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Jensen's a realist.

Okay, there are those who might say he's not so much a realist as he is a cynic--Tom is one of them--but Jensen thinks those people can go jump off a cliff and die. Sooner or later, they're in for a rude awakening about a thing or two, and then Jensen will be able to say I told you so, and feel mighty good about it, too. That is, if they're still speaking to him at that point in time.

The thing is, Jensen knows how the world works. He knows that love at first sight doesn't exist, and happily ever after is definitely a myth, because over half of all marriages end in divorce. He also doesn't believe in destiny; he believes that if you want something, you have to work hard for it. And finally, he knows that the only certain things in life are death and taxes.

Incidentally, he works with both.

Yes, Jensen generally knows the score--but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt when his life takes a dump on him.

So when Tom eventually has had enough and moves out--not just out of Jensen's life, but also out of the apartment next door--Jensen can't help but sulk.

"I can't deal with the negativity anymore," Tom says, standing on Jensen's doorstep as the movers maneuver his couch into the moving van in the background. "I tried, Jen, I really tried."

"Whatever," says Jensen and sips his coffee while not staring at Tom.

"I think this is for the best," says Tom. His eyes are blue and kind and desperate.

Jensen turns around and goes back inside.

*

It takes a week for Jeff to call Jensen out on his sulking.

"Jensen," he says, in his stern papa-bear voice, "you're being a fucking moron."

"You're being a fucking moron," Jensen responds lamely.

"You could still call him, you know?" Jeff suggests. "It's not too late."

"Getting back together with an ex is pointless," Jensen responds, not looking up from his paperwork. "You're still the same two people who couldn't make it work the first time around."

"You're an asshole."

"I hear they found a new tenant already," Jensen says instead of objecting to the insult.

"Yeah?" Jeff asks.

"I hope he doesn't park me in," Jensen comments. "Tom would always park me in."

Jeff makes a sound that sounds like an Ugh and leaves the room.

*

Jensen likes to joke that the only reason Morgan hasn't fired him yet is because Morgan Funeral Home is a family business, and Jeff's been a lifelong bachelor. As an only child and with his parents long gone, Jeff needs someone to help keep things under control, and Jensen's the only one he could find who can handle being around crying relatives and loved ones on a regular basis without letting his own emotions take over.

In his more self-aware moments, Jensen knows he's only half kidding.

*

Jensen takes his job seriously. It's not exactly the career he set out to make for himself, but life never turns out the way you expect it to, and it's good, steady work. His employer's a good man--when he's not calling Jensen an asshole--and Jeff Morgan and the funeral home are pretty much the only two constants in Jensen's life. It started out as a favor to a friend of a friend when Jensen was still in college, just a quick, Hey, aren't you studying finances, would you mind taking a glance at my friend's books? And when he kept sticking his nose in Morgan Funeral Home's paperwork, Jeff let him.

The first time Jensen decided that while he was there, he might as well help set up for the viewing that was taking place that evening, Jeff let him do that, too. And then after Jensen graduated, it just sort of snowballed from there until one day he had a degree in mortuary sciences on top of his accounting degree.

Jensen is nice to the clients, but he never tells them exaggerated half-truths and speculations, like "She's in a better place now," or, "He's resting peacefully now," and he thinks the clients appreciate it. Instead he focuses on what he can say, like, "It sounds like she would have liked you to honor her memory like this, yeah," or, "Your father sounds like a great man."

His job matters to him--matters a lot--because he has a good employer, financial security, and the closest thing he can get to a family since he stopped speaking to his own.

So when his new neighbor is playing loud music at 10:30 in the evening, and Jensen has to be at work the next morning, he gets incredibly annoyed.

He drags his ass out of bed, steps into a pair of flip-flops and heads one door over in the little courtyard to pound on no-longer-Tom's door until it opens.

"Can I help you?"

Jensen blinks at the giant who seems to have taken up residence in Tom's old apartment. Somehow, his size and undeniably good looks only serve to annoy him further.

"Music," he grits out. "It's deafening."

The guy laughs, wide and happy, showcasing a set of impressive dimples. "It's Saturday, man," he says, "and it's not even that late."

"Saturday is not a universal party just because you want it to be," Jensen spits. "Turn down that fucking racket."

