Chapter 1: Prologue
When Jensen Ackles was five years old his life changed forever. Of course, he didn’t realise it at the time; it wasn’t a world shattering event. The world still spun on its axis and the sun still set in the west. No, on that warm summer’s morning Jensen’s life changed forever when the Padaleckis moved in next door.
Jensen had been aware, in a distant five year old way, that old Mrs Johnson had moved away to live with her daughter in Dallas, but seeing as old Mrs Johnson wasn’t very nice to five year old boys he hadn’t paid much mind to her leaving. Now though, now he was very interested as he sat on the front steps of his house, basking in the heat of the early morning sun.
A big old station wagon with boxes strapped to its roof had pulled into the driveway next door and out piled a woman and two boys, soon followed by a man getting out of the driver’s side of the car. Being a shy child, Jensen just sat and watched as the family took in the neighbourhood and then made their way into the house. The older boy had looked to be too old to want to play with Jensen. He seemed to be about Josh’s age and Jensen’s older brother never wanted to be seen with a baby like Jensen. The younger boy though, he’d looked as though he was around Jensen’s age.
Jensen remained sitting on the front steps in hopeful anticipation of seeing the family again but after a while it was clear that nobody was coming out, besides the adults who were unloading the station wagon at any rate, and it was getting far too hot to stay outside much longer without risking heatstroke. With a dejected sigh Jensen slowly trudged into the house and grabbed a glass of orange juice from the fridge to cool down.
When his mother entered the kitchen a few minutes later and started puttering around, doing whatever it is moms do in the kitchen, Jensen started talking excitedly.
“Guess what, Mom?” Jensen was rocking back and forth on his heels in excitement. His mom smiled fondly down at him.
“There’s a new family moving into old Mrs Johnson’s house!” Jensen beamed widely. “There’s a mom and a dad and two boys. One’s Josh’s age but one looks my age. Ain’t that cool?”
“That’s wonderful, honey,” Jensen’s mom said. She reckoned that if Jensen had been a puppy instead of a little boy his tail would be wagging a mile a minute right then with his exuberance.
Donna Ackles was pleased to see her youngest so excited about the new family next door. She’d been worrying about his shyness and how kindergarten would affect him in the fall but if he had a friend that he already knew maybe it wouldn’t be such a shock to her sensitive little boy. She decided then and there to bring Jensen with her when she delivered a ‘welcome to the neighbourhood’ casserole later that evening.
When Jensen finally met Jared Padalecki the nameless anxiety that he had always felt fluttering in his chest was instantly soothed and he knew that Jared was the best friend he would ever have. This skinny boy with the brown hair and hazel eyes felt more like a brother than his own ever had. When Jared grinned at him for the first time and his dimples winked playfully at him, Jensen felt a wave of contentment and belonging that he’d been unconsciously searching for for all his five years.
From that moment on Jensen and Jared were inseparable. They went to kindergarten together in the fall and spent every afternoon playing together in the backyard of one of the houses. When Jensen’s little sister was born he spent a lot of the time at Jared’s house and even got to sleep over at weekends. When Jared’s sister was born a year later Jensen was delighted because Jared got to sleep over at Jensen’s house every weekend.
During the summer that Jared turned twelve the two boys, with a little help from their dads, built a tree house in Jensen’s backyard. They formed the J Club, of which there were only two members, and used the tree house for official club business. Official club business mostly consisted of reading comics, listening to Jared’s portable radio and pretending to be pirates.
When Jensen realised during his freshman year of high school that he liked guys instead of girls Jared was the first person that he told. Jared didn’t freak out and even stood next to him, offering silent moral support, when Jensen told his parents a week later. Jensen hadn’t known what to expect when it came to his parents’ reaction but Donna just kissed him on the forehead and thanked him for telling them and Alan pulled him into a gruff one-armed hug and muttered something about him still being their son.
A year later Jensen didn’t tell Jared that he had fallen in love with him.
During high school Jensen had discovered a love of photography and took photos for the school paper. Jared, meanwhile, had flourished as a writer and made regular contributions to the paper too. For some of the major events at school Jensen would take photos of the things Jared was writing about. He got a warm glow in his chest whenever he saw an article topped with the words ‘Article by Jared Padalecki, photos by Jensen Ackles’.
Jensen decided to turn his love of photography into a career and applied to a prestigious photography school in New York. He was proud of the portfolio he sent with his application and was delighted when he got accepted. Soon after Jensen got his letter of acceptance he learned that Jared wanted to be a writer and wasn’t moving anywhere after high school.
Jensen had a decision to make: stay in Texas with Jared and work taking photos for the local newspaper or move to New York to train with some of the most brilliant photographers of his time and work on his dream of being an artist who used a camera instead of paints and a brush.
He really should have chosen New York.
Chapter 2: Part One
Jensen stared morosely into his beer as the jukebox at the back of the bar spewed out some forgettable pop song that was in the charts at the moment. Jensen was usually pretty content with his life but his birthday was fast approaching and every year it was another reminder of all the things he had yet to achieve with his life. He snorted when he mentally added losing his virginity to the list, along with being the kind of photographer he wanted to be and telling Jared how he felt.
Jensen rested his elbows on the bar and let his head hang down until his forehead threatened to hit the bar. He was waiting for Jared but, unusually for him, his giant of a friend was running late. Jensen had never really joined the 21st century and didn’t own a cell phone so he had no real way of contacting Jared to see what was keeping him.
Jensen was just getting depressed enough to think that Jared had decided to stand him up when Jared arrived in a flurry of limbs. He signalled for a beer as he took a seat next to Jensen and bumped his shoulder companionably. “Hey man, sorry I’m late,” he dimpled. “You’ll never guess who I met at the bookstore.”
Jensen really should have known that it was work that was keeping Jared. He might only be working at the bookstore to keep himself in food, clothes and rent while he worked on the great American novel but he took it very seriously. Jared was infamous for spending hours helping people search for the books they were looking for, whether it be checking each and every shelf or trawling through website after website for the more obscure texts.
“Dude, you haven’t guessed,” Jared poked Jensen in the side playfully when he didn’t offer any suggestions.
“You told me I’d never guess and I don’t attempt the impossible until I’ve had at least two more beers than I’ve currently had,” Jensen smirked down into his glass. Jared heaved a world weary sigh but Jensen could tell he didn’t mean it by the playful gleam still lighting up Jared’s eyes.
“It was Sandy,” Jared exclaimed finally when he could no longer hold it in. Jensen had to suppress a groan. Jared had spent the four years of high school with a massive crush on the unobtainable Miss Sandy McCoy. Jensen laughed bitterly at himself, not that a hyped up Jared noticed. He and Jared made a fine pair; Jared pined after Sandy for four years and for three of those four years Jensen pined over Jared. It had been five years since they graduated from high school but it seemed like neither of the two friends had managed to move on.
“Did you actually talk to her instead of making those high pitched dolphin noises I miss so much from our high school glory days?” Jensen might be wildly jealous of Jared’s crush on Sandy but he still had appearances to maintain. He was cunning like that.
“Dude, shut up,” Jared ground out while a blush stole up his cheeks. “She came in looking for a book so I helped her out. Turns out we didn’t have it in stock so I special ordered it for her.” Jared had a goofy grin stretched across his face and Jensen was determinedly not staring at him. He focused instead on the stained and scarred wood making up the bar counter. Huh, was that a stain that looked like Elvis? “She’s gonna come back next week to collect it.” Jensen forced a smile onto his face. Awesome.
“Better break out the special aftershave in honour of her visit, Jare.” Jared smiled dreamily and Jensen stuck his nose back into his beer. Jared’s crush on Sandy had been a lot easier to deal with when she didn’t know Jared existed.
Jensen poured some of the freshly brewed coffee into a travel mug and sipped at it while he drove to work. The bright and sunny morning was starting to dispel his bad mood and he felt the tension in his shoulders gradually lessen as he drove through the light traffic on his way to The Bugle. It was a source of endless amusement for Jensen that he was working as a photographer for a paper called The Bugle. Give him a radioactive spider, spandex and a clichéd catchphrase and he’d be set for a life of crime fighting. Pity he didn’t have the option of falling back on mad scientist skills if he ever lost his job; science had always been more Jared’s thing than Jensen’s.
Just thinking about Jared had Jensen’s bad mood threatening to make a return. Why did Sandy have to go looking for her oh, so obscure book at the store where Jared worked, anyway? Was Barnes & Noble not good enough for her? Hell,Jensen did all of his book shopping at Amazon. Not that he’d ever admit it to Jared, of course. Whenever Jared noticed a new book at Jensen’s apartment he pretended that he’d gotten it through the paper. Jensen wasn’t quite sure why he avoided the store where Jared worked but if Amazon was good enough for Jensen then it was more than good enough for Sandy ‘I’m more popular than you’ll ever be’ McCoy.
Jensen wasn’t bitter about being invisible at high school while popular kids like Sandy had teachers bending over backwards to help them get through their classes with as little effort as possible. Jensen was positive that the ability to form a human pyramid would soon be discovered to solve the problem of world hunger, cure cancer and stop male pattern baldness. Okay, so maybe he was a little bitter.
Jensen parked in the paper’s underground car park and resolved not to think about Jared and Sandy any more. After all, Sandy had never paid any attention to Jared in high school so it wasn’t like she was going to be interested in him now. Jensen conveniently forgot the fact that Jared wasn’t interested in Jensen, either. He really needed to keep that bad mood at bay so he cheerfully rejected reality and substituted his own.
Jensen ambled from his car to the elevator. He hummed to himself while he made the quick trip up to the second floor and fiddled with the strap on his messenger bag. The elevator doors opened with a cheerful ‘ding’ and Jensen rolled his shoulders in preparation for a hard day’s work. Well, a day’s work at any rate. Nothing very newsworthy ever happened in this quiet corner of Texas so Jensen usually ended up covering human interest pieces. Not that he was anxiously waiting for the day when his photos would end up on the front page - above the fold, thank you very much – but it would be nice to occasionally be somewhere besides page seventeen with a photo of Percy the parrot who could deliver Hamlet’s famous ‘To be, or not to be’ soliloquy. Sometimes parrots hit too close to home with their awesome talents, you know?
Jensen slumped down in front of his computer and idly spun around in his chair as he waited for it to boot up. He was feeling slightly nauseated from the spinning by the time it was ready. He launched his email program and waited another eternity for his inbox to appear. Needing a laugh, he quickly checked his spam folder once the email program was up and running. He was disappointed to find only three emails waiting for him. He clicked on the one that looked the most absurd and hoped for the best.
All men aware and all of them are afraid of the fact that at the important moment male love gun can just refuse to stay!
Jensen chuckled to himself. He didn’t have to worry about his male love gun embarrassing him unless it was an embarrassment of a different kind. Damn Jared for being so hot. Jensen deleted the rest of the junk mail and went back to his inbox. He had never bothered setting up a personal email address so everything ended up being sent to his work account. There was the usual amount of boring work related stuff – seriously, what did he care if some form that had nothing to do with him had been mislaid by someone he’d never met and why did they feel the need to inform every single person in the building? Jensen smiled when he scrolled down a little and found an email from Steve.
Haven’t talked in a while, man. How’s life treating you? You
still snapping away at The Bugle? You better be! If you ever leave you
have got to get yourself another email address, you hear me? Otherwise
how would I know you’re still alive, you never seem to be at home
when I call you. If you’re not careful I’m going to start
having phone sex with your answering machine. *evil grin*
Anyway, Chris and I have managed to find a club where we can play every
weekend. The pay’s not great but at least it’s exposure, you
know? We’re hoping to get a bit of a following going and then work
our way up towards the top of the music scene. Dreaming big,
Mail me back, dude! I miss your ugly face.
P.S. Chris says hi!
Jensen smiled while he read the email. Back in high school Jared had been his best friend but that didn’t mean he was Jensen’s only friend. He can’t quite remember how it happened but he and Jared had ended up making friends with Steve and Chris some time during their junior year. Steve and Chris were musicians, which seemed unbearably cool to two guys who worked on the school paper. Most of Jensen’s weekends during senior year were spent at Steve’s house, lounging in the den and smoking pot while listening to Chris sing along to the strumming of Steve’s guitar. Jared had always been sprawled out on the couch with a foot tapping in rhythm with the music their friends created. It hadn’t been the same since Steve and Chris had left for L.A. three months previously to try and find their big break.
Glad to hear you’re finally getting paying gigs. Who did Chris
have to sleep with to score that? I know you better than to think
you’d have been the one that did the nasty with some woman old
enough to be your mother. j/k! =P
Nothing new with me, I’m afraid. I’m still covering the
essential news items of the day for The Bugle. I’m pretty sure I
have the important task of taking a picture of a beagle who can bark to
the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star later today. Oh, the humanity!
