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Why I'm Talking to You

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At 6:14am, Jensen walks his 434th Friday into the lobby of his building as typical as ever. Blackberry in hand, thumb scrolling through his work emails. A cup of coffee in the other and his leather laptop case strung at his shoulder. He stops at the security desk to nudge his hip at the card reader, which picks up the blue pass in his wallet. The system dings at recognizing Jensen Ackles, and then he gives a curt nod to Dale, the elderly security guy who’s likely been here for 30 years. Jensen has seen him for at least eight, never saying more than hi or goodnight in a brusque tone and offering a nod. Dale gets it; Jensen doesn't like to be bothered in the morning (at night he’ll give a tired, but nice ‘g’night'). Dale always smiles and nods in return.

It’s how Jensen does his mornings. The beginning to his long hours of fighting the knot of his tie, wearing his suit jacket only when his boss is around, and pacing his modest office with one tiny window, headset permanently stuck to his ear.

He’s up for a promotion at the ad agency after deftly navigating his way through the last nasty AT&T campaign, quickly becoming their favorite man at the company. Miller and Edwards, one of the premier Boston ad agencies, has served as Jensen’s first and only employer. And likely to be his only. If things keep going this way.

So he puts in long hours, dresses just a tick above his salary, schmoozes anyone above him on the corporate ladder, and basically ignores his social life and phone when it’s not work related. He’s a workaholic, yeah, but it brings him a fat six-figure salary and allows him to live in one of the tallest buildings in the city. Life’s good.

On Monday, Jensen enters much the same, prepared for major meetings and feeling his best in a crisp navy suit and bright blue tie. He thumbs through a few emails as he stops at the security table, nudging his back pocket at the card reader, waiting for the tone, and giving a quick nod at the guy behind the desk.

“Morning!”

He stops abruptly in his turn towards the elevators and glances back to find a tall man – a young guy really – behind the desk. His own navy suit is cheap in comparison to Jensen’s and fits oddly across his broad shoulders. But the guy smiles, miles of white flashing at him, so he’s got that working for him. “Hey,” Jensen says shortly, not used to having to speak before entering his office.

“Morning, how’re you?” the guy, kid, asks.

“Yeah,” Jensen replies a little short. “Where’s Dale?”

“Retired last Friday.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah, Guy had like forty years here. He’s a trooper.”

“You’re the replacement?”

He chuckles easily and swipes some bangs from his forehead. “Yeah, something like that.”

Jensen eyes the kid, nods, and goes on his way to the elevators. Dale retired. He wasn’t there anymore, which oddly bothered Jensen, because that guy was there every single morning of Jensen’s career, and now he wouldn’t be. But then his phone beeps with a text from his assistant so his mind flips to more important things.

*

It’s been a few weeks and Jensen is still not accustomed the new security guard’s salutes in the morning. He’s sure that if it weren’t before ass o’clock and he was able to manage more than coffee, his bag, and the Blackberry, all precariously teetering every morning, he could manage to be okay with the cheery mood. But it just hasn’t happened yet.

It’s not that Jensen’s an asshole. He really isn’t. The friends he used to see on a weekly basis, getting drunk on cheap beer and shots across any seedy bar in the city? They’d describe him more as reserved but really absolutely friendly and fun and sociable. But in this job? With these stresses and deadlines? It doesn’t go that way anymore. His mornings are reserved for coffee, email, and getting work done before anyone even woke up. It’s working.

“Morning, Jensen!” the guy calls out another week later, which makes him stop. The kid must’ve gotten his name off the security screen when his card signs him in. Fine, whatever. But Jensen still looks at him, a long, flat look to take in the messy hair, the friendly eyes, and even friendlier smile. “Good day planned today?”

Jensen’s finger curls inside his pale blue shirt collar, the Blackberry tucked into his palm. “What’s your name?”

“Jared,’ he smiles.

“Jared. I don’t like talking in the morning.”

The smile hardly falters. “Really?”

“No. Not at all.”

“Well, hate to tell you … but you are now.”

Jensen nods, and walks onto to the elevators.

“Jensen?”

He backtracks and leans his head around the wall to see Jared patting at the card reader on the side of his desk.

Jensen sees the guy smirk but tries to ignore it. “You know who I am.”

Jared simply pats at the dark screen again.

He sighs and bumps his hip against the plate then stares at Jared. When he hears the faithful ding of acceptance, his smile is pissy. “Okay?”

“Have a good day!”

*

Jensen spends the next Friday afternoon in Miller’s office, kissing ass and throwing carefully constructed compliments everywhere. He’s good at being friendly and nice and making people feel fairly comfortable. After a while, he tires of it and just wants to go back to his office and grumble his way through more files. But this is where he needs to be. It’s the investment for his career.

At one point, his faithful assistant peeks at the window beside Miller’s closed door and taps lightly with a friendly smile. Jensen sighs happily. Whenever he’s wrapped up for a little too long, she rescues him.

Her head pops inside quickly. “I’m sorry, Randy,” she smiles at the top guy. “Jensen? You have Taylor Murphy on line one.”

“Murphy?” Miller chuckles and slaps a hand at Jensen’s back. ‘You still chase those crazy batteries?”

He smiles in return. “Sir, you know there’s money in AAAs. I’ve got about forty of them in my office for my Blackberry.” He doesn’t use his name. Like ever. It’s all part of the plan.

“You really think Surecell’s gonna take over Energizer?”

“If we get ‘em, sure,” Jensen smiles – it looks easy and sure and charms the men in the room, but it feels tight and awkward on his face. He’s trying so hard to do this well. “When I get them, yes they will.”

“Thatta boy,” his boss laughs, another clap at his back. “Go get ‘em.”

Once the door is shut and they’re marching down the hallway, Jensen throws his arm around her shoulders and kisses the top of her head. “Oh, I love you, too much, Dani.”

“You could love me into a raise.”

“Not that much.”

He enters his office, shuffling through a few emails – it always calms him, so sickening, yes, but it does – checks voicemail. He suddenly calls out, “Danneel!”

Her head pops into view, long auburn hair filling the space of his partially opened door. “Yeah?”

“Coffee?” He hears her clear her throat. He sighs. “Please?”

Danneel smiles. “Sure thing.” She’s back a few minutes later empty handed. “They’re out.”

“Screw you.”

She chuckles. “Right, like that’ll ever happen.” He finally looks up and sees a comforting smile. She’s beautiful and funny and so great at her job. But it doesn’t work that way. Not in his mind.

