When he'd come to this world, saw and experienced as much as he could before they'd had to reveal themselves to humans, he had read a poem. It was a well-known one, back then he guessed every person on the planet had heard of it and two lines stuck to him like flies to glue.
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.
He didn't know who wrote the poem, vaguely remembered that the poet's name had something to do with cold, but the words never left his thoughts. They were always there, always at the front or the back of his mind, always present day and night.
He couldn't say which group of people was right, the ones claiming fire would destroy the world or the ones saying ice would.
But he knew that for him, neither ice nor fire would destroy his world.
It would be both. Together; hand in hand, opposite poles. Fire that would melt the ice and ice that would put out the blazing fire.
Ice was his home, was his place of rest where he had spent billions of years. Sleeping. Dreaming. Walking the Earth in his dreams, listening and observing. The crystals in him looked like ice; the color, the thickness, the construction. But ice could do something he couldn't.
It melted. Melted under fire, melted under heat.
But he couldn't have imagined that he would be able to melt as well – just not in the way ice could.
Fire was sacred.
Especially now, when there was no electricity, no gas, no fuel, no oil, nothing that could be used instead of fire to chase away the shivers and the fear and the noises that came out at the dead of the night.
Fire was someone's soul too; bold, spunky, feisty, strong-spirited, gritty.
Fire had been what he had seen in Jamie so many years ago, fire had been what he had seen in Jensen as soon as he had touched the slimy little body, and fire had been what had melted his very core and taught him to care for someone so much it was bordering on pain. Physical pain that he couldn't shake off, no matter what.
He had cared about his brothers and sisters, cared about them so much his heart broke every time he felt a light go out in their eyes, loved them all so much, inherited that love from his Father and it just built up on top of the one he had already carried.
But Jensen. Jensen had been something else. Had been a destructing fire, eating up all that it touched, a tremendous force of flames that had made all things Jensen had touched go up in flames.
When he'd first looked into Jensen's green, green eyes he knew he'd never be able to let him go.
He couldn't let Jensen go.
He couldn't let the fire go out inside of that stupid, stupid little shit.
Noleih had always been a sneaky bastard and Jared didn't know why he thought that it would be different when his big brother was a breath away from death. It hadn't been different, and when he'd seen Noleih slightly twist around and push the arrow into Jensen's chest – as easy as sliding a knife through butter – the agony of just the mere possibility that Jensen could die nearly brought him to his knees, shattering all that he was into pieces.
It had been just like when he had watched his Father die. All that pain, all that panic of losing someone he'd cared so much about. He couldn't go through that again.
He couldn't've failed Jensen like that, couldn't've left his nephew to sink to the dirty ground as if he already belonged to the grave.
He could feel his crystals call out for the ones that were still exposed in Jensen's torn fingers, call out for all the other crystals that were still hiding inside the boy … could feel his own crystals demand he do something, set them free, set them all free.
So he did.
The crystals of his left hand were already starting to elongate and he sighed in relief – it really was hard to cramp them all up into a short, blunt stubs of fingers, even if his were still longer than normal.
The arrow was stuck somewhere in the lower parts of Jensen's chest but clearly between the ribs. Maybe it had struck a lung, he couldn't tell.
He couldn't tell anything but how the wooden shaft felt under his trembling fingers, the noise it made when he pulled it out and how blood gushed out of the wound.
He didn't care what this did to Jensen's insides because what more damage could he do when the person was already dead.
The arrow left a hole after it and when he finally managed to push all of Jensen's shirts up, exposing his rib cage, the hole winked at him; bloody and small. There was no time for hesitation, no time to think things through, Jensen had been dead for a minute already and there was just no more time to lose.
He pushed one of his fingers – didn't really care which one, could be his index one, or his pinky - straight into the hole, sinking it deeper into the still warm flesh. Nothing happened, but he knew that sometimes things just needed some time. But that didn't mean that he didn't hope so badly, wished, needed, prayed to his Father that whatever damage had been done to Jensen, the crystals in him would embrace his touch and start knitting the tissue and muscles together.
Noleih hadn't pierced Jensen's heart, hadn't even come close to it, but he did push the arrow deeply, probably nicking some organ but he couldn't be sure. He wasn't a doctor, he didn't know much about a human's anatomy, all he knew was that if he could make the crystals in Jensen connect with his own, everything would be fine.
