The Death of Jensen Ackles

~~~

It was unusual, but not unheard of, for Jensen to wake up and find himself in bed with Jared. God knew it hadn't taken long for them to get past the awkward 'will he, does he, will it fuck things up' stage and move on to the casual acceptance that sometimes you just wanted to have sex. Jensen hadn't been completely certain it wouldn't fuck things up because he'd known pretty much ten seconds after meeting him that Jared was fond of his girl. But Jared had set him straight -- or not, considering. As soon as the words 'open relationship' had come out of Jared's mouth, Jensen was thinking about whether he'd wanted to get his new co-star back to the hotel for a quick fuck, or if a blowjob in the trailers was better.

Half a year later, however, he wasn't quite used to the rare mornings when he woke up with Jared wrapped around him. Usually one or the other left for his own bed around midnight -- if they weren't stealing time in someone's trailer for a quickie.

This morning Jensen kept his eyes closed and thought about how nice it would be to sleep for another ten hours, with or without Jared in the bed with him. And how nice it might be to sleep without a wet tongue licking his foot.

"Gerrof," he muttered, and he pulled his foot back under the blankets, away from whichever one of Jared's dogs had decided he was breakfast. He heard Jared chuckle. Jensen didn't bother opening his eyes. "Coffee," he demanded, since Jared was, after all, the host.

"Thanks, already had some," came Jared's far too-awake reply. "Are you getting up anytime soon?"

Jensen moved his hand out so Jared couldn't miss the single finger. Jared just laughed again. Then one of the dogs jumped onto the bed and started snuffling at Jensen's back. Whimpering, Jensen tried digging himself further into his pillow.

"Sadie, get down," Jared said, calmly.

"Coffee," Jensen repeated, as the weight left his middle, and a tongue found his nose. He jerked back, and glared at Jared. "Don't you feed them?"

Jared smiled back, innocent and guileless. "Sure. They had breakfast twenty minutes ago, after we got back from our walk. During which I had my coffee." He smiled, and Jensen grumbled.

"Tell me again why I sleep with you?"

Jared looked thoughtful. "Because I'm hot? Because I have the same work schedule? Oh, wait - it's because you have a thing about my hands, and you like the way I can wrap my tongue--"

Jensen rolled over and sat up, grabbing Jared by the wrist. "Is it Sunday?"

"No, it's Friday." Jared looked confused. "Kris is gonna be by to pick us up in half an hour."

"Exactly my point." Jensen let go of Jared's wrist, shoving it away from himself, and scooted out of bed. "Don't talk about sex when we have to be at work and look presentable." He stumbled towards the bathroom, resolutely ignoring the way Jared's laughter followed him.

Half an hour later he was climbing into Kris' mini-van, holding his second cup of coffee and thinking about how he might not have to kill Jared after all. Jared had been standing at the bathroom door when Jensen had stepped out after his shower, holding a mug of fresh coffee. He'd had a paper bag as well, ham and cheese rolls that hadn't been cool enough to risk eating yet. By the time Jensen had finished dressing, Jared had taken the last few drops of Jensen's first mug of coffee, poured them into a travel mug, then topped it off, filling it nearly to the brim.

Between that, and the tongue and hands thing, Jensen figured that maybe he didn't mind so much that Jared was a freak who woke up before dawn and liked it. Or at least he could live with it, even if it was unnatural and annoying.

He could hear Jared in the back seat, running over lines from the script Kris had handed him. They'd changed one of Sam's scenes -- what else was new -- and Jared had the rest of the drive in, and the time in make-up, to forget everything he'd already memorised and learn the new stuff. Jensen was glad that for a change he wasn't shooting a scene with Jared...although with his luck they'd get to work and Jensen would be handed his revisions and not even have the time during the drive to learn his lines.

He listened as Jared mumbled his lines to himself, then said, "Kumquat."

"What?"

Jensen grinned to himself. "Nothing." He waited as Jared began rehearsing his lines again. Then he said, "Meteor."

There was a pause, then, "Jensen, what are you talking about?"

"Nothing, sorry. Don't mind me." He gave Kris, who was trying to stifle her laughter, a grin.

There was another pause, and Jensen could picture the look Jared was giving him. After a moment, though, Jared went back to his lines, speaking to himself more quietly.

"Sycamore."

"What the hell are you doing?" Jared demanded.

"Me? Nothing. Why, am I bothering you?" He turned back, looking at Jared as innocently as he could. Jared looked at him in confusion for a second, then his eyes narrowed. He hit the back of Jensen's seat with his knee; Jensen had to move fast to keep his coffee mug in his hand.

Jared went back to his lines -- silently, but Jensen could tell. He waited until Jared got into the groove again, then said, "Peanut."

His head bounced forward as Jared thumped the headrest; Jensen laughed.

"God, now I know why Steve didn't want you two," Kris muttered. "If you make me drive into something, no one will blame me. Even my insurance will know it wasn't my fault."

Jensen laughed again and threw out, "Marshmallow," even though he knew Jared wasn't even bothering with his lines anymore. Jared thumped him on the back of the head; Kris sighed and muttered something about driving one of the divas from Smallville any day.

Jensen just chuckled and drank his coffee.

~~~

Later that day, of course, Jensen stood off-camera mouthing random words while Jared was setting up to shoot his scene with Mark, their guest victim of the week. Jared ignored him at first, then started throwing things at him, then finally Kim had to ask Jared to concentrate and all Jared did was point at Jensen.

That was how Jensen got kicked off the set for two hours while they shot the scene.

He went back to his trailer to grab a nap -- he wasn't stupid, and he remembered his grandfather talking about how the best thing a soldier learned was to be able to sleep whenever the chance presented itself. He wasn't sure his grandfather would agree this was the same sort of thing, but sleeping when he had a chance was something Jensen was definitely grateful for.

When he woke up, for a dizzying second he thought it was morning again, that he was back in Jared's bed. He even moved his foot tentatively, checking for dog tongues.