“How is there no coffee?”

“We ran out?”

“All of it?”

“Apparently.”

“Again?”

“I guess?”

“Where’s Beth?” he grunts, standing instantly.

Danneel crosses her arms and leans against his doorframe. “Jensen, you can’t fire her.”

“I can try.”

“You already have. Like five times. Never works.”

“How is that even possible?”

“Because you’re not her boss.”

He crosses his arms. “Who can I fire?”

“Me.”

He looks back to his desk and grabs a piece of paper. “You’re fired. Get me some coffee on your way out.”

She laughs.

“It’s coffee, damnit!”

“You’ll live,” she comforts.

He’s reading the file, but not entirely distracted from the conversation. “Not likely.”

“You could go to the lobby.”

“You could.”

“No.”

“What do I pay you for?”

“To answer your phone and deal with you when you’re impossible.”

He corrects her, “To get me coffee.”

“I’m not going downstairs.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have phones to answer.”

Jensen stares and purposely angles his ear towards the door. He’s smiling because there are no phones ringing.

Until there really is and she smiles before running to pick it up. “Miller and Edwards, Jensen Ackles. How can I help you?”

He grunts again and heads down the hallway.

Seconds later, she’s following, as usual, because they always fall into step and talk about everything going on within the company or just random things she wants to discuss, which ranges from what he wants for lunch to what she and her boyfriend have done over the weekend. She’s been his assistant for four years and puts in so many of the same shifts that he does. But she’s the best woman in his life, able to balance his grouchiness and flippant remarks, while also calming him through numerous freakouts when he’s been so close to losing clients – and subsequently, his job.

He realizes that he should get her another spa package after staying all of last weekend to tie up the final bits of the AT&T account. She cancelled on her boyfriend and hardly put up a fight – well, at least not a serious one; she made comments here and there about the fact that delivery pizza was not quiet on par with the six-course meal she’d intended to eat Saturday night.

Her voice breaks his thoughts. “One of these days you’re going to have to actually sign Surecell. Or else Miller’s gonna can you. And me, too.”

Jensen sees a quick flash of worry in her eyes. “I got it,” he smiles, smug and without worries. Even while he does worry. Because he feels like he’s building the best relationship possible with Taylor Murphy, second-in-command and heir to Surecell. And one of these days, Jensen’s going to reel them in and really make his reputation and future light up. It’s just taking a little longer than anyone had imagined.

Despite the optimism in what that account could do for him, he’s still antsy because it has yet to come through. When he gets into the lobby, he stalls for a second at the security desk, so ready to ward off Jared because the guy smiles and tries to talk and just all around … gets to Jensen in ways he can’t even describe. He really wishes Dale was still there. That man respected his peace.

But Jared’s not there and Jensen halts, feeling a little strange right there because. Well, it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and there are shifts to the desk, so it’s not surprising Jared’s not there. And also because his breathing kind of catches when he eyes Betty, the afternoon lady, behind the desk, who just smiles and nods. And isn’t Jared. His hand lands at middle of his chest and rests as he thinks, Huh. This is weird.

“Are you okay, Mr. Ackles?”

Jensen snaps back and points at the Starbucks across the lobby. “Yeah, I’m good. Thank you.”

*

On Monday, Jared calls out a happy ‘morning’ like he always does and Jensen kind of slows down for a second and nods. As he pushes his pocket against the card reader, he sees the kid watching him with an easy smile. And Jensen smiles a tiny bit and nods again.

“Have a good one!” Jared offers.

*

Thursday it happens again and without thinking, Jensen slips out, “Yeah.”

Jared smiles.

*

A week later, Friday, Jensen’s feeling good. He’s partially giddy on little to no sleep, having stayed up until two in the morning at his home office to get more stats pulled together. Around 8pm, Taylor Murphy called him at home. At home. And Jensen is freaking flying at the prospect, because they are going for dinner tonight and he’s going to just wrap this Surecell contract up and get that damned promotion. Client Manager. At 32. Youngest ever in the company. He’s got it.

So when Jared smiles and wishes him a good day, Jensen kind of smirks and says “You, too.”

*

“What is your deal?” Danneel beams, walking in step with Jensen to Miller’s office for his bi-monthly little sitdown with the VIPs.

“Hmm?”

“You get laid or something?”

“What?” he nearly shrieks. He straightens his tie and looks around her to make sure no one else heard that. “No. Why?”

“You are smiling.”

“It happens.”

“When?”

Jensen flips his hands out and then tugs on the edges of his crisp navy shirt cuffs, bringing them out from under his charcoal gray jacket. It’s his favorite shirt and favorite suit. Together, they m ake him feel powerful and so well put together. “Taylor Murphy,” he says slowly.

Danneel’s face falls. “You slept with Taylor Murphy?”

“What? No! We’re going for dinner tonight. Drinks.”

Her voice is as flat as her expression. “You’re dating him?”

“No. We are not dating.”

“Then … what? Ohh.” She smirks suddenly. “You’re gonna,” and here she makes an obscene gesture that could possibly make a trucker squirm.

“Jesus, Dani. No. It’s not always about sex.”

“You really could use some, you know.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that after I work my 20-hour day.”

“Wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

“Business dinner with Surecell. Tonight. I’m getting it.”

“No way,” she smiles. “You tell Miller yet?”

“Not yet. Dani, this is it. I’m doing it and you’re coming with me. Corner office.”

She nearly squeals, but instead smacks his ass as he turns to his boss’s door. “Go get ‘em tiger.”

He throws an odd glance over his shoulder before entering.

“Jensen! Son, how’s it going?” Steven Edwards calls out happily. The all-but-silent partner who stepped back in the last two years to let Randy Miller, his protégé, really fly. But the man is just as hard to please as Miller, so Jensen’s entirely too happy to share his news here.

“It’s going well. Very well,” he beams and enthusiastically shakes the man’s hand.

“I hear you’re burning the midnight oil. Better not tire yourself out, boy. Gotta grab yourself a life in between all the clients.”

“Yes, sir,” he smirks, still feeling excitement burn inside.

“Jen,” Miller calls out and hands him a short glass full of bourbon. “What’s the good word?”

“Well, actually, talked to Taylor Murphy last night. We’ve got some plans for –“

And then Jensen sees both Miller and Edwards staring out the window just next to the door, both heads craned to the side. Jensen looks much the same way and sees a perky female ass in view as the woman leans over Miller’s assistant’s desk and points at the computer screen.