In his mind, in his entire body he could hear and feel Jensen's crystals call out for him to save them, put them back together, touch them, heal them. That they'd help him, he just needed to touch them.
Jensen's hand looked mangled as if a rabid animal had savaged it … he flashed back to Jensen tearing skin and flesh away with his teeth as if in a trance, searching for crystals and then finding them. The relief on his nephew's face when he finally managed to uncover two crystals had taken Jared's breath away.
He thanked his Father and his Mother that he hadn't told Jensen about how one of his bones in his right forearm was a crystal too. He couldn't even imagine what Jensen would've done if he knew; probably tear his entire arm off. But Jared had known, known that the fingers had to be connected to something more, something bigger, 's why he had to push his own crystals into both Jensen's arms and hope that he'd hit something. And he had. Thank his Father, but he had. Maybe when Jensen would wake up, he'd explain all that; explain how the crystal made his right hand stronger, better, faster. 's why he could expand the bow with such ease, 's why he threw his knife so precisely, 's why he was able to push his fingers into Noleih's spine.
He grabbed for that hand now and let his fingers brush over Jensen's limp wrist where all the fine blue and green veins floated so close to the delicate skin. His eyes darted to the crystals, to the long, fine, beautiful blue-green crystals of Jensen's fingers. They were covered with blood, but they still sparkled so brightly. Swallowing, he brought the hand closer to his mouth and started licking the cooling blood off the smooth surface. Jensen's and Noleih's blood, tangled together in a burst of emotions that stuttered while going down his throat.
He started to weep at the loss of them both, at how he was taking love and life and hate and swallowing it all down, mixing it with his own.
The tears he shed were mixing with the blood on his tongue, but it was all right.
It was only blood - which they all shared.
His brothers and sisters came then - shy and confused - just as he licked the final drop off of Jensen's finger.
Jensen was his and his alone and Noleih had been his to bring down. No one would take that away from him.
The burst of possessiveness scared him; couldn't tell if it was his own or a part of what he got by tasting Noleih's blood. It would pass, whatever it was, it would pass. It always passed.
His eyes tracked the figures that were walking out of the woods as if they had all been hiding behind the trees all along. His finger was still stuck inside Jensen's chest, resting inside all the blood, all the gore, all that damage. He adjusted Jensen's cold, limp body, hoisted it higher to rest Jensen's back better over his thighs. Even if Jensen was dead, there was no need for him to be uncomfortable because once the stubborn bastard would wake, he'd bitch about an ache in his back.
"Jensen …" he whispered down at the still face, placing Jensen's right hand on the kid's unmoving belly and intertwining his fingers with Jensen's crystalic ones.
"Jared, our King." They all said, with their voices full of compassion and exhaustion.
"I can't leave him."
They nodded and sat down on the ground, watching him. Watching their nephew.
He looked down at Jensen again; mouth covered with blood – so close, just one lick, but if he'd do that, Jensen would have a bitch fit and how he longed to hear it. The pale, freckled face and the closed eyes that hid all that green, remained unresponsive.
They all sat there -with their brother dead and their nephew dead and their King barely living - for hours and hours. The sun had come up, and the sun went down and when the moon came up, not as bright as the night before, Jared felt it.
A spark licking his finger. A spark, tiny, tiny one, but a spark nonetheless.
A beat of a heart.
A shift in the tissue his crystal was hiding in.
A spark that became a flame.
Beat, beat, beat … slow and sluggish, but a beat of a heart.
It had stayed like that for some time, until the moon gave way to dawn – red and orange – and the flame enveloped his crystal and turned into the fire he'd always known Jensen had in him.
He whispered and kissed the top of Jensen's head, needing so badly to hear his nephew bitch about being too close, get off of me, stop looking at me like that, aww baby gonna cry.
He would give anything to hear Jensen's pissy self.
He stared to pull out the crystal, closing his eyes and groaning in how good it felt when all the other crystals in Jensen reached out to him in gratitude.
Jensen's body was weak; humans tended to be like that, but it was also strong, the crystals in him not wanting to die. Not wanting to let go.
It was squirrels for dinner. Again. Just like the last three evenings and he was getting nauseated just by watching Alineja strip them of fur and chop them up into pieces big enough for stew.
"It's meat, sweetheart, don't fuss."
