Characters/Pairings: Jensen/Jared, Chris Kane, Chad Michael Murray, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Julian Richings, Felicia Day, Steve Carlson, Mentions of Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, April (OC)
Word Count: 16,833
Beta Credit: firesign10
Summary: Jared's latest party-life transgression sends him to a new kind of rehab: equine therapy, a melding of counseling along with horse care and riding. He doesn't really care as long as he can get it done and get back to filming his new movie. He's been to rehab before and knows what to expect. What he doesn't expect is who runs the equine center—his first love, Jensen Ackles.
A/N: Written for my entry in j2_reversebang. Thank you Amber for giving me the extra days.
I have so many people to thank, but first and foremost is milly_gal. Her art that you can find HERE was so inspiring and she was so patient with me when I would ask for certain pieces and change others. It was such a joy working with her and I hope to do it again soon. Love you, BB!
Next is firesign10 my trusty beta. She edited this in pieces as I sent and did a bang up job, plus she encouraged me and cheered me on and offered such wonderful advice.
Finally miri_thompson who wars with me and Carole almost every night. You keep me on the straight and narrow. Thank you!
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
May 21, 2016
Jared Padalecki in Court - Again
Oscar-winning actor and Hollywood bad boy Jared Padalecki is at it again.
The big screen hottie pled guilty to reckless driving in Los Angeles Superior Court today. Padalecki was arrested after running his Porsche into a guardrail after leaving the after-party of his new movie “Night Moves”. Rumor has it that over an ounce of pot as well as various prescription drugs and alcohol were found at the scene of the accident, and Padalecki blew a .1, but nothing has been confirmed.
Sentencing will occur next week, but sources say he’ll slip by with a slap on the wrist like always, thanks to his agent and legal team.
Do you think Padalecki should be let off without punishment?
“All rise for the honorable Judge Richings.”
Jared stood and smoothed down the tails of his suit jacket. He waited silently as the judge sat at the bench and watched as he flipped open the file folder in front of him. Jared had been before Judge Richings before and knew the man didn’t tolerate any crap in his courtroom.
Chad, however, was twitching like he normally did and Jared knew if he didn’t calm his attorney down, Richings was going to cite them for contempt.
“Stay still,” he hissed in Chad’s general direction, hoping that Richings wouldn’t hear him.
No such luck.
“Do you have something to say, Mr. Padalecki?” The judge regarded him with a raised eyebrow.
“No, your Honor.” Jared smiled weakly.
“Hmmmm…” Richings turned his attention back to the file.
The courtroom was quiet except for the squeaking of the overhead fans and the dull roar of the traffic outside. Security had kept the paparazzi at bay in the lower atrium at Riching’s request. Jared was thankful for that – he didn’t want to face the media until he’d heard what his sentence was.
He still couldn’t believe the mess he’d gotten himself into this time. The party had started out just fine: food, booze and good music. Everyone was celebrating the wrap of the movie, Jared especially. It had been a rough shoot. Several stunt people had gotten injured when some rigging had collapsed and that caused them to fall behind schedule.
They’d cut scenes and worked long hours to make up the time, but it had taken its toll on everyone. Jared had found himself mainlining Red Bull and coffee to stay awake and his prescription for sleep aids and pot to come down. He knew they were a bad combination, but it was the only way he could stay on top of the shooting schedule.
Of course it didn’t help that Jared’s co-star and on-screen love interest, newcomer Zoe Stewart, had decided that life should imitate art and stalked him whenever they were not filming. The last straw was when he found her naked in his trailer. He’d had Clif discreetly get her dressed and out of his trailer while he placed a call to Alaina, his agent, informing her that she needed to talk to the Powers that Be about getting Zoe under control.
He sighed to himself. Things had gotten better until the wrap party. The perfect storm of Zoe making a last ditch effort to get him into her bed, the last intense days of filming, and his on-again off-again boyfriend, Damien, claiming via text that Jared had cheated on him – he hadn’t – had left him needing something serious to relax.
Half a bottle of tequila, several beers, and a few joints later, he’d been feeling no pain. At least not until he’d slammed his Porsche into the guard rail. He shifted, wincing at the twinge of pain from his ribcage.
