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A Love Story in Twelve Scenes

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Scene 1: Dress up

“The problem is you’re just too good looking.”

Jared looked doubtfully at his reflection in the mirror. His hair was soberly combed back and tucked behind his ears. The grey suit hung loosely on his tall frame, hiding his physique, and the bland color of the tie did nothing for his coloring. He hadn’t been out in the sun for a while, too busy and too broke for leisure time, so his skin was sallow and his hair drab and mousey. “I look like a boring accountant,” he replied.

Misha countered, “No, you don’t. You look like a porn star who’s dressed up as a boring accountant.” In the mirror, Jared saw Misha mock leer at him. The shop assistant laughed. Jared rolled his eyes. Misha continued, “It’s that tie, I think. It’s really a bondage restraint masquerading as a tie. You’re the guy in the porno who’s going to get screwed by the boss on the conference table with your hands tied behind your back with that tie.”

“It’s grey,” Jared sputtered as the shop assistant sniggered. “It’s a grey, boring, bland accountant’s tie!”

“Nope,” Misha answered, “around your neck, with that purposefully innocent looking suit, it’s like something from a porn dresser’s wardrobe.”   

“He’s not wrong,” the shop assistant weighed in. “The whole look is too obviously like a disguise or something. It makes me think you’re probably also wearing women’s underwear.”

Ignoring Jared’s irritated glare, Misha high-fived the guy and said, “Insatiable Secretary II: Sex in the Photocopy Room.

Raunchy Office Party IV:  Everybody Gets Nailed,” the shop assistant added, to Misha’s obvious delight.

“I think I’ve seen that one.”

“Right, that’s it,” Jared ripped off the tie and threw it at Misha. He shrugged out of the jacket and started unbuttoning his shirt.

Unrepentant, Misha flicked him on the ass with the tie. “Yeah, work it, baby.”

Jared pushed both Misha and the laughing shop assistant out of the changing room before stripping off the offending suit and changing back into his standard uniform of jeans and a scruffy t-shirt. He ruffled his hair back into its usual disordered style and sighed at his reflection. This was never going to work. It was a ridiculous idea to try and change the way he looked just to get a job. What was he even doing? His reflection looked miserably back at him.

“Get out here. I have an idea,” Misha called through the closed door.

Jared walked out and dumped the clothes he’d tried on in the shop assistant’s arms, ignoring Misha. “Thanks for nothing.”

“Good luck!” the assistant called out as he left the shop, Misha on his heels.

“Seriously Jared, I have an idea.” Misha fell into step with him as they walked down the street. “What this plan needs is subtlety of execution and a specialist in the art of transformation.”

“The whole thing is stupid. I’m going to that interview as myself, looking the way I look.”

Misha gripped his arm and turned Jared to face him. “And you’re not going to get the job. Listen to me. I know what I’m talking about.”

Jared ran a hand through his hair. “How do you know I’m even his type?”

Everyone is his type. This is Jensen Ackles we’re talking about: insatiable sex addict, heartbreaker extraordinaire, golden-boy film director who always gets what he wants.”

“Well, he’s not my type. All I want is a chance to do the work, to learn from him. I’m not going to fall for him.”

Everyone falls for him. Nobody is immune to his charms. I’m telling you, if you’re on his radar, you don’t stand a chance. Not even you, Jared. People are putty in his hands. It’s what makes him such an extraordinary director.”

“This is ridiculous,” Jared huffed. “You make him sound superhuman.”

“He might actually be that. If you’re going to work for him, you have to make yourself completely nondescript, a blank slate. You have to become asexual. It’s the only way to hold onto the job for longer than six months. His previous assistant lasted three weeks. Three weeks! That’s how long it took for Jensen to get him into bed, get bored of him, break his heart and turn him into a gibbering mess, and then fire him. Monks and nuns literally renounce their vows and faint at the sight of him.”

Jared burst into laughter. “God, you’re so theatrical.”

“Sure, that’s why I’m a failed actor turned film editor, working in an office the size of a hamster cage on other people’s work.”

“I thought the film is made in the editing room.”

“Don’t quote me back at me. Although, that is a good line and it’s true, and of course I am a wizard at turning bad movies into art.”

“So what’s this genius idea of yours then? How are you going to turn me into an asexual slate? And the quote was Philip Seymour Hoffman, not you, liar.”

Misha pulled at Jared’s arm and steered him towards a bar they’d just passed. “I said it first. Hoffman just gets quoted because he was famous. Come on, let’s get a beer and I’ll outline our plan of attack.”

They bought a couple of beers and settled at a table at the back of the bar.

“So, what’s the plan?” Jared asked unenthusiastically, wishing he hadn’t agreed to any of this. Misha was dangerous when he got an idea into his head, but he also had a sense of mischief and infectious enthusiasm that was hard to resist, until you found yourself in some kind of ridiculous (and possibly perilous) situation, like ending up drunk at a Republican rally in a tutu, tiara, and gay rights t-shirt.    

Misha’s face gleamed with suppressed excitement. “Okay, so you’re a reasonably decent actor, right? I mean you’re never going to win an Oscar or anything—you lack range, as they say—and your interests obviously lie behind the scenes in writing and directing, but you can inhabit a role, as they say.”

“Thanks, as they say,” Jared replied with dry sarcasm.

“I’m just being honest, Jared. That’s what friends do for each other. We both knew when we came to L.A. that it wasn’t going to be about being in front of the camera, not for either of us. And anyway, we’re the real magicians, the ones who invisibly create the magic off screen. Most actors are merely puppets, minions at best. We’re the puppet-masters: the writers, the directors, the editors, the special effects guys, the composers. We create that fictional world. We’re the gods that—”

“Is there a point to this, Misha?” Jared cut in. Only one beer in and Misha was already philosophizing.

“Basically, we need some help in constructing the fiction of Jared Padalecki, the Unattractive. It’s not as if you’re drop-dead beautiful of course. I’m much prettier than you are, for example.”

“Thanks again,” Jared said in the same dry tone.

“But what I mean is you’re hot. You have that…” Misha fluttered his fingers in the air like he was trying to grasp the word out of the ether. “You have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ as the French call it. Basically, in straightforward English, people want to fuck you. They see you in a bar and they think ‘that’s the guy I’d like to fuck tonight’. We need to turn that off, and an accountant’s suit and tie isn’t going to do it.”

“I can turn it off. It’s not as if I’m going to go into that interview trying to ooze sex appeal. I’m—”

“No, you can’t,” Misha interrupted, “because you don’t even know you have it. That’s my point. You walk around oozing sex appeal all over the damn place without even meaning to, which makes you so much more attractive. I bet you haven’t noticed those three women at the bar who’ve been checking you out since we walked in.”

“Which women?” Jared started to turn around, but Misha checked him with a hand on his shoulder.

“My point exactly! You’re oblivious to the effect you have on people. And even worse, they don’t just want to fuck you, they get to know you and then they want you to move in, forever, because you’re also ridiculously likeable. Everybody we know wants to marry you, for god’s sake.”      

Jared grinned at how Misha was able to make likeability and marriageability sound like insults.

“Thing is, the directors on the board of Spotlight will take one look at you, with your hot body and your dimples, and they’ll kick you out the door before you even get to open your mouth because they’re all sick and tired of having to rehire assistants to work with Jensen. I heard it was actually in a memo: Do not employ anyone who is in the least bit fuckable to work as Jensen’s assistant. In fact, if you got as far as opening your mouth and they heard you talk about how much you love writing and directing, they’d definitely not hire you. They’d feel sorry for you and your youthful innocence because Jensen eats people alive. He’s an emotional and sexual cannibal.”

Jared laughed at Misha’s tendency toward exaggerated metaphor.   

“And if you did make it past Samantha Smith and Mark Sheppard, there’s still Jensen, who will ruin your life and your starry-eyed dreams. The only way to survive working with the man is to keep him out of your pants, which is impossible because he uses sex as a way to manage and manipulate people. He sleeps with everyone he works with. Did you hear that he was having sex with both the male and female leads in his previous film? Their performances were remarkable, award worthy, but both of them were a complete mess after the film wrapped.”

Misha leaned forward and placed his hand on Jared’s forearm. “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this? I’ve been here longer than you have, Jared, and I’ve worked with him. I know what he’s like. It’s a hard enough business as it is. Why throw yourself into the lion’s den?”    

Jared patted Misha’s hand, both grateful and irritated by his protectiveness. “I’m not a kid, Misha. I don’t need you to look after me. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Jensen’s not even thirty years old and he’s being touted as the hottest film-maker of the year. Spotlight is one of the best independent film production companies in the country. I’m going to that interview. Today’s been fun. It has. I love dress up as much as the next guy, but let’s just leave it at that.”

Misha sighed and then swallowed what was left in his beer bottle. “Fine. How did I know you were going to say that? You’re stubborn as a mule, always have been. But we’re not leaving it at that. If you insist on going to the interview, you need to be prepared, and I don’t mean working on answers to stupid questions like ‘where do you see yourself and your career progression in ten years time’. I’m not going to let that pretty face of yours get in the way of your dreams, and I’m also not letting you fall into the evil clutches of Jensen Ackles. You need to protect yourself from him, and I have the invisibility cloak, young Harry Potter, which will protect you from all harm. It’s time to meet Alexa Lee.”        

“Who the hell is Alexa Lee?”

 

Scene 2: Jared gets a new look

Alexa Lee turned out to be a very short, pixie-faced, purple-haired costume designer in a loft that was a riot of color and fabric and half-dressed mannequins.

“Mmm, I see the problem,” she was saying, looking Jared up and down like he was a particularly badly designed costume, Misha at her side wearing an equally critical expression.

Jared stood silent, impatient and vaguely embarrassed under their combined inspection. Alexa walked around him, scrutinizing his body, his clothes, and his face. “He’s just too good looking,” she finally pronounced. Misha nodded sadly in agreement.

“I’m—” Jared began, but Alexa and Misha both shushed him simultaneously. Jared sighed. Was he even going to get a say in this at all? 

“He’s also very well proportioned and has great posture for someone of his height.”

“Thanks,” Jared replied, and was rewarded with a frown.

“We can deal with that,” Misha said. “Jared, think Barry Griffin.”

Jared knew what he meant. He loosened his posture, spine softening, shoulders and neck rolling forward, chest hollowing.  Barry Griffin, a character he’d played in a college play, a mild mannered, slightly awkward young man prone to having his heart broken.

“Ooh, nice!” Alexa exclaimed. “That’s very understated, very subtle, but wow, what a difference! Your energy, like your whole aura and everything just changed so dramatically. Now you just look kinda tall and gawky. Why aren’t you an actor?”

“I lack range,” Jared replied dryly.

Misha nodded wisely. “It’s true. He does lack range, and also depth, definitely no depth, but he has some acting talent and can inhabit limited physical roles. His real talents lie elsewhere: he’s a great writer and director. Jared understands the nuances of character.”

“Okay, this I could maybe work with,” Alexa said.

“Really?” Misha said excitedly. “So I’m thinking Charlize Theron in Monster or Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich, you know? A character role. None of this distracting prettiness.”

“Women are easier to transform in that way. You have more tools to work with: make-up, hair styles and a much larger range of clothes, shoes, accessories, but yes,” Alexa mused, “it’s possible.” Her gaze sharpened and she stopped looking at Jared like he was a mannequin. “So you really want to work with Jensen Ackles?”

“I do,” Jared answered seriously. “And I’m willing to do what it takes to get my foot in the door.”

“I heard he did a real number on his previous assistant. You’ve got to be pretty tough to deal with someone like that.”

Jared looked back at her steadily. “I’m tough enough, and if this is what I need to do to get the job, I can do it. I’m not vain. I don’t care what I look like. I want to be taken seriously.”

“It’s true,” Misha agreed. “Jared’s never been vain. It’s not his fault he looks the way he does.”

“It wouldn’t be like playing a role, though,” Alexa argued. “This is your life. You’d have to be living it.”

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” Misha quoted. Alexa eye-rolled.

Jared smiled. “There’s something in that. Everybody plays roles all the time,” he said. “I bet all this,” he gestured at Alexa’s vivid hair color, her eccentric outfit and the colourful chaos of the loft, “is just part of a constructed identity. Is that a slight Midwest accent? I bet you grew up somewhere small, right? You wore braces, had a complex about your height, and didn’t have a lot of friends, maybe? All this is a way for you to project that creative energy you have inside you outwards, everything in your head that most people couldn’t see before because they were so busy making assumptions based on the way you looked, rather than who you really are. ” 

Alexa looked startled.

Jared continued, “It’s one of the first things we learn as kids. Play the good little girl or boy to keep mom and dad happy. Fit in at school so you don’t get bullied or ostracised, pretend to the boss at work you’re super competent and super amenable, play the dutiful husband or supportive wife when all you really want to do is fuck the neighbor or take off on a road trip through Central America. Or you go the other way and seem to rebel and break all the rules, but a lot of the time that’s only masking stuff you don’t want to deal with or show anyone else. People play roles and hide who they are all the time. Actors just do it more consciously. It’s a craft. I’ve learned those skills.”