"Gonna add cawots?"
"No, I didn't have enough to trade for 'em."
He was sitting by the hot flames of the fire, his eyes going to his uncle who was doodling something on a piece of paper. Again. His uncle was always scribbling something or other on any leaf of paper he came across.
"What'a doin', uncle Sammy?"
"Just words, come 'ere, read them out loud."
He rolled his eyes almost to the point of hurting them and walked closer to where his uncle was sitting. He knew Uncle Sammy was just trying to get him to read – he still had some problems pronouncing certain words, certain letter combination still giving him headaches. He liked to read, he did, it was just that the feeling of not being able to do it properly made him shy; he wanted to do it right and no matter how many times his uncle told him that with practice he would get it right, he still felt self-conscious about it. What he hated most was when he blushed, because the word just wouldn't roll off his tongue right. That stupid 'r' was giving him problems and he hated it. Hated it when his tongue got tangled up when certain letters formed a weird sound.
He touched his uncle's knee and settled himself between the spread legs, sitting down on a little spot uncle Sammy made on the big wooden log. He still had to grab Sammy's legs to keep himself from sliding off to the ground.
The crackle of fire, his uncle's breathing and Alineja cooking were the sounds he loved. They were as familiar to him as his own heartbeat and he relaxed back onto his uncle's chest.
"You good squirt?"
"Okay now, read me this."
A piece of paper, yellowish and wrinkled was pushed before his nose and he crossed his eyes.
"Too close uncle Sammy."
He felt his uncle's laugh more than he heard it: "Oh excuse me, mister, thought you were a bug there for a second."
"Not a bug."
"My mistake then. Here," the paper got moved a bit further away and now he could see words there. His uncle's handwriting was amazing, a hundred times better than his own, but he still had some time to learn how to write better.
"Umm the fiwst wowd is 'some'."
"Yeah, go on."
"Ummm," he touched the next word with his fingers, it wasn't a long one and he knew that one too, "say. It's 'say'."
"Good, go on."
"'the' an' then w- wo-," he fell silent, because the next letter always came out wrong whenever he said it.
"Jensen, it's 'r'. Come on, you can say it. I've heard you say it before, clear as a day."
He felt stupid. It was just one letter and he always said it wrong.
"'s okay Jensen. Just say 'world', you don't have to spell it, just say it."
The kiss on the top of his head didn't make him feel any better.
"Okay, go on."
"The next wowd is 'will' and then 'ennnd' then 'in'."
"Hard one again, huh?"
He nodded and stared at his uncle's thumb as it held the piece of paper.
"Fire, its fire Jensen."
"Yeah, munchkin, its fiwe."
And it was fire. It was fire in his veins, fire in his head, fire spreading through his entire body, making him wanna scream and hide and the flames in the fire pit were starting to rise up, spread towards him and before he knew it he was aflame.
He rolled to his side and coughed, for one tiny flicker of a moment thinking that he was a kid again. A kid who screamed for his uncle Sammy whenever he'd been in pain. He was tired of waking up like this; jolted into consciousness with a searing pain in his arms and a feeling of being in the past.
He was sick of it.
And he was sick of Jared's concerned voice and his gentle touches and the soft look in his eyes.
He was so sick of everything, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He hadn't been lying to Noleih, he wasn't speaking just to distract the man or because he loved the sound of his own voice – he kinda did – but he was telling the truth.
He'd loved Alineja, he'd loved crazy ol' Odie and he loved Jared and if Noleih would've taken Jared away from him too, he wouldn't tear off the pads of his finger to get to the crystals. He'd tear the Icy's spine out with his own human fingers, even if he'd broken every one of them.
"Oh God, oh God Uncle Sam it hurts, oh God it hurts, ithurtsithurtsithurts … fuuuuuuck!"
"Stay still, stay still, let me look, come on."
Jared's hands griping his biceps made him still and stay still when his arms were gripped and unwrapped from some cloth that had been around his fingers.
"It looks okay. Jensen, hey can you look at me?"
He blinked up and tried to turn his head away from Jared's palm that was holding the right side of his face. Only Alineja ever touched him like that … after she'd kissed him goodnight, she'd placed her hand on the side of his face making him lean into it and told him nighty night, don't let any bugs bite.
