“Hey, Mr. P?” Jack hedges, hands clinging tightly to a beat up copy of Percy Jackson as he looks up at Jared over the solid oak panel. It's closing time and Jared's almost finished putting the front desk to bed for the night. Jack doesn't even have a library card and it would be a real pain in the ass to boot the computer back up again to set one up now. Still, Jared won't ever tell a kid they can't have a book. Especially not Jack.
“Yeah, Jack? You want to check that out?”
Jack's been coming to the library for a couple of weeks now, new in town and Jared would guess that books would be his best friends even if he wasn't new. Jared can relate.
“Nah,” he says, looking down and then back up again. “I'm almost done, I'll finish it tomorrow. I was... I was kinda hoping you might have job for me. Here. You know. Helping you out.”
Jared doesn't quite hide a smile when he asks, “How old are you?”
“Thirteen,” Jack answers, puffing up his chest. “And before you tell me that's too young, I don't want a real job. I want to volunteer. I can bank high school credit for next year if you sign some papers. And I can put books back where they belong, keep the shelves clean and stuff, you know I can. And you're always complaining that it takes you so long when you have other things to do.”
Jared is silent for a few seconds. Jack's not wrong. Jared's been wanting to hire one or two more part-timers for a while now. The town is growing but the budget isn't, so all the extra work has fallen on Jared's shoulders and it's kind of exhausting. He likes Jack. Jack's a good kid and honestly Jared could use the help, even just a couple of hours a week.
“So?” Jack asks, eyes going wide as he gestures with his hand.
“I'll need to talk to your parents, first,” Jared says.
“It's just my dad. Mom doesn't live with us anymore.”
“Oh,” Jared says, tamping down the urge to apologise. It's instinct, but more often than not it's unwanted. “Oh, Okay. Well then I'll need to talk to your dad, if you want to work here.”
“Yeah, sure!” Jack says, excitement growing. “I told him all about you and he said it was okay. You can meet him today. He's picking me up in a few minutes. On his motorcycle.”
“Your dad rides a motorcycle?” Jared asks, checking the locks on the drawers as his mind drifts briefly to thoughts of someone he used to know.
“Yeah,” Jack answers. “A Harley. He has a car too, but the Harley is so much more fun.”
“I'm sure it is,” Jared agrees, smiling.
“A motorcycle?” Jared asks, eyebrow raised. He looks over the thin frame, the tiny seat with Jensen pushed to the front, holding a bright pink helmet out for Jared. “And you want me to get on that thing?”
Jared's fifteen years old and Jensen's just graduated from high school, bought himself a present. He looks so excited that Jared doesn't want to let him down.
“Come on, baby. It'll be fun!”
Jared's not so sure about that, but he hops on anyway, takes the helmet that Jensen hands him with only a small scowl.
“It better be fun.”
It is, kind of.
Jensen drives them thirty miles down the highway and they pull off the road next to a small lake. There's no beach, just grass all the way up to swamp, but Jensen puts down a blanket and pulls out a couple cans of Pepsi and bag of pretzels. Not the best picnic ever, but Jared smiles anyway when Jensen sits behind Jared, knees bracing Jared's from the outside and one arm slung lazily over Jared's shoulder.
“So what are you gonna do now?” Jared asks, melting into Jensen as Jensen's fingers tickle his belly where his shirt's riding up.
“Keep my job at the shop, for now,” Jensen says. Mostly he just cleans it, but Jensen's boss has been giving him more and more time to actually work on the cars that come in. “Wait it out.”
“Wait what out?” Jared asks.
“You.” Jensen's arm wraps around him tighter. “Wait until you graduate. Wait until you marry me.”
Jared smiles at that but ducks to keep his face forward so Jensen doesn't see.
“You think I'm gonna?” he mumbles, teasing.
Jensen's quiet for a little too long and Jared starts to get nervous.
“Please?” is his eventual response.
“Are you...” Jared starts, goes stiff and turns as he pushes up so he's looking at Jensen's face. “Wait, hang on. Are you asking?”
“I want to get out of here, Jared,” Jensen tells him. “This town. It's too small, I want to see what's out there. And I want you with me when I do.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Nowhere. Everywhere. I just... I need to move. I don't want us to work at the shop and library for the rest of our lives, settle down only ever knowing one thing, you know?”
“Jensen... I've still got two more years of high school, and then... then I was thinking college and...” And yes, he'd kind of planned to work at the library for the rest of his life, except he'd run the place and Jensen would run the auto shop and they'd live together and adopt babies and go to the neighbourhood cookouts every Sunday. But Jensen.
Jensen's shiny and beautiful and all Jared can really see of tomorrow, when it comes down to it. “Are you really asking..?”
“Come with me,” Jensen demands, cupping Jared's chin and drawing him closer. He doesn't kiss Jared, but his eyes linger on Jared's lips for a moment. “I'll wait for you, but... come with me. And yeah, baby, marry me.”
