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Another Start

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Title: Another Start
Author: [info]joans23
Pairing: Jared/Jensen
Rating: Soft R
Words: 7,000
Summary: This was supposed to be their happily ever after, but life turned out a little differently than they planned. Despite how painful it is, Jared decides to try and reclaim his life and Jensen ... well, Jensen just wants Jared back.
Notes: Written for [info]spn_meanttobe. HUGE thanks to [info]blincolin and [info]kelleigh for their awesome beta work. Title and cut from Bryan Adams. (Yes, I really am that cheesy.)

Jared watched his husband take the last sip and set his empty champagne glass down on the waiter's tray as he passed. Walking over to Jared, the crisp line of Jensen's tux drew every eye in the room to him, but Jensen only had eyes for Jared.

Taking Jared's hand, Jensen led him onto the dance floor. His arm circled Jared's waist, slipping under his jacket as he drew him closer. His hand rested warm and safe on the small of Jared's back as Jared placed his own on Jensen's shoulder. The lights dimmed, but not before they caught on the new gold band on his left hand. On cue, the band starting playing their song and together they started swaying to the music.

Everything was perfect. They were married, Jensen had just passed the bar and Jared was in final auditions for a TV pilot that promised to rocket him to stardom.

Jared closed his eyes, put his mouth close to Jensen's ear and whispered softly. "So now what?"

Jensen laughed quietly, and Jared could feel his smile against his cheek. "Now we start our happily ever after."

~*~

Jared looks up from his book when he hears the front door open, a burst of cold air invading the cozy warmth of their home. Jensen comes around the corner a moment later, suit crumpled and shirt halfway untucked. He puts his briefcase down in the foyer and turns toward the soft light spilling in from the living room. When Jensen sees Jared sitting there in the semi dark, he smiles tiredly.

"Hey," Jensen says.

The dogs jump up from where they are curled up next to Jared on the couch and run over to Jensen, excitedly jumping up against him and vying for his attention.

"Hey," Jared echoes his greeting.

"Need me to take the kids out?" Jensen asks after he's scratched each of them behind the ears.

"No, that's alright, I just took them for a walk a little while ago."

Jensen sits down on the floor as the dogs slobber all over him. Jared watches in silence as Jensen gives them more attention until they're satisfied and they amble off to their beds.

"What are you reading?" Jensen asks, getting back up and taking a few steps closer to Jared.

Jared doesn't answer, just holds the book up for Jensen to see.

"Oh," Jensen says. It's the newest thriller from their favourite author. They'd bought copies for each of them a while ago, but Jared had given up waiting for Jensen to start reading it with him. "Is it any good?"

Jared just shrugs. He'd been re-reading the same few pages for the last hour and can't remember a single word.

Jensen runs a hand through his hair. It's sticking up in every direction, like he's been doing it repeatedly all night.

"Okay. Well, I'm pretty beat, think I'm gonna shower and turn in. You coming soon?"

"In a little while."

"Okay," Jensen says.

Jensen's footsteps are inaudible on the lush carpet as he walks towards their bedroom. The leather creaks softly beneath Jared as he swings his legs down. Marking his place, Jared sets the book down on the coffee table.

Jared waits until he hears Jensen turning the water off before going through the house, checking on the dogs and turning off all the lights before setting the alarm. Jensen's still awake when he enters the bedroom, naked skin moist and glistening in the warm glow of the bedside lamp. Jared's gaze flits over Jensen's broad shoulders, sweeping past the sharp definition of his pectorals and down his toned stomach. He looks away before Jensen can catch him staring. Jensen waits for Jared to take off his robe and slide in beneath the covers before reaching back and clicking the light off. As the sudden darkness enfolds them, he reaches for Jared.

Jared endures his husband making love to him, rocking back against him as Jensen spoons behind him, pushing into him slowly. It's the closeness he's hungered for, but somehow the distance between them is still there, an unbreakable barrier forcing them apart. They don't speak to each other as they touch and kiss, as Jensen strokes Jared through his orgasm and finishes inside of him.

Afterwards, Jensen kisses him one last time, slow and sweet and then rolls away, falling asleep with his back turned to Jared. As he listens to Jensen snoring contentedly next to him, something inside of Jared breaks. He gets up and goes into the bathroom, the door shutting behind him with a barely audible click. Jared sits on the closed lid of the toilet until he's shivering from the cold. When he leaves, he goes to sleep in the spare bedroom.