"Look at me," Jensen did, "'s it. Listen, I had to pull off the rest of the skin," Jensen mewled, the pain like a barb wire scraping at his fingers, "I had to, hey, shhh, shh, come on, you had worse, huh? You had worse, it's okay."
He leaned into Jared's palm; it smelled of blood and smoke and salt.
"It'll stop hurting, it will, trust me. You just have to hold on a little longer, okay?"
"I'm so tired."
"Just go back to sleep."
He couldn't argue, not anymore. He felt drained, he was weak, he was scared of feeling all this pain, of feeling like maybe killing Noleih hadn't been enough. He trusted Jared to keep him safe, to watch both of their backs, to protect Jensen if anything would happen while he slept and he trusted Jared that if anything should happen, Jared wouldn't wake Jensen up and make him see it or live through it. He'd left fear of dying in the darkness and it was all right.
He gasped when he opened his eyes, the sound of water and birds invading his ears.
"Hey, you awake?"
Jensen licked his dry lips: "Yeah," and coughed, trying to moisten his mouth. He was thirsty like the desert.
"Here, I gotcha, just drink. Small sips, okay."
The water tasted cold and fresh and he moaned when it ran down his parched throat. Moaned even louder when it cleaned up the taste of iron and rot out of his mouth.
"We have more, just give it a minute, all right?"
He stared up at the sky, white clouds over a blue canvas. Midday then. He lay on his back, trying not to move too much, trying not to move at all, because his side still hurt, and his fingers still felt as if they'd been skinned – which they had been, duh. He could feel his heartbeat in the tips of them, knowing that two of those were crystals now. Wrapped in some white cloths, sure, but still … crystals. And they would remain crystals until Jared would teach him how to grow skin like every Icy had.
He was part Icy, and part human. He was half-half, a creature of the in between and he didn't know where he belonged.
Where did one belong when he was neither one nor the other? When one was stuck between being something and other, yet neither was where one felt one belonged?
"Jensen, you okay?"
"Yeah, 'm okay," he mumbled and tried to raise his right hand from where it was lying across his belly, "so, crystals, huh?"
"You think there are any more?"
"In you? Yeah, yeah there are, but I don't really wanna skin you to find out."
"Yeah, that would be gross. And probably painful."
It was awkward. The whole conversation was awkward and stilted and Jensen wondered when he and Jared fell so out of step.
"'m sorry I killed your brother."
Maybe that had been the moment they fell out of step; Jensen killing his half-uncle, Jared's brother. Maybe that was the point at which making conversation with Jared became like pulling teeth.
"I already told you that it's okay. It had to happen. Noleih would've just kept on going, he was … he was beyond reason."
"I felt him poking around my head, you know? Felt … something in my head."
Jared nodded: "He was looking for something to get you on his side. Anger, fear, sadness, something that he could've used to you know, twist you around."
"Yeah well, I left it all with the shadows. Everything, Jared. And it feels so good."
"I know it does. The darkness … it kept all of us safe for so long and I promise you, it'll keep everything you gave it safe, too. The shadows won't ever tell."
Jensen never took his eyes from the sky, feeling that if he did so, the look in Jared's eyes would be pity and sorrow and he didn't want that.
Because something had to have happened … if him killing Noleih wasn't why Jared felt so wrong, then something else must've happened. He remembered holding Noleih's spine in his hands, remembered falling down to the ground, remembered this new, strange, very strange pain and spots that weren't stars …
"Jared, did I," he gulped, "die?"
"Yeah, yeah you did."
Jared snorted: "That all you've got?"
"For a while, yeah."
"Like for real died?"
"I don't remember … I just remember you making me read."
"Those words you were always scribbling on papers … something about fire and ice and hey, I can say world now and not mess up the 'r'."
He grinned and wondered if there was still blood stuck between his teeth.
"I think you should go back to sleep, kiddo."
"I think so too."
He didn't need to be told more than twice, because his head was feeling heavy and stuffed to the point of exploding and his chest hurt. Bad.
But then again, he had just came back from the dead, no wonder he felt a bit … drunk, groggy and on a verge of a mental breakdown.
Thank God that falling into unconsciousness took care of all that in a span of a second.
There was no fire this time. There was just a sigh that he released when he opened his eyes, sleep crusted in their corners and the ache in his right side dulled down to almost nothing.
