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Runaway Sensation

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December, 2008


"I had just about everything.

"I know people always say that, especially after all the rise and hits and where are they nows, but I really did. I had money, fame, friends... I had a career that I had once thought was only going to happen in my dreams. Number One after Number One, naked girls breaking into my hotel room.

"To this day, I still remember what it was like, getting the contracts, finding out someone wanted to sign me. God, I thought my heart had stopped, and maybe I was having one of those near-death hallucinations. Or maybe it was one of my friends, being a dick, you know? But then, once I got past that, it still took me a while to accept that it was real. That it might actually happen. The Big Time. And I'm not sure if it ever stopped being scary as all fuck, but the perks of living life as a rock star sure made it easy to forget that I always wanted to puke before going on stage.

"My mornings didn't start until noon unless I wanted to get up, and my personal assistant used to be a barista. The only things I had to do were show up for my concerts, and write a few songs, which was all I'd ever really wanted out of life. Getting paid to do it was just a bonus, you know?"

"Hang on," the reporter for Rolling Stone says, holding up her hand. She's young, but smart and determined, which the only reason she's here now, talking to this rock star that disappeared off the radar only a few short months ago, right off the stage between show and encore. It couldn't have been easy for her, tracking down friends, pulling information out of them, and it doesn't take a genius to guess that she's got to be damn good at her job.

The whole time they've been talking, she's been taking notes of his clothes, his face, his mannerisms, all while the digital read out on her voice recorder keeps right on ticking by. Her hair is dark brown and twisted up into a bun that's probably tight enough to pull back her eyes, and her clothes are neat, but comfortable; faded blue jeans and a black turtleneck sweater that's snug against her trim form and maybe a bit too designer for this dingy diner just north of the Texas-Oklahoma border.

"If you had so much, if everything was so perfect..." she says, trailing off.

He arches an eyebrow, a smirk definitely tugging at his full lips. "Yeah?"

Big rigs rumble by on the two-lane highway just outside the window, and somewhere in the kitchen, someone's listening to a tinny radio, the static-filled broadcast of an old Hank Williams song the only music in the place. She leans back in her side of the booth and crosses her arms, copying the raised eyebrow. "Why'd you give it all up? You just walked away from everything you could ever want... why?"

Jensen Ackles laughs, but it's a kind of hollow-sounding to the both of them. It probably won't even pick up on the audio, but right now she can see how the smile doesn't fill his face, and how there's more than a fair share of ghosts in Jensen's eyes. He shifts in his seat, picking at imaginary lint balls on his flannel shirt, and avoids looking at the reporter for as long as he can.

"It seemed like the thing to do," he says after a while, shrugging.

"Nuh-uh," she says, shaking her head. "No one just arbitrarily decides to walk away from a life even they admit has everything. People still want to know about you. Why do you think I'm here? Rolling Stone isn't exactly VH1, you know, and we're a little early for a run of 'I Love the Oh-Thousands.'"

That gets a snort out of Jensen, and he shakes his head, green eyes going distant for a moment. He doesn't look much like the rock star in the stock photos, not any more. Gone is the perfectly styled and expertly highlighted hair; it's naturally light brown now, and tousled like Jensen's picked up a habit of running a hand through his hair. The designer clothes that cost more that what some people make in a week are gone, too, and he's wearing worn and loved jeans, frayed through wear and tear and unraveling a bit at the cuffs from scuffing on the ground. His t-shirt, once black, is now a slightly softer shade from being washed about a dozen times too many, and he's wearing a pair of beige work boots, dirty and scuffed and looking supremely comfortable.

He's got stubble still, but instead of neat and trimmed like the style should be, it looks more like he just hadn't gotten around to shaving that morning, interview or not. Even Jensen's sprawl in the booth of the diner, all loose-limbed and leaning against the corner so he can casually watch the other people around them, is different. It's natural and relaxed despite the turn of conversation, and nothing at all like the carefully calculated poses of seduction he'd once been coached to take at any opportunity.

