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I Looked Into Your Eyes and My Heart Lit Up

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Jared sighs and shifts in his chair, uncomfortable.

Chairs in waiting rooms are never comfortable. Jared has been in enough to know. He thinks maybe that's one of the reasons people don't like doctors – by the time you actually get to see the doctor, you're already cranky and tense and just want to get out again.

Jared mainly hates doctors because it's all the same old bullshit. He gets poked and prodded, and the doctor will come up with some stupid explanation and, sometimes, a treatment that in the end nothing changes. Jared is still a medical abnormality, the guy from a family of people with abilities who doesn't have a power to show for.

"Mr. Padalecki?" the cute blonde receptionist – Katie, the nametag says – calls out and gives him a smile. "Dr. Ackles is ready to see you."

"Thank you," Jared says politely, because it's not her fault that he doesn't like being here.

He's shown to an office and Katie waves a hand at an empty chair. "Dr. Ackles will be with you in a minute. Just make yourself comfortable."

Jared nods at her and sits down across a big, oak desk. This chair, at least, feels better to sit in, and he breathes out slowly, clasps his hands together to keep from fiddling.

He startles a little when the door creaks open behind him and cranes his head back.

"Sorry for the delay. There was an emergency," the man Jared assumes is his doctor says, and sticks out a hand. "Jensen Ackles."

Jared gets up, watches the way Dr. Ackles follows his movements, head tipping back a little as Jared stands to his full height, and he shakes his hand. "Hi. Jared Padalecki."

"Right," Dr. Ackles says, and Jared can hear a hint of nerves, or maybe embarrassment in his voice. For a split second, he swears he feels it, too—a flash of something. But then it's gone and Jared pushes the thought to the back of his mind. He realizes he's still holding Dr. Ackles' hand and pulls away, and the light flush on the other man's cheeks is obvious this time.

"So, uh, how about we sit down and talk a little about what's going on with you?" Dr. Ackles suggests, rubbing the back of his neck.

Jared nods, and sits back down on the chair he'd previously occupied, watches as Dr. Ackles sits down on the other side of his desk and flips open a file.

"So, Jeff – I mean, Mr. Morgan sent me your file," he says, glancing up at Jared.

Jeff Morgan is Jared's mentor of sorts, except things are more complicated than they usually are. Abilities manifest during teen years, and you get assigned a mentor for the first year to help you adjust and train your powers. Usually, it's someone from your own family with the same abilities. In Jared's case, seeing as his powers never developed even though they should have, he'd been assigned to someone wherever he moves, even though he's well past his adolescence. Jeff isn't an empath, but a telepath. Seeing as Jared has no abilities Jeff could train or help him with, the fact that both empathy and telepathy are psychic powers seemed to be enough for the council to assign Jeff to him. Most days, Jared thinks it's because the council has no idea what to do with him or which rules apply to him. The one thing everyone – his families, his doctors, his past mentors – agrees on is that there has to be a way to fix Jared.

Jeff has been his mentor since he came to L.A. this summer, and he's the one who referred him to Dr. Ackles. One of the best healers in the world, and with a medical degree to boot. The only reason Jared got an appointment so quickly is because Jeff has been friends with Dr. Ackles for years. If anyone can help, Jeff told Jared a few weeks ago, it's Dr. Ackles.

"Yeah, he asked me if he could," Jared confirms.

"It says here you come from a family of empaths. Both sets of grandparents, your parents, your two siblings," Dr. Ackles reads out, and Jared nods.

"Yeah, all of them. The last three generations are all empaths," Jared says, then adds sarcastically, "Well, except for me, that is."

"You are one, Mr. Padalecki."

"Jared is fine," Jared replies and shrugs. "And it sure doesn't seem that way. I don't have any abilities."

Dr. Ackles smiles, and Jared can't help but notice how attractive the man sitting across from him is. If he wasn't a doctor, a healer, and Jared wasn't the freak he is, he thinks he would probably try to hit on him. And get shot down, for sure, because Dr. Ackles is the kind of attractive that you usually only find in glossy magazines and on big screens. But Jared would try anyway, because goddamnit.

"I know you think that you don't have any abilities. I know it looks that way, too," Dr. Ackles says. "But it's in your DNA. It's medically impossible for you not to be an empath."

Jared frowns and waves his hand at the file on the desk. "Let me be honest with you here, Dr. Ackles. I'm pretty sure you've read my whole, fucked-up medical record and stuff. They tried everything. If I had abilities, they should have manifested years ago," he says. "Do you know how many tests I've taken? How many doctors I've been to? There's absolutely nothing wrong with me – physically or mentally."

"I never said I thought there was anything wrong with you, Jared."

Jared snorts. "Then why am I here?" he asks. "Look, I get that you're this great healer, but there's nothing here to heal. The only reason I'm here is that people – my family, Jeff, the damn council – they won't let this go and accept that I'm just a normal civilian with zero abilities."

Dr. Ackles nods and pushes Jared's file aside. "You don't want to be here then, I assume?"

"No. I stopped believing I'm actually an empath a long time ago."

"Okay, how about a deal then?" Dr. Ackles suggests. "You let me run some tests, see what I can find, and if it turns out I can't help you, I'll talk to the council myself, and Jeff too, and get them to drop the whole thing once and for all."

"You think they'd listen to you?"

"I'm one of the best healers in the world. They'll listen," Dr. Ackles assures him. "All you have to do is humor me and do the things I tell you to do. You've been to a lot of doctors – what's one more?"

Jared considers the suggestion for a moment, looks at Dr. Ackles sitting across from him, and finally nods. "Okay. Deal," he says. "But don't be too disappointed when you can't help me."

"We'll see about that," Dr. Ackles replies and gets up from behind this desk. "Let's start with some easy stuff. Blood work, a couple of tests. Probably all stuff you're used to by now."

Jared nods and gets up, still feeling a bit reluctant. "Where do you want me, Doc?" he asks.

"Jensen," Dr. Ackles says. "Seeing as the deal is a bit of an experiment for both of us, we should be on equal footing."

"Okay. Jensen," Jared says slowly. "What do we start with?"

+

The tests are all familiar to Jared by now, and part of him can't help but feel a little disappointed. Jeff had talked Jensen up so much it had made a glimmer of hope appear in Jared, despite everything. But he knows none of these tests will show any new results, no matter how good a doctor Jensen Ackles is.

They have a deal though, so Jared patiently lets Jensen do his thing. He sits still while little sensors are attached to his head, answers all of Jensen's questions, and lets blood be drawn without batting an eye even though he hates it.

"So, what's the verdict?" Jared asks once Jensen is done, and he gets a small smile in reply.

"Patience," he says. "I'll need a couple of days for the blood work to come back and the test results to be analyzed."

Jared snorts. "You won't find anything."

"I don't think I will, no," Jensen replies easily, and Jared frowns.

"You don't."

"No."

"Then why do any of this?"

"Standard tests to rule out anything has been overlooked. But seeing as you've been to a whole busload of doctors in your life, that's highly unlikely," Jensen explains. "And I don't actually think there's anything wrong with you."

"But," Jared prompts, and when Jensen waves at the chair across his desk, he takes a seat.

"There have been some cases very similar to yours, where abilities didn't manifest during adolescence like they should. But they did develop later in their lives. There's a woman in China, for example, whose powers didn't manifest until she was into her seventies, a man in Italy whose abilities developed when he was 42 or 43, I believe. I personally met a guy at a conference once who was in his late twenties by the time he developed powers. I can give you a list of at least a couple dozen cases like that," Jensen says. "And with none of them there were no physical or psychological issues that would have explained why their abilities didn't develop when they were younger."

"None of my other doctors mentioned stuff like that," Jared admits, feeling something in his chest constrict, because this is new. This isn't the same old treatment all of his doctors tried, but something that actually gives Jared hope.

"Most specialists have written those cases off as having psychological reasons even though there were no indication of any. They assume that these patients suffered a trauma that caused a mental block, even though they couldn't pinpoint any specific traumatic experiences."

"But you don't believe that's true," Jared guesses, and Jensen nods.

"It's completely unfounded, for one. And just because most people develop powers during their teen years does not mean there can't be exceptions. People whose abilities need to be triggered," he explains. "In all of the cases I've read about, there have been incidents before their abilities manifested that fit the theory, that very likely induced the appearance of the patient's abilities."

"What kind of triggers are we talking about?"

Jensen shrugs. "It varies from person to person. In the case of the man I met, there was a fire in the apartment next to his. His neighbors were out and he heard the fire alarm go off, and he knew they had a dog, so he tried to get him out of there. Using telekinetic powers to bust open the door."

"So, I need to find something that triggers me the way this guy was triggered by the idea of a dog dying?" Jared asks. "Great. Nothing easier than that."

"It doesn't have to be something big, Jared. It could be anything, to be honest – a particularly strong emotion from someone, or maybe something less strong, but important to you or someone you're close to," Jensen says.

"Shouldn't I have been triggered a long time ago then?" Jared asks, still not really convinced. "There've been plenty of situations like that."

Jensen shrugs. "Sometimes things happen without rhyme or reason. We can't always explain everything."

"As a doctor, shouldn't you say the opposite?" Jared asks, snorting, and Jensen smiles at him.

"I didn't say there isn't an explanation for everything – just that we haven't figured them all out yet," he replies. "Now, back to your case. I have a couple more questions for you."

"Okay."

"Have you ever felt flashes of your ability?" Jensen asks, and Jared frowns.

"No. That's why I'm sitting here right now."

"I'm not talking definite manifestations of your abilities, but little moments where you thought maybe you felt something for just a second."

Jared hesitates. He's thought he felt something several times and nothing ever came of it. He used to mention it to his doctors, ask them about it, but after being told time and time again that he was probably imaging things, Jared stopped bringing it up. Started believing that he really was making things up, but maybe he wasn't.

It makes him think of earlier, of that moment when Jensen came into his office and there'd been this flash of something.

"I guess," he says finally. "It happens sometimes, but it's probably just my imagination or something completely normal. You don't need to be an empath to feel stuff."

"Could be, could not be," Jensen says. "I want you to write those moments down for me in the next few weeks – where it happens, what you feel, who triggers it. And I want you to try and expose yourself to situations that could trigger something – anywhere where there are crowds of people. Concerts, events, bars. Anything you can think of."

"Okay," Jared agrees.

Jensen smiles and makes a quick note in Jared's file, open on his desk. "Good," he says. "Then unless you have any questions, that's all for today."

"I'm good," Jared says, and Jensen nods.

"Okay, great. I'll call you about the blood work and test results in the next few days, and other than that I want you to make an appointment about two months from now."

"You want me to write things down for you for the whole time until then?"

"If you could, yes," Jensen says, and Jared nods.

"Sure, I can do that. So, I'll see you?" he says, getting up. Jensen follows suit, coming around the desk and holding out his hand for Jared to shake. Jared takes it, and the simple touch sparks something inside of him that Jared knows has nothing to do with being an empath.

+

"So, how was it?" Jeff asks, emptying a packet of sugar into his coffee. "Your meeting with Doctor Ackles, I mean?"

Jared breaks off a piece of his muffin, feeling his heart do a weird clenching thing at the mention of Jensen's name. He absently rubs at his chest and tells himself that developing a crush on his doctor – no matter how hot he is – is ridiculous and not going to happen.

Jared gives Jeff a small shrug. "Fine, I think?"

Jeff gives him an imploring look. "Which means what exactly?"

"I'm not sure," Jared says. "He seems like a good doctor, and he had some ideas, but...I'm still not really convinced he can help me."

"He's one of the best, Jared."

Jared huffs. "They've said that about many doctors I've been to," he replies. "Look, I'll be honest with you and admit that there's a tiny chance Jensen is on to something, but there's just no guarantee. And I don't want to get my hopes up. I'm over getting my hopes up and thinking I can be fixed. I'll keep seeing Jensen, but if he can't help me, I just want this whole thing to be over."

"Jensen," Jeff says.

"What?"

"You're calling him Jensen?" Jeff asks, giving Jared a small, teasing smile, and Jared rolls his eyes.

"That's the one thing you take from what I just said?" he asks. "Is it too late to ask for a different mentor? Someone competent?"

"You're stuck me with, kid. Sorry."

"I'm not a kid, old man."

Jeff grins, takes a sip of his coffee. "So, tell me about Jensen and what he said to you. You can leave out the details about how you gazed longingly at him the whole time and composed odes about how pretty he is."

"I did no such thing!" Jared protests, and Jeff laughs.

"It's okay, Jared. The guy is good-looking – if I was into that kind of thing, I'd totally be swooning over him too."

"I hate you," Jared mutters. He throws a crumb of his muffin at Jeff, but then proceeds to recount his appointment with Jensen to Jeff. To his surprise, Jeff only nods and hums at appropriate moments, but doesn't seem all that fazed by Jensen's suspicion.

"You knew about these cases," Jared says once he's finished, looking at Jeff closely for any sign of reaction.

Jeff shrugs in reply and pushes his empty cup away from him. "Yeah, kinda. When I was asked to be your mentor, I remembered Jensen telling me about similar cases. So I called him up and asked him about it. It's why I sent you to see him."

"You should have told me."

Jeff folds his hands together and looks at Jared with a tiny frown. "I wanted you to see Jensen first, see what he thought about what's going on with you. I know next to nothing about this kind of thing, Jared. All I had to go on was some stuff I remembered Jensen talking about once," he says. "I didn't want to get your hopes up because of some hunch I had."

"Fair enough," Jared replies, and gives Jeff a small nod.

As much as he would have liked to know about this whole thing before going to see Jensen, would have liked to be prepared, he gets where Jeff is coming from. Part of him even appreciates it, because he knows Jeff was just trying to protect him. And even thoughJared complains about the council and about being assigned a mentor despite the fact that he's an adult without abilities, Jeff has been nothing but supportive since Jared moved to Los Angeles, and Jared's glad about it.

+

Jared leans against the register, waiting for Genevieve to ring up her customer, and softly hums along to the music playing in over the speakers. He finished work a bit early and decided to hang out in the record store Genevieve works at, waiting for her to finish up so they can go out for drinks and dinner.

Genevieve has been his best friend since college, and she's the reason he moved to L.A. a few months earlier. She'd majored in acting, and after spending a couple of years after college in New York doing the theater thing, she decided to give Los Angeles a shot. Jared, on the other hand, simply had nowhere better to go and Los Angeles was as good as the next place. Here, at least, he can support Genevieve as she goes from audition to audition and works at the record store to pay her rent. Being an actress is her dream, and Jared hopes at least one of them will get to do what they want to do with their lives – and he knows it's not him.

Genevieve, unlike him, comes from a family without any abilities whatsoever, and Jared sometimes envies her for it. She might think abilities are exciting – she's spend countless hours detailing all the way her life could be better if she wasn't so woefully 'normal' – but she doesn't know what a blessing it really is.

Officially, Jared is registered as an empath, and that makes it hard to get regular work. Abilities scare most employers off, and Jared has received his fair share of rejections because of it. Since he's an empath without any abilities, though, the council can't refer him anywhere either, so Jared works the boring office job he was lucky enough to get. The upside is that it's a job and he's making money. The downside is that it consists of making copies, sorting files, and getting people coffee. Sometimes Jared swears he can feel his IQ dropping with each day he works at the office. Still, he's happier in L.A. than he's been anywhere else so far and that's good enough for him.

"Have a nice day," Genevieve chirps and turns to Jared when the door chimes shut behind the customer. "Ugh, people have bad taste in music these days. Three albums, and all of them awful bubble gum pop."

Jared shrugs. "Not everyone can have your refined taste."