Talk to you soon,
Jensen sorted through the rest of his mail and then dealt with the few pieces of paperwork that had been left on his desk. When he found nothing that urgently required his attention he quietly locked his computer and made a beeline for the break room. He seriously needed more caffeine if he was going to make it through the morning without nodding off in front of his computer.
Jensen had just finished stirring his newly made cup of coffee when Danneel entered the break room. Jensen got on with her for the most part but she had the unsettling habit of trying to flirt with him. She knew he was gay – he’d decided not to hide it anymore when he left high school – but Danneel was one of those women that thought a guy who said he was gay just hadn’t found the right woman yet. For his sins, Danneel seemed to think she was the right woman for Jensen.
“Mornin’, Danneel,” Jensen murmured as she reached up to snag a mug from the top shelf. There were mugs closer to her but by reaching up as she had her top rode up a few inches to reveal her bare stomach. Jensen smirked to himself at the display and his total lack of interest. If, on the other hand, it had been Jared who had been flashing him some skin, he’d have a whole load of interest. Jensen flushed slightly at the thought and Danneel seemed to think the dull red colour invading Jensen’s cheeks was due to her unsubtle display. Dammit.
“Good morning, Jensen,” Danneel drawled while she stared at him with a hint of a smirk playing at her lips. “Did you have a good weekend?”
“It wasn’t bad.” Jensen pursed his lips as he remembered Jared’s excitement about Sandy the evening before. “How was yours? Did you do anything exciting?”
“Not really,” Danneel shrugged. “There’s a movie that I really want to see showing at the theatre in town but I had no one to go with. I’d feel weird going by myself, you know? If only I knew someone who’d go with me.” She was looking up at him hopefully through her eyelashes while she made herself a cup of coffee.
“That’s a pity, alright.” Jensen wasn’t going to fall for that one. “Was it the new Kevin Bacon one? I think I overheard Sue in Accounts asking if anyone wanted to go see it with her last week. Who knows, maybe you can go together if she still hasn’t seen it?” She tried to hide it but Jensen could still detect Danneel’s displeasure at Jensen’s solution. Ha! 1-0 to Jensen.
“Oh… cool. I’ll ask her about it later,” Danneel plastered a weak smile on her face. Jensen could see her trying to come up with some other way to wrangle a date-like activity out of him so he quickly made his excuses and got the hell out of Dodge.
Jensen spent the rest of the morning looking busy and preparing for his afternoon shoot of Bobby the wonder beagle. How was he supposed to photograph a dog whose claim to fame was the ability to do a trick you needed to hear being performed? He was looking for any and all distractions from this dilemma when he noticed the new email icon flashing at the bottom of his screen. He smiled to himself when he saw that it was from Jared. When he opened the email, however, the smile was wiped from his face.
Sandy just came in to the store again. It was for a totally different
book and she came straight to me for help!!1! Do you think she’s interested in me??
Dude, what do I do?! *flails*
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to check your email. Hello, bad mood, welcome back!
He promptly forgot all about Jensen when he turned away from the shelf he was working on and found Sandy standing behind him. She was staring up at him and Jared flushed in embarrassment as he wondered exactly how long she’d been there and whether he had been humming anything particularly lame. He completely blanked on what tune he had been murdering and his mouth went as dry as a desert while he continued to stare down at the smiling Sandy. Jared bit his tongue in an effort to moisten his mouth and did his best to smile back at her in a non-psycho way.
“Sandy, hey! Can I do anything for you?” Jared winced at the shaky quality to his voice. It was hard to play it cool though when the girl he had been secretly in love with for what seemed like forever started to notice he existed. She was gorgeous with her dark hair and eyes and glowing skin. She also smelled really, really good. Jared surreptitiously moved a little closer to try and catch more of her scent.
“Hi, Jared,” Sandy smiled at him. “I’m sorry to be bothering you again so soon but I realised last night that there’s another book I need. I managed to find it but it’s up on a shelf I can’t reach. I was wondering if you could lend me some of your height for a minute?” Sandy let her gaze travel up and down the length of Jared’s body. Jared froze in place. Was she flirting with him? He cursed his lack of dating experience. He was sure there was a secret handbook out there that was handed down to you the moment you started dating and it went through this kind of thing.
“Sure, just put me where you need me.” Jared winced at his pathetic attempt to flirt back. He followed her over to a different section of the store and tried to think of something to talk about. He was still struggling for the perfect conversation starter, while trying not to stare too obviously at Sandy’s ass in the skin tight jeans she was wearing, when he couldn’t help but notice that they’d passed two other employees. They had both been working closer to where Sandy’s book was but she had bypassed them both to ask Jared for help. He was suddenly feeling a lot better about himself and started to feel some of his usual confidence fill him up again.
“It’s really good to see you again, Sandy. I don’t remember you coming in here before so I wasn’t expecting two visits in two days,” Jared smiled playfully down at her as they reached the shelf her book was on.
“I only just moved back home,” she smiled back at Jared. “I’ve been living in Dallas for the last few years but it was time to come home, you know? I’m renting a place close to here and I noticed the store when I was out walking yesterday. I love books so it’s a real treat to have such a big bookstore so close to home.” She grinned happily as Jared handed her the book that had been out of her reach. “Thanks, Jared!”
“My pleasure,” he grinned. “If you ever need help with anything I’m always here to lend a hand. Or a few feet.” Sandy grinned and gave a small wave as she said goodbye and made her way towards the front of the store to pay for her book. Jared was filled with excitement and made a beeline for a free computer so he could email Jensen. He wasn’t exactly sure what was happening with Sandy but he wanted to share his delight and nervousness with his best friend.
Jensen took a deep breath and released it slowly. It was game night so he was standing outside Jared’s door waiting for him to answer Jensen’s knock. Jensen was sure he was going to have to listen to Jared tell him all about Sandy’s second visit to the store and he wasn’t looking forward to it one little bit. Jensen might be in love with his straight best friend but he wasn’t a masochist for God’s sake.
Jared threw open his door and gave Jensen a wide smile. He ushered Jensen in and all but bounced over to the couch. Jensen grabbed Jared’s spare laptop and stole glances at Jared out of the corner of his eye as he booted it up. Jared looked so happy and full of life. Yeah, Jensen was going to hear all about Sandy, alright.
While the game started up Jensen took the opportunity to grab a beer from the fridge and passed a second one to Jared as he sat down again. Jared nodded his thanks and Jensen logged into his game account.
“What server are we on tonight?”
“I’m thinking Freedom.”
“I’m trying to get my defender to 50, if that’s ok?”
“Yeah, sure. Let me log in my blaster. I think he’s level 48 or so, been a while since I played him so I’m not sure. Reckon you can keep him alive this time?”
“Dude!” Jared exclaimed, “just ‘cause I’m a defender that does not mean I have to heal your ass. If you were that worried about faceplanting you should have picked up Aid Self or something.”
“Tsk, tsk, who needs a defender that can’t heal?” Jensen was purposefully trying to rile Jared. He figured that the more he needled Jared the less likely he was to remember his encounter with Sandy. It seemed to work for a while but as the evening wore on it was obvious Jared was just biding his time before bringing it up.
“So, I saw Sandy again today,” Jared eventually said.
“Yeah, I saw your email,” Jensen murmured. He honestly wasn’t sure how he, as Jared’s best friend, was supposed to react in this situation. Was he supposed to mock Jared? Egg him on? He knew what he really wanted to say but he didn’t think Jared would be very receptive to declarations of undying gay love. Otherwise he would have tried it out at some point over the last eight years.
“I think she’s into me, man,” Jared smiled stupidly down at his keyboard. Jensen didn’t react immediately but it was easy to pretend that it was because he was too engrossed in defeating a mob that had suddenly ambushed his rear. Heh. When he could no longer claim to be too busy fighting to reply Jensen looked up at his friend.
“She’d be a fool not to be,” Jensen swallowed thickly. Oh, so that was the approach he was taking. Well, he’d had plenty of practice at being supportive of Jared so why stop now? If Sandy and Jared actually did end up going out it would be better for Jensen in the long run if he wasn’t being a dick about Sandy. Jensen had heard the phrase ‘bros before hoes’ but he had the sneaking suspicion that given the choice between Jensen and Sandy Jared would pick her over Jensen. Some might think he was being pessimistic but Jensen liked to think it was just realistic.
“Thanks, man,” Jared smiled warmly at Jensen. Jensen’s stomach gave a hopeful flutter at the look on Jared’s face but Jensen firmly squashed it down. Jensen knew that two things in life are true: Jared is straight and love sucks.
Professional purification of your organism in one day!
Suregasm grants the strongest female orgasms ever.
Maybe he’d point Danneel towards that one.
Jensen turned to his mail and smiled when he saw a postcard from Mike and Tom. They’d taken off for a year of backpacking around Europe and the occasional postcard was the only way Jensen heard from them. Jensen looked at the picture on the front of the postcard and grinned in amusement. It showed a man who appeared to be naked apart from a dirty old trench coat and a hat. He had his back to the camera and was holding his coat flung open to the apparent horror of the gathered cows he was facing. The tagline read ‘Expose yourself to Ireland’. He flipped the card over and continued to smile as he read the message Mike had written.
Out of the corner of his eye Jensen noticed a new email from Jared in his inbox. Jensen quickly clicked it open and skimmed down the exclamation and interrobang riddled message.
For the sake of his mental health he had better stop opening stuff from Jared.
Jared looked up from the display he was fiddling with to see Sandy entering the book store. He was pretty sure that his day was about to get even better. He looked down at the display he had been working on. Huh. Women dug guys who hung out around the erotica section, right?
“Hey, Jared,” Sandy said as she drew even with him.
“Hi, Sandy,” Jared smiled shyly down at her. Please don’t let her have noticed which section they’re in! “Do you need any help today?”
“I actually wanted to ask you something else,” she grinned impishly. “There’s a new Kevin Bacon movie on at the theatre but I don’t know anyone who wants to go see it. I was wondering if you wanted to go with me?” Jared blinked furiously. Was she asking him out on a date?
“Are you asking me out on a date?” Hey, there’s no harm in asking.
“Oh!” Jared exclaimed in soft wonder. He cleared his throat and straightened up to his full height. “Then I would love to see the new Kevin Bacon movie with you.” He grinned at Sandy so widely his dimples threatened to turn into creases.
They arranged a time for the date and chatted for another few minutes before Sandy had to leave. Jared stared after her and then took a moment to calm himself before he sent an email to Jensen.
Subject: U will never believe what just happened!!!
Sandy just asked me out. On a date!! We’re going to the movies
tomorrow night. What am I going to wear!?
I’m coming over to your place after work so u can tell me how not
to make a fool of myself tomorrow. *nods*
I’m so excited I think I’m going to throw up!!1
Ohhh… now I don’t feel so good. C u later! I have a toilet
with my name on it =(
Jared had to run like he’d never run before to make it into a toilet cubicle in time.
Sandy had been unobtainable during high school but that hadn’t stopped Jared from loving her from afar. He used to sneak out during classes whenever he could to watch her and her friends practice their cheerleader routines. He’d been awed by her athleticism and devotion. He’d nearly worn down his molars with the amount of times he’d had to grit his teeth whenever he saw her with her jock boyfriends. He’d known that she didn’t even know his name but he couldn’t help the pull he felt towards the beautiful girl.
Besides the Sandy situation Jared had enjoyed high school. Sure, he wasn’t popular but popularity wasn’t everything. He had had Jensen and his other friends so he hadn’t been short of people to hang out with. He’d also discovered his love of writing during high school. Some of his best memories were of he and Jensen working together to create the perfect piece, with accompanying photos, for the school paper. Though he had enjoyed writing articles for the paper he had soon come to realise that his true love was writing fiction. He probably should have gone to college and taken some creative writing classes after high school but Jared had been impatient to start work on his first novel. He might still be stuck on the first draft of that novel but everything had turned out okay, really. Jensen had stayed in town too and got a job with the local paper so he still had his best friend. Chris and Steve may have left town but Tom and Mike would be back after they finished exploring Europe so he didn’t feel lonely.
Jared’s humming faltered when he got to Jensen’s building and Mr Sinise glared at him as they passed each other in the hallway. There had been an unfortunate drunken incident whereby Jensen’s neighbour ended up with a flooded apartment and no matter how many times Jared apologised to him, Mr Sinise continued to glare every time he saw him. Jared increased his pace to get away from the disapproving stare that was burning a hole between his shoulder blades. He climbed the stairs to the second floor and knocked on the door to Jensen’s apartment. When nothing happened he tried knocking again. Jared frowned when Jensen still didn’t appear but shrugged and sat down in front of Jensen’s door to wait. Jensen had probably gotten stuck in traffic or something.