He whispered up at the sky, knowing that Jared was nearby and would hear him: "'m so tired…"
He almost smirked when: "'s okay, you can go back to sleep." was whispered back at him.
"No, no, I don't mean … I mean I'm tired of all of this, Jared."
After some shuffling and rustling of clothes he felt Jared take a sit by his side and sensed his uncle lean forward: "What do you mean?"
"I don't want this anymore. I don't want this … here."
"What do you want then?"
"I want you not to leave me again. I want my mom back, I want Alineja back, I want Odie back … I … I don't wanna be alone again. Please don't leave me alone again."
"Do you want to … do you want to leave anything in the darkness again? I might be able to do that by myself, but I'd rather call one of my siblings to help …"
Jensen closed his eyes; he would love to leave how it felt like to rip his own skin off his fingers with his teeth, he would love to leave how it felt like to push his fingers into Noleih's back and squeeze the man's spine, he would love to leave the memories of how much it had scared him to see Jared be so close to death. He would love to leave the memory of himself dying.
He would love to leave all of that in the darkness, ask Jared to please yes, let's do that, but he wanted to feel it all because that was human, right? It was human to feel this horrible after killing someone. After taking a life, no matter how dark it had been, right?
He was human, right?
He looked into Jared's eyes, the color in them flowing from green to brown to blue to orange to yellow.
He was an Icy too, a part of him lost a member of his family too. A part of him could settle down, calm down and forget about what he'd done.
A part of him, had family now. A part of him didn't have to be alone anymore.
"I don't want to be alone again. Please," he whispered, "please …"
There was something salty invading his mouth and when he closed his lips and swallowed it hit him … he was crying: "Shit…" he raised his good hand and started wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt.
A hand gripped his forearm and tugged, bringing his arm back down to the ground.
"I won't leave you alone. I swear I won't leave you alone again, but … I have to lead my family back to sleep. I have to go back with them, I have to go to sleep with them."
Jensen knew that. He knew and he understood and he …
"But I'm your family too, right? Your half-nephew? Your nephew? What am I to you?"
"You're family. You're my brother's child, you're ours. And we gotcha now."
He was someone's. He belonged somewhere. And it wasn't here. It wasn't the human race. He understood that now. He understood why he'd always wanted to be left alone. Why he had always felt as if he didn't belong.
"So," he sniffled, "so you can … take me with?"
"You sure you want that?"
"I … I don't know. I just … I can't be alone anymore. I can't. I swear I'll put my knife to my throat. I can't … after all of this …"
"Okay, all right. Okay. You'll come with."
"I wanna meet everyone. Wanna see to whom I belong."
He'd been alone for so long, for so many years no one else but him watching his six and twelve, that it would be nice to sink into a feeling of someone else watching over him. These past days with Jared and Odie … had taught him that he could trust others, he could trust family. He just didn't know how he would really feel coming from just him and him alone to having thousands of half-aunts and half-uncles, because he was still half human and he would always be half human.
"Whom? Wow, you using grammar now, squirt?"
"Don't call me that, 'm not four."
"No, no you're not."
The sad tone of Jared's voice made a lump form in his throat that the swallowed down. There was no need for all that, no need for the past to come and take him away. He had the present and he had the future and it was okay.
"What, uh, I mean, you say you're going to sleep, so … is that, you know? It? Just sleep?"
"It's not sleep. It's dreaming. We dream of … everything. And as long as the humans will have their tracking devices, we can see through them. See the world, be in the world, but not really, you know? Like," he smiled, "like ghosts."
"Ghosts. We're here, but we're not. We see, we hear, but we're up there under the ice and dreaming. We're all together and we're all apart and we sleep and we dream."
"Will I dream too, or will I just … plunk to the bottom of the ocean and die?"
"You'll dream. I … I promised Odie … I told him that when we'll go back to sleep he'll, he'll sleep next to me and well, that leaves the other side open," Jared raised his left hand, "but now that," he cleared his throat, "he's gone …"
"So, he's dead?"
Jared shrugged: "I can't feel him. I don't know."
"Should we go check?"
"Jensen, we're days away from Odie."
He rose up before Jared could stop him and saw that he was certainly not in a forest anymore.
"Fuckin' … what the …"
Seagulls. There were seagulls ripping a fish apart a few yards away and fuckin hell there was the sound of the ocean's waves hitting a shore and foaming up. He thought he was listening to forest birds and a river flow, but …
He forgot about the fire in his veins, the pain in his fingers and didn't even want to look at how his fingers were crystals now, because holy shit, they were at a … beach.
