"May I take your coat?"

Jared caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His clothes had changed, his usual choice but better kept, and his face had lost all the puppy fat. In fact his whole body had lengthened, and when he slid off his coat he noticed Jensen was taller and wore a handmade suit that no librarian had a right to wear.

A redhead in a filmy black something appeared by Jared's arm. "There you are sweetie. I'll fix you a drink, what'll you have?"

"Um..." said Jared, her eyebrows lifting at his reticence. Hadn't she been one of the first to go missing? When had his voice deepened? "I'll have the Courvousier."

She looked him up and down approvingly, then shot a half-smile toward Jensen. "Someone's got taste."

Glasses clinked in the next room, a lot of them judging by the laughter, and Jensen gave her hand a playful squeeze. She looked solid enough. Was she a construct like the rest of the house? "We'll be by Dee, give us a minute."

Jared caught fragments of conversation through the wallpaper, details about his investigation too specific to be coincidence, while upstairs someone was a leading a chorus on the piano. He watched the girl turn and dematerialize into the shadows.

While Jensen hung their coats, Jared clasped his hands and took in the room. The Christmas tree arranged just so. The smell of butter cookies. The bowl of oranges on the coffee table, how he'd dreamed of living somewhere with such a bowl of oranges. He stared at his hands, which had already grown more defined, closer to what Jensen imagined him to look like. Grandmother's nazarlik was pinned in the button hole, the one thing that hadn't changed, and he tucked it out of sight right as Jensen returned.

Jensen cleaned his glasses. Whatever magic held the House together had heightened his natural beauty, so much so that Jared had to look away. "You have questions, Jared?"

Jared wiped the sweat from his inside his collar and checked to see if he'd imagined that too. "Is this real?"

Jensen took Jared's hand. "I'm real. You're real."

Jared closed his eyes, but did not pull away. "Why did you bring me here?"

"You led us here. This is your story," said Jensen, pointing down the hall, "Take my arm, I'll make introductions."

But Jared knew already everyone in that party. Even laughing and flush with champagne, the drifters looked the same as the day they went missing, happy even, perhaps would now live an ageless existence in this place. Did they know which book they were in? And if Jared's fate were predetermined, what would he, the character, be expected to do?

"What is this?"

"This..." said Jensen, his mouth to Jared's ear, "Is the party where you find the killer."

Jared turned his head slowly.

"At first at least," Jensen amended, pointing out a slim blonde across the room, "You befriend a state attorney connected to one of the victims. A well-meaning woman with poor choice in friends. But it's bigger than you think. A corrupt legal system. Money laundering. A conspiracy planned by the permanent government in order to subdue the elected government. And then the national spotlight when you crack the whole thing open at a White House press conference."

He wound his arm through Jared's, eyes alight. "It's a great story, one worth living."

Jared gaped at this version of himself. "You did all this?"

Jensen moved even closer, fingers pressed into Jared's wrist. "You helped. All those drawings you sent me built this place, made this possible. The details..." he said, gesturing in the blonde's direction, "Were scribbled in the margins."

"But I've just met you."

Jensen gave him a long searching look, his words so soft that Jared thought them more than heard them. "We would always meet some day. Didn't you ever sit alone at a bar, or in the back of a used bookstore, or in a playground with an empty swing beside you, waiting for me to appear?"

Jared had no answer, and when his eyes welled he let Jensen cup his chin. "You have a great life ahead of you," he said, tipping Jared's face toward his, "And I want to be here when that happens."

Jared swallowed. "Before, you'd said all the books were about us. So who are you, the hero...or the monster?"

Jensen dropped his hand and reached for a champagne glass. "I'm your best friend."

The House was amazing, Jared had to admit, like someone had shook out his head and repainted the inside with better colors, but it couldn't all be him. Jensen sat down at the piano to sing, a cloying ballad that Jared used to hate but now found endearing. The party-goers watched, the John Does from his files now cast as artists or investors, a better class of drifter. As he thought this, he realized Jensen was narrating it in his head, but he didn't mind. Like the song, everything sounded better in Jensen's voice.