Clearly that hadn't worked out.
“Hey Mr. P!” Jack shouts, turning back from where he's looking out the front window. It shakes Jared out of his musings and he wonders how long he's been staring at Jack's discarded book on the counter, remembering.
“My dad's outside. Come talk to him.”
Jared pastes on a smile and he follows Jack out of the library, locking the door behind him.
When he turns around, his jaw drops. His feet feel twice as big as they really are and his legs have suddenly lost all rigidity, but he manages to stay upright, thank God. His knees are more than a little weak but he gets them steady under his weight and makes his way down the short flight of stairs outside the library's front doors.
He's older, Jack's dad. He's taller and broader and he holds himself a little stiffer but he's just as breathtakingly handsome as he was when Jared was in high school.
Jared flounders, blinks a few times and he's glad to see that Jack's dad does as well, before the other man pushes off his motorcycle, stands up straighter, unfolds his arms from across his chest and smiles.
“Mr. P,” he drawls, slow and sweet and just this side of amused. “Wow. I probably should have known.”
“Mr. Aaa...” Jared starts and then he remembers he never asked Jack what his last name was. He can try to perpetuate the rouse, he supposes, but it won't do anyone any good. “Jensen.”
“You know my dad?” Jack asks, looking up at Jared. “That's so cool! I know he used to live here.”
“Yeah, kiddo,” Jensen says, when it's clear Jared can't speak. “Me and Mr. P used to be friends.”
Jensen gives permission for Jack to work for a ten hours a week and Jared signs the papers so Jack can take them to his school.
He passes them to Jensen in the parking lot at half past three on a grey Tuesday afternoon. Jack has already jumped off the bike and make a bee-line for the stack of returned books.
“So, did you see the world?” Jared asks, lip curled with what he's sure isn't nearly an appropriate amount of snark. They're the first words he's spoken to Jensen in fifteen years. Fifteen years he's been thinking about this moment, in the back of his mind imagining what it would be like to see Jensen again.
He's moved on. His junior year of studying library sciences in college he met a boy and they got very serious for a very long time. He split up with Misha just over a year ago, been on his own since then but even so, he's very over his years old thing with Jensen.
Jensen barks a sharp laugh and tucks Jack's helmet into the pack on the side of his bike.
“Well, I saw Nevada. Part of it, anyway. I got as far as Vegas,” he continues at Jared's puzzled frown, “and then something came up.”
“So you didn't... you didn't travel, like you always wanted.” Jared's not sure how he feels about that. If he was feeling anything at all, which he obviously isn't, he thinks it'd probably be hurt. Jensen didn't want to settle down in Pecos with Jared, but clearly a very short time later he moves to Vegas and has a family? What the fuck?
“Not so much, no. Thanks, Jared,” Jensen says, nodding at the papers in his hand. “Jack really seems to like you.”
Jared smiles slightly at that.
“I like him, too. You've got a good kid, Jensen.”
“Hey, can we... I mean, do you want to get together sometime? Catch up?”
God, Jared really, really does. It's not like he's been pining for the past fifteen years or anything, but he's never forgotten the way Jensen used to make him feel, never forgotten what Jensen was to him. And seeing him again, all grown up and even more breathtakingly attractive than when they were kids, Jared really, really wants to catch up. Still, he's got his pride.
“What's there to say?”
“Look, I'm not tryin' to... If you've got someone, or whatever. This isn't that. I just. It's great to see you, Jared. Really great. I mean, you're Jack's boss,” he says, throwing a bright smile Jared's way. “It'd be nice to be friends again.”
“Yeah, maybe it would,” Jared agrees.
“So is that a yes, we can hang out some time?”
He looks so hopeful, so ridiculously adorable with his wide eyes and his pursed lips.
“I take my lunch break at one,” Jared relents. He regrets it already.
Jensen comes back just before six that evening to pick Jack up.
The bike he's riding these days is different, has a different rumble to it than the smaller one he used to drive Jared around on. It's different, but seeing it makes Jared feel just the same.
Jared's still got a stack of books as high as his waist on the ground next to him, waiting to be put away when he hears the soft, slight purr of Jensen's motorcycle drift through the open window. He curses and works double time to try to get all the books in their proper places but he's only managed to stack half a dozen before the engine shuts off.
Crap. He hates it when Jensen comes inside to get him.
Except for how he kinda loves it.
He slows down now, no sense in rushing anymore and he smiles and shivers less than a minute later when Jensen sidles up behind him, wraps an arm around his waist.
“Did I ever tell you about my sexy librarian fantasy?” he rasps, chin resting on Jared's shoulder.
Jared snorts and shrugs Jensen off, places another book.
“Several times,” he answers. Then, like always, he hisses “There's cameras in here, man. I don't want to get fired.”
