There are a million and one reasons to despise amusement parks. The unbearable summer heat, the shrieking children fueled on cotton candy, the lines so lengthy they spiral down and intermingle with other lines.
Jared loves amusement parks for all the same reasons.
He works every summer at the park half an hour out of the way from town, not only to please his parents to showcase that his college expenses have not been tossed to the wayside for his father to fund, but also to immerse himself in the atmosphere. He's been to the rodeo, to the ocean, and to the circus, and nothing compares to a day at the amusement park.
Being an employee is almost better than being a customer, because at the end of the day, Jared knows that he was part of the magic. Ever since senior year when he and Chad drove down to Orlando and spent a week blowing most of their high school savings at Disney, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure, nothing has ever compared to the thrill of sitting in the middle of a carnival.
He loves the souvenir shops, bustling with fascinated children tugging on their parent's pant legs while pleading for them to purchase everything in the store. He loves the resourceful ways in which people cool off in the excruciatingly hot July season, from constructing large fans out of their maps to all but sitting in the sinks in the bathrooms. He loves the sound of distant shrieks and screeches, because even those who shake and tremble while waiting in line and when they're churning up the hill, scream in delight by the time the final plunge is over. The loves the thrill of adrenaline that's almost tangible in the air and the scent of sugary treats and fresh hot dogs. There are some sensations that can't be recreated or experienced anywhere else but in the middle of a bustling amusement park.
When Jared works his third summer at the town's amusement park, he learns that something does top the thrill of a roller coaster, and that is falling in love with Jensen Ackles.
Jensen Ackles detests amusement parks.
So it's a shame, really, that his best friend Misha loves them.
In the duration of two hours, half of which were spent manhandling their way through the debacle which was parking and finding a vacant spot in between rows and rows of family SUVs, Jensen has been elbowed in the ribs by three shrieking, enthusiastic children running amok, has developed a patch of damp sweat in the small of his back and the canal of his chest, and has been waiting in line for the same skyscraping rollercoaster for the last half an hour just so Misha can have the personal satisfaction of hearing Jensen scream with the fright of a young girl dangled from a ten-story building.
Jensen is in the middle of constructing a fan out of his park map that requires minimal effort on his part and provides maximum cooling for the chunk of molten lava that his entire body seems to have become in the time span of a mere few hours when a coaster car goes zooming past on the track overhead alongside the petrified scream, providing a brief whiff of a halcyon breeze as it darts further along the track.
The amusement park, a good thirty minutes away, is their town's most stuffed attraction come summertime when teenagers escape from the residual memories of grueling schoolwork by shrieking the oxygen from their lungs while being shot upwards at fifty miles per hour and then rapidly dropped once more and families seek to placate their overactive children with sugar and roller coasters. The moment summer break commences at the beginning of June, arriving at the park on a lazy and idle Saturday is out of the question. The lines start winding further and further away from their origin points, the sidewalks become packed with giggling girls clutching gargantuan stuffed animals won at carnival games, and the sun beats down more and more relentlessly as the summer churns on.
The park actually has a lot to offer, however, so no matter how much Jensen bellyaches, every time he visits he ends the day sweaty, boneless and exhausted, and extremely content.
"Stop scowling," Misha says, and pokes Jensen straight in the sensitive flesh of his stomach so he yelps and jerks away, "You have fun every year, you dicklick."
"You're the dicklick, dicklick," Jensen says. His stomach is rumbling with the first sparks of hunger ever since he was allowed to swallow two mouthfuls of cereal before Misha told him to dress for a day's worth of outdoor adventures and dragged him to his car without any consideration for Jensen's breakfast needs. Beside him, Misha is the epitome of what Jensen would expect of a Midwestern tourist, adorning an outfit complete with a sun visor, a camera tucked into his pants, and a park map stretched in between his hands.
"So after we get the first roller coaster jitters out of the way, we can head to the first water ride of the day and then to the tornado simulator. Ooh, and this one spins you as you're on the roller coaster."
"And when's the obligatory cotton candy break?" Jensen asks, snatching the map from Misha's clutches to examine their location. The park is expansive, with a myriad of rides for all ages that has Misha—a sensation seeker ever since he convinced Jensen to jump off of the roof of his father's shed with him—practically foaming at the mouth. Jensen folds the map into a small triangle and slides it into his pocket.
"After the simulator, of course," Misha acquiesces with smile, "Are you up for the spinning rides?"
Jensen's scowl reappears as his smile makes a u-turn. A camera flashes in his face. Misha cackles.
"Exhibit thirty-two, Jensen Ackles dismissing the spinning rides," he announces, browsing through his camera's history with a pleased smirk that tells Jensen that he'll be perusing pictures of his grumpy face on Facebook by tomorrow. He makes a swipe for the camera that Misha expertly evades.
"Thirty-two pictures?" Jensen parrots, "We've been here for an hour and spent most of our time trying to find a parking space!"
"Your road rage expressions are priceless."
Their bickering is interrupted when the line shifts forward a few feet and the two of them shuffle with the crowd. The sound of shifting metal comes into earshot and as they turn a corner, Jensen catches sight of the newest roller coaster in the park unloading a group of individuals who look equal parts ill and delightfully windswept. An elderly man undoubtedly dragged onto the ride by his energetic grandchild tugging on his sleeve stumbles from his seat and appears indubitably green in the face. Jensen swallows back his mandatory roller coaster nerves and shares a look with Misha, who upon catching sight of the monstrous roller coaster up close is grinning like a Disney villain who's found his ultimate torture device.
