On July 31st, in the early hours of the morning, a willow basket is placed on the porch of the Padaleckis' home. Inside the basket lies an infant, only a couple of weeks old, wrapped up in a warm dark green blanket. There are small stitches on it — sigils for protection that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Padalecki will recognize for what they are. A note pinned to the basket simply states: Please take good care of our baby boy.
Mrs. Padalecki is the one to find him. She doesn't quite feel awake as she pulls the door open, breathes in the fresh morning air. The coffee has yet to finish brewing in the kitchen, and the whole neighborhood is still quiet, peaceful. She steps out onto the porch and nearly stumbles over the basket.
"What—" she starts, falling quiet as she looks down.
The baby looks up at her, his wide eyes a myriad of colors, and doesn't make a sound. For a moment, Mrs. Padalecki could swear the basket is bathed in a soft shimmering light, almost as if the air around it is glowing, but then she blinks and it's gone.
"Gerry! Come here, quick!" she calls over her shoulder.
She looks around, but there's no one nearby. The street is empty, quiet. She bends down and picks the baby up, cradling him against her body, and in an instant she knows she'll make sure this boy — this poor, abandoned baby — will never want for anything.
He's loved and taken care of — he lives in a house, has two wonderful parents and two siblings, and for the first eight years of his life a dog. He does well in school, makes friends easily wherever he goes, and squabbles with his siblings as often as he plays with them. He likes books, loves sports, and plays video games. Like most boys do.
The only thing not quite normal about Jared are his dreams. Or his dream, singular, because he has a similar one every single night. In it, Jared is running down lush green hills, across fields with beautiful flowers. There's a forest with trees that are taller than any Jared has ever seen in real life, and when the wind rustles through the leaves it almost sounds like music, like bells tinkling. There's a stream, the water gurgling peacefully as it flows over stones and sand. The air shimmers beautifully, like there's a touch of magic everywhere, and everything is basked in hazy, golden sunlight.
For a long time, Jared doesn't realize his dreams aren't quite normal. There's nothing about them that stands out, that could possibly alarm him — the place in Jared's dreams is peaceful and he loves being there. It's only when he realizes that other people have all kinds of different dreams — good and bad and most of them pretty damn weird — that he gets a little worried and asks his parents about it.
"What happens in those dreams, honey?" his mother asks him. Jared shrugs.
"Nothing. I play. Sometimes I pick flowers or wade through the stream," he tells her. His mother smiles and kisses the top of his head.
"Well, that doesn't sound like something we need to be worried about," she states.
A few of months later, she asks a friend of a friend who is a psychologist about it, just to be sure. Her friend asks Jared a few questions about his dreams, and she seems a little puzzled but tells them not to worry about it. Jared feels weird about having to share his dreams with a stranger, something telling him it isn't for her to know. He doesn't bring his dream up again after that and neither do his parents. Over time, he thinks they probably forgot all about it and Jared is happy to let it rest.
Sometimes, he'll stop and think about his dreams, and they're weird, sure, but they're not bad. They're better than nightmares or those really confusing dreams his friends sometimes mention, where a teacher turns into an alien or the English exam is written out in Latin. Jared likes his hills and the meadow, the forest and gurgling stream. There's nothing bad that ever happens there, and he starts to think maybe he's just lucky.
The next night, Jared feels it again, and again the night after that, and the night after that.
Over the next few months, the presence gets stronger. Most nights Jared is still alone, but about once or twice a week now he feels like there's another person in his dreams. The feeling never lasts long, like little glimpses of someone else, but over time it starts to linger. First a few seconds, then sometimes a minute or two.
And then, the summer between Jared's freshman and sophomore year of college, he hears a voice for the first time. "Where are you?" it asks. Jared is lounging in the grass at the bottom of one of the hills, letting the sun shine in his face. The voice is male. Deep, yet soft.
It startles Jared so much that he wakes up.
"What the—" he gasps, and switches his bedside lamp on. For a moment, he expects to find someone there with him but the bedroom is empty.
Jared tries to tell himself it was just a dream, that it doesn't really mean anything, but he has trouble going back to sleep that night.
