"Should I go with the purple or yellow shirt?"
Jensen looks almost immediately because that's a question that he never wants to hear. Ever. Especially when it's from Jared and related to clothes. They're gearing up to relaunch Lucky's because while Tom's absence has improved things, it still isn't where Jensen needs it to be before he finally leaves Jared to it and gets back to proving to his boss that his head is in the game.
"Neither," he says, making sure to put extra emphasis on his answer. "Don't you have anything black. Or blue. You know normal colors?"
Jared pokes his head out of his closet and raises an eyebrow. "You mean boring colors?" They've had this argument many times. Jensen's the kind of person who'd never be caught dead in shorts and Jared's the kind of guy that lives in shorts.
Shorts come up a lot for them.
"No, I mean standard colors that people wear when they don't want to look odd."
Usually, Jensen wouldn't fight him on this. His Momma always told him that if you don't think you can win an argument you shouldn't engage and he's always selectively listened to her.
However, this is kind of his domain. He tells his clients what they can do to run their business in the best way they can. Jared's all but fought him every step of the way and Jensen's tired. He's also self-aware enough to know that he has to nip this in the bud before it destroys their relationship.
"You know what?" he adds. "Wear what you want. After tomorrow night, Lucky's is no longer my problem."
He's been dropping hints here and there, mentioning that he's not going to be helping Jared out anymore. Lucky's is finally no longer operating at a loss and that's the best Jensen can do. Jared has to be one of the most stubborn people he's ever worked with and he's not even getting paid, nor does he have the contract with Derek that he initially wanted. Right now Derek is the last thing on his mind. Being with Jared has made him learn firsthand about the lengths that one goes to when they're in love with someone. Hell, sometimes it feels like he's more interested in keeping Lucky's afloat than Jared's ever been.
"You'll still be able to look over the books and stuff, right?" Jared asks. "I know that I have a new manager now and he went to business school and everyt--"
Jensen shakes his head as he interrupts, "No. I don't think you realise how much time I've put into Lucky's, Jared. And you might think that I'm doing it because of your uncle but let's face it, he's not going to hire me. I'd have to be an idiot to not know that. I stuck around and helped you out because I didn't want you to fail and as far as I'm concerned, I'm done."
Jared's eyes widen but Jensen doesn't bother to clarify his words. Right now he's just irritated because lately it feels like everything is about Jared – about his business, about how his family doesn’t taking him seriously or about how Jensen can help him.
Perhaps it's selfish of him but Jensen needs to start focusing on his own career again, needs to keep working hard if he wants to achieve his dream of opening his own firm.
He stands up from Jared's bed and leans over to grab his jacket. They've been talking about moving in together but he's suddenly glad that he's still got his pristine apartment. In this moment, Jared's haphazard apartment is making him feel smothered. He has to get out of here because he says something that he can't take back.
"I thought we were doing dinner?" Jared asks. Jensen can tell that he wants to say more but he's grateful that he doesn't. The sad look in his eyes tugs at Jensen's chest and he starts to feel his resolve weaken because he still feels this need to help and... well, even if he walks out now, he knows that it'll be on his mind like a nagging sense that he's left something unfinished.
The thing is that he doesn't think he'll ever be finished if he continues and that's what scares him.
Some distance is needed here and he has to be the one to create it.
"Maybe another night?" he replies. "We can go after the relaunch."
Jared merely nods and Jensen leaves silently, ignoring the way that he desperately wants to stay.
The next morning finds Jensen arriving at work an hour later than he normally would. Luckily for him, he's that much of a workaholic that he likes to reach the office at seven even though he doesn't start until nine. Mel's not there when he arrives, so he pulls into his usual spot and grabs his still-warm coffee from the drink holder and makes his way over to the door that leads to the stairs. He moves like he's on auto-pilot, so focused on taking each step that he walks straight into someone. His coffee topples over and judging by the way the strong aroma suddenly hits his nostrils, it's spilled on the poor person that he's bumped into.
"We've got to stop bumping into each other like this."
Jensen's head snaps upwards as Jared's voice sounds. Sure enough, there's a large brown stain on his... blue dress shirt.
"What are you doing here?" Jensen asks hurriedly, stepping forward to wipe at the coffee stain ineffectively. "Sorry about the coffee... uh, I should have a spare shirt in my office if you need it."
Jared nods silently and Jensen turns to lead the way.
By the time they reach the office Jensen's had enough time to observe that Jared's gotten a haircut, shaved and somehow found a place that sells size gigantic suits. He looks good...but, there's something uneasy about the sudden transformation.
Jensen will admit to being useless at relationships but he's listened to Danneel yammer on about her boyfriends enough to know that changing yourself for someone is futile.
"I'll just get the shirt for you," he says abruptly when he realizes that they've been standing in awkward silence for a few minutes. He moves towards his desk and unlocks the bottom drawer and pulls out a brand new shirt that's still in the packaging. It's probably a couple of sizes too small – Jared's got broader shoulders than him – but it should fit for the ride home.
"Thanks," Jared says when he accepts the shirt. He tucks it under his arm and starts to rub at his wrist phantomly, almost as if he's not aware that he's doing it.
"Your wrist still playing up?" Jensen asks. Even though Chad said it was just a sprain, there have been some instances where it gets stiff and sore and Jensen always feels guilty when it happens.
"No...actually, I was up til late using my laptop," Jared admits with a shaky laugh. "I was looking at the numbers for Lucky's and trying to make sense of it all. I know that Gary's a good manager but...this is my livelihood – I should have a better handle on things.
"And it took me leaving for you to figure that out?"
What? Jensen's not about to let this go easily.