No one says a word, but Jensen shudders a little because … well, this isn’t his kind of thing. He starts when the woman stands up and turns to see them all staring. It’s Danneel. She gives a careful smile then walks off to her desk.

“You could rest a quarter on that ass.”

“Mmhmm,” the other man sounds.

Jensen coughs, more than a little uncomfortable.

“Jensen, you’re assistant’s really something else.”

“Yes, sir. Dani’s been great. Putting in long hours right alongside me. Working her hardest and best.”

Miller smirks and winks at Jensen, liking the sound of those long hours with his gorgeous assistant.

Edwards speaks up, “Ass man, Jen?”

He swallows hard. “Yeah, you could say that.”

*

So the thing is. Jensen’s gay. Has always known it in one of the least uncomfortable ways possible. His family is like 130% supportive; his mother sports rainbow stickers on her car to the point of embarrassment. His friends never cared. Past boyfriends appreciated how comfortable he was in being out. But here, in the Good Ol’ Boys Club, Jensen has to squash all feelings and thoughts and comfort in being himself. Instead he acts not only as the perfect employee, but also the perfect straight employee. Sometimes it kills him, other times he just ignores it. Besides, it’s been so long since he had sex that he kind of forgot that he even had preference.

Most of the time, he’s really okay with it because everything else in his life is absolutely perfect and grand, but there are some times when it just slips under his skin and bites at him. It chews him up through his entire dinner with Taylor Murphy that he’s sure he’s blowing it. But Murphy just smiles at the end, shaking his hand affably and trying to keep up the friendly demeanor between them.

“Jensen, this was good. I’m glad we had a chance to talk outside the office.”

“Yeah, me, too. Definitely.”

“You know, sometimes, Randy … he’s too much. And frankly, that’s what scares us a little. But I feel good talking to you. You’re motivated. Quick and smart and fresh-minded.”

In spite of all the nips he felt as his mood had clouded around him, he really feels Murphy’s opinion and likes it. “Taylor,” he smirks. “That’s exactly why I’m here trying to help you. Surecell needs to re-establish itself, get a fresh look. We’re here for that. I’m here for that.”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it. Just gotta get Dad on board.”

“We’ll hit the links. 18 holes, just the three of us.”

“No Randy?”

“No Randy,” he smiles easily.

“Maybe nine. Don’t know that Dad’ll last that long.” Murphy subconsciously rubs at his hip, as if he can feel the residual pain his father experiences since busting his knee a few years ago.

“Taylor, you got it. We’ll do nine. You give me a time and a day, I’ve got the course.”

He shakes Jensen’s hand again, a little more pressure in it this time. “Yeah, we’ll talk more.”

Jensen can’t wipe the smile off his face on the cab ride back to the office. It’s so sharp and big and just full of every bit of happiness he’s known throughout his job. He’s getting so close. Murphy’s putty in his hands.

He’d absolutely forgotten about the tiny bit of anger hanging onto his shoulders since Miller and Edwards joked about Danneel and women and basically caused Jensen to outright lie his way through the conversation. But it only takes two seconds and two dimples to shock him back to reality and remind him that he’s gay. Because there stands Jared, a bright smile and same ill-fitting blue jacket. “Evening,” he nods happily.

Somewhere in the last few months, Jensen’s apparently developed a little feeling for the guy. He takes the time to pull his wallet out of his pocket, the card slipping into his fingers. “What’re you doing here?”

“I work here,” he smirks.

Jensen checks his watch. It’s 10:35 on a Friday. “This late?”

“Yeah, I got split shifts. It’s a bitch because I was always a morning person, but the schedule ain’t so bad.”

He nods at Jared, swipes his card and then smiles before he even knows it. “Alright, yeah.”

“It’s quite a long night for you. Figured big guy like you would be out wining and dining the city’s best ladies.”

Jensen chuckles a little. “Well, wining and dining the city’s best clients. It was work.”

“Work on a Friday night, come on,” Jared jokes easily, the smile slipping wider.

He chuckles under his breath, feeling a little happy with the way things went at dinner and realizing it’s kind of nice to laugh with Jared. He has a very contagious smile. “Yeah? What about you?”

“Gotta make sure the building’s secure. You know, when hot shots like you come in? We can’t have anyone just hanging around.”

Jensen nods and finally puts his card away. It’s been a while since he’s had a conversation this long that didn’t end in a business deal or a handshake. “Yeah. I gotta get upstairs. Have a good night.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Jared replies, earnest and happy. “Don’t work too late!”

“Yeah, you neither.” Then Jensen squirms and turns back to the elevators because he realizes how dumb that comment was.

When he comes back down an hour later, Jared’s head is down in a book, but he looks up with a bright smile and waves without talking more. Jensen smiles tightly, waves a little, and then exits the building. Smiling again.

*

Jensen’s golf outing with Taylor and Bob Murphy goes perfectly. He steers clear of work talk to avoid being obnoxious. It’s mostly talking about each of their golf swings, how the wind affects the long drives, and how lush the grass is on each green. It’s at the end that he has hearty handshakes with both men, bright smiles a piece. Bob gives Jensen his word to sit down for a proper meeting and will again listen to Jensen on his ideas. It’s perfect and Jensen doesn’t stop smiling all week.

Except on Saturday when he’s at the office working his way through another round of proposals for the Murphys and doing his best to write innovative copy and arrange for everything to be printed and bound just perfectly by Monday morning to get the okay from Miller. He has another few hours left to work on a vodka ad, so he runs out for a late dinner of takeout. When he gets back into the lobby, Jared’s there, starting his night shift and full of smiles.

“Hey, long weekend for ya, huh?”

“Yeah, big meeting Thursday.” Jensen reaches for his wallet and can’t find his keycard. Neither the one for the lobby nor to get into his office. “No, no, shit.”

“What’s up?”

Jensen puts his bag up on the security desk. It’s overflowing with Chinese, a few too many boxes because he can never decide for himself what to get when he gets there. Danneel always orders cashew chicken and it’s fine and good and he likes it. But then he sees BBQ pork and chow mein and Crab Rangoon on the menu, and he always just orders it all and takes bits and pieces.

He goes through his wallet again while Jared chuckles and peeks into the bag. “You really hungry or feeding an army of grunts?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t decide,” he replies too distracted with searching his wallet to even look up.

“You lose something?”

He looks up, frowning. “I think I left my card upstairs.”

“Ah,” Jared waves easily. “Go ahead, I know you’re not trouble.”

His frown deepens. “The office is locked.”

