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Never As Perfect As In My Head

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The day Eric breaks up with Jensen, it's a cold, rainy Saturday in April, the sky as gray as Jensen feels when he walks out the door of their—no, his, now, again—apartment. He didn't bring an umbrella, much less anything else, and he could care less as the rain pours down, soaking through his clothes and chilling him to bone. He walks the three blocks it takes him to get to his regular bar, and sits down on a barstool, ordering himself a drink at 10AM as he drips water onto the hard wood floor.

Doug's behind the bar, the rest of the room empty at this hour of the day, and Doug arches a brow at Jensen, but he doesn't say anything. He just sets the bar rag aside and reaches up for a glass, setting it on the shiny wood and then pouring scotch into it.

"What do you think?" Jensen asks him, apropos of nothing.

Doug doesn't ask for a frame of reference or blink or even hesitate.

"I think it's all bullshit and a pack of lies," he says, sliding the glass across the bar to Jensen.

"Yeah. That's what I think, too," Jensen says after a moment, and then nods, tilting up his glass.

"You okay, Jensen?"

He isn't really sure how to answer that. He's angry right now, sure, a little bit hurt, but not nearly as hurt as he'd have expected to be. He guesses some part of him knew this was coming. They'd been fighting a lot the last few months—over money, sex, breakfast, toilet paper, you name it—and even Jensen had been well on his way to thinking they should probably end things.

"Me and Eric broke up," he answers.

"Oh shit, man. I knew it wasn't anything good when you walked in here looking like you needed a drink, but… I'm so sorry." Doug's face creases in a sympathetic frown, and Jensen knows he means it. Doug's known Jensen for years, and Eric, too, since he and Eric started dating. Doug's seen quite a few guys come in and go out of Jensen's life—some of them right here in this bar.

"When?" Doug asks after a moment.

"About twenty minutes ago." It feels like it happened years ago, though, despite his slowly ebbing anger.

"Shit, Jensen. Are you okay?"

Jensen purses his lips and looks at his glass, thinking about the first time he'd kissed Eric, the way it had been raining like it is today, the way they'd laughed and hadn't cared how wet they were getting in between making out like teenagers. The day Eric had moved into his place, and he'd shown up with a horrifically scarred, mustard-colored stuffed chair he'd just found on the street corner, beaming like he'd just won the lottery and Jensen hadn't been able to do anything except bite his tongue, shake his head and smile. The sound of shattering glass from this morning when Eric had spun around too fast, catching Jensen's juice with his elbow and sending it to the floor, the way Jensen thought about how it was the last glass of the set he'd bought before Eric had moved in.

He has a lot of memories, specific moments in time that are devoted to Eric Masterson. Digging back further, he has more that are devoted to Robert Porter, Jamie Green, Kenny Randall, Gerald Davis, Chance Carter, Ryan Bailey. They've all come and gone, too.

"You know what?" he says. "I think I am."

 

*

 

Doug doesn't buy it, and Jensen doesn't blame him—it's not like Jensen's ever been okay after a break-up in the history of ever. Likewise, Jensen isn't surprised when Danny shows up twenty minutes later, knowing full well Doug called her and told her what happened the second he got away from Jensen.

She slides onto the stool next to him, her oversized bag embroidered with beads and dripping with fringe flopped carelessly onto the bar. She swings her red hair over one shoulder and presses one hand with perfectly manicured nails against the side of her head to keep it back as she leans her elbow on the bar, tilting her face so she can look up at Jensen.

"Tell me what happened."

There's not much to tell. They'd gotten into a fight over Eric using the last of the eggs the day before and not bothering to tell Jensen they were out. Jensen had gotten pissed because he'd woken up wanting an omelet and found no eggs. And it was just like Eric to use the last of something and not replace it or tell Jensen, because Eric was a selfish, thoughtless, inconsiderateasshole, and Jensen was so sick of his shit—which is pretty much what Jensen had said, verbatim. They'd fought for a while, and then Eric had spun around and broken Jensen's last juice glass, and that seemed to be the breaking point. Eric had stopped then, stopped being angry, stopped arguing, stopped pretending to give a fuck, and told Jensen he was moving out.

"Can I crash at your place for a couple of days while he gets his stuff out?" Jensen asks when he's done telling the story.

Danny's just looking at him, like she can't believe that's what he's thinking about. "You know you can. Jensen…" she leans down more against the bar, hair pushing up in a tangle between her fingers. "You're acting weird."

"I feel fine," he protests, swallowing down the last of his scotch.

"You seem fine," Danneel says, her eyes narrowing on him suspiciously. "That's why I'm worried."

"Maybe I am fine," he shrugs. "It's not like we didn't all know this was coming, right?"

Danny's eyes narrow on him even harder, until he can barely see the color of her eyes through the slits, and then she sits up, eyes opening wide as she takes a surprised breath.

"You're trying to pretend you're fine," she says, eyes lighting up like she's onto him. "This is like that time with Kenny, when you were all 'no, I'm fine, really' and then we found you in the back alley behind the bar, passed out, cuddling with a steering wheel." She pauses, frowning. "Did you ever figure out where that came from?"

"I have no memory of that night," Jensen tells her quickly and glances away.

"Don't try and change the subject," she says, poking him the shoulder, apparently forgetting that she'd been the one to ask him.

The door to the bar opens then, and they both turn.

"How we doing?" Misha says as he walks inside, shaking rainwater from his yellow umbrella.

"Jensen's avoiding," Danny answers like she's triumphantly tattling on Jensen.

"I am not avoiding."

"Of course you're not," Misha says as he walks up beside Jensen and slings an arm around his shoulders. With his other hand, he pushes Jensen's face against his shoulder and holds him there, murmuring, "It's okay buddy, just let it all out."

Jensen rolls his eyes up at Misha, and then yanks his face away from where it's smashed against Misha's designer shirt.

"I'm fine," he insists, glaring at Misha. But Misha had been willing to let Jensen cry on his shirt that likely cost hundreds of dollars, and Jensen knows that, for Misha, that's a pretty big gesture of sympathy, so Jensen's annoyance doesn't last very long.

"I really am, okay, guys. Can we just drop this?"

"No, we cannot just drop this," Danny says, sitting up straight and putting her hands against the bar, eyes narrowing again on Jensen. "The last time you avoided relationship fallout, your face ended up glued by tears to the chrome spokes of a steering wheel."

"I wasn't crying," Jensen says, exasperated. "It was just… really cold that night."

"I thought you had no memory of that night?" she challenges.

"I don't," he says almost before she's finished talking. "But I still wasn't crying."

"Do you know how many hours it took me to peel that thing off your face without taking skin with it?"