"You were out for days, Jensen."
"Fuck, you idiot! People here are crazy, they protect the seashores like maniacs. I don't wanna get harpooned."
Jared started to laugh and Jensen really couldn't see the funny in all of this.
"So, you've met Archie?"
"He told me he ran into you. Told you to get lost and gave you a fish for goodbye. He," Jared laughed to the point of wheezing, "he said that he had to drag your sorry drunk ass all the way to the desert and he hoped that the smell of the fish would be enough for you to puke all the booze out."
"Archie … he's … he was protecting the western shoreline, notifying me if any of Noleih's, ummm, supporters wanted to sneak up to the Arctic through the west."
"Fuckin' … he hit me!"
Jared lost it and the laugh was contagious, because Jensen could feel his lips starting to join.
"He said you were so drunk you got caught in the fishing net and, and he said it was like watching a ballerina fight with a net."
"What's a ballerina?"
"Uhhh, never mind."
"He was crazy."
"Jensen, he was trying to protect you. Being at the shorelines is dangerous. Was dangerous. If he hadn't caught you, and one of Noleih's had …"
Jensen smirked: "Well he had a really funny way of showing he cared."
"Awwww, don't be mad. He did give you a fish."
"Yeah, when I woke up it was sitting on my chest looking at me with its dead, beady eyes and the smell … the smell made me puke for days afterwards."
"Well," Jared shrugged, "at least you puked all the alcohol out of ya."
"Not funny." He grumbled.
"Ooooh but it is."
Jensen smiled and couldn't turn away from the picture of Jared laughing; he remembered when Alineja would say something funny and he and Jared would laugh until the point of tears making Alineja get this soft expression on her face.
It had always been love.
"I did eat the fish though, was tasty. Baked."
"Well then … should say thank you to Archie when you see 'im."
Oh God, Archie was his half-uncle. His brain would fry before he would be able to comprehend any of this and be okay with it.
"So what? Did you carry me? How did we get here? Where are we? What're we doing here?"
"Whoa, easy slow down."
"Just answer me."
"Jensen, come on and sit down. Come on, trust me, we're safe here."
He nodded; he trusted Jared. Trusted him with his life, he had killed for the man and Jared had almost died protecting him when he'd lured Noleih to that island so many years ago.
"I trust you, but start answering. I mean I die and come back, which by the way you still need to tell me that story, and nothing has changed. I give up."
"You die and come back and you're still a demanding little bitch."
"That's no way to talk to your nephew."
"Who you gonna rattle me out to?"
"Umm, like a hundred other half-uncles and aunts. I bet my aunts will love me and try to protect me from you."
They burst into laughter then, the seagulls or whatever the birds were, making awful noises and everything smelled of dead fish and salty water.
"No, I didn't carry you, well, not all the way, my brothers helped. And we're somewhere in Vermont. I wanted to get you as far away from where we were and as close to the Arctic as I dared. I figured if you wanted to come with me, you'd come and if you wanted to stay, well we're still on the continent where you were born and raised and you can always walk to wherever you want."
"Yeah, good thinking."
He looked left and right, but all he could see were trees and the sea.
"Where is everyone?"
"Some had taken the ones who were on Noleih's side to the Arctic already, but some …" Jared pointed into the sea, into the sparkling blue water that was interrupted by waves and heads bobbing out of the surface, "they're waiting for us."
He looked straight at hundreds and hundreds of bobbing heads far in the distance, over the point where waves started to break at the shore and saw … his family.
"I can … feel them … in my head … it's … I've never … it's like ringing, but soft."
Jared grinned: "So you ready to go?"
Jensen looked at the sea, looked at everyone who was there waiting for their King and him and then he turned around to look at the forest that was hiding ruined cities and lives on the mend.
He didn't belong there.
He nodded: "'m ready."
"You'll have to leave your knife. I already," Jared looked down at his feet, "buried," and then looked back at Jensen, "your bow and arrows, but I couldn't unstrap your knife holster. You were lying on it, so…"
Jared had given his bow and arrows a … what? A funeral?
"You buried my bow and quiver?"
"Uh," Jared rubbed the back of his neck, "yeah?"
