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A Musical Interlude

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"Now this," Jeff says, satisfaction deepening his voice like chocolate in coffee as he reaches to dial the volume higher. "This is the Rolling Stones. No Use in Crying. Man, I used to have this on vinyl."

At some point, Jeff had noticed that, every time Jensen took the car out for errands, he always turned the radio off. Jensen had mostly felt annoyed with himself for not having the presence of mind to turn the radio back on, afterwards. It's bad form and a bad habit. Jeff, on the other hand, seemed genuinely horrified that Jensen doesn't listen to music.

And now they have… Well, Jensen guesses lessons isn't the right word for it, but he's damned if he can come up with a better one. Still, it means afternoons like this one, lounging in the bed together, an earbud apiece and the iPod on the bed between them.

***

The iPod is a gift from Jeff, apple green and engraved with the words: someday these childish dreams must end. Jensen's not sure what they mean and he's a little afraid to ask. One shouldn't question such an extravagant gift.

And he's a little afraid it's a reference to them.

***

"You're not falling asleep, are you?" Jeff tickles the tip of Jensen's nose with his fingernail.

Jensen wrinkles his nose and turns his face away, opening his eyes. "No. I'm awake." Jeff is leaning over him, smile lingering beneath the fringe of his mustache, his eyes warm and happy. The song changes, a slow, lonely wail of guitars that reminds Jensen of that time of night when the last drinks have been served and the club is closing and everyone's pouring out into the street. "Who's this?"

"Rolling Stones again. Laugh, I Nearly Died." There's a moment where Jensen thinks that Jeff is going to lean down and kiss him, but Jeff just rolls his weight back a little and pillows his head on his bicep, still looking at Jensen. "Why? Do you like it?"

Jensen shrugs. He understands liking one food over another, or sunny days over rainy, but he's not really sure what it means to 'like' music. He has a vague memory that he used to like it, years and years ago, just like he has vague memories of liking to sing, but they're distant and faded, words on a page rather than something he feels, like the weight of Jeff's hand on his hip. When there's music, it's background noise, a potential distraction from the matter at hand. "I don't know."

Even now, it still aches to say the words, a tiny internal flinch and the split-second expectation of violence.

Violence that doesn't come as Jeff's smile deepens and his thumb strays from Jensen's hip under the hem of his shirt, caressing the muscle of his belly. "Okay," Jeff say, not sounding bothered at all. "We'll find something you like." He picks up the iPod from between them and exits to the menu. "Allow me to introduce you to some gentlemen I like to call The Eagles."

***

Lord Tarantino had—has—an enormous music collection; discs on vinyl, enough CDs to shingle and side his equally enormous house, so many mp3s it would take several lifetimes to listen to them all. Through his tenure there, there wasn’t a single activity Jensen saw him undertake without some kind of soundtrack—and that included his twice daily bowel movements.

Not that Jensen would ever mention that to anyone.

But with Tarantino, the music was absolutely for his own benefit, the musical expression of his erratic and overly busy mind, tracks changed on a whim, mid-bar, mid-note, traded for the next with the same swift regularity that he goes through slaves. And short of playing the stooge to his funny man when Lord Tarantino wanted to show off his encyclopedic knowledge on the subject, Jensen wasn't supposed to notice the constant surround sound of music.

And so he didn't.

***

The next time Jensen logs onto the computer, he finds a three-hundred dollar gift card from Jeff with the message: Time to find some music of your own, Grasshopper.

Three hours later, Kane wanders in, looking for the contract drafts he and Jeff were working on yesterday and finds Jensen still sitting in front of the computer.

"You look like a brained cow. Not that that's all that different from your usual look."

Kane immediately starts rummaging through the scrim of paper on the desk—that Jensen can't entirely eliminate, no matter how hard he tries to keep Jeff organized—showing that he doesn't mean it, but Jensen knows a response is expected, and so he flips Kane the bird just on GP.

"What's your damage?" Kane asks, finally, leaning his hip against the desk. "Someone ask you to have an original thought?"

"Fuck. Off," Jensen says, with more heat.

Kane opens his mouth and inhales to say something. Then, surprisingly, he closes his mouth and leaves whatever it is unsaid—not that Jensen's shoulders unknot any at the reprieve.

"What's the problem?" Kane says, in an entirely different voice.

Now it's Jensen's turn to start to say something withering and then bite down on it. He really doesn't want to get into it with Kane today. "Jeff," he says finally, the bolus of frustration that's been building in his throat for the last few hours rising to half-strangle him. "He wants me to buy some music."

Kane blinks, an expression crossing his face that Jensen can't quite read. "O-kay. Now explain to me why this is a problem?"

Jensen sighs, curling his fingers around the chair's arm to avoid any more overt a gesture. "I don't know anything about music! I don't know what he wants me to pick! All the stuff he's already shown me is on here." Jensen gestures at the iPod, feeling like it's emerald green surface is somehow mocking him. Green is the color of envy. The color of this money that I don't know how to spend! "But I don't want to just waste his money, buying stuff at random."