Jared shrugs. "No, it took you finally realising that you can't micromanage everything for me to figure this out. I want you to spend time at work and do...whatever it is that you do. I've wanted that all along, but you're always the one who wants a progress report, or constant updates and in the end I just let you do it. But you're supposed to be my boyfriend not my consultant.
"Sometimes I don't want to discuss business. Sometimes I just want to wear purple and yellow shirts without you relating it to Lucky's somehow and...I guess what I'm saying is that my job isn't my life. But yours is."
"Oh, please, how is my job my life?" Jensen snaps. Jared's got to be fucking kidding him. "I am just trying to help you get out of the hole you're in. Is that so wrong?"
Jared's shoulders slump and he places the shirt on the desk. "It's not but I think you were right last night. You need to be done with Lucky's if we're going to work. And that means that you can't come to the relaunch."
Jensen's heart skips so hard that he has to take a seat.
He's spent the last two weeks planning the relaunch, like hell he's going to miss it.
"Can't I be done after the relaunch?" he practically whines. "Please."
Jared smiles a little, not quite the smug smirk he wears when he's teasing Jensen but it's approaching that stage. "No. Seriously. This is just something I need to do by myself. So, Jensen Ackles, performance consultant can't come but...maybe Jensen Ackles my boyfriend can."
There's a beat before Jensen picks up the shirt and throws it at Jared's head.
"You're an asshole, you know that?"
Jared rubs at the sore spot and glares at Jensen. "Actually, I thought what I said was kind of sweet. And very relevant to the argument that we're trying to resolve."
It was sweet, and it is relevant but Jensen's always reacted badly to romantic statements. He's a dick that way.
"I know, I'm sorry, I just...I really want to be there and not just as the guy who's set it all up, but the guy who's proud that you're doing such a good job with Lucky's."
Jared snorts and mutters something under his breath. A door slams in the distance and Jensen thinks that it's either Mel arriving or the cleaner leaving.
He shakes his head free of the distraction, "What was that?"
"I said that you're just saying that," Jared repeats himself. "Usually you're good at telling me what I need to do better. Or what I've done wrong and...I guess I've been feeling like I'm not the person that you want me to be lately. And then I feel stupid because fuck you, I don't need to change for you and."
Jensen eyes Jared silently while he tries to process all of that. He knows that he judges harshly and he's hard to please but usually he tells himself that it's just business – it's not personal. With Jared, those lines have been blurred. The business and personal swirl together and he has to be mindful of that. Somewhere along the way, he just began to treat Jared like a client and now he's created this – someone who feels like they need to mould themselves to fit an ideal.
"I'm sorry that I made you feel that way, Jared," Jensen tells him seriously. "I've been frustrated myself because it feels like you push me on every single thing and...I thought you were just taking me for a ride. I didn't realise that I was treating you like just another client. Please don't feel like I want you to change or hell, become like me. I'm assholish enough for the both of us, okay? Just be you. And wear your purple and yellow shirts."
"Really, you’d let me attend a work event in purple or yellow?" Jared asks with apparent disbelief.
Jensen rolls his eyes, he might be judgemental, but what does Jared think he's going to do? Forcefully remove his clothing and dress him like he's a toddler? "I don't need to let you do anything, Jared. And I'm kind of hurt that you think that I would enforce something on you. I've never treated you like that."
Jensen doesn't do this, he never admits it when his feelings are hurt or his ego's bruised. That he is so freely tells him that it's probably going to weigh on him for a while.
Jared must sense a change in his demeanour because he steps forward and sits across him Jensen, dragging his chair forward so that their directly facing each other.
"I know that you wouldn't, it's just...I guess I'm used to it from my parents, my family," Jared admits. "If I told you half of what they say to me, you'd probably send them naked kissograms like you did to Chad that one time."
Jensen allows himself to smirk mentally. That'll teach Chad to fuck with his throw pillows. Going back to Jared and his parents, Jensen allows himself to exhale quietly. He's never met them but he knows that they have reservations about the way Jared runs the place. It's normal, the thinks, but the constant criticism is bound to have an effect on Jared, especially back when he was heavily in debt.
"Screw them," Jensen says simply. "You keep doing what you feel is best. And you might fuck up, you might burn it to the ground but at least you'll have done it honestly."
Jared taps Jensen's desk anxiously and begins to glare at him, "I get that you're trying to be nice but burn it down to the ground, really? What have I told you about putting negative thoughts into the universe?"
Jensen laughs a little but holds his hands up in a silent apology.
"You know what?"
"What?" Jared asks. "I don't like that look in your eye... it reminds of that time you wanted me to follow you to IKEA and then set up that coffee table that you bought. To this day, I'm still finding splinters in my ass."
Jensen rolls his eyes. "You big baby. Anyway, we should go shopping. I bet you that I can find you a decent purple shirt to wear tonight."
Jared looks at him blankly. "What about yellow?"
Jensen groans inwardly because really, buying a purple shirt is going to hurt enough. Yellow will just break him. However, this isn't his night and....it's not up to him.
Relationships are all about compromise, letting the other person be who they are, and loving them despite their flaws.
Jensen's more than ready to do that.
"I'm going to pick up a nice yellow shirt for myself," Jensen says in what he hopes isn't a pained tone.
Jared's practically got hearts in his affectionately gleaming eyes when he says, "Aww, you’d do that for me."
That and much more, Jensen thinks.
Out loud he says, "Sure. But this makes us even for what happened to the moose head."
"Oh, hell, no," Jared replies. "You will be paying for that for a very long time and I can't even believe that--"
Jensen smiles softly as he tunes out Jared's protests. It hits him that he suddenly feels so much lighter now that they're not fighting anymore.
It's only been six months but Jensen's not so sure that he's ever going to be free of Jared.
He's pretty sure that he doesn't want to be.