And just like always, Jensen drags him around the corner, between the ancient history stacks where none of the cameras can see them.
“This okay?” he asks, pushing Jared up against a wall of books. He mouths at Jared's neck and works his hand down the front of Jared's pants. Not exactly seduction at it's finest, but then Jared doesn't really want Jensen to seduce him, not here. He wants it hard and fast, here. Wants it dirty.
“Yeah,” Jared gasps, throwing his head back and spreading his legs, giving Jensen better access. “Yeah, do it.”
His hand snakes down and he grips Jared's growing erection in a tight fist. He pumps it a few times, swirls his tongue around the shell of Jared's ear and then Jared is bucking, thrashing and whimpering in Jensen's hold.
“Just like that, baby,” Jensen murmurs, coaxing Jared through his orgasm. He pulls his hand free and licks it clean. Jared whimpers and his cock twitches again.
They haven't been doing this for very long. They've been dating for just over a year, since Jared had only just turned fifteen but it's only been the past couple of months, since Jensen graduated high school and they got... engaged that their relationship has gotten so physical.
Jensen leans in when he's done, slips his tongue between Jared's lips and Jared's moan goes from aroused to cranky when he moves to stand up straight again.
“Ugh, my pants are all... slimy and gross,” he complains.
Jensen laughs and kisses Jared one more time.
“I'll make it up to you,” he promises.
Two days later, Jared hears the deep growl of a Harley engine outside the library at five minutes to one.
His heart flips over before he even looks out the window, knows exactly what he's going to see and he can't decide if he's excited or dreadful. No, that's a lie. He wants to spend time with Jensen more than he wants his next breath., so he's definitely both at once. It's fucking weird; something he didn't miss until he was faced with it again, but now that it's here, it's torture.
He goes to meet Jensen outside, can't do this inside the building, where all his memories live.
“PB and J,” Jensen calls out, climbing the stairs to meet Jared outside the doors. He hands him a foil-wrapped package and waves one of his own. PB and J. It was Jared's favourite when he was a teenager. “I don't know what you eat these days.”
“Thanks,” Jared smiles and takes the sandwich. He's got an egg salad in the fridge inside, but it'll keep. He still likes PB and J. “Grape jelly?”
“Is there any other kind?” Jensen scoffs.
They sit down on the top step, less than a foot between them and they eat.
“So,” Jensen starts, when he's stuffed the last corner of crust into his mouth. “You running the library now? Can't say I'm surprised.”
“What's wrong with that?” Jared bristles.
“What? No, nothing. Just... You were always happy here. Good to see that you stuck with it.”
“Hm,” Jared answers. He's still not sure that's not a subtle dig. “And you? What did you end up doing with yourself?”
“This and that,” Jensen doesn't really answer. “Never really got as far as making a career out of anything.”
“So what are you... I mean, why are you back in town? What are you doing here?”
“Aunt Kathy died,” Jensen answers.
“Shit,” Jared breathes. “I'm so sorry, Jensen.”
“Eh,” Jensen shrugs. He was never especially close with his aunt, despite being raised by her. It always used to make Jared kind of sad, that Jensen didn't have a family like he did. Jensen never seemed bothered by it, though. Still doesn't. “She left me her house and I didn't have anything tying me to Vegas, so I figured what the hell? Why not move back, you know? Stronger financial footing and all that.”
“You didn't... What about Jack's mom?”
Jensen coughs and his lips turn up at one corner.
“That's not really first date talk,” he says. “I'll tell you all about it another time, if you want.”
Jared's not desperate. He's not obsessed and he's not smitten and he's not being lead around by his heart (or his dick). All of those things are true, yet only two days later he finds himself dropping everything and running through the front doors almost on auto-pilot, the second he hears Jensen pull up outside. His stomach is fluttering and his chest feels light as he descends half the flight of stairs and watches Jensen take off his helmet, then help Jack with his.
“Here,” Jensen says, pulling out his wallet. He flips through it as Jack jumps off the back of the bike; neither of them seem to have noticed Jared yet. Jensen thumbs out a couple of bills and stuffs them into Jack's hand. “Ten bucks. Go nuts.”
Jack fist pumps and practically flies down the sidewalk, off to the block of shops on the corner.
“He's gonna spend the whole ten bucks on candy,” Jensen grumbles, when he finally glances in Jared's direction.
Jared smiles, because he can relate and asks, “So why'd you give it to him?”
Jensen just holds out a brown paper bag, greasy at the edges.
“Diamond burgers,” he says. “One O'clock, right?”
Jared blinks, taken aback. He wasn't expecting Jensen to eat with him on a weekend, when Jack wasn't working at the library.
“Huh? I... yeah. Yeah, thanks,” he says, taking the burger Jensen hands him.
Again they eat in silence, but for the nearly pornographic noises Jensen makes while he licks his lips. Jared's not gonna lie, he gets hard.