~*~

It's a Friday night and Jared's in the kitchen washing the dishes. At least he didn't have to eat alone again; Chad chatting up a storm as they share the bottle of red wine he brought over. He's in town for a few days, visiting friends and family, and Jared is amazed at just how much he's missed his friend. He's still keeping Jared company when Jensen gets home, clinging to the centre island as he precariously balances his stool on two legs, watching Jared finish up.

"Jare?" Jensen calls from the door.

"In here," Jared answers and Jensen walks into the kitchen, tugging at his tie and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt.

"Hey Chad," he says when he catches sight of Chad. "Did we have plans for dinner? Sorry if I forgot."

"Hey," Jared offers awkwardly as Jensen kisses him on the cheek. Jared gives him a little smile and goes back to scrubbing the pasta pot.

"Hey, man," Chad greets, checking out the two of them. "Nah, I was just bitching and moaning to J-bird over the phone how I'd kill for his famous spaghetti & meatballs, and he offered to share, so here I am."

"I always make too much," Jared says, placing the clean pot onto the drying rack. "There's a plate in the oven if you want to heat it up."

"That's okay. Had to skip lunch, so Danneel ordered us some Chinese when we saw it was getting late." Jensen starts backing out of the kitchen. "I actually brought some stuff home that I have to look over quickly. Nice seeing you again, Chad."

Chad waits until he hears the door to Jensen's study close before rounding on Jared. "What's going on with you guys?"

"What do you mean?" Jared asks defensively.

"You," Chad says, poking him hard in the chest with a finger, "aren't Jared. And that," he continues, pointing in the study's direction, "isn't Jensen. And this," he finishes, waving a hand between the two, "isn't Jared'n'Jensen. So what's up?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Jared insists, switching on the kettle. "Do you want coffee or what?"

"No way, I ain't sticking around if you guys are being this depressing. I'd rather go home to my cold, empty hotel room."

"Suit yourself," Jared says, taking a single cup from the cupboard, setting it down on the counter before walking to the door with Chad.

"Jared, I know you're saying nothing's wrong, but if you need to talk, I'm here for you, man." The manly clap he launches at Jared's back turns into an awkward hug.

"Thanks, Chad," Jared says when he lets go. "But we're fine, seriously."

He goes back to the kitchen to finish making his coffee. Eventually he falls asleep on the couch, Jensen still holed up in his study and Chad's words milling over and over in his head.

Not Jared'n'Jensen.

~*~

Jared shoves his chair back in frustration, running his hands through his hair and tugging hard at the ends. It's getting too long again; he's going to need a haircut soon. He curses at the blinking cursor on the computer screen. The screenplay he's been working on for months now isn't coming together, the words slipping and sliding around in his head but refusing to be tied down.

He changes into sweatpants and a t-shirt and takes the dogs for a run through the park, hoping it will clear his head. It doesn't really help. Stripping out of his sweaty clothes, he takes a quick shower and goes back to give it another try before starting dinner.

Standing behind his chair, gripping the back tightly in his hands, he decides the house is too quiet and heads over to the stereo to thumb through their mountains of CDs for inspiration. Nothing seems to fit his mood though, and that's when his eyes fall on the pile of DVDs next to it. On top is his made-for-tv movie, the last project he completed before they got married. He picks it up, turns the case over in his hands and looks down at his own face staring back. He was so young then, so hopeful. So in love. It was supposed to be the perfect stepping stone to launch his career and it almost worked. He got the big audition - he was one of the final actors considered for the lead of the breakthrough TV show, but when they returned from their week-long honeymoon in Miami, Jared was devastated to find out he didn't get the part.

Suddenly he couldn't find anything, not even commercial jobs. It didn't help that they lived two and a half thousand miles from LA. Jensen offered to move once or twice, but there was no way in hell Jared was letting him give up the position at the prestigious law firm he'd worked so hard to get. Vermont was their home, for better or worse, and after two torturous years, his agent abandoned him. Jensen started showering Jared with things to distract him from his failures. Everything from their house to a flashy car, designer clothes, even absurdly expensive imported chocolates, giving Jared anything he thought he needed and working crazy hours to afford it all. Jensen's a brilliant lawyer and he advanced quickly, always chasing the next big promotion, and soon he was hardly home - leaving the house before Jared even woke, an returning home when dinner was cooling on the table.

