„So you are a shrink, dude?"
“Nah…not really, I have a Masters in psychology and I always wanted to…”
“So you are going to be a shrink? “ The guy interrupts, taking another sip from his beer bottle and putting it back on the counter without so much as looking at Jared. He is still just staring out to the dance floor. Minutes ago, standing at the other side of said dance floor, Jared misinterpreted the staring for a flirting glance at him. Needless to say that has been a mistake. Jared is bad at reading people.
“I don`t really… I have not really made up my mind …so you see there are many things that are…” Jared falters, grinning at the guy, ready to hold a lecture on his life, the world and everything. But the guy has other ideas.
“Cool, dude, really cool, dude. So you see I know this girl and I guess she has anorexia or bulimia or something. Definitely obesity, man. I mean seriously she is really depressive schizophrenic, I am pretty sure of it. She is my girlfriend you see and sometimes I just ask myself….”
As Jared walks back through the dark streets to his parents` house he starts wondering. Another wasted night. It is not that Jared does not like to listen to people. He is a pretty good listener and interested in just about everything. Smiling a broad smile and nodding enthusiastically a lot of lecturers have often accused him of being too eager, smiling too stupidly even for an understanding psychologist. People just want to tell him things and Jared has never been able to say no to them or even consider cutting them off when they divulge their darkest secrets and fears. Even when they are in a public place. The guy at the bar even started crying in the end which is not as untypical for Jared as it should be. It actually seems to happen quite often.
Jared patted the guy´s shoulder, been generally supportive and put him in a taxi to take him home to his - quite frankly - normal girlfriend. He slipped him the business card of one of the best "shrinks" in town and waved the taxi off. What a night. Again Jared misjudged someone to be actually interested in him. Nothing new there, but that guy was really pretty gorgeous. And obviously very self-absorbed since he could not even spare a minute or be bothered to listen to Jared`s epic life story of capital indecisions. Yes, he has a Masters in psychology, but hell no he does not want to be a shrink. He has way too many problems himself.
Jared carefully unlocks the door to his parents` house. Hopefully they are asleep. He walks up the stairs to his room and drops down on his bed. It is far too small for a big guy like him. But all this is really just a temporary thing, anyway. Really. Just until he decides what to do with his life.
It is one of these mornings. As soon as Jared sits down at the breakfast table he knows. The looks they give him, the body language – even he can`t misinterpret the massive heavy load of their concerned looks - they want to talk.
“So Jared, son, any particular plans?” is the grand opening from his dad. He decides to try something new. Simplicity and Honesty – the way you are supposed to answer annoying questions from little children.
“Well, I wanted to visit Chad, he is coaching the high school football team in the afternoon, as he is their new coach and all, as you know. And I thought I could go over and say hi.”
“Ah” his dad has never been good at coping with real answers, the unexpected - Jared`s dad mostly prefers to talk to himself.
“Oh, that is lovely my dear. You go see Chad in the afternoon. Give him a hug from us all. He can come for dinner sometime with his lovely girlfriend.” His mum supplies. Jared wants to ask which of Chad`s on and off girlfriends his mum is referring to, but he knows better. He is quite sure that his parents have had this talk all planned and his first simple answer has already thrown them off track. It may be a small success but it still is a success. Better not ruin it.
“What I think your dad was referring to my dear, however, is something different. Do you have any plans for the future? We are both a bit worried. “
It seems that today he will not make an easy escape. Two pairs of eyes look up to Jared and he knows. He has to tell them, tell them that he has no idea whatsoever. And that he is really sorry for that.
No need to mention that the rest of the morning is a disaster. Jared`s parents love him and have always supported him in all his exuberance and general jaredness. They love his tendency to be enthusiastic about anything, but they have been really concerned these last few weeks. He has finished college with good degrees and all but no plan. Jared has had the luxury to study without thinking about the fees thanks to an annoying and bitchy but stupidly rich old great-aunt. So he actually could be rapt and passionate about anything during his years as a student. After he got his bachelor degree and still had no idea what to do but was still interested in so many things he got his masters. But that did not help as much as Jared thought. He still had no plan.
Jared sits on the bleachers looking onward to the field where his best buddy Chad is screaming at the football team insulting their mothers and labeling them as useless, boneless parasites. When they were still at the same high school Chad had always hated the coach, saying he was the filthy bastard son of dying rats. Now Jared guesses the current football team thinks the same of Chad. Jared has mentioned this to Chad on occasion, has even offered to introduce him to the newest motivating concepts. But Chad willfully refused.
“This heap of disfigured dumb sloths will kiss my feet for that someday”, he claims.
That has not discouraged Jared though. As he watches the scene in front of him unfold - Chad is just reducing two huge defenders to tears - he decides to bring it up again later when they have lunch.
Jared and Chad are sitting in their usual spot in the old diner they have been frequenting since high school. Sometimes Jared thinks it is a bit sad, but really Maurice just makes the best burgers in town. After ordering Jared thinks he will broach the subject of Chad`s questionable training methods. But Chad is in direct attack mode, probably still high from all the steroids on the football field.
“So, have you fairy decided yet what you will do with your big fat gay life? You know ass babies are still not conceivable, so you should come up with an alternative rainbow life plan soon.”
“You are a total douche Chad, I don`t even know why we are friends sometimes”
“Don`t get all whiny on me you big baby. I just thought I should mention it. My chick Sophia met your mum yesterday at the supermarket and your folks seem really worried. You know I like your folks, man.“
“Wow, Chad that was really deep, nearly emotional. I would say we are at a breakthrough here. Have you finally found your feminine side where you gagged her and imprisoned her in the cellar since junior high?”
“Not funny dude, totally not funny. I don`t have that feminine shit you are talking about. That is one of the gay things you have.“
Chad pauses and looks at Jared directly for a second. If Jared did not know better, he would say Chad is consciously repressing another insult about gays for Jared`s sake. Half a minute later Chad asks in a more sober voice: “Still, you got any plans?”
“No, still don`t. And really you are not the first one who can`t shut up about it. Not even today. So if you don’t mind to give me a break here for a while I would be really grateful.”
Jared is pissed. Why will nobody just let him be already?
Chad seems to get it though. They wait silently for their burgers and later Chad amuses Jared greatly with some funny stories about the team. And Jared does enjoy his awesome burger so much that he nearly forgets to remind Chad not to bully his charges to tears.
They are nearly finished when Jared's cell rings in his pocket. He hates people who take calls while eating in restaurant, but hey, it’s a shabby second rate diner and the caller ID says it`s his mum. And generally Jared is a good Texan boy, so of course he takes the call.
“Hey, Mom. What`s up?”
“Your dad got a call from New Hampshire Jared. It was about your auntie Mildred. She has been in hospital for a while now, but we did not know. She never called and told us. Probably so that she could blame it on us later. She died Jared; she died yesterday in the hospital. You got to go to New Hampshire Jared, you got to go tomorrow.”
“Why? I mean …why do I have to go? Aunt Mildred hated everybody…”
“She bequeathed to you the house Jared. Her house in New Hampshire. You got to go.”
“The witch`s hut? Seriously?”
Jared is pretty sure this is it is. It must be. The answer he has prayed for during hundreds of thousands of long sleepless, restless nights. Well, not actually sleepless, Jared has a very sound and healthy sleep, thank you very much, and not hundreds of thousands of nights, that are a bit too many. But let`s stick with the cliché. Because this is fucking clichéd. Jared is going on a road trip. Half way across America. Two thousand and sixty three miles from San Antonio, Texas, to Sturry, New Hampshire to inherit great-aunt Mildred`s house, aka the scary shed. But the reason for the trip does not matter. Everyone has seen it in the movies. Jared certainly has. It is the journey that matters, the life altering experience which will help him to get to grips with just about everything. Maybe even find the love of his life at a pit stop. Who knows? Because that is how it goes in the movies. Because this is it. The answer. And when he arrives everything will be crystal clear in the end, like a glass of champagne. He just knows it. Everything will finally make sense. Sense in capital letters, the ones you can`t miss. Jared is freakishly fucking excited: His life has turned out to be an inspirational road movie. Even Britney Spears got the message at the end of her movie. So Jared sure as hell will get the message three quarters of his way. He is not that dumb.
As it happens three quarters of his way to Sturry, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, he gets robbed. Well not really robbed. It isn’t bad or anything or an experience. Not even particularly uncomfortable or inconvenient, as his wallet was empty. Ok, maybe it was just the odd pickpocket. Or Jared lost his wallet. At the gas station. It really is kind of anti-climatic and not even something major and worth mentioning when his mum calls him in the evening. No gun, no knife, just a few bucks missing, which might not have been there in the first place. Jared wonders why he feels disappointed. Nothing has happened yet. The pages of his superb new traveler’s notebook are empty besides the inspirational quote he put in there at the beginning of his journey.
Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.
He wants to rip it out and throw it out of the car speeding 100 on the freeway. But Jared is way too nice and responsible and - let`s be frank - his car can`t manage going at that speed anyway.
“So if you need anything you just come over, boy”, Sandra says, the old woman talking happily like she has been for the last 20 minutes reminding Jared for the 100th time that if he needs anything he just has to drop by and still not handing over the key. The old gal is over 70 now, although her name does not give it away, and recently she has become more and more forgetful.
“And don`t you worry, you don`t have anything to feel sorry about. Your old aunt told nobody she was feeling this ill. Or that she was dying. I did not know myself till that call from the hospital. I could have brought her flowers.”
Sandra shakes her head solemnly, smoothing the skirts of her dress in a nervous gesture. Jared is pretty sure Sandra has been wearing this dress or versions of it for the last 10 years or at least as long as he can remember her.
“You have always been an exceptionally good boy Jared. Always visiting on her birthdays and such. And you have been the only one for years to come by from the whole family, although mind you our dear Mildred was not blessed with the most pleasant personality – God bless her poor soul”. Sandra lowers her head respectfully. She is probably speaking a short prayer or something. And Jared lowers his head too, even if it is just not to draw any more unwanted attention.
“Sandra?” he asks after waiting a few seconds. Not sure if 75-year-old Sandra has fallen asleep on him.
“If you don`t mind”, he hesitates.
He sure knows Sandra is probably lonely. Her kids and many of her grandkids just live too far away. In Maryland or something, she might have mentioned it. The only one who still lives in Sturry is her granddaughter Sandy who works at the town hall. And of course she never visits nearly enough. But a week spent driving has taken its toll. Jared is tired and finally wants to see the house again for himself. He waves his hand around as he always does when he is edgy.
“The key, please?”
“Another glass of lemonade? Sure here you go darling.”
She pours him the drink in a speed he finds mesmerizing in such an old lady. He does not have the guts to correct her misunderstanding.
“Do you have any idea what you are going to do with the house? And the dogs? Such a busy boy like you ain`t gonna keep such an old shack and those two animals. I mean, you have probably got everything planned already, right?”
“Mhma…” Jared mumbles under his breath.
He seems to be destined to lead versions of the same conversations over and over.
“I have not made up my mind yet.”
“Oh, but you have to, you have to, boy. You surely can`t stay in old Sturry long, right? With your life in good ol` Texas? And there are not so many options.“
She goes on explaining all of them anyway in detail from her point of view, repeatedly asking Jared if he does not concur on this and that and if he has not decided already. She shakes her head every time he says he has not and keeps the explaining going.
An hour later Jared is making his grand escape. He mentions the key again and for once Sandra’s hearing seems not to have left her.
“Of course, Jared.”
She fumbles the heavy key out of her pocket and hands it to him still a bit reluctantly.
“You know if you need anything, you just come over. And if you happen to drive into town and see Sandy, tell her to come to visit. She never visits me anymore these days.”
A few minutes later he is finally free to step off her porch and over to his aunt’s house.
The house talks to him like it always has. Creaks from the floorboards, winds in the leaky pipes. It is comfy to see that Mildred did not change anything during her last year. His bed is still in place in the upper guest room. Mildred refused to refer to the room as Jared`s room and to the bed as Jared`s bed. The extra large king size bed just appeared one summer after his growth spurt. And his barely 5 foot aunt has been quite obstinate on the fact that it was for her and in no way for him. She just had not found the time to move it to her room yet - which was downstairs - and anyway she bought it in a sale, half price off and everything. Apparently it also appeared out of thin air in Jared`s room, nobody brought it up there. Jared is not sure how Aunt Mildred managed some things on her own. Maybe she was a witch, who killed her only husband and buried him in her backyard like the Padalecki children have told each other for years. Maybe not. Jared is not sure he would mind so much if not for the intentional manslaughter. It would explain a lot about his aunt in retrospect.
The only two things that are missing about the house are his aunt`s two big dogs. Jared has always been totally and utterly in love with them. He always wondered how two so happy and awesome creatures could put up with his grumpy old aunt. Harley and Sadie are at the local animal shelter now. Jared is not sure about many things these days, but he just knows in his heart he will pick them up tomorrow. They belong here more than he does.
He itches to just get in the car and collect them now. But when he called the shelter a couple of days ago, back in Texas, to announce that he would come for the dogs soon, the grumpy receptionist explained to him that the matter was not that simple. Although nearly everyone in town knew Jared and his Aunt Mildred, he would need some official paperwork about his aunt`s last will. Inheriting livestock – a category which includes Harley and Sadie according to New Hampshire`s animal protection laws - seems to be quite a bureaucratic ordeal. So Jared will first have to visit his aunt`s lawyer – a Mr. Foster – in town to get the appropriate papers before goring to the shelter. He hopes that inheriting the house will be easier.
He drops his bag next to the bed and lies down on it, staring at the ceiling. So he is here right now. But what to do? Sandra has not been the only one to ask about his plans for the house. His always annoyingly patient parents have mentioned it a few times and so has his aunt`s lawyer over the phone. Jared continuously asks himself why people bother him with these decisions. Is it not abundantly clear he is not good at them? What he really needs is an easy way out not another life decision to make. He hides his head in the extra large fluffy pillow. Why people always want him to decide what to do really makes him wonder. Jared knows that for some reason he is the anointed heir and everything, but can they not see that he is just unfit for the job?
A few minutes later Jared still has not plan, no idea. He has an appointment with his aunt`s lawyer at seven and 6 hours to kill till then. Sandra has managed to stuff him with sandwiches so that he will surely survive on the few snacks he has stocked till he sees the lawyer, who wants to grab dinner with him. So what to do? Jared clearly needs to calm down, not to have yet another existential crisis, and relax. He tries some random breathing techniques he has learned in college. His mind wanders aimlessly, only consciously trying to avoid the corners that are filled with his decision-avoiding processes. He thinks of home. Of Texas and the heat. Of last summer. Of pool parties in the summer. Jared likes parties. He likes swimming. Jared is going outside to dig himself a pool.
It`s not the greatest and best thought-through idea he ever had. But he is tired of always second-guessing himself and his ideas. He likes pools, and yeah, maybe it`s a little cold here but with global warming on his side, a pool at the back of the house might come in handy at one point. Jared is surely not in Texas anymore – there is no one to judge him or what he is doing.
It`s amazing that he manages to find a shovel in no time. And so only a few minutes after making the decision Jared is stepping out into the garden purposefully. There is a part of the garden which borders on the local woods and which Sandra can`t see from her kitchen window. The spot is just perfect for a pool.
He does not know much about pools, just that he likes them and that you need a hole in the ground. So he starts digging and keeps digging for over half an hour. The cool New Hampshire spring air eases his nerves and not too soon he wonders why he has not remembered sooner that physical exercise has always helped him to keep his mind of things. It is great, exhilarating, muscle straining and exhausting.
Particularly frightening and alarming, when he holds the big bone up, the one he just discovered under about 40 inches of dirt. It looks like a human thighbone, the likes he has seen in his biology classes. Aunt Mildred`s lost husband. It has to be. The remains of the victim. And next to it, still half covered by dirt- an ancient knife of sorts. The murder weapon. Jared silently freaks. He freaks so hard he can`t move any of his limbs anymore. He freaks all on his own in a 40 inch deep self dug ditch and he freaks bone shakingly deep. And then, then he decides to call the police.
Officer-call-me-Steve arrives with his partner, a silent middle aged woman who just nods at Jared and stared at the bones, just about 10 minutes later. Not much to do in such a small town. They take one look at the bones and the murder weapon and Steve tells Jared not to worry. They will investigate and call an expert. Jared actually sees a small smile on Steve`s lips. He tries not to wonder about the creepiness of the guy next to him being happy about the remains of what was probably his great-uncle down there in the ditch. Steve promises to come back later, with a team. The guy absent-mindedly fumbles with his mobile as Jared escorts him and Officer Brooding who hasn't introduced herself at all to the door. What a team of sociopaths, probably informing more sociopaths about what Jared has found in his aunt`s backyard. And they will come back. Jared decides he needs to get out of here and get out of here fast.
Jensen sighs and checks his watch for the 20th time in as many minutes. He tries not to fidget but he feels a lot like the naughty little boy waiting in front of the principal’s office. And boy, is he kept waiting. After weeks of relentless pestering Prof. Morgan finally agreed to meet with him to discuss the progress of his thesis and although he was told to be there at “10 sharp”, now at half past 11, Jensen is still trying to find a comfortable position on the horrible little chair outside his PhD. advisor’s office and silently hating his life.
Ever since he decided to study anthropology and archaeology he had to get used to people asking him incredulous questions about the usefulness and general worth of his chosen field. He never expected to being forced to validate his existence to his colleagues as well. But then, it maybe wasn’t the very best of ideas to choose someone as advisor who thinks his ideas are complete bullshit and doesn't miss any opportunity to belittle and patronize Jensen. So in short he doesn't look exactly forward to his meeting with Morgan, but sitting here and waiting for the inevitable like a complete tool is even worse.Jen shifts into yet another not quite comfortable position and winces when needles and pins shoot through his leg that has treacherously decided to fall asleep.
Great, now he will be forced to hobble his way into the office like a fucking idiot.
His head snaps up and he tries to sit straighter when the door of said office swings open and Genevieve Cortese sashays out. She’s wearing a very short skirt, ridiculously high heels and an unbearably smug smile. Of course Jensen was kept waiting because Prof. Morgan needed to “dictate a letter”. But almost two hours? What the fuck did they do that took them two fucking hours? On second thought though, he really doesn’t want to know.
“Prof. Morgan should be ready for you now.”
Her eyes trail over him predatory and he tries his utmost to not show his discomfort as he walks into the office – as hobble-less as possible. Morgan’s satisfied look makes him want to cringe or flinch away from the outstretched hand but he keeps it together and tries not to sneer too openly when Morgan gets all jovial on him.
“Well, well, Jensen, my boy. What can I do for you today?”
“Sir, I’d like to discuss the progress of my thesis with you.” As I have told you in the countless fucking emails I have sent you to get you to acknowledge my existence.
He really whishes that one day he will be in the position and have the balls to tell the man what he really thinks of him.
Brilliant, charming, energetic Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. If Jensen had only known the real man behind the façade before he signed his soul over to this particular devil.
“Jensen, really? You know what I think about this ‘Vikings in New Hampshire’- nonsense. I thought you would have realized by now that you are throwing away your talent with stubbornly pressing on with this ridiculous thesis of yours.”
“Sir, please. I think I am finally on the right track. I just know it. All I need is…”
“All you need is another topic. Look, son. I know you are smart. Why don’t you give it up already and work for one of my projects. Mind like yours could really come in handy.”
Yeah, right. Work as Morgan’s personal slave so that he could swoop in after months of fieldwork and research to just claim all the results as his own and celebrate another roaring success without so much as mentioning everyone else’s efforts like he had done to Danneel last year. Just because the poor gullible thing had a crush on Morgan.
“Thank you Sir, but I really think I’m onto a good thing with this. If I could just get a little funding for an extended survey along the coast…”
“Please, don’t be silly. I won’t waste money and resources to have people meandering aimlessly along the coast looking for Viking remains that in all likelihood have never been there. You are 27 years old and I have wasted more than enough time with you. You have until the end of the year and if you can’t back-up your anserine ideas with some hard facts by then, I’ll have to let you go. Dartmouth is not some third rate community college. We are an Ivy League school. There are quite a few younger men and women here, eager to do anything to take your place.”
There is really not much to say after a blow like this, so Jensen just turns and walks out, silently cursing his inability to stand up for himself.
Outside he passes Genevieve’s desk and she grins wolfishly at him.
“You know, Morgan is quite fond of me, if I had the right… incentive I could maybe put in a good word for you. All you would have to do is be a little nice to me.”
“You know, Genevieve that would be a really good offer, if I wouldn’t rather gouge my own eyes out with one of your absurd heels than spent more time with you than absolutely necessary.”
He is kinda proud of himself that for once his anger got the better of his embarrassment and he managed a snarky retort instead of just blushing and stammering. Because, frankly, Genevieve tends to scare the shit out of him. She is just so bloody aggressive and direct. Certainly not the kind of girl he would ever go for. He is just not the kind of guy that likes to go out and randomly hook up with streamlined women in slinky dresses and homicidal heels. Not that he is a monk or anything. He is just very picky. And absorbed in his work. And he bloody likes it that way. It’s called having the right priorities, whatever Chris has to say to that, thank you very much.
He leaves the building and plops down on a bench outside, enjoying the still cool air of early spring and feeling incredibly dejected. Ever since he fell in love with archaeology he had been fascinated by the idea that Viking raiders had reached the North American coast as early as the 10th or early 11th century. Long before a certain opportunistic Italian with a soft spot for exploring was even considered. It is a well-established fact that they have been here on the continent. Remains of their activities have been found in Newfoundland and at some other places along the eastern coast. Jensen is just sure that there has to be something here in New Hampshire, too. But for Morgan this just isn’t prestigious enough. You don’t make money with ‘there might be Vikings’. It doesn’t earn you fame and glory. All it gets you is mockery. But it gets you that in spades.
When his phone rings in his pocket Jensen considers ignoring it for a while, but then again, he could use some distraction right about now. He just hopes it isn’t his mother asking him if he is finally done wasting his life and ready to start working for his father’s accounting company like his perfect older brother does. He so cannot deal with that right now.
He breathes a sigh of relieve when Steve’s name flashes on the screen and he hurries to pick up.
“Hey, Steve. How are things going down there in the boonies?”
“Hey, Jenny, listen. This is like a semi-official call. We found something that I thought you might wanna take a look at.”
Jensen is still mildly in shock when he gets home. It seems too much to ask that he gets his big break-through on exactly the same day that Morgan threatens to ‘let him go’.
He can’t get overenthusiastic just yet because human bones buried with something that looks ‘kinda like a sword’ decorated with ‘those rune-thingies, you know’ might sound like a dream come true but Steve is no expert apart from the endless rambles Jensen is prone to subject his friends to. But then again Steve and the Coroner he called in are sure enough about the whole thing that they didn't declare the place a crime scene as soon as they saw it. Maybe the huge poster with Viking-Age sword types Jensen kept over his dorm bed all through college is finally paying off. Even if Chris and Steve both declared on more than one occasion that swords really looked like huge metal dicks.
Be that as it may, it means he just has to drive down to fucking Sturry, Rockingham and take a look himself. And since he has no car and really doesn’t want to face public transportation he has to face Misha instead.
It’s not that he doesn’t love Misha, because he really is not just his roommate but also a great guy and a good friend and a brilliant anthropologist but he can be kinda intense in his laid-backness – if that makes any sense whatsoever.
As if to prove just that thought, Jensen finds Misha in the living room, wearing a flowery dress and wait, is that make-up?
“Uhm, Misha. Hey.”
“Hello, Jensen, would you like to eat chocolate and watch a romantic comedy with me?”
“Because it is time I got into closer contact with my feminine side. You should try it, it is very liberating.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it is, but unfortunately I don’t have time. I have to go down to Sturry today. Steve found something that he wants me to take a look at, so I thought, maybe I could borrow the van?”
“Yes, of course. I don’t think I’ll need it in the next couple of days. In fact I don’t have much planned at all. Would you mind if I came along? Meeting Chris and Steve is always entertaining.”
“That depends. Are you planning on wearing that dress?”
“Not if it bothers you, but I must say that I find you a little narrow-minded.”
“I think I can live with that.”
The drive is not that terribly long so Jensen declines Misha’s offer to drive part of the way. The other reason is that both the van and Misha always smell slightly of weed. He can’t really complain though, because the guy doesn’t have to let him use his car and he has to admit that the thing is kinda sweet in a slightly disturbing way. It is this very old and rusty VW-van that someone has painted and sprayed on so much that it really looks like a genuine 60ies shaggin’ wagon. And it is so Misha that it makes Jensen smile every time he sees it.
He has known Misha since he had started attending courses at Dartmouth for his Master’s Degree in archaeology and anthropology. Misha had been just a crazy TA back then but they had still hit it off almost immediately and now years and several trips to South America, Africa and Nepal on Misha’s part and never-ending frustration and rejection on Jensen’s part later, they are still friends. Roommates, too, at least during the time Misha is actually stateside.
The fond smile slightly freezes on his face when Misha pulls out a suspicious-looking bag with equally suspicious-looking content and starts rolling a joint.
Misha seems to catch on to Jensen’s scandalized stare, because he smiles and holds the doobie out.
“You want a hit, Jen?”
“No. I mean, I really don’t think that that is a good idea, you know with me driving and all.”
Misha seems genuinely confused.
“So it’s really illegal and dangerous to smoke pot while you drive, man.”
“Oh, of course. But this is no pot, Jensen. I would never offer you pot while you drive. This is a mix of some powerful herbs that only grow on the highest slopes of the Andes. It will open your mind so wide like you have never felt before. So, what do you think?”
“I think it explains a lot and I still don’t want to try it, but thank you.”
They stop about half way down to Sturry at a run-down roadside diner and Jensen is more than a little confused when Misha orders a huge burger with extra bacon.
“Uhm, excuse me, man, but aren’t you supposed to be a vegan? Last time I offered you half of my tuna-sandwich you practically accused me of murder and now you are eating half a cow without blinking an eye.”
“Well, Jensen, of course I am a vegan. I have however decided to see this trip as an opportunity to study North American small town life and the first rule of any kind of anthropological observation is to blend in with the natives. So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
“Ok, whatever, but do me a favor and don’t tell that to Chris. Something like that is just bound to piss him off.”
“I wasn’t planning to. It is always so much more fruitful if the subject doesn’t know it is being observed.”
“Well, good, I guess.”
It is already nearing dusk when they pull into the parking lot of Sturry’s little police station. Chris and Steve are both sitting outside, beer in hand and clearly off-duty. At least Steve is off-duty, Chris, who decided years ago to pursue his music career, has never been on-duty in the first place. How a country music loving Texan/ Oklahoman boy will get his big break in a tiny town in New Hampshire is an eternal mystery to Jensen, but neither Steve nor Chris really seemed to mind.
Jensen remembers how, when they met during freshman year of college, Chris was practically broadcasting his Native American origins in the hope of getting laid more often because of it. It didn’t work of course and all Jensen ever saw was the short, stocky cowboy with a quick temper and a huge sense of loyalty.
Jensen applied for Dartmouth because Steve had been born and raised in a little town close by and had sworn it was a good place to be and the curriculum sounded almost too awesome to be true and hello, Ivy League. And Chris had tagged along, arguing that he could play his music wherever he wanted to. In the beginning Jensen thought he just didn’t know what to do with his life after college but then he found out that Steve had to go back home to support his sick mother and Chris had followed to support him. That was just how Chris was wired. If your family was in trouble you helped, no matter what. In exchange, Steve let him stay at his place until his career would finally ‘take off’. It seemed to work for them. In fact, Jensen sometimes even felt kinda jealous and left out, stuck all the way out at Dartmouth most of the time. They had been like the three musketeers all through college, rooming together once they could get off campus and now, now Jensen felt like he was just visiting. Like they had all grown up but while Chris and Steve managed to stay as close friends, almost brothers, as they had all been just five short years ago, Jensen was an outcast, still beloved but not an intrinsic part of the team anymore. When he got in one of those maudlin, nostalgic moods there was usually only one thing that would help. He’d pick up the phone and call Chris and listen to him bitching about Steve, about Sturry, about Jensen’s continued absence, since he was all ‘hoity-toity in that fancy school of his' and it felt like coming home to an exceptionally hairy, bad-tempered mother. Chris really was the sticky stuff that held them all together, bad moods and bitchiness and all.
Chris and Steve both saunter over when Jensen and Misha hopped out of the car.
“Jenny, I see you brought your resident crazy.”
Chris pulls them both into a hug and grins.
“Christian, it is always rather intellectually stimulating to meet you.”
Misha’s smile is serene as always and Jensen is glad that Chris and he both learned to tolerate each other without too much fuss.
Steve hugs them, too, and then arches a questioning eyebrow.
“I may be off-duty right now, but please tell me that you didn’t drive this bucket of rust for almost 100 miles while you were both under the influence of mind-altering substances?”
“Relax, Steve. I didn’t let him drive and I didn’t take anything and it’s not even pot anyway.”
“You know Jen, somehow I really don’t want to know what it is.”
“Well, I do wanna know and I wanna know if you share.”
Chris grins like the fucking Cheshire Cat.
“Chris. We’ll have time for that later. Right now, I’d rather we drive to the Padalecki-house so that Jen can take a look at the bones.”
The drive is short and takes them less than a quarter of an hour, all piled into Misha’s car with Jensen behind the wheel, because Misha is still high and both Chris and Steve had more than one beer while waiting for them.
Steve tells him to pull over in a quaint little street, next to a huge, sprawling and seriously creepy old house.
They march up the drive-way and Steve rings the doorbell, repeatedly, because whoever lives here is either deaf, dead or not at home.
Sighing, Steve shrugs.
“I told him I’d be back with an expert but maybe he didn’t expect it to be today.”
“You sure the old guy didn’t just drop dead and got eaten by his wiener dog since you last saw him?”
“What? I really doubt that, since the guy is not even 25 yet. And he is kinda huge, so a wiener dog could feed of him for months.”
“Oh? It’s just this house seems to practically yell ‘an old person lives here’. Wouldn’t have associated it with a young guy.”
“I think he inherited it from an aunt. He thought the bones in the backyard might be his dead uncle’s or something. Totally freaked the poor kid out.”
“And I bet you enjoyed every minute of it.”
“Maybe, but that is not the point here. He is not home, so I guess we better go to our place and try again tomorrow.”