Jared pushes books away from the counter, ones Jensen always sees him reading, but never really noticed before. One has complicated equations scribbled across the cover. He hunts through a few cubby holes and comes up with a ring of key cards and ushers Jensen to the elevators.

“No one gonna come by?”

Jared laughs. “It’s nine on a Saturday night. If someone’s really dying to get in, they deserve it trying right now.”

The ride in the elevator should be awkward. Jensen knows this. No matter how friendly and talkative Jared has been these last two months, it should still be weird to be stuck in the box alone on a Saturday night with the building’s security guard. “Hey, what was that book?” Jensen asks.

“Engineering,” Jared smiles, but it’s nearly shy. That’s different.

“Smart guy? What’re you doing working the front desk at night?”

Jared looks up at the numbers flipping, looking a little nervous. That’s definitely different. “College don’t pay for itself.”

“Where you going?”

“MIT.”

“MIT?” Jensen asks, a little blown away. It’s a pretty awesome place for engineering, he knows that.

“It’s a school.”

Jensen smiles at Jared. “Yeah, I got that.”

Then the elevator stops and lets them out, killing any more of the conversation. Jared lets him into the office and leaves with a friendly sendoff.

It’s nearly midnight when Jensen can finally head out and he’s all bits exhausted, but still stops at the desk and offers Jared a nice goodbye. “Don’t work too hard, yeah?”

“I keep trying not to, but the bosses don’t like it,” Jared smiles.

“You gotta stick around much longer?”

“Eh, I’m off in ten.”

Jensen has this second wind in him, mostly at the excitement of getting so much done today that he doesn’t have to come in tomorrow. So many weekends he spreads his work across the two days, and he can’t remember the last time he wasn’t in the office on a Sunday. It’s glorious and he kind of wants to celebrate. And he’s about a second away from offering to stick around and maybe grab a beer, and he’s not even sure where that’s coming from. But then Jared’s smiling like always and the grin is kind of warming his stomach and he gets it.

Then he frowns because he’s totally crushing on the security guard. Slash student, yes, but still. It’s the security guard. And he’s in so much trouble.

He firms his mind up. “Alright. Well you enjoy your night. Go get some drinks and hit on some girls.”

Jared laughs. “Right. I’ll get right on that.”

Jensen eyes him, trying to read that, but he realizes it’s late, he’s just worked 16 hours for the third day in a row, and he should just not even care. Because there’s no way he can figure it out without asking uncomfortable questions. “Yeah, alright. Have a good weekend, Jared.”

And the guy just beams. “Yeah, you, too.”

*

Thursday morning, Jensen’s rushing through his office, grabbing every file he needs, every board and poster and whatever else he had printed and delivered first thing that morning. Danneel is popping in and out of the office, bringing him pamphlets and folders and a leather case to put it all together.

“Jen, you really need to calm down.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

She suddenly grabs his wrists, tugging his hands away from the desk. “Look at this.” He sees his knuckles as they keep flexing in and out with nervous energy.

“Jensen!” Miller announces at the doorway with a smile. “Big morning, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” he smiles, snapping his hands back to his side of the desk as Danneel moves away.

His boss moves closer with his hands in his pockets and a sly smile. “Jensen, I don’t need to tell you how big this is, do I?”

He chuckles. “Trust me, sir, I absolutely know.”

Miller’s head dips to catch Jensen’s eyes. “You gonna do this right?”

“I don’t do things wrong,” Jensen smirks.

“Jen, end of the month, Martha’s cooking up a big dinner for ... whatever," he waves his hand around. "You come on down and bring your girl.”

Jensen just stares, a tiny smile forming.

“You got a girl right?”

He tries to ignore Danneel’s look. He knows it’s partly excited and partly amused. “Yes, sir.”

“We’ll talk tomorrow.” He smirks and nods. “Go get ‘em, son.”

Once Miller is gone, Jensen’s breathing increases tenfold. “Oh, holy hell.”

Danneel runs over from the doorway where she was watching it all. “Oh my God, Jen!”

He falls into his chair and breathes in and out, in and out. “I know, I know.” He looks frantic. “Dinner at his house! With his wife!”

Danneel is still smiling, but her voice is comforting. “Jen, seriously, calm down.”

His breathing increases fast and hard. So big and deep that his chest puffs out and then tucks itself back in. “Dani, I can’t do this.”

“Alright, alright,” she soothes and moves around the desk. She pushes him forward and forces his head between his knees, rubbing his back easily. “Okay, look, we’re leaving this office in sixty seconds. I will walk everything down with you to the lobby and then you are going and being awesome and coming back with a promotion. Because I swear to God, Jensen, you don’t and I will kill you. My boyfriend will help me hide the body.”

“What?” he squawks out.

He tries to sit up, but she forces his head back down. “I have been here for nearly every hour you have been, and I deserve this just as much as you do, so when you go into Surecell? Just think about that. We move to that corner office and I get my raise? I can finally marry my long-suffering but awesome boyfriend and we can get out of my shitty garden apartment.”

Jensen turns his head. “You’re getting married?”

“Focus, Jensen!”

“Okay.” He takes a few deep breaths. “I’m good. I am awesome. Murphy loves me. I am smart. I am awesome.” She hums a little while he continues his typical psych-up chants (yeah, they’re lame and not quite mind-blowing, but they always do the trick). His breathing levels and he finally looks at her. “You getting married?”

“Yeah,” she replies softly. “He asked last weekend.” Jensen grabs her hand to look for the ring and she frowns. “We can’t buy a ring yet.”

He squeezes her hand. Danneel has been the best person in his life these last four years. She absolutely deserves all the happiness in the world and he knows she’s been head over heels for her boyfriend for years. “Yet,” he winks.

Her smile dips a little emotional, but then it rights itself and she barks. “Sixty seconds. We’re going!”

They’re nearly running off the elevator, balancing folders and large canvas bags carrying his presentation boards. Muttering things to each other in a rush of acronyms and people’s names that only they know, and they’re just in their own little world.

“Hey, Jensen.” They both stop a few steps from the desk and look to Jared. He’s smiling easily and nodding. “Got that big meeting?”

Jensen’s eyes soften and he can feel every bit of tension start to wither away. The guy’s smile just does that to him. Danneel looks between them and then smirks a little too big. Which makes Jensen scowl. “Yeah. Uh, I gotta go.”

“Good luck,” Jared wishes off with a giant smile and two deep dimples.