The voice becomes a recurring part of his dreams after that as well. There are always questions whispered into the silence, Where are you? and How can I find you?. It — he — doesn't sound malicious and Jared doesn't feel threatened by him, but Jared never answers him anyway. There's something weird about the voice, something that gets right under Jared's skin.
The apartment isn't huge and Jared wouldn't call it nice, but it's nice enough. Chad contributes a big flat screen TV and Jared shares his xbox, and they buy a comfy albeit ratty couch from a friend of a friend of a friend for the living room. Chad calls it the heart of their apartment. Jared can't argue with it because it's where they spend most of their time, eating food and playing video games.
In his own room, Jared puts a Texas flag on the wall above his bed and an IKEA shelf next to the door that he fills entirely with books. He places photos of his family and friends on his dresser — as far as decorations go, Jared thinks he's doing okay for a nineteen year old college kid who doesn't have money. He'd even say that everything is perfect, if it wasn't for the pesky little voice in his dreams that's growing more and more insistent.
A small part of Jared had hoped that the voice wouldn't follow him to California, that something about being back in his childhood bedroom triggered the change, but he's not that lucky. So with that hope squashed, Jared decides to take matters into his own hands.
He gets a whole stack of books on dreams from the library and starts researching. He figures if anyone takes notice of his sudden new interest, he can always claim he's doing research for a class project.
At first Jared's a little worried about what he'll find, so he starts with the easier things: the hills, the forest, the stream, the meadow. The things that have been there forever and that he's never had to worry about. Jared quickly finds that dream interpretation is a lot of vague mumbo jumbo and doesn't really make sense — apparently, Jared is lost, at peace, secure, and on the wrong path all at once.
He keeps reading. There are plenty of different books and approaches, but it all amounts to a big pile of nothing.
"Well, great," Jared mutters after he finishes skimming the umpteenth book. He's sitting on his bed, books and notes spread out around him. After a moment's hesitation he grabs a different book, the one he found the least horrible, and looks up 'voices'. He finds something about his subconsciousness sending him a message and, feeling more than a little frustrated, he mutters, "Well then, screw my subconsciousness."
"What are you doing?" Chad asks, suddenly appearing by Jared's open door, a can of coke in his hand. He comes in and picks up one of the books, skims the title and snorts. "Do you believe in this crap?"
Jared sighs and drops his book. "Not really," he says, and something in his voice must alert Chad because he sits down and peers at Jared with concern.
"What's up, Jayman?"
"I've been having these dreams," Jared admits and shrugs.
"Like what? Getting hunted by miniature vampires that can float above the ground?"
Chad shrugs. "It's this dream I sometimes have," he says. "The things are hilarious. Until, you know, they catch me and bite me in the calves."
Chad's explanation startles a laugh out of Jared and he shakes his head. "No, nothing like that," he says and thinks what the hell. There's probably nobody in his life who's crazier than Chad, so he's the last person who'll look at Jared weirdly for having strange dreams. "It's just...I've been having this dream. The same one every night since I was a kid."
"Seriously? Every night?" Chad asks.
"Yeah, kinda. It's the same place every night anyway. A meadow and a forest and stuff," Jared explains. "It's not all that remarkable, really. I don't really know how to explain it. There's nobody there and nothing really happens, but it's so beautiful."
"Sounds boring," Chad says and shrugs. "Maybe your dreams are trying to tell you that you need a little excitement in your life, man."
"No, it's...I like it there. I mean, yeah, nothing happens, but it's an amazing place. I can't really describe it," Jared says, thinking of the beautiful landscape, something about it so ethereal, so stunning.
"So, what's the problem then?"
Jared pulls his knees up, resting his chin on top of them. "For the past year, there's been someone there. It's like I can feel another person. And then, this summer, there suddenly was a voice that wants to know where I am," he says, looking down at his hands in case Chad is going to laugh at him or call him crazy.
Chad, though, makes a surprised noise. "Okay. Kinda creepy," he admits. "But, Jayman, unless something like humans with superpowers or crap like that exist, which they don't, I'm guessing it's just dreams. Doesn't exactly sound like you have something to worry about."