"Two. A number that," he adds, meaningfully, "when multiplied by twenty, is approximately how many times I've heard that story."

"I see what you're doing," she says, poking him in the chest this time. "Avoider."

"I'm really not avoiding, Danny. I…" Jensen pauses, tries to put it into words. "For the first time in a long time… I feel okay. Like, really, really okay."

"See?" Misha says, looking at Danny. "He's fine." Misha turns his head toward Jensen and says in less than conspiratorial tones, "So, you and me at The Wet Spot tonight? It'll be just like old times; I'll hook you up with all the gay guys, and you can hook me up with all the girls."

'Old times' being the span of a few weeks between Jensen's steady run of long-term relationships, Misha's being generous—or more like ridiculous, which is pretty par for course.

"He is not going to a strip club," Danny tells Misha, her expression beginning to edge into 'glare of death' territory, and Misha lets go of Jensen's shoulder, backs up a step.

"I'm not going to a strip club," Jensen says, seeing the tension ease in Danny. Misha though, mostly just looks at him like Jensen's abandoned him to the wolves.

"Why not?" asks a female voice from behind them. "A male strip club sounds like the perfect antidote."

Jensen isn't sure how Genevieve got inside without them noticing, but there she is, standing next to Misha and smiling.

"If Jensen's not in, I am—but I get the bi girls."

"Done," Misha agrees. "But if it works out for you," he adds, "can I—"

"No," Genevieve cuts him off, still smiling.

"Dammit," Misha hisses.

That's when Chris walks in, taking up the barstool behind Danneel, leaning his chin against her shoulder as he looks at Jensen.

"So. Pitcher of beer and then the ritual burning of things?" he asks.

"I gave him three days to move out," Jensen replies, smirking. "We'll burn whatever's left after that."

"So just the beer, then?"

"For now."

"Jensen's avoiding," Danneel tells Chris.

"I'll peel the steering wheel off his face this time, baby."

"But…"

"Just let him do his thing."

 

*

 

"Jensen," Danny says, handing him back the cigarette they're sharing, smoke blown out against the rainy day, misting on the cold air.

Jensen can hear everything she's about to say, knows exactly what she's going to tell him—knows damned well after seven years of knowing her.

"I’m okay, Danny. I am."

"You're not."

"No. For the first time, I think I really am," he says. "This whole thing… believing there's someone out there that's perfect? No one's ever perfect. I'm never going to find anyone that really gets me; that thinks I'm as perfect for them as they are for me. That's never going to happen."

"It can happen, though," Danny says, like she's imploring him to believe.

"You and Chris make up the one percent of the world's population that are perfect for each other. You got lucky. The rest of us? We just don't have those odds."

He takes a drag off the cigarette in his hand, and they've both had too much to drink—they've ALL had too much to drink, for this hour of the day—but still, he feels the truth of it.

"I'm never going to find that perfect person, Danny. And that's okay. It’s really okay. I’ll take the moment, and hook up when I need to. Hell, maybe someone will even be okay with being in a pseudo, no strings relationship for a while. That'd be cool. But there's no happy ending for me."

"Jensen." Danneel puts out the cigarette beneath her heel, hand rising to rest on Jensen's arm, and Jensen doesn't want her pity, because this isn't about pity. This is about realizing, and understanding the truth.

"I loved him," Jensen says. "There were times… I thought he might be the one. But I thought that about other people, too. I've gone from relationship to relationship barely stopping to breathe, because I was so busy looking for the perfect person. And I… I need to stop looking for 'the one'. That's not going to happen for me."

"It could."

"It could," Jensen grudgingly agrees, "but it's not likely. And I'm not chasing it anymore."

"Oh Jen. Jenny boy," she says pressing her hand against his face, "You really think you're done, don't you?

"I know I'm done."

"When you stop chasing it…" she smiles, dropping the cigarette on the asphalt and stepping on it, "that's when it happens."

Jensen snorts, shaking his head. "Yeah, that's another one of those bullshit things people tell you to make you feel better."

Danny just smiles.

 

*

 

On the fourth day, they burn everything Eric left behind in the metal garbage can behind Jensen's apartment.

"So that’s it," Jensen says, and all of his friends nod.

"I never liked him," Misha says a moment later. "So, 'The Wet Spot' tonight?" he asks Jensen.

Jensen could care less about 'The Wet Spot', but he's grateful for Misha's… support in letting Eric go? It's something, anyway.

"No. You guys go celebrate. I'm just gonna go to bed." Jensen knows, logically, that getting laid would give him at least a couple hours of not thinking about things. But he's never been good at 'just getting laid'. That usually results in him ending up in a relationship that's totally wrong for him. And he's done with that.

He's done with relationships in pretty much every sense.

 

*

 

The apartment seems empty without Eric's stuff filling up half of it, and everywhere he looks, he can see Eric—lounging on the couch, his bare feet sticking up from the arm as he reads on his laptop; the way he'd always slept in bed, pillow shoved under his stomach, ass pushed up and out underneath the sheets, light blue cotton clinging to the shape, muscular arms wrapped around the pillow beneath his head, hair white-blond and glowing in the moonlight. Leaning against the counter in the kitchen, bent over a cutting board on the same counter, chopping onions like he has to dice them perfectly or else the world might end.

He's in Jensen's shower, running his hands through his wet hair, rinsing away his shampoo before he grins and grabs Jensen by the hips, pushing him up against the cold tile. Digging around in the refrigerator at ungodly hours of the night, laughing at Jensen across the dining room table, laughing with Jensen as they watch sitcoms on TV.

He's here, in every nook and cranny, every pore and every piece of furniture. Eric is right here, around every corner Jensen turns and the ones he doesn't.

It's not that he misses Eric, not exactly. He does, but not the way he probably should. It's more that this place that used to be just Jensen's became 'theirs' and now it's impossible to go back to the way things were. In his head, this apartment is always going to be about him and Eric. It’s always going to be about relationships and trying. It’s going to be about him trying and failing.

He needs a new apartment. But that's not really something he wants to spend time doing.

He decides to take a vacation instead.

 

~ * ~ * ~

 

Mexico isn't like anything he's ever known. It's nothing like New York; the pace so laid back, beaches so close, everyone so friendly, except for the taxi drivers that want to rip you off as much as possible, and fuck you very much, taxi driver that stranded him at this ferry instead of the one he was supposed to be driven to. It’s going to take him a whole hour to get to the island he's headed for instead of half an hour.

As he sits down in an open air bar and restaurant right on the edge of the Caribbean, he looks out at the view and can't really find it inside himself to be angry. It’s all white sands and cerulean water, everyone within sight as happy as clams, although he's never been sure why clams are supposed to be happy. People either want to eat their insides or kill them for their pearls. Really, what's there to be happy about?