Jensen’s still in his spot, watching Jared and beginning to smile. Danneel pulls away a few of the packages from his arms and rights his tie and jacket. “Go get ‘em tiger!”

He looks down to her, gives a tiny smile and then smiles back to Jared. “Thanks, guys.”

His taxi ride is full of the images of Jared’s smile and his easy nature. The friendliness in his voice. Jared wishing him luck. He eases himself into the seat and just breathes. It’ll be okay.

*

He heads back to the office full of smiles. The Murphys are absolutely impressed with his work and ideas, but they want to hear more. So they’re giving him a few more weeks to get a full portfolio pulled together for newspaper, magazine, and billboard ads. He’s flying so high.

Until he gets to the security desk and Betty is there. He frowns and hears himself ask where Jared is before he realizes he’s doing it.

She gives him an odd glance. “His shifted ended an hour ago.”

“Yeah, alright,” he sighs, reaching for his wallet to put his card to the reader. It dawns on him that over the last few weeks he’s been pulling his card out instead of just bumping against the screen. Just because it gives him a few more seconds to talk to Jared. He’s in so much trouble.

“Mr. Ackles, everything okay?”

“What? Yeah, why?”

“Did Jared do something?”

“No, no. Nothing. I just … He was here when I left.” He knows he’s frowning, so he tries to hurry away.

That night, after a few hours of overtime, he offers to take Danneel out for drinks to celebrate. Yeah, they don’t have an official contract, but this is further than anyone’s ever gotten with Surecell. They have to celebrate. When they're off the elevator and in the lobby, her hand is curled around his elbow and they’re laughing, huge smiles plastered on their faces with the giddiness of the meeting’s success.

“Hey, it must’ve gone great.”

Jensen finds Jared’s eyes and smiles easily. “Yeah, yeah, it did. Thanks.”

“That’s great.” Then he looks to Danneel and seems to smile a little less. “You guys going out to celebrate?”

Danneel breaks in, “Yeah, just around the corner. You should join us!”

Jensen swallows and looks at her. Because, yeah, he kind of can’t stop thinking about Jared’s smile or his dimples or his eyes, but there is no way he’s going to be an idiot and invite him out for drinks just so he can crush on him even harder.

“Hey, I’d love to guys. But this is your thing, you go have fun.”

“I insist. Jensen?”

He goes from Jared to Danneel and again to Jared. He knows what she’s doing, and he wants to recoil from it all, but he really does want to see Jared at some point outside of that dumb security suit.

“Nah, seriously. I’m here another few hours anyway. Go ahead.”

Jensen swallows again and nods. He offers a wave. “Have a good night, man.”

“Yeah, you, too. Have fun!”

Once they’re outside Danneel nearly squeals. “Oh, Jensen. Seriously. You should have told me.”

“What?” he grumbles, trying to hail a cab.

“He is absolutely adorable for you.”

“Yeah, adorable like a little kid.”

She swats his shoulder. “Don’t even kid yourself. You’re not that old.”

“Dani, he’s in school. There’s no way he’s more than 22.”

“Jensen, you are such a little snob. The guy is working the night shift at our security desk. You think he’s really schooling it full time? He’s probably taking longer to do it.”

He frowns and refuses to continue the conversation.

Instead they have a few too many martinis in too little of time, and he realizes he’s left his key card back at the office and she decides it’s a great idea to go get it from the office. Danneel walks him back, giggling and hanging onto his elbow again. When they get in the lobby, Jared looks up with a smile. But Jensen sees it falter a little.

“Jared!” Danneel calls out from across the space. Jensen really wishes he hadn’t told her anything about the guy. But the vodka did it and she now knows how he stares more at the Jared’s left dimple than his right. What he’s studying and where. And that last weekend Jared let Jensen into the office after he forgot his key.

“Hey, guys.”

“He doesn’t want us here,” Jensen whispers before they’re too close to the desk. He goes so far as to slow down their walk so they won’t be there any time soon.

Danneel shushes him. “What? Yes. Yes, he does. You’re stupid.”

“He’s not smiling.”

“He is fucking beaming, Jen.”

“No, it’s not his smile. This one says he’s busy and doesn’t have time to deal with drunken people.”

“Aww, you know his smiles.”

Jensen scowls then looks to Jared when he asks, “You guys have fun?”

She beams. “Yes, we did. But this idiot,” and here she cuffs the back of his head and ignores his grumbling. “Forgot his key.”

“Yeah, that’s cool. You guys can go right up.”

She leans against the counter and smiles sadly. “My cab’s waiting for me and the meter’s running. Can you let him up?”

“Dani,” Jensen whines. He frowns because he realizes how childish he sounds right there. But then he puts his hands on the counter and holds tight. He’s a little drunk and while absolutely blushing and embarrassed, he’s kind of hoping Jared will take him upstairs.

“Yeah, of course. No problem.”

Danneel leans in to kiss Jensen’s cheek and hug him tightly. “You’re up, tiger.”

“I hate you,” Jensen mutters while returning the hug.

“Thank you, Jared. You’re the greatest.”

He smiles, but then Jensen notes how it’s not all that wide until he looks at him. “You okay, man?”

Jensen tries to hide his smile, but he really can’t. That damned vodka. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“Your girl’s ditching you.”

“My girl’s going to her boyfriend. No. Wait. Fiancée.” Jensen looks back at the doors and sees her hop into a just-arriving cab. “Yeah, shit, they’re getting married.” He smiles fondly because he really is happy for her.

“Sounds like she’s not quite your girl then.”

Jensen looks back to Jared and gives a wry smile. “Nah, she’s my assistant. Nothing else.”

“Yeah?” And there, Jared’s smile finally spreads, but he turns quickly to the elevators like he’s hiding it.

“Yeah. She’s, uh, like my best friend, I guess.” He rubs the back of his neck when they get on the elevator. “I think she just likes me because I can get her a better desk.”

Jared laughs and keeps his eyes on Jensen for the ride up. “So your meeting went good?”

“Yeah, it did. It’s awesome. I got another meeting.”

“That’s cool. What’s it for?”

“Surecell?”

“The batteries?”

“Yeah. I’ve been chasing them for months. It’s finally coming.”

“That’s awesome, man.”

And Jensen can tell he means it.

Jared swipes his master card at the sensor at the office door and steps back. “Alright, you have a good night.”

“Nah, nah,” Jensen starts, suddenly a little full of courage. It’s the liquor, he knows it. But he’s following it. “I’ll be a second. I’m just grabbing my stuff. Wait?”

