Jared's bed and breakfast is...quirky. It's situated in an old, twelve bedroom house on the outskirts of the city and it's the kind of place that Jensen would normally avoid. Not because he's uppity or judgemental but because he's - well okay, maybe he is uppity and judgemental. Either way, this place is far too gaudy for his tastes. However, he's finally made it to date number four with a guy (not that he wanted to but whatever, he's just going to go with it) so he's not in a hurry to ruin it.
However, Jared seems to have other ideas because date number four is a boat ride and there's nowhere for Jensen to hide when Jared asks him what he thinks of the bed and breakfast. Usually, he'd come up with some kind of stock answer about how nice it is but all he can think about is the giant moose head affixed to the wall in the dining room. The red and green wallpaper and the horrible brown carpet (seriously hasn't Jared ever heard of tiles?).
So he flounders and says, "It's great."
The thing is that Jensen's always been a terrible liar. There was that time when he ate the last brownie and denied it vehemently until he wiped at his mouth, saw the brown smudge on his hand and shrugged. The universe has this way of making his lies redundant within five seconds.
Jared frowns at him and Jensen starts to wonder just how strong of a swimmer he is. Anything is better than being in the face of the hurt expression that Jared's currently wearing.
"It's... really great?" Elaboration has never been his strong point either but hey, he's trying.
"You're lying," Jared says. He sits back and folds his arms like a petulant child. Jensen looks out at the clear water beneath the small boat and watches as the wind causes a soft ripple. Maybe Jared will get over his comment in a few minutes and they can just sit back and enjoy--
"You know, you still owe me a free consultation," Jared adds. "If it's so terrible, maybe you can work your magic."
Jensen's a performance consultant and normally, he'd be all over Jared's business like a rash on skin that's recently been in contact with rabies. However, he only over helps people that aren't two months away from going out of business. Jared's bed-and-breakfast has non-starter written all over it.
"I thought we agreed that it would be a conflict of interest," Jensen says in the nicest tone he can muster. "I'd rather not, you know, mess us up over business."
Jared's sitting up now and he rolls his eyes dismissively. "We've been on four dates, and quite frankly, only three and a half of them have been any good. I'd rather not go bankrupt than rest everything on the fate of a barely-there relationship."
Jensen's never been one to mince his words, and he always hates it when people are overly sensitive but right now he's actually hurt by Jared's words. Sure, they're not Brad and Jen – or wait, Brad and Angelina – or wait. Well. Maybe Jared has a point but he doesn't have to like it. What he does like is Jared. He just doesn't really know how to show it.
"Well, fine, I guess I can take a look at the place," he says in lieu of making Jared aware of how hurt he is.
If Jared notices anything different about his demeanor, he doesn't comment on it.
Lucky's Lucky Inn.
That's the name of the bed and breakfast, which Jensen thinks is confusing. Inn implies that Jared is offering more than a place to stay and an early morning meal. A quick perusal of the menu proves that he is. Which is weird because the dinner service is completely empty. While that's probably because the food sucks (as he learnt during date number one), it still means that Jared's burning through a ton of money every night.
When he puts this to Jared, the other man just sighs heavily.
"Look, I'm good with criticisms, but just give me your suggestions and then I'll tell my Uncle that you helped me and you can go and work with him. After all, that's why you're still here, right?"
"I'm still here because I really like you," Jensen retorts quickly. Embarrassment washes over him when he realises that he's just blurted out something so personal. This really isn't him. He doesn't get attracted to small business owners who wear flowery shirts and ride bicycles everywhere, and he certainly doesn't date them.
"Oh," Jared says. "I didn't know that. My uncle told me that if you helped me, you stood to win this huge contract with him."
Fucking Derek, Jensen thinks. Fuck him and his stupid restaurants. But not really because he would still be a huge client for Jensen.
Anyway, Derek isn't important right now. What's important is Jared and his... lucky inn.
"I have a confession to make," Jensen tells Jared, because someone has to be honest here. "I kind of think this place is dead in the water. You have minimal guests and maximum waste. There's no way you're not going to operate at a loss. Quite frankly, I don't think I can help you."