"God, yeah. You're right. I'm being absurd," Jared says with a groan and runs a hand over his face.
"Well, luckily you got me to keep your grounded," Chad boasts and Jared can't help but snort.
"Hey," Chad says after a short moment of silence, voice suddenly going softer, serious. "Have you considered that, maybe, this whole thing is about your parents? You know, your birth parents? 'Cause dreams are all about your subconsciousness and shit, right?"
Jared shifts, looking down at the bedspread and shrugs. Chad is one of the few people who know Jared is adopted — it's not something he hides, but as far as Jared is concerned his parents are his real parents. He didn't grow up feeling like there was something missing, like his life lacked something, and his parents told him long ago that there was never any trace of who is birth parents might have been so he never seriously considered looking for them either. Sometimes he wonders about them, sure, but it's not something that keeps him up at night.
"I don't know. Maybe," he replies now. He still gets the feeling that there's something else about his dreams, something more, but at least Chad's idea is more rational than any of the stuff Jared has been coming up with.
In his dreams, Jared is barefoot, toes buried in the sand. It's warm and so soft it reminds him of cotton. He moves his foot, draws a circle, the sand moving like liquid. Jared hasn't been to many beaches in his life, not even now that he lives only an hour drive away from one, but he's never seen or felt anything like this. "Man, I wish California beaches were just like this," he whispers to himself, and tries to draw a star next.
"So is that where you are?"
Jared startles, his heart racing as he turns around. It's still beating fast when he wakes up in his bed.
"Just a dream," he mumbles. "Remember, Jared? Your subconsciousness and whatnot."
He runs a hand over his face and after a few moments of lying there, waiting for his heartbeat to slow down, he rolls out of bed and closes the window. Just in case.
"Oh come on. Party tonight and study tomorrow," Chad says, jostling Matt, who in turn bumps into Jared. Jared trips a little, the strap of his backpack sliding a few inches down his shoulder, and he hitches it back up.
"Partying with you means a hangover tomorrow. Matt won't get anything done if he goes out with you tonight," he points out. Chad glares at him.
"Traitor. Don't think you're getting out of this either, by the way."
"No way," Jared says. He's about to list all the reasons for why going out with Chad is very low on his list of things he want to do that evening, when he practically feels someone watching him. They are walking across campus and there are students everywhere, but when Jared turns his head he doesn't have to skim the crowd. His gaze settles right onto a guy sitting on a bench a good thirty feet away, like he's drawn right to him. And the guy is staring straight back at him.
A shiver runs down Jared's spine and it's not fear, exactly, but something that touches him deep down to the core and his breath hitches. He feels like he knows that guy, recognizes him, except Jared knows he's never seen him before. He's the kind of guy you don't forget easily. Even though it's the middle of summer, he's wearing a black leather jacket over a white t-shirt, black jeans and what looks like heavy biker boots. He looks older, not like a student and yet not like staff either. There's something about him that's different, a little dangerous perhaps, yet comforting. The weirdest part, though, is that even though he's so far away, Jared sees a flash of green eyes. Well, not really sees it, it's more like he knows, beyond a doubt, the exact color of this guy's eyes.
"Jared," Chad says loudly next to him, tugging at his arm. "What are you doing?"
Jared blinks, feels as though he's coming out of a daydream, and realizes he's stopped walking. Chad is frowning up at him, and Matt is waiting a few steps ahead of them, looking curious.
"Sorry. I… I zoned out," Jared says. He gives Chad a weak smile and starts walking again, but not before glancing at the bench one last time. It's empty.
He almost regrets it the moment the door falls shut though, the apartment feeling suddenly too empty without Chad around. Quiet. It makes Jared's skin crawl.
"Get a grip, Padalecki," he mutters, and resists the urge to lock himself in his bedroom. Instead, he orders a pizza — because pizza makes everything better — and puts on a movie, turning the volume up.
He feels a little better and he's almost forgotten about the incident that afternoon when there's a knock on his door twenty minutes later. For a second, Jared freezes. It could be the pizza delivery, he tells himself, even though he knows it's not. It's way too soon and something tells Jared he knows exactly who he'll find when he opens the door. If. He could pretend he didn't hear anything, hide in his room, or call the cops.