Jensen's true self was in here somewhere. How many layers would Jared have to peel back-anonymous pen pal, librarian, sorcerer-until he found the core of Jensen? He slipped through the crush of perfumed bodies toward the back, toward the other rooms.

A waiter appeared with his drink. "Courvousier?"

"I want to see the rest of the house."

The waiter blinked, as if that weren't in the script. "But the party hasn't ended, sir."

He glanced over his shoulder. Jensen rose from the piano bench and gently peeled some beautiful women off his arm, just long enough for him to scan the room and find Jared gone.

"Jared?"

Jared held his breath, flattened inside a closet door.

"Jared, where are you?"

He waited for Jensen's footsteps to fade, the question "Where are you?" echoing down the spiraling stairs as Jensen disappeared toward the roof. Exiting and opening the first door he came upon, he walked along push red carpeting that snaked around corners and stopped at a hotel lobby. No one sat at the front desk. No one answered the phone when he dialed zero. But there was an elevator, which meant the other captive drifters might be somewhere close by.

The elevator in the Other House had two sets of buttons. The ones on the left depicted chapters in Jared and Jensen's time together (Mezzanine: Once Upon a Time, 2: Love at First Sight, 3: An Unlikely Hero, etc.) whereas the ones on the right...were blank. These were the underground floors, and while Jensen had entitled well over twenty floors above ground, the blanks numbered to -178. Jared pressed the last button.

Ten minutes later the doors opened on the interior of a ranch style house, the living room furnished in the 1980's style and overlooking a street with similarly old model cars. No one was in the other rooms. School photos of Jensen as a child lined the wall. An unlabeled VHS tape sat on top of the television, and he popped it in the player.

A few seconds of ads segued into a re-run of "Little House on the Prairie", the one where Papa Ingalls monologues on the virtue of a good woman. A barn could be seen in the distance, from which a shadow stood behind a curtained window. Papa's monologue started out well enough, except that his words began to wander halfway through the scene, the children continuing to smile as he leaned on a shovel and mixed homespun wisdom with descriptions of murder factories in Oklahoma.

Jared rewound the tape, sure he'd heard it wrong. But when he replayed it the monologue was different, far too obscene for television, Michael Landon dropping f-bombs in a tutorial on proper crucifixion as the sky behind him breathed in and out like a living organism. The camera panned left. Several of the children lay dead. The shadow in the window was gone.

Jared rewound it a third time. The background was filled with graves. Papa Ingalls surveyed the empty field and said, " As the years pass, I am coming more and more to see the face in my dreams. I walk an unlit corridor where my true love's voice is continually moving away from me, weeping. He is weeping. I am weeping. Inconsolable. I don't want to die alone."

Laughtrack.

"They are the things that fill our lives with kerosene and our hearts with broken glass. The only good wife is a headless wife. You don't know how long I ached for him, for strong arms around me. A moment of silence for the school shooter in Montreal."

Laughtrack. The shadowy figure now stood behind Papa Ingalls.

"Let's be thankful. The sweat on your brow and your labor completed. Human eyes are a marvel, no one really understands them. They wriggle in my stomach like goldfish. I'm so cold. I've been alone for so long, and when you look under my skin it looks like I'm covered in marinara sauce."

Laughtrack, then static.

Jared rewound it a final time. When he replayed it, Michael Landon was gone, the farm was gone, the grave markers were overgrown with weeds. The shadow stood in the center, facing the camera, a closed caption appearing below it.

THERE YOU ARE.

Jared wheeled away, jabbing the UP button and screaming in the corner of the elevator carriage all the way back to the hotel lobby.

He took a moment, holding in air and then breathing out his nose. The lobby button glowed, and he pressed the 'Close Door' button. He couldn't go back to the party. Then the solution came to him.

He jammed number 25 on the left side panel and rode all the way to the top.