He orders a cheeseburger and settles more comfortably into his seat, taking off his sunglasses. It's incredibly bright out there, beyond the ceiling of the restaurant. A couple hundred feet away, there's a wooden frame, a tower built up alongside the docks, and it's got to be at least five stories high. From somewhere in the vicinity of its base, Coldplay is being blasted through huge speakers across the beach.

Come up to meet you,
Tell you I'm sorry,
You don't know how lovely you are.

I had to find you,
Tell you I need you,
Tell you I set you apart.

It's midday in Mexico, on the beach—there are children playing in the shallows of the water, men and women laughing and splashing. They couldn't play something more upbeat?

Tell me your secrets,
And ask me your questions,
Oh let's go back to the start.

Runnin' in circles,
Comin' up tails,
Heads on a science apart.

Jensen rolls his eyes and bites into his cheeseburger, way more interested when some guy starts to talk across the microphone over the music. As it turns out, this tower actually has a purpose in that people can bungee jump from the top head first.

Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be this hard.
Oh take me back to the start.

He's in Mexico, he's on vacation, and he's Eric–free for the first time in two years. He's partner-free for the first time in longer than he can remember. He can do whatever he wants. And he can do it for thirty pesos.

Jumping off the top of that tower sounds like a great idea.

 

*

 

At the top, the guy that hooks him into the bungee cord explains to him how it's done; he even offers to push Jensen off the edge, if Jensen wants.

He doesn't want that. He doesn't even look down as he steps to the edge of the platform and raises his arms, pushing off with his feet and diving into nothingness.

Wind and empty air rushing by, and it's like flying for a few seconds, everything so terrifying and free.

When he hits the water with his hands, he curls his legs and arches up into the recoil, laughing.

 

*

 

The cord is barely off his ankle when the ferry arrives, and he has to run to grab his bags and get on it in time.

He meets Derek on the ferry over to the island. Derek is from Seattle, and a total hippie with his dreads and all his talk about 'realness' and truth. Jensen tells the guy a few things about the truth, but Derek obviously isn't looking for those kind of truths.

"You're jaded," Derek says after a while.

"Maybe a little bit," Jensen nods, agreeing. "Or maybe just clued in to how things really are."

Derek laces his fingers together and nods in response. He obviously doesn't agree, despite the nodding of his head, and that's okay. Derek just hasn't figured it out yet.

 

*

When he steps off the ferry and gets his first look at the island, he can't help smiling. There are people sitting at the nearby bar, eating at tables that edge almost to the shoreline, but it isn't crowded or noisy and it seems mostly free of tourists. Islas Mujeres is the exact opposite of Cancun, with its small town feel and modest buildings, and it's exactly what he wants. He's never been on vacation alone before, and he's never been somewhere like this—the kind of place he can go be alone on a stretch of beach for hours.

 

*

The first thing he does is wade into the Caribbean. Only knee high, below the level of his shorts, and it's so warm and perfect that's it's almost sweet.

He walks after that, rents a room at a place called the Seahorse that's a block's walk away from the beach and so inexpensive that he can barely believe it. He gets a room that feels more like home than hotel-like, with a mini-fridge and a hotplate and a window over the kitchen sink, which has a dish drainer next to it that holds a couple of ceramic bowls and forks.

He spends the majority of his week sitting on the sand when he's not snorkeling, paddle-boarding or exploring the cliffs on the far side of the island. There, amongst the hundreds of shells and flip-flops cast off by the sea, he finds a big conch shell that's worn down with time and sea, its surface pocked and pitted, the crown of it mostly gone, bone white except for the faded pink color that clings to the opening, the blue that runs along the top. It's nothing like the shiny pink and brown conches he's seen for sale a million times, a million places.

Despite the dozens of more beautiful conch shells to choose from on the beach, he takes that one with him when he leaves.

He cooks for himself in the room and learns pretty quickly that hotplates are really fucking hard to cook on, no matter how much butter you use. He goes out for food after that, most of the time eating while he's sitting no less than twenty feet from the shore, waves lapping gently at the edge.

Sunrise and sunset are magnificent, sky mostly cloudless at those times, gold and pink glittering across the waves that span the curvature of the earth, so wide open that he can actually see the curve on either side of the ocean.

He's barely spoken to anyone other than the hotel owners or people trying to sell him things.

It's glorious.

 

*

Six days pass in uninterrupted enjoyment, and then, on the sixth day, just as the sun is sinking below the horizon in a blaze of gold and pink, his phone rings. He's only surprised that it's not Danny, but Misha that's calling him.

"Dude," he says as he answers the phone. "I'm in Mexico. What?"

"You didn’t answer the phone in the middle of sex, did you?" Misha asks. "Because that's bad, Jensen."

"I'm not having sex, Misha," Jensen sighs. "You're interrupting my sunset, though."

"With a hot guy? So you’re lining up for the kill. Sunsets are a great strategy; romantics go for them like you wouldn't believe."

"I'm alone," Jensen says rolling his eyes. "I've been alone the whole time."

There's a long pause before Misha responds.

"Jensen, you've been there for six days. You're telling me you still haven't managed to get laid? I've been there; it's a veritable pornucopia. Everybody's drunk and having a blast and consistently about three seconds away from taking off all their clothes. It's like you're not even trying."

"I didn't come here to get laid."

"So you're telling me," Misha says, like he's not really sure, "when you said you were going on vacation… that wasn't code for 'Thank fuck Eric dumped me so I can go have as much meaningless sex with as many people as possible in the party capital of the world?'"

"I didn't come here to have sex, Misha."

"What?" Misha sounds aghast, like he can't believe it. "There were words coming out of your mouth, but they didn't make any sense. It's like we're not even speaking the same language."

"It's like we're not even part of the same species," Jensen replies, tone dry as he digs his toes into the sand.

"I'm sorry. I must have accidentally dialed the number to 'Bitter Dumpees Wasting Their Vacation on Moping and Being Miserable' by mistake."

"I am not moping."

"I meant to call 'Newly Single Guys Partying Drunk and Naked on the Beach in Between Orgies and Not Moping".

"I am not moping," Jensen insists.

"Then live a little, Jensen. You're in fucking Cancun, for fuck's sake. Don't waste it."

He's not in Cancun, exactly, but he guesses it's close enough for Misha's head geography. "I'm living just fine."

Misha sighs. "Okay. When you're ready to start having fun, I'll be over here manning the 'Eric Was an Asshole, Anyway' hotline."

"I think I've got that number," Jensen smirks.

