Jared is drunk.
More accurately, he’s trying to get drunk, but given that the world’s shittiest bartender has been ignoring his existence for the last ten minutes, he’s not making much progress.
Staring at the bottom of his glass, the last of the ice melting into whiskey-flavored water, Jared thinks about how he ended up here. Wednesday nights are to supposed to follow a routine, and that routine definitely does not involve sitting alone at this random sports bar, sipping the dregs of his Jack and Coke.
Wednesday nights are for picking up Thai food from the little place Jensen loves so much, bringing it back to the house just in time for Jensen to finish his last tele-meeting of the day. Jensen divides the food between two plates (he understands that Jared’s metabolism requires twice as many calories) while Jared picks a show from Jensen’s DVR.
They eat. They chat. They trade snarky comments about the characters on whichever show they’ve chosen. They flirt, or at least Jared tries to flirt while Jensen gives him a soft smile for each attempt. Jared is hopeless, but Jensen indulges him.
It’s a nice routine, and yet here sits Jared, moping like a heartbroken teenager, wondering where he went wrong.
Jensen Ackles saved his life. Financially speaking, anyway. Jared had just received his Master’s degree, and though he had a job lined up in Austin, money was non-existent and he needed a place to live. He crashed on couches and in spare bedrooms for nearly six months until a senior producer at the local news station where he worked slipped him a business card with Jensen’s name on it and a cell phone number scrawled on the back.
“He’s looking for a roommate,” Mr. Kane told him before hanging his head and laughing. “He might not know that yet, though. Just tell him Christian referred you.”
Jared’s back ached from the futon he’d been sleeping on for the last week and he desperately needed to hit the laundromat. Still, he didn’t call right away.
He hit Google first.
Jensen Ackles was a bit of a mystery, although one fact was startlingly clear. He did not need a roommate. According to Forbes, the man was one of the Top-10 up-and-comers in the financial world. Jared couldn’t decipher what kind of business Ackles was in, though he was certainly wealthier than anyone Jared knew. He couldn’t uncover much about Ackles’ personal life aside from his charity work, though. Not even Google could help him there. Jared was hesitant, but he figured Kane wouldn’t refer Jared to someone he didn’t trust. In the end, he worked up the nerve to call Ackles’ personal line.
Now, a year and a half later, Jensen Ackles is one of Jared’s closest friends.
They clicked almost immediately (after Jensen got over the fact that Kane thought he needed a roommate). Jensen’s home sat just outside the city, and there was enough space that the two men might have ended up barely seeing one another were it not for the fact that they liked some of the same shows, enjoyed the same kinds of food, and could talk about anything.
And the fact that Jared was immediately attracted to his new landlord. Without a doubt, Jensen was the hottest guy he’d ever seen. Lucky for him, he was able to see a lot given that one of Jensen’s favorite ways to relax was making use of his backyard pool (more like a private oasis). Sunning in the morning, swimming short laps in the afternoon, and quick dips in the hot tub after dinner.
Jared loved having a pool. Not that he got to enjoy it nearly as much as Jensen did. Being one of the greenest producers at the news station meant he didn’t always work the best hours. Sometimes he was on days, working on segments for the evening news, and sometimes they shifted him to the night crew, producing stories for the morning broadcast. It was tough work, ridiculously long hours, but Jared slogged through whatever the station threw at him. Jobs in broadcasting were tough to come by, and Jared was going to hang onto his no matter the cost.
Having a place to live that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and most of his soul (he had a feeling Jensen was giving him a big break on the rent) took a lot of stress out of the equation.
Still, it was difficult being attracted to Jensen. Jared figured he would never meet anyone else as perfect for him as Jensen, but they were from completely different worlds. Socially, economically, and physically.
Jensen was kind and generous; he made friends easily and earned their loyalty quickly. Jared, on the other hand, had a hard time connecting with people even when they shared a class or a career. Jensen came out of graduate school with no debt thanks to his generous family and enough money to start making investments of his own while Jared was living in campus housing until the university all but kicked him out.