He sees the pause in his face, but Jared finally smiles. “Yeah, I can wait.”

Jensen quickly grabs his things and comes back out of the office as fast as he can. Neither of them says a word until they’re on the elevator and Jensen realizes they’re standing a little close for nothing. When he turns towards Jared, his shoulder brushes so slightly, but it’s enough that he gets his attention. “Hey, you, uh.” Jensen falters there, unsure what else to say and finally licks his lips.

It’s there that he sees Jared’s eyes fall down to the motion.

His heart starts to pound so hard in his chest he worries he’s having a heart attack. But then suddenly his hand is curled at Jared’s lapel and he pulls him close. His lips slot just over Jared’s in a tentative kiss. He doesn’t feel any response, so he slowly moves back and grimaces. “Shit, man, I’m sorry.”

Jared’s just breathing and watching him, not moving.

“I, I don’t know. I thought something else. And I’m drunk, I’m so sorry.”

“Nah,” Jared says softly. “It’s okay.”

“I just … I guess I read it wrong. And I’m sorry for that.”

“For what?”

“Thinking you, uh,” and Jensen motions between them. “I just read it wrong.”

Jared nods, his lips straight and his eyes keeping with Jensen’s. “Hmm, right,” he says quietly.

The elevator stops on the main floor and they walk to the lobby without a word. Jensen stops at the desk as Jared settles back into his chair and pulls a book closer. He taps his hand at the counter. “Look, I, uh.”

Jared’s eyes flash to his for only a second then he goes back to his book. “Nah, it’s fine.”

“No hard feelings?” he asks lamely.

Jared kind of chuckles and finally looks at Jensen. “Yeah.”

“Alright.” He pats his hand once more and tries to smile. He knows it’s awkward. “Have a good night.”

“You, too.”

*

For the next week, Jensen doesn’t see Jared. And it kind of bothers him. Well, it actually very much bothers him and his stomach is sick all the time and he starts to worry that maybe the guy quit to avoid being hit on or kissed or whatever. And all in all, he’s pretty much just embarrassed by the whole thing.

It’s another week when he comes back from lunch with a few of the graphic artists, having worked their way through some of his ideas for Surecell. He’s laughing with the guys, trying to keep them buttered up and on his good side, when he sees Jared behind the desk, talking to another tenant and issuing the man a new key card. Jensen slows down and pats one of the guys on the back as he watches Jared. As he sees him glance up at their passing his desk. As he turns back to the tenant. Jensen frowns. But then Jared’s head picks up quickly again and his eyes comb over Jensen’s face.

Jensen tries for a casual smile, like he’s not excited to see the guy or that he’s not totally in love with him. Which, he tells himself he’s not, but his stomach is flipping and telling him it’s really awesome to see Jared again.

Jared nods swiftly and continues to help out the guy in front of him and Jensen goes on up to his office because there’s no way to explain to his coworkers why he wants to stay behind.

A few more times, he tries to say hi to Jared (and even that bothers him, because he never before wanted so much to talk to someone at the security desk first thing in the morning or … ever). But either Jared’s not there, he’s busy with someone else, or he gets a little drawn in and just offers a quick hello and nod.

Another week and Jensen comes in early like he used to. It’s nearly six and he is already buzzing through his Blackberry and trying to suck down some coffee. When he gets near the desk, he sees Jared give a curt nod and he scowls a little. Not so much at Jared, but just because he hates this whole thing. Things were so nice and easy and kind of cute and fun when they could say hi and joke around. When Jared smiled more. When Jensen could just crush on the guy and not feel guilty for trying to kiss him.

“Mornin’,” Jensen offers as he puts his coffee on the counter and fishes out his wallet.

“Morning,” Jared replies, pushing his book to the side. Like he does whenever someone is at the desk; Jensen knows this so he’s not going to kid himself that Jared’s doing it just for him.

“How’s school going?” And he flinches because he can hear how hard his tone is. He’s curious but he doesn’t want Jared to know just how curious he is.

“Good. Thanks.”

Jensen frowns at him, but Jared doesn’t see it because he’s watching where he places the book next to a binder. “Alright, have a good one.”

Jared nods again. Without a smile. “Yeah, you, too.”

*

It’s absolutely wrecking his mind and all the excitement that’s been buzzing in him since he got the go ahead from Surecell. He's been pretty calm and easily moving through his days, even working fewer hours for the last two weeks. But seeing Jared and not being able to even get a smile out of the guy is absolutely killing him. And that thought alone upsets him even more.

It’s late afternoon on the day before his big meeting and he’s tired and cranky and not responding well to anyone. Even Danneel insists she’ll work from her desk and that his door remain closed for two hours before she’ll speak to him again. Because he was bitching at her, too, and she doesn’t take that. When he hits the button on his intercom and asks for coffee, she doesn’t respond. She does email him: Get your own damned coffee, Crabass. He frowns and turns back to his stuff.

About 90 minutes into her two-hour freeze-out, she knocks lightly and opens his door.

He has his phone on speaker while relaying some edits on graphics. He quickly holds the mute button so he can talk without interrupting the conversation. “You give up?”

“Jen.”

“This crabass wants some coffee.”

Her voice goes stern. “Jensen.”

He releases the button and looks back to his handwritten notes and the proof on his desk. “Please.” He leans closer to the speaker. “What about figure 4-8? I want to see it a different shade. Maybe indigo?”

She doesn’t say more, but he can tell she hasn’t moved. He looks up at her. She’s smiling a little devilishly.

He mouths, “What?”

Danneel clears her throat, knowing the guys on the other end of his call will likely hear her. “Mr. Padalecki is here to see you.”

“Who?”

She shifts enough for him to catch the tall body and messy hair milling around her desk. Jensen’s stomach turns instantly and he picks up the phone. He waves her back and says quickly, “Guys, we’re gonna have to finish this in a little while, alright? I’ll call you back in twenty.” When he looks back up, Jared is awkward in his doorway. “Come on in.” Then he swallows because it all sounds a little too anxious.

“Hey, sorry to bother you,” Jared worries while clutching at the strap for the bag slung over his shoulder.

Jensen tries to clamp down on his smile because Jared? He’s casual in a v-neck sweater with a white tee peeking out and long, tattered jeans over boots. His hair is messy, but in a good, scruffy way. Jensen has spent a little too much time wondering what Jared would look like when he wasn’t on the clock and in that dumb suit. And now he knows. It’s good. Real good. Jensen takes a quick breath and motions to the chair across from him. “Nah, don’t worry about it. Take a seat.” He smirks at Danneel as she softly shuts the door for them.