"Sixty-five miles an hour, baby," Misha whispers in Jensen's ear like he's delivering execution details. Jensen's about to retort with a well-aimed knee to the groin to hamper Misha's maniacal laughter at the expense of his own embarrassment when he's bodily pushed into Misha's chest and sends them both barreling in the strollers behind them.
"Holy shit!" Jensen curses into Misha's shoulder, pulling back to upright himself and nurse his throbbing front tooth from where it connected agonizingly with Misha's rather sharp shoulder bone. He turns around to deliver a generous amount of snark to whatever clumsy unleashed horror of a child thought it would be amusing to witness Jensen break his face on top of Misha's chest when instead, he catches sight of a windswept boy not much younger than himself reaching out to help Misha, who's draped gracelessly over a thankfully empty hot pink stroller, regain his balance.
"Oh my god," the boy mumbles, "I'm so sorry!"
Jensen's about to brush off his apology while sending a well-deserved raised eyebrow of contempt in his direction when his words sizzle and die on his tongue upon catching sight of the boy.
"I, hnn," Jensen says eloquently, and Misha snorts behind him. Jensen's seen his fair share of examples of properly aligned chromosomes and beautiful DNA, but this clumsy amusement park kid might be the most handsome thing Jensen's eyes have ever been graced with, like this boy should be charging admission just for looking. He smiles, bright white teeth and green eyes speckled with bits of yellow and hazel staring Jensen right in the face, and Jensen feels all of the snide remarks drain from his body better than any yoga sessions Misha has ever coaxed him into could ever achieve.
"Are you all right?" the boy says as he fishes something out of his pocket. Jensen manages a nod and tries helplessly to cajole his brain into producing a humorous remark that will elicit a laugh from the gorgeous stranger, which Misha's bemused snickers do nothing to encourage.
"I'm fine. You in a hurry to ride this thing or what?" Jensen asks.
"I'm fine too, by the way," Misha pipes up cheekily, resting his chin on Jensen's shoulder until Jensen shrugs him off. It reminds him of junior high when he first revealed his sexuality to his friend and Misha took every waking minute as an opportunity to scope out eligible male specimen and then proceed to humiliate Jensen until the cusps of his ears were burning with erubescent blushes and his freckles shone on his cheeks in front of his chosen canditates. For a moment, Jensen feels like he's fifteen once more, faced with his senior crush in the locker room, and then the boy in front of him pulls a nametag from his pocket and he snaps back to reality.
"I'm Jared," he says, pinning his nametag to his shirt with a grin as the next load of riders gets fastened into their seats, "Annnd I'm late for work. Sorry for bumping into you like that."
He reaches out to touch Jensen's shoulder as if hoping to rub away any potential bruises forming under his sleeve. He has long, slender fingers that soothe Jensen's muscles like a warm shower might, and not until a sharp yell from a blond-haired roller coaster attendant interrupts his brief massage does Jared pull back.
"Padalecki! Stop molesting pretty boys and help me strap in these ruffians!"
Jared sends another apologetic glance Jensen's way before extending his right hand while running his left hand through his unruly brown hair curling by his ears. "Maybe I'll see you around the park today. What's your name?"
"Jensen," he breathes out, and jabs a thumb over his shoulder, "And that's Misha. Pay no attention to him."
Jared chuckles, readjusts his nametag, and jogs through the remainder of the line to help strap the next riders into their seats.
"You smitten kitten," Misha says, shaking his head as if he's a father radiating disappointment upon finding his son necking with his girlfriend in the bushes in the backyard, "Now are you glad we came?"
Jensen turns around to respond, eyes still watching Jared's tall form giggle with the children he's buckling into their seats, and is met with another flash from Misha's camera.
"Exhibit thirty-three, Jensen Ackles besotted with the amusement park attendant. Oh, these are gonna be priceless on the Internet."
It isn't very often that Jared has the opportunity to enjoy eye candy in the form of sparkled freckles, green eyes, and supple lips, plus a comedic side kick named Misha. At amusement parks, it's amazing how little amusement the employees get to experience on a daily basis. Jared finds his fair share of entertainment by tickling toddlers when he straps them into roller coasters and watching them spit bubbles and laugh back at him in tiny voices and tinier fingers, and when all he gets is boisterous teenagers spurred on by pounds of sugar-packed cotton candy, he finds entertainment through watching Chad scare small children while he straps them into their seats and tells them horror stories of roller coasters breaking down mid-ride.
So when Jensen Ackles' tight behind encased in summer shorts wandered into his life thanks to a moment of clumsiness in which his alarm clock met its natural death, consequently made him late for work, which urged him to speed through the park, and ultimately bodily shove Jensen Ackles on top of a stroller which showcased not only his ass, but also his brilliant smile upon standing upright once more.
"Loverboy, we're clear. Stop daydreaming and press the goddamn button."
Abruptly, Jensen's ass is cruelly plucked from Jared's mind as Chad's hand smacks him upside the head. A fully loaded coaster watches him expectantly, and from his stool, he waves at the occupants sheepishly and presses the green go button that sends the coaster car churning slowly up the hill. In a swift wave of exhilaration, all the rows raise their arms and holler as the tick tick tick of the tracks sends the roller coaster mounting higher.
Jared keeps waving until the car is far out of sight and the tip curves over the dip. The shrieks inevitably follow from the distance and Jared smiles as the car goes tumbling in loops when Chad thumps his hand down on the counter and grins cheekily.
"So that pretty boy's really got you reeling enough to space out on the job, huh?"