Jared manages to feel better in the morning. He made an emergency call to Sandra's granddaughter Sandy`s town hall office as soon as he had left the driveway yesterday afternoon. The two of them had not seen each other for nearly one year but she was Jared`s only hope. The only sane person in Sturry Jared knew of. And on the whole it worked out quite well for Jared. Sandy all by herself decided to close the town hall a little bit earlier that day, dragging her two friends Alona and Emily along to meet a still overwhelmed and shocked Jared. They sat Jared down in the little corner café on main street and talked him through the emotional trauma that was finding his great-uncle`s bones in the backyard, how he is going to tell his parents and if his aunt may have had planned to kill him as well. They were understanding and kind and in Jared`s opinion that classified these three as the most awesome people on the planet. They bought the mountain of a man that is Jared pieces of cake, hugged him and listened to his whining, occasionally complimenting him on his wide vocabulary of emotional state adjectives.
Jared never had a problem with hitting it off with new people. His confusions attract sympathy, people want to help him, he is generally likeable and he in turn tries to understand people and their issues. He may fail, but he does look adorably cute whenever he tries. Trusting Jared comes natural to people, as well as liking Jared. Chad once said that people tend to fall prey to Jared`s giant puppy act.
So at the end of the day, in between Jared finding a body buried in his yard and talking with his aunt`s lawyer about the legal calamity which will arise from having an axe-murderer for a great-aunt, Jared listened to Alona`s boyfriend issues, Emily`s weight problems and Sandy`s problems with not having an affair with her boss. Because in growing friendships sharing issues is everything. And even if the bones in his backyard may have been the weirdest issue on the table that night, the fact that human remains can be discussed next to “how many calories has a chocolate bar” and “why does he not love me and only pays attention to his damned books” makes Jared feel better. He feels normal and sheltered and is not so creeped-out anymore when he drives back to the house. When he enters the dark, silent place he makes the decision to do the right thing in the morning and go and fetch the dogs. The whole place will be a lot livelier and happier when they are here, scary bones in the backyard or not. And so Jared falls asleep a lot more content then could be expected that night.
Jensen loves spending time with Chris and Steve. They are always fun and laid-back and he can finally relax around them. Other than Chris he declines Misha’s repeated offer of his mind opening-weed, but there is beer and Cuervo and he can’t really say that he feels like he is missing out.
He feels like he has made a huge mistake, though, when he wakes up on Steve’s couch with the mother of all hangovers. Misha - as always - is disgustingly chipper although he consumed at least as much booze as Jensen on top of his mystery-herbs, but he greets Jensen with a fresh cup of coffee so he is mostly forgiven.
They all decide to head out and try their luck again with the bones except for Steve who has to report back to the station. But Jensen really can’t wait much longer even though he is feeling rather miserable. It might make his entire career or the lack thereof after all.
Because of that he is getting rather frustrated when they reach the house and nobody answers the door. Again. Even after they try pounding on the door and yelling ‘police’. All they succeed in is attracting the attention of the elderly neighbor, who tells them that ‘Jared’ has gone to the shelter to pick up ‘poor old Mildred’s little doggies’.
Goddamn, why can’t the guy fucking stay at home for five bloody minutes? He has a bunch of bones in his backyard after all so one would think that he has an interest in getting rid of those asap.
“Chris, I’m not going to sit around and wait any longer.”
“Well, Jenny, I get that this is annoying, but what are we going to do?”
“Steve said the bones are in the backyard, so maybe we could just, you know, take a little peek at them while the guy is still out. Maybe it’s not even what I’m looking for.”
“I don’t know, man. If Steve hears about this he will go ballistic.”
“Come on, Chris, please. Nobody needs to ever find out. Not even Steve”
“All right, but we make this real quick.”
Getting into the backyard isn’t exactly rocket science, but they have to clamper over a massive wall with a rather impressive hedge on the other side. All of them but Misha are a little worse for wear when they finally find themselves in a well-cared for garden that is only marred by the irregular hole someone has dug at one end.
Jensen is inside the ditch within seconds, kneeling in the fresh dirt and examining the bones. He can identify a femur and part of a tibia and what might be a fibula and judging by their state and color they are definitely at least several hundred years old. They are pretty massive as far as he can tell which makes it unlikely that they are Native American, but that could be misleading and is not conclusive evidence at all. What is though is the corroded iron sword that Steve saw the other day and had the good sense not to pick up. When Jensen carefully brushes a little dirt away with the tips of his fingers he sees that it has a beautiful hilt, adorned with silver foil and copper inlays and inscribed with what might look like spidery scratches but really are Norse runes if Jensen ever saw some.
He feels like cheering loudly or maybe doing a dorky little victory dance despite his still raging headache and the additional aches of several scratches and bruises he had acquired while overcoming the hedge.
He knows Chris will be grumbling about his bruised ass for days, the fucking grump, but it is really not Jensen’s fault that his friend lost his grip and tumbled down of the wall with less grace than a dead duck.
Dragging his focus back to the task at hand he prepares to get out of the ditch and off the property before they can get caught. Before he can even get up, though, he hears fierce barking and growling and is greeted by two huge dogs and their equally huge and obviously irate owner.
“Harley, Sadie, no! Although I should really let them loose on you. What the fuck are you doing in my garden?”
God, Steve hadn’t been kidding about the guy. Even looking as angry as he does now, he is obviously younger than either of them and definitely over six feet tall. And built. Jensen isn’t entirely sure why he notices it, but the guy would probably be nice enough to look at if he didn’t look as if he was about to commit manslaughter and if he weren’t yelling so much. And if Jensen was at all inclined to look at guys in a way that resulted in such a conclusion. Which he isn’t.
He manages to turn his mind away from such weird, confusing thoughts he isn’t really harboring at all and tunes back in as Chris of all people tries to diffuse the situation.
“Hey, kid. Don't get your oversized panties in a twist, alright. My buddy Steve was here yesterday. Because of the bones. And my friend Jensen here really likes dead people, so we just thought we'd drop by so he can take a peek at'em. He’s from Dartmouth.”
“So what? Does that give you the right to be breaking-and-entering in someone else’s backyard? I wasn’t aware of that.”
“Well, technically, it is just trespassing, because we didn’t really break anything…”
“Oh, I’m so sorry I accused you of the wrong crime. I would still call the police anyway, if the police wasn’t already instigating this little trespassing-party that is going on in my backyard. Is that normal behavior here in jerkwater town?”
“Woah, kid. Cool down. I was just having a little look at those bones and I’d like to let you know that I want to dig them up. And if you had been home, waiting for us like any normal person with a skeleton in his backyard would do, we wouldn’t have to trespass at all.”
“First of, I’m not a fucking kid, you condescending jerk and I don’t give a rat`s ass what you want to do with those bones. I just want y’all gone right the fuck now. I just wanted to dig myself a pool and now I have a bunch of stoners in my backyard oggeling the remains of a poor dead guy. ”
The giant kid is really starting to get on Jensen’s nerve.
“Sorry to bust your bubble but this is what we call a scientific breakthrough. Your little kiddy pool will have to wait until I am through with thoroughly excavating this whole area. And if you don’t fucking like that, you and your filthy mutts can go cry on your mommy’s shoulder or you can suck it up because you don’t have no say about this.”
“What? No say? It is my fucking ditch in my fucking garden behind my fucking house and if I want you fuckers gone then that’s what’s gonna fucking happen.”
He turns round and storms back inside, the two mutts on his heels before Jensen manages to get another shot in.
“Well.” Misha sounds a serene as ever. “That went really well.”
“So there is nothing I can do about these trespassers destroying my garden, violating the grave of my great-uncle and insulting my dogs?”
Jared practically yells into the phone, still angry about the group of people he has found in his garden impiously poking at the remains of his relative.
“They were not even wearing any gloves, let alone did they have any of that CSI-stuff people are supposed to have when they solve a murder case! They had a VW bus parked in my driveway which just reeked of weed.” His lawyer patiently listens to Jared`s rants about the strangers in his backyard - he is paid by the hour mind you - but when Jared pauses to catch his breath a few minutes later he takes his chance.
“Mr. Padalecki, I am sorry to inform you that the credentials of these gentlemen are sound. They are indeed members of Dartmouth College. This was confirmed when I called the rector`s office about an hour ago. They redirected me to this Department of Anthropology. “
“See? They are not even members of the medical department in their own university! This is a murder case!”
“No, but they are accredited members of Dartmouth College. There seems to be evidence suggesting that the remains are older than you and I may have suspected. Ancient so to speak. And I was informed that in this case it would be the standard procedure to apply for an official state license to excavate said remains.”
Exasperated Jared asks the only question that matters to him right now: “So you mean, these bones out there, they do not belong to my deceased granduncle?”
“Apparently not. These… anthropologists are quite sure, that this is totally out of the question. The remains are way too old. “
“Oh my God.”
Jared sure as hell is a very empathetic person. But right about now he is just totally happy that the bones out there belong to an anonymous man or woman that died hundreds of years ago and not his slaughtered great-uncle. His aunt did not die as a spouse murderer. She is inculpable, guiltless and generally innocent as the proverbial lamb. Well picturing Aunt Mildred as a little lamb seems somehow wrong, as she was more a nagging hag, but anyway, Jared is a helluva lot relieved. So the only remaining question pertains to the fact as to why exactly nobody out there fucking bothered to tell him that. They knew and did not think of telling him. It would probably have stopped Jared from threatening them with legal action and nasty dog bites. He would also not have stared down into pretty green eyes, considering strangling versus body mutilation due to hurt family honor.
“But these gentlemen, Mr. Padalecki, they will wish to return as soon as possible. Probably in a week`s time. I would advise you to let them onto your grounds. We can file protest against the excavation of course, but they will most likely not find anything anyway. The person I spoke to on the phone made that clear to me. It is more of a mere routine checking. The sooner this whole affair is over the better. The house and grounds will not catch a good price if there are legal issues such as this tied to the property. ”
Jared listens to the lawyer`s arguments some more until he makes up his mind that yes, these trespassers or scientists or whatever they are may return. He is just glad that he did not catch three stoners desecrating the grave of his murdered uncle. At least so far his world is ok. His aunt was weird alright, a witch maybe but no murderer. He is relieved and kind of sure that he can deal with whatever the universe throws at him now, excavation or not. He wanted to dig a hole in his backyard for his pool anyway, so it may as well be ok that these information withholders are digging the hole for him if they want it so damned much. He can deal with that.
Jensen is still fuming when they are back at Chris and Steve’s place. Who does this giant kid think he is? Yeah, ok, maybe it might have been better if they had waited until the guy was actually home but this is really no reason to lose it like that. Right?
Jeez, the longer he thinks about it the more he wants to actually kick himself. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear, it’s that those bones are the real deal and could really change everything. Therefore he needs to uncover them, needs to have this dig. And it would really have been easier if he hadn’t managed to piss off the landlord, even though it is true that he could get this thing going without his consent. Unfortunately, he is pretty sure that he can’t expect all that much help from Prof. Morgan.
But maybe the guy will surprise him.
He digs out his phone and dials Morgan’s office number and is kind of surprised that Morgan actually picks up.
“Jensen, have you finally seen the light and decided to work for one of my projects? We could use another pair of hands on the dig in Mexico.”
“Uhm, no, Sir. Actually I might have found something concerning my thesis. It could very well be the hard evidence I need. And now I want to get a dig on the way. That means I would need some people and some money.”
Maybe getting it all out in one breath will stop Morgan from laughing at him.
“Oh, is that so? Well, Jensen, you know that I always try to help out young researchers with everything I can, but I have to say that your timing is kind of inconvenient.”
“How so, Sir?”
“Well, for one thing, my own digs are kind of understaffed at the moment, so I can’t really spare too many people right now. And I really never have money to spare. You know how old Kripke is, right? The cheap bastard. But I tell you what, if you manage to persuade the big boss to give you some funding, I’ll see what I can do about personnel. How does that sound?”
“Good, I guess…”
“Very well. Now I have to run, my boy. Be sure to keep me updated.”
Sighing deeply Jensen hangs up and fires up his laptop to look up Prof. Kripke’s office number before he has time to freak out. Ever since he started at Dartmouth, Kripke has been this uber-archaeologist. He is practically a celebrity in this alternate universe all archaeologists and anthropologists inhabit and Morgan never passes up an opportunity to talk smack about his superior. To Jensen, Kripke has always been a mixture of a light-bringer and a boogeyman. And now he has to talk to the guy.
“Uh, hello Sir. I am sorry to disturb you, but… my name is Jensen Ackles and I work on my Ph.D. at Dartmouth.”
“Oh, yes. You are one of Jeffrey’s minions, aren’t you?”
“No, not really, no. He is my advisor, though.”
“That’s what I meant. You are one of his minions, working on one of his shiny projects. And now he has persuaded you to call me, to wheedle even more money out of me to support his strive for fame, because he knows that I won’t give in to him anymore. Am I close?”
“I don’t… I don’t exactly work on one of Prof. Morgan’s projects. I write my Ph.D. about the possibility of Viking raiders having settled here in New Hampshire during the 10th or early 11th century and I found something that might prove my theory. The remains of at least one burial were uncovered in a little town not far from the coast and it contains an iron sword that is almost certainly of Viking origin. I’d very much like to excavate, but Prof. Morgan told me that he doesn’t have money to spare, so he said I should talk directly to you.”
“You are the Viking-guy? Seriously? God, do you know how much you piss Jeff off by continuously not giving in to him?”
“I… I have no idea.”
“Well, a lot. Believe me. And I have to tell you, I like it.”
“You… you do?”
It would be nice at this point to get just one sentence out without stuttering.
“Oh, yes. In fact, I like it so much that I will grant you all the funding you need. You will need a place to use as home base, I suppose and equipment and people. Do you have some people to help you out?”
“Uh. Morgan said he would send me some help if I got the money.”
“Really, well, I think he will be in for a nasty surprise, then. Why don’t you email me your project-outline for this excavation until tomorrow and I take care of the formalities for you?”
“Really? You would do that? You don’t even know for sure what I found.”
“Listen, I would do pretty much everything to rain on Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s parade but beside that I have been watching you for a while now. You are a bright kid with a very solid thesis that will no doubt revolutionize the way we perceive our own history and unlike others, you haven’t succumbed to Morgan’s siren song. All this is more than reason enough to put a little faith in you and your abilities. Still, if your project-outline sucks I might have to reconsider, so you better put some work into it.”
“Of course I will, Sir. Thank you so very much.”
“Don’t thank me. It’s all up to you now.”
And isn’t that a really scary thought?
Jensen spends the next 20 minutes or so silently freaking out until Misha finds him.
“Did you talk to Morgan? Can we get this dig on the way?”
“Yes, I… wait, we? I thought you would want to be out of here as soon as possible.”
“But what makes you think that? I told you I have nothing much to do beside this and I think this whole thing could turn out to be very … interesting.”
“Since when do you give a damn about Vikings at all? Every time I tried to tell you about my thesis you either fell asleep or told me that the past can never be as important as the present.”
“Oh, I wasn’t talking about the Viking part of this little endeavor. I was talking about the human interactions I have witnessed so far and no doubt will have the chance to explore further.”
“So you are basically planning to Gorillas-in-the-Mist us?”
Smiling cryptically Misha reaches up to pat Jensen on the cheek and then saunters off, no doubt in search for some poor guy to observe.
Jensen spends the rest of the day trying to pimp the summarization of his thesis he keeps on his laptop add in this new development and distill all his hopes and dreams down to a very matter-of-fact project-outline. Then he forces Misha to read and reread it until he is satisfied that it will do and emails it to Kripke.
It’s only when he resurfaces from another mild anxiety attack that he realizes that Steve looks pretty much dressed to the nines.
“Jeez, man. Is there a royal ball that I’m not invited to?”
“No.” Chris snorts “It’s just that our boy here has got a hot date tonight.”
“Yeah, well, I kinda wanted to talk to you about that. Uhm, you see, it’s our fourth date and her roommate has the flu and I already asked Chris to spend the night with some friends and I thought maybe you and Misha could, like, sleep in the van…?”
He trails of, looking so sheepish that Jensen takes pity on him.
“Yeah, sure, man. Don’t worry. But please let us know when you blow it so that we can come back inside.”
Steve tries to hit him in the arm but there is a happy smile on his face that would have Jensen think the whole thing is really sweet. Only if he were a girl of course.
As it is he cuffs Steve gently upside the head and grins.
“Don’t get your hope up too much. She probably just hangs with you because she wants to get away from her disgusting snot-infested roommate. It can hardly be your ugly mug that makes her want to date you.”
“Yeah, I have the theory that the poor girl is both blind and deaf to put up with him for that long. Because I’ve seen her and she is certainly not a dog.”
Chris chuckles as he dances out of Steve’s reach and high-fives with Jensen like the 10-year-olds they secretly are whenever they are together for any length of time.
“Fuckers, both of you! I really don’t know why I even put up with you retarded motherfuckers.”
“Because no one else can stand you?”
“Because you love us?”
Yes, ribbing on Steve with Chris until they are all laughing like loons really feels like life is just the way it should be.
That’s how Jensen finds himself squeezed into the back of a van, trying to ignore the growing pain in his lower back and the still lingering smell of illegal substances. Misha may claim that they are not illegal at all but that’s just because the North American legal system isn’t aware of their existence yet.
Still, Misha lies there, snuggled into an old sleeping bag and looking happy and serene even in his sleep while Jensen is cold and uncomfortable and he just can’t seem to close his eyes and relax.
He tries not to think about the dig and what this will mean for his future and his career but of course that is what his thoughts are inevitably returning to. If Kripke approves of his outline he will probably contact the necessary authorities to get the go-ahead for the dig. And although Morgan wasn’t overly pleased when Jensen told him that Kripke granted him the money (in fact he made a noise that sounded as if he pretty much swallowed his own tongue) he promised to send down some people to help with the excavation in the next couple of days.
All Jensen needs now is to find a place where they can all stay, get some equipment together and inform the angry jerk of a landlord that his fucking backyard is a place of public interest from now on.
Maybe he should even try to play a little nice with the guy, just to make his life easier.
Yeah, that definitely sounds like a plan. He will wait for the final green light from Kripke then start house hunting and find a hardware store for shovels and buckets and all the stuff Morgan probably won’t send along with the workers. He can only hope that they bring at least some usable WHS trowels and surveyor’s field frames and other stuff that can’t be bought all that easily in a small town like this. Well, Kripke said he would take care of everything, so there sure is hope.
After scoping out the lay of the land, Jensen will find a home base and the day after tomorrow or at the end of the week at the latest they can really start getting down and dirty, literally.
Anticipation still thrumming through him like a light buzz Jensen finally manages to drift of to sleep even though he knows his back and neck will hurt like a bitch come morning.
It turns out that Morgan keeps his word, at least kind of. He sends exactly two people down to Sturry to work with Jensen. Mike Rosenbaum, who is known throughout Dartmouth to be slightly crazy at best, a raving lunatic at worst and Katie Cassidy. Jensen knows Katie in passing. They attended a couple of the same lectures and Jensen knows she has been suffering under Mogan's 'supervision' almost as much as he has. He greets them at the tiny little three-bedroom bungalow at the outskirts of town he managed to rent on a monthly basis and thank the Lord that Kripke also agreed to send him a site technician.
Jim Beaver arrived yesterday with a set of trowels and field frames as well as finds bags and folding-rules and a whole lot of other stuff Jensen hadn’t really thought about yet like a camera, a tachymeter and a laptop with a nice little database on it to digitalize all the finds and features. Needless to say that Jensen already loves him.
They set up a real little office in the living room and Jensen is secretly proud about how professional it all looks even though the place is anything but pretty with the ugly ass wallpaper, the sagging brown couch and the dull gray wall-to-wall carpet.
Jensen has sent Misha back to Dartmouth to pack up all the clothes and other supplies from their apartment that they might need and prepare the place for a prolonged absence of its inhabitants. In their line of work it isn't all that unusual that the place is empty for month at a time and they have a default system for occasions like this that can be set in motion with one single phone call to Miss Sanchez. Their elderly neighbor will see to it that their plants are watered and the mail is collected and suchlike. So, everything should be fine, if only Misha doesn't "forget" to pack underwear again.
Jensen claims the master bedroom for himself and Misha, while Mike and Jim share a small room with nothing but a rickety wardrobe and a set of bunk beds in it. Jensen still feels bad that Jim has to room with the wacko, but there is no way Katie would share with either of them and Jim reassured him that he has slept under far worse conditions on other digs.
Jensen kinda doubts that when they gather round for their first breakfast together and things start with Mike’s chair actually collapsing under him as soon as he sits down. It’s funny at first especially since Mike’s expression of dumb surprise wouldn’t be out of place on a brain-dead carp.
It starts to be decidedly less funny when Jim steps out onto the porch and his foot actually breaks through the old wooden planking. He curses like a sailor and cuffs a sniggering Mike upside the head, so Jensen guesses he is not hurt. He still feels kinda awful that the house is so crappy. They can’t afford anything flashier, though, so it will just have to do.
In the evening they gather together in the living room that smells way better since Katie attacked it with some kind of room freshener and Mike brings out the beer they bought on their first trip to the mall. He twists open the cap of one bottle and leers at Katie.
“I’m sorry, little girl. We didn’t think to bring you anything and we are just out of sparkling wine. Would you like a nice glass of hot milk instead?”
Instead of answering Katie just grabs Mike’s bottle and drown it with three long gulps before handing it back.
“Just bring it on, baldy.”
The rest of the evening is spent in a relaxed atmosphere. They certainly don’t get trashed, but there is enough beer for Jensen to feel nice and loose and maybe he is riveted when Jim tells them about that one dig in South America were the head archaeologist was so paranoid about the native workers stealing the valuable finds that he hid all kinds of golden ornaments in the silliest of places. He modeled a block of butter around a bracelet and filled rings and other small items into a fish that he in turn stuffed into the freezer. At the end of the dig there was literally no food left that you could actually eat without being afraid of the filling. It went so far that the workers rebelled against him and the guy gave out shovels and pickaxes and ordered everyone that was not ready to kill him to guard the dig day and night. It seemed as if Jim was able to talk everyone down of the ledge before the whole thing escalated but it seemed to have been a pretty close call.
They talk and share stories until late that night and for once Jensen doesn’t have trouble falling asleep. That only lasts of course until a very high pitched shriek echoes through the entire house. Jensen is sure Katie at least set herself on fire so he is out of bed and sprints towards the kitchen before he has time to think. What he finds is a disgusted looking Mike who hops from one bare foot to the other while he stares into the kitchen like it’s filled with slime.
“Jesus Christ, what happened here?”
Jim’s voice is rough with sleep.
“Why is that knucklehead hopping around out here like a fairy after screaming like all hell broke loose?”
Before Jensen can say something, Mike shudders visibly.
“I stepped on it. It was right there and I stepped on it.”
“What the fuck, Mike?”
Katie apparently followed the commotion, too. Only Misha seems to be fast asleep as always.
“A ‘roach. It was huge. I just had to take one step into the kitchen to reach the light switch and I stepped on it. With bare feet. Aren’t those suckers supposed to be real quick, like?”
He shudders again, dramatically and Jensen is momentarily lost for words. Katie fortunately isn’t.
“That’s all? You stepped on a fucking cockroach and that is why you screamed like a girl and almost wet your fucking pants? Come on, man, grow a pair, why don’t you.”
“Oh, you mean a pair of nasty, hairy balls, like you obviously have, huh, Katie?”
At least Mike is starting to regain some color and his voice is less toneless.
“Oh, don’t be jealous because I can actually hold my liquor and don’t faint and piss myself because of one tiny insect.”
“Ok, kids. That is about enough. Why don’t we all go back to bed and forget this ever happened? I certainly can do without the image of Mike as the damsel in distress.”
They all turn to head back to bed, only Mike still shifts uncertainly.
“I… you know… I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, because I’m really thirsty and now… Now I can’t….”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
Jim strides to the sink, grabs a glass and fills it with water, then he turns back and hands it to Mike.
“There. Happy? Can we all go back to bed now?”
Mike just nods and Jensen vows to get some bug spray asap.
Another little hitch in their life together is the food. Both Jensen and Misha can cook more or less all right, even though Misha tends a little towards the unconventional (his tofu á la pineapple is really not as bad as it sounds) but they both don’t exactly love doing it so they decided to take turns with kitchen duties starting as of now, so that they can see what the others are actually capable of managing. This turns out to be a huge mistake. While Jim manages something quite edible the first night, both Mike and Katie obviously couldn’t cook to save their lives.
Mike trashes the kitchen so that it looks like an air raid took place in it and later serves them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And he almost severed his finger while cutting off the crusts.
Katie cooks rice and some sauce and it looks ok, but the rice is so gooey and sticks together that it feels like eating the Blob and the sauce just tastes like salt and is so hot even Jim’s eyes water.
They end up ordering pizza both times and decide to never let those two into the kitchen ever again. Katie complains and apologizes but looks pretty relieved anyway. Mike just looks relieved.They may be a mismatched bunch of crazies, but Jensen is happy with them nonetheless. It's their enthusiasm that fills him with a great deal of confidence that this dig is going to work just fine. When he told them what they are actually supposed to excavate none of them laughed or snorted disbelievingly or rolled their eyes. In fact, they bombarded him with question and he found himself telling them about the various Viking explorers who traveled the seas in search for fertile soil and other treasures, more than willing to be as ruthless as it was necessary to acquire them but also unbelievably brave to face rough seas and unknown lands to ever expand their world.
When he was finished Katie and Mike stared at him wide-eyed and even Jim seemed to be at least a little in awe.
"So you are telling me, that Leif "The Lucky" Erikson sailed down here from friggin' L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland to have a quick look at Sturry, New Hampshire? You think this is really the elusive Vinland the sagas talk about?"
"Well, no. I really don't think that. I don't even think it was necessarily Leif The Lucky who sailed down here, but I am sure someone did and considering what I found in that ditch I am inclined to believe that whoever those people were, they settled here at least for a while. They lived here and died here and buried their dead in style. And I am going to fucking prove that."
"Honestly, son, if it turns out you are right, and this is not just a hoax or even an isolated burial it is sure going to be a big stir you are causing."
"Honestly, Jim? I really, really hope so."
All in all, things go kinda well nonetheless. The permit for the dig Kripke promised to get for them should arrive any day now, they are prepared and ready to start and Misha even brought socks and Jensen's favorite digging clothes. Yeah, everything is going just fine. At least most things are. Unfortunately there is still one little hitch in the whole thing. Well, a rather huge, Pada-something sized hitch to be honest, but Jensen is sure that he can deal with that, too. He will just be on his most friendly behavior the next time they meet and with a little bit of luck they’ll find some kind of common ground. Piece of cake.
After starting to ignore the things that might come, Jared settles into a homely routine surprisingly easy after a few days. He gets up early and walks aunt Mildred`s dogs, although he slowly starts to think of them as his babies. In the mornings he reads books and plays Madden on his PS3 or he surfs the internet. Yeah, he guesses he is a lonesome geek, but that`s ok. Generally Jared feels weirdly content with himself and the world for the first time in ages - here in Sturry at world`s end, living in his dead aunt`s house of all strange laces. As the good Texan boy he is with nothing much else to do and a lot of time on his hands he now and then feels complied to help out Sandra with her housework and he also accomplishes to do some much needed repairs on his aunt`s house. Mildred left him an unbelievably huge load of cash in the bank (so no murderer but maybe New Hampshire’s Bonnie Parker?) and he intends to do something with it his great-aunt would not have frowned upon. Because maybe a witch’s powers really do increase after her death and Jared is just not ready to take a chance. So spending aunt Mildred`s money on candy or something else frivolous and fun just sounds way too risky. Aunt Mildred hated candy. But anyway, first Jared may have to talk with the lawyer and go through the paper work. He needs to establish where the money came from before spending it with a certain peace of mind.
One afternoon he even gets started. Sorting through the tons of stuff Mildred left behind is not much fun, especially as not much is related to mysterious money in bank accounts. Beneath a huge pile of handwritten papers buried in her bedroom`s cupboard which he does not bother to read he finds an awful lot of pictures of himself as a chubby-cheeked child and as a lanky teenager. He does not remember these pictures being taken and he does not remember one occasion when Aunt Mildred asked his mother or other relatives for family pictures, or more specifically pictures of him. He is quite sure Mildred did not even know his siblings` names and only remembered his because she had begrudgingly transferred money each month to his college trust fund since he was three. Jared`s mother used to say that aunt Mildred did this due to a traditional sense of family obligation. A felt obligation that should not be questioned and which Jared had to repay by visiting Mildred as often as he could. This collection of well-kept pictures is so out of style for his cranky aunt that Jared is truly a bit dumbfounded.
Without second thought he calls Sandy and they meet up. They talk. Though not much about Mildred or about the miserable summer holidays Jared spent at his aunt`s house through the years of his childhood. But about everything else: tv-shows, civil rights, chocolate frosting. Even about Jared`s crazy idea in his first college year to become a child psychiatrist. Well, that was before Jared realized that although he loved working with children, institutionalized psychiatry is really depressing, especially for the psychiatrist doing the therapy. But they can talk about it. And sure enough it becomes a regular thing after two nights: They meet up at Sandy`s or his place order stuff and talk. It is effortless and honest and Jared finds he can tell Sandy everything as long as he promises he will not bother her when she finally gets into the mayor`s pants.
So this is Jared`s life as he waits for the evil archeologists` empire to strike back. Or maybe better the attack of the bone digging clones. He and Sandy have not yet decided on which Star Wars geek metaphor to use on them when they return. It seems to be a vital question though as they have started to re-watch the whole series the day before. Jared is strict on his opinion that the old parts of the series are the only parts that rocks- nobody can beat a BAMF!Han Solo - but Sandy hasn`t faltered yet. In her obviously false and very addlebrained opinion Hayden Christiansen is worth watching, too. How Jared could actually befriend somebody with such questionable and dodgy tastes is beyond him.
“Surely they are not the galactic empire, Jared. Some geeks with shovels from Dartmouth? They will probably run away crying for their mommies if you try to speak with them because they have never seen a living person outside their libraries! Not like the galactic empire at all, Jared.”
“They are. I told you how they trespassed into my garden, insulted my dogs and shouted at me. Treated me like a nutcase in my own fucking backyard not even bothering to tell me that they were not picking like vultures at the remains of my relative. I was freaking out thinking Mildred had buried somebody there, Sandy. “
Sandy puts a hand on Jared’s shoulder, smiling at her new found childhood friend, who is just so unbelievably comfy in this old house. Jared assumes she knows he is still coping with aunt Mildred`s passing in his own way. It is weird mourning somebody who did not want to be liked by anybody but who so willingly left everything to him.
“And this patronizing dumbass telling me where to stick my so called kiddy pool! I would have loved to punch the fucker!”
“If you weren`t such a ‘raging’ pacifist, I know.” Sandy nodded reassuringly. It was of course not the first time she heard about the condescending king of assholes, the one with the intriguing green eyes. Jared could quite easily manage to go on about this for hours. But it had to stop.