Wonderful. All he needs now is a cane and his glasses, and he'll be screaming "Get off my lawn" at the neighborhood kids in no time.

Gigantor frowns, clearly taken aback by Jensen's attitude. "Jeez, you're testy, aren't you?"

Jensen sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Look, if you don't turn down the fucking music, I'll call the cops. I have a funeral in the morning."

Gigantor's jaw drops, and his expression immediately changes from annoyance to regret, and okay--maybe it's a little cheap to make him believe Jensen lost someone, but tomorrow's funeral is extra important, and if it'll stop the ear-splitting music, Jensen figures it's worth it. After all, people are assholes, and Jensen is people.

"Oh my God," Gigantor says, "Oh my God, I am so sorry, I am--my condolences, I didn't--"

"Just keep it down," Jensen grumbles, then turns on his heel and walks back to his own apartment without looking back. When he slides under the covers, he's pleased to note that the pounding music stops, and he's asleep shortly thereafter.

*

Andrew Joseph 'AJ' Taylor only lived to see his sixteenth birthday before he carved up his wrists with a kitchen knife and bled out on his parents' floor.

Jensen shakes hands with his family and offers his handkerchief to AJ's sister. He watches Jeff's face twist in genuine sympathy and quiet condolences, as he puts an arm around AJ's mother and murmurs something quietly to her. Jensen thinks it's a fucking waste that the kid will never live to actually experience life, shitty as it may be sometimes.

After everything's taken care of and they're packing things up again, Jeff sighs deeply and shakes his head.

"I can't even imagine being in that much pain," he says.

Jensen thinks suicide is a cowardly way to go, and thinks it's a damn shame that the kid didn't manage to get past his horrible teens to see that life isn't all bad all the time. He doesn't say it out loud, though. The whole thing is just such a damn waste.

*

Jensen runs into Gigantor in the courtyard after work. Gigantor is just leaving his apartment, two massive dogs at his side. He's wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt, and his sneakers look expensive.

"Oh hey," he says to Jensen. "I'm really sorry about last night, man."

"Forget about it," says Jensen and turns to head into his own apartment.

"No, really," Gigantor insists, making Jensen pause and turn back. "I am very sorry. If my music ever gets too loud again, just let me know."

"I appreciate that," says Jensen, careful to keep his tone neutral.

There's a little, awkward moment as Gigantor is clearly trying to come up with something to say, before he suddenly brightens just a tiny bit--carefully smiling, as if he's afraid Jensen's going to break down in tears over having lost a loved one, any second now. One giant paw is extended out towards Jensen, and Gigantor clears his throat a little.

"I'm Jared, by the way."

Jensen doesn't respond. He doesn't take Jared's hand either, and after a moment, Jared's face falls a little.

"Well," Jensen says, wanting to escape the situation as soon as possible, "It was nice meeting you, Jared--"

Which is the precise moment that Matt, who lives two doors down from Jensen, walks out with a garbage bag in his hand, spots them and yells, "Hey dude, how's the funeral business?"

Jensen wants to throttle Matt. He looks back at Jared, and Jared's clearly smart enough to have understood everything, because his mouth is hanging open. Literally gaping wide open and his dogs are staring up at him, confused.

Jensen doesn't think there's anything he can say to justify lying about having lost a loved one--and okay, he didn't outright say as much to Jared, but he did lie by omission, and a lie by omission is no less a lie--so he just adjusts his tie a smidge and starts walking away.

"Wow!" Jared exclaims from behind him, and he pauses in his step. "Wow!" Jared says again. "You're a complete and total fucking asshole!"

Jensen stares darkly at his feet and gets in the door to his apartment.

"So it's been said," he mutters.

*

Jensen doesn't see Jared much for a while. If they run into each other in the courtyard, they pointedly look the other way and pretend they're alone--but for the most part, they avoid each other completely. Jensen knows this is largely intentional, because he used to run into Tom all the time, even before they were dating. Secretly, he feels a bit ashamed, but he refuses to think about it too closely, and keeps his head held high and a firm look on his face whenever he comes and goes, just in case Jared's around.

He's just stubborn that way.