"Chad, you can do this job, which pretty much means no thinking's necessary," Jared points out, but he's still grinning like a schoolgirl finding love notes written in sparkly pink pen in her locker. Chad hits him over the head again, hair flying into his forehead and skull throbbing as Jared rubs at his hairline to mollify the pain.
"You're all talk, Padalecki," seethes Chad, and pokes him in his dimples, "So are you in looooove? Did your hands brush and fireworks ignite when you buckled him up? Did his smile make your world light up? Are you asking him to prom?"
"Why are you here?"
"'Cause someone's gotta be on time now and again," Chad says with a default smirk that's immune to any pain Jared physically causes him. Chad nudges him off the stool and settles on it, sliding his feet to rest on the top of the counter while meticulously avoiding the myriad of buttons with his toes that control the roller coaster. "Anyway, he was into you. And the last time you hooked up was…?"
"Stop trying to mooch information off of me about my sex life," Jared deadpans. The coaster car zooms past overhead, the din of screaming, loud and brief as the car shoots off to the other end of the roller coaster, interrupting him. "Even if you don't have your own to be entertained by."
"Would you shut up for a moment?" Chad says. He squints at him like it's a miracle he puts up with Jared's quick wit and mockery on a daily basis. "I'm trying to tell you that this kid likes you." Chad cocks his head in the direction of the winding line leading up to the roller coaster, coiling down several concrete ramps and passing numerous vendors by the walkway. Jared scans the area until he catches sight of the top of Jensen's sun-kissed head alongside Misha's ruffled darker tufts of hair once again in the midst of the line.
"They were just on this roller coaster." Jared points out faintly. His heart rate speeds up a few notches.
"Dumbass," Chad admonishes. Jared pales when he realizes that Chad's reached a logical conclusion miles before he was able to. "I thought that kid was going to throw up all over my shoes when he got off the ride, and here he is in line for it again?" Chad prods Jared hard in the chest. "He's here to see you, my friend. He's willing to endure sixty-five miles an hour and seriously stomach-churning dips that will have him seeing his breakfast again just to see the cute attendant? Ask him out, foolio."
The coaster car comes to an abrupt stop at the unloading station. A collective shaky sigh is exhaled by the riders alongside cheers of success upon completing one of the most intense roller coasters in the park. A few green-faced teenagers look particularly proud of themselves for not heaving their sick on their shoes and as Jared jogs forward to unfasten their belts and wave them off, he peers down the line and catches sight of Jensen's head tipped back in laughter at a story his friend is colorfully retelling him. A flutter in his stomach completely different from the one those experiencing the gut-clenching drops of the roller coaster jumps against his ribcage and speeds up his heartbeat like a car on an acceleration lane.
"Enjoy your slow death, victims!" Chad says in lieu of a friendly wave as the next loaded coaster car starts ascending the hill, toothy smile only succeeding in further frightening the younger kids now successfully terrified of the ride ahead of them. Jared rolls his eyes at Chad's predictable antics and gives a reassuring thumbs-up to the riders with exceptionally wide eyes and quivering lips.
"Do you have to scare the little ones?"
"They're the best," Chad says, still in peals of laughter, and Jared punches him in the shoulder, "Here comes your buddy. Go strap him into his seat and slip him a love letter."
Jared punches him again, knuckles first. Chad's smirk stays put. Jared curses Chad's devil DNA and whirls around to help load in the next group.
He deals with manhandling a temperamental child unable to control his patience into the front row alongside helping his father who doesn't know how to correctly buckle a seatbelt. He also has to help a fussy group of teenager girls who first need to pull back their hair, tuck away their sunglasses, and sit on their sandals so they don't go sailing into the air and then bicker over who gets the inner seats, all the while enduring Chad's snickers as he watches Jared bustle in between rows to cater to everyone's finicky needs.
By the time he finds himself face to face with Jensen and Misha at the peak of the line once more, all visions and chimerical fantasies of forcing Chad to ride with the persnickety girls sans seatbelt float peacefully from his mind as if plucked away by cherubs upon catching sight of Jensen's smile.
"Back again?" Jared asks, and Jensen smiles. It's a small, crooked smile that stretches his full lips in a sinful way that makes Jared want to have a romantic rendezvous with him in the Ferris wheel right now, employee hours be damned.
"He missed you," Misha says with a smarmy grin that reminds Jared uncannily of Chad's Up To No Good smirk. He shares a look with Jensen which conveys to Jared that both of them have spent years suffering through the unorthodox behavior of their respective best friends.
"Well, it just so happens that I missed him too."
"Oh, you. How charming," Misha pipes up, clapping Jensen on the back.
"It's true, I did miss you. No one pushed me into anything while I was in line," Jensen says, and Jared ducks his head, bangs falling into his face and cheekbones heating up without any help from the sun's smoldering rays. The family of seven with matching lime green shirts shuffles in impatience and the father at the head of the line clears his throat to sufficiently put an end to Jared and Jensen's flirting. Misha sends a dark look over his shoulder to the group of intolerant tourists as he puts his hands low on Jared and Jensen's backs and shuffles them forward.
"As adorable as this is, we're holding up a line," Misha says, seating himself in the third row and pulling down on the seatbelt.
"Do you do this all day?" Jensen asks as he situates himself in besides Misha and lets Jared fasten his seatbelt for him and secure his armrest. He's fastidious and fast, pulling on his seatbelt and smiling when Jensen's properly secured and sure to survive the three-minute ride.
"Well, I do have a lunch break," Jared says, and watches as Jensen opens his mouth as if he's about to slide into the perfect opening Jared made for him and follow the neon arrows reading perfect opportunity for a date, date, date, when Chad's impeccable sense of timing interrupts the moment.