Now he was here, standing in front of Judge Richings for the third time, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t wind up in jail.
Richings closed the file and took off his reading glasses. He stared at Jared intently, making him feel like he was standing in front of his old high school principal.
“Mr. Padalecki, I’m disappointed that I’m seeing you in my courtroom yet again.”
“Yes, your honor, I’m very sorry.” Jared kept his voice deferential. He knew better than to say it wouldn’t happen again; that promise had been made and broken the last time he was in front of the judge.
“Well…” Judge Richings paused and sighed. “I was hoping that the last time you appeared before me, you would have learned your lesson. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
“However, you seem to be blessed.” The judge picked up a piece of paper. “Your attorney has negotiated a lesser sentence. The DUI charge will be reduced to reckless driving and the possession charge will be dismissed…”
Jared grinned and nudged Chad, thrilled that he’d come through and made a deal. He startled when Richings barked at him.
“Pay attention, Mr. Padalecki!”
“Yes, sir, sorry sir.”
“The lesser sentence will only be applied if you attend a Court-approved rehabilitation program. Once you’ve successfully completed it, the charges will be reduced.”
Jared couldn’t believe it. He had to go to rehab?
“What the -?” he whispered to Chad. “You’re sending me to rehab?”
“It’s the only way I could get the charges reduced,” Chad whispered out of the corner of his mouth. “Just go with it.”
“Since you have participated in several rehabilitation programs in the past with varying degrees of success, your attorney and I have agreed to a different type of rehab facility. He’ll fill you in on the details.”
Different type of facility? Jared was confused. What sort of thing had Chad gotten him into? He started to imagine all sorts of dark, scary locations with Nurse Ratchett-type employees. “Chad…” he began, only to be cut off by Judge Richings asking him to approach the bench.
Warily Jared walked up to the front of the courtroom. Richings leaned over the bench and gazed at him for a long moment. His deep dark stare coupled with his black robe reminded Jared of a vulture. It made him shiver.
“Mr. Padalecki.” Richings paused as though he was considering his words. “You seem like a nice young man who has made some less than wise choices. This is your opportunity to get yourself turned around. I would like to see that happen. Please think about it.”
He leaned back and rapped his gavel. “Court adjourned.”
Jared let out the breath he hadn’t been aware that he’d been holding and walked back to the table where Chad was packing up his papers.
“We’re going to sneak you out the back of the courthouse and hopefully avoid the paps.” Chad snapped his case closed. “I told Richings that you’re scheduled to fly out to the rehab facility this weekend.”
“Wait, fly out? Where the hell is this place? And why didn’t you tell me you’d made a deal?”
“Because I’d just gotten it cleared with Sheppard Studios this morning.” Chad ushered him out the side door and down the fire stairs. “I didn’t have time to fill you in.”
“What’s the studio have to do with this?”
“They’re concerned that the cast insurance premiums will be too high to keep you for “Supernatural,” Chad replied, referring to the new movie Jared had just signed on for. “Rehab is the only way they would agree to not recast.”
“Shit!” Jared opened the door to the underground garage. “I can’t lose this film, Chad. I’ve been fighting for the role of Sam Winchester for months.”
“I know, I know.” Jared saw Chad glance around, then quickly lead them to his car. “Sheppard talked to his insurance agent and was able to convince him to write a policy that would lower the premiums as long as you completed a successful stint in rehab.”
“Okay…okay.” Jared slid in to the front seat of the car. “I can do this. How long do I have to go?”
“Three months.” Chad started the car and backed them out of the parking spot.
“Three months! Are you fucking nuts? I can’t go to rehab for three months!” Jared knew he was shouting but he couldn’t believe what Chad had just told him.
“It’s only ninety days and Sheppard has agreed to slide pre-production up to accommodate you.” Chad’s voice was flat as he drove them past the paparazzi waiting outside the courthouse. “And frankly, Jay-man, you’re getting off light. You could have been sentenced to jail time AND lost the movie. So stop being so self–centered and be thankful for once.”