“Ok, Jared, you win with your awesome disputation skills. The Dartmouth people are the Galactic Empire. So stop sulking and be a man. These people obviously don`t know nothing about social skills. Their behavior five days ago proves that. You told me you were a psychologist. Has this expensive education your aunt paid for taught you nothing? About handling difficult people?”
“Most psychologists are so called difficult people themselves. You should know that by now.”
Jared gives her a wide but weary grin. The subject of the Dartmouth people is the only thing that always exhausts him.
“But I figure … I guess you have a point.”
“Good. Then let`s watch some more Han Solo kicking some alien ass.”
And that's that. The only thing Jared can do now is to wait for these damn idiots to come back and be an adult about it.
When a few days later they do finally return, they come with tons of stuff. Like they want to build a skyscraper and not dig a little hole in Jared`s backyard. Like they prepare for a siege of epic proportions to his own Helm`s deep. Yeah, so more LOTR than Star Wars, but Jared thinks it is still fitting. He has left the door to his backyard open last night, on purpose, although he thinks he will be awake when they arrive. He is not an unfriendly host. He plans to be nice and polite to these people even though they had a bad start and nobody bothered to apologize to Jared about freaking him out (so adult-like of him!). But he was out last night with Sandy and guessed he could afford to sleep in a little bit. His backyard is not Troy so the people will probably not be overexcited and take their time as well.
Sounds of people entering his property shouting and organizing themselves wake him up at about six in the morning. He looks out of his window and sees the mass of what could be Uruk-hai or humans and decides that hell no, he will not get up and give them a warm welcome like he wanted to if they had arrived at a more humane time, and yes, he will just turn over and sleep some more.
He gets up at about 9 am, takes a shower and steps down into his kitchen. Harley and Sadie are waiting for him, wagging their tails like they are overenthusiastic puppies so happy to see him and get food and their morning walk.
“Hey you two, have you been up long waiting for me?”
Jared squats down, petting the two dogs. Over the last few days these two have become truly his and he loves them and he can never again be grumpy in the mornings just because these two are there. He cuddles with them for a few minutes before going over to the stove to make himself some pancakes. When he sits down at the kitchen aisle he looks out of the huge windows, seeing what has happened to his backyard for the first time. There are five people out there running around, talking and being generally busy. They are surrounded by boxes and two of them are apparently in the process of erecting a tent. The others seem not so much intent on digging, but on measuring. There are huge measuring tapes, folding rulers and other electronic equipment lying around or being used that remind Jared of the stuff he has seen on discovery Channel about archeology. So maybe this whole thing could still turn out to be cool somehow after all, because discovery channel rocks.
In the middle of the wasp nest that makes up the busy little group Jared discovers the man he has shouted at a few days ago, the one who was poking at the bones, the one with the amazingly green eyes. He looks good: Lean, muscled body, about 6 feet 2, a bit older than Jared maybe, and possibly the most gorgeous face Jared has ever seen even if at that moment it is constricted by utter concentration. His features are pretty but distorted; the man is clearly stressed to his bones, running around, agitated to the extremes, talking to everyone at the same time while the rest of the group seems a lot calmer. Jared wonders why - maybe the guy is in charge or something and not ready for the job. He decides to brew a big pot of Sandra`s special stress-relieving herbal tea (somehow, the old lady thought he would need that stuff after his dealings with the animal shelter) and bring it as a welcoming present as soon as he is dressed. Perhaps that will loosen Indiana Jones over there up a little bit and they can have a friendly chat.
A few minutes later Jared opens the kitchen door to the yard, teapot in one hand, a plate of cookies in the other, Sadie and Harley happily trotting along. Oh my God, must he look gay. He just hopes these guys have brought along their own cups, because nobody should have to endure Aunt Mildred`s old china. Usually Jared would have gone for a run with his babies by now, in the woods nearby or somewhere else, as the backyard is officially of limits. But since he is going out now anyway they could also come along. After a few seconds they are running around enthusiastically, jumping up Jared`s legs occasionally and playing with each other while he approaches the people at the end of his yard.
“Hey guys! How are you?”
Jared shouts a little because he is still some feet away from the site. After there is no reply he continues a little unsure.
“I thought you might be hungry or thirsty or something. I guess you brought your own stuff… but Sandra - the nice the old lady who lives next door? She makes really fantastic cookies. And I made you some tea… “
He is greeted by a cautious smile from an older guy and a kind of elaborate wave from a weird looking hippie standing close by. They apparently try to unpack one of the many boxes. Jared takes it as a welcoming sign and continues his walk. Just about then Pretty-Stressed-Out-Green-Eyed-Guy who is standing next to Jared`s self dug hole assorting some measurement tape on the ground, turns around suddenly. At first he looks at Jared, ostensibly surprised, but then his eyes wander a bit sideways to Harley and Sadie and the look on his face changes. Harley is barking loudly by then, some feet to Jared`s right and chasing Sadie in the direction of the hole next to the man.
“Stop! This is an archeological site! You have to stop these beasts!”
The man waves his hands wildly in the air. But Harley and Sadie don`t listen. Jared hasn`t allowed them to explore the yard since the incident last week. So Sadie jumps into the hole in no time trying to investigate what has happened to their former playground. And Harley lunges at the man, who drops down to his knees into an uncomfortable position. Harley does not seem to feel in the least disturbed by this and starts licking the guy’s face enthusiastically, while he starts yelling nonsense at the top of his lungs. Jared can only make out a few curses, words like “order”, “havoc “ and “organization”, but it is enough that he decides to save the man. He whistles twice and Harley and Sadie trot back to him slowly. “Good babies…” he starts praising them, when they reach him.
“Good babies? Are you mad? These two alone have destroyed three hours of our hard work! Look what your so called babies have done!”
It`s the guy Harley has attacked, or at least licked all over as far as Jared can see. The tone of his voice is full of anger and spite. If he had not just offended Jared`s dogs, Jared might be inclined to say he looks cute in his rant waving his hands in the air and head growing red as the metaphoric tomato.
“Oh, I am sorry…” Jared offers “These two are really a little overenthusiastic sometimes.”
“Overenthusiastic? They ruined all of the measurements, now we have to do it all over again!” The guy grumbles in a voice that suggests the dog just ate the population of a small country. Then he is on the floor again apparently collecting his precious equipment
“Chill out, dude, they are just dogs. They didn`t mean any harm. I will hold them back from now on.”
“You better fucking do that!”
The guy's tone is dismissive as he turns his back to Jared.
“Ok.” Jared decides to ignore Mr. Grumpy Guy and turns to the rest of the group, who have been silent bystanders in the drama that ensured seconds ago.
”I brought you all some tea and cookies, so y'll can take a lunch break. I will just leave them here.”
When nobody says anything Jared turns and leaves his backyard taking the dogs with him. It is not an escape or anything he tells himself, hell it is his own backyard. He just does not feel so welcome there anymore. And the guys` eyes on his back make him feel naked and embarrassed, like a little kid who just realized it did something incredibly stupid. And in his own backyard he should not feel this way.
Later that day, at about four, the weird hippie guy returns the empty pot and thanks Jared for it. He says his name is Misha and animatedly inquires about which herbs Jared used for the tea. Without being asked to the man goes on to tell Jared all about his own herbal teas like it`s atom physics and not just a bunch of leaves. Jared must admit this Misha person seems a little out of place in his aunt`s kitchen in his wide Indian style clothing, but they manage to have a nice enough chat once Jared gets into it as well and manages to relax. It seems he is not the arch-nemesis of all archeologists out there. That is at least a little reassuring.
When Misha says goodbye he tells Jared not to mind Jensen so much - his Ch'I was clearly just misplaced today. Jensen must be Mr. Grumpy`s real name.
Jensen really wanted to make an attempt at getting along with Pada-something. He did, honestly, but the entire day seemed dead set on conspiring against him.
It all hinges on the fact that Jensen really isn’t a morning person. He is aware of that and usually tries to avoid getting in situations where that fact collides with other people. But the first day of a dig is always rather crucial and full of annoying preparations that have to be done to even get started. Therefore Jensen agreed – if reluctantly – to Jim’s suggestion to get started at six a.m., basically as soon as the sun was up.
That meant he had to get up around 5 to find that the cheap coffee maker Jensen had bought on his very first day at the house already died after less than a week of usage. The bastard!
This in turn resulted in him being severely under-caffeinated and already in less than an awesome mood when theyarrived at the site. Pada-something wasn’t awake yet, something Jensen couldn’t really begrudge him but did nonetheless. They let themselves into the yard and started setting everything up. Of course Jim was just the professional Jensen thought he would be but unfortunately that couldn’t be said for Mike. While Katie tried her hardest to compensate for his idiocy, Mike was just a walking catastrophe. And then there was Misha standing on the side and smiling enigmatically while Jensen was this close to a stress-induced heart attack.
He generally prides himself, that he is a damn good archaeologist but being in charge of his very first very own dig rapidly turns out to be a completely different can of worms. It’s not that he doesn’t know what needs to be done it’s just that he apparently sucks at delegating that to people.
He was just in the process of yelling at Mike once again not to jostle the fucking tachymeter while helping tiny-yet-determined Katie to set up the tent when all six feet and then some of Pada-something finally made an appearance, carrying something that looked like a pot of some hot beverage.
Before Jensen could throw himself at the guy`s feet and ask the mighty bringer of coffee to be allowed to silently worship him despite their earlier misgivings however, Pada-something decided to shatter all Jensen’s hopes and announced that he brought fucking tea. What the hell? Couldn’t he tell Jensen was going cold turkey?
And then there were the two huge monsters that the guy still insisted were dogs destroying Jensen’s finally almost assembled site and subjecting him to a thoroughly disgusting slobber-attack.
And that was just so not cool. Although he has to admit that the huge ball off fluff that attacked him was really cute in an oversized puppy kinda way. All huge and gangly with soulful eyes and an obvious craving for affection. It’s a mystery to Jensen how such a dog could belong to an ass like that Pada-something. It’s obviously just an urban legend that dogs resemble their owners. But nice dog or not, slobber all over Jensen’s face and clothes and bloody Pada-something not able to control his mutts? Still so not cool!
It was in fact so not cool that while Misha waxes poetic about the guy’s excellent taste in tea Jensen feels a vein throb dangerously in his right temple every time he hears the guy’s name.
His chance of revenge comes just a couple of days later, though.
They have finally started with the actual digging part of the dig this morning and are carefully expanding the ditch, first with shovels and later when they near the level of the first burial with trowels. It’s still not really archaeology because they are mostly digging through layers of fertilized garden mold that Great-Aunt What's-her-name and her predecessors must have dumped here to favor the petunias. Therefore Jensen gave into Mike’s pestering to be allowed to switch on his little boom box and blast them with music.
Jensen doesn’t mind listening to Mike’s and Katie’s playlist even though the meaningless pop-schmaltz and just as meaningless pseudo-deep indie-crap he is subjected to is not exactly up his ally. He doesn’t come to regret allowing it until Misha get’s his iPod out of the van and connects it to the machine. Then he learns what pain really feels like, because… Japanese death metal? Feels like being dragged down the metaphorical alley and being roughed up by Vogons. He is just about to say something to that effect, when the backdoors slams open and a very pissed off Pada-something makes an appearance. Jensen has to admit that he looks impressive all broad chest and huge arms and flying hair. And he is already yelling right at Jensen before he even reaches them.
“What the fuck, man? Isn’t it enough to barge into my backyard uninvited, rearrange my garden and alienate me to a point where I feel like a fucking intruder in my own house and garden, do you really have to torture me with this ear-splitting racket? God, I really tried not to come out here, but this is what Iwo Jima must have sounded like. Turn it the fuck down right now, or I swear…”
Jensen has to silently agree, but he won’t let that giant whiner order him around. Instead he just leans over and pumps up the volume. He knows he will suffer, too, possibly more than Pada-something who can at least escape some of it by simply going back inside. But he figures it’s worth it when he watches him fuming, his admittedly huge hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. After a couple of minutes the guy seems to come to some kind of conclusion (possibly that hitting Jensen in public with one of his best friends a police officer is not such a bright idea) and storms back inside.
Take that you giant freak. Two people can play this game.
Jared feels like he is suddenly five years old again, arguing with his brother Jeff about who gets to play with what toy car in the sandbox. Only that Jeff never got that Jared wasn`t interested in his brother`s stupid toy cars, he just wanted to be left alone and do his own thing. Still Jared was always the one that ended up with sand in his eyes crying for his mummy. It`s the same with these archeologists - Jared gets that they don`t want anything to do with him, he is not as intriguing as the pile of dirt in his backyard. thank you very much. But he pretty well got that the first time around when he tried to bring them tea and cookies and was treated like a brain damaged psycho who committed genocide. He just wishes that they leave him the hell alone and not force him to listen to this music that sounds more like a junk yard orchestra that is preparing to march into war than anything else Jared can think of. Not that he can think of much with this awful noise coming from his backyard. He attempted to read through some official papers for the house and other apparently random piles of paperwork that he found at odd places throughout the house. There seem to be thousands of handwritten papers and documents Mildred has left him with, even more bank accounts and obscure investments than anyone could ever make sense of. What the hell did this old woman get up to?
But then they turned this god damned music on that no one on earth could form a coherent thought to. And when he asked them to turn it down for the sake of propriety and Sandra`s midday nap the condescending king of assholes just turned the volume up. Like a defiant, bratty child. Jared`s got enough of this shit. He wants to tell somebody about how awesomely he refrained from hitting this guy again and again, only because he knew he would probably interpret his attention as further positive reinforcement. But he can`t call Sandra or Sandy because he would feel even more like a five year old complaining to his mummy about the big bully at school. Or rather his elderly neighbor or his best female friend who would insist on being the voice of reason. Therefore he calls Chad, the only other five year old he knows.
Sitting in his damp cellar, listening to Chad going on about his football team, his life and everything has its ups and downs. One definite down is that Jared had to go to the cellar at all, because it is one of the only places in the house where he doesn`t hear the music from outside. On the upside he finally managed to locate aunt Mildred`s legendary wine collection and he has not thought about the infuriating shovel-handlers outside for quite a while.
“So dude, this Sandy chick….are you doing her?”
“Chad,” Jared sighs “Sandy is a good friend; we knew each other as kids. And as you know, you jerk, I am gay.“
“And you are sure that chick knows that as well, because chicks, Jay, they can be pretty dense….”
“Pretty sure. Aunt Mildred outed me to her and her grandma when I was, like, 13. I am not sure how she could have missed that. And Sandy is not stupid Chad. She is my friend. ”
“Wait, Jay. Your aunt did what? I always thought you figured it out over Milo at school when we were 14?” Chad shouts indignantly over the phone, most likely because he has prided himself for years for being the first Jared ever told..
“Yeah, I did.“ Jared actually smiles when he thinks back to the warm summer day when he was 13. He had already stayed with his aunt for a week and a younger version of Sandy had wanted to go out with him. She had been all smiles and blushed red like a tomato when she asked him out.
“But Aunt Mildred figured it out before me.”
She had actually screamed over the fence at Sandy, telling her to get her grabby hands off her nephew, as he was damn well gay. She continued by telling her that Jared had no interest whatsoever in her and would never have any, if Sandy did not manage to grow a different set of biological equipment. When Sandy`s grandma came out to defend the poor frightened girl and a totally embarrassed Jared, Mildred actually bragged about her shotgun and her pretty good aim that would come in pretty handy if anyone were to ever say anything at all about Jared`s assumed gayness ever again.
“So your aunt knew it before you did? Well, you sure must be the dense one here, Jay- bird.”
“Thank you for your concern.” Jared says. “So how is your own amazing love life?”
Jared sits in his cellar for another 2 hours listening to Chad and the issues of having a personal harem. He feels a lot better when he comes back to the living room, mainly because it is so late that the digging gang has already left the perimeters of his garden but also because he knows that Sandy has just finished work.
Jared has a hard time thinking bad things about people. Firstly, he is just not the kind of person to do so - in his opinion people have the potential for great and amazing things and nobody is innately evil. Secondly, his studies over the past years have taught him that although certain behavior inclinations may be invested in our DNA a hell of a lot is learned. And you don`t shout at a lab rat only because it follows the easiest path through the maze. You reconstruct the maze. You change the position of the cheese. And only if everything else fails you send a small electric shock and finally the rodent will learn. Jared is sure of this.
Jared is at Sandy`s place. They have ordered pizza and Jared has started to tell her about today`s adventures with the 'a'-crowd. In Jared`s opinion the words archeologists and assholes start with the same letter for a reason
“You should have heard it Sandy. It was monstrous. And when I asked the guys politely to turn the volume down they just turned it up even more.”
Ok, Jared was more whining and moping than complaining, but he just needed it right now. And he still somehow felt like his five year old self.
“You asked politely? Really, Jay?”
Sandy looks at him, raising her right eyebrow. The one Jared has become intimately familiar with since he started to burden Sandy with his problems.
“No, ok…” Jared admitted “Maybe I was a bit insistent. But it is my garden. And I can`t do anything against these guys and they are not even nice to me. I just wanted to get some work done - all this stupid paperwork to do with the house. And have a nice beer. I mean, all I wanted was a fucking pool and what did I get? Dolby-surround War of the Worlds?”
Jared is just so fucking frustrated. The talk with Chad has managed to take the edge of things a bit but when he thinks he has to continue to live with these people roaming his backyard he wants to puke.
“Stop wailing like a baby, Padalecki. You are just too nice. A giant cuddly, pacifist puppy. Have you not thought about how YOU could make their hole-digging business a bit more interesting? I mean really interesting and not just by screaming at them. The empire has clearly declared war. How about you could extract some revenge for a change?”
“Revenge is bad Sandy. They would not learn anything from it. And I would be totally struck with even dumber dim-witted idiots in my garden afterwards.”
“Ok, if not revenge, how about some cookies for alternative behavior? Is that not what you did talk to me about yesterday? How I should change the incentives or whatever you called them for Mayor Bob`s behavior? Get him that autographed book from his favorite author for his birthday, so that he looks at me differently? And then finally gets the hots for me? ”
“Yeah, of course”, Jared says reluctantly thinking back to yesterday`s love coaching session. The mayor really seems to have fairly one-sided love affair with some stupid author, so Jared concluded that they could maybe use that in some way to turn his attention to Sandy. Although, Jared seriously doubted the man was worth all that trouble.
“But anyway, your love life is a totally different…issue.”
“No. Love is a battlefield. It`s totally like what you have in your backyard now. You have to fight back somehow. We just have to change the incentives a bit for their behavior and then voilà, they become all agreeable and nice. Like children who have their eyes on chocolate ice cream. Does that sound better to your ethically sound mind?”
Jared looks at Sandy. He should never have started talking psychology to her. She is much better at this stuff than he ever was. The idea though is intriguing.
“So spit it out Sandy. What exactly is on your devious mind?”
Sandy had to explain the whole concept to Jared about three times. It is not that Jared is not familiar with the concept of pool parties. Quite the contrary. And he surely is not dense but to get Sandy`s particular drift you have to be quite an evil mastermind. Jared is throwing a pool party on Friday. In New Hampshire, in spring, without so much as an actual pool. It will probably be about 58 degrees, really warm for spring in New Hampshire, but for Jared just about arctic and freezing nonetheless. Only Sandy, Alona and Emily and some more of Sandy`s girlfriends are invited but it will surely be a huge success/ major strike against the enemy. At least he hopes so, or he is really slowly going nuts with Sandy`s all to helpful assistance.
When he starts dragging sunshades, tables, some mobile radiators and deck chairs out on to his porch on Friday morning nobody from the enemy`s stronghold – Sandy`s term, not Jared`s – seems to notice at first. Even decorating everything with the colorful plastic flowers and lights Sandy lent him goes largely unnoticed. However, when he starts spreading the sand on the ground next to the porch, a few heads turn. Jared recognizes Misha and waves happily at the guy while he ignores the rest of the confused onlookers. They all are sure in for a surprise.
His door bell rings at about two, just after he has finished preparing the drinks for the ladies. Sandy insisted the drinks were Jared`s department, and Jared does not mind. If this works at all, he will buy her drinks for a life time.
The girls all arrive together in full beach gear. Until he sees them Jared has not even been sure people could survive wearing so little clothing so far up on the east coast. They are carrying towels, totally unnecessary sun lotion and other stuff, while wearing either bathrobes or nearly impossibly small skirts and tight t-shirts. Sandy makes her way up to him and kisses him on the cheek.
“Don`t worry, Jared. Reinforcements have arrived.”
With that she drops her bathrobe revealing a tiny scarlet bikini. “Come on girls, I will show you to the porch. Jared can you bring us the first round of drinks?”
Jared just barely manages a nod as his eyes follow Sandy who leads the girls out onto the porch. When she steps onto the sand Jared hears some of the guys from the backyard gasp loudly. He glances over to the girls, which is easy at his impressive height, and watches how one of the men near the hole actually drops his spade when he spots the girls. Mr. Grumpy next to him screams in agony and starts bouncing around on one leg holding his hurt foot, while the guy just stares totally transfixed. Jared hears adoring “ohs” and ”ahs” as the girls start to undress or lose their robes and lie back in the deck chairs chatting among themselves while the male archeologists just gape dumb-struck. Jared thinks he can even see drool on some of them. He will never again doubt Sandy and her evil plans.
When Jared steps onto his porch just a few minutes later with the first round of drinks barely anyone is working anymore at the far corner of his backyard. Most of the guys are either standing under the tent trying not to be too obvious about their interest or slowly approaching the girls. Jared only spots the green-eyed pack leader, Jensen, and the only girl on the dig still standing inside the hole, quite obviously trying and failing to not care about what goes on around them. They can`t be that interested in the small part of the dirt, Jensen is insistently pointing at for over a minute now. Jared whistles happily as he passes the first drink of the day to Alona. She displays a wicked smile and immediately resumes her conversation with one of the braver archeologists, who is looking at her all doe eyed.
“So you have a really big dick…I mean dig here…”
Jared nearly chokes when he hears the usually shy Alona and wants to start laughing but reassures himself that whatever this is it should work wonders on Alona`s self-esteem issues. Jared passes the rows of sunbathing girls with ease, chatting a bit here and there and handing out drinks as he goes. Sandy sends him triumphant smirks now and then and Jared is pretty glad their plan to mess with the archeologist`s work day has been successful.
Misha and Jim at least seem to be pretty cool when they finally come over from the tent and they all start to relax. Alona`s guy Mike is rather interesting, too, although he reminds Jared of someone out of a case studies in his abnormal psychology text books. Even the girl has joined them after some of Sandy`s friends tried beach volleyball and failed miserably in the endeavor. The guys have of course not tried to help out, far too happy with their roles as spectators, so Katie came along and helped them with the rules. The only one not to join the party yet is Jensen, and when he approaches about an hour later it is clear no more work will be done today and Jared gives him his best mega–watt dimple smile. Misha and Jared have just been discussing Misha`s weird music taste when Jensen steps forward right into Jared`s personal space.
“You single- handedly ruined my whole digging schedule. Are you happy with yourself? All the finds that still have to be catalogued now. We could have done so much more today: all the progress we could have made …”
“You know man, you are pretty anal about your hole. All this measuring stuff … points to some serious childhood issues. You may want to get professional help.“
It may be the beer or just Jared`s spite talking because Jensen tries to ruin the good time he is having. And maybe it`s also the heat Jensen`s body is emitting, which is confusing the hell out of Jared. However, he feels immediately sorry for what he just said when he sees Jensen`s hurt look and hears Misha`s loud laugh. He wants to say something to make amends but Jensen is already turning around and walking away.
The party turns out to be a total blast and simultaneously a great success. Jared feels much more comfortable in his own house again in the days following the party. He even dares to step into his own garden during daylight hours, waving at the guys working in its far back while making sure that Sadie and Harley stay back in the house.
Misha even brought some weird organic dog treats for his babies. The dogs adored him for it of course, but these two aren`t exactly the greatest judges of character. The last one the dogs loved was Jensen and he thought that he was being attacked.
Anyway, there is no more annoying music and the other guys actually start greeting him like they think he is a normal decent person. The new incentives surely seem to have worked. They are not his friends by far but they are civil. Everyone except for Jensen of course. Jared doesn`t know why Jensen`s apparent single person misanthropy against him bothers him so much. But the fact remains that it pisses him off greatly how the guy does not even say “hi” to him when they catch each other`s gaze across the lawn.
When Jensen tells Chris about the whole boob parade he laughs for 10 minutes straight. Then he gets Steve and Jensen has to tell it all again over speaker. He really hates his friends sometimes.
“God, you’ve got to give it to that kid, he’s got some style.”
“Yeah, too bad the whole thing was totally wasted on your gay ass. I swear, Jen, you will never get laid ever again if you don’t at least try to appreciate when something good like that comes your way.”
“Oh ha ha! I am not gay and this joke got old a really long time ago. And I do get laid, just so you know. I’m just not some promiscuous slut. I have standards. And I happen to take pride in my work. And the whole incident was a huge inconvenience and very unpleasant.”
“Oh, poor Jenny. Maybe we could come over and protect you from those nasty, scary girl parts.”
Yeah, Jensen really hates his friends. And Pada-something. He really hates Pada-something, too. So much.
Jensen kind of regrets their silly war a little, though, when Jim approaches him that evening.
“You know, Jensen, I know you are in charge of this dig and I really don’t want to tell you what to do, but I have been thinking and it would really make our lives a helluva lot easier, if we could get that Padalecki-kid to help us out with some water and electricity.”
Jensen silently curses, because Jim is right of course. In the last couple of days it has become rather obvious that they are dealing with way more than one stray grave. The first burial has been carefully excavated, recorded and retrieved from its earthen bed and Jensen almost danced in gleeful excitement when he finally held the huge iron sword in his hand for the very first time. If there had ever been any doubts that this weapon was made by a Viking smith sometime in the 10th century those are really out of the window now because this thing is the genuine article. And even better than that: They discovered at least three more graves to the east and southeast of this first burial. Jensen is so confident they will find more that his first report to Morgan was so enthusiastic it would even convince the greatest of skeptics. And all this is really really freaking awesome. But it also means they need water and electricity on the long run and asking Pada-something for anything really gets Jensen’s hackles up at this point.
“You sure we can’t do without or get it somewhere else?”
“Well, yeah. We could probably try both, but you know that in the long run it would really be better if the guy didn’t hate your guts.”
“Yeah, I know. Maybe I could try talking to him tomorrow. Start afresh, offer an olive branch.”
“I think that’d be good.”
On Monday Jensen watches for Pada-something (just because he knows his name by now doesn’t mean he has to use it) to return from his daily run with the dogs to approach him. In Jensen’s book a guy who actually get’s up at the ass-crack of dawn every morning for no other reason but to run with his dogs must be some kind of pod-person and can’t be trusted. The guy makes him fidgety and somehow throws him off-balance just by being there and being huge and always in his face. It makes him want to lash out for no apparent reason. Well, ok, maybe not no apparent reason, because apart from being tall and unsettling Pada-something also behaves like a huge jerk. Still, normally Jensen isn’t as quick to lose his temper. And he is determined to hold it all in this time.
When the guy bounds down the street towards the house, all gigantic and sweaty, wearing nothing but running shorts and a rolled-up jersey wrapped around his neck like a towel Jensen feels his stomach tighten strangely. Pada-something seriously fucks with his bloody equilibrium.
Jesus, the guy sure is built under the whiney, floppy-haired surface. Jensen is suddenly feeling a little self-conscious about his dirty, sweaty clothes, the mussed-up hair and the inevitable clay-streaks that are sure to be adorning his cheeks and he curses silently, rubbing a hand over his face and uselessly trying to flatten his hair into obedience.
Seriously, no need to be all ridiculous. The guy is certainly no better dressed and no less sweaty despite the crisp New Hampshire spring and Jensen doesn’t even like him for god’s sake. He certainly doesn’t care to impress him in any way.
Still, when almond-shaped eyes go hard and cold as soon as they come to rest on him waiting at his front door, Jensen feels his stomach drop. This is not going to be nice.
“What do you want? Have you found a new way to annoy the hell outa me?”
“No, I… I was actually hoping I could ask you something.”
God, he just knows that he is blushing like mad right about now and Padalecki is going to think him an even bigger tool than he already does. Which is really something he shouldn’t even care about. And he doesn’t, not at all.
“You do? Well, that is certainly new. I didn’t know you were even capable of something as polite as asking. So far all you have done is taking without so much as notifying me upfront. And I don’t really think there is anything I would be willing to actually grant you. Unless of course you want me to whack you with one of the shovels you use to destroy my aunt’s beloved petunias.”
Jeez, Jensen really doesn’t understand why the idea of the man spanking him seems to make him even more jittery. He doesn’t really think the guy would actually physically hurt him after all. All the stress and emotional turmoil of the past few weeks is getting to him. That and the way Padalecki smells right now, which really should be disgusting but somehow just… isn’t.
God, maybe he needs a good healthy dose of Misha’s weed after all. Or therapy, because something certainly isn’t quite right with him anymore. You seriously can’t go around noticing how people smell. Or rather, it’s all right with girls. Because they usually smell of shampoo and perfume which is always kinda nice. But standing here, breathing in Padalecki’s musky scent and not being absolutely disgusted with it must be the warning signs for some severe brain damage.
“What? Cat got your tongue? Where is that sparkling wit you have been dealing out every other time we ever talked? Oh, wait. I confused wit with impertinence again.”
“Listen, ok. We need both water and electricity on the dig and Jim thought that the easiest way to get that would be asking you if we could use yours. We would compensate you financially, of course.”
Jensen is quite proud about the way he gets it all out. Being reasonably polite and all.
And not blurting out something ridiculous like, You smell like warmth or There is sweat on your abs.
“You would? Really? So this is not something you can just take whenever the fuck you want?”
“Come on, I’ve been trying to be civil over here. No need to be a jerk about it.”
“Civil? I yet have to hear you use the word please or even phrase that as a goddamn question. Are you always this big of a dick?”
“Look, I know we don’t exactly get along and I’m aware that part of this is my fault, but maybe we could try to cooperate for the sake of both our sanities?”
“Ask me nicely.”
God, this guy really is impossible. Never try to play nice with a pod-person that looks like a Greek statue, it’ll inevitable come to bite you in the ass. And again a mental picture that has inexplicable heat rising up Jensen’s body until it pools in his cheeks.
And Jim will kill him if he doesn’t at least try to get them access to water and electricity in the easiest way there is.
Not so easy for Jensen, though.
“Ok, if you are really this incapable of being a decent human being you can fucking forget it.”