Then he opened his eyes, saw his trailer just like it had been when he'd stretched out on the too-short bed at the tail-end. But Jared's face was on the pillow just inches away from his, and Jared's eyes were closed in real sleep.

For a moment, Jensen didn't move. He hadn't even noticed Jared coming in, hadn't noticed him climbing into the bed with him -- too narrow for one huge guy, much less for adding a bedmate the size of Jared Padalecki. But he'd apparently scooted over in his sleep and let Jared wrap his arms and legs around his own, because that was how they were laying, now, when Jensen was pretty sure that when he'd lain down, he'd been sprawled across the mattress.

He opened his mouth to startle Jared awake, then stopped. Out of guilt, of course, because Jared deserved his precious catnaps the same as Jensen, and for all Jensen knew, Jared had only come in a few minutes before.

Clearly his subconscious had got used to sleeping with Jared even if the rest of him hadn't: he could probably count on both hands the number of times they'd actually slept together. The sex between them was casual and fun, and didn't really lend itself to needing post-orgasmic cuddles and romantic breakfasts in bed.

Their friendship wasn't all that geared towards cuddles and romance either -- though Jensen teased the living hell out of Jared for the amount of hands-on posing he did for the photographers. That wasn't anything like this, Jensen knew. It was just Jared being grabby, draping himself all over Jensen like he was the third slobbery dog in the Padalecki household.

Jensen didn't actually mind; photo ops with Jared were the first time he'd come close to not hating the events so much that he spent an hour in the bathroom beforehand trying not to throw up. Hiding next to Jared was easy, and not just because of his size. The way Jared swallowed up his personal space like they were wearing the same pants, the way Jared slung his arm around Jensen and leaned into him, as if making sure that every photo of Jensen had Jared's face in there as well...it made it a hell of a lot easier to get through a photo op without wanting to cut and run.

But this...this was no reason at all. Just asleep, and if Jared had wanted space to be comfortable he could have gone to his own trailer. Maybe he'd wanted to get Jensen back -- as soon as the thought occurred Jensen looked around, best as he could without moving and waking Jared. He didn't see any buckets of water, cans of silly string, or fake doggy shit. So maybe he'd been hoping for an apology, a blowjob to make up for Jensen jerking his chain. And he'd seen Jensen asleep and....

Okay, he had no clue why Jared was asleep with him, unless it had just struck Jared as a fantastic idea and he'd assumed, in his doggy-Jared way, that any space with Jensen in it was his, as well.

That explained it, Jensen realised, and he closed his eyes, trusting someone to rap on the door in time to get them to their next scene on time. He didn't care if Jared wanted to sleep on him -- not unless super-glue had been involved first, in which case Kim was probably going to kill them both.

But it was nice, even squished and uncomfortable as he was. Nice, because it didn't happen very often, and because Jensen knew their relationship wasn't ever going to be about hearts and flowers and cuddles. They were friends and fuck-buddies, and it wasn't like Jensen even really wanted this sort of thing. Jared was a friend, not a boyfriend, and nothing screwed up a good thing faster than demanding something that wasn't on the menu.

But it was nice when it happened.

~~~

The following week, Jensen found himself standing near the catering tent looking for Jared. They'd had weird shooting schedules for the previous few days; with Sam and Dean following separate lines of investigation it meant that one or the other of them was with the second unit half the time.

Yesterday they hadn't even been on location together; when Kris had arrived to pick Jensen up she'd said that she and David had arm-wrestled for driving duties. She didn't explain who won -- or who lost. But finally, with a lunch break on their last day of work for the week, Jensen thought surely Jared would be around somewhere. But he didn't see him anywhere, and normally Jared was pretty hard to miss.

"He's talking to Mike," Sara said, and Jensen blinked at the PA. She kept walking past him, towards the food tables.

Jensen had his mouth open to ask her how she knew who he'd been looking for, then slammed it shut again. It wasn't like they were attached at the hip -- at least not in public, except for photo shoots. And that was all Jared's fault, so why-- Jensen decided he wasn't going to think about it. He headed over to get his lunch and decided he didn't care about where Jared was.

The food was the same Friday spread. Salads of a zillion kinds, fresh fruit, light sandwiches. He could see the blue dotted vegetarian dishes gathered together, the pork-free dishes with their pink dots and the little yellow dots that Jared always said were the 'pee here' dishes. They'd actually never figured out what the yellow dot was for; Jensen privately thought the caterer was messing with their minds.

He grabbed enough lunch to keep him going 'til dinner, taking a long look at the dessert tray before picking just a couple of cookies and ignoring the little squares of cheesecake. He had to spend all his free time at the gym already; Jensen knew better than to tempt fate by eating a plateful of mini cheesecakes.

Maggie saw him and picked one up, popping it in her mouth and making the most god-awful, sinful moaning noises he'd ever heard in a food tent.

"Bitch," he told her, and she grinned, patting her belly.

"Eating for two, it's not my fault if I crave cheesecake," she said unrepentantly.

"You craved cheesecake before," he pointed out; Maggie didn't deny it. She did grab another few cheesecake squares, putting most of them on her plate but as she ate a second one, Jensen scurried away. Some things he just did not need to hear once, much less twice.

He wandered around outside the catering tent, trying to look like he wasn't keeping an eye out for Jared. He ate quickly out of habit, not even trying to keep his chopped fruit out of the green salad and vice versa. As a kid he'd often mashed his food all together in an attempt to gross out his sister -- it hadn't ever worked, but he'd learned not to care about things like savoring the flavor of one ingredient over another.

He'd almost finished his salad when he felt the tingling on his tongue. Jensen froze for a second, telling himself There is no way. He glanced down at his plate and didn't see any kiwi. Nothing he didn't eat every damn Friday, but his breath was already growing short and his throat itched and he dropped his plate, hands reaching for the kit he kept in his jacket.

He had time to think how he hadn't needed the thing since he was nine, and how glad he was his mother had drilled him on carrying it anyway, all the time, just in case.

"Jensen? What's wrong?"

He looked over to see Rod, one of the lighting guys, standing beside him with a concerned expression. Jensen got his hand on his kit, pulled it out and thrust it at Rod, ripping off his jacket and trying to say something -- but then he felt his stomach clench and he was down on his knees vomiting. He could hear people talking, hear Rod asking him questions and Jensen tried to get the words out, any word at all.

His throat was closing more, making it hard to breathe and hard to vomit again. His stomach churned and he was getting dizzy; heart beating loud and fast in his ears and he didn't know if it was the allergic reaction or the fear -- memory of the last time, when they'd found out that Jensen was allergic to kiwi by finding out just how severely allergic he was.

He tried to wave a hand at Rod, wondering why the fuck he wasn't-- everything was getting dim around the edges of his vision and he felt someone grab his arm. A second later he felt the sting of the Epi-pen and thanked god that someone had figured it out, even if a second later he realised the anaphylactic reaction wasn't stopping. He didn't want to wonder if he'd gotten the shot soon enough.

But he was shaking now, and he tried to keep himself from falling face forward -- tried to gasp for air and it was getting even harder. Jensen opened his mouth wider, trying to suck in air and he wanted to scream at someone to do something, only he couldn't talk, and the last thing he thought before everything went black was that he needed someone to do something quickly.