"Damn right," Genevieve agrees and props her elbows up on the counter. "So. This Jensen guy."

"Doctor," Jared corrects and Genevieve waves her hand dismissively.

"So, this doctor thinks it's possible that your abilities could be triggered."

"Yeah," Jared says, picking up a key chain from the small box full of them in front of the register. He spins it around his finger and shrugs. "Couldn't really tell me how though."

"It still sounds more promising than all the other idiots you've been to."

"Not sure that takes much though," Jared says, and Genevieve nods.

"Point," she agrees. "So, what's the plan to try to trigger your empathy though?"

Jared shrugs. "Jensen called this morning to tell me all the tests and the blood work came back fine. For now, I'm just supposed to write down any instances where I think I might be feeling something," he says. "I'm not sure where we're gonna go from there."

"Okay, but there's got to be something more you can do. If Jensen thinks your abilities could be triggered, shouldn't you be trying to find a way to trigger them?" Genevieve asks. "I mean, there must be something. Put yourself in situations where you're surrounded by people with strong emotions or something."

"Like what?" Jared asks. "You want me to go crash a funeral or two? Hang out by a hospital?"

Genevieve rolls her eyes. "I was thinking something less inappropriate," she says. "Go on a roller-coaster ride or something. Or haunted houses."

Jared shrugs. "It's not like I've never been in theme parks before, Gen. I don't think that's gonna cut it."

"Worth a shot though, right?" Genevieve asks, and Jared can't argue with that.

+

Jared takes Genevieve's advice, but he isn't surprised when nothing happens.

He and Genevieve spend a whole day at a theme park, going on the biggest and scariest rides they can find until both of them feel a little sick and have to take a break. The screaming people on the rides do nothing for Jared, nor does a tour of a haunted house trigger anything other than genuine fear on Jared's part.

He tries to be more aware of the people around him, seeks out crowds instead of shying away from them. When a couple starts arguing loudly on the sidewalk next to him, Jared makes no move to step away, and when he walks by a church and sees a wedding party waiting outside the big, wooden doors, he walks a bit slower and wills himself to feel their excitement, their happiness.

Nothing happens though, and Jared feels a pang disappointment each time.

Maybe, he thinks, Jensen's theory isn't right. Maybe he's just getting hopeful again for nothing.

+

A week later, a friend of his and Genevieve's is getting married and Genevieve insists it could be the day Jared's abilities to get triggered.

"It's emotional and personal," she tells, a paper cup of coffee clutched in her hands.

The wedding is taking place at the estate of the groom's parents, an hour outside of L.A. and weeks ago, Jared foolishly offered to drive both of them up there. He's regretting it now that he actually has to make his way through the Los Angeles traffic – and with Genevieve right next to him, talking non-stop about the creative new ways she's come up with to trigger his abilities.

Jared loves her, he really does, but he just wants a day or two where he doesn't have to think about the whole thing. Where he can enjoy himself and just forget everything else.

"It's Julie's wedding," Jared says, a bit impatiently.

"So?"

"So, today is about her. Not about me and my stupid, no-show empathic abilities," Jared explains. "I don't want to spend today staring creepily at people, trying to feel something. I just...I just want to attend my friend's wedding and have a good time."

"I just think it's a good opportunity," Genevieve says, voice softer than before. "Jared. I know you keep saying you wish everyone would just accept that you're not an empath and let you move on. But don't you think maybe you're lying to yourself about that?"

"Excuse me?" Jared asks, glancing at Genevieve. He feels a sudden flare of anger seeing her serious, sympathetic expression, a stab of betrayal because she's his best friend and he always thought she understood. "I'm not lying to myself."

"Jared."

"Why would you possibly think that?"

"Because I know you. You want this, too, whether you want to admit it or not," Genevieve says. "I know you're bitter about this whole thing and I get it. I'd hate it too, all the doctors and all the times you got your hopes up only for things to stay the same. But the point is, you do get your hopes up every time, so you can't tell me that you don't wish that some doctor would figure out how to get your powers to manifest."

Jared huffs. "That so?"

"Yes, it is," Genevieve replies firmly and Jared doesn't have to look at her to know she's glaring at him, lips drawn tight and eyes glittering. "You've been trying to put up a good front about this for years, and I didn't push it because that wouldn't have changed anything. But this Jensen? I think maybe he's right, maybe he can help you if you'd just stop being so stubborn and fight this."

"I'm fighting this? I've been trying."

"Oh please," Genevieve scoffs.

"Well, what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to believe in yourself. In what you can do," Genevieve says. "I want you to give this a chance."

Jared stares ahead at the road resolutely, and flinches a little when Genevieve places a hand on his arm.

"Jared. Come on, I'm your best friend. I wouldn't encourage this if I didn't think it was good for you," Genevieve says.

"Well, what if it isn't?" Jared counters. "What if I really invest myself in this theory of Jensen's and it leads nowhere?"

"Then at least you tried," Genevieve replies and Jared stays silent, mulling over her words.

+

Genevieve abandons him almost as soon as they arrive at the wedding, spotting someone she wants to talk to.

For a while, Jared stands at the edge of the backyard where the ceremony will be taking place, feeling a bit lost. The place looks beautiful, though the size is a bit intimidating. When Julie had told him the wedding would be taking place at the estate of her fiancé's parents, Jared had thought he was exaggerating, but now he can tell she wasn't. The house is huge, and the backyard even more so. With the festive decorations and the lines of huge trees framing the backyard, some already turning yellow and red, the whole thing looks like it belongs onto the glossy pages of some magazine.

Jared feels painfully out of place, and the fact that the only other guest he knows is Genevieve makes it ten times worse.

Julie is an old college friend of theirs and while Jared's been hanging out with her sometimes since he moved to Los Angeles, he's never really met any of her other friends here and none of their old college friends made it to the ceremony today. He barely even knows the groom.

Jared tugs at his tie, trying to straighten it, and looks around the backyard, trying to spot somewhere to go, something to do. Everyone is still milling around, chatting, and Jared thinks about just going to find Genevieve and whoever she is talking to when his eyes suddenly land on a group of guys. One of them is a tall man with broad shoulders and spiky, dark blond hair, his back to Jared.

Jensen, he thinks, and somewhere deep inside he knows he's right.

It's ridiculous, really, because Jared can't see the guy's face from where he's standing and it could be anyone, really. Plus, he barely knows Jensen, has met him once and he was wearing a lab coat that time on top of it, but Jared can't shake the certainty he feels. This little voice inside his head that tells him the man across the backyard is Jensen Ackles.

Making a split decision, Jared – as casually as he can manage – strolls closer to where the group of guys is standing together, talking. He keeps his distance, and does not glance over until he's sure the angle will allow him to see the man's face.

Telling himself he'll feel like a fool when he turns around and finds out it's not Jensen, Jared takes a deep breath and turns.

Jensen has his head tipped back, laughing, and for a second, Jared feels like he can't breathe.

Jensen looks different than he did the day in the office, younger and more relaxed, wearing a sharp black suit that fits him perfectly.

Jared waits until the group of guys disperses with friendly claps on the shoulder and hands being shaken, and then musters the courage to approach Jensen.

"Jensen?" he asks once he's close, reaching out to touch Jensen's arm to get his attention. Jensen whirls around, and it causes him to step on Jared's toes and stumble a little, bumping into Jared.

"Sorry. Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," Jared quickly says and takes a step back, feeling like an idiot.

Jensen flushes, cheeks going pink. "My fault," he says. "I'm a bit of a klutz, sorry."

"It's okay."

"You sure?" Jensen says and glances down. "Shit, I totally got your shoes all dirty."

Jared looks down too, laughs a little when he sees just a small streak of dirt on the front of his shoes. "It's nothing," he assures. "So, hey. I didn't know you'd be here today."

"Uh, yeah. I'm one of the groomsmen, actually," Jensen says and palms the back of his neck. "Do you know Matt or..."

"Oh. No, I'm a friend of Julie's. We went to college together," Jared says and pushes his hands into the pockets of his slacks. "I don't really know Matt that well. Or anyone else here today, except for one friend of mine who's here, too."

Jensen gives him a small smile, the color of his cheeks back to normal now, and this close, Jared can see the freckles on the bridge of his nose and cheeks. He hadn't noticed them during his appointment and it's so unexpected, so cute, that it makes Jared's stomach flutter like he's a teenager with his first crush.

"Well, I'm going to have to stand upfront during the ceremony, but we can hang out later. At the reception, I mean...if you want to," Jensen says, sounding unsure. "'Cause you know me, I mean. Kinda."

"That'd be nice," Jared agrees, and Jensen smiles.

"Okay. I gotta go. Groomsman duties and all that," Jensen says. "Are you sure you don't want me to go clean up your shoe or something?"

Jared laughs softly and shakes his head. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it," he says, and Jensen meets his eyes, gives him one more smile, and nods.

"Okay. Later, Jared."

"Later," Jared echoes and when Jensen steps past him, Jared turns and watches him leave.

+

The ceremony is sweet and simple, and Julie looks stunning in her dress, smiling hugely up at Matt.

Jared tries his hardest to stay focused, but he keeps getting distracted by Jensen.

When Matt and Julie kiss, Jared claps along with everyone, but his glance slides to Jensen once more. To his surprise, he finds Jensen looking right back at him. Their eyes lock and Jared can't look away. He thinks this is what being spellbound must be like, and for a split moment, Jared thinks Jensen is more than a healer. Thinks Jensen must have some freaky mind-power that makes Jared feel absolutely taken by him.

It's not until one of the other groomsmen nudges Jensen, making him stumble and flush, that Jared notices that they've both stopped clapping and are just staring at each other. He ducks his head, clearing his throat uncomfortably, and hopes no one noticed.

+

"Is something wrong?" Genevieve asks, voice low as she leans into his side halfway through dinner. The reception is being held at a nearby hotel, in a beautifully decorated room with small tables, and Genevieve and he are sharing theirs with a couple whose names Jared has already forgotten.

"Hmm, what?" he asks, and when he turns to look at Genevieve he finds her frowning up at him, forehead wrinkled.

"You're being weird," she says, and waves her hand at his plate. "You've barely eaten and you're quiet and not you."

"Sorry," Jared says, and gives her what he hopes is a reassuring smile.

"Is this about earlier in the car?" Genevieve asks. "'Cause I didn't mean to upset you, Jared."

"No. No, it's fine. That's not it."

"But?"

Jared looks at his plate, contemplating what to say. "Jensen is here," he finally settles on.

"Jensen, your doctor?" she asks.

"Yeah."

"Okay. So what?" Genevieve asks.

Jared shrugs awkwardly and scoffs. "I guess it just threw me off a little, is all," he lies, not wanting to get into the whole thing. Genevieve is like a dog with a bone when it comes to Jared's love life – or lack, thereof. If she knew Jared might be even a tiny bit interested in Jensen, she would never drop it and bully him into doing something about it. She would probably tease him about liking Jensen for the rest of the night, and Jared doesn't think he's ready for that. It'd be one thing if he just thought Jensen was hot – which he is – but there something about him that just draws Jared in. Something he can't put his finger on, can't quite explain, and he wants to figure things out for himself before telling Genevieve about them.

"Know what?" he asks and smiles at her. "Let's just forget about it and have fun."

"Okay," Genevieve agrees and Jared nods at the dance floor where people are already dancing enthusiastically.

"You should go and find someone to dance with," he suggests. "Like that hot cousin of Matt's that insisted he drive to the reception with us."

Genevieve blushes and punches him in the arm. "Shut up. He just needed a ride."

"Really? 'Cause he spent an awful lot of time during that ride paying you compliments," Jared says.

"Shut up," Genevieve repeats, but she's smiling widely and Jared can tell she's ready to get up and follow his suggestion anyway. "What about you?"

"I'll find someone to dance with, too. Don't worry," he assures her, and Genevieve grins and kisses his cheek.

"Come find me if you get bored," she says and all but bounces out of her seat.

Jared watches her leave with a small laugh and then looks around the room, trying to find Jensen among the dancing and milling people. He finally spots him sitting at the bar, a drink in his hand as he watches people on the dance floor.

Jared gets up, giving a polite nod and smile to the couple at their table, and makes his way over to Jensen.

Jensen notices him approaching and smiles, lifting his hand in a small wave.

"Hey," Jared says when he's close enough, and nods at the dance floor. "I was wondering if you maybe wanted to dance with me?"

"Oh," Jensen says, looking a bit surprised.

"I know you're my doctor, so it's okay if you'd rather not dance with me," Jared quickly adds, and Jensen's expression softens.

He smiles. "Well, I usually wouldn't," he admits. "But we're at a wedding and – well, we're already on a first name basis. I'd say we don't exactly have a strictly normal patient-doctor relationship."

"Is that a yes?" Jared asks, and Jensen nods.

"Yeah, sure. Let me just finish my drink."

He knocks whatever's in his glass back before Jared can answer and sets it down on the bar before getting up from.

Jared leads him to the dance floor with a hand on his back and stops at the edge of the crowd of dancing couples where there's more space.

Jensen looks up at him, a bit flustered, when Jared places a hand on his waist, but he rests his own on Jared's shoulder and places the other into Jared's open hand. His skin feels warm, palms a bit sweaty, and he looks up at Jared as they start dancing.

"I'm not really a good dancer," he admits after a few steps.

"You're doing fine," Jared replies, voice soft. Jensen tips his head back a little, smiles, and Jared feels a surge of something then, gone again in a second – excitement mixed with uncertainty and happiness all at once. He thinks it's Jensen, the thought so clear and certain, despite being just brief impression, and then the whole thing fully registers with Jared.

He felt Jensen's emotions.

"Are you okay?" Jensen asks, and Jared shakes his head a little, focusing on the concerned look on Jensen's face. His heart is beating fast in his chest and he just nods numbly.

"You sure, Jared?" Jensen asks softly, and smooths his hand down the lapel of Jared's jacket.

Jared gives him a smile, hopes it looks convincing, and nods again. "Yeah, fine," he lies, because he's not sure what else to say. They're at a wedding and this is the wrong place to discuss the fact that Jared thinks he felt something. Especially since the emotions he – maybe – felt were coming from Jensen himself and how can Jared possibly breach that sort of subject without looking like an idiot if it turns out he was just imagining things?

Jensen seems to buy the lie, luckily, because he smiles back at Jared as they sway together to the music.

They dance until the song ends, and Jared thinks they would have kept going if it wasn't for the hand touching his arm, a woman clearing his throat behind him.

"Mind if I cut in?" she asks when Jared looks at her over his shoulder.

"Oh," Jared says, letting go of Jensen and taking a step back. "Of course not."

He glances back at Jensen and thinks he looks a bit disappointed, but then Jensen nods at him and smiles. "Thanks for the dance, Jared," he says. "I'll see you around?"

"Yeah, sure," Jared agrees and gives the woman who interrupted them a polite nod, because his mother raised him right and he has no claim on Jensen. He walks off the dance floor quickly, dodging swaying couples, and heads for the bar where he found Jensen earlier.

It's not until he has a drink in his hand, cubes of ice clinking inside the tumbler as he sloshes the honey-colored liquid around inside it, that he dares to look back to the dance floor. Jensen is still dancing with the woman, but he lifts his head and his eyes meet Jared's across the room. They both smile and then Jensen ducks his head again, and Jared sighs, taking a sip of his drink.

+

Jared doesn't cross paths with Jensen again for the rest of the night, even though he keeps glancing around the room unobtrusively, trying to find him. He spots him a couple of times, but Jensen is always with a group of people and Jared decides not to interrupt him. Since Jensen was in the groom's party, he probably knows a lot of people here tonight and Jared doesn't want to impose.