"You damned well better," Misha says, before he hangs up.

Jensen shakes his head, still smirking, and then sets the phone down on top of his shirt lying beside him on the sand.

He reaches back with both hands, fingers digging into fine sand, finding the coolness beneath the surface, and leans his weight against them, head tilting back to look up at the sky. It's huge, clear, and bright blue, a single smear of clouds spread across it like an errant paintbrush stroke. He likes it here… the vastness of ocean and open air and sky all around him, the sense of being alone, like he's the only person on earth.

He's not moping. Coming here might have originally been about getting away from the constant reminders of failed relationships, but it's not that anymore. Misha would never understand—then again, Misha rarely understands anything that isn't about getting laid.

He doesn't need to get laid. He just needs this.

'Alone' is easier than anything else he's ever done in his life.

 

*

 

He spends the next day, his last one on the island, snorkeling and realizing how familiar all the fish are by now; despite that, he still loves them. He sits on the sand afterward, watching everyone else on the beach splash and laugh, the sun setting behind them in a cloudless explosion of color.

It's the perfect end to his last day, he decides. He doesn’t need any more than this.

But he's still got time, as night descends on the beach, and he walks up to the bar that's been waiting on him all day, taking a seat at an empty table. He hasn't had dinner, but maybe one more drink as he stares out at the Caribbean—a last goodbye.

He orders a mojito, caught up in the way the waves break along the shore before the waiter delivers his drink to him.

He remembers where he is, then, and glances around the open air room.

There's a guy staring at him, sitting at the bar, sipping from the straw in his drink as he gives Jensen the serious eye. The kind that says I want to take you back to my hotel room and do incredibly dirty things to you all night long.

And well, Jensen would be lying if he said he'd never seen that look before, but he's never seen it from someone as hot as this guy. Longish dark hair, cut so layers fall just across his perfect cheekbones on both sides, and Jensen can't tell the color of his eyes in this light, but they glitter as they stare him. Jesus, he's tall—Jensen can tell even while he's sitting down that he'd be taller than Jensen. He's wearing a thin, short-sleeved button down beach shirt that's pure white, clinging to his completely built frame and showing off miles of tanned arms. This guy is certifiably drop-dead gorgeous, and he's looking straight at Jensen, like no one else in the world exists, smile playing around his lips.

It's his last night of vacation, and if he was going to hook up with anyone with no strings attached, this guy wouldn't even be on the list because the list doesn't account for guys this fucking hot. This guy would get a page all to himself, lists be damned.

But he's not doing that anymore, he thinks, looking away. It's a little bit hard to remember why he's not doing that, with a couple drinks in him and a guy who looks like sex poured into human form staring at him.

When he glances up again, the guy is sitting down across the table from him, frothy drink in a fragile glass with a pink umbrella clasped between his massive hands, straw poking up in the open air.

"You should know," Jensen says, trying his best to look the guy right in the face. "I'm not looking to hook up."

"That's a shame," the guy says evenly, a glint of playfulness in his eyes as he smiles, "because you'd really be missing out." Jensen can almost believe he's right. "But who said I'm looking for a hook up?" the guy goes on, lips pulling back in an easy grin. Jensen can't help but notice how pink his lips are against the brilliant white perfection of his teeth.

"Your eyes," Jensen answers, smiling back just a little.

"Really? You can read minds just by looking into people's eyes?" the guys asks, still smiling. He straightens a little bit in his chair and squares his shoulders, looking at Jensen full on with a straight face. "So what am I thinking right now?"

Jensen squints at him, smile playing at the edges of his mouth as he pretends to try and figure it out. "You're… thinking there's no way I can read your mind just by looking at you," Jensen guesses.

"Wrong," the guy grins. "I was thinking how cute it is, the way your eyes crinkle at the edges when you almost smile. I bet it's even cuter when you laugh."

Jensen's amused and maybe a little bit flattered—and okay, sort of intrigued. "Really? My eyes? That's pretty good detail work for someone who was eyeing me a few minutes ago like they'd like to do things to me I could never tell anyone about."

The guy bites at his plush lower lip and kind of half-laughs, looking just the slightest bit embarrassed—just enough to make him really endearing. "Kind of the other way around," he says pausing before he adds, "maybe both," as he grins and finishes by spreading his hands out open and palm up. "Guilty. I was thinking along those lines originally, but seriously, look at you. Who wouldn't be thinking it?"

Jensen gives him a skeptical look, but the guy seems determined to ignore it.

"Besides, look at me," the guy goes on, still grinning as he motions toward himself and half-flexes his arms. "You're telling me you weren't thinking about it even a little bit?"

Jensen just smirks at him, because seriously.

"Tough crowd," the guy says, good-naturedly, and then settles back, putting his hands around his drink before he looks at Jensen again. "Really," he says, looking Jensen right in the eye, "I'd settle for getting to know you a little better."

He's got a look in his eyes like maybe he does think Jensen's really interesting, interesting enough to get to know better even if they don't hook up—like Jensen is the only person on the face of the planet right now. And Jensen has to admit, he kind of likes this incredibly hot guy, despite his recent giving up on relationships and deciding to have a celibate vacation. But he has to be truthful.

"Look, these moments, the ones you have when you first meet someone, they're incredibly romantic. You see someone across the room, and there's a spark. Everything's romantic in the beginning. But then the next day happens, and the next, and eventually you realize you were just blinded by hormones and what the fuck are you even doing here?"

"Hmm. Been there," the guy nods, his delectable fucking mouth pursing thoughtfully, fringes of his hair brushing against his cheeks. He leans forward, eyes intent on Jensen. "Okay. I have an idea—a compromise. We're both obviously on vacation, I leave tomorrow night; we're never going to see each other again. So let's do the romantic, first spark thing."

Jensen's interested as he leans across his drink toward the guy."Intriguing. Tell me more."

"We don’t hook up—no sex—"

Not as intriguing, Jensen thinks, despite himself.

"We just have that night where we meet on vacation in an amazing place, and everything's perfect, without the next day to mess it up. Let's have a great time. And when it's over, we go back to our lives, and we'll never even know each other's real names—no phone numbers or email exchanged."

"Well," Jensen says, thinking that over, halfway to thinking these are acceptable terms, "I'd have to call you something."

"Chad," the guy says, smiling. "And you're?"

"Misha," is the first name that pops out of his mouth, and he didn't really mean for it to, but there it is.

"So, Misha," the guy says, still smiling, as he reaches across the table with one of his massive hands, fingers closing around Jensen's wrist, and they're more gentle than Jensen would have expected, thumb rubbing against the sensitive underside. "Wanna go for a walk on the beach?"