Setting the DVD back on the pile, the need to talk to Jensen overwhelms Jared. He dials Jensen's office's number, hands shaking as he punches in the numbers. He listens to it ring and ring and he's about to hang up when a woman's voice greets him.

"Jensen Ackles' office, how can I help you?"

"Hi, uh, is Jensen available?"

"May I ask who's calling please?"

"It's Jared, his ..."

"Jared!" she exclaims, cutting him off. "It's Danneel, Jensen's secretary. I've heard so many wonderful things about you!"

"Really?" Jared asks amazed. "That's nice. Is ..." before he can ask for Jensen again, he can hear his husband's voice in the background asking Danny who's on the phone. Danneel's obviously clamped her hand over the phone's speaker, but Jared can still hear enough of their muffled exchange when she tells Jensen it's him. Jensen's answer is cold and abrupt, saying he can't talk right now and Danneel should just take a message.

"I'm sorry, he's busy with a very important meeting at the moment. Can I ask him to phone you back later?"

"No, that's fine. I'll let you get back to work. Bye." Jared terminates the call before she can say another word. He stands there for a moment, the phone held tightly in his hand, the oppressive silence of the house pressing around him. The dogs bark at something outside, jolting him into action.

He raises the phone and makes a few quick calls, going back to his computer to write Jensen a short note before packing a small suitcase. Zipping it up, he pauses to hold his left hand up to his face. He eyes the golden band circling his third finger, rubbing over it with his thumb, feeling the precious metal running smooth and familiar against his skin. It's something else he knows he should be leaving behind; it's just a symbol that's lost its meaning.

Jared makes sure the dogs have enough food and water before he lets them inside, bending down to let them lick at his face as he buries his hands deep in the fur around their necks. He stubbornly refuses to cry as he says his goodbyes, but his voice cracks when he tells them, "Take good care of Daddy."

He leaves the note on the kitchen counter when the taxi honks outside. Closing the door behind him, Jared stands with his hand on the handle for a moment, looking back. He's leaving all of it behind, the life they've built, the only life he ever wanted. But no matter how they still feel about each other, if he's honest with himself, he knows it's been over for a long time.

He's still toying with the ring when the taxi pulls away, slowly rolling down the quiet street.

~*~

Chad's waiting for him when he walks out of the airport. He's leaning against his car, the bright California sun reflecting off his sunglasses.

"Dude, what the hell?" he asks Jared.

"I think I may have left Jensen," Jared says.

"You think? I hope he got more notice than the cryptic voicemail you left me."

Jared avoids looking at Chad, walking around the car to dump his bag in the trunk instead.

"Tell me you didn't just leave him a note."

Jared slides into the passenger seat, nearly folding himself in half to fit into Chad's ridiculously small hybrid car, slamming the door behind him. Chad groans as he gets behind the wheel.

"I knew there was something going on with you two. Do I need to go beat him up?"

"No!" Jared looks out the window at the families lugging their suitcases, waving at taxis. "No, just ... let's get out of here."

"Okay," Chad starts the car and awkwardly pats Jared's knee. "Okay."

Jared spends the night on Chad's couch, sleep all but impossible. His legs hang over the side of couch and the night sounds are too unfamiliar for him to relax. He didn't think he'd miss the sound of Jensen just breathing next to him so much. He sits up every half hour, reaches to the coffee table for his phone, and clutches it tightly in his hand for a minute before putting it back again.

In the morning, waiting for the coffee to brew, he finally works up the nerve to switch it on and listen to the voicemail.

Jared, don't do this.

Jensen doesn't sound angry, he just sounds like Jensen.

Tell me what I did wrong. Whatever it was, I'm sorry. I ... please come back.

Worry gradually seeps into Jensen's tone.

Baby, please, I just need to know you're alright.

Chad's coming down the hallway as the last one plays in his ear, a single whispered word.

Jared?

Jared lowers the phone, switches it off again and tucks it into his back pocket as he hands Chad a steaming cup of coffee. Jared's eternally grateful Chad doesn't tell him that he looks like shit, even though Jared's seen the truth reflected in the stainless steel toaster on the counter. Chad's a good friend.