“You...” Jensen starts, fidgets a little with the empty burger wrapper once they're finished. He's nervous and it's fucking adorable. Jared is in serious trouble here. “You know. You married? Any family?”
“Subtle,” Jared snickers. His body tickles. Everywhere. “And no, no I never got married.”
“Is there anyone?”
Jared sighs and tosses his garbage into the bin next to the door.
“Hey, I just want to know what I'm up against.”
“I thought you said this wasn't that,” Jared says, even if he's secretly hoping that it is. His heart is beating out of control at the thought that Jensen is up against anything at all. “That you wanted to be friends.”
“I do want to be friends, I think,” Jensen tells him. His voice is soft and steady and he's not looking at Jared. “And friends tell each other stuff. Like how work's going and about the new restaurant they tried and if they're seeing someone.”
“No,” Jared answers, smiling at how Jensen managed to make things both more and less awkward at the same time. “Not currently, no, but...”
“A drink, then.”
“Come get a drink with me. Not now, obviously, but. One night after work. Let's get a drink.”
Jared doesn't respond. That's definitely an invitation to a date and Jared's been through all this once before. His lack of response doesn't seem to bother Jensen, though.
“So I'll see you Monday. One o'clock,” Jensen says, smiling as he stands. He helps Jared up, walks him to the door and opens it for him.
“Yeah,” Jared answers, blushing furiously. “See you Monday.”
It's Tuesday night and Jensen was supposed to pick Jack up from his shift at the library fifteen minutes ago.
“Hey, don't sweat it,” Jack tells him, barely looking up from where he's flipping through his latest Spiderman graphic novel. “He probably just got held up at work. You can get back to what you need to do, I can wait on my own.”
“Yeah,” Jared says. He knows Jack can wait on his own, but he likes to wait with him. He likes to see Jensen, even if it's just to wave from the front door while Jack hops on his bike. “Hey, what... what does your dad do?”
He's not nearly as casual as he means to be, he knows that. And he could just ask Jensen, but he hasn't. Their conversation is always stilted, one-track and very difficult to turn around, given they're always so short.
“You like him, right?” Jack asks, instead of answering. And wow, if there was ever any doubt the kid was Jensen's son, that's long gone.
“We were friends,” Jared says, willing the blood from his cheeks as Jack smirks at him.
“You were more than friends,” Jack says. “He talks about you. Did even before we moved here. And I know he still likes you, so. You like him back, right?”
Jared's honestly not sure what the answer to that is.
He's definitely still attracted to Jensen, definitely still remembers what it was like to be in love with him, but it's been more than a decade. He's been in love since then. Jensen should be out of his system.
“Well?” Jack prompts and Jared falters.
“I...” he starts, but he's cut off when the screeching roar of Jensen's motorcycle signals his arrival.
“He likes pretzels.”
“You know, if you wanted to get him a present. He likes pretzels.”
Jared doesn't really know what to say to that, but Jensen chooses that moment to honk his horn and Jack doesn't bother waiting for Jared to answer. He tosses his book into his backpack and hops over the back of the lounge chair he's been sitting on.
“Later, Mr P!” he calls, words muffled by the wind as it catches the door behind him.
Jared smiles at them from the window as they drive off.
A week and a half later Jared finds himself agreeing to meet Jensen for a drink after work.
He's not sure why he does it.
Okay, that's another big fat lie. He's entirely sure of why he does it but he feels guilty over it. They've been getting to know each other over the last month, slowly and vaguely – hell, Jared still knows next to nothing about what Jensen does with his days, or what he's done with them since he left town.
He feels like he's getting to know Jensen though, who he is. And it's not altogether different than who he was.
“So, tell me,” Jared says, signalling Alona to bring them another round. “About Jack, his mom, that... that whole thing you said you'd tell me, one day.”
“Do you remember our first time?” Jensen asks, after a pause. He stops and shoots a wink at Alona as she sets another two bottles of beer on their table and Jared rolls his eyes. So, Jensen's still an unapologetic flirt. Good to know.
Alona blushes and smacks Jared in the arm, shooting him an incredulous look as she heads back to the bar. Which is Alona for 'why did you not introduce me to this stunning piece of man-meat?' He makes a mental note to tell her that she's barking up the wrong tree, but then the current topic of conversation splashes over him like cold water and he's suddenly not so sure she is.
“I remember you were so fucking eager you tripped and fell on your face, trying to get out of your pants fast enough.”
“Dude!” Jensen protests, affronted. “I hadn't had sex in a year and a half! 'Course I was eager.”
Jared smiles then, softly, remembering. It had been Jensen's birthday present, officially but it was just as much a present to himself. “And then you slowed right down. Took your time, kept making sure I was okay.” It had been Jared's first time and Jensen, though he was a few years older he hadn't once complained when Jared spent over a year saying he wasn't ready. “Anyway, what does this have to do with Jack?”