Jared and Jensen sat in flowery armchairs set against a red curtain with coffee mugs in their hands. Jared smiled into the camera. "Good morning to our audience at home, we have a special guest today."

"What are you doing?" Jensen hissed.

Jared covered his microphone. "I skipped to the end of the book."

"There's no morning news show in the story."

"There is in mine."

Jensen glanced at the camera and the live audience of drifter/characters. He hated being stared at.

"Glad you made it here safely, Mister Ackles. You can't be too careful, what with there being a serial killer on the loose."

The audience laughed, a slight delay causing an echo on the video feed monitor nearest him.

"I think if the American public had one question for you, it's..."

What? Is there an America to go back to? Are we trapped in a pocket universe? Do we still have bodies? How do you run a black magic dictatorship on the bones of hobos and still manage to stay sexy trim? Jared cleared his throat.

"...will you come live in my house?"

Jensen remained still, but something loosened behind his steely gaze. Jared continued. "I know I didn't give the best impression of it in the letters, but you can't do better than Shaker architecture, thing's built like a bunker."

"I gathered as much from your illustrations."

"You don't like it?"

"It's not your house, it's the people around it. They're trying to preserve the old ideas of happiness, lives without direction."

Jared gestured to the audience. "And you're leading them to happiness."

"You understand what it is to lead, Jared. You write something and hundreds of people read it, base their future decisions on your account of events that have happened thousands of miles away."

"But swaying people to my opinion doesn't do away with their free will."

"I didn't do away with free will. That would be impossible. I only gave them a structure to work inside. Shakespeare had his sonnet form, Renoir had his canvas, and I have a house."

The audience laughed, and a bubble of panic rose in Jared as he realized the flaw in his brilliant plan. In an effort to connect to the drifters, Jared had reverted to his jeans and flannel, whereas Jensen wore his usual uniform of tie, glasses, sweater vest beneath a tweed jacket, and elbow patches. The Intelligentsia. The more Jensen talked, the more he came across as the amiable voice of reason, whereas Jared was the ignorant cracker trying to beat Jensen's chess game with a bag of marbles.

"Not all of us are directionless, Mister Ackles."

"Yes, but you will not succeed. You mean well and with enough hard work you might attain some small fraction of the recognition you feel is owed you, but eventually you'll fall behind and someone will take your place," said Jensen, a dark glitter in his eyes, "Someone like Daryl?"

Jared tongued the back of his teeth, though Jensen could tell he'd scored a hit. "Why drifters?"

"They never got a chance to play a role in life. I've given them one."

"The county coroner found a John Doe in the middle of a frozen lake."

"Yes. His role had ended."

"Why did he have to die?"

"He believed in the old ideas of happiness."

"And?"

"And you can't change people's minds, Jared."

"He died like an animal."

Jensen polished his glasses. "I don't enjoy violence. But I must be expected to defend myself against outside forces."

Jared imagined Captain One Eye starting an insurrection from within the House, rallying the masses to tear the place down to stud. He bit his lip and focused on the audience in the video feed. The delay wasn't much, but it meant two precious seconds where Jensen didn't have direct control over the future.

"That suggests your House runs on the support, in this case passive support, of those dwelling here," said Jared, and though the live audience hadn't moved, the people in the video feed looking around in confusion as they suddenly realized where they were, "What happens should they become self-aware?"

Jensen smiled, and Jared was about to ask the next question when he heard something behind him, a mouse or a squeaky shoe. Or a wet meat twist. He looked behind his chair and found only extension cables. The exit sign glowed red. The live audience remained seated, the cameras stood in position, there was no sign of electronic interference.

But the video feed of the audience turned to static for a few seconds, and when it came back on the people in the bleachers were...changed.

"I wouldn't recommend that, Jared."

The live audience laughed, though perhaps one or two began to grow pale. Meanwhile, the video feed had switched to closed captions, the picture going to static again and coming back to a riot, the people inside clawing at the camera to get out.

"Make them stop. Make them stop."