 

*

 

'Chad' is a completely, totally romantic dork, Jensen decides, two minutes into their walk, the guy's fingers laced through his beneath the moonlight, telling Jensen how he came to the island to do exactly this—just walk along the beach look up at the night sky without a single thing in the way.

Except… that's kind of why Jensen came here, too. To be in this wide open space without anything or anyone in the way.

"Bad break up?" Jensen has to ask.

"Last time I was here, yeah. But not this time."

"So why, this time?"

'Chad' hesitates, half-shrugging. "It felt good, being here. Like finding peace. I came back for that."

Jensen side eyes him across the sand. "Okay, you know you sound like a total cheeseball, right?

"Guilty," the guys admits, and laughs, and it's deep, resonating sound . "It’s half my charm, really," he says, glancing over at Jensen.

"Yeah, really not," Jensen returns, trying hard to keep from smiling.

"It's my involuntary charm," the guy admits, stopping their walk as he turns and grins at Jensen, and Jesus, he's even more gorgeous when he smiles like that. "If I really wanted to turn my full charm on you, you'd know it."

"Really?" Jensen asks, unable to keep the smirk from his lips.

"The whole island would know it," he says, still grinning.

"I'm not convinced," Jensen says, grinning back.

"You will be," the guy tells him in mock-seriousness, pausing before he goes on. "You will be."

God, he's a Star Wars geek, too, on top of everything else. Jensen could almost kiss him here and now. Instead Jensen arches a skeptical eyebrow at the guy and says, "Okay, Yoda. Impress me."

"Star Wars fan. I knew it. I knew you'd be awesome, the second I laid eyes on you." The guy leans in close, grinning at Jensen, and Jensen can see his eyes in the moonlight, hazel, or maybe brown, he can't tell and he doesn't care, because the guy is giving Jensen that look again, like Jensen's the only thing that exists. He smells good, mild scent of cologne clinging to him beyond the smells of ocean, sand and sunscreen, the faint, salty tang of musky sweat. And Jensen had been mostly kidding when he'd thought he could kiss the guy here and now, but suddenly he's not kidding anymore.

"You know you really are gorgeous," the guy goes on, thumb soft heat against Jensen's lower lip. "You're the most gorgeous guy I've ever seen. The fact that you're a geek, too, just makes you even hotter. And I barely even know you, yet."

Jesus, Jensen feels like the guy's eyes are burning right through him.

"I'm really looking forward to getting to know you better," the guys whispers meaningfully, and Jensen can feel his breath, warm as it ghosts against Jensen's lips. "And we've got all night."

"What do you want to know?" Jensen asks, breath catching in his throat.

"Anything you want to tell me."

"This is the full force of your charm?" Jensen manages to ask, and he means for it to come out funny, maybe the slightest bit sarcastic, but he's not really able to conjure much besides the words and remembering how to be able to speak them.

"Impressed, yet?" the guy asks, breaking into one of his gorgeous smiles, but he doesn't break the look between them, or the intensity or the sincerity of it, and Jensen really needs to be able to breathe.

"It's a little much," Jensen says, backing off a step and pulling in a breath.

"Yeah," the guy nods, still smiling, though it's half-apologetic, now, and there's… something else lurking at the edges of it. "I get that a lot."

The guy tightens his fingers through Jensen's, seeming to recover as he grins. "Hey, you wanted to see full-force charm. I warned you."

"You did," Jensen agrees, letting the guy pull him across the sand as they begin to walk again. "I didn't expect it to be so cheesy-romantic." And it's not really cheesy at all, but it's all Jensen's got at the moment to make himself stop feeling so… whatever he's feeling.

"Cheesy-romantic?" the guy demands, mock-offended, and Jensen can't help but laugh. "I'll have you know, better men than you have adored my cheesy-romantic affections."

"Better men?" Jensen returns, just as mock-offended.

"I said better. Not prettier. And well, better is still up for debate," the guy says, shooting Jensen a look underneath the fringe of his side bangs.

"Determined by what criteria?" Jensen asks.

The guy seems to think about that for a moment, walking silently alongside Jensen, hand in hand along the beach. "For starters… the prequel trilogy of Star Wars movies versus the original trilogy?"

"You're kidding, right?" Jensen says, returning the guy's sideways look. "When I'm so bored I'm about to nod off, I define it as 'Episode I' bored."

Jensen can see him smile. "Wow. You really are a geek."

"I thought you liked that?"

"Oh, I do," the guys says in all seriousness. "I was just taking a moment to appreciate it. But right now, I'm more interested in knowing… when are you ever that bored?"

That's a more difficult question, and it takes Jensen a moment to answer. "During long meetings, definitely. While reading incredibly horrible novels. While watching really bad movies. And I used to get really bored when I was alone, because I didn't know what to do with myself."

"But not anymore?" the guy asks.

"No. Not anymore. Although being around someone is still pretty cool," he allows, smirking. "On occasion."

"I'm honored," the guy says, grinning.

"I didn't say this was one of those occasions," Jensen adds, because he really just can't help himself. This guy is too cute not to prod.

The guy doesn't disappoint him.

"Then let's make it one."

 

*

 

'Chad' veers them off the beach when they get near the main street of the town, takes him down the merchant and restaurant row, stopping to admire the handmade stuffed animals that look less like stuffed animals because they're mostly made out of felt and fur and maybe some kind of plastic structure on the inside. They look serious and real, those monkeys and llamas and dolphins and sea turtles and more, and sometimes they're delightfully colorful, despite that they look more like the real deal than a plushy, stuffed cute replica.

The guy buys a llama that's as realistic as can be except that its facial expression is almost demon-like, stitched in orange against its black fur, and the guy seems to delight in the fact that it isn't at all reassuring. He also buys a sea turtle with a felt replica of planet earth stitched across its shell, colors muted except for the red thread that holds it together, olive, green, brown and dark blue tones. After he pays for them, he hands the sea turtle to Jensen, and Jensen wants to ask why, but he doesn't, because this isn't supposed to be about the 'why'.

For reasons unknown to Jensen, the guy decides to name his llama 'Willy" which seems fine until the guy adds that it's short for Wilhelmina.

"Wilhelmenia?" Jensen asks in disbelief.

"It fits her," the guy shrugs. "What's yours?"

Jensen looks at the turtle in his hand. "So because you’re a huge dorktastic cheeseball who names his stuffed animals, I have to name mine, too?"

"My dorktastic cheeseball-ness is already growing on you like mold, admit it," the guy says, grinning. "So what's yours' name?"

Jensen thinks for a minute before he answers. "I'll let you know when I decide."