Jared's eyes sadded and gosh, Jensen hopes that's not a hint of tears that he sees. Jared doesn't reply and Jensen starts to feel his conscience tugging away at him. Perhaps it wouldn't kill him to make an exception this one time.
"I suppose that's fair enough," Jared replies. "If you say you can't help then I can't force you." He kicks at an empty chair just as Jensen wonders why he even agreed to this in the first place. His mind was already made up but he still went through the charade of going through the books and the entire operation process just to essentially confirm what he already knew. There's no way that his boss will let him take this on and there's no way that Jared can afford to pay him.
"How much do you stand to lose if this place goes under?" Jensen asks.
Jared puffs out his cheeks and exhales in exasperation. "A lot. We're talking hundreds of thousands and that's not even taking my loans and credit card debt into consideration."
Jensen's shoulders sink because while his brain his saying run, his heart is saying that... this is a person that needs his help. And that freaks Jensen out because being a ruthless businessman is kind of his thing. He doesn't do things because his heart is in it, he does them because money is in it.
This non-relationship with Jared is fucking with his head.
"I can maybe go home and crunch some numbers and see how I can help you," he finds himself saying. "My boss probably won't go for it, but I guess I can give her the hard sell – y'know, mention that your Uncle has a lot of business for us if we can help you salvage this place."
Jared laughs gently. "He's just trying to get me out of this whole because he borrowed me money. So don't go thinking he's a softie."
Jensen grits his teeth because he doesn't need to be told that. He's been schmoozing Derek for months now and all he's got to show for it is a fling with the man's nephew.
"Well, even if my boss says no, I'll do what I can," Jensen says, and he means it. He can tell that Jared's put a lot of hard work into this place. He can see it in the assortment of pictures affixed to the wall. This place has heart and it's hard to find that nowadays and goodness – when did he become such a sap?
"Thank you," Jared says softly, with a grin lighting up his face. "I promise that I'll make it worth your while."
It hits Jensen then that Jared never really responded to him basically admitting that he like liked him. If he liked Jensen back he'd have said something right? Instead of throwing him a lewd wink and basically promising to thank him with sexual favours (yeah, they've hooked up a few times. So what? Jensen's never been a saving himself kind of guy).
He snorts humorously. "Thanks, but I generally never mix business with pleasure. So this – us – would have to stop."
Jared's face falls and Jensen starts to feel like shit, but he's not about to have his heart trampled on. He's not made of stone; he has feelings. And he can't allow himself to get tangled up in a messy relationship with a client. That's never been the way that he does things and he doesn't plan on changing that.
"Jensen, I...I like what we're doing," Jared protests with a ferocity that Jensen would have appreciated five fucking minutes ago.
However, it's too late; his decision is made.
"It wouldn't have worked out anyway," he says easily. "You're easy breezy and I'm a jackass in a suit. We'd probably kill each other. Or end up hating each other and right now my priority is helping my friend save his business."
Jared's lips press into a thin line but he doesn't argue. He just stands there silently as Jensen packs up his stuff and leaves.
Jensen's boss is a friendly woman named Mel. He's been working for her since he left school and since she was just one woman in an office. Now she's got several offices and he's one her top-earners. She's also a good friend and she laughs her head off when Jensen tells her about Jared, only stopping when he begins to glare at her.
"Sorry," she says contritely, even though there's still amusement in her brown eyes. "But you have to admit that it's a little funny."
Jensen's got fifteen messages and two miscalls that are anything but funny.
"I haven't broken up with anyone since college," he whines as he flicks through the text messages that Jared sent him. "Can I not have a little sympathy?"
Mel flicks her long chestnut her back from her face and says, "Nope. That'll teach you to jump into bed with any old guy."
He knows that she's just joking but the comment hurts all the same because Jared isn't just any old guy. He's sweet, funny and a little too snarky for Jensen's tastes but annoyingly enough he actually finds that endearing. Jared's a great guy and the last thing that Jensen wants to be is just friends with him.
However, what Jared needs is someone to help him save his business. Not a messy relationship with someone who doesn't really know how to be in one.
