It is Jensen's understanding that there is a normal arc of human relationships.
Step one is attraction. He gets that one.
Step two is flirtation. He's pretty bad at that one.
Step three is dating. That's honestly going rather well.
Step four is cohabitation. Step five is engagement. Step six is marriage. Step seven is children. Step eight is death.
There might be some more steps on there; he needs more data. But right now, he's stuck on cohabitation. Because Jared's lease is running out in a few months and he keeps bringing up whether or not he should renew it. And Jensen knows they need to talk about it. He does.
But he's got a lot on his mind. He's been really busy with work, and life, and he's not at all scared of discussing living with Jared. Jared practically lives with him already. It would be irrational to worry about making it official. And he's not. He fully intends to talk to Jared about it like a mature adult.
After he and Chad and Gabe build a robot.
"A robot?" asks Jared.
"Yes," says Jensen. "You know what a robot is."
"Yeah, but why are you building one?"
"There's a round robin tournament," says Chad. "We're gonna whoop those other little bitches!"
"So you want to build a robot to fight other robots," says Jared, skeptically.
Jared shrugs. "Okay, I'm in."
Three hours later, there's a vote.
"You tell him," says Gabe.
"I don't want to tell him," says Jensen.
"He's your boyfriend," says Chad. "You have to tell him stuff."
Jensen sighs and runs his hand through his hair. "Fine."
Jared's in the other room, prodding the robot; Chad and Gabe, like the cowards they are, stay in the kitchen.
"Hey, uh, Jared," says Jensen.
Jared looks up. He looks happy. Jensen hates his life.
"Look, uh. You can't," he swallows. "We had a vote, and you can't work on the robot."
"Your ideas aren't really grounded in reality. Some of them aren't even physically possible," says Jensen.
Jared looks at Jensen for a long minute. "You took a vote," says Jared. "How'd it come out?"
Jensen looks away. "Three in favor?"
"Of kicking me off."
"You voted to kick me off the robot team," says Jared.
"I didn't say that."
"Jensen, I'm not retarded. I can count."
Jensen coughs. "It was for the good of the team?"
Jared glares at him. "Okay. Fine. I'm leaving."
Based on his knowledge of pop culture, Jared, and human relationships, he's pretty sure he's not getting laid tonight.
"You had to do it," says Gabe, patting Jensen's shoulder. "For the good of the robot fighting."
Jensen has to admit, robot fighting is really important.
"I'm not talking to Jensen," says Jared. He is, however, sitting on Jensen's couch channel-surfing.
"Then why are you here?" asks Jensen.
"Because my apartment is boring, mysterious voice that's coming from nowhere," says Jared.
"I always said you were too good for him, Jaybird," says Chad, sliding next to Jared on the couch. "You and me, we can mix this up."
"No we can't," says Jared, his arms crossed.
"You definitely can't," agrees Jensen.
"We're also not mixing it up, mysterious voice that's coming from nowhere," says Jared.
"You know, I'm kind of a big deal," says Chad.
"No you're not," says Jared.
"Bitch, I am worshiped by some cultures."
"Come connect the saw," says Jensen. "We've got work today."
Chad grumbles, but comes; Jared turns on America's Next Top Model with the volume way too high.
Jensen figures he probably shouldn't apologize until the robot's done. Just in case Jared thinks apologizing means he's allowed to work on it again.
"Jared," says Jensen, knocking on the door. "Jared. Jared."
Jared opens once Jensen's done with his knocking ritual, which Jensen thinks means Jared can't be too mad at him. Otherwise he wouldn't be indulging his OCD.
"What," says Jared flatly.
"We're gonna let the robot fight the toaster," says Jensen. "Want to watch?"
Jared looks at him for a long minute. "Yes. But only because it sounds really cool. I'm still mad at you."
"I'm sorry," says Jensen.
"That I'm mad at you?"
"Yes," says Jensen. "And also for voting you off the robot team. That was kind of shitty of me."
"Kind of?" asks Jared.
"Really. But it was for the good of the robot."
"You're a dick," says Jared, pretty mildly. "You were supposed to be my non-dick boyfriend."
"I told you that wasn't going to work," Jensen says. He did. He gave Jared full disclosure about his dickish tendencies.
Jared shakes his head. "You're still not totally forgiven, you know."
"Yeah," Jensen acknowledges. "Okay, Chad, go for it."
Jared leans down close and whispers in Jensen's ear, as the robot totally demolishes the toaster, "This would've been cooler if it had lasers."
"Yeah," says Jensen. "But also structurally unstable."
"Don't crush my dreams."
Jensen wouldn't exactly call Eric Kripke his rival. Kripke is just a guy. Who he works with. Who sometimes pisses him the fuck off.