When Jensen finally arrived an hour later Jared had fallen into a light doze. He woke with a start from fantasies of Sandy when Jensen’s shadow fell over his eyes. Jared raised one eyebrow when he noticed the groceries in Jensen’s arms.
“I’ve been waiting for ages, dude,” Jared rebuked mildly. “You better have something in there that’s worth my while.” Jared smiled at him as he got up off the floor and stretched out the kinks in his joints. Jensen’s answering smile seemed a bit forced but before Jared could ask him about it Jensen was talking.
“I’ve got a carton of Chunky Monkey,” Jensen offered casually as he unlocked his apartment door.
“Awesome. I know I’m gonna regret it later but for now it’s awesome.” Jared followed Jensen in and stayed close behind him as they made their way over to the kitchen area. Jensen’s apartment was mostly open plan, with a separate bedroom and ensuite, so the bulk of the apartment was taken up by the kitchen slash dining area slash living room.
“I can never understand you, man. You know it’s gonna mess you up but you still eat it.” Jensen shook his head in bewilderment as he started putting away his groceries.
“What can I say, the draw of Chunky Monkey outweighs the effect it has on my digestive system. ‘Sides, I’ll be gone home by the time it gives me gas so you won’t have to put up with smelly li’l old me.” Jared stuck his hand out and made grabby motions when he saw the carton of Chunky Monkey appear from the brown paper sack. When Jensen handed it over Jared opened up a drawer and took out two spoons. “Do we need bowls?” Jared asked. He frowned when he heard a soft noise coming from Jensen but when he looked over he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
“Yeah, we need bowls. I’m not planning on sitting on your lap while we both eat out of the same carton,” Jensen said dryly. Something still seemed a bit off with Jensen but Jared didn’t know how to ask what was wrong with his friend. Jensen always deflected those kinds of questions unless you had damn good proof there was something up with him and all Jared had was an uneasy twitch at the bottom of his stomach.
Jared got a couple of bowls out of a cupboard, scooped some ice cream out into both and then headed over to the couch. He turned on the television and flipped through the channels until he found one that was playing some game he hadn’t known was on. Jensen settled down next to him on the other side of the couch and grabbed his bowl of ice cream off of Jared. There was silence for a few moments as they both enjoyed Ben & Jerry’s finest.
“So, I have a date tomorrow night,” Jared eventually said. Jensen nodded at him.
“I had heard a rumour,” he said. He was smiling down at his ice cream but Jared couldn’t really define what kind of a smile it was; it didn’t look very happy. Jared didn’t know why Jensen would be upset about Jared’s date, maybe he just wasn’t used to Jared having a social life that didn’t include Jensen? The more he thought about it the more Jared was convinced that that was the problem. They had been practically attached at the hip since they were five years old so it was only natural for Jensen to be feeling some sort of separation anxiety now that Jared was showing signs of having a life outside of the two of them. Satisfied that he’d worked out what was bothering his friend, Jared pressed on to more important matters.
“I’m freaking out, man. I don’t know what to wear!” Jared felt his stomach lurch like it had that afternoon. He quickly put his bowl of ice cream down on the table in front of him and concentrated on calming his breathing. He could do without puking again.
“You’re taking her to the movies, yeah? Go casual, dude. There’s no point in dressing up like a tool for a movie date. You have plenty of button downs that would be okay and you got a new pair of jeans last week that really suit you. They hug your ass in all the right ways,” Jensen said that last bit in a faux breathy voice and his eyes gleamed with apparent amusement. Jared was glad that Jensen seemed to be out of his funk from earlier. Jared’s stomach settled down after his Lamaze breathing and from listening to Jensen’s calm voice.
“Thanks, man. I just really want everything to be perfect, you know?” Jared smiled happily and picked up his bowl of ice cream again. It had partly melted while he had had his freak out but Jared just shrugged unconcernedly and dug in. He quickly finished and was busy licking his spoon, trying to get every last trace of the creamy goodness, when Jensen cleared his throat and shifted awkwardly in his seat.
“What movie are you going to?” Jared had to think for a second while he tried to remember.
“The new Kevin Bacon one, I think,” he said slowly. He looked up with a frown when he heard Jensen snort softly next to him. “What?”
“Danneel cornered me when I was getting coffee, wanting me to take her to that movie. I told her to ask Sue in Accounts.” Jensen suddenly laughed. “If you want a chaperone for your date I can let Danneel know you’re going to it tomorrow.” Jared glared at him.
“Do and you die,” he growled in mock annoyance. All in all he was feeling a lot better about his date with Sandy. He smiled fondly at his friend. “Thanks, Jensen.” Jensen glanced over at Jared’s affection filled expression. Something flashed briefly in his eyes but when Jared tried to get a better look it was gone.
“No problem, dude,” Jensen replied. “Now watch the game.” Jensen turned away and pointed at the television set to emphasise his order. Jared laughed and turned his gaze towards the men running around in brightly coloured uniforms. He frowned again as he started to pay attention to it.
“Who’s even playing?” Jared asked unsurely.
Jensen rolled his eyes and Jared had to manoeuvre quickly to avoid a punch to the shoulder.
Chapter 3: Part Two
Date night and Jared was beginning to freak out again. Jensen had told him which pair of jeans to wear but he hadn’t specified which button down would go best with it. Jared paced back and forth in front of his closet and resisted the urge to rip his hair out of his head in frustration. He was getting nowhere with his decision so he finally gave up and grabbed his phone. If he was lucky Jensen would be home and could advise him on what shirt to wear.
Jared dialled his best friend’s number quickly and waited breathlessly for either Jensen or his answering machine to answer. It was just about to be picked up by the machine when Jensen’s bleary voice came on the line.
“’lo?” Jensen sounded as though he’d been asleep and Jared frowned. It wasn’t that late so it was strange for Jensen to be asleep already.
“Hey, dude. Did I wake you up or something?” Jared asked.
“Yeah, I must have dozed off on the couch. Didn’t really get much sleep last night so I’ve been wrecked all day.”
“Why didn’t you sleep last night? Is everything okay?” Jared was worried. He knew Jensen had been a little off for the last few days but he’d just put it down to separation anxiety. If Jensen was having problems sleeping then maybe whatever was wrong with him was more serious than Jared had thought.
“Dude, it’s fine. I just shouldn’t have eaten ice cream before bedtime, that’s all,” Jensen was quick to reassure him.
“If you’re sure…” Jared said hesitantly.
“Positive. Now, what did you call me for?”
“I know this sounds pathetic but I need you to tell me what shirt to wear.” There was silence from the other end of the line. “C’mon Jensen, I’m freaking out here. I have,” Jared checked his watch, “ten minutes before I need to leave if I want to pick Sandy up on time.”
“Wear your blue one. It’ll go with those jeans and, umm, it brings out the blue in your eyes.” Jensen sounded a bit strained but Jared knew that if he asked Jensen about it again he’d just fob him off.
“Thanks, man. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Jared said gratefully.
“I’m sure you’d survive,” Jensen muttered quietly. “Now go, get ready. You don’t want to be late for the first date.”
“Bye, Jensen. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, yeah?”
“Yeah, see you then.”
Jared hung up and searched through his closet until he found the shirt Jensen had told him to wear. He gave it a once over and decided that it didn’t need to be ironed before he shrugged it on and buttoned it up. He grabbed his wallet and keys, gave himself a final look in the mirror to be sure he was presentable, then made his way out to his car.
Jared drove to Sandy’s place in silence. He’d have preferred to have had the radio on but he was terrified he’d forget to turn it off again before picking Sandy up. He knew he didn’t have the best taste in music and he wanted to create the best first impression he could on this date.
He pulled up outside Sandy’s door and gave one quick glance in the rear view mirror to be sure his hair hadn’t decided to do anything weird. Jensen had joked once that Jared’s hair was actually an alien only pretending to be hair. It was as good an explanation as any for the way it seemed to have a life of its own. Satisfied that he was looking as good as he could expect he got out and jogged up to Sandy’s front door.
Jared knocked and only had to wait a few moments for Sandy to open the door. He was speechless when he took in her appearance. Sandy was taking advantage of the nice weather and was wearing a flowery white summer dress. It had thin straps, a fitted bodice and a skirt that swelled out to swirl around her knees as she moved. Strappy sandals and a matching bag completed the look.
“You look beautiful,” Jared managed to blurt out after an uncomfortably long time. Sandy smiled at Jared’s obvious appreciation of her outfit.
“Thanks, Jared. You don’t look too bad yourself,” Sandy said as she let her gaze travel up and down the length of Jared’s body. He flushed and Sandy grinned wickedly. “I just have to grab my cardigan and I’m all set.”
Jared waited for her outside and when she came back out and locked the door he offered her his arm. She wrapped her arm through his and grinned up at him as they walked the short distance to his car. He opened the door for her, waited until she was settled in the seat, and then gently closed it again. He rounded the front of the car and got in to his side. Sandy was smiling to herself when he glanced over at her and Jared’s breath was taken away by how beautiful she looked in her happiness.
They made the usual, getting to know you, small talk on the way to the movie and Jared felt a wave of contentment overwhelm him. When they got to the theatre Jared insisted on paying for the tickets. He was going to buy the popcorn and snacks too but Sandy pouted at him until he relented and let her pay for the food.
When the movie ended Jared couldn’t remember a single thing about it apart from the way Sandy’s hand had felt in his. She’d grabbed at him during a tense scene and hadn’t seemed to mind when Jared laced his fingers through hers.
They both had early starts the next day so they decided to call it a night after the movie. Jared drove Sandy home and the conversation flowed freely and easily the entire time. When he parked in front of her house Jared jumped out of the car and rushed around to the passenger side to open Sandy’s door for her. She smiled up at him and accepted his arm for the walk up to her door.
Jared had had a wonderful night but his stress levels started to ratchet up again. Did he kiss her? Was she expecting a goodnight kiss? Why hadn’t he thought to ask Jensen about what to do at the end of the evening? Jared decided to go with a quick peck on the lips. Surely that wouldn’t be too presumptuous?
Jared leaned down and pressed his lips to Sandy’s. He’d intended to pull back at once and leave the kiss at that but Sandy had other ideas. She raised her arms, twined her fingers through Jared’s hair and opened her lips beneath his. Jared was surprised but quickly got with the program. He settled one hand on her waist and cupped her face with the other. He used the hand on her face to tilt her head at a different angle and hesitantly probed her mouth with his tongue. Sandy made appreciative noises and Jared grew bolder in his explorations of her mouth. Several minutes of the best (okay, only) kissing of his life passed before Jared drew back. He glanced at his watch regretfully but couldn’t help himself and pressed another brief kiss to her lips when he saw how adorable and flushed Sandy looked.
“I had a wonderful time tonight,” Jared whispered, his arms fidgeting at his sides as he resisted the urge to wrap them around Sandy’s waist.
“Me too,” Sandy replied huskily.
“I know it’s a weird date night but would you like to have dinner with me on Sunday? I don’t have work on Monday.” Jared shrugged apologetically.
“I’d love to have dinner with you.”
“Pick you up at seven?” Jared asked.
“Perfect,” Sandy grinned. Jared leaned down and kissed her again before he made his way back to his car. He got in and waited for Sandy to lock her front door behind her. He drove home with his music blaring at full volume. Life was freaking awesome.
When he got back to his apartment Jared wasted no time in kicking off his shoes and grabbing a celebratory beer from the fridge. He threw himself down on the couch and stretched lengthways across it. He checked his watch as he sipped at his beer and saw that he still had time to call Jensen before his friend headed to bed for the night.
“Jared, hey. How’d the date go? Did you sweep her off of her feet with your clothing choices?”
“Dick,” Jared said affectionately. “It went really well, though, so thank you for your help. I asked her out for dinner and she said yes so I must have done something right.”
“You asked her out for your second date already? Desperate, man, desperate. Way to come off as needy,” Jensen mocked him. Jared would be more worried about Jensen being right if Sandy hadn’t kissed him back the way she had.
“She still said yes,” Jared shrugged unconcernedly. “I’m not sure where to take her, though. I was thinking that new Italian place that opened last month. Have you heard anything about how the food is?”
“People at work seem to like it. The outside of the restaurant isn’t much to look at, they said, but the inside is supposed to be really nice and homey. Food’s to die for,” Jensen replied. “What night were you thinking of taking her? I can find out if they have any specials that night, if you want?”
“That would be awesome. Thanks, man. I asked her to go on Sunday night so I’m hoping it’ll be quiet enough that I can still get a reservation this close to the weekend.” There was silence from the other end of the line for several uncomfortable moments. Jared fidgeted where he lay stretched out on the couch but couldn’t listen to the sound of his own breathing for too long. “Jensen? You still there?”