Jared gaped at him. They’d been friends since grade school when Chad stole his Matchbox cars and wouldn’t give them back until Jared shared his Oreos with him, but he’d never heard Chad use that tone of voice with him before. He looked at his friend and realized that Chad was angry – really angry. And for good reason. Jared was being selfish.
“You’re right and I’m sorry. It’s just…” He faltered, trying to find the words.
“I know, dude. I get it.” Chad turned the corner and headed towards Jared’s house. “You can do this. And, let’s face it, you need the time off anyway. So, two birds with one stone as they say.”
“Yeah. I guess.” Jared was quiet for a moment, considering Chad’s words. “So where am I going? The Dunes?” he asked, mentioning the luxury rehab center in the Hamptons and hoping that was what the judge had meant by different.
“Nope.” Chad changed lanes, ignoring the horns blaring as he cut off drivers in the right lane.
“The one in Key Largo?” Jared had heard good things about that center. Plus it was on the ocean.
“Nope,” Chad said again.
“Okay…” Jared was getting that bad feeling again. “So where am I going?”
“Jay-man!” Chad’s voice echoed through the house as he followed Jared into the kitchen. “C’mon!”
“No, Chad!” Jared opened the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of water. Unscrewing the cap, he drained half of it.
“You have to!” Chad caught up with him. “It’s what the court ordered.”
“No – the court ordered that I have to go to rehab. Not that it has to be in Texas.” He finished the water and threw the bottle into the recycle bin. “Find someplace else. Anywhere else.”
“I can’t.” Chad gestured helplessly. “This is the only place that Sheppard and the courts both agreed to. You have to go.”
“You know I don’t want to go back to Texas. I haven’t been back since the dust-up with my folks.” Jared sighed, remembering the argument he’d had with his parents about dropping out of UCLA and trying his hand at acting. Things had mellowed after a while, and he talked to them on the phone nowadays, but he hadn’t gone back to visit at all. “Not gonna happen.”
Chad looked at him, sighed, and pulled out his phone. “Okay then.”
“Who are you calling?”
“Alaina, so she can contact Sheppard and tell him that you’re pulling out of ‘Supernatural’.”
“Wait, no!” Jared tried to grab the phone, but Chad danced away from him. “You can’t do that!”
“If you don’t go to the Texas center we picked, you’ve got no choice, dude.” Chad threw back at him. “It’s your only option.”
“Shit.” Jared sank down onto one of the stools at the kitchen counter and ran his hand through his hair. This was not going how he’d envisioned at all. “What’s so special about this place?”
“It’s an equine therapy center.” Chad sat down next to him.
Jared looked up at Chad in confusion. “A what?”
“Equine therapy center. It’s where they use horses to help the clients.” Chad thumbed through his phone. “It’s called the Pegasus Center.”
“I thought that was only for people with physical disabilities.”
“Nope. Equine therapy’s used with PTSD patients, folks with special needs like autism, addicts, you name it.” He passed Jared his phone. The web page that was up showed a child with Down’s Syndrome seated on a pony with an instructor next to her. “The Center’s located outside Austin. Sheppard’s going to fly you down privately so the press doesn’t know where you’ve gone. It’s part of the agreement with the Director of the place.”
“Okay.” Jared passed the phone back. “It’s different anyway.”
“Yeah, and maybe this time it’ll stick.” Chad looked at him, his face solemn.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that I worry about you.” Chad put his hand on Jared’s shoulder. “You’ve been heading towards a bad place for a while now, and every time you’ve been to rehab I’ve hoped that it would be the last time.”
Jared was shocked. He had no clue that Chad was that concerned about him. “Wow. I…just…wow…”
“So, maybe you’ll take it a bit more seriously this time? Some of us care about you, dude.” Chad blushed.
Jared had to smile. Hearing his friend say he cared sent a warm feeling through him. “I’ll take it seriously, I promise.”
“Great. Now get me a beer, bitch.” Chad grinned at Jared as he sat back.
“I thought not drinking was part of the rehab process.” Jared got up and headed to the fridge for Chad’s drink.
“For you maybe, but I need a drink after today.” Chad waved a hand at Jared.
Laughing, Jared grabbed a Yuengling and a bottle of Perrier and sat back down. He put the beer in front of Chad and twisted off the cap of the mineral water. Holding it out, he and Chad clinked bottles.