Physically, Jensen was perfect. Though he was eight years older than Jared, he kept himself fit, ate well (something that benefitted Jared, too), and could afford clothing that was tailored to flatter his features. Jared’s muscles hadn’t caught up to his last growth spurt yet. He was nearly six-and-a-half feet of awkward angles and floppy hair. Almost as soon as Jared finished unpacking, Jensen invited him to use his in-home gym anytime he wanted.
Though he was skeptical, Jared tried to keep up with Jensen’s workouts when they used the gym at the same time. From the number of times he caught Jensen staring during their circuit, whether Jared was struggling with the amount of weight on the curl bar, or sweating too much on the treadmill, Jared wasn’t exactly making a good impression. But whenever he asked Jensen if he should be working harder, Jensen assured him that everything he was doing was great.
It didn’t matter, though. Jared has had plenty of time to get over the idea that Jensen didn’t find him overly dateable. They were best friends, cohabitating in Jared’s dream home. It was as close to a relationship as he was ever going to get. It was fine.
Or so he thought. Sitting here, still waiting for the damn bartender to fix him another drink, Jared finally admits that he’s not as over Jensen as he thought.
It’s all Danneel’s fault. She changed everything.
Jared loved his job, even the crazy pace and the thankless hours, but he hit a low point two months back. He wasn’t getting the assignments he needed to really make an impression on the senior producers, his sex life was non-existent, and Jensen was in the middle of complicated negotiations that kept him away. Then the news station hired Danneel Harris, a feisty young anchor from California who was out to prove herself.
Jared would have gone crazy without her. Just when the stress was beginning to eat him alive (so much so that even Jensen asked if he needed a vacation), Danneel tore through the station like a wildfire, breathing life back into Jared’s ambitions. She turned boring assignments into compelling stories, and it became clear that she worked best when Jared was producing her segments.
Danneel wasn’t like any of Jared’s friends from school. She was spontaneous, flirtatious, and whip-smart, completely unafraid to use her stunning looks to her advantage when the powers-that-be ignored her intelligence. Her success was Jared’s success, too.
It wasn’t long before Jared developed a serious crush. Things with Jensen weren’t exactly progressing (more like at a dead stop) and it seemed like a harmless infatuation. He and Danneel spent hours together in their news van talking about the future and their career aspirations. She teased Jared, smiled that devious little smile that made him want all sorts of things. Things that would probably get them both fired if they weren’t so intent on proving themselves.
Introducing her to Jensen seemed like the obvious thing to do.
Hindsight is such a bitch.
“You want to start a tab, man?” The bartender’s voice cuts into Jared’s melancholy. There’s a fresh Jack & Coke sitting in front of him, finally.
“Nah.” Jared shakes his head and pulls another five-dollar bill from his pocket. “I’ll just pay cash again.” It’s safer this way. On a tab, Jared’s liable to out-drink his budget.
The bartender takes his money and goes back to comfortably ignoring him, much like the other patrons are doing. As if Jared is giving off a serious dejection vibe.
He wanted Jensen and Danneel to hit it off. They were two of the most important people in Jared’s life, and both were amazing in their own way. What could go wrong?
The burn of the whiskey going down reinforces how naive Jared had been.
As soon as Danneel set eyes on Jensen, her entire demeanor changed. Jared had seen it a hundred times down at the station. She went from being funny and open to coy and seductive. The look on her face was the same one she’d get when she really wanted a particular assignment and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
And Jensen, fuck. It hurts to think about, now. Jensen looked back at Danneel like someone had just delivered his favorite meal and he couldn’t wait to have a taste.
That was two weeks ago. Since then, Danneel and Jensen have gotten together several times. Always including Jared, of course, but he couldn’t help believing that he was in their way. They never ignored him, they simply seemed drawn to one another, always sparking. Two beautiful people, they just made sense together, and Jared realized he was kidding himself, imagining he had a chance with either one.
It’s why he’s here, letting the whiskey carry some of his burden, while Jensen and Danneel are together at the house. Presumably naked and acting out Jared’s fantasies without him.
Tonight, Jared excluded himself, leaving the house when Jensen let him know that Danneel was coming over for a glass of wine. Jared wanted to give them space, spare them from having to find a way to work him into conversations. He’s the outsider, and he’d rather sit at this bar by himself than force his awkwardness on his two friends.