"So what now?" Chad asks, blearily wiping the sleep from his eyes.

"Guess I need to find a place to stay."

"Dude, no, you're staying here. I'm moving out all of Sophia's shit that's still stored in the spare bedroom today, and you can move in there tonight."

"Chad, you don't have to do that."

"Of course I do. You're my best friend."

Jared half-heartedly thumps his fist against his friend's shoulder and shifts his feet. He itches to go for a run. "Thanks, man."

"And after I take a shower, I'm calling my agent and arranging a meeting for you for today. I mean, I assume you'll want to give acting another chance since you're out here, right?"

"Right," Jared nods. "I'm gonna head out and see if I can't find a job in the meantime."

"You should take a few days to get your feet underneath you first, dude."

"No, I need to get on with my life. I've spent enough time moping and feeling sorry for myself." Jared knows how easy it would be to lose himself in self pity, but he's not wasting any more time.

"Well, in that case, the coffee shop around the corner is hiring. I'll text you the meeting time as soon as it's set up."

Chad takes his keys down from the little hook next to the door and threads off a spare key for Jared. Jared goes back to his room to change and slips the key into the front pocket of his hoodie.

The restaurant is literally just around the corner. They hire him on the spot - one of their waiters hasn't shown up for a week, gone home with his tail between his legs or discovered as the next big thing, no one knows or cares.

He has his meeting in the afternoon, and Chad's agent is more than happy to help arrange for Jared to get back into the game.

Over the next few weeks Jared settles into a strange rhythm of missing Jensen, going to work, missing Jensen and occasionally getting an audition for the dead body of the week. He actually manages to land one of them, a low paying gig where he spent the day laying semi-naked on a cold metal table, holding his breath. He spends the entire paycheck celebrating with Chad, and passes out on the bathroom floor after puking his guts out. It's the first night of decent sleep he's gotten since coming back to LA. He learns to laugh again, makes new friends at the restaurant, and slowly starts to slip back into the skin he thought he'd shed years ago.

Jensen doesn't attempt to contact him again and Jared's more disappointed than he thought possible. He didn't want Jensen to try and win him back again, wouldn't have gone anyway, but it hurts he wouldn't even try.

Still, at the end of the day, all Jared wants to do is call Jensen and tell him all about it. He's even caught himself a few times with the phone in hand, dialing the number before he remembers and puts it down again.

He wonders when it'll stop hurting so much.

~*~

Misha has an arm slung around his shoulder, his mouth close to Jared's ear as they conspire against the new waitress. Katie is way too perky and monopolizing all the good tables, stealing all the big tippers.

Jared's found a kindred spirit and a loyal friend in the gentle man with the unkempt hair and crazy sense of humor. He's always ready with a playful prank up his sleeve, a million little devils playing in his eyes. He's quite effective in distracting Jared from his misery.

Jared's not paying attention to where they're going, eyes cast down as he visualizes Misha's brilliant plan of chaos and utter annihilation. As Misha steers him towards his car, he catches sight of someone standing completely still across the street, staring at them. Jared catches his eye and freezes, Misha babbling fading into the distance as all the blood rushes to his head.

"Jensen?" he squeezes past his restricting throat.

"Hey Jared." Jensen doesn't move, just keeps looking at him, his hands clenched in his pockets.

"How'd you find me?"

"Chad called me."

Fucking Chad. Jared vows to strangle the man as soon as he can get his hands on him. He knows Chad's been keeping an eye on him, but he never thought he'd phone Jensen. Jared's too shocked to do anything more than just stand there staring back at Jensen. Misha drops his arm from around Jared's shoulder and looks at Jared worriedly. "Jared, you want me to get rid of this guy?"

"No, that's okay. Jensen's just ..."

"His husband," Jensen finishes for him, looking away from Jared for the first time and casting an icy gaze at Misha.

"Look buddy," Misha says, stepping forward. "I don't care who you are. If Jared doesn't want to talk to you, then you should go."

"Misha, no. It's okay," Jared placates him with a hand on his arm. He turns back towards Jensen.

"Can you give me a ride over to Chad's?"

When Jensen nods and fishes his keys from his pocket, Jared gives Misha's arm a little squeeze and steps towards Jensen. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Misha nods, mouths call me at Jared and watches them walking over to Jensen's car, a big shiny rental. It beeps when Jensen unlocks it and Jensen heads over to the passenger side to open the door for Jared.