“Yeah,” Jensen cleared his throat. “Yeah, I’m still here. You asked her to dinner on Sunday?”
“Yeah,” Jared drawled uncertainly. “Is there something wrong with asking her out on a Sunday?”
“No, not at all,” Jensen quickly inserted but Jared kept on talking anyway.
“I mean, I’m off from work on Monday so I thought that Sunday would be best. I wouldn’t have to cut the night short, y’know? I could let it develop,” Jared tried not to sound too skeevy but it was hard not to think about spending the night with Sandy. After all, he hadn’t thought he’d get a full make out session with her when he’d kissed her good night either.
“Sunday’s fine, Jared.” Jensen sounded strange again. “I was just surprised, that’s all. Wasn’t expecting you to make other plans for Sunday.”
“What else is happening on Sunday?” Jared frowned in confusion.
“Nothing, Jared, nothing at all. Listen, I’ve got to get some sleep so I’ll talk to you again, yeah?”
“Okay, night Jensen.”
As Jared pressed the disconnect key on his cell phone he felt a strange mixture of excitement and worry. He couldn’t wait for his date with Sandy but he was concerned about Jensen. There was something seriously upsetting his friend but he didn’t know what it was and Jensen wasn’t talking. Jared decided to give it some time. Jensen always told him everything eventually, all Jared had to do was wait until Jensen was ready this time.
In the meantime, Jared was feeling the urge to write for the first time in a long time so he hurriedly booted up his writing laptop and opened up a new word processor file. He knew he should be going to bed, he still had work in the morning after all, but he needed to get things down on paper while they were still fresh in his head. He cracked his knuckles, closed his eyes in thought for a few seconds and then dropped his fingers on to the keys. They flew over the keyboard for half the night and when Jared eventually headed to bed he felt content in himself like he hadn’t in a long time.
When Jensen’s alarm went off the next morning he reached over and turned it off immediately. He generally wasn’t a morning person but it wasn’t hard to get going this morning. It probably helped that he hadn’t gotten any sleep during the night and had instead spent the time watching the shadows on his ceiling. He knew it was pathetic but he was upset enough about Jared’s new date that he couldn’t sleep.
He couldn’t believe that Jared had asked Sandy out for dinner on Sunday. It was bad enough that Jared had even gotten a second date from Sandy, but Sunday? It looked like Jensen wouldn’t be celebrating his birthday with all the usual traditions this year. It had been depressing enough knowing he was going to be another year older but now he wouldn’t even get to have Jared’s company. Jared always took his mind off of things that were bothering him but it seemed that he would have to share him with Sandy in future. That sucked. Especially when it meant Jensen would be alone for his birthday.
Jensen was still sulking as he got in to work that morning. He didn’t like his job, he didn’t like his apartment and the only reason he was staying in this town was to be close to Jared. His family had moved away and settled in Dallas just after Jensen finished high school and even Jared’s family had moved to San Antonio a few years ago. With Steve and Chris living in California and Tom and Mike touring Europe there was nobody that he wanted to hang out with and nothing to do in this town anymore.
Naturally, the first person that he saw at work was Danneel. Perfect.
“Morning,” she said when she saw him. Her eyes widened in concern when she got a good look at him. “Are you okay? Jensen, you look like you haven’t slept in weeks.”
“I’m fine,” Jensen said shortly.
“Jensen,” Danneel began hesitantly as she placed her hand on his forearm. “I know we aren’t the best of friends but if something’s bothering you I’d like to help.” She raised an eyebrow at Jensen’s snort of derision. “Look, I know you’ll never be interested in me in that way but I had to give it a try anyway. You’re the nicest man I know and anyone would be lucky to have you. I guess I was just hoping that you were more bi than gay,” Danneel laughed at herself. “You are totally gay, aren’t you?”
“Yep, 100% homo,” Jensen agreed snidely.
“Pity,” Danneel sighed, ignoring Jensen’s bad humour. She grinned when Jensen just stared at her balefully. “What I’m trying to say is, I’d like to be your friend if I can’t be your girlfriend.”
“What?” Jensen sputtered in disbelief.
“I’m not very good at being friends with guys because I always think they’re secretly trying to get into my pants. With you, though, I know you’re very definitely not. I care about you and I want to be your friend. What do you say? Friends?” She let go of his forearm and instead stretched her hand out in front of her and waited for Jensen to shake hands. After several moments of consideration Jensen did so.
“Okay, friends,” he agreed.
“Cool,” Danneel declared. “Now, what’s bothering you?” She rolled her eyes at Jensen’s groan. “Now, now, I take being your friend very seriously. That includes listening to you bitch about all the bad things in your life.” She caught hold of his arm again and dragged him in to the break room. “Sit,” she ordered. She prepared two cups of coffee, one of which, Jensen couldn’t help noticing, was exactly how he took his.
“Now, tell Aunt Danny what’s the matter,” Danneel said as she handed Jensen his coffee and then sat down.
“I’m in love with my straight best friend,” Jensen blurted out. He sat back in shock. He’d never told anyone about Jared before and he didn’t know why he was telling someone who he had barely tolerated up to half an hour before.
“I was wondering if it was something like that,” Danneel nodded slowly in understanding. Jensen’s eyes snapped up from where they had been inspecting the lint on his lap. Danneel shrugged when she saw she had Jensen’s undivided attention again. “I asked around about you when I first arrived in town from Louisiana, wanted to know if I had any competition,” she smiled wryly. “Everyone agreed that you were very nice, very gay and never socialised if your best friend wasn’t involved.”
“Huh,” Jensen left out a breath of air and then dropped his head down so it rested on his knees. “Does everyone know that I’m in love with him?”
“I don’t think so,” Danneel mused. “I think everyone just thinks you’re painfully shy.”
“Yippee,” Jensen muttered sarcastically.
“I’m guessing that you’ve been in love with him for years, though, so that’s not what’s been bothering you lately. What’s happened, Jensen? Why are you looking so sad?” Danneel’s pretty face scrunched up with concern as she regarded Jensen’s dejected form.
Jensen raised his head up from his lap and found himself blurting out the whole story. He told her about falling in love with Jared in high school and the way that Jared only ever had eyes for Sandy McCoy. He told her how he’d turned down a place in the New York photography school just so he could stay in his home town to be close to Jared. How he’d ended up working in a job he didn’t like and never would because it was the only thing he could find that let him indulge in his love of photography. That he’d been content with his life until Sandy had suddenly moved back from Dallas and discovered Jared. That Jared had forgotten his birthday in his excitement over Sandy.
When he’d caught her up on the whole pathetic mess Jensen slumped down further in his seat and stared into her eyes beseechingly, hoping that she had some answer for his current predicament. Danneel leaned forwards and rested her hand on his shoulder in sympathy.
“That sucks,” she whispered.
“Yeah,” Jensen whispered back.
“If you want,” Danneel started hesitantly, “I could hang out with you on Sunday. I’m not trying to get into your pants, I swear,” she grinned at him. “And I know it won’t compare to having Jared with you but I like to think I’m good company.”
“I..” Jensen didn’t know what to say, he’d thought she might have some pearls of wisdom about getting Jared to fall for him. He hadn’t been expecting her offer of keeping him company. He’d never given much thought to hanging out with Danneel before but the prospect of spending Sunday night alone filled him with a sense of dread. “I’d like that, thanks Danneel.”
“Do you want to come over to my place? I’ll let you watch some dumb movie where there’s loads of explosions,” Danneel smiled winningly. Jensen laughed weakly and nodded his agreement.
When he headed to his desk a few minutes later Jensen didn’t feel better exactly, but he didn’t feel like life was crushing him down anymore, either.
Sunday was another beautiful day. Jensen hadn’t seen or heard much of Jared since he’d called him about his dinner date but from the few emails they’d exchanged it seemed that Jared had gotten his writing groove back. He was too busy to hang out as he was trying to get everything that was in his head down on paper for fear that his writer’s block would return as suddenly as it left. Jensen was happy for Jared but it still left him feeling very lonely. If it hadn’t been for Danneel’s suddenly comforting presence in his life Jensen would probably have cracked up by now.
Jensen stayed in his apartment for most of Sunday morning and afternoon just in case Jared suddenly remembered his birthday. He didn’t want to miss his visit or phone call, after all. When it got to be late afternoon Jensen had to accept the fact that Jared wouldn’t be calling him. Even if he had wanted to it was nearly time for his date with Sandy and he was probably on his way over to her and not to Jensen.
Jensen locked up and headed out to Danneel’s apartment. When he got there she gave him a big hug and wished him a happy birthday. He smiled at her in thanks then followed her into the kitchen to grab a beer. They moved out to sit on the couch where Danneel handed him a bowl full of chips.
“Nothing but the best for the birthday boy,” she smirked. Jensen laughed and settled himself comfortably on the couch cushions. He idly watched Danneel as she got up and rooted through the cupboard underneath the DVD player. “Lethal Weapon okay with you?” she asked as she glanced over her shoulder at him. When Jensen nodded she popped the DVD out of its case and inserted it into the player. She grabbed the remote on her way back to the couch and they were soon engrossed in the movie.
When the end credits rolled they decided that the night was still young and, with a quick break to stretch their legs and use the bathroom, they watched Lethal Weapon 2. Jensen had been drinking beer pretty freely the whole night and when he got up after the second movie he could feel a slight wobble in his legs. Danneel laughed at him when she saw the awkward way he was trying to balance himself.
“I have a spare room if you want to stay the night,” she offered. “I don’t like the idea of you trying to drive home in that state.”
“Yeah, I think you might be right,” Jensen agreed slowly. “Thanks again, Danneel.”
“That’s what friends are for,” she said simply.
When Jared got home after his date with Sandy it was very late at night. He’d gone back to her place after the restaurant and she’d let him get to third base on her couch while a movie played in the background. Even though Jared had the next day off Sandy, unfortunately, did not. Jared had left when the movie was over and kissed her thoroughly at her front door as Sandy saw him out.
Jared was still floating high on the endorphin rush of his successful date with Sandy when he happened to catch a glimpse of his day calendar out of the corner of his eye. Sunday, March 1st stared back at him in big red letters. A frown line appeared between his eyes as he tried to figure out why that date was so familiar. Oh, fuck!
He grabbed for his cell phone and quickly dialled Jensen’s number. A million and one apologies were waiting to trip off of his tongue but Jared got another unpleasant shock when it was Jensen’s machine that picked up the call instead of Jensen himself.
“You’ve reached 555-2418. I can’t answer right now so leave a message and I’ll get back to you. BEEP.”
“Jensen, I’m so sorry,” Jared started after a brief hesitation. “I completely forgot that it was your birthday this weekend until I saw my calendar. I swear, I knew it was coming up I just… uhh… didn’t remember it was so soon?” Lame, Padalecki, lame. “Anyway, I don’t know where you are but I hope you get this message soon. Uhh, okay. Night, Jensen. I’m so sorry I was a crappy friend to you this weekend. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
Jared felt uneasy when he went to bed. He couldn’t believe he had forgotten Jensen’s birthday. It was no wonder Jensen had been strange on the phone when Jared had been telling him about his date plans. As Jared fell into an uneasy sleep his last thoughts were of Jensen, and where he’d disappeared to tonight.
Jensen woke up with only a slight hangover the next morning, which he counted as a success. It was still pretty early so he quietly got dressed, wrote a quick note for Danneel and slipped out of the apartment. He turned on the radio as he drove home and tuned it in to a local country station. He hummed along to the song that was playing and let his thoughts drift to Jared.
He realised that he was being stupid where Jared was concerned. Jensen had settled for a lot of things in his life just so he could be near Jared. He’d given up his dreams of going to photography school and his secret wish to live in New York. After talking with Danneel during the movie marathon he’d begun to see how pointless it was to put his own desires on hold just to have Jared in his life every day.
“This is me, getting out,” Jensen murmured to himself. He had to smile grimly when he thought of Martha Jones telling the man she loved that she had to leave him, if only to give herself the chance to love someone who would actually love her back. Jensen sighed. It was all well and good deciding to get out, he just had to figure out what to do with himself once he got there.
When Jensen got home he saw the message light flashing on his answering machine. He hit the button to listen to his messages and had to smile when he heard Tom’s drunken rambling voice wishing him a happy birthday.
“Would have called sooner, dude, but the time difference is screwing with my head. I don’t know if I’m coming or going half the time. Who’s ahead, is it us? I don’t know. Mike! Do you know if we’re in the future or the past,” Tom yelled and Jensen had to cover his ears. There were sounds of a scuffle in the background and then Mike’s voice came on the line.