Jensen and Danneel could be really happy together. Doesn’t mean Jared wants to watch it happen.
He doesn’t have a claim on either one of them. Jared swallows that reminder along with another sip of his drink.
Getting drunk is not happening fast enough, Jared thinks. He’s debating taking the rest of his drink in a single swallow when his pocket begins to vibrate. With Jensen and Danneel otherwise occupied, who would be texting him?
Jared’s brow furrows as he reads the texts popping up on his lock screen (a selfie Jared took of himself and Jensen, both wet and tanned after a scuffle in the pool).
Where are you? Jen says you ran off WTF?
I brought the nice wine for you
Get your fine ass back here
Miss you, asshole
The four messages pop up in quick succession. Jared can almost hear Danneel’s nails tapping on her iPhone screen, a sound he’s gotten very used to hearing on the job while she types out details and searches social media for new stories.
He sets the phone on the bar and sighs. Maybe they haven’t gotten to the naked part of the evening yet. He doesn’t text back, figuring Danneel will soon be too distracted to bother with her phone.
Jensen must be taking his time with the (unnecessary) seduction, because less than five minutes later, his phone is buzzing again.
Jen is upset without you
Srsly. He thinks you’re mad at him
Jared’s about to let those messages go unanswered, too, but something tugs at him. He types one message, hits send, and hopes that’s the end of it.
I’m not mad. Just have fun tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.
The phone goes silent after that. Jared watches the blank screen for a few minutes, wondering if he should have gone back. Made things awkward the way he always does, prevent Jensen and Danneel from getting together, even if he’s only delaying the inevitable.
He really needs to move this getting drunk thing along.
Jared’s about to attempt flagging down the bartender so he’ll have another drink ten minutes from now, when his phone begins to vibrate again. He glances over, expecting to see another barrage of texts from Danneel, when he sees that he’s receiving a call.
He answers out of shock more than anything.
“What do you think you’re doing, Jay?”
Jared feels his face flush at the nickname. “I’m just out having a few drinks, no big deal.”
“Be honest,” Jensen says, “you’re sitting alone at a bar right now, aren’t you?”
Jared looks around furtively, as if Jensen might suddenly appear beside him. “So what if I am? You and Danni have the house to yourselves, why are you even calling me?”
“Stop acting like I kicked you out,” Jensen insists. “It’s your house, too.”
Another rush of warmth fills Jared’s core. He can’t blame this one on the whiskey.
“I thought you might want to be alone.”
Jared contemplates slamming his forehead on the bar. It might be less painful.
“Because Danneel’s there.”
“Are you two having problems right now?”
“What?” Jared gasps. “No, I mean, did she say something to you?”
“Obviously she hasn’t,” Jensen fires back. “Why don’t you want to see her?”
“It’s not her.”
“Gotta say, Jay, you’re not making a whole lot of sense right now. How many drinks have you had?”
Not as many as Jared needs. “Two,” he admits, “just because the bartender sucks at his job.”
“That’s why he’s a bartender at that shithole.”
Despite his dark mood, Jared laughs. Their banter always puts him at ease; it comes as naturally as breathing.
“Don’t waste any more money there, man,” Jensen tells him, his voice more earnest now. “If you really need a drink that bad, I’ll let you break out the good stuff.”
It’s a tempting offer, and if Jared were a cruel person, he’d say yes.
“I think I’m better off drinking here, Jen,” he admits. “Don’t let me ruin your night.”
“You’re choosing a dive bar over me. That’s what’s ruining my night.”
Damn Jensen and his endless consideration. Jared would hate it if it didn’t make him fall even harder.
“You’d better not be ignoring Danneel,” Jared reminds him. “She deserves better than that.”
“She went to grab more wine, I’m not—” Jensen stops there, and Jared swallows around the lump in his throat. “Is that what this is about? You’re jealous?” Jensen asks carefully. “Do you want a shot with Danni?”
If only it was that simple, Jared could laugh off the entire thing. Jensen might call him crazy, but they’d be able to move on.
