February 19th 2016, Austin/TX
The morning comes too soon, Jared barely got a full hour of sleep in; he’s exhausted and too tired to move. Aldis stirs next to him, his fiancè’s arm a comfortable weight that’s draped lazily over Jared’s stomach. Jared smiles when Aldis inches closer, his warm body pressed snug into Jared’s side. When the man’s lips begin to search out Jared’s shoulder, up to his neck, he leans over, takes Aldis’ mouth into a gentle kiss. They keep the kissing light, hands holding on to each other. Jared initiates the next move, pulls Aldis on top of him and spreads his legs. His fiancé settles his long, ripped body comfortably between them and doesn’t stop assaulting Jared’s throat with hungry kisses. They don’t talk, they don’t need to either; a silent communication between them enough to see what they both want. Aldis fingers him open, his moves gentle and skilled. When he enters Jared’s body, they both stifle their moans, not ready to wake Jared’s son up just yet. When Jared comes, coating their bellies with his warm white climax, Aldis follows him over the edge and fills the condom when his own orgasm takes a hold of him.
Only when they hear Matthew emerge from his bedroom do they part, a smile lightening up both their faces. Jared cranes his neck, checking the alarm clock on Aldis’ side of their bed and he is left rolling his eyes. “It’s only 6 am.” He groans.
Aldis chuckles, a warm breath against Jared’s neck and only now does he pull out; knots the condom and gets up to dispose of it “He’s your son after all. Guess he can’t wait to leave.”
Yeah, his fiancè is right and it sucks. Aldis being right doesn’t suck, the part where his eight year old son is beyond excited to leave for the weekend sucks. It was a spontaneous and stupid idea to fly to New York. It is by far the last city on earth Jared wants to visit. However, what needs to be done, needs to be done.
New York in itself, Jared can’t deny the beauty of the city, but it holds too many memories, too many painful reminders. He hasn’t been in New York since 2011. Since he caught Jensen cheating and left without another word. It had taken Jared weeks to realize that he couldn’t possibly cross the man out of his life completely. No matter what had driven Jensen to break Jared’s heart, they still had a son, a son they both loved more than anything else in the world. It doesn’t matter how much hurt Jensen caused him, because Jared knows how much Jensen cares for Matthew, the son they wanted for so long after numerous failed attempts. Those facts were the reason why Jared sucked it up and dealt with their break up like the mature adult he is. Even though he moved back to Texas, he still made it possible for Jensen to come visit whenever his tight schedule allowed him to. In the beginning, Jensen flew in every other weekend, partially because he kept trying to apologize to Jared, to win him back. Mostly, though, because the man couldn’t live with their son being so far away. As Jensen’s job took over more of his time, his visits lessened. They never fully died down, neither of them allowed it to come that far. But sometimes Matthew didn’t get to see his papa for two months in a row. Jensen always made up for it, writing letters when their son first learned how to read and soon they moved on to Skype. Twice a week is the least they videochat and Jared doesn’t want it any other way. He enjoys Matthew’s happiness when he gets to talk to his other father. Their bond has always been strong and Jared doesn’t want this to change.
Jared doesn’t talk to Jensen, not much. Only when he actually has to; when Jensen books into a hotel in town and comes to pick up their son. Even after all these years, it still hurts to so much as look at Jensen. Their love was too deep to let such a harsh betrayal slip or be forgiven.
Flying to New York was Jared’s idea. After confessing to Aldis that he was, legally, still married to Jensen, he offered to fix this problem as fast as possible. Jared doesn’t know why he never thought about getting a divorce sooner; it never really mattered. Not until Aldis proposed to him.
Again, Jared has to suck it up and talk to Jensen. They won’t have to end up in an hourly long conversation, all Jared wants is Jensen’s signature on the divorce papers so he can fully move on and plan a future with his fiancè.
At the breakfast table everyone seems tense, or it’s only Jared’s imagination because he is equally stressed and nervous.
“Dad, can we leave now?” Matthew asks, stuffs his face with a spoonful of cereals. It’s the second time within fifteen minutes that his son’s patience is wearing thin.
“Your flight doesn’t leave for another two hours. How about you finish your food first and then I’ll drive you and your dad to the airport?” Aldis smiles at Matthew while pouring the boy another glass of orange juice.