There's another knock.
Swallowing, Jared gets up and walks the short distance from the living room down the hallway to the door. Once there, he hesitates, just for a moment, then he pulls the door open.
It's him. The guy from this afternoon.
Up close, Jared can see his eyes really are green and he's older than Jared, though maybe not as old as he initially thought he was. He's in his mid twenties, if Jared had to guess. He looks kinda like the typical Californian guy, with a strong jaw and a couple of days worth of stubble, yet almost delicate features. Handsome, his mother would say, if it wasn't for the fact that his clothes wouldn't quite meet her approval. Like a model who was dressing up as a bad boy.
"Who are you?" Jared manages to ask.
The guy looks at him and then smiles a small smile. "Jensen," he says, his voice smooth and deep. It's a voice Jared has become all too familiar with.
"You're the guy from my dreams," he says and he can barely hear himself over the rush of blood in his head. It's insane to even think it, because it can't be true, and yet here the guy is and Jared knows. Knows, because he's been agonizing over his voice for weeks, and he knows this guy's presence. He's felt it countless times over the past few months.
Jensen smiles a little wider, but it looks gentle. Kind. "Yeah, that's me. I've been looking for you for a while."
"Why? Who are you?" Jared asks, his hand clutching the edge of the door. "How'd you find me? How'd you even get in my dreams? What the hell is going on?"
His voice comes out higher than usual, louder. He's going crazy; he has to be, because it's the only explanation that makes sense.
"Jared. Calm down, please. I'll explain everything, don't worry, but maybe you should let me come inside," Jensen says. He still sounds calm and Jared feels the words wrap around him, feels a tranquility settle over him.
"Inside," Jared echoes. He shakes his head, because he's not that big of an idiot, letting a stranger into his apartment. He can't do that, shouldn't do that, even though every fiber of his being wants him to step aside and let Jensen in.
"This isn't the kind of thing you want to talk about out here," Jensen interjects before Jared voices any protest, his voice quiet. "Believe me. You don't want your neighbors to listen in on this conversation and it's probably not going to be quick either. I need to explain some things to you and I'm sure you'll have questions, too."
"Are you going to hurt me?" Jared asks. If his life was a horror movie, and right then he isn't sure it isn't, then this is exactly what would happen: creepy guy turns up on someone's doorstep, enters the house, and kills the unsuspecting victim. Jensen has stalked him in his dreams, and that in itself is absolutely insane, but it doesn't sound like the kind of story that's going to have a happy ending in store for Jared.
Jensen shakes his head. "Hurting you is the very last thing I'd ever want to do, Jared," he says, and for some reason, Jared can tell he's genuine. He steps aside, feeling shaky and confused, and closes the door once Jensen has stepped past him. Unsure of what to do next, Jared clears his throat.
"Living room is right through here," he says, motioning down the short hallway, and starts walking.
The movie is still on and Jared quickly goes to turn it off. When he turns around he finds Jensen standing by the couch, looking around the open kitchen and living room space with a curious, though unimpressed, look.
"So," Jared starts, and Jensen looks at him and gives him another smile.
"May I?" he asks, waving his hand at the couch. Jared nods, and Jensen sits down. "So, there's a lot I have to tell you. And it might sound a bit strange to you, but just try to keep an open mind please."
"Start with the dreams," Jared says, feeling a slightly panicked laugh threatening to escape him. "How is this even real? I mean, what, are you some kind of superhero? Spy with freaky powers? Do you even know how freaking unreal this is?"
"It's normal where I come from, so no, not really, I suppose," Jensen admits. "I'm a fae, Jared."
"A what now?"
"Fae," Jensen repeats, and after a pause he adds, "And so are you."
Jared stares at Jensen for a moment, but Jensen doesn't backtrack, doesn't tell him he's kidding. Jared snorts. "This is a joke, right?" he asks. "You're telling me, I'm a what, a… a fairy? And you want me to believe that?"
Jensen sighs and leans forward, elbows on his thighs and hands clasped between his knees. He looks normal, Jared thinks, not at all like someone who is clearly completely crazy and maybe about to kill him.