“So what should I expect and what do I need to take with me?” he asked Chad.
“Hang on.” Chad flipped through his phone again. “Got an email from the coordinator. Says you need to bring comfortable clothes for riding and everyday work related to caring for horses. Jeans, t-shirts, oh and boots if you have them…” Jared watched as Chad scanned the email. “Ok, here. ‘Therapy will consist of one-on-one counseling sessions augmented with interaction and care of the Center’s equine residents. Mr. Padalecki will be assigned a counselor and a horse for the duration of his stay.’”
He looked up at Jared. “Actually, it sounds pretty neat. Might be what you need.”
“Yeah.” Jared spoke slowly. “You’re right.” He thought about the accident and the alcohol and the drugs that had begun to take over his life. “Might be exactly what I need.”
The black SUV bounced over the gravel road, jarring Jared awake. Groaning, he glanced over at Chad, who was snoring slightly as he leaned against the passenger side window.
They’d left before the ass-crack of dawn – more like the middle of the night, he’d bitched to Chad – to avoid any photographers that might be camped out at his house. Sheppard’s people had set up the escort and the plane so there would be no overt link to Jared. As part of the Court’s direction, Chad had to accompany Jared to the Center and check him in.
Sheppard had insisted on the stealthy nature of the trip. Frankly, Jared thought it was a bit over the top, and he and Chad had gotten a laugh out of the thought that Mark was trying to be James Bond.
The jet was nice, and Jared appreciated the leg room and the coffee. Chad had busied himself with emails and files, telling Jared that this wasn’t a vacation and that he had other clients besides Jared. Jared had tossed a creamer at him, hitting him square in the forehead.
While Chad was working, Jared had spent part of the time looking out the window of the plane, wondering what kind of facility they’d checked him into. Chad had refused to tell him anything more about it, even though Jared tried to bribe him with a case of his favorite limited edition tequila and Skybox seats to the Cowboys-Seahawks game.
They’d been met by another black SUV with tinted windows at the private hanger of Austin-Bergstrom Airport. Jared had begun to feel the early hour and had drifted off as the SUV drove out of Austin towards Dripping Springs.
Jared stretched and looked out the window. They were travelling down a dirt road with the Hill Country spread out before them. Rolling hills, so different than downtown Austin, were interspersed with green fields and Texas live oak. Dark wood fencing paralleled the road and Jared could see cows and horses in the fields, leisurely cropping the grass.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye Jared saw a gorgeous grey horse racing towards the fence. He watched, enthralled, as it picked up speed, its mane and tail streaming out like banners behind it, its dark eyes sparkling in challenge as it picked up speed, challenging the SUV to an impromptu derby. Jared quickly rolled the window down, sticking his head out so he could watch the animal pull up at the edge of the field, its head bobbing up and down as it veered off and ran back towards the middle of the field.
“Close the window, man.” Chad’s voice was hoarse. “You’re letting in the fresh air.”
Jared chuckled and rolled the window back up. “It’s good for you.”
“Nah, man. I’m conditioned for LA smog. This fresh air shit’ll kill you.”
Jared laughed again. “Whatever.” He was about to speak when they pulled up to a gate. The stone column had a simple wooden plaque attached with “The Pegasus Center” and two winged horses carved into it. The driver pressed the intercom button and announced them. The gate slid open and they passed through.
The SUV stopped in front of a sprawling farmhouse. Jared got out of the car, grabbing his bag, and studied the building.
It was beautiful; stone and cedar with deep green shutters and a wraparound porch. The dog that had been sleeping on the porch stood and stretched, then headed toward Jared, its tail wagging in welcome. He bent down to rub its ears and got a sloppy kiss for his trouble. Chuckling, he straightened. So far everything looked good.
An older man opened the door and walked out onto the porch. “Hey there.” He held out his hand for Jared to shake. “I’m Doctor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, medical director of the Pegasus Center. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jared.”
Morgan had a firm handshake and an easy grin. Instinctively, Jared warmed to him, but figured that was the point. “Can’t say it’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Morgan.”