“Hey, Jensen. Happy birthday, man. We really would have called sooner but we went drinking instead and we weren’t expecting you to be out for the night. Did you get lucky?” Jensen could hear the leer in Mike’s voice. “We’ll be heading to France soon so expect a postcard of the Eiffel Tower in a few weeks. Catch you later, dude.”
The next message was from Chris and Steve and was so similar to Tom and Mike’s message that Jensen had to grin ruefully. When Jared’s message played the grin got wiped off of Jensen’s face. As he listened to Jared’s excuses a germ of an idea took hold in Jensen’s mind. Who said that his dream of New York and photography school was dead and gone? It wasn’t unheard of for people to start college in their twenties instead of straight out of high school.
The idea was still setting his mind alight when he got in to work that morning. He booted up his computer and tapped his fingers impatiently on his desk as he waited for the ancient computer to come to life. After what seemed like an eternity Jensen had a browser window open and pulled up the homepage for the school he had been accepted to before. After a bit of digging through the site he managed to get a phone number for the person in charge of admissions. He grabbed the phone on his desk before his resolve wavered and punched in the number.
“You’ve reached the Admissions Office of the New York School of Photography. My name is Sabrina. How can I help you?” The well-rehearsed speech tripped off of Sabrina’s tongue before Jensen had found his voice in his suddenly tight throat. There was an awkward pause while Jensen tried to work some moisture into his mouth.
“Umm, hi. My name is Jensen, Jensen Ackles,” he started nervously. “I was offered a place when I left high school about five years ago but I had to turn it down at the time. I was wondering if it would be possible to enrol this fall instead?” Jensen waited hopefully with bated breath.
“Please hold for one moment,” Sabrina said and Jensen could hear the faint sound of keys being tapped. “Ackles, was is?” she enquired.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Jensen nearly stuttered. He hated talking to people on the phone, it was one of the main reasons he had never bothered to buy a cell phone.
“Just one second,” Sabrina murmured quietly. “Ahh, yes. You’re in luck, Mr Ackles. It seems that there’s still a couple of places available. Will I put you down for one?”
“Yes please,” Jensen breathed. There were more faint keyboard noises and then Sabrina made a satisfied noise.
“Okay, I have you provisionally booked for starting freshman year in the fall. I’ll send some literature out to you as well as an acceptance form to sign. Is your address the same as the one I have on file for you or have you moved since?”
“Oh! I’ve, umm, moved since I applied the last time,” Jensen said in a daze. He gave her his current address and then said his goodbyes. He’d done it, he’d started the process of moving on from Jared. He sat back in shock and stared numbly at his computer. He didn’t know how long he sat there before Danneel’s hands landed on his shoulders from behind him. He gave a start; he hadn’t even realised she was back there.
“I missed you at breakfast,” she said. “You didn’t have to sneak out in the early hours of the morning, I was gonna feed you.” When Jensen didn’t respond to her teasing she slowly spun his chair around so she could see his face. “Jensen? Hey now, what’s after happening?” Jensen slowly raised his eyes up to hers.
“I phoned the New York School of Photography,” he said in a monotone. “I wanted to see if I could go there this fall, you know, since staying here to pine over Jared is only going to make me miserable.”
“And they said no?” Danneel surmised from Jensen’s blank expression.
“They said yes,” Jensen corrected. “They had some places left so they said I could have one of them.”
“Oh my God, Jensen, that’s wonderful,” Danneel exclaimed. She took a closer look at the panic that was seeping onto Jensen’s face. “It’s not wonderful?” she tried. Jensen made an abortive gesture that was somewhere between a nod and a shake of the head. She started to worry when Jensen began clenching and unclenching his fists unconsciously as he stared up at her.
“It’s… I don’t know how to describe it! On the one hand it’s everything that I’ve wanted since I first picked up a camera but on the other…” Jensen trailed off.
“It’s leaving Jared,” Danneel said sympathetically. Jensen mutely nodded.
“I’m gonna have to find somewhere to live, get a job, give my notice here, tell Jared I’m leaving…” Jensen trailed off into silence. After several moments of nearly freaking out, Jensen forced himself to calm down. He knew it was going to be hard to make a life for himself which didn’t include Jared on a daily basis but it was more than time for him to suck it up and move on.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Jensen declared quietly. He wished he sounded more convinced but Danneel seemed to take it at face value. She gave his shoulders a little squeeze and then let him go.
“I’m here for you, Jensen. Don’t forget that, okay?”
“Thanks, Danneel.” Jensen smiled at her as she made her way to her own work area. He checked his junk mail for anything that would bring a smile to his face.
Best Sexual Positions – Centuries Old But Still Great Postions Today!
Now to write an email to Jared. He’d have to word it carefully; he was still pissed and hurt about his birthday but he still wanted to be on good terms with him when he gave Jared the news that he was leaving.
Don’t worry about my birthday, man, it’s all good. You were too busy
freaking out about your date with Sandy so I’m not surprised it slipped
your mind. I know it wasn’t deliberate, so stop worrying.
Anyway, I had a pretty good time. I went over to Danneel’s place and
watched some movies. She made sure I had a bottle of beer in my hand the
entire night so I wasn’t complaining.
Actually, I kinda have some news of my own. I was wondering if you’d be
free this evening?
He sat back after he hit send and thought about the plans he’d have to make to have everything ready in time for the fall. His lease was running out in a few months so he had to decide what to do about his apartment. He’d have to give his notice and find a new job in New York. He frowned as he thought about that. Didn’t his editor have a relative that ran a small publication in New York? He got up and walked as casually as he could to the editor’s office.
“Hi Ed, have you got a minute?” Jensen asked as he poked his head around the door of the office. Ed was a portly man in his fifties who tried to cover the top of his bald head with one of the most atrocious comb overs Jensen had ever seen.
“Jensen, yeah, you caught me during my one spare minute of the day,” Ed joked easily. Jensen had always been secretly amused that his editor’s name was Ed but he’d never shared his amusement with anyone. He didn’t want to be stared at for his sometimes childish sense of humour.
“What’s up?” Ed asked as Jensen settled himself into the chair facing Ed’s desk.
“I wanted to let you know that I’m gonna be moving to New York in the fall,” Jensen said. Ed looked a bit surprised but not overly disappointed so Jensen felt safe in continuing. “As you probably know I’ve always wanted to go to the New York School of Photography. I called about a place and they said I could start freshman year in the fall. I’m sorry to be leaving you in the lurch,” Jensen carried on, fully aware that he was only buttering Ed up at this point. Jensen’s job was hardly necessary to the running of the paper and he had a job there more out of habit than any real need to have someone take photos of pets doing tricks.
“That’s fine, Jensen,” Ed said. “I reckon we’ll miss you around here but I can understand your desire to go.”
“Thanks, Ed,” Jensen said gratefully. He hesitated briefly before continuing. “I’m not sure when I’ll be leaving for New York but I’ll let you know as far ahead of time as possible. I was wondering, would you know of any place where I could try to find a job in New York? I mean, I’ll still need to work when I get there if I want to be able to pay my rent and eat.” Jensen thanked his lucky stars that he’d had the forethought to save as much as he could while he’d been working at The Bugle. It wasn’t much but it would go a long way towards making sure his New York adventure was relatively comfortable instead of a desperate struggle to survive in the city by himself.
“Hmm,” Ed hummed thoughtfully. “You know, I do believe my cousin has been looking for a photographer for his paper. It’s not got a big circulation, mind,” Ed cautioned as he peered at Jensen over the top of his glasses. “I can ask him, if you’re interested?”
“I’m definitely interested,” Jensen avowed. He knew that it would be nearly impossible for him to get a job working for a paper if he didn’t have any contacts. If he didn’t accept Ed’s offer he would probably end up working any odd job that he could find.
“Let me think,” Ed checked his watch and clicked his fingers when he saw the time. “He might be in his office if I call him now.” He picked up the phone and motioned for Jensen to stay where he was when Jensen made a move to give Ed some privacy for his phone call.
“Hey, Jeff,” Ed said cheerily. “Are you still on the lookout for a photographer?” He paused while he listened to the reply. “Yeah, I do think I can help you. I’ve got one here that’s moving to New York soon. Was wondering if I knew anyone looking for some talent,” Ed grinned at whatever Jeff said. “Well, he did get accepted to the New York School of Photography. He needs the job to pay his way through school.” Ed listened some more and then glanced over at Jensen. “When’s the earliest you can start?” Jensen had to think for a moment.
“My lease is up at the end of April so I could move then?” he said in a slightly uncertain tone of voice. “I don’t have anywhere to live in New York yet,” he added quickly. Ed nodded and relayed the information to Jeff. There followed a lot of nodding and ‘hmm’ing from Ed as he listened to Jeff talking.
“I’ll see what he thinks of that,” Ed finally said and turned his attention back to Jensen. “Jeff will employ you from the first of May if that’s the earliest you can move. He’d prefer someone sooner rather than later but because I’m his cousin, and he owes me a favour, he’ll hold off on employing anyone else. One of his other employees is loosing his roommate right about then so if you don’t mind sharing a place you can move in with him.” Ed continued on about what pay Jensen could expect and what the working hours were likely to be and Jensen took it all in with stunned bemusement.
“I don’t know what to say, Ed,” Jensen finally said. “That all sounds amazing.”
“Say yes,” Ed exhorted with a twinkle in his eye. “Then I can tell Jeff I found him a photographer and hang up.” Jensen nodded frantically and Ed chuckled as he told Jeff that Jensen had accepted the job and the offer of a place to stay.
“You won’t regret this, kid,” Ed said after he hung up. “Jeff is a great guy and he’ll be flexible with you about your working hours so you have time to go to school and study.”
“Thanks for everything, Ed,” Jensen managed to force out of his suddenly tight throat. He got up and shook Ed’s hand then made his way back to his desk. Everything seemed to be moving so fast. It was only this morning that he’d been stuck in his rut of a life and now he was planning on moving to New York in a little over eight weeks.
He got back to his desk and saw that he’d received a reply from Jared.
Subject: RE: Hey
I thought u didn’t like Danneel? What were u doing spending ur birthday
My date with Sandy was awesome but I’m still sorry I forgot about ur
birthday. I feel like a tool :(
I really want to hear ur news but I’m a bit busy tonight. Sandy called
me earlier and asked me over for dinner. I think she’s expecting me to
stay the night, if u know what I mean, so I probably won’t be home ‘til
Talk to u then?
Jensen stared at his screen in disbelief. He knew he couldn’t expect to have Jared all to himself at the moment when Jared was still in the Honeymoon period of his relationship with Sandy, but all he’d needed was five minutes of his time. Was that too much to ask for? He sighed and sent a quick reply back.
Subject: RE: Hey
Yeah, okay. See you tomorrow
Jensen didn’t see Jared the next day or the day after that.
You’ve reached 555-2418. I can’t answer right now so leave a message and I’ll get back to you. BEEP.
“Hey, man. I know we were supposed to meet up tonight but I kinda forgot and last night I promised Sandy we’d go out tonight. I’m really sorry, Jense. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.” Click.
I got your message when I got home last night. Are you free tonight?
I’m not sure, I’ll have to get back to you?
Subject: Last night
I didn’t hear back from you so I didn’t stay in. I suppose that means
that things between you and Sandy are going well?
You’ve reached 555-2418. I can’t answer right now so leave a message and I’ll get back to you. BEEP.
“Hey, Jensen. Not sure where you are right now, thought you’d be home. I know it’s been a ridiculously short time since I started going out with Sandy but, umm, I’m moving in with her. My lease was up and I was spending most of my time at her place anyway. Talk to you later, dude.” Click.
You moved in with Sandy?? I didn’t know the two of you were that
serious. Wow. Just- wow. I hope you know what you’re doing.
Subject: RE: wtf?
We’re in love, dude, of course we don’t know what we’re doing :)
Jensen sat back in his seat in shock when he read the latest email. Emails and phone messages seemed to be the only way they communicated anymore and Jensen opened each email immediately when it arrived. He kinda wished he hadn’t opened the latest one. He’d known, of course, that Jared was in love with Sandy, had been since he was fourteen years old and still not quite sure what his dick was even for. Rather stupidly it had never occurred to Jensen that Sandy might fall in love with Jared.
Jensen cursed his foolish heart. He hadn’t realised until now, when Jared’s very own true love story was shoved in his face, that he’d still nursed a small kernel of hope that Sandy would loose interest and Jared would be Jensen’s again. Stupid, stupid heart. It was just as well that Jensen was moving to New York soon. He still hadn’t given his news to Jared. He had wanted to tell him in person but hadn’t seen him since before the birthday debacle. It wasn’t Jensen’s fault that Jared was too busy with Sandy to hang out with Jensen, was it?
Jensen glanced at the calendar sitting next to his computer. He had less than three weeks until he moved nearly two thousand miles away. Jensen hunched over his keyboard and wrote a quick email to Jared.