Although Padalecki’s backside really isn’t bad to look at either, it’s not what Jensen can afford to see right now.
“Ok, wait. You win. Mr. Padalecki, would you maybe be so good to allow us to use your electricity and water for our dig? We would of course compensate you for it.”
A huge beaming smile threatens to split Padalecki`s face in half at that and Jensen would probably have to admit that it is fit to light up an entire town and reveals a downright stunning set of dimples if the guy wasn’t currently radiating an obnoxious I-am-so-pleased-with-myself-I-can-hardly-contain-it vibe.
With that ‘Jared’ winks at Jensen and leaves him gaping on his front-steps, followed by his dogs who nudge Jensen companionably before bounding inside after their highly irritating and confusing master.
Jensen drags a hand through his still sweaty hair that's starting to cool uncomfortably in the breeze, mussing it back up again and sighs. Jared Padalecki really turned out to be a complication he hasn’t foreseen. Maybe Jensen should just give up trying to decipher both his body and his mind and the strange reactions both seems to have regarding that guy.
Mr. Grumpy`s last name is Ackles. Jared googled him. Only because his momma wanted to know what or who kept him in New Hampshire of course; why Jared could not just sell the house and then come back to Texas to talk with his parents about his wasted life. He had to tell her something, and naturally he wanted to tell his parents the full name of the man that is currently digging up Aunt Mildred`s flower beds. Especially since the petunia beds were sacred to Aunt Mildred. The man who does not intend to stop doing so like the lawyer has promised Jared. The man who destroyed the easy plan Jared`s parents have laid out to him to simply sell the shed and come back to Texas and deal with the paper work there.
But now Jared cannot leave, he has to watch. And meanwhile he grows increasingly connected to the house, the dogs and his old buried childhood memories of Mildred, which he doesn`t want to deal with.
Over the last two weeks Jensen`s people have dug up what appears to be lots of shards and bones. The actual hole becomes larger and larger and Jared is really intrigued by what these people are really digging up out there. Jared does not see all of it because he still does not dare to enter the archeologists` territory on his own, especially if Jensen is near, and he also does not want to ask Misha or Jim because he could reveal his own utter stupidity.
Jensen and Jared had another encounter over the usage of electricity and water but Jared got the upper hand this time around. He forced Jensen to acknowledge his existence as another human being who deserves politeness and respect. Jared is utterly happy over his small victory. He knows he has not always been nice to Jensen either, but he guesses the two of them should really try to get along somehow, to work this out. Jensen is basically living in his backyard 8-10 hours per day. Jared can see him out there. Even when it`s fucking freezing outside the guy is there until there is no natural light to work with anymore and then he turns on the flood lights. He is always the first on the site and the last to go - dedication through and through. Jared envies Jensen for this sometimes: This sense of dedication, the way the guy is driven. And if Jared looks at Jensen once or twice a bit too long, he tells himself it`s because of this guy`s awe inspiring commitment to a cause and not because of his cheek bones, his green eyes or how he looks in a sweaty and dirty t-shirt.
Basically to what it comes down to is that Jensen Ackles is just about the best excuse Jared ever had for postponing decisions. His parents, the lawyer and even Chad concur on the fact that Jared cannot do a damn thing until these guys out there are finished with their excavation. That fact makes Jared`s heart light for some reason. He does not have to find a buyer for the house yet, or think about losing his dogs because his mother wouldn`t allow him to keep these two mutts in his small room in his parents` house. He is free and happy and no one can complain.
And it`s not like Jared has to start working or anything. Not for the money at least. Jared has not yet managed to go through all the accounts Mildred left, but what has been clear since he has discovered the papers for the first offshore account is that Jared is now loaded. Not like fucking Bill Gates but still quite well off. He has not told anyone about the money yet, as Jared is still unsure about its origins and many of the accounts are under a strange woman`s name; a name Jared is not familiar with. But his aunt had neatly filed away all these account codes and checkbooks and Jared has now free access to them. So he guesses he may have to speak to his aunt`s lawyer soon. Because the really unsettling thing is that although Mildred is dead and everything huge sums of money are still transferred to the accounts every few weeks. It`s like somebody is paying Mildred for something, but Jared doesn`t manage to find out who the hell pays her or for what. Jared`s mind supplies him regularly with different morbid but most likely false ideas where the money could possibly come from. He better look into this soon. With a plan. Because there has to be a logical way to explain why Mildred got and is still getting all that money. Because life is no James Bond movie, and his aunt sure as hell is not paid by the Russians because she was a secret double agent during the cold war that did kill Kennedy. Right?
A few days later Jensen wakes up with a yelp because a fat splash of water lands on his face, soon followed by another, saturating his hair and shocking him awake. His first instinct is to flail helplessly because it has to be either Mike or Misha engaged in an elaborate prank against him or executing some kind of cruel and unusual punishment.
His flailing however fails to connect or have the desired effect and water keeps splashing down onto him and Jensen finally rolls out of bed, fully prepared to battle this mean, sleep-preventing foe.
Unfortunately, the foe ultimately turns out to be the bungalow itself, or more precisely, its roof. Said roof is so full of holes that the heavy spring rain which set in overnight practically flooded the entire place. It’s such a goddamn mess it’s not even funny. At least to Jensen it isn’t. To Mike, though, the whole thing seems to be an endless source of entertainment. He runs through the house loudly counting all the holes and gleefully jumps around on the soggy, squelchy carpet. He acts like an ADHD kid on a sugar high until Jim literally bellows at him to cut the crap and help saving the ‘goddang’ equipment.
As fast as they can they gather their little office together to get all the stuff out of the line of water and load it into Misha’s bus. By the time they have done that Jensen feels epically defeated and really kinda betrayed by the world and all he wants is to curl into a ball of self-pity but Jim won’t let him.
Making sure Misha stays behind to deal with the flooded bungalow the older man herds them all to the dig like his very own gaggle of bedraggled ducklings. And of course Jensen knows that a little rain – even if it happens to fall inside the house – isn’t something that should keep a real archaeologist from his dig, especially in New Hampshire. He still isn’t surprised that the rest of the day seems to stick to a general theme.
They do have a tent erected over the site, but water still runs into their ditch in little rivulets making the ground turn muddy like a freaking swamp. After ten minutes there is so much mud stuck under Jensen’s boots that he could probably rival Padalecki in size and can hardly move without getting stuck. It is also nearly impossible to create a clean planum to draw and when Jensen tries nonetheless, the paper in the field frame is so soggy after maybe 20 seconds that he pokes his pencil right through it and leaves smudges of water and dirt behind, almost obscuring the sketch. He is already on the brink of a nervous breakdown when Misha joins them on-site and it’s not getting any better. Misha apparently talked to the owner of their bungalow and some local handymen and of course they can totally fix the sad leaking excuse of a roof but it might take just a little time. Time they don’t have because there are four people who are currently depending on him to provide them with a real roof over their heads. He briefly thinks of calling Steve, but there is no way to squeeze seven people into their tiny apartment and even the van isn’t really an option because it is stuffed full with important and very expensive technical equipment. And Jensen is just about ready to admit total defeat and slink back to Prof. Morgan, tail between his legs and ask him if he could maybe sign up to be exploited somewhere warm and dry, preferably a desert.
“You know, there is one very easy and obvious solution to all this?”
“Really, Mish? Please enlighten me.”
“We could just ask Jared if we could bunk at his place. The house is huge and from what I have seen has several bedrooms and couches and enough space to securely store all our equipment.”
“If you are already reading my mind, man, please look closer, because there is no way in hell I’m going to ask that airhead for another favor. He practically made me grovel for the last one. I know we are in trouble, but this is just not an option. And that’s my last word on the matter.”
20 minutes, a stern glare from Jim and a couple of pleading eyes from Katie (very effective) and Mike (mostly just scary) later Jensen knocks gently at the backdoor, willing Padalecki to be out.
Of course he isn’t out because the bloody freak never does anything to make Jensen’s life easier. Jensen can see him plain as day through the glass doors, sitting around, staring at his open laptop and obviously ignoring Jensen. Jensen knocks again, louder this time but still to no avail. The fucker! Jensen is having a certified helluva day, he is wet and cold and disgruntled and forced to swallow his own pride yet again and that brat has the nerve to completely ignore him?
Riding on a high and mighty wave of righteous anger, Jensen just pushes the doors inwards, because Pada-something sure is the kind of guy who leaves all his doors unlocked and just stomps inside without hesitation. Pada-something keeps his disregard up to the point where Jensen actually has to grab his shoulder and yank him around in his swivel chair. The guy promptly yelps like a girl, jumps up from his chair in a shockwave of flailing and promptly lands on his ass on the floor. He glares up at Jensen and snatches his headphones out of his ear and, oh, maybe not exactly ignoring, but rather listening to really loud music while intently reading his emails with his back to the door. Oops.
“What the bloody fuck are you doing in here, sneaking up on people like this?"
He gets up from the floor and rubs a hand over his obviously hurting ass, than focuses an irate gaze on Jensen
"Has your momma not told you that you don’t enter someone else’s home uninvited? Or is trespassing some kind of hobby for you?”
Padalecki’s eyes stray to the backdoor and zoom in on a distinct trail of muddy footprints leading from the door to where Jensen is standing on the otherwise immaculate beige carpet. This is what pond scum must feel like.
“And what the hell have you been thinking, stomping around in here with your filthy boots? Even my dogs wait at the door to get their paws cleaned before waltzing inside, but then, they have manners.”
Jensen valiantly doesn’t point out that one, a person can only sneak or stomp and not both at the same time and that two, those two dogs might be pretty cute but certainly and severely lack in anything even resembling manners. He awards himself major karma point for his restraint. Misha would be proud.
He takes a deep breath, reminds himself that no matter how obnoxious and irritating and disquieting he finds the guy, this time it is clearly Jensen who fucked up and tries a shaky, apologetic smile. Maybe it doesn’t reach his eyes, but he is an archaeologist, not an actor for fuck’s sake.
“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. I thought you ignored my knocking on purpose and decided to call you out on it. And I wasn’t thinking about my dirty boots. I will get it cleaned somehow, I promise.”
“So you basically either thought I was pettily ignoring you with all the maturity of a five-year-old on a pouting trip or you thought I didn’t want to be disturbed and barged in anyway. How do you ever get laid with a charming personality like this?”
“I don’t… I mean I didn’t mean to disturb you, and believe me I wouldn’t if it wasn’t a real emergency. Truth is, we are in a huge fix and kinda need your help. The bungalow I rented for the dig has a seriously leaky roof and we have no place to stay now and the others thought... Look, we need a place to crash for a couple of nights or we will all die of hypothermia or some shit. I know we didn’t exactly have the best of starts and I get it if you don’t want me inside your home, but the other’s… It’s not their fault and…”
“Yeah, ok. You are kind of an ass, but I like Misha and Jim and Katie. And Mike’s interesting, to say the least. I have enough space. And I wouldn’t mind you sticking around as long as you don’t randomly start insulting me or my dogs or pick a fight over nothing again.”
To say Jensen is baffled doesn’t really cut it at all.
This is how Jensen finds himself on Pada-something’s huge, cozy couch, bundled up in blankets and staring at the ceiling. The house is indeed so insanely huge that almost everyone else got their own bedroom, Misha opting to bunk with Mike with whom he has developed some kind of scary rapport while Jensen ended up on the living room couch. He isn’t even remotely complaining though, because it’s an awesome couch and Jensen really should be asleep right now, out like the metaphorical light. But for some reason he just can’t seem to get his brain to stop whirring.
It’s not even the dig so much, because that is going awesome. They have uncovered three different burials, two male and one female and even though the bad weather isn’t exactly their friend, they are well on the way to recover the incredibly rich grave goods as well as the remarkably well-preserved bones. The next step is to widen their ditch further towards the woods as well as the house to see if there are more burials to be found and if that should be the case, Jensen is seriously golden.
No, Jensen has to admit to himself that he is unable to shut down his gray matter for one reason and one reason only. Padalecki. He somehow manages to bring out the very worst behavior in Jensen every time they are in so much as shouting distance. Jensen usually prides himself for being rational and smart and somewhat levelheaded, especially in comparison to most of his friends but when Padalecki is concerned it’s instantly all systems go with the irrational and erratic behavior. In short Padalecki makes Jensen act like an ass. And he honestly doesn’t mean to. All he wants is a quiet and professional working atmosphere on his dig. The dig that might make or break him. And yet, the last couple of weeks have been like this insane emotional roller coaster with an irate, floppy haired giant at the center.
Jensen sighs and rubs his hands over his face trying to will away visions of a dimpled smile and angry, flashing eyes.
Since this whole sleeping business seems to be a lost cause anyway, Jensen decides to get up and maybe find something edible in Padalecki’s proportionately giant fridge. He will pay the guy back for anything he eats or drinks of course but right now he wants a sandwich.
He silently pads his way through the dark, sleeping house towards the kitchen until he smacks face first into something solid. Something solid and warm and alive. He yelps and stumbles a step back and would probably have landed ass first on the floor if it weren’t for a pair of huge hands grabbing his arms and steadying him. Padalecki. Of Course.
“Hey, man, you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m good. You just startled me, is all. Uh, sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak around in your house.”
“And yet, you did it anyway. You really are a contradictory guy.”
“No, I was just… I couldn’t sleep and I wanted a sandwich.”
Jensen knows he sounds a little like a petulant child, but he can’t help it. It’s the Padalecki-bringing-out-the-worse-in-him rule all over again.
“So, no sneaking but intended theft of food? That is so much more morally sound.”
“I wasn’t planning on stealing anything. I would have paid you back for every fucking crumb I would have taken.”
He bristles with indignation and his ruffled feathers aren’t exactly smoothed down when Pada-something starts chuckling.
“I was just kidding, man. But I guess it’s still too early in our strenuous relationship to joke around, huh?”
“No, I… Jeez, I really don’t know what it is that gets me all up in your face all the time. I’m normally a pretty friendly guy, I swear.”
“Well, ok, then. Why don’t we try to start over again? I might have to admit that I wasn’t the most gracious of hosts either. So, Jared Padalecki, nice to meet you.”
“Jensen Ackles, likewise. And I really would like to dig up this awesome Viking burial ground in your backyard, if you don’t mind.”
“You know, as a matter of fact I don’t mind at all. I’m just glad it’s not my murdered great-uncle buried back there.”
“Steve told me that’s what you thought when you first saw the bones…”
“That’s pretty much what I thought until my lawyer contacted your boss, who explained everything to him so that he could explain it to me. I have to say it would have saved me a lot of headache if someone would have just had the kindness to inform me upfront.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, really. I didn’t know you were having such thoughts. I guess I was a little overexcited and didn’t really think before I was acting. Sorry.”
“Nah, man. As I said, new start, don’t worry. But I have to admit that it would be nice to know a little more about what’s going on back there. Only if you wouldn’t mind giving a non-professional a little archaeology 1.0.1 of course.”
Jensen knows that his grin is bordering on maniacal but he doesn’t often get the chance to ramble about his work to a new pair of ears.
“I can totally do that.”
They are still sitting at Jared’s kitchen counter two hours later. While demolishing half a packet of toast and quite a large amount of pb & j between them, Jensen tells Jared how Viking raiders who came all the way from Norway had actually reached North America as early as the 10th or early 11th century. How there are distinct signs of their presence in New Foundland but also hints of them in other places along the east coast of both Canada and the US where they somewhere established the settlement of Vinland. He tells him how he is so dead sure that they were here, too, in New Hampshire and that he would prove that even if it is the last thing he ever does. Jensen knows he tends to get somewhat nerdily overexcited but it is such an incredible deed of those people to best thousands of miles across the unforgiving ocean with only the most basic equipment and no knowledge what would wait for them at the end of the journey. And the awesome thing is Jared actually seems to get it. He doesn’t zone out or get glassy-eyed like Chris and Steve tend to do or tries to change the subject like Misha. He seems to be absolutely riveted, eyes fixed on Jensen face and he asks questions. Like he’s really interested. And he seems to be positively psyched about what might be in his backyard, now that Jensen took five minutes to clue him in. Jensen has to admit that a thrilled Jared is really nice to talk to. Not that an angry Jared hadn’t been quite a sight, stern and strong, but now he’s all smiles and shiny eyes and wide gestures and that is absolutely… adorable. There is just no other word as fitting as that.
It is so adorable in fact, that Jensen is still sitting here, in this kitchen, talking about everything and nothing, two hours later, while he really should be sleeping. Jared tells him about his eccentric great-aunt that may or may not have been a witch, about his home in Texas (origins they actually share although Jensen hardly remembers the place after moving away from Dallas when he was six) and about his inability to make decisions about anything that concerns his own future. Jensen in turn reciprocates by describing his own eager and hopeful self that came to Dartmouth ready to take the world by the foreskin. He recounts how he had been sure that now people would take him and his ideas serious for the first time ever. He had been so stoked to be finally among like-minded people. People who shared the same passion and dedication for the past and its secrets. And then there had been Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, larger than life and actually willing to take Jensen under his wing. He even tells Jared how the first euphoria turned sour when Morgan started showing his true colors.
They joke around and laugh and it’s almost scary how they go from angrily yelling at each other to clicking so completely as if they have known each other for ages.
When they part it is almost two in the morning, Jared is yawning hugely and Jensen’s eyes feel as if they have been sandblasted. It is worth it though, because Jensen’s belly aches from laughing and he feels light-headed in a very good way. He isn’t really a people person and making new friends is always kind of a big deal for him. After Jared has escorted him back to his couch and wished him good night with a soft smile and a warm glow in his slanted hazel eyes, Jensen lies down in his nest of pillows and thinks of dimples and flashing eyes again, but this time it makes him feel giddy and happy and he is asleep in no time.
Breakfast the next morning is an entirely different experience to every other breakfast Jensen had in Sturry so far. Instead of nasty instant coffee and dry toast, there is actual espresso and cappuccino from an expensive coffee maker as well as scrambled eggs and pancakes. Turns out Jared isn’t only a morning person, but also a cooks-in-the-morning person. And while the pod-person theory still holds, Jensen can’t help smiling at the merry assemblage around the massive kitchen table. Misha and Mike have their heads bowed together, undoubtedly planning world domination, Katie is charming Jim into giving her some of his pancakes in exchange for a slice of bacon and the dogs scurry around trying to guilt-trip the humans into sharing their food. The smaller, female one named Sadie is currently resting her head on Jensen’s lap, looking up at him with soulful eyes while he tries to sneak her some bacon without Jared noticing. Of course that is exactly the moment the guy lifts his head and grins at him with mischievous eyes.
Jensen knows all this should send him straight into anaphylactic shock due to sever allergy to mornings but somehow his good mood from the night before is still there and he grins back before he digs into his seriously awesome pancakes.
After breakfast they all file out into the yard. Padalecki following them hesitantly.
Jensen grins at him when he turns round.
“Hey, you coming?”
It’s nice to watch Jared’s face light up when he trails after Jensen towards the ditch.
“Ok, what we see here are three burials. The one you found while digging seems to be a male adult. He was buried with an ornate iron sword and a shield as well as some ornaments. Over there is another male and this lovely lady is our first female burial."
“Wow. And those have been lying here since the 10th century? This is so awesome.”
"And after we have salvaged those we would like to expand the ditch both towards the house and the forest to see what else is under the soil. Maybe we can also open some trenches in the forest to see if there is maybe a settlement there.”
"Really, well, that is kind of convenient, because you just won over the owner of that forest."
Jensen is truly dumbfounded.
"You telling me all this is yours? How fucking loaded was your aunt?"
"Pretty loaded. And I think she would have totally bitched about this whole thing but secretly loved it. Just like me."
Jensen can’t help but smile about the enthusiasm in Jared’s voice and eyes and berates himself a little for acting like a socially retarded jerk for so long instead of just talking to Jared. And maybe having this for weeks already. With ‘this’ he only means their budding friendship obviously.
Jared figures Jensen Ackles is a human oxymoron in the original Greek sense of the word. Actually, Jared is indeed understandably proud of this thought; it sounds intellectual, observant and challenging at the same time. Sandy may well compliment him on it if he ever manages to mention it to her inconspicuously during a random conversation about Jensen. He sits in his living room with a cup of tea watching the archeologists meddling in the back of his garden. In fact he has been out there with them for a few hours today until he decided to return to the warmth of the house. The weather outside is still pretty nasty, it is the same weather which forced the archeologists to evacuate their bungalow and that triggered their unexpected move-in into aunt Mildred`s house, or better Jared`s house. It`s surprising how easy Jared has come to think of the house in this terms, even through his mother still asks him every time she calls when he is finally going to sell the place. But he can`t, right? Because of Jensen and the excavation. Still Jared is a bit unsure about the archeologists` presence in this, his house. The team and in particular their boss obviously have not liked him particularly in the past; except for their reluctant acceptance that yes, his female friends have nice boobs and the beginning of some careful civility on the team`s side.
Jensen on the other hand has up until now always remained rather rude towards Jared, and has only with the greatest of patience ever (from Jared`s part) been coaxed into some semblance of normal human curtsey. And ok, maybe Jared has not always been fair to Jensen either, but he is the Dark Lord of the Sith, so no way Jared has broken any human rights while handling the guy. And then Jared allowed him and his team to sleep over without so much as a second thought. How could he do that?
Jensen, who had as good as broken into Jared`s house and given him a heart attack simply asked Jared and Jared said yes. No hesitation, no doubting himself, which is a definite first for Jared in the mighty realm of decision making.
Of course he finds the a-crowd and what they do, their motivations and their cause highly interesting. But hasn`t he spent the last month in a prank war with Jensen? Did Jared`s upper brain simply stop transmitting neural signals allowing the mortal enemy to move into his home?
He has told Chad a few minutes ago over the phone and repeatedly tells himself now that his own curiosity just begged him to invite these people and that it has been the humane and Christian thing to do. And anyway it was just for one night. So no big deal. He can still self-righteously hate them. No problem there, right?
But somehow he just can`t keep his façade of animosity or even false indifference going. Especially after the cheerful breakfast party and guided tour through his own garden this morning. And after that night.
Jared isn`t sure what happened last night. Sharp witted Jensen Ackles, his former arch-nemesis, told him he thinks he is dull and he bores his friends to death with archeological knowledge that Jared has found captivating. This self-assured, patronizing jerk patiently and gladly shared interesting facts and stories with Jared without commenting on Jared`s general lack of knowledge in the fields of life, truth and everything. He has listened to Jared’s dumb questions and has answered them without doubting their general worth. In a nutshell this Jensen Ackles just showed core human faculties hidden behind his stupidly handsome face that Jared has not believed the man capable of.
What scares Jared the most is that this Jensen, the Jensen from his kitchen last night and this morning, has been funny and easy going and not an obsessive compulsive jerk on the loose at all. Maybe Jared should check the moon calendar or the papers in Nature for a kind of Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde potion. Jensen Ackles is truly an oxymoron.
Two hours later, after the rain has yet increased again but this time to a full thunder storm, there are five people sitting at aunt Mildred`s oak dinner table enjoying warmed up chicken soup. There are two dogs sleeping contently on Jared`s bed thinking of nothing. And needless to say there is of course Jared in the kitchen, still fussing around and being generally amazed at himself that he did correctly identify all the packages of frozen emergency chicken soup in the freezer.
“So there is no chance to get back in the bungalow any time soon?”
It`s the voice of Jim, the technician, Jared`s mind supplies, not that he intends to listen-in on private conversations or anything, but it is his house and he does not intend to plug up his ears with cotton either.
“That is exactly what it comes down to, gentlemen… and gentlewoman currently in presence. My negotiations with the natives were inconclusive as to how long they will need to fix up our natural habitat. But my observations of the …”
“Thank you Misha.”
That`s Jensen. His voice is wary and a bit raspy when he interrupts. After Jared heard him for the first time after re-entering the house, Jared immediately set out to look for the soup. A thing every other responsible host would have done as well. For his mortal enemies no less. It`s just common curtsey.
“That`s it then. Basically we are royally fucked. I mean we can`t stay in the bungalow and we can`t drive from Dartmouth to Sturry every damn day either. And Kripke`s money won`t pay for anything else, though there is of course nothing else as the real estate woman assured me….”
“Maybe you should have laid the charm on thicker, then, Jensen. I mean, I have seen how that woman has looked at you when she came by to see “how we had settled in” after the first week in that shithole. She was angling for a date. And you were totally obnoxious. Just let her grope you a little bit here and there. No harm done. If you had not saved yourself, we would NOT be without a fucking house now. You would not have destroyed the whole dig. Nothing much was required of you. Just some fucking puppy dog eyes. Just to take one for the team, for Christ`s sake.“
Katie sounds downright pissed. It may have something to do with the fact that she has been the victim of Mike`s sexist jokes for ages as far as Jared knows and today Mike does not seem to have stopped at the real bad ones either. The last one was something about wet t- shirts and mud fights. But obviously she now seems to unload the sexist injustice she has to suffer through and all her residual anger on Jensen.
“To sum up your brilliant plan: You suggest we whore our dear Jensen out to acquire a house? Very Stone Age romanticist of you, don`t you think? Interesting, nonetheless. May I inquire about your relationship with your father?”
That was what Jared has dubbed Misha`s geek “science voice”. The one that made private matters sound like something worth publishing in an anthropology journal. The one that made you want to hit him.
“My father? You fucking son of a cockroach!!!”
“Calm down, Katie.”
Jim uses his deep understanding voice.
”We all know that you were not implying this and only joking. Right?”
Jared can actually see the scene before his inner eye: how Jim lays a hand on Katie`s shoulder to pacify her and how he shoots 'shut the fuck up' glances over the table at Misha.
“Good. But I think Katie has a point here, Jensen. The dig is going really well. There seems to be far more hidden in that backyard than we could ever have hoped. A prolonged interruption would be disastrous at this critical stage….”
“And I thought the dig would hit the critical stage when Katie here gets to ride on the red wave …”
“Shut up Mike.”
“I can do nothing about the bungalow, now. And there is nothing else appropriate we can afford in the Sturry area either. And I know that because I have checked with more than one real estate agent and not just the one who was checking out my ass, Katie. I am not that daft. So we may simply have no choice but to…”
“You can`t be fucking serious Jensen!”
“I can`t go back to Morgan, the man is a total dumb-wit!”
“That just can`t be it!!”
A few minutes later quite a fight seems to have erupted and Jared does not understand a single word that is said anymore. But the general tone still does not sound very good. He wonders if he should go over, it being his house and all, but decides to wait until it calms down a bit. And really what could he do to solve their problem anyway? It`s not like he could do anything to help, to dissolve their issues.
Except of course for the fact that he could offer them a place to stay permanently if he wanted to. Because Jared owns a house, a house with four bedrooms and three baths. A house that is way too big for him and the two dogs, a creepy old house which spooks him at night sometimes, when Sandy is not over. It`s a knee-jerk reaction but in a heartbeat he is over in his living room, offering these strangers to move into his house for at least as long as it takes to fix their bungalow.
Katie is on him in a second hugging him hard and the others are smiling and laughing happily.
When Jensen's facial expression changes from shock to horror and then to utter relief, Jared knows he has made the right choice. The smile Jensen is giving him could light up rooms and although Jensen is the only one of the party who has remained seated Jared sees the distance between them disappear. Maybe Jensen Ackles really is a human being and not an oxymoron or the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Sandy arrives unannounced Saturday afternoon. Jared should have known something like that would happen, he should have been prepared. As soon as she spots Mike and Jim chilling out on the couch she grabs Jared and rushes him over into the kitchen, and then locks the door. Jared silently curses himself for trusting her with the key to the front door. This would be so much easier if he had prepared a speech or some other justification for his actions… maybe staged a kidnapping or a bank robbery.
“What are these people still doing here, Jay? Is this another ploy to make these evil people you hate go crazy? I know I helped you at first, Jared, but this goes a bit too far. ”
“No Sandy. They are actually living with me now.”
“Living with you? Are you nuts? Just a few days ago you were scared they would enlarge their stupid hole so much that it would form a crater and your house would drop to the bottom of the earth. Now you have these people living with you? Permanently? Are you going totally freaking nuts? Tell me they have forced you to allow them in or I will truly doubt your mental sanity!!”
“That`s not possible, Sanity actually derives from the latin word sanitas which is nearly completely synonymous with 'compos menti'. What you just said is ridiculous.”
Sandy just stares at him. He can`t say a word and looks back at the pretty brunette`s face. He knows she is shocked by the people in the living room, but she will get it. She always gets Jared - his geeky side as well as the rest of him. The only thing left to do now is to give her time to think it through, make sense of Jared`s obviously contradictory actions.
A few seconds later it has happened. Sandy starts laughing and a bit later still she is holding her tummy because she is laughing so much it hurts. Jared just smiles and hugs her. She understands. It will be alright.
“So you actually like him?”
Jared pretends she said 'them' instead of the far more dangerous 'him'.
“Yeah, the team is pretty nice.”
“Nice? Mmhmm….this is real good Jared.”
Sandy takes another scoop of the chocolate chip ice cream she has discovered minutes ago in the freezer. She said eating it would be her revenge for suffering through the shock of finding the archeologists in Jared`s living room. She has been moaning like a porn star for the last few minutes and Jared must admit this would be pretty distracting if he would actually swing that way.
“So let`s be frank here. You have a little hate-love crush on what-ever-his-name-is, green eyes archeologist-man with totally captivating personality and freckles.”
Sandy actually winks at Jared then before taking another scoop of ice-cream.
“Seriously, I do not, Sandy. I mean I haven`t forgotten what an ass he was the first few times we met. I just said that in the last few days I realized he may not be as bad as I originally thought. And anyways….he is totally straight.”
“And how do you know that?!”
Sandy looks Jared square in the eye. If Sandy`s stare cannot just about intimidate everybody, Jared surely knows nothing that can.
“He is an archeologist and he…”
“And all archeologists are straight?”
“Indiana Jones was.”
Jared knows he sounds hesitant.
“He had a whip, Jared. Think!”
Jared feels a sudden ache at the back of his head from where Sandy slaps him sharply. He probably deserved that one for being discriminative against homosexuals and archeologists, and let`s not forget about homosexual archeologists.
“This Jensen has not looked at any boobs at our small pool party, Jared. Not at mine, not at Alona`s - and hers are massive - not at anyone`s.”
“Maybe he was just really working hard.”
Jared wonders, not getting the direct causality link between non-boob-ogling and homosexuality. Even he noticed Alona`s boobs, so maybe some straight guys out there have the ability to ignore them.
“You are a total moron Jared. He is not interested in women. Not a tiny bit. I have seen him just once and I know that. Don`t you have any type of gaydar? I mean you are gay and a psychologist…if somebody should have one…”
Sandy really sounds exasperated now.