Misha grinned. “Actors and psychopaths. Can’t trust either of them.”

Alexa looked thoughtful. “Interesting,” she said finally.

“I told you he understood nuances,” Misha said.

“Okay,” Alexa agreed finally. “I mean, hell, it’s like something out of ‘The Truman Show’. I’ll be helping to create a character for real life and that’s a pretty interesting project. First thing then, the hair has to go, Samson, because silky locks like that shout sexuality.”

“Great, give me a pair of scissors,” Jared said.

And that’s how the transformation of Jared, the Attractive into Jared, the Bland (Misha’s words) began.

Alexa knew a hairdresser who cut Jared’s hair short the next day and dyed it a color that could only be described as ‘true mouse’ - that bland, lifeless, flat grey-brown that sucked in light and killed it. The cut and color transformed his face, making him look not ugly, just ordinary. The effect was complemented by a pair of olive-green colored contact lenses and rimless fake glasses that really didn’t suit him but still looked like the kind of thing that someone who knew nothing about fashion or good taste might think was a decent choice in eyewear.

“The point,” Alexa said, “is not to parody but to subtly and realistically transform. You want the disguise to look, and more importantly, to feel natural in order to fool someone as sharp-eyed as Jensen Ackles, and that’s going to take skill.” She took Jared shopping (on Misha’s credit card) after deciding the perfect color palette to match his new look. No grey accountant’s suits, just an array of bland greens and browns, khaki and beige. Jared had a moment in a dressing room when he felt as if he didn’t actually recognize himself, and Alexa was right: his new appearance started to feel natural, as if he were slipping on a new skin and becoming someone else. People responded differently to him and that modified his own behavior even more.

“Man, it’s weird,” Misha said to him two days later when the transformation was complete. “I seriously almost didn’t recognize you through the peephole. I was going to ignore the doorbell because I thought you might be a Jehovah’s Witness.” He looked at the beige blazer Jared was wearing. “That is literally the most boringly unattractive item of clothing I’ve ever seen.”

“So are you going to invite me in now you know your soul is safe from religious conversion?” Jared said, amused, standing on Misha’s doorstep.

“No, we’re going out and meeting some of the gang for dinner. Let me just grab my jacket.”

In the taxi on the way to the restaurant Misha kept staring at him with the same slightly dazed expression. “I can’t get over it. That woman has a gift. She’s the fairy godmother and you’re Cinderella, except what she’s done is turn you into one of the ugly sisters.”

“I was brushing my teeth this morning, still half asleep, and actually got a shock when I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I just forgot and was expecting to see me but instead there was this stranger looking at me.”                  

“Yeah, that must be weird. I mean it’s weird enough if you just have a slightly different haircut for the first time or lose a bit of weight or something. It can take you a while to feel like yourself again. The others are going to completely freak when they see you,” Misha said with glee.

They arrived at the restaurant early and had a drink at the bar. Jared went to the men’s room and when he got back the others had arrived and were sitting in the restaurant area with Misha. He walked over and stood next to their table, waiting to cut into the conversation and say hello. Everyone’s expressions remained blank (except Misha’s, of course) until Mia, another film editor who was friends with Misha, suddenly shrieked, “Oh my god, Jared!” Close attention to detail in her work clearly made her more observant.  The others looked at him open-mouthed once they recognized him.

“Wow,” said Greg, Mia’s husband, looking Jared up and down. “I would’ve probably walked past you in the street, Jared, and not even recognized you.”

“Your beautiful hair,” Sarah, a TV actress who lived in Misha’s apartment complex, mourned. “Your lovely, long, sexy hair! You don’t even look like you anymore.”

“That’s the whole point,” Misha said to her. “He’s like a spy in an old movie. It’s the equivalent of the grey trench-coat. He’s incognito.”

“Well, personally, sonny, I think you look way better without the girl hair. Short back and sides is what a man needs to look like a man,” Jack said in an affected military voice. “And I approve of those loose khakis - much more suitable than the ass-hugging jeans you normally wear.”

Jack and Misha were seeing each other. They were hovering at the edge of a relationship, although Misha was still being typically resistant to anything that seemed like real commitment. Jack was a lawyer, smart and charming, and just what Misha needed. Not that Misha listened to Jared when he told him that. Misha was pretty good at doling out advice, not so much at taking it.

Jared sat down. There was a lull in the conversation as they all started looking through their menus. He glanced up and saw that everyone, including Misha, was trying to be surreptitious about staring at him. There was an uncomfortable atmosphere around the table, as if everyone was trying very hard to pretend they were okay with his new appearance but were secretly a bit freaked by it. It was like the way people pretended to ignore a huge mole or birthmark on someone’s face, but actually, the harder they tried, the harder it was to tear their eyes away from it.

Jared tried not to smile, amused by their reaction. He looked down at the menu, schooled his features, then looked up and pulled the most silly face he had in his arsenal of silly faces: nostrils flared, tongue out and eyes crossed. It was a gift he’d had since he was a kid, one that used to cause much hilarity among his friends in the middle of a boring lesson at school.

It broke the ice and everyone laughed.

“God, I can’t believe you actually did this for a job interview,” Greg said.

“Right,” Mia responded, “as if you wouldn’t change the way you looked for a dream job.”     

“Are you kidding? These stellar good looks are my best asset. It’s what gets me through the door.” Greg was not unattractive, but he mostly resembled everyone’s favorite childhood teddy-bear. He had tightly curled brown hair, bright eyes, a snub nose and slightly pock-marked skin from adolescent acne. He was also charismatic, funny, and had a quick and intelligent wit.

Mia stroked his cheek. “You, my love, are the most beautiful human being I’ve ever met.” Greg smiled, caught her hand and kissed the palm.   

“Well, I’ve done it for loads of auditions,” Sarah said. “You have to get them to imagine you in the role. The problem is if you get it wrong and you’re presenting a kind of physicality that they’re not imagining for the character.”

“Well, there’s always the persuasive power of the casting couch, gorgeous.” Misha looked suggestively at Sarah’s cleavage. Sarah was built like a swimwear model.

“Shut up, Misha. Just because you’re willing to peddle that cute little ass for a job, doesn’t mean I am. It’s actually possible to be both beautiful and talented, you know.”

Misha put his hands up. “I know, I know, just joking. I feel your pain. I’ve had to carry the curse of these good looks my whole life too.”

“I’m just so fucking tired of being cast as the blonde bimbo.”

“It’s gotten better since you fired your previous agent, though, right?” Mia asked.

“Yeah, that son-of-a-bitch only ever got me auditions for the part of the airhead girlfriend. Maggie is a god-send. She’s got me an audition for the lead in a new historical drama series next week. No offense, guys, but men can be morons.”

Greg grinned. “None taken. There are no real men around this table, except for Jack, who might possibly have the requisite testosterone level for real manhood. They breed them masculine in Texas.”

Jack flexed his arm to show off his bicep. “I’m gonna chop some wood and rassle me a steer after this. Join me, Jared? ”

“Honestly, I didn’t actually do much steer rassling in San Antonio. I was more interested in playing Shakespearean roles in tights.”

Jack laughed. “Well, that’s an image I’m not going to erase from my mind easily.”

Sarah turned to Jared, her expression serious. “I get why you’re doing this, Jared. I know what it’s like to be that hungry for a job, but honestly, be careful. Jensen Ackles moves with a fast crowd. I went to a party at his massive place in Malibu, and Jesus, the amount of drugs and sex in one place shocked even me, and I was brought up around it. I guess you know about my parents, right?”

Jared nodded. Misha had told him about Sarah’s childhood growing up with two famous actor parents who partied hard and burnt out young - the Drew Barrymore childhood.

“I heard that he was teetotal, though,” Mia said.

“Yeah, it’s weird. I mean, I didn’t get to properly meet him or talk to him, there were so many people there, but I was watching him—okay, I was kind of stalking him—and I didn’t see him drink any booze or snort any of the mounds of coke around. He seemed removed from the whole thing, even though it was his house. He’s kind of mysterious.”                  

“His addiction is sex, not drugs,” Misha stated as self-proclaimed expert in all things related to Jensen Ackles, a slight edge to his tone that surprised Jared. Misha wasn’t normally judgemental.

Sarah nodded. “He is pretty notorious. I heard he had sex with the younger sister of a guy he was seeing last year. That’s really immoral. I mean, Jesus, it’s bad enough being cheated on, but with your little sister? That’s pretty screwed up.”

Misha shook his head. “It wasn’t the guy’s sister. It was his mother.”

“I’m pretty sure I heard it was his sister. Either way, it’s not right.”

“And then there was that really young actor in one of his films who committed suicide after Jensen dumped him.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that.”

“That’s actually not true,” Misha said. “I knew him. Casey Mills. He was an addict and suffered from depression. He went into rehab and then just disappeared. Probably went back to whatever small town he was originally from.”

“Well, I heard he killed a man,” Jack said. Everybody turned to him with shocked expressions. “In Reno.”

Sarah laughed. “Oh shut up, Jack.”

“Just to watch him die,” Jack crooned.

The server arrived to take their order and the conversation moved away from Jensen Ackles. To Jared’s relief. He was getting tired of all the gossip and rumor.  For him, Jensen was a visionary director, that was all. He didn’t actually care what kind of a human being he was. He knew that artists were often complete bastards in real life. That didn’t detract from their art. But the more he heard, the more disappointed he felt. It’s like when you learn that great people in history who have done admirable work to change society for the better, were actually less than perfect in their personal lives, that they cheated on their spouses or with their taxes, or hated cats and were unkind to their own kids. It didn’t take away from their legacy, but still, everyone wants their heroes to be perfect.

He didn’t want any of the wine they’d ordered for the table, so went to the bar to get another beer. He was waiting for the barman to pour it when Jack clapped him lightly on the back. “Hey, you okay?” he asked him.

Jared smiled. “Yeah, sure, just tired is all. It’s been a crazy couple of days.”

“I can imagine.” Jack ordered a beer for himself. “I wouldn’t listen too much to all of that.” He gestured towards their table. “You know what this town is like. It’s not even that it’s gossiping; it’s that they love to construct a mythology around certain people. They want the narrative, the high drama, and Jensen lends himself to it.” Jack pulled out a barstool and sat on it. Jared sat on another next to him.

“I’ve met him, you know.”

“Really?” Jared said with surprise.

“Yeah, we’ve done legal work with Spotlight, contracts and that. I don’t normally talk about him because it’d be unprofessional.”

“Can you tell me what’s he like? I just want to know something real about him.”

“He’s intelligent, intense, quieter than you’d expect. And insanely hot, that is totally true. Even in the middle of a business meeting wrangling over the legal minutiae of contracts, he brings a kind of smoldering sexuality to the table.” Jack laughed. “Jesus, did I just use the word ‘smoldering’? I sound like a romance novelist.”

Jared smiled and took a swallow of his beer.

“He can also be difficult,” Jack continued after he’d taken a sip of his own beer. “He likes things done his own way, but I think that’s because he’s committed to a vision he has for a film project. He doesn’t compromise, and that doesn’t make him particularly likeable, although it does earn him respect. And man, he makes good movies, right?”

 Jared nodded. “I went to see War Stories a couple of weeks ago when it came out, just sat there in a daze afterwards, eventually walked out and bought another ticket for the next showing and watched it again immediately afterwards. It was even better the second time.”

“Yeah, it’s one of the best movies I think I’ve ever seen. It’s going to clean up at the Oscars. Not sure I could watch it twice like that, though. Interview’s tomorrow, right?”

Jared nodded.

“This took balls.” Jack looked him up and down. “It shows commitment, and it’s not just about the interview, you obviously want be taken seriously and for people to see beyond just what you look like. In L.A. that’s a rare quality. I think you’ve done the right thing because it probably is a good idea to keep attraction out of the mix if you’re working with Jensen, and I’ve gotta say, Jared, in those khakis, nobody’s going to find you sexually attractive.” He laughed.

“Yeah,” Jared agreed. “I wasn’t sure about this whole physical transformation at first, seemed like some Misha craziness, but weirdly, I’m feeling kind of good about myself. I can’t really explain why.”

“Misha cares about you. He wants to protect you.”

“I know.”

“I think half the rumors about Jensen are bullshit but I also get the impression that he probably doesn’t feel the same way about sex as most of us do, as a way of connecting on some level with someone else. From what I’ve heard and seen, I think he’s able to divorce sex from anything emotional or maybe even personal. I used to know a guy like that so I kind of feel like I can recognize it when I meet it. There are fewer people around like that than you’d suspect because, in my opinion, most people can’t help feeling something for the people they sleep with. Jensen had a pretty screwed up Hollywood childhood, worse I think than what Sarah went through. That’s common knowledge. I guess it changes your perception of life to grow up like that with totally screwed up, self absorbed showbiz parents.”

