Jared dies and is assigned to counselor!Jensen to help him pick the one memory he can take with him to eternity. In the process, they fall in love. Awww. (Inspired by the Japanese movie "After Life"; in the movie, people come to the afterlife in groups and their favorite memory is reenacted on film, then shown in a theatre at the end of the week as part of their transition into eternity; in the end, it turns out that the counselors are people who couldn't decide on one memory. I would just love for the movie's premise to be reflected in some way, the story itself could evolve differently - as I said, I love happy endings).
I was going to go with something else, but then I started reading up on this movie and was totally intrigued. Hope you like it!
Thanks to rhythmsextion who is awesome and the best comma wrangler out there *g* Thank you again, darling!
Title - 'till the end of eternity
Pairing - Jared/Jensen
Rating - R
Warnings - AU, schmoop, Jared and Jensen are both in heaven
Word Count - 4100
'till the end of eternity
Heaven isn’t anything like Jared ever expected.
For one thing, it’s dingy and dark. Kind of cold. Jared is standing at the end of a long, dirty hallway in the middle of a group of about ten people. A few of them are older than him, one little boy is definitely younger. Jared tries to remember what happened, why or how he wound up here, but nothing comes to mind. As he stands there, an overhead fan kicks on and the group shuffles to try and get away from the blast of cool air.
The hallway is lined with doors, each one with a square glass window in the center. The lights in the ceiling flicker on and off. Jared thinks about how he pictured Heaven in his head when he was a little kid; everything filled with clouds and sunshine and warmth. A kind, old angel, draped in robes, playing a harp in front of a pair of pearly white gates.
This place is about the farthest from that he could have ever imagined. Jared wonders what, exactly, is going on. With that thought in mind, he breaks away from the group and wanders down the hall.
The closer he gets, Jared realizes there is a name printed on a piece of tape above the window on every door. C. Collins, M. Jones, S. Mathers. He walks until he gets to the door labeled J. Padalecki, then knocks and goes inside.
The room is small and drab. The walls are painted mustard yellow and the only window is cracked and broken. The room is empty except for two chairs, an old formica desk, and a man with his head down, staring at bunch of papers in his hands.
Jared clears his throat. “Hi. Uhm. I think I just saw my name on the door?”
The man looks up and smiles and Jared nearly forgets how to breathe.
“Welcome, Mr. Padalecki,” the man says. He puts the papers down and walks closer.
He’s nearly as tall as Jared with spiky hair and stubble on his face and chin. Jared glances at himself and nearly laughs; they’re practically dressed the same, both in old jeans and flannel shirts and boots. Jared thinks that if this is Heaven then this is the hottest angel he’s ever seen.
The guy must be able to read his mind because he grins at Jared then, and gestures to himself. “Not exactly what you were expecting, huh?”
Jared scratches the back of his neck. “I don’t really know what I was expecting, but yeah. No. You’re definitely not.”
“I get that a lot,” the guy says, then holds out his hand. “Jensen,” he says. “Jensen Ackles.”
Jared slips his hand into Jensen’s and his breath trips and catches in his chest. Jensen’s palm is smooth and warm. His fingers curl tightly around Jared’s, and Jared has the unexplainable urge to never let go. When he looks up he sees Jensen staring down at their clasped hands, his mouth slightly parted and two spots of color high on his cheeks.
“Hey, Jensen,” Jared says softly. “Nice to meet you.”
Jensen seems to snap out of it then. He pulls his hand away and backs behind his desk gesturing for Jared to take the seat across from him. Jared waits quietly. He still has no idea where he is, really, or why he’s there. Outside the room Jared can hear footsteps getting closer, two people talking quietly, and then they’re gone, faded off into the distance.
“So,” Jensen starts. He looks a little more composed. His color is back to normal and his hands are folded and on top of the desk. He’s still watching Jared a little too carefully, but Jared figures maybe that’s part of his job. “Do you have any idea where you are, Mr. Padalecki?”
“Jared,” he corrects automatically. “And no. I mean, I guessed I was in Heaven, but it’s kind of…”
Jensen smiles as Jared trails off. “Crappy looking?”
