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Stick in the Mud

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There are waves crashing on the shore. Off in the distance, seagulls are calling to each other. The heavy scent of rain and flowers is blowing in through the still open window. It is the perfect morning to laze about in bed and just not think.

 

But Jensen isn’t Jared Padalecki’s butler because he likes to sleep in on rainy mornings. He retains his position because he gets things done and gets them done right. He always has, and Jared seems to appreciate that fact now.

 

He hadn’t always. Back when they were younger, Jared had never understood why Jensen “The Stick” Ackles was so rule bound. Whenever he would come over to Jensen’s house to ‘study’ with Jensen’s younger sibling, he had tried to make Jensen break out of his habitual routines and carefully constructed shell of professionalism.

 

Back then Jensen’s behavior was ‘weird.’ Now that they are both older, it is just taken for granted. Jared quit trying to break him out of his shell years ago. Jensen supposes that he just became unimportant as Jared went along with the business of becoming a man instead of a boy.

 

Around the time that Jensen was graduating college, Jared was hitting it big with his first television show. Two years after that, Jensen had his master’s degree, and Jared Padalecki was a movie star. Jared didn’t have time to talk to his old friends back home let alone the older guy that he used to tease.

 

It had been a surprise when a bedraggled and almost fluorescent orange skinned Jared had shown up on Jensen’s doorstep. Jared hadn’t said much, and Jensen hadn’t asked. He’d just allowed Jared to crash on the couch in his apartment and done his best to help strip the bad spray-on tan from Jared’s hide.

 

Half of Jensen still thinks that Jared hired him because of his excellent cosmetic skills, though that doesn’t explain how or why Jared showed up at Jensen’s place to begin with. Jensen still wonders about that, but it seems silly to ask now. He has been working for Jared for over half a decade. He is comfortable in their routine, and he gets to fly all over the world because Jared refuses to go anywhere without him.

 

Sometimes Jensen likes to think that Jared is attached to him. Jensen is a part of his past, and Jensen likes to think that they used to be friends. He knows that isn’t true though.

 

Jensen’s skill set is what recommends him. He’s a multi-purpose employee. There is a reason that Jared calls him his butler. Granted, that reason is because Jared thinks that butlers are like Alfred from Batman. But Jensen doesn’t like the title of personal assistant, so he doesn’t bother correcting Jared’s less than educated beliefs.

 

When Jensen makes the coffee, he makes it the way he likes it first. Jared won’t be up for a while yet, and Jared makes far too much money for Jensen to worry about wasting grounds. He then pulls steaks out of the refrigerator along with a carton of eggs and the potatoes he shredded the night before. Jared loves steak and eggs in the morning.

 

Outside the rain picks up in intensity, beating against the sides of Jared’s beach house. Jensen frowns. He hates grilling in the rain, but he’ll be damned if he gives up on his cooking plans. The house has a wraparound, covered porch for a reason.

 

Jensen is soaked by the time that he gets back inside from lighting the grill. He’d had to pull the flashy red monstrosity up on the deck from where the groundskeeper had artistically put it out on the patio. Mother Nature hadn’t been kind enough to let up on her tears while he was doing it.

 

“You’re up early,” Jared’s soft voice makes Jensen jump. It isn’t often that Jensen spooks. He was never the type to begin with, and exposure to paparazzi has downright crushed most of his sense of surprise right out of him.

 

“I’m always up this early,” Jensen hears himself reply truthfully. It isn’t what he intended on saying. Things appearing like magic is part of his job description. Jared pays him to make it look like he hardly does anything at all.

 

“I think the coffee is curling my hair,” Jared says as he frowns into his cup.

 

“Your hair is fine,” Jensen assures him as he hastens to throw away the pot he made for himself and make Jared something more palatable.

 

“My chest hair then,” Jared pouts.

 

“It’ll be waxed off for your next film anyway,” Jensen reminds him.

 

Jared doesn’t reply. The only sounds in the house are the coffee maker brewing and the storm rattling outside the windows.

 

“Jensen,” Jared says hesitantly.

 

“Just ask,” Jensen says as he turns around, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

Jared looks surprised at his words.

 

“I know that tone of voice,” Jensen reminds him. “So just ask whatever it is that is bothering you enough that you’re up so early.”

 

“Am I sexy?” Jared blurts out.