They have dinner at one of the restaurants that has fresh steak and seafood set out in ice in front of its open air entry to lure people in. Both of them order steak and lobster tail, and it's the freshest damned lobster tail Jensen's ever eaten, not to mention the steak is cooked perfectly. 'Chad' has a pina colada with his meal, practically moaning about how good it is since it's made with fresh coconut milk, so Jensen orders one, too. The size of it is only slightly ridiculous in his hands, as compared to how it's not ridiculous at all in the other guy's. They talk about the island, their experiences while they've been here, and seemingly inevitably somehow end up in a discussion about Midichlorians, which leads to a discussion about The Matrix, and then every single Alien movie—and they both agree Alien 3 was way ahead of its time, which, is the first time Jensen's ever encountered someone else who thought so.

By the time they're winding down on dinner, waiting for dessert, they've switched to more personal topics.

"Professional masseuse," Jensen guesses.

"No," the guy smiles, "although I am pretty good with my hands," he adds, winking at Jensen, and it's damned adorable and also ridiculous, and Jensen has to laugh.

"Fine," the guy says, and rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "My turn." He squints at Jensen with eyes that are definitely hazel in the light of the restaurant. "Male model."

Jensen almost chokes on his drink with laughter.

"Hey, I had to give that one a shot. You've got the looks for it," the guy says, unapologetic. "And it increases what I know about you so far."

"You don't know anything about me," Jensen scoffs, picking up his pina colada and drinking the last melted bit.

The guy moves his glass out of the way, puts both elbows on the table and leans across them toward Jensen, intently focused on him.

"You're incredibly gorgeous, you're not into hooking up, and you don't like relationships right now because you went through a recent break-up. But you still like romance, or you wouldn't be here with me. You don't have any calluses on your hands, but you weren't born into money, because, well, your shoes, which means you've got a white collar job. Your accent is that in-between southern and northern East Coast accent, so… Virginia? Maryland? Originally? Somewhere around that area. You seem like you're really content, but you've still got a curiosity about things. You don't ask half the questions that go through your head, or say half the things you think about saying either because you're naturally cautious with new people or you're more cautious with new people after your last break-up. How am I doing so far?"

"A little too well," Jensen admits, wondering just how the hell this guy figured all that out in such a short span of time. And also, what's wrong with his shoes.

"Oh, and your name's not really Misha," the guy grins.

Jensen just stares at him, because, really?

"You also do this really hot thing with your mouth whenever you're amused and trying not to show it—which you do a lot around me," the guy smirks, looking way too satisfied with himself.

Dammit, Jensen thinks, and tries to school his mouth into an expressionless line.

"Yeah, like that," the guy says, still smirking as he points at Jensen's mouth.

"Psychologist," Jensen guesses, trying to change the subject, or at least deflect the guy's scrutinizing attention.

"Nope."

"Sociologist?"

"No."

"Let's see…" Jensen says, pulling his thoughts together. What does he know about this guy, besides that he's beyond gorgeous? He thinks for a minute or two and realizes he knows more than he thought he did, now that he's really thinking about it.

"You're charming, obviously single and comfortable with hitting on guys even when they shoot you down. You're persistent, in that you don't even let that deter you, or else we wouldn't be here. You're adventurous, and playful, and would probably tell anybody anything if you weren't on a date with someone who isn't supposed to know details about you. You've got a hint of a drawl, which means you're probably from Texas somewhere. You don't have any calluses on your hands, so you've probably got a white collar job."

He hesitates, looking at the guy's clothes. He might know jack about shoes, but he knows quality clothes when he sees them—he knows Misha after all—and this guy is not wearing expensive clothing. "Your clothes rule out you being rich, so definitely a white collar job. You pay scary, stalker-ish attention to people's personality traits and freak them out by logging them and reciting them back to them when challenged—which means you also clearly love a challenge. As if pursuing me even after I shot you down didn't already prove that. How am I doing so far?"

"Better than I expected," the guy says, looking impressed and… something else Jensen can't quite figure out.

"You're also possibly the world's most dorktastic romantic, you love everything in the world, and you love to talk about it all." Jensen thinks, turning his empty glass back and forth between his hands.

"Aspiring writer," he says. "No," he amends, holding up one hand and snapping his fingers. "An aspiring romance novel writer."

The guy gives him a weird, disbelieving look, and Jensen's completely deflated by it. "Yeah," he admits, "that was a little bit of a jump."

"No, it was a good guess," the guy says, like he's trying to soften the blow. The corner of his mouth curls, one hand coming up to rest underneath his chin as he considers Jensen. "So you're an ex-romance novel writer?"

"Just an avid reader of the genre," Jensen admits, and that's true insofar as it goes.

"I've dabbled in a bit of romance reading myself," the guy admits.

They're interrupted then by their waiter putting a plate of fresh, fried banana slices on the table between them. Jensen says gracias and the man excuses himself with a nod. They both take up their forks, digging into the plate.

"The thing I don't like about most romance novels," the guys says, spearing a few banana slices on his fork, "is that everything in them seems so fantastical. There's not a bit of realism in them. The characters are flat, or when they do have a trait, it's like, this one, singular trait that defines their whole being. They don't have facets."

"Tell me about it," Jensen agrees, and the pushes a forkful of bananas into his mouth before he can say anything else.

"Dumbed-down for the general populace by the suits in charge at the publishers. I hate that about the world. It's not about what's good so much as it's about…" the guy pauses, bananas suspended on the edge of his fork in mid-air.

"What sells," Jensen finishes after he swallows.

"Yeah," the guy nods, looking at Jensen with that look like Jensen's the only person in the world.

Right.

"And then it's like, they get together and everything is perfect, and that never happens in real life."

"No," the guys agrees. "Real life is messy. Although sometimes it's nice to read a happily ever after, even knowing that. I guess that's why I keep going back to them."

And now it's Jensen's turn to look at the guy like he's the only thing that exists, for the time it takes him to understand how the guy is looking back at him, and then he averts his eyes, focuses on eating fried bananas.

They finish their dessert in silence; shooting glances across the table at each other, and Jensen really likes this guy—way more than he should.

Jensen looks down and clears his throat, puts his dinner napkin on the table. "So what's next?"

 

*

 

What ends up being next is them making it five feet from the restaurant, before 'Chad' buying both of them woven bracelets from a walking vendor. 'Chad's' is black at the edge with orange fading into yellow fading into lavender, like a sunset on the edge of nighttime. The bracelet he ties around Jensen's wrist starts with a red deeper than blood, descending into an equal navy-ish blue that merges seamlessly into a dark grey.

"Tie mine on," the guy urges, and Jensen stops, his hands halfway to the other guy's wrist.

"Why do you get the bright colors and I get the serious ones?"