Morgan burst out laughing at his comment. “No, I guess not. But we’ll change that, I promise. Oh, and call me Jeffrey Dean or JD, everyone else does. We don’t really stand on formality here, at least in terms of names.” He gestured towards the door. “C’mon in. We’ll get you settled and introduce you around.”
Jared followed him up the stairs and into the house, the dog and Chad trailing after them. The inside of the house was as beautiful as the exterior; warm woods and leather overstuffed couches with colorful horse blankets covering the backs.
“JR’s the owner of the Center and also director of the equine therapy portion of our program. He lives here and lets us use it for orientation – more homey that way.” Jeff headed towards the stairs. “Normally our in-house clients stay in the various facilities depending on the specific reason they’re here, but in your case, we felt it would be better for you if you stayed here in the main house.”
“Okay…” Jared trailed off. “I don’t need any special treatment...,” he began.
“Oh you’re not gonna get any.” Jeff chuckled. “You’re gonna work as hard as anyone else. JR figured you’d want some down time, and the clients know that the main house is off limits when it’s not being used for Center business.” He looked at Jared and winked. “But it’s the only concession you’re getting.”
Jared smiled. “I can live with that.”
Jeff stopped in front of a closed door. “Here’s your room. House is old so there’s a communal bathroom down the hall. JR’s room is over there.” He pointed to another door. “He’s out checking the pasture fences, but he’ll be back for dinner. Which will be outside at the fire pit tonight.”
“So, the clients and staff eat together?” Jared had never heard of that before. In the other rehab places he’d been in, the staff kept separate meal times.
“Once a week we do. It’s kind of an official welcome and a milestone celebration. The folks who come here may all have different goals, but achieving them is a success that everyone can celebrate. So we do.” Jeff opened the door. “Go ahead and get settled, then come downstairs to the kitchen. I figured you boys haven’t had breakfast yet. We can do your orientation while you eat.”
Jeff left them to head downstairs. Jared put his duffle on the bed. The room was spacious and comfortable; a king bed – thank god – with a homemade quilt in blues and greens covering it taking up most of the space. A dresser, nightstand, lamps and desk finished out the décor.
“So,” Chad asked. “What do you think?”
“Okay, I guess, but I don’t really know anything yet, Chad.” Jared unpacked his duffle and placed his clothes in the drawers.
“But you’ll see it through no matter what?”
The hairs on the back of Jared’s neck prickled. Chad only used that tone of voice when he was trying to hide something from Jared. “What, Chad?”
“Huh?” Chad’s face was innocent – or at least what Chad thought of as innocent. To Jared he just looked squinty and constipated.
“There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“No, nothing.” Chad’s eyes shifted to the door. “Let’s go get breakfast, okay?” He hurried out of the room and Jared heard him head down the stairs.
Sighing, Jared tossed his duffle into the closet and went to join them in the kitchen.
During what was probably the best breakfast Jared had ever had in his life, Jeff introduced more of the staff and explained what Jared should expect during his stay.
Jared met the two Sams – both counselors, one specializing in autism and the other in substance abuse – Steve, Matt, Chris and Felicia, the equine therapy instructors, and Rich and Rob, the physical therapists on staff.
“I’m going to be handling your therapy sessions due to the fact that the other counselors have a full load,” Jeff said. “Chris, here,” he nodded at the man sitting at the end of the table. “He’ll be your equine therapy instructor. You ever been around horses?”
“Been a while.” Jared sipped his coffee and found himself sliding back into the cadence of his childhood. “My Daddy said no self-respecting Texan didn’t know how to ride.”
Chris grinned. “I thought I heard a twang. You’re from San Antonio right?”
“Originally. Then my parents moved to Austin when I was in elementary.” Jared set his cup down. “Haven’t been on a horse since high school.”
“We’ll fix that,” Chris said, looking Jared up and down. “With your size I think we’ll give you Apollo.”
Jared saw Jeff frown. “You sure, Chris? JR said…”
“JR’s not here is he?” Chris interrupted. “I’m giving him Apollo.”
Confused, Jared looked between the two of them. Something was going on, but he wasn’t sure what.