Just then Misha came up to them. “C’mon, quit lurking at the bar and being unsociable both of you, the food’s getting cold.”

They went back to the table and Jared ate a main course but refused dessert and any more alcohol. He needed a good night’s sleep. The others wished him luck with the interview. Misha walked him out and hugged him in the restaurant’s entrance. “You’re going to be great.”

“Thanks,” Jared replied and squeezed him hard. “I’ll let you know how it went after it’s all over.”

He slept well, none of the usual nervous butterflies keeping him up all night. He felt strangely confident, something in his gut reassuring him that it was all going to go smoothly.

 

Scene 3: Jared gets interviewed

He felt the same kind of calm sitting with the other candidates outside the interview room the next morning. There were four of them, all looking a lot more nervous than Jared felt. He could sense them dismissing him when he first arrived. Jared, the Bland couldn’t possibly pose a threat to anyone.

Jared was last on the list and had to sit through the other interviews. He played Sudoku to keep himself entertained, much to the bemusement of the guy next to him, who was number four on the interview list, just before Jared.

“How the hell can you concentrate? Aren’t you nervous?”

“Nope.”

“What is that, some kind of Jedi bullshit to throw me off my game?”

“Nope.”

“Asshole,” the guy hissed and moved a couple of seats along. Jared just smiled and started on the next subsquare of his grid.

Guy Number Four wasn’t in the interview room more than ten minutes before he came out again looking flustered and angry. He glared at Jared as he walked past, like every bad thing in his life was Jared’s fault. Jared smiled pleasantly at him.

The secretary finally called Jared’s name. He got up, taking care to channel Barry Griffin’s body language, and followed her into a conference room. Samantha Smith, Mark Sheppard and Jensen were seated on one side of the long table in the center of the room. Jared sat down opposite them, keeping his eyes on Samantha, who smiled encouragingly at him.

Mark leaned back in his chair and irritably readjusted his tie. “Isn’t there anybody over the age of thirty applying for this bloody job?”

Samantha ignored him. “Hello, Jared, thank you for coming in. Would you like something to drink before we get started?”

Jared said no the drink and the interview got underway. Samantha asked most of the questions with Mark cutting in occasionally. Jensen said nothing at all. Jared was intensely aware of his silent presence.

They discussed Jared’s previous experience, his early theatre work, the year he’d done as a P.A. to an ad exec and his last job as an assistant to a CW showrunner.  

“Writing for the idiot box isn’t like writing for the big screen,” Mark said contemptuously.

“No,” Jared agreed, “But video on demand subscription services like Netflix and Hulu are changing the television and film landscape, and with writers, directors and actors moving over from the big to the small screen, it’s no longer the poor relation.”

Mark snorted, Samantha smiled, and Jensen gave a quiet laugh. Jared looked directly at Jensen for the first time. He was sitting closest to the window and the light was streaming in next to him, catching the gold in his hair and his stubble. His eyes were an intense green, fringed by long, dark eyelashes. Jared knew what he looked like, had seen him in photographs and watched the handful of recorded interviews he’d done—of which there were very few available because Jensen mostly refused to do press interviews or film junkets—but he was still unprepared for how beautiful he actually was in real life. Jensen’s lips parted in a slow smile, and Jared had to use every ounce of willpower he had not to smile back. He turned his gaze again toward Mark, who suddenly asked, “Are you gay?”

Jared expected Samantha to say something, but she didn’t. “Is that relevant?” he asked coolly.

“Oh, it’s relevant to this particular position.”

“Yes, I’m gay.”

Mark groaned, but before he could say anything else, Jensen finally spoke. “Are you a Hitchcock fan?”

Jared allowed himself a smile. “Yes, I am.” He knew that Jensen was a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and cited him as an inspiration.

“Which is your favorite?”

“My personal favorite or the one I think is the best movie?”

“Personal favorite.”

Rear Window.”

“Why Rear Window? Most people name one of the bigger movies.”

“Because it has all that classic Hitchcock claustrophobic suspense, and every time I watch the scene when Grace Kelly climbs up the fire escape stairs and then sneaks into the murderer’s apartment, when she’s not supposed to, I still want to shout out loud at her not to do it, even though I’ve seen it a hundred times.”

All three of them smiled in recognition at that, even Mark.

“But mostly because it’s also funny. Every dialogue scene with Thelma Ritter in it just sparks with wit. And there are some perfect moments in it, like Grace Kelly’s entrance in the movie when she switches on each one of the three lamps in James Stewart’s apartment and says, “Reading from top to bottom: Lisa—Carol—Fremont.” It’s hard to define what makes that scene so perfect, it just is, and that’s what makes Hitchcock a great director, those indefinably perfect, small moments.”

Jensen gave him a long, appraising look. Jared nervously pushed his fake glasses more firmly onto his nose, then realized what he was doing and held his hands tightly in his lap.  

“Yes,” Jensen eventually agreed. “That scene has charm, which is an effect that isn’t easy to define or to recreate. It seems almost accidental or just serendipitous, a bunch of different elements—the writing, the performance, the direction—all coming together perfectly.”      

Jared nodded and let himself smile at Jensen. This time it was Jensen who didn’t smile back but continued looking intently at Jared.

To Jared’s relief, Samantha brought the interview to a close. “Okay, thank you, Jared. I think that’s all we need.” Jared nodded and got up. He shook hands with each of them in turn. Mark gripped his hand hard, his skin rough. Samantha’s hand was long and feminine, her handshake firm, her eyes meeting Jared’s, expression warm and smiling.

Jensen didn’t even make eye contact and abruptly let go of Jared’s hand to sit back down again and look out the window.

Shit, I’ve fucked it up with him somehow was all Jared could think as he glanced nervously at Jensen’s profile and then walked out of the room. Feeling slightly sick, he closed the door behind him, but could still clearly hear Samantha say, “I like him.”  

“He’s the least awful of the lot of them,” was Mark’s irascible response.

There was only deafening silence from the third person inside the conference room.

The secretary from earlier cleared her throat, and Jared blushed at being caught eavesdropping. “This way, please,” she said, and ushered him down the corridor and out of the building.

Jared paused for a minute outside and took a couple of steadying breaths. After all that preparation and everything he’d done to get his foot in the door, just to screw it up in the interview. What did it matter if Samantha Smith liked him when Jensen clearly didn’t? Embarrassingly, he felt his eyes prickle with tears. He’d wanted so desperately to get a chance to work with Jensen that he didn’t even know what he was going to do now. Look for another job? He took off the fake glasses and rubbed his eyes, then took out his phone and called Misha.

“Hey Jared, how’d it go?” Misha asked eagerly.

“Bring beer. Lots of it. And whiskey.”

There was a pause and then Misha said, “Okay. You sure? Did they tell you already?”

“No, but I’m sure.”

“Okay. Go home. We’ll be right over.”

Jared could hear the note of relief in Misha’s tone. Misha’s over-protectiveness really was a pain in the ass sometimes.

 

Scene 4: Jared gets drunk

“And I told them I have really good administrative and organizational skills. I told them that very clearly. I mean, don’t I have really good administrative and organizational skills, Misha?” Jared asked drunkenly, pouring more bourbon into his bowl of melted double chocolate chip ice-cream.

“You do, Jared. You have excellent administrative and organizational skills. You really do,” Misha replied patiently and took the bottle from him before his bowl overflowed.

Jared miserably stirred everything together and then spooned it into his mouth. “I was the best candidate. Don’t you think I was the best candidate, Misha?”

“I’m sure you were, Jared.” Misha passed him a paper napkin so he could wipe the dribble of chocolaty bourbon from his chin.

“And look at what I did to myself. I did this for him, to get that job. Doesn’t that show commitment, Misha?”

Finally out of patience, Misha sighed and stretched out on Jared’s couch. He didn’t answer.

Jack started clearing away the pizza boxes and beer bottles littering Jared’s living room floor. “You’re going to bounce back from this, Jared. There are lots of other positions out there suited to your skills and talents.”

Before Jared could tell Jack that blindly optimistic advice was the worst kind of advice you could offer to person in a state of total despair, his phone rang.  Recognizing the ringtone, he squinted around the room for it. Misha saw it on the coffee table and picked it up, then sat up abruptly. “Oh shit, it’s Spotlight!”

“Don’t let him answer it,” Jack instructed.

“I thought you said they were phoning you tomorrow,” Misha said to Jared.

“That’s what the secretary told me. Give it to me.”

Jack said, “Misha, don’t give it to him!”

Jared struggled up from where he’d been sprawled on the floor, lunged forward and grabbed the phone from Misha’s hand, but Misha stood up and blocked him when he tried to leave the room. “Don’t answer it, Jared. You’re drunk.”

Jared poked Misha in the chest. “Stop babying me.” Misha sighed and stepped out of his way.

Jared closed his bedroom door behind him and answered the call. “Hello,” he said in his best imitation of a sober voice. Even if Samantha Smith was phoning to tell him he didn’t get the job and that Jensen hated him, he still didn’t want her to think he was a total drunken idiot.

“Hello, Jared.”

The sound of Jensen’s voice was enough to get him halfway to the sobriety he was pretending. “Oh, hi, Jensen.”

“Did I wake you?”

“Uh, no, I was awake. I’m just uh…”

“Are you drunk?” Jensen’s voice sounded amused.

He must be a mind reader or something, Jared decided. “No, I’m not drunk. Why would you think that?”

Jensen laughed quietly. He really did have a very sexy phone voice. Jared sat down on his bed to conserve his energy and concentrate better.

“You sound drunk.”

“I might be a tiny bit drunk,” he conceded.

 “Why?”

“Why am I drunk?”

“Yes.”

Jared didn’t answer.

“Is it because you thought I wasn’t going to give you the job?”

Jared’s heart clenched. “Why? Are you going to give me the job?”

“Depends. Do you get drunk a lot?”

“No, not a lot. I’m a moderate drinker.”   

Jensen laughed again, a soft, amused chuckle. “Good, I think I would prefer an assistant who was only a moderate drinker.”

“Well then, I’m your man, because that’s me, a moderate drinker.”

Another quiet laugh. “Why did you think I wasn’t going to offer you the job?”

“You didn’t seem very interested in the interview.”

“Not at all. You had me with Rear Window, Jared.”

Jared smiled and punched the air in triumph, but remained quiet, not trusting what might come out of his mouth in response to Jensen’s teasing tone.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes, sorry, I am. Thank you very much. I’m really looking forward to working with you, Jensen.”

“I’ll see you on Monday, 8:00 a.m.”

“Yes, absolutely, thank you so much. I’ll be there.”

“Good night, Jared. Drink some water and take a couple of painkillers before you go to sleep.”

Jensen ended the call before Jared could reply.

Jared went back into the living room where Jack and Misha were sitting side-by-side on his couch. They looked up at him expectantly. He smiled broadly. “I got it.”

Jack started laughing. Misha shook his head. “You mean I just sat through all that drunken self-pity for nothing? Jared, you’re an idiot.”

“Yes, but you love me.”

“Against my better judgement.” Misha smiled at him. “I’m glad you’re happy, just be—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, be careful.” Jared was still beaming. “I’m going to bed. I’m feeling sick. How could you let me mix bourbon and ice-cream?” He waved a hand at them and turned to go back into his bedroom. “Lock the door when you leave,” he called over his shoulder.

He could still hear Jack laughing when he closed his bedroom door.

 

Scene 5: Jared learns the ropes

His first eight weeks working for Jensen were insanely busy. He was doing twelve, sometimes fourteen hours straight and then going home to collapse into bed. A lot of his job consisted of fielding calls and emails from the countless people demanding Jensen’s time and attention. Jensen refused to get back to most of them, and it was a singularly weird experience for Jared to be snubbing really well known people in the film and media industry. He got a variety of reactions from them, from outright verbal abuse to embarrassing wheedling, and had to learn to deal with all types of temperaments and egos, but he’d always been pretty good at understanding people.   

Jensen also used him as a buffer against his partners. Sam sometimes used him as an indirect route to get Jensen to do what she wanted without him knowing she was behind it.  Mark had a more direct approach and would storm past Jared into Jensen’s office where he’d shout behind closed doors for half an hour and then storm back out again, normally calling Jensen names like ‘arrogant bastard’, ‘self-important git’ or ‘trumped-up little wanker’.  

Jensen just seemed to play by his own rules and get away with it. He ignored calls for interviews from the press and invitations to gatherings of high profile, powerful people, but when he wanted something himself, he was relentless, wouldn’t take no for an answer and could hound people into submission. 

