For The Heart I Once Had (1/12)
General Ferris had a dildo on her desk. Mounted to a wooden base, it was dark and rigid, though it curved gently just the way a real cock would. Jeff didn't believe his own eyes at first, and part of him wondered if the months out in deep space had finally driven him insane. Then he remembered Sam Ferris was a general of the Sex Corps.
She caught him looking and tapped the thing with her stylus. "It was a gift from some of my cadets."
Jeff stood at attention; she hadn't let him relax just yet. He had to guess what kind of game they were playing here. As soon as the Mercury got within range of the solar system, the order to report here came in. Everyone else got shore leave, and Jeff had to make it to the Atlantic base, the seat of the Sex Corps. Only he'd thought they'd shut the scuts down. That was the official word anyway. Jeff didn't see how they could just reshuffle them back into the rest of the Corps.
"Your cadets have an interesting sense of humor," he said.
"How do you know it wasn't meant to be used for coursework?" She managed to hold the straight face for a full thirty seconds before the smile got through. "They made me a trophy." She turned it so Jeff could see the plaque attached to the metal base that read "Scut of the year."
"You might recognize the name of one of the cadets," Ferris continued. "Have a seat, Commander."
Jeff swallowed. Jensen. She had to be talking about Jensen.
The last time he'd seen Jensen, it had been sixteen months ago on the shuttle deck of the Mercury. No, the real last time he'd seen Jensen, it had been in a vid leaked to the media by the Confed, of their scut prisoners of war. Jensen had been kneeling in that row of naked hostages, just another fucking example of how little the Confed cared. Jeff could close his eyes now and remember that look of horror on Jensen's face as one of the Confed guards slit the throat of the scut next to him.
Sometimes in Jeff's nightmares, Jensen was the one with his throat cut.
Jeff sat in one of the chairs across from the desk, resting his hand stiffly on his knees. He wasn't used to sitting in the presence of generals. It didn't feel right. "You're talking about Captain, sorry, I meant Major, Ackles?"
She nodded, pursing her lips together. "How much do you know about the mission Ackles was on before he was captured?"
"Really?" Ferris stared at him, her face twisted into an expression of disbelief. "I was under the impression that the two of you were intimate."
Jeff could feel his face heat. "That was well within our mission parameters. Ackles would never break the confidentially of his next assignment." He struggled to keep his voice even. Was she just trying to rattle him?
Ferris scratched with her stylus over a tablet and the action rubbed him the wrong way. How dare she take notes on this?
"Are you saying you didn't have a relationship with Major Ackles beyond the one required for your mission?"
"I don't see how that's relevant." Jeff sat up straight in the chair.
"You sent 245 messages to his personal comm account. Should I assume you were just good friends then?"
His fingers dug into his thighs. "There are no rules about fraternizing between branches."
To his surprise, Ferris began to laugh. "I'm not going to reprimand you for it, Morgan!" She sobered and dropped the stylus. "I'm counting on you being the one person to get through to him."
"Where is he?" Jeff had wanted to know the answer to that question from the moment Captain Devine had told him Jensen was still alive, that he'd made it out of enemy space and somehow managed to kill the emperor of the Confed. He'd tried to send Jensen a message, but it had bounced almost instantaneously. Jeff had a strong suspicion Jensen had changed his comm code.
"He's in Texas, at the old Ackles ranch. That damned brother of his won't let us get close." She leaned back in her chair and rubbed her forehead.
"He's been discharged," Jeff said. That much was public record. "Leave the man in peace." It hurt to say, because Jeff wanted nothing more than to jump from his chair and hop on the first shuttle bound for the Lone Star state. Something in his chest leaped at the thought - Jensen was just a few hours away. Almost close enough to touch.
"I wish I could. But you know the terms of the agreement with the aliens on planet 328."
"They're human. The tech is alien."
"Doesn't matter. What does is this stipulation we have a scut Dom/sub pair on duty there."