It will never cease to amaze Jared how well his son and Aldis get along. If Matthew hadn’t approved of Aldis then they surely wouldn’t be sitting at the table together right now. Jared’s number one priority is and always will be his son, he is a packaged deal and after a few years of useless dates, Aldis showed up at his practice with a stray cat he found whimpering and half dead while jogging through the park. Seeing how Aldis obviously had a soft spot for animals, made it easy for Jared to know right away that the man couldn't be a bad guy.
“Okay. I wanna sit in the front seat.” His son speaks up, after gulping down most of his juice.
After they all finished their food, Aldis took care of the kitchen clean up while Jared checked his suitcase again, making sure he didn’t forget anything; the vanilla envelope with the divorce papers on top of his clothes.
Leaving on a Friday afternoon isn’t exactly a smart move, but Jared didn’t want to book a flight sooner, he doesn’t want to stay in New York for longer than he really has to. Friday to Sunday is more than Jared can take, much to Matthew’s disappointment.
The airport is crowded, masses of people blocking their way left and right, fueling Jared’s annoyance even further. There is still some time left before they have to board their plane and they spend the time by walking around the airport, checking out a few stores and treating Matthew to a small cone of ice cream.
“You gonna be alright? You’re awful quiet today.” Aldis asks, his hands holding on to Jared’s hips while Matthew ogles a few games in a store’s window.
“Yeah. Just wanna get this over and done with.” Jared offers his fiancé a small smile and hopes Aldis doesn’t notice how insincere it actually is. He doesn’t feel like smiling, seeing his ex is bound to make him uncomfortable, just as always.
“Well, told you to just send him the papers. It’s not like he’s got much of a choice. Sooner or later a judge is going to divorce you either way. With or without his signature.” Aldis tries to reassure him, tries to talk Jared out of flying to New York.
“I’d rather do this in person. Besides, he and Matt haven’t seen each other in five weeks. They can spend the weekend together and I’ll sit around missing you.” He leans in, kisses Aldis softly.
Shortly after, Jared and Matthew walk to their gate, Aldis waving at them from behind the security check. Jared is really going to miss Aldis, he will miss the man’s warmth when he wakes up alone in New York, he will miss cuddling and kissing and yeah, Jared really doesn’t like being away from his fiancé.
Inside the hotel room, Matthew drops his backpack at the foot of his bed and goes straight to Jared’s bag, digging through the contents. “You looking for something?” Jared squints at his son in confusion.
“I promised papa I’d call him ‘soon as we’re here.” His son shrugs his shoulders as if it isn’t obvious.
Jared hears about this promise for the first time. Not that it makes much of a difference, because he himself had texted Jensen the evening before, saying Jared would let him know when he was bringing Matthew over to Jensen’s penthouse.
“Okay. Yeah, go ahead.” Jared gives his permission and grabs his suitcase to get his toiletries out, places them into their hotel bathroom and listens in when Matthew’s giddy voice filters through the air.
There are times when his son is exceptionally moody, sad mostly, when he doesn’t get to see his other father for a long period of time, and even the constant calls and video chats don’t seem enough. So, it’s only logical that a content smile tugs at his lips when Matthew excitedly tells Jensen that they are finally in New York.
“Oh. I don’t know, papa. I’mma ask dad.” Matthew sounds upset and comes into the bathroom, where Jared has just put his toothbrush into one of the wall-attached glass holders.
“Dad, what’s the name of the hotel?” His son wants to know, expectant look on his moss green eyes.
Jared is sure he told Jensen already, so it’s a little surprising that his ex forgot. Because there is one thing Jensen never does: forgetting anything. The man has the brain of an elephant and remembers details like he’s getting paid for it. Then again, he does get paid to remember details. As an anchorman, he sure has a bunch of teleprompters he can read most of the news off of, but Jensen wouldn’t be on top of the ABC News food chain if he wasn’t better than the others.
“Matty, you still there?” Jared hears Jensen through the phone and it rattles his nerves with a familiar tingle.
He swallows against the shiver and gives a short cropped answer, “Park Central on 7th.”
“You got that papa?” Matthews turns and walks back out of the bathroom, phone still clutched to his freckled cheek.