“I remember it, too,” Jensen says, taking a long pull from his bottle. “My birthday, you know? I remember it every year. And that first year away from you, it was... it wasn't easy. Me and Cindy – that's Jack's mom, Cindy – we'd been working at this bar together on the strip. I'd only been there a few weeks, but she could tell I was down about something and she found out it was my birthday so she clocked us both out early. We got a booth and drank an entire bottle of tequila and... Yeah, you can probably guess the rest.”
“So you...” Jared starts, but he doesn't know how to continue. Jensen's gay, Jared has proof. But, apparently he's not. “You switched teams?” Smooth.
But Jensen just laughs.
“Not even a little. I mean, if I was gonna cross the field for anyone, it'd be Cindy. I really do love her, but. But no. We were together. I mean, kind of. I mean,” Jensen's flustered, for the first time in a very long time and Jared's heart melts just a little more. “I knocked her up and then after that we tried for a little while, but. No, it became apparent pretty damn quick that I was a steadfast homo.”
“Unless there's tequila,” Jared snarks, only half joking. This is a lot to process and he feels like he's doing pretty well, considering.
Jensen laughs again, that deep, warm laugh and it's grown up so much, just like the rest of Jensen and awkward conversation aside, Jared's pretty much ready to ask for the cheque and take Jensen home.
“Yeah,” he agrees. “Unless there's tequila. But we tried, you know? We were a family. We were, even if Cindy and I weren't... together like that. We still are a family.”
“Then why isn't she here?” Jared asks and when Jensen's face closes down in a split second, Jared thinks he might have pushed too far.
“I've gotta get home,” Jensen says, standing up. He pulls out his wallet and tosses a few bills on the table. “Make sure Jack goes to bed on time.”
Jensen shakes his head.
“It's cool, Jared. Look, I... Can we do this again?”
“Have awkward conversation over luke-warm beer?”
Jensen smiles a little.
“Can I take you out?” he asks.
“Jensen,” Jared sighs. He really doesn't know how to answer that. It's great to see Jensen again, it really is, but he's kind of worried that it's too great. He's worried that after one date, one... whatever this was that he'll be right back where he was fifteen years ago; vulnerable and in love and ultimately alone.
“One date, Jared,” Jensen goes on. “If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. But I still feel us. Don't you?”
Fuck does he ever.
“Yeah,” Jared croaks out. “Okay, yeah. One date.”
One date turns into two, turns into five and before Jared knows it they're officially 'dating'.
It's not like it used to be.
Back when they were kids it was all moon eyes and deep conversation and making out twenty-four seven. Now the conversation is less personal – movies and sports and global warming instead of plans for their future and 'no, I love you more' – and there definitely hasn't been any making out.
And it's not like Jared hasn't tried. He's been sending signals, he's been leaning in, brushing against Jensen, batting his eyes. He blushes, he flexes, he bends over. He catches his fingers on Jensen's when he passes him the ketchup and he presses their thighs together in the movie theatre. He's done everything short of striping naked and climbing into Jensen's lap but at this point, honestly he's not ruling that out.
Three weeks of Jared throwing himself at Jensen and the guy hasn't done more than give Jared a soft, simple kiss on his mouth at the end of the night. Jared is kind of going crazy. Sure, he wanted slow. Sure, he was hesitant to start this up again and he wanted his space but this is just nuts.
He has first hand experience that Jensen will literally fall on his face in his haste to get laid. He's starting to think that maybe Jensen really did turn straight.
He's still not sure he can trust Jensen again, not sure that what they're building can really go the distance, but he's not sure it won't, either. Jared's never been in a relationship that's progressed this slowly, not even the first time with Jensen and certainly not with Misha and Jared's just about done. It's been over a year since Jared last had any action and that ends, tonight.
He has some reservations, of course he does, but he's willing to take some chances so he invites Jensen over to his place. Well, Jensen and Jack. Jack's volunteering at the library today and Jared's asked them both over for supper.
And there's a fold-out couch in the basement, with a TV and a Playstation, which Jack makes full use of once dinner is over and the 'boring grown-up talk' starts.
“We've been together for a couple of months,” Jared says once they're alone, but he stops when Jensen's smile grows wide. They're on the couch, local news playing on the TV.
“We're together, are we?”
“Shut up,” Jared scowls. “You know what I mean.”
“Oh, I do,” Jensen answers, eyes wide and nodding in mock seriousness. “You mean you want to have my babies.”
Jared flusters, shakes his head.
“Be serious. What's your job?”
“What?!” Jensen laughs, moving closer to Jared on the couch. “That's not why you invited me over here tonight.”
“Actually,” Jared says, “It kind of is. I want us to move forward with this... this relationship. But if that's gonna happen, we need to be more open with each other.”
Jared watches Jensen's smile fade by degrees and eventually he shrugs and shifts further away.