"Thanks, that was … yeah, thanks."
His bow and his arrows; he had trained so hard with those, he had made them with his own two bare hands, he had practiced days and nights to properly shoot an arrow and hit it dead center of any target … his bow and quiver who had saved his life on so many occasions, in so many ways … were now buried somewhere on the beach, somewhere under the sand.
He unstrapped his holster and threw it and the knife aside.
He wouldn't need it anymore, because he would be with his family and they would have his back.
"You all right?"
"'m good. I really am."
Jared smiled: "Come on, let's get into the water. It'll be easier."
They stepped into the water and waddled deeper in, further from the shore, until the waves were all the way up to Jensen's neck, some water already spilling into his mouth.
"Okay, come here, turn to the sea, good, you can lean back."
He turned around and stood right in front of his uncle, nervously shifting on his feet trying to fold into himself because his right side was throbbing and his fingers were starting to bleed again, he could see the blood rise up through the water in a swirl.
"Wanna play connect the dots?"
"'m kinda freezing here, kinda ya know, on my way to drowning and no, I don't wanna play connect the dots."
The water was cold and he was barely able to stand on the sand beneath his shoes, the waves hitting him and pressing him deeper into Jared's chest.
"Well, connect the dots says this; I saved you once from drowning by pushing my crystals into your lungs, I saved you again by putting my crystal in you, I've heard the crystals in you call out for me, trying so hard to connect and I did. Through your blood and by touching them. 'm pretty sure at least five of your ribs are made of crystals and … uh, a bone in your right forearm, dunno which one."
"So, connect the dots says that the crystals in your won't let you die so easily. They'll play along with what I do. They'll want to, because in the end, Jensen, we're all one."
He didn't want to talk too much, the salty water really was spilling into his mouth whenever a wave high enough hit him, but he understood. Had felt it; how the crystals engulfed him with flames, bringing him back.
"Don't panic alright, Jensen. Just trust me."
"I trust you."
He breathed in the smell of salt and drying sea grass, listened to the sound of the seagulls and the comforting ringing in his head, his family calling for him.
He felt Jared's hands go around his ribcage from behind, broad palms all but crushing him and when something penetrated his chest and went all the way into his lungs all he could think about was …
… it doesn't hurt at all when air tastes of darkness.
"Just breathe, don't try not to and don't panic."
"You can open your eyes, you know?"
The words weren't said to him in a voice he could hear with his ears, no, they were spoken in his mind, inside of him somewhere where his dad's genes poked a hole at and made him hear and listen to his kin, without hearing or talking.
He didn't want to open his eyes because he knew what he'd see. He'd see the depths of the ocean, he'd see fish and whales and maybe a dolphin or two. He'd see water, because water was all around him. He'd see the ocean's floor, all dark and deep, maybe he'd see a crab or two or three, but all he'd really see would be the water.
Jared was behind him, which was a comforting thought, because Jared had his back and always had and always would have. Jared was swimming, pushing them both forward through the cool water that sometimes got interlaced with warmth and when that happened, he could feel everyone just let go, let the current take them all where it wanted.
As a human he was terrified out of his mind and had pissed himself as soon as Jared manhandled him under the surface and they dived, but as an Icy this was like being home. Safe.
Jared's laugh at him made him smile too and he opened his mouth without meaning too. It was a human reaction, simple, something he did all the time, but right then, he could feel cool, salty water spill down his throat and into his stomach and lungs when he breathed in.
"'s okay, you can breathe in the water, you've been doing it all along. I gotcha."
He was. It was instinct. He had tried to stop himself from breathing, but he couldn't do it, because every time Jared felt that his lungs weren't expanding he pushed his fingers deeper, making Jensen gasp for breath.
They were probably still miles away from the Arctic, and he was already abusing the word 'asshole'.
Then the voices started. First it had been a woman's voice telling him that she was glad Jared had finally found him after searching him for so long.
Then a male voice said how good it was to see the child of Looky and how his dad had been a good, good man and how he could just tell that Jensen was a good, good man too.
Then others joined in, asking him questions and telling him things, telling him how happy they were that he was with them, how happy they were that now they were all going to go back to sleep, how years upon years of fighting have left them weak and sad and tired and all the while Jared's chest was a welcoming, soothing weight on top of his back, pushing them both to their destination.