Jensen laughs, quick and sharp. “That’s because you’re not in Heaven. Not yet, at least.” He leans back in his chair and motions for Jared to do the same.
Jared tries to get as comfortable as Jensen seems, but he can’t stop staring at Jensen’s mouth, or eyes, or the pull of the shirt across his chest. Jensen’s mouth quirks in a smile and again it’s like he knows what Jared’s thinking. Instead of commenting this time, though, he just says, “You want me to explain to you why you’re here?”
“Yeah.” Jared nods. “That might be good.”
Jared’s room looks just like Jensen’s office, only with a small, plainly dressed bed and a tiny toilet in the corner. At any other time in his life Jared would be worried about things like fitting on the mattress, or how he was ever going to be able to take a piss into a bowl the size of a soup can.
Not today, though. Today, Jared has much bigger things to worry about.
Because he’s not in Heaven. Not yet, at least. According to Jensen this is the one step before Heaven. Kind of like a waystation, where Jared has to basically get his shit in order and decide on what he’s bringing with him for the rest of eternity. It was like when Jared had to pack for college and could only bring two suitcases for all his stuff because if he brought too much it wouldn’t fit in the dorm. Only now, the dorm is Heaven and his suitcases are his memories.
One memory, actually. With Jensen’s help, Jared has to pick one memory that is the happiest memory from his life. Then, on Wednesday, Jensen will be part of making it a movie that will be shown to Jared and the rest of the people who came into the waystation with him. As soon as the movie is over, Jared will put himself inside the movie and that’s where he’ll spend the rest of eternity.
It sounds insane. Jared made Jensen explain it three times, and then had Jensen show him a video of it before he would stop accusing Jensen of being drunk or making it up. He still barely believes it, but part of him figures that it’s so crazy of an idea he’s pretty sure it has to be true.
Weird, but true.
Jared’s still sitting on the edge of his bed rubbing his temples when there’s a knock at the door. He has no idea how long he’s been in his room. He wonders if time really matters at all up here.
“Hey,” Jensen says as he peeks his head inside. “You doing okay?”
Jared laughs weakly.
The door snicks shut and the bed dips down as Jensen sits next to him. Jared can feel the heat of Jensen’s thigh pressed against his.
“Listen. I know this whole thing is strange, but I’m gonna help you, Jared, okay?” Jensen’s voice is warm. Soothing. He curls his fingers over the back of Jared’s neck and Jared shivers. “I’ve been through this a thousand times. I’m your counselor. It’s what I’m here for.”
“I know. I just…” Jared trails off. When he looks up he notices Jensen’s eyes are green. It’s probably the brightest color he’s seen since he got here. “One memory?” Jared asks. “For the rest of time?”
“I’m going to help you,” Jensen repeats. He sounds so convinced Jared feels guilty not believing him. “You’ll see.”
“Yeah.” Jared nods and fakes it. “Yeah, all right.”
There’s no real sleeping in the waystation. Jared figures it has to do with the fact that he’s already pretty much dead and maybe spirits don’t sleep. He never thought about it much while he was alive. Jared realizes now maybe he didn’t think about a lot of things.
After lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling for a while, Jared gets up and heads down the hall. Jensen’s already hard at work in his office when he gets there so he just knocks once and walks inside.
“Jared! Hey!” Jensen sounds happy to see him. His smile is bright and his eyes twinkle from behind his thin, wire glasses. He wasn’t wearing the glasses when they first met, and if anything, Jared thinks it makes Jensen look about ten times sexier. He didn’t even think that was possible.
Instead of the desk being empty, there’s a computer on it now, and Jensen is doing some fancy scrolling and clicking as Jared gets closer. He peers around the edge of the monitor and stumbles when he sees what’s on the screen.
“That’s my parents’ house!”
Jensen smiles and keeps clicking. “Yep. Your parents' house. Your college dorm. First apartment. First job. I got it all,” he says, and waggles his eyebrows. “We’re going to spend the next few days checking out the life and times of Jared Padalecki and see if we can’t come up with something perfect you can take with you.”
Every time Jensen mentions something, Jared sees it flick across the screen. He sees himself as roommates with Chad. The day he went and got Sadie from the shelter. Graduating from college. Opening his first practice. The first dog he saved after it got hit by a car.