Genevieve disappears with Matt's cousin not too long after Jared returns from his dance with Jensen, and Jared only sticks around for another hour before he calls it a night anyway.

He heads up to the room he's reserved in the hotel, glad he doesn't have to make the trip back home that night. He feels tired, exhausted from the events of the day, from being in a crowd of people all day. .

Still, Jared finds himself unable to fall asleep. He's never liked sleeping in unfamiliar beds, and the room feels bare and impersonal. After a couple of hours of tossing and turning and trying every trick he remembers to fall asleep, Jared gives up.

He thinks about raiding the fridge, but the room is expensive enough for a guy with his income, and Jared knows he'd regret getting hammered in the morning. Instead, he pulls on a pair of jeans and a hoodie from his suitcase, gets dressed, grabs his key card from the nightstand, and leaves the room.

In the hallway, he runs into a couple of drunk wedding guests and he nods at them in passing, heading for the stairs instead of the elevator. He goes up to the rooftop via the emergency door, because fresh air and silence always help him clear his head, relax.

When he opens the door, he finds it chillier outside than he expected, but Jared doesn't mind. He finds a place to sit down, back against the cement wall of the exit and sighs as he takes in the view. The hotel is higher than most of the surrounding buildings, so Jared can see the city spread out in front of him, sparkling lights dotting the ground in the darkness of the night.

He just sits like that for a while, taking it all in as he lets his mind wander.

He startles a little when the door to the rooftop creaks open. Jared turns his head, sees the outline of a figure, and just like earlier that day at the wedding, he instantly knows it's Jensen, feels the comforting familiarity of his presence.

"Hey," he says, making himself noticed in case Jensen isn't aware of that fact that he isn't alone.

The gravel crunches under Jensen's feet as he steps out onto the rooftop, walks over to where Jared is sitting.

"Hey," Jensen echoes. "Mind if I sit with you?"

"Of course not," Jared replies, waving his hand at the space next to him.

"Sure?" Jensen asks, even as he sits down and Jared has to smile.

"Why would I mind?"

"I'm still not quite sure you like me all that much, is all," Jensen says, voice deep and soft, and Jared frowns.

"Why wouldn't I like you?"

Jensen snorts and shrugs, and they're sitting so close together that Jared can feel it. "You weren't exactly thrilled to come see me a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I'm pretty sure you thought I was an ass."

"Sorry," Jared mumbles, ducking his head. "God, I didn't mean to come off that way. And it wasn't anything personal, I promise – it's just that I'm really not a fan of doctors."

"I know. And you weren't rude or anything, Jared – I just didn't think you'd wish to spent any more time with me than necessary."

"I don't wish to spend any more time with any doctor than necessary," Jared corrects. "I'm just sick of all the poking and prodding. Nothing any of those doctors did has fixed me."

Jensen shifts next to him, his thigh brushing against Jared's. "You're not broken," he says firmly. "I told you that before. And any doctor who said otherwise was an idiot."

Jared laughs softly. "Pretty harsh words."

"Well, I plan on proving it to them," Jensen says. "And to you."

"To me?"

"Jared, in case you haven't noticed, you're one of those people who think there's something wrong with you. But there isn't," Jensen replies. "You have powers, they're just taking a little bit longer to manifest. But it'll happen – maybe not this week, or this year, or even this decade. And guess what, that's okay."

"Fine, say you're right," Jared starts. "That still means I'm not normal."

"I'll give you that," Jensen admits. "But so what? What's so wrong with being a little different than other people?"

Jared scoffs softly, digging the toe of his sneakers into the gravel on the ground. "That's easy to say for others. But try being the person who sticks out, who doesn't fit in with everyone else. Try being a teenager like that."

"That doesn't mean being different is wrong," Jensen says, voice quiet. "That just means you met a lot of assholes in your life."

Jensen's words startle a laugh out of Jared and he finds himself nodding. "Can't argue with that," he replies and smiles when he feels Jensen nudging him with his shoulder.

They're silent for a few beats, just sitting side by side. Jared is staring straight ahead at the blinking lights of the city, feeling completely at ease for the first time that day. Jensen is a warm presence against his side, reassuring.

Jensen finally breaks the silence when he huffs out a laugh, and Jared turns his head to the side, squinting at him in the darkness. "What?" he asks.

"Nothing. Just – this is a wedding, you know? They're supposed to be light and fun and stuff, and here we are, having a serious conversation about you and your life instead," Jensen says. "Guess my friends are right every time they tell me I need to let work be work and just have fun once in a while."

"It's not that bad," Jared says. "You totally had fun tonight. We danced, remember?"

"Yeah, that was fun," Jensen agrees. "Still, no more serious talk tonight."

"Okay, what else do you wanna talk about then?" Jared asks, jostling Jensen a little with his elbow. Belatedly, he realizes maybe Jensen was trying to tell him it was time for them to go to bed, but before he can regret his words, Jensen shrugs.

"I don't know," he says. "Just talk to me about something. Tell me what you're doing up here in the middle of the night."

Jared shrugs. "Couldn't sleep," he says. "So I decided to get up and find some place quiet to just sit for a while."

"Hmm."

"What about you?" Jared asks. "Why are you here?"

Jensen sighs, and Jared watches him tip his head back, looking at up the night sky. "You're gonna think it's weird," he says after a moment, and Jared shrugs.

"Try me."

"I was looking for you down at the reception. Thought about asking you for another dance, or maybe a drink," Jensen says. "And, I don't know, I just had a feeling I'd find you here."

He sounds honest, sincere, and Jared knows he's not bullshitting him. It should be weird, but it isn't. Just like Jared knew the guy with his back turned towards him at the wedding was Jensen, just like he knew it was Jensen the second the door to the roof opened. There's something between them, something Jared can't put his finger on, can't explain, but he feels it in every cell of his body.

"It's crazy, I know," Jensen murmurs next to him, sounding embarrassed, and Jared shakes his head.

"No. No, it really doesn't sound all that crazy to me," he replies, and Jensen turns his head to face him. In the light of the moon, he looks pale, shadows thrown across his face creating angles that Jared knows aren't there, and for a moment, Jared feels like he can't breathe because Jensen is so damn gorgeous.

"Jared," Jensen says, and ducks his head, but not before Jared can see the smile tugging at his lips.

He licks his lips and sounds the words out in his head before saying, "You want to have dinner with me when we're back in L.A.?"

Jensen groans, glancing up at Jared. "You're my patient."

"Is that a no?"

"It should be," Jensen says with a sigh. "But no, it's not. Dinner sounds really good."

Jared smiles and has to resist leaning in to kiss Jensen right then and there. He'll do this right, he thinks – he'll take Jensen out on a proper date, wine and dine him, and most importantly, get to know Jensen. There's plenty of time for kissing in the future.

+

The new week starts off being the exact opposite of the fun, relaxed weekend Jared turned out to have, and he gets completely swamped with work. Considering he's a lousy assistant with an even lousier pay, Jared thinks it's unfair for him to be so damn busy, but he does his job dutifully, staying late three days that week just to get everything his boss asked him to do done. Mostly, that consists of making a billion runs to the copy machine, filing and sorting and printing things, typing up reports and letters.

On Wednesday, he shoots Jensen a text, asking if he's free on Friday and Jensen answers with a 'yes' not two minutes later, even though Jared is pretty sure Jensen is at work.

On Friday, things finally lighten up a little and Jared meets up with Jeff for a brief lunch. He tells him about what he's been up to the last couple of weeks, Genevieve, and his ideas to trigger his abilities. Jeff looks a bit disappointed when Jared tells him nothing worked.

"I guess we need a bit more patience," Jeff says. "If it was that easy, you would have triggered you empathy years ago."

"Yeah, guess so," Jared answers. He doesn't tell Jeff about the flash of emotions he felt from Jensen at the wedding, or this weird connection he seems to be having with Jensen, nor that he has a date with Jensen that night. The latter two things are too private, something that Jared wants to keep between just him and Jensen for now. And he still feels uncertain about whether or not he actually felt something at the wedding, and he doesn't want to talk about it until he's sure. If anything, Jared thinks he should tell Jensen about this first, seeing as he's his doctor, but it's not something he can talk about with him. It feels too much like he was invading Jensen's privacy, considering everything else between them, and Jared doesn't want to say anything and ruin things between them.

+

Jared is getting ready for his date with Jensen that night when his phone rings. The caller ID reads Mom. For a split second Jared thinks about not picking up, because Jensen will come to pick him up in less than half an hour and Jared only just got done with his shower, but then he thinks about how it might be something important and can't bring himself to ignore his mother.

"You have sucky timing," he grumbles, glaring at his phone as if his mother will feel it all the way across the country. He picks up his phone with a sigh.

"Hey, mom," he says. "What's up?"

"Hey, honey," his mother says, voice sweet, and Jared instantly knows it's just a social call. "I just wanted to call, see how my son is doing. How are things in Los Angeles?"

She says 'Los Angeles' with a distinct tone of distaste and Jared rolls his eyes, used to his mother's unhappiness about him choosing to leave Texas. It's worse now than when he went away to college, because his family always assumed college was just temporary and he'd return eventually. When Jared told them he wouldn't, his mother had acted as if he was planning to move to the other side of the world. He'd gone to New York first, then Boston, before finally moving to L.A. for no other reason than to be closer to Genevieve.

"L.A. is fine," he tells her.

"Yeah? What are you up to up there?"

"Nothing much, mama. Just work and stuff. Julie got married this weekend, and Gen and I went to the wedding. It was real nice," Jared says.

"Hmm, that's great. And that Jeffrey Morgan guy, how have things been with him?"

"Jeff's okay. Nothing new," Jared lies, deciding not to tell her about Jeff sending him to see Jensen.

"Nothing," his mother repeats, sounding disappointed, and Jared swallows thickly, because this is what happens every time he talks to his parents. They expect some kind of news every time they talk – good or bad, Jared doesn't know.

"Mama," Jared says softly. "You know—"

"I know," his mother interrupts before Jared can finish the sentence. "I just thought I should ask anyway."

"Yeah," Jared sighs.

His mother sighs. "Well," she starts, "I was calling about something different anyway. Your dad and I were wondering when you're coming home for a visit? We haven't seen you since Christmas, and we thought it'd be nice if you came home for a weekend sometime soon. We'll make sure Jeff and Megan come too. All of us, spending some time together."

"I'd like that, but I'm kinda busy right now," Jared hedges.

"Jared. We miss you. We just want to see you more often than once a year for the holidays."

"I know, Mama. I'll see what I can do, okay?" Jared says, and his mother sighs, probably already knowing he's lying. Since the day Jared left for college, he's barely been home for anything other than holidays. It's not his family's fault, not really – but Jared has a lot of bad memories about home that he'd rather avoid and sometimes it's easier to just stay away instead of facing the people who teased him at school, the relatives who kept asking questions or looked at Jared like he was a particularly foreign animal at a zoo.

"Listen," Jared says. "I hate to cut you off, Mom, but I'm meeting someone in a bit for dinner and I really got to go and get ready if I don't wanna be late."

"Oh. Alright," his mother says softly.

"I'll call you back this weekend when I have more time to talk, okay?" Jared says, more out of a sense of duty than because he really wants to.

"That would be really nice, Jared," his mother replies, sounding genuinely happy about the prospect of talking to Jared again and Jared feels a bit guilty about never calling her.

"Say hi to Dad," he adds. "Tell him I miss you all."

"Will do. Have fun tonight, honey," his mother says before they say goodbye and hang up.

Jared glances at his watch as he puts the phone down and curses silently under his breath when he sees how late it is. He rushes through getting ready, hastily throwing together an outfit and trying as best as he can to make his hair look presentable.

Unfortunately, Jensen is right on time and Jared isn't wearing shoes or socks yet when he opens the door for him, ushering him in. He feels nervous, stomach clenching and the first tingles of panic rising in him, because this is not how he pictured their date to start. He'd wanted to be all smooth and suave and impress Jensen, not open the door half-dressed and hurried.

"I'm so sorry," he apologizes in a rush. "My mama called and you know how those kind of things go. Just give me a couple of minutes and we can leave."

"No problem," Jensen replies with a smile, following Jared into the apartment. "Take your time, Jared."

"Okay, great," Jared says, nodding. "You want a drink or anything while you wait?"

Jensen shakes his head. "I'm good."

"Right, okay. I'll be right back then," Jared promises and almost trips over his feet in his hurry to get back to his bedroom. He glances back at Jensen once and sees him standing in the middle of his living room/kitchen area, looking around with interest. Jared winces a little, because Jensen probably has a lot more money than he does and Jared's place is really kind of a dump. At least it's clean, he thinks, as he does to find a pair of socks and his boots.

"I'm ready," he announces when he finally makes it back into the living room where Jensen is currently looking at the photos Jared has hanging on the wall.

"Great," Jensen says and smiles at him. He looks Jared up and down once, and Jared forces himself not to squirm under the glance, takes the moment to really look at Jensen for the first time that night as well.

"You look nice," Jensen says, voice soft and sincere.

"Thanks," Jared says with a nervous laugh. "You too. Really nice, in fact."

"Well," Jensen says, grinning at Jared and Jared can't help but return it. "Guess we're both ready to head out then."

+

The nervousness doesn't leave Jared until halfway through the date.

The restaurant Jared picked is close to his apartment, which is why Jensen insisted he pick Jared up instead of the other way, and they decide to leave Jensen's car and walk instead. Jared's not sure whether to reach for Jensen's hand or not, whether to walk closer to him or not, and once they get to the restaurant and Jared reaches out to open the door for Jensen, Jensen moves at the same time and they bump together.

Jared feels awkward, fumbling with words and almost knocking his glass over before their entree even arrives. Jensen is being sweet about the whole thing, smiling at Jared and listening attentively to everything Jared says.

It's not until dessert arrives and Jared has had a couple glasses of wine that he starts to feel more relaxed and begins to enjoy himself. So when Jensen suggests they take a walk after dinner, Jared is more than happy to.

"I'm not ready to end this date just yet," Jensen admits, as if Jared hasn't already agreed. The words are spoken softly, like Jensen is the one feeling unsure even though Jared has been acting like a teenager on his first date all night. It gives Jared all the confidence he needs to move in close to Jensen as they fall into step, taking Jensen's hand in his and tangling their fingers together.

Jensen tips his head back a little, looking up at Jared and grins, and it's then that Jared feels it. A muddle of things he can't really discern, but Jensen feels happy, content, and Jared can't deny this is real, he's really feeling Jensen. It's stronger than the flash he got at the wedding, real and sudden, gone again in an instant, but undeniable.

"Jared?" Jensen asks, breaking Jared out of his thoughts, and Jared clears his throat. He meets Jensen's eyes and gives him a smile.

"There's a park just around the corner," he says. Jensen gives his hand a soft squeeze and nods.

"Sounds good."

+

It's Jensen who makes the first step and kisses Jared, once they're back at Jared's apartment complex.

He just steps right up to Jared, cups his face with one hand and gives him a small smile. "Okay?" he asks, the intention more than obvious, and Jared grins.

"God, yes," he replies. He leans down as Jensen leans up and kisses him, a soft brush of lips at first and then Jensen comes back for a second kiss that's a lot more heated. Jared slides his arms around Jensen, one hand at his hips and the other on his back, holding him close, as Jensen traces Jared's lips with his tongue and makes a small, happy noise when Jared parts his lips.

It's a good kiss. Better than any first kisses Jared remembers, even if their noses bump together and Jared feels more than a little tentative still. They both startle as someone honks at them as they drive by and pull apart then.

Jared laughs softly.

"Guess that was a sign, huh?" he asks.