So I never got round to telling you my news. Are you free tonight? Wanna
come over to my place and we’ll crack open a few beers?
For once Jared’s reply was fast in coming. Unfortunately it was also unsurprising in one way and shocking in another.
Subject: RE: hey
I’m really sorry, dude. Sandy is having some of her friends over for a
kind of housewarming party. We’re celebrating me moving in with her.
Otherwise I’d totally be up for cracking open a cold one with you
Jensen couldn’t believe it. Jared and Sandy were having a housewarming party and Jared didn’t think to fucking invite him. Screw Jared Padalecki, it would serve him right if Jensen moved to New York without even telling him.
It is better to go somewhere and buy disease treatment packs, or have them delivered to your threshold!
Not even his junk mail was making Jensen’s mood better.
Jared tugged self-consciously at his cuffs as he looked at his reflection in the full length mirror in the bedroom he now shared with Sandy. He could hardly believe that he had moved in with her. It still seemed like he was living in one of his high school daydreams. If only he’d known back then that he’d end up living with the vivacious cheerleader he’d loved from afar. High school probably would have still sucked but it might have sucked a whole lot less.
Jared smiled when Sandy appeared in the mirror behind him. She wrapped an arm around his waist and leaned her head against him. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and wrapped his own arm around her.
“You don’t have to be nervous, I’m sure they’ll love you,” she reassured him. Jared nodded and wrapped his arm a little tighter around her. “Did you ask anyone to come to the party,” she frowned up at him. “I’d love to meet Jensen. From all that you’ve told me about him I’m sure we’d get along famously.”
“It wouldn’t really be his kind of thing, I think,” Jared replied slowly as he gave it some thought. “Too many people he doesn’t know and his skin starts to crawl. He’d kill me for telling you this but Jensen’s kinda shy. Me asking him to this party would be a special kind of torture for him.”
“You know him better than I do so if you’re sure,” Sandy grinned. “I just thought it would be a good way for me to meet him. Maybe we can throw a party for your friends next week?” Jared smiled but shook his head.
“Jensen’s the only one still living in town these days. You can meet him another time, there’s no rush.”
“Are you afraid of introducing us?” Sandy asked coyly. Jared snorted in amusement.
“I just want to have you to myself for a while before I share you,” he replied with a devilish glint in his eyes. Sandy smacked him lightly on the shoulder.
“Now I know you’re just worried about the two of us getting together and swapping stories about you,” she teased.
“Damn, you’ve seen through my fiendish scheme,” Jared lamented jokingly.
They were interrupted by the sound of someone knocking at the front door. Sandy made her way out of the bedroom as Jared gave his reflection another once over. He was a bit more dressed up than he was used to but the brown tailored trousers hugged his ass in all the right places. He hadn’t been sure about the pale pink printed shirt he was wearing but Sandy had assured him that it complimented his colouring.
As he left the bedroom to join the party that seemed to have started without him Jared spared a thought for his best friend. He guiltily acknowledged that he’d been neglecting Jensen since he had started going out with Sandy and decided that he’d phone Jensen when the party was over.
Hours later, however, Jared forgot about the promise he’d made himself when a slightly drunken Sandy pulled on his arm and towed him towards the bedroom. The prospect of making love with Sandy drove all thoughts of Jensen from his head.
It wasn’t until he was sitting in front of his laptop the next morning that he remembered about the phone call. He glanced at his watch and realised that Jensen would be at work. Jared mentally shrugged and went back to the story that seemed to be flowing effortlessly from his fingertips. He typed ceaselessly throughout the day and only stopped when Sandy gently poked his side when she came home from work.
“Did you even eat lunch,” she asked in a tone of exasperated affection.
“Maybe not?” Jared admitted in embarrassment after thinking it over for a few moments.
“Come on, we’re going for a walk and when we get back you can help me get some dinner ready,” Sandy said as she pulled on Jared’s arm. He quickly hit Ctrl+S then let himself be dragged out the front door.
It was much later that night before Jared remembered about calling Jensen. He sighed when he realised it was much too late to be calling now. Tomorrow, he vowed, tomorrow he’d call Jensen when he got home from work.
It was two weeks before the big move and Jensen was on his way out of his apartment when his phone rang. He was behind schedule and was already five minutes late for his night out with Danneel. She’d badgered him until he agreed to go to a bar with her so they could have one last drunken night before Jensen got too busy with packing his life into cardboard boxes.
Jensen hesitated for a moment but then he sighed and picked up the receiver just before the answering machine picked it up.
“Jensen! Hey! I’m glad I caught you, seems like we haven’t talked in forever,” Jared greeted him. That’s because we haven’t, Jensen thought darkly. “I know it’s pretty short notice but do you want to come over tonight? Sandy’s out with her friends so we’ll have the house to ourselves.” Jensen didn’t like thinking badly of his friend but he couldn’t help noticing that he’d become Jared’s backup person to hang out with. Jared probably wouldn’t have even called if Sandy had been at home with him.
“I’d love to, Jare,” Jensen started apologetically. “The thing is, I already told Danneel I’d go out with her tonight. I’m actually running a bit late.”
“Oh,” Jared sounded stunned. “I didn’t know you were still hanging out with Danneel.” He swallowed audibly. “I’m not sure when I’ll be free again but if you already have plans…” Jared trailed off uncertainly.
“Yeah, Jare,” Jensen said quietly. “I’ll be seeing you, okay?”
Jensen sighed when he hung up. He wasn’t sure if he was glad he had a legitimate excuse for turning Jared down or not. He missed Jared with all his heart but he may as well get used to the ache of not having Jared in his life anymore sooner rather than later.
Danneel started to bitch at him when Jensen turned up at the bar thirty minutes late but she stopped when she got a good look at his face.
“Jensen? What happened?” she asked with concern written large across her face. Jensen would never have believed it but Danneel had turned out to be a pretty awesome friend once she stopped flirting with him.
“Same old,” Jensen shrugged unhappily.
“Ahh, Jared,” Danneel nodded knowingly.
“Yeah,” Jensen agreed.
“So what did he have to say for himself this time?” she asked when there was nothing else forthcoming.
“He called just as I was leaving to come here. Wanted me to come over because Sandy’s gone out for the night.”
“And you didn’t want to go?” Danneel frowned.
“Of course I wanted to go,” Jensen exclaimed. “But I’d already made plans with you. Plus, I was kinda pissed that he only wanted to hang out with me ‘cause Sandy was missing.”
“That mightn’t've been the only reason,” Danneel said reasonably. “I’m sure he misses seeing you every day.”
“If he missed me that much he could have tried a little harder to make the time,” Jensen muttered stubbornly.
“I’m gonna miss you when you leave,” Danneel sighed and put her arm around Jensen.
“You know, I’m gonna miss you, too.” Danneel punched him lightly on the shoulder at the slight hint of surprise colouring his voice.
“You’ll be crying yourself to sleep at night for missing me, and you know it,” she declared. Jensen smiled fondly at her and pulled Danneel into a hug.
“Thanks for everything, Danny. I don’t know what I’d’ve done without you. I’ll be miserable when I get to New York and won’t have you to talk to about my crappy day.”
“You’ll be okay, Jensen. You’re a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.”
“I hope so,” Jensen replied wistfully.
Jensen was due to start his new job on the first of May so two days before that he hitched a rented trailer to the back of his car and filled it up with all of his worldly possessions. He walked through his apartment one final time to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind and then handed the keys in to the building manager.
When he came back out to his car Danneel was waiting for him.
“You didn’t think I’d let you go without saying goodbye, did you?” she asked in a choked voice. Jensen felt his own throat tighten up. He opened his arms wide and Danneel ran into them. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her like his life depended on it.
“It’s not really goodbye,” Jensen gritted out. “It’s I’ll see you later.”
“Liar,” Danneel sniffed. “Why would you ever come back here? If I want to see you again I’ll have to get my ass to New York.” She laughed weakly and Jensen wiped away the tears that had spilled from her eyes.
“You’ll always be welcome,” he told her. They disentangled themselves from the hug a few moments later and Jensen nodded awkwardly in Danneel’s direction before he got into his car. He looked at her in his rear view mirror as he pulled out into traffic and tried not to miss Jared’s presence too much. Jared hadn’t called since the night Jensen had turned him down for Danneel and Jensen had been too proud to let Jared know he was leaving.
Jensen sighed as he reached the open road and hoped for a less complicated and more fulfilling life in New York.
Some products can make the night life of a man better. We got those products with discounts!
Chapter 4: Part Three
New York was simultaneously exactly what Jensen had been expecting and nothing like he thought it would be. After living his whole life in the same small town in Texas Jensen found the dichotomy endlessly exciting. He soon got settled into his new apartment and only got lost three times when he was first trying to find it.
It was strange to have a roommate after years of independent living but it turned out that Chad was remarkably easy to live with. It probably helped that Jensen was gay and didn’t impact on Chad’s increasingly ludicrous plans for getting laid by barely legal girls. Granted, Jensen didn’t have any experience with that kind of thing, but he assumed it wouldn’t be that hard to find girls willing to have one night stands in a city the size of New York. Chad was pretty attractive when he wasn’t being a douche, not that Jensen would tell him that, so he shouldn’t have much trouble picking up girls when he went out.
His boss at the paper had also turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Jensen had expected Jeff to be of similar age to Ed but when he’d gone in for his first day of work he’d been greeted by an attractive man in his mid thirties. Jensen wasn’t looking to complicate his life again with his apparent attraction to unsuitable men. He had to admit, though, if Jeff hadn’t been his boss and if Jensen hadn’t still been in love with Jared he’d have had no trouble with the idea of dating Jeff.
Jensen had been living and working in New York for three weeks now and he was loving every minute of it. He missed Jared like he’d miss a limb but the ache was getting easier to deal with little by little. He missed Danneel too but he emailed her from his new email address most days and she kept him up to date with the latest gossip from The Bugle. Jensen had been forced to buy a cell phone now that he was sharing an apartment with Chad so he called Danneel every few days just to hear her voice.
Jensen had cell numbers for all of his friends so he sent a text message to Steve, Chris, Tom and Mike to let them know he’d finally caved and bought a cell phone of his own. Jensen deliberated for the longest time about sending his number to Jared. His thumb hovered over the send key while he decided what to do but he couldn’t bring himself to hit that final key so he flipped the phone closed and put it back into his pocket. It seemed to burn a hole in his pocket but Jensen firmly ignored it. He grabbed his camera instead and set off to explore the streets of New York.
Life was finally beginning to look up.
Jared was feeling unsettled. He couldn’t pinpoint the source of his unease but he hadn’t been feeling right for a few weeks now. He was pretty happy with his life and couldn’t ask for more. He was finally writing a story of good quality and he was living with the girl of his dreams. Sure, he was fighting with Sandy more often than he’d expected to but he knew every relationship had its ups and downs. They were on an up at the moment and Jared was enjoying the feel of Sandy pressed into his side as they curled up on the couch together. Jared looked down at her when Sandy shifted in her seat to look up at him.
“I was just thinking,” she began. “I still haven’t met Jensen. Do you want to ask him to come over this weekend?” Now that Sandy mentioned it Jared realised he hadn’t spoken to his friend in weeks. He frowned in dismay. No wonder he’d been feeling out of sorts with himself. Jensen had been one of the most important people in his life for the last eighteen years and it felt strange not to talk to him every day. Jared knew that he was mostly to blame for the rift that had appeared between them. Jared hadn’t had a lot of time for Jensen since he started dating Sandy but Jared couldn’t understand or forget the way Jensen had blown him off in favour of spending time with Danneel. It wasn’t as though he was dating Danneel.
“Yeah, I’ll give him a call,” Jared said after a short pause. He grabbed his cell and hit the speed dial for Jensen’s number. Jared was confused when he got a pre-recorded message instead of the familiar ringing tone.
“The number you have dialled is no longer in service. Please check that you have the right number and try again,” said the flat female voice on the other end of the line. Jared knew he had the right number, how could he screw up when he used a speed dial? He tried once more just to be sure but he got the same message from the annoyingly monotonous voice.
“His phone doesn’t seem to be working,” Jared said slowly.
“Why don’t you try his cell,” suggested Sandy.
“He doesn’t have a cell,” Jared muttered distractedly. “He doesn’t like talking on the phone much so he never bothered getting one.” Jared got up and grabbed his spare laptop from the coffee table. He knew that any email he sent wasn’t likely to get a reply until Jensen got in to work the next day but Jared was feeling unsettled and needed to make contact with Jensen somehow.
Subject: Is anyone alive out there?