"Fae, not fairy," Jensen corrects. "Fairies were made up by humans, and fae are very much real. We don't have a lot in common with the creatures you have in mind. Obviously, because neither of us is tiny or has sparkling wings."
His lips lift up into a quirked smile, his eyes shining in amusement, and Jared wants nothing more than to tell him this is the wrong time to make jokes. Because Jared is freaking out.
"This is ridiculous," he says. "I'm just a guy. And you're insane. Or high. Hell, did Chad pay you do come here and do this?"
"Who are you parents?" Jensen asks, ignoring Jared's accusations, and looks at him seriously.
The words stop Jared.
"Your birth parents," Jensen interjects. "Not your adoptive ones."
"How'd you know about that?" Jared whispers. The only people he's told about this since he moved to California are Chad, Matt, and Sandy. More people know about it at home, but Texas is a far way from here.
"I told you, Jared. You're a fae. You were given away a few weeks after you were born, given to humans, and raised in this realm."
Jared runs a hand over his face and shakes his head. "No. That's nuts."
Jensen pulls back the sleeve of his jacket. There's nothing there but smooth, pale skin but then Jensen skims his fingers over the inside of his wrist and his skin starts to shimmer, to glow blue-white. A mark that looks like a flower, like petals twisted together and swirling around to form an intricate design, appears.
"What the..." Jared murmurs, gaping.
"I'm a fae," Jensen stresses. "We both are, Jared. Do you believe me now?"
"I don't have one of those things on me," Jared protests, crossing his arms over his chest. "I mean, fine, maybe you're...you're something. But I'm not. You have the wrong guy."
"I don't, believe me. And you do have a mark; it's not visible, but it's there."
Jared is starting to feel a little dizzy suddenly. All of this is insane, sounds insane at the very least, and Jared should probably kick the guy out and forget the day ever happened.
Except, just a few weeks ago Jared was researching dreams, convinced there was something not quite right about his. Not quite human. And there are things about Jensen he can't explain, like the fact that he heard the guy's voice in his dreams and knew his eye color before he saw it. He goes to sit down, not sure he's going to be able to stand up for much longer, choosing the opposite end of the couch.
"So, say this is true. Hypothetically," he starts after a moment and can't believe he's saying this. "Why the hell did I get adopted by 'humans' in the first place and why are you here now? I just… I don't understand any of this. It doesn't make sense."
"Your parents thought it was for the best," Jensen says in a soft voice. Soothing. There's something about it that gets right to Jared, makes his racing heart slow down and the panic ebb away. There's something else there, a feeling Jared can't quite explain, something a lot less calm and quiet, something wild that Jensen makes him feel.
"They were trying to protect you," Jensen continues. "This realm seemed safer than ours; they thought they could hide you here better."
"Protect me from what?"
"Your parents were very powerful. In our realm it's common that people of their standing arrange marriages for their children to form alliances with other powerful fae," Jensen explains. "Your parents arranged a marriage for you before you were born and this alliance would have far surpassed any other at that time. It would have brought two of the most powerful families together, and I'm sure you can see how that might have displeased some other fae."
"Are you telling me that my life was in danger?" Jared asks in disbelief.
Jensen nods. "Pretty much, yes. There were some fae who were determined to make sure the alliance would never be formed and they would have done anything to see to that. Even killing you. Your parents were tipped off, though, so they hid you away."
"They… why didn't they just call off the wedding plans?" Jared asks.
"It's not like a human betrothal, Jared," Jensen says, shaking his head. "There are spells performed, a bond that is forged. It can't be called off."
"Yes. Fae, remember?" Jensen says and gives him a small smile. "We possess magic."
"Right, magic," Jared swallows. It's too much to process, so he decides to focus on another thought that niggles at his brain. "You said were. My parents were powerful."
Jensen turns a little more toward him, his body shifting gracefully, and gives him a sad look.
"They're dead," Jared guesses before Jensen can say anything, and Jensen nods.
"I'm really sorry, Jared," he says. "They passed away a few years ago. Your mother was sick for many years and your father grew considerably weaker after she died; he died in his sleep shortly after she did."