 

Jensen doesn’t bother suppressing his groan. He is a professional, but he can’t stand it when Jared starts worrying about stupid shit like sex appeal. Good roles, fun productions, clean contracts: those should be the things that make Jared’s mind spin. Sexy only goes so far before it fades.

 

“To you,” Jared clarifies, “am I sexy to you?”

 

“What?”

 

“I… This is stupid, but when I was younger…”

 

“If this is the part where you confess to me that you had a giant crush on me when you were younger? Save it. I already know all about that,” Jensen tells him. “And your game was terrible. Only pre-pubescent idiots tease the object of their affections.”

 

“You knew?” Jared sounds scandalized.

 

“I first met you when you were fourteen. Subtle isn’t your strongpoint now. It’s best we don’t talk about what it was back then.”

 

“You never said anything,” Jared points out.

 

“Because I don’t believe in embarrassing teenage boys who’re having their first gay crush,” Jensen explains. “Why the need for the heart to heart about it now? You’re supposed to be relaxing before you start doing the press tours and red carpets for your new film.”

 

“Because I want you to go to those with me,” Jared says.

 

“I always go with you,” Jensen reminds him. “Not that hiding out in the limo doing last minute adjustments to you and your date’s outfits is the best part of my job, but…”

 

“As my date,” Jared interrupts

 

“Wasn’t taking the hard working Joe thing as your date last season’s haute du jour?” Jensen asks. “You’re going to look trite doing that now, and I don’t want to referee another fight between you and your publicist.”

 

“No. I mean, yes. But Jensen, I want you to be my date-date. Like, you know, dating.”

 

“Dating,” Jensen says flatly.

 

“Yeah,” Jared nods

 

“I work for you,” Jensen says slowly. “I can’t start sleeping with you. That’s tacky.”

 

“I was just asking for a date,” Jared huffs. His eyes are glittering with hurt.

 

“Jared, I buy your condoms for you. I know the rate you go through them. I also know how many of your dates I’ve made breakfast for and how many of them actually put out versus passing out drunk. You don’t date without getting some.”

 

“I would,” Jared protests.

 

Jensen smiles at that. “I know you would. But dating leads to having sex. It’s kind of the natural progression of things.”

 

Jared picks up an orange from the fruit basket on the table and starts fiddling with it. “Do you know why I hired you all those years ago?” he asks.

 

“Because I helped you not look like that fruit?” Jensen quips back.

 

His words make Jared smile. “My makeup artist remains pissed that you won’t share your magical concoction with her, but no. I came there because I was young and stupid, and I knew it. What I didn’t know was who to trust. I was partying and getting wooed from so many sources that my head was spinning. Then I thought, ‘Jensen Ackles wouldn’t have a problem with this. He always had his head on straight.’”

 

“As flattering as that is,” Jensen says, “I’m hardly the reason for your mental stability.”

 

Jared’s shoulders shrug. “Not completely, but we’re kind of a team now. Right? You do like me.”

 

“I’ve always liked you, Jared.”

 

“Yeah, I know. You pretended to be grumpy when we were younger, but I saw you smile a couple of times,” Jared says smugly.

 

“You were fourteen trying to get into my pants,” Jensen points out.

 

“I was trying to get you to notice me then,” Jared corrects. “Now I’m trying to get into your pants.”

 

“I thought you...” Jared’s lips cut off Jensen’s response. It’s a surprise. Jensen has seen Jared make the move a hundred times, but it has always been on a movie screen before. Movies aren’t real.

 

“You’re wet,” Jared says as he backs away. The soft terrycloth of his robe has darkened where it was pressed up against Jensen’s t-shirt and shorts.

 

“Your observational skills need work,” Jensen informs him as his fingers sneak up to touch his own lips.

 

Jared watches the move with an almost hungry look. Jensen snatches his hand away quickly and tries to come up with words that are appropriately scolding that won’t cause him to lose his job. He likes his job. More than that, he likes Jared. If things were different, he’d maybe take Jared up on his offer.

 

Actually, that sounds like a good letdown right there. “If things were different, I’d take you up on that offer,” he says softly.

 

The laughter that comes out of Jared’s mouth is hearty. “You would not,” he chides. “You’re too scared of it. How many people have you dated in the last five years, Jensen? Two? A scandalous three? Did any of them last more than four months?”

 

“I’m busy,” Jensen defends himself, but he knows it is a lie. The only reason he has been busy is because of his dedication to his job – his dedication to Jared.