~~~

When Jensen opened his eyes, he saw a hospital room. His bed was surrounded by machines, and instead of looking frightening, Jensen found it the best damn thing he'd ever seen. He relaxed -- if he needed proof they'd been in time, just waking up was sign enough. He turned his head, feeling aching muscles protesting, and blinked in surprise as he saw Jared sitting in a chair.

Jared was staring at the floor, elbows on his knees and hands clasped together and for a second it looked like he was praying. Jensen stared at him as other sensations slowly trickled in. There was an oxygen tube under his nose, an IV taped to his hand. Machines beeping softly and something stuck to his chest -- he glanced down and saw the wires running out from under his shirt to one of the machines.

All exactly like the first time. Although he was glad not to have a hysterical mother beside his bed; he looked at Jared again and tried to say something. All he got out was an unintelligible groan, but it was enough.

Jared's head flew up and his eyes widened when he saw Jensen looking at him. He was on his feet and walking forward, pulling himself short of getting close enough to touch. He was pale, obviously scared and trying hard to look calm and reassuring.

Jensen swallowed, relieved to discover his throat wasn't closed tight anymore. It was sore as hell, though, and when he tried to say Jared's name he immediately regretted it. Jared grabbed his hand and squeezed it carefully.

"Don't try to talk yet, man," he said. "They had to... to.. god, Jensen. They had to -- I forget what they called it. Had to keep you from suffocating. The paramedics shoved a tube down your throat." His voice was soft; thin and wavering ever so slightly.

Jensen nodded. He tried to give Jared's hand a squeeze back, wanted to tell him it was all right, that everything was fine now. Jared still looked like he might fall over -- Jensen figured if you were gonna faint, fainting at the hospital was the best place to do it.

"You scared the shit out of Rod," Jared continued, making an obvious effort not to freak out. "He had no idea... christ, Jensen, no one knew you were allergic to anything like this. Except the on-set paramedic and Susan from the catering company said she had everything on her list -- she swears up and down there was no kiwi anywhere, but the network is having a field day, threatening lawsuits and criminal negligence and...." Jared swallowed. When he spoke again, his voice sounded close to breaking. "I had no idea you-- I thought that little black case was to carry around your glasses."

Jensen knew better than to try talking again, so he tugged at Jared's hand. He mouthed, 'I'm sorry', and tried to look as sincere as he could. He watched as Jared tried to compose himself.

"When your throat doesn't hurt, you're going to tell me everything," Jared finally said.