"And why are you here?" Jared spits out. "Why come here and fuck up my whole life by telling me my birth parents are dead and hey, I'm not even human?"
He gets up, feeling the sudden urge to throw or punch something, anything to get rid of the restlessness cursing through his veins; the anger he feels towards Jensen, at this whole situation. The calmness he felt just a few moments ago is gone as quickly as it came. He's still can't believe any of this is true, but if it is then this guy has some nerve, coming here and turning his life upside down.
"There were spells that were put on you and on your human parents' house, so you wouldn't be found. Spells that made you appear like any other human. But they're wearing off," Jensen says. "That's why I've been able to contact you in your dreams. The spells were designed to only last for so long, Jared… Your parents wanted you to grow up without being in danger, but they always wanted you to come home once you'd reached adulthood."
"And if I don't want to? If I just want to stay here and forget about this whole thing and just… be normal." Jared runs a hand over his face and laughs a little hysterically. "Please tell me I can still be normal."
Jensen sighs. "The spells can be redone. But they wouldn't be as strong. Kids are weaker, they're easier to hide and protect. You… you're strong, even for a fae. Everyone felt it the moment you were born," he says. "The spells wouldn't last more than a few years this time if I redid them. You're too powerful."
"So you're here, what, to take me back?" Jared chokes out, shaking his head.
"No. You're not ready for that, and there are still people out there that want to hurt you. I needed to find you before they did and prepare you. You need to be trained, Jared."
"Trained. Trained in what way?"
"Fighting, magic. That fae magic I mentioned? Yours was blocked so you'd be able to live among humans undetected. But as I just said, you won't be able to hide forever and I want you to be able to protect yourself."
"Why?" Jared asks and stares at Jensen. "You burst in here, tell me I'm some kind of mythical being and my parents are dead. Why should I trust you? Why would you care about me one way or another?"
Jensen looks at him and presses his lips together firmly, expression wavering. "Because I'm your betrothed."
"Come again?" Jared asks, his heart in his throat.
"Our parents arranged for us to get married years ago. I was a kid and your mother was pregnant with you," Jensen says. "We're bonded. That's why I care. That's why I'm here."
"No," Jared says with a humorless laugh. "No. You're a guy."
"Jared. I know—" Jensen starts, but Jared keeps going before he can continue.
"They arranged a marriage for me with a guy? Are you serious?" he asks. "Why the hell would they do that? Wasn't there some girl that came from a powerful family that would have done?"
There's no way, he thinks. No way anyone can expect him to be with, to marry, some guy. Or anyone really, but especially not a man, because Jared is definitely not into men. There's no way anyone could think that, could assume that about him — not even his magical freaking birth-parents. Jared's as straight as they come. And okay, there was that one time last year when he and Chad watched a gay porn movie but that was only because they hadn't realized it was two guys until clothes were already being taken off, and they'd kind of just gone with it.
"Porn is porn, right? Either way, someone is getting fucked," Chad had reasoned and Jared hadn't argued, but that didn't mean shit. The movie hadn't been half bad and maybe, maybe Jared had been kinda intrigued by the whole two-guys-having-sex thing but only in a purely theoretical way. Jared can honestly say that not once has he thought sleeping with a guy himself, and some pretty fae with a nice smile and leather jacket isn't about to change that.
"No. Fucking. Way," Jared stresses, shaking his head.
"Same-sex relationships are completely normal among fae. Gender doesn't really matter to us. It's not like in the human world, Jared," Jensen tells him. "Love is love."
"What about my sexuality, huh?" Jared replies angrily. "You don't care about that; you just arrange for people to get married and that's that?"
"We don't have different preferences," Jensen says.
"Well, I do," Jared snaps. "And I'm straight, so whatever you're hoping for, forget it. It's not going to happen. I'm not going to run off with you and live happily ever after or whatever you thought might happen. Just… just leave, okay? I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"Jared. We need to. This is important," Jensen stresses.
"Leave!" Jared exclaims. Jensen looks at him for a few short seconds, then sighs and gets up. "I'm sure you can find your way out."