Jeff frowned. "And we do. Bell and Hodge."
"They were recalled with the rest of the Scuts. Right now Shatner's got two of his spacemen out there faking it." Ferris jabbed at one of the displays on her desk, which showed the report feed. "This just came in from the Desert Moon, about a week after the Mercury left."
The hologram sparked into being. There were a few whispers, and then the face of Queen Michelle Tal appeared. They must have brought the holocomm in to capture this message. "This is Michelle Tal, queen to the people of Harmony. We have an agreement. Your substitutes are not acceptable to me. I demand the return of Dom Morgan and Sub Jensen to their post. Until then, we will provide no more assistance to your base."
With a snap of her fingers, the hologram dissolved into darkness. Jeff always admired the queen, and her little stunt made him want to laugh. If anyone could take on all of the Joint Chiefs and the UP senate, it would be her.
"So you want me to go find Ackles, convince him to re-enlist, so he and I can go back to Harmony?"
"Got it in one."
Now Jeff did laugh. He pushed himself out of the chair. "I think I've given enough to the Corps. Ackles probably thinks the same. If I find him, it's gonna be for my own reasons." Jeff turned and made his way to the door. Just before he palmed the control, he turned to say, "Tell Admiral Shatner he can expect my resignation in the morning."
Now that he was on Earth, Jeff took advantage of his access to the media feeds. He read up everything he could find related to Jensen, including the ridiculous speculation going around the tabloids about what Jensen was doing now. His favorite was the gossip columnist who swore Jensen had run off with a popular actress and was now living on New Venus.
None of this helped when Jeff didn't know what actually had happened. The reports would never have crossed his desk anyway, so putting in his walking papers hadn't hurt at all. No, Jeff needed to talk to Jensen himself.
It wasn't hard to find the Ackles ranch. Jeff had taken a shuttle to Texas, rented a hover car and reprogrammed the built-in locator system. He drove past the place five times before pulling into the driveway behind a delivery truck. Jeff had thought he might find a few members of the press slinking around, but Jensen's brother must have done a hell of a lot to scare them off.
He followed the truck through the gate and around the circular drive up to a two-story house with tall windows and rust colored paint. Jeff parked, hopping out of his car and quickly making his way to the porch to intercept the driver. "I'll take that," he said with a smile, collecting the box as if he had some right to it.
"Could have saved me the drive in, man."
"Sorry about that." Jeff continued to watch as the guy drove back down the drive and away. He looked down at the package - not much larger than a shoebox, and made of plastine so it must be something weather sensitive.
He stepped up to the porch, the old wood creaking under his feet. A chair rocked in the corner, somehow of its own volition, breaking the silence. Jeff watched it for a moment, wondering what had set it off, feeling cold all of a sudden. Was he really doing this? Literally just showing up on Jensen's doorstep? What was he supposed to say?
Before he could set the box down and run back to the car, Jeff stepped up to the door and knocked briskly, seeing the panel for a bell too late. He pressed it anyway, figuring it couldn't hurt.
The door swung open, but it wasn't Jensen on the other side. Jeff looked up into the slightly slanted eyes and angled features of a man he'd only seen on holos - Jensen's brother. At the sight of Jeff standing there, Jared scowled. If Jeff hadn't faced down the Confed on more than one occasion, he just might have been intimidated.
"You're not the delivery man."
"He had to run." Jeff held out the package, keeping it in the doorjamb. Old-fashioned doors hurt when they were slammed. "My name's Jeff Morgan. I'm here to see Jensen."
"I don't give a shit who you are. I'm sick of you military guys showing up trying to get to my brother. He's done. You tell your superiors that. I won't be so nice to the next guy."
Before Jared could slam the door, Jeff jammed the package at his chest. "I ain't here on behalf of the Corps."
Jared took hold of the box, but didn't pull it out of Jeff's hand just yet. "Then how did you know where he was?"