Jared braces himself against the sink, both hands balled into fists as his knuckles turn white. He’s squeezing his eyes shut, taking a few deep breaths. Why? The question plays like a mantra in his head. Why is it still so damn hard to listen to Jensen, to hear his voice? Jared knows it’s mostly because there has always been a Jensen-shaped hole in his heart, a part of him that can’t be fixed. Not with their son reminding him, on a daily basis, of what he and Jensen once had. Or, maybe, it’s because that it’s practically impossible to forget your first love; your first everything. Might be both and Jared doesn’t like it one bit. He tries to clear his thoughts, shifts his mind to the present, to Aldis. His fiancè who loves him. And Jared loves him too. He does, he really does. All he has to do is remind himself of that, of the impending wedding.
When he walks back to their room, he finds Matthew sprawled out on one of the beds, facing the headboard, still talking to Jensen. “But dad said he’d bring me.”
Jared watches and tries to understand exactly what they are talking about, but he can only hear his son’s side of the conversation.
Suddenly, Matthew bolts upright, legs bent underneath his butt. “Really? That is so awesome! I can’t wait.” His son squeals in pure delight and Jared wonders what this is all about, what Jensen said or promised. It must be something good and Jared immediately knows that whatever it is, Jensen will make it happen.
Then, Matthew’s shoulders slump, head hanging low on his chest, “I don’t have any ice skates, though.”
Typical Jensen, Jared thinks. He is probably wanting to take their son to the Rockefeller Plaza, the most beautiful ice skating rink in New York City. Jensen loves that place, it’s not difficult to remember for Jared. Even when Jared was five months pregnant with Matthew, Jensen didn’t take no for an answer and took him ice skating. He paid quite a fortune, too, so as to have a small part of the rink to themselves and without anyone bumping into Jared.
“Oh. Okay, that’s good. I hope they have my size.” Matthew keeps babbling into the phone and then cranes his neck to look for Jared. “Sure. Hold on, yeah?”
“Dad, papa wants to talk to you.” Matthew scrambles off of the bed and pushes the phone into his hand.
Jared stares at it for longer than comfortable before he holds it up against his ear. “Hi.” It’s the most he can muster to speak, no emotions, no actual friendly tone in his voice either. He has learned to be cold and emotionless when he speaks to Jensen.
“Hey there.” Jensen’s voice sounds excited, but it’s still quiet and lightly tinged with sadness. Jared doesn’t answer, waits for Jensen to keep talking. “So, uh. I wanna take Matty to the rink. I know you said you’d drop him off at my place. I’d rather… I mean, is it okay if I pick him up?”
Jared thinks about it for a few seconds and remembers that the rink is only a ten minute drive from the hotel. It would be completely pointless to drive to Jensen’s penthouse only so he and their son have to drive all the way back for their skating adventure. “I guess, yeah.”
Barely talking to Jensen is as hard as starting a whole conversation. Jared’s brain is all fuzzy whenever he has to talk to Jensen. Then, there is the whole issue with having to speak to Jensen to get the man to sign the divorce papers. “Listen, I don’t know what you’ve planned for tomorrow, but we need to talk.”
There is silence at the other end of the line as Jensen’s breathing audibly increases. “Something wrong with Matty? He’s… did something happen?” Worry layers Jensen’s voice and Jared gets it. A couple of years ago he had to call Jensen to inform him that their son had been hospitalized after an allergic reaction. It wasn’t life threatening, but the doctors wanted to monitor him for a couple of days to be on the safe side. Jensen had shown up in Texas only ten hours later, in the middle of the night, storming into Matthew’s hospital room like the apocalypse was about to end the world.
“No, he’s fine. It’s got nothing to do with him.” Jared doesn’t feel like elaborating this, not with their son in the room. Matthew knows that Jared and Aldis want to get married, they talked about this long and proper but talking about divorce under their son’s nosy ears isn’t going to happen.
“Good. That’s… that’s good. We’ll probably be all over the city tomorrow but I thought of making pizza with Matty. How about you come over? Around eight-ish. We’ll save you a small piece.” A light chuckle accompanies Jensen’s voice, knowing full well how Jared had always been ready to kill for Jensen’s homemade pizza.