Jensen just nodded.

~~~

The hospital released him after twenty four hours; a decision Jared had argued with, pointing out over and over that Jensen had nearly died and didn't they think they needed to make sure it didn't happen again? The doctor had had to sit down and explain in great detail the nature of food allergies and anaphylaxis.

Jared had grudgingly been reassured that Jensen wouldn't keel over if released -- that as long as he didn't eat kiwi, he would be fine. Finally convinced, Jared had escorted Jensen out of the hospital and taken him home.

Jensen hadn't argued when Jared pointed him towards the couch. He felt okay, just a little tired and his throat still hurt, but he knew Jared deserved a chance to over-react. It wasn't every day a guy saw his friend get a tube jammed down his throat to make sure he didn't die, after all.

Settling himself on the couch, he waited as Jared went into the kitchen, then came back a few minutes later with a mug of hot tea. Jensen took it, holding it in both hands as it cooled enough to drink, and waited.

Jared paced for several minutes, and Jensen watched as his mouth moved, as though trying out and discarding things to say. He took a tentative sip of his tea and discovered it was still too hot. Finally Jared turned and looked at him, saying nothing.

"I was nine," Jensen said, keeping his voice soft in deference to his still-sore throat. "We had no idea I was allergic to anything, and one day I had a piece of kiwi and..." He shrugged, knowing Jared didn't need a description of that. "I was in the hospital, my parents freaking out and everyone screaming at my aunt, who'd fed me the thing. Not her fault, no one knew, but she still sends me cards with money for my birthday, out of guilt." Jensen smiled briefly. "I put the cash in her daughter's birthday card. For all I know she sends it right back, and we've been recycling the same hundred dollar bill every year."

"You never-- I had no idea," Jared said, as Jensen stopped to try his tea again. Still hot, but now he could taste the honey Jared had added.

"I haven't had an allergic attack since then," Jensen explained. "Hell, sometimes I thought maybe I wasn't allergic anymore, that I'd grown out of it."

"You still carry that epinephrine pen." Jared sounded eerily calm, barely moving as he stared over at Jensen.

Jensen nodded. "I got used to it. Every single day until I moved out, my mother would stop me before I left the house and make me prove I had it on me. The first couple of months after I moved to L.A, she called nearly every day, making sure. It's...not like it's in the way or anything." He paused, then decided not to tell Jared about the two years he'd stopped carrying it, believing that he wouldn't need it. He'd begun again when he'd been cast on Dark Angel -- something about insurance, he'd been told he had to carry it at all times, and Jensen hadn't had any reason to argue. Like he'd turn down a job because he didn't want to have an Epi-Pen in his pocket?

"So... this was... a freak thing?" Jared was frowning, clearly not ready to believe him when he said yes, but visibly starting to relax, just a little.

Jensen nodded. "Twice in twenty years isn't a regular occurrence," he said carefully. He didn't need to piss Jared off by acting like it was no big deal. But he knew once Jared got used to it, he'd be okay. Right now he was still expecting Jared to blow up at him, yell at him for accidentally eating the damn thing or something.

He watched as Jared thought it over, chewing on his lower lip. Jensen just drank his tea and left him to it. When he finished the tea, he started to set the empty mug aside; Jared moved forward and took it. "You want more?"

"Nah, I'm good."

Jared hovered for a second, then he took the mug back to the kitchen. There was a pause, then Jensen heard a cabinet door open. Then close, and open, and close, and he realised that Jared was checking out the entire pantry.

He got up and went in after him, leaning against the doorway as Jared pawed through the fridge. "I don't have anything with kiwi in it," Jensen told him.

"I know. I didn't think you would-- I'm just... hell, Jensen, did you ever tell me not to put kiwi in something?" Jared glared at Jensen, looking scared and angry all over again.

"You've fixed dinner for me exactly twice," Jensen pointed out. "We usually grab something at a restaurant or order in. You've never had the chance to ki--" He swallowed the words 'kill me', because Jared wouldn't take it for a joke. "I always paid attention to what I was eating, Jared. I'm not nine anymore."

Jared scowled. "I was-- fine. You can take care of yourself." He shut the fridge and stormed out of the kitchen, brushing Jensen back against the doorjamb.

"Hey! Jared," Jensen called after him. Jared didn't stop right away; when he did, Jensen said, "I'm sorry."

Jared didn't look back at him, but after a moment, he nodded. He stood there, not moving, and Jensen waited, wondering if Jared was over freaking out yet. He suspected not.

Then Jared half-turned his head back towards him and asked hesitantly, "It's all right if I stick around tonight?"

"Sure," Jensen said, carefully casual. "Not because anything's going to happen to me, but because it's all right if you stay."

Jared nodded, then he moved over to the couch, picking up the remote then setting it back down, fidgeting as he looked around for something to do.

"You wanna kick my ass?" Jensen asked, and as Jared's head snapped up, Jensen smiled and gestured at the Playstation.

"You're on," Jared said, and if his voice didn't hold much of its usual confidence, neither of them mentioned it.

end part one ~~~ part two

When it came to nagging and hovering, Jensen's mother had absolutely nothing on one Jared Padalecki.

Jensen had never realised just how huge a presence Jared was in his life until suddenly every single morning included Jared asking him did he have his Epi-pen. The phone calls weren't quite so bad, because at least it meant he could stop relying on his alarm clock to wake him up. It was worse on the two mornings when Jared was right there hovering over him the second Jensen dragged himself out of bed, asking him did he remember where he'd put it, telling him not to forget it as he was getting dressed, stopping him at the door to double check that it was on him despite the fact that he'd watched Jensen put it in his pocket.

Jensen had to tell himself he didn't really mind. He'd out-lasted his own mother, though it had taken ten years and moving halfway across the country. Jensen knew that Jared just needed some time to relax, to get over it, and to see for himself that Jensen wasn't going to kill himself with a kiwi.

The funny part -- or maybe it was the most annoying part -- was how on set, whenever Jensen grabbed something to eat, someone was always there giving his food the fish-eye. The caterer was a new company, since Legal was still fighting with the first company over what the fallout would be. They'd at least found out what had happened; someone had chopped up kiwi into the fruit salad before checking the allergies list and then simply picked it all out. The seeds and juice had been more than enough for Jensen, and while the girl responsible had been immediately fired, the network was still debating its options.

Jensen had already turned down the offer to sue the caterer. The stupid kid who'd done it was probably never going to do anything like it again. Jensen had recovered without any problems, and other than Jared's being a spazz, he really didn't care. It wasn't like he needed money or revenge. All he did want was a little peace to eat his food without someone constantly popping over and making casual conversation while they tried to pretend they weren't looking his plate over for green, slimy fruits.

What made it all so annoying was not that everyone on the set cared so much. That part was kind of nice, if a little over-bearing. What was annoying was the way Jared would completely ignore the fact that Jensen's food was being vetted by two dozen people already, and he would take Jensen's plate away from him, look it over, and decide for himself if it was safe.

A couple of times he'd even tasted something to make sure. The second time Jensen had simply snagged a sandwich off Jared's plate and started eating his food -- and the very next day Jensen noticed that suddenly Jared's plate was full of the things Jensen preferred.

Well, the first plate was. Somehow Jared always went back for a second plate later, piled high with cheesy things, a thousand cookies, and carrot sticks.

Jensen told himself to bear it with good humour. Jared was concerned, he had every excuse to be shaken up, and it wasn't like he was reminding Jensen that he really shouldn't be eating that second slice of chocolate cake even though it might have been more helpful. And it certainly wasn't like Jensen minded Jared constantly hanging around during lunch.

He was halfway tempted to get some marzipan candy custom made to look like kiwi, but he was utterly certain that Jared would kill him for real.

So he sucked it up and said nothing, until the day he and Jared were sitting in their chairs waiting to be needed on set when lunch break was called. Jensen didn't look up from his PSP even when Jared got up, stopped, and walked over to stand in front of him.

"I'll have a roast beef sandwich with mustard, no pickles, and whatever veggie thing they have that doesn't involve carrots."

"Excuse me?" Jared asked, sounding confused.

Jensen paused his game and looked up, giving Jared a smirk. "You're gonna scrutinize every crumb anyhow, you might as well get it for me. That way you'll know it's safe."

Jared narrowed his eyes, looming over him in a way that made Jensen think -- briefly, or mostly briefly -- about things other than lunch. "I'm your fetch and carry boy now?"

Jensen patted him on the stomach. "Good boy! Fetch!" He gestured towards the food tent as if throwing a stick.

Jared thumped him on the side of the head. Then he grinned, his expression a mix of evil and thoughtful. "You'd trust me to get your food?"

It only took a second for Jensen to get to his feet. "Oh, hell no."

"No, no, you're right. I should just go get--"

Jensen grabbed Jared's arm as he started to walk away, and tugged him backwards; he didn't get more than Jared's arm, the rest of him plowing ahead towards the catering tent. Jensen was forced to take a step after him and ended up walking along behind him towards the food, still hanging onto his arm. "You'll get that chicken salad shit," he protested, wondering if it was worth it to trip Jared. "And cantaloupe or some other kind of disgusting melon thing."

Jared just laughed evilly; Jensen lunged forward and got his arms around him, hoping to use his body weight to drag Jared down. Jared just laughed harder and twisted around, dragging Jensen after him as they wrestled for control.

"Hey!" Kim shouted, sharply. "Get away from the food before you knock over the tables!"

They paused -- still grappling each other -- and Jensen looked over. They weren't anywhere near the food, but he heard Jared apologize. Apologize, but he did not let go of Jensen. Jensen goosed him on the butt and Jared yelped, high-pitched and surprised enough to let Jensen go.

Jensen made a dash for the food, letting Jared catch up so they wouldn't really knock anything over. Various crew members gave them suspicious glances and outright glares as they kept giggling and knocking each other's arms; Jared calmed down right away, turning serious as soon as Jensen's hand went near the fruit tongs.

With a sigh, Jensen reached over and grabbed a whole, unsliced apple. He held it up and Jared nodded. Then he grabbed Jensen's wrist and asked, "You're sure those things aren't related to kiwi?"

Jensen reminded himself that he didn't mind the nagging, and restrained himself from throwing the apple at Jared's head.