"Why not?"

Jensen looks at him and Kane sighs, replanting his feet on the floor. "So what do you like?" Kane asks.

"If I knew what I liked, you think I'd be sitting here all this time?" Jensen glares at Kane. He's pretty sure he'd lose in a fight, the pretty, pampered body-slave that gets off on pain, but he's frustrated enough that he almost wants to go for it anyway. Almost. "I don't… Music is Jeff's thing."

And Kane's, he remembers belatedly, recalling all those nights out on the beach; Kane and Zach with their guitars, singing songs that Jensen can now (mostly) put the words to.

"I don't know music," Jensen says lamely.

Kane sighs. "All right, first of all, unknot your panties, man. It's embarrassing. Jeff didn't set this up as some kind of test. I'm sure he thought you'd have fun, the dumbass. He does shit like that. And you can't get all…" Kane flails his hands around in mock panic, "every time he does it. Second of all, hand me that pen." Kane gestures for it and Jensen hands it to him, along with the block of Post-It Notes. "Check these guys out," Kane says as he scribbles, hair falling into his face. "Listen to some samples, see if you like it. And then just buy some shit at random. Can't figure out what you like if you don't try things." Kane hands the block of sticky notes back to Jensen, the first half-dozen covered in Kane's sprawling handwriting.

"What about that song that you were singing?" Jensen asks suddenly. "The one…" He tries to remember the lyrics, remembers humming it for days after the first time he heard Kane play it. "The one about Track 29?"

Kane snorts. "Shit, son. You're not going to find that on iTunes."

***

Okay, Kane is a righteous asshole, but his taste in music isn't horrible.

Jensen finds himself humming songs all the time now, tapping out unconscious rhythms on the steering wheel when he drives. Sometimes, his lips even shape out the words, snatches of lyrics under his breath, random phrases that echo through his head at equally random moments: …make him a SPY…nah nah nah nah…

It's embarrassing when people catch him at it, though Jensen seems to be the only one who thinks so.

It's pretty much worth it, though, to see the light in Jeff's eye and the smile he gets when he catches Jensen at it, especially if it's a song he doesn't know and Jensen gets to tell him about it.

***

The only sound is the whisper of the wind and the silken pop-crackle of the fire rasping over salt-laden wood.

Everyone is staring at him.

"What?" Jensen digs his fingers into the sand nervously. "What?"

Sam is the first to speak. "I just…don't think anyone knew you could sing, Jensen."

"I can't," Jensen hastens to explain. He thinks about trying to explain, about Lord Cruise guiding him away from a pastime he was never going to be good at, but talk about Lord Cruise doesn't go over well in this crowd. "I just thought. Everyone was singing…" Jensen tries to construct sense from his rationale and can't. "I can stop."

"You can put two notes together without sounding like Bisou howling at the moon," Jared says, grinning at him from across the fire. "That makes you a damn sight better than me."

"And me," Adrianne chimes in, lying lazily across the log behind Jared and Chad. "I don't have the nerve to sing in this crowd."

"And we're all grateful for that," Chad says, and then tries—and fails—to duck the swat Adrianne aims in his direction. Jared says he thinks they're sleeping together, but so far, neither one of them is copping to it.

"I like hearing you sing," Jeff murmurs for Jensen's ears alone, hugging him close, a compliment that makes Jensen flush hot all the way to his toes.

"Hey, Jensen," Zach calls, fiddling with the tuning on his guitar. "Think you know Suenos Dulces well enough to sing the back up?"

Until Jeff started educating Jensen on music, he hadn't realized that some of the songs that go around these beach-side bonfires are songs that Kane or Zach have made up themselves; it'd never even occurred to Jensen a slave might want to do such a thing, a desire that seems as frivolous as music himself.

Normally, Wendy backs Zach's vocals on that song, but she doesn't look put out at the request, watching Jensen with the same curiosity as her husband.

"S-sure," Jensen agrees hesitantly. "I could try." Jeff squeezes Jensen tighter, pressing a hot kiss to the back of Jensen's neck like a promise. "I'll try."

***

Jensen scrolls past the tracks in his library slowly, thinking. He'd been planning to put together a playlist for the times he goes running without Jeff (which is more often than not, lately, and he should probably nudge Jeff about it again) but while sorting through his music, he thought it might be nice to put together a mix for Jeff, kinda show him all that Jensen's absorbed, do something—however pathetically inadequate—nice for all of the patience and love Jeff's shown to him, all the mixes Jeff tirelessly put together for him.

Desperado is a gimme. It's one of Jeff's favorite songs (showing up on no less than four of Jensen's playlists) and Jensen remembers Jeff talking about it on the road to Sonoma for a meeting: The Eagles have been my band since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, man. And this song. This song totally speaks to me. Hell, it speaks for me.

Jensen remembers the smile on Jeff's face and the way the sunlight slanting in the car kept making Jeff's eyes bright, like colored glass, and the absent circle of Jeff's fingers around Jensen's knee, like Jeff was constantly reassuring himself Jensen was still there. That was a good day.