But his face is still the same, maybe even more intense around the eyes than before, and the reporter doesn't try to stop herself from writing all the details down, though if it's for the article, her blog, or her diary, Jensen doesn't know. Or care.

He sighs and smiles. It's not a happy smile. "You wanted to know why I walked away," he says finally, turning to face her a little more, looking at her instead of the rest of the diner, and her cheeks go a little pink at that.

"You had the perfect life, you said," she prompts. "Everything you ever wanted."

Jensen shakes his head sharply at that. "Almost everything," he corrects her, but doesn't say anything else.

"Okay," she says finally, leaning forward on the table, sleeve landing in a puddle of old pancake syrup, not that she notices. "I'll bite. What was it you wanted that fame and fortune couldn't get?"

"Now you're asking the right questions," Jensen says with a grin, and leans over to whisper a secret in her ear.


November, 2005


"Jensen, sweetheart, I've got fantastic news for you! Wake up!"

The pounding on his motel room door yanks Jensen out of an all-around awesome dream that he totally forgets right away, so he's more than a little cranky when he opens it up for Sera, who's disgustingly awake considering that it's not quite nine in the morning yet. Which, as far as Jensen's concerned, is still the middle of the night, and should be kept free of perky divorcees-turned-managers.

There's a big ball of fiery torment blazing behind Sera, so Jensen just grunts and walks away, leaving the door open for her. He grabs a stretched-out white t-shirt and pulls it on, more decent than just the faded green boxers he'd been sleeping in, and slants Sera a look through his lashes. If the smell of coffee is not just a morning-induced hallucination, then whatever Sera has to say might be worth listening to.

Otherwise, Jensen would just have to find a way to explain to his mom why her friend died abruptly in the middle of Nevada, an empty coffee cup jammed in her mouth.

Fortunately, Sera knows Jensen well enough to know that it's useless to try and talk business when he can't get his eyes to open the same amount on both sides. Instead, she just presses a cardboard cup of wonder into his hands. The smell is warm and rich, and Jensen's stomach perks up happily.

"You may live," he says, and sips the coffee. It's surprisingly fresh, if kind of bland, and Jensen doesn't recognize the convenience store logo on the side, but it's coffee and therefore made of win. Especially at this hour.

Sera waits until he's had a good five or six sips, and by then she's almost vibrating out of her shoes. She has her long dark hair up in a bushy ponytail and her sunglasses jammed up over her forehead, and she's wearing her usual floor-length skirt with a long-sleeved sweatshirt, the only concession to the winter really needed with the weather they've been having. A part of Jensen wants to keep her waiting, but the more the caffeine kicks in, the more he kind of wants to know what's going on. So he gives in and waves the hand not wrapped around his coffee, letting Sera know he's got enough brain cells firing now.

Instead, Sera just digs around in the giant bag that she claims is a purse, and pulls out a flat paper bag. "You wouldn't believe how hard it was to find a Staples out here," she says, and hands the bag to Jensen.

He has to put his coffee down to open the bag and pull out the papers inside, but by now even his coffee addiction is taking a backseat. Sera's watching him like his mom used to when he'd open his gifts from Santa when he was a kid, and damn if the excitement isn't contagious.

When he pulls out the papers and reads the title, Jensen's pretty sure his mouth is hanging open. He reads it again, and then starts scanning the pages, not really sure he can believe it, but there it is. In black and white fax, in his hands. "Holy shit, Sera."

"It's just a preliminary copy," she's already explaining. "They're sending the official one to your mom's house in Richardson, since we're heading back to Texas for the holidays, anyhow. But it's for real, Jensen; Rock On Records wants to sign you!"

Jensen's fingers go kind of numb as he stands there, staring at something he's been dreaming of since the first time he nailed a D chord. It seems kind of weird that he should be getting everything he's ever wanted here and now, in a Nevada hotel room at eight-thirty in the morning, his ex-babysitter the only one to share it with. But that about sums up his life until now, and Jensen just knows, he can feel it in the middle of his gut, that everything's going to change now.