"Anyway, speaking of Loverboy, I don't think it's in our best interests to take him on," Mel says. She picks up a couple of folders and passes them over to Jensen. "Have a look at these and tell me what you can do. And you know, if you want to help him out in your own time, I don't have an issue with that. Just make sure that it doesn’t affect your work. And that you keep your dick in your pants."
"Mel!" Jensen exclaims, because friend or not, he really doesn't need his boss to be talking about his dick.
She just laughs at him and Jensen wonders what he did to deserve a life where nobody takes him seriously.
Jensen finally manages to message Jared back and sets up a meeting in his office. He's gone over some of Jared's expenses and seen where he can cut things, or alternatively generate some extra income. The only thing is that he's not sure how either of them are going to pay for any of it. Jensen's got some contacts but those only stretch so far. The best he can do right now is refer one his clients to book the place for their annual retreat but that gives them a week to somehow transform the place. He's not sure that one week is enough; hell fifty two might not even be enough.
"Uh, Jensen," Jared says from where he's sitting across the desk, in a fucking suit for Pete's sake. It's like he doesn't want Jensen to be able to concentrate. "Are you okay? You were muttering to yourself?"
Jensen blinks and he realizes that he was in fact muttering to himself. "I'm fine. I'm just compiling my notes on LLI."
Jared wrinkles his nose in a way that Jensen definitely doesn't find adorable. "Can we just call it Lucky's? LLI makes it sound like a bank."
Jensen rolls his eyes but he makes a mental note. "So, are you okay? Did you get my email?"
"Yes, I got it," Jared replies testily. "Did you get my messages?"
Jensen wants to hide under his desk because Jared's messages are less about Lucky's and more about wanting to know why Jensen broke up with him, a topic that he really doesn't want to go into.
It seems that the cocktail that is his life has already had a little bit of business and pleasure mixed into it and there's no running away from it, but he's resilient.
He's going to keep running.
"I did but I--"
Jared cuts him off by slamming his hand on the desk. It rocks unsteadily but Jared doesn't even appear to notice. "You know you've got some nerve. One minute you like me and the next you're breaking up with me? What kind of asshole does that?"
"The kind that never heard the other guy say that he likes him back!" Jensen cringes at his own words and leans back in his seat. He rubs his hand over the small of his neck in an attempt to regain his bearings.
"Well, maybe that guy was caught unaware by the asshole saying he liked him," Jared snaps. "Did you ever consider that?"
Jensen didn't, but that's besides the point.
"I'm sorry that I hurt you but if we're going to be working together, then it's for the best."
It's not what Jensen wants to say but it's what he has to say.
"Fine," Jared says angrily. "Let's talk business then."
Jensen's always been a pushover when it comes to people he likes. He's bought his friend Danneel basketball tickets more times than he can count, and he pays for his friend Chris' band to get some studio time when they need it. Hell, he even bought his Mom that Tiffany bracelet she not so subtly accidentally emailed him. It's a small list but... he thinks that Jared might already be on it.
That's probably why he doesn't have Dr Murray removed when he barges into Jensen's office two days after his and Jared's contentious meeting.
"You know, I knew you were a dick, but thanks for proving it to me," the doctor spits out.
Jensen's so startled than all he can blurt out is, "And you are?"
"Chad. Jared's best friend," Chad retorts. "And I'm here to kick your ass."
Jensen can't help it, he bursts out laughing. It's so bad that he can feel the tears streaming down his face.
"You really are nasty piece of work aren't you," Chad tells him. "Jared's over at my place, completely wrecked because he keeps meeting guys that dick him around and you think it's some big joke?"
The laughter dies because the thought of Jared being upset is a little... well, it doesn't sit right with Jensen. He wants to find the person that's upsetting him and kick their ass but he knows that person is him.
"I...look, I'm sorry that he's hurt but saving his business is far more important than him being in a relationship with me. I'm not the best partner and I just think that he should remain focused on what matters? I'm trying to be responsible here. Is that so wrong?"
Chad sighs, and finally stops looking as if he wants to rip Jensen's head off. There's some understanding in his eyes and Jensen's glad that he's not laughing at his plight – seriously, all of his friends seem to find this predicament extremely amusing.