Static. Four old men in the live audience crumpled in their suits. According to the timestamp, days had passed inside the feed. They'd begun eating the weak.

Jared lept from his chair and ripped out the power cord. "Stop!"

He watched the screen, black save for the timestamp. One week. Four weeks. Six months.

"I wouldn't look, Jared."

Jared plugged the power back in. Shadows sat in the bleachers. Burning garbage was strewn across the stage. A man crouched just out of frame, digging at something with his nails. He lifted his red hands in supplication. A closed captain appeared below him as he walked toward the camera.

TAKE THIS TRIBUTE.

He moved closer, closer, until he bumped the camera and the screen tilted ninety degrees to reveal another man on the floor, his mouth an O, rib cage spread open like a flower. The ritual priest, hoping to appease whatever angry god had trapped him in the video feed, peered into the camera. His lips moved soundlessly.

I SEE YOU.

Then the feed went to static, and the audience was restored to the current time. Jensen made an off-color joke and the women hooted. They seemed unaware of the horrors that had transpired.

Jensen turned his smile on Jared. A note of warning in his square white teeth. "That's what you get for skipping to the end of the book."


Jared stared at his feet, trying to recall which chapter lay directly below him. The wedding chapel? The courthouse? No, the biker bar. His pen was still in his pocket. Tracing a square on the floor with two lines intersecting the middle, he shoved his elbow through the makeshift window and fell onto a pool table in a shower of broken glass.

The two men playing pool backed away. "What the hell man?"

Jared shook glass out of his hair, holding a bruised shoulder in one hand. "Which way's the elevator?"

"There ain't no elevator," said one of the players, "Thing's been busted for ages."

Jared turned and read the OUT OF ORDER sign taped to the brass doors. Prying them open with his fingertips, he got them six inches apart before an icy wind lept up and stung his face, the shaft empty and extending forever down into the earth.

Jared jammed his leg into the door, glancing at the hole in the ceiling right as Jensen peered down and then vanished. "Hurry up and let's get outside."

But they weren't leaving. Jared pointed at the nearest biker. "I know you. From the police reports. Went to jail for grand theft auto. And you," he said to a passing waitress, "Sold unmarked guns out of a nail salon. Your family's been looking for you."

Jared grabbed the waitress's arm, but she was stronger than she looked and backhanded him. She could have gone further, but something moved inside the elevator shaft and she rushed to the bar and busied herself with receipts.

Jared touched his cheek and winced. "This isn't real. That's not alcohol, that's not a pool game, this is all puppet theater."

The sound grew, framed photographs shivering on the wall and dropping to the floor. Everyone resumed their appointed tasks, talking over his shouts.

"How long can you sons of bitches take orders from a man in a sweater?!"

A splintering noise rose up from the shadows and wrapped around his waist. The rope was thin, no more than the hairsbreadth of paint on concrete, but they parted the two elevator doors like a banana peel and lifted him bodily off the floor. Somewhere below, Jensen called his name, and Jared watched the light fade into a distant star as a thick vine of painted roses pulled him hurtling down the elevator shaft.


Jensen sat in his favorite chair by a brick oven that took up the entire wall, only looking up from his reading when Jared said something. Jensen folded the letter and set it aside.

"I'm sorry, can you repeat that?"

Jared dangled from the ceiling, vines around his ankles and biceps, his fevered face inches from Jensen's. The rose's perfume put everything into soft focus, and when he tried replying all he could manage was vowels.

"Am I dead?"

"No."

"Then where do you go if you die in a book?"

Jared's voice shook, his fanciful question at odds with the heavy, stern furnishings of Jensen's quarters. Jensen plucked the pen from Jared's pocket, cast it into the oven, then sat far back in his chair until his glasses were two disks of dancing flame.

"This isn't death, Jared, this is your...reeducation."

A knock at the door, and Dee the redhead came in rolling a tray. "Excuse me, there we go." she said, dusting fingerprints from a set of silver drawers on the tray, blowing a stray hair that had caught in her lipstick and letting it land on her plump cheek. A towel hung over her arm, and she lay this on the floor beneath Jared as though he were about to step out of the shower.

