Title: Dreams in Darkest Night
Word count: 2500
A/N: Written for the 2018 round of spnspringfling for jdl71's prompt "Why are you watching me while I sleep?". This is almost certainly not the story se was expecting. :P Also available on AO3!
Summary: Some secrets can break even the strongest relationships. Jensen's could do so much worse than that. AU
Jensen woke slowly, cobwebs of sleep clinging stubbornly to eyelashes as he groped towards consciousness. The room was still and silent, lit only by the particular sort of preternatural glow characteristic of the very early dawn. No one had come yet to light the lamps, and there was no hint of the typical morning bustle on the street outside, which meant that it was far too early for him to be awake.
For a moment, Jensen couldn't figure out what had woken him. Eventually, however, his sleep-fogged mind became aware of the heavy weight of eyes on him, and he cracked open a reluctant eye. In the near-darkness, he could just see the darker outline of Jared's familiar form, sitting on the mattress beside him, and relaxed.
He offered Jared a sleepy smile. "Mm, why're you watching me sleep?" He reached out with a heavy hand to stroke his knuckles along Jared's bare forearm. "It's too early. Come back to bed."
Jared didn't react to either the touch or the request. He just sat there, his expression impossible to read in the dim. There was something disconcerting about the whole situation that set Jensen's nerves on edge.
"Jared?" he asked, starting to shift upright. Somehow, he couldn't bear to have Jared looming over him right now. "Is everything okay?"
"I wasn't watching you sleep," Jared said, in a flat tone of voice that wasn't like him at all.
Jensen was too rattled by the strangeness to even try to take that as a tease. "What?"
"I wasn't watching you sleep," Jared repeated, only this time his deliberate emphasis made Jensen's blood go cold. Oh, sainted Mariel, no. "I was watching you dream walk."
Strange. Jensen hadn't ever expected that he'd be able to hear the sound his hopes made as they shattered. Or maybe that was the crack of his heart breaking, instead.
Somehow, he managed not to let any of his inner turmoil seep through. "Was I dreaming?" he asked carelessly. "I don’t remember." He injected a touch of concern into his voice. "I didn't wake you, did I?"
"You're a dream walker," Jared persisted. The conviction in his voice was troubling.
Still, Jensen hadn't avoided capture this long by being easily discovered. "Love, I've got no idea what you're talking about." Jared flinched, fractionally, at the pet name, and Jensen swallowed back the sharp taste of bile. "Were you having a nightmare?" He scooted closer, freeing his limbs from the clinging blankets under the guise of reaching for Jared's forehead. "I hope your fever hasn't retu-"
"Stop it, Jensen!" Jared snapped, his voice drawn so tight the words practically thrummed in the air. "I know what I saw! You were dream walking!"
That brought Jensen up short.
Dream walkers were considered more myth than reality in this day and age. No one really believed they existed. For Jared to know with such conviction what it looked like when someone was dream walking meant that he'd read the country's most well-guarded records. And the only ones who had access to those were...
"You're a member of the cloth," Jensen realized, stunned. Dimly he was aware that he'd just shown his own hand - Jared would never believe his protestations now - but if Jared truly was of the cloth, then he'd never have believed him anyway.
The men of the cloth were the doge's eyes and ears in the country. Their order was one of the few that had empirical proof that the dream walkers hadn't died out in the Age of Heroes, and they were responsible for seeking out the few survivors so that their talents could be used and abused in the name of progress. They'd figured prominently in Jensen's nightmares since he was a child.
Suddenly, several inconsistencies in what Jared had told him of his life over the past year were making a horrifying amount of sense.
"Holy Mariel," Jensen breathed. "You really are."
Jared's jaw tightened in wordless confirmation. His eyes never left Jensen's face.
Jensen wanted, very much, to cry right now.
"Well. You certainly did a good job keeping that a secret," he said, fighting to keep his voice light. "Isn't that normally the sort of thing that one tells their lover?"
It might have been a trick of the light, but Jensen fancied that Jared looked a little shamefaced at that.
Not that it lasted long.
"You're a dream walker," Jared said. "I don't think I'm the one to be blamed for keeping secrets."
Jensen almost wanted to laugh, except for the fact that he'd probably become hysterical, and he couldn't afford that right now. "I am," he agreed, instead. What else was he to do? "How long have you known?"