Being around him was exciting, like being on an amusement ride. He spent most of his time working and wasn’t, as far as Jared knew, dating anyone. One late afternoon, though, Jared went into his office to get him to sign some documents and walked into something unexpected. Jensen was sitting in his office chair with his legs sprawled and there was a guy kneeling in front of him. Caught up with thinking about the documents he needed signing, Jared took a couple of seconds to process that the guy was about to blow Jensen. Face burning with embarrassment, he’d mumbled an apology and hurried out of the room, but not before he’d seen the glint of amusement in Jensen’s eyes. Neither of them mentioned the incident later and it was as if it hadn’t happened, much to Jared’s relief.     

Jared found that his new look was becoming who he was. He didn’t even think about it anymore when he put on the uniform of Jared, the Bland in the morning. It was just part of his routine. The contacts and glasses no longer felt weird and he even wore them when he wasn’t at work. Misha would tease him that he was more ‘method’ than even Daniel Day Lewis. But it was all necessary armor. When Jared caught himself remembering the sight of Jensen with his legs spread like that, lazy eyes hooded with desire, Jared was grateful for the feeling that his disguise protected him from Jensen’s overt sexuality.

 

 Scene 6: Not that kind of party

“Come in here. I want you to look at something.”

Jared looked up from his computer. Jensen was leaning against the doorjamb watching him.

“Okay, can I just quickly finish this email? It’s about that fundraiser you’re not going to tonight and I want to get your refusal sent off before it actually starts.”

Jensen walked over and closed the email, losing Jared’s polite, carefully crafted excuses. “Why are you even replying? If you respond, they’ll just invite me again. You’re a Boy Scout, Jared, and you’re going to cost me my reputation as a rude bastard by doing your job too well.” 

Jared sighed and followed Jensen into his office.

Jensen perched on the corner of his desk and looked at him. “You work too hard. Don’t you have a personal life? Nobody to go home to? No warm body waiting in bed for you?”

Jared ignored Jensen’s suggestive tone. He kept on looking just slightly to the right of Jensen’s face so he wasn’t meeting his gaze. It was a habit he’d picked up to help him present a front of cool indifference, especially when Jensen teased him. He found it easier to ignore Jensen’s sexual charm when he wasn’t looking at him directly. Jensen was like a snake charmer. You just had to avoid his eyes.

“Did you want me to do something?”

“Oh so many things, Jared, but I doubt you’d be willing to do them,” Jensen drawled.

Jared dropped his eyes and looked patiently at the pattern of the carpet. Jensen regularly flirted like this with him but he’d realized that if he was patient enough and waited Jensen out, he’d eventually give up.

Smiling, Jensen threw three scripts on the table next to Jared. It was a scuffed, solid oak table that had supposedly once belonged to Alfred Hitchcock. “Sit down and read the opening scenes of those scripts and tell me what you think.”         

Jared heard the phone on his desk ring. He glanced at the door. “Don’t even think about it,” Jensen instructed. He slammed the door shut and gestured for Jared to sit down. Jared did as he was told and Jensen sat down behind his own desk and opened his laptop.

Jared had been reading for a couple of minutes when Jensen placed a bowl of candy in front of him. He murmured his thanks, continued reading, mechanically eating the candy occasionally. He glanced up after he’d read the opening scenes of the second script. Jensen was watching him. “What?” he asked self-consciously.

Jensen frowned. “Nothing. It’s just—I don’t know. It’s just, you eat like a kid. It doesn’t fit with the way you look and present yourself. How long have you been wearing glasses?”

Jared had pushed the fake glasses on top of his head. He was pretending to be nearsighted and therefore needed to pretend that he didn’t require them for reading. “A while,” he said quickly and started reading the final script, ignoring the bowl of candy.   

He was only two pages into the script when he said, “Wow!” It was involuntary.

Jensen smiled but didn’t look away from his laptop screen. “Keep reading. It gets even better.”  

Half an hour later he had to tear his gaze away when Jensen sat down opposite him at the table. “And?”

Jared blew out a breath. “It’s amazing.” He put his glasses back into place. They made him feel like there was some sort of physical barrier between him and Jensen. “It’s like nothing I’ve really read before. It’s a beautiful story. Surreal but still grounded and real and emotional. How does it end?”

Jensen smiled. “I can’t tell you that. What did you think of the other two?”

“They’re second-rate in comparison to this one. Wait, was that a test?”

Jensen shrugged. “The other two are decent scripts.”

“Yeah, but they’re not like this one.” Jared glanced down. “Can I finish reading it?”

“No, not now.” Jensen closed the script. “Now you’re coming with me.”

Jared looked at him suspiciously. “Where?”

“To my house. I’m going to feed you. You’ve lost weight since you started working for me and I feel guilty. You could injure someone with those cheekbones.”

Jared stood up quickly. “No, but thanks. I really need to get home.”

“Jared,” Jensen said patiently, “I promise to behave myself. Your virtue is safe with me. There’ll be other people there.”

“I’m not feeling very sociable actually.”

“That’s okay because it’s not a sociable kind of party.”

“A party?” Jared looked down at his clothes. “I’m not dressed for a party. My clothes are all wrinkled and I need a shower.”

Jensen smiled. “It’s not a dressy kind of party, and I don’t believe you really care what you look like, Jared. You are refreshingly unfashionable.”

“I—”

“I’m not taking no for an answer. I’ll see you in the parking garage. You can follow me. If you turn off, I’ll chase you, and my car is so much faster than that pile of junk you drive. I also know where you live.”

Jared nodded grudgingly. What option did he have?

Jensen drove fast but not too fast for Jared to keep up. As Jared followed him, a knot of nerves started forming in his stomach. This was so not a good idea. Maintaining his work persona and keeping things professional was manageable when they were busy and focussed on the job but how the hell was he supposed to deal with Jensen in his own home? What would they even talk about? The weather? Politics? Sports?

He pulled up next to Jensen’s Mustang GT at the bottom of the huge driveway of a Malibu mansion. There were cars everywhere and the house was ablaze with light and the sound of music and people. “Sounds like the party already started without you,” Jared said, locking his car.

Jensen looked wryly at the house. “My presence is not a prerequisite.”

Jared frowned. “In your own house?”

“Spencer Jones is living in the house.”

Spencer Jones was an actor in his twenties from New York who’d starred in Jensen’s previous two movies. He was insanely talented and had so much on-screen presence that he outshone far more experienced, bigger name actors. Jared called to mind what he looked like: slim, fine featured, full mouth, very dark eyes and hair. His performances were intense and edgy, psychologically sensitive and mature beyond his years. He took on demanding, unconventional roles. Jared had heard he was also a talented musician. There were a lot of rumors around about his private life. Jared couldn’t remember what specifically. 

“I see,” he said.

“No, from that tone of voice you obviously don’t. He’s living in the house. He’s not sharing my bed.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that.”

Jensen laughed. “Sure you didn’t. Come inside and stop looking so prudish.”

Jared wanted to say he wasn’t a prude, but Jensen would probably take that as a challenge so he just followed him silently. The hallway was big, cool and impersonal, clearly the work of an interior decorator. It smelled of pot inside. Jensen turned left, away from the sound of music and voices. Jared heard a splash. There must be a swimming pool on the other side of the house. They walked down a short flight of steps into a large kitchen. There was a long table in the middle that could seat ten to twelve people. Jensen closed the door, muffling the sound from the other end of the house.

“Grab a seat. Do you eat pasta?” Jensen took off his jacket and put it on the back of a chair. He opened the fridge and bent over to pull something out from a bottom compartment. Jared averted his eyes from the taut stretch of denim and a well-formed ass.

“I eat anything.”

Jensen put two beers on the table, popped the caps and passed one to Jared. “Anything?” he asked, smiling.

“Yep, absolutely anything. I haven’t met a foodstuff I couldn’t eat. My mom used to try foods on me as a little kid just to see if there was anything I’d refuse to eat. Nothing. Chili, sushi, grapefruit, all the vegetables kids normally hate, you name it.” Jared mentally kicked himself. Why was he being so personal, revealing stuff about himself? He was meant to be playing Jared, the Bland, keeping things professional and distant. He quickly drank some of his beer.

“Okay, snail spaghetti with a side of bullfrog legs coming up.”

“Yeah, I’ve eaten Cajun fried frog legs in New Orleans.”

Jensen made a gagging sound and then took a swallow of his beer.

“I thought you didn’t drink,” Jared said carefully, not wanting to sound too nosy.

Jensen arched his eyebrows but didn’t ask where Jared had heard that. “I don’t, not really, the occasional beer, maybe wine with a meal, no hard booze. Kind of turns you off it when you’ve been around a lot of it.” He didn’t elaborate, just clinked his bottle against Jared’s and said, “To moderate drinking.” He went back to the fridge and started pulling things out of it. “Can you make a salad?”

Jared chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce for the salad. Jensen put on the radio, a classic rock station. They worked in easy and companionable silence.

Jensen served the pasta in big bowls, steaming spaghetti with tomatoes, chilies, clams and fresh basil. There was garlic bread to go with it. “This is really good,” Jared said appreciatively. “Where did you learn to cook?”

“Picked it up along the way. How about you? Can you cook as well as eat anything?”   

“I’m not a great cook, but I know the basics. My mom and dad both cook and they made me do my share in the kitchen when I was a kid.”

Jensen didn’t say anything, and Jared felt that maybe parents and family life wasn’t such a great topic of conversation with Jensen. There was a crash from the other side of the house, the sound of glass breaking, then laughter. Jensen continued eating, unfazed. Jared said, “You don’t mind if they trash your house?”

Jensen wiped his mouth and took another sip of his beer. “It’s just stuff, Jared. It’s a big house. There’s a lot of stuff. I’m not particularly attached to any of it. I’m not here all that often anyway. And I hate—” he cut himself off and stirred his spaghetti around the bowl.

“Hate what?” Jared asked tentatively.

“Hell, I could probably accommodate a circus troupe and barely notice. I just don’t like driving up and seeing the house dark and empty. It’s a waste.”

“How long has Spencer been here?”

“A few months.”

They’d finished eating and Jensen cleared the table. Jared peeled the label off his beer bottle and watched him.

“Want to go for a swim?” Jensen asked when he’d finished, his tone challenging and slightly mocking.

“Uh, I don’t have a swimsuit.”

“I told you, Jared. It’s not that kind of party.” Jensen left the room and Jared was compelled to follow him, either that or make a run for it, but Jared wasn’t a coward.

The house was huge, very modern, high-ceilinged, lots of steel and glass. An open entertainment area led out into a garden terrace and the swimming pool.  There were people everywhere. Jensen was right about being able to accommodate a circus. Jared wouldn’t have guessed there were so many people here from the relative quiet of the kitchen. He’d lost Jensen in the crowd as they walked into the room, looked around for him, recognized a scriptwriter he’d met through Misha and went over to talk to him. The guy he was with knew Sarah, and they struck up a conversation. He was from Austin and they talked about people and places they had in common. He got offered some blow, which he refused, and a glass of champagne, which he accepted.

Jared was just thinking it was time he went home when a strikingly good looking guy with bleached white hair who Jared thought he recognized came up to him and said, “I like your look. It makes me want to take all your clothes off.” He tried to start the process by removing Jared’s glasses but Jared pushed his hand away.

“Thanks, seriously, but not right now.”

“Okay,” the guy said amenably and wandered off.

Jared moved away from the group of people he’d met and went out onto the terrace. Jensen was sitting and talking to two men and a woman. All three of them looked vaguely familiar. It was that kind of party. Jared was about to go and tell him he was leaving when a girl pulled herself out of the pool and ran over to Jensen. She was wearing a tiny pair of bikini bottoms and nothing else. She sat down on Jensen’s lap and joined the conversation. Jensen appeared oblivious to her wet half-nakedness. Jared stood still for a minute, undecided if he should go over.

As if he could feel Jared’s gaze on him, Jensen turned his head and their eyes met. Jensen arched his eyebrows and then lifted his hand to cup the girl’s naked breast, keeping his eyes on Jared. Unnerved, Jared half-waved at him and then turned on his heel and quickly walked back into the house.      

The drive back to his apartment felt like it took forever. He was so tired, really struggled to keep his eyes on the road. He was distracted too, couldn’t get the image of Jensen with his hand on that girl out of his mind, the casual intimacy of the way he touched her, the lack of reaction from both the girl and the people sitting around them, but mostly the way he’d done it like he was mocking or challenging Jared.  Maybe he really was too naïve and prudish for L.A.

He slept badly and woke up with dark rings around his eyes.

 

Scene 7: Jared gets sick and Jensen takes his revenge

“You look like shit,” Misha said to him over lunch the next day.

Jared replied tiredly, “I thought that was the idea.”

“No, Jared, boring and unsexy was the idea, not the walking dead. You look exhausted. I haven’t seen you in two weeks and you’ve lost even more weight. Why aren’t you eating?”

Jared popped the final fry on his plate into his mouth. “I am. I just forget sometimes when I’m busy, and I’ve been really busy. You know what I’m like when I’m focused on something.”

“I’m ordering you dessert.”

“I don’t want any dessert.”