"Because that's how we roll. Isn’t it?" the guy asks, cocking his head to the side as he looks at Jensen.

Yeah, tonight, that is how they roll. But… "I'm not used to being the serious one," Jensen admits, tying the cords of the other guy's bracelet.

"Then don’t be," 'Chad' says, smiling as he moves the hand with bracelet tied around it, linking his fingers through Jensen's.

 

*

They walk on, back to the beach, sand beneath their feet as they talk about Fight Club, and the Stargate series. They walk until they find a beach bar that's still open, low orange and blue lights giving it mellow glow. There's a performer with coconut shell halves on fire in her hands as she dances to ambient techno.

They sit down at one of the low tables together, watching silently until she's done, their hands still laced together, Jensen holding onto the sea turtle in his other hand.

A waitress comes over to them and asks Jensen if he and his boyfriend would like a drink, and neither of them bothers to correct her. They share a glance as she walks away, both of them smiling before they look out at the surf rolling in along the beach. It's a beautiful night, light breeze coming in off the Caribbean, and neither of them rush to fill the silence, talking occasionally and leisurely about the way the constellations look different here than up North, about how the sand is so smooth here, but mostly just holding each other's hands and being close to each other, shoulders leaned together.

They sip their drinks, and the guy leans in, resting his cheek against Jensen's shoulder, squeezing Jensen's hand in his own. "So if I really was your boyfriend, what would you be doing right now?"

"Restraining myself from making out with you and groping you in public."

"I said 'if I was your boyfriend', not what you're doing right now," the guy says, and Jensen can hear the grin in his voice.

"I stand by my answer," Jensen replies, smiling back.

"I was thinking how I'd recite you some sonnets, maybe serenade you if I had my guitar."

"Liar," Jensen grins.

"Okay, after we made out and I groped you in public," the guy agrees.

The guy lifts his head, turning his face to smile at Jensen, and his mouth is suddenly, disarmingly close.

"Do you really play guitar and sing?" Jensen asks, feeling breathless.

"In the theoretical world where I'm your boyfriend I do," the guy answers, his voice hushed. He's looking Jensen right in the eye and god damn he's gorgeous and adorable and he smells so good and his mouth.

"Is the making out and groping each other also part of that theoretical world?" Jensen whispers, barely aware of the words passing his lips, every bit of him focused on the intense look the guy is giving him.

The guy glances down at Jensen's mouth, running the tip of his tongue across his lower lip, and there's so much heat in his gaze that Jensen feels like he's going to burn up.

"I really wish it wasn't," the guy says, regretful. "But to have the perfect night, we can't kiss. A chemistry-less kiss would kill the whole fantasy."

"Okay," Jensen takes a quick breath, trying to swallow his disappointment. "How about the groping?"

The guy chuckles gently, leaning closer, and Jensen's heartbeat kicks up a notch. "No. But we can come really close to kissing," he says, breathing the words across Jensen's lips.

Jensen's breath hitches in his chest, the guy is right there, another fraction of an inch and their mouths would be touching, and Jensen wants to taste him so badly, his palms practically itching to touch the guy, get underneath his shirt and feel all the hard muscle under smooth, tanned skin.

The guy puts his hand on Jensen's cheek, tilting his head to the side a little, and for a heartbeat Jensen thinks he's going to go for it after all.

"There's something to be said for almost kissing for the first time," he whispers into Jensen's mouth. "The excitement, the anticipation."

"The way your heart speeds up and your stomach flutters," Jensen says, and he can appreciate that, he really can, but God, he's dying for the guy to kiss him.

"Yeah," the guy breathes, and then he smiles and pulls back, drawing Jensen up from the sand by their interlaced fingers.

Jensen's knees feel a little weak, but they hold.

Down the beach, a little further, there's another bar with people turning in circles on the dance floor to songs Jensen recognizes. The guy doesn't say anything; just flexes his fingers through Jensen's and leads him inside. He pauses briefly to set their stuffed animals on a tall table and then pulls Jensen onto the dance floor. He slides his arms around Jensen's waist, pressing up against his body.

"Does this count as groping?" Jensen asks, and the guy laughs.

"Technically there are no hands involved, so no."

"I'm really enjoying not groping you," Jensen informs him, pulling him a little tighter against his body, and this time when the guy laughs it's a short burst where he throws back his head, and Jesus he's got a long neck. He feels so good pressed up against Jensen, their hips swinging side to side as they turn, and Jensen lets his head rest against the guy's shoulder for a minute, just breathing him in.

He catches a glimpse of their animals through the crowd; Wilhelmina the tall scraggly llama and the unnamed short, stout sea turtle. They make an unlikely pair.

"Walter," Jensen says a few minutes later. "My turtle's name," he explains when they guy doesn't say anything.

"Walter and Wilhelmina," the guys says, musing, and then nods. "I like it."

"Why did you buy Walter for me?" Jensen asks, lifting his head from the guy's shoulder to see him better, leaning close to the other guy's mouth.

"Asks questions he already knows the answer to," the guy says, wry, like he's making a mental note.

And well, okay. "I really kind of do," Jensen admits. "It's a comment on my shell, right?"

"Maybe just a little bit," the guy grins back.

"I wasn't always like this," Jensen breathes, leaning closer to that grinning mouth, god, so warm.

"I'm getting that. But I don’t think I can bring you out of it in one night."

"So we should make the most of it, right?" Jensen asks, looking up at the guy, lips so close to his.

"No," the guy breathes out against his mouth, fingertip rising, pressing against Jensen's lower lip. "This is the first, perfect night. No chances on a chemistry-less kiss."

Jensen's hyperaware of the guy's body against his, everywhere they're touching, as he turns him in a slow circle in time to the music. "This kiss could never be chemistry-less. This kiss will have so much chemistry."

"I know," the guy whispers. "God, I know. But if I kiss you…"

"It's just a kiss," Jensen breathes back, wanting so much.

The guy hesitates, his mouth so close to Jensen's that Jensen can feel the heat of it, the air between them nearly buzzing, crackling with invisible electric energy.

"Just a kiss," the guy agrees.

And then his mouth is on Jensen's, tongue flickering out just to taste him, test him, and Jensen opens for him eagerly, pulls him inside and slides his tongue around the other guy's, and it shouldn't be this easy, the way they meet, desperate and wanting, sleek, wet slide of muscle, both of them breathing out hard through their noses. The guy gets his hands on Jensen's jaw and tilts him up into the kiss, tongue circling and sucking lightly on Jensen's, Jensen kissing back until he feels almost dizzy with it. It's the best kiss Jensen's ever had in his life, even sweeter for all the promise behind it.