 

“And I’m in love with you,” Jared tells him.

 

“What?” Jensen squeaks.

 

“According to my mental health coach, I have issues with denial,” Jared says as he pulls his bathrobe off with a frown. “Put this on. You’ll catch a cold.”

 

Jensen bats the robe away. “Colds are caught through bacteria and viruses.”

 

“So you’re just going to ignore my declaration of undying affection?” Jared challenges.

 

“I’m not ignoring it. I’m just trying to understand the logic of it. I’m your employee.”

 

Jared looks down sheepishly at the floor. “About that.”

 

“You are not firing me.”

 

“No! No, absolutely not,” Jared says. “But, uh, my publicist and agent and well… just about everybody kind of thinks that the whole ‘butler’ thing is a ruse to hide my big, gay lifestyle with you.”

 

“They do not,” Jensen denies instantly. “I know those people. I…”

 

“Jensen, there is a reason my momma keeps addressing the Christmas card to ‘Jensen and Jared.’ Man, I’m not even listed first on it anymore.”

 

“That is insane.”

 

“They just really think that you’re a stick in the mud that doesn’t do PDA,” Jared says. “Or have you missed the fact that we keep having to share a room when I go home to visit my parents?”

 

“So I should just start humping you because everybody already thinks we’re doing it? What about all your girlfriends? What about your fans and your advertising contracts? They don’t know. I’ll be tabloid fodder.”

 

“You’ll be mine,” Jared corrects. “Besides we’ve already got the press release written about it. It’s glorious, kept apart by circumstances and years-long-yearning stuff. Plus, you’re gorgeous. Everybody will forgive me for wanting to bang you.”

 

“I, I need to put the steaks on the grill,” Jensen mumbles, grabbing the platter of meat and rushing out onto the porch.

 

Jared follows him. “You realize that you’re practically my husband already,” he observes from the doorway. “When was the last time that I made a financial decision without you? Who decides where we go on vacation? Who takes care of me when I’m sick?”

 

“That’s just part of my job,” Jensen argues weakly as the meat hits the slightly too hot surface of the grill. The steaks are going to be too charred, but he can’t bring himself to care.

 

“It is,” Jared agrees. “You take care of me, and I take care of you. I’d just like to formalize it and add orgasms.”

 

“I thought you wanted to date not get married,” Jensen reminds him.

 

“My manager thought that starting off with a marriage proposal would be drastic, but you’re being stubborn, and I’ve got a press junket coming up. I can’t have you wandering around single. You’ll do something like try to find a boyfriend to prove some stupid point. Because you’re a stick in the mud and always have been.”

 

“Will you quit calling me that? I’m not a stick in the mud,” Jensen huffs.

 

“Well, I’d rather you be a stick in the Jared. Or the other way around if you prefer,” Jared says with a wink.

 

A horrible, terrible thought creeps into Jensen’s head. “Is that why we’re on a secluded beach miles from nowhere? So you can get me into bed?”

 

Jared scratches the back of his head sheepishly. “Maybe? Actually, yes. That’s pretty much a yes.”

 

“I can’t believe you!” Jensen exclaims as he slams the cover of the grill down. “You’re trying to seduce me!”

 

“I’m not sure why you sound outraged about that,” Jared observes.

 

“Have you thought about what will happen to me if we break up? Being your butler for the past five years isn’t exactly job experience that goes with my degrees.”

 

“It pays better though,” Jared observes. “And what will pay even better is if you let me put my ring on your finger. Marry me for my money, Jensen,” he says with a flirtatious wink.

 

“I’m not marrying you for your money. That’s ridiculous!” Jensen sputters, his words accented by the rain pounding down on the sandy beach.

 

“Then marry me because you love me,” Jared says soberly.

 

“I don’t love you,” Jensen automatically denies.

 

“Of course you do,” Jared counters, stalking closer. Without his robe on, all of his hard earned gym muscles are on display. Jensen focuses quickly on the pink bunny slippers on his feet to discourage his hormones from taking over.

 

Jensen bought him those slippers years ago as prank, and Jared still uses them like they weren’t. “Maybe I do, just a little,” he admits to the wooden floor of the porch.

 

“You think?” Jared sounds unbearably smug.

 

“Maybe, but I’m finishing breakfast first,” Jensen informs him. “You can try to get into my pants later.”