“I don’t care. I’m ordering you two desserts and you’re eating both of them.” Misha called the server over and surprised him by ordering the two most calorific desserts on the menu regardless of what they were. Jared dutifully tried to eat them both under Misha’s watchful gaze. He didn’t have the energy to argue.

Jensen still wasn’t in the office when he got back to Spotlight. He’d had a couple of meetings scheduled in the morning and Jared hadn’t heard from him since the party last night. He arrived at about three and stood next to Jared’s desk looking at him. “Why do you look so terrible?”

“Good afternoon to you too, Jensen. How did your meetings go?”

Jensen lifted Jared’s chin to make him look up at him, his hand gentle on his jaw. “Are you getting sick? You have rings around your eyes.” The feeling of Jensen’s hand against his skin made Jared think back to last night, the sight of that large hand on soft, naked flesh. He could feel his face heating up.  

He quickly pulled away. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not,” Jensen said firmly. “Go home.”

“Jensen—”

Jensen raised his hand. “No arguments, Jared. You’re no good to me like this.” He walked towards his office and then turned in the doorway. “If you’re not out of the office in five minutes, I’m calling security.”

Jared sighed and started packing up his stuff. He was actually starting to feel a bit weird, like it was more than just tiredness. His brain felt fuzzy and there was a headache building behind his eyes.

“And, despite what you might think, I do actually like having you around. I don’t want to work you to death,” Jensen said softly. Jared turned around to look at him, intrigued by the tone of his voice, but Jensen had already walked into his office.

By the time Jared got home the vague pain in his head was a raging headache. He was sweating and feeling unsteady on his feet. Once in his apartment, he pulled off his shoes and took out the colored contact lenses, then collapsed into bed fully dressed. He woke only once in the night to have a pee and thirstily drink half a liter of water, stripped off his clothes afterwards and crawled back into bed.

He woke up at nine the next morning, looked at the time on his phone next to his bed and groaned. The headache was still there and he felt groggy. There was no way he was driving or going into work feeling like this. He phoned the office and left a message for Jensen, then lay down and went back to sleep.

He was woken again later by loud knocking on his apartment door. He checked the time, 2:00 p.m., turned over and wrapped the pillow around his head. Whoever it was would eventually go away. Except they didn’t. The knocking continued until Jared eventually dragged himself out of bed and made his way to the door. He was feeling vaguely better, more stable on his feet, the headache almost gone.

He ripped open the door, ready to growl at whoever was behind it, until he saw Jensen in his doorway with a carton of something in one hand and what looked like a film script under his arm. And that was when Jared realized he was standing there in a pair of white briefs, his hair probably all mussed up, no contact lenses, no glasses and no protective barrier of Barry Griffin body language. He’d answered the door as himself and he watched the slow realization of that dawn across Jensen’s face.

Jared licked his lips nervously. “Jensen.”

Jensen scanned his face, looking closely at his eyes, and then tracked down Jared’s body, pausing at his crotch for a whole lot longer than was necessary, making Jared feel like he was standing there completely naked. “Jared Padalecki I presume,” Jensen said dryly.   

“I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Clearly not,” Jensen replied and pushed past him to enter the apartment. “I brought you soup. Go back to bed and I’ll bring it to you.”

“Jensen, I—”

Jensen pushed him firmly in the direction of the bedroom, his hand feeling like a hot brand against the skin of Jared’s naked shoulder. “Go and lie down before you fall over.”

Jared went back into his bedroom and quickly pulled on a t-shirt and a pair of sweats. He obviously wasn’t quite ready for physical activity and did start to feel as if he might fall over. He got back into bed and propped himself up against his pillows, pulled the comforter up to cover his legs and lower torso and waited nervously. Jensen came in a few minutes later with a bowl of steaming hot soup and handed it to Jared. He looked around for somewhere to sit and finding no option other than Jared’s bed sat down at Jared’s feet. Jared crossed his legs and watched him warily, feeling self conscious.

“Eat it before it gets cold.”

Jensen turned and sat with his back against the wall next to the bed, opened up the script he’d had under his arm when he arrived, and silently started reading. Jared ate the soup, trying not to slurp, and gave Jensen furtive glances. Jensen didn’t lift his eyes from the script.

After finishing the soup, Jared put the empty bowl on his bedside table and Jensen dropped the script on the bed next to him. They looked at each other silently. Jared didn’t look to the side of Jensen’s face but met his gaze openly and directly, realizing it was probably the first time he’d really done it since he’d met him.

“Do you know what I hate more than anything else? And this is going to sound illogical since I spend so much time creating fictional worlds, but I hate deceit. My whole life I grew up surrounded by lies and manipulation. I hate it. I hate lying and pretence. I hate trickery. So tell me, Jared, what was the point of the disguise? The glasses that you obviously don’t need, the ugly contact lenses, the self-effacing body language? Because that’s not exactly who you are, is it?” 

Jared swallowed hard. How was he supposed to explain it without embarrassing himself or insulting Jensen? He decided just to go with forthright honesty. It was what Jensen was asking for anyway. “I wanted the job, more than anything, and I knew I wouldn’t get it if Sam and Mark thought there was even a glimmer of attraction between us. I just wanted a chance to work with you. I want to write. I want to direct. You have a gift and I just want to get close to that. I didn’t want anything getting in the way of us working together, and that must sound conceited because you probably don’t want to have sex with me anyway, but you have a pretty notorious reputation, Jensen. I’m sure you know that. I’m sorry I lied. I didn’t mean to trick you.”

Jared felt a little out of breath after he’d said all that. He bit his lip anxiously, waiting for Jensen to tell him it was all over and that he was fired.

Jensen looked at him steadily, his expression unreadable. “I do want to have sex with you,” he said in a low voice.

Jared’s heart started beating faster.

“Even now, when I’m pissed at you and you’re sick, I still want to rip that comforter away and strip you down to those little white briefs, and then down to nothing so I can pull apart your legs and stick my fingers deep inside you, and then my cock and fuck you hard in this ridiculous, monk-like single bed.”  

Jared gasped, part surprise and part instant arousal. His heart was racing and against his will he started to harden. He could visualize that so clearly in his imagination that he started to ache inside and almost groaned aloud, only just stopping himself in time. His expression must have broadcast it quite clearly, though, because Jensen smirked.

“Do you like the sound of that? Is it making you hard? Is all this self-denial really worth it? I’m a great fuck, Jared. And that’s not arrogance. I really am great in bed. I could do things to you that would blow your mind. Do you want me to come over there and show you?”

Jensen’s voice was deep and low, a honeyed caress that Jared could almost feel against his skin. He was fully erect, dick straining against the cotton of briefs. He was ready to give up anything at that point, the job, his hopes and dreams, anything, to say yes. He felt helpless in the face of Jensen’s sexual magnetism. Only fear kept him silent.

Jensen smirked again. “But you’re right.” His voice went back to its normal tone. “We shouldn’t let it get in the way of our working relationship. You’re one of the few people I can actually bear seeing first thing in the morning. We shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.” He stood up. “I’ll leave the script with you. It needs work, a lot of it, and I want to hear your ideas. I’ve spent too long with it and I can’t see my way clearly through some of the issues.”

Jared blinked at him in confusion.

“I hope you’re feeling better by tomorrow, but take your time if you’re not fully recovered.”

Jared gathered his thoughts. “You bastard, that was a punishment, wasn’t it?”

Jensen looked at him innocently, a slight smile playing around the corners of his mouth. “I don’t know what you mean, Jared. I’m just agreeing with you that we need to keep it professional.”

“Bastard,” Jared said aloud to himself again once Jensen had left. He’d been totally blindsided. Jensen really had no scruples. How could he play him like that while he was sick? He laughed, guessing he probably deserved it, then adjusted his traitorous dick more comfortably in his briefs and started reading the script.

 

Scene 8: Jensen forgives Jared

He was pretty much fully recovered by the next morning. He debated with himself what to do about his appearance now that Jensen knew it wasn’t real. Unsure, he compromised by leaving out the contact lenses but wearing the glasses. He couldn’t suddenly turn up at Spotlight without them. He wore his usual outfit of loose-fitting khakis and bland, button-up shirt.

Jensen took one look at him, though, when he walked into the office, plucked the glasses off his face and threw them into the wastepaper basket.

Well, that solves that problem, Jared thought wryly. “I have some ideas about the script.”

“Good,” Jensen replied, “let’s hear them.” He led Jared into his office and they sat down at the Hitchcock table.

“Well, it’s unfinished obviously, but it’s also way too long.”

“Yes,” Jensen said.

“There are too many plot-lines.”

“Agreed.”

“It needs streamlining, not just the narrative, but some of the character development. There’s too much going on emotionally and psychologically with too many of the characters for a film. That’s great in a novel, but within the context of a time-frame of even an epic 180 to 200 minutes you’re still spreading it too thinly and not doing it justice.”

“Ken Fitzgerald is a novelist, that’s why it reads so beautifully and why it’s full of all the problems you just outlined. And he won’t work with any of the scriptwriters I’ve sent him or give up creative control. It’s his first film project. This story is his baby and he’s willing to shelve the project completely rather than compromise. The money means nothing to him. Right now, he’s only taking calls directly from me. He won’t even talk to Sam.”

“He trusts you.”

“Yeah, he does.”

“Probably because you’re as uncompromising with your own work.”

Jensen smiled. “Yeah, which normally works for me, but now I’m trying to work with someone who is even more stubborn than I am. And I really, really want to make this movie, Jared. I’ve got this feeling about it. It keeps me up at night.”

Jared watched the expressions flitting across Jensen’s face. This is what he’d imagined it would be like working with Jensen. This intensity. “Jensen?”

Jensen visibly pulled himself out of his own thoughts. “Yeah?”

“We’re okay, right? You and me.”

“Yeah, we’re okay,” Jensen said quietly. His expression sharpened and he said in a hard voice, “But don’t ever lie to me again. I want to be able to trust you. I thought I could.”

“You can trust me, Jensen,” Jared said simply.

“Am I interrupting?” Sam was standing in the doorway looking at them.

“No,” Jared said at the exact same moment as Jensen said, “Yes.”

She came into the room, an assessing expression on her face as she looked at the two of them. “I need to speak to you, Jensen.”

Jared got up to leave.

“Not right now, Sam,” Jensen said shortly. “We’re in the middle of something.”

“We’ve got that meeting with the backers. I want you to be there.”

“Let Mark handle it. Finance is his department. He can deal with the money men.”

“It would be useful if for once you could be there too, Jensen. They want to meet with you. Your presence carries weight.”

“Can’t,” Jensen said, getting up and collecting his jacket, the script, and a notebook. “You know what being around all that money does to me. It dirties my soul. Mark doesn’t have a soul. That’s why he’s so good at it. And you,” he grabbed Sam around the waist, “are too pure and incorruptible to be tarnished by dirty money.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Have I told you lately how beautiful you are? Isn’t she beautiful, Jared?”

Jared nodded. Sam was beautiful.

Sam clearly couldn’t help the smile. “Your charm doesn’t work on me, Ackles. I’m immune to it after all these years. And stop trying to corrupt your innocent assistant.” She looked closely at Jared. “What happened to your glasses?”

“The wonders of contact lenses,” Jensen answered for him.

“I like the color too. They really suit you.”

“Thanks,” Jared said, shame-faced. Jensen snorted.

“Jared and I are going to my place to work on the Fitzgerald script, and we’re not to be interrupted.”

“We are?” Jared asked.

“We are,” Jensen parroted. “We can’t get anything done around here with all these constant interruptions. Sam, you haven’t seen us.”

Sam sighed and waved them off. “Fine. I haven’t seen you. Just get it done.”

 

Scene 9: ‘The Girl who Wanted to be a Samurai’     

Jensen cleared the long table in the kitchen and placed one of those big presentation flipcharts normally attached to an easel in the centre of it. He started tearing off pages.

“We’re going to strip the narrative down and work out the skeleton of it, map it out, plot the basic structure, what’s essential and what we can lose. The story’s chronology is non-linear so we need to piece it all together first, the timelines of the essential characters, look at the overlaps, the key events, which minor characters can go. There are so many complicated parts to it. It’s going to be like stripping a machine. And the last thing you want to do is lose some essential cog or tiny screw that will make it difficult to put back together again. And that’s the second part of the process, putting it back together again, but a streamlined version of it. We need to lose at least 20 to 30 per cent of what’s in the script to make filming even possible and allow for a new ending. And then all that will have to be refined again in the cutting room.”

He looked at Jared, his eyes shining with excitement. “And we’re going to need a lot of coffee.”      

Jared grinned back at him, swept up in his passion and enthusiasm. “Okay.”

It took them eight hours. Jared was impressed by Jensen’s memory and analytical ability to unpick all the different narrative and character threads. Jared did most of the writing and note taking as Jensen thought aloud, but Jensen was right: he was too familiar with the material and made assumptions or oversights that Jared could correct. They worked well together, complementing and balancing each other.