Jeff wanted to wipe the smug look right off that face. This was a young man who needed a spanking. He had to calm down, somehow get in the boy's good graces, no matter how much he wanted to punch him. "I asked," he said. "I didn't assume, boy."
"You're not denying you're military."
"How else do you think I'd know your brother?" Jeff tried to put his most reasonable face on. "We worked together…" And they'd become so much more than just coworkers.
Jeff hadn't expected that, the moment Jensen had walked into that conference room on the Mercury. They'd recruited the scut to play the role of Jeff's sub, as they went undercover on the city-planet Harmony to rescue Major Tappen and Dr. Johnson. Jeff had needed to learn the role of Dom to fit into the carefully ordered society, and Jensen had been an excellent teacher.
"Really. Because he never mentioned you."
That hurt, more than Jeff expected it to. Maybe he'd read too much into his relationship with Jensen. He was the one who had pressed Jensen for something more. Jensen hadn't thought they could last through the separation of his next mission, and maybe he had been right.
"You know, he actually talked about you a lot," Jeff said, trying a different tack. "How's that girl of yours? Did you end up marrying her?"
Jared's face had gone white. He pursed his lips, and Jeff didn't know whether to brace for a shout or a blow.
Before either, a soft voice came from inside the house. "Jared, who's at the door?"
For a moment Jeff couldn't speak. It had been so long since he'd heard Jensen's voice. The sound had his heart speeding up and his breath catching in his lungs. "Jensen," he rasped. Jeff wet his lips and tried again. "Jensen!"
Jared finally stepped aside, pulling the package out of Jeff's hands. "Do you know this guy?" Jared snapped.
Jeff walked inside before the door could close on him, wanting to see Jensen. He lost his voice for the second time as he finally caught sight of his lover.
Jensen stood about halfway down a staircase. One hand gripped the banister tightly while the other trailed along the wall. He was pale, too pale for living in Texas, his freckles showing up in startling contrast. Jeff wanted Jensen to look at him, to meet those beautiful green eyes and somehow convey everything he wanted to say with his own.
It took him a moment to realize it - the way Jensen held his head, tilting so his ear faced Jared, the careful way he stepped down the stairs, and the tiny cam hovering just behind his head. Jensen couldn't see.
"Jeff, is that . . ."
"Yeah, Jen, it's me." Jeff didn't miss the death glare he got from the kid brother. Score one for Jeff.
"Jensen, who is this guy?" Jared looked ready to slam the door anyway.
Jensen smiled. "Commander Jeffrey Dean Morgan."
"Retired," Jeff put in.
Jensen missed his footing on the next step and nearly stumbled. Jeff tightened his fists to keep from running over there. Nothing stopped the brother though, who dropped the box onto a handy side table and moved over to Jensen's side, taking his upper arm with one hand. Kid was so big he could probably lift Jensen with just that one hand.
"When did that happen?" Jensen asked. He placed one hand over his brother's.
"Yesterday, round fourteen hundred."
Jensen shook his head, that tiny flickering camera still buzzing around it like some annoying fly. He never turned his face in Jeff's direction, and Jeff wanted so badly to see him. "What are you even doing on Earth?"
"Mercury was recalled for maintenance, everyone's got shore leave. Here I am." He spread his hands out, mentally kicking himself for the gesture. Jensen couldn't see him, although Jeff couldn't even begin to guess what that camera did.
"Jensen," Jared interrupted. "Do you want me to . . . ?"
Jensen tilted his head towards Jared. "I'm fine, Jared. In fact, I think Jeff can walk me to the stables."
"What?" Jeff said. Jensen always did make Jeff feel like he was playing catch up half the time.
"I usually go for a ride this time of day." Jensen gently disentangled Jared's fingers from his arm and made it down to the first floor. As he moved Jeff could see the earpiece in his left ear. It looked a bit like a portable comm earpiece, but even smaller. "This way I can show you around the ranch, too."