"Padalecki! Are we clear?"
Jared turns around to face Chad where he's spinning on his stool and fiddling with the go button and is sure to flip him off for good measure for interrupting what was clearly a conversation headed in the direction of forming a lunch date so he wouldn't have to spend his lunch break sitting in the hot dog stand with Chad and then sneaking kettle corn from the attractive brown-haired girl with a contagious sandpapery laugh Chad is helplessly gone for who works at the snack vendor. Chad grins.
"We're clear," Jared announces to Chad, and sends a wink at Jensen that has Misha reeling in laughter and Jensen's freckles standing out against a soft blush decorating his cheeks. "See you in three minutes. Enjoy the ride, captain."
Misha gives him a high five and Jensen grins at him with white teeth as the coaster starts up once more. Chad growls at the children in the front row.
There's a never a day when this job gets old.
The third time Jared spots Misha and Jensen back in the line twisting further and further out of the designated area as the afternoon swell and heat hit all of the customers, he almost doesn't believe that he's worth three trips to a roller coaster with an hour long wait and four cobra rolls in a row that's sure to upturn any stomach by the third round.
"Jared, that kid is going to throw up on you if he rides this thing another time just to see your ugly mug," Chad says, unbuckling the seatbelts with a press of a button and clapping in the general direction of the coaster car as everyone slides from their seat and heads for the exit. Jared high fives a few more boisterous, adrenaline-junkie boys who miraculously managed to keep their sunglasses on their heads during the whole ride.
Jared bounces over to the shuffling line. He watches as the majority of the people expectantly waiting for their turn are now equipped with electronic handheld fans and fresh water bottles used as both drinks and hoses. He glances at Misha and Jensen at the head of the line once more, a shimmery sheen of sweat gathered in beads at Jensen's hairline and Misha wearing the map as a meticulously-crafted origami hat to protect himself from the relentless sun.
"Right this way, gentlemen," Jared grins and leads them to the front row. It's undoubtedly the scariest position one can hold while riding a roller coaster that spins and rockets down a hill at startling speeds, the winds crashing into all open screaming mouths with no reserve or hesitation. He sees a flicker of what appears to be a lot of terror and equal parts nausea in Jensen's eyes and feels another flop of his stomach like a puppy is using it as a play toy at the thought of this beautiful boy enduring this roller coasting three times just to have Jared strap him into his seat.
"Front row," Jensen comments faintly, and Misha slaps his knee with a holler of glee.
"You've survived the last two times, right?" Jared says, securing his seatbelt, and is about to give Chad the all clear when Jensen grips his wrist with enough strength to cut off his circulation.
"I can't ride this monster another time," Jensen blurts out in one hurried breath, "I'll pass out. I have to ask you now. Do you want to eat lunch with me during your break?"
Misha starts cheering once more. Jared watches as Jensen's face breaks out in a rosy blush barely visible in the harsh light of the sun and feels fiercely thankful that Jensen has a best friend who not only ridicules and humiliates Jensen when the situation calls for embarrassment but also encourages him to chase after amusement park roller coaster attendants and ask them to lunch.
"Thad would be awesome," Jared says, and suddenly there's a smile tugging at his mouth that makes itself comfortable without permission, seemingly immovable from that point on,
"How about you guys cool off with a water ride," he flicks his thumb over the gathering of sweat at Jensen's collarbone, "and then I'll meet you at the pizza vendor down by the Western corner and the Cowboy Coaster?"
"You got it," Jensen says, blush replaced with a cocked eyebrow that eludes fortitude and suddenly makes Jared feel incredibly lucky to be eating lunch with a man whose face was sculpted out of marble by the Greeks.
When the third ride is over, Jensen is still trying to locate his stomach, an organ he believes he happened to leave in his seat back on the roller coaster. Misha, complexion clear of red blotches and other disturbing colors indicating that vomit is slowly but surely climbing up his esophagus, skips from the ride's exit and snags the map from Jensen's back pocket while Jensen steadies himself on his knees and takes slow, heavy breaths that shake his whole ribcage.
Needless to say, the cotton candy break comes sooner than expected, and when Jensen has sufficiently regained his balance, appetite, and full stomach, they head to the next ride for the mandatory cooling off both of them are in need of.
The park's water ride is a log flume adventure that Misha has been advertising with the blurb from the map the whole walk to the other side of the park. There's an arrow along the winding path leading to the ride marked Splash Zone, which Jensen understands to mean that there's a dip large enough to create an offending splash in the first place.
"You!" He yowls, smacking Misha across the chest, "Aren't we going on anything tame?"
"No," Misha says simply. In the distance, the sound of thunderous screams reaches Jensen's ears. They continue walking until they meet the end of the line, Misha hopping up onto the railing to swing his legs and survey Jensen critically.
"Jared is cute," Misha off-handedly mentions, approaching a foundation situated in the middle of the waiting line and sticking his head under it so the left hemisphere of his head is sopping over his face in a cooling waterfall, "And he works at an amusement park. He's like a fucking wet dream."
"So you better not screw this up," Misha says from under the fountain, words garbled through spurts of water landing in his mouth, "He could get us season passes. Discounted."
"Can we wait and see how pizza goes?" Jensen asks, and Misha slowly pulls himself from the fountain. He looks at Jensen, hair matted against his forehead with water still running steadily down his face, like he's slow in the head and snorts.
"Did you not see him ogle your ass?" He says, running a hand through his dripping scalp and breathing a sigh of relief at the feeling of cool rivulets of water sliding down his chest, "Oh my god. You're nervous."