“Can't get a job as a mechanic. Working on it, but... I sling cocktails, for now.”
“Jensen, there's nothing wrong with that.”
“I work at The Beefcake,” Jensen admits, looking at the floor. The male strip club downtown. “I have to wear shorts, man.”
Jared doesn't want to laugh, but he can't help himself.
“Dude! It's not funny.”
“It is, a bit,” Jared manages, as he laughter slows.
Jensen's scowl deepens and Jared sobers further.
“Sorry, no,” he says. “No, it's not really funny. That was totally uncool of me. I just... I can't imagine you parading it around for a bunch of tipsy twenty-something girls. Actually, that's not... I really can imagine it. You were always such a flirt.”
“I'm not... I just serve them drinks. I don't screw them.” Jared can see his smile, though. Jensen knows he's a flirt, always has. He's never felt bad about it.
“Hey, I never said you did,” Jared says, hands up. “You know, I should come see you at work sometime.”
“They wouldn't let you in,” Jensen says, shaking his head. His voice is harder, now.
“No, I guess not.” They don't let men into the clubs where men strip, not unless they're the one of the few 'gay' clubs. Never mind the fact that half the strippers in the clubs all over the state are gay. The club runners seem to be of the opinion that gay men will be unable to control themselves in the face of dick and in order to stymy unwanted attention, need to be kept outside.
Fucking homophobic asshats.
“Will you wear the shorts for me?” Jared asks, smiling as he leans his head on Jensen's shoulder. “You could come over and serve me drinks.”
Jensen laughs out loud at that, but he throws his arm over Jared's shoulder, settling him closer. Jared's taller now, so he has shift on the couch, lean a little, but when he gets situated it feels just as perfect as it used to.
“So you never did tell me,” Jensen says, after they watch a story about a boy who survived a fall from a fifth story balcony. “Has there been anyone? Anyone serious?”
Jared is quiet for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He doesn't budge from Jensen's side, squeezes his hand reassuringly over Jensen's knee.
“Yes,” he finally answers, when he has the right words. “There was you, of course and there was... Misha.”
“Misha? Is that a guy?”
Jared laughs, even as he lifts his hand to smack the back of Jensen's head.
“Yes, jackass, that's a guy. We were together eight years.”
“Wow,” Jensen says and Jared can feel him stiffen. “That's... That's a long time. What happened?”
“Nothing, really,” Jared answers. “Just. You know. Fell out of love. I'm sure you've been there.”
“Nope,” Jensen shakes his head, turning it land on a kiss on the top of Jared's. “Never loved anyone but you and since then, I've never had a relationship last longer than a couple of months.”
That confession sends a pleasant buzz down Jared's spine. Not that he's glad Jensen hasn't been able to find someone. Okay, no. He really is glad.
“What about Cindy?”
Jared expects Jensen to brush the question off, expects him to give a non-answer and point to a distraction but instead Jensen surprises him.
“We lived together for thirteen years. We saw other people – I mean, obviously we saw other people, we weren't seeing each other. We lived together for Jack, and because... Because we're friends. Best friends. But that only goes so far. Cindy left me because she wanted a shot at a real relationship,” Jensen admits, breath coming out in a heavy sigh. He falls back further into the couch, plays his fingers through Jared's hair. “She met someone.”
Jared can hear the catch in Jensen's voice, hear the hurt. He puts a hand on Jensen's knee, rubs his thumb back and forth.
“And I get it. Wanting that one special someone, it definitely wins out over whatever it was that we had. I guess I just couldn't relate because my-”.
Jared's breath catches at Jensen's abrupt pause.
Jensen snorts a laugh and shakes his head.
“My special someone was long gone, so I guess I didn't care anymore. I was happy with what we had.”
“Jensen, why...” Jared starts, shifts so he can look at Jensen as he speaks. “Why haven't you, you know. Made a move, yet? It is... It is me, right? Your special someone?” God, he feels like an idiot, but he needs to know.
Jensen stares at him for a moment, intense and unnerving before he smiles a slow, sly smile.
“Didn't want to sully your virtue, sweetcheeks.”
“Jensen,” Jared admonishes, even as he smiles, that 'aww, shucks' smile and ducks his head to hide his blush. “Seriously. You do want this. Us. Don't you?”
“Yeah, Jared. Of course I do. And I am kind of serious. I mean, last time around it took us over a year to sleep together. I don't want to rush you.”
“We were kids,” Jared counters. “I was a virgin. Jensen, you can't really think this is the same situation. Trust me, I'm kind of... good to go, here. You wouldn't be rushing me.”
“Well maybe I didn't want to rush me. Having you back, a second chance for us... It's everything I've been wanting, basically since I left. I just want to make sure we do this right.”
That's actually really sweet, Jared thinks, if woefully misguided.
“Hey you know, you've seen almost all of my house, but I haven't shown you the bedroom yet.”