Hey, dude. Haven’t talked to you in an age. Just tried calling you
but your phone seems to be out of service. Email me back, okay? I miss
Jared had only just sat back down next to Sandy when his email program pinged to tell him he had new mail. He got up and grabbed his laptop eagerly but was rendered speechless when he saw the email.
Subject: Delivery failure notification.
The email to email@example.com could not be delivered. The
address is not valid. Check that the email address is correct and try
again. Raw contents of the email found below
>Hey, dude. Haven’t talked to you in an age. Just tried calling
>you but your
>phone seems to be out of service. Email me back, okay? I miss you,
What the fuck was happening? Before he realised what he was doing Jared was grabbing his car keys and shoes. Sandy got up off the couch and came to stand next to him as Jared stuffed his feet into his shoes.
“Jared? What’s wrong?” she asked tentatively. Jared snorted in derision.
“Everything’s wrong,” he spat out angrily and pushed past her on his way out of the house.
“Jared!” Sandy called loudly. “Please! Stop! Tell me what’s going on,” she demanded. Jared huffed out a breath in aggravation and turned around to look at her with one foot halfway out the front door already.
“There’s something weird going on with Jensen,” he explained tightly. “When I called his apartment the phone wasn’t in service and the email I sent him just now got bounced back. That’s never happened before. I’m pissed and worried and I just wanna go to his place to make sure there’s nothing the matter. Is that okay with you?” Jared asked snottily. Sandy glared at his tone of voice but just waved a dismissive hand in his direction.
“Go, then. See if your friend is okay.”
Jared left without a backward glance.
As he drove to Jensen’s apartment Jared felt bad about the way he had treated Sandy. She hadn’t deserved the anger he’d directed towards her and he was more angry with himself than anything else. How many times had he planned to get in contact with Jensen, but hadn’t bothered? He’d known that Jensen hadn’t been acting like himself for a while and that was before Jared basically ignored him for weeks on end.
Jared pulled up outside Jensen’s building with a screech of tyres. The car had barely stopped moving when he jumped out and ran up to the door of the building. He hurriedly aimed his key fob over one shoulder as he ran and distantly registered the sound of the car door locks engaging.
Jared took the stairs two at a time instead of waiting for the elevator. He slowed down to a walk as he got to Jensen’s door and took a couple of deep breaths in an effort to calm himself down. He reached out, his arm shaking with trepidation, and knocked on the door. He only had to wait a few seconds before it was opened but that wasn’t Jensen standing there. Jared stared dumbly at the strange man answering Jensen’s door. He felt his mouth working as he tried as say something but he seemed to have lost all control over his body.
“Can I help you?” the man enquired impatiently. “I haven’t got all night, you know.”
“Sor- sorry,” Jared stuttered. “I was looking for Jensen. He used to live here?” Jared winced at the questioning tone to his voice, as though he wasn’t quite sure whether Jensen had ever lived there or not. The man looked at him consideringly then turned and called out to someone else in the apartment.
“Mary, did the Super say anything to you about the previous tenant?” Mary appeared at the door but her full attention was on her husband. Jared swallowed harshly as he took in their matching wedding bands.
“Just that he moved out when his lease was up,” she said uncertainly. “He said the guy’s name but I can’t remember it for the life of me. It wasn’t a very common name. Let me think… Jameson? Jacin? It was something with a J.”
“Jensen,” Jared said sadly. “He’s my best friend.”
“That was it,” Mary exclaimed. She looked Jared up and down. “We’ve been living here for nearly three weeks. I don’t know where your friend moved to but he’s been gone for a while.” She squinted up at him as though trying to understand how Jared could have been out of contact for so long. Jared shuffled his feet nervously.
“So you don’t know how I can reach him?” Jared asked without much hope.
“’Fraid not,” the man replied. “You might want to check with the Super. He might have a forwarding address for him.”
Jared thanked them for their time then made his way to the Super’s apartment dejectedly. The Super was renowned for never being in when he was needed so Jared was surprised to find the man at home. To Jared’s disappointment he didn’t have any more information for Jared than the couple who’d moved in to Jensen’s apartment.
“Sorry, kid,” the Super said. “He gave me eight weeks notice that he’d be moving out when his lease was up but he never mentioned where he was heading to. He asked for any mail that arrived for him be sent to The Bugle. That’s all I know.” Jared nodded his thanks and made his way back out of the building.
He unlocked his car on autopilot and sat heavily in the driver’s seat. Jensen had been gone for weeks and been planning to leave for months before that. How come Jared never knew? He had a distant memory of Jensen telling him he had some news to share with Jared but he’d never found out what it was. Jared guessed it had something to do with Jensen’s sudden disappearance. He punched the steering wheel in frustration several times then stared blankly out the windscreen. It was too late to pay The Bugle a visit but he resolved to go there first thing in the morning. He was supposed to be working in the bookstore tomorrow but he was going to call in sick. Finding out what had happened to Jensen was more important.
Jared drove aimlessly around town before heading back to the house he shared with Sandy. He needed a bit of time to process his thoughts and decide on a plan of action for when he called in to The Bugle in the morning. When he eventually pulled up outside the house it was pretty late and there were no lights peeking out from behind the net curtains.
Jared let himself in as quietly as possible. As he made his way through the living room he stopped short in surprise. There was a bundle of blankets and pillows on the couch. Jared poked his head out of the room and took in the closed bedroom door. Looked like Sandy had kicked him out of the bed for the night. He was too tired to argue with her or try to make it up to her for his earlier unjustified anger. He shucked off his jeans, shirt and shoes then made himself as comfortable as he could on the couch. It wasn’t designed to accommodate people of Jared’s height but he pulled his knees up towards his chest and managed to fall into an uneasy sleep after only a few minutes.
Jared woke early the next morning after an uncomfortable stay on the couch. He clambered off the couch unsteadily and stretched to his full height in an attempt to unfold himself from the pretzel shape he seemed to have adopted.
It was still a bit too early to head to The Bugle so Jared sneaked in to the bedroom to grab a fresh set of clothes. He paused when he came close to the bed and studied Sandy as she slept. He had loved her for so long that he’d never imagined things not working out with her when they started dating. He had to admit, though, they had moved in together too quickly. It seemed like they spent half their time fighting about unimportant things. This wasn’t the first time Sandy had exiled him to the couch when she was pissed at him and the way things were going it wasn’t going to be the last.
When things were good between them it was awesome but Jared feared that the bad times were quickly taking their toll on the relationship. Jared tried to imagine how he’d feel if Sandy suddenly disappeared the way Jensen had. While Jensen’s absence felt like a black hole gnawing at his heart, Jared realised that he wouldn’t be as upset if Sandy moved away without an explanation. With the way things were going between them at the moment it might even be a relief.
While he was still reeling from that realisation Sandy shifted in the bed as though she sensed his presence. She woke up slowly and blinked blearily when she noticed him standing by the bed.
“Jared?” she croaked questioningly. She cleared her throat and tried again. “What are you doing?”
Jared wondered if telling her that he was watching her sleep would come across as romantic or stalker-ish. He didn’t like the fact that he didn’t know how she’d take it. He knew if it had been Jensen that he’d get an eyeroll and a punch to the arm while Jensen tried to hide his pleasure. And why was he comparing Sandy and Jensen, anyway? Sandy was his girlfriend while Jensen was… his best friend. He’d never considered what it would be like to be that intimate with Jensen, not even when Jensen had told him he was gay. He’d never thought he wouldn’t have Jensen in his life either, though.
“Jared?” Sandy tried again.
“Sorry,” Jared shook himself out of his stupor. “I was just gonna grab a change of clothes but then I got a little lost in thought. Sorry if I woke you.”
“It’s okay,” Sandy sighed as she turned over on her side, facing away from Jared. “I’m going back to sleep. See you later, Jared.”
“Yeah,” he whispered. “See you later.”
Jared grabbed his clothes and made his way to the bathroom. He brushed his teeth and showered quickly. He felt a pang when he realised that he’d never even thought of kissing Sandy good morning. When he first moved in they’d kissed every morning as soon as they both woke up, laughing softly into each others mouth and ignoring the sour taste of morning breath. Jared couldn’t believe how fast things had changed between them. He swiftly got changed and slipped out of the house.
Jared didn’t bother to turn on the radio as he drove the short distance to The Bugle. He wasn’t in the mood for cheery pop music and he was worried that listening to country would only depress him more.
Jared pulled up outside The Bugle just after nine. He was lucky enough to find a parking spot directly outside the front door and as he made his way in he attempted to smooth down his unruly hair. He would probably get more information if he didn’t look like a crazed stalker. Jared stopped at the receptionist’s desk and asked to speak to the editor. He’d met Ed Smith a few times during the years Jensen had worked for the paper and Jared found him to be a very agreeable man. He just hoped Ed had some information about Jensen’s whereabouts.
Jared was asked to take a seat while he waited for Ed to collect him from reception. He flicked through a magazine distractedly but he didn’t take anything in. It was probably a good thing he never realised he was busily flicking through a knitting magazine. Ed took in the sight with amusement when he arrived but he didn’t mention it to Jared and instead gestured for Jared to follow him. He led the way to his office and sat down behind his desk. He waited until Jared had settled into the chair on the other side of the desk before he started talking.
“Jared Padalecki,” he mused. “You’re a friend of Jensen’s, aren’t you?”
“That’s right,” Jared nodded earnestly. “I haven’t spoken to him in a few weeks but when I tried to contact him yesterday I discovered he’d moved out of his apartment.” Jared looked down at his hands as they twisted uselessly in his lap.
“I tried to email him but he only has a work email account and that bounced back my email.” Jared looked up into Ed’s kindly eyes. “I’m worried about him. It’s not like him to just disappear like that. Do you know what happened to him, where he’s gone?” Jared pleaded with his eyes.
“He moved away from town,” Ed said. “I’m sorry, Jared, but if Jensen didn’t tell you about this himself then I’d feel uncomfortable giving you any other information.” Jared stared at him in shock.
“You know where Jensen went?”
“But you won’t tell me?”
“I won’t,” Ed agreed.
“Please, Mr Smith,” Jared begged. “He’s my best friend! I have to make sure he’s okay.” Jared stared at him forlornly.
“I really am sorry, Jared, believe me. You won’t change my mind about this. If I hear from Jensen though, I’ll let him know you were looking for him, okay?” Ed said gently. Jared nodded despondently and shook Ed’s hand as he left.
Jared caught a glimpse of Danneel as he made his way out of the building and hurried over to her. He’d never talked to her before but he’d heard all about her from Jensen and he’d seen her picture in the paper a few times. It had surprised him when Jensen had started hanging out with her but she was probably one of the only people Jensen would have talked to before he disappeared.
“Hey! Danneel, right?” Jared asked as he drew up alongside her. She glanced at him and nodded. “My name is Jared Padalecki, I’m a friend of Jensen’s.” Danneel’s eyes widened slightly when he introduced himself but she gave no further reaction. “Do you know where Jensen is?” Jared asked hopefully. “I’ve been going a little crazy trying to find him. He just vanished into thin air.”
“I know where he is,” Danneel said slowly. “But I don’t think he wants you to know.”
“What?” Jared exclaimed in shock. “Why wouldn’t he want me to know where he is?”
“Jared,” Danneel sighed. “There’s things about Jensen that you don’t know about. You wouldn’t understand but he felt that leaving the way he did was the best for all concerned.”
“Best for all concerned,” Jared repeated in disbelief. “It’s not the best way for me. I’m worried about him and I miss him.” Jared was worried that he was starting to sound like a whiney two year old but Danneel was regarding him more closely.
“Can I ask you something, Jared?”
“Sure,” he replied.
“Why are you so upset about Jensen leaving? I mean, I know he’s your best friend. But is that the only reason that his absence has you so worried? Because if that’s all that you feel for him my advice is to let him go and don’t worry about him. Just know that he’s safe and is finally living out his dreams.”
“What are you saying to me?” Jared asked in confusion. Danneel sighed again and seemed to be debating something with herself. She finally came to a decision and gestured for Jared to move closer to her.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” she said in a low tone of voice. “But I’m hoping that somehow Jensen can still have his happy ending.” Jared frowned but Danneel continued talking before he could question her. “Jensen’s in love with you, Jared.” Jared sucked in a sudden breath in shock and couldn’t seem to make his voice work. “He’s been in love with you since he was fifteen,” she gave a sad little laugh.
“He never said anything,” Jared whispered, pained.
“No, I’m sure he didn’t,” Danneel agreed. “From what he’s told me I think Jensen was quietly living in hope that you’d suddenly wake up one morning and realise you loved cock too.” Danneel shook her head dispiritedly. “It wasn’t until you started going out with Sandy that Jensen finally accepted that you and he were never going to happen. I mean, it’s one thing to settle for being your best friend while hoping that you’d love him back one day. It was a totally different thing altogether when you hooked up with the love of your life. Jensen got kind of lonely there at the end.” Danneel got a faraway look in her eyes as she talked about Jensen’s loneliness.