The guy pulls away, biting at Jensen's lower lip, clinging there even as he speaks. "I… that… was."

"Perfect," Jensen finishes.

The guy nods, his eyes wide and slightly glazed, his mouth still so close. "Yeah."

God, Jensen just wants this guy to come to bed with him, and fuck all his new rules, fuck them all. "How are we just supposed to walk away from this?"

The guy licks his lower lip, and Jensen wants to taste him again. "Close your eyes and count to ten," he whispers.

Jensen closes his eyes and feels the guy let go of him. He begins counting to himself, pausing a second between each number, and when he opens his eyes, expecting he doesn't know what, the guy is gone.

There are still people dancing in couples all around him, but the spot where the guy had stood is completely empty.

Walter and Wilhelmina are still on the table together, and Jensen snatches them up, looking left and right. He couldn't have gone far, Jensen thinks, and starts for the beach—but he could have gone out the door, to the street, Jensen turns, indecisive, and dammit.

He chooses the street, hurrying out through the doorway, turning as quick he can in either direction searching for a glimpse of the guy. Jensen doesn't see anyone tall enough to be him, so he turns and rushes back through the door, running for the beach. The sand is cool beneath his feet, moon full and high above him as he looks each way.

The beach stretches empty as far as he can see in either direction, and Jensen bites his lower lip, sighs out a breath through his nose.

The guy has disappeared. He could be anywhere, really, and this is what they both agreed on, right? This is what Jensen wanted; something perfect and safe, no chance it could ever be ruined.

Still, he stands on the beach a few minutes more.

 

 

*

 

 

"And it was perfect," Jensen says as he sets his beer down and finishes explaining it to his friends. "It will always be perfect."

They're all silent, just staring at him from within the booth of the bar for a long moment, and that isn't exactly the reception he'd guessed they'd give him.

"Jesus Christ, Jensen," Danny says, shaking her head. "This guy sounds amazing, with the ridiculous romanticism, and romance novels," she emphasizes with a wave of her hands, "and you let him walk away?"

"I didn't let him walk away. He kind of tricked me on that part."

"But Jensen, you didn't even try to track him down?"

"He only seemed perfect because it was the first night, Danny. Everyone's perfect on the first night."

"I thought Misha was the stupidest person to ever live, but now I'm being forced to reassess that."

"Hey," Misha protests.

"Most relationship-incompatible," Danny amends, with long-suffering patience, and Misha shrugs, nodding and seeming satisfied with that.

"Chris?" Jensen asks, beginning the part where the rest of his friends weigh in.

Chris makes an uncomfortable face. "I have to agree with Danny, Jen. He sounds perfect for you. Like really perfect," Chris emphasizes. "I've known you a long time, and no offense, but based on what you told us? He's the most perfect guy you've ever had a date with."

"What do you mean 'no offense'?" Jensen asks, narrowing his eyes on Chris.

"He means all your other guys have been… kind of a mess, Jen," Danny replies, and Chris looks kind of guilty, like maybe he agrees.

Jensen sucks in an offended breath. "They were not messes. Okay, maybe they had some personality issues, and needed some work, but—"

"They were fixer-uppers," Danny says solemnly.

"Fixer-uppers?" Jensen demands.

"Like a house you buy because, in spirit, it's not too bad, and it's a beautiful house in its way, because the architecture is great, and it has the potential to be an amazing house, with a little work and polish. It just needs some fixing-up. It just needs someone to make it perfect in that way it never realized before."

"I do not date fixer-uppers," Jensen says.

"Speaking as someone who pursues fixer-uppers on a regular basis with no intention of fixing them up," Misha says, "I have to agree with Danny."

Jensen just looks at him, amazed and feeling left to the wolves.

"They're prime," Misha says, like he's an expert on the subject. "Because they're almost okay. They just think they need the right person to make them feel perfect. It's a super easy gig for getting laid once," Misha adds and shrugs. "But they're not relationship material. Which is why I love them."

"And you think this guy is relationship material?" Jensen asks, incredulous.

"Don't be ridiculous," Misha chuckles. "But dating fixer-uppers? That's been your one-note song as long as I've known you."

Jesus. Okay. "Gen?" If anyone is gonna call this, it's gonna be Genevieve.

"Remember back in college, before you figured out you were gay and we dated for like three weeks?"

Fuck, Jensen didn't think she'd be dragging that out.

"Fixer-upper, baby," she nods and salutes Jensen with her beer.

"You know I've always thought you're awesome," Misha interjects quickly, looking at her. "You just need the right person to care about you, and really, who doesn't?"

Gen rolls her eyes at Misha and takes a drink from her beer.

"I see you for what you really are," Misha goes on, staring at Gen, and everyone ignores him.

"Jensen…" Danny shakes her head. "It's a consensus. Even Misha agrees. Is there any way you can track this guy down?"

"No," Jensen says, shaking his head, thumbing at the label on his beer bottle. And the amount of thought he's given to that in the last sixteen hours makes his answer definitive. Not that he'd thought about it. Okay, not that he'd thought about anything else, much, but he's not telling them that.

"You've got so much potential," Misha says, staring at Gen.

"It's too late now," Jensen says, leaning over the table. "We had our night, it's over. And I'll always remember it for what it was."

"A lost opportunity?" Danny asks.

"No," Jensen says looking at her. "A perfect memory that can never be tarnished."

"So it's in the past now? And you're moving past it? Back to swearing off relationships?"

"Absolutely," Jensen answers.

"Uh huh." Danny arches a brow at him. "So why are you still wearing the bracelet, Jensen?"

Jensen looks down at his wrist, almost surprised to see the woven bracelet still there.

"I just forgot about it is all." He shrugs. "But if I’d left it there on purpose, it would be as a reminder of the perfection I'm never going to find in real life."

"Okay." Danny rolls her eyes. She looks at Chris. "Have him talk to me when he's not still in denial."

"You got it, baby," Chris smiles and kisses her before he moves out of the way and lets her out of the booth.

Jensen's not in denial. He's not at all. He just didn't take the bracelet off because he hadn't thought about it in his rush to get back home. He could take it off right now, except that just then, their waitress shows up and he's more interested in ordering another beer.

"You're such a gift to this world," Misha says, still looking at Gen. "If only I could make you understand what a precious, beautiful gift you are."

Gen snorts, and Jensen laughs, and they clink the necks of their beer bottles against each other.

Jensen looks at the bracelet on his wrist before he takes a drink and then mentally shrugs. Tomorrow, he'll go back to work, and the real world will descend on him. And well, if he wants to spend one more night in the remembrance of his vacation, that's okay.

Tomorrow, everything will go back to the way it was before.