Jared sagged abruptly, his breath escaping in a shaky exhale. Perhaps he hadn't been quite so certain as he'd claimed.
Surreptitiously, Jensen slid the hand he was bracing against under his pillow. His fingers wrapped around the hilt of the dagger he kept there, and he felt a cool wave of relief wash over him. At least he wasn't completely defenseless.
"I've suspected for some time," Jared said, and Jensen winced. "But I didn't know for sure until a fortnight ago."
A fortnight? Jensen frowned. That was oddly specific. What had Jared seen to make him-
Oh, of all the ridiculous-
Something in his expression must have betrayed him, because Jared leaned closer, his voice turning eager. "What? Where did you go?"
"I-" Jensen stammered. He tightened his grip on the dagger until his knuckles started to hurt.
"Jensen," Jared insisted, in the smooth, intimate tone that never failed to make Jensen's resistance crumble.
This time was no exception. "I went to join the revelries in the capital, okay?"
Jared blinked, obviously taken aback. "What?"
And Jensen couldn't - wouldn't - explain that he'd been homesick, that attending the spring festival with his parents was one of the few good memories he still had of his life before his ability to dream walk had destroyed everything, and that he'd just wanted to see what it was like, one more time, and since going to the capital in the waking world was as good as a death sentence for him, the only option was to dream his way there, so he raised his chin and fixed Jared with an imperious look.
"You don't have to believe me," he said. "But it's the truth, for all that you don't deserve it."
Jared's brow furrowed at that, and Jensen belatedly realized that he could see Jared's expression clearly. The sun was still coming up, had been the entire time they'd been having this confrontation, and the light, though still faint, was bright enough now to let him see that Jared was already dressed for the day, almost as though he'd been planning to leave, but had stopped to watch Jensen dream walk instead. Or perhaps he'd been tasked to keep an eye on Jensen until the ducal guard could arrive and see to it that he'd been safely shackled.
The thought made Jensen go cold.
"Have you called the guard?"
Jared's head cocked. "What do you mean?" It was the least convincing attempt at innocence Jensen had ever heard.
Jensen's tenuous grip on his panic slipped, and he seized Jared by the front of his shirt, pulling him in close. Light glinted off the dagger as he yanked it free and pressed it against the arch of Jared's throat in a brutal, deadly threat.
"Mariel's curse take you, Jared!" Jensen hissed, his hand thankfully steadier than his quavering voice. "Have. You. Called. The. Guard?"
"I-" Jared swallowed, the action pushing the keen edge of the dagger momentarily harder against his thin skin. Jensen couldn't tell if it drew blood or not. "No. I haven't."
Jensen didn't let up. He peered into Jared's shadowed face, trying to ignore the part of him that wanted to trust him without question. That would have trusted him, not ten minutes ago.
Was this how easy it was to lose happiness? After he'd spent so long trying to find it?
"I haven't," Jared repeated, and then, lower, "Jensen. I promise."
"Don't," Jensen said raggedly. "I can't- just… don't."
Jared's eyes flashed in the dim light. "Would you really kill me?" he asked, his words hushed but no less intense for it. "Could you?"
Jensen glared at him. "Call for help and you'll find out," he retorted, not allowing a single shred of doubt to enter his voice. His heart was pounding in his chest, almost a physical ache, but he couldn't afford to let it show.
Something hurt and confused flashed across Jared's face. "I don't understand," he said, and for the first time he sounded like himself, like the Jared that Jensen knew. The Jared that Jensen lov-
Jensen bit his lip, hard. "What."
"You're a good man," Jared said earnestly. Was he appealing to Jensen's mercy? "I've seen it. Countless times. You're kind to your patients, you take in strays, and you always make time for the village children. It's not an act. You aren't that good a liar."
But apparently you are, Jensen couldn't quite bring himself to say. He swallowed down the bitter feeling of betrayal. "Being a good man doesn't mean I'm not willing to defend myself. Even against you."
Jared made an irritated sound. "That's not what I mean."
"By all means then, enlighten me."
"Why are you hiding?" Jared demanded, almost too loud for the early hour. "I don't understand! You could be doing so much good for the country! Your dream walking could help so many people, and you're using it to go to festivals? That's not the Jensen I know! Why are you- are you laughing?"