"So," says Kripke. He's smarming. He's the kind of guy who makes Jensen use smarmy as a verb. Kripke is that guy. "I hear you made a robot, Dr. Ackles."
"Yes," says Jensen. "I did, Dr. Kripke."
"Actually I did most of the work, douchebag," says Chad.
"Yeah, a lot of that was Chad," agrees Gabe.
"Well, I designed it."
"I've got a robot too," says Kripke. "And my robot? It's going to kick your robot's ass."
"My robot's going to saw your robot into tiny robot pieces," says Jensen.
"My robot is going to disassemble your robot."
"Your robot isn't smart enough," says Jensen, curling his lip.
"Oh," says Kripke. "But it is."
"Oh. But it isn't."
"This is the fucking lamest trash talk I have ever heard in my life," says Chad.
"Shut up, Chad," says Jensen.
"It is! Jesus, the hell."
"Whatever," says Jensen. "Our robot's better."
"I think you need to put your money where you mouth is, Dr. Ackles."
"Yeah?" says Jensen. "Well I think that would be incredibly unsanitary."
"So now we're having a robot fight," says Jensen.
"Isn't that kind of the point?" asks Jared.
"Of building a fighting robot, doofus," says Jared. pulling a block of cheese out of the fridge.
"Are we still fighting?" asks Jensen. Jared nods. "Then why are you eating my food?" asks Jensen.
"Because I don't want to go shopping."
Jensen can't argue with this logic. "Look, the problem is, Kripke's got his own YouTube channel. Of his robot beating the shit out of cars."
"Your robot couldn't take a car?"
"No," Jensen admits. It hurts a little.
"You know how it could take a car?" asks Jared.
"If it had a laser," says Jared.
Jensen throws a pen at Jared's head. Of course, Jensen is a nerd and throws like a girl, so it makes it about five feet and Jared laughs at him, but it's the thought that counts.
"So what we really need to do," says Gabe, "is modify it to specifically combat Kripke's thing."
"How?" asks Jensen. "We make it fireproof?"
"Can we do that?"
"How do I know? Where's Chad?"
"Uh," says Gabe. "He tried hitting on Jared and Jared got really fucking pissed and made a power point about all the reasons no one will ever love Chad."
Jensen blinks. "Jared made a power point?" If they weren't fighting, Jensen would go find Jared and have sex with him right now. Maybe they can anyway.
"That's really not the point!" says Gabe.
"Yeah, okay. Where was I?"
"Watching YouTube videos of the Krippler and lamenting how we're going to get our asses kicked."
"Jesus," says Jensen. "I'll talk to Jared."
"You better," says Gabe. "Not getting laid makes you guys really cranky."
"I gotta go," says Jared to the phone as Jensen walks in. "Hey!"
"Hi," says Jensen, warily. "You sound...chipper."
"Good news," says Jared, gesturing to the phone. "What's up?"
"I heard you kicked Chad's ass."
Jared looks mildly concerned. "I did?"
"Apparently he's sulking at home."
Jared rubs the back of his neck. "I didn't think it was anything he didn't know. I dunno, I was just annoyed. It's not like we broke up. He doesn't get to suddenly hit on me."
"He always hits on you," Jensen points out. It doesn't really bother him. He knows Jared is totally into him.
"Yeah," admits Jared. "Just...bad week."
Jensen recognizes a call for help when he sees one (sometimes), so he crosses the room and rubs Jared's neck. Jared leans into the touch. "Truce to talk about it?" Jensen suggests. "Unless it's just me."
Jared smiles. "You're getting so much better at this," he says, fondly. "And, nah, not just you."
"So what is it?" asks Jensen, navigating them to the couch.
"Audition," says Jared, repositioning so his head's in Jensen's lap. "I think I did well. And I'm really--I really want it."
"The NBC drama one?" asks Jensen.
"It was a good script. And you were amazing at it."
Jared smiles. "You know what's nice?"
"I know you're not bullshitting me."
"I've had a lot of boyfriends who'd just say what I want to hear, and not tell the truth. You always tell the truth even if I really don't want to hear it. I never have to wonder."
Jensen flushes. "So what was the good news?"
"On the phone."
"Oh," says Jared, looking away. "Nothing about the drama."
He gets up, and Jensen instantly misses the contact. Jared hasn't slept over in three days. Jensen really wants that back.
"I'll go talk to Chad," he says. "See if I can get him off his ass."
"Thanks," says Jensen.
He doesn't like that he knows sometimes Jared is lying to him.
The next day, he finds out why.
"Does that--" Gabe blinks.
"That's a laser," says Chad.
Jared looks smug.
So does Kripke.
"Did you tell him to give his robot a laser?" asks Jensen.