"Misha, do you ever shut up?" Jensen says, and pushes him under the fountain once more. Misha sputters and jerks his head out from underneath the spray drenching the expanse of his entire head before surveying Jensen once more.
Jensen shuffles his feet and fiddles with the park map with his thumb. Jared's unruly head of hair and contagious laughter flits through his mind as a pleasant reminder. He's a little nervous.
"I'm a little nervous," he confirms, walking with the line as it scoots forward. Misha's hand slaps his shoulder in what he assumes to be an attempt at creating a consoling gesture.
"Just go be your annoying little self and he'll eat it up," Misha says in a gentle voice normally reserved for yoga instructors in dimly lit rooms, and Jensen shrugs off the hand on his shoulder.
"How sweet," Jensen says dryly, and the line moves up. The loading station for the logs comes into sight and Misha grins. He climbs into the log, swaying in the thin river of water, and yanks Jensen into the front seat. The seats are wet, a little dirty, and possibly the destination for a scared child's urination, and Jensen gently sits down before an employee jostles him into place and slides a protective lapbar over his chest. The log goes swaying and tumbling down the river, slides up a hill on a slippery belt, and knocks through several corners before they crash downward in a swift, wet drop that has Misha shouting and cheering so loudly, he frightens the couple also wedged in the log with them.
Jensen's looming heat stroke may have been placated in the splash of water, but the dip did nothing to soothe his nerves.
The pizza place is not hard to locate with the help of Jensen's battered and slightly damp park map. It's affectionately named The Leaning Tower of Pizza and consists of a dinky store the size of a bathroom with enormous windows in the front for ordering and collecting meals. Four picnic tables are scattered around the shop adorned with rickety benches and gigantic umbrellas eclipsing the tables in a welcoming shade that Jensen immediately takes cover under. Misha is across the walkway at the dainty roasted walnut stand with a cup of sugary almonds and a park map that he's cleverly used as a disguise to conceal his face and spy on Jensen's date and, if necessary, douse Jared with a cup of icy water should he unexpectedly morph into a dick or hate on Jensen's taste in music. In the corner of Jensen's vision, he sees Misha's blue eyes peering over the top of his map watching him like a wary father spying on his daughter's first kiss.
"Hey!" A voice exuberantly greets, and Jensen jerks his head and thoughts from Misha's incognito position behind a decorative plant by the vendor to the man heading his direction. Jared jogs down the walkway to the nook where the pizza stand sits and waves at Jensen. He's got a silly wave, all of his fingers and even his elbow flopping along to a nonexistent rhythm, and when he comes to a stop by the bench, he grins at the smell of crisp pizza crust and baking cheese. "Mmm, pepperoni. I see you took my advice with that water ride suggestion."
Jensen looks down at his clothes, efficiently soaked with the exception of one patch of dry fabric he found on his boxers while wringing out his t-shirt post-flume ride. His face and eyelashes, previously dripping with cool water, have dried, but his clothing is still gradually airing out while hanging limply on his form. In the June afternoon heat that has already given Misha a slightly red nose that Jensen had to rub with Aloe Vera in the shade of a large overhanging tree branch upon taking notice of his sunburn while waiting in line for a particularly nauseating spinning ride, Jensen welcomed the splash of chilled water on his overheated skin even if he had to suffer a seventy-five foot dip as a compromise.
"No regrets," Jensen tells him with a cheeky grin, "Looks like you could use a hosing down of your own."
Jared runs a hand through the wayward sweaty strands of his hair falling into his forehead. There are patches of sweat running down his back and gathered in rivulets down the canal of his chest. Jared smiles, removes his nametag from his shirt, stuffs it into his pants pocket, and proceeds to billow out his shirt and empty half of Jensen's water bottle on his head.
"There we go," Jared says, shaking out his wet bird nest of hair and letting droplets of water slide down his jaw to his chest, "Pepperoni pizza good for you?"
Jensen nods, swallows back the last of his water bottle, and pitches it into the nearby trashcan, "And maybe some drinks too."
Jared comes back from the counter five minutes later with a plastic tray stuffed full of two individual pizzas, sodas, and a bowl of salty fries that smell like a slice of greasy amusement park heaven. Jensen grabs a handful and stuffs them into his mouth and then promptly remembers he's trying to impress the boy in front of him into permanently labeling himself as Jensen's boyfriend, proceeding to choke on a salty tongue.
"Help yourself, cowboy," Jared says with an amused grin before digging his fingers into the bowl and swallowing back an even larger amount of oily fries with a distorted grin among his bulging cheeks.
"So, uh," Jensen says once his mouth is once more free of offending obstacles like delectable fast food, "I want you to know that I normally don't like amusement parks and I'm terrified of roller coasters and I went on yours three times just so I could see you."
Jared ducks his head like Jensen's just complimented a modest puppy. He feels his heart swell in palpitations that beat a rapid tattoo against his chest while the distant sound of enthusiastic cheers, hollers, and petrified shrieks waft over to their corner. They're in the Western-themed region of the park, American flags hung from every corner and soft guitar twings and twangs sounding from speakers hidden among the bushes.
"You sure know how to flatter a guy, Jensen," Jared mumbles, reaching for a slice of cheesy pizza, "Think I could get you to come the amusement park more often?"
"Yeah, you probably could."
"Good," Jared says with a lopsided smile, "I love it here. You can't work here unless you do. Everyone's always screaming and excited and so ready to be thrown around and up and down by a roller coaster that defies gravity. It's great. And sort of hilarious."