*

There are a few reasons why Morgan Funeral Home remains a very small business. Jeff's status as an eternal bachelor is only one of them. Jensen's not a licensed embalmer, so even if clients had been running down the door with dead bodies, they're not able to take on more than what Jeff can get done by himself. The Funeral Home itself isn't very large, and consists only of Jeff's upstairs apartment, an office and a small chapel; they don't have their own crematory, and they only have one hearse. Still, it's more than enough to stay afloat. Jensen and Jeff are both really good with their clients--Jensen's calm and collected and rational, and Jeff's gruff and warm and compassionate, and a lot of their business comes from word-of-mouth.

When Mrs. Marley meets with Jeff and Jensen to make arrangements for her 22-year old son James--drunk driving accident--it's because she was referred by the Stillmann family, and Jensen doesn't think anything of it.

She wants a viewing, and then she wants him cremated. They help her pick out an urn, and set up a time and a date for the viewing. This is why Jensen takes his job so seriously--why he was drawn to stay with Morgan Funeral Home from the beginning, instead of taking his accounting degree and getting his CPA and finding a nice office job somewhere. Because he knows he can help these people get through their grief and say goodbye.

When Jeff comes back from the morgue with the body, he grimaces a little as he pushes the gurney in the back door to the workshop.

"Gonna need to do a little construction," he says. "Might be a while."

Jensen nods and heads back to the office to get started on the paperwork as well as the other things Jeff won't have time for. Jeff never has to tell him to do these things; he just does.

*

Maybe if Mrs. Marley had been referred by someone else--maybe if she'd randomly picked a name out of the yellow pages instead of talking to George Stillmann about the funeral services for his father a few months prior, things would have played out differently, and she would not have ended up at Morgan Funeral Home. But she did, and her son's in a casket at the front of the room, and Jensen's standing in the large doorway as James Stephen Marley's friends and family shuffle in, awkward and speaking in hushed tones. Some of them shake Jensen's hand, some of them shake Jeff's hand, and they both greet them with, "I'm very sorry for your loss," and Jensen's not lying.

When Jared walks through the door, Jensen's not even sure which one of them looks more shocked.

Jared recovers first. His brows come down and pull together over his eyes in obvious anger, and he very carefully avoids Jensen altogether to go over to Jeff--and for a brief moment, Jensen panics a little bit, scared that Jared will complain or make a fuss--but to his credit, he doesn't say anything. Instead he shakes Jeff's hand grimly, then walks to where Mrs. Marley is standing.

Jensen fights back rising shame, and pretends he's not watching Jared out of the corner of his eye for the duration of the viewing.

*

After all is said and done and people start leaving, he grabs a hold of Jared's arm as he's headed out the door, and jerks his head back towards the office.

"Hey," he says.

Jared scowls at him, but follows anyway.

"I just want to say, I'm very sorry," Jensen says, and tries to convey how sorry he really is.

Jared just scowls at him some more.

"Really," Jensen tries. "I am."

They stand in awkward silence for a moment, and Jensen reaches up to rub his neck. He's not sure how to deal with this situation--he just knows he feels guilty.

"So, uh... Were you close?"

"He was my friend," Jared responds, disdain for Jensen clear in his tone. "And while I appreciate the apology, you don't have to fucking pretend you give a shit just because you feel guilty for being a dick."

Jensen gapes a little. People call him an asshole a lot, this is nothing new, but this is the first time someone's accused him of not caring about his job, of not being sincere in his regret and sympathy.

"I give a shit," he says, a little more hotly than he intended.

Jared snorts. "Yeah, I can see that. Whatever. Just stay away from me."

"Stay away from you?" Jensen sputters, angry now. "You walked into my funeral home!"

"Funny," says Jeff from the doorway, and they both spin to face him. "I was under the impression it was my funeral home."

Jensen feels, if possible, even worse for being busted in the middle of arguing with a mourner, and his cheeks heat up.

"Fuck this," Jared says and walks out.

Jeff watches him go and waits until the front door closes before turning back to Jensen. Jensen expects a lecture, but it never comes. Instead Jeff just raises one eyebrow in a silent warning, before sticking his hands in his pockets and turning around.

"They're waiting for the body at the crematory," he says over his shoulder. "It ain't gonna drive itself, Jensen."