"You said yours was too small to handle it," says Jared, shrugging. "His looked bigger."
Jensen glares. It's hard to not take that as a penis metaphor. And there is no way Kripke has a bigger penis than him. Jensen can prove that mathematically.
The Krippler shoots Jensen's smaller, less manly robot with a laser.
It's not a high point for him.
"I can't believe you did that!" says Jensen. He thinks that standing over the smoldering remains of his battle robot might not be the best place to have a fight, but he's pissed.
"You voted me off your team!"
"I didn't vote you onto his team!"
"He's not on my team," says Kripke.
"Shut up," says Jensen, absently.
"I just wanted to see a robot with a laser!"
"You wanted to destroy my soul!"
"No I didn't! I just think lasers are really cool!"
Jensen wants to be pissed, but he has to admit that Jared's laser obsession is, a little bit, a turn on.
"That was kind of cool," Jensen admits.
"But I'm not forgiving you yet," Jensen adds.
Jared sighs. "It was your fault in the first place," he mutters, and takes off.
"Lover's spat?" asks Kripke, smirking.
"Yes," Jensen snaps.
Kripke blanches. "You mean that's actually--you guys are?"
"Wow. Good work, Ackles. I didn't think you had it in you."
"Shut up," Jensen mutters.
The facts are:
1. Jensen did kick Jared off his team.
2. That laser was really awesome.
3. Jensen loves Jared.
So yeah. Jensen knows he's going to apologize.
"I was wrong," says Jensen.
Jared blinks. He's wearing his pajamas, which aren't pajamas. It's a t-shirt Jensen knows he got in high school and the boxers he'll wear tomorrow. Jensen likes knowing that Jared changes his boxers at night when he goes to sleep, not in the morning when he wakes up. He likes knowing Jared.
"What about?" asks Jared. He sounds just curious.
"Step four in the relationship arc isn't cohabitation. It's fighting."
"Jensen," says Jared, smiling, "fighting happens at every step in the relationship arc."
"Well. This is our first big one."
"This isn't a big fight."
"I still wanted to see you all the time," Jared explains. "I still hung out in your apartment. Nothing got broken."
"You broke my robot," Jensen points out.
"Your robot was going to get broken anyway. My way was cooler."
"I guess," Jensen admits.
Jared looks down. "Are we on cohabitation?"
Jensen blushes. He doesn't know why. It's completely irrational. "If you want," he mutters. Because--he's not that scared, not anymore. If cohabitation is having Jared around all the time, he wants that. He wants Jared to always be rooting around in his fridge--in their fridge--no matter how made they are at each other or how many enemy robots Jared has helped outfit with lasers.
It seems so simple, now. He doesn't know what his problem was.
But Jared, inexplicably, looks guilty.
"What?" asks Jensen.
"That NBC drama," he says.
"They want me."
"Really? Dude, awesome! Is our fight over enough we get congratulatory sex?"
Jared laughs a little, but mirthlessly. "Jensen."
"It films in Vancouver. I'd," he sucks in a breath. "I'd be moving to Canada, man."
"Oh," says Jensen. Their first fight's over, but they're still breaking up. That goes against all his fucking calculations. He always thought--he thought Jared would get something in LA. He thought a lot of things. "So we're..." he tries. He can actually feel tears gathering in his eyes. It's stupid.
"I want you to come with me," says Jared in a rush of breath.
"What?" asks Jensen.
"I want cohabitation. And if you're not going, I'm not going." He grins, crookedly. "But I'd really like to go. If you could find something to do."
Jensen chokes on air. "You want me to move to Canada with you?"
"I don't want to move to Canada without you," Jared admits. "I can get another job, but another boyfriend would be--"
Jensen pulls Jared to him, nearly knocks his teeth out kissing him.
"Ow," says Jared. He's grinning wider. "Is that a yes?"
"It's an enthusiastic maybe pending me finding out what kind of research facilities they have in Vancouver."
"Oh," says Jared. He laughs. "God, I thought you were gonna say no."
"I'm asking you to move to another country with me, after we had a fight and I got your robot killed by a laser."
"Yeah," Jensen acknowledges. "But I love you."
"Yeah," says Jared, grinning, and then he kisses Jensen again, soft and gentle and without anyone nearly losing body parts. "Being mad at you is really hard," he adds.
"No one else ever has any trouble," Jensen points out. Because, seriously, ninety percent of the people Jensen meets want to kick his ass, and they don't spend nearly as much time with him as Jared does.
"But yeah," Jensen continues. "You totally sucked at it."
"Do you think we can still do makeup sex?" asks Jared. "Or were we too bad at fighting?"
Jensen swallows. "We can definitely try."