Jensen feels a giggle inadvertently slip from his mouth and once again channels the emotions of a high school girl prancing after her manly infatuation. He knows instinctively that all of the things he abhors about amusement parks and whines about to Misha are things that complete the experience for Jared, and Jensen ardently adores Jared's unshakable optimism. Something about working with screaming children, hungry parents, and bratty teenagers and still managing to grin with enough magnitude and warmth to rival the sun makes Jared seem unbelievably genuine. Jensen looks at his lips, smeared with pizza grease and beaming with a pink tongue trapped up against his teeth, and is momentarily lost in the idea of kissing Jared silly up against the picnic table until he doesn't taste of pizza or pepperoni anymore.
"Something on my face?" Jared's voice speaks up, snapping Jensen from his reverie of summertime kisses and sharing popsicles.
"No. I just really want to kiss you," Jensen admits.
"Oh," Jared says, and his face breaks out in a grin, "that can be arranged."
Jared leans over the coffee table, sweeps his sweaty bangs from his face, and pushes his lips up against Jensen's. Their mouths are slippery from pizza grease and when their hands fold together on Jensen's knee, their fingers are oily too. They smile when their knuckles knock together and their fingertips slip from one another's grasp, Jared's hands finding purchase on Jensen's short strands of hair instead as he slants their mouths together, sweeps his tongue over the seam of Jensen's lips, and then pulls back with another soft kiss. It is, by definition, a perfect kiss, and Jensen fights the urge to tackle him to the bench and do it all over again until their lips turn swollen and Misha abandons his cup of roasted nuts to police over them both and prohibit an imminent public sex offense.
"Hnn," Jensen manages, very eloquently, and Jared chuckles when he pulls his fingers from the hem of Jensen's hair at the nape of his neck and tweaks his nose. "Good pizza."
"Yeah," Jared agrees through another chuckle. There's grease on his lips again, probably Jensen's, and Jensen swallows back a quiet whimper of want that sears through him like lightning at the sight.
The sunset climbing up the horizon is the cue for all of the remaining park-goers to grab their concessions and mountains of cotton candy and grab a spot on the floor with adequate visibility to the sky and claim it for the next hour until the fireworks begin.
Jensen and Misha are wobbling out of the tornado simulator when they notice the dimming of the sky and the bright stripes of color chasing after the sun as it disappears down the horizon line. Jensen is still nursing his side from where Misha kept continuously smashing into him as the car, secured with one bar that did little to ease Jensen's conscious, rocketed them up and down and in circles that sent both of them soaring and tumbling into each other's laps while bruising one another's ribcages.
"You broke my rib," Jensen whines, and Misha punches him in the side.
"At least now we know we'd survive a tornado," he says smugly, stretching his arms and popping his neck, "and that means we'd survive the apocalypse too. Except maybe not you, Jensen. Your face on the souvenir picture was priceless."
"They always snap those at the scariest moment in the ride," Jensen mutters, inspecting his mottled and purpled side in the darkling light of the dusk. Misha rolls his eyes, huffs to cement his thoughts on Jensen's lackluster manliness, and grabs his arm to lead him over to a patch of empty grass.
"Fireworks start up in half an hour or so. Wanna take a break so you can find your lost manhood lying around here again?"
They elbow each other in the ribs a few time and squabble in the grass before settling down on their backs on their claimed patch of land. Beside them, other families are colonizing their own areas, leaving the cheap seats on the pavement to the latecomers. Jensen and Misha are perched a few feet away from the borderlines separating the African-themed portion of the park and the Asian-themed region, the faint sound of Congo drums coming from their left and the pleasant scent of fried rice wafting over from the right. Jensen feels boneless and content in every limb down to his fingernails, the alluring temptation of an evening nap prior to the fireworks display tugging at his eyelids. The evening chill settles in alongside a warm summer breeze, and right when Jensen's eyelids flutter and his mind starts dozing while replaying both nauseating and pleasurable moments of their day, a camera flashes in his face and assaults his eyelids.
"You son of a bitch, give me the camera," Jensen warns, rubbing at his burning eyes and swiping for the camera from Misha's fingers.
"Language, Mr. Ackles, there are younglings about," Misha chides, holding the camera out of harm's way, "Besides, lookie. You don't want to destroy this, do you?" He slips the camera into Jensen's hold, screen frozen on a picture taken earlier in the day.
The sun is bright and almost overwhelming the picture, but in between the light and the smear of sweat Misha accidentally bedaubed the camera lens with, Jensen catches sight of a clandestine picture Misha must have taken from his covert hiding spot behind the plant at the nut vendor. It's a stealthily taken photograph of Jensen and Jared in the shade of the picnic table's umbrella, Jensen's head tipped back with laughter and Jared in a clumsy mid-juggle of three empty and dented water bottles they found abandoned on the nearby table. It's adorable, which is unfortunate, because it hinders Jensen's plans to toss Misha's camera into the trickling fountain by the fortune cookie vendor to their right.
"Well," Jensen says, thumb smoothing over the screen, "job well done, Photographer Misha. This is both creepy of you and adorable."
He presses the arrow to continue filtering through the day's pictures, and promptly finds one of his own face, ripped apart in a roar of horror right as they descended the fastest roller coaster in the park at one point in the afternoon. Jensen's jaw is still sore from the screaming his lungs felt the need to share with neighboring passengers on that ride. Misha snorts, all but points and laughs, and Jensen's desire to dispose of the camera's memory card once more flares to life.
"Oooh, pictures! Can I see?"