A crowd formed at the door. "Move, I want to see." "Is he awake yet?" "Shut up, I can't hear what he said."

Other women milled in and out, humming to themselves as they rolled up carpets, stacked chairs, and, after some discussion, taped brown paper over the paintings. Mops and gallon containers of cleaning fluid were parked in the hallway just outside the bedroom door, and more towels were rolled along either side of Jared to form a sort of channel to a drain in the floor.

Opening the first drawer, two blondes uncorked a vial of ink and he twisted in vain as they traced around his eyes with a paintbrush. What else did Jensen keep in those drawers? Blood-warm and half-sentient, the ink wormed inside his clothes, forming words as the women portioned out his body until he resembled a butcher's diagram. Jensen did not look up from his reading.

"What do the words mean, Jensen?"

Jared had scarcely finished speaking when the women broke into a flurry of reassurances, one voice fading into another.

"Just wait a while longer...do as he asks...a little pruning is all...give him five minutes and then you can stop..."

But Jensen cleared his throat and Jared's would-be protectors removed themselves, straightening the fire and little items on the tray as though they did this every day.

"I meant what I said back there," said Jared, drunk on the roses, thoughts like light pushing through dirty water, "Come with me. We'll walk out the way we...came."

He followed Dee as she tossed open curtains to paper over the pane glass, and Jared caught a glimpse of the backyard. The edge of it. Stopping fifty feet from the window and dropping into a ravine so vast he could see neither the bottom nor the other side, as if Jensen's house were perched atop a stalactite stretching all the way to the earth's core. Then the paper rolled down and he no longer saw own reflection.

One of the onlookers clicked his teeth. "Look at him shake. Dee, tell him, you can tell it best."

Dee stood by Jared's ear to explain. Her body made him ache this close up, curves wrapped in a red sweater with no bra and a sprig of holly behind her ear. Was it still Christmas somewhere? "It's nothing," she said, little white teeth showing through her lips, "It's like... boiling the ink out of an old book so can you write it over again."

She spoke from experience. "What about the life you have back home?"

But he looked at Jensen, who pressed his lips to the back of Dee's hand before showing her the door, and knew the answer. Knew the daily refrain of eating breakfast in a cold kitchen to drive to a job he couldn't afford to live in fear of bosses half his size, too scared to approach girls at the bar and terrified to proposition any of the local men. Real life was a punk game. Who wouldn't trade all that away?

Everyone filed out, leaving the two men alone. Jensen picked up one of the two letters from the side table, and began to read aloud.

"'Some kids shot a hole in the building next door. I painted a rose around the hole and now I get hard every time I think about it."

He held up a sketch of the aforementioned roses. Jared blushed, his fantasies somehow more obscene in Jensen's voice. "You weren't supposed to know that."

Jensen read on. "'Sometimes I read the obituaries and wonder if you're dead, and that if I jerked off on your grave you'd rise up and ride me in your coffin until my heart stopped.'"

He set aside a pencil sketch, Jared's sketch, of the cemetery near Jared's house, letting his fingers linger affectionately on the paper.

Jared began to speak, but Jensen held up his finger. "This is my favorite. 'I had that dream again, where you and I are made of chocolate, and we rut ourselves into a melted mess until we explode across the walls like the', this is great, ' like the Jackson Pollock of fucks."

Jensen looked up, eyebrows raised to see if he ought to continue. It was a long list.

"Where did you get that?"

Jensen tilted his head back, swinging his glasses around in one hand. "You wrote it. Or you would have."

Jared's mouth flapped, a protest lodged in his throat. "I didn't want to scare you."

He'd barely gotten the words out and Jensen was up from his chair, across the room, taking Jared's face in his hands. He ran his fingers through Jared's hair, tugging him close, their mouths just brushing.

"The mind you have, do you even know what you do to me?"