“I think it is really bad to categorize people and I…”
“…suck. You suck, Jared. And that`s official. As a gay man and a psychologist. You know I love you to the heavens and back but you do suck. They should confiscate your membership cards, for both clubs. I will write to the league of gay psychologists first thing in the morning.”
“That hurts Sandy. And you know we have bandeaus for the gay-club not simply membership cards.”
They laugh and crack jokes for a bit after that, Sandy still making obscene noises because of the chocolate chip ice cream and Jared thinking about why exactly it is totally impossible that Jensen is gay.
Jensen still thinks that it’s kind of a miracle that Jared is talking to someone like Jensen who has done nothing but bitch at him and insult him since they first met. The fact that he does makes Jensen ridiculously happy and all warm and fuzzy inside. He feels a little like the school nerd who is suddenly best friends with the quarterback or something. It’s entirely irrational and maybe a flashback to the bad old days of high school and makes no sense at all, because Jared sure is tall. And build. And fun to hang out with. And a really genuinely nice guy once you aren’t involved in epic prank warfare with him. But he certainly also is the dorkiest person Jensen ever met (apart from himself of course). And he tends to stumble so much over his own two feet that it’s a miracle the guy is still alive as it is. No way would he have survived high school football.
But still, Jensen is definitely feeling a little inadequate and shy in his presence. And he still gets those weird fidgety feeling that accompanies a severe tightening of his stomach whenever Jared is close to him, but instead of lashing out like before he now kinda wants to hug Jared. Like all the time.
It’s weird and scary and Jensen doesn’t know what to do about that. He has never felt like this before for any of his friends. Sure, he loves Chris and Steve and Misha and he is not averse to being hugged by them, but he doesn’t constantly think about that kind of physical affection with them. In fact he was always rather wary of his own personal space, a concept Jared doesn’t seem to have grasped at all. He is always right there, leaning close to him when Jensen shows him the newest development of the dig, pressed against his side when they sit on the living room couch playing Madden. Even their fingers brushing slightly when Jared hands him the milk during breakfast does strange things to him like make his entire chest area go swooping down and then up as if his heart is riding a roller coaster. And that’s nothing compared to the way his stomach behaves when Jared smiles one of his bright smiles at Jensen. It’s … confusing. And Jensen really doesn’t know what to make of it.
He’s pretty sure he is being an idiot, because Jared will go back home soon and never spare another thought for the awkward nerd who lived in his backyard for a couple of weeks. He certainly doesn’t want to be Jensen’s new bff. And seriously, maybe Chris does have a point. Because quoting Paris Hilton even if it happens in the privacy of your own head? It doesn’t get much gayer than that.
In retrospect all this angsting and brooding is really a whole lot of fun compared to the cacophony of feelings that are swirling in his gut when he hears them.
Well, to be honest, he actually only hears Sandy but what he hears clearly indicates that she is most likely not on her own (because no nice girl would do that in someone else’s house).
He runs some errands in town and returns home thinking he could maybe see if Jared wants to go catch a movie or something like that. He finds a sniggering Mike and a clearly embarrassed Jim sitting on the living room couch. For a moment he is not sure what is going on and opens his mouth to ask when he hears the noises from the kitchen and freezes.
It’s clearly a girl, most likely Sandy, given that she is almost a constant presence at the house and she’s moaning like it’s going out of fashion.
He only realizes that his mouth is still hanging open when Mike snorts rudely.
“The little minx dragged Jared in there about an hour ago and they have been going at it like rabbits for the last 20 minutes at least. That girl’s vocal talents are definitely wasted working in a town hall.”
And oh God, Jared is having sex. With Sandy. In the kitchen. On a Saturday afternoon.
That’s … that’s probably not all that unusual for a healthy young man in his twenties but it still ties Jensen’s insides into tight knots. He feels horrible and he can’t even explain why. Oh, he knows that all his blood has relocated into his face by now and he’s probably going to faint from the violent blushing, but that’s not all there is to it. He actually feels sick and before he can start to puke his guts out right here in the living room (or before Mike utters another one of his witticisms that will surely make his head explode) he mumbles a faint apology and flees into the garden where he hides for the rest of the day.
When Katie comes outside and asks him what’s wrong he tells her some half-assed lie about checking up on the dig and he’s sure she doesn’t believe one word he says. She leaves him alone nonetheless.
The next week is a continuous up and down for Jensen. Spending time with Jared is still awesome and when they are together Jared hardly ever mentions Sandy. But every time he does or Jensen thinks about ‘kitchen-gate’ nausea spikes through him and his stomach feels as if it’s filled with lead.
One definite up occurs on Wednesday, though.
Jensen is engrossed in slowly deepening the north-east corner of the ditch for most of the morning. He likes this part of digging when every careful stroke of the trowel can uncover yet another piece of the puzzle that is the past. His knees ache from squatting and his back is strained, sweat dampens his shirt and hair even though it's not particularly warm outside and he is as dirty and grimy as if he just rolled around in mud. And he loves every minute of it. It’s hard work but it’s also almost meditative and calming at the same time. And then there is this thrill of discovery when plain earth gives way to bone or metal or pottery and you know all this hard work just paid off.
In this case it’s another grave that contains not only another sword and other personal ornaments but also a beautiful helmet. It’s made of steel but obviously adorned with sheet silver and engraved with intricate ornamentations that could be animals or flowers or a wild mixture of both. Attached to the cap is a facemask that covered half the face down over the nose. It’s fucking amazing!
After they have documented and photographed and drawn the hell out of the new burial Jensen finally holds the helmet in his hands. It feels a bit like being inside a cathedral. The knowledge of how old this artifact is and what it must have seen thrums through Jensen and it makes him giddy. He can almost feel the weight of the centuries in his hands, almost hear the sounds of battles fought long ago and smell wood smoke and leather and salty air. All the others seem to be in awe, too and even Mike is lost for words for once.
And the best thing, the very best thing is the inscription that runs along the brim.
“I belong to Sven, Son of Harald. May Thor protect my bearer.”
And then Jensen looks over to Jared and his face is alight with wonder and fascination and maybe that is the very best thing.
After Sandy knows she kind of joins the family; well, at least in Jared`s mind. The a-guys and especially Mike still chuckle when they see her like she is last month`s playmate. It freaks Jared out like hell but Sandy absolutely cherishes their reactions. With that awesome boob parade she organized for them at the pool party weeks ago, their behavior is only 'natural', at least for Sandy. She also insists the mud-nerds should worship her as their goddess for it, for the first and only glance they will ever get at a half-naked woman they haven`t paid, but again that`s only Sandy`s opinion.
So only on occasion she and Jared meet up on their own now. Every time she visits Jared`s place the archeologists are already there anyway and Sandy just joins in as if it was the natural thing to do.
Sandy and Katie get along pretty damn well, too. They go shopping and do general girly stuff Jared guesses, not that he knows in particular what 'girly stuff' could mean. Occasionally though when he is on his PS3 with Jensen having fun he spots the girls putting their heads together and whispering. That’s sure giving him the creeps.
Today though he and Sandy have been on a sheer endless shopping trip. Not his idea – even he is not that gay.
Sandy finished work early, since it`s Friday and she called Jared directly from the office telling him she needed a lift. And said lift turned out to be a little bit more. Sandy had wanted to check out this massive shopping center nobody could drive her to for ages. And now that Jared was accidently already there with his car they could as well just go there, right?
As soon as Jared returns to his home loaded like a slave with Sandy`s shopping bags and truly fed up with women, the world and incredibly small East Coast parking spaces, he sees Mike sitting on the couch. Of course Sandy has just run in, not even bothering to hold open Jared`s own front door for him. Typical.
Mike gets up though and comes over to Jared, looking pretty nervous. And Jared tries to make his friendly face despite his general mood and not being able to see the guy properly due to a huge shoe bag that`s just a bit more than a tiny nuisance.
“Hey Jay, your buddy Chad from Texas called. …I told him you were out with your girl Sandy here. And he wanted you to call him back as soon as you got home.”
“Oh, great Mike. Thanks for delivering that message.”
Jared pauses since he has to securely store or rather just stuff the approximately 5000 shopping bags into the closet. When he looks up, Mike is still standing there shifting nervously from one foot to the other.
“Is there anything else, man?”
“Your friend Chad, he…”
Mike stops short, clearly uncomfortable now, and Jared wonders what got Mike`s panties in a twist like that.
” …He was quite surprised when I told him you were out with your girlfriend. He actually told me that and I quote `if you were banging her he would go sell his balls in a fucking whorehouse in Thailand’.”
“Oh that is just Chad. Don`t mind his vocabulary. He is just weird sometimes. I am sorry if he did offend you.”
“No it was not just that. I just wondered.”
“Sandy is not your girlfriend?”
“No! Sure as hell not!”
Jared can't help laughing out loud, as this idea is totally ridiculous and beyond him. Especially after today.
“But you were totally doing her the first day she turned up here after we moved in. We all heard her moaning. I mean, hell, Jensen even blushed like a 13 year old girl and ran away and hid in the garden for hours!”
Mike is vehement, now.
“That was just chocolate chip ice-cream, Mike.”
There is some shouting from upstairs. Clearly it`s Sandy needing his help to rearrange his bathroom with the stuff she bought for him. He pats Mike on the shoulder and jumps up the first flight of stairs. Mike seems to stay at the bottom of the stairs for a few more minutes, apparently totally dumb struck.
Jared has to avoid the main corridor at all costs from 6:30 to 7:00 am. He has to avoid it without fail. It`s the first new imperative of Jaredom. The one and only rule that secures his peace of mind.
Because just then Jensen takes his daily shower. That would not be a problem of course as Jensen is taking the shower behind closed doors and all and even if not Jared would not be so pervy to peak. The main issue is that Jensen has to get his clothes.
One morning when Jared did not know of the existence of this first fundamental commandment yet he broke it, unknowingly. And he suffered for it greatly.
He woke up early and wanted to take Sadie and Harely for a tour around the woods. The two of them took surprisingly well to the archeologists. It is a miracle if one considered that they had been living with only grumpy old Mildred their whole lives and now have to deal with a house full of people and commotion. So he wanted to treat his babies to an extra long, extra super walk. When he stepped out of his room in his jogging gear with the two leashes in hand he already started whistling to them. The a-crowd who inhabited the other rooms on the upper floor wouldn´t mind, they are usually not up at this time. And Jensen is on the couch downstairs. Well, he would probably just be glad to be rid of the dogs, who sometimes find their way to the living room drooling on the poor man at some godforsaken hour in the morning. Jensen is no morning person at all. So not fun.
Jared was just closing his door behind him, when he heard footsteps from the other side of the corridor. Expecting Harley, who is ordinarily the first one up and about as he was the younger of the two, he turned around greeting his dog with a broad smile.
“Hey baby! Did you sleep well? Or did you miss your Daddy?!”
Seconds later Jared was cursing himself for his ability to say so many words in such a short time as before him stood not a hairy barking Harley but Jensen-fucking-unbelievably-hot-Ackles. The guy was wrapped in nothing but a white fluffy towel (undoubtedly one of Jared’s own) which hung low on his hips and stopped about mid-thigh. Jared had guessed Jensen was muscled and all from working out so much in the dirt outside. But this trumped anything Jared could have come up with. Jensen has a lean strong body and the world`s most amazing bowlegs. How the man so far managed to hide them so well in his geeky slackly archeologist`s pants was a miracle. There was still water dripping down Jensen`s chest and it gave Jared the chills just thinking about where these tiny droplets went after they reached the hem of the towel. Jared`s pants became uncomfortably tight, imagining all the dirty things he wanted to do to the man before him.
Still transfixed on that part of Jensen`s body where his neck meets his shoulder blades, entranced with that incredibly enticing bit of skin that just begged to be kissed and nibbled at – somebody spoke.
“Sorry to startle you, man. Usually nobody is up at that time. Guess you are looking for the dogs?”
Really, not Jared`s most eloquent moment. But just then Jared`s eyes were drawn to Jensen`s face, and really no one out there can actually blame him for being lost for words. Jensen`s stupidly handsome face with those absorbing little freckles on his light skin, the wet, slightly messy hair and then that awesomely shy and embarrassed smile around his plush lips. NO ONE can fucking inculpate Jared for not being in control of his mental functions. He is rightly excused.
“I locked them up in the kitchen. I know not a nice move…but yeah they woke me up again the drooling way…and I just thought that I could get a shower upstairs because the downstairs bathroom has only a bath tub… not that I don`t like bath tubs you know but… yeah just so I could get dressed in peace…Which didn’t happen because I kinda forgot my clothes.”
The man was babbling but Jared didn`t mind one bit. Jensen looked like he was mentally face-palming himself to death while looking down and studying his bare toes. It was all just so freaking adorable.
Jared could for the love of god not stop staring at the adorable little blush that had started at Jensen`s cheeks and moved down the perfect pale skin of his neck. Jared wanted to see how far that particular blush would go.
“Good. I …I will get dressed then.”
Jensen`s voice sounded oddly relieved, as if he had expected Jared to go wild at him just for locking the two over-eager dogs in the kitchen. And so the epiphany that was Jensen Ackles turned and walked right back to the stairs that led to the living room downstairs. He just vanished. And Jared was so fucking bewitched he did not even manage to pay proper attention to Jensen`s backside. He was fucking gone.
Jared must have stood there for another two minutes or so until he managed to get a grip on himself. And that only because he came to the conclusion that sooner or later somebody would wake up and leave his or her room and if Jared was still standing there like a fucking statue he would definitely be committed to an institution. And that not only because his aching half-hard cock was clearly visible due to his loose sweat pants, but also because he was obviously drooling like a total tool and not able to move himself.
Jared slowly retreated to his own room. The thought that he just made a fucking fool of himself in front of the hottest guy on the planet was still very clearly screaming at him from the back of his mind. But that just didn`t help with the problem at hand. Naturally Jared jerked off occasionally. But jerking off after seeing a half-naked Jensen and later having breakfast with the man seemed somehow wrong. The man was in the living room downstairs for Christ`s sake.
But then, was he supposed to walk around with a hard on the whole day? Nobody could expect Jared to do that.
After locking his room door securely from the inside Jared sat down on his bed and pushed down his pants. He tried not to think about Aunt Mildred`s immaculate bed sheets, his utter idiocy to get a hard on for a heterosexual man he hated just a few days ago, and just took his cock firmly in hand. It felt warm and heavy and Jared immediately started to move his hand up and down his shaft thinking of Jensen`s flushed lips and the way he would have liked to just kiss the man, biting at is lower lip and then just shoving Jensen against the next available horizontal or vertical surface. He would nibble at his earlobe until Jensen would start whimpering for more and then Jared would cup Jensen`s rock-hard erection through the soft towel.
Jared sped up his movement gripping himself just a little harder. He would get Jensen naked then, move down his perfect body and just kiss and mark every part of it. He would make Jensen scream for him.
Totally infused in his fantasy Jared came hard all over himself. It was terribly messy, but the tension had drained from him and he knew just for now he could relax. Later he would have to confront Jensen in the kitchen and explain, exactly why he had stared at the man like a lion at the antelope and why he had decided just not to go for a morning walk with the dogs after all that day.
Ok, it is really certifiable now. Jensen is mad. He has gone totally and clinically insane. It is the only possible explanation for his erratic behavior. Sane men don’t take showers on the off-chance that other men might accidentally see them in nothing but a towel and then look at said sane men in a certain way.
Especially non-gay sane men don’t do shit like that.
The thing is, though, that Jensen kinda does. And that clearly shows that he is nuts.
It all started on a Saturday morning. Jensen had woken up insanely early due to a steady trickle of dog slobber that was dripping onto his cheek from where Harley was sniffing at him and looming over his no longer sleeping form on the couch.
Since Jensen was all wacked out by the crazy digging schedule he wasn’t really able to go back to sleep once he had dragged the dogs into the kitchen and shut them in. Something that fortunately does not happen all that often.
On this particular Saturday, though, it did happen and Jensen decided to take a quick, early shower and maybe see if he could join Jared on one of his morning walks with the dogs.
Still not entirely at his day’s best Jensen had stumbled into the bathroom, only to realize that he hadn’t brought a change of clothes when he stepped out of the stall and started to dry off with one of Jared’s ridiculously fluffy towels. Figuring that no one was likely to be awake yet anyway he had just slung the towel around his hips and meandered back down the hall towards the living room where he kept his clothes.
And then he had almost literally run into Jared.
The look Jared had given him had kinda made up for being awake so damn early. Jared had looked at him as if he was made of jelly beans or any other kind of candy that Jared just wanted to devour in one giant gulp. And yeah, Jensen knew in an abstract kind of way, that he wasn’t a dog in the looks department but he tended to be just too shy and reclusive to put that fact to any good use.
Having Jared look at him like that, all hungry and predatory and honestly a little slack-jawed and awe-struck made Jensen giddy in a way he had never felt before. Knowing – as Mike had gleefully informed him – that Jared wasn’t dating Sandy, wasn’t making the situation awkward at all.
Actually the way his body reacted to Mike’s merry gossiping was the first clue that Jensen maybe should be locked up for his own safety. He had been shocked about the fierce and sudden and totally inexplicable relief that had flooded him at the news. Of course he would never admit it but his knees had actually gone weak for a second there. It had felt like someone sucker punched him and forced all the air out of his lungs and replaced it with helium that made him hover a couple of feet above the ground for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, just like helium it made his voice squeaky and embarrassing. Especially when Jared was around.
Jared’s open admiration, though, somehow felt exhilarating and exciting. And the air between them had practically crackled with maybe. From then on Jensen took up the habit of getting up a couple of minutes earlier every day to take a shower and afterwards wander around wearing nothing but a towel. It is ludicrous, especially since it takes Jensen all of 10 minutes outside in the ditch to be so sweaty and dirty as if he hasn’t taken a shower for weeks. Not to mention that taking showers twice a day, before and after the dig, really isn’t the way to go with his annoyingly delicate skin.
He tries telling himself he only does it because he needs a shower in the morning because it helps him to wake up and turn from a brain-dead zombie into something resembling a functioning human being but that is just a façade. The truth is that he does it so that Jared will look at him again.
But that isn’t right, is it? Because Jensen is not gay. And Jared seems to go out of his way to not run into Jensen again after a shower.
All this absurdity drives him to the point where he thinks that it might be in order to talk to someone about this and maybe get some kind of advice. Unfortunately, Chris and Steve are out, because Jensen’s heterosexuality or the lack thereof has been the basis of countless jokes, jibes and (not so) witty comments throughout the years and Jensen is not feeling like the certain told-you-so.
That leaves Misha and in the beginning Jensen thinks this is actually a good idea because Misha is nothing if not open-minded and tolerant.
Jensen is forced to reconsider this as soon as he gets the whole embarrassing thing out and Misha just looks at him, unblinking, and then states:
“So, you want to have intercourse with Jared?”
Jensen can do nothing but splutter, because, honestly, he hasn’t even thought of something as drastic as that yet. Or maybe some tiny part of his brain has in a very non-graphic way but he is no way ready to have it spelled out like that. So he stalls.
“Intercourse? Misha, really, who even talks like that? And also, I am not gay.”
“You know, Jensen, I have always found those labels very restricting. Gay, bi, hetero. Those are just words whereas love is this all-encompassing thing that…”
“Yeah, all right. I get it. Can we maybe not discuss the abstract concept of love but kinda focus on the main problem here?”
“And what exactly would that be?”
“I told you, I think I am going crazy and it’s all Pada-something’s fault.”
“Ok, well, clearly you have a very long way still ahead of you. So, how about we try to break all this down into very small steps?”
Jensen can only nod.
“All right. Tell me this, Jensen, do you like Jared?”
“Yeah, sure I do. He is a nice guy.”
“Good. And do you think he is attractive?”
“Uhm, I guess? I mean he is kinda tall. And built. And when he smiles he’s got those dimples. And his eyes are really…”
“I take that as a yes, then. And are you attracted to Jared?”
“I don’t… I… No! I mean, maybe. I guess…”
Misha just looks at him, knowingly as if everything should be crystal clear right about now. And maybe it is, because sure, Jensen has never been with a man and he has dated girls and more or less enjoyed it. But with Jared, well, with Jared, the old rules just don’t seem to apply anymore. And maybe it is time that Jensen dares to take a plunge in the hope he learns to fly really, really fast. He just wishes he had a guarantee that it won’t result in him ending up smashed on the pavement like a gnat on a windshield.
Jared is happy. As happy as a man can be who has his regular jerk-off fantasy living in the same house with him, but whose would-be lover is completely oblivious about that fact and absolutely not interested in Jared in any sexual way. And this is true not only for now but also for the foreseeable future and there will never ever be so much as some mild PG rated cuddling. Even if Jared could settle for that, which he can`t. Nothing in that direction will ever ever happen, as Jensen is most definitely not gay.
And yes the mornings are pretty awkward. They are actually really really horrible. Because although Jared follows the rules and does not step into the corridor, he hears Jensen go into the upstairs bathroom. Just to taunt Jared and his libido.
Oddly enough he is always already awake when Jensen comes upstairs listening attentively to all his footsteps when he comes and when he leaves. Maybe Jensen will trip or fall and then Jared can run outside and help the half-naked Jensen back to his feet. Because he is helpful.
He admits that it sounds pretty desperate even in his own head but he is pining away and man enough to admit it. His feelings for Jensen are really still all over the places, because yeah they had a pretty rough start, but now there is so much sexual tension at least on Jared`s side he could very well flood the Hover Dam.
And each morning Jared is nearly the last person to arrive in the kitchen for breakfast. He is not late or anything, because these freaking archeologists get up fucking early. But if you consider the fact that he has already lain awake in his bed for an hour, had a shower and more likely than not jerked off, he is pretty late. After that one disastrous and at the same time wonderful morning when he had encountered a half-naked Jensen, Jared is always quite shy and not yet quite up to his normal cheerful self. It`s difficult to pull jokes and laugh if your jerk-off fantasy is sitting right in front of you and you can just not lean over and kiss him over the breakfast table like you want to. So often enough Jared opts for a quick breakfast and goes out with the dogs soon after. Later when he comes back he can usually join the gang in the backyard, and everything is ok and great and Jensen is amazing and Jared does not try to think about unresolved sexual tension too much.
“No, it`s quite urgent. It cannot be postponed.”
“It is milk we are talking about Misha, not the fucking Holy Grail and we can damn well survive the whole day without having any of it in the fridge. We will just buy it this evening in the supermarket.”
“No, that is not the case. The matter is pressing. You have to go get us some milk now.”
Jared has to interrupt there. It`s just too ridiculous and poor Jensen will soon go totally berserk in his kitchen if Misha keeps this up any longer.
And Jared just had breakfast and is going out with the dogs anyway.
“Hey guys, don`t worry. I usually pass the supermarket when I am out with the dogs anyway. I will just get you some milk.”
“No you can`t. Jensen has to get the milk. It is for my special tea, and no offence, Jared, but we are not acquainted so well that I can entrust you with the ingredients for my special tea. And you already have the dogs to pay attention to. That are two leashes and everything. But Jensen can of course accompany you to the supermarket….”
“I am the supervisor for this dig, and I cannot fucking leave it like your slave for a whole morning just because Master Misha is in dire need of some milk!!”
“If you were my servant, I would have you milk a special Chinese cow every morning. Be glad you just have to go to the supermarket.”
With that Misha turns and leaves the room like a diva who just won a fight against her PA.
“Dude, don`t worry. I will just get PMS-Misha the milk. He will never know that I carried it and held the leashes for Harley and Sadie at the same time.” Jared tries to joke.
He wants to cheer Jensen up because the man looks positively lethal and ready to grab the next available weapon and stab Misha in the back, forcefully. And yeah, Jared can totally understand where that idea would come from.
The raised eyebrows and the heavy frown are totally adorable in Jared`s opinion, though. They make Jared want to go up to Jensen and cuddle him. Which is so not a good idea.
“No, he will know. Trust me. And I will never hear the end of it. Anyway, I will just come with you. After this I need to get out.”
And so after getting Sadie and Harley ready Jared is out with Jensen, taking his two babies on a walk and getting Misha some milk. He wants to kiss Misha for this, this awesome opportunity for some alone time with Jensen, but decides against it because it might be suspicious and in fact he would very much rather kiss Jensen than Misha.
When they leave the house they see Sandra in her front garden weeding and cleaning up the whole thing like she is getting it up and ready for Judgment Day. They greet her but quickly turn left towards the tiny path that leads through the woods and is a short cut to the tiny supermarket at the end of the road.
“So, have you known Misha long?”
“Not long enough to do wifely duties for him.” Jensen grumbles.
Okay, so the guy is still upset. Jared can deal with that.
“My aunt had me walking back and forth to the supermarket every day a few times. She would always forget something and then I would have to go again. And I was never allowed to take the damn car because it would be a 'waste of gas'.
“Oh, that must have sucked. Did you visit her often…. when she, you know, when she was still alive?” Jensen sounds curious but when Jared does not answer immediately he continues.
”Oh, sorry man. I am bad at this. You surely don`t want to speak about your aunt. I don`t want to bring up memories or anything.”
“Nah, no worries. Mildred, she was generally a really self-righteous old bitch. But I guess, in a good way you know?”
Jensen just looks utterly confused at Jared harsh words. Like any normal person probably would who heard somebody talk badly about a dead relative of theirs who just bequeathed them a fortune. But really there is no better way to describe Mildred to anyone who did not have the luck to meet her in person. Jared knows Mildred was just not your normal loveable old lady.
”I visited her every year since I was 10 or so, I guess. First with my parents and then alone. I never knew why I did it; except for the fact that she was the only one paying into my college trust fund. I feel constantly bad about it now: all that money she spent on my education and we were not even close. She did not seem particularly fond of me. Treated me a bit like a funny nuisance she had to put up with every summer. She was not bad or anything just not particularly nice either. But later, she offered or more like forced me to allow her to pay for all my additional expenses when I was in college. I didn`t want to take advantage of an old lady or be in Mildred debt for ages, but she did not allow me to pay her back and my mum said I should not be so ungrateful to refuse her money. ”
“So you visited her every summer, came all the way here from Texas with a guilty conscience to have fucking bad holidays? That really sucks man.”
“Yeah, and it is one helluva lot confusing that she left me the house and everything after she died. Like she actually liked me.”
Jensen doesn`t say anything for some time. They just follow the path through the woods. The dogs are happily walking besides them occasionally brushing against one of their legs. They are not holding hands like Jared wants them to and they are most definitely not sharing long and meaningful looks but Jared feels close to Jensen in a way he does not in the house.
“But maybe she did like you.”
Jensen’s voice is small and quiet like he isn't sure it's his place to speak up.
It is a thought that Jared has had a few times before, too. Mildred had a lot of nephews and nieces, but she did not leave anything to them, but everything to Jared. And when he thinks about Mildred, the bitter and sometimes spiteful things she did and said, there was sometimes an undertone of something else there. Something more. She was always indifferent towards the other children of the Padalecki-clan and only ever got mad at Jared. For being clumsy or for acting dim-wittedly. For getting himself hurt. And then there was the pile of photos she had of him hidden in her bedroom cupboard, but still neatly filed away, as if they were somehow important to her.
“Yeah, maybe she did.”
It`s hard to admit it out loud, but at the same time it is something Jared had wanted to say for some time. When his parents wondered why Mildred had not left everything to some animal shelter or just frankly blown up the house. When Chad called and asked why the aunt that had Jared work chores over the summer when every other kid played outside, left a small fortune to Jared. This may be the answer. The only one that makes even a bit of sense.
Mildred liked him.
Strange, but most likely true. And just maybe Jared liked her back a bit, her oddness and her no-nonsense attitude. And really come to think of it, her house is pretty awesome, too.
They walk on in silence after this until Jared’s general giddiness comes out again, in the face of this new revelation.
“You know once she actually threw me in a lake because she said I smelled.”
“And I couldn`t even swim. She had to drag me out herself later. After that she signed me up on the local swim team for next summer. She said it cost her a fortune.”
Jensen stops at that and stares at Jared. Seconds later they are both laughing their heads off like Jared`s old childhood memory is the best joke in the history of jokes. It isn`t. But thanks to Jensen it`s clear to Jared why Mildred did some of the things she did. She may have screamed at him because she liked him.
This walk has turned out to be the best idea of Jared`s week, maybe the best idea in the last months. He is going to make sure that from now on Misha`s milk supplies are more often empty than full.
It`s amazingly easy to fall into a conversation with Jensen. There is this wonderful relaxed familiarity and Jensen seems to get Jared even better than Sandy does.
It is incredibly hard to admit that there might be more between them than just boiling hot sexual tension on Jared`s side. Not just bodily reactions but also something else. At least for Jared.
And that's the whole problem right there. It is all totally one-sided anyway and so, after the walk, when Jensen is back with the other archeologists in the backyard Jared decides to leave Jensen alone. He may pine, he may suffer but Jensen does not and will not know. Because Jensen is a good heterosexual guy and actually has tried to be his friend. He offered support and direction. And Jared is not going to repay Jensen by making a cheesy move on him. Jensen is better than that and Jared will respect his boundaries.
Four weeks into the dig and Jensen is positively on cloud nine. Or would be, if he wasn’t pretty sure they don’t allow people like him upstairs. People who constantly lust after tall, dark and handsome Greek gods with dimpled smiles and long legs.
But everything is just running so smoothly right now, it’s almost unreal. So, yeah, maybe he hasn’t had the courage to actually do something about the Jared-situation. After all, just because Jared is not dating Sandy and Jensen had a (embarrassingly late) gay epiphany and they get along reasonably well, or really pretty fucking awesome, doesn’t mean Jared is interested in anything but being friends. And even if he was, Jensen has no idea how to go about initiating anything more between them.
He simply enjoys spending time with Jared and if he sometimes enjoys those casual touches and frequent hugs a little too much, well, no harm, no foul. Everything is just perfect as it is and Jensen himself is perfectly content with just being Jared’s friend. And one of these days he will actually start believing that.
When Jared suggests they have a big barbeque and invite everybody, Jensen really thinks it is a good idea to invite Steve and Chris as well, because honestly, he hasn’t seen all that much of them since he got here.
Only because the dig is kinda hogging all his attention and when he is not digging or documenting their finds he is just too tired to do anything but crash on the couch.
Well, you are usually not too tired to hang out with Jared, the treacherous little voice in his head he dubbed devil!Jensen whispers to him.
That’s just because the guy lives there and it would be rude to send him packing if he wants to play Madden on his brand new PS3.
Because the console is actually hooked to the huge flat-screen TV in the living room, where Jensen is accidentally sleeping.