"Yeah, guess so. It's probably for the better, anyway. I've got a meeting tomorrow morning about a conference I'm co-organizing," Jensen says, though he doesn't sound eager to leave. Jared is really tempted to ask Jensen to come up to his place, stay over, but he knows he shouldn't, so he leans down and gives Jensen another soft kiss.

"Well, goodnight, then," he murmurs.

"Night, Jared," Jensen echoes and takes a step back, out of Jared's arms. "We should do this again soon."

"Definitely," Jared agrees, and Jensen grins, nods, before he gets into his car. Jared stays outside, waves, and watches Jensen drive off before he makes his way inside.

+

The following week, Jared has lunch with Jensen twice. Both times are rather rushed, since Jared doesn't have a very long lunch break, but Jensen still makes the time to come by Jared's work and accompany him to a nearby café. It's sweet, knowing Jensen is making the effort to come see him even if it's just for half an hour. Jared's pretty sure he doesn't stop grinning once that whole week.

Friday night, Jensen invites Jared over to his place, promising to cook him dinner.

"I'm not trying to lure you into my bed, promise," Jensen says over the phone when he calls to ask Jared over, and Jared can't deny that he feels a bit disappointed at that. He doesn't want to rush things between them, but part of him is eager for things to progress. It's not even about sex, not really anyway. Jared likes relationships, though he's been told by more than one ex that he sort of sucks at the whole dating thing and it's true – first dates make Jared nervous and unsure and something Jared would rather skip altogether. He wants to get right to the good part. The part where Friday nights are spent on the couch, watching movies, instead of going out on a date. Jared likes sharing a bed with someone, likes sleeping in on the weekends with someone cuddled up next to him, likes the stages of a relationship where you start to feel completely comfortable with someone. And the more time he spends with Jensen, the more he realizes that he wants all of these things with him.

Having dinner at Jensen's place is at least a step in the right direction. It's more casual than a restaurant and Jared doesn't have to dress up. He stops and buys a six-pack of beers on his way over to Jensen's, because Jensen mentioned he was grilling burgers for them, and then makes the drive to Jensen's.

The house isn't what Jared expected. From everything he's heard about Jensen from Jeff, about how successful Jensen is, Jared feared he'd live in some swanky mansion where Jared would feel completely out of place. Instead, Jensen's house looks normal – not small, but not huge either, though the grounds look extensive.

Jensen opens the door for him with a grin, looking relaxed and happy.

"Hey, come on in," he says, stepping aside to let Jared pass. "You're just in time."

"Hey," Jared replies. He stops in the hallway and holds up the six-pack. "Where does this go?"

"Kitchen's through here," Jensen says, waving down the hallway before passing Jared and leading the way. "You find the place okay? It's a bit out of the way of things."

"It was fine," Jared says. He enters the kitchen behind Jensen and hands the beer to Jensen to put it away.

Jensen has a plate with the meat and one with the bread already set out, and there're fixings for a salad laid out on the counter next to them. Jared waves his hand at the food. "Need help?" he asks, and Jensen gives him a small smile, putting the last bottle away.

"You can help me with the salad, if you want to," he says. "The grill's heating up, so it shouldn't be too long."

"Perfect," Jared says. "I'm starving."

"Good. The burgers will be awesome – I make them the same way my dad always makes them back home. You'll love them."

Jensen gets out a cutting board and a knife while talking, handing both to Jared. He grabs the salad and waves his free hand at the tomatoes. "You okay cutting those?"

"Sure," Jared answers and grabs the first tomato. He picks up the knife and starts cutting it into slices, smiling to himself when Jensen starts humming softly under his breath.

Jared glances at him, sees him washing the salad in the sink, and he can't help thinking how domestic this moment feels, how perfect.

His train of thought is promptly broken by a sharp pain in his thumb and he lets out a startled, "Ow."

"What's wrong?" Jensen asks, and Jared winces, holding up his finger, blood pooling up along the cut. It's not bad, but it stings, and Jared feels a bit foolish for letting himself getting distracted.

"I guess I wasn't paying enough attention," he explains. "Got a Band-Aid?"

"Let me see that," Jensen says. He steps up to him and takes Jared's hand in his, turning it around a little and peering down at the cut. "Doesn't look too bad."

"It isn't," Jared assures him.

"Hmm, good. Just give me a second and you'll be good as new," Jensen says, and looks up at Jared with a small smile. "Healer remember?"

"Right," Jared says with a small laugh. "Well, go ahead then."

Jensen's smile gets a little wider and then he focuses on the cut again, brushing his thumb over the soft skin just beneath the wound.

Jared's been healed before. They had a neighbor when he was a kid who was a healer and she'd always patch up their scrapes and bruises, and one of his college friends was a healer as well and had fixed Jared up when he'd sprained his ankle while playing basketball once. It's never felt like this though – all Jared remembers from the other times was a slight tingling sensation, but when Jensen does, it it's like a shockwave suddenly rushing through Jared's body. It doesn't hurt, isn't uncomfortable exactly, but it leaves Jared breathless, and he must have made a noise because Jensen drops his hand and takes a sudden step back.

"Jared?" he asks, clearly concerned. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, fine," Jared says, clearing his throat. "That just wasn't what I was expecting. Sorry."

"Did I hurt you?"

"No, nothing like that. It was just...weird," Jared settles on. He looks down at his thumb, the cut gone now, but his skin still feels sensitive, his body humming with an energy he's not used to.

"Weird how?" Jensen asks, voice tight. He steps back into Jared's space, hands reaching out and curling around Jared's elbows. "Do you need to sit down?"

"No, I'm good," Jared says, but he lets Jensen guide him to the stools standing by the counter and sinks down on one.

"You're not supposed to feel anything when I heal you," Jensen says, and Jared looks up at him, feels the first tendrils of worry and fear roll off Jensen in waves. He takes a deep breath and reaches out for Jensen's hand, hoping the touch will reassure Jensen.

"It wasn't bad," he says. "Just intense. Kinda like getting zapped. It didn't hurt or anything, but that's the best way I can describe it."

"Zapped," Jensen echoes, and Jared feels his emotions getting more intense, more panicked. Part of him is stunned by how clearly he feels Jensen, how easily he can read his feelings and how fucking amazing it feels, but another part of him is cursing his stupid, broken abilities for kicking in now when Jensen is panicking.

"Jensen," he says, squeezing his hand and tries to push all thoughts of anything but Jensen away for the moment. "Hey, I promise you didn't hurt me. I'm okay. I'm great, in fact, okay? You didn't do anything wrong."

Jensen meets his eyes, looking worried and confused, and Jared can tell his words aren't really catching on. Jared holds his gaze, tells himself that he's a freaking empath and if his powers decide to kick in now, they better work in his favor and be useful. Come on, he thinks. Come on, calm down. Everything's good. You're calm, relaxed.

Jensen breathes in, a bit shakily, but Jared can see the tension ebb away slowly, his body relaxing. He remembers his parents doing that for him, remembers the way they were always able to calm him down, and feels a sense of pride that whatever he is doing is working on Jensen, that he is making Jensen feel better.

They can deal with whatever this means later.

+

To Jared's surprise, Jensen avoids the whole incident for the rest of the night, instead of trying to talk about it. Jared might not know him well yet, but Jensen definitely seems like the kind of guy who likes to talk things out and fix them, instead of ignoring them, but it seems to be what he's doing.

When Jared tentatively broaches the subject of how he reacted to Jensen healing his cut, Jensen just shakes his head and tells him he's going to need to do some reading and he'll let Jared know once he's figured out what's going on.

Jared drops the issue after that, sensing that Jensen doesn't really want to keep talking about it and not wanting to make him freak out again. He gets it – Jensen is one of the best healers in the world and Jared had an undeniable, wrong reaction to him. It's natural for Jensen to be worried and confused, but Jensen's silence isn't helping Jared with his own issues.

The longer the evening drags on, the more Jared feels both excited and freaked out by what happened. Not only did he feel Jensen's emotions clear as day, he manipulated them, made Jensen calm down. He's spent so much time waiting for this to happen, hoping for it, but now that his abilities are manifesting, Jared feels oddly uncomfortable, unsure why now and how it's happening, and what he's supposed to do.

He doesn't bring it up though, feels like Jensen has enough to deal with without adding Jared's emotional baggage as well.

Unsurprisingly, Jared doesn't stay too long after dinner is done and Jensen makes no attempt to stop him.

"Sorry about tonight," he says softly instead, as he walks Jared to the door.

"No, it's fine. I guess we both just need some rest," Jared replies with a shrug.

"I'll call you, okay?" Jensen promises, kissing the corner of Jared's mouth. It's brief and feels more like a rejection than anything, and Jared feels torn between saying something and fleeing the scene, when Jensen sighs and leans up, kissing Jared again. The second kiss is firmer, definite, and Jared feels some of the tension leave his body.

"I'll figure this out, don't worry," Jensen assures him as he takes a step back.

"Okay," Jared says. "You really didn't hurt me or anything, Jensen."

"I know," Jensen says and gives him a small smile.

"Good." Jared nods, more to himself, and pushes the door open. "See you soon, Jensen."

"Soon," Jensen echoes, and it sounds enough like a promise that Jared feels a bit lighter.

+

The problem with returning to his apartment is that Jared is suddenly alone with his thoughts and he can't stop picking apart what happened earlier that evening, pondering what's going on. With him. With Jensen. With them together.

There's something there between them, something more than just mutual attraction. There's a connection between them that Jared has never felt before with someone, something that's more than a little strange – the fact that Jared reacted so weirdly to Jensen healing him and that Jared's abilities are manifesting around Jensen only adds to it.

Jared goes to bed with his head whirling and tries every trick he can think of to fall asleep, but he just can't seem to get there. He feels too wired, too bewildered. He tosses and turns for several hours, and the more time passes, the worst it gets.

He felt okay when he left Jensen's place, but the more he thinks about it, the more worry sets it. The way Jensen behaved, Jared guesses nobody has ever reacted that way to being healed by him and that means the problem is Jared himself. Jared, who's been screwed up all his life and now this, too. Now it's not just that there's something wrong with his abilities, but that he's causing Jensen's to be weird as well.

Jared sits up and switches the light on his nightstand on before rubbing a hand over his face. He knows he's freaking out, knows he's probably not thinking rationally, but his chest suddenly feels too tight.

He thinks about calling Genevieve, or Jeff, but when he reaches for his cell phone and goes through his contacts, he scrolls past both of their names. With a sigh, he hits dial.

Jensen picks up on the fourth ring. "Jared?" he asks, voice heavy with sleep.

"Yeah."

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Jared lies.

"Hmm. You're just calling me for no reason in the middle of the night?" Jensen asks, sounding amused, and Jared sighs.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."

"Jared, stop. Just tell me what's wrong."

"I think my abilities are manifesting," Jared says softly, staring down at the hand resting in his lap. There's a moment of silence, before Jared hears the rustling of cloth.

"What?"

"I've been having these pretty strong flashes of other people's emotions. Not regularly, but they're definitely real," Jared admits, not allowing himself to stop and think about what he's saying because he needs to talk to someone. To Jensen, because if anyone can figure this out, can help, it's him. "I know you said it might just happen one day, but I don't know why it's happening so quickly. Or what triggered me. And maybe this whole thing today is freaking me out more than I thought, because what if there's something wrong with me?"

"Jared, hey. Relax. I told you before, there's nothing wrong with you."

"How do you know?"

"Well, I'm a doctor for one," Jensen replies.

Jared lies back down with a groan, covering his eyes with his forearm, phone still pressed to his ear. "You know, I was always hoping this would happen. That some doctor would actually find a way to fix me," he says. "Now I almost wish nothing had changed, 'cause this is a lot more confusing and scary than I thought it would be."

"Need me to come over?" Jensen asks. "Just to talk."

"Could you?" Jared asks hopefully.

Jensen huffs out a soft laugh. "I'm on my way," he promises.

+

Jensen shows up on Jared's doorstep wearing a gray pair of pajama bottoms and a faded t-shirt, boots still undone. Jared feels so relieved, so grateful, just seeing Jensen that he closes the distance between them with one big step and hugs him.

Jensen hugs him back, tight and warm and perfect. Jared breathes out slowly and ducks his head to bury it in Jensen's neck.

"You okay?" Jensen asks softly, and Jared snorts.

"How many times have you asked me that today?"

"Well, technically, it's Saturday already, so not that many," Jensen says, letting go of Jared and taking a step back. He looks up at him, expression serious, and cups Jared's face with one hand, thumb stroking over his cheek. "Come one, let's go inside and sit down."

"Sounds good," Jared agrees, and steps back to let Jensen into his apartment.

They sit down on the couch together, close enough that their knees are brushing together, Jensen's body angled towards his.

"Okay, talk," Jensen prompts. "Your abilities are manifesting?"

"I think so," Jared says with a shrug and then scoffs. "Scratch that. They're definitely manifesting. I felt, you know, stuff."

"Okay. That's a good thing, Jared."

"Is it really?" Jared asks.

"Of course it is. I know it's weird right now, but you'll get used to it," Jensen says. "So, tell me more. Since when has this been going on?"

"A couple of weeks."

"Why haven't you told me sooner?" Jensen asks softly.

Jared looks down, not sure how to answer that.

"Jared," Jensen pushes.

"It's only happened around you. With you," Jared admits.

He can see the ways Jensen's eyes widen a little, lips parted in a small 'o', and if Jared's stomach wasn't turning with nerves, he would probably think the look on Jensen's face was adorable.

"Me," Jensen finally echoes, looking flustered.

"Yeah. I just...I didn't know how to tell you. I mean, it's kinda weird, right? That I could tell what you felt. It's. It's invasive."

"It's part of being an empath, Jared. You'll learn how to control it, you just need some time," Jensen assures him, seeming to have composed himself a little. "There's nothing weird about it. Plus, I'm a doctor. You don't have to feel uncomfortable talking to me about this kind of stuff – it's what I'm here for."

"You're not just my doctor though," Jared replies. "It just felt wrong that I could tell what you were feeling, given the whole situation."

Jensen sighs and nudges Jared's knee with his. "Jared, it's fine. I know you're not doing it on purpose or anything," he says.

"I didn't," Jared quickly agrees, shaking his head. "And it only happened a couple of times, I promise. It's not like I can tell your every emotion and stuff."

"It's okay," Jensen repeats.

"I'm still sorry."

Jensen gives him a small smile. "Don't worry about it. It is a bit awkward, I'll admit that, but..." he trails off, shrugging. "So, um, can I ask when exactly and what you felt?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," Jared answers. "Well, there've been a couple of times where I wasn't quite sure, but. At the wedding, when we were dancing, I felt something. You were...excited. And at our first date, when we left the restaurant, you felt happy. Content. And then today. I could feel how you were freaking out, you know?"

"Oh," Jensen says, looking a bit unsure. "Did it in any way, you know, influence the whole you and me dating thing?"

"What?" Jared asks, startled by the question. "Are you asking me if I went out with you because you triggered my abilities? Or if I did it because I knew you liked me?"

"I guess. Maybe," Jensen admits, and Jared shakes his head vehemently.

"No. No way, Jensen. That had nothing to do with it. Even if I hadn't felt a thing around you, nothing would have happened differently between us. Well, except maybe for today," Jared admits. "After you healed my finger I think maybe I did something? I'm not sure, just...you were kinda freaking out about having done something wrong and I felt you panic and I just...wanted you to calm down."

"Oh. Yeah, that makes sense," Jensen says, not sounding surprised. Jared raises his eyebrows.

"It does?"

"Yeah, I calmed down pretty quickly, so I guess that was your doing," Jensen says.