Jared sounded aghast. Jensen supposed he couldn't blame him; there was nothing remotely funny about this situation. And his earlier fear of hysteria was still a very real concern.
But Mariel damn him, Jared actually sounded like he meant believed the nonsense that was coming out of his mouth, and Jensen couldn't help himself.
"Good?" Jensen repeated, with all the derision he could muster. "What good comes from stealing people's secrets so that our great and powerful doge can ensure that he becomes even more great and powerful on the backs of their suffering?"
Jared reared back like Jensen had struck him, and Jensen damned himself for a fool when it took him precious seconds to remember to match the movement with his dagger. If Jared overpowered him now, he'd have nowhere to lay the blame but at his own feet.
"That's treason!" Jared gasped. "Jensen, you can't-"
"Don't," Jensen ordered. "You know nothing of which you speak." This time, he let the edge of the blade dig in, just slightly, and felt the shocked hiss of Jared's breath against his cheek. "I've been a slave to the doge once before. It won't happen again."
Jared wet his lips nervously. "You wouldn't be a slave. That's not, Jensen, you know I wouldn't let that happen."
"Do I? Because I know that the last time this happened, three men of the cloth murdered my parents in order to take me away," Jensen spat, hating the fact that this was Jared who was trying to feed him this poison. "And I know that there's nothing under heaven that you or anyone else can do to make me go back to an existence that I worked so hard to escape the first time." Jared's eyes were wide, and Jensen held his gaze fiercely, willing him to see the truth. "Still think it's me who doesn't know what's happening here?"
There was a moment of shocked silence, the echo of Jensen's words lingering in his blood and making his pulse race. Jared's eyes shuttered and closed.
"So you'd rather die than fulfil your duty to the ducal chair," he said, sounding defeated.
"Yes," Jensen shot back immediately. "Are you planning to do the honours?"
"You're the one with a blade at my neck," Jared reminded him, almost calmly. He was silent for another moment, then said, "You haven't asked."
"Why I haven't reported you to the guards."
"I'm still not sure I believe you haven't," Jensen lied immediately.
Jared offered him a soft, fond smile. Jensen's traitorous heart clenched. "You do," he said, with a quiet conviction that Jensen had never heard from him before. "And even if you didn't, I've known for more than long enough to have reported it to someone if I was going to. I didn't need you to confess."
"So?" Jensen demanded, and he hated the way that his voice cracked on the word. "I assume you've got something you want to say, so just damn well say it already."
Jared's expression split open, revealing something soft and vulnerable that almost hurt to look at. "I couldn't just turn you over without talking to you because I love you, dammit. And I- I trust you." Jared huffed out a sound that wasn't quite a laugh, his eyes falling away from Jensen's face to a point somewhere near his collarbone. "I'm of the cloth and I believe in that, but… I needed to understand why a good man would hide this. That's why I haven't told the guards."
Jensen's fingers were trembling. "You mean it?" he asked, sounding painfully fragile even to his own ears.
Jared's eyes darted cautiously up to his. "I do."
"Damn it," Jensen decided finally, lowering the dagger. This wasn't a solution, he knew; Jared wouldn't be able to live between two loyalties forever. And Jensen didn't know how to reconcile his trust in Jared with his fear of the men of the cloth.
But he didn't want either of them to die here. And that was enough to try and figure out if there was a way out of this tangle.
The matin bell rang at just that moment, nearly startling Jensen right out of his skin. It was morning. One of the servants would be along any moment to awaken him, a fact that Jared clearly recognized, based on the expression on his face.
"I should go," he said, with a tentative smile that sat awkwardly on his face.
"Of course," Jensen agreed. He smoothed the creases left by his fist out of Jared's shirt. "We'll… talk over dinner."
Jared nodded, immediate and eager. "Yes, that's… I'll look forward to it." He stood and turned to the door, then paused. "Will you still be here when I get back?"
Jensen honestly didn't know. His common sense was still screaming at him to run, run and never look back. Jared could still betray him, and not even necessarily on purpose. Jensen would be far wiser to be long gone by the time Jared returned.
"I hope you will," Jared said, when Jensen couldn't answer.
"I hope I will too," Jensen said, the only truth he could offer.
Even dream walkers could dream, after all.
*waves pompoms* Good luck to everyone participating in the BB claims today!