"That's okay, I got it." There's a tightness around Jensen's eyes that wasn't there before and Jared resists the urge to reach out and smooth it away as Jensen nods, walking over to the driver's side.

The atmosphere in the car is stiff and crackling with tension as they drive past Chad's house and around the block in silence. Jensen's knuckles shine white as he clenches the steering wheel.

"You fucking him?" Jensen says, quiet, when they stop for a red light.

"What? No. We just work together. It's not like that. Jesus."

"Well, what am I supposed to think, Jared? You leave me, I have no idea where you are until your friend calls to tell me and the next time I see you you're strolling down the street with some sleazebag's arm around you?"

"Jensen, please. Could we not talk about this right now?"

The light turns green and Jensen pulls away slowly.

"Fine," he says, risking one more glance in Jared's direction. "I just want to understand what the hell happened to us."

"So do I," Jared whispers, turning his face away. He wasn't expecting to see Jensen. In fact, he's been trying really hard not to think about what would happen when they saw each other again. Part of him had hoped the divorce papers would just arrive in the post one day. Was there another part that hoped for Jensen not to give up without a fight, and come looking for him? Maybe. Jared doesn't know what he wants anymore.

Jensen passes Chad's door again. He still can't believe Jensen's right here, sitting next to him. His warmth radiates across to Jared, and it's all he can think about.

It would be so easy to reach out, drape his hand over Jensen's on the gear shift and ask him to take him home. But that won't fix anything and they'll be stuck right back where they were before. How long before he's desperate to escape again? Would he have the will to follow through next time?

Jared is relieved when Jensen finally makes the turn and pulls up in Chad's drive. He switches off the engine and they sit there listening to it cool for a few seconds. Jared reaches for the door handle, swinging the car door open wide. Jensen reacts quickly and catches his hand. Jared stops, looks down at their hands, then back at Jensen.

"I'll be staying at a hotel for a few days. Can I," Jensen swallows, letting go of Jared's hand and wiping his palm on his pants leg. "Can I call you sometime?"

"Okay," Jared says, even though he doesn't know what Jensen wants to accomplish with this. He'll just be delaying the inevitable.

"Okay." Jensen breathes a relieved sigh. He lets Jared go and Jared doesn't look back as Jensen drives away. He walks straight through the house to his room and throws himself down on the bed.

~*~

Jared hears Chad come home later, spluttering around in the kitchen before the TV is turned on. He turns up the volume on an action movie until all Jared can hear is shit being blown up. When that doesn't work to draw him out, Chad finally gathers enough courage to knock on his bedroom door.

"You ever gonna speak to me again?" he asks, standing in the doorway.

Jared sits up, wearily running a hand through his hair. "Depends. You gonna tell me why you called him?"

Chad sits down next to Jared on the bed, catches his eye in the dresser's mirror. He looks the worse for wear and Jared feels a pang of sympathy for his friend.

"At first I thought you'd done right thing by leaving," Chad starts explaining. "I mean, I get it, if you're unhappy, why stay? But man, since you've been here? You've been just as miserable."

"I'm not denying I love him, Chad. But we've ... become strangers to each other. And living together, but always passing each other by? It's like having the one thing you want more than anything in the whole world right there in front of you and not be able to have it. It's hell."

"We've been friends for a long time, Padalecki. So I feel I can tell you, you're full of shit. Why don't you guys just talk about it and sort it out?"

"I don't know. I wanted to. And sometimes I could see he wanted to. But somehow we just never could and then we stopped even trying." Jared shakes his head. "After my career fell apart it's like I didn't even know who I was supposed to be anymore. Maybe if I get can get that back," Jared sighs. "I just don't know."

Chad shakes his head. "You want something to eat?" Chad asks, changing the subject. "I think there's still some leftover pizza in the fridge."

"I could eat," Jared replies, a little smile tugging at his mouth. He follows Chad to the kitchen.

~*~

To his credit, Jensen doesn't pressure Jared. He waits two whole days before calling him and even then he only asks, with immaculate manners, if Jared is okay and about his job. He calls every day after that, regular as clockwork, and Jared starts looking forward to the calls: sharing the newest gossip from the restaurant, telling Jensen about parts he wants to try out for. Jensen listens attentively, chuckling softly at Jared's stories. Hearing that makes Jared smile; he can't remember when last he heard Jensen laughing like that.

