, anchoring and destroying him at the same time were all covered superbly by the actor Jensen Ackles.
Still finding his footing with the new crew in the first month, he had never found it as easy to let down his guard and become friendly the way Jared apparently did. He needed to encounter people a few times, vet them mentally, decide what circle of closeness they could be welcomed into. He needed to filter out who would stay cordial and professional, who he could potentially allow himself to be friendly with, who could become a friend, (because after all no man is an island), and he did not want his natural reserve to be mistaken for being aloof and create a reputation for being standoffish. Such rumours did not bode well for one’s career in showbiz.
It alarmed him how he could still weigh all these considerations for everyone else at this new workplace but be ready to literally fling himself into the deep end of the ocean if Jared gave even the slightest indication of being interested.
He just wanted a sign. One sign. He desperately needed him to make the first move, however tentative.
That evening they were watching the rushes of the second episode and there was a scene where Sam was looking at Dean and there was something in his eyes that made Jensen’s heart leap into his throat.
This was also Jared looking at Jensen. He could feel the heat come off him in waves as he sat there looking calm and collected and the director patted Jared on the back and praised him for an excellent shot.
That evening he waited for Jared to finish winding up and walked with him to the parking lot.
“Hey Jared.” He started tentatively. “I was wondering if….…”
“Yes” Jared said sweetly, smiling, his dimples making Jensen lose track of his sentence completely.
Jensen had laughed. “I didn’t even ask you anything yet.”
“It’s still yes.” Jared said. Softly. The look in his eyes making it rather clear what he was agreeing to.
Jensen had to actually close his eyes to stop himself from grabbing that sweet boy right there and doing things to him he had not thought himself capable of fantasizing.
“Ok.” He managed to say in a fairly strangled voice. All plans of asking him out to dinner having flown away in the wind. There was no way he was going to last that long. “Umm…..your place or mine?”
“Mine?” Jared asked with a slight tilt to his head, a gesture that could make Jensen’s insides melt even now, a decade and a half down the line.
Jensen has no memories of how he drove them there, in thick silence and how he waited while Jared fumbled with the front door keys. Hardly had the door closed behind them than he crowded into Jared’s space and held his face with both his hands.
“Jared.” He whispered. “Is this….”
“Yes.” Jared whispered back, his voice ragged with emotion. “Always yes.”
When their lips touched, Jensen would have sworn on oath that he heard a chorus of violins, hell, some kind of divine music, or maybe it was simply the rush of his own blood, tripping and roaring in his own ears as his soul found its mate.
Their clothes came off and as bare skin touched bare skin, finally, Jensen moaned with anticipation, with hot desire, with want. Sheer want that was threatening to tear his ribcage apart in its enormity.
“Jared….” He asked with the soft warm skin under his lips.
“Yes, Jensen. Always yes.”
The next morning when they woke up tangled in each other, sleep heavy limbs sliding over each other like satin, Jensen looked into Jared’s eyes and was lost.
“Is it too soon to say I love you?” Jared was asking. In a whisper.
Not that there was anyone else to disturb. But whispering because maybe….just maybe this was too big to reveal to the universe all at once.
It needed to be tended, protected. Nurtured. Cared for.
How right he had been.
They had built a fence around it to protect it but the fence had grown into a wall. Before they realized it the wall had become a castle. With moats and dragons and cauldrons of boiling oil.
What had started off as a temporary compromise to protect their careers and the golden goose that the series had become, had now become a crown of thorns. The fence to protect their love from the world had become a prison cell into which their hearts were condemned.
Jared looked at the Bacchus crown in his hand as he stripped out in the green room after the parade.
Had this all been worth it?
He had been struggling against it for the past few years now.
The first salvo had been fired when Jay had that anxiety attack. Jensen had almost lost it during the subsequent ‘discussion’ with the corporate teams. Kim had been supportive in his own steady way but everyone knows that those who hold the purse strings get to dictate the terms.
The world is not ready they said. The viewers are not ready. There could be death threats. We have a TV show that talks about angels, and demons and God. You are supposed to be brothers!
Jensen had a hundred arguments to throw back at them. Do you really think that an audience which accepts all this fucking crap about angels and God and death is going to be thrown off by the fact that the actors are in a relationship?
‘Homosexual relationship’ one of the smug corporate suits had said and Jensen had truly wanted to salt and burn him there and then. For the venomous way in which he said it. Like it was a curse.
Jared had steadied him with a hand on his thigh.
“We are in love.” He had said to those gathered around the table, in his simple pure way, cutting through all the veils and the bullshit and the posturing. “We don’t want to destroy the show. But please. Don’t let the show destroy us.”
Even the most stone- hearted corporate could not survive those puppy eyes and a truce had been called.