He traced the hollow of Jared's throat, the feline curve of his cheek. "The months I waited, with only your drawings to go on, imagining what you looked like and then to finding out you're more beautiful than anything I deserve?"

Reacting to his touch, the words slid across Jared, caressing his whole body in light hot licks, and his knees gave out.

"What do the words mean?"

Jensen's green eyes glittered, his face burning with unspoken emotion. "You're a love letter."

Jared started, but Jensen held him close, a finger on Jared's lips. "Sshhh, let it happen."

Jared weakened, panting in Jensen's rough embrace as words like 'wind' and 'bicycle' and 'birthday cake', mortal words from Outside, were drawn out of him, Jensen kissing him over and over until he grew pliant. He thought of Captain One Eye, fighting for breath and striking at nothing right up to the end, but then Jensen parted his lips and kissed that away too, sucking all the taste out of him.

Jensen broke off, smoothing Jared's hair away from his face. "How do you feel now?"

What could Jared say? Strength, hope, ferocity, he did not know these strangers, but they flowed through him now and he did little to resist.

Jared lunged at him and caught his lip between his teeth, fear replaced with a sudden hunger for love. "Kiss me."

Jensen's mouth hovered over his, running a hand over Jared's chest, his narrow waist, appreciatively as an owner would his prize stallion. "Is that all you want?"

When the ink had faded, or maybe settled into his bones, Jared swayed from the vines like a marionette with Jensen unbuckling his belt and pushing his jeans down with his foot. "I want you in my arms."

Jensen searched his eyes. "No, no, that's not it. Where's the anger? Where's the spark? Where is that perverse brilliance that kept me up at night?"

Jensen walked back to the tray, fiddling with various instruments. "You can do better than that."

Some small voice in the back of his head told Jared to run, to back out while he still could. "I'll do anything you want."

Jensen ignored this. "I find I get my best ideas when I'm half-asleep. When I'm... " He stopped polishing a straight razor and searched for the phrase, "...bone-weary. You're the same way."

Jared stood naked by the brick oven, waves of heat pumping out until sweat dripped out of his hair into his open mouth. A rose sniffed the air around his cock, curious. Jensen replaced the razor on the tray. "Tell me about the roses."

Jensen breathed by his ear, invading his space. Jared stammered, not wanting to betray all of his secrets. "They...um, they, I mean I always dreamed you had a mouth like a rose. Like in a fairy tale. And then I thought, what if the rose dreamed of me?"

Jared shivered this close to Jensen, starved for touch. Jensen smiled. "That sounds like me. The rose I mean. Soft all over with a spike in the middle."

Jensen took the curious rosebud, and ripe and warm inside, and pushed it against Jared's cock. "Was it thirsty?"

Jared strained as the rosebud opened around him, swallowing an inch or two, sucking him like a hard candy. Jensen kept his hand on the small of Jared's back to steady him, eager for any little noise Jared might make. The slightest touch, running a finger along the dip of Jared's back, and Jared's cock grew thick inside the flower.

He watched Jensen return to the silver drawers. "I'm not going to last long like this."

"Oh I'm not letting you finish now," said Jensen, pulling on a pair of black leather gloves, "It's Christmas."

The roses clung to Jared, wrapping around the base of his cock, around his eyes in a leafy blindfold, as Jensen opened the bottom drawer.

"And tonight," said Jensen, lifting out a riding crop, "We're gonna do every thing on that list."

Jared felt Jensen's hand over his mouth a second before the first snap stung his ass, before he involuntarily thrust into the rosebud. He moaned into Jensen's hand, biting down on his finger, but all he got for it was another snap and Jensen's flat hiss.

"I didn't say you could be still. Move. Your hips."

Jared cried out with every snap of the riding crop, and his sobs gave him relief, his cock an aching misery between his legs as the rose threatened to bring him close, milking his cockhead but never going deeper, the vines crushing the base whenever he got too close. He thought he was in Hell. He thought he could never ask for a better tormentor than the green-eyed devil whipping his back, his ass, his legs, goading him into fucking the rose with a kind of manic glee.