"It's not wrong," Chad replies, "but it's not right either. Jared's an adult. He can make his own decisions and... you kind of took that choice away from him and you hurt him. He might come across as this strong person to you but he's been hurt before and what you did didn't help matters. So, you can hide behind being responsible or you can do the right thing. It's up to you."
Even though Jensen thinks Chad is an idiot, he concludes that the man is right. And let's face it, on top of all of the drama and terse emails he kind of misses Jared.
Jensen doesn't miss people so this says it all really.
What he and Jared had – have – isn't over by a long shot and he owes it to Jared to give them a chance.
So he does.
"Where's my moose head?" Jared asks when he steps into his freshly repainted dining room. Jensen's not really good at saying sorry so he tends to just throw money at the situation and ducks any flying missiles. In this case he's tentatively hoping that the missile comes in the form of some hot make-up sex. He frowns at himself because did he really just think that?
"In the basement," Jensen says. "And not the garbage where I really wanted to put it. Anyway, surprise?"
He's replaced the red and green wallpaper with a simple cream and added a few ornaments along the mantelpieces. He also ordered fresh white linen tablecloths because the red ones were kind of awful. He really needs to explain the importance of colour schemes to Jared but first...he owes him an apology.
"So, Chad came to my office and yelled at me."
Jensen will admit that he's really bad at saying sorry.
"He told me," Jared says and bless him, he still looks adorably confused by his new and improved dining room. "What....who paid for all of this?"
Jensen takes a deep breath and says, "I did. And before you say anything, this isn't charity. Just an investment in the good job that I intend on doing with Lucky's."
Jared smiles, but it doesn't reach his eyes. Despite the fact that he looks really good in his black Henley shirt and stonewashed jeans, there's something off about him. It's like his sparkle is gone and Jensen would do anything to bring it back.
This time he doesn't even question the thought, he just rolls with it.
"Thank you," Jared says. "It looks great. And when we put the moose head ba--"
Jensen cuts him off immediately. "Unless that moose was called Lucky that thing is not coming back here. This isn't a waterhole in Bumfuck, Nowhere, but a place where people – with all kinds of different backgrounds – are staying. Do you even read your Yelp! reviews?"
Jared stares at him. "I have Yelp! Reviews?
The utter look of confusion on his face causes Jensen to pinch the bridge of his nose – he's got a lot of work to do.
"We'll get to that later," he says. "Right now, I want to talk about...us." He beckons for Jared to sit a table and he follows suit. He almost wishes that there were other people around but all they have for company is the smell of fresh paint and pair of dirty overalls in the corner.
"I'm sorry that I just broke things off because of some stupid insecurity," Jensen says because that's what it was. Sure, he said all of that guff about mixing business and pleasure but he's not a choirboy. He's dipped his pen into that inkwell more than once. Still, those were just meaningless flings.
This is different and that kind of scares him.
"No, it's not...it's not your fault entirely," Jared admits. He picks at the white tablecloth and slowly looks up at Jensen. This time there's emotion clouding his blue-green eyes and Jensen starts to see a hint of the brightness that usually resides there. "I panicked when you said that you liked me. In my head you're this confident, smart, but sometimes stupid guy, and I'm just a dork with a business that I'm currently running into the ground. I thought you were just messing around with me. I don't... I don't have the best track record when it comes to relationships."
"Neither do I," Jensen confesses. "And I'm not stupid."
Jared grins at him, and it's his grin, the one that's slightly smug and all too full of amusement. "You kind of are, but I kind of like it."
"So...are we back together then?" Jensen asks because truth be told, he doesn't really remember the protocols of dating.
"Give me my moose head and then I'll answer that question," Jared says teasingly even though his body language basically screaming yes. At least Jensen thinks it is. He's not at sure what's even happening, both now and during the past few days. Or, hell, even further back to the day that he first bumped into Jared.
"You're never getting that thing back," he insists vehemently because honestly? The moose head seriously freaks him out.
Jared snorts and quirks an eyebrow. "Not even if I make it worth your while?"
This time Jensen really can't say no to that, not when all he's wanted to do is kiss Jared stupid since he got there.
Naturally, he gives in and later when he's sweaty and sated, he wonders how mad Jared will be if he 'accidentally' burns the damn thing before he can keep up with his end of the deal.