Jared holds his breath as Jensen shifts, slowly stands and holds his hand out to Jared.
“Lead the way,” is his answer.
After a quick stop downstairs to confirm that Jack has fallen asleep in the middle of his movie, Jared does.
Thirty seconds later Jared is pinned to the wall next to his bedroom door, wrists held in Jensen's hands and pressed the wall next to his hips.
Ten seconds after that Jared's lips are swollen from rough bites and they're both shirtless, breathless and desperate.
Ten more seconds and they lose their pants and then Jared completely loses track of time. He has no idea how long it is before Jensen has him on the bed, face down and begging for it, no idea how much time passes before Jensen finally slides inside.
It's tight, it's full and it's wonderful. It's not just like he remembers, of course; that was over a decade ago and honestly, Jared barely remembers what it felt like. Physically, anyway. He can't say if Jensen's technique has changed (though his size definitely has) but Jensen's just as sure and steady as he ever was and Jared's heart still flips over and he still feels like he can't get close enough.
It's not just the same as it was, he's pretty sure. It's not the same but he feels just the same and he loses track of absolutely everything except for the way Jensen's breath catches against the shell of Jared's ear.
The best sex Jared's ever had wasn't with Jensen. Of course it wasn't; he'd had only a few months of novice teenaged sex with Jensen compared to eight years of sex with a very imaginative and bendy Misha.
Yet when Jensen leans down, when he presses Jared's shoulders against the mattress and he curls his hips up behind Jared's to push, push, push up inside him and he whispers into Jared's ear, “Never,” Jared whimpers and shivers and he doesn't remember feeling so good, not ever.
“Never,” Jensen goes on. “Haven't felt anything so good. Jared... Never stopped thinking about you. I can't... Oh God, baby, I... fuck!”
Jared gives in immediately when Jensen's hand strips his dick, quick and dirty. He comes all over Jensen's fist and melts into the dual sensation of tight and full as Jensen angles his hips just right and grunts softly, thrusts becoming stilted and sharp.
Jensen lets out a long breath and he curls against Jared's back as he lowers them both to their sides. He kisses the back of Jared's neck, tickles his fingers over Jared's hip and down his leg and his cock gives a few last twitches inside Jared. And then Jared panics.
“Condom!” he barks, jerking his hips forward. It's too late, much too late he knows but he slams his palm against Jensen's belly, forcing him out. He doesn't have any. Hasn't needed any in a very long while and he didn't even think. “Jesus, Jensen, we...”
“Relax,” Jensen tells him, laughing lightly as he pulls Jared close again. Jared feels movement behind his back and then Jensen's hand shows up in front of his face, dangling the soiled prophylactic. Jared's breath comes out in a relieved rush. “Had one. In my wallet.”
The look on Jared's face must betray the questions he'd like to keep to himself.
“I wasn't expecting this, or anything,” Jensen tells him, tossing the used condom into the waste bin with impressive aim. “I just like to be ready. Not that,” he quickly backpedals, “not that I do this a lot. I mean, once in a while I...” He breaks off into nervous laughter. “Yeah. Sorry. I'll shut up.”
Jared laughs with him, softly and they lie quietly for a long time.
“So I should...” Jensen says after a while, easing up to a sitting position and gesturing to his clothes, strewn about the floor.
“You should stay,” Jared says. “Jack's asleep, no reason to wake him up. And I... I want you to. Stay.”
Jensen looks unsure and Jared holds his breath until Jensen slowly nods.
“I want to stay, too.”
“Stay,” Jared says. It's the day after his high school graduation and he's standing in his driveway next to Jensen's bike. Jensen's wearing his leather jacket, he's got a saddlebag on the side of his bike with all his worldly possessions and his eyes are cold steel. “Please, Jensen stay.”
“You said you'd come with me,” Jensen says. “You said... We planned this, Jared! You were supposed to come with me.”
“How?!” Jared asks. Yes, he'd said he'd go with Jensen, promised to travel with him, that they'd leave together, but it was all hypothetical, wishful thinking. 'Wouldn't it be nice?' daydreams. It's not like it was ever a real possibility, they both knew that. Or, Jared did, it seems. “What would we do, Jensen? For food and shelter? You think we're just going to float from town to town, stumbling into money and good times? You're dreaming. And what about my family, what about school? I want to go to college. I want a good job, I want to get married, have kids.”
Jensen laughs, a sharp, bitter sound.
“Here? You want to have kids with a guy. In this town. And you think I'm the one that's dreaming.”
“Never said it would be a cakewalk,” Jared shrugs. “But I like it here.”
“And you can't like it here when we're older?” Jensen asks, shoulders sagging a little. “Why can't we get out there now, have our adventure and come back when we're ready to settle down?”