~~~

Jensen had to remind himself that he didn't mind the nagging a dozen times a day, skipping a few times in-between to let himself think about strangling Jared. But mostly he tried to remember that he probably deserved a little aggravation and in the end he found it hard to begrudge Jared the need to over-react.

As the week went on Jensen found it more and more difficult to ignore, but he told himself that he'd give it just a few more days then he'd tell Jared to chill out. That resolve lasted until Saturday morning when he heard Jared yell "Fuck!" from the bathroom and Jensen had to force himself to crawl out of Jared's warm and over-large bed to go see what was wrong.

He found Jared staring at a bottle, frantically reading the label. He had a huge, blue towel wrapped around his waist that made Jensen entertain thoughts of removing it and making Jared need a second shower. Instead he leaned against the doorway, rubbed at his eyes and thought about how it had been nice to stay in bed an extra ten minutes, drowsing a little before Jared or his dogs or all three came back to pounce on him.

"What is it?" Jensen asked when Jared just kept frowning at the bottle. It looked like facial cleanser, some sort of scrub. Jensen looked at it more closely, wondering if there had been some kind of chemical recall and Jared was afraid of losing his face as the acid ate away his skin.

He remembered a time before Supernatural when thoughts like that didn't occur to him before noon. Jared finally glanced over at him, still frowning, his eyes frantic. "It says it's got fruit extract in it, but I can't figure out what kind--"

"Are you kidding me?" Jensen blinked at him and found himself fully awake -- on his day off -- which just further annoyed him. He stepped over and grabbed for the bottle and Jared pulled it out of his reach. "Jared, what the fuck-- oh for god's sake, it doesn't have kiwi in it!"

"It doesn't say! It just says 'fruit extract,' and for all I know that means kiwi." Jared glared at him, jaw jutting out and hand holding the bottle high above his head. Jensen folded his arms across his chest and thought that he might have put on pants first, if he'd known he was going to have to deal with Jared...being Jared, first thing this morning. Arguing in his underwear never made him feel like he had the upper hand, even when Jared was being a total moron.

"If it doesn't say 'kiwi' on it, then it doesn't have kiwi," he began, reasonably.

"You don't know that," Jared protested, still not lowering his arm, as though afraid Jensen would lunge for it and slather it all over himself.

"How long have you had that stuff?" Jensen asked, sighing. "Months? Weeks? The last two years? Have I ever had a single, slightest reaction to it or to your face after you've used it?"

Jared was frowning more thoughtfully, now, and he said, "I've always used this brand.... But maybe you just didn't--"

"So we can safely say I've probably been exposed to it at least once or twice a day, and I'm damn sure I've probably tasted it a few times, so since I've never had an allergic reaction from it I think I can say it doesn't have kiwi in it."

Jared was glaring even harder. "Well excuse me for not wanting to kill you on accident!" he shouted. Jensen noticed he still hadn't lowered his hand.

"Oh for... fine. Throw it out, use plain soap. I don't care. Use sandpaper if you want." Jensen left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen, because right now all he really wanted was coffee and maybe a large brick to aim at Jared's head.

He didn't hear any response from Jared and after he'd got a few steps down the hallway, he turned around and went back. Jared was still standing there -- he'd lowered his hand and was staring at the bottle. He looked up as Jensen stepped into the doorway; his expression was bleak.

What the hell? Jensen thought to himself.

Quietly, Jared said, "I don't think I can do this anymore."

Jensen froze, and he didn't have time to try to sort out what 'this' Jared meant, because there was one obvious answer and that one seriously didn't jibe. How could having an allergy make Jared want to stop having sex with him? Only if it were a latex allergy, and hell, they made alternatives for that, anyhow.

But Jared was staring at him, bleak and anguished and afraid, and none of those things made any sense.

"Can't... what are you talking about?" Jensen was reminded that he still wasn't wearing anything more than his underwear, and he had a horrible feeling this was the sort of conversation that he wanted to be fully dressed for.

Jared looked away. "I can't keep pretending."

Which made less sense, but at least it didn't sound like a 'fucking is fucking things up' sort of line. That was encouraging, as far as it went. Still didn't tell Jensen what the hell Jared was talking about. "Pretending?" he prompted, as Jared just kept staring at anything but him.