Jensen turns around in time to see Jared settling onto the grass next to them both, stretching out his lanky legs and peering over Misha's shoulder to catch a sight of the camera. He's holding three clouds of puffy and pink cotton candy, handing one to Misha and Jensen each and then sticking the last in his mouth with a happy sigh of bliss.
"Cotton candy?" Misha says dumbly, plucking a bit from the sugary mass before licking his fingers clean as if they haven't just eaten an enormous dinner complete with fatty foods and creamy amusement park desserts in the form of supersized ice cream cones.
"Yes," Jared mumbles around his own mass of cotton candy, "because if you don't like it, I can't date you, Jensen."
"No worries," Jensen says, licking crumbs of sugar from his lips before leaning in to steal a kiss from Jared's sticky lips. He's known Jared a grand total of one day, and still, Jensen can't help but feel at home in his presence. He's easy to converse with, easy to laugh with, and most of all, easy to kiss. "So are you watching the fireworks with us?"
"Yeah. All of the employees always leave their stations during the displays. It's sort of an unspoken rule that the managers never call us out on," Jared shrugs, pocketing his nametag again before leaning in to perch his chin on Jensen's shoulder and manhandle him in between the V of his legs. Jared's a mass of warmth and soft fabric, the mass of his hair tickling Jensen's ear when he leans his head against his shoulder like he's found the world's greatest recliner. Broad palms spread out on his stomach, rubbing slow, patterned doodles on the sliver of skin exposed when Jensen's t-shirt rides up his hips.
He feels the line of Jared's dick next to his thigh and feels another tremor of excitement shoot through his bones as he lets his mind wander to doing this on a daily basis—convincing Misha to get a season pass to the park, eating oily chicken strips and powdered funnel cakes from colorful vendors, getting his daily adrenaline rush during that split-second moment right before a roller coaster plunges downward, and then, necking with his boyfriend in line for the next ride during his lunch break. He searches out Jared's hand on his belly, a patch of soothing warmth, and intertwines their hands lazily.
"I kind of like you," Jensen breathes out, eyes on the stars overhead. There's one shining particularly brightly, and when Jensen reaches out with his hand and traps it in between his index finger and thumb, he can grab it and keep it in his grip forever. His pulse speeds up again as Jared squeezes his palm. Jensen bites his tongue to stifle a chuckle when he realizes that this is the moment in the Disney movie when the soft piano music starts and the romantic lyrics girls nationwide would sing in the confines of their room into their hairbrushes commences.
"What a coincidence, because I don't think you're bad either," Jared says, and Jensen can make out a smile in his words, dimple pressed against his cheek, "After the fireworks, the park pretty much shuts down. If you stay, we can ride on a roller coaster all on our own. Exclusive riding time. It's an employee perk."
The first bang of a firework pierces through the night sky, leaving tendrils of smoke and bright embers of color in its wake. A few previously napping children jerk awake and gasp at the explosion while the remaining park-goers hasten to find a spot to sit. The chatter comes to a stop almost as if on cue, and once more, a bright purple firework explodes in a shower of magnificent sparks only to be followed by the bang of a larger, brighter firework spiraling into the sky and unfolding along the sky's dark canvas.
Misha's camera flashes again, a startling contrast against the darkening sky, and Jensen groans.
"Exhibit seventy-eight, Jensen Ackles and his boyfriend and a bunch of big, gay love. Plus cotton candy." Misha announces, sounding terribly pleased with himself for interrupting the moment, and Jensen refrains from complaining.
That picture, he wants to see.
When the fireworks are over and the applause simmers down, the crowd slowly but surely disperses. Children are snoozing on the shoulders of their parents and families are pushing their strollers to the exit, the only crowd remaining being the stubborn teenagers who could enjoy roller coaster thrills until three in the morning if they were allowed. Jensen would almost be asleep against Jared's shoulder if it wasn't for the thrum and vibration that shook his whole body each time a bang sounded and a firework exploded in the sky, and when the show is officially over, Jared hums gently in his ear until he finds enough energy to get to his feet.
The three of them stay in the grass until the main crowd scatters and heads for the parking lot before they stand up, brush off the grass stains, and head for one of the steepest roller coasters in the park while Jared threads his fingers through Jensen's and rubs his thumb rhythmically on the backside of his palm.
"You can operate them all?" Jensen asks while Misha flips through the camera once more to find memorable photographs and share them with Jared. He's not thrilled about standing aside with Jared's friend Chad—whom Jared wheedled into operating the roller coaster while Jensen and him get to experience an entirely vacant roller coaster when the park is empty and the lights are still on and flickering against the night sky—but has still agreed for the sake of Jensen's day being capped off with a romantic nighttime excursion. Jensen makes a mental note to thank Misha on the ride home, if only for snapping candid pictures of his face in various unflattering expressions all day long.
A soft breeze waves through the night and Jared presses himself closer to Jensen's side, bumping their hips and playing with the fingers intertwined with his own. Even when slightly sleepy, Jared's resplendent energy burns bright and exultant, bouncing like a kitten discovering catnip, ready to laugh at Jensen's sleepy murmurs and skip in the direction of the coaster.
"Yeah. They're all the same. Buttons and seatbelts," Jared says. In the vague distance, a summit that scrapes the sky and a plunge that already sends Jensen's stomachs leaping and cartwheeling is visible through the residual smoke from the fireworks.
"Looks pretty steep," Jensen remarks meekly, and Jared laughs like Jensen's fear of roller coasters is the most endearing quality he's seen in him all day, including when he and Misha used their cotton candy sticks as swords and stuck the puff in each other's faces.