Jeff swallowed. He figured Jensen was trying to ditch Jared gracefully and he appreciated it. They had way too much to say to each other for him to want to do it in public. "Sure."
Jensen moved so he stood only a few feet from Jeff. The sunlight streaming in from the windows lit up his face - too pale and thin, but still with those beautiful eyes that said so much, even if right now they didn't work at all.
"Um, should I?" Jeff gestured with his hand again and then grimaced. "Do you need a hand?"
Jensen tapped his earpiece and grinned. "Just follow me."
Despite the blindness, Jensen looked remarkably well for a man tortured by the Confed for eight months. He walked with purpose, although slowly, and he didn't seem to need any help. Certainly not Jeff's help, and Jeff had to admit to himself he'd come with some grand intention of saving the day, sweeping Jensen into his arms and kissing the daylights out of him.
Jeff wanted to kiss Jensen, touch him, feel that he was real. He clenched his hands again to keep them at his sides. First they had to talk.
What the hell was Jeff doing here? After the shock of hearing Jeff's voice in his own home, Jensen had a moment to thank the stars that today was a good day. Nothing ached too badly, and he felt awake enough to go for his ride. Jeff wouldn't have to see him bent over in pain, or so tired he could barely make it to the couch from his bed.
In reflex Jensen flexed each of his fingers, starting with the pinkie of his left hand and cycling through until ending with the pinkie of his right hand. He'd gotten into the nervous habit after waking up in the hospital, constantly checking to make sure he had feeling in his hands. Some days he couldn't move them all and Jensen often used that as a judge of how the rest of the day would go.
Jensen had been so busy trying to get back on his feet that he hadn't even thought about when the Mercury had been scheduled to return home. He'd done his best to NOT think about Jeff. Jeff had been the one to say goodbye, in his last message on Jensen's comm. The time apart had just been too much, exactly as Jensen had warned him before he'd left Harmony. So why had Jeff come here?
He imagined he could feel Jeff's eyes on him, just watching to see how Jensen managed blind. Damn, he'd left his cane back in the house, and for a moment he hesitated, wanting to go back and grab it. Without its sure weight in his hands Jensen needed to rely on the cam spitting directions in his ear: "warning, two steps from drop" right before he got to the end of the porch. While that was fine inside the house, Jensen still hadn't done much walking the ranch without that extra bit of assurance. But he was too proud to go back and get it, not while he had Jeff following him.
Jensen stepped off the edge of the porch as if he knew exactly where the step ended. He landed hard on the ground, the impact jarring on the scarred sole of his foot, but luckily it didn't cramp up. He turned right as if nothing had happened and started counting steps in his head, following the concrete path around the front of the house. When he turned again onto the gravel, Jensen let out a relieved breath. He was going the right way.
"Jensen," Jeff's voice disrupted his concentration and his count. It went straight to Jensen's belly, awakening something visceral inside him, something he hadn't felt for a long time.
He stopped, the number of steps forgotten. In that moment Jensen couldn't move. It was as if he were on the edge of a cliff, and any movement would send him off of the edge, flailing into space with nothing to catch him.
Before he could respond, or maybe because he hadn't responded, Jensen felt a hand close around his shoulder. If they were back on Harmony, the touch would have grounded him, returned him to earth. Instead it sent tendrils down his arm, making his skin crawl. He pulled away, slipping on the gravel. "Don't touch me!" he shouted, covering where he had been touched with his hand, as if he could rub it away.
He had to fight to keep the flashbacks at bay. Jensen felt his lungs burn as he tried to get enough air. Jeff. It had been Jeff who had touched him. Not Isaacs, not the guards. Jeff.
"Stars, Jensen, what did they do to you?" Jeff's voice was low, and he didn't sound too close.