And finally the first part of the process was done. It was 7:00 p.m. and Jared felt like he’d run a marathon. He yawned, stood up, and stretched out the kinks in his spine. “I should go home.”

Jensen shook his head emphatically. “You’re not going home. You can sleep in a spare room.” 

That was too much for Jared. There was no need for him to stay the night too. “Jensen, I have to go home.”

Jensen frowned at him. “Why?”

“Well, for one thing, I don’t have any clean clothes or my toothbrush.”

“You don’t need them. I have all that. What’s the other thing?”

“What?”

“You said ‘for one thing.’ What’s the other reason you can’t stay the night?” Jensen had his arms folded, his expression unyielding.

“Well—I—”

“What? It’s not appropriate?” Jensen snorted. “It’s not seemly and people will talk?”

Jared sighed. “I don’t give a shit if people talk. It’s just not necessary. I live like forty minutes away. I can be back here early in the morning.”

“We’re on a roll right now. You’re my lucky charm. If you leave, you might jinx it.”

“What? You’re not actually that superstitious.”

Jensen rolled his eyes. “You’re kidding, right? You’ve worked in the theatre and in showbiz. We are the most superstitious people in the world. It’s our carnival heritage, in the carny blood. Consider this a kidnapping. You’re not leaving my house until we get this done, no matter how long it takes. I’ll lock you in the dungeon if I have to.”

Jared raised an eyebrow and said, “You have a dungeon?” Then wished he hadn’t when Jensen leered dirtily at him.

“Of course I do. I’ve got restraints and whips and gags and all kinds of fun stuff down there. Want to see it?”

Jared sighed and gave in to the inevitable. “I’m hungry. I haven’t had any lunch or supper.”

“I’ll put some frozen pizzas in the oven.”

“Fine. I’m going for a swim. My brain has turned to mush.”

“But, Jared, you don’t have a swimsuit,” Jensen mocked in a prim voice.

Jared stood up and started unbuttoning his shirt. “So what.” He pulled off the shirt and threw it on the floor as he walked out of the kitchen. He could hear Jensen laughing behind him.

The water was cool and refreshing. Jared swam some lengths and then floated on his back and looked up at the few stars that were visible. He found that he was unconsciously smiling and realized it was because he was happy. It was a good feeling.

The outside lights came on. “I brought you a beer and a towel.” Jensen placed two beers on a table next to the pool, threw a towel on a lounger and stretched out on another one next to it.

Getting to the beer and the towel of course necessitated getting out of the water. Jared pulled himself out of the pool, knowing that he might as well be fully naked. Wet, white briefs don’t leave much to the imagination. He was intensely aware of Jensen watching him as he walked up to the lounger and dried himself off. He did it in a casual, measured way, despite that his skin was prickling with awareness. He wrapped the towel around his waist, sat down, and took a long, thirsty swallow of the beer.

“Thanks,” he said.

Jensen nodded. His expression was unreadable. He turned and settled on his back to look up at the night sky. Jared lay down on the other lounger and did the same. The moon was white and full. “Where did you meet Ken?” he asked.

“I’ve been interested in filming one of his novels for a while. I got in contact with him and we hit it off. He’d been working on The Girl who Wanted to be a Samurai for years, but just couldn’t get it written and had pretty much given up on it. We spent all night one time talking about it, and he agreed to try and write it as film script.”

“You know the biggest issue with it, right?” Jared said tentatively, not entirely sure that it was his place to be making major creative suggestions.

Propping himself up on his elbow, Jensen turned so he was facing Jared. “What?”

“It should be from the girl’s viewpoint, not the old man’s.”

Jensen looked at him and then smiled broadly. “So not just a pretty face and a hot body.”

Jared laughed self-consciously.

“Yeah, I know. It’s going to be a hell of a job convincing Ken of that, though. His favorite scenes are all the old man’s backstory.”

“I can’t remember who but somebody said as a director you always have to be ready to cut your favorite scene. I guess that’s also relevant to the writing process.”

“Yeah, that’s true. You can’t be sentimental about your favorite scenes if they don’t work with the whole. I think those pizzas must be ready. Let’s go back in. We can put your clothes in the washing machine and I’ve got something you can wear for tonight.”

Jensen showed him the spare bedroom and gave him a t-shirt and a pair of sweats that were too short on him. Jensen grinned when he came back into the kitchen. “You seriously are a sasquatch. How tall are you?”

"I'm 6' 4". Not that much taller than you are.”

“No, I guess we’d fit together pretty well.”

Jared ignored both the comment and the graphic visual that it evoked in his mind. “Are you going to feed me? I’m starving.”

They stood around the kitchen table eating pizza and discussing the notes strewn across it. After they’d eaten, they sat down again and brought some order to the notes, clarifying some of the plotlines and working out the overall structure, talking about the changes and rewrites that would be needed to shift the viewpoint more clearly to the girl in the story. When Jared started yawning again, they called it a night and went to bed.    

Jerking off in Jensen’s spare bed made Jared feel slightly guilty, but, despite being tired, he was wound up and needed the release. He tried not to think of Jensen as he did it—that way danger lay—but he couldn’t stop the flashes of images in his mind: Jensen’s hand on a naked breast, his legs spread open and eyes hooded with desire, the intensity of his expression when he was concentrating, the way he smiled when Jared brought him coffee in the morning.

Jared woke up early, got up, and put on the borrowed clothes. He went out into the big living area that looked out onto the pool and the view below, and saw Spencer Jones sitting at the dining table drinking coffee. Jared startled when he noticed him. He’d forgotten about Jensen’s houseguest.

“Who’re you?” Spencer asked directly, taking in his sleep-tousled hair, the too-short sweatpants and Jared’s bare feet.

“Hi, Spencer, I’m Jared.”

“Ah, the assistant,” Spencer said knowingly. “So, you’re spending the night now too, Assistant Jared? I wondered when that would happen.”

“I slept in the spare bedroom.”

“Ah,” Spencer said in the same knowing tone. “He must really like you then.”

“What does that mean?” Jared asked, deciding to be equally direct. He went over to the coffee-machine on the counter next to the table and poured himself a cup.

“Let’s just say I wouldn’t have heard about you if he didn’t like you. I didn’t think you’d be so young or so pretty.”

 Jared sat down at the table opposite him and took a sip of the coffee. “I’m better looking than I was a couple of days ago.”

Spencer laughed. “It’s L.A. That can happen magically overnight.”

Jared smiled back at him.

“Cereal?” Spencer asked, pointing at the boxes on the counter.

“Thanks,” Jared said, and went over to put some in a bowl. Spencer watched him sit down again and pour milk over it.

“You’re a definite improvement on the last one.”

A bitter feeling twisted in Jared’s gut. “Yeah,” he said cynically, “Jensen has a tendency to go through assistants.”

Spencer frowned. “No, he doesn’t. Luke worked for him for five years before he went on to direct his own films. Matt, your predecessor, was a completely different case. That idiot screwed it up by throwing himself at Jensen.”

Jared snorted. “Oh sure, and Jensen politely declined.”

“I don’t remember it being that polite. I was here. Jensen came home to find Matt waiting naked in his bed. He was a manipulative bastard. Jensen fired him and then called him a taxi.”

Spencer finished his coffee and stood up. “Be careful, Jared, of believing everything you hear about him. There’s a lot of bullshit out there about Jensen. Partly because he doesn’t let people get to really know him, but mostly because this town runs on lies and gossip. He’s a good man and completely loyal if he trusts you. Hurt him and you’ll have to deal with me.”   

Spencer left and Jared just sat there with his mouth open, not sure what had just happened. Jensen walked in a moment later, sweaty and out of breath, looking like he’d just been for a run. He took out his earphones and smiled broadly when he saw Jared. The openness of that smile did something strange to Jared’s insides.

“I just passed Spencer in the hallway. He was looking pretty pissed off. Did you say something to him?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” Jared said.

Jensen grinned. “Spence can be pretty moody in the morning. Don’t worry about it.  Sleep okay?” Jared nodded. Jensen downed a glass of orange juice and pulled off his long sleeve running top. He was wearing a tight white tank top underneath it. “Jesus, it’s hot out there already.”

Jared looked at Jensen’s biceps and thought it was way too early in the morning for him to have to cope with seeing Jensen in a tank top.

“Was there hot water in your shower? If not, you can always join me. I’ve got space for two in mine,” Jensen said in a cheerfully teasing voice.

And it was definitely too early in the morning for Jared to have to cope with Jensen’s flirtatious teasing.

Jensen stopped smiling. “What’s wrong? You okay?” He sat down at the table next to Jared. “Did something just happen between you and Spencer?”  

Jared decided to just bite the bullet. “He told me that if I hurt you I’d have to deal with him.”

A strange look crossed Jensen’s face, one Jared hadn’t seen before. He realized it was embarrassment. “Jesus, Spencer.” Jensen ran a hand through his hair. “Just ignore it, okay. He’s protective, that’s all.”

“Did you sleep with him when you were making War Stories?”

Jensen’s expression tightened. “How is that any of your business, Jared?”

“Did you?”

Jensen looked at him silently for a few seconds. “No,” he said finally. “Spencer’s straight.”

“Why is he living here?”

“Is this an interrogation?” Jensen asked coolly.

“No, it’s a question. You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to.”

Jensen reached over, picked up the long sleeve top and put it back on again. He leaned back in his chair. “Lilly Collins, the female lead in War Stories, and Spencer were seeing each other. He was very much in love with her but she left him. He was a mess. He’s sensitive and damaged anyway. I gave him somewhere to stay so he could pull himself together and not go totally off the rails, which he’s done before. Somebody did that for me a long time ago when I was in a similar place. We also share a similarly fucked up childhood. Anything else you want to know?”

Feeling guilty for being so pushy, and simultaneously curious about how much further he could push it, Jared leaned forward and put his hand carefully on Jensen’s knee. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry or to make assumptions.”

Jensen looked down at Jared’s hand, then looked up again and gave him a heated glance before leaning forward and kissing him on the mouth. It was a quick, dry kiss, and over before Jared could think about how he was going to respond to it. Jensen pulled back a couple of inches, looked into Jared’s eyes and softly said, “Of course you did, Jared. You totally meant to do both of those things. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and take a shower and jerk off.”

He got up and left the room before Jared could come up with a retort. Jared touched his mouth, reliving the feeling of Jensen’s lips on his. It had felt really good. His heart was still beating fast. It was turning out to be a weird morning. He had another bowl of cereal to settle his nerves, and then went and had a shower himself. He didn’t jerk off, and steadfastly refused to think about Jensen doing it.

When he went back into the kitchen, Jensen was already at work. Jared joined him and at first the atmosphere between them was slightly strained. The events of earlier had subtly changed things. They were both more careful about the other’s personal space and about touching each other accidentally. But it didn’t affect their ability to work together. The opposite. The work went quicker than it had yesterday. Jared felt more alert, more alive and on top of his game than ever before. Jensen treated him absolutely as an equal and listened to his ideas attentively. By lunchtime they’d hammered out the narrative into a workable script with most of the complex chronological shifts back in place. It was going to make a brilliant film. It just needed an ending.       

Jared expelled a deep breath and sat back in his chair looking over the work they’d done together.  “It’s great,” Jared said. “It’s a really beautiful thing.”

Jensen smiled. “Yeah, it is. Now I just need to convince Ken of that. I’m going to phone him right now and set up a meeting. You need to be there too.”

“You want me there?”

Jensen laughed. “Of course I do. This is your work too.” He looked at his watch suddenly and grimaced. “Shit, I’m late for something I can’t miss.” He stood up and ran a hand through his hair impatiently. “Will you let yourself out? I’ve got to go.”

Jared nodded. Jensen paused and looked down at him. He lifted his hand, like he was going to reach out and touch Jared’s face, but then seemed to change his mind and dropped his hand to his side. “You did really good work on this, Jared,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”

Jared smiled and nodded again.

 

Scene 10: Jensen changes Ken’s mind

“Absolutely not, Jensen! I’m not allowing you to butcher my story. Do you have any fucking idea what I’ve poured into this? The years of my life I’ve dedicated to it? My very heart and soul are in those words! And you want to hack it to pieces? Are you out of your mind? I wouldn’t allow my goddamn publisher, who I’ve worked with for twenty years, to force me into putting it out there as a novel when it wasn’t ready. How the hell do you think I’m going to allow you to do this to it? You and this—who are you?” Ken suddenly demanded.

“Jared Padalecki, Sir. I’m Jensen’s assistant.”

“How do you think I’m going to allow you and this goddamn boy to tell me how to write? Me! You were the one, Jensen, who approached me, let’s not forget that. I told you from the start that I wasn’t going to allow you to dilute it into some flimsy piece of Hollywood drivel. What happened to your integrity? You’re supposed to be a goddamn artist. Where is your respect for the art? And those hacks you sent me? Idiots. They couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag. And you propose this to me at the Hitchcock table? The sacrilege!” Ken slammed his hands on the table, making the coffee cups and water glasses on it rattle violently.