Yeah, right. And it’s not at all because he is all tall and adorable and nice. And you have this huge crush on him we are not talking about.
So, ok, maybe Jensen is feeling a little guilty for not spending more time with his friends the last couple of weeks and maybe forgot why it is not a good idea to have Chris over at a party where there is actual alcohol and people Jensen wants to not hate him. Or think him a tool.
I said shut up, didn’t I?
The reasons why this is not a good idea return to him pretty quickly though, when Chris greets Jared with a sneer and a slur that is only poorly disguised as a joke.
“So you are the guy who is hogging all of Jenny’s attention, lately. You are pretty tall for a fairy, though, aren’t you?”
And form then on it only gets worse, because Chris and booze really don’t mix well. Or rather they mix way too well and turn into one alcohol-fueled dickwad. A sober Chris is sometimes hard to bear, but overall an awesome friend, a drunken Chris is not. A drunken Chris tells crude jokes about women and gay people and Afro-Americans and Native Americans and white trash Americans and Jews and Christians and pretty much every single group of people there ever was. Hell, he would probably make crude jokes about the Peruvian Nasca Culture if he knew such peoples ever existed. And he tells embarrassing stories about his friends, mostly Jensen because he knows they make him blush and stammer and flail.
This time it is a thousand times worse, because this time Chris isn’t just being kind of a dick, he is also being kind of territorial. Or, you know, a lot. Like a baboon who is constantly flashing his behind to proof he is the ‘malest’ of them all. And Jensen knows that it is partly his fault, because Chris doesn’t like to be ignored in favor of someone else and Jensen maybe kinda bitched too much about this ‘thick-headed Pada-something jerk’ and now Chris is plastered to his side continuously and jibes at Jared whenever he can get a shot in. It doesn’t seem to matter at this point how low or untrue or utterly random those are as long as they make Jared flinch and feeling generally uncomfortable. Chris – Chris I-am-so-hetero-I-am-a-minus-10-on-the-Kinsey-scale Kane - doesn’t even stop at wrapping a possessive arm around Jensen. It’s like he just about draws the line at peeing on him to say ‘back off, this is mine’, though if he has any more beer it might actually become an option. Not that he even needs to project that, because in the weeks they lived together - under the same roof that is - Jared has never given Jensen any indication to think that he is interested in Jensen in that way. Other than maybe kind of looking at him after that one shower incident only to then go to any length to avoid ever running into any kind of under-dressed Jensen ever again to the point where it starts to actually be kind of insulting, really.
Still, as the evening progresses, he really has to suppress the urge to just hit Chris in his stupid redneck face. And judging by the pissed off looks Jared, all the girls and even Steve throw Chris, Jensen is not the only one. Honestly, Jensen considers it an amazing show of restraint that Jared hasn’t just thrown Chris out by the hair by now although the dumbass is clearly spoiling for it.
Chris’s voice is slurred and alcohol-heavy and Jensen closes his eyes and desperately whishes for him to just shut the fuck up, but of course, no such luck.
“I wonder how a nice up-standing redneck like yourself turns into a fucking fag. Would your momma rather have a girl and dressed you in drag all the time? Or maybe you daddy, who was also you uncle and your grandpa touched you inappropriately. Or are you just too dumb to figure out what girl parts are for?”
Chris sniggers and Jensen can only gasp at him open-mouthed. He knows Chris doesn’t think like that, normally. Hell, Tom, Steve’s freshman-year roommate and one of their closest friends, came out to them sophomore year and Chris just shrugged it of and said something along the lines of ‘whatever floats your boat, man’ and that was it. And he never seemed at all bother by Misha’s open omnisexuality or however he calls it. So this, it’s not only completely horrible and offensive but also so far out of Chris’s usual behavior that Jensen is absolutely gob smacked by the vicious words.
And it obviously is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Jared, too. But instead of lashing out and flattening tiny Chris to the ground with one mighty swipe of his huge fist, Jared just jumps up and disappears into the house. And Chris? Chris actually raises one hand as if he expects Jensen to high-five with him over this.
“Yeah, dude. We finally cracked that faggotty fucker.”
Right then, Jensen really wishes for a moment he could bring himself to actually slam his fist into Chris’s face. Instead he just pushes, hard, so that the bastard tumbles backwards of the bench they were seated on. He then scrambles up and hurries after Jared, overtaking Sandy, who is already on her way inside. She lets him pass and turns round to move back to her seat but Jensen grabs her arm and stops her.
“Could you maybe help Steve to get Chris's sorry ass outa here before either Jared or I have to see him again? And tell Steve not to give him Advil or Aspirin. He can bloody well suffer a little for how he acted tonight.”
She nods and squeezes his arm and maybe Jensen has to face the facts that Jared’s friends are way more awesome than his own.
He finds Jared in the kitchen, leaning against a counter and gripping a beer-bottle so hard Jensen is actually a little afraid he might shatter it. He moves slowly closer as if moving in on a spooked horse not a six foot something giant with biceps the size of other people’s legs.
“Hey, Jay. You ok? I’m sorry about Chris. He isn’t usually as bad as this but I should probably not have invited him.”
“Duh, you think?”
The coolness in Jared’s voice is like a punch to the stomach. All the amiability that developed between them over the last couple of weeks seems just gone. As if they are back to square one.
“I swear he didn’t mean it like that and he will feel like a total ass in the morning. Especially after Steve and I will be done yelling at him.”
“Oh, that’s all good then. Because I’m sure calling me a fag and a fruitcake and a fairy and variations thereof all evening was just a glitch in his usually perfectly courteous behavior.”
Jared slams his empty bottle down onto the kitchen counter so hard it makes Jensen jump three feet in the air.
“Look, I’m sorry if him calling you gay offended you this much. All I can tell you is that…”
“What, Jensen? Are you fucking kidding me? It wasn’t him calling me ‘gay’ that offended me, because hello, newsflash! I am gay. And I kinda had the feeling Mike took care of informing everyone and their mother about that fact. But him using those words and demeaning me for three hours straight - or not so straight, lame pun completely intended – yeah, that kind of offended me a little. As did the fact that you’ve obviously been cracking jokes about me with your homophobic friends behind my back.”
“What? NO! Jared, I swear I…”
“Come on, just save it, ok. How else could he have known I was gay if you hadn’t told him? And if your best friend is such a dick about me being gay it is not an all too wild guess that you are thinking along the same lines.”
“Jay, seriously. I didn't even know you were gay until just now. And I didn’t think he would be like that. If I had known I would have…”
But Jared obviously isn’t listening to him. Instead he stomps back and forth like a caged animal.
“And all the while you’ve been playing nice was that just so I would let you stay here? Have you laughed yourself silly over the stupid fag you’ve been leading on all this time?”
But he apparently talked himself into a frenzy Jensen’s words can’t break through.
“You know what is most pathetic about all this? It’s the fact that I actually really liked you. And not because you are gorgeous and beautiful and look really hot all dirty and sweaty with your shovel out there in that hole. But also because you are smart and interesting and funny and nice – or at least that’s what I thought – and adorably grumpy before you get your first coffee in the morning. And because you act all mean and aloof but are really nothing but a giant marshmallow who sneaks my dogs treats when he thinks I’m not looking. But I guess that was just an act, right? Or then again not an act with the mean bastard exterior. And…”
And that’s about all Jensen can take before he just grabs Jared by the shirt and yanks him closer, dragging 200 pounds of surprised muscle against him until they are pressed together, chest to chest. Before he crashes his mouth against Jared’s lips and effectually silences him.
If words won’t get through to Jared, then he has to restore to much more drastic measures. At least that is what the tiny part of Jensen is telling himself that still can’t admit that Jensen just wants to feel Jared’s body flush against him, just wants to run his hands up Jared’s chest and into his hair, just wants to kiss Jared as if the world is going to end if they stop.
That part practically burns to cinder anyway when Jensen feels Jared’s lips move against his. They part beneath Jensen’s tongue and he gently licks his way into Jared’s mouth. All the confusion, all the trepidation and angst he has suffered through the last couple of weeks just seem to melt under the onslaught of hot and right and perfect.
The feeling off all this wet heat is making him positively giddy. Jared’s taste, mixed with just a hint of Corona is assaulting all his senses and when he feels Jared’s huge, warm hands coming to rest on his hips briefly just to glide up his back under his shirt, he loses the last threads of control and mindlessly starts to rub his already hard dick against Jared’s thigh. It’s nothing like kissing a girl and all the times he lay restlessly on his couch imagining how kissing Jared would feel like don’t even come close to the real thing. If he had just known it could be like this he would have turned gay years ago. But no, that is not true, because Jensen is pretty sure the main reason all this feels so bloody amazing is because it’s Jared kissing and touching him. Jared who presses harder against him, pushing him up against the same counter Jared had been leaning against when he entered. They rut against each other like horny teenagers and Jensen in pretty sure he would have come in his pants if they hadn’t been effectively interrupted by a very girly and insanely high pitched squeal.
Their lips break apart but they stay like that, Jensen’s hands still buried in Jared’s hair and Jared’s hands back on Jensen’s hip as if to both steady him and stop him from running. Which is actually the farthest thing from Jensen’s mind even though he is turning all shades of red when he peeks past Jared’s shoulder and spots Katie and Sandy in the entrance to the kitchen, enthusiastically high-fiving each other as if they just won an Olympic gold medal and practically bouncing up and down with glee.
They look all of 12 years old until Katie turns around and hollers back towards the living room.
“Hey Mike! Sandy and I were abso-fucking-lutely right about everything this whole time. Get your loser-ass in here and cough up the 50 bucks you fucking owe us.”
Mike shoulders his way into the kitchen and is positively glaring at the way Jensen and Jared are still fused together from hip to toe.
“Why the hell couldn’t you two pussies keep it in your bloody pants for three more fucking days? I really wanted to buy that awesome water pistol and now I have to hope you don’t get actually married and have gay babies within the next eight months or I will never get even with those two evil, manipulative mind readers.”
Jensen fleetingly thinks that now would be the time to completely lose it and really freak out good and proper, because if the mere thought he might be gay for Jared had him tied in knots, the actual confirmation that, yeah, he is pretty much all-in with this guy should be enough for a solid panic attack. It seems oddly fitting though, that it took a healthy does of Misha’s special brand of wisdom to sort him out after the former and Mike’s very own flavor of bat-shit crazy to prevent the latter.
In fact, Jensen really can’t do nothing but hide his face against Jared’s neck and enjoy the way Jared’s broad chest practically vibrates with helpless laughter.
When Jared wakes up the next day, he just had the most amazing and at the same time most horrible dream of his life. He and Jensen kissed last night and in his dream Jared relived the whole wonderful experience. They even took things a bit further up in Jared`s bed room.
In his dream an already half naked Jensen straddled Jared lying on his back on his bed and started doing some rather creative things with his tongue along Jared`s collar bone. It is all blurry in Jared`s mind now but he imagines by the insistent feel of his morning wood that his dream-self was having a more than just great time. Just then however a vision of Aunt Mildred in her old maroon plaid dress marched in, shotgun ready in her hand and right then the whole thing turned into a bloody nightmare. Mildred was screaming at him to finally get a grip on himself and his god-damned life. And Jensen got up and ridiculed how pathetic Jared looked, how he could never be with Jared and how everything was just a farce set up by Chris and him. Jensen just wanted the garden and nothing more from Jared.
Logically Jared, drenched in sweat as he is, knows that all of what he dreamt, all of what he saw was made up by his subconscious and his underlying self-doubt. He knows last night has just been awesome. It was even pretty romantic in a girly sort of way how all of a sudden Jensen had leaned forward and kissed Jared for the first time right there in his kitchen, when Jared was so upset about Jensen`s rude friend Chris. Afterwards they talked about everything and nothing, played some video games and cuddled up to together for what seemed like hours. The rest of the guests had already shown themselves out or just gone back to their rooms and even the conspiring girls and Mike had left them alone after some more ogling and rather obvious innuendo.
It all had been so fantastically real. He and Jensen liked each other. And by the way Jensen trembled and fidgeted every time Jared touched him after the kiss even if it was in a total PG-rated way Jensen liked Jared a lot. And that should be enough for now. Right?
Jared slowly gets up and dresses himself in some old sweat pants and a washed out t-shirt. It`s just 5 o`clock in the morning, no time to get up as a sane person but a good enough time for Jared the love struck idiot. Sure he can`t do anything about the Jensen part of his dream besides constantly reassuring himself and telling himself that yes, everything was real. But he can start to get a grip on himself like Mildred told him in the dream. Clean up the house after the party, get through all the papers and figure out where all Mildred`s money really comes from. And maybe think some more about what to do with it.
The cleaning part has to wait though, because he doesn't want to wake Jensen up just yet, who fell asleep fully clothed on the couch late last night after they played some more Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero with more touching and smiling involved than was strictly necessary. Jared chuckles silently to himself when he thinks back to how wickedly Jensen distracted him at a crucial stage of the game by kissing the corner of Jared`s mouth. He just hopes this was not just a onetime thing. Because Jared sure wants more, he sure as hell wanted more last night, but it was crystal clear that that would be taking advantage of Jensen, who only since yesterday evening considered the possibility that he might be gay.
Jared leaves his room just with his cell in the pockets of his pants and tries not to make too much noise while lowering the ladder to the attic. There he found most of the cryptic papers, snippets and bills that have previously baffled him so much and which are now up for a renewed investigation.
He can`t do anything if Jensen decides last night was a mistake but he can sort through some papers for Christ`s sake. Get at least this part of his life in order.
He spends five hours up there looking through everything. It seems his aunt received a total of 20,000$ every month over some offshore accounts, some of them even under a false name. From that she paid all her monthly bills and Jared`s massive allowance. The rest was transferred to different investments firms, some of the money even given to a dog charity in Concord. There is no trace of where the money originally came from or for what reason it was given to his aunt. The transactions have been continuing without a stop after his aunt died, no alternation made. Just that now all that money is piling up in Jared`s accounts as it is not divided anymore to different investments, some of which seem pretty profitable.
Jared sighs. The whole thing seems shady and just generally suspicious. All his life he believed Aunt Mildred married fairly rich. It`s what his parents told him. The poor bloke however died early (or was killed by Mildred) and left it all to her. A small but sizeable fortune. That is why she could pay Jared`s way through university. Jared even called his mother to confirm the story. He had not however considered time lags so the first thing his mum did was starting to yell at him why he woke her up so early in the morning. But after that she told him the same thing. Married young, rich husband died, greedy and cheap Mildred hoards the money. But there is no wedding certificate, no photos, no anything. Not even anything registered in town hall (yes, he let Sandy check that out one morning. Sue him, it was an emergency). It just adds up to nothing, makes no sense whatsoever. Jared decides for a lack of other possibilities to let his aunt`s lawyer check it out. The man gets paid for that kind of shitty detective work.
Still deep in thought Jared makes his way down the ladder to the main corridor and then down the stairs to the living room. It`s time to face the second part of his dream. Jensen.
Jared is assaulted by all kinds of smells when he enters the ground floor of the house. There is the coffee smell, strong and pervasive, just how Jensen`s likes it. But he also smells fried bacon and maybe pancakes. And also something burnt.
The odd thing is there seems to be no one down there. He is pretty sure he has heard footsteps before and usually by 10 o`clock this place should be crowded with hungry and yelling archeologists. Even on a Sunday these guys usually don`t sleep in longer than 9 and when they are up and about they are not particularly subtle about it, especially Mike and Katie. So what`s going on?
When Jared turns the corner into the spacious kitchen he spots Jensen busily fussing around with pans and ingredients, eyebrows raised and frowning like he is solving mathematical equations in his head worth of Albert Einstein. There are spots on his t-shirt from where he has apparently spilled something and there are dough stains on his face. It`s all just too adorable and Jensen has not even realized that Jared is there yet.
Standard opening Jared knows. But he can`t come up with anything else while he stares at Jensen. The man tried to do something house-wifely in the morning for once and obviously utterly failed at it due to a severe lack of caffeine.
Jensen startles and turns abruptly. He nearly pushes the milk off the counter by doing so, but Jared is right behind him catching it. Jared can`t help but smile softly at the sudden closeness of their bodies, how he can feel Jensen`s breath catch when the man realizes who he is nearly standing chest to chest to. It is true, sometimes Jared has no concept of personal space.
“Hey Jared, man. You surprised me.”
“Sorry. Didn`t mean to.”
Why Jared is now feeling all bashful, he can`t explain himself. The only thing he knows is that he has to say something or Jensen will vanish or force him to take a step back. And Jared really really does not want to do that.
“Didn`t want the milk to drop. As it is Misha`s and everything, right?”
“Yeah, of course.” Jensen chuckles. “Nobody would want that.”
After a short pause he continues. “I tried to make some breakfast for you and me before having some coffee first. That was kind of a bad call on my part.”
“No, it`s great, but where is the rest of the gang?”
Not that Jared particularly minds the absence of people that could possible interrupt this moment.
“They decided to go out. In order to have breakfast at the diner in town. They even took the dogs. And I thought that maybe … maybe we could hang out together this morning. Only if you wanted to of course.”
Jensen refuses to look Jared in the eyes when he says that, even turns half way to deal with an empty pan on the counter. He is all shy and even more adorable than normal.
But then a hand brushes against Jared`s as by accident and lingers there, lightly caressing the Jared's palm. And then Jared finally gets it and understands. It may not have been a onetime thing after all and that's exactly what Jensen is trying to tell him in not so many words.
“Breakfast would be awesome, Jen.”
“You suck. So much. And out loud. Not to mention ass.”
“I know Jen, believe me, I know and I am so, so sorry. I really don’t know what got into me. It was just that guy has been such an asshole to you and still you were so obviously all gone over him… And I had way too much to drink... And I am really just so terribly sorry. Did I do much damage?”
“You mean apart from the fact that he is going to take the whole thing to court after all now? No, Chris, apart from that everything is fine.”
“Oh god, no.”
“Oh god, yes, Christian. He said that he never wants to see any of us ever again. He threw us out of the house so we had to bivouac out here in the leaky bungalow. I think Katie already caught a nasty cold. She just won’t stop coughing, the poor thing.”
He feels Jared’s silent laughter against his side, which is fast becoming his favorite thing in the entire world, and makes frantic shushing hand motions to stop Sandy and Katie from giggling like teenagers. Chris’s pained groan makes him almost loose it himself and he has to bite the inside of his cheek.
“I feel like the worst kind of scum, Jen. Can he actually do that?”
“Well, it is his house. As for stopping the dig entirely, I don’t think he could get away with that on the long run, but the whole trial will put a stop to the excavation at least for the foreseeable future. He seems to have some kind of leverage since his aunt turned out to be filthy rich. Even if we eventually win, I don’t think I can get Morgan of my back that long. He will most likely ditch me as soon as he can. I could probably find someone else to support my thesis, but I am not getting any younger here and failing like that is not really going to advertise my cause. But hey, I can always come live with you and Steve if my parents won’t let me come back home as the college failure I’m going to be, right? Wait. What did you say, Mike? Oh god, no! Not Jim, too. No, don’t try to move him on your own, I’ll be right there. Listen, Chris, I gotta go. Jim just collapsed and I need to help Mike move him out of the puddle he rolled into face down. He’s probably caught pneumonia from the constant dampness of his bed. He isn’t exactly in his prime anymore, you know. Or maybe this nasty mildew that grows all over the walls in the kitchen is poisonous after all. Well, anyways, I’ll talk to you later. And don’t worry; I could never be mad at you. You always have my best interests at heart, don’t you? You are a good friend like that.”
With hat he hangs up and presses his face against Jared’s shoulder, trying to hold back the giggles that would probably sound way too much like the girls gleeful cackling. Not that it would have been heard about Jared’s booming, exuberant laughter.
“Wow, man. That was really mean. I am so glad right now that I’m not on you bad side anymore. How long do you think will he actually believe this?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It was pretty far out there in the end, so I guess he will figure it out as soon as he is thinking straight again. Unfortunately, a guilt-ridden Chris is even more fucked in the head than a drunk one. So it might take him a while after all. But sooner or later, Steve will take pity on him and clue him in.”
Jensen just hopes that the guilt prevents Chris to rib on him too much when he finds out that he was right for maybe the very first time ever and Jensen really is not entirely straight. Jensen doesn’t really think that Chris or Steve are going to take it badly, but he is not looking forward to the annoying harassment Chris generally confuses with friendly banter.
“You are awesome.”
Jensen focuses on Jared again and the mischief in his voice and the mirth dancing in his slanted eyes make Jensen melt against him in a gentle kiss until even the girls make gagging noises and leave the kitchen with overly demonstrative stumping and complaining. Then their kisses just get more heated.
He has kissed Jensen. Actually more than that. Jared is kissing Jensen on a regular basis now. And is the first man ever to do so. Which is great and a miracle all by itself because it is fucking fantastic to kiss Jensen Ackles on a regular basis. It has not been a onetime experimentation thing for Jensen and Jared is abso-fucking-lutely happy about this. He might have even called his momma and alluded to the fact that maybe, just maybe he is totally unbelievably gone for this guy. Well, or maybe his momma just nagged, nagged and nagged until he finally spilt why he cannot just come back home now that it is clear the archeologists are there to stay for some time. It`s not that Jared does not miss his family or Chad for that matter, but right now he might feel like he missed out on something important if he just went back to Texas. He hasn`t told his mother yet that he started to refer to his aunt`s house as Home in his head a while ago, that he may not want to come back. Ever.
It`s difficult: they want him to sell desperately in order to be happy, but Jared is not sure that selling the house would make him happy as this would amount to loosing Jensen and this strange new connection he has found with Mildred.
Jared`s days have changed since that night of the party. He seems to have acquired a kinda “live-in” boyfriend, although they only see each other in the evenings and mornings and Jensen sleeps on the couch. And of course they don`t talk about anything concerning their relationship or use the “b”-word. But that`s ok for Jared because they kiss. Sometimes even when Jensen is still muddy and sweaty from working the whole day in Jared`s garden. More frequently they kiss after Jensen has had a shower, which is always really really hot. Not only because Jared has already jerked off to the image of a wet Jensen in the past, though. It`s because there are these tiny droplets of water still running down Jensen`s neck and his hair isn`t properly dry yet and Jensen just tastes amazing. It is also because he looks so relaxed and happy when he comes out of the bathroom, sees Jared and smiles. They usually make out then, pretty much in every room of the house that is not currently infested with people, usually migrating to the living room once everybody has gone to bed.
It has occurred to Jared that he could just casually invite Jensen to sleep in his bedroom and not ruin his back every night on that horrible couch. But the thing is, he fucking can`t. Jared`s no virgin of course. He knows he looks pretty decent naked and has great abs (thanks for the swim team membership, Aunt Mildred!). He knows he should probably just not be a girl about it and get into Jensen`s pants already. He just can`t. Because Jensen is all new to this and Jared doesn`t want to be the one to push him out of his comfort zone. Stuff like that can seriously lead to severe psychological scares, and never would Jared ever hurt Jensen like that even if yes he really really wants to have sex with Jensen. Or just do more than kissing. But the psychologist in him wants to talk to Jensen about all sorts of things first: like Jensen`s apparent sexual identity crisis and why the hell he has not figured out he might be kind of bi till he is nearly thirty. And if this whole thing between them is just due to the general unsteadiness and uncertainty of Jensen`s current life and Jared`s easy availability and willingness. But Jared won`t say anything, before Jensen does, which does not mean he cannot desperately hope for a small sign from the guy that for Jensen this is more than just experimentation or whatever.
And so only if Jensen has figured all that out by himself would it be truly fair of Jared to initiate any more than kissing. The problem is Jared is too much of a coward to be the one to start talking about anything along these lines, too afraid that Jensen might come to the wrong conclusions if he is forced to really think about what is happening between them. And so Jared selflessly or selfishly tells himself that kissing is just enough for now.
“So how is the steaming hot guy on guy sex? Should Katie and I finally check those tapes from the hidden video cameras? How many hits do you think we would get on YouTube? Do spill Jared!”
Jared has met Sandy in the small corner coffee shop in town for her lunch break. Now he thinks he rather should not have. He can`t very well share Jensen`s sexual history with her, so there is nothing to tell. And like the scavenger she is Sandy will know Jared is not giving her the juicy bits.
“What an opening Sandy. It`s even better the two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge..."
“Don`t you dare change the subject Jared. And why the hell would you? The sex should be amazing. Or isn`t it? Oh, poor you…I mean I thought with him working out in the garden the whole day he shouldn`t be a total tool in the sack, right? Ah, I am so sorry...”
Sandy reaches out her hand to Jared face. He is almost afraid she will cup his cheek and pet him like a child or a small puppy. He catches her wrist before she gets a chance to do anything.
“Drink your coffee Sandy. I know I am touchy feely, but no doting on me like a mother hen. I don`t know how sex with Jensen is. I suppose it would be great, yeah…but I would not know, ok? Because we have not slept together.”
“But why? Do you have any problems down there? Something serious holding you up?”
Sandy grins. She isn`t angry that he has stopped her from going all motherly on him, but a small payback has been called for.
“No! Damn you woman! It`s just with four other people in the house it is not all this easy to have some real quality time. And you know Jensen and I want to go slow….”
“But that`s not all, Don`t lie to me Jared. You`re no good at it. ” Sandy snaps.
She has figured him out. Again.
“You want to go slow alright, because Jensen is all new to the big gay club. I get that, ok? Don`t look so shocked Jared, Katie told me. It`s no big secret. But there is something else right?”
Jared hesitates although he knows there is no way to escape the whole thing now. Sandy knows so he might as well tell her everything already.
“Ok,... so maybe I am also a bit concerned about something else. Maybe. But I know it`s nothing… I am just a bit afraid I will mess it up. It`s a major thing and I am pretty good at messing up major things. And I am worried about what will happen and what will change and if I pressure him into anything or if he would rather not… ”
“Typical, Jared. That`s just so you. You`re just over-analyzing it. Drink your coffee. Go home. Get your boy laid. You like him, he likes you. And he wants it, you can so see it in his eyes. And if in doubt, just ask him. Or do I have to spell the question out to you, Jay? You’re both science geeks, hot young males. Don`t make a list of pro`s and con`s. Just do it. And then call me afterwards.”
“So these scientists are still there? I am really sorry Mr. Padalecki that this is still the case. What an inconvenience for you! If they had of course committed any crimes against the property or against your person, we might have a reason to take this matter to the court and I would personally…”
“Yes of course. But they have not. In fact they have turned out to be rather… pleasant.”
The lawyer coughs at this comment. Jared has not yet revealed to the man that this 'scientist folk' is actually living in the house with him, now, and he plans not to disclose this fact in the foreseeable future.
“I will of course try to get in contact with the higher authorities at Dartmouth as soon as possible, Mr. Padalecki. So that we may enquire when these men will actually leave.” And so that you may bill me another 500 Dollars for a 5 minutes phone call, Jared thinks.
But Mr. Foster calling people will surely do no harm, right? Suddenly Jared is not so sure about that anymore. Until now he has given the lawyer a free rein on things, to do whatever he deemed right. But when Jared actually starts thinking about the whole state of affairs at his house and in his backyard, the crux of the matter is that he really doesn`t want the archeologists to leave… now or ever.
And isn’t that a scary thought?
Obviously there is this growing “thing” between him and Jensen, which he does not want to destroy. And going behind Jensen`s back and let his lawyer call Jensen`s superiors at Dartmouth may not enamor Jensen especially to Jared.
It`s the only logical conclusion. And it feels right, even if Mr. Foster looks at him like he is a complete idiot.
“I will deal with it on my own.”
“But Mr. Padalecki, you surely do not realize the consequences of being inactive in such a situation…”
“Yes, I do. “ Jared takes a deep breath.
“Mr. Foster, I surely do not aim to belittle your …your legal skills. But these archeologists, you see, are in fact nice people and they are doing interesting and important things. See it as the quirk or eccentricity of a newly rich man or whatever makes you sleep better at night. But I really do not want to pursue this any further.”
“But Mr. Padalecki….” The lawyer offers in a rather exasperated voice.
“No chasing away of the archeologists.”
After the initial hesitation, the tone of Jared`s voice seems to make it clear that this is final. His newly developed “ I`m-talking-serious-business” - vocabulary may still be a bit off, but Mr. Foster seems to get it. There will be no further discussion on this topic.
In this moment Jared does not recognize himself, but better not start an inner argument now that he has finally discovered his own self-assertiveness. Rather swim with the flow.
“So concerning the matter I originally called you about…Did you manage to find out something about these …transactions to the bank accounts?”
“Yes, of course, Mr. Padalecki.”
The lawyer has so far vehemently refused to talk about the topic on hand and Jared wonders why. When Mr. Foster continues after shoveling some papers from the right to the left side of his desk and back he looks a bit shy and even a tad embarrassed.
”It seems your aunt received a payment of 20,000$ every month over a prestigious law firm in New York. That much I was able to find out. I tried to establish contact on your behalf, but they have simply - in need for a better word - `rebuffed` me.”
Jared can’t help but be a little shocked on behalf of his poor lawyer.
“Yes. Can you believe it? They refused to talk to me even when I stated I was your legal representative!”
Jared feels the urge to apologize for no reason but refuses to surrender to it. There is so much he wants to know and he is not able to let matters rest just to not further affect Mr. Foster`s self confidence.
“So they will not tell you why they keep wiring 20K to my account every month even if my aunt is dead?!”
“They also insisted on keeping up these transactions though I explicitly told them the account is yours now. They were quite forceful about it and asked me to pass their address directly on to you, so that if you had questions you could directly speak to them after confirming your identity. Who do these clowns think they are?”
Mr. Foster shakes his head in utter disbelief and no little amount of outrage.
“So you have their phone number?”
“Yes, but that is not the way legal matters are normally dealt with. This is totally unprofessional. This is an affront….”
Half an hour later Jared has managed to get the telephone number of a Ms Sera Gamble at a renowned New York law company from his very cranky lawyer. He can`t imagine why he is the one that has to pay the guy so that he can listen to his childish tantrums. Should it not be the other way around? Anyways, he has the number now and the key to how simple Aunt Mildred became his filthy rich Aunt Mildred.
All things considered Jensen’s life gets better and better. The dig is still going smoothly. The people he works with are willing to put their heart and soul into it and he still hangs out with Jared. And usually said hanging out ends with them making out on the couch. It’s awesome.
Ok, maybe Jensen is a little anxious about messing everything up, but that is kinda normal, right? Besides they only ever make out and never do anything more. Not that Jensen is entirely sure he is really ready to do more yet. He is still kind of new to the whole thing after all. All he knows is that he is not ready to come out officially yet. That basically just means his family because everyone else he cares about already knows and that includes Chris and Steve who have been worryingly supportive. But the way Jared makes him feel is just so incredible that he can’t even imagine what it would feel like to maybe just amp up the making out a little.