Jensen didn't want his pity. "What the hell do you think they did?" He spread his arms, inviting Jeff to look. If he really wanted to see the story Jensen should strip right there, reveal all the scars the Confed had left him with. "They cut the nerves to my brain so they could still look at my pretty eyes when they fucked me. And that was only after they made me watch my best friend die." Jensen clenched his fists, knowing, just knowing he'd pay for that later. "Why'd you come back, Jeff? Why did you have to come back?"
"I came back for you, Jensen."
"You said goodbye, Jeff. Your last message. . ."
"Because I thought you were dead!" Jeff's voice rose, finally yelling back at Jensen. Good, he was tired to being spoken to like a skittish animal. "That message was for me. I thought you'd died alone in some damned Confed prison. We'd never have a funeral, I'd never be able to let go. I couldn't go through that again. Not after Katie…"
"Seeing me all fucked up like this? Is that any better?"
"You're alive, Jen. Of course that's better than dead!"
"We can't go back, Jeff. I can't be the little sub I was on Harmony."
"I'm not asking you to. Damn it, that's not why I came here."
Jensen forced himself to let his fingers relax, cycling through his fingers again, flexing them one by one. He could already feel the numbness in his palms and damn it, he wanted to ride today. If he could find his way to the horses. Right now Jensen didn't even know what direction he faced. Jeff came back into his life and turned everything around, literally. He had to fight to keep from laughing at that. Laughing or crying.
"I tried to call you." The harsh tone was gone from Jeff's voice, replaced with one more gentle. Perhaps he remembered he was talking to a blind man. "But your comm code refused calls."
Jensen frowned. "What?"
"I thought you'd changed your code."
"To avoid you? Jeff, no." Jensen thought back. Any of the calls he'd received - mostly Sophia checking up on him - had been on the main comm line for the house that routed through the unit in the living room. He couldn't recall the last time he got a personal call. A sinking suspicion formed, and now was not the time to deal with it.
Jensen held out one hand, stretching his fingers out tentatively. He knew he had scars on his hands, one of the legacies of waiting so long before treatment. If Jeff balked at those, Jensen had little hope of Jeff accepting the rest of his changed body. "Come here," he said.
He heard Jeff's footsteps on the gravel, the crunch of the stones beneath his boots. Even if he wasn't wearing boots, Jensen could only picture Jeff as he'd seen him before, either in his uniform or in the colorful tailored clothes the people of Harmony had given them. In either case Jeff had worn heavy black boots, spit shined and skin tight.
The fabric of Jeff's shirt touched Jensen's outspread fingertips, and Jeff stopped, not coming any closer. Jensen lifted his hand, unable to really feel any details about Jeff's shirt. He came in contact with Jeff's chin, stubble pricking his fingers. Jensen remembered how he'd once loved the way the bristle of Jeff's beard felt against his bare skin.
Jensen had been trying his best to not even think about sex for the past six months. Most of his recovery had been focused on other things, like learning to walk again. He'd feared he'd lost that part of himself forever, torn out of him by the rape and torture at the hands of the Confed. He hated that they took that from him, something that had been part of who Jensen was. He'd been a Sex Corps soldier since he was 18, and now he could hardly stand to be touched unless he'd initiated it.
His reaction to Jeff caused hope to flutter in his chest and desire to stir in his groin. It hadn't gone farther than that, not yet.
"You haven't shaved," Jensen said. "When you're upset, you forget."
"Jensen." Jeff swallowed, Jensen could feel the movement of his jaw beneath his hand. "I'm sorry."
"For fuck's sake, Jeff. The last thing I want is your pity." Jensen touched his earpiece with his other hand, directing the camera to look at Jeff. "Jeff," he said, the voice in his ear repeating the name. At least it would stop saying "6 foot 2 male," now.
Jensen stepped away, still touching the command function. "Recalculate, directions to corral 7."
Jeff didn't speak, which was good. Now he could concentrate on the camera's instructions.
"Turn right two steps. Continue 150 steps forward. . ."
"Told you I'd show you around," he said to Jeff and let the earpiece count off the steps. "Want to introduce you to my favorite horse."