Jared glanced nervously at Jensen, who for some reason looked completely unaffected by Ken’s angry rant. He was sitting back in his chair with an amenable expression on his face, waiting patiently.

The meeting had barely gotten underway before Ken lost his temper and now he looked like he was about to get up and storm out at any second. Jared had no idea how Jensen could just sit there so calmly when it seemed as if they weren’t even going to be allowed to outline the ideas they had worked on. He knew Jensen had spent months on this already. He also knew that Jensen was desperate to make this movie. The thought of it never being allowed to see the light of day when it deserved so much to be out there filled Jared with anxiety.

Jensen tapped his fingers lightly on the table. “Are you done, Ken?” he asked quietly. Before Ken could answer, he continued, “Because if you are done, you stubborn, old bastard, I’m going to explain to you why you’ve never been able to finish it.”

Ken opened his mouth to speak but Jensen held up his hand. “It’s my turn, Ken. You’re going to listen to what I have to say, and if you still disagree with me, then you can walk out the door and we’re done with this. It doesn’t get made, not by me, and you can go back to torturing this beautiful story and adding more and more layers to it without working out what the essential problem is, and you’ll also never publish it because it will never feel complete. It will become one of your greatest regrets. That’s what I’ll say in your eulogy, and it will be me up there delivering your eulogy because you have no other friends. Because you are a stubborn, old bastard.”      

Jared’s heart sank. This was Jensen’s strategy for getting Ken on their side? He waited for the old writer to explode.  Instead he burst into hearty laughter. “Jensen, you are an arrogant little shit.”

Jensen grinned. “That’s what you called me when we first met. And I’ve been called a lot worse by others.”

Ken smiled affectionately at him. “I have no doubt of that, my boy.”

Jensen took a sip of water and ran a hand through his hair, and that’s when Jared realized that he was nervous. It was a gesture that betrayed he wasn’t feeling as confident as he appeared.

“When you first started writing it, it was a love letter to Sarah.”

Ken’s smile faded. “Don’t, Jensen,” he said in a warning tone.

“It was a love letter to Sarah,” Jensen continued, setting his jaw. “And the years you spent in Japan, watching her grow up there. And it was an expression of your love for that country and its culture. But then she died and your heart was broken because you’d lost your only child. So you left it for years, and when you came back to it, it became a conversation between you and her. And your grief and your desire to be with her and to teach her what was important in life just overwhelmed everything that was there originally and you lost your way. It became about you and not about her. And I know you know that.”

There was a long pause when Jensen had finished speaking during which Jared held his breath. Eventually, Ken got up and walked over to the window. Jared started breathing again. Ken stood there looking out at the view. His pain was a palpable presence in the room. Jared looked at Jensen. He was watching Ken sadly. His hand was resting on the table and Jared reached out and squeezed it, moved by Jensen’s sensitivity and courage. Jensen gave him a small smile.

After a long and silent wait, Ken came back to the table and sat down again. “Okay,” he said. “Show me what you and the boy have.”   

Jared understood now why Jensen had insisted on not getting their notes typed up and decent storyboards done. That kind of slick professionalism would have looked wrong after what Jensen had just said to Ken.

They laid out all their rough, scribbled notes and just talked Ken through it. Jensen did a lot of the talking but he also allowed Jared to take the lead on some of it, and the sadness that had permeated the room before faded, to be replaced by a feeling of warm, energetic creativity. Sometimes Jensen’s thigh pressed against Jared’s under the table and it made him feel connected to Jensen and grounded and alive in the moment.

When they were done, Ken sat there for a few minutes scanning all the sheets of paper littering the Hitchcock table, nodding his head occasionally.

“Will you do it?” Jensen finally asked. “Will you go back to it, edit it and finish it? Give it the ending it deserves?”

Ken gave Jensen a long look before smiling at him. “Yes, Jensen, I will do that, but be sure to mention in my eulogy what a tolerant man I was in this moment, and that even though you deserved a punch in the nose for your audacity, my better nature saved the day.”

Jensen smiled and his tone was dry when he said, “We’ve only just begun, Ken. There’s still plenty of time and opportunity for you to punch me.”  

“And now you’re going to buy me a drink, Jensen Ackles. I don’t care if you don’t drink, I do! And you’re paying.” Ken stood up and put his hand out. “It was nice meeting you, Jared. I look forward to seeing more of you. You have a bright future ahead of you, young man.” Jared stood up and shook hands with him.

“Give me a minute with Jared, Ken. I’ll see you out front,” Jensen said, shuffling all the paperwork into a neat pile on the table.

Ken left the room and Jared didn’t know whether to high-five or to hug Jensen. Both felt like the wrong kind of reaction.

What did feel completely right was Jensen wrapping a hand around the back of his neck and pulling him in for a kiss, and not the brief kiss of the day before, but a real kiss, one with heat, with their mouths open and their tongues touching, arms wrapping around each other, their bodies flush together.    

“God, we’re good together,” Jensen murmured against Jared’s mouth, and how could Jared possibly disagree with that when it was so undeniably true. They were great together. He pulled Jensen’s hips closer so he could rub against him. Jensen groaned. And Jared knew that there was no point in trying to keep their working relationship separate to this physical attraction. It couldn’t be kept separate. This and the way they worked together was the same thing, the same energy and synchronicity.

Jensen pulled away reluctantly and drew in a deep breath. “Jesus, you’re going to kill me.” His cheeks were flushed. He gave Jared one of those big open smiles that made Jared’s heart skip a beat. “I’ve got to get out of here. Why don’t you go home? We’ve had an intense couple of days.”

Jared took a deep breath and said, “Did you mean what you said about wanting to fuck me in my monk-like single bed? Because if you did, if it wasn’t just to punish me, then I think you should come over to my apartment after you’re done with Ken and do that.”

Jensen’s eyes instantly sparked with heat and his smile changed, became sharper, more wolfish. He held Jared’s gaze for a heartbeat, then rubbed his thumb over Jared’s bottom lip. “Yeah, I meant it,” he said, his voice rough. “Give me a couple of hours and I’ll be there.”  

 

Scene 11: risky business

Jared was a nervous ball of energy and anticipation by the time there was a knock on his apartment door two hours later. Jensen gave him a slow once-over when he opened it, taking in his jeans and t-shirt and bare feet. “Hot as you look right now, I still think I prefer it when you open the door in just your underwear.”

“Okay, wait there and I’ll do it over again,” Jared said with a grin and started to close the door on him. “Just give me a minute.”

Jensen laughed and put his foot in the way. “I think I’ll just take your clothes off myself this time.” He leaned against the doorjamb, the picture of casual sexuality. “I’m really kinda done waiting for this, Jared.”

Demonstrating his agreement, Jared grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him inside, banged the door shut and pushed him roughly up against it. “Yeah, me too. What took you so long?” He cupped Jensen’s face and kissed him, pushed his tongue deep in his mouth, then lowered his hands and gripped Jensen’s hips, pulling him in close, rocking their hips together, their dicks hardening against each other’s bodies.

Breathing hard, Jensen leaned his head back against the door and looked at Jared with heavy-lidded eyes, his hips canting forward, closer to Jared’s, his hard dick pressing against the length of Jared’s. “Came as soon as I could. Ken wouldn’t let me leave. Eventually, I just told him I needed to go because I was coming over here to have sex you.”

Jared pulled back. “What? No way you did that.”

Jensen laughed. “I did.”

“What did he say?”

“Well, boy,” Jensen mimicked Ken’s deep drawl, “why didn’t you just say that in the first place? Don’t let me stand in your way.”

Jared laughed.

“He then spent another fifteen minutes telling me what a talented, sensitive, interesting young man you are. All things I already knew.”

Jensen leaned forward and nuzzled into Jared’s neck, then licked a wet line up to his ear. “He forgot distractingly hot.” Pressing a line of kisses along Jared’s jaw, he whispered, “And smart and kind and passionate and...” He trailed off as he claimed Jared’s mouth, licking at his lips and pushing his tongue slowly in and out of Jared’s mouth, a rhythm matched by the slow roll of his hips, his hands holding Jared’s hips in place.

He nudged Jared and they moved away from the door until they got to the table in the center of the room, then he pushed him backwards so Jared was sitting on it, pulled his legs apart so he could fit between Jared’s thighs and pressed hard against his erection. He whispered, “I want to be inside you.”

Jared let out a long shuddering sigh.

They were so wrapped up in each other that they didn’t hear the key in the door and didn’t realize someone had come into the apartment, not until they heard a sharp exclamation of surprise.

Misha was standing in the doorway with an expression of wounded, bewildered anger on his face.

In that moment, as Jensen looked at Misha and Misha looked back at him, wearing identical expressions of intimate recognition, Jared realized that they had slept together, could see it in their faces, and some small voice at the back of his brain told him that he should have known it all along because it made sense of Misha’s over-protectiveness and his comment that Jensen Ackles slept with everyone he worked with, made sense of everything Misha had ever said about Jensen.

Jensen stepped away from Jared, just surprised at first, and then he looked at the key in Misha’s hand and at the hurt, angry expression on Misha’s face, and Jared just knew he was putting the two things together and coming up with the completely wrong answer. Misha looked like a betrayed lover. Jensen took another couple of steps backwards, moving farther away from Jared, a gulf beginning to stretch between them.

“It’s not what you think,” Jared said quickly, aiming it at Jensen, but intending it for Misha too, who thought he knew something about Jensen and what was best for Jared, but really didn’t.

Misha replied first, even though he was only the secondary audience. “Really, Jared? Looks pretty obvious to me.”   

Jensen turned and gave Jared a searching look, similar to the one he’d given him the day he’d appeared at his door when Jared was sick, a penetrating, assessing look that tried to strip away the layers of Jared to lay him bare to the bones of who he was, except this time he was getting it wrong because he had the wrong information.

“Misha’s just a friend,” Jared said, meaning to clarify things, but then added, “I can see you know him pretty well too, Jensen.” That wasn’t what he meant to say at all and it came out of his mouth sounding all wrong, full of immediate, knee-jerk, lizard-brain jealousy.

Jensen put his hands up. “I’m going to go and let the two of you deal with this.”

“Jensen—”

“I’ll speak to you later, Jared. Deal with this first. We can talk later.” Jensen’s voice was firm and determined. He had to walk past Misha to get out the door. They barely glanced at each other. Jared looked at the door and considered the wisdom of following him, but Misha’s angry expression stopped him.

“What the hell are you doing, Jared? I thought you were too smart for this.”  

“You don’t know him.”

Misha ran his hands through his hair. “Do you have any idea how naïve that sounds?”

“You don’t know him,” Jared repeated, his best defence because it was true.

“Well, I’ve had his dick in my mouth so maybe I know him a just a little.”

Jared clenched his right fist. It was the first time he’d ever really wanted to hit Misha. “Don’t talk about him like that to me, Misha. Seriously, don’t.”

Misha sat down on the couch. “You’re in love with him,” he said heavily.

Jared sat down at a chair at the table, needing some distance between them. “Yeah, I am.”

They both sat there for a few minutes contemplating it, this information that was new to both of them. “I don’t want you to get hurt, Jared.”

“He’s not going to hurt me.”

“That’s what he does.”

“No, Misha, it really isn’t. Were you already involved with Jack when you slept with him?”

Misha sighed heavily, put his feet up on the coffee table, lay back on the couch, and looked up at the ceiling.

Jared took that as an answer. “You have issues with commitment.”

Misha gave him a hard glance. “We’re not talking about me. We’re talking about you and your inability to take any advice because you’re stubborn as a damn donkey. I told you not to take that job. I told you he was dangerous.”

“You’re the one on the Freud couch so we’re definitely talking about you. You had casual sex with Jensen because you’re scared of being in love with Jack. ”

“I don’t think I can deal with this amateur psychology without beer.”

Jared went to the kitchen and got them a couple of beers. He sat down on the couch next to Misha and put his feet up on the coffee table next to Misha’s. They automatically knocked their bottles together. “Congratulations on being in love, Jared. I hope you live happily ever after, princess.”

“Thanks, Misha, you too. Jack is a good man and he deserves to be happy. Try to be the person who is worthy of him.”

“Asshole,” Misha said with wry humor.

“But you love me,” Jared did the usual rejoinder.

“Against my better judgement.”

“It was just the one time with Jensen, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“Are you sure about him, Jared?”

“Yeah, I’m totally sure.”

Misha looked at him closely. “Does he feel the same way about you?”

Jared thought about that for a few moments. “Yeah, I think he does.”

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter either way - you’re still taking a risk. What if it doesn’t work out? What if he fucks someone else and breaks your heart? What if he gets bored of you?”