And they have never gone on anything even resembling a date. Technically Jensen is the older one, but does that mean he is supposed to ask Jared out? Because he wants to. Go out with Jared, that is. Maybe catch a movie, or have dinner away from the others and their prying eyes. He’s pretty sure Katie already masturbates thinking about Jared and Jensen together. But he just doesn’t know the etiquette here. Not that he was all that very well versed in it when a girl was involved somewhere but still. What if Jared doesn’t want to date him. Maybe Jared just wants to be friend with benefits. Or temporary roommates with benefits. And Jensen sure as hell isn’t ready to throw the b-word out there but it would be nice to know that they at least have the potential to be more than a quick hook-up before Jared goes back home to Texas.
Maybe all this is just another really elaborate prank.
And maybe Jensen should really talk about this to someone before he goes completely out of his mind. But who?
Chris and Steve are still out, because all the PFLAG-worthy support can only last so long with those two and they would only call him a girl and would never supply any helpful information even though Chris is still kinda groveling. Once he found out that his behavior more or less resulted in Jensen and Jared making out in the kitchen he got a lot less apologetic real quick, though. And he can’t talk to Katie, because she would tell Sandy and Sandy would tell Jared and that just so wasn’t on. That leaves Misha and Mike and Jim. And while Jim is a great guy and everything he would probably just call Jensen a knucklehead and leave the room.
And the other two just aren’t an option for so so many reasons. He really has learned his lesson with Misha last time. It may have helped somewhat, but just the mere thought of the embarrassment-level this conversation could reach makes Jensen feel ever so slightly queasy.
So, all that means that Jensen is completely on his own to brood and ponder and panic and freak out.
He is just doing a) and b) and getting closer to c) and d) when a shadow falls over him where he has been crouching in his ditch, drawing the newest layer of grave 8. He squats in the farthest part of the dig just next to the garden wall were they have not yet erected a tent so he has to squint into the sun a little to make out the broad figure standing on the edge of the dig.
“Jensen, my dear boy, I see you are really making good progress here.”
“Ah, come on, call me Jeff, kid. A nice little dig you’ve got here.”
Jensen gets up and scrambles out of the ditch, Morgan’s height advantage making him feel uncomfortable. Once he is level with Morgan and has shaken the guys offered hand, Morgan starts interrogation him. And Jensen really hasn’t much chance but to tell him. What the fuck is the guy doing out here anyway? Last time Jensen talked to him he basically ranked Jensen’s general importance right after a slug and now he is here asking questions? That just can’t be good.
“So, you think the cemetery stretches even further towards the woods? Very interesting.”
Huh? And that is just plain weird, because sure, he has to keep Morgan updated about the progress of the dig by weekly emails, but Jensen always figured the guy never really read them. Apparently that was wrong.
“And all this is this Padaleskis property. And he will let you dig it all up?”
Jensen doesn’t bother to correct him about the name. The guy looks so satisfied as if he just ate a really juicy steak. Or got an excellent blowjob. It’s disconcerting.
“Yes. I even think there might be a settlement somewhere inside these woods.”
There is no use in denying it now, so Jensen might just as well go for full disclosure even if the bad feeling in his stomach warns him not to tell Morgan anything.
“Really? Now wouldn’t that be interesting? Well, I don’t want to keep you. You are clearly busy here and I have another meeting close by. I just dropped by to show you how much I support you. I’ll just get out of your hair now, but I’ll be sure to tell Kripke what marvelous work you are doing here.”
With that he leaves and really, it should be nothing, but a weird, creepy feeling stays with Jensen all day.
That is until he learns about the plans for the evening. Then he has other concerns. Because apparently, Chris called Jared to apologize in person for his behavior and of course they found out they actually kinda liked each other and obviously that lead to a world of embarrassment for Jensen.
“Karaoke? Seriously? Didn’t Chris tell you how much I hate Karaoke?”
“Well, yeah, maybe he kinda did, but he also said you were really good at it and now I wanna hear it.”
Fuck, Jensen should really consider getting new friends. And new hot roommates with benefits he really wants to date. He is so close to refusing on general principle (and because whatever Chris says he is not good at Karaoke. He just knows how to sing a little but he just isn’t the kind of guy who likes to be center stage in a room full of drunk tools demanding Freebird) but then Jared looks at him in a way that would melt permafrost and Jensen is done in for and caves. He could never say no to puppy dog eyes. Especially not puppy dog eyes he wants to make out with. Not that he really wants to make out with Jared’s eyes as such, but they are cute and attached to the rest of Jared and maybe Jensen should really stop thinking shit like that when the guy is around because sooner or later Jared will find out that Jensen is crazy and that will be that.
They all file into the bar that has Karaoke-Friday listed as special attraction: Jared, Chris, Steve, a very reluctant Jensen, Mike, Misha, Katie and even Jim, along with Sandy and two more of Jared’s friends who are called Alona and Emily but Jensen can’t for the life of him remember which one is which.
Someone keeps buying rounds and before the singing even starts Jensen is already kind of pliant and relaxed, tucked close to Jared’s side. Maybe this is not such a bad idea after all. Maybe it counts as a date and now they are officially dating.
Chris and Steve are onstage first because they never need much booze to be coaxed into singing but then they aren’t suffering from fatal stage fright like Jensen. Some chubby older guy is next who sings a lovely ballade for his wife of 25 years and Jensen can feel Jared’s arm tighten around his shoulders pleasantly. Yeah. Maybe really not such a bad idea at all.
Next are two blond bimbos in skimpy clothes who apparently think they are the next Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera but both have less talent than Paris Hilton, butchering some mindless pop schmaltz and Jensen drowns another shot that appears mysteriously in front of him.
Then Chris is back on stage and Jensen’s buzz is killed almost on the spot.
“And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for our friend Jensen, who is going to sing a timeless classic. And this is a very special occasion, too, because he is going to sing this for his boyfriend Jared over there who he is been mooning over for months now and is still too chicken shit to actually ask out on his own. So let me hear it for Jensen Ackles singing ‘Like a Virgin’.”
Jensen doesn’t know how he actually ends up on stage equipped with a mike but he is really all kinds of glad, that the first notes erupting from the speaker do not belong to any Madonna song at all. Maybe Chris does want Jensen to get laid again this century because it’s actually ‘I want to know what love is' by Foreigner which probably won’t get him any cool points any time soon, but which he damn well can deliver.
He must more or less make it. Because as soon as he stumbles off the stage he is wrapped up in Jared’s strong arms and squeezed within an inch of his life while Jared whispers seductively into his ear.
“God, Jen, do you have any idea how hot you looked up there on that stage? All shy and blushing at first but once you got comfortable, you totally blew me away. And your voice, man, I could get off on you reciting the bloody phone book in that voice.”
Ok, so maybe he will not kill Chris right away. Maybe he deserves to live just a little bit longer. Maybe he will even send Chris a damn gift basket because Jared is dragging him out of the bar and back towards the house as if he might spontaneously combust if he doesn’t get his hands on Jensen right now. And Jensen is so fucking down with that.
It would probably feel weird how empty the house is with everyone still out but right now Jensen can’t process much but Jared’s huge hands roaming over every inch of his body he can reach through his clothes. They barely made it inside before Jared pressed him against the nearest wall and started pealing of what Katie just yesterday dubbed his Leather Jacket of Sex. It seems to do the trick even though it’s currently lying on the floor, because Jared kisses him as if he’s starving and bunches up his shirt to expose skin.
And Jensen is right there with him. He is just buzzed enough that he isn’t over-thinking every move and every touch but allows himself to suck a mark into Jared’s long neck before tracing a hand over his stomach and up his chest under the soft tee marveling at the quivering muscle he has so far only felt through at least one layer of clothing. Jared is really incredibly built for a psycho geek and Jensen whimpers when Jared’s mouth leaves his skin to get rid of both Jensen’s shirt and then his own in short order. He then crowds Jensen back against the wall before leaning in and sucking his lower lip into his mouth and Jensen finds that it’s more than time to take some control over this situation. He slides both his hands down Jared’s back and briefly cups his ass before letting go and starting in on Jared’s belt buckle.
They are still wearing way too many clothes for his liking so it’s mildly irritating that Jared stops him before he can really remedy that. But then Jared leans in again and whispers “Bedroom” just before sucking at Jensen’s earlobe and Jensen can hardly complain when he takes Jensen’s hand again to pull him upstairs into a spacious room that Jensen will totally pay attention to some other time. Right now all he can think of is the huge bed in the middle of the floor that Jared practically lowers him onto. Not that he would complain. Instead he focuses his attention back to Jared’s pants and gets rid of them and his boxer’s while Jared licks the shell of his ear after kissing the tip and – Jensen suspects - the freckle that resides there. Then Jared turns them over possibly to have better access to get rid of Jensen’s pants, too.
Jensen however uses the change of position to kiss and suck a trail down Jared’s chest and stomach.
He dips his tongue into Jared’s navel and is rewarded with a quick moan and a jerk of hips that leaves no doubt about the fact that Jared is both incredibly proportional and just as hard as Jensen right now. Jensen doesn’t know where this sudden boldness is coming from, but although he has never actively entertained the thought of even touching another man’s dick before Jared, right now getting to Jared’s cock seems like the best fucking idea ever.
When Jensen sinks lower he is enveloped with Jared’s scent and cannot help the little needy noise he is making or the way his own dick jumps without touching or being touched. Everything about Jared seems to be going either straight to his head or right to his cock. He can’t even say which option he prefers.
Before he can get lost in too much thinking again, Jensen grips Jared’s hips to hold him against the bed and licks a quick trail from the base of Jared’s cock to the tip before sliding his lips over the head figuring that if he likes it Jared is probably good with it, too.
It’s certainly not the most controlled blow-job Jared has ever gotten because Jensen is still a lot buzzed and this is Jared, the guy who makes him stupid and fumbly by default, and hello, he is still really new to all this, but the way Jared writhes and moans under him and arches against Jensen’s grip on his hips seems to indicate that he doesn’t mind one bit.
Way before Jensen is even remotely ready to stop Jared tucks at his arms until he crawls back up his body and they are face to face once more. So that Jared can kiss him again, hungry and hard.
Jensen doesn’t even have time to catch his breath before Jared turns them over, pressing Jensen back into the pillows and lining their cocks up so that he can wrap one big hand around both of them and tuck. It doesn’t take long, the way eased by pre-come and Jensen’s spit and they are both rather panting into each other’s mouths than kissing. Jensen is so lost in the sensation of Jared’s dick sliding against his own, his hand rubbing and twisting just right, that he almost forgets that he has a pair of hands at his own disposal. He uses it to feel Jared’s back muscles flex and shift under smooth, tanned skin, allows himself to feel Jared’s firm ass move as he thrusts against Jensen and into his own hand. He is completely lost in feeling every part of Jared from the floppy hair that tickles his forehead, over the hard chest that is pressed against his and moves rapidly with his shallow moans and panted breaths, down to the way Jared’s legs are entwined with his as if they were made to fit together. He feels Jared shudder and stiffen against him and above him and under his hands and it is as if Jared’s orgasm somehow triggers Jensen’s own. The pleasure rushes through him the second he feels Jared’s hot come between them and he can’t help the loud moan that maybe sounds just a little like Jared’s name before he buries his face in Jared’s neck and inhales his scent some more as he comes down. They stay like that for a minute, both entangled in the other before Jared moves away to deal with what has to be dealt with when two grown-up guys finally get some release after dancing around each other for quite a while. After Jensen is more or less cleaned up he wonders if maybe this is his cue to leave and spend the rest of the night silently panicking on his couch but before he can say something or even move Jared settles back down right next to him and curls up around him. He must feel Jensen stiffen in surprise because he loosens his grip without actually letting go.
“Please, Jen. I’d really like you to stay tonight.”
And that’s really all there is to it. Jensen relaxes back against Jared’s warmth and relishes the feeling of Jared’s breath evening out before he, too, drifts off to sleep.
Yeah, fucking Chris really deserves that damn gift basket now.
The next morning Jensen wakes up surrounded by Jared.
“Come on, dude. You can stay up here a bit longer.”
Jared hopes he doesn`t sound whiny or like a 3 year old who has been told to give up his favorite toy for the day. Although they have only spent three wonderful, amazing, hot nights together actually sharing the same bed, slowly waking up with Jensen in his arms has already become the best part of his day. The weekend was perfect. And surely the man doesn’t have to get up at six in the morning just because it is Monday, right?
“Sorry Jay, but they are waiting for me.”
That is right, of course. Katie knocked on their door five minutes ago, barely containing a snicker and asking Jensen if it was possible for him to leave his love nest so that they could actually start digging. Jensen of course turned bright red then and adorably buried his face in Jared`s chest.
That only lasted a few minutes however and since then Jensen is up and about gathering his stuff together and hurriedly getting dressed.
Currently Jared is indulging himself with paying extra attention to Jensen`s fabulous backside, as the man pulls his jeans up. It might be the last he sees of that fine ass for the whole day so he thinks he is rightly enough allowed to do so.
That Jensen leaves is not totally unexpected of course. Jared knows the man is dedicated to his work and everything. But a little part of him feels slightly rejected.
Jensen turns to look at Jared after he pulls on his t- shirt. The jeans/t-shirt look fits him perfectly and Jared barely restrains himself from pulling Jensen back to him on the bed for round 2. And the look on Jensen`s face reveals that he is no stranger to Jared`s line of thinking. His eyes darken a bit when he looks back at Jared, still lying naked under the tangled sheets. He walks by the side of the bed and leans down to give Jared a lingering kiss. It is all softness and Jared grabs the back of Jensen`s neck to prolong what is over far too quickly.
“There is still lunch break…”
Jensen is clearly affected by their kiss as much as Jared is.
Jared smirks and gives Jensen his best puppy dog impression. After a few more seconds of shared looks the other man finally leaves the bedroom and shuts the door far behind him way slower than necessary.
Jared, pretending not to be the love struck fool that he is, gets up mere minutes after Jensen has left. He cannot allow himself the time to think about what this is between them. They haven`t talked about it or given it names or labels. Jared’s sure Jensen hasn`t even talked to his family about his small sexual revolution yet. Maybe Jared is just not more to Jensen than a fling even if the man admits to himself that he kind of might be at least bi.
Jared wants to tell himself that he has to enjoy the time he has with Jensen. As much time as he is allowed to have before Jensen and his team decide that the digging site in Jared`s garden is not interesting enough and in the process that Jared isn’t as well.
In order to not dwell on thoughts of won and lost love and his general insecurity issues - yeah, even psychologists have them, thank you very much - Jared gets dressed and sorts all the important papers on the small desk in his room. Papers from the lawyer and the banks. He is not ready to have any breakfast yet or to talk to Jensen about their relationship, so he might as well get some work done.
“You reached the office of Ms Sera Gamble, at Edlund and partners. You`re talking to Miley, what can we do for you?”
“My name is Jared Padalecki, I am not sure exactly but…I wanted to speak to Ms Gamble about my Aunt Mildred…”
“I will put you through immediately, Sir. Please excuse the undesirable delay.”
Jared hears some clicking on the line, but instead of having to endure the expected you`re-on-hold-and-will-wait–forever music somebody immediately picks up the phone.
“Sera Gamble speaking. Mr. Padalecki. I am so glad that you found the time to call us. It's a real pleasure.”
Jared can´t imagine why exactly this woman might be so pleased to hear from him. She sounds overexcited as if Christmas just came early.
“Of course, your aunt informed us, that after her passing her…'local' lawyer would give you all the rights to her accounts and official belongings. When the hospital informed us about her demise, we immediately set everything in order for you to take over. We have been expecting your call ever since. There are many decisions for you to make.”
These people just can't be for real.
“Yes of course. About the circulation, if there should be a special edition, the fans … everything. And of course there is still Hollywood. Your aunt was quite firm on the fact that there should be no movies made during her lifetime. But now, there are all these offers, Mr. Padalecki, you should really consider it…”
“Ms Gamble, I have no idea what you are talking about. The fans? Who exactly was my aunt?”
“Mr Padalecki, if you don’t know, you will never guess.”
Hours later Jared stands in his kitchen leaning against the counter. He still barely manages to get all this new stuff together in his head and at the same time tries to concentrate on preparing some homemade stew.
His aunt was an author, and not just any author but a really famous one. Great American novel of the century kind of famous. She wrote under a pen-name all her life, which might be why the ’stupid idiots from the Noble prize committee didn`t give her the prize’. At least that is what Ms Gamble said.
Of course Jared recognized his aunt`s pen–name, well, not at first as the name of the holder of the offshore accounts, but now in the right context it kinda clicked. He might have even read one of her books in high school. But he is not sure which because she wrote so many books they usually get their own shelves in regular book stores. And there might even be more books out there if Jared considers the pile of papers full of his aunt`s neat handwriting up in the attic.
Oh god, Aunt Mildred really was an eccentric and elusive author. A literary genius who, according to Ms Gamble, revolutionized the way people think about modern fiction. And she was Jared`s aunt. And also maybe a witch. All these things aren`t mutually exclusive in Jared`s mind anymore.
It`s nearly 12 o`clock and Jared is kind of glad the archeologists will soon have their mandatory break and there will be Jensen to whom he can talk about this whole mess. Because Jared really needs to rant to someone about this and Sandy is still at work in the town hall and he is still so not ready to call his family about this mess.
And overenthusiastic Ms Gamble doesn`t seem to be the right choice either, although she offered to be 'available for him', 'for anything', at 'anytime'.
And the person he really wants to speak to about this, above everyone else, is Jensen anyway. Just Jensen.
Minutes later Jared hears the door to his garden creak. It must be Jensen, who has come to have lunch with Jared instead of his colleagues. The thought warms Jared`s heart and he feels instantly better.
“I`m in the kitchen.”
Jared shouts it out so that Jensen will know where in the house to find him. He stirs the stew a bit more but when he turns around he doesn`t find Jensen in the doorway as expected but Sandy. His best friend looks flustered and messed up at the same time, as if she had come here chased by hellhounds.
“Sandy, you ok?”
“This asshole is getting you dispossessed, Jay!! He filled for it at the town house. I saw it this morning and couldn`t believe my eyes.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“This assbutt who is doing the goo-goo eyes nicely with you lately, the Lord of the Sith, Jensen Ackles is taking away your house, Jared. And doing it for 'the public good'. Because of those fucking Viking bones out there.”
Jensen wanders inside while the others are sitting outside in the sun that finally decided to play a recurring role in this dig. Normally Jensen would sit with them because changing out of his dirty digging gear just to take a break usually seems like a huge waste of time. Usually. Because now taking a break inside means spending time with Jared. And staying away from Jared even if you could be close to him feels a little like staying away from oxygen. Or water after crossing the desert. Or maybe the special cookies Jensen’s momma used to bake just for him every Christmas. Once he tasted one he couldn’t stop until he ate a whole batch and was so full he felt ready to burst.
Thinking of his mother sends a spike of guilt through Jensen. He still hasn’t talked to his family about the whole being gay thing. Or possibly bi, but definitely currently dating a guy. An awesome, gorgeous guy that makes him think of cookies. And he certainly wants to keep Jared in his life. He is not quite sure Jared wants the same thing but he certainly owes it to himself and Jared and his parents to tell them the truth. Yes. It definitely is time and he is going to call his mother later in the day and tell her, well, everything. Over the phone might not be the best way to do this, but it can’t wait till he has the time to fly over and visit them in person. He is pretty sure it’s not going to go too horribly but there is still anxiety mixed in with the giddiness he’s feeling. Still, it feels good to have made a decision and he’s sure talking to Jared about it is going to make it all even better.
He hears Jared’s voice and follows it into the kitchen like a Jared-detecting cruise missile and has just about opened his mouth to greet him and Sandy when the pretty brunette whirls around to snarl at him.
“What the fuck do you want? How dare you even show your conniving face in here again? Or did you seriously think I wouldn’t find out and tell Jared?”
“I… Sandy… What?”
Jensen feels as if he just got run over by a tiny yet ferocious truck.
“I have no idea what you are talking about. Jared, what’s going on?”
“I don’t believe this! You slimy, lying son of a…”
“Sandy, please, stop. Let me deal with this. On my own.”
Jared’s resigned and defeated voice is even worse than Sandy’s obvious wrath. Jensen has the immediate impulse to reach out and make it all better. Only he has no idea what’s wrong. Or what he could have done to deserve this.
Sandy’s voice sounds totally different while talking to Jared. Calming, almost soothing.
“I should head back to work anyway, but call me if you need me and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
She has to stand on tiptoe to kiss the top of Jared’s head even though he’s slumped down on one of the barstools at the kitchen counter. Any other time Jensen would find that endearing; now he just feels scared.
After she is gone there is a moment of silence that feels way to deep and uncomfortable for them. Finally, Jared sighs.
“Is it true, Jensen?”
“What is Jared? Please, I swear I don’t know what is going on.”
“Sandy just found out that someone filed a petition to declare my house and grounds a place of public interest. I will be evicted from my home and the whole area will be turned into an archaeological park slash fun fair. Sandy says the mayor was going on about roller coasters. And they are planning to tear my house down.”
“And you think I would do such a thing?”
“Well, honestly, Jensen, who else is there? The very first thing you did after coming here was telling me you could get me dispossessed if I wouldn’t go along with your plans. Are you really telling me that you wouldn’t have done that if I refused to let you dig?”
“Yes…No… I mean, that was then and it was a totally different thing. I needed this dig. But I would never ever want to make this into some kind of cheap amusement park. Sure, I was thinking that we could maybe build a museum somewhere nearby. And if we really found the settlement we maybe could have restored one of the houses for tourists. But I would never even dream of having you evicted or of demolishing the house. I wouldn’t do that and I wouldn’t do that to you especially.”
“Because I… because we… Jared, come on, you know why.”
“You can’t even say it, can you?. I should have known that it wasn’t anything real. All this blushing virgin act was just meant to keep me in the dark and I bloody well fell for… for the whole shebang. Did you just let me touch you so that I wouldn’t be in the way and ask annoying questions or were you at least a little bit attracted to me as well?”
For a moment Jensen can do nothing more than gape, because this? It’s fucking insane.
Slowly, however, the hurt confusion gives way to anger.
“You fucking bastard. I can’t believe you think that of me. I did the ‘blushing virgin act’ because you were the first guy I ever let myself feel like this about. Because you broke through all my fucking defenses. You broke through my shyness and the bitchy attitude and I didn’t fucking ask you to. No, you did that all on your own with your stupid grin and your stupid hair and your stupid loveable character. And now here I am, all tied in knots about you and you just decide you don’t even really like me. Because if you thought I was even remotely worth anything, you would never believe I would do something like that. I even wanted to tell my fucking parents about you today. But I guess I don’t need to anymore since you obviously believe this was a commodity fuck. At best.”
Jensen can see that his words hit their mark because Jared flinches visibly but he can’t stay in here and keep this up. He feels like Jared just reached in and ripped his heart right out of his chest and he can’t do this anymore. He needs to get out of the house and stumbles through the backdoor into the yard. Jared doesn’t follow him.
The sun feels like a glaring searchlight, way too bright and joyful for Jensen’s heavy heart. And he must look the part because Katie is on her feet and at his side in seconds, the others not far behind. He tells them the entire ugly story without breaking down and crying like a little girl, but it’s a close call.
Once he is finished, Jim rests a supporting hand on his shoulder and Misha makes soothing noises while awkwardly patting his head. Katie has whipped out her cell phone and viciously started stabbing at buttons. Now she is a little way away heatedly talking to someone on the other end of the line. Sandy, Jensen assumes. He feels a little better for their support – even Mike makes a face he probably assumes looks encouraging – but the sad facts remain.
The fact that Jensen fell for a guy who thinks he is a lying, devious slut. The fact that Jensen still feels the need to be with Jared even after what he said. And the fact that he can’t. The only upside is that things can’t possibly get any worse.
“Jensen, my boy, how are things going?”
Scratch that. Apparently the universe just waits for ways to proof him a fool.
“Prof. Morgan, what are you doing here?”
“Well, Jen, since this project means so much to you, I decided to take a more active interest in it. This here is Mr. Sheppard. He is a very successful developer.”
At that Morgan indicates the guy in a finely tailored suit beside him Jensen hasn’t really noticed yet. He certainly looks like one slimy, untrustworthy fucker. A perfect fit for Morgan, then.
“I told him about all your hard work and he is willing to invest a not insubstantial amount of money to help matters along. This is going to be really big, Jenny, my boy.”
And suddenly, horribly, everything slots into place and makes sense.
“You filed the petition for eviction at the town hall. You want to turn this site into Disneyland.”
“Well, yes. We thought it would be best to get all the arduous paperwork out of the way as soon as possible. The mayor seemed really excited about all of this. But you don’t have to thank me, son. You deserve this. It’s the just reward for all your hard work.”
“Thank you? Are you kidding me? I know what you are doing. You finally understood that I am onto something big and you are trying to push me out. Just like you did with Danneel Harris. You will take away my dig and my finds and you will milk this for every cent of profit and every bit of fame you possibly can. You sold your soul to the devil a very long time ago and now you are trying to sell mine. But I am not some lovesick girl dying for your attention. I won’t let you get away with it. I won’t let you take something awesome and amazing and important and sell it to the highest bidder. You won’t whore out my dig. I will fight you with all I have even if it’s the last thing I ever do in the archaeological world. And now you better get off of my site or I set the hounds on you.”
“Don’t be stupid, Jensen. This is a fight you can’t win. I have the way better leverage and if you force me to, I will destroy you. When I’m through with you, you won’t even find work as a helper on some backwater dig in bumfuck, nowhere USA.”
“Get. Off. My. Site.”
Maybe reaching for the nearest shovel is going a little far, but it does do the trick. Especially since Jim, Mike and Misha are all doing the very same thing beside him. But even if watching Morgan’s and Sheppard’s rapidly retreating backs gives Jensen some sense of vindication, he doesn’t really feel victorious or even relieved. Because, really? They’re all fucking screwed.
Jim seems to come to the same conclusion, because he rubs his hands over his face agitatedly and sighs.
“Well, I guess we all better get back inside and… regroup.”
Katie walks back over to them just then, clicking her cell phone shut grimly.
“I told Sandy everything and she is on her way back here. She told me to tell you she’s really awfully sorry, Jen.”
All Jensen can do is shrug as they hesitantly file inside, trying to get as much dirt off their clothes as possible before entering the house. It all feels meaningless now, just like hollowly going through the motions. Jensen’s stomach churns and panic almost chokes him and he is so not ready to face Jared again.
Jared feels incredibly empty. With all the stuff that has been happening his whole existence has focused on the solemn fact that he is yet again alone. Alone in this big house, the people he has probably incredibly wronged outside in the garden. Although Jared can`t be sure of that. How can he? First he felt incredibly betrayed, greatly justified in his scorn, but then…. He remembers Jensen`s face when he accused him that everything about their relationship has been an act in order to keep the dig. There was plain surprise and sadness, utter sadness as if Jared just ripped his heart out. As if Jared just disappointed Jensen like no other could. There was no trace of guilt in Jensen`s face, no sign that he had been found out, nothing even remotely like that. No spite, nothing. Jared`s no Paul Ekman, but he thinks he just fucked up big time.
And ok, some part of Jared`s rational brain keeps telling him that yes, there is still the logical explanation that Jensen is just a good enough actor and that he has just fooled Jared yet again. But some other, bigger part of him knows that it is all bullshit. That Jared simply did not allow Jensen the time to explain himself properly, and that Jared just assumed which was easiest for himself. He just drew the conclusion that was worst for his self-esteem and that fell in line with all his other anxieties of Jensen leaving him or not liking him enough. The easiest way out for him, without going through the pains of actually fighting for it, or talking it through. Not giving Jensen just a glimpse of a chance to defend his actions whatever he might have done or not done. And that`s the worst part, because no matter what, Jensen deserves a chance.
And somehow Jared thinks that did it. The final straw. Jared feels confusingly sober about the fact that if he and Jensen ever had a chance at anything, it is lost now.
Great. Because if there is an explanation and Jensen is maybe innocent, then Jared screwed up royally by not finding out the truth before making assumptions. The realization comes to him like being struck by lightning: He really made a mess of things. First listen than make hypothesis - hasn`t he learnt anything during his college years?
Sadie and Harley formerly so excited about the stew, then oddly silent during Sandy`s appearance and his stand-off with Jensen, trod up to him. He scratches them behind the ears and utters soft nonsense. More to soothe his own nerves than theirs. Jared almost expects to have this movie like flash-back where he gets to reminiscent about the wonderful times he had with Jensen. That film of them laughing and joking, with the passionate sex scene thrown in. The best shots they had. Just to make it clear to everyone that it is over now. But it refuses to come.
It strikes Jared how often he just sits there. Not just here on that particular chair, but all through his life on so many chairs, couches and beds. And that for longer than was strictly necessary. Mildred once said that the image Jared reconstructs of the world in his brain must be about 400 times as big and as interesting as the real world out there. Otherwise it would be just plain dumb to waste so much time caught up in it.
Mildred. Everything Jared knows about himself or love is strangely related to her. Swimming. Loving her dogs. Hell, she even made sure he figured out his sexuality on time. The house, the garden, and Jensen. Everything is related to his witch-aunt.
Walking back inside Jared’s house is one of the most awkward things Jensen ever had to do. It’s not that he doesn’t want to see Jared or talk to him, he does. Desperately so. But it really isn’t easy to face him just now. After all, it is really kind of Jensen’s fault that Jared is maybe going to lose his home. Sure, it wasn’t directly his doing but it is because of him that Morgan ever directed his gaze towards Sturry. Right now though, the guilt takes a backseat to the hurt that he is still feeling. Even if Jared was right in that someone was trying to get him dispossessed he still should have known that Jensen would never do that to him. Can’t he see how far gone Jensen is for him, really? Ok, maybe Jensen could have maybe made it a little clearer how much he liked Jared and how serious he was being about, well, them, but he is shy, ok. Shy and an idiot. Jensen sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. He really needs to talk to Jared, tell him everything and make it all better. But now isn’t the time and in front of all their friends certainly isn’t the place to overcome his inherent shyness. Now they need to figure out how to stop fucking Jeffery Dean Morgan from getting away with this.
They are all gathered around the kitchen table, nursing coffees and teas. Jared is sitting on one side with Sandy next to him and hasn’t so much as looked at Jensen since they came in and told him about their unpleasant visitors and their scheming.