Jensen is still talking, though. “—that’s what you want, you should go for it. Danni adores you.”
“Say the word, Jay, and I’ll back off. Hell, I’ll take your place on that bar stool and you can come home.”
While Jared might not have had enough whiskey to be drunk, he’s had enough to make him honest.
Therefore, it’s clearly the whiskey that cuts Jensen off and says, “It’s not only about Danneel, Jen. It’s about you, too.”
Silence over the line. Regret surges as Jared realizes what he’s done. He considers hanging up to spare himself further humiliation, but he’s frozen with his phone pressed to his ear, waiting to hear anything besides the sound of Jensen’s deep, even breathing.
Jensen breaks the silence first.
“I’m only going to say this once, Jared. You’re gonna get out of that damn bar and you’re gonna come home, okay? Then we’re talking about this.”
Giving Jared no chance to argue, Jensen hangs up just as Jared hears Danneel say something in the background of the call. Jared’s stomach takes another roll as he wonders what she might have overheard, what Jensen could be telling her this very second.
With his phone still in his hand, Jared contemplates not going back. His original plan still sounds pretty good: get drunk, leave Jensen and Danneel to themselves, pretend everything's okay. The only problem with that plan is that Jensen would no doubt track Jared down if he’s a no-show. (Not to mention, Jensen’s way better with technology. He’s probably tracking Jared’s movements somehow, which is kind of sweet in a bizarre way.)
Keeping that in mind, Jared finishes the rest of his drink with the feeling he’s going to need a little extra liquid fortification.
He doesn’t leave an extra tip for the bartender. The guy probably won’t even remember he was there.
Next, he expects Jensen to be waiting at the back door when Jared walks up. Or, given his last remark on the phone, for Jensen to open the door and haul Jared inside. But Jensen isn’t there. No one is.
Jared walks into the back hallway, drops his keys on his side of the hall table, and listens for either of his friends. Nothing.
He checks the kitchen where he finds a half-empty bottle of Cabernet (Danneel’s vino of choice), and two caps from Jensen’s favorite microbrew, but no one waiting to talk to him. Jensen’s office is empty, and so is the pool when Jared glances out the back windows. Hovering outside the door to Jensen’s master suite, Jared can’t hear any sounds coming from inside.
If Danneel’s car wasn’t outside, Jared would think no one was here at all.
Torn over his sudden reprieve, Jared lets out a deep breath and heads upstairs to his room, wanting nothing more than to fall asleep and forget today ever happened.
He’s halfway down the hall when he hears the first moan.
There’s no mistaking the context: it’s low, masculine, and full of need. There’s also no mistaking the fact that the sound came from Jared’s room.
Jared won’t remember the steps that take him to his bedroom door, or raising his hand to open it. He’ll only remember the swift one-two punch of shock and arousal that hits him when he sees the scene laid out in front of him.
Danneel, her back to the door, wearing one of the silky slips that Jared is used to seeing when she changes outfits in the news van between broadcasts. This one is emerald green, trimmed in black lace, and clings to the curve of her hips, red wavy hair spilling down past her shoulder blades. The slip is pushed high up her thighs where she straddles another familiar body sitting on the end of Jared’s bed.
Jensen’s hands are spread wide across Danneel’s back, caressing and possessing. From this angle, it appears that Jensen’s forehead is pressed against Danneel’s sternum, lips no doubt brushing across the swell of her breasts.
Horror churns in Jared’s gut. How could they be so cruel? He thought he knew them both so well. To fall for this kind of setup, to be nothing more than a pawn in some sick game…
His embarrassment manifests as anger.
“What the hell?” he shouts, finally getting their attention.
Jensen looks at Jared over Danneel’s shoulder, his expression soft and full of lust. Not the shock and remorse for which Jared is hoping. When Danneel glances back, though, it’s not with smugness or scorn. Or, worse yet, an expression of triumph. Instead, Jared has the distinct feeling that she wants to devour him. Danneel might as well be licking her lips.
It’s still not enough to overtake the anger. All Jared wants to do is flee, but he’s frozen in place. Before he can figure out what else to say, he watches Jensen’s expression change, the want fading at first to confusion, then concern.