*

Jensen stares at the flames through the little window in the door, as Danneel works the computer.

"Am I a dick?" he asks.

"Serious question?" she asks, almost absently, as she fiddles with the temperature.

"Yes."

"Then yes, a big one."

Jensen turns his head in almost-but-not-quite surprise, and loosens his tie with a sarcastic grimace. "No, by all means, don't be gentle. Tell me how you really feel."

Danneel types in a few things, then seems satisfied to take her attention away from the screen for a few moments. "Look," she says, in that voice that means she's explaining something that she thinks he should already know, "we both know how you are. And I know that you delude yourself into thinking you're being realistic, but truth is, you're just a big asshole, honey."

"People are assholes," Jensen says defensively.

"Ugh, what kind of lame excuse is that? People are also murderers and rapists and pedophiles, you think that's okay, too?"

Jensen grimaces again. "You're hilarious."

"You're a dick."

"If I'm so awful, how come you hang out with me?" he asks.

"I don't," Danneel responds bluntly, turning back to the computer. "I make conversation with you to pass the time, while I burn the bodies you bring me. There's a difference."

Then she glances up at him with one pointedly raised eyebrow. "Maybe I'd hang out with you more if you weren't such a fucking jerk all the time."

Jensen turns back to stare at the flames and thinks grimly that this is why she only works with the dead bodies and not with the mourners.

On his way home that evening, he buys a sixpack and thinks that even if he didn't have tomorrow off, he'd call in.

*

When Jensen walks into the courtyard, there's music coming from Jared's apartment. Something guitar-driven and sad, and Jensen thinks that yeah, he really is a dick. Taking a moment to make a decision, he swallows hard--and boy, that lump in his throat sure feels a lot like pride--and walks over to knock on Jared's door.

Jared opens the door with a, "If you fucking say one word about my music, I will kick your ass," looking bleary-eyed and disshelved.

Jensen shakes his head and holds up the sixpack. "Peace offering?" he offers weakly.

Jared glares at him and his eyes are red and puffy, but he steps aside to let Jensen in, anyway.

The apartment doesn't look like Tom's anymore. Jared's got a lot more stuff than Tom did, and it's nowhere near as neat. It's more of a frat boy meets Hollywood chic kinda thing, and Jensen likes it. Jared's dogs are in the living room, and they both look up when they enter.

"So," Jensen says, standing a little awkwardly as Jared sits down on his couch. "I owe you an apology."

"For which part, lying to me, or for being a tool to me at my friend's funeral?" Jared asks bitterly, and picks up a glass from the table.

Jensen can see the amber liquid in it and feels stupid standing there with his sixpack.

"Uh, both," he says, clearing his throat.

"Yeah, well," says Jared and empties his glass.

And so we tell the truth and then run, a woman sings from Jared's speakers, and Jensen carefully sits down on the couch. He hands a beer to Jared, who takes it, then opens his own, and they sit there in awkward silence for a long time.

"I'm fucking pissed," Jared eventually says, and his voice sounds wet.

"Sorry," Jensen mumbles again.

"Not with you, you asshole," Jared says, then corrects himself, "well, yeah, okay, with you too. But I'm pissed at Jimmy."

Jensen glances over and there's tears in Jared's eyes, but not on his cheeks.

"Fucking douchebag gets three sheets to the wind, and then decides that oh, hey, driving home sounds like a swell idea. I mean, what the fuck, man? Seriously? Who does that?"

Jared scoffs and shakes his head. "I don't even know why I'm talking to you about this shit."

"Contrary to what my stellar first--and second--impression may have indicated," Jensen says carefully, "I do give a damn, Jared."

Jared turns his head to look at Jensen, almost challenging. "Do you think he's in a better place?"

"I--," Jensen says, thinking about it. "I don't think he's anywhere," he eventually answers, because truth hurts, but he's lied enough to Jared--he doesn't think another lie is the way to go at the moment.

Jared just looks at him for a few more moments, and Jensen gets the distinct feeling he's being evaluated. Apparently, he must have passed, because Jared doesn't kick him out. He just looks straight ahead again and turns on the TV, settling on a random football game and turning the volume down to be a quiet murmur under the music.