Jensen’s cooking wasn’t always good, much less edible. But during their college years, when money was always an issue and Jared eating his whole weight in a meal, Jensen suggested learning how to operate a stove for more than cooking pasta. Their kitchen almost burned to the ground more than once, but eventually Jensen’s cooking was close to perfect, restaurant-worthy. Jensen’s pizza was a whole new level of food experience. It was to die for, to kill for. His ex never shared the secret of how exactly he made it and after a while Jared quit asking. Jared hasn’t eaten a slice of pizza in five years. Aldis can’t cook and whenever his fiancè suggests ordering pizza, Jared decides on pasta or Chinese instead. The memento is enough for Jared to end the phone call as fast as possible. “Don’t bother. But yeah, I’ll come over. When are you going to pick him up?”
He notices the difference, the disappointment in Jensen’s voice, and can imagine the smile leaving his ex’s face. “An hour. Maybe forty-five minutes.”
“See you then.” Jared hurries the words through his lips and swipes his phone to disconnect the call before Jensen has a chance to say more.
For the next twenty minutes, Jared busies himself by packing Matthew’s duffel bag with all the clothing and games his son might need for his stay with Jensen. Whatever Jensen has planned for their eight-year-old, Jared is sure that Matthew doesn’t need his Nintendo DS or any of his action figures. Nonetheless, Jared stuffs all of it in the duffel anyway. He’s completely off kilter, just the way he always is after talking to Jensen. He hopes that as soon as the papers are signed and the divorce final, Jared will finally let go enough to shut Jensen out of his thoughts. There is no room for Jensen left in Jared’s life, only enough to let him be the loving father for Matthew that he always was. Starting a new life, with a loving man at his side, is bound to bring even more distance between him and Jensen. It’s necessary and long overdue. Jared can’t and doesn’t want to constantly think of the past. It hurts and he wants this ache gone more than anything.
True to his word, Jensen knocks at their door fifty minutes after Jared hung up on him. Matthew races to the door like the devil is after him, yanking it open to throw himself into his father’s arms. “Papa!”
Jared is rooted to the spot, his fingers still around the soda can he was about to open. He watches, a small smile on his lips, when Jensen pulls their son up and into his arms, Matthew’s legs wrap snugly around Jensen and his arms hold on for dear life around his papa’s neck. Jensen doesn’t seem to mind, never does, and pulls the boy closer, nuzzling at Matthew’s temple and giving the spot a dozen kisses.
“Missed you, buddy.” Jensen whispers to their son, and if Jared wasn’t so drawn to the picture in front of him he would have not heard it.
“I missed you too, papa.” Matthew wiggles and lets himself be guided back on his own feet by his father.
It’s then that Jensen’s gaze shifts and his eyes focus solely on Jared. “Hi Jared.” He says the two small words, his smile fading and the corners of his mouth tugging downwards into a rueful frown.
Jared ignores the greeting, trying to pull himself out of the funk he can’t seem to ever shake when looking at his ex. “His bag’s packed. You’re all set to go.” Jared puts his soda can down on the bedside table and goes to one of the chairs, picks up Matthew’s duffel bag and walks closer to the door. Jensen is still outside the room, never steps inside. Even when he flies down to Texas and picks up Matthew, he never walks over the threshold, as if the action would burn him. Parts of Jared want to appreciate it, but a larger part of Jared thinks it feels oddly close to a slap in the face, a dismissive action. A stupid thought, really, because all Jared has done since their break up is be dismissive and shut Jensen down.
When he hands Matthew’s duffel bag over to Jensen, their fingers brush, the innocent touch barely there, not enough to have any kind of meaning, but Jared flinches anyway and pulls his hand back. Jared is way out of his comfort zone. This is Jensen’s turf in a city where Jared doesn’t belong anymore. At his house, back in Texas, it’s easier to get this always awkward situation under control. Sometimes, Jared doesn’t even mind hiding away, all while Aldis goes through the process of handing Matthew over. It’s easier this way and Jared keeps telling Aldis how he can’t stand Jensen’s presence, how his guts fill with rage. Truth is, there is no rage, no hateful thoughts regarding Jensen. But he can’t possibly tell Aldis that he is being hit with too many memories when he is face to face with Jensen. Aldis wouldn’t understand. Lying to his fiancè is wrong on many levels. However, he doesn’t want to worry Aldis or want the man to think that there is anything wrong. And there isn’t anything wrong. Everything is perfect, everything is fine. Except the part where Jared can’t get Jensen off of his damn mind.
“Okay. We’ll see you tomorrow then?” Jensen’s careful tone interrupts Jared’s mental rollercoaster of messy emotions.
“Yeah,” he answers, wetting his lips and swallows around the lump in his throat.