As soon as Jensen moves to shift Danneel off of his lap, Jared breaks free from his shocked trance.
“I can’t be here—”
“Jay, wait a minute.”
Jared shakes his head and tries to back away even as Danneel sets her feet on the floor and Jensen stands up.
“There’s nothing to freak out about, Jared,” Danneel says, moving to step around Jensen.
Jared sucks in a sharp breath. “Nothing to—are you kidding me? You’re hooking up on my bed! Were you hoping I’d walk in and catch you?”
Danneel grins. “That was kind of the idea.”
“Are you serious right now? You wanted to rub this in my face?” Jared fixes his stare on Jensen. “You told me to come home, Jen. I thought we were gonna talk.”
“I did—we were,” Jensen stammers, so uncharacteristic for him, “but then Danni thought that this might speed things along.”
Taken aback, Jared can barely look at the two of them when he asks, “You couldn’t just have told me you wanted to get together? You needed me to see it, too? Figured I wouldn’t get the message or something?”
Jensen holds his hands out. “Whoa, whoa, Jay. What are you talking about, man? That’s not what this—any of this—is.”
Even Danneel looks a little concerned now, arms crossed tightly across her chest, while Jensen attempts to explain.
“I was gonna wait for you to get home so we could talk this through. After what you said on the phone, I thought maybe we were all finally on the same page.”
What page? Jared thinks. He’s not even sure he’s reading the same book as the other two people in the bedroom.
“But then Danni thought this would be better,” Jensen continues, drawing Danneel back into the conversation. “Showing you instead of telling you.”
“Telling me what?”
“That we want you,” Danneel says, as if it should be obvious.
Which, to Jared, it’s definitely not. In fact, it sounds so ridiculous that he has to laugh once. “No you don’t,” he insists. “You want each other. I’ve seen it.”
Danneel and Jensen both start to argue with him at the same time.
“I’ve wanted you for months—”
“I told you we could have sex in the news van!”
“First of all,” Jared asks Danneel, “when did you tell me that? And second—” This to Jensen, now, “I think I would have noticed if you wanted me!”
Danneel huffs. “Somehow I doubt that.”
Jensen takes a deep breath, drawing Jared’s attention to the fact that his blue shirt is unbuttoned all the way down to his belt, leaving his chest bare.
“You’re the first person I want to talk to when something major happens in my day,” Jensen is saying. “I let you pick what we order for dinner because I want you to be happy. And I hang out with you all the time, even when I should be working. I don’t watch Property Brothers for just anyone, you know.”
“I thought you liked that show,” Jared admits, more than a little hurt.
“I like watching you watch it,” Jensen corrects. “You have the best commentary, and you can always distract me when my negotiations aren’t going well, or when I feel like I’m falling too far behind.”
“Just trust me on this, Jared. Okay?”
When Jared does nothing but stand there and stare back, barely able to process what Jensen is telling him, Jensen tries a different approach. Sliding past Danneel, he steps slowly into Jared’s space and places his hand on Jared’s shoulder. That’s all the warning Jared gets before his landlord-slash-roommate-slash-best friend is kissing him gently, mouth closed, putting only the slightest pressure on his lips.
And yet, it’s amazing. So amazing that Jared forgets why he was angry. Forgets where he is and simply gives in to that pressure, opening to Jensen’s tongue as it slips along the seam of his lips teasingly. Jared has no intention of rushing the moment, and there’s no need to. It feels natural to twine his tongue with Jensen’s in a give-and-take that, for now, has Jared taking more than he’s giving.
The next thing he knows, Jensen’s arms are around him. They move against one another until their bodies find the best way to fit together. Jared could spend hours like this: wrapped up in Jensen, kissing him until his lips hurts, watching Jensen lick the taste of Jared off his lips before turning and kissing Danneel…
Jared pulls back immediately.
“Oh god, Danni,” he rushes to say. “I’m so sorry.”
Except that Danneel is smirking, her full lips bitten-red and enticing.
“Don’t stop on my account,” she purrs. “That was just getting good.”