Jensen had railed against it. By this time they were living together. Vancouver was very open in its attitudes and no one cared if they held hands or kissed in public.
But the internet was a new beast in town. Everyone had a phone and the images could find their way to every news channel and every yellow rag in a matter of minutes.
Walls would be needed to be built. They needed to be careful. Of course no one could tell them what to do inside their house but…..living together may also raise a red flag.
“Do your parents know?” one of them had asked Jensen. He had refused to dignify that with an answer, raging on the inside because surely they knew what the status was.
A year down the line and the show had become ridiculously successful beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
Five years seemed like an easy win. They could do this. What was five years in the larger scheme of things?
By the end of five years, another five seemed likely.
Millions of dollars were hanging on this now. Studio employees, the stars themselves, the channel. Everyone was invested.
Jensen had sat with Jared holding both his hands, begging him to not give in.
“You know me Jay. I do want a career. I don’t want the fame or the money but I do want the success. But I am willing to throw it all away if you just say no. Please Jay, you are my moral compass. You are the only thing that can stop me from signing that contract.”
Jared stroked his cheek so tenderly that if Jensen had not already been crying he would have wept.
“I would never want to come in the way of your success Jen. And this contract, this agreement, if it will keep us safe and keep us together, maybe this is what we need to do?"
Jensen shuddered as he felt the conflict tearing him apart. He KNEW that he was agreeing to what Jared was saying because he wanted to believe it. Desperately needed to believe it. He knew that this had the potential to be the biggest mistake of their lives. He knew that if he asked for anything, anything at all, Jared's answer had always been yes. Only yes.
It is true that there was a rising tide of anti-gay sentiment even in the US. Conservative religious forces were everywhere. His own family has never accepted his sexuality in any supportive way. But he knew that Jared was fragile and emotional about their relationship in a way that he had never been. And he closed his eyes to all that and allowed himself the delusion that this would only be temporary.
The next year, the one time he allowed himself to see the photos from Jared’s wedding, he wanted to claw his own eyes out, turn back time and stop this wheel from rolling over their lives and destroying their happiness.
That hug from Jeff? It looked as though he was sending his younger brother to the war front!
Oh Jared!! How could I do this to you?!
His own wedding ceremony took place a scant three months later and Jared simply could not bear to even participate in any meaningful way. He started getting nightmares and the anxiety attacks became more frequent. Then the inevitable happened. Jared’s wife became pregnant and wanted to continue the pregnancy. Jared was a mess. Jensen was filled with self-loathing and it didn’t help that Sam and Dean were destroying each other on screen either.
Jensen also had a child a year later and called her JJ. His lifetime commemoration of the injustice done to him and Jay. Not J2 which is what the fans called them. But close enough.
In the meanwhile they were still together, alone for 9 months of the year. Going for long walks, holding hands on their getaways, kissing, soft and poignant, passionate and desperate, making love every night that they could, the bruises from their nights merging with the bruises from the scenes they were filming.
They took vacations together, without the wives and children, in defiance of the corporate machine.
But finally in 2013 Jensen broke.
He could not deal with the distance between them even during hiatus. He could not live with that soft sad defeated look in Jared’s eyes when they parted at the airport. The gentle way in which he would touch his fingertips to Jensen’s, their code for a kiss in public.
He could not breathe without him anymore. He could not think without him in his presence. His skin felt flayed and raw when he could not touch him. His very being felt incomplete, fragmented.
The first day of hiatus he wasn’t sure what he did. By the end of three days he knew what he needed to do.
One phone call and both of them found each other at Miami airport, a rental car taking them away to a secluded spot, away from the paparazzi.
“Jay!!” Jensen mumbled against his lips, his voice hoarse with aching desire. “Finally. Jay. I can’t stay away from you like this. I am sorry. I am so sorry that we are trapped like this.”
“Hey, look at me!” Jared said, his voice still clear with that same purity that had captured Jensen’s heart on the very first day. He kissed him, tasting salt and tears and regret. “We are in this together ok? Don’t go blaming yourself. I don’t.”
“You should. I should have known better. You were so young Jay. I was greedy for the success, for the work….”
“And it is good isn’t it?” Jared smiled at him, wiping his tears. “We are still together 9 months of the year Jen. 24/7. So many working couples don’t get even that. So many don’t even want that.” He said with a small laugh. “We still want each other. Isn’t that good?”
“Oh Jay. I want you sweetheart. So badly. Please…”
“Yes, my love. It’s always yes.” Jared replied.
Later as they sat on the sofa eating pizza, Jensen looked at Jared.
His beautiful boy. His boy.
He had allowed him to have a wedding with someone else, for god’s sake. What kind of a monster did it make him?! He had forced the love of his life to go through a ceremony with someone else. There must be a special place in hell for him.
Then he had done the same.