"I... can't just act like I don't..." He finally looked at Jensen again, his eyes dark and serious and for a second Jensen thought they were rehearsing a scene because he couldn't remember the last time Jared had been so intense. Holding Jensen's gaze, Jared said, "I love you."

Jensen blinked, but Jared didn't elaborate. Didn't follow up with a comment about how he meant like friends or I just care about your health.

"You what?"

Ignoring Jensen's question, Jared continued, "I know it freaks you out, but I can't keep pretending like I don't love you. That I want to--" He stopped himself, clearly frustrated.

Jensen latched on to the one part that he could make heads or tails of. "What do you mean it freaks me out?" He didn't remember ever freaking out, but then neither of them had ever acted like this was anything more than casual fun. When had either of them said anything about love? When had he had a chance to freak out -- before right now?

Staring at the bottle, toying with it, Jared said, "Whenever things get too serious, you freak. If I take you out on a date, you spend the entire time flirting with pretty girls. The one time I made a romantic dinner for us here, you bailed before dessert. Hell, if I even sleep with you all night you spend the entire next day trying to piss me off. It wasn't hard to figure out you wanted me to keep my distance." Jared shrugged. "I was all right with that, until..." He took a deep breath and stared at Jensen, his expression hard but clear. "Until you nearly fucking died and now I just need to hang onto you as hard as I can, and...take care of you and make sure you're not going to-- I'm sorry. I know you probably don't want me to, but I love you." He held Jensen's gaze, not blinking or flinching.

When Jared fell silent, Jensen found himself unable to say a word. Love? He tried to think back to the times Jared had mentioned, tried to remember what he'd done. He remembered the dinner Jared had made, the table set with good dishes and candles. It had taken him by surprise, and he'd been uncomfortable -- not because he'd been freaking, but just because they were friends and they weren't actually dating. He hadn't wanted Jared to think... exactly what he'd apparently already been thinking.

He realised Jared was watching him with a sad expression. Jensen felt his mouth slip open, but he had no idea what to say, if there was anything he could say. He took a step backwards, then another and he turned, walked over to where he'd dropped his clothes last night, and got dressed.

Jared didn't say a word to him as he left.

~~~

He didn't see or talk to Jared the rest of the weekend. He'd spent the whole day Saturday finding one thing after another to do -- cleaning his apartment, laundry, getting some groceries. He'd even called his mother and listened to her ask for the hundredth time was he sure he didn't need her to fly up there -- as if he wanted both her and Jared nagging him.

On Sunday, when he found himself starting to sort through the junk drawer in the kitchen, he pulled himself down into a chair.

Jared was right, he was freaking. He didn't even really know why, because he hadn't realised what Jared was doing. Hadn't realised why. Love? When the hell had Jared fallen in love?

More importantly, what the hell was he going to do about it, now that he knew?

He spent an hour trying to think about it rationally -- mostly unable to get very far after replaying Jared's words in his head. He even considered calling his mom again and asking her for advice, but then he'd really have her on a plane to Vancouver, ready to meet Jared and berate Jensen for not telling her sooner.

In the end, though, he knew he had to make a decision -- he'd see Jared on Monday, would be seeing him a thousand hours a day for the next five weeks, and again for more after hiatus. Whatever he decided... had to be something they could both live with.

Jensen sighed and took a beer into the living room, sat down on the couch and tried to think.

The next morning, Kris gave him a wide, cheerful smile as he climbed into the mini-van. He tried to smile back, but he was nervous as hell and exhausted. He hadn't slept at all the previous night; hadn't slept much Saturday night, either. The coffee in his hand wasn't doing much for him yet, and he had a feeling he was going to need a constant IV of the stuff to get through the day.

He tried not to fidget on the ride in, tried to focus on the lines he'd done his best to learn yesterday evening. He rubbed at his forehead, wishing he could have got just one -- or ten -- more hours of sleep. He had a feeling the make-up ladies weren't going to be happy with him. He wasn't entirely happy with himself, either, but he'd tossed and turned all night and had finally had to get up and read over scripts and summer project proposals the rest of the night.

Luckily Kris wasn't the sort to force a conversation when her passenger was clearly grumpy and not in a talkative mood. She ignored him and he did the same for her, and when they finally pulled into the lot he dredged up a grateful smile.

His gratitude lasted until he walked into the make-up trailer and saw Jared. He stopped in the doorway; Jared ignored him for about two seconds, then his eyes flickered over so fast that if Jensen had blinked he'd have missed it.

Jared looked scared, and it seemed like he was expecting Jensen to call things off between them. Jensen took a deep breath and walked over, reaching into his pocket. Then he held out his hand to Jared.

Jared looked down. "What's this... Jensen, your Epi-pen? What--?"

"It's an extra. I keep one in the bathroom at home, one in my trailer, one in the car. For back-ups." He kept holding the pen out to Jared.

"Why--" Jared stopped and stared at him. Slowly he reached out and took the pen. He opened his mouth, still looking confused, when his eyes darted up to Jensen's face, scrutinising him closely.

Jensen tried to shrug casually, but was pretty sure he didn't bring it off because Jared suddenly broke into a huge, delighted smile.

"Yeah, well," Jensen said, rubbing his nose and thinking maybe in the make-up trailer hadn't been the best place for this. Sara and Tracy were some of the biggest gossips on the set, at least when it came to anything that could possibly be embarrassing. Jared kept grinning, though, and Jensen found it impossible not to smile back.

If anything, that kicked Jared's smile up another tenfold and Jensen could see Jared suddenly unable to sit still -- jittering around in his chair, ignoring the way Sara grumbled at him not to mess her up. Jensen let himself be herded into the other chair and didn't listen to a word Tracy said about the bruises under his eyes and just exactly how bloodshot they were.

It did have a dousing effect on Jared -- a concerned look and mumbled, "Jensen?" was all he could manage as Sara was working on his face once more. Jensen waved a hand as if it were nothing.

"Didn't get much sleep," he said, and gave Jared a sideways look that was meant to communicate that it was no big deal and they'd talk about it later.

Sara and Tracy twittered, and Sara smacked Jared on the shoulder.

Jared's eyes went wide. "I'm sitting still!"

Sara frowned at him. "You should let him get some sleep."

Jensen had to choke back laughter, as Jared tried to protest that he didn't have anything to do with it.