"Does it bother you?" Jared asks, and Jensen smiles, shakes his head.

"Hey, no. Why would it bother me that you didn't like to see me freak out and tried to help?" Jensen says. "It's not a bad thing that you did, Jay. Don't worry about it."

"Okay. So what now?"

"Well, let's see," Jensen says, shifting a little on the couch. "It's only happened a few times so far and only with me, so your abilities clearly haven't fully developed yet, but it's a good starting point. Unfortunately, I don't think there's anything you can do but wait and see what happens next."

"Oh. But you think something more will happen?" Jared asks.

"Jared," Jensen starts. "Remember how I told you I thought your powers needed to be triggered by something?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm not completely sure yet, but I think maybe in your case it's not something but someone," Jensen says, looking a bit embarrassed.

"You," Jared says.

"Yeah, me," Jensen agrees. "I know it sounds pretty weird and cheesy."

"A bit," Jared interjects, and Jensen smiles at him.

"Hmm, yeah, but it's actually not as weird as you think," Jensen says. "There are studies about instances where two people's abilities increase when they are around each other. It's not common, but it's not exactly rare either. I thought something like that might be going on between us after this afternoon – that me using my abilities felt a lot more intense on you than on any other person because you gave my powers a boost. You getting flashes of my feelings certainly would support that theory."

"So both of our powers are getting stronger when we're together?"

"That's my guess, yes," Jensen nods.

"How exactly does it work?" Jared asks. "I mean, how is it possible that we're affecting each other's abilities?"

Jensen shrugs. "I'm not really sure. As I told you earlier tonight, I planned on doing some reading and see if I might be right about the whole thing," he says. "I remember reading an article about it a couple of years ago, and one of my professor's at college discussed a case like that with us once. There are a few different theories, but the most prominent one is that it can happen when two people are highly compatible. Short answer is that these people share a link, if you want to call it that."

"A link," Jared repeats. "That sounds, uh, vaguely romance novel-y."

Jensen snorts. "It does, doesn't it?" he asks, and grins. "It's not like that though. Two people can be highly compatible without there being anything romantic about it."

"But there can be," Jared adds, and Jensen starts looking a little flustered again as he shrugs.

"Uh, yeah, it can be," he admits, and Jared strangely reassured by Jensen's reaction. Jensen, who is smart and successful and strong, gets shy and awkward around him, like Jared is the one who's amazing.

"Right. So, uh, we're highly compatible?"

"That's my guess. I'm going to do some reading about it, see if there's any way to test my theory," Jensen says.

"Okay, but you're pretty sure, right?"

"I am."

"So, there's nothing wrong with me? I'm not, like, affecting you in a bad way, right?" Jared asks, and Jensen gives him a soft look.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with you, I promise," he says, and Jared nods.

"Thank you," he says. "For saying that. And for coming over."

"Anytime." Jensen rolls his shoulders and glances at his watch, before yawning. "So. I think we should maybe try to get some sleep."

Jared feels bad instantly, remembering that it's the middle of the night and he dragged Jensen out of bed, and he's been blabbering on and on. "Do you want to stay, maybe?" he offers. "It's gonna take you forever to get back to your place. It'd make more sense for you to just crash here."

"Thanks, that actually sounds really good," Jensen agrees.

"Great," Jared says, and feels instantly excited about the prospect of Jensen staying with him. "I'll get some stuff and sleep on the couch, and you can have my bed."

"I'm not kicking you out of your bed, Jay," Jensen says, giving him a look.

"Okay, well. I'm not letting you sleep on the couch, 'cause believe me, your back would regret it tomorrow morning."

Jensen raises one eyebrow, perfectly arched, and grins. "Guess we gotta share the bed then."

Jared's stomach flutters at the words and he bites down on his lower lip. "Are you sure you'd be okay with that?"

"Yeah, I think I could deal with that just fine," Jensen replies, and gets up. He stretches his arms, shirt rising up a little and revealing a stripe of skin that makes Jared want to reach out and touch.

"Bedroom's through there, right?" Jensen asks, waving at the door leading to Jared's bedroom.

"Yeah," Jared says with a nod and gets up, following Jensen.

+

Jared wakes up with the sun shining in his face and Jensen's warm body pressed up against his.

He smiles involuntarily, and shifts a little to slide his arm around Jensen's waist. Jensen makes a soft noise, eyelids fluttering even though he doesn't wake up. Jared can't resist ducking his head a little and pressing a soft kiss to Jensen's cheek.

Jensen's lips tug up a little, and he makes another noise, this one sounding more alert.

"Morning," Jared murmurs and kisses Jensen's cheek again, then the corner of his mouth. Jensen's eyes finally flutter open to a slit, and he tilts his head up, leaning in until he can kiss Jared firmly on the mouth.

"Good morning," he says, voice cracking from sleep. He turns onto his side then and snuggles closer, fitting his face into the crook of Jared's neck. "This is nice."

"It is," Jared agrees.

"Nice enough that I can convince you to go back to sleep for a little bit?" Jensen asks, sounding hopeful, and Jared laughs softly.

"Not a morning person?"

"Not really."

"Hmm, guess I could be convinced then," Jared agrees, and Jensen kisses his neck in reply.

Jared doesn't go back to sleep, but he doesn't mind staying in bed with Jensen. He listens to his breathing even out, and traces random patterns on Jensen's back, feeling calm and relaxed with Jensen in his arms. He feels better than he has in weeks, glad that Jensen knows about Jared's abilities slowly developing – it feels like they're on the same page, like they've taken a step opening up to each other, and it's like a weight has been lifted off Jared's shoulders.

The one thing that he's been waiting to happen for years is finally happening, and all Jared can think is that it doesn't even matter anymore, because this thing with Jensen is even more wonderful, even more exciting.

+

Jensen asks Jared to give him a couple of days to read up on his theory of them influencing each other's powers. Jared waits until Wednesday before he calls Jensen's office and asks Katie if he can come in some time that day, and then asks his boss for the afternoon off.

Being back in Jensen's office feels odd – Jared is infinitely less unhappy about it, but he still doesn't feel completely comfortable because it's still a doctor's office. The walls are still the basic white, the scent still too sterile, and the chairs in the waiting office still every bit as uncomfortable as he remembers.

Katie calls him into Jensen's office after just ten minutes of waiting, and Jared gives her a polite smile before making his way into the room, listening to the soft snick of the door closing behind him. Jensen is sitting behind his desk and he looks up when Jared enters and smiles.

"Mr. Padalecki," he says smoothly, and Jared grins.

"Doctor Ackles," he replies, and sits down across from him at the desk. "How are you today?"

"Great, now that my favorite patient is here," Jensen replies.

"So, did you find anything?" Jared asks. "About the whole high compatibility, boosting each other’'s powers stuff?"

Jensen shrugs. "I read a few articles and then contacted a colleague of mine who's been doing research on this for a few years now," he says. "According to her, it might very well be possible."

"But she can't be sure?"

"Well, our case is slightly different in so far that your powers aren't developed yet, so it's hard to be sure. But from everything I told her, Dr. Danes seemed pretty convinced that I'm right about this. It fits everything that's been going on," Jensen explains. "She suggested that we try triggering your abilities again, just to make sure it's really me and not just a coincidence. Plus, given that my abilities are very strong to begin with, it'd be hard to judge in how far you're affecting me. But if we're right, I should definitely be able to affect your abilities."

"Okay," Jared agrees. "How do we do that?"

"Well," Jensen says, getting up from behind the desk and walking over to the exam table on the other side of the room. "If you could come here and hop on this for me."

"Sure thing, doc," Jared replies and follows Jensen.

+

Katie pops her head into the room fifteen minutes later to tell them she's leaving for the day and Jensen waves her off, tells her he'll lock up later.

They stay for another half an hour, but to Jared, it feels like forever. Especially since nothing happens, except that Jared gets a headache.

Turns out, triggering someone's powers is a lot less simple than it sounds even once you found the trigger. They try everything – from Jared simply trying to focus on Jensen and trying to get a feel for his emotions, to them holding hands while doing so in case skin-to-skin contact helps, to Jensen sitting down next to him and telling him about the day his grandfather passed away. No matter how upset Jensen looks, Jared feels nothing out of ordinary.

"This isn't working," Jensen finally says with a sigh, and Jared rubs the heel of his hand against his forehead.

"No, it isn't," Jared agrees. "So, you got any better ideas?"

Jensen looks thoughtful for a moment, and then he hops of the table and nods. "I do. Get your stuff, we're going somewhere."

+

Going somewhere turns out to be a nice-looking apartment complex twenty minutes away from Jensen's office.

"What is here?" Jared asks, peering at the building while Jensen presses a bell.

"Danneel is here."

"And Danneel is..." Jared prompts.

Jensen gives him a small smile. "My best friend," he says. The buzzer sounds and Jensen holds the door open, ushering Jared inside.

"And how will she be able to help?" Jared asks, and Jensen grins.

"You'll see," he says. "Come on. Third floor."

In the elevator, Jensen takes Jared's hand in his and gives it a squeeze. He doesn't let go as the elevator stops or as he leads Jared to an open door at the end of a hallway. A woman about Jensen's age is leaning against the doorjamb, red hair falling down in soft waves.

"Jensen," she says with a grin.

"Hey, Danni," Jensen says and lets go of Jared. He gives Danneel a kiss on the cheek and then turns to grin at Jared. "This is Jared. Jared, Danneel."

"Hey. I heard so much about you," Danneel says, and Jared raises an eyebrow, surprised.

"Really?"

"Oh yes," Danneel says and laughs when Jensen pushes her a little, shaking his head.

"Shut up."

"So, to what do I owe the surprise visit?" Danneel asks, letting them into her apartment. She leads them into the kitchen and gets out three beers from the fridge, handing one to Jared and Jensen each.

"We need your help," Jensen says.

"Okay," Danneel says, looking between the two of them. "What do you need?"

"I'd like to know that too," Jared mutters, and Jensen shoots him a look before turning back to Danneel.

"I want you to electrocute me," Jensen says, sounding casual, and Jared nearly chokes on his own spit.

"You what now?" he asks, just as Danneel says, "Are you insane?"

Jensen rolls his eyes. "I'm not asking you to kill me or do any lasting damage," he says. "Look, it's like this. We're trying to trigger Jared's abilities – he's an empath – and I seem to be the one that's triggering them, but we need to be sure."

"And where do I come in?" Danneel asks.

"My best guess is that we need something more organic, something I genuinely feel instead of trying to make myself feel, in order to affect Jared."

Danneel hums, cocks her head to the side. "Makes sense," she agrees, and Jared is starting to suspect they're both crazy.

"It doesn't make sense to me. Not if the conclusion you draw from it is that you should be electrocuted," Jared says, voice a little too shrill.

Jensen gives him a soft smile. "Jared, this isn't going to be dangerous," he says. "Danneel can generate and manipulate electricity. Damn good at it, too. She knows what she's doing and I trust her not to seriously hurt me, okay?"

"Well, no offense, but I don't know her, so I don't trust her," Jared replies. "And I'd rather not risk your health for the sake of my abilities."

"Jared," Jensen says. "Come on. It's safe."

"Says you."

"Exactly. Me. The doctor-slash-healer," Jensen reminds him and Jared sighs.

He turns to Danneel. "You're not going to hurt him?"

"Of course not," Danneel says. "For one, he's my best friend. For another, I really don't want the council on my ass."

"Fine," Jared agrees.

"Good. So, where do we do this?" Jensen asks.

Danneel shrugs, takes another sip of her beer, and puts the bottle down on the counter. "We can do this right here," she says. "And just so you know, Ackles, you owe me big time."

"I know," Jensen agrees.

Danneel holds her hands out and Jensen places his into hers. Jared watches nervously, stomach clenching as he watches them.

"Okay, on five," Danneel says.

Jensen nods. "One, two," he counts slowly and then yelps. Jared feels it instantly, the surprise, the shock Jensen feels at the sudden pain, the emotions he exudes sudden and strong.

"Ow, you bitch," Jensen complains, rubbing his hand. "You said on five."

"You wanted it to be organic, right?" Danneel asks sweetly, grinning. Jensen huffs, but then turns to Jared.

"So. Did you feel anything?" he asks, and Jared snorts.

"Yeah, I did," he says, voice a bit rough. Jensen steps forward and slides his arms around Jared's waist. "Let’s not do that again."

Jensen grins. "Deal," he says, and leans up, kissing Jared's cheek. "Congratulations. You're a bona fide empath."

"And I guess you're my bona fide trigger," Jared replies and Jensen laughs softly.

"Yeah, well. I wasn't really doubting it either."

"Then why did we do this?"

Jensen shrugs. "Scientific proof?"

Jared rolls his eyes. "This isn't scientific proof, Jensen. This is you being an idiot and me suffering the consequences."

"Hmm. Isn't it nice?" Jensen teases and pulls Jared down to kiss him softly. Danneel makes a loud gagging sound.

+

"So, you think my powers will fully develop soon?" Jared asks, accepting the beer Jensen hands him. They're back at Jensen's place, pizza delivery on the way, and Jared feels exhausted from the events of the day.

"I don't see why not," Jensen says. He sits down next to Jared and takes a sip of his beer. "It takes a few weeks for abilities to fully form – I'm sure you remember that from your siblings. They'll probably come and go for a few weeks, and grow stronger."

"So you don't think it's just around you?" Jared asks, just to make sure.

Jensen sighs, putting his bottle down, and turns to face Jared. "I can't make any promises, Jared. But based on how it usually works, and from what I read about special cases similar to yours, my guess is that it should only be a matter of time before your abilities fully develop. Give it a few weeks and if things haven't worked themselves out by then, we'll see what else we can do, okay?"

"Okay," Jared agrees. He reaches for Jensen's hand, taking it in his hand and tangling their fingers together, before he leans in and kisses Jensen softly. Jensen hums into the kiss, leaning into Jared and kissing him back.

"What was that for?" he asks when they break apart, and Jared shrugs.

"Just 'cause," he says. "I'm really happy Jeff made me come see you."

"Me too," Jensen agrees and squeezes Jared's hand.

+

Jared reports back to Jeff the next day, meeting up with him for an early dinner at a small place not too far from Jared's work.

"You're serious?" Jeff asks once Jared is done telling him about what's been going on.

"Absolutely," Jared replies and shrugs. "Nothing's certain yet, but Jensen is pretty sure my abilities will fully develop in the near future. And I definitely am an empath, in whatever capacity."

"That's fantastic, Jared," Jeff says.

"It is," Jared agrees. "I didn't think it would ever happen, you know?"

"I know," Jeff says. "Believe me, kiddo, I know. It didn't take rocket-science to figure out you weren't feeling very optimistic about this whole thing, but I'm glad Jensen could help. I told you he was good."

"You did," Jared says.

"So," Jeff says. "Not that I wanna change the subject, but you and Jensen, huh?"

Jared feels his cheeks heat up and he looks down, shrugs. "Yeah. Maybe, I mean."

"Huh, sounds pretty definite to me," Jeff teases. "And can I just say, I knew it?"

"No, you can't," Jared replies. "And we've only been out on a few dates. Nothing's really happened yet."

"Hmm, except for the whole triggering your abilities thing."

Jared rolls his eyes. "That doesn't have to mean anything," he says. "Jensen said that kinda stuff doesn't have anything to do with relationships. It's not like we're, you know..."

"Soulmates?" Jeff asks, and Jared grimaces.

"Yeah, that."

"Hmm, that's what Jensen said?" Jeff asks, and when Jared nods, he grins. "I guess he didn't tell you that while that's a doctor's opinion, a lot of people would disagree? When two people are able influence each other's abilities like that, that's some pretty serious stuff and it doesn't happen unless there's a strong connection."