“Ok, so as I was saying, Chris will help you with the horse portion of your time and I’ll take care of the counseling part.” Jeff started collecting the plates from the table. “We’ll meet this afternoon for our first session, but now I think it’s time for you to meet Apollo.”
Chris finished his coffee and stood. “Ready to go?”
Jared wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Let’s do this. Chad, you okay to hang around here?”
“Yeah. I’ve got to finish the paperwork to admit you before I can head out.” Chad held out his cup for the refill Jeff offered. “I’ll find you before I go.”
Jared stood, squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. “Let’s go meet Apollo.”
Chris took them over to the fence at the corner of the farmhouse. “Apollo’s out in the field so we’ll need to bring him in so you can meet him.” He pursed his lips and let out a piercing whistle – once, twice, three times. Turning to Jared, he grinned and took an apple out of his pocket. “Give him a bit to get here. He likes to pretend that he’s in charge.”
Jared watched as Chris cut the apple into pieces. He took several of the slices that Chris held out to him. “Bribery?” he asked with a grin.
“Nope. Apollo will decide if he likes you, and no amount of bribery will make him change his mind.” Chris popped an apple slice in his mouth.
“What if he decides he doesn’t like me?” Jared’s brow furrowed.
Chris grin widened, bits of apple showing. “Then I guess you’re shit out of luck.”
Great. All he needed was his damn horse to hate him. Suddenly, things didn’t look as positive as they had during breakfast.
His attention was captured by the thudding of hooves on the ground. Galloping up to the fence was the grey horse he’d seen racing them as they came in. It pulled up right in front of them and snorted as if to say ‘I’m here.’
“Hey boy.” Chris held out his hand and the horse nuzzled it. “This is Apollo.” He scratched the horse under his chin. “Best way to introduce yourself is to hold out your hand and talk soft. An apple slice can’t hurt.”
Jared slowly held out his hand flat, the apple piece in the center of his palm. “Hey there, Apollo.” Apollo regarded him, his ears twitching forward. “You’re a handsome boy.”
“Say your name. That way he’ll get use to the sound of it,” Chris said.
“Um…I’m Jared.” He felt stupid introducing himself to a horse, but it seemed to register. Apollo took one step closer, then one step back as though he wasn’t sure if he liked Jared. “I’ve got a treat for you. Nice piece of apple.” Jared held the slice higher. “You’ll love it.”
He watched as Apollo studied him, flicking his tail and scenting him.
“He’s sizing you up,” Chris whispered. “Deciding if you’re worth his time. Keep eye contact; it’ll let him know you’re not scared of him.”
Jared did, trying to put confidence and friendliness in his gaze. “C’mon, Apollo. Just wanna be friends.”
Apollo wheeled away and ran the length of fence line.
“Shit.” Jared cursed under his breath. The horse hated him. “Now what?”
“Just wait.” Chris was grinning. “He’s testing you. Checking to see if you’re gonna give up. He’ll be back.”
Chris was right. A few moments later Apollo trotted back up to the fence and butted Jared with his head.
“Oof!” Jared almost dropped the apple slice, but Apollo snatched it from his hand and started munching. “Hey there, Apollo. Guess you like me after all.”
Apollo snorted, bobbing his head and lifting Jared’s hair with his breath, then nudged him again, looking for more of the apple.
“Hang on, I’ll get you some.” Jared held out his hand for Chris to give him another piece. “Here you go.” He fed the slice to Apollo and petted his neck as the horse chewed. Looking at Chris over Apollo’s nose, he asked, “Okay, what’s next?”
“Gotta bring him to the barn and get you trained on brushing and feeding. Normally JR takes care of that and Apollo’ll follow him around like a puppy, but we’re gonna need his halter for you since he doesn’t know you yet.”
Chris walked over to the fence post and picked up the halter. “Jeff told me you were coming this morning so I grabbed it before breakfast. Have you ever put a halter on a horse?”
“A few times, but it’s been a while back.” Jared took the halter Chris held out. He studied it, trying to remember how to put it on. “What’s the difference between a halter and a bridle?”
“Good question and one you’ll need to know the answer to.” Chris pointed at the halter. “Halters are used primarily to lead and tie the horse and don’t have a bit. Bridles are for riding or driving the horse. You’ll be working with both. Now let’s see how much you remember.”