In return Jensen tells Jared about the dogs driving Mackenzie crazy, chewing up all her shoes, and how their next door neighbor Jim has hooked up with a girl half his age, scandalizing the entire neighborhood. One day, Jared realizes Jensen's been in LA for almost two weeks, and hasn't tried to see Jared again since the night he first arrived. When Jensen calls that night, Jared asks him when he was planning on going home.

"Well, I was kinda hoping I would be taking my husband back home with me," Jensen replies, trying to keep it light and failing miserably.

"Jensen," Jared says and he can hear Jensen's breathing hitch at his tone. "These past few weeks, talking like this, it's been great and it's made me think we might still end up being good friends. But it doesn't fix anything. If I go back with you, you'll still be the hotshot lawyer trying to become full partner at your firm and I'll still be the washed up actor with nothing better to do than sit alone in the dark waiting for you to come home."

"I need you, Jared. I love you. I can't do this without you." Jensen's pleading breaks Jared's heart and he clutches tightly at the telephone in his hand. "Just tell me what you need, I'll do it. Jare, I can change, I swear."

"I don't want you to change, Jensen. This isn't only about you. We ... I need you to let me go."

"Jared ..."

"Go home, Jensen."

"Not without you," Jensen says, and ends the call.

~*~

Jared misses the next day's call because he's at an audition for a play, but Jensen doesn't say anything about it the day after. Instead he asks if he can see Jared, like their previous conversation never even took place. He has to convince Jensen to draw up the divorce papers somehow, so Jared agrees readily enough. He cringes at Jensen's surprised delight at his acceptance, and asks Jensen to pick him up after his shift at the restaurant.

Jensen takes him for coffee to a little cafe hidden away from the city's hustle and bustle. The place's soft music and muted lights create an overly romantic setting, with several couples sitting at the small tables holding hands and staring into each other's eyes, their coffee long grown cold. Jared pulls out his wallet as they place their order at the counter and Jensen lets him pay for the beverages without a word.

"Is that what this is about?" he asks Jared once they've found a seat in a quiet corner. When Jared tilts his head at him, Jensen continues. "To able to pay for your own coffee?"

Jared is tempted to deny it and say it's not about the money, but answers truthfully. "Maybe a little."

"I'm sorry I didn't encourage you to continue following your dream, Jared. But the way you were completely devastated after every new rejection? I just couldn't handle it anymore, watching you lose a little bit more of yourself every time. It was selfish, but I was glad when you gave it up for good. I liked taking care of you, that you needed me."

"I know, Jen, and I don't blame you for that. But was it worth it? Always having to be at work until we hardly saw each other anymore? You never talked to me, hardly even touched me."

"I thought you didn't want me to." Jensen takes a sip of his cooling coffee and looks away, obviously trying to pick his next words carefully. "You weren't happy. And I couldn't do anything to fix it. I figured it was me, so I stayed away, tried to give you space. And then when you left, I should've let you go, I know. But I can't, Jare. God help me, I can't."

Jensen pushes his cup away and tries to reach over to take Jared's hand. Jared pulls his hands out of the way and fidgets with his coffee cup instead. Jensen settles for dropping his hands to his lap, hiding them under the table.

Jared's staring into his coffee, trying to figure out what to say when his phone rings. Pushing the cup away, he digs in his pocket for it and answers with a only marginally unsteady voice. He listens in silence, only nodding at the phone occasionally like the person on the other side can see him. He ends the call and blinks down at the phone in his hand in surprise.

"Jare? Is everything okay?" Jensen asks worriedly.

"I got it! I got the part!" A grin breaks out over Jared's face and he launches himself at Jensen, flinging his arms around his neck. Jensen holds onto him tightly and after a few moments Jared detangles himself, stepping back self-consciously.

"That's great, Jare! What part?" Jensen asks as Jared sits back in his seat.

"Matthew in Genealogy of a Kiss. It's a ..."

"Play, yeah I know. Wow, that's wonderful!"

"Chad is going to flip when I tell him!" Jared goes on excitedly, shrugging back into his jacket. "Would you mind swinging by the theater, I need to pick up the schedule and everything."

"Uh, no," Jensen answers, sounding a little bewildered, "that's fine."

