Fandom: CW RPS
Word count: 1290
A/N: Cardfic for cassiopeia7: Timestamp for Heart of Everything - Jared returning to Trescid.
Takes place approximately eight years after the original story.
Summary: She'd thought he was dead.
The thing with small towns was that nothing stayed a secret for any length of time at all.
By the time Genevieve closed up shop for the afternoon, she'd had four separate people tell her about the group of strangers that had arrived in town that morning. One woman and three men, Steven Williams' wife told her, sounding absolutely scandalized and delighted by it, as well as two children. Samantha Ferris confirmed that they'd booked three rooms at her inn, just for the one night. Thomas Welling reported that at least one of the men had the look of a tech user, which, though increasingly common in recent years thanks to the growing threat of war with Koppan, was still an unusual enough sight to catch people's attention. Young Emily Perkins mostly just wanted to go on about how attractive the men were (very, apparently).
It was an act of will on Genevieve's part not to go to the inn to get her own look at these strangers. She was curious, of course, and she could admit to herself that she was as much of a gossipmonger as anyone, but it really wasn't appropriate behaviour, stalking strangers. Better to leave that sort of inelegance to a younger generation.
Then ask for the details later.
Of course, all the self control in the world wasn't enough to keep her from turning to look when she heard a foreign - but oddly familiar - laugh cut through the noisy bustle of the marketplace. The crowd was too dense to afford her a clear view, so Genevieve edged off to the side of the road where it was quieter and craned her neck until she could see a tall, dark-skinned man, a young blonde woman and…
"Jared?" she blurted, and was immediately glad that the noise of the marketplace drowned her out. That wasn't a name that she wanted to be heard saying on a crowded street.
Not in the least because he was supposed to be dead.
It had been a good eight years since Genevieve had last seen Jared, hale and smiling as he'd chatted with her at her shop. That had been shortly before he disappeared, vanishing between one moment and the next like he'd never existed at all. When Jared's neighbours had brought news of what happened to his farm everyone in town had looked askance at each other, passively accusatory, but no one had ever admitted to giving his name to the strangers in the gray uniforms. Genevieve couldn't say that she was surprised.
Genevieve had never known what Jared had done to bring such unwanted attention to himself and she had always thought it such a tragedy that such a good man had died for something that couldn't possibly have been his fault.
Except apparently he hadn't, because the man who was standing in front of her absolutely was Jared. Genevieve would have recognized him anywhere, the years between them be damned.
Time had been alternately kind and cruel to Jared. He was still handsome enough to turn a girl's head, but Genevieve could see the red swipe of a recent scar curling down the side of his face and the crisscross of older wounds on his bare arms. Broad copper cuffs encircled his wrists and his upper thighs and he was wearing some sort of leather harness over his shirt. Clearly, he was the tech user that she'd heard about, impossible as it seemed. He wasn't carrying a weapon, from what Genevieve could see, but she knew that didn't necessarily mean anything when it came to tech users.
The sheer size of him was a surprise. He'd always been a large, solid-looking sort of man, but the Jared in front of her now looked like a wall of solid muscle, whipcord lean and strong in a way that didn't come from working the fields.
His hair was longer than it had been and tied at his nape, though a few stray strands that weren't long enough to be pulled back still hung around his face. The style changed his face dramatically, highlighting the rise of his cheekbones and making his face look thinner.
There was a look of war about him, Genevieve decided, though she'd never have thought such a thing about Jared, of all people, before this very moment. The determined set of his shoulders and the regular sweep of his eyes across the length and breadth of the marketplace gave off a sense of wary alertness, and he held himself lightly, as if ready to flee - or to fight - at a moment's notice.
Jared's body was angled towards the women, his expression open and his hands gesturing animatedly as he talked. Genevieve felt a brief pang of envy and immediately felt silly. She was a married woman, with a husband who loved her and two children that she adored. She wasn't the same girl who'd wanted so badly for this man to care about her and he, clearly, wasn't the same man he'd had been then.
The dark man put a hand on Jared's shoulders, cutting him off in what looked like mid-sentence. Jared turned to follow a gesture made by the man's other hand and his face was immediately split by a broad grin.
"Hey there!" he called, loudly enough for Genevieve to hear, and then said something else about boots that she couldn't make out.
A sober-faced, devastatingly attractive man with a pair of towheaded children of about ten clinging to his legs appeared out of the crowd, bee-lining for Jared and the strangers. He said something as he drew up that the woman answered, while Jared ignored him in favour of crouching down to grin at the children. They responded with small, tentative smiles of their own, letting go of the man's legs to bury themselves against Jared's chest. Jared hugged them close for a moment, then ruffled their hair and straightened again. Both children immediately grabbed handfuls of his trousers, holding on tight.
Jared smiled at them fondly, and then turned his attention to the man with them.
The man said something, gesturing at his own face and then at Jared's , and Jared smiled at him in a way that Genevieve had never seen before: brilliant, fond, loyal and fierce. It put every smile she'd ever seen from him to shame in a way that made her throat tighten up and her heart catch. It was a casual smile, the same kind of everyday affection that Genevieve shared with her husband just because she could, and yet still looked like Jared watched the sun rise and set in the other man's eyes.
One of the children said something, tugging on Jared's trouser leg and his smile eased as he turned to away from the man he loved towards the rest of the group, just as genuine but less intense. The dark-skinned man said something in response and Jared's lover's glasses flashed green in the light as he nodded.
The group started walking in Genevieve's general direction and she turned quickly away, feeling her face heat. She was glad, beyond glad, that Jared was alive and well when she'd spent so long thinking him dead, but she didn't want to talk. She couldn't reconcile the Jared she'd known with this Jared and didn't really care to. She'd rather remember him as he had been.
It was more than that, though.
Genevieve couldn't talk to him without people taking note and it wouldn't take much for someone else to make the connection. Jared, and his new life, was one piece of gossip that wasn't going to spread. Genevieve would see to that. It was the least she could do.