He sees everything. It’s almost too much. Jared feels like he’s going to stumble and before he even gets the chance Jensen is grabbing the empty chair and steering Jared into it.
“Yeah. I’ll be fine. I just.” Jared swallows. “I guess it just really hit me.”
Jensen sits on the edge of the desk. “I know it seems like a lot, but trust me. I do this all the time.” He smirks and adds, “I’m a professional.”
Jared laughs weakly. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
Watching his own life is a lot better than Jared has thought it would be. He guesses that Jensen has some kind of super secret ability to only find the good things for them to go through because Jared hasn’t seen the time he smashed up his dad’s Bronco or the time he found out Tommy was cheating on him once.
Which he’s happy about. If he has to relive his entire life in front of someone who’s pretty much a total stranger but also the hottest guy Jared’s ever met, at least he’s only reliving the good parts.
It also helps that Jensen is kind of ridiculously awesome. In addition to being sexy and smart and really nice and helpful, he’s also funny as hell with a sarcastic sense of humor Jared can’t seem to get enough of. Even after they go through all the bulletproof hits – the ones Jensen says people will pick, hands down as their favorite memory – Jared still isn’t done. He doesn’t want them hanging out to be over.
“I don’t know,” he said. They just watched Jared hanging the sign on his building - Padalecki Veterinary Practices in green block lettering on a white board of wood – when Jared shakes his head. “I mean, it’s good, but it’s not…”
“It’s not “the one.”” Jensen nods like he gets it. “Not a problem, dude. We got time. It’s got to be perfect, so yeah. We’ll keep looking.”
“All right. Cool. Thanks.” Jared leans back in his chair and kicks his feet out in front of him. He stretches his arms over his head. From the corner of his eye he sees Jensen watching him so he turns his head and grins.
Jensen looks away and pretends to be checking the computer some more.
“So, hey,” Jared says. “Lemme ask you something now.”
“What’s your memory?” Jensen visibly starts and Jared is intrigued. He leans forward. “You’ve seen pretty much my whole life by now - well, the good parts at least - so yeah. What was your best memory? How’d you get hooked up with this gig?”
Jensen shrugs and powers the computer off. “I can’t tell you that.”
Jared has no idea what he’d been expecting, but he’s pretty certain that answer wasn’t it.
“I can’t tell you,” Jensen says again. “I’m your counselor. I’m here to help you, not talk to you about what I did or didn’t do to get myself up here.”
And Jared would push it – he really would – but Jensen is more than blowing him off now, he’s actually angry. The tips of his ears are pink and his movements are short and jerky.
“Hey, I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to—“
“It’s fine, Jared,” Jensen says though it’s clear that it’s anything but fine. “I just remembered I gotta go, though. I’ll catch you later.”
The door swings shut behind him. Jared just watches it close and wonders what the hell just happened.
Jensen avoids him for most of the next day - which doesn’t help Jared in picking his one happiest memory at all. In fact, it kind of makes the day one of Jared’s worst ever, either on earth or up in the Heaven waystation or wherever the hell he is.
Because now he’s angry at Jensen. For avoiding him all day, sure, but also for not answering Jared’s question. Fair is fair, as far as Jared is concerned, and if Jensen gets to know all of Jared’s secrets, why can’t he know even one of Jensen’s?
Jared’s just curious. Jensen is an awesome guy and Jared wants to know more about him.
Which is the other thing that’s bothering Jared. The fact that he’s this hung up on Jensen at all, because when he really thinks about it? It kind of sucks. Jared’s pretty certain that the most unfair thing in the entire world is that he spent his whole life looking for something he couldn’t find until now when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Unless he can.
Jared leaves his room for the first time all day and starts wandering the halls looking for Jensen. He peers down hallways, searches in closets, even finds the room with a big movie screen in it which freaks Jared out more than he thinks it should, knowing that in less than two days he has to have his memory all set and ready to go.
He tells himself not to think about that right now. He needs to find Jensen first.