After a moment, Jensen tilted his head, glad to hear the crunch of Jeff following. He didn't know what Jeff thought of him, but that was fine. Jensen didn't know what to think of Jeff either. Their time together had never seemed further away than right now.
"How do you ride?" Jeff asked, after a moment.
Jensen grinned, trying to capture something of what he was, trying to look flirtatious and sexy. He had no idea if Jeff was even looking in his direction. "You'll just have to see."
He knew they were close when he heard Jeff gasp from beside him. Jensen raised a hand and caught the edge of the fence. It vibrated under his touch as he heard the pounding hooves coming towards them.
"Ah, Mr. Ackles! You're early!" The voice came from the rider.
A warm snout touched his fingers. Jensen leaned forward and brushed his nose against the horse. Since his hands were so fucked up, Jensen found that using his face gave a better indication of what something actually felt like. Some horses had softer hair than others and this was the only way to tell. "Emilio, what have I told you?"
"Jensen." He could hear the smile in Emilio's voice. "Let me get Blossom out of the stable for you."
"Thank you. Emilio, this is Jeff Morgan," Jensen introduced them quickly.
"Pleased to meet you. Just give me a moment. She's already saddled and warmed up for you."
Jensen listened as Emilio galloped away. He held on to the fence, tapping his fingers against it. It didn't take long before he could hear Blossom's gait as Emilio led her over.
"What happened to her?" Jeff asked in a low voice.
Jensen could feel the warmth as Jeff pressed against his side as he too leaned against the fence. Blossom nuzzled Jensen's hair, not concerned with this stranger.
"Caught in a rockslide," Emilio answered. "I couldn't let her go."
Jensen had never seen her. But he could feel the metal plating when he ran his fingers down Blossom's right side. They'd replaced her broken legs with cybernetics, but to do so they also needed to wire her brain. Blossom wasn't quite a simple horse anymore, but she wasn't exactly a robot either. Her existence made it easier for Jensen to ride without being tethered to anyone. He wasn't a child that needed a lead; he'd been riding horses since he'd learned to walk, the first time.
But not being able to see made it a little hard to guide the horse, so he needed a horse that didn't need guidance. He never had to worry about getting lost, or about leading her straight into a tree. If his hands gave out, or if something worse happened, a signal was sent directly to the main office. Jensen was never truly alone, no matter how far he rode.
"Would you like me to saddle a horse for your friend, too?" Emilio asked as Jensen pushed opened the gate and let himself inside. He'd come here so often he could find the latch without any problem now.
Jensen turned to where he thought Jeff might be. "Jeff?"
He was surprised when Jeff let out a nervous laugh. "Oh hell, no. I've never been on one of these things."
"That's a damn shame," Jensen threw back as he took the reins from Emilio and let the other man help him up. Sometimes he just didn't have the strength in his feet to mount a horse and he'd pushed himself enough for today.
But once he was up on Blossom's back, Jensen could forget about everything done to his body. He closed his eyes tight, pretending that the darkness he always saw was because he chose it.
"She's all set," Emilio said. "Got her programmed to run the perimeter about ten times, unless you wanted a longer ride?"
"Good enough," Jensen said, kicking the horse into gear.
Riding was always about molding his body to the horse, letting his hips and thighs rock with her natural gait. When she ran, Jensen flew, the air rushing past his skin and blowing his hair out of his face. The limitations of his half-broken body didn't matter anymore. Jensen had become something else, like he was half-horse himself, trotting through the dust as the sun pounded down on them. He breathed in the rich scent of the horse beneath him, just like the ranch itself, but a bit more intense. Jensen was surrounded by it, caught in his own world.
Jeff's last message had just about done him in. While he had been busy healing there hadn't been anything to do but listen to Jeff's deep voice, relishing the way it flowed through the speakers like water over rocks. After that final goodbye, Jensen didn't have the heart to even listen to his favorite ones - like when Jeff talked about a particularly silly prank Major Tappen had pulled on the team on 576 - or when Jeff talked about how much he loved flying.