"Is there anything you don't know?" Jared asks, sighing.

Jeff grins. "I work for the council, Jared. I know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. It's my job," he says. "It's one of the reasons I was assigned as your mentor."

"I thought that was because they wanted to get rid of you," Jared replies sweetly.

Jeff grins. "You'd think love would make you less cynical and snarky, but it turns out it hasn't," he says. "I might have to call Jensen about that and tell him he's doing something wrong."

"You do that and I will kill you. Slowly."

"I'm pretty sure empaths are not supposed to be violent and vindictive."

"I'm pretty sure that's a lie. Just because I feel other people's emotions, doesn't mean I have to be all sensitive and sympathetic," Jared replies. "All it means is I will be able to feel how scared you are while I kill you."

"Hmm, I'm so happy Jensen triggered your abilities," Jeff says dryly.

Jared grins. "So, you springing for dessert, old man?" he asks.

"Don't I always?" Jeff asks, taking a sip of his wine. "Just try not to go into a sugar shock this time."

"No promises," Jared says, waving the waiter over.

+

It takes a few weeks, but Jared's abilities slowly get stronger, just like Jensen predicted.

It's just around Jensen at first, but it starts happening more and more frequently, the moments more and more random. He feels Jensen's frustration when his coffee-machine stops working one morning after Jared stays over, feels how absolutely content he feels one night while they're having dinner together, feels his gleefulness when he gets a call about a paper he submitted to some fancy medical journal Jared has never even heard of.

"This is awesome," Jared says, laughing. They're at Jensen's place, cuddled up on the couch together watching a horror movie Jared picked out.

"What is?" Jensen asks, looking at him.

"This movie is actually scaring you," Jared teases, and Jensen scrunches his face up in what is possibly the most adorable thing ever.

"It's not," Jensen lies and Jared smirks.

"Empath," he sing-songs. "I can feel how terrified you are."

Jensen huffs. "That weird monster thing just ate several people, Jared," he complaints. "Any normal person would feel a bit uncomfortable watching that stuff."

"You do know this isn't real, right?" Jared mocks, and Jensen pinches his side.

"Stop being a brat, brat," he mutters, shifting to rest his head on Jared's shoulder.

Jared grins, slinging his arm around Jensen's shoulder. "I think I really love being an empath."

"That's a misuse of powers, if I've ever seen one." Jensen replies, and Jared chuckles.

"Yup. A shameless misuse, and I regret nothing," he agrees.

+

Jared's glee over his finally forming abilities doesn't last long. One day, he's thinking it would be nice if his abilities would start developing a little faster, now that they're finally here, then he’s regretting ever wanting to be an empath at all the next.

It starts when he drops by the record store during his lunch break to see Genevieve. He's barely through the door, Genevieve still hidden from sight, when he can feel the boredom rolling off Genevieve in waves.

Jared feels excited, feels like he's finally making progress being able to feel someone other than Jensen, and while having lunch with Genevieve, he keeps thinking about calling Jensen later, telling him the good news. Maybe they can go out, celebrate the success.

He returns to his office in high spirits, and doesn't even mind when his boss asks him to go make about a billion copies. An hour later, Jared is sorting the copies into neat piles when he starts getting more flashes of feelings. It happens sudden and quick – one moment he's fine, and the next he feels a wave of emotions, making his head spin. Frustration, anger, annoyance, boredom, pride, triumph.

It's confusing and strange, and Jared can't block out any of the emotions swirling around inside his head.

"Fuck," he mutters, and presses his fingers against his temple, closing his eyes. It feels like it's getting worse with every minute that passes, the emotions overwhelming, too many for Jared to keep them apart.

He stumbles into his boss's office and tells him he's feeling sick. Luckily, Jared looks the part and his boss sends him home without giving him any trouble.

He barely makes it home in one piece, and he heads straight for his bed, only stopping to take painkillers and close all the blinds, hoping that's enough to shut the outside world out for a while.

Lying down feels a bit better, and Jared buries his face in the cool, smooth cloth of his pillowcase and closes his eyes. He dozes off eventually, but when he wakes up a couple of hours later, he's not feeling much better.

There's something nagging at the back of his mind, and Jared thinks it's remnants of some dreams he has, before his head clears a little and he realizes the anger he's feeling is real and coming from the couple in the apartment next door. The emotions are stark and raw, stronger now that Jared is more alert.

"God," he groans. He covers his eyes with his hands, feeling like he's about to burst or maybe cry.

He gets up, keeps his sheets wrapped around him because even the thin layer of cloth makes him feel a little bit safer, and slowly makes his way out of his bedroom. He feels like a zombie, barely able to walk a straight line and head pounding despite the painkillers he took earlier.

His cellphone is on the dresser by the front door, where he must have dropped it along with his keys where he came in, and Jared picks it up and stumbles to his couch. He sinks down on it before scrolling through his contacts and dialing Jensen's number.

"Hey you," Jensen answers, voice soft and fond, and Jared wants to cry.

"Hey," he manages to choke out and pulls his knees up against his chest.

"Jared? Are you okay?"

"No," Jared admits softly, not feeling like beating around the bush. All he wants is for Jensen to make him feel better, to fix this. "My abilities...Jensen, I can feel every goddamn thing. Please tell me this gets better. Tell me there's something you can do, or I'm going to kill myself. I can't do this."

"Hey. Hey, calm down," Jensen murmurs. "It'll be okay, sweetheart."

"No, it won't," Jared says and groans. "God."

"Yes, it will be. When did this happen?"

"Today. At work."

Jensen makes a pained sound. "Not an ideal place, what with all the people."

"No," Jared agrees with a snort devoid of all humor. "Jensen, it's really bad."

"I'll come right over, okay? I have some pills I can give you that will make things easier."

"Really?" Jared asks.

"Yeah, promise. They might make you feel a bit foggy, but they'll help. Your body just needs a few days to adjust to this," Jensen says. "Your siblings must have gone through this."

"Yeah," Jared agrees, remembering his brother not leaving his room for several days after his abilities manifested, and his sister crying while Jared hugged her and told her it would get better. He'd just never imagined it would be this bad, this overwhelming.

"It'll last a week or two, tops, Jared," Jensen promises. "It might be better if you come stay at my place for now, though; there are no people around here. It'll make things easier."

"Please," Jared replies, groaning when he suddenly feels something else. The beginnings of pleasure, arousal, and Jared really, really hates his neighbors. "Hurry, okay?"

"I will," Jensen says.

+

Jensen arrives at Jared's in record time. Jared just barely resists flinging himself at Jensen – mostly because his head is hurting too much to do that and he's not sure Jensen would appreciate it.

Instead, he lets Jensen pull him into a hug and all but melts into it when Jensen starts stroking his back. Jared feels his emotions, more intense than anything else that he felt today, but instead of hurting him, he feels grounded with Jensen's arms around him. Jensen's worry and compassion and care wrap around him like a blanket, soft and soothing.

"It's okay," Jensen murmurs and slowly pulls back. "Come on, let’s pack whatever you need for tonight and then I'll take you home."

"Sounds good," Jared agrees and smiles weakly. Jensen brushes a strand of hair out of Jared's eyes, tugs it behind his ear.

"Why don't you sit down on the bed and tell me what you want me to pack, huh?" he asks, and Jared nods gratefully. Jensen pulls out a small bottle of pills and holds it up. "And take two of these. They'll mute things a little, calm you down. It'll make you feel a bit sleepy, though."

"Thank you," Jared says and takes the bottle eagerly.

Jensen smiles. "If only I'd known drugs would make you so happy."

"They do," Jared agrees and pops the bottle open. "Uh, can I mix them with painkillers?"

"What and when did you take them?"

"Ibuprofen. When I got home, two hours ago," Jared says, and Jensen nods.

"It's fine. We'll just have to make sure you eat something later and stay hydrated," Jensen says. "How's the head?"

"Still hurting," Jared says, and Jensen nods. He reaches out, places his finger against Jared's temple.

"Just relax," he murmurs. It feels like the time Jensen healed his cut, a zing shooting through Jared's body and all of his senses focusing on Jensen. When Jensen pulls back most of the pain is gone, just a fading memory.

"Thank you," Jared says and Jensen kisses his cheek softly.

"No problem," he says. "Now come on, let's get packing and then we'll get you somewhere quiet."

+

The pills do make Jared feel foggy, just like Jensen said they would, and the next time Jared wakes up, he's in Jensen's bed and barely recalls how he got there. He remembers Jensen packing some things for him and then leading them to his car, but he can't remember the drive or how he ended up in bed.

He still feels a bit groggy, but there's no headache and no onrush of emotions, and Jared breathes a sigh of relief. For a moment, he contemplates getting up and looking for Jensen, but he feels too tired to move, so he stays where he is.

It's just as well, because Jensen comes looking for him less than ten minutes later, knocking softly on the door before entering.

"Hey there," he says quietly. He's holding a glass of water and sits carefully down on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," Jared says. He sits up slowly, and accepts the water Jensen hands him. He drinks it slowly, feeling the cool water going down his throat.

Jensen watches him intently the whole time, and Jared can feel worry rolling off him in waves.

"So," he says when he's done with the water, putting the glass down on the nightstand. "Um, is there something wrong with me?"

Jensen draws his eyebrows together, frowning. "What?"

"I can feel how worried you are," Jared explains, waving his hand in Jensen's general direction.

Jensen huffs out a laugh, body relaxing, and gives Jared a fond smile. "Yeah, well, that's not because there's something wrong with you, but because I hate seeing you go through this," he says. "Everything about this is normal, I promise – it's always tough for empaths when their powers first develop. It's a lot to deal with, Jared. And in your case it's happening quite suddenly."

"It took me about ten years longer than normal people. I wouldn't call that suddenly," Jared replies.

"Maybe not," Jensen admits. "But you went from feeling my emotions every now and then to feeling everyone's all at once."

"So, there's nothing wrong with me?"

"No. From a medical point of view, all of this is completely to be expected," Jensen assures him.

Jared leans against the headboard, nods. "That's good," he says, and reaches for Jensen's hand. He takes it in his, and tries to focus on Jensen's emotions. Worry is the most prominent, but underneath that Jared can feel slivers of other feelings: fear, and love, and the overwhelming need to protect.

"You really care about me," he murmurs.

Jensen smiles weakly. "Guess I can't hide my feelings from you, huh?"

Jared flushes, pulls his hand away from Jensen and runs it through his hair. "God, sorry. I didn't mean to pry," he apologizes, "I'm such an ass."

"Hey, no. Those abilities are new to you, and it's gonna be a few days before you learn how to control them, to shut others out, and to, you know, not pry," Jensen says. "It's okay."

"If it's any consolation. I really care, too. About you," Jared says softly.

Jensen smiles, happy and brilliant, and leans in to kiss Jared. "It really is," he says.

"Okay, good," Jared says, biting down onto his lips. "So, uh, you wanna lay down with me for a bit?"

"Are you sure? I won't mind if you tell me to go to another room or leave the house for a while," Jensen replies, looking unsure. "I don't want to overwhelm you."

"No. Stay. I like having you around," Jared says. "The worry doesn't feel all that pleasant, but the caring for me stuff? That's kinda nice."

"Okay," Jensen agrees. He gets up and shucks off his sweater and jeans. Jared watches with a small smile, wishing he was feeling better so he could actually appreciate seeing Jensen undress, but he still feels a bit fuzzy from the meds Jensen gave him.

Jensen lies down next to him, pulls the covers over both of them and tugs Jared close, brushing a kiss against his forehead. Jared feels him relax, feels the worry ebb away a little followed by a wave of fondness, of affection, washing over him.

"Thank you," he murmurs and feels Jensen smile against his skin.

+

Jared calls in sick at work for the rest of the week. Jensen offers Jared to stay at his place for as long as he needs, and he gladly takes him up on it. There are too many people living in his building, in the buildings close by, and just the thought of being around people makes Jared's stomach coil.

At Jensen's, it's blessedly quiet and peaceful. The first day, Jared stays in bed, only getting up to take a shower. Jensen is at work for most of the day and when he returns and Jared hasn't moved, he doesn't comment and doesn't push, which Jared appreciates.

The second day, Jensen suggests he gets more clothes for Jared so he can actually leave the bed and the house. Jared is a bit reluctant, the thought of going outside making him feel more than a little uncomfortable.

"Come on, Jared," Jensen cajoles when Jared doesn't reply immediately. "I've re-scheduled most of my appointments tomorrow, so I can be home early and we can do something."

"Jensen, I don't know."

"Hey, how about we compromise. Tomorrow, I'll get you some stuff and we just hang out here and on the weekend we can see about going out – nothing too crowded, I promise. We'll just go for a walk, or maybe go to a park."

"What if--" Jared starts, but Jensen shushes him.

"I'm a doctor, Jay, I know what I'm doing, okay? Trust me."

"I do," Jared replies and finally hands over the keys to his apartment, but not before making Jensen promise not to get anything embarrassing.

He lounges on Jensen's couch, watching TV, while Jensen is out the next day, and Jensen returns after just a couple of hours with a bag swung over his shoulder.

"I snooped around in your drawers. Found all your porn and your sex toys," Jensen says in way of greeting, clearly teasing. He drops the bag onto the floor and leans over the back of the couch, kissing Jared when Jared tilts his head back.

"Anything interesting?" Jared asks, and Jensen shrugs.

"Eh, nothing I couldn't handle," he says. "Though the blow-up doll with the big boobs made me feel a little inadequate."

"Ew, boobs," Jared replies, while Jensen rounds the couch and sits down next to him. "And I do not own a blowup doll."

"What do you own?" Jensen asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Shut up."

Jensen grins, settles one of his hands on Jared's thigh, and gives it a squeeze. "Come on. Bet you have some stuff."

"Guess you'll just have to find out," Jared replies with more bravado than he feels, and Jensen's lips stretch into a smirk that makes Jared's stomach swoop.

"Guess I do," Jensen murmurs, bringing his free hand up to Jared's neck. He pulls Jared in and kisses him, hard and open-mouthed, and Jared whimpers into the kiss.

+

They don't leave the house that day, just like Jensen promised Jared.

Instead, Jensen cooks dinner for him – roasted vegetables, rice, and spicy chicken – and Jared hangs out in the kitchen with him. Jensen pours him a glass of wine, but forbids him from helping with anything that requires a knife.

"We know how that ended last time," he says as he cuts zucchini and eggplant into pieces.

"That was one time," Jared mumbles, but stays where he's sitting at the counter and takes a sip of his wine.

"Well, you're sick anyway," Jensen counters. He drops his knife and crosses the small distance between them, cupping Jared's face in his hands and kissing him softly.

"Hmm. What was that for?" Jared asks, smiling.

"Just because," Jensen replies, thumbs stroking over Jared's cheeks. "You don't have to stay in here with me, you know? You can go watch some TV, or go outside, enjoy the weather before it gets cold."

"It's L.A., Jensen. It doesn't get that cold."

"Fine, doesn't mean you might not want to go outside anyway, get some fresh air," Jensen says. "Watching me cook is probably boring."

Jared gives him a reassuring smile and leans in, kissing him again. "Nah, I like watching you," he says, raising an eyebrow.

Jensen huffs out a laugh. "Suit yourself," he says, not unkindly, and finally drops his hands. He goes back to the counter and the pile of vegetables, and then starts wiggling his ass around. "This good for you?"

Jared laughs. "Yup, keep going," he agrees, and Jensen shoots him a grin. Jared picks up his wine again, grinning when Jensen shakes his ass once more, the movement a lot sexier than Jensen probably intends it to be, and feels happy and relaxed.