Jensen’s room is just as empty and boring as Jared’s, but slightly bigger. When Jared gets there Jensen is sitting on the bed staring into space. He jumps when he hears Jared’s footsteps and doesn’t have time to hide the quick flash of happiness in his eyes before he gets is under control.
“Jared, what the hell are you—“
“I want to try something,” Jared says, then he leans down and kisses him.
Jensen’s stiff at first, not moving, not kissing him back. Jared curls his body down and tightens his fingers on Jensen’s shoulders, kissing him harder. He licks across Jensen’s mouth and bites the edge of his lip. Jensen shudders and Jared takes that as a sign. “Come on, Jensen, please,” he whispers, and Jensen shakes and moans and finally - finally - kisses him back.
His fingers slide into Jared’s hair, and then he’s pulling tight, yanking Jared down. Jensen’s mouth is warm and soft. He kisses Jared like he’s hungry for it, starving. His tongue slips against Jared’s and Jared can’t think, can barely breathe. He wants to scream and yell and fucking cry it’s so good, and all he can think is why now? why here? why not then?
Jensen stops then, just as fast as he started. “This is bad.”
“Dude, this? Is fucking awesome.”
“No, it’s not, it’s—“
Jared stands up when Jensen pushes him. He watches Jensen jump off the bed and pace the length of the room. Back and forth, back and forth.
“I’m supposed to be helping you, Jared, not confusing things even more.”
“But you’re not confusing them.” Jared stops Jensen with a hand on his arm. “You’re helping me and—“
“Oh, really?” Jensen sneers. He looks angry. Disgusted even, and it takes a minute for Jared to realize it’s not directed at him. Jensen is pissed at himself. “Jared, you’ve had a life filled with more good things than some people ever know. You’ve got family and friends and a great job and pets and just – there are so many people - so many I see that don’t have all that to choose from. They don’t have anything to choose from, and for you to just waste it here with me—“
“But it’s not a waste. Can’t you see—“
“You want to know why I’m here, Jared?” Jensen snaps. His jaw is tight. His fingers are curled into fists. Jared’s never seen Jensen look this way. He knows he’d never like to see it again.
Jared swallows hard and says, “Yeah. Why?”
“Because when I got here myself I couldn’t pick a memory.” Jensen’s voice is clipped and hard. “And it wasn’t because I had too many to choose from, but because I didn’t have nearly enough. So when you stay too long and have nothing to choose from, they offer you a job. Become a counselor. Try and help the people that come after you.”
The back of Jared’s throat burns the longer Jensen talks. Jensen is panting, voice ripped open and raw, every emotion he’s feeling right there on his face for Jared to see. Jared wants to touch him. Hug him or kiss him – do something - but with the way Jensen is right now Jared isn’t sure if Jensen would hug him back or punch him square in the face.
“Look, it’s not a big deal, all right, Jared?” Jensen says. When he looks at Jared again he looks tired. Defeated. His voice is thick when he says, “I mean – I had a decent life. It was fine. Nothing crazy but it was all mine, you know? I did my thing and went day to day but that was kind of it.” He shrugs and looks away. “And that’s all I want up here too. I can’t – it can’t be anything more,” he finishes quietly.
Jared watches and waits. He figures if he stands there long enough Jensen will realize that he’s wrong. That Jared is something special. That maybe he wants to try.
When it’s clear Jensen is done talking Jared drops his head and looks away. “I’m – I’m sorry, Jensen,” Jared whispers. “Really fucking sorry.”
Jensen never looks back at him. His hands are open and hanging at his sides. He looks broken and sad.
When it’s clear he’s not going to say anything else, Jared leaves.
Jared’s not surprised to find a new counselor in his room the next morning. Her name is Danneel and she’s a friend of Jensen’s. She doesn’t say anything more to Jared than that and Jared smiles, tries to be as nice to her as he can. After all, it’s not her fault Jared somehow managed to fall in love with Jensen and now Jensen hates him for it.
He winds up picking the first day he brought Harley home to meet Sadie. Danneel watches the tape with him a few times, and by the end Jared sees her tearing up. The way Harley hung back by the door and hid behind Jared’s legs when Sadie walked up. How Sadie poked around him to nose her new brother before licking him right on the snout. Jared getting on his knees and rubbing both of their heads, burying his face in Sadie’s fur and thinking that this was it, he finally had them all together for the first time.