Because Jared might be young, but he's not stupid. If they leave now, they probably won't come back. He'll be miserable to make Jensen happy and he'll only grow to resent him, over time. Jared knows what he wants and if Jensen would only stay with him, he'd have it.
“You go,” Jared tells him. His throat gets tight as he has to choke back tears, because he wants Jensen to say no, to say he'll stay. “You go, just... just for the summer, or something. Get this out of your system and I'll be here when you get back.”
“Come with me, just for the summer,” Jensen counters. “We'll blow off some steam and if you want, we can be back in time for you start school in September.”
Except Jared doesn't have any steam to blow off. He doesn't want to leave and Jensen doesn't want to stay.
“I have to work,” he says. “Save up. I can't just...”
“You always were the responsible one,” Jensen says, cracking a slight smile. He straightens and sobers after a few seconds, his eyes wide and pained. “Just for the summer.”
Jared can't hold back the tears any longer, his eyes are red and his cheeks are wet and his breath hitches again and again.
“You'll come back,” he says, even though he doesn't really believe it. Even though he's still hoping Jensen will change his mind, that he'll stay and they can start their happily ever after right now.
“Yeah, Jared,” Jensen promises. “I'll come back.”
He leans forward and takes Jared's face in his hands, pulls him close. He kisses Jared, slow and soft, barely a press of his lips against Jared's before he pulls back and rests their foreheads together.
“Just for the summer,” he whispers, before he puts on his helmet and starts up his bike.
“I'll be back before you can miss me,” he says with a smile, but Jared misses him before he even turns the corner at the end of the block.
“I waited for you, you know,” Jared says.
Jensen's arm tightens over Jared's abdomen.
“Even after that last phone call.”
Jared's heard from Jensen all of three times, over the past two months. Once about two hours after he left town and he stopped to gas up, then four days later during his stay at a state park, then a month later, when he'd finally made it out of Texas, working off his bar bill in a roadhouse kitchen.
He calls again, the day before Jared's first day at college.
“I'm in Nevada,” Jensen tells him. “I met these guys at a diner. Like... travelling small time circus guys. They were freaks, man, but they were awesome. I spent a few weeks helping them set up shows. You know, festivals and picnics and shit.
“Sounds like fun,” Jared says. Then, “You're not coming back.”
“...Not right now.”
Jared's heart shatters, even though he honestly hadn't expected anything different. Hoped maybe, but not expected.
“I will, I swear, Jared. Just... not right now.”
“Yeah,” Jared says, voice just as strained as Jensen's. “Maybe, one day.”
“So that's it then?” Jared asks, words turning angry and sharp on his tongue. “We're done?”
“What? Jared, I told you. I'm coming back.”
“Yeah, but when? I can't just sit around waiting for you, Jensen. If you don't come back now, if you don't know when, then where does that leave me?”
Jensen's quiet for a beat before he answers, “You're right. Sorry, you're right. I can't expect... I will be back, Jared. But in the mean time, you... you have a good life.”
“You too, Jensen,” Jared whispers and he hangs up before he can lose his nerve.
He curls up in his bed and pulls the blanket around him, cries himself to sleep that night.
Jensen's not coming back.
“I'm not going to apologise,” Jensen says. “Like you keep saying, we were kids. We wanted different things.”
“I know,” Jared tells him. “I'm not looking for an apology. I just... I wanted you to know. I waited for you, for a long time. Years.”
“I didn't ask you to.”
“I told you not to.”
Jensen's arm tightens again and his breath is hot against the back of Jared's neck.
“I'm sorry,” he breathes out. “I never meant to hurt you, Jared. If it's any consolation, I hurt me ten times as much.”
“It's not. And I don't want you to be sorry. I get it. If you'd have stayed, you'd be just as miserable as I would have been if I'd left. And you wouldn't have Jack. He's worth everything else, don't you think?”
Jensen's lips press a kiss behind Jared's ear and his laugh is shaky. “Thank you,” he says. Thank you for understanding, for accepting, he means.
“I don't want you to be sorry,” Jared says again, pointedly.
“But you want something.”
“I want you to stay.”
“Dude, I can't find my underwear. I'm not going anywhere at the moment.”
“I mean for good. I want you to want to stay. You left before, what's different now?”
“I am, I guess,” Jensen says. “I always wanted this. Always wanted the same life you did. I just didn't want it so young. But with Jack, I had to grow up, fast. And now that Cindy's moved on, I'm free to live my own life, start my own family.”
“Your own family?”
“Hey, you always said you wanted kids, right?”
Jared laughs, giddy even though that would be moving faster than either of them is ready for. “Give it a minute, Romeo.”
“I want to stay.” Jensen bites down gently on the shell of Jared's ear, relaxes against him and his voice goes soft, sleepy. “I want to do things right with you. I want to take our time and I want to fall in love again. And one day, I want to marry you.”
Jared doesn't fight his wide smile as his fingers weave through Jensen's, because he wants that too, one day.