Sandy barged in moments later, obviously taking the rest of the day off work due to a family emergency. She apologized to Jensen profusely with lots of guilt and crying and he could do nothing but forgive her. She had just tried to protect a friend after all. Jared said nothing.
They go at it like a war council coming up with and discarding plans and ideas seemingly by the minute. Only Jared says nothing.
Jensen even calls Kripke who curses like a sailor, calling Morgan a devious, slimy son of a cockroach, but doesn’t come up with anything helpful either. Still, Jared says nothing.
“Well,” Jim finally says, sounding hesitant and not very hopeful. “Maybe Jared should contact that lawyer of his. Maybe he can think of some way to fight Morgan and get us out of this shit.”
They all know about the lawyer since Jared told them one day, somewhat sheepishly, that he had sicced the guy on them when they first got here. The general agreement had been that Jensen probably deserved that for being such an ass.
He hadn't exactly sounded like a legal mastermind to Jensen, though so he isn't too hopeful and Jared seems to agree.
"I suppose I could set the man on the task but I am not sure how much good this will do. He is just some small-town hack lawyer. I mean, he was helpful enough but I think this is way out of his league. He’s not exactly Alan Shore. He… fuck, wait. This is it.”
“What? Contacting a fictional character to get us out of our legal problems? I’m not sure this’ll work.”
“No, not that, but … you all know that my Aunt Mildred was pretty rich, right? But that’s not all. She was also an incredibly famous author and therefore possibly richer that bloody Midas. And there is this fancy New York law firm that seemed to be prepared to do her every bid and subsequently every bid I have. Over the phone they sounded almost creepily helpful. I could maybe call them and see if they have an idea.”
All the others seem to agree and the mood around the table lifts considerably. And Jensen wants nothing more to join in with their hopeful attitude and maybe hug Jared a little for his good thinking but doesn’t allow himself to go there. Instead he just smiles a little and bites his lower lip thoughtfully.
Jared goes back into the living room with his cell to call the lawyers. It feels good to get out of the kitchen. So ok, it is not exactly the fault of his archeologists that he might lose his house. But it`s still their boss` fault. And although Jared has been told a trillion times before today that Prof Morgan is a douchebag and he really believes Jensen and the rest that he is not the nicest man on the planet - Morgan is still connected to them. He gives Jensen great credit for fighting with the man in the garden a few hours ago, but really what would they lose if Jared got disposed? Nothing. They would have to deal with a bunch of tourists gawking at them, but they could actually enlarge their hole as much as they pleased. Jared would lose a big part of his own history - one that connects him to Mildred. One that has become increasingly important to him this last couple of weeks. And he would have to move back to his parents with two huge dogs in tow. He silently wonders what could hurt his self-esteem more.
After sitting down on the living room couch he types in the number of the law firm as if on autopilot, holding their business card in one hand and the phone in the other. Here goes nothing.
After getting past the secretary even quicker than last time as she recognizes his stammering immediately, Jared is connected to Ms Gamble.
“Yeah, hello, Ms Gamble, sorry to bug you again today, but I think I might have a question.”
“Mr. Padalecki, we are so happy to be of service. As I told you, you can rely on us whenever, wherever, any cause, any emergency.”
“Yeah, right. So, how good a client was my aunt, exactly?”
“The best, Mr. Padalecki.”
15 minutes later Ms Gamble has not really come up with a plan nor a solution, but talking to her is generally good for Jared`s nerves as she has a rather positive outlook on the whole mess. And she keeps assuring him that little Sturry will never have the same legal power as Jared has. Whatever that means. She and her colleagues might have the option to file an appeal or something and that might give them some time, or not. Jared isn`t that sure he understands any of this. And he guesses Ms Gamble knows that, because she is actually flying down with a team tomorrow morning in order to have a look at thingsherself and just generally help Jared wherever they can. He feels like a stranded puppy that just got to the shelter. It`s not certain anything at all will come out of their endeavors, but it`s something.
The lawyer says that evictions are rare, but in a case like this not totally unheard of.
“Before we do anything, Mr. Padalecki, I feel obliged to ask you this: Are you sure that you want to keep the house? In case of eviction you will be financially compensated. We could very likely be able to negotiate a more than satisfactory amount.”
Normally, direct questions for decisions scare the hell out of Jared. But not now. It`s the first time he is sure of anything during their conversation. Now, he doesn`t hesitate.
“I want to keep the house.”
For him the house is what Mildred really left him, not some stupid books he has just seen in remote corners of bookshops before today. It`s the house and the dogs that count. And Jensen, a tiny part of his brain supplies, but Jared tries to save that for a one on one conversation later.
“Very well. In this case we might as well file appeal after appeal until they get fed up with us. It`s the legal system. I am not sure we will be able to come up with anything satisfactory to stop it in the long run, but short-term might work for us.”
And that`s it. Jared just made a very important, potentially life-altering decision in mere seconds and nobody stops and stares. He decided to keep the house and nobody questions him. Well not as much as he would have suspected. And so no matter what, he is sure that he wants Ms Gamble to do something.
After Jared comes back the atmosphere around the table is decidedly more hopeful. They don't have a real solution yet and there still are a lot of maybes and what-ifs but it’s a start. The others badger Jared to tell them everything about his famous aunt and it all seems way more light-hearted now.
Everyone seems unwilling to part ways just yet even though all the archaeologists are still dusty and sweaty from the dig, so they stay where they are, huddled around the kitchen table like a herd of cows in a rain storm, seeking comfort from one another. And Jensen is really, really grateful he has them and can count on them like this but he also wants them gone right the fuck now, because all he really wants to do is clear the air with Jared.
Still, it’s nearing midnight when Sandy yawns and finally rises from her seat.
“Guys, I’m beat. I’m going over and crash at Grandma’s place and tomorrow I am going back to work and try to stall this thing as long as I can. Maybe I can at least buy us some time. I have to tell you, though, the mayor is pretty psyched about the whole plan.”
She kisses Jared on the top of his head and heads out. It seems to be the signal for all the others to rise and shuffle towards their respective beds as well. The meeting is obviously postponed.
When Jensen starts to get up, too, Jared speaks. And directly to Jensen, too.
“Jensen, could you, maybe, stay? Just for a couple of minutes?”
His voice sounds hoarse and scared and totally wrong. And all Jensen wants is to curl up on his couch and put as much time as possible between himself and this day. He still flops back down onto his seat and shrugs.
Jared waits until Jensen has received a kiss from Katie and everyone has left the kitchen before speaking again.
“Look, man, I am really sorry for saying what I said. It was uncalled for and mean, but I was just so scared to lose my home and so confused when it came to you. I fell for you, so hard and fast that my head is still spinning. But we never talked about anything. And you always seemed to value the dig above everything else. And then Sandy told me about the eviction and… I panicked. It felt like someone pulled the rug from under me and punched me in the stomach on my way down. My decision-making skills are lacking at the best of times, but turns out they suck abysmally when I’m in a panic. I should have talked to you before assuming, I know that now. Or maybe I should have tried to talk to you about how I felt earlier so that I would not have been so insecure about what we are to each other. I felt like the other shoe finally dropped. And I wish I could take back all the things I said...”
“Some of those things were really…”
"I know, but I really want to make it up to you. Please don't give up on us.”
There is so much sincerity in Jared’s voice and eyes that Jensen feels his heart melt a little. He wants to stay angry and he is still fucking scared and hurt, but… Yeah, just But.
“You know, you were right about one thing: We never talked about anything. Maybe we should start with that and see where it takes us.”
And Jared’s hopeful smile, as subdued and hesitant as it is, is still the most beautiful thing Jensen’s ever seen.
Jensen and Jared decide to sit down on the couch in the living room. It`s somehow their place and it feels oddly and comfortably right. Even in this moment.
Jared still isn`t sure how he should start their conversation. With all the revelations of the past hours about the evil Dartmouth Professor plotting with the opportunistic developer, the part of Jensen`s weekly reports in all of this and the decision to actually fight for his aunt`s house…he just doesn`t know where to begin. Another apology? Another attempt at admitting his feelings? Damn, that`s exactly the problem. Jared thinks too much. So he just says the first thing that comes to mind.
“You`re just so driven.”
And that just sounds wrong. If Jensen`s face is any indication, he took the wrong lane yet again and is heading straight into oncoing traffic. He tries to correct himself hastily.
“I don`t mean that in a bad way. It just scares the shit out of me sometimes. This dig is so important to you, and so I guess it just seemed a bit logical, that you, that we….”
“That I wasn`t serious about you. Jared, I understand, I get that. I`m a little single-minded about things sometimes. But then you turned up and really, the first few weeks of the dig I thought about nothing but you. How you unnerved me and how weird my reactions to you were…”
“You pissed me of as well you know.”
Jared bumps their shoulder together then, just lightly, and is rewarded with a small smile from Jensen. It warms his heart. But there are still so many unresolved issues between them.
“When you kissed me for the first time…it was all these clichéd things. Angels singing and bubble gums. I wanted you to never stop kissing me. But I knew you had so much on your mind, were so wound- up in the dig and it was all new to you. I was too scared to ask you how you felt. I thought, I don`t know, you would run away and hide in your hole.”
Jared gestures widely to the garden then, as if all their answers lie out there and well, it must really look ridiculous. Long arms and all so very uncoordinated.
“It`s not nearly deep enough to hide in it. Yet. But I know what you mean. I never gave myself proper time to think everything through I felt for you. I never got to grips with everything. But then I always thought this was all temporary for you. That you would move back to Texas, and just get out of here.”
“I thought that, too, at first, but I was never sure. I guess I thought you digging here would allow me more time to decide what to do with the house."
Jared stops then and takes a look at Jensen. The man looks like a total mess. The stand-off in the garden with Morgan and their little unsuccessful knitting club in the kitchen took their toll.
“But anyways, now I know I want to keep it.”
“Good. I mean not that you need my approval or anything but, well, it always has been clear that this place means a lot to you.”
Jensen clears his throat.
“And well, I don`t want to lose the dig to a stupid Viking theme park.“
“Yeah, I get that. But you could at least stay here, right? Keep digging or whatever?”
“Not really. They are going to commercialize the whole thing, Jared. We are talking roller coasters and cotton candy here. I would lose my mind over it and all the scientific credit would go to Morgan. And the jerk didn`t believe me for years when I kept telling him about Vikings in New Hampshire. He basically told me I am a tool for believing it. And now people will kiss his freaking feet for my ideas.“
There is nothing Jared can say to that. Jensen put years of work into this project – it`s his baby. Everyone who has seen him out there in Jared`s backyard knows the whole thing is more than a pile of dirt for Jensen. It`s his life. And although Jared loves cotton candy he gets that it would probably be a disaster of apocalyptic proportions for Jensen. So single-mindedness and the calamity that is their relationship – or whatever this is between them, defined or not - besides, Jensen deserves to have this dig.
Minutes later they are both still looking down at their hands solemnly, or at least it feels like it.
“But maybe there is a chance yet.”
Jared slowly moves his hand to enclose Jensen`s. They don`t look at each other, but it just feels good that Jensen doesn`t pull away directly. That they are still able to have this. It is a good start.
“Ms Gamble and her team are coming up tomorrow. And there is a chance that they can successfully draw up that appeal of theirs. If they are only half as afraid of my witch aunt`s vengeful spirit as I am they are sure going to work their butts off for this thing.”
“Yeah? You`re right, that could give us some time. But really, Jared? The lawyers and everything? This whole affair will not come cheap for you. Are you sure you want to go to such financial pains just to save this old house? Seriously you`re moaning about it more than I am about Misha`s weird milk habits. ”
“Yeah, I know. But I want that. Well not pay thousands of dollars in lawyer`s fees of course, but I want the house and I want the garden and the woods. And don`t worry about the lawyers. They kinda came naturally with the whole mess that is my aunt`s legal estate. If they want any decisions from me about anything, they better figure this one out first.”
“But why? Seriously dude, as I understand it, with that kind of money you could buy yourself another house anywhere you want. Just get out of here and leave this whole fucking mess behind.”
Jensen`s voice sounds resigned and down
As if Jared could simply leave this place anymore than Jensen could.
“Yeah, maybe I could leave. But I don`t want another house. I want this one. Creaky floor and doors and Viking burial ground in the backyard, the whole deal. And frankly, my aunt would rather have me set the whole thing on fire, bulldoze and later flood it, before she would consider to consent to an eviction. She was very Texan like that. And anyways, you deserve to have this dig Jensen. And I will do anything I can to help you keep it.”
When Jensen just looks at him in utter confusion as if he just said the most ridiculous thing, Jared thinks it is time to stop giving a fuck. Open the flood gates. Say good-bye to your self-respect. Feelings here we go.
“I mean, obviously I respect your work Jensen. And… and you are a far better archeologist than Morgan is. And the dig is really yours, even if it is in my backyard. Hence you should keep it. “
Right, total fail. That was so not talking about feelings, Jared could actually hit himself right now.
“And of course I like you.”
Ok. It`s out there. Well, not the total lusting, falling sappily in love and ‘would you maybe consider marrying me and adopt children, but please don`t deceive me and sell me out to your boss`, but still. It`s out. Jared closes his eyes to wait for the inevitable rejection.
“You like me? That sounds very third grade of you.”
Jensen jokes, but the smile doesn`t reach his eyes.
“Don`t be a jerk. I wanted and still want you to be my boyfriend, ok? I just didn`t want to pressure you. Damn it."
That kind of stills Jensen for a moment, but he sobers up soon after.
“You were just too afraid to breach the subject. Admit it.”
Jensen has a flicker in his eyes that tells Jared the man is up to something. But Jared doesn`t know what because frankly, right now, he is a bitchy son of an ass again.
“Yeah maybe, but it`s not like you initiated any big relationship talk.”
“Nah, I didn`t. But it`s good to know we both wanted the same thing.”
Jared clearly must have misunderstood.
“We wanted, maybe still want, the same.”
And that`s enough for all Jared`s circuits to overload. He leans over and just kisses Jensen on the mouth. And yeah, maybe it`s the worst kiss ever, totally uncoordinated and shit, but Jared doesn`t give a damn. After a moment Jensen kisses him back and that`s enough for him. The two of them still have lots to figure out, a dig and a house to save from total demolition, but for tonight it`s enough.
He and Jensen haven`t had much time alone the next morning. Although the two of them still have their fair share of talking to do. The rest of the group is always there, exchanging fantastic and absolutely unbelievable ideas about how to save the house and the dig. Katie wants to chain herself to some bones, Misha wants to compete for mayor himself and Mike, well Mike just thinks Sandy will return as WonderWoman and save the day in a tight spandex outfit. Even if she just left for the town hall to check up on the mayor. Clearly, the whole place would fall to bits if Sandy would miss one work day.
It`s about 1 when somebody knocks on the front door. When Jared answers he finds four people there, all in designer suits or costumes. The one in the front is a brown haired woman with a friendly yet knowing smile. The lawyers have arrived.
“Well, Mr. Padalecki it is a pleasure to finally meet you in person.”
Jared has just so much as shown the lawyers into the living room when he hears what is apparently Sandy making a fuss at the front door. She has her own key and has obviously used it.
“Penguins out of the way. Let me through you morons.”
The little woman is shoving at the row of lawyers who are standing between the doorway into the living room and Jared. Their mere presence seems to be a criminal offence.
“Jared if you don`t love me forever for this, I just don`t know what in heaven or hell will ever make you.”
The hyperactive woman is stopped short by an outstretched hand in front of her face. She comes to a rather abrupt halt. The hand belongs to Ms Gamble of course and for putting herself in Sandy`s way the woman deserves Jared`s whole-hearted respect. And maybe a medal. Jensen is standing next to Jared and is also transfixed by the stand-off between the two super women.
“Miss, if you want to submit a question to Mr. Padalecki, you should maybe better choose to go through me.”
“Jared, I`m so unbelievably daft. The mayor is a fan.”
Sandy doesn`t acknowledge the lawyer nor the hand before her one bit and just meets Jared’s eyes meaningfully , like he should damn well know what she is going on about.
Jared is happy that Jensen seems just as dumb-struck as he is.
“The mayor is a total fan of your aunt`s. He has read all her books. I remembered this morning that I`ve heard the name before when you told me her pen-name. The fucking book with the rare autograph that we wanted to get our hands on to get the mayor to notice me? Your aunt is the author … And then in the office I saw the shelves where he keeps all her books.”
“Ms Padalecki had many fans. She was a very famous, world- renowned author.” Ms Gamble interrupts.
“Yeah, but not many are the mayor, who has to sign the eviction document for her grand-nephew`s house.”
“Legally that doesn`t change very much, I am afraid.”
Ms Gamble and Sandy share a loaded silence for some seconds before Ms Gamble speaks again.
“But emotionally it does. And maybe there is a way we can play that angle, right?”
Ms Gamble`s look at the other lawyers is answered by a series of confident nods.
While Sandy sits down with the lawyers in the living room, trying to find a way to work the mayor`s fanboying of aunt Mildred into something solid, Jared decides to start with the cooking. Because actually with so many people in the house, somebody should take care about feeding them. And with so much stress Jared`s stomach can`t afford to miss a daytime meal.
He is rummaging through different cupboards when he hears a soft knock on the open kitchen door. When he turns he spots Jensen standing shyly in the doorway.
Jared is still kind of nervous about the thing they are having. Boyfriends, they said last night. But they haven`t told anyone else yet and Jared has learnt to not make too many assumptions.
“Catwoman and WonderWoman seem to work quite well together there in the living room. After the initial show of weapons, of course. And I was wondering if you needed any help?”
“Yeah, of course”
Jared motions Jensen to come over and have a look at the assorted vegetables.
“These here need some cutting. But, wait a sec. Didn`t you guys want to get some work done in the backyard?”
“The others, yeah. I’d rather wait for whatever our super heroines will come up with to save the damsel in distress. Anyways, if it doesn`t work, all the finds may be better left underground.”
“You know man, if there was a damsel in distress they are trying to save, it would be you and me. And that would be awkward.”
“Because you`re the Hulk?”
Jared can only chuckle at that. His mum always said he was a big boy. He catches Jensen`s glance and they both begin to smile involuntarily. They continue to work in silence for some time after that, but it`s comfortable and reassuring. They are nearly done when Jensen's cell phone starts to ring. He takes it out of his pocket, takes one look at it and rolls his eyes.
“Morgan again. He’s been trying to reach me the entire day. Don’t know what makes him think I would actually talk to him after what he did. It`s just so dumb that you can get evicted just because your garden is of public interest. I guess if you had a choice you would just opt for another garden, right?”
“Nah, never. Ms Gamble says Mildred wrote some great prose about petunias in her back gardens or some shit in one of her novels. I guess I have to read them someday. If there wasn`t that garden it wouldn`t be Mildred`s house.”
“The petunias we trampled down our first day here? Great, dude. I just might have destroyed a force of great lyrical inspiration.”
Jensen laughs, but Jared stops immediately. Jensen might have a point there. He drops the cutlery he was just getting out of the drawers and gestures to the pans on the oven.
“Could you watch them for a second, Jen? You just gave me a most amazing idea.”
He really just wants to kiss Jensen, but instead Jared storms out into the living room.
“Ms Gamble what would you have to do to get this building recognized as being of public worth?”
Ms Gamble looks around, as if Jared is a lunatic for wanting to get the old shed anything more than waterproof.
“The humble abode of a world renowned author, the house of a literary genius, the source of all her lyrical inspiration. “
Ms Gamble eyes give a little sparkle at that, as if she knows exactly where they are heading.
“Clearly, a house like that would be worth saving for the public good.”
“Of course, it would.” She smiles mischievously. “But in order to do so, one would have to make the hidden identity of said author publicly known.”
“No worries. Mildred made me come out about my sexuality years ago, so, you might say to return that favor we will help her with her own identity crisis.”
“Whatever you say Mr. Padalecki”
But the whole crowd smiles, and in his heart Jared knows that this might have a chance to work. Not just in the short-term, but in the long run.
He manages to sustain his excitement a bit more before he tells Jensen. The other man seems hopeful as well. They hug, they kiss. It`s awesome what hope does to the human system.
And when the lawyers come into the kitchen about half an hour later to grab dinner, it gets even better. They have drawn up something, a proposal of sorts, which Sandy will immediately deliver to the town hall. Just to get it on the mayor`s desk before he leaves work.
So it may actually work out. They might have a chance with this.
And because now they can do nothing more but wait for Sandy to come back, they sit down and eat.
Ms Gamble takes Jared aside after the meal. Well, actually, they end up doing the dishes together for some reason, so it`s not your usual client–lawyers setting. It`s a miracle how this small woman has managed to get Jared away from Jensen for a little one-on-one talk in a house full of totally unnerved people. But then it may explain the hourly rate Ms. Gamble charges for her legal services.
Slowly she eases the conversation from the specific ingredients of the meal and why there isn`t a dishwasher towards money matters. And Jared is oddly ok with it.
“So what`s your opinion about the charitable donations?”
“Well, I guess we should keep them up. I mean, I love dogs, my aunt loved dogs. And the dog shelter in Concord surely kinda relies on the money.”
Ms. Gamble nods understandingly while she sorts the washed cutlery into the appropriate cupboard. Jared has the nagging suspicion the woman stores away every single one of his utterances faithfully in her mind just like she does with the spoons and forks.
“Maybe we could even increase the monthly donation.” Jared muses. “Or maybe do other donations as well. “
The lawyer looks up from her task To Jared's surprise the look she gives him is not disapproving or judgmental, it`s interested. He likes it.
“I mean, in contrast to my aunt, I like more things than dogs and petunias. No offence to Mildred, but she was a bit…”
“Reserved.” Ms Gamble provides.
“Yeah, a tad reserved in her affections. I would like to do something for people, you know. Maybe something to do with children? The educational system is really not giving them enough chances. The teaching methods are really far behind in most places. And have you been to one public museum in this country lately? It`s a shame. The educational possibility of these places are great, but so little is realized. No wonder that the kids don`t learn anything.”
“If you say so.”
“Maybe we could give some money to museum development or something…”
“Mr. Padelecki, of course you could give your money to any museum you wish.”
Ms. Gamble`s voice is clear and calm.
”But in the case of such great agendas as you are proposing, it is always recommendable that the donator should retain some control for himself. I understand that you are a psychologist, Mr Padelecki? Surely you have some knowledge about these appropriate teaching methods you were speaking of?"
Back in the living room with the others, Jared feels a tad lightheaded. The talk with Ms. Gamble was nice. Nothing like talking to frosty and grumpy Mr. Foster. She did propose nothing nor did she meddle but she outlined interesting possibilities. Jared has enough money for about anything. If he wanted to start a new innovative school from scratch, he could. If he wanted to write a book about constructivist teaching he very well could. Hell, they even had the publishing connections. And if he wanted to fund an awesome Viking museum in his backyard, with animated displays and great exhibits, that would be no problem. Well, if he weren't evicted first.
There are so many possibilities whirling through his head and for the first time thinking about the future doesn't fill him with a sense of dread.
He is totally lost in his thought, so when the doorbell rings, Jared is understandably a bit startled.
“Sandy has a key.”
Jared says still a bit absent mindedly, more to himself than to anyone else, although Jensen in the chair next to him immediately turn towards him. If Sandy is too bashful to use her own key, the thing in the town hall must have gone terribly wrong. He squeezes Jensen`s hand under the table for a second before he gets up and moves towards the door. Prepared to get all his hopes crushed in a matter of seconds he takes another breath before he opens the door.
Instead of fair limbed Sandy however, Jared is faced with bulky Professor Jeffery Dean Morgan who is ostensibly still a bit agitated.
“I have to get in there. I am looking for somebody. Move, you stupid Neanderthal.”
With these words Morgan rudely pushes past Jared as if the owner of the house isn`t even worth his acknowledgement. The man rushes into the living room, stops shortly and then follows the sound of chatter into the kitchen, Jared only two steps behind him.
“There you are Jensen, my dear boy. I have tried contacting you the whole day after our unfortunate little misunderstanding. We have to draw up a plan about how you intend to hand over the legal matters to me. The pretty little secretaries need some signatures, you know.”
“Prof. Morgan, I already told you… ” Jensen begins but is instantly stopped by Ms Gamble.
“Prof. Morgan, what a pleasure to finally meet you. Sera Gamble, head advisor of Mr. Padalecki`s legal team.”
She wears a deceivingly flirty smile, which helps her to get Morgan`s attention in no time.
“Mr. Padalecki, the owner of this estate.”
She gestures over to Jared then and Morgan’s eyes wander from Gamble`s short skirt to Jared and then back to linger on Ms Gamble`s breast.
“Ah, yeah, I remember. Very unfortunate that Jensen here insisted on the eviction of your client from his property. I guess the two of us could have worked out another solution.”
“You bastard. This is so not true.”
Jensen looks ready to go for the man`s throat. But Jared holds him back. He whispers into Jensen`s ear that he believes him, tries to calm him down. But Jensen is still mad as hell.
“How can you say I did that crap?”
Morgan just smirks at that. And Jared has no doubt as to why all the archeologists he has come across in the last weeks hate the man`s guts.
“It doesn`t matter now, anyway, right Mr. Morgan?” Gamble questions, still the charming little devil.
“No, it does not.”
Gamble looks over to the door and with her every other person in the room including Morgan. And standing there in the doorway is Sandy, broadly smiling like a nutcase.
“We did it, Jay.”
Jared can`t stop smiling himself, because this, this is really movie material.
“Yep, the mayor signed our proposal.”
“Excuse me here, but can somebody tell me what this shit is all about? What damn proposal?”
It is clear that Morgan is not used to not being in control. His mouth is a thin line and he is looking at them all expectantly. Like a king ready to give his peasants a good bashing if they don`t roll over in the dirt in front of him. But not this time.
“The mayor wants to declare the house a building of public interest. With Mildred being a famous author and all it is just as important a landmark as these stupid dog bones out there. No offence meant Jensen.”
“None taken, Sandy.”
Jared nearly can`t catch his breath he is so excited – this is the solution to all their troubles. And Morgan, he is bright red like a tomato and looks ready to burst. It`s kinda hilarious, really.
“And to which address may we serve the summons because of trespassing and defamation?”
“The what?” Morgan stutters.
“We became aware that you entered Mr. Padalecki`s property uninvited yesterday, and your behavior just now at the door was clearly an act of defamation.”
Morgan just gapes at her like an idiot. Open-mouthed and all.
“You will hear from me again, you maggots.”
With that Morgan storms out of the house without another glance at them.
“He clearly does not grasp the concept of defamation. We should start on a rudimental draft immediately.”
Gamble nods to the other still nameless lawyers and they leave the room rather unsurprisingly soundless.
“But what about the burial site?” All heads turn to Mike, wondering how he of all people could be the one to actually ask a worthwhile and sound question in this situation. Even if it is posed in a rather wailing childish voice.
“If the petunias are now so freaking important, can we even continue to dig???”
“Sush, sush Mike.” Sandy provides. “Mummy has taken care of everything. The major is more than happy to also support a scientifically sound representation of the extraordinary Viking burial grounds in the backyard and the woods. In fact he was quite ecstatic that two such important landmarks are so close together right here in Sturry. What he will not allow is for the house and grounds to be demolished to make way for a new cheesier Disneyworld. The house will become a listed building. What can I say? I am a fucking genius…”
Jared hugs Sandy so hard, he is a little afraid she will suffer from a shortage of oxygen later. Mike immediately ventures into the cellar for more wine. Katie actually starts crying, like an actual girl for once. And Jensen, he just looks so fucking adorably happy, Jared wants to kiss him right now.
About half an hour later the lawyers are still huddled together in the living-room and the others mill around in the backyard, too stunned to really process anything yet. Only Jensen’s cell phone ringing and vibrating in his pocket shocks him out of his relief induced stupor.
It’s Prof. Kripke and he sounds almost orgasmic with glee.
“I just got a phone call from a very very pissed of Jeff. He ranted at me about how you disgraced our noble profession and should be drawn and quartered. But definitely thrown out of Dartmouth in the very least. All this makes me assume that you fucking did it!”
“Yeah, well, I guess we did.”
“Fantastic. I can’t believe you managed to beat Morgan at his own game. And you know what the very best thing is? Morgan’s contract is up for revision and extension at the end of the year. And with what he tried to do to you, I am sure I can convince the faculty to let the fucker go. He may have brought us a lot of prestige but with a stunt like that he seriously threatened the overall reputation of our fine institution. So, you looking for a steady job once you handed in your thesis to me?”
“Well, obviously I can’t promise you anything, but with a site like that attached to your name the faculty would be stupid to let you go. Just make sure you hold your pretty face into enough cameras and I’m sure the famous Viking site in New Hampshire will soon be unbreakably tied to the name ‘Jensen Ackles’. I’m thinking ‘Dartmouth Viking Museum New Hampshire’ maybe with a nice educational archaeological park. Nothing tacky or flashy of course.”
“Well, then. Off you go and celebrate your victory against the forces of evil. We can talk about all the details later.”
To say Jensen is absolutely dumbfounded is putting it mildly.
“I think Kripke just offered me Morgan’s job.”
“Wow!” Mike shudders visibly. “Somehow I can’t shake the creepy feeling we should all break into song and dance right about now. Anyone still knows how to do the Macarena?”
Jim guffaws and herds them all inside with the promise of beer and celebrational candy until the only ones that remain outside are Jared and Jensen.
Jared’s eyes are almost impossibly bright and Jensen knows he himself is grinning like a loon.
“Jen, we did it. We really fucking did it.”
“No, Jay. You did it. You saved my dig. I don’t even know how to thank you for this.”
“I’d like to say I’d do everything for you, Jen, and it’s true, but this was really all for entirely selfish reasons. I want to stay here. I love it here. I love the town and the house. I love the dogs and Sandy. I love the house. And I love… Jen, I love you. So fucking much.”
Jensen feels as if his heart is expanding in his chest. A lightness is filling him that lets him understand, for the very first time in his life, why people say they are walking on air when they are really blissfully happy. He feels like he could soar with joy and the only thing that’s anchoring him to the earth is Jared. Jared, who obviously thinks Jensen’s silence is some kind of rejection. Because he has taken to his default reaction of rambling.
“I know this is kinda fast and I don’t expect you to say it back yet, but I wanted you to know, because I love you and I want you to stay here with me as long as you want me and Jensen, could you please say something?”
Instead Jensen crosses the few steps of distance between them and pulls Jared in for a kiss.
It’s not their first kiss, but somehow it feels even better than that because Jensen knows now that it won’t be the last. That there won’t be a last kiss for a very long time. Maybe even forever.
Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.
And sometimes the roads take you to a place entirely unexpected but so incredibly perfect for you that you never want to leave ever again.