Jensen, too, is grinning when Jared’s gaze flicks between the two of them. And finally, Jared understands what they were trying to tell him when he walked into the bedroom.
“So you’re telling me—” he stammers, “both of you? With me?”
“It’s basically your fault,” Danneel tells him, slinking close enough that Jared can smell the sweet citrus of her favorite perfume. “You always talk about how amazing Jensen is.” She runs her hand along the back of Jensen’s neck. He curves into the touch. Jared is going to have to remember that spot. “I had a crush on him before I even met him.”
“We talked about you,” Jensen adds, reaching out and drawing Jared against his chest once more. “We knew we were attracted to each other, but we really connected because of you.”
“And this is a bad thing?” Jared asks, content to be held against Jensen, Danneel watching the two of them with obvious interest.
“Definitely a very, very good thing,” Danneel says.
Jensen agrees with a nod. “We didn’t know how to tell you. We’d both flirted with you, with zero success—”
“I told you, I didn’t know!”
Jensen shuts him up with a quick kiss. Jared could get used to his methods of persuasion.
When Jensen pulls back, he says, “We were planning on talking to you tonight, but you ran away.”
“I didn’t—” Jared tries to argue half-heartedly, though he knows he’s only doing it for another kiss, which he receives happily.
Danneel takes over. “That’s when I decided that talking was the wrong way to go.”
Now that Jared’s brain has gotten the intended message, the relief starts to spread throughout his body. He knows Danneel and Jensen weren’t trying to hurt him; they only wanted to speed things along, and Jared can’t blame them for that. Left to his own devices, he might never have worked it out for himself.
The rush leaves him loose and amenable, eager to see where the night will lead.
“We can still talk about it,” Jensen offers, his eyes searching and careful when he looks at Jared. “If that’s what you need.”
“Or…” Jared prompts, smirk in place.
Danneel’s answering smile lights up the room. “Or we could decide we’ve all talked enough for one night, and move on to something much more entertaining.”
Kissing Danneel feels different than kissing Jensen, though no less extraordinary. Her mouth is sweet, her teeth nip delicately at his lower lip. She’s a tease in the best possible way, stoking the fire in his chest. Jared could easily continue like this, letting Danneel show him exactly how she likes to be kissed, only Jensen has to go and make it so much hotter.
“She fantasized about you and me. Did you know that?” Jensen drawls in Jared’s ear, honeyed words slipping into his bloodstream. Pressed against Jared’s back, he can feel Jensen’s chest rumbling with every word. “She told me how hot it made her to picture us together.”
Between their duel assaults, it’s astonishing that Jared is still on his feet at this point. Their hands on him, their mouths on his skin...it feels like he could shiver and moan at the same time. Even in his wildest, most self-indulgent dreams, Jared never could have conjured something this incredible. And he has a feeling that this is only the beginning.
“You wanted to see us together?” Jared asks as Jensen push-walks in towards the bed, Danneel beckoning with swaying hips, her emerald slip creeping higher and higher up her milky thighs. Her smirk tells him that Jensen wasn’t kidding.
“Can you blame me? Just watching Jensen kiss you got me all bothered,” she admits without blushing. (Jared is doing enough of that on his own.)
“When we were waiting for you, Danni asked if I imagined anything like that, too.”
Jared swallows. “You and me?”
“You and Danni.”
Nearly breathless, Jared presses for more. “And?”
Jensen smiles, and with that small expression, Jared knows that this thing that’s about to happen will work out just fine. More than fine, actually. It’s crazy, but maybe this is how things were meant to turn out, why two of them were never able to get on the same page. They needed to start reading the same book, first.
“I’d be crazy not to.”
Then Jensen pushes Jared back onto his own bed, waiting for Danneel to join him on the mattress before following them down.
In the span of one evening, he’s swung the full pendulum of emotion. From depression to satisfaction, listless to content. He trusts the two people lying beside him enough to risk his heart.
Jared thinks they’re a safe bet.
Comfortable enough not to dwell on the details, Jared curls towards Danneel, grinning to himself when Jensen follows, pressing along his back.
It’s the perfect ending to the beginning of their story.