The Fray isn't one of Jeff's bands, and it feels a bit risky to put You Found Me on the playlist, but a few weeks after Jensen had started buying his own music to put on the iPod, Jeff had been curious and they listened to some of the tracks on a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch, Jensen's head in Jeff's lap and Jeff's fingers picking out melodies on Jensen's ribs.

He puts on Kashmir (same name as his iPod) because Jeff says that no playlist is complete without some Zepplin. He likes Masters of War better, but this is for Jeff, and so he puts on Knockin' on Heaven's Door, because—as Jeff says—it's Bob friggin' Dylan. Putting Sex on Fire on the list makes him blush—God, that had been one hell of an afternoon—but he includes it because it's also one of his favorite memories of all the music Jeff's played for him. Jolene just makes Jensen smile, remembering Jeff belting it out at the top of his lungs.

Thunder Road, because he knows it'll make Jeff smile. Jeff and Ever had gotten into a long, yelling argument about whether Thunder Road was the best rock song ever—with Ever on the side of yes. It had the flavor of a really old argument and later, Jeff confided in Jensen that Ever was totally right, it is the best rock song ever, but he'll be damned if he's going to let her win the argument and so on it goes. Jensen also remembers that Sam made pie that night, a simple cobbler of peaches that tasted like pure summer. Sam had refused to let Jeff or Ever have any, and so Jensen snuck Jeff half of his…not that he really thinks Sam was fooled.

Jensen lets the player run on, sorting through the rest of the Springsteen tracks, and trying to decide if he should put another one on—and if so, which one (he's thinking maybe The Rising)—when a snatch of lyrics catches his attention: …once I spent my time playing tough guy scenes/but I was living in a world of childish dreams. Someday these childish dreams must end/to become a man and grow up to dream again. Now I believe in the end/two hearts are better than one.

Frowning, Jensen grabs his iPod and flips it over to look at the inscription. It's the same as it's always been: someday these childish dreams must end.

This wasn't a song they'd ever listened to a lot. Certainly not enough for Jensen to mark it as one of Jeff's favorites. He rewinds it, cutting off the brash guitars mid-note, and listens through the song again.

***

"Hey." It's dark when Jeff finally ventures into the office to look for him. "Are you ever coming out of here again?"

Jensen looks up and blinks, surprised to find the room so dim. His retinas feel seared from staring at the screen for so long and he's stiff as a board. "Sorry," he apologizes, linking his fingers together and raising them over his head into a stretch. "I got…involved."

"Yeah?" Jeff crosses the room, tangling his fingers in Jensen's hair, brushing across his cheeks until he tilts Jensen's face up for his kiss. The touch is still hesitant, nervous, waiting for Jensen to pull away or refuse—silly master—but the kiss is as rich and strong as Jensen could ever wish for, leaving him breathless and clinging to Jeff's forearms like he's about to faint. "What're you so involved in?"

At that moment, the computer chirps cheerfully, the disc tray ejecting from the tower. Jensen sucks the wetness from his lower lip and smiles, feeling suddenly shy about the whole dumb thing. "This," he admits, voice cracking weirdly on the word. "It's for you."

Too late, Jensen wonders if he should've made it fancier, better; an artistic label, cover art for the jewel case, instead of plain Sharpie marker on a plain silver face and a case as dull as when he pulled it from the wrapping. No help for it now, though.

Jensen plucks the CD from the computer tray and snaps it into the jewel case before handing it to Jeff.

"For me?" Jeff's startled grin is as pleased as if Jensen had served him with a professionally done, beautifully decorated CD. "You made me a mix tape, Jensen?"

"Well, it's a CD," Jensen starts to explain, confused, but Jeff only laughs and kisses him again.

"Don't worry about it," Jeff says, laughter shivering through his voice. "It…this is great. Thank you." He turns the case toward the light from the monitor so he can read the title. "Two…" He glances at Jensen and his smile widens, brightens, a glow that sinks right down into Jensen, making him tingle with the thrill of I did it right! "Two Hearts Are Better than One. Heh. Figured that out all on your own, huh?"

"I had a good teacher."

Jeff rubs the back of his neck, looking sheepish, but still happy about it. "Yeah, well…" Jeff shakes himself and straightens, letting go of whatever deprecating thing it was that he'd planned to say. Instead, he waves the CD at Jensen temptingly. "Why don't you say we go listen to this? Upstairs." His voice deepens, half-cheesy, half with the desire that he can't hide, even behind the teasing.

"Yeah," Jensen agrees, his stomach as jumpy and hot as if he's been drinking shots. He gets up, but he must have been sitting longer than he thought, because his legs don't want to hold him and, instead, he half-crashes into Jeff, who steadies him with both hands before craning up to take Jensen's mouth.

The CD is cutting into Jensen's arm and he thinks, feverish, two hearts are better than one. Two hearts are better than one.