"You want it harder?"

Jared hesitated, turned blindly to the sound of Jensen's voice, heard the genuine need for permission beneath the unforgiving, imperial tone he'd used since the moment they'd entered the house. There was respect. Safety.

"Harder."


Dee was arranging bouquets of candy canes when the screaming began. She smiled faintly and placed one on the piano, wondering if Jensen needed a hand.

One of the women flipped through a songbook. "What should we sing next?"

Another scream. Dee's fingers flew over the piano keys, drowning it out. "How about I'll Be Home for Christmas? Okay ladies, a one and a two and a..."


Jared hung in his restraints, back striped red, cock hanging off him like a crime scene. Jensen lifted his chin with one finger and kissed his forehead, eyes full of tender concern. "Had enough?"

Jared's knees ached from the hardwood floor, but he rose to his feet. His clothes, his shirt with the nazarlik pinned to the sleeve, rested nearby. "Release me."

"What are you going to do?"

Jared told him, and when a blank book on the table heard the answer it burst into flame. Without breaking the stare, Jensen snapped his fingers and the vines coiled away into the shadows. His smiled, but his eyes moved the slightest fraction in apprehension.

"Go ahead," he said, winding his arms around Jared, "I won't stop you."

Jared walked them backwards, mouths open against each other, sweeping the table clear with one powerful stroke before spinning around and dropping Jensen on his back. Snow struck the windows, the air chill, but Jared is six and half feet of wet muscle as he climbed into Jensen's arms, mouths sealed, his fingers questing blindly for the clasp on Jensen's belt, impatiently unbuttoning Jensen's shirt to feel hot skin against his.

Dropping clothes on the floor, he cupped his hands atop Jensen's knees, fingers sliding inside his bare legs, trembling with inexperience. Just two young men about to give themselves to each other, Jensen's head tilted back and looking up through his eyelashes, mouth kiss-swollen, cock in his fist against his hard belly like he's very close but wants to hold it until Jared's inside of him.

Jared wanted to last as well, and shaping a hand behind Jensen's neck he kissed him slow and deep, moaning into his mouth as he slid his cock against Jensen's thigh and came at once, jizz sliding into the crack of his ass and pooling on the table.

Jensen watches all this impatiently, lips parted, little pink tongue showing against his teeth. "Hurry up."

Something stopped Jared for a moment, as if this were final, as if he were about to eat stolen fruit in the land of the dead. But then Jensen asked him something else, if he's ever had a virgin come grinding hard on his cock, to which Jared said no.

"You will."

Fear is a line and Jared had stepped over it. One finger would be enough, but Jensen asked for more. Two fingers stretch to where it's bearable, but Jensen asked for more, a wild light in his eyes. Jensen's cock leaked a medallion on his belly, red, aching, the lightest touch setting him off. Jared never had anyone so easy in his life.

What had those first letters to Jensen been like? Jared had never confessed his dirty inclinations before tonight, but surely Jensen was no different than he, waiting until the house was quiet, switching off the bedroom light, lying naked and spread out in the moonlight as he pumped his pretty young cock and imagined Jared holding him down like this.

"Hurry, I want to finish with you," gasped Jensen, breaking their kiss to breath into Jared's mouth, "Just tell me when, I can hold back."

Jared pressed the head of his cock to his ass, half hoping Jensen won't be able to take him, them watched as he opened the ring of his virgin ass and Jensen's nails marked his forearms as Jared slowly sank inside him, bottoming out until Jensen was stretched tight around the base of his cock.

"Don't stop. Don't stop. I'm not as innocent as I look." Jensen whispered, as Jared pressed his forehead to his, face twisted in cockbound agony.

"I didn't mean it earlier. I don't wanna leave you." said Jared, barely mouthing the words, all the air gone out of him.