*

Jensen doesn't ever outright think, Maybe I should try not being an asshole for a change. That's not it at all. He just thinks that maybe it wouldn't kill him to keep his cynicism to himself sometimes, and makes a conscious effort to actually talk to people more. The first time he takes Danneel out to lunch--purely as friends--his use of the word friends clearly throws her, and she looks at him as if she suspects that he's actually planning to kidnap her and drown her in formaldehyde. The distrust stings a little, because he's been seeing her regularly for cremation services for years now, but by the time they pay for their meal she's actually smiling at him, so in the end he considers it a win anyway.

If Jensen's plan to establish more human contact keeps bringing him over to Jared's door, that's just a side-effect.

See, the thing is, Jensen would probably have made an awesome therapist. It's one of the reasons he's so good at his job. He knows what to say to make people feel better, to make them handle their own issues and to help them deal with their grief. Different people have different ways of handling loss and coping with their grief.

Jared seems to need a lot of alcohol, whiny female singers who plays the guitar, and to vent his anger at his friend James for getting himself killed. So Jensen simply starts knocking on Jared's door with a sixpack and a willingness to listen, without saying a word about Jared's music.

The fifth time Jensen comes over, Jared declines the beer, offers him a burger, and Jensen thinks maybe he doesn't look as miserable anymore--maybe they're getting to be friends.

Jared's got a big grill set up in the back yard, and when he moves Jensen's burger off the heat and into the waiting bun, dogs dancing circles around his feet, he smiles. Jensen studies his face for a moment and thinks he looks happy.

"Thanks, by the way," Jared says later, as Jensen's headed out the door.

"For what?" says Jensen, pretending he doesn't know exactly what Jared's talking about.

*

Jared's an actor, which Jensen thinks is irresponsible and reckless. He doesn't understand why anyone would hope for a career in a business where so much depends on a number of unreliable factors, such as looks, luck and pure superficial bullshit. Jared hasn't looked depressed or subdued for weeks before Jensen actually dares tell him as much, and by the time he does, Jared just scrunches up his nose and laughs. He claps Jensen's shoulder and turns over the steaks on the grill.

"Lighten up, man," he says. "Sometimes you gotta take a chance in life."

Jensen bites back the response, that taking chances is good, but chances alone won't keep food on the table, and reminds himself that he's keeping cynicism to a minimum. He wonders how Jared can be so completely nonchalant with his life, and with his future. Jared doesn't normally drink a lot, doesn't even smoke weed, and he's not into the Hollywood club scene, even though it probably would help him establish connections. Instead, he jogs every day with his dogs, he works out and he pays his rent on time--but he did not go to college, he has no financial security for the future, and likely won't, unless he makes it really big.

"You're thinking," Jared observes.

"It's been known to happen."

"Don't strain something."

"Ha ha," Jensen replied sarcastically, "you come up with that one all on your own?"

"Nah, it was in a script," Jared responds cheerily, poking at the steaks again.

Jensen grimaces. "That sounds like an awful movie."

"It was an awful movie," Jared agrees. "Twilight quality. 5% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes."

"Your face has a 5% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes," Jensen responds, mostly because he can.

"Pfft," says Jared, flipping his hair back in an exaggerated motion. "My face may have a 5% fresh rating, but my ass has a 99% fresh rating!"

"Only 99%?" asks Jensen. "Why not a perfect 100%?"

"Hey, 99% is legendary--hell, it's more than Up!" Jared says, and waves the prongs in Jensen's direction. "My ass is worth more than the moving tale of an old dude, a kid and some balloons. That's pretty huge, I'll have you know."

Jensen rolls his eyes.

*

Jeff starts giving him odd looks at work, but Jensen ignores them for as long as he can.

"Isn't dating your neighbor twice kind of the same as dating an ex?" Jeff eventually asks.

"That would imply my neighbor and my ex are the same person, which they are not," Jensen responds. "And we're not dating."

"I'm just saying, wouldn't it get awkward if this goes wrong, like it did with Tom?"

Jensen grits his teeth. "We're not dating."

Jeff grunts. "Keep it that way."

"I don't want to date him!" Jensen says, trying to make Jeff understand.

"Don't fuck him, either," Jeff says.