It's only after Chad manages to make him sick on celebratory ice cream that he realizes they were having a pretty important conversation before he blew Jensen off in his excitement. The guilt presses him down like a massive brick on his chest and he vows to make it up to Jensen first chance he gets.

~*~

Everyone at the restaurant is ecstatic for Jared when he shares the news at work the next morning. Misha tries to lift him off his feet with a massive hug, but only manages to land them in a giggling heap on the floor. After Katie helps them up, he offers to help Jared to learn his lines and Jared accepts gratefully. He comes over every night for the week before first rehearsals and leaves just before Jensen's nightly phone call. Jared doesn't mention Misha helping him to Jensen, feeling strangely guilty about having such a good time with Misha.

Jensen shows up after first rehearsal with a hot cup of coffee and some donuts. He drives Jared back to Chad's, asking about the director and the other actors, not giving Jared a chance to talk about anything else. Dropping him off, Jensen asks if Jared would mind if he does the same tomorrow and when Jared doesn't object, Jensen's smile is blinding.

That night when Misha comes over to help again, he ends up crying on Jared's shoulder instead. Between drinking too much beer and eating too much ice cream, he tells Jared about breaking up with his boyfriend and Jared promises to score him a free ticket for opening night to cheer him up.

"How the hell is that supposed to cheer me up?" Misha asks, sniffing loudly.

"Are you kidding? I'm giving you enough ammunition to mock me endlessly for at least two lifetimes. Everyone knows laughter is the best medicine. Even for a broken heart." Jared laughs and tugs him closer for a hug. If Misha holds on a little too tightly for just a little too long, well, Jared doesn't mind being there for his friend.

"Thanks, Jare, that's ... thanks," Misha says awkwardly and goes back to licking melting ice cream from his spoon.

Jared's glad being cast as one of the leads means he can bag a few free tickets; he needs them for his fellow workers, Chad, and of course, Jensen.

Jensen looks at the ticket in Jared's hand like he's afraid it might not be real and then up at Jared's face in surprise. Jared's wide smile slips a little when Jensen doesn't take it immediately, and that's when Jensen hesitantly reaches out to take it.

"Are you sure, Jared? I don't want to intrude, or anything," Jensen says, still sounding a little shaky.

Jared can see how careful Jensen is trying to be, so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. "Of course, Jen. You've been there for me from the beginning. I want you to be there. Please?"

"Yeah." Jensen slides the ticket into his shirt pocket, tapping it through the fabric over his heart. "I wouldn't miss it for anything in the world."

~*~

Final dress rehearsals go really well and Jared's having the time of his life losing himself in the character and the story. He'd forgotten how much he loves acting, what an integral part of him it is. Before he knows it, opening night is upon them and he's throwing up into a paper bag in the back of the dressing rooms. A delivery boy drops off a single white rose with a small note saying Good Luck in Jensen's messy handwriting. Jared can't help smiling.

Then he's being herded into a chair for hair and makeup. All other thoughts are pushed to the background as the players take their places, the murmur of the crowd filtering in through the heavy curtain. In that split second before Jared becomes Matthew, he sees Jensen in the crowd, close to the back, and Jensen smiles as their eyes meet. Suddenly, Jared is very glad Jensen didn't go home, that he could be here tonight to share this moment with him.

Their performance gets a standing ovation, the audience erupting to their feet when the final curtain falls. Jensen is making his way backstage around the outskirts of the venue, but then Jared looses sight of him as Misha tackles him out of nowhere.

"Dude! That was fucking fantastic!" Misha's smothering him in a full body hug, talking excitedly in his ear. Jared is so overwhelmed, he can't do much more than hold on and grin widely at him. He untangles himself as quickly and painlessly as he can, getting waylaid by more enthusiastic congratulations with every step. He's sure Jensen must be waiting for him, and all he wants is to do is get to him. That's all Jared cares about.

Finally reaching his dressing room, Jared shuts the door firmly behind him.

"Jensen?" he calls, but he's only met by his own reflection in the dressing mirror, the light bulbs surrounding it shining in his eyes. The rest of the white roses are on his dressing table, a massive bouquet held together with rough raffia twine. Picking them up and breathing in their heady scent, Jared notices a large brown envelope that placed beneath them. Jensen's written his name on it. With growing unease Jared puts the flowers down to open it.