“It’s a great one, Jared,” Danneel tells him.
Jared nods. Shrugs. “It is, yeah.” Jared wishes he could stop thinking about Jensen. He wonders if when he goes off into Heaven with his memory, do all the others cease to exist? Will he remember any of them at all?
“Jared,” Danneel says. Her hand is warm on his arm. “This is pretty important. So if this isn’t it—“
“This is it,” Jared tells her again. Thinking about Jensen is stupid. Jared needs to get past it. After all, he managed his whole life without knowing Jensen Ackles. What’s the rest of eternity?
Jared grins at Danneel as brightly as he can. She looks like she doesn’t buy it for a minute.
Early Wednesday there’s a knock before a paper comes slipping under the door. Today is the day… blah, blah, blah. Be there by noon is the gist of it. Jared balls up the paper and throws it at the wall.
He doesn’t know how long he lies there, staring into space, before there’s a knock and Danneel is poking her head inside.
Jared shrugs. He stands up and looks around the room. There isn’t anything here that’s his, anything he should actually miss, but he feels an ache deep in his chest anyway. He’s not sure for what. Maybe it’s for what he never actually had.
“Jared, I know this isn’t my place, and I’m probably completely out of line, but tell me, right now, what’s your happiest memory?”
He turns around to look at Danneel. “What?”
“Right now. Quick.” Her green eyes are flashing, and her fingers dig into his wrist. “Tell me.”
“I just – the dogs. I told you yesterday.”
“Jared.” Her voice breaks. “I’m running out of patience. Now fast, right now, what is your favorite freaking memory?”
“Jensen,” Jared breathes.
“What?” Danneel is smiling, though. “What is?”
“It’s Jensen,” Jared explains. His heart is racing. His skin feels too tight and itchy. He feels like he just remembered to do the most important thing in the world that he’d somehow forgotten right until this very moment. “It’s Jensen and I – oh, God. The movie and the dogs and—“
Danneel claps her hands and laughs. “Oh, Jared. You don’t think I actually submitted that memory from yesterday, did you?”
“Oh my God, Danneel? You, are a fucking angel.” Jared leans down and kisses her hard on the mouth. “I love you. Is that okay? Because I really think I fucking love you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Love me later. Now you need to go find Jensen and beat some sense into him,” Danneel tells him, and smacks him on the ass. “So go.”
“Jared,” Danneel warns. “Go.”
Jensen is in his room the same way he was the last time Jared found him there. He barges in again this time, but when Jensen jumps up he looks more worried than angry.
“Jared. Why aren’t you at the movie?”
“Give me your hand,” Jared tells him.
Jensen looks at him like he’s suddenly grown a second head. “My hand?”
“Yeah.” Jared holds his hand out in front of him and waits.
For a second, Jared is convinced Jensen isn’t going to. That he’s going to blow another fit and throw Jared out and that will be the end of it. Of everything. But after a minute, Jensen bites his lip, looks down, and slides his hand into Jared’s.
Jared’s heart trips. He holds his breath. His whole world – life and afterlife - has come to this, right here and now.
“This,” he says, voice thick. He clears his throat. “This is my memory.”
“When I met you. When you looked up and smiled and I shook your hand. Jensen…” Jared’s voice gets caught in his throat. He swallows past the lump, but he can see Jensen struggling too, his throat moving and his fingers curled so tightly around Jared’s he can barely feel them anymore. “That’s my best memory. It was you.”
“I feel like…” Jensen’s voice is deep and low. He looks down at their hands, then back up at Jared but now he’s smiling, the widest, brightest smile Jared’s ever seen. “I feel like maybe I didn’t have many memories to pick from because I was just waiting for you to get here.”
Jared leans down and kisses him. He can feel huff of a quick laugh against his lips.
“So hey,” Jared says. He leans down and rests his forehead against Jensen’s. “If you’re my memory and I’m yours…want to go make a movie with me? Maybe hang out together for the rest of eternity?”
“Yeah,” Jensen says. “Definitely.”
And when he looks up at Jared and smiles, it’s perfect.