"Oh my God."

"I'm serious," Jeff continues, "don't fuck the neighbor."

Jensen groans and covers his face behind his palm.

*

A month later, Jared gets a part on a teen drama, and after his first day of filming he shows up at Jensen's door with a huge bottle of vodka, a carton of orange juice and a family sized bag of Funyuns.

"We're celebrating," declares Jared.

"I didn't know teen shows were anything to celebrate," Jensen says.

"This one is," Jared says with determination, setting his stuff down on Jensen's coffee table. "This one's got me."

"My point exactly," says Jensen, and Jared flips him the finger.

Jared gets out a couple of glasses. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm awesome. I'm like--I'm like a ninja jumping out of a cake on rollerblades with nunchucks while disarming a bomb and like, killing a shark or something. I'm that level of awesome."

Jensen snorts. "You're that level of crazy, maybe."

"What's the difference," Jared shrugs.

"A straight jacket and a failed acting career," Jensen shoots back.

Jared's smile doesn't falter, but something in his jaw moves vaguely under the skin, as if he's clenching his teeth.

"Just shut up and be happy for me."

"I am happy for you," Jensen says completely without conviction, because--it is a teen drama, after all.

Jared just goes on and seemingly ignores the lack of enthusiasm in Jensen's voice. "This could open so many doors for me, Jensen. It's a recurring part. Recurring!"

"I can hardly contain my excitement," Jensen says dryly. He thinks Jared looks way too old to play a teenager. The guy's bigger than the Hulk. "So we're celebrating with screwdrivers?"

"I'm a classy guy," Jared says, pouring vodka and orange juice into their glasses. Jensen's no expert, but he's fairly certain a screwdriver isn't supposed to have more vodka than orange juice in it. He decides against saying something about it.

"How much does it pay?" asks Jensen instead, as Jared hands him his glass.

Jared's eyebrows fly up. "Dude, you don't just go around asking people how much money they make!"

Jensen feels a little sheepish, but it's out there now, anyway. "I just think it's important that you can keep a steady income, Jared."

"My finances are fine," says Jared. "Now cheers."

"I could have a funeral tomorrow, you know," Jensen tries, but sips his drink anyway.

"You don't," Jared says confidently, and he's right.

*

Several screwdrivers later, both men are sprawled out on Jensen's couch, and for some reason Jensen's apartment is spinning. It's pretty nifty, actually.

"It's just that I think acting is a poor career choice," Jensen says, staring as his ceiling goes round and round.

Jared pokes one toe at Jensen's foot. "But I like acting," he whines.

"There's no financial security in it," Jensen argues.

"Tell that to Tom Cruise."

"You're no Tom Cruise."

Jared looks offended. "I could so be Tom Cruise."

"You're too tall," Jensen informs him. "Tom Cruise is like five and a half or something. How tall are you, like seven feet?"

"I am not seven feet," Jared says, frowning. "Wait, how do you know how tall Tom Cruise is?"

Jensen waves a hand in Jared's face. "I read it somewhere."

"You're a celebrity creeper," Jared laughs drunkenly. "You're a gossip hound."

This offends Jensen and he tries to scowl, but his face feels vaguely numb. "Your face is a gossip hound."

"Your mom is a gossip hound," Jared shoots back.

Jensen considers this. "I actually think she is, yeah," he says, and Jared laughs again.

*

Another few screwdrivers later, and Jensen's in his kitchen, swaying in front of the fridge and trying to find something to eat. "I am starving," he announces.

"There's Funyuns left," says Jared, wobbling up behind him.

"I don't want Funyuns. I want real food."

Jared gasps and puts a hand over his chest. "Are you saying Funyuns aren't real food? Words can hurt, you know."

"Can you live off Funyuns?" Jensen asks. "No? Then it's not real food."

"I've lived off Funyuns before," Jared protests, frowning.

Jensen shudders. "That's disturbing."

"Hey," Jared says with a smile, "struggling actors--we make do with what we got."

"See, this is it!" Jensen says triumphantly, slamming the fridge door closed and poking Jared in the chest with his finger. "This is what I'm talking about! Acting isn't a career, Jared, it's like--it's like an eternal gamble. Like playing the lottery every day. And then you end up living off Funyuns."