“God,” Jared murmured guiltily. “I never even guessed he felt that way.” Jensen’s sudden odd behaviour when Jared started going out with Sandy was making a lot more sense now.
“There’s a reason why I’m telling you this, Jared,” Danneel interrupted his thoughts, gaze sharp once more. “I know you’re upset that your friend left without telling you but he’s happy with the new life he’s made himself. He’s making new friends and he’s trying to get over you. He’s giving himself the chance to love someone else. If you care about him as a friend then you’ll let him be until he’s ready to talk to you. But,” Jared looked up from where he’d been studying his fingernails intently, “if you care for him as more than just a friend then I’d say you should get your ass on a plane to New York.” Danneel smiled at his look of shock. “I guess he figured two thousand miles was just enough distance to put between you.”
“Where is he in New York?” Jared asked desperately.
“I promised I wouldn’t tell you,” Danneel said regretfully. “If you care about him, though, I’m sure you’ll find a way to narrow it down.” Danneel raised an eyebrow meaningfully. “I hear Tom and Mike are due back from Europe soon, maybe you should catch up with them.” She winked at Jared then sauntered off. Jared stared after her as a small smile played at his lips. Jared knew he had some tough decisions to make so he headed out to the front of The Bugle and pointed his car towards the outskirts of town.
He stopped once he reached an old abandoned children’s playground and got out of the car to sit on one of the surviving metal swings. When he was young he used to play here with Jensen under the watchful eyes of their mothers. He could barely remember a time before he met Jensen and he couldn’t imagine his future without Jensen in it. But was that the only reason he was wanted to track Jensen down? Out of habit? Or was there more to it?
Jared knew he had loved Sandy since he was in high school. When they had started dating their relationship had been intense. Now though, they spent more of their time arguing than they did making each other happy. He spent a lot of time walking on eggshells for fear that he’d upset Sandy and they’d have another fight. One that would end up with him contorting himself into new and unusual shapes on the couch for the night.
He’d never worried about that with Jensen. Sure, they had their disagreements, everyone did, but they always worked things out without the drama that seemed to have taken up a place of residence in his relationship with Sandy. But was it more than platonic love, what he felt for Jensen? Was it sexual? Could he have been in love with his friend all this time, and not realised it?
Jared closed his eyes and pictured Jensen’s face with its green eyes and freckles, strong nose and plush lips. He imagined kissing Jensen, holding his face in his hands and just plundering Jensen’s mouth with his tongue. Jared’s dick started to harden in his pants as he imagined making love with Jensen. Guess that answered that question, then. Now he just had to figure out what to do about Sandy. Now that he’d realised he loved Jensen all he could picture was the two of them growing old together, maybe they could adopt a couple of kids in a few years and raise a family.
Now that he’d thought about it, he came to the realisation that he’d never pictured what his future would look like with Sandy by his side. Getting to be with Sandy had been his end goal whereas that seemed like the starting step to something even better when he thought about getting together with Jensen. It just sucked that it took Jensen leaving for him to reach this particular epiphany.
He sat in the sun for most of the morning, making plans in his head about what he had to do if he wanted Jensen back in his life for good. Step one: break up with Sandy. If you’d asked him months ago Jared would never have believed he’d be excited about the prospect of moving out of Sandy’s house.
In the end it was a lot easier to break up with Sandy than Jared had thought it would be. He didn’t want to make Jensen a part of this mess so he told Sandy that he thought things just weren’t working between them anymore, that they’d moved in together too quickly. It wasn’t lying, exactly, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. If it hadn’t been for his feelings for Jensen he probably would have tried to work through their problems.
Sandy didn’t seem inclined to argue when Jared said he was going to move out so maybe she sensed that their relationship was doomed to failure, too. She silently watched as Jared packed his stuff into the same cardboard boxes he’d used when he’d moved his stuff in. Most of his bigger items were still in storage from when he’d moved in with Sandy so it would be easy enough to add the rest of his things to the locker.
“Guess this is goodbye,” Jared said quietly as he stood awkwardly at the front door of the house, one box balanced on his hip and another resting at his feet.
“Guess so,” Sandy agreed dully.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry things didn’t work out the way we’d hoped for,” Jared said. He wasn’t sure if he really believed that, he was hopefully going to have Jensen in his bed instead of Sandy, but he wanted to end things amicably.
“Me too,” Sandy smiled wistfully. “Bye, Jared. Take care of yourself.”
“Bye, Sandy.” Jared scooped up the box between his legs and juggled both boxes until he could put them into the trunk of his car. He gave one last look at Sandy, who was watching from her front porch, then got in his car and drove away. He was only going to a hotel but it still felt like the ending of one thing and the beginning of the next. All he could do now was wait for Mike and Tom to come home so he could find out where Jensen was. He would ask Steve and Chris but those assholes would want to know why Jared didn’t know himself and then not tell him. Mike and Tom would probably be assholes too but they wouldn’t make him suffer as long before giving an answer.
Jensen had been living in New York for two months and couldn’t believe how the time had flown by. He loved his job taking photos of people as they left the local court, which was a bit more exciting than taking pictures of people’s pets.
Chad had turned out to be a true friend and they spent a lot of time hanging out together, playing video games or watching movies. Jensen was endlessly sympathetic as he listened to Chad’s latest tales of woe about his love life and in return Chad never pestered Jensen about the obvious heartache he was trying to hide.
It was a Friday night and they were watching the first Matrix movie. Jensen hadn’t seen it in years and Chad was enjoying Trinity’s leather-clad body. Jensen thought Keanu was particularly hot in this movie but kept that thought to himself. He’d only be asking to be mocked if he told Chad he had the hots for Neo.
There was a tentative knock on the apartment door and neither of the two men made any move to answer it.
“Dude,” Chad drawled. “There’s someone at the door.”
“Yup,” Jensen agreed.
“Aren’t you gonna get it?”
“It’s never for me so I don’t know why I should.” Jensen grinned when Chad scowled over at him. Chad heaved himself off of the couch and made his way over to the door.
“You suck,” he complained as he pulled the door open.
“Only if you ask nicely,” Jensen retorted. There was an awkward pause and then Jensen heard a very familiar voice.
“Uhh, I’m looking for Jensen?” Crap. How did Jared know where he was? And why the hell did he come looking for him?
“Who’s looking for him?” Chad demanded.
“Uhh, Jared. Jared Padalecki? I’m a friend of his from Texas.” Jared sounded nervous. When Jensen turned around and saw the unwelcoming scowl plastered across Chad’s face he wasn’t surprised at Jared’s nervousness. The door was blocking his view of Jared but just the sound of his voice was making Jensen ache in all the old places. Chad glanced back at Jensen and let Jared in when he received a tentative nod.
Jensen took a moment to stare at Jared. He knew it was impossible but Jared seemed to have grown even taller since the last time Jensen saw him. He was a bit thinner looking and his hair hung dully in front of his eyes. He was obviously nervous but his eyes were bright as his gaze took Jensen in.
“Hey, Jense,” he said when it became obvious that Jensen wasn’t going to be the first one to speak.
“Hey,” Jensen replied gruffly. Chad looked from one to the other, then hooked his thumb questioningly towards the door. Jensen nodded gratefully and watched as Chad gathered his wallet and keys before heading out of the apartment. Now that they were alone Jensen didn’t know what to say.
“I broke up with Sandy,” Jared said hesitantly. Jensen was stunned and didn’t know what to say. It looked like Jared was waiting for a response, though, so he asked the only question that mattered.
“I realised I was in love with my best friend,” Jared shrugged helplessly. Jensen was terrified of getting his hopes up and couldn’t believe that Jared was really here, saying that.
“You did?” Jensen choked out. Jared nodded and looked at him sadly.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to figure things out, Jensen. I never wanted to hurt you.”
“You didn’t,” Jensen denied immediately. He could tell, though, that Jared was finally seeing through his mask of indifference, down to the very core of his feelings. He’d never felt so naked in his life.
“Jensen, I know that I hurt you, and I’m sorry for that. I behaved like an asshole when I dated Sandy and blew you off whenever you wanted to hang out. I’m so sorry that it took you leaving for me to realise what I had in you.” Jared ran out of words and his hands were bunched into fists at his sides. Jensen caught his lower lip between his teeth and was stunned when Jared’s eyes darkened with desire.
“Jare?” Jensen smiled shyly.
“Yeah?” Jared asked hopefully.
“You had me at hey,” Jensen smile wobbled as he looked at the stunned delight on Jared’s face.
Jared closed the distance between them and engulfed Jensen in a massive hug. He pulled back to get a look at Jensen’s face and Jensen kept his expression open, not bothering to hide all the love and yearning he’d felt for Jared all these years.
“Are you sure?” Jared asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Jensen replied, just as quietly.
Jared cupped one side of Jensen’s face with his hand and leaned down. He pressed a kiss to Jensen’s mouth and it was the most perfect experience of Jensen’s life.
Much later, after they had taken their time exploring each other’s mouths and bodies, Jensen leaned up on one elbow and peered at Jared’s face where it rested on the pillow next to his.
“What happens now?” Jensen asked carefully. He still had his job in New York and he’d be starting at the New York School of Photography in less than two months. He didn’t regret anything he had just done with Jared but he couldn’t move back to Texas with him. That wasn’t where Jensen needed to be, not anymore.
Jared traced patterns on Jensen’s bare chest absentmindedly. He’d told Jensen how he’d known where to find Jensen but he hadn’t mentioned anything about their future.
“I was just thinking about that,” Jared mused. “I can write anywhere, Jensen. Just give me a part time job so I can earn some money and my needs are met. I can do that in New York just as easily as Texas.” Jared shrugged with one shoulder. “You need to be in New York right now. Me? Just so long as we’re together I’m happy.”
Jensen felt his love for Jared swell in his chest and it seemed to radiate heat outwards to the rest of his body. He leaned down and kissed Jared senseless. He pulled back after a few minutes to stare down at Jared.
“I love you, Jare,” he declared. Jared smiled happily.
“I love you, too, Jense."
Chapter 5: Epilogue
Jared hummed to himself as he cooked breakfast one sunny Saturday morning. He looked out his kitchen window at the children playing in the backyard and couldn’t help but smile. They’d moved out to the suburbs when Jensen was finished school and Jared’s first published novel hit the New York Times Bestseller List. He and Jensen had adopted the little boy and his sister nearly three years ago and he was still amazed at how fast they grew. With their blonde brown hair and hazel green eyes they looked enough like Jared and Jensen that people often mistook them for a biological family. Jared got a warm glow in his chest whenever it happened.
Jensen always seemed to know when things affected him like that. He’d lean up, hit him softly on the shoulder and whisper “sap” affectionately in his ear. Jared grinned as he watched Jessie and Justin playing together with Harley and Sadie. The dogs had been a recent addition but Jared was certain that they had completed the family. Jared and the kids had wanted to name the dogs something beginning with a J but Jensen had put his foot down, claiming that there were already enough Js in the family.
Hmm, Jared thought, maybe we should build a tree house one of these days. The fabulous return of the J Club! He laughed quietly to himself and finished preparing the breakfast. He arranged it neatly on a tray and carried it up into the bedroom he shared with his husband. He set the tray down on a chest of drawers and poked Jensen awake. It wasn’t their wedding anniversary, that wasn’t for another four months, but it was still an anniversary and Jared wanted to celebrate.
“Hmphf,” Jensen moaned and Jared laughed at him. Jensen cracked open a bleary eye and glared balefully at Jared. “It better be at least nine,” he grated out. Jared checked his watch.
“Ten after,” he replied cheerfully. Jensen groaned again and buried his head under a pillow. Looked like the big guns were going to be needed. Jared crouched over Jensen’s prone form and proceeded to tickle him. Jensen tried to get away put Jared had him pinned in place and was relentless in his attack.
“Enough,” Jensen gasped out. “I give up!” Jared smiled and helped drag Jensen into a sitting position in the bed. He grabbed the tray of food from the chest of drawers and settled himself on the bed next to Jensen, the food between them.
“Ten years,” Jared said happily. “Ten wonderful years since I pulled my head out of my ass and followed you to New York.” Jensen smiled at him. “Happy anniversary, Jensen.”
“You know,” Jared said after they’d finished their breakfast. “The kids are probably going to be outside playing with the dogs all morning.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Jensen laughed at his expression.
“It’s been known to happen,” he agreed. The words were barely out of his mouth before Jared was pinning him to the bed for an entirely different reason.
Their life was by no means perfect but it was pretty damn close. And that was good enough for Jensen.