His legs suddenly turn to rubber, and he sits down heavily on the low stool as he pulls out a sheaf of papers. A quick glance at the bound document with its countless multicolored tabs reveal them to be the divorce papers he'd wanted and Jared throws the entire stack on the floor as he unfolds the note Jensen placed on top of them.

Jared,

My love, you were brilliant. One look at you on that stage and any fool can see that was what you were born to do.

I came here to try and win you back, but I see how selfish that was. If I truly loved you, I'd let you follow your dream. I want you to always be as happy as you were tonight.

I'm so sorry for everything. For holding you back all these years. For not making you happy. For not loving you enough. Please believe I never meant to hurt to you. I hope one day you will be able to forgive me. God knows, I don't think I ever will.

I will always love you.

Jensen

By the end, Jared's eyes are so blurred with tears he can hardly see. He falls to his knees, the paper slipping from his fingers. How could life be so cruel to do this to him now? Yes, he loved every moment of tonight's performance, but standing on stage, the audience hanging on his every word and gesture, he also realized there was something - no, someone -he loved more than anything and always would. Acting was something he did. Being Jensen's husband was something he was.

Jared wipes a hand over his face, stands up and digs out his backpack from the little locker in the corner. He stuffs Jensen's note inside and fumbles for his phone from the side pocket. He dials as he strips from his costume, replacing it with a pair of jeans, sneakers and white T-shirt.

"Chad? Are you still here? I need a ride to the airport, man."

~*~

Jared can hear voices on the other side of the door, muffled by the thick oak. One of them is Jensen's, and he doesn't hesitate another moment. He rips open the doors and charges through them.

"Jensen, I don't want a divorce!"

Six pairs of eyes turn towards him, Jensen's surprised ones stretching wide.

"Jared?"

"Uh, oh. Sorry. Can I talk to you for a second?"

The suit at the head of the table slams his fist down hard. "What is this? Mr. Ackles? Do you know this person?"

"Yes, uh, he's ..."

"I don't care, Mr. Ackles. If you want to continue with this meeting, if you're serious about becoming a partner in this firm, you'll get rid of him right now."

"Jensen, it's okay, I'll just wait outside until you're done," Jared says, backing out of the room.

Jensen tightens his jaw and shoves his chair back from the table. "I'm sorry, sir. But my husband needs to talk to me and I'm not making him wait."

"If you walk out of that door right now, Mr. Ackles, you can keep right walking. You're done here."

Jensen pushes his chair back under the table and smoothes down his tie. "Then I guess I'm done, sir."

He holds the door open for Jared to step outside and closes it firmly behind them. Jared grabs hold of his arm.

"Jensen! What are you doing?"

"Are you serious?"

"What?

"About the divorce. Did you mean it?"

"Yes, I meant it. I wanted to tell you after the show, but you left."

"I ... I saw you with that guy from the restaurant. I thought that was what you wanted."

"I want you, you idiot."

Jensen's face erupts into a relieved smile and he wraps his arms tightly around Jared, crushing him against his chest. Jared closes his eyes and lets himself sag against Jensen, feeling his heart beating so close to his own.

"I can change, I swear. I'll be better. We can move to LA, anything you want," Jensen whispers into Jared's ear.

"Jensen."

"God, just please, don't ever leave me again. I can't ..."

"Jensen!"

Jensen lets him go and steps back, color high on his cheeks. He looks down sheepishly. "Yeah?"

"Shut up and kiss me."

Jensen doesn't need to be told twice. Placing his hands on either side of Jared's face, he pulls him in for the kiss. It's sweet, just pressing their mouths together and breathing in the tender moment. Jared can't believe how close he came to losing it.

He smiles against Jensen's lips and wraps his arms around his husband.

"Oh my God, Jensen," Jared whispers, shock setting in. "You just quit your job."

"I know. Should have done it years ago." Jensen sounds content, confident, like the man Jared fell in love with.

"But you love it."

"I do," Jensen agrees, "but not as much as I love you."

Jared's heart clenches in his chest. It's so good to hear those words coming from Jensen's lips and know they're true.

"So now what?" he asks Jensen.

Jensen doesn't laugh this time, just kisses him again, soft lips lingering against his for a breathless moment before pulling back to look into Jared's eyes.

"Now we love each other."

~End.