“Misha, it’s always a risk. That’s what being in love is. It’s a risky business and it takes guts. Stop being such a damn coward and grow a pair.”

“Asshole,” Misha said again with humor.

Jensen turned and hugged him. “Be happy,” he said softly in Misha’s ear.

Misha hugged him back. He pulled away, drained his beer, put the bottle back on the coffee table, and then stood up. “I’m going home now so you can call your Prince Charming, princess. I guess you know what you’re doing and you’re not a kid anymore. Sorry I totally cock blocked you like that earlier. It looked like you were about to cream your pants when I walked in.”

“Shut up,” Jared responded, laughing, and feeling his face growing warm with embarrassment.

 Once Misha had left, Jared called Jensen. It went straight to voicemail. He sat on the couch, biting his lip and considering what to do. He paced for a few minutes before making up his mind and picking up his car keys. If Jensen wasn’t taking his calls, he’d just have to go and see him.

 

Scene 12: work to do

Spencer answered the door. “Assistant Jared,” he said, leaning against the doorframe, “what can I do for you?”

“Is he here?” Jared asked directly.

Spencer looked him up and down. “Maybe,” he said slowly.

“Don’t play games with me, Spencer. I want to see him. Is he here?”

Spencer replied cryptically, “He is, but I’m not sure you’re going to want to see him.”

“Why?” Jared asked sharply.

“Because he’s drinking. Has been for a couple of hours now.”

Jared frowned. “What do you mean? Jensen doesn’t do that.”

Spencer’s mouth tightened. “He does sometimes, and when he does, it’s because he’s got a reason for it, normally because he’s upset about something. I thought you might know a bit more about that, Assistant Jared.”

“Let me in, Spencer.”

“But you’re not the only reason he’s trying to drink himself into oblivion. Do you know what day it is?”

“No, what does that have to do with anything?”

“It’s the anniversary of his parents’ death. Fourteen years ago today. Jensen likes to commemorate their deaths in a car crash because they were drunk and arguing, by getting drunk himself and arguing with the people around him. It’s pretty ironic really. He’s already threatened to kick me out the house twice in the last couple of hours.”

“Is he okay?” Jared asked inanely, mentally kicking himself for it.

“No, Jared, he isn’t okay. He was in the car with them. Did you know that?”

Jared’s heart clenched at the thought of what that must have done to Jensen. “I want to come in, Spencer. I want to see him.” 

“Okay,” Spencer finally agreed with a sigh and moved out of the doorway to let Jared step inside. He nodded toward the passageway that led to the other side of the house “He’s out at the pool.” He took a set of car keys off a hook on the wall and shrugged into a leather jacket off the coat rack.  “Just know what you’re letting yourself in for. Jensen getting drunk isn’t a pretty sight.”

Jared replied, “I don’t care about that.”

Spencer looked at him closely. “No, Jared, I can see you don’t.” He opened the door and made to leave, then turned and looked at Jared again. “If you love him, which I think you do, then don’t let him push you away. He’ll try to do that. It’s how he protects himself from getting hurt.”

After Spencer had left, Jared went out to the living area at the front of the house. Through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, he could see Jensen sprawled on a lounger, a bottle tipped over on its side next to him.     

Jared went outside. Jensen was lying on his back with his eyes closed, his skin pale and perspiring. Jared kneeled next the lounger and placed his hand gently on Jensen’s chest. “Jensen, you awake?”

Jensen opened his eyes. They were blood-shot and unfocused. He took a couple of seconds to recognize Jared, and when he did, an expression of wariness crossed his face. Jared saw it with unhappiness. He hadn’t realized till this moment how much Jensen lit up every time he saw him. He’d taken it for granted because it had been like that from the start. This teasing, amused, flirtatious look would enter Jensen’s expression every time Jared came into a room. He could remember Sam noticing it once when Jared went into Jensen’s office while they were talking. She’d looked at Jensen with surprise, then with a knowing expression, and finally with something like concern. Jared hadn’t fully understood what it meant at the time.

“What are you doing here, Jared? Shouldn’t you be at your apartment having make-up sex with your boyfriend?”

Jared pulled another lounger closer to the one Jensen was lying on. “One time when I was ten years old these bullies were giving me a hard time on the playground and this kid came over and stopped them. He was older than me but still the smallest kid out of all of us. That was Misha. We’ve been friends for most of my life, and I know you know he’s not my boyfriend, Jensen.”

Grimacing, Jensen clumsily shifted himself a little higher on the lounger. His skin was very pale. “I barely recognized him at first. Maybe if I’d got a look at him naked I would’ve known who he was sooner. I’m not great with faces but I never forget a pretty cock, and Misha Collins has a very pretty cock. You’re missing out, Jared. He’s got those full lips and he’s so pretty when he looks up at you with his big blue eyes and his mouth stuffed full of your cock.”

Jared clenched his hands into fists but kept his tone even and cool when he said, “I know why you do it, Jensen. Why you have so much anonymous, casual sex. It’s because you’re so alone. It’s the same reason why there are always parties here. You don’t want to be alone but you also don’t really want to let people in so you just keep everything anonymous. You can try to hurt me and make me angry but I’m not going anywhere.”

Jensen looked at him for a long time. Jared held his gaze. Eventually, Jensen let his head fall back. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “That was crude. I didn’t mean to say it. I’m a mean drunk, just like my father. It’s why I don’t drink.”

Jared reached out and squeezed his hand, then just held it gently. “I’m so sorry, Jensen.”

Jensen nodded. He frowned, like the simple movement of his head had caused him discomfort. “I feel like I’m going to be sick.”

Jared stood up. “Let’s get you to bed.” Jensen nodded again and tried to sit up. He really was completely wasted. Jared had to help him up and support his weight as they stumbled through the house to Jensen’s bedroom. Jared left him in the en-suite bathroom so he could throw up and went to the kitchen to get him a glass of water.

When he got back to the bedroom, Jensen was lying on the bed. Jared went over and started to unbutton his jeans. Jensen opened his eyes and in an approximation of his usual flirtatious tone said, “Are you trying to take advantage of me in my drunken state, Padalecki?”

Jared smiled. “Lift up.” He pulled Jensen’s jeans and briefs off, and then helped him out of his t-shirt. He leaned over and kissed Jensen on the nipple. “I think I’d prefer you sober for our first time.”

“I’m okay with being taken advantage of. Not sure I’d be able to participate that much, but I’m okay with just lying here and letting you do all the work.”

Jared smiled again and helped Jensen under the covers, then took off his own clothes and got into bed next to him. They were lying on their sides looking at each other. Jared leaned forward and kissed him, just a soft pressing of their lips together. He tasted of toothpaste. “It can wait. We can spend all day in bed tomorrow. In fact, we could spend a week in bed. You’re the boss and I don’t mind being paid for staying in bed with you.”

“Mmm,” Jensen murmured. “That sounds really good.” He rolled over onto his side and Jared positioned himself behind him, his arm around Jensen’s waist. “Mmm,” Jensen murmured contentedly again. Jared kissed him just behind the ear, and then closed his eyes.

Jared woke up the next morning with Jensen between his legs suckling his soft cock into hardness. “Jesus,” he hissed. His heart started to beat wildly in his chest. This was just too much to deal with first thing in the morning. He could feel Jensen smiling.

Jensen adjusted his position as Jared got fully hard. He wrapped his hand around the base of Jared’s dick, squeezing gently as he sucked the head. Jared moaned and dropped his hand to stroke Jensen’s hair. Jensen went down on him, his tongue cushioning the underside and opening his throat to take Jared in deep. Jared clutched the back of Jensen’s head and arched his back. Jensen pulled up and then down, swallowing when Jared was deep in his throat.

“Jesus, Jensen,” Jared hissed again and gripped his shoulder. “I’m going to come if you do that again. It’s been too long and that feels too good.”

Jensen held Jared’s shaft and looked at him with lazy eyes, his tongue lapping at the slit. He kissed the head and then let Jared’s dick go. “You’re not going to come until I’m inside you, watching you. I want to feel you clenching around me. I want you to come on yourself with my cock inside you.”

Jared grinned and said, “You have a filthy mouth, Jensen Ackles.”

Jensen smiled wickedly at him and then pushed Jared’s knee out so he was spread open. He gave Jared a quick, heated glance, before licking his finger and starting to slowly circle Jared’s hole. Jared’s breath caught in his throat. He groaned when Jensen pushed his finger inside. Jensen lifted his eyes and watched him intently, his finger moving gently in and out of Jared’s body. Jared could feel his face go hot, from arousal but also from embarrassment at being watched so closely when he was feeling so exposed. He closed his eyes.

“Look at me, Jared.” Jared opened his eyes. Jensen smiled at him reassuringly. “I want to see what you’re feeling. I want to make you feel good and I want to see it in your face. I’ve wanted this for a long time. Don’t hide it from me.”

“How long?” Jared asked, suddenly wanting to know how genuine Jensen’s flirtation had been when they first started working together, how long he’d really meant it.

Jensen kissed his hipbone, dropped another kiss on the head of Jared’s cock before moving up and lying next to him, placing his hand on his chest. “How long have I wanted you?”

“Yeah.” 

“I told you, Jared. You had me with Rear Window.”

Jared laughed. “In the interview? When you pretty much ignored me? I don’t believe you.”

“I’m not lying. I fell for you the moment you did that cute rendition of Grace Kelly switching on lamps.”

“So my stupid disguise had no effect at all?”

“Oh, it had an effect. I wanted to strip you naked and have sex with you right there on the conference table. I wanted to see you turned on and uninhibited, without your glasses, rather than so careful and controlled.”

Jared laughed. “That wasn’t the intention.”

Jensen shrugged. “I couldn’t show it because then Sam and Mark wouldn’t let me have you. My previous assistant accused me of all kinds of shit when I fired him. They didn’t want a replay of that.”

“Spencer told me about Matt.”  

Jensen nodded. “Took me a while to realize what a psycho Mr. Ripley he was. I don’t think he wanted just to have sex with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was poisoning my coffee. The guy wanted to be me.”

Jared shivered before cupping Jensen’s face and kissing him. Jensen kissed him back deeply. He pinched Jared’s nipple and rubbed the little nub of flesh with his thumb. Jared sighed into his mouth. Jensen pulled back and looked at him. “There’s lube and condoms in the drawer next to you.” Jared’s heart rate kicked up a notch. He nodded and reached over to get them.

Jensen sat up between Jared’s legs and uncapped the lube. He pushed Jared’s knees up to his chest, slicked his fingers and pushed one into Jared, moving gently, letting him get used to it, then adding a second, easing in a third when he was ready. Jared made a keening sound in his throat and broke out in a sweat. Jensen started jerking him off slowly in counterpoint to the movement of his fingers inside Jared’s body, inundating him with sensation.

Jared was on the edge of orgasm when Jensen stopped. “Okay?” he asked, his face flushed with desire. Jared nodded, too drowned in feeling to answer. Jensen leaned over to get a condom, ripped it open and slid it over his cock. Jared pulled him down on top of him and wrapped his legs over Jensen’s.

The first wet slide of Jensen’s hard length inside him made both of them groan. Jensen watched him the whole time as he set up a steady, hard rhythm, and Jared watched him back, allowing his face to broadcast everything he was feeling. It didn’t take long. Jared got there first, shooting up his chest, clenching hard around Jensen inside him. Jensen orgasmed soon afterwards, his face transformed into an expression of physical ecstasy.   

Later, lying with his head on Jared’s chest, Jensen said lazily, “This is when I wished I still smoked,”

Jared stopped stroking his hair. “You smoked?”

Jensen nodded. “Didn’t you?”

“Nope, never have.”

“You’re such a Boy Scout.”

“I don’t think you can say that to someone who’s had your cock up their ass.”

Jensen laughed. “Who’s got the filthy mouth now?”

Jared tweaked Jensen’s ear. “I think it’s contagious and you passed it on to me.”

Jensen sat up and kissed him. “It’s a beautiful, sexy, dirty mouth,” he murmured. “I love listening to every smart word and brilliant idea that comes out of it. I love kissing it. And I’m looking forward to putting my cock in it as soon as I can gather the stamina to get hard again.”

Jared laughed. “Can I have some coffee first?”

Jensen shook his head. “Not unless you’re going to blow me in the kitchen while we’re making it.”

“I’m surprised you even have any stamina after how much you drank last night.”

A shadow crossed Jensen’s face. “I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”

Jared stroked his cheek. “Don’t be sorry. I want to know every part of you, Jensen.”

The brilliance of Jensen’s smile made Jared’s heart skip a beat.

Jensen suddenly kicked aside the covers and jumped out of the bed. “Come on, Padalecki, much as I’d like to spend the rest of the day in bed with you, I’m not actually paying you to lie around naked, no matter how gorgeous you look. We’ve got work to do and a movie to make.”

Jared smiled up at him, could feel a future stretch before them that promised everything he’d ever wanted.

THE END