Jensen presses his lips together. "I know this must be a lot for you to take in. And I'm sorry I came here and dumped all this information on you, but there are things you need to know. Things you're going to have to be prepared for," he says. "It's not something you can hide from forever, Jared."
Jared glares at him, staying silent, and after a moment, Jensen nods. "Bye, Jared. I'll see you around."
"Not if I have any say in it," Jared mutters. He doesn't watch Jensen leave and when he hears the door fall shut, he kicks the coffee table viciously. It slides to the side a little, but doesn't even topple over, and Jared's foot hurts like a bitch. Still, he kicks it again.
Fae. Even the word sounds ridiculous.
He wants to laugh this whole thing off, forget it ever happened. The only problem is that Jensen is real. He could try to pretend that Jensen is just some lunatic that, for whatever reason, has latched onto him, but the weird, glowing mark on his arm was just as real as Jensen and definitely didn't look very human. And Jared's dreams, the dreams he's been having all his life, those are real too. There's even a tiny part of Jared that even feels relieved to finally have an explanation, but the bigger part just wants to go back to being clueless.
She looks cute today. Her dark hair is swept back in a ponytail, her white top a nice contrast to her tan skin. She's one of those people whose beauty always looks effortless and Jared has always been attracted to girls like her. Pretty, sweet, bubbly.
"I didn't sleep very well last night," he admits, which sounds a lot better than telling her he didn't sleep at all because he was scared of what he would dream. Despite his lack of sleep, Jared doesn't feel as exhausted as he thinks he should. Maybe that's a fae thing, he thinks bitterly, and then quickly berates himself for going down that road. He doesn't want to think about last night, about Jensen, or about what he supposedly is. He just wants something normal.
"Let's go out tonight," he suggests, because it's the first normal thing he can think of. A date, with a girl, and he likes Sandy and Sandy likes him.
Sandy gives him an amused smile. "I was out last night," she says.
"I don't mean go out and party. I meant dinner and maybe a movie," Jared says. "You know, a date."
"A date," Sandy repeats, her smile a little more radiant now. "Jared Padalecki, are you asking me out?"
"I am," Jared says and nods. "So what do you say?"
"Okay," Sandy agrees and laughs softly, looking down at the table between them. "So, I need to get some studying done because apparently I have plans for tonight. You better buckle down and help me get some things done."
"At your service, ma'am," Jared replies, giving her a small salute. He reaches for a set of notes and grabs a pen. "Let's start with last week's lecture. I had a question that I scribbled down here somewhere, give me sec."
He shuffles through his notes, trying to find the thing he wrote somewhere in the margins, and subtly glances up at Sandy. She's engrossed in her own notes now, too, her ponytail falling over her shoulder. She's beautiful and she's exactly what Jared wants, exactly what he needs right now.
They share a plate of antipasti, followed by a pizza for Jared and ravioli for Sandy. The nice thing about dating a friend, Jared notices, is that they have a lot to talk about. There's no awkward first date conversation. Instead it feels like hanging out with Sandy always does: they talk about classes, about mutual friends, about TV shows they both watch and music they both listen to. It's easy, friendly, and best of all, it's a good distraction.
The movie they decide on after dinner is a lot less interesting. It's some romantic comedy that Sandy picked because there's nothing better playing, and the whole movie is cliché in the way where it feels like you've seen that exact movie about a dozen times before. Jared has his arm around Sandy and she's snuggled up against his side, which is nice though. She's close enough that Jared can smell her shampoo, sweet and familiar, and she fits into the curve of his body perfectly.
When Jared told Chad he was taking Sandy out on a date earlier that day, Chad had clapped him on the shoulder and congratulated him. "I knew this would happen," he said. "I don't know why you waited so long to ask her out. You should have done it weeks ago, man. You two are perfect together."
For a split moment, he'd thought about Jensen, had felt the need to find him and tell him. Ha. See? he'd wanted to say. There's a girl and she's perfect for me. And I'm perfect for her.
"I don't think you've laughed at even one of the jokes so far," Sandy whispers now, tipping her head up a little.
Jared shrugs, brought out of his thoughts, and glances at the screen where the two main characters are involved in a screaming match. "Movie's kinda boring," he whispers back.