“Come on, Matty. Say goodbye to your dad and then we’re gonna go own that rink.” Jensen ruffles Matthew’s hair, long brown strands falling into their son’s eyes, leaving him no choice but to shake his head like a wet dog.
Matthew gives him a tight hug, smacking his lips to his cheek when Jared bends down. “Love you, dad!” Another tight squeeze is added before the boy finally lets go.
“Love you, too, Matt. Be good.” Jared gives Matthew a kiss on the top of his head and watches the two walk down the hall in the direction of the elevators.
An uneasiness settles deep within Jared, a feeling he can never explain and it always consumes him when Matthew leaves. In moments like these he wonders how Jensen is doing it, how he manages to leave again when he brings their son back after his visits. They both know that Matthew is going to be fine, that their son is in capable hands with either of his two fathers, and yet, Jared still feels like suffocating when the boy is gone for longer than a few hours. If Jared had ever given Jensen the time to talk to him, then maybe he would know if his ex is feeling the same, if he has to deal with the same troubles. Considering how much Jensen loves Matthew, it should be self explanatory.
He doesn’t really know what possessed him, or if he lost his mind, but the next thing Jared knows is that he is leaving the hotel. Outside, the temperature is down to ten, if not less. The cold wind makes Jared freeze even more; he’s not used to this kind of weather anymore and he surely doesn’t miss it. Before he realizes where he is going, the outline of Rockefeller Plaza is coming into his line of sight. This is wrong and something he never did before. It wasn’t even his intention to follow Jensen and their son and he still doesn’t do that. He’s just… taking a walk. A walk that ends up close enough to the ice skating rink. Close enough that he can make out Matthew’s bright red hat.
Jared feels like a creep, a creep who has trust issues. Of course, he doesn’t trust Jensen: as a man, as his ex, the man lost all privileges to be considered trustworthy. With their son though? There is nobody else who Jared trusts more with Matthew than Jensen. Jensen has always been a wonderful father, the first one to cry in sheer happiness when the pregnancy test showed a positive result. They had been trying to conceive for well over three years, starting when they were still in college. Knowing full well that it was risky, with all their financial troubles, they still wanted this to happen. Damn the consequences. The money they saved on food, thanks to Jensen’s increasing cooking skills, they spent on pregnancy tests and doctor visits. The shock when the doctors told them that Jared was mostly infertile left a dark shadow over their relationship. However, they overcame the saddening news and after countless conversations they opted to keep on trying. If it hadn’t worked then there were other options for them to start a family. Turns out, Matthew is the child they were meant to have despite the odds.
When the ice skating rink starts to attract more people, Jared can barely keep up with the two. But when he does spot them, he can’t help himself and smiles brightly at the display. Matthew and Jensen seem to be having the time of their life, they’re laughing like loons, chasing each other and landing on their butts more times than Jared can count. Since leaving Jensen, Jared has never seen the two of them together like this: carefree and lost to their own little world of a perfect father-son-day. Jared ignores the way his chest tightens when Jensen smiles so hard that the lines around his eyes crinkle deep, making his whole face light up. His breathing turns a little weird when Jensen wins the race against Matthew, the man’s hands thrown up in victory and the winter coat rides up to the waistband of his jeans. Jared blames the cold for his ragged breathing.
“What the hell am I doing?” Jared whispers to himself, shakes his head, stuffs his hands in his jacket pockets and walks away.
On his way back to the hotel, he fumbles to pull his phone out of his pockets and sends a message to Aldis. He should have done that over two hours ago, he promised his fiancè to call when their plane landed. Jared keeps the message short, lets Aldis know that they arrived safe and sound and Matthew is already with his father. He ends the message with I love you and promises to call in the evening. For some reason he can’t find an inch of excitement over the prospect of calling his fiancè. Excitement that usually always settles in when Aldis is on business trips and says he’ll call before Jared goes to bed.
Around nine pm Jared calls Chad instead. Jared doesn’t often leave his practice in the hands of a substitute vet, but as long as his assistant Chad is there, Jared supposes nothing too bad can happen. They talk for almost an hour, until fatigue forces Jared’s eyes to droop and he tells Chad that he will be back bright and early Monday morning. After a rather quick shower, brushing his teeth and jumping into his pajama bottoms, Jared ignores the two missed calls on his phone and goes to sleep.