Dinner is a quiet affair, though Jared praises Jensen's skills profusely and vows to make Jensen cook for him more often. They clean up together, and then move to the living room to watch a movie.

Jensen gets them more wine and popcorn, while Jared chooses a movie, and then they curl up on the couch together.

"What did you choose?" Jensen asks, nestling against Jared's side.

"The Shining," Jared replies innocently and Jensen groans.

"Another horror movie? Really?"

Jared turns his body a little, angling it so he can look at Jensen and rolls his lower lip between his teeth. "Okay, a) you own the DVD," he points out.

Jensen grins and shrugs. "I never said I didn't like being scared," he admits and Jared gives him a reproachful look, which only makes him laugh. "Okay, what's b?"

"I kind of wanted to try something."

"Try what?"

"Well, remember back when you healed the cut on my finger and I tried to use my abilities to calm you down?" Jared starts, and Jensen nods.

"Succeeded, too, if I remember correctly."

"Yeah, well, I was thinking I want to try that again. Now that my abilities are fully formed, it should work," Jared explains. "And I should practice, right?"

"On me," Jensen says, but doesn't sound upset.

"If you don't mind."

Jensen leans in and pecks him on the lips. "Do your worse. Just don't stare at me creepily throughout the whole movie."

"Deal," Jared agrees, grabbing the remote control from the cushion next to him. They settle in, Jared's arm slung around Jensen's shoulder and Jensen's hand resting on Jared's stomach. It's warm and comfortable, and Jared soon gets sucked into the movie, mellowed out by the wine and food.

It's not until Jared feels the first tenons of echoes from Jensen that he remembers his plan and puts it into action. He tries to soothe Jensen, pushing feelings of contentment and calmness onto him. He recalls everything his parents and siblings told him about projecting your feelings, and does his best to envision what he wants Jensen to feel himself. He concentrates on Jensen, on the happiness and peace Jensen brings him, how safe Jensen always makes him feel, the way Jensen touches and kisses him, makes him feel good, then tries to push all of these things onto Jensen.

"Jay," Jensen starts, and Jared perks up.

"Is it working?"

Jensen tilts his head up and kisses Jared's jaw, chuckling softly against his skin. "Yeah, I'd say so."

"Really?"

"Hmm. Just be careful who you do that with, babe."

Jared looks down at Jensen, face basked in the soft light of the TV, and furrows his brows. "What? Why?"

"'Cause I'd rather you wouldn't project your horniness onto other people," Jensen says, voice teasing, and Jared gapes.

"I didn't," he argues, and Jensen nods.

"Oh yes, you did. There are happy thoughts and then there are happy thoughts, Jay," he counters. "Makes me wonder what you were thinking about just now."

Jared flushes, cheeks growing hot with embarrassment, and thinks maybe his thoughts strayed a little too much when he started thinking about Jensen's kisses and touch. "Sorry?" he tries, and Jensen laughs.

"Hey, I'm not complaining," he says. He kisses the corner of Jared's mouth, the touch of his lips lingering. "Just keep those feelings between the two of us."

"Uh, yeah," Jared agrees, ducking his head a little. Jensen gives his waist a reassuring squeeze and shifts a little closer, forehead brushing against Jared's jaw.

The next time Jared feels Jensen getting spooked again, he tries to think of puppies and sunshine and ice cream. Jensen doesn't comment, just strokes his hand down Jared's side once, and Jared takes that as a good sign.

+

Jared talks Jensen into staying in the next day – mostly by clinging to him when Jensen tries to get up and then distracting him with kisses whenever Jensen mentions going out – but on Sunday, Jensen puts his foot down and refuses to give in.

"You can't stay inside my house forever, Jared," Jensen says firmly, and the words hurt more than they probably should.

Jared puts his half-empty mug of coffee down and refuses to meet Jensen's eyes. "Right," he mumbles. "Right, of course. Sorry. I didn't mean to impose."

"No, hey. Jared," Jensen says quickly, and Jared looks up when he feels a warm hand cover his own. "That's not what I meant. You can stay here for as long as you like. But you can't hide from the world."

"I'm not hiding," Jared argues, but the words sound flat. Jensen gives him a small smile.

"Yes, you are. And I get it, okay? Wednesday sucked and it's totally understandable that you feel like avoiding people, but you can't do that," Jensen insists. "And I promise you it won't be anywhere as bad as it was a few days ago. You've had time to adjust."

"I know," Jared sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. "It's just...scary, I guess. I don't ever want to feel that way again."

"Jared. Babe, I'm a doctor. I can give you my word that the worst of it over. It might still be a bit weird and you might need some more time to fully get a hold on your abilities, but you'll be fine," Jensen says. "And I'll be there with you, okay?"

"Okay, fine," Jared agrees. "So, where are we going?"

"There's a park not too far away, within walking distance anyway. There are a bit more houses around the area, so there are usually some people, but not that many," Jensen explains. "Sound good?"

"Well, I wouldn't say good, but yeah, okay."

Jensen smiles. "Hey, trust me, okay?"

"I do," Jared replies, without hesitation, and Jensen smiles.

"Well, then let's get dressed and get going," he says. Jared meets his eyes and gives Jensen a tentative smile in return, praying that Jensen is right and he'll be fine.

If something happens, if it'll feel like Wednesday felt, Jared is pretty sure he really is going to hide away forever.

+

"How're you doing?" Jensen asks in a soft voice, laying a hand on Jared's arm.

Jared flinches when there's a high-pitched squeal from a kid on the playground, being pushed on the swing by who Jared assumes is the little girl's dad. He feels her joy, her excitement, and the amusement of the father. It's not as bad as it was a few days ago, not nearly as overwhelming, but it's still weird and uncomfortable.

"Jared," Jensen says.

Jared breathes in deeply, grimacing as he keeps walking briskly, trying to get past the playground.

"Breathe," Jensen says, hand sliding down to curl around Jared's wrist. "Jared, you need to relax. Don't focus on their emotions, okay? Just focus on yourself."

"It's weird," Jared says.

"I know, but you just need a little practice. You'll be fine."

Jared heaves in another breath, nodding slowly. He twists his hand to clasp Jensen's in his, holds on. "Just don't leave my side, okay?"

Jensen gives him an amused smile and bumps their shoulders together. "Not gonna happen."

"Good," Jared says and gives Jensen a small smile.

He feels a bit more confident and when a couple strolls past them, Jensen squeezes his hand, murmurs, "Breathe," and Jared does. He tries to block out the feelings swirling around in his head, focuses all of his attention on himself, on Jensen right there next to him, and feels better.

+

Jensen has to be back at his office the next day. Jared calls into work and explains the situation without giving them more information than necessary. It feels weird talking about it, weird that he suddenly has abilities after all these years of waiting. His boss is understanding, if not pleased, but Jared knows he doesn't have much of a choice. Jared isn't in any state to return to work yet and every doctor, with or without abilities, would agree on that.

He putters around Jensen's house after that, makes himself breakfast and walks aimlessly around the backyard. Finally, he goes back inside and sits down on the couch.

Jensen's phone is lying on the coffee table, and Jared takes a deep breath, picks it up and calls his mother.

She picks up on the third ring with a cheerful, "Hello?"

Her voice is so familiar, sweet and soft, and Jared closes his eyes for a second, reminded of how it used to be. How easily he used to get along with her, confide in her about everything – and then he got older and everything changed. He knows it wasn't her fault, wasn't anyone's fault, but Jared stopped fitting in and the more he withdrew from everyone, the more pushy and concerned his parents became.

"Hello?" Sherrie repeats.

"Hey mom," Jared finally says.

"Jared!" Sherrie sounds surprised. "Oh, I didn't recognize the number. Are you okay, honey? Where are you?"

Jared swallows, and curses himself for not having thought about this. Telling his mother that his abilities finally showed up is one thing, but Jared didn't even think about having to tell her about dating someone as well. "I'm at a friend's," he lies, and he's pretty sure his voice sounds off.

"Oh, what friend?" his mother asks, clearly not buying it.

Jared sighs. "Listen, mom," he says. "I'm actually calling because I wanted to tell you something important. My...my abilities manifested."

"What?" His mother's voice waivers, more shocked than surprised and Jared knows that, as optimistic and encouraging as his parents always tried to be, they stopped really believing Jared would ever manifest years ago. "Honey. How?"

Jared chuckles wryly. "Long story," he admits. "There's a doctor here in L.A., a healer, and he helped me."

"Oh. Oh, honey, that's wonderful," Sherrie says, and she's sniffling now, clearly on the verge of crying. "So wonderful. I can't believe this is happening. Oh Jared."

The words trigger something inside of Jared, makes his chest hurt, and he feels fourteen again, insecure and confused, hurt because he realized he was different from everyone in his family. "Me neither," he whispers. "I didn't think it would ever happen."

His mother lets out a laugh, wet with tears, but happy. "Wait until your dad finds out," she says. "Jared, he'll be so happy. I'm so happy for you."

"I'm happy, too, mom."

"That's good. That's all we ever wanted for you, to be happy," Sherrie says softly. "You haven't been. Not for a long time. And your dad and I, we weren't sure what to do about it, you know?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I know," Jared replies and snorts. "It can't have been easy with me."

"Oh honey, no. You were never any trouble. You were just so withdrawn, so dejected."

Jared sighs. "Yeah."

"But you're okay now? How are you feeling?" Sherrie asks. "God, I remember the first few days after my powers formed – they were horrible. And your siblings, they had such a tough time with it too."

"Yeah, no, I'm good, mom."

"Are you sure? Do you need me to come to L.A.? Your dad and I could get some time off, stay with you for a while."

Jared grimaces at the thought. He loves his parents, he really does, but he really doesn't want them around while he's still figuring things out. "That won't be necessary," he says quickly. "I'm fine. I got someone to take care of me."

"You do?" Sherrie questions, clearly surprised. "Someone like Genevieve, or, you know, someone like a man."

Jared laughs, both at the way his mother phrased it and the tone of her voice. "Well, he is a man," he teases, and grins when his mother makes an impatient noise. "And yeah, he's not like Genevieve at all. He's...really special to me."

"That's good. That's really good," Sherrie says. "You know, I'd love to meet this man of yours someday. And I'm sure your dad and your siblings would, too."

"You will," Jared promises.

"Maybe you could come for a visit soon, Jared? It's been too long, don't you think?"

"Yeah, mom, that would be real nice," Jared replies, and finds himself actually meaning that for the first time in a long time. He smiles even if he knows she can't see it.

Half an hour later – after his mom has told him anything and everything about how the rest of the family is doing and asked Jared about a million more questions about Jensen, about L.A., and about what's been happening in his life – Jared finally manages to convince his mother to say goodbye after promising to call again soon.

He calls Jeff next, explains what's going on with him and asks him to take care of as much of the official stuff as he can without Jared. Then he calls Genevieve at work, just to let her know he's doing okay and that he's with Jensen.

By the time Jensen comes home that night, Jared feels like he's talked enough for a week. When Jensen tells him he looks exhausted, Jared just smiles wryly and tells him he talked to his mother.

"How'd it go?"

"Fine," Jared says honestly. "She cried. Offered to fly up here. And then wouldn't let me go forever."

"Doesn't sound too bad," Jensen replies, kissing his cheek.

"It wasn't," Jared agrees, and decides not to tell Jensen that his mother is already planning their trip to Texas and that there's probably no way out of it.

Luckily, Jensen is easily enough persuaded to do something other than talking, and they spend the night making out on the couch and eating pizza.

+

That Friday, Jared braves the outside world when Jensen tells him he wants to take him out to dinner.

He's been out during the week, but it's only been short trips to the grocery store when he knew most people were at work. He's avoided any place crowded without Jensen there to take care of him.

The promise of a date is too tempting though, and Jared knows he has to deal with bigger crowds of people sooner or later. His boss has already asked him to come in the next week and discuss where to take things from there, and he's going to have to meet Jeff for some official stuff as well.

The restaurant Jensen picks is nicer than the places Jared usually goes to and, being Friday night, the place is pretty packed with couples and small groups of people. Jensen keeps a hand on the small of Jared's back as they're walked to their table, and then he asks Jared how he's doing five times during their dinner and keeps giving him small, furtive glances.

"I'm not going to freak out and run away, Jensen," Jared finally says, and Jensen looks at him sheepishly.

"Sorry," he says, picking up his wine glass and taking a small sip. "I'm just, you know, worried."

"Well," Jared starts with a smile. "My doctor told me I need to brave the big, bad world eventually."

"Did he?"

"Yes. And he's a smart man," Jared teases. Jensen grins, eyebrows going up.

"Sounds like it," he agrees.

Jared leans across the table, and lowers his voice. "He's also really, really gorgeous."

Jensen laughs softly. "Is he now?" he asks. "Not sure how that makes him a better doctor."

"It does though," Jared argues. "I stared at your ass all the way to our table and it totally distracted me from everything going on around us."

"Well, then. I'm glad I could help you."

"You do," Jared says, tone more serious and catches Jensen's eyes. "Jensen, you've been a huge help since pretty much the moment I met you. And not just as my doctor. You have no idea how much you've done for me these past few weeks, and how much I appreciate that."

Jensen gives him a small, private smile and shrugs. "Wasn't exactly a hardship," he says and knocks their feet together under the table.

+

"So, that was good," Jensen says when they're back at his place a couple of hours later.

Jared sits down on the bed, already down to his boxers and a t-shirt, and watches Jensen shuck the last of his clothes.

"It was," Jared agrees. "And thank you for being so, you know, overprotective."

Jensen scowls as he crawls onto the bed, pushing the covers aside. "I wasn't being overprotective," he argues, and Jared grins.

"Uh-huh, right," he says, and joins Jensen on the bed.

"Well, excuse me. You were the one clinging to me last week at the park," Jensen huffs. Under the covers, his hand finds Jared's waist, fingers sliding under the cloth and settling on his skin.

"I didn't say I minded. In fact, I'm pretty sure I thanked you for it," Jared replies, and shifts a little closer to Jensen. He kisses him, sweet and soft, and Jensen tightens his fingers on him, doesn't let him move away and Jared deepens the kiss. He keeps it sweet, lips sliding together as he slowly coaxes Jensen's lips apart, licks into his mouth.

"Jensen," he says softly, pulling away to look at him.

"Hmm?" Jensen blinks at him, lips shiny and red from kissing. Jared reaches out, traces them with his thumb, and smiles.

"I want you to fuck me," he murmurs. He feels the way Jensen goes still, freezing, his eyes widening just enough for Jared to notice.

"Are you sure, Jared?" Jensen asks, and he sounds so serious that Jared frowns.

"Am I sure about wanting to sleep with my boyfriend? Yeah, of course," he says. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Jared," Jensen says with a huff.

"What? Don't you want to?" Jared asks, starting to feel both worried and affronted. They've been taking things so slow – at least when it comes to sex – but Jared never thought that was for any other reason that the fact that they were still getting to know each other. Looking at Jensen now, seeing how reluctant he is, is making Jared wonder though.

"Of course I want to," Jensen replies calmly.

"But," Jared prompts, and Jensen heaves a sigh and sits up.

"Look, I'm just trying to do the right thing here, Jared. That's all."

"What do you mean, 'the right thing'?" Jared asks, and sits up as well, mirroring Jensen's stance. "We're grown-up men, who are in a relationship together. Unless there's something you're not telling me, I don't get why sleeping together could possibly be wrong when we obviously both want to."