"I'll be there with you," Jared murmurs on Jensen's ear, breath warm like a gust of air from an oven baking cookies on his neck, and Jensen shivers when he chuckles whiskey-rough right by his eardrum and nips at his earlobe.
"You will be my untimely death, Jared Padalecki," Jensen says as they begin the walk up the now vacant designated line area, the entire park encased in a dim glow of artificial blinking lights and moonlight. It's almost eerie by the time they make it to the actual coaster cars, waiting for them in complete silence. The breathless cheers and thrilled screams are gone, trickled away with the sunlight, replaced with a quiet, intangible hum of anticipation running through Jensen's veins. "Kind of creepy when it's just us, isn't it?"
"That's why you've got me," Jared says, steering him in the direction of the counter where a bemused blond boy is squinting at him from. "This is Chad. He wants you to know that he'd normally be fighting the crowds to go home by now and instead he stayed here in an empty amusement park so he could help me woo you because he's just that awesome."
Chad extends a hand. Jensen shakes it. "Couldn't have said it better myself, Padalecki. Now get on the goddamn roller coaster. And Mr. Third Wheel here," Chad surveys Misha, "can help me work the buttons so he doesn't have to watch you two be sickeningly sweet and give people cavities."
"Cavities?" Jensen parrots dumbly, and whispers in Jared's general direction as an afterthought, "How long have we been together again?"
"About a day," Jared says, grinning, before heading for the front car and sliding into the first seat, "Which equals to about forever to Chad."
"Watch your mouth, Jared! I will crash this thing, I swear I will! This will be the bumpiest ride of your life!" Chad yells from behind the counter, feet already propped up once more while Misha pulls out his camera, prepared.
The seatbelts slot into place and the shoulder harnesses come down around their shoulders. In front of him, a metallic snake curves steadily upward. Beside him, Jared grins, eyes alight with the shine of adrenaline, and sends Chad a thumbs-up that sends the roller coaster inching up the hill. The stars are out, shining against the foggy sky still marred wispy gray with the residue of firework smoke. Jared nudges Jensen in his side and points to his right where the entire amusement park, minus crowds of chattering people, is lit up. In the back, the Ferris wheel blinks and turns. To the left, lights dance up the expanse of a roller coaster in the distance, tracing its twisting path with multi-colored bulbs. Vendors, restaurants, and games are lit up closer to the ground, competing with the gentle shine of the moonlight. Steadily, the roller coaster tick tick ticks upward.
"I'm scared," Jensen breathes out on a dry tongue. They're still going up, slowly and steadily, a stark contrast to the zoom down that only increases Jensen's mounting fear. Misha always taunts Jensen on roller coasters by muttering in his ear ominous adages like what goes up must come down and no one defeats gravity, and as the coaster continues smoothly gliding to the heavens, Jensen swallows around those familiar words lumping in his throat and imagines Misha cackling when he smells Jensen's fear down all the way down at the loading station.
"I've got you," Jared's voice says, and his fingers find Jensen's. He looks over, finds Jared's eyes, and wonders if he's ever trusted someone so much so quickly. He thinks he would follow Jared down a white-water rapid with nothing but a toddler's patterned flotation devices or jump off the grand canyon to sky dive or skinny dip in the fish infested mossy lake behind his mother and father's house in Texas if Jared would look his way, smile, and say I've got you again.
"I believe you, you crazy man," Jensen says, and they reach the peak.
It's one, two, three heart-clenching seconds in which all is still and the car barely creaks as it stands at the peak. Jared lets out a laugh, loud and gleeful against the crisp silence of the night, and then, like a snowball tumbling down a mountain, they slide down the hill.
Jensen grips Jared's hand hard enough to break the bones in his fingers and bites his lip with so much force he threatens to break skin and bleed into his mouth, but ultimately, the car doesn't break from the seatbelts or go careening off the tracks. The wind is stronger now, whipping his face with the nighttime summer chill that dries his eyes and slaps against his cheekbones, but it's exhilarating. Jared is throwing out whoops of joy that reverberate through the silent night and seemingly echo through the park, only squeezing Jensen's hand back just as hard and throwing his free hand up into the air to feel the thrill race through him. The car flips upside down and the coaster takes a rapid loop. They accelerate, bump up and zoom back down, and this time, Jensen's stomach dips along in a way that flutters with his senses and rushes bursts of adrenaline through his bone marrow. The dip, he realizes, is a lot like falling in love, his stomach bouncing and his head wracked with nerves, and when he looks over and sees Jared applauding through the whole ride, Jensen lets go, and enjoys it.
The car eventually slows down and comes to a stop at the unloading station, the metal shifting beneath him as the seatbelts click open and armrests pop upwards. Jared's hair is windswept all over his face like he's trying to pick up television signals with strands of his hair and his grin is a thousand watts bright when he claps his hands and jumps from his seat.
"Oh, look! Jensen didn't piss himself!" Misha exclaims, bumping his fist with Chad's as if in the three minutes that he and Jared were rolling through dips and turns Misha and him have already bonded, and another flash of artificial camera light bombards his eyes as Misha snaps another picture. "You're going to want to remember surviving this."
"So," Jared whispers, arms wrapped around Jensen's torso and mouth pressed against his rapid pulse where his heartbeat thumps, "do you want to ride it again?"
"Yeah," Jensen admits, and climbs back into the car with his hand fastened around Jared's, "And after that? Let's ride it again."
Ultimately, Jensen may dislike amusement parks. He can't stand the heat, he hates the screaming children, and he detests the endless lines testing his patience. But as it so happens, he likes Jared Padalecki more.