Jensen had listened to Jeff talk about Katie only once. She had been like a ghost between them, back on Harmony when he had caught Jeff calling her name in his sleep. Who was this woman Jeff had married? She'd been dead for four years now, and still had so much power over Jeff. "I couldn't go through that again," Jeff had said. He'd been on duty when the Confed destroyed her planet. She hadn't been a soldier, just an ordinary person caught up in the war. She'd died, and Jensen had survived.
Though he'd come back broken and damaged. Perhaps it would have been better if he'd died, let Jeff remember him as the confident, perfect sub on Harmony. No, Jensen wanted to live; he'd made that decision when he killed to escape his captivity. Maybe Jeff saw him as some version of Katie who had escaped, who stuck it to the Confed that had killed her. Jensen wasn't sure he wanted to be the replacement model.
Jeff still loved her, had to if he'd been calling for her in his dreams. Jensen didn't know quite what to think about that, or why Jeff had come knocking now, retired even. The man probably had some stupid idea about rekindling their relationship. He just didn't realize how fucked up Jensen was yet. As soon as he did, Jeff would be on his way again.
When Blossom started to slow down, Jensen sat upright, changing his seat to match her gait. Had it been ten times around the circle already? He felt like hardly any time had passed at all. Was Jeff still waiting by the fence, or would Jensen find only Emilio there waiting for him? Maybe his shirt had ridden up and Jeff had gotten a glimpse of the scars on his back. Or maybe Jeff didn't want to deal with someone who needed a robotic horse in order to ride. Jensen felt his belly clench at the thought.
Blossom trotted to a stop. Right then Jensen decided he had enough for the day. He got tired so easily sometimes, and despite the auspicious start, Jensen figured he'd better not overdo it. He patted her neck in thanks, before swinging one leg over to get down.
Strong hands caught him around the waist and eased him the ground, just in time too, because Jensen had felt his left foot give just a touch in the stirrup. He knew as soon as he hit the ground that the body behind him didn't belong to Emilio. That warmth, the broadness, the way it brushed so close to Jensen, no, this was more familiar than it should be. Jeff.
"I'll take her back, brush her down, if you're done, Jensen?" Emilio sounded as if he were on the other side of Blossom.
Jensen could only nod in response. He listened for the retreating hoof beats before turning around, still too close to Jeff. His skin prickled, an involuntary reaction to any kind of touch. "Thought you might have left," he admitted.
"I'm not scared of horses, just never been on one," Jeff said.
"Not what I meant." Jensen touched his earpiece again, about to turn it back on. He always shut it off when he rode.
"What's the story with the floating cam?"
Jensen's hand fell away before he could finish the action. He smirked, wondering how long Jeff had been dying to ask that question. "I wouldn't let them replace my eyes with cams hooked up straight to my brain. Don't trust them not to fuck up my mind. This was the best compromise." Tilting his head he explained, "It's a synthesized voice, programmed to describe any obstacles in my path. Sometimes it gets annoying."
That was an understatement. Jensen had finally dialed it down to its lowest setting, not needing a play by play of every rock in front of his feet. The cane turned out to be more useful in that case anyway.
"You looked amazing up there."
"Always did say I could ride with my eyes closed. Never expected to prove it, though." Jensen could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. "Jeff. . ."
"Jensen, can I kiss you?" Jeff ran roughshod over whatever Jensen was about to say. "I wanted to before, but you. . ."
"Freaked. I know." Jensen swallowed. "It's ok if I know it's coming, like I expected Emilio to help me off the horse. Back on the path, you, just, you know, came out of nowhere and. . ." He felt Jeff coming closer before their lips brushed, just the softest of touches. Then Jeff pulled away.
Jensen had to struggle to hear him over the pounding of his heart. "Jeff, what are you doing?"