"But I have work," Jared protests, still smiling.

"Yeah, but for how long?" Jensen says, very drunk and frustrated that Jared is dismissing his very legitimate concerns. "And what will you do when it ends?"

"I'll find something new," Jared says. "Relax."

Jensen nearly flails. "Relax? But I don't understand--"

"You talk too much," says Jared, and bends his head to kiss Jensen.

"Unf," says Jensen into Jared's mouth, but then his brain catches on, and Jared's lips are soft and warm on his, and he closes his eyes and just goes with it.

Jeff can go to hell.

*

Ten minutes later, Jared's on top of Jensen in Jensen's bed. He's got one hand wrapped around Jensen's cock, both lips attached firmly to Jensen's ear, and Jensen is staring at the ceiling and trying to catch his breath.

"It's just," Jensen gasps, trying to figure out how to get Jared's pants open. "It's just, I worry about you."

"Shut up," Jared says.

"I feel bad about the way--the way we met," Jensen continues, and he's not quite sure how to stop talking. "And I worry about you."

"Shut up," Jared says again, nipping at Jensen's collarbone.

"What if you get fired?" Jensen asks, then has to close his eyes tightly for a moment as Jared squeezes his dick.

"I won't get fired."

"How do you know?"

Jared growls in Jensen's ear. "It's a recurring part and I'm awesome, now shut up."

"What if you're not as good as you think you are?" asks Jensen, completely unable to stop himself.

Jared's hand lets go of Jensen's cock, and the room starts spinning violently enough to make Jensen nauseous--or maybe there's a different reason, but Jensen suddenly feels nauseous nonetheless.

"Wow," Jared groans, climbing off Jensen. "Fuck you, Jensen."

He walks out without another word.

Jensen thinks it's a little bit mean of Jared to tell him fuck you and then walk out without any indication that he's actually planning to do so, but whatever. The sex has become an afterthought.

He really just wants to lie in bed and stare at the still-spinning ceiling until he can collect his brain and figure out exactly what could have possibly traumatized him enough in his childhood for him to grow into such a complete and total utter failure as an adult--but unfortunately, his body doesn't agree. Jensen barely manages to roll over to the edge of the bed before he pukes onto the floor.

*

When Jensen comes into work the next morning, looking like hell, Jeff raises one judgmental eyebrow at him. Jensen hates that eyebrow.

"Jensen," he says in his stern papa-bear voice. "Did you fuck the neighbor?"

"No," Jensen answers honestly.

Jeff stares for a few moments, and Jensen tries to look busy.

"You were being a dipshit again, weren't you?" Jeff asks.

Jensen doesn't bother dignifying that with an answer.

*

After work, he walks to Jared's door and knocks, but nobody answers. The windows are dark and there's no sound from inside.

Jensen stares at the door, trying to will Jared to be home, but nothing happens. Eventually he gives up and goes into his own apartment.

A week and a half later, there are movers at Jared's place. They drag all his stuff out and load it onto their truck, and Jared's nowhere in sight. Hasn't been anywhere in sight, in fact, since he walked out of Jensen's bedroom.

Jensen watches from his kitchen window and darkly thinks that at least Tom had the balls to be there when he left Jensen in pieces.

*

It takes three whole weeks this time, before Jeff calls him out on his sulking again.

"Call him, you moron," he says.

"No point," Jensen answers shortly.

"Déjà vu," says Jeff.

Danneel pokes her head in the door and says, "Hey Jensen, ready to go?"

"More than," Jensen responds, jumping up and grabbing his things. "See you, Jeff."

Jeff watches him go. "This isn't over."

"It never really started," Jensen says tersely, avoiding Danneel's curious look as he closes the door behind them.

*

If Jensen didn't know that Danneel knew with certainty that he was gay, he might have been worried she was trying to date him. She cooks him dinner and serves it with wine, and they eat in front of her TV, talking idly as she channel surfs. She's not a very good cook, but he doesn't mention it.

"You okay?" she asks, glancing over at him.

Jensen has never so much as mentioned Jared to her. "I'm fine."

"You don't look fine."

"How would I look if I looked fine?" Jensen wonders.

"I dunno," Danneel says, shrugging a little. "Smiling, maybe?"