"You're going through a lot of stuff right now, Jay. Through changes. Manifesting isn't easy for anyone, and I don't want to add to that," Jensen admits. "Things have been pretty crazy since you met me, and this thing between us is so...so intense. I'm just worried that I'll overwhelm you. That you're not up for sex yet."

Jared shuffles a little closer to Jensen on the mattress and ducks his head to look at Jensen's face. "I'm pretty sure there was a deeply insulting joke about me not being able to get it up in there somewhere," he jokes.

Jensen snorts, lips quirking up even though Jared can tell he's trying to glare at him. "I'm serious," he says.

Jared takes a breath and places his hand on Jensen's back, rubbing it through the thin layer of his shirt. "Yeah, well, and I think you're being overly dramatic," he says. "Look, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not up to going to a football game or a concert yet, or whatever. But I'm pretty sure sex won't kill me."

"Oh yeah? Remember what happened when I healed you?"

Jared groans. "Jensen. That was absolutely different," he replies. "For one, it wasn't bad, just a bit weird. For another, that was you using your abilities on me."

"I just don't want to hurt you."

"And that's very sweet of you. But seeing as you're a doctor, you should know that there's no chance in hell you will," Jared says. "Jensen, if anything, you make me feel better. Calmer. You know that."

Jensen huffs out a laugh and shrugs his shoulder. "Well, you make me a little bit irrational," he says, glancing up at Jared, and Jared grins.

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"Yeah, you do that," Jensen replies, and there's nothing mocking or teasing about his words. Jared cups his face and kisses him softly, relieved when Jensen kisses him back.

He pulls back and looks at Jensen, thumb stroking Jensen's cheek. "So," he starts. "We good now?"

"Perfect," Jensen replies.

"Good," Jared says and then frowns. "Though that conversation was a major mood killer."

"Oh yeah?" Jensen asks with a laugh. He curls his hand around Jared's wrist, and nuzzles into his hand, kisses Jared's pulse point. "What are we going to do about that?"

Jared quirks an eyebrow. "Well, the kissing was a good start earlier, so maybe we should go back to that and pretend we never had this conversation."

Jensen nods. "Okay. Just...stop me if it gets too much," he adds, and Jared rolls his eyes.

"I promise. Now, less talking, more making out," he says, and pulls Jensen in. Jensen comes easily, meeting Jared halfway for a kiss.

There's no reservation this time, no attempt to stop things, and they fall back onto the mattress together, never breaking their kiss. Jensen slots between Jared's legs perfectly, his weight pressing Jared back into the mattress.

They just make out for the next few minutes, while their hands roam over each other, slide under shirts and map out each other's bodies. Jared feels the way Jensen's cock starts to harden between them, feels himself respond the same way. He rocks his hips up, just enough to get a little bit of friction, and Jensen moans, wrenching his mouth away from Jared's.

"Jesus," he groans and grinds down against Jared.

"Just Jared," Jared replies, but he sounds a little breathless and Jensen smirks.

"Hmm, guess I didn't completely kill the mood after all, huh?" he asks, and Jared lets out a laugh, shaking his head.

"Guess not," he agrees, and pulls Jensen back down into a kiss.

+

Jared never thought about sex being one of the things that would be different if his powers ever manifested. He used to spend a lot of time wondering about all kinds of things, all kinds of aspects of his life, that would change. But he never considered how much more intimate, how much more intense sex would be if you can feel your partner's emotions.

He barely notices it at first. They get rid of the remainder of their clothes in a hurry, and he feels a flash of nervousness from Jensen before they're kissing again, naked bodies rocking together in the most amazing way.

Jensen slows things down after that, takes his time to kiss his way down Jared's body, and Jared buries his fingers in Jensen's short hair and doesn't even bother to bite back the embarrassing noises he is making.

"Fuck, you're so gorgeous," Jensen breathes, looking up at Jared from where he's been biting and sucking a mark onto Jared's hipbone. His lips are spit-slick, his hair disheveled from Jared's fingers, and just looking at him makes Jared flush with excitement.

"Jensen," he pants out, and Jensen grins up at him. He kisses the hickey he just made, then trails kisses along Jared's stomach. His chin brushes against Jared's cock, hard and wet with pre-come, laying against his belly, and Jared digs his heels into the mattress to keep still.

"I wanna suck you off," Jensen murmurs, and Jared groans.

"Next time," he says, even though the idea of Jensen's lips around his dick, swallowing him down, makes his head spin. "I really want you inside of me when I come, and if you blow me, that's never going to happen."

Jensen chuckles, but sits back, nodding his head. "Point," he says. His own dick is curved up, hard and beautiful, and Jared feels a rush of impatience, of want.

Jensen leans over Jared to reach for the nightstand. He drops a couple of condoms onto the pillow and holds up a tube of lube. He makes a show of flipping the cap open and coating his fingers with it, before he shifts their bodies so they're both lying down, facing each other. He kisses Jared, sweet and brief, and then trails his fingers down Jared's ass.

"If this gets too much at any time," he starts, tip of his finger tracing over the rim of Jared's hole, and Jared groans.

"Jensen. Shut up," he huffs, and Jensen presses their foreheads together.

"Just humor me."

"Okay. I promise I'll let you know if it's too much," Jared replies, and pushes his ass back to make a point. Jensen takes the hint and presses into him, his finger sliding in easily as he brushes his lips against Jared's in a kiss.

Jensen is careful about prepping him, kissing Jared and murmuring soft words to him as he opens him up. He trails kisses down Jared's throat when he adds a second finger, and presses his lips to Jared's pulse point when he pushes inside with three.

Jensen's fingers are long, thick enough that having three of them inside of him burns a little, but it feels good. It makes Jared feel full and stretched, a pulse of pleasure shooting through him every time Jensen presses against his prostate. He rocks back into the touch, murmurs, "Ready, Jensen."

"Shh, soon, babe," Jensen replies softly and twists his fingers in a way that makes Jared gasp. Their cocks are trapped between their bodies, sliding together, and Jared is pretty sure he could come from just this, from grinding against Jensen while Jensen fucks him with his fingers. He feels brief flashes of Jensen's emotions every now and then, just quick glimpses, but they makes his heart stutter nonetheless – being able to feel how the person you're having sex with actually feels, aroused and excited and happy, is amazing in a way Jared can't really put into words.

"Jensen," he moans, voice breaking a little, and Jensen pulls his fingers out. He kisses Jared, once, twice, and then rolls him onto his back and wrestles a pillow under Jared's hips.

"Good?" he asks, and Jared laughs softly.

"Hell, yeah. Come on," he says impatiently, and Jensen grins. He slides between Jared's legs, nudging them a little further apart, then grabs one of the condoms, tearing the wrapped open with his teeth. He rolls the latex over his dick quickly, and Jared can see now that he's not nearly as calm and collected as he had thought either.

Jensen slicks himself up with lube, and then hikes one of Jared's legs up over his shoulder, turning his head to kiss Jared's knee. "Ready?" he asks, and Jared wraps his second leg around Jensen's waist.

"I was ready ten minutes ago," he teases, and Jensen grins. He positions himself and presses forward. Jared feels the pressure, feels the head of Jensen's cock breach him and Jensen slides in. Despite the prep, the initial stretch stings a little, but Jensen stops, gives him time to adjust while his hand rubs over Jared's hip. He starts moving again when Jared tells him he can, and the slight pain ebbs away quickly and Jared feels the first tendrils of pleasure as Jensen slides deeper into him.

"Fuck," he whimpers when Jensen thrusts in a bit harder the next time, at just the right angle.

"Good?" Jensen asks, panting a bit, and repeats the movement.

Jared makes a noise that he hopes encompasses 'yes' and 'god' and 'fucking do that again'. He grabs Jensen's shoulders to hold on and tries to match Jensen's movements.

Jensen is big and perfect, his cock dragging against Jared's prostrate as he rolls his hips and fucks into Jared with a steady, fast rhythm. Jared feels buzzed, heady, feels his body burning with pleasure in a way it never has before.

It takes him a few moments to realize that what he feels isn't just his own sensations, but Jensen's emotions crashing over him in waves. It's overwhelming, like Jensen feared it would be, yet in the best way possible and Jared knows he's making loud, needy noises, clinging to Jensen and urging him on, but he feels beyond caring, beyond control. Jensen feels amazing, and knowing that he is making Jensen feel just as amazing is intense.

"Jensen," he manages, breathless. He pulls at Jensen until Jensen gets the message, leans down far enough that Jared can crash their lips together. The position makes Jared's thigh burn, his body almost folded in half, but he doesn't let up. He keeps kissing Jensen and comes messily between them, hard enough that he thinks he blacks out for a second or two.

He blinks his eyes open, finds Jensen staring down at him, flushed and beautiful. He thrusts into Jared once, twice more. Jared feels him more clearly now, feels all of Jensen, and he cups Jensen's face in clumsy hands and kisses him again. He feels Jensen freeze, buried deep inside of him, as he comes, too. They break the kiss when Jensen collapses onto him, neither of them caring about the mess between them.

"Fuck baby," Jensen murmurs finally, pushing up onto his arms and kissing his sweaty brow before pulling out. He ties the condom off and tosses it aside, and Jared pulls him back down, rolling them onto their sides, and lays a soft kiss on Jensen's lips.

"You doing okay?" Jensen asks softly, combing Jared's hair back with his fingers.

Jared snorts, though he feels too exhausted and content to give the noise any impact. "Yeah. Understatement," he says. "That was...different."

"Yeah."

"You felt it, too?"

Jensen leans in and kisses his forehead. "You were projecting quite a bit there."

"Sorry?" Jared asks, and Jensen grins, shakes his head.

"I assumed that was going to happen anyway," he replies. "You're still learning how to deal with your abilities. I didn't think you'd be able to block my emotions out during sex – or keep from portraying yours."

"I don't think I'll ever want to block yours out, because holy shit," Jared says, but the words get slurred a little when he yawns.

"Hmm, yeah," Jensen says softly, and Jared shuffles closer, nudges his face against Jensen's collarbone and lets his eyes slide shut.

"We should clean up," Jensen whispers, and Jared shakes his head.

"Tomorrow," he replies, and gropes around blindly to pull the covers over them. Jensen helps, shifts to get them more comfortable, and doesn't protest.

 

Epilogue

"Last one," Jensen says cheerfully, though Jared can hear in his voice how he exhausted he is.

He pushes past Jared with a large, brown cardboard box in his arms that has DVDs & stuff scribbled on it in Jared's messy handwriting. Jared grabs his keys from the dresser by the front door.

"I'll just lock the car up," he calls over his shoulder, though Jensen has already disappeared halfway into the living room. He jogs to the white van sitting in Jensen's driveway – their driveway – and closes the doors quickly, locking them up. The van belongs to one of Jensen's friends, and he doesn't need it back until the next day. Jared's never been more glad in his life that he doesn't own enough stuff to need anything bigger to move.

Jensen is in the kitchen when he makes it back inside, standing by the open fridge with a bottle of water. "Want one?" he asks, holding up a second for Jared, and Jared nods, catching the bottle when Jensen tosses it.

"You okay with ordering pizza or something?" Jensen asks, closing the fridge door. He drops down on one of the stools by the counter, legs sprawled out, and sighs. "I don't feel like cooking tonight."

"Sure, sounds good," Jared agrees. He goes to stand between Jensen's legs and loops his arms around Jensen's neck, unopened bottle of water dangling from his fingers. Jensen's arms wrap around him in return. "So."

"So," Jensen echoes.

"We're living together now," Jared says, feeling a thrum of excitement.

Jensen gives him a smile and pulls him a little closer. "I'm pretty sure you've been living here for months."

"Not officially," Jared counters and Jensen laughs softly, resting his head on Jared's shoulder. Jared dips his head down and kisses Jensen on the cheekbone.

"You happy?" he whispers.

Jensen gives him a small squeeze. "Really happy," he replies softly. "You?"

"Never been happier," Jared replies truthfully, and Jensen pulls back and tilts his head up for a quick kiss.

"I mean," Jared starts when they pull back, "I totally kick ass at being an empath. I have an awesome new job lined up thanks to Jeff. And I'm getting a puppy."

"I said we could talk about getting a puppy," Jensen interjects, and Jared smiles at him.

"We're totally getting a puppy," he says, and Jensen sighs.

"Fine," he concedes, but then reaches down and pinches Jared's thigh, making him jump.

"Hey!" Jared complains.

"Hey yourself," Jensen replies in the same tone. "Didn't you forget something on your list of things that make you really happy? Like a certain boyfriend?"

Jared pretends to thinks, cocking his head to the side and humming under his breath. "Well, he did come with a really nice house," he muses. "And the sex is pretty good."

"Glad to know you appreciate me," Jensen says flatly and drops his arms from around Jared, getting up with a groan. Jared makes a mental note to give him a back-rub later and find the heating pad that's somewhere in their bathroom. Jensen has denied that his back is hurting all day, but Jared hasn't even needed his abilities to know he's beens lying. Jensen is stubborn at best though, and both of them had been eager to get Jared moved in, so Jared simply made sure he carried the heaviest stuff before Jensen could get to it and hadn't said a word about Jensen's back. Healing himself is tricky for Jensen -- he can fix of scrabs and cuts, but his powers don't work on himself the way they work on others.

"You want your usual?" Jensen asks, stepping past Jared and lightly slapping his ass before reaching for the phone. Jared worms his arms around Jensen from behind and takes the phone from him.

"I'll order," he says, and kisses Jensen's jaw. "You get a beer and sit down."

"Why?" Jensen asks suspiciously, craning his head back to look at Jared.

"Because I'll get a kick out giving them this address," Jared replies. "And because your back hurts."

Jensen huffs. "It's just a little stiff."

"You're a sucky doctor," Jared counters and pats his hip. "Go sit down."

"Jared. We still need to unpack, anyway."

"We can do that later. Tomorrow, in fact, after a good night's sleep when you feel better," Jared waves him off.

"You're being ridiculous," Jensen points out, and Jared gives him a sweet smile.

"I'm also not above bribing you with sexual favors. So just do what I say already, because we both know I'll get my way."

"How is that argument supposed to make me give in, exactly? I'd rather you convince me with those sexual favors you just mentioned."

Jared rolls his eyes. "We'll have sex tonight anyway, so we're really just skipping the whole me bribing you thing and getting to the good part where you're a good boyfriend and do what I say."

"Fine," Jensen says. "But just so you know, I demand a blowjob tonight."

Jared salutes Jensen, and Jensen snorts in reply, but he goes to sit down on one of the kitchen chairs, sighing a little as he leans back. Jared gets two beers out of the fridge while he places their order, and hands one to Jensen.

"Should be here in about forty-five minutes," Jared says, standing behind Jensen. He puts his beer on the table and then rests his hand on Jensen's shoulders, squeezing a little. When his thumb press into tense muscles, Jensen groans and drops his head forward.

"Hurts?" Jared asks, and Jensen shakes his head.

"Feels good," he says, and Jared keeps going, feels the muscles slowly start to relax a little before he lets his hands slide lower.

"We should move this to the couch, so I can actually get to your back," he suggests softly, and Jensen hums. Jared holds out his hand, and Jensen takes it, lets himself be pulled up. They both grab their beers, and Jensen stops him, their hands still clasped together.

"Jay," he says, and leans up, kisses Jared softly. "I really love you."

Jared smiles and rests his forehead against Jensen's for a moment. "I know," he says, and they both know the words are true. Jared can feel it whenever they're together – whether they're fucking or cuddling and even when they're arguing.

"I really love you, too," he says finally, turning his head a little to brush his lips against Jensen's cheek.

He feels the burst of happiness radiating from Jensen, hears the grin in his voice when Jensen replies, "I know."