Jared sits, looking like he can’t fit in the chair with his long limbs. He pulls his bag into his lap and seems to hug it against him. Then he’s taking in the dark office walls and all of Jensen’s artwork and framed photos. It’s always felt a little too organized, but it works in the space. “Nice office. Man,” he laughs to himself.

“Yeah.” Then he clears his throat and smirks when he catches Danneel watching at the window beside his door. He curtly shakes his head to push her away and looks to Jared. “What can I do for you?”

“I just … I wanted to say I was sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

“Yeah, for how I’ve been acting lately. It’s just –”

Jensen so wants to talk to Jared more, but he really does not want to relive that night. The rejection and all that. “Nah, you’re busy, it’s cool.”

Jared frowns a little and Jensen just wants to push hair from his face and tell him it’s okay. He really needs to hold steady here, but seeing Jared as a normal human being and not just dishing out friendly comments behind a desk is a little disarming. “No. It’s not cool. I feel kind of rude and like an ass.”

“Dude, I kissed you. I was drunk, but. You don’t have to explain. I apologize.”

Jared smiles awkwardly. “You already did. Yeah.”

“Well, I’m apologizing again. I’m sorry this is so weird. I just …”

“Nah, it’s cool. I’m not scared of you or anything.”

Jensen shakes his head. “No, that’s fine. You don’t have to explain it. I’m sorry. I was out of line.”

“No, no, seriously. Stop apologizing because you’re making me feel worse.”

Jensen laughs a little. “Truth be told, I’m making myself feel worse.”

“Then stop.”

Jensen sees Jared smile and he seems to mean it. That it’s okay that he tried to kiss him in the elevator. That there really are no hard feelings there. He then realizes that Jared is no longer stiff in the chair and his legs are easily stretched in front of him, like it isn’t so strange that he’s in his office.

“So what’s up? You need anything else?”

Jared’s face closes and he gives a tight smile. “Nah, that was it. I’m sorry for bothering you. Like I said, it’s not a big deal.” He begins to stand.

So does Jensen, but he puts a hand out, too. “Hey, I wasn’t trying to make you leave. I’m sorry.”

He smirks and holds the strap across his chest. “You should really stop apologizing. Shame doesn’t look good on you.” Jensen flushes at the joke. He can’t help it. “I gotta get to class anyway.”

“Oh, yeah. Alright.” Jensen rises to walk Jared to the door, because no matter what else goes on in his head, he’s still courteous and kind of a gentleman. When he opens the door, Miller is standing there, idly talking to Danneel.

“Hey there, how you doing?” Jensen plasters on his business smile.

“Good, Jen, how’s everything coming for Surecell?”

He looks at Jared pegged between them in the doorway. “Everything’s good.” He pats a hand at Jared’s shoulder, about to excuse him to leave, but Miller keeps going.

“Great. Look, I got doubles lined up tomorrow afternoon at Shady Oaks, but two friends jumped out. You play tennis?”

Jensen smiles and nods. “Not that bad.” Well, not too bad.

“You want in?”

He beams. This is awesome; an exclusive invite to the boss’s country club. “Yes, sir, most definitely.”

Miller eyes Jared. “You got a partner?”

“Yeah, I can find someone. Sure.” He thinks of Tom in graphics who’s been working exceptionally hard – and good – with him on the Surecell presentations. Getting him in front of the big boss would be good for the guy’s career.

Miller slaps a hand to Jared’s shoulder and squeezes to feel the muscles beneath. “You play?”

As much as he doesn’t want to keep Jared any longer, he knows it’s proper etiquette to introduce him. “Oh, Sorry. This is Jared. Jared, Randy Miller. Owner,” he stresses, “of Miller and Edwards.”

Jared gets it and just turns it on, bright smiles and friendly eyes while shaking the man’s hand well. “Hi, nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you, too.” Miller’s holding Jared’s hand and has his other hand at his bicep. “You got some good serving muscles in here? That’s what this feels like.”

He chuckles. “I did in high school. Not so sure they’re still there.”

Miller eyes Jensen. “You bring Jared here? The youngins and the old men, yeah?”

Jensen and Jared share a look and Jensen’s essentially begging him to say yes, but also trying so hard to not put him out.

“Uh, yeah,” Jared says carefully while watching Jensen. Then he turns on the charm. “That sounds like a good idea. Hope you don’t mind if we win, though.”

Miller laughs, clapping a hand at Jared’s shoulder. Jared laughs to keep it going and because he’s just that easy of a guy. And then Jensen laughs, not really even sure what’s going on – Jared’s playing tennis with him and his boss now? – but enjoying it. “Nah, just don’t go too hard on us,” Miller says. Then he’s gone.

In seconds, Danneel’s in front of Jensen and excited. “Jensen, holy shit.”

He runs his hands through his hair and looks a little freaked out. “I know. I know!”

“Tennis and dinner? Jesus, Jen. This is it. This is it!”

“I know!” he exclaims in a hushed whisper, trying to not draw more attention.

Jared’s hand settles at his back and he instantly feels the warmth easing him. He’s smiling at him. “Dude, you okay?”

Jensen spins on him and grabs his shoulders. “Yeah, yeah. You really play?”

He laughs. “Yeah. I mean it’s been a few years, but yeah.”

“You don’t work tomorrow?”

“Not in the afternoon, no.”

“Class?”

Jared pauses then shrugs. “I can probably skip.”

“Seriously? I will pay you. Please. I seriously need you to do this for me.” And Jensen squirms inside because he can’t remember the last time he begged this hard for someone to help out with something at work who wasn’t Danneel.

“Yeah,” he manages awkwardly. “Yeah, I can go. Don’t pay me, though. Just, like, buy some beer or something.”

“I can do that.” Jensen grins and looks to his assistant. “Dani, holy shit!”

“I know!” They hug briefly then she pushes him back. “First, you have to get back in there and talk to Tom and get graphics put back together. Then the printer needs the layout by five to get it back here at nine …”

She’s still going and they’re moving back to his office, but he gives a calm, thankful smile and wave to Jared as he moves away from them. The guy flips his fingers up from the hold on his bag and smiles back, which makes Jensen freak out a little bit more. But in a good way.

*

The Surecell meeting goes well. Maybe not as well as the last few have, because Jensen’s a little preoccupied with getting to see Jared that afternoon to play tennis with his boss. He does his best and only fumbles a few of his answers, but on the whole, the Murphys look pretty impressed. They tell him they’ll call early next week to talk about the next step. It’s not a yes, but it’s not a no; he’s still hanging on.