~~~

The best part about the whole day -- other than Jared bouncing off the walls like he'd mainlined candy -- was how everyone blamed Jared for Jensen being tired. It was hard to stay grumpy while watching Jared try to convince anyone who would listen that he wasn't responsible. Jensen didn't bother helping him, just sighing and rolling his eyes, answering questions carefully to make it sound like Jared was lying through his teeth without really lying, himself.

When they had a break, Jared took Jensen back to his trailer, shut the door behind them and said, "You are going to pay for this, Ackles." As Jared advanced on him, Jensen sat down on the at the miniscule dining table and closed his eyes. The next thing he knew Jared was shaking him gently and telling him they had to be back in five.

He managed to stumble through the next four hours, mangling his lines and cues only a little and getting Jared yelled at a lot. Finally they were released to go home -- only a few minutes past eight, for which Jensen was thankful. It wasn't a complete surprise when Jared got into the mini-van with him, sitting across the back seat from him, leg bouncing a mile a minute. Jared talked even faster, chatting with Kris after Jensen proved to be too tired to follow his conversation with more than a few grunts.

When they got to Jensen's place, Jared fell silent. He followed Jensen up the walkway and stood behind him as Jensen fumbled with the key. The tension was obvious - thick enough to cut with the proverbial knife. Jensen didn't try to break it; time enough for that when they got inside. Jared stayed silent as Jensen let them in, trailed along behind while Jensen dropped his keys and cell on the kitchen table.

Then Jensen turned to face him, and Jared was waiting, nervous and not meeting his eyes. "Jared?"

"Did you-- I mean, I didn't...misunderstand, did I?" He looked up briefly, hope and doubt warring for dominance.

With a sigh, Jensen told him the bottom line he'd finally come to, right before going out to the pharmacy to get the extra Epi-pen. "I don't want to lose any of this."

Whatever he felt, or whatever Jared felt, there had only been two ways it could go. Jensen could say no, too much, and they'd stop. Stop sleeping together, maybe manage to stay friends and maybe not. Or he could say yes, it was all right that Jared loved him, and... He knew things would change, but he'd decided he was all right with that if it meant not losing Jared; whatever it meant to have him, friends who had sex or...more.

Jared nodded, smiling briefly, but he kept himself reined in as he asked, "Are you going to keep freaking out if I.... do stuff?"

Jensen laughed. "I'm not exactly hoping for flowers in my trailer," he admitted. "But--" He stopped and went over to the fridge. He grabbed a couple of beers and led Jared into the living room. Jared let him get settled, didn't push him to explain until Jensen had downed a couple swallows of beer and was thinking about putting this part of the conversation off until later -- next year, maybe.

"Is it going to bother you that I...love you?" Jared's voice was tentative, and Jensen knew that he was gearing himself up to let Jensen off the hook and be the one to say no, maybe we shouldn't do this at all.

Jensen took a deep breath. "You know, most of the relationships I've been in were either so casual we barely knew each other's names, or they ended up completely fucking me over." He took another drink of his beer, staring at the far wall so he wouldn't have to look at Jared. "I've heard people tell me they love me, before. Usually because they thought they had to. Once she really did...or she thought she did. But the second something better came along she was off like a shot." He gave Jared a half-smile. "Turns out I wasn't a big enough star to boost...whatever the hell she wanted boosted."

"Jesus, that sucks." Jared opened his mouth then stopped, and Jensen knew he was probably going to ask who 'she' was. But he didn't ask, maybe figuring that it didn't really matter.

"It does suck," Jensen agreed. "I figured out fast that it was easier to keep things casual -- no strings, no false promises. I've had sex with friends and strangers and it's pretty much always worked out fine as long as no one-- you know. Loved anyone." He swallowed nervously, took a drink of his beer and didn't look over at Jared.

There was a long silence, then Jared said quietly, "So it is going to bother you."

He saw Jared shifting, starting to reach over to put down his bottle --no doubt to stand up and call a taxi and leave. Jensen moved over, fast, and grabbed him by the wrist.

"Jared, I said I don't want to lose this. I don't want to lose you; I don't want--" He stopped, because he hadn't really gotten much farther than that. He'd known -- hoped -- that giving Jared the Epi-pen pen would get the message across. He didn't mind if Jared needed to make sure he was okay, and didn't mind if it was because Jared loved him.

"I don't want you to feel like you have to," Jared said, sounding defeated. "We can be friends. I'm not going to go...all psycho ex boyfriend on you."

"That's not what I'm trying to say." He tried to pull Jared closer, again only got Jared's arm as the rest of him stayed locked in place. Jensen moved closer, tried to get into Jared's line of sight, but Jared simply looked away. He tried to think of what he could say, but none of the words that came to mind seemed to be right. He could see Jared tensing, about to brush him off and try to leave. In desperation, Jensen leaned forward and kissed him.

He felt Jared's mouth start to open -- reflex, he figured, because then Jared's hand was on his chest trying to push him away. But Jensen pulled himself forward, kept his mouth on Jared's, and tried to let him know that he did not want him to leave.

There was a moment when Jared froze, then suddenly his mouth opened and his hand came up to cradle the back of Jensen's head, pulling him in and holding him close. Jensen pressed himself in closer, knees banging together and twisting him around at the waist because he hadn't actually planned on crawling on top of Jared when he'd initiated the kiss. But that suddenly seemed like an excellent plan -- Jared seemed all for it, too, when Jensen tried leaning closer and Jared just gathered him in.

Trying to move around so he wouldn't break his spine, Jensen ended up ramming his knee into Jared's thigh. He tried again, then laughed as he accidentally broke the kiss. He found Jared smiling at him -- not the hyper, sugar-wired smile he'd had all day, but something that made Jensen stop, caught between wanting to run and diving back in and kiss him some more.