Jared slipped the halter over Apollo’s head and for the most part got it right. Chris helped him tighten it and clipped on the lead. Apollo stood patiently while they put it on.
“Good boy,” Jared praised him and grinned when Apollo nodded his head like he was agreeing with him. “And modest.”
Chris chuckled. “Oh, Apollo has an attitude. Just like JR. Always said they shared a brain and temperament.”
Jared chuckled. “Can’t wait to meet this JR guy you folks keep talking about. Especially if you’re comparing him to a horse.” They headed into the barn, Apollo trailing behind them. Chris stopped in front of a stall with Apollo’s name carved into the door.
“This is your home away from home for the next three months. We have the horses on a schedule for feeding, mucking out the stalls, brushing, riding. You’ll get that schedule this evening after dinner. For now, let’s just go over the tools for taking care of this big guy.” He gestured at a hook on the post by the door and Jared tied Apollo’s lead to it.
Chris walked Jared through the grooming tools, showing him how each one was used. “JR groomed him before he went out to check the fence lines but a little brushing won’t hurt him and he’ll love you for it.” Chris handed Jared what he called the ‘soft brush’. “Start at his neck and avoid his face and eyes.”
Jared followed Chris’s instructions, and as he ran the brush over Apollo’s skin he felt the horse shudder. “You like this?” he crooned to Apollo, losing himself in the repetitive motions of the brush.
Apollo nickered and nibbled Jared’s shoulder.
“Kane! Where the hell are you?” a rough voice called from outside, startling Jared.
“In the barn, JR, don’t get your panties in a wad,” Chris hollered back.
Jared ducked under Apollo’s head to see the infamous JR.
The sun streaming through the barn doors backlit him, casting him into shadow. All Jared could see was a tall, male figure striding into the barn with a confident swagger.
“What the hell are you doing in here, Kane? You should be…” JR stopped, his voice trailing off. “Jared?”
Jared froze. He knew that voice. It had haunted his dreams for ten years and lived in his heart for even longer. “Jensen?” he whispered.
Jensen moved deeper into the barn and Jared could finally see him.
He hadn’t changed, really. He was still beautiful.
Dark hair cut short against his head, the sweaty strands sticking to his temples; freckles dancing across the bridge of his sunburnt nose; that mouth that always had an easy grin for friends and strangers alike.
He’d filled out since Jared had last laid eyes on him. The slender ethereal boy he’d known growing up seemed to have sprung full bore into a solid force of nature. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, bowed legs. The quintessential cowboy in flannel and denim.
But it was his eyes that captivated Jared. Wide with shock, they drew him in, green like meadowgrass, deep cool forests, the finest emeralds. He’d forgotten how mesmerizing they were and how he loved losing himself in them.
Like he was doing now.
There were lines at the corners. Not wrinkles from age, but from laughter and experience. They suited Jensen.
“I…didn’t know you were here yet.” Jensen stammered.
Wait, what? What the hell did he mean ‘didn’t know Jared was here yet’? “What…” he began.
“You know him, JR?” Chris’s question interrupted Jared.
“Yeah. We…grew up together…” Jensen broke their gaze, his face shuttering.
“Well damn, son. Why didn’t you tell me you knew a movie star? Could have gotten me a date with Paris Hilton.”
“You wouldn’t want one. She’s a bitch.” Jared replied. He stepped toward Jensen. “What are you doing here? And what did you mean you didn’t know I was here yet?”
“Chad said you’d be coming in later today.” Jensen’s tone was emotionless.
“You talked to Chad?” Jared felt his anger begin to bubble. “When?”
“When he made arrangements with me for you to come here.”
Jared’s stomach twisted. Jensen knew what brought him here. How Jared had screwed up and almost ruined his life. Memories of what had happened before he’d left Austin for Hollywood washed over him.
“Made arrangements?” he choked out, bile rising in his throat. “With you…”
“Yeah. I’m the director and owner of The Pegasus Center.” Jensen shrugged. “We needed to get the details in place.”
Jared’s rage boiled over. “I’m gonna kill him.”
He whirled around and strode to the main house. He needed to have a word with Chad.