He expected a joke, something snappy like "what did it feel like I was doing?" Jensen didn't figure on Jeff letting out a little sigh, and getting downright serious.
"Proving to you I'm not here just 'cause the Corps want you back."
Jensen raised a hand, taking a guess and succeeding when it landed on Jeff's chest. He smoothed his fingers out, absorbing the warmth from Jeff's body and his sweaty shirt. "The Corps want me back? What the hell?"
"The way your brother was talking, I figured he'd kicked out a few other messengers before I showed up."
The fire under his skin threatened to turn to anger. What else had Jared been keeping from him? Jensen shook his head. He'd be having a little talk with his brother when they got back. "They wanted you to bring me back? That's why you retired?"
"They want us to go back to Harmony." Jensen could hear the scowl in Jeff's voice.
Jensen let out a little laugh. "I couldn't hack it in Harmony right now. Fuck, I don't think I could be anybody's sub again."
"I'm not asking for that, Jensen." Jeff moved closer, placing one hand over Jensen's.
"What are you asking for, then?" He hoped Jeff could give him a straight answer, because Jensen still didn't know what the hell he wanted.
"A chance, just a chance."
Jensen pulled away, lifting his hand to adjust his earpiece and turn the cam back on. Could he do it? Could Jensen trust Jeff to not tear his heart apart? Jeff asked for so little. Just a chance?
"Well, we'd better get back and tell Jared we'll finally use the guest room. You will stay, right?" He couldn't find a place to put his hands, holding on for Jeff's answer.
"Of course I will."
Jeff looked forward to seeing the expression on Jared's face when Jensen told him that Jeff would be staying for the evening. He'd have to enjoy it for both of them. The thought cheered him all the way back to the house. He wanted to put his arm around Jensen, hold his hand, just touch him in some way. It hurt to have to pull back, when all he wanted to do was hold Jensen close.
But Jeff got it. He knew guys who'd been fucked up by the Confed at one point or another, and he knew the stupidest stuff could set them off. He once had an ensign under him who couldn't stand anyone coming up on her right side. She'd floored a fellow officer once, and had to see the ship's counselor. Jeff was familiar with that too. He'd let his own anger and grief dictate his actions, and it had landed him in therapy himself.
As they walked up the front porch Jeff heard loud barking coming from inside. He hesitated outside the door and waited for Jensen to act.
"Jared has the dogs in the house." Jensen reached for the doorknob and it took him several tries to find it, and then it took him a moment to close his hand around it. Jeff tried not to wince at that. He wanted to reach out and do it for Jensen, but that would disrespect all the progress Jensen had made so far. "He wants to intimidate you, but they're really just puppies."
Before Jeff could respond to that Jensen pushed the door open and entered. He followed, not expecting the two giant beasts that barreled towards him. They knew he was a stranger and wanted to investigate. Jeff let them sniff him before reaching down to scratch one around the ears.
"Harley! Down!" Jared appeared at the top of the stairs. Nice of him to forget about the dogs.
Jensen had moved away, until his back hit the wall. He moved so stiffly, and Jeff ached to see it, thinking of Jensen's graceful movements back on Harmony. It looked like his own body was an enemy, instead of an ally. Jeff wished the emperor of the Confed wasn't dead, so he could find him and kill him again.
Once Jensen had braced himself, he called the dogs over, and they happily left Jeff's side, tails wagging as Jensen gave them both welcome scratches around their collars. "They're just a little too big," Jensen said in a low voice.
"I'm sorry, Jen." Jared looked at least a little bit guilty. "I'll let them out back." He carried a leash in each hand and clipped them handily on the dogs.
"Not a problem for me," Jeff said brightly. "I love dogs."
Jared threw him a glare, but Jeff just continued to grin.
"Jeff's going to stay the night," Jensen interrupted their stare-fest. "Are there sheets on the guest bed?"
"What?" Jared whipped his head around, while the rest of his body was being dragged towards the back door. The look on his face had been worth it.