Sandy nods. "Yeah," she agrees and turns her body into Jared's a little. "Can you maybe think of something that'd be more fun?"
In the dim light coming from the screen Jared can see her smile, her lips glossy. He hums and closes the small distance between them, bringing their lips together. He kisses her softly, slowly, and feels Sandy smile against his mouth. Her hand comes up, cupping his cheek, and her lips part under his. Her lip gloss is sticky and tastes fruity sweet, and when she presses a little closer he can feel the soft swell of her boobs against the side of his chest. This, too, he wishes he could make Jensen see.
Sandy looks up at him, and laughs softly. "Oh, I suppose I should play coy, tell you I'm not that kinda girl. But really, I'm a fan of people doing what they want to regardless of what society might tell us we should do," she says, her eyes sparkling with amusement.
"That a yes?"
"I've kinda been into you for a while," Sandy says, grinning. "So that's a hell yes."
Jared laughs and tugs her in a little closer, even if it makes walking a little harder for them, her steps so much smaller than Jared's. She's definitely his kind of girl.
"So you're just going to stalk me in my dreams now?" he spits out angrily and brushes past Jensen.
"Well, you could block me," Jensen replies.
Jared stops. "How?" he asks.
"I can teach you. I'm not the only one who can get into your dreams, Jared. Our bond is helping me, but once the spells wear off others may be able to enter your dreams as well. To find you," Jensen tells him in a serious voice. "That's one of the reasons why you need proper training."
"You really think I'm in danger."
Jared hesitates, but the thought of other fae, ones who might want to hurt him, getting to him makes his stomach twist. He nods. "Fine. But just training. There's nothing more to it."
"If that's what you want," Jensen agrees.
"It is," Jared stresses. Jensen nods, and then he's suddenly gone. It's quiet again, except for a soft breeze blowing through the knee-high grass.
Carefully, Jared turns around and finds Sandy looking at him through half-lidded eyes. Her long dark hair is spread out on the pillow and Jared runs his fingers through it. "Good morning," he murmurs.
Sandy's lips lift up in a smile. "Morning," she returns, voice thick with sleep. She shifts, scooting a little closer. Her boobs end up pressed against his chest and her thigh brushes against his cock. Jared ducks his head down and kisses her, ignoring the morning breath and slightly tacky taste in his mouth.
Sandy makes a pleased sound when their lips part with a soft snick and grins. "So. Does a stay at the Padalecki-Murray residence include free breakfast?" she asks.
"If you're my guest, yes," Jared says, and trails his fingers down Sandy's back. Her skin is smooth and warm and when he splays his hand between her shoulder blades it almost spans her whole back.
"I make a mean pot of coffee and I'm really great at toasting bread," he tells her. "Also, a pro cereal-pourer."
Sandy laughs. "If you tell me you've got some milk for the cereal, I'm sold."
"Oh definitely. Only the best for my guest," Jared says. Sandy gives him a fond smile, nose scrunched up a little, and Jared kisses her once more before rolling out of bed.
It says just, Next Saturday, 2p.m. with an address scrawled under it. Jared peels it off and stuffs it into the pocket of his jeans.
"Must be for Chad," he says when Sandy gives him a curious look.
He's a little surprised that he's not a lot more freaked out though. After all some guy just waltzed into his life, told Jared that he's not human, hey magic and stuff is real, and Jared was basically promised to him by his parents before he was even born. If anything entitles a person to a nervous break down or at least a panic attack or two, this would be it. Jared is feeling a little anxious and scared and confused, yes, but he's not freaking out and that actually worries him a little.
Maybe, deep down, he always knew there was something off about him and that's why he's having such an easy time accepting all of this. It's an oddly comforting thought and it makes Jared sleep a little easier at night. His dreams, when he does have them, are as peaceful and comforting as always and Jensen doesn't appear even once that week.
On Friday night, Jared goes with Sandy to see a college band play on campus. Some of their friends are there as well, so it's not really a date, but they sit side by side at the table that Sandy's roommate, Sophia, snagged and then Sandy comes back to his place afterward. It feels like they are heading right into a relationship, skipping the casual dating thing, and Jared is okay with that.