They are a tangle of limbs, Jared's wide hands in the hollows of Jensen's knees, back gleaming, his bangs sweaty ringlets against the side of his face, utterly lost in Jensen's body. Hips slapping the table, leaving greasy bodyprints on the polished wood, obscene and beautiful at the same time. Jensen asking that question, Jared answering how he'd pictured doing this to him a thousand different ways, Jared pouring sin in his ear as he pounded away at his innocence.

"I want you to do it," Jensen whispered, closing Jared's hand around his cock to claim, "Fuck me. Do it hard, do it fast. And afterwards I will tie you to the bed and burn your clothes and and do all the hundred other things you were too scared to write down and ask me for. But right now fuck me or I swear I will fucking end you."

The look on Jensen's face was enough. Jared was so deep inside him he's forgotten how to breathe, and with a few hard swipes he felt Jensen's cock jump in his hand, sending a thick white rope across his chest, and even though it took him a bit longer Jensen's strong fingers dug into Jared's hips, forcing him on, table rocking precariously as they crashed into one another.

Jared's shirt lay nearby. Jared's fingers creeping toward the nazurlik still pinned to the sleeve. The pin as long as his hand and hot from long proximity to the fire.

"Come home with me. Leave all this, I don't need a story and neither do you," Jared pleaded one last time, hand closing around the pin, "Aren't I enough?"

But Jared saw his path clearly now. The moment he stepped into Jensen's story, Jensen's was over. Not right away, but in that direction. Jared wasn't the hero, he wasn't the villain, he wasn't true love's kiss. He was The End.

"I love you."

Jared choked on Jensen's name one last time, and struck down.


Jared came to on the tiles of the gas station floor. The gun had bounced a few feet away. Men were shoveling road salt in the parking lot, black hoods pulled over their heads like buzzards. He steadied himself as they nodded to him, offering to share a cigarette, but that wasn't the kind of fix Jared needed.

He'd left the car running, and though the windshield was cracked and the driver's seat full of broken glass, the wheel turned under his hands and he raced north for the state line.

(Note: If you're reading this aloud...I'm sorry, I forgot what I was going to say.)

Everyone was at church when he pulled into Jensen's driveway. There was no mail in the mailbox. He rang the doorbell and crossed the backyard and pressed his face to the screen porch and before he'd looked through the first window he knew something had changed in his absence. He pulled his car further in and locked it and walked through the unlocked kitchen door and shut it behind him and walked up the stairs.

No one was there. He checked every room. The furniture was gone. Grass grew in the fireplace. A tree had fallen through the roof some time ago, and birds had built nests in the library shelves. A bare mattress stood against one wall of the bedroom. He tried turning on the tap, but no water came, and he went back to the kitchen where he spread out an old newspaper and sat on it and waited and eventually fell asleep.

He awoke to the neighbors returning and walked outside to greet them. The father invited him in though Jared declined, he couldn't take coffee just then, but a plate of breakfast was slid across the table and the children watched him from behind a couch.

"It's the man from the newspaper." said the littlest, as if Jared had come from Mars.

He went back later that afternoon. He checked the rooms again. The family had never once brought up Jensen's name, though their eyes darted across the street and the mother had closed the curtains to keep from seeing the empty house.

(Note: If you're reading this aloud, where are you Jared? I'm so cold.)

He walked into the bedroom and looked out the window. Tried to see what Jensen would have seen, the snow and the sky and the forest a distant haze where shadows of wolves ran in and out of the trees.

Though mice had been at the rest of the house, the mattress was clean on this side, and he wondered about this a long time before he got up the courage to touch it. He pulled it away from the wall and stepped back and let it fall.

(Note: ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... )

In the stillness came a sound like old packing tape as the great wide bloodstain in the center ripped away some of the paint, a sour smell rising up from the dust.

He reached out toward it, then turned and leaned against the door. After a minute he walked down the stairs and went outside and stood beside his car. The street was quiet. The sky had cleared.

Some of the wolves stopped to listen to him, their eyes glinting in the sunlight, before retreating backwards, into the forest, out of the story.

He watched them go and fell to his knees and wept into his hands.


THE END