Jensen frowns. "I don't smile."

"Okay, fine, you don't," Danneel admits. "But you also normally don't look like someone just ran over your puppy, which is how you've looked for the last few weeks."

"I'm fine," Jensen repeats.

"You look like one of your clients," Danneel says. "You look like you're fucking mourning."

Jensen's about to respond, but right then Jared's face comes on the TV and he just stares and blinks.

"What show is this?"

Danneel turns to look at the TV. "I don't know."

"Let's watch it and not talk about how I'd look if I looked fine," Jensen says, and it comes out sounding just enough like he's trying to avoid the subject of his emotional state that Danneel doesn't suspect it's got more to do with the guy on her TV. Jensen is apparently a masochist.

The show's lame, as most teen dramas are, but Jared's character--Mark or Marcus or Mitch or something--isn't a teenager. Instead he's the rebellious older brother of some whiny brunette, freshly moved back to whatever rural small-town-America place this show is set in, and the brunette's friend is eyeing him up. Jensen will bet good money on an older man-teenaged girl storyline, and it's all so trite he's tempted to roll his eyes in disgust, but he can't because--it's Jared.

"Why are we watching this?" Danneel asks.

Jensen just stares at Jared as he grins at his onscreen sister and straddles a motorbike.

"Am I still a dick?" he asks Danneel.

"Yes," Danneel says with a shrug, "but it's part of your charm, Ackles."

"I don't have charm," Jensen mutters, and pretends not to notice that Danneel doesn't object.

On the TV, Jared throws his head back and laughs, and says, "Don't be jealous, sis!"

Danneel sighs deeply and empties her wine glass. "This show sucks," she declares, and changes the channel.

*

When Jared walks into Morgan Funeral Home a week later, Jensen's heart practically jumps out of his chest.

"God, who died?" he asks, genuinely wondering, but it comes out snide-sounding instead.

Jared stares. "Dude, you're so lucky nobody actually died, because that's like the worst thing I've ever heard--ever."

Jensen has the decency to blush a little, and clears his throat. "Let me try that again," he says, and walks around his desk. "Hello, Jared. How are you?"

"Expecting an apology," Jared answers bluntly.

"I'm really sorry," says Jensen immediately. "Really, really sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you're not a good actor. I didn't mean to be a dick."

"Yeah, I get that you didn't mean to," Jared says, "but you kinda were."

"And I am so, so sorry."

Jared is silent for a few moments before sticking his hands in his pockets. "I almost didn't come here."

"I'm glad you did."

"You didn't call me."

"I thought you didn't want to talk to me again," Jensen says. "You never answered your door."

"I was working a lot," Jared explains, a little bit defensively. "I still am, but not as much."

"You never came to me, though."

Jared blinks. "Why would I come to you? You're the douchebag--you were supposed to apologize to me."

"Hard to do when I couldn't get a hold of you," Jensen says.

"You could have left a voice mail."

Jensen's outraged. "I wasn't going to apologize on a voice mail! Nobody apologizes via voice mail!"

"Douchebags do," Jared says simply.

Jensen rubs his neck a little again and stares at his shoes. "Yeah, well, I'm trying not to be one anymore."

"How's that working out for you?"

Jensen thinks about it for a little while, then raises his eyes to meet Jared's. "I don't know. What do you think?"

One corner of Jared's mouth quirks upwards and his dimples come out. "You're getting there."

The smile gives Jensen hope, and he shrugs a little awkwardly. "You wanna maybe get coffee or something?"

"For fuck's sake," comes Jeff's voice from behind Jensen, "just go fuck your neighbor already."

Jensen blushes a deep red, but Jared smiles brightly, and waves over Jensen's shoulder. "I actually don't live next door anymore, but thanks, Mr. Morgan."

Jensen just gives a sheepish wave to Jeff, and lets Jared drag him out the door.

*

A few days later, Jensen closes the door to the cremation unit and watches as Danneel secures it.

"You okay?" she asks, eyeing him as she walks to her computer.

"I'm fine," Jensen responds.

She stares at him for a few moments, eyes narrowing before she smiles at him. "You look it."

Jensen can feel the smile tugging at his own lips, and agrees completely.

End.