Instead of getting Jared out of it and declaring war on the corporate demons, he had bowed his head and done the same. Poor Jared had not been able to cope well enough to even participate properly.
Now they both had one child each. This was an irredeemable mess.
But he was going to find some way to make it better. It could not carry on like this. One of them would break and he was terrified that it would be Jared.
“I am going to move to Austin.” he declared.
Jared’s eyes lit up instantly. “Really?!”
Then they shuttered again. “How would that work Jen?”
“I don’t care. I will make it work.”
“They won’t allow you Jen. It would be as good as coming out.”
“No. People don’t see what is in front of their noses sometimes. It will have to work. I will not renew the contract if they don’t let this happen. I can’t Jay. I just can’t stay away from you any more than I absolutely have to.”
Jared came and sat on his lap and held his face and kissed him. Softly and tenderly.
“I can’t stay away from you either Jen. I have been trying so hard. To be brave. To be strong. But I love you so much Jen. So much. It’s ripping me apart.”
And so the decision was taken and Jensen found a house down the road from Jared.
Tin hats went into a frenzy of speculation and I told you so’s but nothing major came of it and the dust settled.
The conventions then became Jensen’s space for rebellion. They both flirted with each other as always of course, with all the innuendo and anecdotes which made the fans squeal with excitement even as the tin-hatters smiled knowingly.
But Jared simply could not contain his joy anymore. He would hug Jensen all the time. He touched him, patted him, moved closer to him like they were magnetized.
Event management tried to caution them but Jensen was having none of that. Jared was being treated for depression and it was either this or nothing.
Eventually the corporate purses were not willing for nothing and so they still had this.
Slowly, subtly, Jensen also started to let himself breathe while on stage. Earlier he used to ‘allow’ Jared’s flirtations and touches so far, but now he started to slowly reciprocate.
A fierce hug. A holding of hands on a fan’s back. A touch or two initiated by him.
“Wherever you are, whatever you do. I will be right here waiting for you.” Jared had declared once when singing.
Jensen smiled fondly. He knew what he was going to respond with. “Everything I do, I do it for you.”
That did get them a slap on the wrist later but now, with six children between them and a contract coming to an end, Jensen was beginning to ignore these reprimands.
At the Hawaii con when they turned up in matching shirts and leis around their neck, looking for all the world like a honeymooning couple, he though with glee that some of the PR folks might have started bleeding from their eyes at the sight, but he couldn’t care less.
Jared held him close at one point and Jensen stopped what he was saying to look down at his lover’s hand around his waist and allowed himself a small triumphant smile.
This. This was how it was going to play from now on.
No more distance. No more chairs far away from each other. ( Not that Jared had ever paid the slightest attention to that! In his simple joyful way he always moved his chair closer to Jensen. At every single con. Jensen never commented on it but last year he finally did. No one puts baby in a corner he had said. Quoting Dirty Dancing of course but also calling Jared his baby in front of the world. As he ought to be able to.)
Today was the Con where they were going to announce that the show had been renewed for the 15th and final season.
Jared had not been keeping well. His own hell hounds kept dragging him into depression and every second of that trauma was felt by Jensen on his own soul. He had done this. Their separation had done this to Jared. The pressure of the fake weddings, the anxiety about the future of their children.
But Jared had managed to come down to the con half an hour into the event.
Jensen could not hide the relief and joy on his own face. He had been going through the motions and mechanically responding to fan questions but his heart was not in it and it was obvious that he probably could not carry on for the entire allotted time.
As soon as Jared came in from the wings everyone clapped and cheered and Jared thanked them all in his own sweet way. Then he came close to Jensen and said “I am not feeling too good but I didn’t want to let all of you down. And I didn’t want let down the most important person in my life.”
He turned and smiled at Jensen. “I want to tell you all, everyone---that this guy here? He has been my rock. The best thing that has ever happened to me. My pillar of strength since the day I first set eyes on him. As I was resting in my room just now I was remembering that day and realized that today it will be 5000 days since we first met.”
As expected, there were loud cheers and squeals from the fans.
Jensen was watching him, smiling fondly, hand on heart, a tremor of something going through him. Some intuition telling him that something was different today.
Jared smiled back, hand on his heart. “And I want to tell him--- I love you 5000.”
The audience went absolutely insane.
Jensen thought his heart would hammer itself out of his body. Jared came and sat at his feet. Literally. And rested his head on his knees.
Jensen was paralyzed for a split second and then he smiled. He slid down from his chair and sat next to him and held Jared’s hand and placed their clasped hands on his heart.
“We were inevitable.” He said into the mike.
Then he kept the mike down and did what he should have done years ago. He held Jared’s face in both his hands and kissed him on the lips.
“This is the endgame.” He whispered. “Just us.”