Jared moved his hand around to Jensen's face, brushing his thumb along his cheek. He opened his mouth, hitched a breath but then didn't say whatever had been on his lips.

"What?"

But Jared shook his head. Then he asked, "Do you want to go to bed?"

Jensen grinned. "If I lay down I'm gonna fall asleep." He tried to move forward again, letting Jared know unmistakably that something other than sleep was on offer.

"I don't mind," Jared said, pulling him back in and kissing him. Before Jensen could get too lost in the kiss, Jared nudged him back and stood up, catching Jensen's hand and pulling him to his feet.

Jensen found himself stumbling down the hall after him, trying to wake himself up. How romantic would it be to fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow? He mentally choked as he realised what he'd just thought -- the hell was he thinking about romance for? Just because Jared was in love, didn't mean they had to...

He found himself being pushed down onto his bed, and he rolled over to face Jared's side of the bed. He needed to kick off his shoes -- take everything off, wake up so he could have some fun and let Jared know he meant it. He felt the bed dip as Jared lay down, and he closed his eyes for just a second. He felt Jared's hand on his face and a warm touch on his lips.

When he woke up, he was under the blankets and half under Jared, his shoes and jeans were gone, and it was dark enough outside that he could hope he still had time go back to sleep. He wriggled a little and heard Jared grunt -- sound asleep, but Jared pulled him in closer, draping his arm over Jensen's middle. Jensen smiled, and had time to wonder if he had any more coffee at all or if he'd have to beg Kris to stop on the way in tomorrow. Then he was out like a light and the next thing he knew was Jared, holding him, breathing softly in his ear.

~~~

One month later they were sitting near the set waiting for someone to decide they were needed. It had been an hour so far, with the lighting guys arguing about things Jensen was barely paying any attention to. Something had broken, and the question was fixing it or rigging a half-assed replacement, and all Jensen really cared about was watching Jared talking about his latest phone call home. Jared's little sister had apparently been in a play over the weekend, and Jared was rehashing every single detail he'd been given by other family members.

It wasn't hard to see how proud and excited Jared was, and Jensen just watched him. He was surprised Jared hadn't tried to fly down to San Antonio to see the thing himself, but they'd still been shooting Friday night by the time the play had been completely over.

"You're gonna go down for the next one, though, right?" Jensen asked when Jared paused for a breath.

"If I can, yeah!" Jared's face lit up and Jensen had to laugh at him. Jared frowned, not in the least bit upset. "What?"

Jensen shook his head. He hadn't really noticed when exactly Jared had calmed down. Giving him the Epi-pen had helped a hell of a lot and somewhere along the line Jared and everyone else had stopped scrutinising every little thing Jensen tried to eat. Jared had stopped asking him every morning if he had his pen -- though Jensen knew for a fact that every single morning Jared made sure he had his.

But he wasn't nagging Jensen anymore, and wasn't watching him with that tense, worried expression he tried to hide. He also hadn't started smothering Jensen with flowers, or insisting on holding Jensen's hand, or doing any of the other hundred things he'd threatened to do to embarrass Jensen in public. Mostly he'd just relaxed, and the only way Jensen even really knew how Jared felt was that now he said it sometimes, and when they curled up together Jared would touch his hand or his face and Jensen could tell he was thinking it.

It didn't freak him out, either. Of course, one time Jared had brushed the back of his hand while they'd been lounging on the couch and Jensen had pretended to freak out, jumping up and screaming about being molested and that had ended with Jared wrestling him to the floor -- after recovering from his heart attack -- and Jensen hadn't been able to walk normally the entire next day.

In fact, as Jensen watched Jared talk about his sister, and his family, Jensen realised that pretty much nothing had changed at all. He smiled, and Jared reflexively smiled back, and Jensen found himself saying, "I love you."

Jared paused, blinked, then nodded. "I know."

For a moment Jensen stared at him. He hadn't even thought it before the words had slipped out, and already his brain was starting to scream at him what the hell he'd just said that for. But he thought maybe it was true, and the idea didn't really scare him too badly, only... how the hell did Jared know when he'd only just decided it right then?

"What the hell," Jensen began, and Jared's wide grin softened.

He waved a hand dismissively, though, and said in a casual tone, "I've known for a long time, Jensen. Seriously, I want to keep the fourteenth free because Megan has--"

"But I haven't--" Jensen narrowed his eyes. "You're putting me on. You've watched Star Wars too many times, haven't you?"

Shaking his head, Jared grinned wider.

"Fine, hotshot. How long have you known something that wasn't there to know?"

Jared laughed. He leaned towards Jensen, lowered his voice as he said, seriously, "You aren't a touchy-feely kind of guy, Jensen. You don't like being around strangers and you don't like friends getting all grabby or invading your personal space. Not unless they're really good friends and you've known them for a hundred years and trust them. After we started having 'casual, no strings attached sex', you fell asleep on me. We were on the couch and you leaned over, and when I tried to move, you glommed."

Jared leaned back again, smiling. Jensen shook his head. "That doesn't mean anything, Jared. Other than you're warm and Canada is freaking cold."

"It was seven months ago," Jared said, looking pleased.

Jensen blinked at him. They'd only started having sex eight months ago -- so what the hell was Jared talking about?

Jared reached over, touched Jensen's face lightly, running his finger along the edge of Jensen's chin. "When you're asleep, you never let go of me," he said quietly.

He had no idea if that was true -- he knew that Jared was always all over him when they slept, but he didn't.... And yeah, it was always nice, and Jensen really preferred to sleep with Jared beside him, but that didn't mean anything.

Only he'd just decided he did, so maybe it didn't really matter when it had happened or if Jared was right or if he was bullshitting. Jensen tilted his head slightly and pressed a kiss to Jared's fingertip. Then he thought -- just his luck if a photographer were on set today. He sat back in his chair and looked down at his pages for the next scene. When he glanced over, Jared was focused on his PSP, a tiny, but extremely smug smile playing on his lips.

the end