And that enthusiasm spreads when he catches Jared at Shady Oaks Country Club, outfitted in shorts and a smooth navy polo shirt that makes Jensen realize just how tan the guy really is. He’s kind of beautiful right there.

Jared looks a little nervous but still smiles for Jensen. “Hey, I’m not gonna get fired if we really beat them, right?”

Jensen laughs, a hand patting at Jared’s back as he leads him to the right court. “I don’t think so, but I might. So take it easy on them.”

Jared pretty much does take it easy on them. But no one can ignore that even with the length of his legs and how tiny the racket looks in his giant hands, he knows what he’s doing. Jensen tries to pay attention to the ball while joking with his boss and the boss’s friend. But it gets increasingly hard as he watches Jared easily and sometimes gracefully return serves and move around the court. Jensen kind of curses himself for begging Jared to come because it’s not making things easy on him whatsoever.

But at the end, when Miller is gleaming with sweat and laughing with Jared to some comment the guy’s made, it’s pretty much worth it.

“Jen, this kid’s got some good moves.” Miller’s arm is slung around Jared’s back as they’re done and walking to the locker room.

“Yeah,” he smirks, trying to not go to the wrong place. “He does.”

“That backhand killed me more than twice, you know that?”

Jared laughs. “I told you to stop cherry picking the line.”

“Yeah, well, people don’t always mean their threats.”

“It wasn’t a threat. I promised that if you didn’t step off I’d get it back at you.”

Jensen’s just watching them go back and forth, all smiles and laughing and encouraging each other. Miller fucking loves Jared. And Jensen suddenly kind of loves him, too.

Miller declares, “Two weeks, we’ll do this again.” He turns to Jared. “You’ll be there, right Jare?”

He shoots a glance at Jensen, who just nods in return with a smirk. “Yeah, sure. I’d love to get another chance to let you beat me.”

Miller slaps a hand at his back and barks a laugh. “This guy. Jensen, you bring him around a little more.”

And he knows he doesn’t mean it the way Jensen wants it to be, but he’s grateful nonetheless.

*

 

They’re out on the patio of the club’s restaurant, having a beer after saying bye to Miller and his friend. Jensen’s all calm smiles and Jared’s taking in the reach of the complex, grass everywhere. “Thank you so much for this. You have no idea.”

“Hey, yeah, no problem,” Jared smiles in return and starts picking at the label on his beer.

Jensen watches how he squints against the sun, even with the table’s umbrella blocking some of the light. He wants to laugh at Jared’s sunglasses perched on his head, but he actually likes how they’re holding back some hair and showing off his entire face. Jensen sits forward, holding his bottle in his palms. “I’ve been chasing this huge promotion at work. Miller just keeps inviting me places and I can’t say no. He doesn’t ask any of the junior partners to his house or to play any sport whatsoever.”

“That’s good for you, no?”

He fidgets with the bottle. “Yeah, of course. But it’s kind of scaring me. But, like, in a good way, you know?”

Jared squints back and his dimples appear. “Yeah, I know exactly what that’s like.”

“You’re pretty good at this tennis thing. You should probably play more.”

“Not too bad yourself.”

“Nah, I just return the ball and pray it doesn’t hit a line.”

“That’s a good thing.”

Jensen laughs. “You know what I mean.”

“You’re supposed to hit it in. That’s the point.”

He catches Jared’s smirk. “You should play more often. Get into a club like this.”

“What? And beat rusty CEOs all day?”

They laugh and Jensen settles himself, glad that it’s not awkward like it’s been the last few weeks at the desk. This is easy and Jared’s likeable. Almost too likeable, but Jensen’s going to ignore all that.

When they leave, he offers Jared his hand and a firm handshake because he feels like he owes him something. But what he really wants to give him isn’t quite appropriate. Jared’s smiling the whole time and acting like they’re friends and do this all the time. And it makes Jensen freak out even more because there’s nothing he’d like more, well, except to occasionally make out with the guy and feel that sweaty hair in his fingers and how those lips smile against his mouth …

“Hey, this was fun for me, too,” Jared says, interrupting Jensen’s thoughts. “Thanks for asking me.”

“No, no, thanks for coming. I owe you big. More than two beers.”

“When you get that corner office you can dedicate a wall to me.”

Jensen smiles, because it’s ridiculous and they’re laughing together, so it’s a nice thing.

*

Friday evening, he’s leaving late again and finds Jared at the desk, head in his books, of course. Jensen knows he’s hovering nervously and patting his hand on the counter, so he tries to steady his breaths. It’s the least he can do.

“Oh, hey,” Jared suddenly sits up, pulling buds from his ears. “Sorry, I didn’t even hear you. You been standing here long?”

“Nah, it’s cool. Hey, uh, thanks again for yesterday.” Then he smiles awkwardly. “Miller can’t stop talking about how I have a tennis pro in my back pocket.”

Jared laughs. “Well, tell him I’ll give lessons for the right price.”

“Hey, look,” Jensen starts carefully while watching his hands on the counter. “I’m supposed to go to his place tomorrow. His wife’s cooking dinner for a few friends and I’m supposed to bring someone and – ”

“You want me to go with?” he asks oddly.

His lips fold into his mouth as he fights with the response. “Not like that. But, yeah. I mean, the guy loved you yesterday and still talks about you. I figure if I don’t have a girl to pretend why not bring you?”

“You don’t have any girl friends?”

“I brought one or two before, but it never goes right. They’re always too nervous to really talk. You were cool with him yesterday. It would only help me and really run up the tab for what I owe you.”

Jared smiles. “Yeah, no, that’s cool.”

“You sure? Because I don’t want you to be guilted into doing it just for my job.”

“You already guilted me into playing tennis for your job.”

He frowns a little, even though Jared’s still smiling. “Okay, yeah, I did. But really, I mean, of course it is to help me and my promotion, but if you’re uncomfortable in any way, shape, or – ”

Jared waves a hand in the air easily. “Nah, it’s fine. I’ll go. Get myself some real food for once, right?”

Jensen laughs and offers a huge thanks before leaving. He’s jumpy, so incredibly jumpy when he gets home that he has the hardest time sleeping and winds up filing off a text to Danneel. “I’m taking Jared to Miller’s dinner. Not weird, right?”

All he gets in return is “LOL! Oh, I love you.”